Books for the nature-lovers in every season

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

By Kate Snyder

Plaid Elephant Books

Winter is the season of resolutions; the time when we look out at the expanse of the year ahead and spend time reflecting on our intentions and aspirations.

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As a parent, I know that my New Year’s Resolutions always include some variation on “fewer screens, more time outside.” And that’s a noble goal, but it’s easier dreamed than done. Happily, there are some great books that provide both existential inspiration and practical tips for families looking to spend more time in nature this year.

First, for grownups, consider grabbing a copy of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It is a collection of essays that draw on the author’s experiences as an indigenous woman and a trained botanist and, y’all, I was unprepared for the emotional impact of this book.

I started the audiobook (read by the author) on New Year’s Day, after spending the day with my best friend and her family. We’d been sitting around a firepit for hours, bundled up and catching up while our kids rampaged around the yard. I was already feeling pretty warm and gooey, and then WHAM, here comes Robin with her devastatingly beautiful and thoughtful reflections on the gifts of nature, of relationship, and of community. There were tears.

If you’re looking for a more practical guide to outdoor activities, there’s nothing better than “1,000 Hours Outside” by Ginny Yurich. This isn’t just a book, it’s a whole social movement aimed at matching “screen time with green time” and encouraging families to spend more time outside. There’s a thriving Facebook community – and this fabulous book is full of tons of great ideas for all seasons. Yes, even when it’s 10 degrees, there are still fun things to do outdoors.

“Foraging with Kids: 52 Wild and Free Edibles to Enjoy with Your Children” by Adele Nozedar also offers practical advice for families. The projects are based around 50 easy-to-identify plants that are abundant in parks, forests and hedgerows worldwide, making the challenge of discovering functional flora just as achievable to those who live in the city as in the countryside.

Another cool book in the practical sphere is “Secret Signs of Nature” by Craig Caudill, a Kentucky resident and owner of Nature Reliance School, where he teaches children wilderness safety and survival skills. This book introduces kids to wilderness navigation through any landscape – forest, deserts, or their own backyard! – through observation of the world around them.

For many families, mindful attention to the changing seasons is a big part of their enjoyment of the natural world. If you missed the release of “The Wheel of the Year” by Fiona Cook this fall, it is worth a look. Blending nature connection with art, poetry, and myth, this book conveys the magic and beauty of ancient traditions and encourages young readers to notice, care for, and celebrate the natural world around them.

Each “spoke” in “The Wheel of the Year” marks an important turning point: the winter and summer solstices, the spring and fall equinoxes, and the festivals of seeding, growing, and harvesting that arrive in between. Within each section, you’ll find an overview of the holiday and its significance in cultures around the world, a sensory scavenger hunt for sights, sounds, and smells of the season, themed crafts, rituals, games, and recipes to encourage children to practice mindful celebration of the changing seasons.

And finally, if you just want a fabulous picture book that celebrates the simple joys of being a kid outdoors, grab a copy of “What Can You Do with a Rock?” by Pat Zietlow Miller. It’s a personal favorite – a cheerful and utterly relatable ode to children’s fascination with rocks.

You can find all these books and more at Plaid Elephant Books. Pop by the shop or browse our website to get inspired.

Kate Snyder is a Danville resident, a mother of three, and the owner and founder of Plaid Elephant Books – Central Kentucky’s only independent children’s bookstore.