Tag Archives: the natural world

Forest School Adventure

Forest School Adventure
Naomi Walmsley and Dan Westall
GMC Publications

The husband and wife authors of this book are passionate about introducing children (and adults) to their wild side, to connect them to the natural environment. The book of more than 170 pages is profusely illustrated with photographs and after an introduction extolling the benefits and importance of outside play in nature, is divided into four sections.

In the first, Nature Awareness, there are such activities as making a bug hotel, creating natural collages and sculptures, leaf and flower plaques, playing with clay and making 3D maps.

Each activity is introduced with the suggested age range, likely time needed, the tools required and the materials to be used. My favourite in this section is Sit Spot – finding a place to sit quietly for ten minutes or more to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the natural surroundings.

The next section, with more than 80 pages, is Bushcraft and covers knots, shelter building all aspects of fire from lighting one without matches, types of firewood and fire lays, and carrying fire, collecting water, making cordage

and rope, using a knife safely, wilderness first aid, arrow and spear making, making pots and even making a lamp from nuts.

Section three has 25 pages on Wild Food including foraging tips and recipes for cleaver and nettle cordial, nettle tea, methods of cooking chicken and fish over a fire and cooking inside fruit and vegetables.

The final, briefest section, is devoted to games. My favourites were ‘seven second camouflage’ and ‘egg drop’ – making a protective nest around the egg so it doesn’t break when dropped from around 2metres.

Interspersed with all this are half a dozen episodes from the authors’ 5 months stone-age immersion experience in the USA.There’s also a list of resources at the back of the book.

I believe that forest school should be part and parcel of children’s early years and primary curriculum. However, despite the enthusiasm for it, particularly with early years staff, many schools stop offering it for older children claiming pressure from the supposedly more academic curriculum. Perhaps reading a book such as this could re-enthuse or introduce all adults working with children to the benefits of, and learning potential across the curriculum, of forest school.

Every primary school should have a copy.

Seashore Watcher / Complete Minibeast Explorer’s Kit

Seashore Watcher
Maya Plass
QED

If you are heading to the coast and in particular the seashore, then here’s a handy information book, cleverly enclosed within a zipped waterproof plastic folder.

From pebbles to plankton, corals to crabs and starfish to sharks, the seashore comes to life through photographs,

facts, tips, safety recommendations and more.

Whether you want to be a seashore watcher observing seals, seabirds or dolphins and porpoises, try your hand as a sand sculptor, get creative using things you’ve collected on the beach, help with beach cleaning, or even collect seaweed and try the recipe for jelly, you’re bound to find something to make your seaside visit exciting and worthwhile.

The back matter includes notes for adults, a glossary and index.

You’ll certainly get more out of your seaside foray if you tuck a copy of this informative and engaging book, compiled by marine and coastal ecologist Maya Plass, in your bag.

National Trust: Complete Minibeast Explorer’s Kit
Robyn Swift and Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Here’s the ideal thing to encourage children to get out and discovering about the wealth of minibeasts that are all around us.

Enclosed within the backpack are a guide book for explorers featuring more than 60 creatures and containing a wealth of information about identification, habitats, lifecycles and more; a small blank notebook in which to record observations, and a magnifying minibeast collector for enthusiasts to look closely at beetles, caterpillars, spiders, slugs, worms and anything else of interest.

I’ve just returned from a walk along the canal not far from where I live and was able on my return, (I hadn’t taken the book) to identify the small red beetle I saw on cow parsley as a Soldier Beetle using the illustration from the guide book. Hannah Alice’s clear illustrations are somewhat stylised but easily recognisable.

In addition to the fascinating facts provided by Robyn Swift – did you know that even if a cockroach has its head cut off, it can live for up to nine days? I certainly didn’t before reading it here -at the back of the book there’s an index, a glossary, a quiz, a scale guide and a classification chart.

Just the kind of kit to whet the appetites of potential young naturalists.

The Squirrels’ Busy Year

The Squirrels’ Busy Year
Martin Jenkins and Richard Jones
Walker Books

From the creators of Fox in the Night is a new addition to the Science Storybook series, this time about the seasons and changes in the weather.

We start in winter and just like today when I’m writing this, it’s very cold, the pond is frozen and snow covers the ground. The animals are tucked away in warm places until they have to go out and search for food.

Spring brings warmer weather with bird song, croaking frogs, scampering squirrels hoping to find juicy maple buds on the trees or bulbs they can unearth; but they’ll have to be quick for there’s an owl on the prowl.
With the summer come hotter days, the need for shade, and longer hours of daylight with a chance of thundery weather.

Come autumn and the frogs have gone to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud;

many birds have flown to warmer climes and the squirrels start collecting for their winter store in preparation for hibernating.
All this is presented through an engaging, at times poetic, text, together with some basic scientific facts, and in Richard Jones’ textured illustrations.
His beautifully crafted scenes work in perfect harmony with Jenkins’ descriptions, his colour palette mirroring the seasonal hues superbly.
Look how perfectly this embodies the hushed arrival of winter’s snow …

A fine example of non-fiction for the very young.

The Variety of Life

The Variety of Life
Nicola Davies and Lorna Scobie
Hodder Children’s Books

Here’s a large format book for young readers to dip in and out of, time and again, especially those who like animals of one kind or another and the wider biodiversity of our planet.

The author and zoologist, Nicola Davies explores the huge diversity of the natural world, providing information about the chosen subjects, one per double spread – a short introductory paragraph to each group and a sentence or two about those depicted (their food, their habits and their habitats) together with the common name, the scientific (Latin) name, and if they happen to number among the endangered species, a black star. It’s alarming to see for instance, that of the eight species of bear, six are threatened with extinction.

Accessibly presented are a large variety of animals big and small, and some plants – grasses and trees and finally, representing the fungi are mushrooms.

Some of the numbers of animal species are questionable though: for instance the number given on the sheep page is 6 species but 9 are illustrated on the relevant spread.

Lorna Scobie’s illustrations of the animal kingdom in particular, are impressionistic rather than strictly scientific. Nonetheless, with their googly eyes, the creatures – from butterflies to bats and sheep to slugs –

have an irresistible child appeal embodying their essential characteristics, and are recognisable if not exactly in the field guide class.

Certainly this thoroughly enjoyable book offers opportunities to take pleasure in, to compare and contrast; and should encourage young readers to respect and treasure the world’s biodiversity and do all they can to preserve and conserve it.

Amazing Information Books

Bees
Toni Yuly
Walker Books
For the very youngest is this beautifully simple book of gratitude that demonstrates our connectedness to the natural world: it’s narrated by a small boy, who we see interacting with the things he mentions.
‘Sun gives us light. // Thank you, sun. // Bees give us honey. // Thank you, bees.’ Thus begins the concatenation of connections: from sheep we have wool. From clouds comes the rain, trees provide wood

and thanks to dirt, there are plants.
Appropriately, bold, bright collage illustrations combine fabric, paper, wood, ink and tissue, re-enforcing the biological bounties of the natural world.
Perfect for an end of the day sharing, be it with a single child, or nursery group; and equally with its minimal patterned text, it’s ideal for those just starting to read.

The Story of Snow
Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson
Chronicle Books
In this narrative non-fiction book we begin high up in the clouds with an explanation of how a tiny speck of earthly matter becomes a snow crystal (each crystal requires a single particle to start growing); and then we zoom right into a crystal.

Did you know that its shape depends on the wetness of the cloud and how cold it is? Or, that a single crystal is rarely perfect.
We learn that there are in fact, three main types of snow crystal – star-shaped, plate and column-shaped; and are told something about each kind including the different conditions under which the three kinds form.

With its succinct text, diagrams and amazing photographs of each kind of crystal, this is an excellent starting point for those who want to discover more about snow and can be used across a wide age range. There’s even an instruction spread on how to catch and observe snow crystals; and I love the final quote from Japanese scientist, Ukichiro Nakaya, ‘A snow crystal is a letter from the sky.’ – a perfect ending to a fascinating book.

Bugs
Simon Tyler
Pavilion Books
This large format book is packed with bright, bold illustrations and is designed to draw readers into the fascinating world of insects, the title word being used as an alternative generic term for this entire class of animal.
The first third is devoted to their general characteristics including anatomy, life cycle, eyes …

and other senses, and how and what they eat. Also included is an explanation of taxonomy.
The remaining 60 or so pages cover the nine main insect orders including beetles,

true bugs,

dragonflies, flies, cockroaches and termites. There’s also a double spread each, covering the most dangerous bugs, and some beneficial ones at the end.
The larger than life illustrations of representatives of each order are drawn from all parts of the world and each is captioned with its own common and scientific names, its size, its geographic range and a short factoid of additional information. The detailed scientific information together with the superb illustrations make it appropriate for a wide readership.

13 ½ Incredible Things You Need to Know about Everything
DK
Dorling Kindersley do non-fiction books really well and this one is amazing.
The title of this large volume makes you stop in your tracks and wonder what on earth could be inside.
Prepare to be impressed at the superb exploded illustrations you’ll encounter at every turn of the page, be they of Fantastic Fungi, Super Seeds or any other of the biological topics explored.

Biology isn’t the only subject herein though. The book also covers medicine, space, geology, history, technology, music and more, such is its diversity.
With over a thousand facts (not to mention those myth-busting halves, one per topic) you’re guaranteed a fascinating read. And if you don’t come away from the book knowing a whole lot more than before you started reading it, then your knowledge must have been truly encyclopaedic.

10 Reasons to Love: an Elephant / a Turtle & Dolphin Baby

10 Reasons to Love an Elephant
10 Reasons to Love a Turtle

Catherine Barr and Hanako Clulow
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Two titles published in collaboration with the Natural History Museum focus on what makes the particular animal special.
Each is sandwiched between two sturdy covers with a die cut of the animal through the front one and a double spread is devoted to each reason.
I didn’t need any persuasion to love elephants mainly because of frequent encounters with the Asian variety on my numerous visits to India. (I’ve never seen any with googly eyes however.) In addition to the reason that gives each spread its title, there is plenty more to enjoy. I was fascinated to learn that elephants ‘wrap their trucks around each other in warm greetings’ and that ‘they understand how other elephants feel.’ Here for example one can see a beautiful Indian swallowtail butterfly, a common rose butterfly and a common bluebottle butterfly among the flora.

Children will I’m sure be amused to learn that forest elephants eat seeds that pass through their bodies and out in their poo, and then the seeds start growing in their dung making them “good gardeners’ for their role in seed dispersal. Equally they might, having read the ‘Show You Love an Elephant’ badge, want to look online and find how to buy some paper made from recycled elephant poo.
Ecologist, Catherine Barr’s text is very reader friendly and Hanako Clulow’s illustrations offer plenty to observe and discuss.
10 Reasons to love a Turtle features the seven different sea turtle species and interestingly, ‘gardening’ features herein too,

with sea turtles acting like ‘underwater lawn movers’ grazing on the seagrass and keeping it the appropriate length for fish, crabs and seahorses to make their homes in.
At the end of the book, readers are reminded of the threat that pollution, fishing and hunting pose to these gentle animals.
With their environmental focus, these would be worthwhile additions to classroom libraries; as well as for interested individuals, who it is hoped, might turn into conservationists.

Dolphin Baby
Nicola Davies and Brita Granström
Walker Books
‘Tail first, head last, Dolphin POPS out into the blue.’ What could be a more engaging way to start a book of narrative non-fiction? But then this is zoologist Nicola Davies writing and she knows just how to grab the attention of young readers and listeners and keep them entranced throughout.
Here, through the story of Dolphin and Mum, she describes the first six months of a baby calf’s life as it learns to feed, to acquaint itself with and respond to her call, and to explore its world playing, making friends …

and all the while he’s growing and developing his very own whistle to communicate that he has at six months old, caught his very first fish.
The text uses two fonts: the large provides the narrative with additional facts given in smaller italics; and the final spread reminds readers that dolphins need protecting from pollution, from over-fishing and from the careless use of fishing nets.
Brita Granström’s superb acrylic illustrations grace every spread helping to make the book a winner for both early years and primary school audiences.

I’ve signed the charter  

Nature Within, Nature Without

A First Book of Nature
Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld
Walker Books pbk
The “Rrrrruurrrrp. Rrrrruuurp. Rrrrruuup.” of frogs in the pond, the making of compost,

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the sunlight shining through the raindrops in spring; the summertime buzzing of bees in the sleepy sunshine and the trickling tide creeping into rockpools; the floating, swirling leaves of autumn and the silver sea of spiderlings;

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the naked winter trees and the show of stars on a cold night: all these and much, much more can be found in this truly stunning, lyrical book. So accurately does it capture the experiences – visual and aural – of a child’s journey through and interactions with  the seasons, be they in the city, countryside or by the sea that it makes the reader – this one certainly – see, hear and smell those experiences too.

Without a sound the flowers call out.
They shout to insects with their colours, …
Just here is where you’ll
Find the nectar.’

Here, Nicola Davies, (also a zoologist) makes us use our ears to experience, what we usually see.

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Mark Hearld uses a variety of materials and techniques in the illustrations making every page a joy to behold. His ‘Nesting’ has real straw pieces both in the beak of the bird and the nest she’s constructing, and the birds’ plumage is made up of a variety of printed papers;

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beautifully child-like in keeping with the book as whole experience and in its seeming simplicity, not unlike things I’ve watched young children create.
So, read the book, buy the book, share the book,

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give the book; do all of these but most importantly, go outside, preferably with children (or as a child) and LOOK, LISTEN and SMELL the natural world in all its glory. DISCOVER ANEW and WONDER …
There’s a veritable goldmine waiting to be found both within these pages and without …

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