Picture books about the great outdoors

As we (in the northeast, anyway) move from winter into “mud-luscious,” “puddle-wonderful” early spring, the outside becomes irresistible. Here are four new picture books celebrating nature and outdoor play to read after all that puddle-splashing.

Wolff BabyBear 300x300 Picture books about the great outdoorsA young bear explores his surroundings in Ashley Wolff’s Baby Bear Sees Blue. Baby Bear asks about the birdsong he hears, the fragrance he smells, the wings that tickle him. Each time, Mama gives him the answer, and Baby Bear stops to look at the corresponding color: blue jays, red strawberries, orange butterflies. Block print and watercolor illustrations capture both the natural world and the loving relationship between parent and child. (2–5 years)

Lobel 10Rabbits 300x300 Picture books about the great outdoorsIn Anita Lobel’s 10 Hungry Rabbits: Counting & Color Concepts, Mama Rabbit plans to make vegetable soup for dinner, so her ten children — each wearing a different color — gather ten matching colorful ingredients: one purple cabbage, two white onions, three yellow peppers. Each ingredient appears in a large, realistic portrait with the corresponding color-coded number. Concept books don’t get much better than this. (3–6 years)

Wood BlueSky 300x300 Picture books about the great outdoorsAudrey Wood’s Blue Sky presents a succession of double-page spreads showing skies, from “blue sky” to “sunset sky” to “moon sky.” The pastel illustrations feature a wordless story about a small boy and his family, who wait out a storm (“rain sky”) and then head to the beach, enjoying their day by the shore (“sun sky”) all the way through “star sky.” The progression through the day makes for a satisfying journey. (4–8 years)

Singer StickExcellent 300x300 Picture books about the great outdoorsIn A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play, Marilyn Singer explores different kinds of outdoor games, from simple to complex. Singer’s range of poetry styles and forms complements the varied kinds of creative outdoor play throughout the day. LeUyen Pham’s slightly retro-feeling illustrations feature a multicultural group of children enjoying nature and imagination together. (5–8 years)

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Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, assistant editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College.


  1. As a Vermont girl, whose heart has never left the Green Mountain State, celebrating the beauty and fascination of the great outdoors comes naturally. Thank you, Katie, for spotting Baby Bear and letting others see the world through his young eyes.

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