When You Can Swim

Wong, Jack. When You Can Swim. New York: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2023.
When you can swim, a whole new world opens up. Treetops drift overhead as you float on your back. Fields of reeds appear as you dive down under the water. Fish feast on insects as you tread water in the twilight. Amazing wonders, exciting adventures, all await you once you can swim. Evocative full-page illustrations help to tell this story written as poetry. Told from the second person point of view and accompanied by an afterword explaining how the author learned to overcome his fear of swimming when he came to Canada as an immigrant child, this beautiful picture book is highly recommended for readers of all ages. (P.S. Teachers will find it invaluable for showing students how to write powerfully without using the rules of punctuation.)

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Sometimes I Feel Like a River

Daniel, Danielle. Sometimes I Feel Like a River. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2023.
There are many picture books about emotions, but this one is unique in using to describe feelings and their effects upon behaviour. Feeling like a rainbow makes others smile. Feeling like the rain helps others grow. Twelve different similes – written as short poems – encourage readers to connect with the wonders of our natural world. Full-page illustrations by Josée Bisaillon enhance this imaginative story highly recommended as a read-aloud and discussion-starter for kids 5 to 11 years old.

More books about nature

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Quiet

dePaola, Tomie. Quiet. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018.
“Hurry up! Be quick!” Sometimes it seems every day is filled with “Can’t you go faster?” What about being quiet and still? What about observing? What about taking time to sit and think? In this peaceful picture book, a grandfather takes two grandchildren on a walk and shows them how nature is sometimes busy and sometimes still. The simple calm green text and soft pastel-coloured illustrations combine to create a timeless reminder for all ages.

More stories of nature for Earth Day on April 22nd

More stories about grandparents

Tomie dePaola wrote and illustrated more than 200 picture books during his lifetime and won multiple awards including the Caldecott Medal and John Newbery Medal. He was born in Connecticut in September of 1934 and died in New Hampshire in March of 2020. You might like to borrow his books from your local library or buy them from your favourite bookstore. All are worth reading over and over again.

Wonder Walkers

Archer, Micha. Wonder Walkers. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021.
Gorgeous double-page illustrations help tell this story of two children on a nature walk. Minimal text – in the form of imaginative questions – will inspire students to see the world with fresh eyes. Teachers will want to use the story to introduce personification. Artists will be reminded of all the colours in Brian Wildsmith’s picture books. A 2022 Caldecott Honor Book. Highly recommended!

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Stand Like a Cedar

Campbell, Nicola I. Stand Like a Cedar. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Highwater Press, 2021.
Spring. Summer, Autumn. Winter. Walking through the woods, children learn about nature and all it has to teach us. Written in English, Nłe7kepmxcín, and Halq’emeylem – and accompanied by a glossary and pronunciation guide – this quietly respectful and life-affirming picture book will provoke reflection and encourage gratitude. Highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up. (P.S.: All stories by Nicola Campbell are worth reading. All gently encourage empathy and celebrate nature.)

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Let’s Get Gardening

Let’s Get Gardening: 30 Easy Gardening Projects for Children. New York: DK Publishing, 2019.
Nonfiction books by DK are always beautifully designed and this 128-page hardcover book is no expection. It’s a joyous introduction to planting vegetables, designing containers and welcoming nature into the garden. From growing herbs and sunflowers to building planters from eggshells and creating bee hotels, a multitude of ideas are illustrated with step-by-step coloured photos in this cheerful book for readers 8 to 12 years old.

What Grew in Larry’s Garden

Alary, Laura. What Grew in Larry’s Garden. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2020.
Gardens bring friendship and understanding. They build goodwill in a world often filled with fear and loneliness. This quietly gentle picture book illustrated by Kass Reich is based on the true story of a Toronto schoolteacher who showed his students how to grow tomato plants and share them with others. “We can figure this out,” he says over and over again to his young neighbour Grace when problems arise. Highly recommended for gardeners of all ages.

More stories of gardens 

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Picture book memoirs