Mary QuattlebaumAhh–summer! Time opens up. There seem to be more Green Hours to explore the natural world, laze ‘neath a blue sky, read for pleasure under a tree.

Thanks to all you Green Hour readers who celebrated this summer spirit by responding to my call for favorite children’s books (fiction and nonfiction) about the outdoors. The list has number and variety enough to take your family through the summer and beyond.

In the interest of space, I had to trim suggestions and descriptions a bit. Please do post longer descriptions in the comments section below, if you’d like, or share opinions and additional favorites.

Since the list was heavy on picture books, I wanted to highlight an eco-adventure for kids who can read on their own: Operation Redwood (Amulet/Abrams, 2009, ages 8 to 12). Author S. Terrell French packs lots of action and humor into her debut novel. Julian Carter-Li and his buddies take on a corporation and outwit a greedy uncle to preserve a grove of ancient California trees. In a plot laced with emails, a goat and a tree house, the young characters strive to save the world one tree at a time.

Favorite Outdoor Kids’ Books From Our Readers

Picture Books

An Environmental Guide from A to Z by Tim Magner (Green Sugar Press, 2009, ages 3-10) (This book got TWO votes!)

“This is a great book for elementary school kids…because it gives some real, and really interesting facts [and] doesn’t talk down to kids.”–Christy and Eloise, 10, and Miles, 8, Colorado

The questions “really get us talking about the outdoors.”–Stephen and Samantha, 9, and Justine, 7, California

A Little Bit of Winter by Paul Stewart, illustrated by Chris Riddell (HarperCollins, 1999, ages 3-7)

“A touching story of two animal friends, a hedgehog and a rabbit, and how the change of seasons imprints their relationship. Enjoyed by my preschool class and grandchildren.”–Gail, Pennsylvania

Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson, illustrated by Margaret Lloyd (Henry Holt, 1993, ages 4-9)

“Beautifully introduces children to the interconnectedness of all life.”–Anja, preschool director, New Zealand

Colors by Shirley Hughes (HarperCollins, 1986, ages 1-5)

“Celebrates the seasons and shows children enjoying nature in a matter-of-fact and organic way.”–Courtney and Will, 8, Sam, 6, and Owen, 3, Virginia

On a Starry Night by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by David McPhail (Scholastic, 1994, ages 3-7)

Our family keeps a seasonal basket with books that “evoke a sense of the seasons and their magic.”–Wendy and Satchel, 4, Virginia

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr (Penguin Group, 1987, ages 4-9)

“Wonderful relationship between father, child and nature.”–Rachel and James, 4, New Hampshire

Puddles by Jonathan London, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Penguin, 1997, ages 3-7)

“Truly expresses the beauty of the world after the rain and the joy of being a ‘puddle-jumper’!”–Thomas and Cullen, 7, North Carolina

Sonny’s Dream by Noriko Senshu (Hampton Roads, 2005, ages 4-9)

“A baby Grizzly [in Alaska] has bad dreams about ‘monster fish’ until his mother teaches him lessons to overcome his fears and become an independent adult.”–Ursula and 4-year-old son, Michigan

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (Little, Brown, 2009, ages 4-9) &

Uno’s Garden by Graeme Base (Abrams, 2006, ages 4-9)

These books are enjoyed respectively by Dylan and Matthew. The first tells how “one boy helps change the world into a more beautiful place” and the second is a “tale about how we affect the environment around us.”–Elke and Dylan, 8, and Matthew, 4, California

Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey (Penguin Group, 1957, ages 4-9)

The oldest of four now-grown kids writes: “Our favorite nature books are by Robert McCloskey,” especially Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine. “But Time of Wonder to this day brings so much gentle hope to us all. [McCloskey] writes in the rhythm of kidspeak.”–Charlotte, with grown siblings Sam, Jesse and Will, British Columbia, Canada

What Will the Weather Be by Lynda Dewitt, illustrated by Carolyn Cross (HarperCollins, 1993, ages 5-9)

“My daughter was fascinated to learn how the weather actually worked and what things could affect it.”–Jenn and Maddie, 7, Pennsylvania

When We Go Camping by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Andrew Kiss (Tundra, 2004, ages 5-9)

A readaloud favorite for this family and their Cub Scout troop. “It reminds us of the wonderful things we experience while camping.”–Melissa and Liam, 8, and Sean, 4, Alconbury, England

Family Activity Books

Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell (Dawn, 1979, adult)

While staying in a mountain cabin with four kids and another mom, we played games from this classic. The author, a noted nature educator, has a “mischevious loving spirit that shone through in person” at a seminar.–Connie, Colorado

Stay tuned: later on in the week we’ll share more favorite books from our fans on Facebook!

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 15 award-winning children’s books, including Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns (Random House) and two chapter-book sequels, all set in a city community garden. Check for activities connected with Mary’s books.