Best Children’s Books for Homesteaders

This collection of books are some that have been my favorites since I was little. Here’s a list of the best children’s books for homesteaders.

I grew up in a family that emphasized reading. Every night for as long as I remember I’d pick out three books from my shelf to read with my mom, or occasionally my dad.

As I grew up, I held on to my favorite picture books from childhood and even kept my favorite chapter books and young adult novels. If you look at my bookshelf today, almost half of them are books written for young people.

It’s no surprise that part of my mid-twenties was spent working as a children’s librarian, where I found it was my job to sit and look through picture books all day. What a dream.

Though I no longer am a librarian, my book collection has only grown. Having a daughter of my own has given me more excuses to add to our children’s book library. Rather than feeling embarrassed about putting Paddington on my Christmas list, it conveniently goes on Jane’s.

Homesteading and Farming in Children’s Books

There are a plethora of books out there with farm animals in them. Before Jane, my now 20 month old, knew any English words she knew the sound every animal on our homestead makes. While anyone can throw together a new version of Old MacDonald, I find that true books about farming and homesteading are far more subtle. They truly capture the beauty that exists every day when living close to the land. They share heartbreak, truth, and simple joys in beautiful ways with thoughtful words and illustrations.

This list of best children’s books for homesteaders, while no book is called “Homesteading for kids” includes some favorites that depict the homestead life that I love so much, and hope my daughter will too.

Best Children’s Books for Homesteaders

Only the Cat Saw

only the cat saw rough and tumble farmhouse

Written and Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

My mother got this book from her La Leche League chapter when I was a baby. It follows a family that lives on a small farm, featuring cows, chickens, horses, etc. The real fun of the story is following the main character, the cat. As the family goes about their day and night, busy with their own activities, you follow along with the cat to see all sorts of marvelous things that “only the cat saw”.

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous with warm, comfortable tones.

ashley wolff illustrations rough and tumble farmhouse

My mom told me it was one of her favorites because an illustration features a mother nursing her baby in the night, robe open and baby cuddled to her breast. I think of that picture often when my daughter wakes for me in the night. It’s surreal to know I read it as toddler and now I am reading it to her.

nursing in children's book rough and tumble farmhouse

Home Sweet Home

home sweet home rough and tumble farmhouse

Written by Jean Marzollo, Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

So I have a bit of an affinity for Ashley Wolff’s illustrations but to spread the love around I’ve only included two of her books on the list.

Home Sweet Home is a very simple book that starts and ends on a gorgeous homestead tucked away in a lush valley.

jean marazollo illustration rough and tumble farmhouse

Each page is a blessing, beginning with “Bless each bee” then “Each flower and tree”. The story continues on, expressing gratitude for plants and animals all over the world. The illustrations take us far from the homestead to visit the African savannah and the depths of the ocean. We also visit ponds, fields, streams, and the barns.

I wouldn’t consider this book to be particularly religious. Rather, it is a lovely moment to think about and give thanks for all the amazing plants and animals we share our Earth with.

children's books for farms rough and tumble farmhouse

The illustrations are large and colorful, so my toddler loves looking at each one and naming the animals. There are also enough details in each picture that as she learns more words and her understanding grows, we can dive deeper into each image and find something new to talk and learn about.

Big Red Barn

big red barn rough and tumble farmhouse

Written by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Felicia Bond

Margaret Wise Brown is an incredibly famous author who wrote over one hundred children’s books and has a fascinating life story if you’re up for a little reading.

My favorite book of hers is “The Little Fur Family” and I have to give it a quick shout out or my child-self will get in a time machine and slap me across the face.

Another book of hers I enjoy is “Big Red Barn”. This book takes place at a farm, around the barn and out in the field. It has a whole host of animal characters from donkeys and goats to geese and “little puppy dogs all round and warm”.

It’s a straightforward farm book that little ones will enjoy.

My particular favorite part of the story is the second page where “there was a pink pig who was learning to squeal”. Felicia Bond’s illustration of this joyous piglet and the idea of a baby pig practicing their squeal is almost more than I can handle.

felicia bond illustration rough and tumble farmhouse

Sonya’s Chickens

sonyas chickens rough and tumble farmhouse

Written and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl

Ashley Wolff may have my love, but Phoebe Wahl truly has my heart. She is hands down my most favorite artist. If you haven’t, take a look at some of her artwork. It is bright, colorful, inclusive of just about every difference humans can have, and it fills my heart every time.

best children's books for homesteaders rough an tumble farmhouse

Sonya’s Chickens is a book my daughter gets impatient with me about because I linger so long on each page. This story is about a little girl named Sonya who lives on a farm with her parents and sibling. One day Sonya’s dad brings home three baby chicks for her to look after.

phoebe wahl illustrations rough and tumble farmhouse

She takes excellent care of the chickens and eventually they grow into fine hens who start laying eggs.

One night, a fox gets into the chicken coop and takes one of her hens. It’s hard for her, but as her papa explains the fox needed food for his family. Sonya understands why it happened.

Jane is too little to understand much of the story just yet, but when we inevitably lose chickens in the future I know this story will be a comfort.

Thunder Cake

thunder cake rough and tumble farmhouse

Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco

This author is a favorite of my mother-in-law and I only read her books when she introduced me to them.

Patricia Polacco spent several years as a very young girl living on her grandmother’s farm in Michigan. Several of her stories take place there including this one.

patricia polacco illustration rough and tumble farmhouse

In this tale the author is a young girl terrified of the sound of thunder. Her grandma (Babushka) tells her granddaughter that they must start making Thunder Cake before the storm comes.

To make the cake they have to gather eggs from the chickens, milk from the cow, ingredients from an old cellar, and a secret ingredient from the garden.

As they gather supplies they are accompanied by the grandmother’s Nubian goats. They even pull a little red cart along to help carry all that they need.

thunder cake illustrations rough and tumble farmhouse

There are many things I love about this book. The Nubian goats, an adorable cat that I want to snuggle up with, the love and wisdom of a beautifully illustrated grandmother. Best of all, at the end of the book there is a recipe for Thunder Cake.

We are currently in the midst of an almost two month long drought. I can hardly wait until I can make Thunder Cake with my daughter.

Ox-Cart Man

ox cart man rough and tumble farmhouse

Written by Donald Hall, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

To wrap up my list of best children’s books for homesteaders, I have saved what is probably my favorite homestead-y book for last.

I first saw Ox-Cart Man when I was in my young teens. I flipped on the TV after school to find Reading Rainbow, which was and is one of my favorite shows no matter how old I am. This was the featured book on that episode and I stood transfixed. It was a story illustrating type of life I knew I wanted to have someday.

donald hall children's book rough and tumble farmhouse

Ox-Cart Man takes place I believe somewhere in New England in the 1830s. The Ox-Cart man is a husband and father who lives on a small farm with his family. It begins in October with him packing up his ox-cart with all the many things his family has been making over the year on their homestead. Wool, shawls, and mittens. Candles and shingles, potatoes and cabbages, honey from the bees, down from the geese.

He takes them all several days walk to Portsmouth where one by one he sells them. Then he heads home, gifts purchased for all his family members. Then we follow the family through the winter as again they spin, split, knit, carve, tap, and more.

barbara cooney illustration rough and tumble farmhouse

I truly can think of no book for children that better shows a life lived on the land, working with the seasons and working together as a family.

It inspires me even now to read it, thinking of everything our little homestead already provides for us and all that it may someday bring forth.

Final Thoughts on Best Children’s Books for Homesteaders

In the movie “You’ve Got Mail” Meg Ryan’s character says, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”

I believe that is true. Some of these books showed me what a life on a farm/homestead could be like and it became a part of who I wanted to be and who I am today.

I hope you find a new favorite in these books and please, share your favorites in the comments below!

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best children's books for homesteaders rough and tumble farmhouse

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