Archive for Sunday, January 9, 2005

From the far reaches of earth to backyards, children’s books get back to nature

January 9, 2005

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From the deserts and mountains at the farthest reaches of the earth, to a typical backyard, children will find natural wonders can be enjoyed as well as marveled at if they explore the best books being published.

The earth offers vast numbers of record-setting statistics, as seen in "Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest," written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Just released in paperback (Houghton Mifflin Company, $5.95), the deceptively slender volume is a veritable super-log of earth-related data, laid out in overwhelming displays by collagist Jenkins.

This book will amaze children and impress adults with its expert outline of colossus facts. The Nile River, for example, is 4,145 miles long, and Russia's Lake Baikal is 5,134 feet deep (compared to the Empire State Building's 1,250-foot height). Jenkins has found the most extreme nature facts in the world and set them forth in visual as well as verbal awesomeness. Reading the book makes learning an experience that is both exciting and a bit daunting. It is an inexpensive investment that is invaluable.

In "The Sea, The Storm, and The Mangrove Tangle," author/illustrator Lynne Cherry tells a compelling ecological story in dramatic terms. Never mind that "mangrove" isn't exactly a household word; it will be by the time a child has experienced this highly accessible book (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16).

The narrative draws children in with its portrayal of life, glorious life, in a lagoon with a mangrove tree as its center. The story builds as more and more living creatures come to it for sustenance and protection. Culminating in a hurricane that could have devastated thousands of creatures, the story ends triumphantly with the mangrove protecting them all.

It's a survival story of epic proportions. Children can turn to it again and again for inspiration.

In "Nature in the Neighborhood," writer/illustrator Gordon Morrison (Houghton Mifflin, $16) gives kids a bird's-eye view of things they wonder about every day. It is possible to see what happens in a backyard, a garden and the nearby environs as the seasons change.

Morrison takes readers through a year of nestings, plant sproutings and wiltings, and butterfly adventures -- telling tales so specific that kids will know exactly what to look for when they go exploring, or even just look out a window.

Many bird, plant and animal measurements, as well as their habitats and habits, are woven into the 32 pages of the book, which is a special delight for city children. They will discover, Morrison wisely advises, "You don't have to travel far to find nature. Just stop wherever you are and take the time to look."

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