Favorite Kids’ Books: Wildlife Biology

On this page, you’ll find a growing list of children’s books that I’ve paired with some of my photos, videos, and blog posts. These are books I think will grab kids’ interest, maybe fill in some informational blanks, and—I hope—ignite a lifetime of curiosity about our natural world.

(If you wish to buy a book, consider Bookshop.org, where profit from online book purchases is distributed among independent bookstores.)

The Bat Book, written and illustrated by Charlotte Milner, is great fun. For kids 5-8, this is a fact-filled book sure to keep kids’ attention as they browse its pages. Did you know that some bats sing like songbirds? The book is about bat habitat, biology, and why bats are important. It has information about conservation, including how to grow a bat-friendly garden. Bats have an undeserved, scary reputation. Published by DK Books, The Bat Book‘s fun facts and beautiful art turn that bad rap completely upside-down.

I once encountered a bat up close… in my bedroom. I wrote about it on my blog, where I included this adorable photo by wildlife biologist ErinAdventure, who (like me) allows others to use her photos under a Creative Commons license.

bat being held by a gloved wildlife biologist

Here I’m recommending two fun books about animal anatomy kids can definitely relate to. For the pre-school set, there’s Snap! Stick Out Your Tongue by Bob Barner, a silly, pull-the-animal’s-tongue novelty book that also introduces some biology. And do you know which animal has a tongue that also works like a nose? Find out in Terrific Tongues! a STEM picture book by Maria Gianferrari, with art by Jia Liu.

My interest in finding kids’ books about tongues was sparked by this Canada goose. The bird swam quite a distance with its tongue out, even as it honked loudly. I wrote about that in my post, My Honkin’ Rude Neighbor.

Leslie Bulion’s Amphibian Acrobats, with art by Robert Meganck. Bulion shares detailed amphibian biology through poems and text. In a fantastic marriage of STEM and language arts, she also explains the form of each creature’s poem. I learned a lot! And I love the graceful motion in every illustration—perfect for a book featuring acrobats and poetry.

I’m no poet, but Bulion’s book inspired me to write in verse after I spotted a little frog, a spring peeper. Here’s my little poem:

I wake a treefrog. Still, he stays.
No hop. No leap. A sleepy gaze.

Look Again: Secrets of Animal Camouflage, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. This book shares animals’ means of disguise, showing the many ways animals hide in plain sight to avoid becoming a meal. The art is fantastic, inviting kids to find hidden animals, which are revealed with a page turn. Aimed at kids 4-7 years old, it’s a fun way to get kids thinking about animal biology.

I wrote the blog post, Undercover Larva, after watching a lacewing larva pack its back with trash. The insect’s camouflage technique was mesmerizing. I hope you’ll take a peek at the post. Here’s one of the alligator-like larvae beneath its trash heap, which consists of bits of plants, lichen, dead insects, and spider silk.

A view of a debris-carrying lacewing larva that shows the larva's body beneath the debris pile.

How to Build an Insect, by Roberta Gibson, illustrated by Anne Lambelet… a fantastic picture book about insect anatomy. Page by page, readers watch an insect under construction. Gibson names and explains the purpose of key insect body parts and why they differ from one insect to another, with comparisons to human anatomy.

Speaking of anatomy, look at this acorn weevil’s snout!

It’s called a rostrum. Sharp mouthparts at the very tip let her drill tunnels in acorns. Then she turns and lays an egg just inside, plugging the hole with feces. The hatchling larva travels down the tunnel to the heart of the acorn—a B&B well protected from predators. When the acorn falls, the larva chews its way out and wriggles into the soil, where it pupates.

A Wasp Builds a Nest: See Inside a Paper Wasp’s Nest and Watch it Grow, by Kate Scarborough and Martin Camm. What a find! It’s a picture book with ‘step-cut’ pages. They grow in size as the reader follows a nest’s construction and the activity within. Kids will be fascinated with every page turn.

I spent much of one summer filming wasps. Ick, you say? Not at all! It was fascinating. I hope you’ll take a look at my blog post called Wasp Watching. After seeing the little larvae eat, maybe you’ll even say awww. And isn’t this lady wasp gorgeous, with her big, mahogany eyes?

Female paper wasp near her nest

Image Credits: ErinAdventure, Carol Doeringer, Publishers (for book covers).