Retelling Stories of Nature Through Children’s Books: A List

By Raviraj Shetty

As an occupational therapist, I work with children, families, adults, communities to co-create safe emotional spaces. And one of the things I use is children’s picture books as maps to help navigate through some tough times. I started reading children’s books as an adult, and couldn’t believe what they were doing to me. I travelled to places that adult books never made possible. So below are a few children’s books that will help us re-author our relationship with nature. As we read these books let us wonder; What can retelling stories of nature do to a world which is trying to destroy it?

  • The Promise by Nicola Davis, illustrated by Laura Carlin

The Promise is a story that makes me wonder about what it means to live in a city and have a relationship with trees that try to bring some kindness to the concreted heart. The Promise is a story of hope in a city filled with hopelessness, where a young girl tries to steal a bag from an old frail woman. The woman fights back but at the end decides to let go, only if the girl decides to make a promise. As the girl tries to fulfil the promise, she changes the world around her. You can find the book here.

Cover image of book courtesy: Google images
  • Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Sidewalk flowers is one of my all time favourites which continues to remind me that nature never gives up on us and it finds ways to tell us about it’s presence even in a concrete(d) city. It is a wordless picture book where Sophie is on a walk with her father who seems to be lost in the rut of a city life along with almost everyone around. But Sophie seems to be drawn to something else, the little wild flowers growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. To find out what Sophie does next… read the book here.

  • Du iz tak by Carson Ellis

This story pops into the top on my list as an all time favourite –Du iz tak is a book written in the language of bugs. This book is about the stories hidden in the cycle of life where hope exists what may come. You can find the book here.

  • The Dam by David Almond and illustrated by Levi Pinfold

The Dam is a wordless picture book of our relationship with flowing water and its complex relationship with Dams. A father along with his daughter revisit their village after it was displaced because of the dam. And as she visits each place, she plays music on her violin with her father and all those people (re)membering all that’s lost. You can find the book here.

  • Cicada by Shaun Tan

The book is a story told by Cicada themselves, who works in an office with all the HUMANS who don’t appreciate them. It speaks about what it is to live in the world of humans. This book like many children’s books invites us to reimagine our world. You can find the book here

  • Something Else by Kathryn Cave and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Something else is a story for the times when we all have felt like a misfit, like something else. It is about trying to find a place to belong and meeting the Someone else. You can find the book here.

Image from book courtesy: Google images
  • How to be a lion by Ed Vere

Can a lion be gentle? Can a lion be friends with a duck? Can a lion roar poetries? Obviously not or maybe…….yes. In a world filled with prescribed instructive ways to be meet Leonard the lion and his friend Marianne the duck. you can find the book here.

Raviraj is a firm believer of the truth that Unicorns exist, a picture book hoarder, a mary oliver lover and happens to be an occupational therapist and a library educator. He believes from his heart that all the problems of this world are rooted in oppressive systems and not in our bodies and our identities.