to see the world in a grain of sand…five glimpses of nature’s wonders

It’s coming up on Earth Day 2015. I love that we set apart a day to Stop!


Stop rushing past dainty mosses. Stop overlooking the sparkle of sunlight on open water. Stop and listen to birdsong. Stop and consider what an excellent home Earth is.

When we slow down and teach our children to delight in the naturalbrazilcityfarm from cityfarmer dot info world around them, we help cultivate a society that takes proper care of the Earth, a noble and profoundly important calling.

There are so many spectacular picture books about everything from the tiniest microbes to massive sequoias to ocean currents and outer space. I have learned a lot about our planet from picture books, I’m not too proud to say! I hope you’ll take advantage of these five and many other titles listed in my Subject Index under Sciences.

something about a bear cover imageSomething About a Bear, written and illustrated by Jackie Morris
published in 2014 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

There is just something about a bear, isn’t there?

Their massiveness combined with their dashed cuddly looks makes us tremble and simultaneously want to tousle their shaggy fur like a pet dog’s.

Jackie Morris tells us something about eight different bears in this book. Her lush paintings bring out the luxurious fur, wicked-powerful claws, immense girth, and diverse habitats of these fellows. I love her art!!

something about a bear illustration jackie morris

From China’s bamboo forests to glacial Arctic waters; bears snatching salmon and bears hunting termites; bears nesting in tree tops and bears piggy-backing their darling cubs — we learn just a snitch about each while we fall in love with their cushy ampleness.

For ages 3 and up. Additional notes on each of these bears give more information to older readers.

handle with care cover imageHandle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
published in 2014 by Millbrook Press

From the colossal we head to the fragile.

In the rainforests of Costa Rica, there’s an unusual sort of farm. In airy, screened greenhouses, these farmers are raising butterflies!

Providing enough food for thousands of caterpillars, keeping predators at bay, and searching out the caterpillars who are about to form pupae keeps everybody here busy.


The Puparium — a butterfly nursery! —  is filled with cabinets, which are in turn filled with spectacular, jewel-like pupae. Lime green, shimmery gold, sea foam…these elegant packages are about to be shipped to museums around the world so YOU can enjoy the fluttering, graceful wonders in a Butterfly House when they emerge.

This fascinating account is accessible to children ages 5 and up, and is accompanied by gorgeous photography, extra pages of information on the life cycles of various insects, and ideas for further reading. Really, I think it will make you want to pack up and go be a butterfly farmer!

water rolls water rises cover imageWater Rolls, Water Rises = El agua rueda, el agua sube, by Pat Mora, illustrations by Meilo So
published in 2014 by Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low Books

Water, skimmering up the sandy beach, tickling your feet.

Water, moisting about as fog, creating new, mysterious worlds.

Water, bustling and chimmering over rocks in a river bed.

All the beauty, wonder, and variety of water is celebrated in this truly beautiful book.

I have to say here, that I don’t think the book cover quite conveys the gorgeousness of what’s inside here, so don’t let that dissuade you.

water rolls water rises illustration meilo so

Three-line, poetic depictions of a wide array of watery places make up the book’s text — an oasis in the Sahara, a rocky headland teeming with seabirds, a deep canyon threaded by a serene and silent river…such a lovely gathering of the many forms, moods, sounds, geographies, textures of water. The poems are written in Spanish and English.

water rolls water rises mora and so

Meilo So’s exquisite artwork ravishes us on every page. So beautiful. She masterfully captures the atmosphere of all these locations through her vivid colors and graceful line. Seriously, every page you turn, your heart will skip a beat. Thumbnail images at the back tell us the locations which inspired each of her pieces.

Water is a precious resource. Share this book with folks ages 2 and up.

sequoia cover imageSequoia, by Tony Johnston, paintings by Wendell Minor
published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Personifying one magnificent Sequoia, Tony Johnston escorts us lyrically through a round of seasons in this old fellow’s long life.

When we see, in person, these behemoths, or really, any superbly ancient tree, it is natural to consider all the history they have stood through. This imagining of what a tree would say if it could talk — if it were an Ent, say — is just what happens.

So, this tender giant’s brief, quiet biography is most fitting. I love the images Johnston calls forth, of “springtimes, clothed in his old man’s robes — every shade of green” as he stands enjoying the trickling, rushing, flow of waters once again. Of the woodland animals he observes in all their comings and goings. The silent watcher.

Wendell Minor’s paintings convey that same sense of vastness and ancientness and stillness; just how it feels to walk through the California parks where they live.

sequoia illustration wendell minor

Enjoy this with ages 3 and up. Additional notes on Sequoias will  interest mid-elementary and older.

here come the humpbacks cover imageHere Come the Humpbacks!, by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
published in 2013 by Charlesbridge

Every living thing on earth is full of wonder, but there’s something about humpback whales, those singing giants of the deep, that’s especially dramatic.

Follow one mama humpback and her new baby through one year in this exceptional book for ages 4 or 5 and up.

We begin in February, in the emerald waters of the Caribbean where mama is awaiting the birth of her little one. Well — not really so little. He’s weighing about a ton at birth!

here come the humpbacks illustration jamie hogan

Learn about that fella’s first days, how he breathes, the mind-blowing singing of the whales around him,  the patient sacrifice his mother makes for him, waiting in waters where she cannot eat until he’s big enough for the long journey to the cool, feeding grounds off the coast of New England. Discover the dangers they have to evade, and the remarkable ways a pod cooperates to get food.

All of this and more is delivered in a transfixing, clear narrative, with added asides on every page. The pages themselves are dominated by rich, pastel and charcoal pencil illustrations that carry us right under the ocean, eye to eye with these magnificent come the humpbacks sayre and hogan

I learned a great deal from this little book, which includes added notes about whale migrations, the ways scientists are studying whales and protecting this truly awesome species. Maybe someone you love will be inspired to pursue a lifetime learning about one member of the vast animal kingdom, and sharing those spectacular secrets with the rest of us, too!