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Explorers and Animals: Books For Kids

This list of the best kids books about explorers is sure to include a new favorite for the voracious young reader in your life! From Inky's Amazing Escape to Ciao, Baby! in the Park there's something here for everyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite book about explorers? Let us know!

Inky's Amazing Escape book
#1
Inky's Amazing Escape
Written by Sy Montgomery and illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Learn all about Inky the Octopus, an international sensation known for escaping from the New Zealand aquarium in April 2016, in this adorable picture book from National Book Award nominee and octopus lover Sy Montgomery. Inky had been at the New Zealand aquarium since 2014 after being taken in by a fisherman who found him at sea. Inky had been getting used to his new environment, but the staff quickly figured out that he had to be kept amused or he would get bored. Then one night in 2016 Inky, about the size of a basketball, decided he’d had enough. He slithered eight feet across the floor and down a drainpipe more than 160 feet long to his home in the sea. Acclaimed author Sy Montogmery reminds readers that Inky didn’t escape—but instead, like the curious animal he is, wanted to explore the rest of the vast ocean he called his home.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm in Oregon book
#2
Old MacDonald Had a Farm in Oregon
Written by Forrest Everett and illustrated by Mary Sergeeva
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-3

Old MacDonald had a farm . . . in Oregon! In this delightful Oregon twist on the familiar farm tune, the sea lion goes bark bark here, the beaver goes chuck chuck there, and everywhere's there's lots of Oregon pride. This chunky layered board book cleverly reveals each Oregon animal and, when closed, forms an adorable pickup truck! Friendly Oregon animals and scenery fill the pages of this irresistible book for kids.

What's the Difference? book
#3
What's the Difference?
Written by Emma Strack and illustrated by Guillaume Plantevin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

What distinguishes a mandarin orange from a clementine, an iris from a pupil, a tornado from a cyclone, and a bee from a wasp? The difference is in the details! This content-rich illustrated extravaganza distills the distinctions between an impressive collection of pairs—from animals to food to geography and more—offering enlightening trivia, amusing tidbits, and unforgettable facts in a highly browsable format. Young readers can dip in quickly to feed their curiosity, or delve into the details and stay awhile. With a bold, graphic art style and an accessible, smart text, this miscellany collection will enrich probing minds (or is it "brains"?!).

Natural World book
#4
Natural World
Written and illustrated by Mike Jolley, Amanda Wood
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

A first introduction to the natural world that looks at the myriad ways in which plants and animals have adapted to give themselves the best chance of survival. Natural World explores and explains why living things look and behave the way they do in a series of visually compelling information charts.

Song of the Wild book
#5
Song of the Wild
Written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horacek
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

An extensive look at nature in verse. An essential introduction to the animal world with exquisitely modern illustrations.

  1. It's an Orange Aardvark! - Acclaimed New York Times-bestselling picture book creator Michael Hall delivers a funny and suspenseful story about colors, ants, aardvarks, and rainbows that will appeal to Lois Ehlert fans and fans of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. Another winner from the author of My Heart Is Like a Zoo, Perfect Square, and Cat Tale! Five carpenter ants at home in their tree stump hear a noise. What is it? One ant thinks it is a hungry aardvark lurking outside the stump, just waiting to eat them. One ant makes a hole in the stump to see. Orange light floods the stump—it's not an aardvark, proclaims the ant chorus. It's orange! So what is lurking outside the stump? This very funny picture book features die-cut holes on almost every page, suspenseful page turns, a wonderful surprise ending, and an introduction to a rainbow of colors. It's an Orange Aardvark! is a tour de force for Michael Hall, the acclaimed and bestselling creator of My Heart Is Like a Zoo, Perfect Square, and Cat Tale.

  2. Feathers and Hair, What Animals Wear - At first glance, a wild animal’s appearance may seem simple. But there is fascinating science behind every part of an animal’s physique—from its nose to its toes! Celebrated author Jennifer Ward explores different kinds of fur, feathers, skin, and scales in this nonfiction picture book that’s truly like no other. From porcupines and polar bears to octopuses and owls, you’ll never see animal outerwear the same way again!

  3. Let's Feed the Ducks! - When a brother and sister go on a walk to feed the ducks, they come across many different animals with different sounds--but where are the quacking ducks? Young readers will learn to identify and connect different animals and sounds in this delightful and engaging story.

  4. Prickly Hedgehogs! - When the sun has set, Hedgehog’s day has only just begun. She’s out and about, snuffling through layers of leaves and twigs as she searches for bugs and other things to eat. Young animal lovers will enjoy following Hedgehog and her little hoglets through towns and gardens, parks and woodland, as they sniff-sniff-sniff for food. The facts threaded throughout this inviting story augment the charming illustrations and will satisfy the most inquisitive of readers.

The Long Way Home book
#10
The Long Way Home
Written by Gigi Priebe and illustrated by Daniel Duncan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Henry Whiskers and his cousin, Jeremy, must find their way back home—Queen Mary’s dollhouse—and to Windsor Castle with the help of a mysterious treasure map in this fun, fast-paced follow up to The Adventures of Henry Whiskers. Little Henry Whiskers is thrilled when he discovers an old, crinkly map, complete with a giant X marking a spot, full of treasure—at least, that’s what Henry thinks. All he knows is that this map is something BIG—he can feel it right down to the tip of his tail. But before he can share his exciting find with his cousin and best friend, Jeremy, they find themselves in the danger zone: The Windsor Castle Kitchen. And after being unceremoniously caught and thrown out of the castle, with nothing but the map, the two little mice realize they have bigger problems than being caught in the kitchen! How will they get back to the dollhouse? With the help of his cousin, Jeremy and a fellow field mouse named Wisely, the cousins battle a hungry falcon, an endless and stormy lake, and the maze of landmarks on the Windsor Castle Grounds as they try to find his way back home—and discover the mysterious map is more connected to the Whiskers family than either of them could have ever imagined.

Daylight Starlight Wildlife book
#11
Daylight Starlight Wildlife
Written and illustrated by Wendell Minor
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

In amazingly lifelike, luminous paintings, Wendell Minor, one of America’s finest wildlife and landscape painters, reveals the variety of animals that surround us when we are awake and when we are sleeping. Minor’s vivid introduction to diurnal (daytime) and nocturnal (nighttime) creatures invites readers to experience the movements, sounds, colors, and textures of nature. By day a red-tailed hawk soars through sky, and by night a barn owl silently swoops through it. In the daylight a family of fluffy cottontail rabbits hops into a field to forage for food, and under starlight a family of pink-nosed opossums does the same. As day turns to night and night to day, amazing critters large and small come and go. Children will enjoy comparing and contrasting the roaming habits of the wonderful wildlife that surrounds us.

Tracks in the Snow book
#12
Tracks in the Snow
Written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

A little girl investigates tracks in the snow, trying to determine what could have made them.

What Can I Feel? book
#13
What Can I Feel?
Written and illustrated by Annie Kubler
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-2

A board book designed to promote the exploration of the sense of touch, describing different feelings from cold snow to warm, soft, furry animals.

Snail Mail book
#14
Snail Mail
Written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Julia Patton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

A long, long time ago, before email and texting, the mail was delivered in a much slower way-it was called Snail Mail (because some thought it was delivered by a snail). Although it took much longer, everyone agreed that letters were a little more special when they were delivered by Snail Mail. They might be handwritten. They might include a drawing. They might even contain a surprise inside! One such letter was sent by a Girl to the Boy she loved, and it was up to four special snails to deliver her card across the country. The snails trek across the country-through desert heat and dangerous blizzards, across mountains and plains, through cities and forests-and along the way, they find that taking time to slow down and look around makes the journey all the more beautiful. Snail Mail's playful and educational story encourages kids to have slow living, and to approach life with determination and wonder. Julia Patton's rich illustrations showcase America's diverse terrain and national monuments from coast to coast. Kids and parents alike will delight in this celebration of America's beauty and the power of a simple handwritten letter.

  1. Ready, Set, Sail! - Join these sailors as they explore the sea during a fun day of sailing in this follow-up to Ready, Set, Build! Shout your orders loud and fast. "Hoist the mainsail up the mast!" Grab your life vest, hold on to your compass, and get ready for a day full of sailing fun with a playful tiger and turtle! Follow these salty sailors as they raise their anchor, cast off, and explore the sea in their little sloop. And after a long day of sailing, they gather and tell tales of all the things they've seen!

  2. Ciao, Baby! in the Park - Ciao! A pair of cute and colorful board books from Carole Lexa Schaefer and Lauren Tobia introduce a curious, lovable tot eager to explore the world. When Baby and Nonna head to the park for the day, what will they see? There's a squirrel -- Ciao, Squirrel! -- and a grasshopper -- Ciao, Grasshopper! Baby scoots over to meet them and share a friendly hello. Who else might be hiding around the park? Ciao, animals! Ciao, Baby!

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!