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Nature is Just Outside Your Window

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature (Candlewick, $19.99, ages 3 and up) written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Hearld, has been sitting on my coffee table for months now, begging me to write up my review of this incredible book about nature. With stunning paper-cut collage illustrations by Mark Hearld, Outside Your Window is a compendium of information, ideas, and even recipes related to the world outside our window.

The book is organized by season and Nicola Davies introduces each section with a brief description of what that season beholds. Each section includes a variety of poems describing various flora and fauna of the seasons, from the worms, to the birds, to the weather. Mark Hearld’s spectacular artwork appears in two-page spreads, and are not only colorful and creative, but full of details to keep your child (and yourself) enthralled in the descriptions of life scribed across each page.  Davies’s writing, while accessible to children, is also informative and educational.

From the life cycle of a butterfly to the glowing nature of the stars in the night sky, Outside Your Window is brimming with knowledge to be gained about all things nature. But this is far from a simple book written in verse. Author and Biologist Nicola Davies also includes pieces such as “Five Reasons to Keep Chickens,” and “Making Compost”–real life examples that can be put into practice by the budding farmer or gardener.  She even goes so far as to include recipes for such things as Berry Crumble to enjoy in Autumn, and seed cakes to make for the birds in Wintertime.

I adored this book from the moment I picked it up; it is a hearty book filled with beautiful images and illuminating poetry which you will love having in your library. The best part is, you can enjoy it with your child bit by bit, reading it as the seasons pass by outside your window, and putting into practice some of the suggestions for enjoying nature found in the book. Your child will be captivated by the lively illustrations, and you might even learn something you did not know about some obscure yet utterly fascinating fact of nature!

Today’s review comes courtesy of proud new mother Karen B. Estrada.

Two Families. Two Cultures. One Very Unique Book.

Read This Terrific Tale of Two Very Different Places

Debbie Glade reviews today’s pick.

Mirror ($18.99, Candlewick, preschool – grade 4) while not brand new, is one of the most unique books I’ve ever seen. Yes, I said, “seen.” Award-winning illustrator and collage artist, Jeannie Baker came up with the idea to compare two very different places in the world – Sydney, Australia and The Valley of the Roses in Southern Morocco – using most extraordinary visual means.

Open up the book and you will discover two books on opposite sides. One book opens to the left, while the other opens to the right. The idea is to turn the pages in each book together to compare what the family is doing in Australia with what the family is doing in Morocco (thus the title of the book, Mirror).

Each side of the book starts with words in the languages appropriate to the places – English for Australia and Arabic for Morocco. But the rest of the learning is all visual, though you will not find the usual illustrations you are used to seeing in most children’s books; rather these are photographs of Jeannie Baker’s impressive collages.

She starts out with illustrations and the builds collages on wooden boards, using materials such as earth, sand, clay, paint, fabric, wool, vegetation, paper and plastic. It is apparent that Ms. Baker spent a great deal of time and effort in making the collages for this very special book.

I like any story that effectively teaches children about cultures and geography, and Mirror does just that in a most original way.

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