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Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book (and a giveaway!)

KidsOutAdv_CVRMech.inddSo Stacy Tornio sent a copy of her (and Ken Keffer’s) new book to me a few weeks ago.  I’ve been reading through it ever since.  So many ideas (448 to be exact)!  So well organized!  She’s giving away autographed copies of this book, as well as kids CLIF bars (Zbars) through the end of April.  Having read through much of this book, I highly recommend you sign yourself up for the giveaway.

Why?

Let me tell you.

These guys get it.  Their book tallies up the essence of outdoor parenting blogs everywhere.  This is from the introduction: “Nature is a destination, but you don’t have to travel anywhere to find it.  Just open the door and step outside.  The tiniest of porches can house a flower container.  A backyard can provide a lifetime of natural experiences.  Nature is everywhere….”  This book is perfect for first time moms, as a really awesome baby shower gift, and for those who wish they did more things outside but aren’t sure how to start. (more…)

Good book alert: Kids First Big Book of Space

Ari (my kindergartener) brought National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of Space home from the library last week. Not sure what I’m more impressed with, his book selecting skills, or the actual book? I’ve read this book a few times now. My kids love it. I love it. We’re buying it.

My boys, especially my oldest, have always had an interest in all things space related; but I find that I have a hard time explaining all things space related.

The universe is so big and amazing and complex that it’s hard to put into 3-5 year old terms. This book takes a bunch of interesting factoids combined with beautiful illustrations and lays it out perfectly.

We learned about all the planets (including dwarf planets), the asteroid belt, comets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, the future of space exploration, etc. I was most excited to learn that we have space craft set to land on a few different planets in the next five years. 

I also learned that I want to take an astronomy class.

This book is well worth the trip to the library, or the book store, or amazon.com…

National Geographic also makes a few other books in the ‘Little Kids First Book Of’ series. They have one about Animals, Why and Dinosaurs.

I’m also in the process of searching for more space related books for kids. If you know of any, leave a comment.

DeLorme topo maps: Essential for the outdoor traveler.

Since posting my article on dispersed camping a few days ago I’ve had quite a few questions on HOW one goes about finding places to camp on public land. Today I’m prepared to answer that question in the form of a gushing review of the DeLorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer series.

I’ll admit, when I started my review of these priceless books-of-maps, I couldn’t figure out why they went to the trouble of calling them “Atlas and Gazetteers”.  So fancy-schmancy… what was the point?  Being ever the resourceful one, I decided to find the answer.  I called Olivia.

“I dunno”  she informed me.  “Look it up.”

So I did.

Atlas: /’atles/  A book of maps or charts.
Gazetteer: /gazi’ti(Ə)r/   A geographical directory of places containing information on things like mountains, waterways, camping areas, historic markers, state and national parks, roads etc.

Huh.

Put them together and that’s exactly what we have here:  A book of amazingly detailed, large-format topographic and informative maps.

Because Atlas and Gazetteer is too long to keep saying I will here-to-fore refer to these publications as A&G.

I’ve been a fan of this A&G series for a very very (very) long time.  It’s amazing how often we use these them. They go everywhere with us, they even have a permanent spot in the back of the van underneath the mat so that if we’re out of the house, so are they.

They provide information on camping, hiking trails, cities, and most importantly, back roads! And they have a version for all 50 states.

How do I use them?  Well, let’s take some hypothetical situations that (strangely) mirror real ones that may or may not actually happen on a regular basis. Here is a small portion from this sample page. (note the A, B, C correlations to the map). (more…)

Outdoor books for the advanced reader

Here it is!  The final installment of our list of books about nature and the outdoors for your kids!  So far we’ve covered books you can read to your little ones, intermediate readers, and now we progress to advanced books, for the avid and proficient reader.

This was the hardest list yet for two reasons 1) advanced reader and adult book are hard to distinguish between (and in many cases are the same thing) which means that 2) there were a heckuvalot of books to choose from!  I’ve narrowed it down to ten (and okay, so I cheated and included a few extras) that are mild enough for the younger mind, who may be able to read adult literature easily, but may not be able to process some of the more… shall we say… complex outdoor themes found in books for adults.  For that reason I left off several good books that had any blatant political overtones about the natural world (i.e. Edward Abbey, much as I love him), a few of my favorites that had adult language or themes (Touching the Void, Botany of Desire, etc.).   (Perhaps I’ll do an Adult reader list down the road?)

It is interesting to compare the three lists.  The book list for the younger reader shows an emphasis on nature, and changing seasons, and animal life.  The intermediate reader list emphasized adventure and survival.  This list has a little of both–but what is most distinctive about this list is that all but one of the books listed are true stories.  There are very few fictional nature stories for advanced readers (as far as I can tell).

I’d be interested to know of any that you’ve come across!

1.  My Family and Other Animals (and the rest of the series by Gerald Durrell)..    I’ve only read one of the series Durrell wrote, but I was so captivated that I fully intend to read the rest!  This story masterfully chronicles life after his mother moved the whole family to the Greek island of Corfu when he was a boy.  His stories of his family are perfectly meshed with stories of the natural history of the island.  Did I mention that it’s hilarious?  Durrell went on achieve distinction as a zookeeper and establisher of wildlife centers.

2.  All Creatures Great and Small by James Harriot.  I read this book when I was 13… it’s where I learned the word ‘flatulence’… a condition an English bulldog was suffering from, much to the dismay of his ladylike owner.  Harriot was a veterinarian who worked with creatures of all kinds.  He also has a knack for telling a story, and they (almost) always end happily and making you love the character of your own pet just a little bit more.  If you like this book, Harriot has three others along the same lines, I think. (more…)

Books for the intermediate reader

books about nature

It’s time for the second installment of outdoor and nature books for children!  Unlike the first list, this list is books that kids can read to themselves, or that you can read together on long car rides; much like the first list, these are books you (and your kids) will enjoy reading.  Many of these books are ones that I read as a kid… ones that I could not put down, and thought about for weeks afterwards.  These are the books that made me love reading.

 

 

It’s interesting how the subject of outdoor/nature books changes as the audience’s age-range changes.  In the list of books we posted a few weeks ago of books you can read to your child, there seemed to be a focus on natural observations–noticing the changing of the seasons, enjoying a winter walk, the animals that live near a water hole.  As kids age, the books about nature start to focus on surviving in nature–the emphasis changes so that it isn’t so much about appreciating nature, but using it.  This isn’t all intermediate nature-ish readers, but many of them.  I would be interested in your thoughts on why…  I threw in several books about animals, another theme common in newer as well as classic children’s stories.

And now, to the list! (more…)

Outdoor books you can read to your child.

How many of you are familiar with this scenario:

It’s bedtime.  Pajamas are on, kids are clean (enough), and last sips of juice are done.  It’s time to read a book or two before the kids are off to the Land of Nod and you are off to watch the Walking Dead.  They pick out three books for you to read them and lay them ceremoniously before you.

“What was that noise?” asks your little one.

“What noise?” you say.

“That horrible whining groan I just heard come out of your throat.  And why is your face all pinchy?”  they ask.

Because laid before you are three boring, silly, horribly unentertaining books, picked up by you on a whim the last time you were at the library book sale.  Books you’ve regretted ever since.  Books your child, for some inexplicable reason, loves.  We feel your pain.  Especially the pain that comes from finishing one of these offenders only to hear your young one say: “Again!”.

We humbly present to you our top ten most favoritest read-aloud kids books.  We picked books that are as much fun for you to read as they are for your child to hear.  Elaborate and entertaining illustrations, carefully constructed rhymes or lyrical prose, and themes that focus on the natural world.  These are the sort of books that you finish and slam shut with some flourish, wanting to say ‘aaah, that was good’… and then wait (hopefully) for that tiny voice beside you: “Again!”.  Many of these are books that a beginning reader can follow along or read to you. (more…)

Song of the Water Boatman

Listen for me on a spring night,
on a wet night;
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,
for in the night I sing.

That is when my heart thaws,
my skin thaws,
my hunger thaws.
That is when the world thaws,
and the air begins to ring…

-Listen for Me (excerpt)

 

Okay, so many many many kids’ books are poetry, but how many of them are poetry that both you and your kid can enjoy?  (Sorry Dr. Seuss, I love ya’, but green eggs and ham?  You’re killing me slowly, painfully, to the gentle cadence of Sam I Am.) (more…)

Vintage Nature Inspired ‘Golden Books’

I’m a sucker for vintage, nature and ‘little golden books”. So you can imagine how excited I was to find these at a thrift store the other day. I didn’t realize until I got them home that two of these we’re first edition printings. SCORE! My kids love them. And pardon me while I go all Design Mom on you, but wouldn’t these be cool framed in a kids room? Ya. Maybe I really am good at home decorating..?

Smokey the Bear: The story of how “Smokey the Bear” came to be the national face of fire safety (a classic and historic read, despite how you feel about the cute little bears controversial role in fire suppression).

I Can Fly: Geared toward little kids, Isaac loves to act out the animals in this one. “Swish! I’m a fish”. “Bump bump bump, I’m a camel with a hump.”

Tommy’s Camping Adventure: Each person in Tommy’s family has a special camp job. Except Tommy. Finally he turns his nature observation skills into a camp job that helps out his whole family. I’m pretty sure Ari want’s to be Tommy with he grows up, you know, when he’s 6.

Was I “Born to Run”?

When a friend of mine told me I should read Born To Run the first words out of my mouth were “but I don’t like running.” She assured me you don’t have to be a runner to appreciate the book. I was still a little apprehensive.

So there it sat, collecting dust on my nightstand month after month. Finally one evening I picked it up with the intention of skimming it so I could at least return it. I was hooked after the first page. Why?

  • Christopher McDougall is so witty, I was laughing out loud through the entire book. I was even captivated through the acknowledgments.
  • It’s such a great story! I like how the book touches on both the ‘physical’ and ‘human’ nature of the characters, and how that plays a part in not only their running, but essentially their lives.  I’ll admit, I thought about crying at the end.
  • Being a science nerd, I was intrigued by the human evolutionary insights.
  • Yes, it’s about running, but there are lessons that can be applied to any sport, and any person, in any situation. Take for example this quote:

If you really want to understand the Raramuri, you should have been there when this ninety-five-year-old man came hiking twenty-five miles over the mountain. Know why he could do it? Because no one ever told him he couldn’t. No one ever told him he oughta be off dying somewhere in an old age home. You live up to your own expectations, man.
-Micah True, p. 50

The whole book just left me feeling inspired. Like I could stand to live up to my own potential a little better. And you know, maybe I really could learn to like running…

Anyone else read it? What did you think?

I Love Dirt!

I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward, is described as “52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature”.

Does it live up to this claim? Yes. Although I’m not sure I would call them all ‘activities,’ maybe something more along the lines of ‘conversation starters,’ ‘exploration ideas,’ ‘questions’?

What I liked about this book:

  • Even if you know nothing about nature, you’ll still feel confident using these activities.
  • It doesn’t matter where you live – urban or rural, east coast or west coast, near a little patch of green in the city or on 5 acres in the woods – the activities are meant to promote exploration wherever you are.
  • The kid-friendly explanations that accompany each activity are awesome!
  • Each activity has a Q&A box. The first time I read this book I just went through and read all the Q&A’s– they’re mostly just kid friendly factoids, but obviously parents love them too…
  • The activities are open-ended, therefore very little structure. As a result I must warn you that your child will likely have far more questions than you can answer. It’s great!
  • The size of the book and the durability of the thick paperback cover make it a perfect candidate for your backpack.

This book may not be for you if: (more…)

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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