Great books and great outings have this in common: they expand the imagination and introduce us to new ideas. Here are 27 wonderful children’s books, many by local authors and illustrators, along with suggested outings that, combined with the book, will inspire hours of imaginative play.
“The Watermelon Seed,” by Greg Pizzoli
Place: Schmitz Preserve Park, 5551 S.W. Admiral Way
Crocodile LOVES watermelon! One day, he accidentally swallows a seed! He worries about what will happen to him – will he grow a big watermelon in his belly or turn completely pink? A cute and funny story that young children will ask to read again and again. Close to the north entrance of Schmitz Park Preserve, find a crocodile in hiding. Climb on top or take a peek in his mouth – maybe you’ll find a watermelon inside!
“Sea Star Wishes,” by Eric Ode
Place: Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint, 3521 Beach Dr SW
Local musician and author Eric Ode writes coastal poems that adorn colorful pictures of sea life. Meet sea stars, jellyfish, sea lions and other sea creatures in this wonderful introduction to children’s poetry. Just south of Alki Beach on the West Seattle shoreline, the Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint is Seattle’s prime spot for low tide, with tide pools to explore to find a dazzling variety of marine life.
“Bea’s Bees,” by Katherine Pryor
Place: West Seattle Bee Garden, Commons P-patch at Graham and 31st Ave SW – The bees are sleeping for the winter, but you can see the garden and their homes.
Written by a local science teacher, Katherine Pryor’s character Bea, discovers a bumblebee nest in an old oak tree and lets her curiosity take control. She visits them more often and discovers their routine and way of life. One day she finds that the bees are gone. How will she save them? Read on to uncover bee facts and ways her community (and ours) can help the bee population. Then head over to the West Seattle Bee Garden. See bees from behind a plexiglass window and take a self-guided tour of the gardens. Bzzzz!
“Vincent Comes Home” by Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley
Place: Myrtle Edwards Park, 3130 Alaskan Way
The protagonist of Jessixa and Aaron Bagley’s tale is Vincent, an orange tabby cat who lives on a cargo ship that visits Seattle’s Port in a time gone when the Smith Tower was the tallest building on the West Coast. It’s a great story to contemplate when taking an outing near Elliott Bay, where you have a view of the enormous ships that connect Seattle to the world.
“Roberto: The Insect Architect” by Nina Laden
Place: Seattle Center
Written and illustrated by Nina Laden, who lives on Lummi Island, this lively book chronicles the career of a termite who moves to the big city and becomes a celebrated architect. It’s a good thing to read before an outing to Seattle Center, which showcases a wild variety of ideas for what buildings can be, from the iconic Space Needle, to the shiny pink rumpled thing that is MoPop, to the elegant lines of McCaw Hall.
“My Museum” by Joanne Liu
In this thought-provoking book, a kid visits an art museum, but instead of admiring the masterworks on display, he gets drawn into shapes and patterns that show up in the people and the building around him. It’s a fun way to introduce kids to art galleries and to the idea of how art shows up in our daily lives.
“A Ticket to the Pennant: A Tale of Baseball in Seattle,” by Mark Holtzen
This story is set in the Seattle of 1955, an unfamiliar place for several reasons, starting with the fact that the city’s baseball team wins the league championship. The field where they play (Sick’s Seattle Stadium) is now the Rainier Avenue Lowe’s. (A plaque on the back wall of the store marks the spot.) There was a farm right by the stadium, close enough so that people who didn’t have tickets could watch the game from there.
A lot has changed on Rainier Avenue in the past 65 years, including the sad news in early 2021 that Borracchini’s Bakery, founded in 1922, was shutting its doors. (And in 2022, the building burned.)
Still, read this book for the baseball and history; visit Rainier Avenue South to take in a diverse, ever-evolving part of Seattle.
“Bartholomew Quill: A Crow’s Quest to Know Who’s Who,” by Thor Hanson
Place: Discovery Park, 3801 Discovery Park Blvd
In this book, by Washington author and conservation biologist Thor Hanson, a lone crow flies around, meeting other Pacific Northwest animals ranging from eagles to banana slugs. It’s a great way to prepare for a journey through the meadows, woods and shorelines of Seattle’s biggest, wildest park, Discovery Park.
“Go, Bikes, Go!” by Addie Boswell
Place: Burke-Gilman Trail
What better way to hype up for a family bike ride than to read this colorful and humorous ode to bike culture? See how many of the bikes depicted here resemble those you come across as you make your way down the trail.
“Good Dog, Carl” series, by Alexandra Day.
Place: Meridian Playground, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N
The “Good Dog, Carl” books, by Seattle author and illustrator Alexandra Day, chronicle the adventures of an alarmingly capable baby named Madeleine, and her babysitter, a resourceful Rottweiler named Carl. There are very few words but so much to see on these pages, and after taking in the adventures of Madeleine and Carl, you can go to Meridian Playground, which has a life-sized statue of Carl, posed so that kids can ride him, just the way Madeleine does in the books.
Books and outings: Eastside
“The Snail and the Whale,” by Julia Donaldson.
Place: Crossroads Water Spray Playground, 999 164th Ave NE, Bellevue.
A snail consumed by wanderlust decides to hitch a ride on the tail of a whale to see the world. The story is versed in rhyme and rhythm, taking the reader on snail’s journey, until there’s trouble with whale. Find out what happens next ,then head over to Crossroads Water Spray Playground. Open year-round, a large beached whale play structure sits on the ground, ready to spout water in the warmer months. Cooler weather will have you climbing to the top of the tail to imagine an adventure of your own.
“Tiny, Perfect Things” by M.H. Clark.
Place: Bellevue Downtown Park, 10201 NE 4th Street, Bellevue
Intricate illustrations pave the way for a lovely story of a child and grandfather’s walk around the neighborhood. Finding the most ordinary of things – a bottle cap, a snail, a crow – makes for an interesting adventure. You’ll find many of these tiny perfect things on an urban hike at Bellevue Downtown Park. Walk the perimeter to find acorns, butterflies and spider webs too. Also a smattering of sculptures and a wonderful children’s sensory playground for all ages.
“Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type,” by Doreen Cronin
Place: Kelsey Creek Farm, 410 130th Place SE, Bellevue
“Click, clack, moo” is all the farmer hears, day-in and day-out. The cows have discovered an old-fashioned typewriter and now they’re leaving notes for the farmer. Read this silly and entertaining book, then take a stroll around Kelsey Creek Farm. Visit the animals up by the barn and see if you can hear the clicking and clacking of an old typewriter. Don’t forget about the trails behind the farm: Catch a glimpse of the horses and pigs then head over to the park’s new farm-themed playground for some extra play.
“Mossy,” by Jan Brett.
Place: Juanita Bay Park, 2201 Market Street, Kirkland
Mossy is a turtle with an amazing garden growing on her carapace. Dr. Carolina, a biologist from a nearby museum, admires her beautiful coat, taking her back to the museum. Sad and lonely, Mossy wonders if she’ll ever get back home. Readers will appreciate the warm and surprising ending. Visit real turtles in their own habitat at Juanita Bay Park. Complete with paved paths and a boardwalk edging the slough, walk out to Nelson’s Point to watch these sunbathers splayed out on fallen logs.
“The Knight and the Dragon,” by Tomie dePaola
Place: North Rose Hill Woodlands Park, Kirkland 9930 124th Ave NE
Knight has never fought a dragon and Dragon has never fought a Knight. A picture book about their preparation and battle. Who will win? You’ll have to find out. You’re in for a treat and giggle too. North Rose Hill Woodlands Park, affectionately called Castle Park, will be the place you’ll want to reign as King, Queen or Knight. As they play on the castle structure, with its bridges and towers, kids may try to find a dragon hiding in a cave.
“Puddles!!!” by Kevan Atteberry
Place: Wallace Swamp Creek Park, Kenmore 19851 73rd Ave NE
Local author Kevan Atteberry writes about a friendly blue monster and friends, the bunnies, who jump in puddles, then ride out a thunderstorm in a cave. Later they discover something amazing because of the rain. Pull on your boots and jump in puddles at Wallace Swamp Creek Park. It’s an undeveloped park, great for walking the dog, seeing salmon, and splashing in the creek.
“Apple,” by Nikki McClure
Place: Apple Orchard Trail, Saint Edward State Park 14445 Juanita Drive NE
Nikki McClure is a local author and illustrator who uses an X-Acto knife to make all her book’s amazing drawings. A little girl sneaks an apple to eat with her lunch. She forgets it in the field, where it turns to compost. Seasons pass and a new apple tree grows. With very few words, the intricate pictures tell a detailed story of giving back to the earth. The Apple Orchard Trail at Saint Edward State Park is a wonderful way to match a good book and outing. Walk along a long row of apple trees, and watch them blossom in the spring and then bear fruit in the summer and autumn.
“Stellaluna,” by Janell Cannon
Place: Perrigo Park, 9011 196th Ave NE, Redmond
A story about a baby bat, Stellaluna, who fell into a bird nest while her mother was away. The momma bird takes in Stellaluna where she learns how to be a bird. Will she ever get back home? Find out and then explore Perrigo Park. There’s great play area, beach volleyball and a paved trail that loops through the back of the park, where you can find bat boxes built up high on wooden poles. Maybe you’ll spot a bat flying by.
“The Hike,” by Alison Farrell
Place: Farrell-McWhirter Park, 19545 Redmond Road, Redmond
Wren, El, Hattie and their dog Bean go for a hike in the woods. Along the way they find many things to explore: birds, native plants, berries, and more! They reach a river crossing and get lost. How will they find their way to their destination, or even home? A lovely book, labeling beautiful pictures of forest artifacts, this is a book you’ll want to take with you on your next hike. Offering trails of native plants, animals, and berries Farrell McWhirter Park is home to a canopy of trees and farms. A fun book and outing – you’ll feel like you’re hiking right along with the characters.
“A Different Pond,” by Bao Phi
Place: Luther Burbank Park, 2040 84th Ave SE, Mercer Island
A father and son wake early to go fishing. They stop at a tackle shop to purchase supplies then head to a pond to cast their lines. While they wait, father shares stories of his culture and history. The wonderful thing about fishing is that it takes time and patience. At Luther Burbank Park you can fish off the dock and share stories with your child, until the fish bite! Then head to one of the many trails, look at sculptures and enjoy the playground.
“The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch
Place: Deane’s Children’s Park, 5500 Island Crest Way, Mercer Island
“The Paper Bag Princess” is a classic and funny tale about a battle between a resourceful princess and a dragon. The twist at the end redefines what princesses can be. An excellent place to reenact the events of the tale: Deane’s Children’s Park, which has “Kenton’s Dragon,” an open-jawed dragon-shaped play structure made by artist Kenton Pies. A book and outing to set loose the imagination!
“Steam Train Dream Train,” by Sherry Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
Place: Depot Park, 2 East Sunset Way, Issaquah
Hitch a ride on a circus train with animals galore. Cozy rhymes and soothing colors make this great for a bed or nap time reading. After your slumber, head to Depot Park in Issaquah ,where you’ll find train themed play structures and a train museum nearby. When open, hop on the Issaquah Trolley and ride down the line. Ding ding!
“Fox & the Bike Ride,” by Corey Tabor
Place: Fisher Creek Park, 7805 Fisher Ave SE, Snoqualmie
Adventure with Fox and friends on a bike! Ride down steep hills, into the water and up into the air. See if Fox makes it back safely, in time to celebrate his outing. Fisher Creek Park may not have foxes but it does offer a kid-friendly bike trail for beginners through the trees and up and down some mild hills. Tired legs? Check out the children’s park filled with colorful and fun structures.
Books and Outings North of Seattle
“Freight Train,” by Donald Crews
Place: Picnic Point Park, 7231 Picnic Point Rd, Edmonds
Red caboose, orange tank car, yellow hopper. A fantastic book for younger children crazy about choo-choo trains and learning colors. To find rushing train cars along the beach side, visit Picnic Point Park. A beach divided into a rocky and sandy shore, kids will want to play in the Puget Sound while every so often long lines of freight trains rattle by on the tracks. Wave hello to the engineer and pump your arms up and down to hear the train horn!
“Hello Lighthouse,” by Sophie Blackall.
Place: Lighthouse Park, 609 Front St, Mukilteo
Sophie Blackall’s book is a beautifully written and illustrated children’s book tracing the days of the last lighthouse keeper. He writes in his journal, wishes for his wife to be near, fishes out his window, watches the waves crash on a stormy night and saves sailors from a capsized boat. Read about his eventful stay, then head to Lighthouse Park to explore a real lighthouse, built in the 1950s. Explore the outside or take a private tour of the inside. Nearby, watch the waves roll in and check out the ferries sail back and forth.
Outings South of Seattle
“The Night Gardener,” by The Fan Brothers.
Place: The Pacific Bonsai Museum, 2515 336th St, Federal Way
William lives in a quiet, gray, little town where nothing extraordinary happens. Until one day, someone carves a magnificent owl into the tree outside his window. Day after day, tree after tree, carvings appear in fantastical forms- inducing an excitement around town. You’ll want to read on to discover who the night gardener is for yourself and then take a trip to Federal Way to visit the outdoor bonsai exhibit at The Pacific Bonsai Museum. Masters of the art prune these trees in a skillful and meditative manner. Admission is by donation only.
“Miss Rumphius,” by Barbara Cooney
Place: Naches Loop, Mount Rainier National Park (open seasonally)
A charming story about a fictional character, Miss Alice Rumphius makes it her mission to make the world a more beautiful place. Her solution: Plant beautiful lupine flowers all over her town, encouraging friends and neighbors to find something they can do to make the world a more beautiful place too. The story is a nice reminder of all the beauty that we see in nature. Check out a kid-friendly trail at Mount Rainier National Park where you can see lupine in the spring.
More books and outings:
Originally published Nov. 12, 2020