Books · Uncategorized

Nature Nonfiction Author Spotlight: Gail Gibbons

About Gail Gibbons’ Books

Gail Gibbons’ nonfiction picture books are likely already familiar to you. She has written close to 200 books, after all! Her books span a wide range of topics, from transportation to sharks, clocks to tornadoes, and holidays to apples. Her nonfiction picture books are aimed at children ages 4-8 years old but I think hold appeal for children well older than 8 years old.

There is so much to love about her books:

  1. Focusing in on one topic per book allows the child to learn in depth about a particular interesting topic.
  2. The text included is age-appropriate in length and complexity. The books make for a nice read aloud but can also be accessible to children who can read on their own. The narrative can hold the attention span of a preschooler and the information is interesting enough to engage an elementary aged student (and adults!)
  3. The illustrations are always beautiful, well-researched, detailed, and coordinate nicely with the text.
  4. She is thoughtful about balancing the information as a whole throughout each book, interspersing pages with one main illustration and a little bit of text with page spreads containing multiple illustrations and more detailed text.
  5. All of the books promote active learning whereby the child is drawn into the experience of learning and invited to broaden their world.

Recent Publications Highlight

I want to hone in on the most recent nature-based publications from the last year or two. Many titles are old favorites that have been updated. After introducing the new books, I will take a minute to discuss what the differences are in a “New and Updated” version of her existing title. You can also watch a detailed video, linked below!

You can view my entire list of nature nonfiction favorites from Gail Gibbons here:

Gail Gibbons Nature Nonfiction Favorites

***Note: The books featured below were provided as review copies by Holiday House. Opinions are my own.

Ladybugs (April 2022)

Volcanoes (January 2022)

Elephants of Africa (September 2021)

Marshes and Swamps (May 2021)

Gorillas (May 2021)

Monarch Butterfly (January 2021)

Spiders (October 2020)

Sharks (January 2020)

Migration was also published in 2020, which is a brand new title and definitely worth checking out! It’s one of my favorites.

What “New and Updated” Means

Several recent publications are actually updates from originals published years ago. The Monarch Butterfly book, for example, was originally published in 1991. It’s honestly wonderful that these books do still stand the test of time, though I completely understand the updates.

In all of the updated versions the illustrations have been saturated and been given a little bit of a facelift. In a few instances, details on illustrations have been changed. Overall the text is mostly the same but with changes here and there to provide a bit more clarity and detail. I hesitate to call these changes improvements because I do not really see any major faults with the originals. They do serve as nice updates. Overall, with the cover art and font changes, the alterations make the book feel more modern.

This is an example where text from Monarch Butterfly has been updated to provide clarity and more specific definitions (**the bottom book is the New and Updated version):

This is an example where illustrations from Monarch Butterfly have been updated (**the bottom book is the New and Updated version):

Overall I do not think you can go wrong if you purchase an original version — I know I have found a number of books in our collection as used copies for less than $5. It’s a great way to build a nonfiction library for curious children. That said, I do think the updates are an improvement and certainly will be the ones we start to see in circulation more.

BRAND NEW: STEAM Powered Workbooks!

Both the From Seed to Plant Workbook and the Monarch Butterfly Workbook were published in January 2022. These workbooks are specially designed for children in Grades K-1 but I think would work well for preschooler. The activities nicely pair with the books From Seed to Plant and Monarch Butterfly to help enhance the learning experience.

Each of these Workbooks is consumable. Children are asked to read along with the text of the book, then complete illustrations or fun games and even do some copywork to learn terminology. I can see these workbooks being useful in a number of educational environments! For an inside look at these, please see the video below.

Video Inside Look

More About Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons’ website

Gail Gibbons books at Holiday House

This website also provides lots of Educator resources!

Read Aloud Revival podcast: Excellent Nonfiction (with Gail Gibbons)

For More Book Reviews

Follow me on Goodreads
View my Amazon favorites

**Note that I use Amazon online here but do encourage you to purchase books from your local bookstore.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Uncategorized

Engaging STEM Activity Books for Children

The popularity of STEM-based activity books for children has increased over the last few years. Today I am excited to share The Kitchen Pantry Scientist books that I think really hit the mark in this genre of books.

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist series, from Quarto Kids, contains the following three books:

Physics for Kids (published February 2022)
Biology for Kids (published May 2021)
Chemistry for Kids (published May 2020)

Each book contains 25 different labs utilizing (mostly) items that can be found around the house. Each lab contains nicely detailed instructions paired with real photographs and a summary paragraph explaining what is going on with each lab experiment. In addition to all of these engaging activities, each experiment is actually paired with a specific scientist from that field of study. A short one-page biography and illustration of the scientist is included in the book before each experiment. So, not only are your children able to participate in some fun hands-on science activities, they get to learn a little history and context using a real scientist as an example. Many of the scientists featured will likely be unfamiliar to the children (and adults).

These activity books work for a number of educational scenarios and I think parents and educators alike will find value in them. The intended age range of these books is ages 6-12, which is a decent age span. Note that the younger children will need assistance in reading through the activities and completing the experiments. I think a number of the concepts and labs would be fun and appropriate for 6 and 7 year olds. Children on the older end of that age spectrum will be able to read through the book and complete the experiments on their own, mostly using materials found already in their home.

I love how engaging these books are and the experiments are nicely detailed. The scientific explanations are just the right length for children this age. The photographs and illustrations paired with each lab are spot on. There is much to love!

For an inside look, take a peek at this video I put together:

For more book reviews, follow me on Goodreads or view my Amazon favorites.

***Note: I was given review copies of these books via Quarto Kids. Opinions are my own.

Books · Nature Study · Uncategorized

Favorite Children’s Books About Evolution

Evolution Books for 3-5 Year Olds

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Lisa Westberg Peters, Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
  • Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Jonathan Tweet, Illustrated by Karen Lewis
  • Published by: Feiwel & Friends

Evolution Books for 5-8 Year Olds

The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, Illustrated by Amy Husband
  • Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Sabina Radeva
  • Published by: Crown Books for Young Readers

Who Will It Be? How Evolution Connects Us All

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Paola Vitale, Illustrated by Rossana Bossù
  • Published by: Blue Dot Kids Press

Charles Darwin (Little People, Big Dreams)

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Illustrated by Mark Hoffman
  • Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure

Evolution Books for 7-11 Year Olds

When We Became Humans: Our Incredible Evolutionary Journey

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Michael Bright, Illustrated by Hannah Bailey
  • Published by: words & pictures

When Darwin Sailed the Sea

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By David Long, Illustrated by Sam Kalda
  • Published by: Wide Eyed Editions

When Plants Took Over the Planet

  • Upcoming publication: August 17, 2021
  • By Chris Thorogood, Illustrated by Amy Grimes
  • Published by: QEB Publishing

Life Through Time: The 700-Million-Year Story of Life on Earth

Evolution Books for 9-12 Year Olds

Amazing Evolution: The Journey of Life

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Anna Claybourne, Illustrated by Wesley Robins
  • Published by: Ivy Kids

When the Whales Walked: And Other Incredible Evolutionary Journeys

  • See my full review on Goodreads here
  • By Dougal Dixon, Illustrated by Hannah Bailey
  • Published by: words & pictures

The Story of Life: Evolution

  • By Katie Scott
  • Published by: Templar Publishing

Continental Drift

Honorable Mentions

The following books deal with life on Earth as a whole but are not specifically about evolution. These are all fantastic reads.

Older Than the Stars (ages 3-5)

You Are Stardust (ages 5-8)

Life Story (ages 7-11)

Video Flip-Through

Watch the following video on my YouTube channel for an inside look at the titles mentioned above. Thanks for viewing!

For More of my Favorite Nature-Based Books

Please see my most current lists on Amazon and be sure to follow me on Goodreads for children’s book reviews!


This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Books · Uncategorized

New and Notable Nature-Based Picture Books For Spring

The Spring Equinox has arrived which means it’s time for flowers and rain and birds and gardening and insects and so much more! While I love many things about winter, there is so much joy and wonder to be had in nature in spring.

And, to help usher in spring, I thought I would share a few of my favorite new and upcoming picture books for children ages 3-7. I tend to share a lot of nature nonfiction on here, but there are so many wonderful picture books that celebrate nature and engage children in this age group in a world of beauty and wonder.

Hopefully these books will be enjoyed by many families while outdoor picnicking this spring!

Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up by Shawn Taylor and Alex Morss

Quarto Kids – March 16, 2021 – Ages 3-6

From gardening to pond dipping and nesting birds to insect life, spring brings so many wonders and promise of newness. All of this is captured beautifully through a narrative and then several pages of nonfiction detail in Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up. Children will love peeking in to the life of a family as they explore the outdoors in springtime, taking in all of the changes. Illustrations are charming and befitting the season, while the narrative moves and holds your attention.

Several pages at the end of this book serve for further detail to learn about what exactly spring is and what plants and animals are doing during this time. This is a nice opportunity to explore the topic for the older children, but the book still nicely combines the science with a lovely preceding narrative.

Have You Ever Seen A Flower? by Shawn Harris

Chronicle Books – May 4, 2021 – Ages 3-5

Have You Ever Seen A Flower? is a lovely celebration of both nature and childhood as well as the life-giving connection between the two! I think children would love to literally dive in to this book. The illustrations are captivating and MOVE with the story, literally zooming in as the narrative takes you closer and closer. The story asks: have you ever seen a flower? have you ever BEEN a flower? It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity and meaning. Imagination is such a wonderful way to connect with children, especially in nature-based settings. It’s a good reminder to adults, even, to slow down and pay attention.

My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey

Templar Books (Candlewick Press) – March 23, 2021 – Ages 3-7

My Nana’s Garden is a touching story of togetherness, love, and the natural cycles of life. The depiction of Nana’s garden through the seasons and over years mirrors the life-death-rebirth cycle in the lives of those tending the garden. We follow a little girl as she explores her Nana’s garden in all its splendor, then through the change in season we see her deal with the grief of the loss of her Nana. We further pass through the years as the little girl grows into a woman and has a child of her own, the two of them tending the same garden together as we saw in the beginning.

Illustrations are bold and inviting–I love all the detail as it captures the beauty and wonder of gardening well. Fittingly, winter is the time when Nana passes away and her granddaughter feels the weight of this loss. “The world is hushed. Nothing grows.” Nana’s death is represented with an empty chair, which shows the sensitivity towards this target age group while not shying away from raw and real emotions.

I love the multi-generational celebration, diverse representation, and powerful connection between women represented in this story.

Grasshopper by Tatiana Ukhova

Greystone Kids – May 4, 2021 – Ages 4-7

Grasshopper is a stunning and captivating wordless picture book with lots of pages to explore and dive in to a garden with a little girl, wondering at the impact she has on even the smallest of creatures.

I think the idea here is to consider both the point of view of the girl AND the little creatures. There can be a harsh reality and even savagery to both the way nature operates as well as the human impact on our environment, and this book touches on those very real themes in a age-appropriate way. I appreciate very much the concept and implementation of those themes in a wordless picture book. The impact is there and doesn’t need any text.

I think this book does a great job simultaneously drawing young children in to the wonder and awe that nature provides as we observe it, while also reminding us that we can have a negative impact. There is a way to approach nature with both connection and care as well as respect for what it is without our involvement.

Hello, Rain! by Kyo Maclear

Chronicle Books – April 13, 2021 – Ages 3-5

Hello, Rain! is beautiful and playful celebration of rain! I confess I’m biased because there isn’t a Kyo Maclear book I don’t like, but this one truly is a gem. The illustrations are fun and I love the color palette–the depictions of raindrops as oversized fits the overall tone of the book. I love that the narrative is just a girl and her dog, nothing overdone and hits all the right notes. The way the text is creatively spread across pages is brilliant. A fun read, perfect for spring, and one children will want to live out and revisit.

As Strong as the River by Sarah Noble

Flying Eye Books – March 2, 2021 – Ages 3-7

Who doesn’t absolutely love picture books with bears?! As Strong as the River is a gentle and touching story with beautiful illustrations I can see many young children wanting to revisit over and over at bedtime. It is a story of love and connection between baby bear and mama bear as well as the wonder and excitement of learning new things and growing up. But not too soon, of course. The title, As Strong as the River, hints at the closing message of the story: both mama and baby are big, strong, and beautiful … just like the river. And maybe we are too. The illustrations here have a lovely color palette and neatly depict natural landscapes and details while corresponding nicely with the tone of the book.


*Please note: I was given review copies of these books from the respective publishers. Opinions are my own.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

FOR MORE BOOK REVIEWS: See my Goodreads page.
FOR CURATED BOOK LISTS: See my Amazon page.
Books · Uncategorized

Quarto STEAM Club Highlight

The Need for STEAM Books

First — just a quick reminder: STEM represents science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM represents STEM plus the arts – language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, etc.

STEAM-based books for children have become more and more popular lately. Many supply great at-home learning for homeschool curriculum enhancement or just fun project-based books for any school-aged children to spend time exploring on their own or with family members. Children have a wide range of interests when it comes to STEAM topics, and I fully appreciate the value of a physical book to dive in to versus trying to explore the wide world of the internet to find project ideas or lesson plans. Books can go a long way and provide insight, imagination, and skills-based learning.

So, What Is Quarto STEAM Club?

Quarto STEAM Club is a bi-monthly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date with the new and notable STEAM books for kids. It’s just one email every 2 months to help make shopping for STEAM books easier. In addition to the STEAM-panel’s specific book selections, you will receive:

  • A discount coupon for 40% off the Quarto STEAM Club book picks on Quartoknows.com
  • A recommended STEAM-based toy
  • Free STEAM-based downloads
  • STEAM-based videos
  • Access to a STEAM Club private Facebook group

I appreciate that joining doesn’t mean you are going to be inundated with email. It’s really simple and fun to see what new books are out there that might interest your children or the whole family. And a 40% discount cannot be beat!

Recent Picks: Five Books and a STEAM-Based Toy

Below are the recent Quarto STEAM Club books & toy selection so you can see more detail:

I absolutely love the concept and delivery of Copycat Science! The comic-strip is a playful and unique way to visualize STEM concepts and meet 50 of the world’s greatest scientists. The book is divided up by topical categories (e.g. biology, electricity & magnetism, light, etc.), and while the book highlights 50 different scientists from varying time periods the focus isn’t to get overly bogged down with historical facts. The page simply highlights the dates a given scientist lived and then throughout the comic strips might define important terms. This book is intended to be fun. All of the associated scientists and topic of interest are paired with activities for children to do, which are nicely illustrated and paired with easy-to-follow-instructions. The idea is to pair a simple experiment with a given scientist and topic so hands-on and visual learners will thrive with this.

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids is a fun concept! I am a huge fan of kitchen science projects for kids. The idea is that materials used will be things you already have an doesn’t require a huge investment of energy. Chemistry can feel daunting for homeschoolers or families who favor STEAM learning at home, but this book makes it accessible. I love that this book combines projects with real-world scientists and their discoveries, and a diverse range of scientists are included. Kids will first learn about Agnes Pockels, for example, and then do a lab on surface tension. Real photos are included to demonstrate the labs and instructions are clear throughout!

Animal Exploration Lab for Kids contains over 50 project ideas for children (and families) to learn about amazing animals in playful and engaging ways. Each project is highly detailed and includes plenty of real photographs so the instructions are clear. A variety of science concepts are explored — how we study animals, animal adaptations, animal behaviors, animal senses, animal movements, animal families, living alongside animals, and supporting local animals. Kids will enjoy learning about a range of animals through thoughtful labs, including several which are meant for kids to not just learn *about* animals but learn how to respect and care for those around them. It’s a beautiful concept of a book and well implemented.

Adventures in Engineering for Kids is highly detailed, fun, and an engaging STEAM book for children. This book has an incredible concept and will provide excellent learning material for kids interesting in engineering or STEAM as a whole. I love that this book takes kids through an imaginative adventure that is all inter-connected; the projects are connected, inclusive, and challenging in all the right ways. Kids will love the empowered feeling of problem-solving through a fictional journey of epic proportions! So fun.

The Encyclopedia of Insects is an excellent kid-friendly topical encyclopedia. This book is a must-own for bug-loving kiddos and families. The illustrations for each entry are realistic in style and the information presented is concise and helpful. Insects included throughout the book exist worldwide, so it is nice to have a focus not just on where a child might live. That said, what this book might NOT work well for is if you are trying to research insects in your localized area. There may be a few represented but it would be impossible to include so many. The insect world is fascinating and this book does it justice!

The Smart Labs Storm Watcher Weather Lab toy was the Quarto STEAM Club’s recent selection for a STEAM based interactive learning toy. The toy and science projects are all self-contained. In the box is everything you need to conduct a range of weather-based experiments. The booklet included explains all the concepts in detail with clear diagrams. This type of learning toy makes for a great gift for kids who love interactive learning.

My kids pretty much beg for science every day of our homeschool so I feel it’s genuinely lovely to have quality books around with one-off projects to dive in to that won’t cause disruption to our regularly scheduled school plans.

Past STEAM Club Selections

You can view more selections on the Quarto STEAM Club Amazon page. Enjoy!!

Note: I was given copies of all the Quarto STEAM books mentioned in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions are my own.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Books · Nature Study · Uncategorized

Dinosaur & Fossils Study Resources

Favorite Dinosaur Books - The Silvan Reverie

Books

*Note that the first of these from DK is for ages 5-8 and the second is ages 9-12

Dinosaur & Fossil Resources - The Silvan Reverie

For Fun

Flash Cards

Fossils Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Fossil Study

Dinosaur Fossils - The Silvan Reverie

Nature Study

Pond Nature Study

POND NATURE STUDY.jpg

Books

Nonfiction
Fiction

Pond Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Printed Resources

Whole Ecosystem

Mammals

Water Birds

Reptiles & Amphibians

Freshwater Fish

Insects

Plant Life

Pond Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Uncategorized

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

Naturalist Picture Book Biographies - The Silvan Reverie.jpg

**List updated 4/4/20

What is a Naturalist?

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” (Charlotte Mason)

A simple way to think of a naturalist is a person who studies plants, animals, and fungi in their natural environment. A professional naturalist traditionally will use more observational science than experimental methods, but that’s not a hard line. Many of the naturalists in this list used experiments to learn more about a field of interest: Beatrix Potter experimented with fungi spores and Maria Merian experimented with caterpillar larvae and host plants.

All of these books evoke images of a childhood spent immersed in nature. In some cases the children grow up to be adults in their specific childhood-field-of-interest: John James Audubon and birds, Jean Henri-Fabre and insects. In other cases there is not such a direct line to an adult career: Ansel Adams became a photographer, Beatrix Potter an author.

I will say that a couple of these books play up the “_________ was not your average child” mantra. The suggestion is that if a young child prefers to study insects or collect rocks than sit in a school desk all day or play video games then they are a bit abnormal. I find that the opposite is actually true–I think children have a natural-born inclination to absorb and enjoy the natural world to its fullest and to their hearts’ content.

“If children are to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, nature needs to be integral to their everyday lives, from place-based learning at school to unstructured, unsupervised, even risk-prone play around home. Nature isn’t just a bunch of far-off plants, animals, and landscapes to learn about and visit once or twice a year. It’s an environment to be immersed in daily, especially during our childhood years.” (Scott D. Sampson, How to Raise a Wild Child)

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

Anna Botsford Comstock is the author of Handbook of Nature Study. This picture book follows her life from childhood on, depicting a young girl entranced with the natural world who grows to be a woman widely acknowledged to be a nature expert and pioneer in the field of nature education. One of her main contributions was to encourage children’s interest in the natural world by conducting science and nature studies outdoors. She believed children need to experience nature for themselves, not just through books in a classroom.

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

With a net in her hand, young Maria sets out to study insects closely and learn more about them. Since she lived in a time when people thought insects were “beasts of the devil,” Maria Merian is considered to be one of the first naturalists who studied insects through direct observation. She contributed much to the field of etymology. I appreciate that the illustrations in this book evoke the style of Maria Merian herself, who used watercolors, engravings, and etchings. The text in this book is rich, but a bit simpler than some of the others on this book list and therefore preschooler-friendly. In some ways this book is more of a playful and interesting story and less of a true biography.

Another option: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science — this book is a much longer and thorough biography of Maria Merian’s life, with excellent illustrations and even includes images of Maria Merian’s artwork.

Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt

One of my favorite wildflower nature study books. I personally loved reading this the first time to my kids because I got to learn more about Lady Bird Johnson. I had no idea she had such a connection to wildflowers. “To Lady Bird, the act of planting flowers helped people become better caretakers.” I love the idea of connecting to nature through gardening, not just through wild mountain adventures like John Muir. Later in life Lady Bird helped establish the National Wildflower Research Center, a fitting legacy for a girl and woman that love wildflowers so much and saw the need to protect them for the future.

Note: This book does address the assassination of JFK. It is handled gently but it might bring up some questions for younger readers.

Small Wonders: Jean Henri-Fabre and His World of Insects by Matthew Clark Smith

I absolutely love this biography because it is told in such an engaging and thrilling way — not just a simple run-through year-by-year of Jean Henri-Fabre’s life. We begin with the President of France visiting an old recluse man in a small town — but why would he visit such a man, and who is this person? We later learn it is Jean Henri-Fabre and the President has arrived to give him an award for his contributions to etymology. The early depictions of the young boy’s discoveries in nature are so inspiring and the imaginative settings are inviting–you literally just want to jump into the dreamy landscape. I think this book does an excellent job of depicting exactly what a naturalist is—not only seeing the infinite beauty in the tiniest of wonders, but taking time to observe, draw pictures, and record notes. And, lastly, to share those discoveries with others … which is worthy of reward.

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes

This biography covers the adventurous years Darwin spent traveling on the HMS Beagle and on land throughout South America (not just the Galápagos Islands). This story celebrates the virtue of exploration and wonder—through the eyes of a young man we celebrate the observation of the tiniest of creatures, the mystery of dug-up bones, and the awe of active volcanoes. Do you know what it feels like to see a new creature or plant for this first time? This book evokes those emotions quite well. This book also comes with fun maps to explore and spark imagination as well as inviting illustrations, especially of the HMS Beagle. The adventure narrative is riveting and fun!

Note: Darwin’s religious views have been widely debated and discussed. This picture books omits any mention of that tension.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies

Audubon felt that studying birds in nature, in their natural habitat was preferable to book-learning. He would carry with him notebooks and pencils to illustrate birds that he actually observed. Beyond the fact that he is widely recognized as one of the best bird painters, he also helped pioneer the idea of bird banding to track migration. One thing I appreciate in this book is the relationship John James has with his father, who also loved birds and is an encouragement to the young boy. Many of the other stories in this list are told of an individual in isolation from others. It’s nice to highlight a positive family influence on inspiring a love of the natural world.

Note: This book is also on my list of Favorite Bird Books for Children

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex by Toni Buzzeo

You might be surprised that I’m including a fossil collector in my list of naturalists. The reason for this is that Sue Hendrickson’s childhood was that of a naturalist: she spent time in nature and had a particular fondness for finding and collecting nature treasures. The illustrations in the book show little Sue how hunting with a net or magnifying glass for any new discovery. This book ultimately inspires children to take things a little slower and spend the time to take a closer look at the natural world around them. Who know what they will find!

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature by Cindy Jenson-Elliott

“‘Ansel was antsy. He never walked–he ran.’ … ‘Why don’t you go outside?” suggested his father.” YES! Send them outside. Ansel Adams spent his childhood exploring Northern California and loving every minute of exploration and fresh air. When he was 14 he took a trip to the Yosemite Valley, falls in love (who wouldn’t?), and his parents gift him with a camera. The rest is history, of course.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

A little girl believes tress are her friends. Of course they are when you live in Northern California!! This is the enthralling story of Kate Sessions, whose passion for trees as a child stays with her into adulthood, where she finds herself bringing trees from around to the world to a little desert town known as San Diego. No one at that time could imagine San Diego as a lush and leafy city! Kate Sessions was also instrumental in creating Balboa Park to be what it is today: full of trees. The text and illustrations of this book are reminiscent of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Utterly charming.

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

From a young age, Rachel was interested in spending time in nature and had a near-constant desire to learn and know more about all her observations. Then later, something shifts into her consciousness, and she takes notice and action. The images used in this book to depict the “going silent” natural world are quite gentle and I think appropriate for younger children. The book mainly focuses on Rachel’s time spent in nature, her curiosity and love for it. This is just my opinion, but I do not think we need to burden small children with all the ills of environmental degradation. I believe we should worry more about getting them out into nature and inviting them to love it. If they love it, of course they will want to preserve, honor, and protect it.

I think this other biography of Rachel Carson deals with the negative effects of DDT on the environment more directly (both in text and imagery), and may be more appropriate to read to older elementary children — Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor.

Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner

There is no doubt that Beatrix Potter was a young naturalist. She spent much of her time illustrating her own pets, which later served as inspirations for her stories. What many do not know about Beatrix Potter is how her interest in drawing and painting mushrooms in particular also led to her interest in mycology. She even conducted her own observations experiments on spore germination, which were ignored at the time due to a woman’s place in society. Her love for nature continued throughout her life even after she stopped writing her stories.

Another fantastic Beatrix Potter book:

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist by Margarita Engle

Louis Fuertes was an ornithologist inspired by Audubon to paint his own artwork based on birds. The illustrations in this book are stunning, realistic, and engaging. The text is all written in prose. It’s a beautiful book that pays a nice tribute. I will say that it’s important to see that the illustrations venture more into a dreamy depiction and steer away from the style of Fuertes himself. The book The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon, for example, does a nice job with illustrations matching the style and era of Audubon.

Note: This book is also on my list of Favorite Bird Books for Children

Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything by Anita Sanchez

I’ll be honest: I was not expecting to love this book when I got it from the library, but it’s so enthralling! I love the storytelling here and there is an appropriate amount of charm and humor involved in the creation of the scientific classification system: the naming of EVERYTHING! The story inspires an appreciation of Linnaeus for his incredible lifelong work. I love the page towards the end that shows people who speak a wide variety of languages using the exact same Latin word for carrot. What an accomplishment for one person!

Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez

This book is an easy hit for reptile-loving children! I had never heard of Joan Proctor before getting this book and we are quite amazed at her life’s work–especially her care for Komodo dragons at the London Zoo. The illustrations are fun and the story is an engaging read even for preschoolers — it does not read so fact-based as some of the other books on this list.

Honorable Mentions:
Notes:
Uncategorized

Rainforest Themed Children’s Books

390AED97-020D-4F22-B3C2-547636AFCD68.JPG

Narratives

Reference

Reference Books With A Few Pages About Rainforests

CAD38E44-340D-4442-B6CB-29C47A8847D8.JPG

For More Nature-Inspired Books for Children See This Page!
Books

Space Mini Unit

IMG_2099.JPG

About

We spent about 1 1/2 weeks learning about space, with a special focus this time on space exploration. Two years ago we mainly focused on the planets, which was fun to repeat with my 3 year old. But, my 5 year old had a much greater interest in rockets and rovers and such, so I grabbed a lot more books this time for him.

Books

Stories:

*The two favorites of my 3 year old. Most other books were more for my 5 year old.

**These were just okay. Interesting for one read, but overall not as engaging.

Reference Books:

Note that we did not sit and read every page of any of these books, but flipped through and read what interested the kids at the time. My son also enjoys flipping through books like this with lots of pictures on his own even though he cannot read yet.

*We used this book for the information about the planets. We did not really cover too much about constellations and stars this round.

Projects & Activities

CREATE A CLAY SOLAR SYSTEM

IMG_1879.JPG

Shown here are the books The Planets and Space!

My free Solar System Cards are also pictured here.

We used a clay recipe from Nature’s Art Box, but I’m sure store-bought clay or salt dough would work great! We used biscuit cutters to make different sizes, then once they dried we used watercolor paint to design them. Both kids loved this activity, and then they. had their own solar system to play with.

SOLAR SYSTEM SENSORY BIN PLAY

IMG_1867.JPG

For a space sensory bin we used black beans, black and white glass gems, balled up aluminum foil (for meteors). Then we put our clay planets and toys in the bin. The kids play with this and tell stories but also use scoops and fine motor tools to play around.

MARS & CURIOSITY FOCUS

IMG_1934.JPG

Shown here are the books What We See in the StarsSpace!Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, and Life on Mars.

We made homemade bright red play dough (here’s the recipe I use), built the Curiosity out of LEGOs, and just did a lot of reading and pretend play.

SPACE SHUTTLE & ROCKETS

IMG_1945.JPG

Shown here are the books Moonshot and Exploring Space.

Obviously my son was particularly interested in rockets — what kid isn’t? So, we used our books and watched videos comparing different rockets over the course of space exploration history. We used these Space Shuttle Nomenclature Cards and books to learn about the parts of the space shuttle.

I have about 20 different space shuttle drawings all over my house right now! And we built different rockets out of LEGO Duplos as well.

The R is for Rocket printout is from the Playful Learning Space Unit (Member’s Lounge access only).

SPACE SHUTTLE CRAFT

IMG_2114.JPG

Not surprisingly the kids wanted to make more of a craft-based space shuttle (not just illustrate their own on paper), so we looked up ideas together and liked this one with the fire hanging down from the rocket. We taped the rockets to their ceiling fan and had fun watching them take off!

THE MOON LANDING: 50TH ANNIVERSARY

IMG_1956.JPG

Shown here are the books MoonshotExploring Space, What We See in the Stars, and Space Exploration.

The Printable Space Exploration History Cards are free. We also found the book A Brief Illustrated History of Space Exploration at our library which helped put the timeline of space exploration in context.

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing coming up this year, it was fun to have my son so interested in learning more about this mission. He particularly loved learning about the astronauts and the mechanics of The Columbia and The Eagle. Again we watched some videos — the footage of the Saturn V rocket launch is pretty astounding and worth checking out!

MAPWORK: NASA LOCATIONS

IMG_1957.JPG

Shown here are the books Moonshot and The 50 States.

The black and white state cards are from Target.

The NASA facilities location map I got from here.

My son likes maps so I thought it would add some context to his understanding of the U.S.A. to pinpoint where the Kennedy Space Center, Jet Propulsion Lab, Johnson Space Center, and Langley Research Center are.

SOLAR SYSTEM SCAVENGER HUNT

IMG_1970.JPG

This Solar System Scavenger Hunt is free – I created it awhile ago. This past week we used it by hiding the printed planets around the house, then the kids had to find them, name them, and check off the list until we found them all. This is really fun and engaging, and works well for young children. It was a fun way for my 3 year old to learn the planets a bit more.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH + SPACE EXPLORATION

IMG_1823.JPG

Shown here are the books Mae Among the StarsCounting on KatherineHidden Figures, Herstory, and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Our point of inspiration to even begin a space-themed unit was Mae Jemison and Katherine Johnson. I had checked these books out for Black History Month, but my son in particular was so enthralled I thought it warranted further exploration.

Katherine Johnson has even inspired him to go deeper with his math lessons! He asks to do math every day now!

OTHER ACTIVITIES

We learned about what it’s like to be an astronaut: A Day on the International Space Station, and Astronauts were two books that helped.

We listened to some music included on the Voyager Golden Record.

We also talked a lot about gravity and played games to demonstrate.

We watched several videos from NASA: rocket launches, the design of the Mars Curiosity rover, a tour of the International Space Station. Lots to enjoy online!

Additional Resources

Feel free to take a peek at our Space Unit from two years ago! We repeated some of these things this year too, like a meteor count and scavenger hunt.

space

Links to All Printables

IMG_1958.JPG

Space Play: My Picks

51987A2A-002B-44CF-BA7D-91503A14C104.JPG