Nature Picture Books: Lila, Fox and Barnacle
We recently brought home a stack of books from the library and three in particular really stood out. They all had a nature focus but were very different in tone.
Lila and the Crow
Written and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, this book was first brought to my attention by Georgia of Local Ecologist who frequently shares books her family is reading on Twitter. I was intrigued by the crow and put it on hold at our library. Lila and the Crow is perhaps one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books I’ve ever seen. The landscapes and scenes are full of a sense of place and Lila’s emotions are easy to feel through the illustrations.
The story is ultimately about overcoming being bullied for being different. Lila is called a crow because of her appearance and each day finds a crow on her walk home, her feelings reflected in the crow. We’ve read this book a dozen times or more now and each time I still feel the same strong emotions. It’s a really beautiful book.
I picked this book off the shelf because of the wonderful art on the cover, and because who doesn’t love foxes. The illustrations by Justin Thompson perfectly matched the text by Jolene Thompson about a fox who has lost his family and home in the forest. He ventures through the suburbs, walking by playgrounds and hiding under cars while lamenting the loss of his family. Eventually he comes to an area where people are working and a sign declares “future site of county wildlife preserve”. On the next page he encounters a the barrier of a highway where the strange ‘creatures’, aka humans, are digging. Another sign says “future site of highway wildlife underpass”. The fox takes advantage of this new underpass to be reunited with his family.
The story and art are delightful, but the inclusion of a wildlife underpass was what amazed me. As a landscape architecture undergrad I studied wildlife crossings in depth and have a special fondness for them, so I was very excited to see this in a children’s picture book. I love that these concepts are being explored in this format and the final page has author’s notes about wildlife crossings in the real world.
Barnacle is Bored
This book, by Jonathan Fenske is a lot more silly than the other two and really fun to read. I picked this one up as well because of the great illustrations, but also because I’m particularly fascinated by barnacles. The book is simple in words and illustrations, but effectively conveys life for a barnacle. It’s a life where barnacle is sedentary and takes what rolls over him, quite literally. He sits through the tide going in and own, he sits through the sun going up and down and he sits through waves pounding him. He envies the brightly colored fish and imagines all the fun the fish has in the ocean….until it’s eaten by a larger fish. Barnacle decides he’s not so bored after all.
It’s a fun book highlighting a relatively overlooked creature and for that I applaud it.
Kelly has a certificate from the University of Washington in non-fiction writing. She continually takes classes and attends talks on various natural history topics. In 2009 she earned a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon.
She's also an avid photographer focusing on the natural world.