A Mighty Girl's top picks of children's books about tree-loving girls and women and nature-themed science toys in honor of Arbor Day!
There's something special about trees! They provide a place to climb and explore, shade to play or read, and a bit of beauty when it's most needed. And of course, the environmental benefits they offer critical for our planet and for the creatures — including Mighty Girls — who live near them. So it's no wonder that, for many people, trees hold a special place in their hearts!
In honor of Arbor Day — a day dedicated to planting and celebrating trees — we're sharing our favorite books about tree-loving girls and women, along with a few science toys and kits to help kids learn more about the wonders of trees and nature. These stories will delight young nature lovers, while giving all kids a new appreciation of the majesty of trees!
Books About Tree-Loving Girls and Women
When Maple was very small, her parents planted a maple tree in her honor, and together they grew up. Maple's tree becomes a favorite spot to play, the one place that she can be as loud as she wants without worrying, but she has to admit it's not a great playmate. When Maple's little sister Willow arrives, Maple discovers that babies can be even louder than she can! Fortunately, Maple realizes that her tree's gently shifting leaves may be just what Willow needs. This sweet story features a nature-loving girl who happily shares her favorite spot with her new sister. Fans of this book can also check out the sequels, Maple and Willow Together, Maple and Willow Apart, and Maple and Willow's Christmas Tree.
Naoko Stoop's beloved character Red Knit Cap Girl inspires a community project in this story when she leaves her book in a hollow tree, saying "I will keep my book in this nook so everyone can read it." Soon, other animals are adding their own books — or contributing in other ways, like when Beaver gnaws a shelf or when the sheep bring warm blankets for the readers. The final touch is a special sign for the new library, a reminder that these books are for everyone to use. Kids will love watching how this community turns the tree into a gathering place for friends and neighbors.
Sometimes, even if you give Grandma a very careful list of electronic gadgets you'd like for your birthday... she'll give you a lemon tree instead. If that happens, you should be polite and say thank you, and you definitely should not try to get rid of it (even if you do come up with some clever ideas.) Instead, put it somewhere sunny and give it just enough water, and with a little time, you might just have some delicious home-made lemonade (recipe included)! This wry and clever book about the joys of tending a growing plant is sure to make kids giggle, and give them a new appreciation of all the good things that can come from a little patience.
Miss Twiggley is considered odd by the whole town: she lives in a tree, she runs and hides when people visit, and she sends her dog out to do the shopping. There are even rumors that she sleeps in her hat and makes friends with bears! "Simply disgraceful!" the town declares. But when a hurricane hits the town and it starts to flood, Miss Twiggley's house is the only one above water — and she overcomes her shyness to give everyone refuge. Soon, her rescue turns into a party, and everyone leaves with a new appreciation for one another! Originally published in 1966, this beloved picture book is back in print and perfect to share with a new generation.
When Grandma tucks her pants in her boots and grabs her walking stick, this little girl races to join her side! As they walk near Grandma's north woods home, both grandmother and granddaughter get to enjoy special experiences unique to each season — from the snowy nighttime hoot of an owl to the pleasures of fresh tomatoes from the garden — but most importantly, they get to spend extra time together. And when they do, they relish all the beauty that the forest has to offer. This charming story captures the joy of exploring nature with someone you love.
When Mary Ellen gets bored and frustrated with her assigned reading, Grandpa decides to give her a little hands-on learning by taking her on a hunt for a bee tree. In a garden full of flowers, he carefully catches a few bees in a jar, explaining that the bees will lead them back to their hive. Their merry chase takes them past many landmarks — and attracts the attention of half the town! — before they find the tree and Grandpa carefully pulls just enough honey for them to enjoy. This fun, boisterous story includes valuable messages about respect for the natural world, as well as about the need for persistence to achieve sweet rewards.
Three outdoor-loving friends — Wren, El, and Hattie, along with Bean the dog — are going on a hike. It's their "favorite thing to do," but each of them has different talents to bring to bear: Wren brings her sketchbook, while El shows them how to make leaf baskets, and Hattie, the smallest, is the best at using their map to find her way. On their route, they observe the flora and fauna of the Western woodland, labeled in the illustrations; scientific backmatter, including a glossary, encourages kids to imagine what they might discover in their own backyards. This picture book celebrates a love of the outdoors and the beauties to be found in forests.
During the summer, Miss Maple diligently searches the world around her, looking for seeds who haven't found a place to sprout. Together, they explore places where the seeds might grow, and she cares for them through the fall and the long, cold winter, reminding them, "Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small." But when the winter is over, she is ready to let them go... because in rich earth and warm sun, they won't be small for long! This beautiful celebration of caretaking and the miracle of nature's growth is exquisitely illustrated; kids will particularly linger over a spread of drawings of a wide variety of seeds, from tiny raspberry pips to acorns.
When Sakura's dad gets a new job in America, Sakura struggles with culture clash and learning a new language, but most of all she misses her beloved grandmother, Obaachan, who used to picnic with her under the cherry trees. Slowly, though, she makes a new friend and starts to settle in... until Obaachan gets sick, and the family has to fly back to Japan to say goodbye. When she gets home, her friend Luke tells her she'll get a surprise in the spring — and Sakura is delighted to see the cherry trees that bloom in her own neighborhood, bringing warm memories and special time with new friends. This warmhearted, thoughtful story celebrates the healing power of friendship and the beauty of spring. And for a book about the woman who brought cherry trees to America, check out Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift to America.
Two sisters are sent outside, and the oldest wants to read a book but the youngest is eager to play. So when her pleas fail, she decides to try some reverse psychology instead: "I have a secret tree fort, and YOU'RE NOT INVITED!" As she regales her older sister with tales of her fort's many attributes — including water-balloon launchers, trapdoors, and underwater board games with whales — she wonders what exactly it will take to finally convince her to look up... This story of a girl tempting her sister with the power of imagination ends with a satisfying surprise!
Kate is playing hopscotch when she hears a cry of frustration from the bare hilltop near her town. The wind there is powerful, and the man who lives there can't escape it. Kate knows the solution: planting trees! Over years — enough years that Kate becomes a teenager and the man's beard goes grey — Kate plants trees over the steep hill, tends them, and helps them grow. Finally, the trees are tall enough that Kate can truly claim to have tamed the wind. This thoughtful story about a resourceful, determined Mighty Girl shares an important message, both about the role that trees play in making our spaces healthier and more comfortable, and about the need for long-term planning and action to keep our world green.
Katherine Olivia Sessions grew up in Northern California, among tall pines and redwoods, and couldn't imagine living in a place without trees. But when she moved to the dry desert town of San Diego to work as a teacher, she discovered that there were almost no trees there. So she decided that her new city could use more than a hint of green and started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. This beautiful story about a women who brought trees to a place where no one expected to find them is sure to inspire kids to make their own communities a little more green.
In the courtyard, a horse chestnut tree watches a little girl. At first, she is happy and carefree; then, after strangers invade the city, she is hidden in a secret room. The tree sees the girl and her family be taken away — and then, later, her father returning, alone. Author Jeff Gottesfeld also tells the story of how seeds and saplings from the tree have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace and remembrance. This picture book, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Peter McCarty, uses the chestnut tree outside the Secret Annex as a powerful yet accessible approach to talking about Anne Frank and Holocaust history with children. For another touching picture book about Anne's special tree, check out Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree.
Eliza Scidmore was an adventurous woman who traveled all around the world, including to Japan, where she fell in love with the cherry blossoms that bloomed each spring. She thought, that Americans would love to grow them too, but when she talked to the man in charge of the parks in her hometown, Washington, D.C., he said no. Every time someone new took over as park supervisor, she asked again — and again she was told no. Finally, after years of trying, she talked to Helen Taft, the president's wife, and it wasn't long before cherry trees were growing — the same ones residents and visitors enjoy there today. This picture book celebrates how Scidmore's 20 years of determination resulted in beautiful clouds of pink blossoms every spring.
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari Maathai's family defied tradition so she could get an education; she also learned traditional Kikuyu reverence for nature. As a young adult, she had the opportunity to attend university — if she went to the US. But she swore she would return, and when she did, she combined her scientific education with her appreciation for good husbandry of natural resources to found the Green Belt Movement, which not only provided sustainable work for women across Kenya, but also helped them replant millions of trees. This vibrant picture book biography of the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize pays tribute to how Maathai literally changed Kenya's landscape forever. For more picture books about Maathai, check out Mama Miti for ages 4 to 8, Planting the Trees of Kenya and Wangari's Trees of Peace for ages 5 to 8, and Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees for ages 7 to 10.
As a child in Mecklenburg, Germany, Princess Charlotte loved being outside, and brought a yew branch indoors to decorate every Christmas. Then, when she was 17, she was married to King George III of England, requiring her to leave her home and everything she loved. To stave off homesickness, she brought one yew branch, to "make magic in her new home." Decades later, in 1800, the mother of 15 decided to throw a Christmas party for a hundred children — and a single branch didn't seem like enough. So she brought in a whole tree, and Christmas tradition was born! This charming story, with warm illustrations, will quickly become a holiday favorite.
When Julia "Butterfly" Hill discovered that a 1,000-year-old redwood tree was slated to be cut down, she had to act. She loved the forest and knew just how important the trees were. So she climbed into the tree, which she named Luna, because it couldn't be cut down if a person was in it — and she stayed there for two years. In this beautifully illustrated picture book biography about a woman who put her life on hold to save the life of an irreplaceable tree, author/illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw highlights the many challenges Hill faced and the joys she experienced during her quest to save Luna.
When a young thief tries to snatch an old woman's bag, she's surprised when the woman says she can have it... if she makes a promise. The purse turns out to be full of acorns, and the thief realizes she has promised to plant them all. But as she makes the grey ruins of the city start to sprout green, everyone seems to blossom, and the thief realizes that she can make a difference in the world — for good. Inspired by the 1953 story, The Man Who Planted Trees, this thoughtful picture book is a testament to the power of the nature to heal our cities and ourselves.
Aani is resting against her favorite tree when she hears a strange roaring sound. When she alerts the village women, they realize that the sounds are machines, sent from a nearby city to cut down the trees. The women argue their case to the loggers: the trees aren't just beautiful, but they also provide food and fuel for the village, safety for local animals, and prevent soil from washing away in the rains. When the cutters refuse to listen, Aani instinctively steps up to find a way to stop her beloved tree from being destroyed. Full of quiet courage and reverence for nature, this captivating picture book reminds young readers of the importance of standing up for what you believe in.
Minty is used to mysteries like the Witch House and the Man Bat, neighborhood legends that don't affect her much. But this summer, she's also facing new mysteries, like the Mean Boys who torment her and the strange behavior of her older sister, Thea. when Minty finds a tree with a hollow trunk, she also discovers that it's full of secrets belonging to people in the neighborhood, and that Raymond, another neighbor, has found the tree too. Together, they set out to identify who belongs with which secret — and see if they can fix each problem, one by one. An appealing main character and an emotionally rich story capture the changing nature of life and relationships in this thoughtful book.
After her mother's death, Willow is struggling with her grief and anger — especially when her sister is busy acting like a parent, and her classmates laugh at her uncontrolled emotions. Then, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who belongs in the magnolia grove that Willow's mom used to take her to. Willow offers to help Pilu, but on the journey, both physical and emotional storms will rage — and Willow will have to confront her feelings rather than forcing them under the surface. This emotionally rich graphic novel encourages reader to explore and express their emotions, and even includes blank journal pages in the back to help.
11-year-old Fern loves nature, but has little time to enjoy it: her stepfather Toivo struggles to earn enough money for the family, so she's responsible for watching her two brothers and keeping the house. The old growth forest behind their home is Fern's refuge, so she's devastated when she hears that a fracking company wants to put a wastewater pond there. But for her poor community, it means chance to pull themselves out of poverty. So with her dead mother's recipe book, Fern sets out to show just what could be lost along with the forest. A touching and nuanced look at complex issues like environmentalism, poverty, mental illness, and more, this book will give middle grade readers plenty to think about.
Toys And Science Kits For Nature Lovers
Her room will feel wild and free with this wall decal from RoomMates! This massive set includes 47 decals that come together to create an image that's 36 inches wide and 50 inches high. Plus, these decals remove and reposition easily, so you can grow the tree of your (or her) dreams! They leave no sticky residue on the walls, so they are a quick an easy way to add a touch of outdoor wonder to her indoor space.
Join Ms. Frizzle and her students on the Magic School Bus as you explore the wonders of nature! As kids follow along with this set, they'll make a bug house, cast an animal track, make sun prints and leaf art, and much more. Everything she'll need to try these activities is included, making this set the perfect way to get her investigating and discovering outdoors.
Build the tree house of your dreams with this engineering set from Learning Resources! A selection of included activity cards get kids solving engineering challenges with the 52 pieces, using everything from simple planks to a hinged bridge and a rope and bucket. Kids will learn to build railings, platforms, and more, and then they can let their imagination run wild! It's the perfect choice for those who know engineering can take you anywhere — even up a tree.
Investigate the world of plants with Nancy B.'s Science Club! With this kit, kids choose a tree to adopt for a year. They'll use the Nature Press to preserve leaves and flowers, and note their observations in the journal. Tips inside will help them estimate the age of their tree, document animals that live in and around it, and note how the seasons affect it. Like all of the Nancy B.'s Science Club kits, this set is perfect to encourage tweens to do some exploring and experimenting all on their own.
What does a fox eat? Who eats the berries on that bush? Kids can learn more about the food relationships between forest animals and plants with this game from Ampersand Press! Each game card has a full-color illustration of a plant or animal, and lists what eats it and what it eats. Kids can use the cards to play several different games, or they can use them as fact cards to learn more about how the food web and life cycles play out in forests. Even fungi and decay come into play!
Wrap your own beautiful yarn tree with this kit from Craft-Tastic! An 18" tall bendable wire tree and plenty of colorful yarn allow you to create a tree that's uniquely yours. The instruction guide shows you how to properly wrap the yarn for a tight, seamless look. Then, bend the tree's branches into shape and use it to store jewelry or as a decorative accent. For another fun yarn-wrapping kit, check out the Yarn Giraffes Kit.
Turn leaves and flowers into beautiful art quickly and easily with this flower press from WANDIC! This 8 by 6 inch press comes with sponge sheets and absorbent paper to help dry your specimens faster, without losing their vibrant colors. The straps on the press are easy to adjust, making it simple to tighten them. After a few days, you'll have gorgeous dried flowers you can use for all sorts of art projects, perfect for nature lovers!