Editors’ Picks: Outdoor Books for Kids


25 votes

These tales about snowy city days, travels to the top of the world and the importance of conservation have captured our hearts.

Earlier this month, the New York Public Library, the largest system of its kind in the country, announced The Snowy Day topped its list of most checked out books in the system’s 125-year history. The story of a child enjoying the magic of winter also happens to be one of our most loved tales for kids.

In celebration of the connection between picture books and the great outdoors, we asked the co-op’s editorial staff to share each of their all-time favorites. Here are our top seven.

The Snowy Day

by Ezra Jack Keats, Viking, 1962

The Snowy Day cover.

The story: In this Caldecott Medal-winning book, a boy named Peter finds joy in a snow-covered day. Through its bright illustrations and simple yet meaningful text, it was also one of the first mainstream children’s books to show a non-caricatured African-American protagonist.

Our thoughts: “I remember loving the colors and art and also being so envious of kids who got regular snow days, as us Pacific Northwesterners didn’t ever have anything but a gray, wet holiday season.” –Chelsea Davis, podcast producer and content strategist

The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth 

by Chris Burkard and David McClellan, Dreamling Books, 2015

The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth cover.

The story: A young boy wondered, “Where can I find happiness?” And the planet responded, sending him on a journey to deserts, mountains and even the top of the world—the places the Earth is proudest of. But the boy discovers that happiness is unexpectedly hard to find. Surf and adventure photographer Chris Burkard and Disney Interactive artist David McClellan came together to create a feast for the eyes.

Our thoughts: “This is the first book I gave to my nieces and nephews. The images are gorgeous and stoke wonder in all ages.” –Anders Nordblom, content and media business development lead

The Giving Tree

by Shel Silverstein, HarperCollins, 1964

The Giving Tree cover.

The story: Unfolding over the course of a lifetime, Shel Silverstein’s book explores the nature of giving and receiving. In it, we follow an apple tree and a boy. The early stages of their relationship have the boy playing in the tree’s branches, while in the end, all that is left is an old man and a stump.

Our thoughts: “It holds a special place in my heart for a very personal reason: I was actually very sick when I was younger and spent most of my eighth year in a hospital/ICU. I have fond memories of reading both The Giving Tree and Shel Silverstein’s other poems during that time. I had a craniotomy that year, and a day or so after I got out of surgery, I began reciting Shel Silverstein’s poems by heart (my eyes were swollen shut for awhile, so I couldn’t see to read), and my family and doctors were so excited. It was a sign that the surgery hadn’t damaged my brain.” –Sarah Grothjan, news and features writer

The Great Kapok Tree

by Lynne Cherry, Scholastic, 1990

The Great Kapok Tree cover.

The story: Writer and illustrator Lynne Cherry’s visit to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest inspired this book, which introduces conservation to young ones. The story follows a man into the rainforest to chop down a kapok tree. But when he lies down underneath it to rest, the creatures that call the tree home whisper to him reasons he shouldn’t cut it down. Some murmur subtly that all living things depend on one another while others state their thoughts more strongly: “A ruined rainforest means ruined lives.” To us, the book feels even more pertinent today than when it was originally released three decades ago.

Our thoughts: “I remember loving all the different animals (a three-toed sloth! A toucan! A jaguar!) and learning what you call groups of them (a troop of monkeys!). My mom gave each character a different voice, and I would correct her if she mixed any up. Mostly though, I remember the reminder of my place on this Earth, and legit just realized that my stance on conservation was born from this book.” –Maren Horjus, gear editor

An Awesome Book

by Dallas Clayton, HarperCollins, 2012

An Awesome Book cover.

The story: “There are places in the world where people do not dream…” the book begins. But that world is far from the one in which author Dallas Clayton places us. In Clayton’s world, there are wild animals with diamond-coated wings and cars that run on jelly beans. Written for everyone, no matter their age, this jubilantly illustrated book is the nudge we all need toward bigger, bolder flights of fancy.

Our thoughts: “The book educates about the power of dreams and ideas. In parallel, it reminds adult readers about the consequence of losing that ability to dream and juxtaposes the material goals adults often trade for the innocent dreams they had as children. Dream big, dream often and with limitless potential. Isn’t that what any parent really wants for their children?” –Paolo Mottola, content and media director

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

by Michael Rosen, Little Simon, 1989

We're Going on a Bear Hunt cover.

The story: A group of adventurous kids and their pup set out to—you guessed it—hunt a bear. They travel through mud, jump over rivers and plod into a snowstorm before they encounter a bear in its cave. What happens next? No spoilers—you’ll have to pick it up to find out.

Our thoughts: “I don’t have kids, but when I was one, I loved We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. Despite the name, it’s not really about hunting a bear. It’s about going out in the woods as kids and solving problems along the way, such as how to get past thick, oozing mud or how to cross a deep cold river.” –Nicholas Hunt, travel editor

Get Dressed, Sasquatch!

by Derek Sullivan and Kyle Sullivan, Hazy Dell Press, 2015

Get Dressed, Sasquatch! cover.

The story: Born and built in Seattle, Washington, we know the Pacific Northwest. Which is how we know that there is a big, naked Sasquatch lurking in the forest around us. In this funny yet poignant book, we find out what happens when a rule-following park ranger tells Bigfoot about the new Ranger Rule 352: “People in the park must never be nude.”

Our thoughts: “I like this one as it introduces different types of animals that live in the forest, features a Sasquatch and a park ranger, and it also has a good message about being yourself and wearing what feels right.” –Theo Stewart, SEO program manager


During this process we noticed that nearly all of our favorites featured boys. What are your go-to kid’s books? Do any highlight brave protagonists of other genders? Tell us in the comments below.