Books about Nature

Nature-based books – recommended by Camp Fire staff – to keep you entertained while staying indoors.

Read Time < 1 minute

As we adjust to living without going into schools, we know that many families are now in the difficult and unfamiliar position of homeschooling and supporting e-learning for their kids. That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’ll be turning our blog and social media platforms into a resource for youth (and adults!) interested in learning about nature and the outdoors.  

This week, we asked Camp Fire Minnesota staff to recommend nature-based books that families can read while staying indoors. 

I’m an Alligator. I’m a Crocodile.

by Shawn Persinger (Author), Tom Shultz (Illustrator)

Recommended by Kelly Abraham, Director, Communications & Organizational Effectiveness

A friend who always has the best kids book recommendations told me about this one a while ago. I recently bought it for my 5-year-old niece and nephew, and while it’s intended for kids ages 2-10, it was clear the adults were learning a few things as we read through it together!  Using a wide range of adjectives plus colorful and detailed illustrations, this book entertains and teaches us to notice differences. Some of the animals we meet are a rabbit and a hare, a seal lion and a seal, and an alligator and a crocodile.


Pokko and the Drum

Matthew Forsythe

Recommended by Maggie Mora, Content & Design Manager

Pokko and the Drum tells the story of a little frog who’s given a drum by her parents. Pokko likes playing the drum so much that her parents, no longer able to stand the incessant noise, ask her to go outside and drum – but softly. As she sets out through the forest, her drumming becomes louder and louder, attracting a crowd of forest creatures who join in with instruments of their own.

Though not necessarily an educational book about nature, the story presents a fantastical version of the natural world – frogs who live in mushroom houses, banjo-playing raccoons. The book’s illustrations are also stunning. I especially love the way Pokko is rendered — always with a mildly deadpan expression, like she is too engrossed in her own drum playing to be bothered by the presence of an audience (us, readers). She is performing for herself, only.


Because of an Acorn

Lola M. Schaefer (Author), Frann Preston-Gannon (Illustrator)

Recommended by Kelly Thurmes, Youth Program Naturalist

Because of an Acorn is a simple and beautifully illustrated story that shows children the interconnectedness of nature. They follow along as a tree grows, a bird finds a place to nest, and a flower blooms — all because of an acorn. Kids can begin to understand how plants and animals all depend on each other within an ecosystem.


We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt

Steve Metzger (Author), Miki Sakamoto (Illustrator)

Recommended by Saida Sharif, Nature Outreach Coordinator

This story is great picture book about three friends who set out on an adventure to look for colorful leaves. During their trip, they come upon obstacles such as a mountain, forest, waterfall, and a skunk.  This illustrations in the book are very colorful, and children are able see leaves and identify which tree it belongs to.



Neil Gaiman (Author), Charles Vess (Illustrator)

Recommended by Caroline Bowen, Lead Youth Program Naturalist

I love this story because it is woven with beautiful illustrations of mythical creatures that are traveling through a forest, but also because the tale is filled with ambiguity and leaves room for creative ways of understanding. It feels like a story that adults can enjoy just as a child and it reminds us all to, “trust your story.” You can view a reading of it online here!


Finding Wild

Megan Wagner Lloyd (Author), Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)

Recommended by Rachael Chapman

I recommend the picture book Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd. I read it recently with fourth graders and kindergartners -both of whom loved it. It tells the story of two kids who live in the city and go looking for something “wild”, and end up finding nature in places they didn’t expect. This book has a collection of beautiful illustrations. Especially in our current situation, I think it would be great for Camp Fire families to learn about how to find nature in places near your home or in places that you wouldn’t expect.


My Side of the Mountain

Jean Craighead George

Recommended by Chris Cudnowski, Youth Program Naturalist

My Side of the Mountain tells the story of a child who gets tired of city life and living in a crowded apartment, and decides to move up north to his grandparents’ old farm. When he arrives he discovers it has been reduced to its foundation, and he must quickly learn to live with the land in order to make his dream a reality.

The book is a fun and exciting tale about exploring nature, wilderness survival skills, and independence. I was first exposed to this book when my 6th grade teacher read it aloud to our class, but I enjoyed it so much I have reread it several times since. It has definitely inspired me to go outside and explore!

Braiding Sweetgrass

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Recommended by Caroline Bowen, Lead Youth Program Naturalist

Braiding Sweetgrass is a story told through the lens of a scientist, mother and indigenous woman who blends these experiences into a beautiful narrative and way of living. She’s connects to the land through both her education and her culture/history and she teaches readers that these many ways of knowing can co-exist and enrich each other. One of my favorite quotes from the book reads, “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.


Being a Beast

Charles Foster

Recommended by Kelsey Schultz, Director of Inclusion & Program Impact

Charles Foster set out to know the ultimate other: the non-humans, the beasts. And to do that, he tried to be like them, choosing a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer, and a swift. He lived alongside badgers for weeks, eating earthworms and learning to sense the landscape by smell rather than sight. He tried to catch fish in his teeth while swimming like an otter. He rooted through London garbage cans as an urban fox, and was hunted by bloodhounds as a red deer, nearly dying in the snow. And he followed the swifts on their migration route over the Strait of Gibraltar, discovering himself to be strangely connected to the birds.

A lyrical, joyful, and completely radical look at the life of animals―human and other―Being a Beast mingles neuroscience and psychology, nature writing and memoir to cross the boundaries separating the species.


The Best American Science and Nature Writing

(Collected writings from various authors)

Recommended by Jessica Ayers-Bean, VP of Organizational Advancement

I got hooked on the Best American Science and Nature Writing annual anthology in college. I love getting a peek into topics that are usually brand new to me and this anthology is a great way to discover science writers who you may not have heard about otherwise.

Born to Pull: The Glory of Sled Dogs

Bob Cary

Recommended by Marnie K. Wells, Camp Fire Minnesota CEO

Born to Pull is a comprehensive guide to sled dogs and includes stories, beautiful illustrations, and information from vets and mushers. I was inspired to read this after a recent dog-sledding trip in Ely, Minnesota.


Our Wild Calling

Richard Louv

Recommended by Hannah Grimm, Annual Fund Manager

I got this book for my dad for his birthday! I bought one for him, and one for myself, to start our own family book club. Our Wild Calling explores the deep bonds between human and animals. Though I haven’t finished it yet, my dad loved it, and has shared his favorite stories from the book about wild animals with me.

For those looking for a shorter read, I also recommend checking out the essay, Is All Writing Environmental Writing? It’s a great look at how literature adapts among the crisis of climate change, and how we interact with our “environment” and “nature” everyday.


Paddle Whispers

Douglas Wood

Recommended by Caroline Bowen, Lead Youth Program Naturalist

Paddle Whispers is a book of poetry written by an explorer paddling his canoe through the waterways of Minnesota. It shares the feelings he experiences as he connects with the seasons and the ecosystem encompassing him. As you read, it truly feels like you’re traveling the water with him! It helped me articulate the nature of loving Minnesota landscapes.


Into Thin Air

Jon Krakauer

Recommended by Jayna Davis, Registration Consultant

Into Thin Air tells the (true) story of journalist/ mountaineer Jon Krakauer’s expedition up Mount Everest and the storm that ensued, stranding him and other climbers. I know when I read, I like to be swept away into an exciting adventure. This kind of book might help keep our minds entertained while staying inside.