18 Book Recommendations for the Young Bookworm

Immerse your child in magical new worlds

Did someone say tiny pet glaciers, three-eyed foxes, fainting possums, beaver ponds, and beret-wearing snakes? That’s right, we’re back with more tried and true environmentally-engaged children’s book recommendations for your favorite young ones. Consider picking up some of these charming, funny, beautiful, moving, thoughtful, goofy, and creative titles today. And of course, don’t forget to support your favorite indie bookstore or order through our Bookshop links below.

For animal lovers 


Inside Cat,
The Stone Sat Still,
Every Dreaming Creature,
and anything else

by Brendan Wenzel

In Wenzel’s animal-centric books, a child can expect to spend time as a sleeping salamander, a speeding falcon, or a dancing octopus. They will wander through the rooms of a strange house in the form of an Inside Cat, or sit quiet as an eternal stone, feeling the slap and shuffle of otters munching fish. You can count on his books to expand perspective and perception in exciting and poignant ways.



by Matthew Forsythe

Like his delightful Pokko and the Drum, Mina is hilarious, subtle, and oh-so visually pleasing to behold. One day Mina the mouse’s eccentric father brings home something strange: a pet squirrel. . . who is really. . . a cat. HOW WILL THINGS END!? Hint: literary stick insects come to the rescue.


The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties

by Toon Tellegen, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

For those who want to see more seagulls dancing in the moonlight, enamored grasshoppers, and mysterious feasts rendered in the spirit of Winnie-the Pooh. We’re talking a maximum dose of captivating whimsy, folks.



by Janell Cannon

Thirty years after her initial publication, this fruit bat baby still charms me every time. Separated from her mother in mid-flight, little Stellaluna plops into a bird nest. Mama bird and her chicks, Pip, Flitter, and Flap, are quick to welcome their strange visitor, and soon bat and birds parse the merits of dietary options and hanging upside down.


Night Animals

by Gianna Marino

A fun, funny, and short tale of nocturnal beasts afraid of every noise in the night. Includes: a fainting possum, a quivering wolf, and a skunk with loose spray control. Littles will love it.


What Goes on Inside a Beaver Pond?

by Becky Cushing Gop, illustrated by Carrie Shryock

An immersive, informative year in the life of a young beaver. Follow our furry heroine through wetlands and waterways as she strikes out to find a home of her own. Chocked full of facts and observations rendered in verdant comic-style panels, this narrative nonfiction book provides lots to chew on for builders and budding aquatic naturalists.


What’s Inside a Caterpillar Cocoon?

by Rachel Ignotofsky

As colorful as they come, replete with unique art and engaging questions and answers for your budding lepidopterist. You can count on Ignotofsky’s many titles to bring excitement to all things science and wonder. Complete the set with What’s Inside a Flower? and the forthcoming What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest? Check out her Women in Science, too.

For the poetic child


What is Love?

by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Carson Ellis

I asked the fisherman, What is love? The fisherman smiled. Love is a fish.” To the farmer, love is a seed. To the cart driver, it’s a donkey. But in the deft hands of Barnett and Ellis, love could also be “a sports car, a donut, a lizard, a ring. The first snow of winter, a maple in summer…” 


The Snail with the Right Heart, a True Story

by Maria Popova, illustrated by Ping Zhu

Here is a tender story about time, science, chance, genetics, love, death, and the poetry of existence. Inspired by true events, and written by the mastermind behind The Marginallian. Yes, it is literally about a snail.


For those seeking confidence


Jabari Jumps

by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari has taken all the lessons. He’s passed the swim test. He’s ready to jump off the diving board. He just needs to stretch a little first. Then maybe stop to think about what kind of fancy move he’ll make. He’s definitely not scared. . . .

My First Day

by Phùng Nguyên Quang and Huỳnh Kim Liên

It’s rainy season in the Mekong Delta when a young Vietnamese boy sets out alone for the first time in a wooden boat, rowing along the great river toward his first day of school. Gorgeous illustrations bolster this lovely story of determination and new beginnings.


For those who like to get weird
(my favorite category)


The Rock from the Sky

by Jon Klassen

Do you like the idea of cranky turtles, beret-wearing snakes, and armadillo-like creatures arguing over the best place for a nap? How about the prolonged suspense of a giant rock careening toward Earth? Klassen is the master of dry wit and a subtle color palette. Get a glimpse inside his head in this interview, then buy all his books, please. 


Cecil the Pet Glacier

by Matthea Harvey, illustrated by Giselle Potter

Ruby Small is a normal, if not a bit dour, child. But her parents are a pair of first-rate weirdos (the type who drink milk-and-Cokes, design tiaras, and trim marsupial topiaries from their shared home business). So naturally, when Ruby asks for a pet, they bring home a tiny, pebble-eating glacier. Ruby is unimpressed. 



by Daniel Mizielinski and Aleksandra Mizielinska

My children are in a hard-core geography phase (is that a thing?) lately, and they love to shuffle through these oversized, densely illustrated pages, examining every camel, custard, face, and flag. Be prepared to answer a LOT of questions, and to learn a lot, too. 


by ND Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Gus A. Allen

I promise you will fall in love with April, Jo, Molly, Mal, and Ripley, a scroungy troop of cabin mates at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Girls Hardcore Lady Types (aka the weirdest summer camp ever) in this boisterous, hilarious graphic novel series. Part punk rock, part Girl Scout, part epic fantasy, featuring lots of Queer, BIPOC, and trans teens, I loved reading these books with my kids. Expect sea captains, headphone-wearing Yetis, Greek gods, three-eyed foxes, odd plants, mega moose, inflatable kittens, science experiments, and lots of obscure merit badges. 


Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere

by Elise Gravel

Independent Olga is a precocious child, a loner, and animal lover with a fire for the scientific method. What luck, then, that she should find a weird pink, potato-shaped creature, as yet unknown to science, rooting around her garbage cans? She dubs it Olgamus ridiculus and begins her formal observations, notebook in hand. What does an olgamus eat? (Olives.) How does it poop? (In Skittle form.) Why does it smell so bad? (Unknown.) Read all about it in this darling oddball trilogy. I stand by Gravel’s entire catalog, from books on gender stereotypes and refugees, to those on mushrooms, bugs, and the unsung heroes of her Disgusting Critters series.

Hungry for more? We’ve got thirty more children’s book recommendations right here!

This piece contains affiliate links for Bookshop.org, a retailer that supports local bookstores. As an affiliate of Bookshop, Orion earns a small commission when you click through and make a purchase there.

Kathleen Yale is Orion‘s digital editor and the author of the award-winning children’s book Howl Like a Wolf! and the game Guess My Animal! which both combine ecology, animal behavior, and imagination to engage children in creative play. She’s a former scriptwriter for the educational programs SciShow and Crash Course, and prior to that worked as a wildlife field biologist. She lives outside of Glacier National Park, with her family.