The Envious Lobster

Lithograph illustration of Lobster (Homarus americanus) adapted from ‘Zoology of New York or, the New York Fauna,’ by James Ellsworth
De Kay, 1843.

Why “The Envious Lobster”? Our title references an 1833 poem by famous children’s author and abolitionist Hannah Gould. A green lobster wearing “her old suit of greenish black” talks with her friend “dressed in scarlet” and wishes she too could be so “gaily clad.” For those who know what makes lobsters red, the scalding conversation brings no surprises, but the poem itself exemplifies the combined instruction and (gruesome!) delight that have animated much American children’s nature writing from early on. These neglected poems, dialogues, and stories about nature and the environment deserve renewed attention.

Our anthology covers such topics as animal welfare, natural history, conservation, and environmental justice. Writers both famous and unfamiliar provide selections that shock, amuse, play, teach, and surprise. Aiming to welcome various readers, we’ve included pictures, secondary resources, and some explanatory materials, including short biographies. You can read what you want and ignore the rest. We admit that personal interests inform our choices, but we hope every reader will find something here to admire, remember, and share.

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Featured Selections

1900s, Birds, Native American, Short Story, Wild animals

Battle of the Owls

By Joseph M. Poepoe (Kānaka Maoli) with annotations by Jessica Cory
1870s, Poem

Turkey. A Thanksgiving Ode.

By Rose Terry Cooke with annotations by Will Smith
1920s, African American, Poem, War

In Flanders Fields: An Echo

By Orlando C. W. Taylor with annotations by Rene Marzuk
1880s, Cats, Education, Native American, Sketch

A Knowing Cat

By Anonymous with annotations by Karen L. Kilcup
1880s, Education, Farm life, Humor, Native American, Poem

Mary’s Goat

By Anonymous with annotations by Karen L. Kilcup
1920s, African American, Poem, Wild animals

At the Zoo

By Jessie Redmon Fauset with annotations by Catherine Bowlin
1860s, Poem, Seasons

The name of it is “autumn”

By Emily Dickinson with annotations by Josh Benjamin
1900s, Lullaby, Native American, Song

Zunian Lullaby

Transcribed and harmonized by Carlos Troyer with annotations by Jessica Cory
1910s, Native American, Short Story

How Morning Star Lost Her Fish

By Mabel Powers/Yeh Sen Noh Wehs with annotations by Jessica Cory
1920s, Short Story

How the Turtle Got His Marks

By Bertie Lee Hall with annotations by Josh Benjamin
1870s, Short Story

The Mice in the Mill

Mrs. A. W. Curtis with annotations by Josh Benjamin
1880s, Native American, Poem

First Efforts at Rhyming

By “Two Little Indian Girls” with annotations by Jessica Cory
1860s, Short Story

Old Story of the Five Peaches

By Author Unknown with annotations by Josh Benjamin
1850s, Poem

Fairy Song

By Louisa May Alcott with annotations by Mary Miller
1890s, Short Story


By Margaret Johnson with annotations by Josh Benjamin
1910s, Birds, Column, Creation stories, Myth, Native American

Tradition of the Crows

By Louis George (Klamath) with annotations by Jessica Cory