One weekend when I was in my mid 20’s, my husband and I, an old friend of his, and my teenage nephew, Aaron, set out on a hike. My husband and his friend are both white, whereas I am Afro-Latina and my nephew is Black. Neither Aaron nor I had ever really been on a hike before. The terrain was steep and rocky with great outcrops where you could look down on the ground you’ve covered. It was lovely. We stopped by a brook to eat our snacks and were overall enjoying ourselves.
Then we got lost and I started panicking. My husband walked ahead and said he could see the main road down a certain path. We started following him, until the “POSTED: No Trespassing” signs started popping up. I stopped in my tracks, refusing to go any further. My husband coaxed that he could see the road, it was right there, otherwise we wouldn’t be sure where we were supposed to go. To which I answered, “When the owner of this property sees us out here, he is going to shoot Aaron and me.”
I did not see myself as belonging in the natural world. The books that I had grown up reading that featured people who looked like me in nature, usually had them toiling. Otherwise, going through nature was a treacherous journey on the way to freedom. They certainly weren’t outside willingly. It was either the hell you were living in or the hell you had to go through to live. On a more subtle level, I felt that these books made other people think that if I was out in the woods, especially alone, I was up to no good. I felt as if someone would walk up to me and demand just what I thought I was doing out there. Or worse, that they wouldn’t ask anything at all and just assume.
As a child in the Dominican Republic I spent many hours outdoors. My backyard had a cherry tree that I loved to sit under, lazily consuming cherries. When I was nine, my sisters and I moved with our mom to New York City, to Washington Heights. Our building encased a courtyard, all concrete with a flower bed in the middle, surrounded by a high iron fence. As hard as this “outside” was, I still liked being there, playing “Red Light, Green Light” with the other kids or roller-skating around the small courtyard.
In my pre-teens we moved again, this time to the suburbs, to a house with a small yard that backed up into woods. On the other side of the woods, which I could see from my deck, a gas station. The woods were barely woods, but they were wild enough for me not to enter. In this new outside, I didn’t feel like I was allowed. I didn’t feel like I was safe out there. Too far away from people. If I got hurt, what could I do? If I got lost, how would I get out? If ran into someone, what would they do?
Books have the power to reinforce stereotypes or break them open. The lack of books with Black characters enjoying nature is insidious. It tells Black people that they don’t belong in nature. It tells them that if they enjoy nature they are atypical or strange somehow. It tells other people that Black people don’t belong in nature. That their presence on a trail is peculiar, wrong, or nefarious.
When I had children I vowed to do better by them. I went out of my way to find books that depicted people who looked like us out in nature. I wanted them to see that everyone belongs, everyone is welcomed, everyone is needed in the natural world.
When I first saw the title of Dr. Breau’s post “Where are the books about Black Kids in Nature?” I thought, “Oh, there are books. I have found books.” Then I looked at the post and all the titles I had found were the ones in her post. Thankfully, since then there have been a few more.
To update the list, I searched through all the recent books in our collection for 2019 and 2020 that are coded as depicting Black/African/African American or Brown-Skinned and/or Race Unspecified. (To date, we have received and coded 72% of the titles identified as meeting our collection criteria for 2019 and 64% for 2020.) As with Dr. Breau’s post, only books in which, a “young Black protagonist actively explores the outdoors with no purpose other than to convene with nature,” were included. These twenty-two titles were found:
What John Marco saw
"John Marco is small. And everyone around him is busy. Too busy to listen to John Marco. John Marco is busy, too—noticing the world around him. Maybe everyone should slow down and listen to John Marco. If they do, they might discover some pretty amazing things. They just need to pay attention. Like John Marco does." -- publisher
We’re Sailing to Galapagos
"Set sail to Galapagos Islands on a week-long voyage of discovery! You'll meet many fascinating land and sea animals, like giant tortoises, albatrosses, iguanas, lava crabs and booby birds. The text's repeating refrain encourages young readers, while 9 pages of informational notes about 18 animals, Charles Darwin and more will delight future naturalists." -- publisher
"The Hike is a plucky and sweet adventure story about three intrepid young female explorers set out to conquer the outdoors in their local forest. Here is the best and worst of any hike: from picnics to puffing and panting, deer-sighting to detours. This spirited picture book is filled with lyrical language that captures the majesty of the natural world, coupled with a fun narrative throughout." -- publisher
My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother, and Me
"And these are the things we find by the sea My mommy, my mama, my brother, and me. With this gentle refrain, the debut picture book from celebrated author and playwright Natalie Meisner (Double Pregnant) reflects on her own two-mom, two-son family's early days growing up in Lockeport, Nova Scotia. Living by the sea offers myriad charms for the two young brothers in this poetic ode to beachcombing. When the fog disappears, the path to the beach beckons, with all the treasures it leaves behind: lobster traps, buoys, fused glass, urchins, a note in a bottle. But best of all is all the neighbours they meet along the way. An unforgettable instant classic for families of all shapes and sizes. Featuring glorious watercolours by Mathilde Cinq-Mars, which capture the warmth and magic of time spent with family by the sea." -- publisher
A Day So Gray
"Once you start to notice, colors and reasons for gratitude are everywhere, and that changes everything! Celebrate the hues and comforts of a cozy winter day as a discontented girl at first notices only dull grays and browns in a snowy landscape but is coaxed by her friend to look more closely. Soon she finds orange berries, blue water, purple shadows, and more. Warm friendship and a fresh way of seeing things transform a snow-covered landscape from bleak to beautiful!" -- publisher
"A mix of narrative and factual content, offering a gentle introduction to the concept of hibernation, seen through the lens of a child’s journey walking through a winter landscape. In this cozy bedtime story, follow a child and his grandma through a winter landscape to explore how the Earth goes to sleep for winter. Spot the sleeping animals as the tale unfolds, then learn about their hibernation habits from the information pages at the end. Co-authors Sean Taylor (picture book author) and Alex Morss (ecologist, journalist, and educator) offer a gentle introduction to the concept of hibernation. In the frosty, quiet forest, the snow blankets the ground and the trees have shed their leaves. Where have all the animals gone? Are they asleep too? In each cutaway scene, see what the child cannot—that underground below his feet are dens with sleeping creatures, and within the hollow trunks of trees, animals are nesting. After the story, annotated illustrations explain the hibernation facts for each animal and what they will do when they wake up for spring. Cozy up as you expand you and your child's knowledge of the natural world." -- publisher
"Meet Ruby, a plucky young girl who uncovers the wild side of her city neighborhood with the help of a grown-up friend. When Ruby realizes there are amazing birds right in her neighborhood, her imagination takes flight. Birders have a name for the moment they get hooked—they call it their spark moment. This is the story of Ruby’s spark moment, in her very own words. This delightful story includes a seek and find element with birds hiding on nearly every page. Information about where to find all of the birds in real life follows, plus Ruby’s tips for taking a nature walk, and how to connect with Celebrate Urban Birds, a citizen-science project at the Cornell Lab." -- publisher
Ruby wants to play with her older brothers, but they always ignore her and leave her out of their games--but when Ruby starts to build her own castle she discovers a way to make her brothers want to play with her.
Snowman – cold = puddle
A unique take on spring in a series of eye-opening equations. Whether it's breeze + kite = ballet or nest + robin = jewelry box, each equation prompts readers to pause and think about spring in unexpected ways. As a child in the art welcomes the change of seasons, sidebars provide more information about the science behind the signs of spring.--Provided by publisher
"For the New England Christmas Bird Count, young Ava and her mother prepare to be the best “citizen scientists” they can be. With the help of their team leader Big Al, they record the tally of all the birds they see. Ava dutifully counts all the birds along the way, using her most important tools―her eyes and ears―and the birding identification techniques she’s learned. But will she locate her favorite raven again this year in time for their town’s annual Christmas Bird Count party?" -- publisher
The Not-So Great Outdoors
"A reluctant camper discovers that the (not-so) great outdoors can be just as exciting as screens and skyscrapers in this playful picture book celebration of the pleasures of unplugging and embracing nature. What’s so great about the “great outdoors”? A grumpy urban kid begrudgingly accompanies her family on a summer camping trip, missing all the sublime sights right under her nose as she longs for the lights and stimulation of the city. But as she explores forests, lakes and mountains, and encounters bears, beavers and caribou, she slowly comes to realize that the simpler things are just as sparkly, that the sky is its own majestic light show, and the symphony is all around. The Not-So Great Outdoors is a humorous and richly imagined reminder of the beauty and magic that can be found away from the city and our screens." -- publisher
"Do you like scavenger hunts? How do you tell if creek water is clean and healthy? Join Lucas and his sister as they act like scientists looking for certain kinds of stream bugs (aquatic macroinvertebrates) that need clean, unpolluted water to survive. What will they find as they turn over rocks, pick up leaves and sort through the mud? Read along to find out if their creek gets a passing grade." -- publisher
One Summer Up North
"A wordless picture-book journey through the Boundary Waters, canoeing and camping with a family as they encounter the northwoods wilderness in all its spectacular beauty It's a place of wordless wonder: the wilderness of the Boundary Waters on the Minnesota–Canada border. Travel its vast distances, canoe its streams and glacial lakes, take shelter from rain under a rocky outcropping (or in your tent), camp in its vaulting forests as stars embroider the darkening sky. Is this your first visit? Or is it already your favorite destination? Come along—join a family of three as their journey unfolds, picture by picture, marking the changing light as the day passes, the stillness before the gathering storm, the shining waters everywhere, rushing here, quietly pooling there, beckoning us ever onward into nature’s infinite wildness one summer up north." -- publisher
"Take to the trails for a celebration of nature — and a day spent with dad. In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air." -- publisher
You Are A Beautiful Beginning
"An inspiring picture book that celebrates individuality, community, and every child's potential to write their own story. Three children come together to build a magnificent and cozy treehouse for all their forest friends. Along the way, they discover the truth behind the adage that "it is not the destination, but the journey." Kelsey Garrity-Riley's inviting, gently magical art pairs beautifully with a lyrical, deceptively simple text to create a picture book that is equal parts inspirational story and peaceful lullaby. This is another uplifting and original book from bestseller Nina Laden, the creator of Peek-A-Who and the author of If I Had a Little Dream and Yellow Kayak." -- publisher
My Friend Earth
"Celebrate Earth Day with this valentine to our wonderful planet from the Newbery Award–winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall. Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring. Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book. Its enticing die-cut pages encourage exploration as its poetic text celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return. • Interactive format and kid-friendly art will engage both toddlers and young readers • A celebration of the natural world and rallying cry for positive action for Planet Earth • Great opportunities to share life science concepts and amazing facts about the environment with children. This beautiful and innovative ode to our natural world will appeal to readers of Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, The Poet's Dog, and Thank You, Earth. • Read aloud books for kids ages 3-5 • Earth books for kids • Climate change books for kids." -- publisher
"Hiking in the spring could mean the first hike of the season. With the arrival of spring, the ground is thawing, flowers are blooming and nature is jumping back to life. This is the best time of year to let little hikers have fun running and playing outdoors. This story helps children understand the change of seasons, the excitement of hiking and the importance of what it means to “leave no trace.” Hiking with kids can be an extremely rewarding activity for the entire family." -- publisher
The Camping Trip
"Ernestine has never been camping before, but she’s sure it will be lots of fun…won’t it? An endearing story about a girl’s first experience with the great outdoors. My aunt Jackie invited me to go camping with her and my cousin Samantha this weekend. I’ve never been camping before, but I know I will love it. Ernestine is beyond excited to go camping. She follows the packing list carefully (new sleeping bag! new flashlight! special trail mix made with Dad!) so she knows she is ready when the weekend arrives. But she quickly realizes that nothing could have prepared her for how hard it is to set up a tent, never mind fall asleep in it, or that swimming in a lake means that there will be fish — eep! Will Ernestine be able to enjoy the wilderness, or will it prove to be a bit too far out of her comfort zone? In an energetic illustrated story about a first sleepover under the stars, acclaimed author-illustrator Jennifer K. Mann reminds us that opening your mind to new experiences, no matter how challenging, can lead to great memories (and a newfound taste for s’mores)." -- publisher
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding
"Chloe's favorite uncle is getting married, and she's not happy about it. But after a magical day with Uncle Bobby and his boyfriend, Jamie, Chloe realizes she's not losing an uncle, but gaining one. Selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best picture books of 2020 and by the American Library Association as a 2021 Rainbow Book List title, celebrate family with this gorgeous picture book. When Chloe's favorite uncle announces that he's getting married, everyone is excited. Everyone except Chloe, that is. What if Uncle Bobby no longer has time for picnics, swimming, or flying kites? Chloe just wants to keep having fun with her favorite uncle, but she's afraid everything is going to change. Can Uncle Bobby and his boyfriend Jamie show Chloe that, when it comes to family, the more the merrier? In this inspiring, love-filled story, Chloe learns just what family means. Produced in coordination with GLAAD, this adorable picture book is a positive example of same-sex marriage and a celebration of family." -- publisher
A space for me
"Max wants some space for himself away from his younger brother who takes his things and makes noise, but eventually Max finds a way to make space for his brother too"--
Down Under the Pier
"There’s lots of fun to be had up on the pier—the Ferris wheel, the rollercoaster, Skee-Ball and Whac-A-Mole, cotton candy, copper coins, the carousel. But it’s down under the pier, at low tide, where the real magic can be found. The best part? It’s free. Nell Beckerman’s poetic text and deep love of the intertidal zone, and Rachell Sumpter’s dreamy, “endless summer” art make this the perfect beach book." -- publisher
"This wordless picture book follows a young boy newly arrived in North America as he makes a friend and overcomes his fear of the snow. Sami has just arrived in a new country. The snow piled up outside his window is a mysterious and, frankly, chilly surprise! Joy, his new neighbor, does not speak his language, but that does not stop them from communicating as Joy helps Sami overcome his fears. The two new friends get bundled up against the cold, and Sami discovers the magic of playing outside on a snowy day." -- publisher
Spring intern at Diverse BookFinder and mother of three. You can find us trying new hikes or taking out the maximum amount of books allowed per card at our public library.