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With Spring on it's way and the promise of time to spend outdoors in the better weather, here's a fabulous selection of books that will help you and your children enjoy your garden and the great outdoors and perhaps even discover a life-long hobby in the making.
A wonderful introduction to how a modern place somewhere in the UK will have been created over the centuries, this beautiful picture book cleverly records the history of a place as it would look from the perspective of an oak tree. Oaks are famous for the exceptional number of years that they live and their permanence makes an interesting contrast to how frequently humans change the landscape. “I first was an acorn, so tiny and round,/I fell from a branch and sank into the ground./ Then as I grew up, I turned into a tree…/ over hundreds of years! So, what did I see?” Taken together, the simple rhyming text matched by beautiful and carefully detailed illustrations offer a delightful history lesson. The book ends with a useful timeline: "What was happening in the world while the oak tree grew?". It comes right up to the present with the spreading of the Covid-19 virus!
From the bestselling author and rewilding pioneer Isabella Tree, When We Went Wild is a heartwarming, sustainably printed picture book about the benefits of letting nature take the lead, inspired by real-life rewilding projects. Nancy and Jake are farmers. They raise their cows and pigs, and grow their crops. They use a lot of big machines to help them, and spray a lot of chemicals to get rid of the weeds and the pests. That's what all good farmers do, isn't it? And yet, there is no wildlife living on their farm. The animals look sad. Even the trees look sad! One day, Nancy has an idea... what if they stopped using all the machines, and all the chemicals, and instead they went wild? The author's own experience of rewilding her estate at Knepp has influenced conservation techniques around the world that are bringing nature back to the countryside and bringing threatened species back from the brink.
Rob Ramsden is an exciting new arrival on the picture book scene and We Planted a Pumpkin is a really lovely book, just the thing to get young children excited about nature, eager to plant seeds and see them grow. It stars two very young gardeners and follows them through the process of planting a pumpkin seed, from watching and impatiently waiting for it to grow as the seasons change. The children bring liveliness and action to every scene, but there’s always lots going on – new shoots appearing, mini-beasts flying in and out. Though it feels beautifully simple, it’s actually chockful of information and opportunities for learning. A gorgeous book to share with the young and likely to be the start of many adventures in the garden.
As Tough Women’s subtitle declares, these are “stories of grit, courage and determination”. True tales from twenty-two tough women who undertake awe-inspiring adventures across the globe, from canoeing the Canadian wilderness, to hiking Pakistan, to cycling South America. Its editor is the intrepid Jenny Tough, a Canadian mountaineering expert who notes in her introduction that “the outdoor industry is actually fully of women, but when it comes to the highest level of media…the demographic dwindles to one”. Fortunately, this sexist state of affairs could be on the verge of changing - through giving voice to the “badass outdoorswomen” who here tell their extraordinary stories, this book might just change that narrow narrative and inspire new generations of female adventuresses. Each account enthrals like the best kind of travel writing. There are dazzling evocations of, for example, rugged Himalayan mountain-scapes, lush South American jungles, and howling Norwegian glacial valleys. Many of the women’s stories reveal monumental physical and emotional challenges - challenges tackled and overcome with super-human strength and resilience - and all of them underpinned by a joyously life-affirming spirit of curiosity. For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.
Open your front door, breathe in the fresh air and prepare yourself for lots of fun! So says Alex Gregory in the introduction to this book and it is indeed full of exciting activities that children can do outdoors, whether that’s in the park or garden or further afield. There’s something for everyone too, whether you’re the climbing trees type or would rather be making leaf prints for your bedroom wall. All activities are explained clearly with step by step instructions, illustrations and colour photos. The text makes the idea of getting out and having an adventure sound both do-able and irresistible. With space to write up your adventures this is a record book as well as a practical guide and should be the start of many memorable outdoor adventures.
This little paperback does much more than it says on the tin. It encourages young readers to explore the outdoors (whether that’s via a ramble in the countryside, a trip to the local park or picnic in the garden) and shows them how to make the most of it by using their powers of observation and imagination. It asks you really look around and note what you can see, whether plants, insects or birds, and then to make sketches or maps of where you are. More, it encourages readers to make up stories and also includes short descriptions of famous people who found inspiration in the outside world, from Beatrix Potter to Claude Monet. It really should make young people see and think differently about the natural world around them, and packs in a great deal of information and stimulation.
Explore their extraordinary world | Life during lockdown has prompted lots of us to take a close look at the birds in the skies above and this strikingly illustrated book will inspire even more study and affection. Over sixty pages it introduces birds from across the world, birds of prey, seabirds, tree dwellers, passerines (perching birds) and more. Passages of text explain the many ways in which they are extraordinary while beautiful illustrations – colour and black and white – by Angela Harding give us a real sense of the bird in the wild. A book for readers of all ages, and one to treasure.
The Mr Men have a fun and busy time in Ireland in this new adventure in the much-loved series. The reason for their trip? Mr Chatterbox decides that Mr Quiet needs to learn the gift of the gab and where better for that than the Blarney Stone? Joining them on their trip are Little Miss Lucky, eager to find a four-leaf clover, Mr Noisy, who has a wonderful time singing at a Kilkenny folk festival, and Little Miss Splendid. They have a great time, visiting the Titanic Exhibition in Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway as well as Dublin. There are jokes and comic incidents galore, but readers will get a good sense of the Emerald Isle too. Fun first reading.
Two young friends find a seed, and what an adventure follows. At first they play with it, but of course it doesn’t grow. Then they listen to it, plant it and wait as the seasons come and go until, in the summer sunshine, there stands a glorious sunflower. That’s not the end of the story though: the flower dies, as flowers do, but it leaves them more seeds. This is a beautiful and very clever illustration of the cycle of life, all wrapped up in a story that will be fun to read over and over again. The rhythmic text is great to read aloud and there are opportunities for children to copy the actions of its stars on every page as they dance, sing, get blown by the wind, and grow up like the sunflower.
Studies have shown that time in nature can have a positive impact on physical health, mental health and development so if you’re worried about your children spending too much time indoors, it’s well worth getting hold of a copy of this book. It’s full of information and activity ideas to make a trip out, whether into the countryside or a local park, a fun experience for all. Colour illustrations give it the friendly feel of a picture book, but colour photographs of trees, leaves and flowers make it a useful information book too. With helpful notes for adults at the back plus suggestions for further reading, it’s a valuable guidebook and one that will inspire fun days out, and even a lifetime love of nature.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Anyone who dreams of escape and adventure will love this book! Purporting to be the illustrated journals of an unknown explorer, discovered by Teddy Keen in a remote part of the Amazon, its almost 200 pages are packed with information on how to explore and survive in the wild. This covers pitching camp, making and sailing rafts, creating shelters in environments from deserts to the Arctic, as well as first aid and some ‘life-saving scenarios’. The pages are a mix of how-tos and anecdotes, with sketches and occasional full-colour double page illustrations and it’s guaranteed to light the flame of adventure in all readers! You don’t need to be in a far-off place to start an expedition of course, and the book makes clear that back gardens, parks and canals are all suitable locations for adventuring. An irresistible call to step into the wild.
Anyone who fancies becoming a nature detective needs a copy of this book. Over pages packed with colour illustrations and animal facts, it explains how to read the signs that wild creatures leave, whether that’s paw tracks, a tuft of fur, a hole in the ground, or a pile of poo. The first section is poo based, with pages called Faeces Fun and Who Dung It?, but lots of other things are covered too including where and how animals build their homes and how you can spot who’s been eating what. Text and illustrations are engaging and lively and this is a book as entertaining as it is informative.
June 2019 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 | Joe’s huge adventure starts with something very small, an apple pip. Though it takes a while, it grows – and grows. Inspired, Joe fills his balcony with plants and flowers grown from seeds, and thrilled with the effect it has on neighbours, decides to share them with people throughout his city. In an explosion of colour, a spectacular fold-out page reveals the extraordinary transformation he effects. A story of imagination and creativity that will brighten anyone’s world, this is a delight to read and share. Sam Boughton mixes watercolour with wax crayon, monoprint and photocollage to create scenes bursting with life and joy. Extraordinary indeed!
From exploring the great out-doors to exploring great cities let some of these books be your children's guide.
Join some experts in each of their fields and let them guide you through birds and wildlife in your garden and beyond, get your children growing their own vegetables, learn about survival and so much more.
So leave that computer or television behind and get out there and enjoy yourselves!
Click here to download an activity pack, produced by Julia Green, the author of The Wilderness War, full of exciting outdoor activities to do including building a campfire, making a pond, ID the trees around you, go tracking animals and lots more.