It’s a great big world out there and, while you can explain most of it to your kid from the palm of your hand, surely they’d be more amazed by its natural wonders if they discovered them the old-fashioned way. “Let’s go exploring,” was the mantra that launched a thousand adventures for a boy and his tiger, and Calvin was possibly the wildest kids’ character since King Max himself. To inspire your little wild child to go adventuring in nature, or to scare them into believing that you really will leave them to be raised by animals if they want to keep acting like one, read them these 9 books.
WildThe 21st century’s answer to Max and Calvin is the green-haired girl at the center of Emily Hughes’ acclaimed debut. Raised in the wild and taught to survive by animals, she’s taken by 2 similar looking animals to their weird concrete dwelling and baffled by their inability to properly speak (like birds), eat (like bears), or play (like foxes). If your kid can’t be tamed, they’ll relate.
Wild by Emily Hughes ($14)
Beyond The Pond
Kind of like Sam And Dave Dig A Hole, only Ernest D. and his dog dive into a pond. He swims deeper and deeper until he emerges on the other side into a magical world he never could have dreamed up while bored as hell behind his parents dull old house. Unless your backyard has dinosaurs and mice riding unicorns, your kid probably feels the same way.
Beyond The Pond by Joseph Kuefler ($12)
The Tea Party In The WoodsChildren’s stories generally don’t turn out well for girls traipsing through snow-covered woods holding pie, but luckily for young Kikko that mysterious house is home to exactly zero sleeping bears (although a besuited one does lead her inside). Instead, she finds the most magical woodland critter tea party since the Mad Hatter, and this one won’t teach your kid to eat the magic mushrooms.
The Tea Party In The Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi ($11)
Sleep Like A TigerThis Caldecott Honor Book begins with a little girl asking her parents “Does everything in the world go to sleep?” and you responding, “Everything but my kid.” Heyo! Unlike you, they don’t fight their daughter’s urge to stay up. Instead, they describe how all different animals sleep, and she mimics all their techniques before settling on the one that sleeps to be strong. The moral: Tiger Kid > Tiger Parent.
Sleep Like A Tiger by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski ($14)
WildwoodThe best-selling Wildwood series is what happens when indie rock meets Narnia. Fans of The Decemberists will recognize the illustrations of Carson Ellis, the band’s official artist, and the dark and creepy themes of author Colin Meloy, Ellis’ husband and the band’s dark and creepy lead singer. Read with an older kid (or your spouse, if they’ve ever dragged you to a midnight show of the new Hunger Games).
Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis ($7)
My Wilderness: An Alaskan AdventureRelive the winter of 1918-19 on Fox Island through the eyes of 9-year-old Rocky, on an epic adventure with his father, painter Rockwell Kent. This story will give your kid an appreciation for a time when Hawkeye Huey-style father-son adventures were more commonplace, and Alaska was more wild frontier than Putin-spying lookout point.
My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure by Claudia McGehee ($14)
The Camping Trip That Changed AmericaYou and your kid both might learn something from this award-winning tale. Specifically, that a camping trip between Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir in the uncharted Yosemite woods led to the establishment of the national parks and, presumably, the manliest tickle fight in American history.
The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock and Mordicai Gerstein ($14)
Leaf ManLike the drifting feather in Forrest Gump, or perhaps like Gump himself (That was the symbolism, right? Damn you, Zemeckis!), Leaf Man floats across the natural world on die-cut pages illustrated with actual fall leaves. Why? Because, as the refrain says, “A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.” If you don’t think that’s the definition of finding yourself through exploration, well, stupid is as stupid does.
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert ($14)
North Woods GirlThe title of this book could refer to the central littler girl or her grandmother, with the former learning everything she knows from the latter — hiking, collecting leaves, canning tomatoes, or observing animals. Kids who read this may be inspired to take themselves and your mother-in-law out into the woods for hours on end. Do with that information what you will.
North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette and Claudia Mcgehee ($15)