Gift Books to Hang by the
Chimney With Care
A book read in childhood has the
power to influence an entire life. What better way to inspire tomorrow's
environmentalists to form a firsthand connection with nature than by enticing
them with stories? An informal poll of Audubon Society staffers and others
in the know--children, former children, parents--left us with a long list
of fine books about nature, some of them well-known classics, some perhaps
soon to be. We highlight as many here as space allows and encourage you
to mine for yourselves this truly rich field of literature. For the holidays,
such books make gifts with true staying power.
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. Viking.
This Newbery Medal winner,
first published more than 50 years ago, has retained all its warmth and
charm. Carolyn Bailey weaves a dreamlike fable about a doll, fashioned
from an applewood twig and a hickory nut, who finds herself hard-ressed
to survive a New Hampshire winter. She does so with the help of animals--crows,
deer, squirrels, and others--who are as resourceful as they are witty
Incident at Hawk's Hill
Allan W. Eckert. Little,
A celebrated natural history
writer tells the tale of a young boy who wanders into the wilds of Manitoba
in 1870 and takes up life with the animals. A Newbery Honor book.
Robert Frost. Henry Holt.
A weary grown-up remembers
the simple childhood joy of swinging on birch trees and draws complex
lessons from the memory. Frost's delightful depiction of rural life is
fully evoked in Ed Young's illustrations.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy
Robert Frost. Dutton's Children's
Frost's classic poem about
the desire to contemplate nature's depths and the need to turn to other
matters is made accessible to the youngest readers through Susan Jeffers's
wonderful illustrations. The magic of a winter landscape and the haunting
allure of poetry are beautifully joined here.
My Side of the Mountain
Jean Craighead George. Penguin.
First published in the fifties,
Newbery Honor book recounts young Sam Gribley's adventures in the Catskill
Mountains, where he faces the challenges and joys of self-reliance. Sam
learns many worthwhile lessons about the land, wildlife, and himself.
The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway. Scribner.
Hemingway's famous story
about the tragic fortunes of a Cuban fisherman presents an important perspective
on the relation of man and nature.
Jack London. Penguin. 1906.
London's adventure, told
through the eyes of an orphaned wolf, makes great reading. His fine novel,
which depicts nature in the far north as a thing of harshness as well
as beauty, is both instructive and exciting.
Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Scott O'Dell. Houghton Mifflin.
An elegantly written historical
novel about a Native American girl's struggle to survive the forces of
man and nature on an island off the coast of California in the early 1800s.
A Newbery Medal winner.
Dr. Seuss. Random House.
Perhaps the best cautionary
tale ever written about the dangers of rampant industrialization. Old-growth
Truffula Trees, Brown Bar-ba-loots, Humming-Fish, and Swomee-Swans are
all sacrificed to the cult of "biggering" factories, roads,
and profits. This terrific and tough-minded story concludes with just
a seed of hope for the Lorax, and for the rest of us.
The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein. HarperCollins.
A gentle if tragic story,
told with Silverstein's characteristic clarity and grace, about the changing
relationship between a boy and his favorite apple tree.
The Trumpet of the Swan.
E. B. White. HarperCollins.
E. B. White's masterful
tale about a young boy and a voiceless trumpeter swan doomed to a mute
courtship is marked by the author's characteristic wit, wisdom, and triumphant
Jane Yolen. Philomel Books.
A little girl and her father
trudge though moonlit snow hoping to call up a great horned owl from the
edge of the woods. A fine winter's tale and a Caldecott Medal winner.
Just a Dream
(Houghton Mifflin; 1990)
is a consciousness-changing tale by Caldecott Award winner Chris Van Allsburg
about a careless boy who belittles earth-stewarding activities like tree
planting and recycling. One night, after seeing a television show that
leaves him yearning for the technological trappings of the future, he
dreams of a polluted world where his neighborhood is a garbage dump, most
trees have been chopped down, and a hotel perches atop Mount Everest.
He awakens appreciative of the importance of caring for the environment.
Teachers often use this storybook to impart lessons of personal responsibility.
The Great Kapok Tree:
A Tale of the Amazon Rain
Lynne Cherry. Voyager Books.
A boa constrictor, a bee, a
toucan, a tree frog, a jaguar, and other rainforest creatures make a gentle,
persuasive case for preserving their realm. A clever, richly illustrated
Giants in the Land
Diana Appelbaum. Houghton
Stunning folk drawings of
old-growth white pines accompany a lively description of the colonial
logging of the grand trees for masts for the English navy.
The Big Book for Our Planet.
Edited by Ann Durrell, Jean
Craighead George, and Katherine Paterson. Dutton's Children's Books. 1993.
A thoughtful anthology of
poetry, prose, and photographs about the needs of planet earth.
Waiting for Wings
Lois Ehlert. Harcourt Inc.
A visually stunning first
book, about butterflies and metamorphosis. The symbiosis of butterflies
and plants is illustrated with flair, and the rhymed text deftly explains
the butterfly life. It's likely to turn the youngest child into a butterfly
Twilight Comes Twice
Ralph Fletcher. Clarion Books.
A subtle and beautifully
drawn story that explores dawn and dusk. This is a perceptive, memorable
Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems.
Kristine O'Connell George.
Clarion Books. 1998.
A well-illustrated introduction
to poetry. Without becoming preachy, these thoughtful, lively poems demonstrate
the myriad ways in which trees can make interesting company.
Cristina Kessler. Simon &
Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2001.
In this book, based on a
true story from Swaziland, Kessler re-counts the odyssey of a baby rhinoceros
orphaned by poachers. This tale is full of details about the lives of
this threatened species. The young rhino's travels in search of a new
mother blend in well with JoEllen McAllister Stammen's impressionistic
illustrations of the wildlife and landscape of the African grasslands.
Ted Levin and Betsy Levin.
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. 1999.
The Levins present a fascinating
account, with wonderful drawings and field sketches, of a 1997 visit to
the mountain gorillas of Uganda.
The Eagle's Gift
Rafe Martin. G. P. Putnam's
An Inuit boy's mythic initiation
into the joy of nature is illustrated with haunting depictions of the
Grandad's Prayers of the
Douglas Wood. Candlewick
A grandfather tutors his
grandson about the sacredness of nature, instilling a fine sense of moral
relation to animals and plants, rivers and forests. P. J. Lynch's warm
illustrations fill every page with scenes that back up these gentle lessons.
A Zooful of Animals
Selected by William Cole.
Houghton Mifflin. 1992.
Lively, funny, mischievous
poems for the youngest child or infant.
© 2001 NASI
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