Feature Story

December 2020

Our Big List of Beloved Books

Natural Start Staff

This year has been a doozy. From sharing the successes and challenges of reopening nature preschools after months of distance learning to supporting each other in making the transition outdoors (or in many cases 100% outdoors), we’ve learned so much from each other over the last 9 months. To end the year on a high note, we wanted to host a different kind of forum--one that, while still an opportunity to learn from each other, focused more on fun and connection. With the holidays upon us, we thought it would be a great time to chat about books, so we turned our December forum into a Holiday Book Fair!

Thank you to everyone who attended our Holiday Book Fair, with special thanks to Dr. Michelle Martin and Dr. Carla Gull, our wonderful and thoughtful presenters. Whether you were able to attend the event live or not, we promised to share all of the amazing resources that were highlighted and we’re here to deliver on that promise. Below you’ll find recommended book lists, a guide for building an anti-bias library, book reviews, and more! 


Diverse and Inclusive Children’s Books

First up, a few recommended reads from Dr. Michelle Martin, featured in an article in Outside Online, The Best Books Featuring Black Children in the Outdoors

Michelle's current favorite, which she read during the forum, is The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann.

One question forum participants had for Michelle was what she looks for when choosing quality books that feature children of color. Michelle said it's important to consider the author (is it an own voices book?), how the character's cultural background is represented, high quality illustrations, and how engaging the story is for children, among a few other things. When choosing books with an anti-bias lens, we've found the 'Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books' by Louise Derman-Sparks to be a great resource. Find the guide here, on the Social Justice Books website. 

When it came to sharing their favorite books, there was no shortage of great suggestions!

Check out the titles recommended by members of our community, below: 


Cece Loves Science and Adventure by Kimberly Derting, Shelli R. Johannes, and Vashti Harrison

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole

Errol's Garden by Gillian Hibbs

Lovely by Jess Hong

Hike by Pete Oswald

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Mice Squeak, We Speak by Arnold Shapiro and Tomie dePaola

The Hike by Alison Farrell

When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger and Susan R. Katz

Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Fort Building Time by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Abigail Halpin

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

Island Born by Junot Diaz and Leo Espinosa

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

The Hiking Day Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell

Elizabeti's Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Neither by Airlie Anderson

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson and Mary Azarian

Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer

Kamala and Maya's Big Idea by Meena Harris and Ana Ramirez Gonzalez

My Favorite Tree by Diane Iverson

A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams

Where's Rodney? by Carmen Bogan and Floyd Cooper

Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal



Wintery Books for Children

Next, Dr. Carla Gull highlighted a few books that she enjoys for winter reading, including fiction and nonfiction selections. Carla regularly reviews books for the International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education. View Carla’s previous book and resource reviews, all available to download for free: Fort and Den Making Resources, Embracing More Diverse Representations of Children in Nature Inspired Books, Connecting to Nature with Ruth Wilson, and “Loose Parts” in Children’s Outdoor Play Environments

Here are Carla’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ suggestions: 

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Jon Nelson and Mark Cassino

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer



We received more excellent suggestions from our community, who shared their winter favorites below!

Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Lou Aillaud

On A Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Winter Sleep by Sean Taylor

Under in the Mud by Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell

In the Snow: Who's Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George

Snow Play: How to Make Forts & Slides & Winter Campfires by Birgitta Ralston

Little Tree by Loren Long

Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner 

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm


Great Reads for Adults

To round out the forum, we listened to a clip from a NAAEE webinar featuring author and poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil reading an excerpt from her essay ‘Comb Jelly’ from her recently published book, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, which was named as a Barnes and Noble Book of the Year.

Watch the entire webinar with Aimee, ‘Nature as Inspiration and Transformation: An Intro to Nature Poetry,’ here

And since we all deserve a “treat yourself” moment, we asked participants to share their favorite books for adults, particularly those that ground you in your practice or help you reset as this year winds down and a new one begins.


Here’s what was shared: 

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

Dwellings by Linda Hogan

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt (Graphic Novel) by Andrea Wulf

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich 

Wild Habitats by Aleta Karstad

Any book by Lauren Wolk

The Secret Life of Trees How and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge

Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

Seeds by Thor Hanson

Feathers by Thor Hanson

The Secret Garden: Talking Beetles and Signaling Trees: The Hidden Ways Gardens Communicate by David Bodanis

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson


Check out more resources from Natural Start and friends below. 

NatStart2020 Virtual Conference: Beginning with Dr. Martin and Liz Mills’ keynote address on the lack of diversity in children’s literature, our virtual conference includes at least a handful of sessions on literature and storytelling with young children, among many other topics. You can still register for the conference and access over 100 sessions, with time to watch and rewatch until July 2021. 

Teaching for Change- Freedom Reads: Anti-Bias Book Talk Series By Allyson Criner Brown

Wonderkin’s Ultimate List of Diverse & Inclusive Books to Support Nature-Based Learning

Diverse BookFinder- Where are the books about Black Kids in Nature?

NAAEE eePRO- Back to School: Diversify Your Library With These Upcoming Children's Books