Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review - Bumper Book of Nature by Stephen Moss (3.5/5 stars)

I got an uncorrected proof of this book through the Amazon Vine program.  Overall it is a great book and gives you some interesting information and activities to do outside.  It is aimed at kids, but as an adult I found some of the information included to be interesting.

This book is broken into five sections.  The first section talks about things you can do in nature all year round; then there are sections on spring, summer, fall, and winter.  The content of each section is somewhat random: info on how to play hide and seek, how to press flowers, and how to raise a tadpole are some examples of what activities are covered.  All of the activities take place outside or involve nature somehow.  Some of them need parental supervision; difficulty ranges from needing cooking skills to making snow angels.

Each section closes with some information about lore relating to the season; this was very interesting, fun, and a nice addition to the book.  I also loved the diagrams included.  They are very general but include, for example, pictures of common types of leaves, common snakes, common small mammals, etc.  For more specifics and deep details in any area you would need a different handbook and the author acknowledges this, but this book is a great overview for kids.

Urban settings are not focused on but they are addressed in a small section.  In general the book assumes you have access to forested areas, bodies of water, and (at parts) even coastal areas.  This is something that isn't true for all kids, but they should be able to find something in this book to do.  Some of the activities explained are a bit silly; the author explains how to play hide and seek and how to make snow angels...these are two things my son knew by the time he was 2 years old, I can't imagine many kids needing instruction on these things. 

There are a couple specific things that could have been done better.  The diagram on snakes fails to mention that some of the snakes are poisonous (for example the rattlesnake is not listed as poisonous) it bothers me a little to have a kid running around looking for snakes and not knowing that they are poisonous.  The author spends time talking about mushrooms and fungi but there aren't any pictures.  It would have been great to have a diagram of some common mushrooms.  Also there wasn't an index at the back; that would have been helpful when you are trying to find certain activities.

My only last quibble is the author's intro.  The introduction actually really turned me off because it talked about the evils of technologies and how much our children are missing.  It was also talked about how technology activities should be turned away in favor of nature outings.  While I agree that nature is important to a child's development (we are huge campers and spend every moment we can outside) I think the author would have been better serviced to discuss how technology can be used to enhance outdoor enjoyment for children.  For example we use our GPS to "treasure hunt" or geocache outside with our son.  We use skymap tools on our phones to go out at night and view constellations.  I just felt that the author did a dis-service to the book by taking a "technology is hurting our children" approach and it put a bad taste in my mouth.  Personally I would recommend just skipping the intro.

All in all the book provides a great general overview of nature activities and had some very nice diagrams for identification.  It is a bit hard to find things in the book, so an index would have been nice.  The book also assumes access to forested areas and bodies of water.  This is a book that we will bring camping with us and keep around for general reference.  Overall a great read.

- Interesting general info
- Has a small section on urban wildlife
- Nice general diagrams on plants/animals etc.
- Liked the organization by season
- Liked the sections on lore relating to each season.

- Intro attacks technology rather than teaching how to merge tech with nature
- Doesn't tell which snakes are poisonous in snake diagram
- Assumes access to forest/ponds and even coastal areas
- Lacks a diagram to fungi/mushrooms discussed
- Some activities explained are way too basic
- Activities aren't organized all that well and there's no index

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors 

1 comment:

  1. Great review! This one seems like it would be a great gift to give to some younger kids. I definitely agree about the snakes, though. It probably would have been a good idea for the author to identify which ones were poisonous.