Exploring Minnesota’s Wildlife through Children’s Books

Minnesota is the land of prairies, lakes and coniferous forests known as the North Woods. Children can learn more about the diverse animals and plants that live in Minnesota through picture books like these:

Coming out April 15, 2014 is Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen, which explores Minnesota’s prairies. Root starts by disclosing how the prairies are almost all gone. She then highlights examples of relationships between specific plants and animals in the prairie ecosystem, such as between foxglove beardtongue (a type of Penstemon) and hummingbirds; monarch butterflies and milkweeds; and goldfinches and sunflowers. She explains that by growing these plants, even in small pockets, the animals that use them will come to visit. In the back matter are lists of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants found in prairies, perfect for a jumping off point for designing a garden or writing a report about prairies.

Betsy Bowen’s woodblock print illustrations are a perfect accompaniment. They capture the feeling of movement and the look of the prairies beautifully.

Even though it explores the prairies of Minnesota, the book has a much more general appeal and a serious message about preserving habitats that can apply anywhere.

More about Plant a Pocket of Prairie and related activities at Growing with Science.

Phyllis Root and Betsy Bowen have paired up previously with Big Belching Bog, also from the University of Minnesota Press.

Sure to engross young readers, this book explains how the conditions of the bog produce methane gas. Root also reveals the plants and animals found in this unique habitat, including plants that eat insects!

Age Range: 6 and up
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; First Edition edition (September 3, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0816633592
ISBN-13: 978-0816633593

Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet by Betsy Bowen

A special alphabet book to share with nature lovers, Betsey Bowen’s woodcut illustrations again shine. She writes about what she knows best because she lives on the north shore of Lake Superior. What is the word for Z? Zero degrees, of course!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 26, 2002)
ISBN-10: 0618226389
ISBN-13: 978-0618226382


Tracks in the Wild by Betsy Bowen

Ever seen tracks in the snow and wondered what animal made them? Tracks in the Wild shows the reader who made them and what they were doing.

Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1St Edition edition (September 28, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0395884004
ISBN-13: 978-0395884003

Playful Slider: The North American River Otter (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage) by Barbara Juster Esbensen and illustrated by Mary Barrett Brown

A  reprint of an older book, learn all about the playful North American river otter.

Age Range: 9 and up
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; Reprint edition (August 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0816677654
ISBN-13: 978-0816677658


Interested in lists of books by states? Visit the Wrapped in Foil website Reading Across the States.

Are you from Minnesota? I could use your help to make this resource as useful as possible. Do you have any books or other resources to suggest for this list?  If you chose, please leave a comment. If you have reviewed books about or set in Minnesota, feel free to leave a link as well. Thank you.


Disclosures:  Plant a Pocket of Prairie was provided electronically for review purposes by NetGalley. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.

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