(formerly Vermont Woodlands)
The Kids' Wildlife Book: Exploring Animal Worlds through lndoor/Outdoor Experiences. By Warner Shedd, Illustrations by Loretta Trezzo Braren, Williamson Publishing, 1995.
Writing really good informational material for kids is an exacting art. What is too much? Too little? Are the words too big? How far do you go into the subject matter? How soon will they get bored? Is it fun? Is it too fun? Who is going to read this, anyway?
The problem is, these fears are all valid. It all has to be just right. The time it takes a dissatisfied reader to slam down a book can be measured in milliseconds if the reader is a kid. A percentage of words that are too difficult will leave her frustrated and yes, bored. Too much information will leave him overwhelmed and yes, bored. Too little information will...
Plus, kids don't like to read if they're hungry, or tired, or mad at the world. Or if someone has handed them the book and told them they have to read it. All those reasons. Sort of like us.
So, discovering a book as good as Warner Shedd's The Kids' Wildlife Book should gladden the heart of any parent or teacher.
Fortunately for the future of our world, its subject is one that kids care passionately about. In his introduction, the author asks his young readers what they think might be so special about animals that are wild and free. How are they different from domesticated animals? It's a good question for kids, who ought to know, being on the fence themselves and able to identify wholeheartedly with even the humblest wild creature.
When this book came into my hands I was already planning a Vermont wildlife study unit for my fourth grade students. I glanced at its jolly cover, its pleasant shape, its spirited illustrations, and its wealth of fascinating information arranged in a child-friendly format, and decided that it would be a terrific resource - a book that could entertain and charm as well as introduce such heady subjects as evolution and adaptation, habitat needs, species diversity, and issues of our expanding population and dwindling resources.
I could hardly wait to begin, and neither could they.
Using the range maps provided, we made a list of the species that can be found in Vermont which are covered in this book (it also covers some western animals) and out of those each student chose one of their own. This was a tense time because there was a lot of competition for some, like the bats.
The children then adopted the chapter relating to their animal, and became experts on it.
Because of their genuine enthusiasm for the book, I asked them to share in this review. Here are some of their comments, with many spelling interventions:
Sky wrote, "I was astonished at how clear all the information is in this book," Rachel agreed: "This book explains itself!"
Jessica felt that "the information is very clear and it isn't hard to understand." Michelle R. said she liked the fact that "there are a lot of things that you can do," as did Justin, who added, "It has some really interesting projects in it. I want to make a mobile of the cat family." Karen said she was eager to "try the raccoon socks and the raccoon mask" and Sarah H. said she wanted ``to make an owl chart like in the book."
Michelle C, wrote that she planned 'to make a weasel family neighborhood." She particularly liked having a whole family of animals to study. "You make a list of all the members in this family and find out what each one needs for food, water, shelter and space, to grow."
Erin pointed out that "this book has good pictures and some funny comments," and Jaime said that he had a lot of reasons for recommending the book, citing these: "First it has a lot of true facts and experiments. It also compares different animals. It gets you to admire that animal."
And Ashley summed it up, "This book has information that kids can understand. It also has fun projects, I recommend this book to everyone studying wildlife."
So do I.