Let’s face it, we have had a mild winter so far, but as most Chicagoans know this could change at any time. We could be faced with winter storms, sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds. Those are the days that could force you to stay inside and read a good book. With that in mind, I recently posed a question to the Museum education department – tell me about your favorite book about nature. The responses were varied and interesting we even had a response from outside the education department. I hope you take the time to read some of our recommendations!
Michelle Rabkin, Student Programs Coordinator:
This is my favorite coffee table book, which captivates audiences from 2 to 100 years old. We also use it at the Museum as a resource for programs. This book is visually stunning even if you don’t read a word in it!
Animal, The Definitive Guide to the World's Wildlife
The natural world is a dynamic place and our understanding of it is forever growing and changing. Since Animal was first published in 2001, the African elephant has been reclassified into two species, a cat-sized rat has been discovered in Papua New Guinea, the only plant-eating spider has been found in Central America, a bird-eating fanged frog has been located in Vietnam, and more than 1,250 new species of amphibians have been identified.
Kelly Harland, Museum Educator:
These books are wonderful for elementary aged through adults.
Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn
In this book you meet Andrew Henry who loves to build things. He builds all sorts of inventions to help his family, but he ends up in the way so he runs to a meadow where he builds himself and his friends houses suited to all their interests. It is a wonderful and creative book about unstructured play and building.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
In this beautifully written story a young girl goes owling with her dad on a quiet snowy evening. The illustrations are beautiful and the readers become caught up in the quiet, stillness of the story.
Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
This is the story of two ants who get left behind in a sugar bowl to eat their fill instead of returning with their crystal to the ant hill. They get scooped up in an adventure as a human makes his breakfast. It is a fun ant’s eye view of a kitchen.
Rafael Rosa, Vice President of Education:
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
The book describes Bill’s effort to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend. While not specifically about nature, he incorporates quite a bit about the history and natural history of the Appalachian Mountains. His description of the American Chestnut and our loss of the species due to disease has always stuck with me. Humorous and thought-provoking, it is not only one of my favorite books about nature but one of my favorite books in general.
Josie Elbert, Associate Director of Education Programs:
Bees, Snails and Peacock Tails by Betsy Franco
This is a great book to introduce or confirm the terrific patterns and shapes found in nature. I love that the text mirrors the vivid illustrations. I’m inspired when I learn or notice something new from a children’s book! This book did that, and it’s one I’ll add to our family’s collection.
Karen Wilson, Living Invertebrate Specialist:
Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
This book is by a world-renowned animal behaviorist who looks in detail at the amazing process of house hunting and the democratic debate that takes place to make a move. E.O. Wilson sings his praises.
Bugs in the System by May Berenbaum
This is a great read as it looks at insects and their impact on human history from the Silk trade routes, the Napoleonic wars, and current culture. Cool stuff.
Barbara Powell, Associate Director of Education Operations:
The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart
This book goes underground to let us all discover the earthworm and all of its glories. From Charles Darwin’s experiments to a discussion about earthworms as an invasive species, this book is interesting and will tell you all you need to know about our subterranean composters. This book is best for an adult audience but the facts and information discussed would be fascinating for school aged children.
I hope you enjoy these books and look for more recommendations to come!
Associate Director of Education Operations