Inspire a love of the outdoors with these great picture books about camping and the outdoors. Going somewhere far away is off the table for most of us right now, but you can inspire future trips, day hikes, or if you are lucky enough to get away for a camping trip, use these books to prepare. What I also love about this selection of picture books is that so many of them tackle issues like anxiety, separation, and dealing with change. All the while telling a good story with incredible illustrations.
Picture Books About The Outdoors & Camping
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Flashlight by Lizi Boyd is a wordless picture book that explores the idea of shining a light, in this case, a flashlight, on the wildlife that lurks around outside at night. The book is visually stunning and uses light and dark, but also page cut-outs to move the wordless story along. I love wordless picture books because it helps children to see that stories can be told in many ways, it also gives adults a great opportunity to talk and have a conversation about the story without interrupting anything.
Oliver and Hope’s Adventure Under The Stars by Meg Cadts feels commercial. Because of COVID-19, my library is closed, so I bought all the books on this list hoping they would all be worth recommending, and this book is definitely good enough to be on my class shelf and yours, but I can’t help but feel like it’s a little off. So I did some digging… the author and illustrator are not real people, well they are people, a group of people. This was a collaborative effort by a UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation, and it feels like it – the story is about imagination and anxiety about the dark and camping. The story is fine, but it’s missing something. When your library opens back up, find it, and see before buying.
A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell is a sweet book about children spending the day searching for edible plants with their grandmother, Yayah, and other elders. As they search and learn about the plants they find, they are also learning more about their Nlaka’pamux language. Many words are dispersed throughout the text. There is a guide at the back of the book for proper pronunciation. The story is all about learning how to be respectful to the land paying attention to what they are gathering, and what they don’t want to gather.
I love how this book focuses on the transmission of knowledge of Nlaka’pamux as well as the plants from grandmother to children. Something that was stolen from generations of Indigenous people in Canada and the United States through residential schools and the 60s scoop. The illustrations by Julie Flett could all be framed, each and every one, they are masterpieces. The text is quite long, but save this title for your students or children when they are capable of sitting a little longer, you don’t want to miss it.
Llama Llama Loves Camping by Anna Dewdney is exactly what you’d expect. A simple story with familiar characters and a preachy message. Llama Llama and his friends are going camping for the first time, and the big preachy message here is to do it without technology. Over and over, one character wants to use technology but is reminded that when you go camping, you leave all that behind. The story is formulaic, but children who like this character will love this book. That’s the value of this book; children who will grab it and enjoy it because they love Llama Llama. If your students or children don’t fit into that, it’s not a must-have.
The Hike by Alison Farrell is a cute book about friendship, self-confidence, and of course, nature. In the book, three friends head off on a hike, and even when they lose their way, they don’t lose their cool. They problem-solve and get back on track. I love that all three characters are girls. I love that they adore animals and nature and that there are labels for everything in the book. The setting is clearly the Pacific NorthWest because reading the book was like going on my now daily hikes in the forest by my house in Washington state. Great book!
The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann is wonderful for so many reasons! I love this author and have praised many of her books before, but I think this might be my favorite work of hers to date. The book is kind of a hybrid of a picture book and graphic novel which will appeal in big ways to children who are on the cusp of independent reading. The story will grab them too, it’s about a girl who is going on her first camping trip without her dad, and things aren’t perfect. Swimming with fish is gross at first, but smores are pretty rad, and getting to sleep away from home is hard. I was taken back to my first camping trip with my aunt and how anxious I was. I think the author does a perfect job of relating to her young readers while gently guiding them to a happy ending. I also love that the main character has a dad, but there is no mention of mom. It’s a great representation of a family that isn’t seen in books a lot.
Tap The Magic Tree by Christie Matheson is a wonderful interactive story. It invites readers to play a role in experiencing all four seasons from the perspective of an apple tree. Bare branches in winter, blossoms in spring, apples in the summer, and or course falling leaves in the fall. Readers tap, shake, clap, and even blow kisses as the pages change along with the seasons.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a true classic, written in 1948 it’s a simple and calm tale about a little girl and her mom collecting blueberries to can. While mama pics them, Sal eats them and wanders off, but they aren’t the only mama and baby out gathering blueberries. A mama bear and cub are sharing the mountain with Sal and her mama. This book is chill and sweet, and the black and white illustrations make the readers feel like they are on the top of the mountain gathering blueberries too.
A Campfire Tail by Sarah Glenn Marsh is one of those books that are a lot of fun, seem sorta fluffy, but kids adore them! This book will delight your child because it’s absurd and awesome. A dragon is the “new kid” at summer camp, and our heroine decides to be the veteran camper to take this giant dragon under her wing. Things don’t go as planned, but in the end, the dragon saves everyone. It’s silly, there are plot holes that will make you ask a lot of questions, but your child will dig it, that that is the most important thing.
Zoey’s Jungle by Bethanie Murguia is a book that is all about imagination. Two sisters are playing a game of chase all through the jungle, but is that really a jungle? No, it’s a playground. I think the message this book sends is especially important right now as kids are forced to rely on their imaginations more and more as Coronavirus regulations don’t allow them to play at playgrounds or go to far off destinations to explore.
Hike by Pete Oswald is everything a book should be. It tells a story with just the right amount of words. Few words are needed because as the father and child hike together; you get the idea that they are listening and exploring nature without speaking too much. Readers get to tag along with the pair as they wake up, prepare for their hike, drive, hike, plant trees, rock climb, and soak in the awesomeness of the outdoors before returning home. I love this book, I am so happy it’s part of my collection. It not only celebrates the outdoors it celebrates fatherhood too. Three cheers to a job well done, I can’t find anything I don’t like about this book.
A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen is hilarious. If you aren’t familiar with this author/ illustrator you need to be, his books are delightful, this book included. His illustration style takes you back to the 50’s and his rhyming texts make you want to read the book over and over. In this book, Mr.Magee goes camping with his dog, but things don’t go as planned. Luckily the backup plan is almost as good as the original. I don’t want to spoil the book, but suffice it to say your kids will love it!
Green on Green by Dianne White is such a beautiful book. The illustrations by Felicita Sala are breathtaking, and the simple text makes this book useful for home, read clouds with any age, or for your child to enjoy on their own. The book explores the different colors that become prominent as the seasons change; blue in the summer, brown in the fall, white in the winter and so many more.
Good Morning World by Paul Windsor is a great repetitive book that is all about welcoming everyone to the day in the great outdoors. Short sentences greet the sun and various animals we find in nature as they start their day. While the text is perfect for a short circle time the illustrations in traditional Haisla and Heiltuk style are bright and inviting enough for silent “reading” time for preschoolers who can explore the story through them. I love this book because it’s impossible to feel anything but happy after reading it.
More Preschool Book Lists
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