Posts tagged: nature books

Happy Earth Day! (April 22nd)

By , April 21, 2008 8:32 pm

I am not supposed to be online much this week since it is Turnoff Week and I am the creator/host of the 2nd Annual TV-Turnoff Week Blog Challenge (must set a good example you know!), so I will simply give you a few quick “free association” links to some worthy children’s books that come to mind when I think of Earth Day:

And here is an inspirational one by Rachel Carson for adults, that I just love:

If you want, you can read my full post about this book here.

Also: For more on kids and the environment, please see my post on Raising Environmentally Aware Children.

Happy Earth Day to all, and to all a good night!

A Seed is Sleepy (Aston, Long) – Book Recommendation

By , March 1, 2008 10:19 am

Spring is in the air which means that seeds of all kinds will soon be sprouting: flower seeds, tree seeds…weed seeds. (Big sigh.)

Now is a good time to teach your little ones a bit more about seeds. I can’t think of a more lovely book for this purpose, than A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

This book is packed with interesting facts about seeds. Each two page-spread presents a one sentence fact, followed by a short explanation. For example the first page says: “A seed is sleepy.” Followed by: “It lies there, tucked inside its flower, on its cone, or beneath the soil. Snug. Still.” The information is presented in a sweet, almost poetic way that makes it easily accessible and enjoyable for a variety of ages.

What really makes this book truly wonderful though, are Sylvia Long’s amazing illustrations reminiscent of old, botanical prints. Her colorful paintings are incredibly rich and detailed. Ms. Long has a real eye for seeing and reproducing the beauty and wonder of even the simplest natural objects.

 

We love this book so much, that next on my wish list is Ms. Aston and Ms. Long’s other collaboration: An Egg Is Quiet

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!

The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming (Laurie David, Cambria Gordon)

By , September 19, 2007 9:25 pm

I can’t write this one as a traditional “review” since it is a bit premature. I only just heard about this book today, and obviously have not yet read it.

On NPR this morning, there was an interview with Laurie David and Cambria Gordon, the authors of The Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming. The authors are apparently the producers of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

This book is a guide to global warming aimed at children (according to Amazon, ages 9-12). The NPR interview says the book features kid-friendly science to explain the phenomenon, and has ideas for what kids can do to help combating global warming.

Ms. David and Ms. Gordon explain that they are attempting to reach children while they are young, and create a shift in their consciousness. They want to teach children to think about how their daily activities affect global warming. They give the example of going to the mall and coming home with five different plastic (petroleum-based) bags. Why not take a reusable canvas bag to the mall?

Water bottles are another example of the change in thinking that the authors hope to pass along to young readers. According to the authors, 2.5 million water bottles PER HOUR go in the trash. Why not carry your own refillable water bottle? (For more on bottled water, please check out my post “Unplug Your Water“).

They also suggest starting a “Green Team” at school to reduce school lunch waste or enact a “no-idle” rule in the drop-off lane.

This book relies on the power of “kids with a cause.” No one will be more likely to reprimand parents on their choice of paper towels or light bulbs than an informed child. So…beware! If you have your children read this book, be prepared to hear criticism of your personal habits until you make them “greener!”

Hear the interview here (3 minutes, 42 seconds).

The Sense of Wonder (Rachel Carson)

By , September 12, 2007 9:21 pm

For someone who is supposed to be “unplugged,” I seem to spend quite a bit of time flitting about on Amazon. We have no decent local bookstore (sorry “Bookworm”), and I love books. Even our local library is poorly stocked. So that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!

Anyhow, one of my happy Amazon finds one day was this lovely book: The Sense of Wonder, by Rachel Carson. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the book, although the description and reviews on Amazon made it sound wonderful.

The text is a republication of a 1956 essay by “ahead of her time” environmental writer Rachel Carson (Essay: “Help Your Child to Wonder,” Woman’s Home Companion magazine, July 1956). In this edition, her inspiring words are accompanied by gorgeous, and often unusual, nature photographs by Nick Kelsh. As the dust jacket flap says: “Kelsh’s camera is drawn to patterns in nature that all too often elude hurried adults…” which is the whole point of Rachel Carson’s essay.

This is a big book (111 pages), but much of it is photography. I was easily able to read the whole thing in bed one night before going to sleep (and believe me, I am so tired at the end of the day that I don’t usually last long, no matter how good the book).

Rachel Carson writes about helping children discover nature, and about rediscovering nature with a childlike sense of wonder as an adult. This wonderful essay is a compilation of Carson’s thoughts about experiencing the world of Maine’s rocky coast with her nephew Roger. As she says:

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” (p.55)

Carson speaks much of “feeling” vs. “knowing,” exploring with the senses rather than the intellect. She expresses her philosophy in this wonderful image:

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.” (p.56)

Another all-too-true lesson from this book is that as adults, we tend not to see that which is available to us every day. We grown-ups lose ourselves in the artificial and mundane. We forget how to really observe and experience the world, and tend to take the nature around us for granted. Because we can see the stars almost every night, we never actually stop to take the opportunity to gaze at the stars! Just as when living near the Grand Canyon, for example, one never goes to visit it.

The next time you “see nature,” even if it is only a bird momentarily alighting on the railing of your city apartment balcony, Ms. Carson urges you to ask yourself:

“What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” (p.67)

Relearn the observation of the natural world using all your senses. See the beauty and perfection, even in the tiniest of objects. Take a hike in the woods (or your local city park) equipped with only a magnifying glass and an eager child to see what beauty you can find.

I find this book to be so inspirational, every time I read it I want to immediately drop the laundry basket and rush outside with my children! Honestly, I could read it over and over again. It evokes in me the same feelings that I experienced while reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea(published in 1955). I simply can’t believe that these amazing women wrote these remarkable words fifty years ago.

There are many obvious differences between the two books, but deep down, they convey the same message and have the same peaceful and comforting “feel” about them. How interesting that they were written within one year of each other, both works taking place by the sea in New England, and both authored by extraordinary women. I wish I had a doctoral thesis to write (in all my free time) because I certainly see a fascinating one here.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any parent, especially those of the Waldorf, Montessori, or home school persuasion. If you are like me, you will want to read it over and over again. If you are still not convinced, then check it out of the library and I bet that after a quick read you will be ready to invest in a hardcover version of your very own.

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