Wednesday, September 17, 2014

10 Stories to Nurture Nature Connection

Last week I had the good fortune to be able to attend a Rosemary Wells talk. She spoke to a packed house of people of all ages at the oldest independent bookstore in my area. (Remember to support our few remaining independent brick-and-mortar bookstores.) She introduced her newest Max and Ruby book, and answered many questions. I am a big Rosemary Wells fan, and even more, I am a lover of children’s books. My last few posts have been about children’s books, and I’m going to do it this one more time. Today I am writing about children’s books that support a connection with nature and the environment. So here are 10 stories to foster connectedness and caring in your young children with the natural world.
The Lorax by Dr. Suess has to be on this list! Published in 1971, long before “going green” was a fad, the Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of exploiting the environment. In classic Dr. Suess rhyming style, we meet the Once-ler, who comes to the valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots. The Once-ler sets about harvesting the trees and destroying the forest.
Wildflower Tea by Ethel Pochocki and illustrated by Roger Essley.
In this lovely book, we meet an old man who lives alone. Through spring, summer and fall, he is out in nature gathering berries, blossoms and herbs. When November rolls around, he knows it is time to brew his “special tea” from all the gleanings and he sits by his window and watches the snow fall.
Ethel Pochocki developed her passion for books and writing while working at the New York City Public Library. While raising her eight children, she did her writing in the early morning hours.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
A girl and her father go out to try and see owls on a moonlit winter night. Dressed warmly, they trudge through snow. The hidden animals watch them pass. Pa makes the Great Horned Owl’s call and they wait for a reply. This story tells of a nightime adventure in wintry nature of a father and daughter. It is told simply, not too many words, and it evokes the feel of a snowy night. Wonderful for the wee, little children.
The Girl in the Golden Bower is another wonderful story by Jane Yolen and is suited for older young children. This fairy tale-like story is suited for the 6 and older crowd. Beautiful illustrations by Jane Dyer add to this wonderful story. I highly recommend this one!
Herman and Marguerite by Jay O’Callahan and pictures by Laura O'Callahan. I first heard this story on the car radio one day. My niece and nephew and I were spellbound. Jay O’Callahan was telling and he quickly became one of my favorite storytellers. He turned this story into a book. 
A shy earthworm and a lonely caterpillar become best friends. Through learning how to believe in themselves, and working together, they sing their dying orchard back into life. 

The Dragon and the Unicorn written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry. Ms. Cherry gives us a story of a princess who learns about the important natural co-dependance in the life of the ancient forest from her friends, a dragon and a unicorn. These two friends love their forest and the peace that abides there. That peace is shattered by men cutting down trees and destroying habitat on behalf of the princess’ father, the king.
The pictures accompanying this story are extremely detailed, and the beautiful borders are filled with even more details. And the characters are depicted with brown skin, an unusual feature that I wish was more common!

The Land of the Blue Flower by Frances Hodgson Burnett The author of The Secret Garden, and many more classic chapter books also wrote a ‘fairy tale’ suited to 6-and-ups. This longer picture book tells us that there is much to learn from the beauty of nature, from the stars and the earth.
Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep by Eleanor Farjeon with pictures by Charlotte Voake. Elsie Piddock is a natural rope-skipper. By the time she’s seven years old, she can even outskip the fairies. When she is 107, she returns to her home town to try and save the children’s beloved skipping grounds from the greedy, factory-building villain. 

River Song by Steve van Zandt with the Banana Slug String Band, illustrations by Katherine Zecca. This story is a song set to pictures. It describes the cycle of water from snow melt into streams, and rivers and eventually to the sea. And it is accompanied by a cd recording of the song.

Two books that I have included in previous posts deserve repeat mention here. In Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, we meet the ‘Lupine Lady.’ who traveled the world, and to make it more beautiful she planted lupines wherever she went.

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema describes the interconnectedness of life on the African plains, and the mutual dependance on water. This cumulative story is perfect for the little ones!

How about you? Do you have any suggestions for stories that nurture our connection with nature? Please let me know.

Rosemary Wells 
and yours truly.

P.S. I always appreciate it when readers share this blog with their friends.

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