As we turn the corner of a new year, I’m trying to list some of the good things that have come out of 2020. For many of us, I think one benefit has been spending more time outside, either visiting with family and friends or just enjoying nature after being cooped up in the house. In the world of picture books, I’m going to go ahead and declare 2020 “The Year of Outdoors.” I’ve loved discovering some new picture books this year that celebrate the beauty of God’s creation. Here are a few of my favorites:
Hike by Pete Oswald – This wordless book depicts a father and child enjoying a day of hiking together. Even without words, it’s packed with moments of action and emotion. The cleverly designed cover shows the pair literally climbing up the word “hike!” I love the anticipation on the child’s face in the morning, and the tense scene when they cross a river. The two carefully consult their map, hike to a specific area, and then plant a small tree that they’ve carried up the mountain in a plastic tube. The strong bond between the two and their shared love of being outside is so evident, and as they look at a family picture album together at the end of the day, you can see what a treasured legacy this activity is.
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith – To the extent that picture books are “about” something, this one isn’t really about being outside. It’s somewhat of a picture book memoir, told in first person from the perspective of the author as a young boy, struggling with a stutter and escaping to the nearby river with his dad after a bad speech day at school. I’ve enjoyed illustrator Sydney Smith’s illustrations in other books, but how he depicts the river in this story completely took my breath away. The movement and texture of the water pair perfectly with the poem that author Jordan Scott is weaving, and there is a fold-out spread in the center of the book that will convince you that you’re standing in a real, moving body of water. It’s an apt metaphor to describe what it might feel like to speak with a stutter, and a visual treat as well.
When the Storm Comes by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo – Both humans and animals alike (foxes, gulls, rabbits – even a whale!) in this cozy, rhyming story find a place to hunker down in their coastal town when they sense a storm is on the way. This one would be great to share with kids who are nervous about thunderstorms—the emphasis on preparation and then helping to clean up after the storm is over feels very calming. It’s another one with vivid illustrations; you can almost feel the wind picking up on one spread, as a boy and his puppy run towards a house. I also loved the sense of community that is conveyed at the end, with neighbors gathering to pick up lawn furniture and check on one another.
Do you have a favorite picture book that celebrates the outdoors? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Featured image from I Talk Like a River, Sydney Smith