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Nature Books for Kids

Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature’s Footprints
By Jim Arnosky
Sterling Publishing, 32 pages, $14.95 (Ages 6 and up)

Finding a footprint embedded in a muddy path or a snowy bank poses a mystery kids can solve. In Wild Tracks! lifelong tracker Jim Arnosky shows them how. “When you learn to recognize and read animal tracks you are learning an ancient language of shapes and patterns,” he writes in the introduction to this wildlife journal, crammed with life-sized illustrations of animal footprints and tips for deciphering them. Take bears: Because of their bulk, these flat-footed mammals leave flawlessly formed deep impressions. “With a perfect set of four bear footprints, an experienced animal tracker is able to accurately estimate the size and weight of the bear that made them,” Arnosky explains. Colored pencil drawings and acrylic paintings of the animals responsible for certain marks, like that of a graceful white-tailed deer standing in turquoise-tinged snow, depict the beauty of his beasts as well as the traces they leave behind.—Julie Leibach
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Our Living Earth: A Story of People,
Ecology, and Preservation

Photography by Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Text by Isabelle Delannoy/Illustrations by David Giraudon
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 160 pages, $24.96 (Ages 8–14)

Deforestation is responsible for 22 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions; it takes nearly 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef; if everyone on earth lived like an American, we would need six planets to support them all. These are just a few of the astonishing statistics kids will learn from Our Living Earth. In this eye-opening new book, indelible aerial photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Isabelle Delannoy’s richly detailed text make for an engrossing tour of the planet and its people, as well as impending perils and what can be done to combat them. In eight themed sections, young readers explore earth’s natural wonders, such as its vast oceans. They’ll also learn how social and cultural issues factor in to the planet’s—and our own—future. The images are jarringly honest and, at times, depressing. A photograph of a shimmering sea of plastic bags in a Dominican Republic dump, for example, underscores our wasteful tendencies. In contrast, a scene of primary-hued buildings in an eco-community in Malmö, Sweden, that operates entirely on renewable energy shows how some countries are prospering by using less—leaving a legacy for young readers to inherit.—Julie Leibach
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