Fiction, Living Books, Nature Study, Top Picks

Top Picks: Nature-Themed

Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter
This is the story of a young man who does not fit in, but whose courage, determination, and heart endear him to those around him. Set in the Limberlost Swamp, this tale is full of the wonders of the natural world. For middle-high school readers.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of my favorite books as a child, The Secret Garden is about things coming alive, sometimes things that you had almost given up hope on, plants as well as people. Also a wonderful testimony to the fact that children who set about meaningful work will reap the benefits of good character. For readers of all ages.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
The exciting adventures of a boy who goes off to live on his own in the wilderness, with his pet Peregrine Falcon. He hollows out a tree for shelter, gathers his own food, and much more in his quest to become a naturalist. For upper-elementary and beyond.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
This historical fiction novel centers around a colonial boy who is left to defend the family claim while his father returns to retrieve his mother and siblings. Alone in an unknown land, the hero befriends a Native American boy who teaches him the ways of survival. Elementary through middle-school readers.

The Tenement Tree by Kate Seredy
This is the story of an imaginative boy, living in the city, who plays a game with his aunt–they describe the extraordinary beauty found in commonplace scenes in terms of natural objects, much like imagining pictures in the clouds. All the while he longs for real nature, away from the city…and like all Seredy books, the ending is quite satisfactory. A story that will delight readers young and old alike.

Rascal by Sterling North
This story is the boyhood recollections of renowned author Sterling North. Centering around the author’s relationship with his pet raccoon–which provides enough natural history to make anyone a coon aficionado, North and his father explore the wilderness around their Wisconsin home during the early 20th century. For elementary readers on up.

Zeb by Lonzo Anderson
A boy’s boy story. Left alone, stranded, nearly helpless, after devastating tragedy, in the winter, Zeb, a young pioneer boy, must find courage and ingenuity in order to survive and clear the family land. A great survival story. For upper-elementary readers and beyond.

Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart edited by Jane Boulton
The incredible journal of a very young (5-6 year old) girl living in a lumber camp in the Pacific Northwest, her fresh and poignant prose is full of the young girl’s love of nature. For middle-school readers on up, though Barbara Cooney has excerpted and illustrated a version titled Only Opal.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
A lonely boy in the pioneer days of Florida, adopts a fawn–the year-long venture portrays his transformation from carefree boy to responsible young man. The natural world is a prominent factor in this book from the setting to the plot, the tension and resolution. For upper-elementary through adult readers.