Category: nature

Gerda Muller Books

By , December 14, 2007 12:54 pm

I just bought the whole set of these for my almost two-year old. They were so lovely that I couldn’t wait for Christmas to bring them out!

These books are refreshingly simple. There are four in the series, one for each season. There are no words, only lovely drawings of children engaged in fun activities appropriate to the season of the book.

There is lots to see and talk about, from picking out objects and colors, to discussing seasons, weather, clothing, nature, activities and play! My daughter loves these and will sit and pore of the pages with great interest.

Another thing I really like about these books is the fact that they are sturdy board books. This is good for us, since I think ours will get a lot of love and use!

Thank you to Greenemother of The Owl and the PussyCat, where I first learned of the series. I urge you to read her thoughts on these lovely books. I am grateful for your recommendation!

A Symphony of Whales (Steve Schuch)

By , December 1, 2007 11:00 pm

This award-winning book is based on a real incident occurring in the winter of 1984-1985 where nearly 3,000 beluga whales became trapped in a rapidly freezing narrow strait in Siberia. For seven weeks the local villagers and the crew of an ice breaker fought to save the whales, breaking up the ice so they could surface to breathe. Amazingly they succeeded in breaking a passage through the twelve foot thick ice and led the whales to the safety of the open sea by playing classical music!

This amazing tale with a happy ending is recounted here by musician Steve Schuch who narrates the tale through the eyes of the fictional Glashka, a little girl residing in the nearby Siberian village. Peter Sylvada’s amazing illustrations lend an eerie beauty that enhances this wonderful story.

Steve Schuch also created a piece of music called “Whale Trilogy” that I first heard on an NPR broadcast many years ago. This very original composition tells this same whale rescue story musically by melding violin and actual whale songs. That hauntingly beautiful music is what led me to purchase this book and the CD. I urge you all to listen to the MP3 excerpt from this piece online at Steve’s website. It will make you want to rush out and buy both the book and the album, Wellspring: Live at the Folkway, on which is recorded Whale Trilogy.

I think that Wellspring: Live at the Folkway is unfortunately now only available as a cassette, unless you buy a used CD – which I linked to below at Amazon, but try Half.com and Ebay too. It is a wonderful album of children’s music and I highly recommend searching for it on CD.

In addition to being a lovely book in and of itself, A Symphony of Whales is a good addition to a discussion about whales, or life in a Siberian village!

Awards: A New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, A Parents’ Choice Honor Book, and Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children.

The Story of the Root-Children (Sibylle von Olfers)

By , October 18, 2007 8:57 pm

I was astonished to discover that this book was first published in 1906. The language (translated from the original German), although formal, does not feel 100 years-old!

This simple story follows mother nature and “the root-children,” tiny flower fairy-like tots, as they prepare for spring. We then watch the children dance and play all summer long until the cold fall winds send them back down under the earth for their winter’s sleep.

Younger children will enjoy the lovely art-nouveau illustrations while older ones will want to hear the peaceful story over and over. My 5 and 7 year-old frequently ask for this book!

Waldorf families will appreciate the “cycle of nature” theme.

Don’t Call Me Pig! – A Javelina Story (Conrad J. Storad, Illustrated by Beth Neely & Don Rantz)

By , October 3, 2007 8:34 pm

This funny book teaches children and adults alike about javelinas (pronounced: “HAVELEENA”) and yes, most people think that they are a variety of wild pig – nope, they are “peccaries.”

As a resident of Arizona, we actually encounter javelinas from time to time, and these encounters are all the more interesting now that we have learned so much from this wonderful book! My children adore this book and love shouting out the oft repeated refrain: “Don’t call me pig!”

In addition to the fun, rhyming text, the book features marvelous and funny illustrations of the javelinas. Both the text and the illustrations describe their physical characteristics and their life in a manner that is appealing even to young children.

For adults who want the straight facts, there are two pages at the end of the book that discuss javelinas in a more narrative manner. This book should appeal to any child who is curious about wildlife, or the southwestern United States. It would be a great book for teachers too. My kids learned a lot, and so did I!

Giving Thanks (Jonathan London, Illustrated by Gregory Manchess)

By , September 24, 2007 9:15 pm

Perhaps I should have saved this post for Thanksgiving, but I am so excited about this book that I really had to post it now.

I found this lovely book over the summer when I was away in a place where they actually have stores, unlike here at home. It was either at TJ Max or Tuesday Morning and I bought it (hardcover) for $4.99 (list price is $16.99). Well, you are not going to get this kind of a deal from Amazon, but if you search your local discount stores, perhaps you will be lucky enough to find it for less.

This book is lovely in all respects. The illustrations are gorgeous oil paintings that are completely beautiful unto themselves. For me, often the illustrations are what make the book (as you can tell by the number of children’s books I recommend that are filed under “exceptional illustrations“).

The text of this book is as beautiful as the illustrations. A boy and his father go for a walk through a lovely fall landscape. As is his habit, the father gives thanks to every bit of nature that they encounter: frogs, crickets, tree, mushrooms, sun, etc. The boy explains that “Dad believes that the things of nature are a gift. And that in return, we must give something back. We must give thanks.” At the end of the book, the boy says: “To me it’s a little embarrassing to say thanks to trees and things. But Dad says it becomes a habit; it makes you feel good.” On the very last page the boy finally dares to thank the stars and is treated to a lovely surprise.

Sometimes I find certain books to be wonderfully worthy of praise, yet my children are not as interested. This however, is a book that seems to capture their attention as well as my own.

If my children could simply learn to be thankful for every bit of “nature” that they encounter, then I would feel that my mission on this Earth was not wasted. I am convinced that this simple book can help plant those seeds. Check it out of the library and let me know what you think.

**Paperback is eligible for the 4-for-3 Promotion at Amazon.**

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