40+ wildlife and nature books for children and teenagers

Reading nature books with children is a great way to encourage an interest in wildlife. Books can introduce new species, places, words and concepts, and it's a great way to spend time together as a family.

Mother and daughter reading in a park.

From picture books about bats or microscopic species, to guides about climate change and celebrating environmentalists, there’s a wide range of amazing titles being published for children.

Amazing Islands: 100+ Places that will Boggle Your Mind

By Sabrina Weiss, illustrated by Kerry Hynman. Published by What On Earth Books, £14.99

Amazing Islands, cover

The eruption in 2014 of an underwater volcano in the South Pacific gave birth to the island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, one of the world’s newest islands. And while scientists expected it to be washed away within months, today, it is reported to be home to flowering plants and even burrowing owls. In 2018, Hurricane Walaka washed away the whole of Hawaii’s East Island, home to Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles.

As a reminder of the impermanence of everything we take as stable, Amazing Islands is aptly named. Beautifully illustrated, this isn’t a natural history so much as a look at islands of every kind – from the unique wildlife on Madagascar to the culture of island nations. Along the way, we explore the geological wonders and artificial islands.

Amazing Islands, spread

There’s no great depth to any one subject but, as an overview, Amazing Islands is more than enough to whet the appetite for discovery.

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife

The Big Book of Blooms

By Yuval Zommer. Published by Thames & Hudson, £12.95


From the off, it’s clear that this is an impressive book. Gorgeous illustrations flood every page, and short, accessible chunks of copy offer an incredibly full introduction to botany.

We begin at the beginning with an overview of flower families, anatomy and pollinators, before delving deeper. Why are roses red and violets blue? What are flowers actually for? How do seeds disperse? Can plants defend themselves? And so on. Beyond science, we learn about flowers in different cultures, and how and why we might grow them ourselves.

The Big Book of Blooms, spread

As with all the best children’s reference books, this title comes highly recommended for grown-ups, too. Every time my son gleaned some nugget from the book and turned to me asking “Is that true, Daddy?” I was conscious not only of the wonder of nature blooming in him, but also getting a refresher of the miracle of plant life for myself.

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife

The Brilliant Book of Bugs

By Jess French, illustrated by Claire McElfatrick. Published by DK, £14.99.

Brilliant Book of Bugs_CMYK

This stunningly visual book is certain to inspire children and adults alike to take a closer look at the world of minibeasts. The vibrant cover hints at what’s waiting to be discovered among the book’s page – including bees, butterflies and some awesome leaf insects.

Children’s natural curiosity is bound to be piqued by the family trees and beautiful illustrations, which give readers a closer look at the anatomy of certain insects, such as the praying mantis and its incredible adapted front legs, or how a butterfly feeds using its proboscis. The book is full of interesting facts that will appeal to youngsters – did you know that a fly’s mouthparts are like sponges, sucking up soft food and liquids?

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Author Jess French, not one to shy away from the world’s climate issues, touches on these problems towards the end of the book but does so in an informative yet friendly way, showing readers how they can help protect and preserve the natural world around them.

Reviewed by Matt Doogue, wildlife photographer

The NOT Bad Animals

By Sophie Corrigan. Published by Frances Lincoln, £14.99


While many nature books focus on familiar ‘wow- species’ to attract the attentions of young people, The NOT Bad Animals tries a more comedic approach. Through a series of colourful and cartoonish spreads, it sets its target firmly on the animals that most people unfairly detest and, with its own brand of enthusiastic, frothing positivity, argues that these animals are far more incredible than we dare to dream.

Thus spiders, lampooned in one spread for being monstrous night-time nasties, are in the following spread argued to be vital, charismatic bug-catchers that carefully recycle their own webs by eating them. Crows aren’t creepy – they’re faithful parents, we’re told. Likewise, foxes aren’t fiendish – they can be friendly.


Sure, pedants will baulk at the occasional misstep (crocodiles are called both dinosaurs and lizards, for instance) but the impish, anarchic charm of this book and its relentless elation for lesser-loved animals will undoubtedly keep youngsters coming back for more.

Reviewed by Jules Howard, wildlife writer

The surprising lives of animals

By Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Stef Murphy. Published by Ivy Kids, £12.99

The Surprising Lives of Animals cover

Did you know that you can make a rat laugh by tickling it? Or that spectacled caiman babysit for each other? From farming ants to Hoover the talking seal, this book contains nuggets of information to delight and fascinate readers of all ages.

Showing that animals are more like us than we might think, it covers how some species play and learn, how they use tools and partner up, and much more. But what might be an informative and entertaining one-time read is made a real treasure by the beautiful explanatory illustrations.

The Surprising Lives on Animals - Spread

As well as explaining animal behaviour, the book also touches on notable scientists and their discoveries. With a glossary and further reading included, this is the perfect springboard for any budding zoologist. And it has enough poo facts to keep kids coming back for more.

This book is perfect when it comes to teaching a nature nut something new, or sparking a new interest.

Reviewed by Emma Pocklington, nature writer

This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate

By Isabel Thomas. Published by Wren and Rook, £6.99

This Book Will Help Cool the Climate

If everybody followed the advice in this little book, we’d stand a good chance of tackling climate change. It is full of wise ways to change your lifestyle – from altering buying, eating and even playing habits to joining in with community projects. As I read it with my 10-year-old, I learned a lot and felt guilty.

But the aim is to empower rather than frighten; to deal with defeatist attitudes such as “nothing I do is going to make a difference”. Positive change can lead to heightened self-worth, new hobbies and new friendships, though the advice to wee on your compost heap might stretch neighbourly relations.

Reviewed by Fergus Collins, editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine

The Bat Book

By Charlotte Milner. Published by DK, £12.99

The Bat Book cover

Unlike Bruce Wayne, bats are well-equipped with superpowers, quickly making this big book of bat facts a firm favourite with me and my son. Charmingly illustrated with a perfect blend of science and fun, The Bat Book dispenses facts with ease – within a minute we were laughing at the idea of the fastest bat (the Mexican free-tailed) flying past us on the motorway at 100mph, and streeeeeetching to see if we could copy the giant golden-crowned flying fox’s 150cm wingspan.

The more we read, the more we learned, with sections exploring why bats hang upside down, what they eat, echolocation and, deeper into the book, bats’ key role as seed dispersers and how they keep different ecosystems healthy.

The Bat Book inside spread

On a practical note, having learned about the threats to bats and their habitats, we’re now planning on planting some bat-friendly plants to see if we can lure any flying mammals into the garden this summer.

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine

The Natural History Puzzle Book

By Dr Gareth Moore. Published by Carlton Books, £14.99

The Natural History Puzzle Book cover

Did you know that on a clear night the human eye can see around 19 quadrillion miles into space? And that the earliest identified puzzle was written over 4,000 years ago? These and many other fascinating nuggets of information can be found in this engaging book inspired by exhibits in the Natural History Museum.

 There are over 100 challenges with three levels of difficulty, from fun mazes to tricky nonograms. Colourful, beautifully designed and a mine of facts, this book is ideal for ages 8–80, making it a great choice for a family of curious minds.

Reviewed by Margaret Bartlett, production editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Unseen Worlds: Real-Life Microscopic Creatures Hiding All Around Us

By Helene Rajcak, illustrated by Damien Laverdunt. Published by What On Earth Books, £14.99

Unseen Worlds cover

Microscopic ‘mini-fauna’ rarely receives even a footnote in most children’s books. Unseen Worlds attempts to put that right with a series of dramatic dioramas of everyday habitats and the tiny, but no less charming, animals they contain.

The fibres of your bed, a dusty kitchen corner, a tuft of moss – page-by-page, each microhabitat is zoomed in upon and exposed as a vibrant hotbed of tank-like pseudoscorpions, monster-like mites, cumbersome tardigrades and serpentine worms. Each miniature organism has a role or purpose, we’re told, no matter how small.

Crucially, scale-bars and species’ labels on each page keep the focus on science, plus there is a handy section about how microscopes work and the history of microscopy to inspire a new generation of wannabe microbiologists.

Unseen Worlds spread

Unseen Worlds delivers a simple message that resonates throughout: think small, understand big. It’s a jungle out there. Everywhere. 

Reviewed by Jules Howard, wildlife writer

Earth Heroes

By Lily Dyer. Published by Nosy Crow, £9.99

Earth Heroes cover

When I asked my 11-year-old who he associates with saving the planet, he instantly fired back the names David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. Both, fittingly, are on the cover of this colourful little hardback.

But while they clearly deserve their chapters, it’s the lesser-known of the 20 heroes introduced here that I want my son to read about – such as William Kamkwamba, the 14-year-old from Malawi who built a windmill from junk; and Isabel Soares, who saved tonnes of food waste in Portugal by persuading people to eat less-than-perfect fruit.

Given the gloomy environmental prognoses our kids are growing up with, this anthology is an inspiring reminder that even small actions make a difference.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson, section editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine

Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain

By Justin Anderson, illustrated by Paul Benson. Published by Walker Books, £12.99

Snow leopard cover

The formula for Walker Books’ nature series is a blend of evocative writing, supplementary facts and sumptuous illustrations, and it’s a winner: they’ve been favourites in our family since long before my son could read. He’s now eight – arguably a bit old for picture books, but he seized upon this latest offering by natural history film-maker Justin Anderson.

He is also a big fan of David Attenborough, so we were less than four pages in before he recognised the story from Planet Earth II, on which Anderson spent three years working.

The book provides an accessible context for that extraordinary footage and the limited palette of Patrick Benson’s illustrations perfectly evokes the hypnotic beauty of the Himalayan landscape and its most celebrated inhabitant.

Snow leopard spread

Reading it prompted a wide-ranging conversation about the tenacity of wildlife film-makers, the challenges shared by humans and snow leopards, and the uncertain future of an iconic species.

Reviewed by Amy-Jane Beer, wildlife writer

Through the Animal Kingdom

By Derek Harvey, illustrated by Charlotte Pepper. Published by DK, £9.99

Through the Animal Kingdom cover

This enticing book relates 13 remarkable animal stories, such as an Amur leopard stalking prey through snowy Siberia and the perilous migration of wildebeest across parched African grasslands.

Harvey deftly avoids the risk of triteness inherent in such an unabashed ‘greatest hits’ of the natural world. His understated text provides an easy read, packed with insight.

But Pepper’s artwork – delightful collages blending photographs with sassy illustrations – makes the book truly special. 

Through the Animal Kingdom spread

Reviewed by James Lowen, nature writer 

Encyclopedia of Animals

By Jules Howard, illustrated by Jarom Vogel. Published by Wide Eyed, £14.99

Encyclopedia of Animals cover

Illustrated children’s non-fiction is booming, especially books with an environmental tilt. This encyclopedia also follows the current trend for eschewing photographs in favour of stylised, pleasingly ‘retro’ artwork.

As a boy, I would have adored it, poring over Vogel’s fabulous depictions of the weird and wonderful animals that call this planet home.

Encyclopedia of Animals spread

With room for just 300 species, it’s necessarily selective – of the big cats, only the lion and tiger are featured, for example. Mammals and birds take up almost half the pages, but there’s a decent selection of fascinating invertebrates – the likes of bobbit worms, remipedes and sea gooseberries usually get short shrift in books like this.

Howard does a great job of highlighting each animal’s key adaptations in a couple of pithy paragraphs. Terms such as ‘copepod’ and ‘ungulate’ really need explaining, however, and there’s no glossary. Nevertheless, it’s an absorbing treasury to spark young imaginations. 

Reviewed by Ben Hoare, editorial consultant for BBC Wildlife Magazine

The Wonders of Nature

By Ben Hoare. Published by DK, £20.00

Wonders of Nature, cover

If expectations are raised by the gorgeous, gilded cover, what lies within doesn’t disappoint. The format is simple and very effective. Each of the hundred or so natural wonders distributed between four sections – rocks and minerals, microscopic life, plants, and animals (though one wonders what giant kelp is doing in the microscopic section) – gets a double-page spread dominated by a single large and striking photograph (the geological ones are especially impressive).