Summer Reading For Nature Lovers Big and Small

Olivia hand-picked her favorite books on conservation and wildlife that are, yes, breezy enough for summer.


A passion for nature and a deep commitment to conservation has been part of Olivia’s life since childhood. Growing up in an animal-loving family and helping to grow Chantecaille’s philanthropy partnerships has given her perspective on finding positive ways to have a hand in environmental conservation, and talking to children about it.

With Olivia’s own daughter, Delphina’s love of animals (especially baby ones) was a natural way in. “Children’s books that feature animals are a great way to raise awareness about the challenges facing them and our planet in a way that's hopeful and engaging.” Olivia says. “Delphina’s always noticing the animals when we’re out at the beach in East Hampton—the wild turkeys, fawns, bunnies and birds everywhere are fascinating to her. She’s already such a nurturing and caring girl, and seeing these animals all around her has definitely inspired a sweet curiosity and sense of responsibility.” This year, a crop of nature- and conservation-themed books caught Olivia’s eye, and reading them together has become a favorite way to pass the long summer afternoons.

“Children’s books that feature animals are a great way to help raise awareness about the challenges facing them and our planet in a way that's hopeful and engaging."

If you’re seeking titles for your own summer reading list, these beautiful, engaging books for littles and grown-ups offer an inspiring mix of education about the natural world and a dose of motivating optimism.

For littles

A colorful introduction to 12 endangered species, brought to life with fascinating, fun facts. Delphina loves the sweet illustrations of families of pandas, tigers and giraffes—the babies are especially adorable. The book ends with a wonderful, “What can you do?” page that I copied and pinned in our kitchen as a helpful reminder for our family.

This Dr. Seuss classic reminds us to treasure the wild, to stand up for voiceless animals and protect our planet, all in language that’s friendly for children and moving for adults. It's also a very encouraging book—that little seed at the end gives the reader hope. I’m proud to be raising Delphina to speak for the trees.

This year Delphina learned a lot about polar bears—she was very excited by her aunt and uncle’s trip to the Arctic to see them up close, and we did a presentation at her school about global warming and the challenges they face in the Arctic. Sea Bear is narrated by a polar bear whose home on the ice is threatened by global warming. This book shows us what we stand to lose due to climate change—the polar bear is a perfect symbol of this growing threat. We both love the illustrations by author Lindsay Moore, especially the hopeful mother bear carrying off her cubs at the end.

"Books are such a great way to help inspire children to fall in love with animals and feel empowered about how they can make a difference in helping them. Reading about conservation is a fun way for kids and parents to connect about it together."

For grown-ups

Part memoir, part grand-scale farm plan, this beautiful book by Isabella Tree takes us along on her journey to re-wild a failing farm estate in East Sussex, England. Warning: if you have dreams of running away and buying a farm, this book will have you packing your bags.

Our climate-change focused philanthropy project this year brought the reality of how dangerous the threats to our earth are. This brilliant book is a ray of light in a landscape that can seem really pessimistic and made me so proud of our commitment to plant trees in Africa to combat the effects of global warming.

While this isn’t a conservation book per se, it is a guidebook on re-discovering the world outside of ourselves and pushing technology to the side in favor of the birds, flowers and nature that surrounds us. It has inspired me to get outside and appreciate the butterflies fluttering in the garden and the small city trees that are slowly growing into a canopy in my Soho neighborhood.

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