I began reading to Anika when she was just an infant. Admittedly, I didn't know quite what else to do with her. I remember the first book I bought for her from the Mercer Island bookstore was called, "Beautiful Birds," by Jean Roussen. I bought it for the bold and beautiful images, and to commence the first steps in teaching her the sounds and letters of the alphabet. Looking at all the many books that now compile her little library, I see that nature and seasons were predominant themes in the books I would select for her.
She is six now, and as it turns out, she has a caring curiosity and interest in animals, flora, fauna, and nature. She is very attentive to the little things--the things us big people overlook. She never misses a bluebell, ladybug or butterfly. She has a greater fondness for bugs than I could possibly bring myself to display. She likes to watch worms wriggle, and caterpillars comb the sidewalk. She loves to cultivate her own patio garden of flowers and fruits--last summer she planted the seeds of most of the summer fruit she consumed in her designated pots (I accidentally discarded a watermelon that I had mistaken for a weed--I was asked to reclaim it from the stretch of road below our balcony).
Once, on a weekend getaway at a nearby island, we stayed at a hotel that was nestled in nature and just outside of our room, you could walk outside to fresh surroundings. Soon we realized there were many snails just outside of our doorstep that shared our sidewalk into town. Anika quickly became the snail crossing guard on high alert, issuing warning to all unaware and oblivious pedestrians.
The most wonderful thing I have realized these books have taught my daughter (apart from developing an understanding and fondness for nature) is how they have taught her how her relationship with nature is connected to her own sense of being, her sense of balance and sense of calm, and a deeper sense of her belonging and worth in this world. They have instilled the concepts of nature and nourishment to the body and the mind. Here are just a few of my favourite children's books with nature lovin' themes:
When Green Becomes Tomatoes,
My sister gifted this book (one among many, many books) to my daughter. The illustrations are detailed, sweet, endearing and so accurately capture the gentle gestures and expressions of children exploring, enjoying and discovering nature. I appreciate the book is written in poems that are simple and descriptive. The poems walk through the nuances, sounds, sights and flavours of each season, beginning with Spring and ending Winter.
the tree in me, by Corinna Luyken
This is one of Anika's favourite books, and one she can easily read on her own. The illustrations and colours are absolutely stunning and captivating. Sight, touch, taste, sound--it is all covered in vivid pictures and simple words that resonate deeply our reciprocal relationship with nature.
Time for Bed Miyuki,
I began reading this book to my daughter I think when she was about two or three. She wasn't the best sleeper. This book is ethereal, sweet and gentle and the illustrations wonderfully capture a child's perspective and viewpoint of their world and surroundings. Each flower, fish, mushroom, and butterfly looks like delicate origami. The story is relayed through the relationship of grandfather and granddaughter, two periods of life that people are at their most vulnerable and most gentle. And two generations that are often the most understanding and loving of each other's perspectives. An absolutely beautiful book.