Reading is a great way to spend time together as a family. All three of my kids love to read and we read a lot during the winter, but also when we go camping or backpacking. Our favorite genres as a family are nature, outdoors, and adventure. Books also make great gifts. Every birthday and holiday, our kids get at least one book. This includes Valentine’s Day and Easter because books are better than candy, so keep these in mind for any gift-giving this year or just for fun. Or, add these to your road trip adventure bag.
Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, books have become even more important to us. My kids love people and have found it very hard to not have friends to come and play. We have read so many books in the last few months, especially with the weather being so unpredictable, sickness, and social distancing. And if you can’t tell from the list, I really enjoy bright and colorful illustrations, as well as a good story. There are probably more than fifty books on this list, and that was after removing quite a few!
**Please note, during this current health and economic crisis, I encourage you to order any of your books online from any independent local bookseller. I have two favorites, The King’s English in Salt Lake City, UT and Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton, MT. The staff are fantastic and always have great recommendations at both stores. Support local small businesses!
Chapter One Bookstore was my introduction to bookstores as a kid. I remember they would have bag sales and my mom would take me and my sister to Chapter One, to get one bag of books each. It was the only thing that she would “splurge” on. I love how awesome and community-oriented the owners are including being involved in the local community theater. I also attended a reading there last year by one of my favorite authors. Chapter One has been open since 1974.
“Pax” (ages 10-13) The heartwarming middle school novel will melt and inspire any reader, at any age. A young boy names Peter rescue Pax when he was just a kit. The two form an inseparable bond, but when Peter’s father goes to war and Peter has to go live with his grandfather, he releases Pax back into the wild. Just a boy, a fox, and their journey.
“Wildfire” (ages 8-13) Sam Castine’s summer camp is being overrun by a wildfire. Sam runs back to get his phone as they are evacuating and gets left behind. As the flames worsen, Sam can only keep moving and try to remember survival skills taught to him by his late father. He encounters an older camper names Delphi, and together they must survive as walls of flame surround them. This is a wonderful book about friendship and how hardships can strengthen human bonds. The end of the book includes facts and tips about wildfires. Our family really enjoyed this one, especially because Montana has so many forest fires each year that are absolutely devastating.
Another wonderful independent bookstore that I love, is The King’s English in Salt Lake City, Utah. When I first moved back to the states, my plan for my first week was to find a book store, find a job and find a new friend, in that order. I had moved in with my sister-in-law’s parents and her dad walked with me the few blocks up the street to The King’s English. They always have a great selection and are so helpful. My sister-in-law’s mother always gets my kids’ book for birthdays and holidays there. They recommended The Wonders of Nature. If you follow them on Facebook, they are currently doing storytime at 11:00 am on Facebook during the week.
“The Wonders of Nature” – ages 7-10 – With stunning images, this book has 100 facts about some of the amazing animals, minerals, rocks, and other nature’s wonder. My children have gone through this book hundreds of times. Our copy was actually purchased at The King’s English as a Christmas present from Nana.
Here are some other family favorites that we have discovered this year and during the COVID 19 crisis that any child (and even adults) can enjoy:
“An Anthology of Animals” (ages 7-10) If you love “The Wonders oF Nature”, you’ll love this one too, with gorgeous photos and illustrations of over 100 animals with closeups and fun facts.
“Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared” (ages 7-10) I remember as a kid, how upset I was when I discovered the dodo bird was extinct. Teach kids about the animals they won’t be able to experience and nurture and educate them on their role as custodians of this planet.
“Can You Hear The Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest” (ages 7-10) This beautiful book teaches children about the importance of trees, with lots of facts and hands-on activities.
“Wonders of Nature” (ages 2 -5) Does anyone remember this Little Golden Book? This was one of my favorites as a child. Have you ever wondered…?
“Water is Water” (ages 6-8) Teach your children about the water cycle in this educational and beautiful book.
“My Book Of Birds” (ages 5-9) Maybe your child will become the next James Audobon, after reading this illustrated and delightful book about birds. The pictures are amazing.
“Kids Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to do in Nature Before You Grow Up” (ages 8-12) There are so many fun things to do outside. This is a great guide book to get kids outside and in nature, year-round in the sun and the snow. And during the COVID 19 crisis, it has lots of activities to keep kids busy.
“Lonely Planet Kids: Wild Things” – (ages 6-10) What happens when you mix a bit of imagination, a bit of creativity and the great outdoors? Magic! This whimsical book is perfect for any child that loves being outside and can see the fantasy among the trees.
“Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail” (ages 4-8) This wonderful nature guide is great for first-time explorers. There are some great activities, lists, and games in this book for the young explorer to learn and investigate the natural world around them, even in a suburban park or out in the wild.
“Backpack Explorer: Bird Watch” (ages 4-8) This is a great book to introduce children to bird watching. It has some great tips, games, and activities.
“Forest School Adventure: Outdoor Skills and Play for Children” (ages 6-12) Teach your kids outdoor play and survival skills with this amazing book. There are lots of activities including crafts, games and skill building.
“The Organic Artist For Kids” (ages 5-12) This guide book teaches kids and adults to not only enjoy nature but also the world of art. With many DIY projects on how to make art supplies from things you can find outside, children learn about zero waste, ingenuity, and creating. Some of the activities include making berry ink, paintbrushes from sticks, and rubbings.
“Campout: The Ultimate Kids Guide” (ages 7-12) This guide is great for teaching kids the basics of camping. It includes great tips on what gear to take, how to set up a tent, and more. There are many activities to try and a few recipes as well. Any beginner camper would love this.
“A Week In The Woods” (ages 9-13) Andrew just moved from the city and he hates his school and he hates his teacher. And he is not looking forward to the school’s annual week in the woods. But, maybe new isn’t so bad after all until things go bad. Learn what it takes to be a week in the woods, and the life lessons we can learn from it.
“A Wolf Called Wander” (ages 8-12) Based on the true story of a wolf named OR-7, this book about a wold trying to find his family and home is heart-warming. There are illustrations throughout and a map to show the journey of Wander. This is a great book for those who love “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Pax”.
“Camilla, Cartographer” (ages 4-8) This is such a good story. Camilla loves maps and dreams about exploring and finding new paths. One day her friend gets lost in the snow and Camilla uses her map skills to help her friend. This is a great book to teach problem solving to littles.
“Illuminature” – ages 8-12- Discover the secret plants and animals of ten different environments using magic glasses. This is a gorgeous and interactive book.
“The Story Orchestra: 4 Seasons in One Day” (ages 3-7) Learn about the four seasons with this little story following Isabelle and her dog, Pickle. As Isabelle adventure through the four seasons, you can little to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This is one of my son’s favorites.
“Atlas of Animal Adventures” – (ages 6-12) Animals have adventures too! From epic migrations to annual events, this book teaches kids about animals in a whole new way.
“Atlas of Oceans” (ages 6-12) With these stunning illustrations, kids can learn about the oceans and the animals that live within them. There are lots of fascinating facts and my children love this book. My toddler has learned to count by counting all of the whales or all of the otters or all of the clown fish. Every time we read it, we learn something new.
“Encyclopedia of Animals” (ages 6-9) Have I mentioned we love educational books that have amazing illustrations? This is not just another encyclopedia of animals. With over 300 species and ones that aren’t common, your child will love learning about the animal kingdom.
“The Practical Naturalist” (ages 10 and up) This is a great book for the budding naturalist. Even though it’s not technically a children’s book, it’s fun for ages 10 and up. There is lots of information about the natural world around us and has very fascinating information. Both of my old kids love this one. We keep it in the camper.
“A World Full of Animal Stories” (ages 6-11) Bedtime just got better with these fun animal stories from around the world. This book contains some classics as well as new animal adventures and tales.
“Curiositree: Natural World” (ages 9-12) This book is all about how animals adapt and why they do the things that they do. This is more of a browsing book than a reading book, and has kept our kids entertained for hours.
“Llama Llama Loves Camping” (ages 3-6) Who doesn’t love Llama Llama? This cute book from the serious is a great way to introduce little to camping.
“Mountains of the World” – ages 5-8 – Let this fun and colorful book inspire the next hiker or mountaineer, with mountains from all over the world.
“Wild Animals of the North” (ages 6-11) Learn all about the animals of the North with this beautiful book. There are lots of great animal facts and the pictures are amazing. Some of the animals featured in this book are bald eagles, bison, polar bears and pandas.
“Wild Animals of the South” (ages 6-11) Dieter Braun does it again in this other children’s book. This time, he explores the southern hemisphere. Some of the animals featured are koalas, kangeroos, penguins and giraffes.
“Bug Camp: Where Every Day’s an Adventure” (ages 9-12) Bugs are cool! Learn about bug science from your own home, including facts, activities and experiments.
“The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth” (ages 7-12) Learn about our wonderful planet and all of its amazing and cool ecosystems. Learn more about earth science with infographics, maps, and illustrations.
“The Berenstain Bears Blaze a Trail” (ages 3-7) It’s never too early to teach children about what not to do in this woods. I love all of the life lessons that the Berenstein Bears teach littles, and this book in no exception.
“No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits” (ages 12-adult) At age 13 Jordan Romero became the youngest person to summit Everest, and at 15 the youngest to climb the Seven Summits. With hard work, determination, and braving the elements, he succeeded in achieving his dream that started when he was 9 years old. His success is a great achievement and this is a great read for teens.
“Girl Sailing Aboard the Western Star” (ages 12-18) This coming-of-age story is a good read and a book I think many teens can identify with. 12-year-old Annie ends up leaving her animals and horse ranch behind to sail the world on a sailboat with cramped quarters, an annoying brother, and no friends. Slowly, she learns to love the ocean and comes out of her shell. This might be one of those books that will make your child want to cruise around the world.
“National Parks of the USA” (ages 5-8) This stunning picture book is all about the National Parks. I especially love the illustrations.
“National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments and Landmarks” (ages 8-12 ) This one is also about National Park sites, but geared towards older kids. This would be perfect for your next National Park road trip.
“All Aboard! National Parks” (ages 2-3) This awesome board book is great for exploring the National Parks with your babies and toddlers. Choo choo along and explore the parks along the way and meet the animals.
Little Naturalist Books (ages 2-3) Try this gorgeous board books for little ones, to inspire them and teach them about some of the most famous naturalists.
“Puffins Off the Beaten Path” (ages 7-10) Using stunning photos of real puffins, explore Iceland and meet other animals in this story about two puffins named Arni and Birta. They are so cute!
“Gutsy Girls Go For Science: Paleontologists: With Stem Projects for Kids” (ages 8-11) Kids love to dig in the dirt. Learn about amazing female paleontologists and dinosaur science, as well as have fun with cool STEM activities. Not just for girls!
“50 Reasons to Love Animals” (ages 3-6) This fun book is all about why we should love some of these amazing animals. Many of them are endangered and it’s important to love them more than ever.
“The (Not) Bad Animals” (ages 5-10) We’ve labeled mice and snakes and spiders as “bad animals”. But are they? Learn amazing facts about many of these animals that have been labeled and laugh at the funny and eye-catching illustrations.
“The Hike” (ages 3-5) This adorable book is fun to teach and introduce hiking to preschoolers. I love the little notes and fun sketches.
Looking for a series? There are a few that we love, that you might too.
Thornton Burgess has been around for a very long time. He started writing in 1910 and published hundreds of stories about animals in an endearing and whimsical way, gently teaching conservation and respect for wildlife. Many of my favorite characters are Mother West Wind, Danny Meadow Mouse, and Buster Bear. A lot of his books can be found for Kindle for free, because they are classics. (ages 8-12)
National Geographic’s “Explorer Academy” series is fun for curious and adventurous minds. 12-year-old Cruz joins Explorer Academy, to become one of the next great explorers. With a little suspense, a bit of danger and a dash of science, these adventure books are fantastic and exciting for any middle-schooler. Thing Captain Planet meets Mission Impossible for kids. (ages 8-12)
When I was a kid, I dreamed of running away to the mountains like Sam in “My Side of the Mountain”. I also wanted to own my wildlife reserve. I live in the mountains now, but as for the reserve, that’s not going to happen, at least in real life. But, I can be whisked away to a fantasy world and take my kids with me, when we read the “Fablehaven” series. Kendra and Seth visit their grandparents, not knowing that it is a magical animal reserve. They have many adventures in the series all over the world, in order to save and protect the “animals” in the reserve. Seth always has his emergency adventure kit, as he gets into trouble again and again, while Kendra is the voice of reason. Imagination, nature, and adventure make these books very enjoyable. (ages 8-12)
Besides books for reading, my kids also love coloring and activity books. These are great for road tripping, quiet play and even when we are camping in case the kids get bored. We love coloring together as a family.
And don’t forget, journals are cool too!
Many of these children’s books are from the Quarto Group. Check them out for other amazing kids and teen books. They also have a great selection of books for adults. Are there any other titles you think would be great to add to the list? Try our 2018 book list for other titles you might enjoy.