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Nature Books for Kids

The Dirt on Dirt
By Paulette Bourgeois

Illustrated by Martha Newbigging
Kids Can Press, 48 pages, $15.95 (8–12)

Dirt has gotten a bad rap. Paulette Bourgeois burnishes its reputation with The Dirt on Dirt, a creative take on the physical properties, origins, and uses of the brown stuff. Dirt is everywhere, and “each handful is a little different,” writes Bourgeois. “One handful might feel firm but then squish into slimy paste between your fingers. Another sample might be so dry it almost floats into the air.” A clump is comprised of several layers, she notes, including moist humus made from dead animal and plant matter, as well as coarser sand and gravel. Dirt’s purpose is also multi-fold: Burrowing owls dig hideaways in desert dirt, and some termites use mud to build homes, to cite a couple of examples. Photographs and funny cartoons show its incarnations (a sketch of under-the-bed crud shaped like a rabbit suggests a “dust bunny”), and do-it-yourself projects, such as creating a composting tub, are sure to win over even the cleanliest so that when it’s time to tidy up, the task might not seem so, well, dirty.—Julie Leibach
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The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure
By Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini with Rachel Crandell

Illustrated by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini
Dawn Publications, 32 pages, $8.95 (5–10)

When Peter arrives in Costa Rica, he’s greeted by the biggest butterfly he’s ever seen: a blue morpho, with shiny turquoise wings. It’s just one of a variety of creatures he encounters during his first trip to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, a real tropical preserve in Monteverde that kids in 44 countries, and counting, have raised money to protect. The Forever Forest’s expressive dialogue will enthrall readers, many of whom will identify with Peter’s excitement about spotting animals and plants he’s never seen before. Upon inspecting what appears to be a tangle of moss hanging from a tree, he exclaims, “Hey! The moss has arms!” only to learn that it’s the camouflaged hair of a two-toed sloth. Pratt-Serafini’s playful, vibrant watercolor and mixed-media illustrations capture the essence of each forest denizen Peter spies, including saucer-eyed kinkajous (members of the raccoon family) that feast on bananas against a starry sky. Descriptions of species that accompany each picture will further educate kids about cloudforest biodiversity. An informative epilogue tracks the progress of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest project—proof that to protect something you love, age doesn’t matter.—Julie Leibach

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