Inside: Ooey-gooey, sticky, and all-around fun children’s books about mud to inspire outdoor play and exploration. This list is perfect to celebrate Mud Day on June 29th. What a glorious holiday 🙂
Whether your kids wholeheartedly embrace mud play or have a low tolerance for getting dirty, this list of the very best books about mud is sure to please them. Through this variety of books, they can discover how to make a mud pie like a pro, lure the whole family into a mud adventure, vicariously experience life as a worm, learn about the role of mud in early architecture, and discover what a bag of mud has to do with the Oregon Trail in the 1800s.
It took me years to change my attitude about mud play. With my first child and first experience as a mother, the thought of all the deadly diseases hiding in the mud was enough to give me a heart attack. However, after lots of research, I mellowed down and embraced the notion that the benefits outweigh the risks. Read Six Unexpected ways Mud Play benefits the Body and the Brain to uncover lots of play ideas from mud building to mud art, and why it’s such a good idea for children.
FYI: Mud Day is coming up on June 29th!
Without further ado, here are our favorite books on mud.
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Books about Mud
Mud Book: How to Make Pies and Cakes, John Cage & Lois Long
Chances are high that if you have a backyard, you occasionally send your kids outside with a recommendation to make a mud pie, but do your kids actually know how to make a proper mud pie? With this book, they will. With minimum text and playful drawings, your kids can follow a step by step process from gathering and mixing dirt with water to squeezing and baking it in the sun.
The moment you finish reading the instructions for making a Mud Birthday Cake, your kids will be pulling their shoes on to put their new-found knowledge into operation. I was surprised to discover that this book is a collaboration between a composer and a textile designer – there is, obviously, more to mud making that meets the eye! It’s quirky 5×5 size, and thick pages make it perfect for little hands.
Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Road, Lynn Plourde
Imagine you’re driving home with your family dressed to the nines, and your progress is halted by pigs waddling in a huge mud puddle. Brother, Sister, Mom, and Dad all try to get the pigs to move with little success. What’s worse, more farm animals are joining in! It’s up to feisty Grandma to solve the problem, and if she gets a bit (or totally) muddy in the process, it’s all part of the hilarious package. We love the rhyming cadence and the made-up words. “But the sheep didn’t shuffle. Not a tiny little shmuffle.” And “the hens didn’t scatter. Not a tiny little smatter.” What a fun read and a great example of creative problem-solving in action! We all love this book.
Stuck in the Mud, Jane Clarke
You know how sometimes you see someone so overcome by their problem that they don’t even ask for help, but you can see they need it? So, you bravely jump in without hesitation because, in your opinion, they clearly need some saving. That’s exactly what happens in this book. When Mommy Hen sees her chick stuck in the mud, she alerts the whole barnyard. One by one, animals jump into the mud pit to push and pull. Finally, when a respectable cat, dog, sheep, horse, and a farmer are all stuck in the muddy mud, the chick jumps out with ease and announces, “Mud is great fun! I’m sure you’ll agree. I love mucky mud – thanks for playing with me!” He-he-he… My kids think the little chick is pretty sly to get everyone in the mud this way, but as the saying goes, “never cry wolf….”
Mississippi Mud: Three Prairie Journals, Ann Turner
“The wheels were caked with Mississippi mud,” as the family of six sat in the wagon carrying them away from everything they knew to a new life in Oregon. They had to cross miles of prairie, ford rivers, deliver a baby on the side of the road, save someone else’s horse, and bury their dog. The historical books about the Oregon trail can be pretty bleak, but not this one.
It blends gorgeous illustrations and epic adventures, as seen through the eyes of the three older children. Their words are vivid and poetic, “[Town] is gone already, like a peppermint sliver swallowed up whole.” “The sky pink as our baby’s face.” “The farmhouse slips out of sight like a fish off a hook.”
You and your kids will feel deeply touched by the boy who grabs a handful of the Mississippi mud to save in a pouch. “I’ll bury it under my bed for luck, // for the sticking strength // of the Mississippi mud.”
This book might be a bit heavy for casual reading, so save it for when you can go slow and have time for discussion.
Mud, Mary Lyn Ray
This book is a celebration of “gooey, gloppy, mucky, magnificent mud.” The text is brief, sometimes just a few words per page while the large and bright paintings of mud take center stage. We love the part where the naked feet of a child “squish, squck, sop, splat, and slurp” in the mud. It might be a good book to read if you want to encourage your kids to play in the mud, or simply practice their onomatopoeias.
A Perfect Mess, Steve Breen
Henry turns down jelly donuts, carefully jumps over muddy puddles, and chooses to sit at the back of the art class to avoid getting paint on his T-shirt. Today is picture day in school, and he wants to make sure that he is picture-perfect. The problem is that in his efforts to stay clean, he gets everyone else dirty. On the one hand, it’s a great book to talk about things not going according to plan and handling disappointments. On the other hand, it’s also a good choice for kids who are reluctant to get dirty or feel ambivalent about jumping into a muddy puddle with abandon.
Dirt Boy, Erik Jon Slangerup
Fister Farnello loves rolling in the mud and making mud pies. What he doesn’t like is taking a bath. So one day, he runs away from everything clean and meets a dirt man who hasn’t taken a bath in a thousand years. They instantly become friends. They spend their days playing dirt games in the woods until Fister begins to smell so bad that a giant wants to eat him! This is the story of Fister making his way back home to his mom. It’s a funny tale of dirt and love. And the illustrations delight my children, who happen to love rolling in the mud, but luckily for me also love taking baths.
Mud Tacos, Mario Lopez and Marisa Lopez Wong
In case we needed a reminder, here comes a story to show us that a simple box can be filled with possibilities. When Mario and Marissa find a big cardboard box in Grandma’s house, they turn it into a mud kitchen. Using the best ingredients the yard has to offer – mud, leaves, flowers, and shells – the kids whip up a batch of tacos. But the best thing about mud tacos is not eating them. Before this book is over, we’ll get to meet some more playmates, travel to the real grocery store with Grandma, and eat some real tacos. You know you have to have tacos for dinner after reading this book, right?
Dirt + Water = Mud, Katherine Hannigan
I guarantee this book will inspire your kids to play outside. On a beautiful summer day, a girl and her dog dive into a backyard adventure. The book is written entirely in equations and speech bulbs, and the tone is upbeat and colorful.
“Dirt + Water = Mud,” and the little girl in a pretty pink dress splashes face down into the muck. But “Mud + Splash + Splatter = Very Muck,” so it’s time for “Hose + High up = Shower.”
I love that the book shows examples of things that children should NOT be doing. It’s a great opportunity to ask your kids what they think about it.
Jumping off the top of a tree using a bedsheet as a parachute?
Playing in a pool unsupervised?
You can mention that drowning is the second leading cause of death for kids, and yes, the kiddie pool has enough water for a child to drown, especially if, like in this book, the child is diving head down into the pool. If kids only see things that are safe for them, then don’t get to practice their judgment skills. When it comes to “safety smarts,” I want my kids to see things that are questionable and ask them, “do you think this is a good idea? Why “yes” or why “no”? What do you think would be a safer way to play this game?”
Mud Mess, Melinda Melton Crow
Dump Truck is stuck in the mud. But it’s ok because Green Truck and Blue Truck are happy to help pull him out. This might very well become the first book your child reads on his own. Simple, short sentences (“This is Green Truck.”), easy vocabulary (hill, truck, mud), and lots of repetition (the whole 30-page story is told in about 25 words).
Jasper & Joop, Oliver Dunrea
Joop likes to leap into the mud, but his friend Jasper doesn’t. However, when both friends get attacked by bees, the only way to escape is to hide in the mud! This is the story of how Jasper discovers that mud is actually fun. My two youngest kids want to read this book all the time and think that the watercolor illustrations of Jasper and Joop are so funny.
From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers, Christine Paxmann
Best suited for children ten and up, this nonfiction book is a history of humankind through architecture. For thousands of years, humans lived in caves. Then, about 10,000 years ago, they started experimenting with mud and created rudimentary mud huts. Mud was later hardened in the fire to create bricks, wheels were invented, and people learned to make complicated mathematical calculations and produce complex designs (Egyptian pyramids have been around for 4,500 years). From Ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, Gothic, Baroque, and Industrial, this book will take you on a whirlwind tour of styles, architects, and famous buildings. I would combine the reading of this book with hands-on activities like building mud sculptures in the backyard or making mud bricks using milk cartoons as molds.
Diary of a Worm, Doreen Cronin
There is nothing sweeter to the worm mother’s heart than the sight of her little worm in front of his favorite dirt pile. And nothing frustrates her more than her worm children teasing each other. Want a book about the hilarious trials and tribulations of a life of a worm? Look no further. Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss created this amazing story. (It even inspired one of my kids to start a diary). Do you know the best part of being a worm? You “never get in trouble for tracking mud through the house.” If you want to go on a worm hunt, moist days and evenings are the best time to do it.
Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns About Mud and Rainbows, Howard Binkow
Even though this book was written for kids whose parents fight or go through a divorce, it has great lessons that will benefit all. Howard is a kid who likes to fix things. His attempts to make things better often amount to comical effect (i.e., when his mom complained that there was hair in the soup, he vacuum-cleaned the soup). But one day, Howard’s best friend is in tears because her parents fight, and he doesn’t know how to fix it.
The main idea of the story is that “Sometimes life gives you rainbows and sometimes you get mud! So if you find yourself headfirst in mud, you can’t change it, but you have choices.” The two friends in this story end up having a ridiculously fun mud fight.
I love all the amazing suggestions for lessons and reflections at the end of the book. It has great ideas for fixing things that can’t easily be fixed, replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, and a long list of activities for a happier attitude. We’re definitely going to get all the books in this series.
Harry the Dirty Dog, Gene Zion
Harry loves dirty play, but he doesn’t love taking baths (typical). However, a day comes when Harry gets so extraordinarily dirty that his humans don’t recognize him anymore. Now Harry has to do something that he never thought he would have to do. He has to convince his humans to give him a bath. Funny, well written, and creatively illustrated, this is one book that is sure to be read on repeat.
A Mud Pie for Mother, Scott Beck
Follow Little Pig as he tries to find something to give to his mother on her birthday. A flower? Some seeds? Dirt…? Nope. It looks like someone already laid a claim on all those items. Your little ones will love the simple, bright pictures and the message that even when things don’t go as planned, the end result might be totally worth it. After we read the book a couple of times, my three-year-old hugged the book and said, “I love it!” That’s all recommendation I needed to pass this one on to you.
The Mud Pony, Caron Lee Cohen
Kids will walk away from this story with three lessons: love nature, love your family, and you are never alone. Every time I read this ancient story from the Skidi band of the Pawnee Indians of the American Plains, I get goosebumps. When a poor Indian boy makes a pony out of mud, he wishes for a real pony, and magically it comes to life. After many adventures, close calls, and a fierce battle with another tribe, the boy on the mud pony is made a chief, and the pony returns to mud with the message, “I am here, your Mother Earth. You are not alone!”
The gorgeous paintings by Native American artist Shonto Begay are works of art. Reflecting the mystical spirituality of this legend, the dreamy, evocative, soft images fill us with wonder about the striking possibility of a greater power than ourselves to guide us in life.
What is your favorite book about mud?