Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, by Annette le Blank Cate. Candlewick, 2013, 54 pages. Age/interest level: 8-up
Yes, I know—bird-watchers are eccentric English librarians with elastic stockings whose idea of a good time is to hang out in bushes with painted buntings. But you should really meet Annette, because she hangs out with some awesome birds, and will gladly show you what to look for, what to listen for, and how to draw it. These pages are packed with information lying around everywhere to be picked up, like worms for robins to pull. And these birds talk, too—from the title page on, they’re full of friendly quips and clever asides. Theme pages show color ranges (rainbow, black & white, shades of brown), silhouetted shapes to watch for, beak sizes, head ornaments and head markings—the latter are spectacularly on display at the “Modern Sparrow Field Market of Fashion.” Even the end papers and jacket flaps are crammed with clever details, like the hawk with the disdainful expression gulping down his latest kill: “Thinks he’s a big tough guy but wears fuzzy little pants.”
It’s all good—for many laughs and chuckles as well as solid bird-watching (and drawing) tips. It should be right up there with your Audubon field guide.
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 40 pages. Age/interest level: 4-8.
Beetles rule. They dominate the insect world with over 350,000 species named (and many more waiting to be discovered), but in creation generally they dominate by sheer numbers: “Line up every kind of plant and animal on earth . . . and one in every four will be a beetle.” We’re told that “Beetles evolved about 230 million years ago—around the same time as the dinosaurs,” but even if you’re slightly skeptical of that estimation there’s plenty in this oversize, breathtakingly-illustrated volume for bug-lovers to love. Have you ever seen a giraffe weevil? Do you know the life stages of a ladybug? Guess what dung beetles eat! (Aw—you guessed.) Did you know that lightning bugs are technically beetles? And a few do useful work? (Hide beetles eat dead flesh, which makes them ideal for cleaning bones in natural history museums–no kidding!)
The silhouettes used throughout the book show actual sizes, from the tiny clown beetle to the ginormous titan (the size of a human hand—ick). Some of these pictures, like the close-up of the six-spotted green tiger beetle, are not for the faint-hearted. But as I mentioned, bug-lovers, especially of the male variety, could be happily occupied for hours.
Yes, Let’s, by Galen Goodwin Longstreth, illustrated by Maris Wicks. Tanglewood, 2013, 32 pages. Age/interest level: 3-7
Let’s wake up extra early, before the day gets hot.
Let’s pack a picnic, hurry up—ready or not.
Let’s get into the station wagon, roll those windows down,
Let’s sing out loud and wave to cows as we drive out of town.
Though pleasant, the rhymes aren’t great, and I have a problem with the way the noses are drawn in the illustrations—but those are quibbles. It’s lots of fun to follow this close-knit family (Dad, Mom, two girls, two boys) into the woods for a day of unplanned adventure. Their day might be described as a camping trip without the tent: hiking, swimming, bug- and frog-catching, laying around on the bank. Even in the lazy hours after lunch there’s a lot to look at. The family photos at the beginning and end of the day make a nice framing device before we head home after dark, there to tumble into bed with priceless memories. May every child fondly recall such a day when they are old.
For more wonders of nature, see our review of Moonbird. And speaking of summer, how are your memories of summer camp? Good or not so much? We asked a couple of experienced campers, one a Christian camp director for the last 30 years, about their impressions, here. For more outdoor activities and camp stories, go here. And don’t forget to check out our recent activity posts, “Sewing School and Crafts for Hope,” “Eat Pray Read,” and “How to Throw a Book-Themed Party for Kids.”