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To encourage young readers’ summer outdoor exploration, here are two wonderful picture books which will help young explorers develop their observation skills … and more!

“The Hike” (2019, Chronicle Books, written and illustrated by Alison Farrell, ages 3-7) chronicles three young friends doing their favorite thing: going on a hike.

After each gathers their supplies, including feathers for one and a sketch book for another, off they go — Wren, El and Hattie.

Detailed watercolor illustrations with cartoon-like speech bubbles and labeled plants and animals combine with the lyrical text to make a full experience on each page, as we follow them along while they “run like maniacs” then stop for a ripe patch of thimbleberries.

Next, “El teaches us how to make leaf baskets,” with the illustration showing Wren’s sketches of full instructions.

The trail gets steep, they get lost, look at maps, and soon find their way again. They see a deer, which “vanishes so quick, we wonder if it was ever really there.”

After experiencing many joys and struggles of hiking, including a light rain, chirping birds and getting tired on the trail, finally they reach the chilly top.

“At the top, Wren takes out her flag, El reads her poem, and Hattie releases feathers into the wind,” we read, as the exuberant illustration shows them at the summit, looking out at a wide expanse.

“We did it,” the text ends.

Several pages follow, showing the group heading down the trail with the sun setting and reaching home as constellations fill the sky.

More notes from Wren’s sketchbook make up the backmatter, with detailed information about the animals and plants found along the way.

This joyful, informative book is sure to encourage and enable young explorers and observers of nature.

“What’s In Your Pocket: Collecting Nature’s Treasures” (2021, Charlesbridge, written by Heather L. Montgomery, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga, ages 4-9) invites the reader in with a question and bright, child-friendly illustrations.

“When you explore the great outdoors and find something strange and wonderful, do you put it in your pocket?”

From here, we meet George, a child who puts a strange seedpod in his pocket and forgets about it until … it explodes in his living room.

“Nobody knew that George would grow up to be the famous scientist George Washington Carver,” the text tells us on the next page, giving some interesting details of his achievements.

The book follows this pattern as we meet each scientist as a child, including Will, who found robins eggs in a tree, carried them in his mouth and swallowed them when he fell. Will grew up to be the famous naturalist, William Beebe.

Next, we move from putting things into pockets (or worms under pillows, as Jane Goodall did) to adding items to collections, to be sorted, compared and categorized.

In this section, we meet Charles Darwin, who collected beetles; Meg/Margaret Lowman, who climbed trees and collected leaves; and Diego Cisneros-Heredia, a herpetologist, who collected snails and slugs as a child.

In the last section, we go from building collections to making amazing discoveries based on details and patterns seen in what we’ve collected.

We meet Mary Anning, who spotted an Ichthyosaur skeleton and helped scientists learn about extinction; Maria Sibylla Merian, who painted caterpillars and discovered their metamorphosis into butterflies; and Bonnie Lei, who collected and studied sea slugs, discovering a new species.

“Throughout history, kids have found all kinds of strange and wonderful things … Every discovery started with just one thing. One little thing that could fit in a pocket. What’s in your pocket?” the book concludes.

The backmatter includes more information about each of the scientists in the book along with notes from the author and illustrator, field guides and bibliography.

Alice B. McGinty ( is the award-winning author of almost 50 books for children and is taking registrations for her Words on Fire Writing Camp for Teens this summer at

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