so many possibilities in a rock

If there is one bit of nature accessible to just about any child…it’s a rock.


Such a variety! There they lie, for the collecting. Wash them. Stack them. Skip them. Paint them. Horde them.


Remember the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder when she visited Lake Pepin for the first time and collected so many pebbles from the shore that the pocket ripped off her going-to-town dress? Yup. There is such an allure to a rock.

Here are three fantastic books to increase the enjoyment of rock-finding expeditions with your children:

a rock can be cover imageA Rock Can Be, by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrations by Violete Dabija
published in 2015 by Millbrook Press

Rocks are found everywhere we look, it seems.

From craggy mountains to the sculpted fountains in a city park.

Rocks are huge — like the pockmarked, rocky moon…

a rock can be salas and dabija2

…and small, like the smooth, flat stones we skippety…skip…….skip…………skip………………..across the water.

a rock can be illustration violete dabija

As she has done with other subjects — water, leaves — Laura Purdie Salas explores the up and down and in and out of what rocks can be in a way that sparks creative thinking. Simple, two-word labels are the only text until we arrive at the end of the book where a brief explanation for each rock role is given. How can a rock be a “night glower?” When is a rock a “seaside home?”

Violete Dabija’s illustrations saturate the pages with color — emerald green, sapphire blue, molten orange. The vivid, bold pictures ensure that the rocky subject is not drab in the least!

a rock can be salas and dabija

Read this with children ages 2 and up and watch them begin to happily notice rocks anywhere they go.

(And Laura is a Minnesota author, since we like to keep track of these things!)

if rocks could sing cover imageIf Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet, by Leslie McGuirk, with photographs by Denise Ritchie
published in 2011 by Tricycle Press

One of our favorite places on earth is the North Shore of Lake Superior.

We have spent time there nearly every summer for the past 15+ years, and one of the great pastimes is simply lounging on the pebbled beaches where there are bajillions of wave-smoothed stones to bewitch us. Stones in funny shapes. Heart shapes. Stones with flecks of color and glints of crystal. It is crazy how absorbed we can be with a beachful of stones.

lake superior photo by jill swanson

Leslie McGuirk is also fascinated by rocks and began noticing some on the Florida seashore that looked like letters. For years, she kept her eyes open for rock letters until she had a whole alphabet. And meanwhile, she discovered rocks “that looked like objects to match them.”

if rocks could sing alphabet by leslie mcguirk

Here she presents them in marvelous creativity.

if rocks could sing by leslie mcguirk

if-rocks-sing-ghosts by leslie mcguirk

if rocks could sing dog and elephant by leslie mcguirk

So — I adore this book!

If you can read it and not be inspired to make your own collection…well! If we had looked at this book when my kids were small, we would have made our own alphabet book for sure. But it’s not too late for you…

a rock is lively cover imageA Rock is Lively, by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
published in 2012 by Chronicle Books

One adjective you might not immediately think of for a rock, is “lively.”

Yet in this truly gorgeous book, Dianna Hutts Aston introduces us to lively rocks…

…as well as rocks that are galactic, tiny, helpful, surprising, creative, and more.

With each adjective, she tells us just a bit — not too much — to prod us toward new ideas about rocks. Rocks are inventive, for instance, because they’ve been chiseled into tools, chipped into a rock is lively illustration sylvia longweapons, shaped into mortars and pestles to grind pungent spices and tasty seeds. We even use them to make toothpaste!

Aston has presented other catalogs of beauty around themes of eggs, seeds, nests, and butterflies, and each one is illustrated stunningly by Sylvia Long, who also hand-letters them.

Long presents an arresting pageful of the bluest blue, gleaming from a unsuspecting geode; a scrapbook page of monuments and sculptures carved and built from rock; the swirl of fluorescent color, like a puddle of paint, found inside an agate.

a rock is lively aston and long

All of these books by Aston and Long are not to be missed. Start here, and then find the other volumes as well, for children ages 4 or 5 and up.