Sunday, June 29, 2008

I love dirt! Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: I love dirt! 52 activities to help you & your kids discover the wonders of nature
Author: Jennifer Ward
Publication: Trumpeter Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publictions Inc., May 2008
Format: Paperback Book

My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Summary: Meets a Need for SOME People, Not All

How I Came To Read This Book: I received an abridged sample copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. The sample book I was given has 15 chapters instead of the full 52, so in this review I can't comment on the overall scope of the book or all of its contents. (I had never heard of publishers providing abridged samples of non-fiction books to book reviewers before.)

Book Review

The book is organized around the seasons. It is designed to provide one nature experience per week of the year, that is, a focused, narrow-topic nature activity is laid out for the family to do.

In my opinion this is for use with children under ten years old. The reason why is it not good for children over ten is that some of the activities are too babyish for older kids (go play in a puddle etc.). The shallow/introductory information is suitable for preschoolers and elementary grade kids. Kids aged possibly nine and ten may ask more questions than this book supplies.

The book basically gives activities to do with young children outside. If the adult knows not much about nature, this book provides talking points and ideas of what to do. Encourage the child to touch the water, swish in the water and see what happens and so forth. There are suggestions to have children do things and then to discuss what happens. Factual information is provided that is good if the adult doesn't know a lot about nature.

The educational talking point claims to fulfill a learning objective. Each objective is at the end of each chapter, such as "stimulates awareness of one's surroundings" and "stimulates caring and stewardship for all living things". I'm not quite sure why the author felt that the parents needed those learning objectives spelled out. Perhaps she intended that public school teachers would use this book and would need that information so they could fit it into their curriculum or into the No Child Left Behind's objectives?

Conversely if the parent or grandparent already knows this basic information then the book's information could be too simplistic and not very useful; it could be considered dumbed down and unnecessary for some adults.

Some of these things end up feeling staged to me. For example if the parent intends to discuss where animals go during the day, but the child doesn't take that bait and run with that topic, you are out of luck with your plans (and this book is all about planning). I sure hope the parent doesn't come down hard on the child for 'not following the plans'. Also if the parent prepares to do X with the child but they want to spontaneously explore other things (which is good in my opinion) the adult may feel frustrated that they prepared or ill-equipped to answer questions about Y.

The people who are more spontaneous in general may feel this book is too limiting, but those people may not feel the need to buy a book of ideas! For me, this book is too limiting and unnecessary, but everyone is different, so perhaps this book is just what you desire.

This is a unique book. If this helps some parents get outdoors with their kids and have the children spend more time in nature then this book will have done its job (even ithe parent doesn't fully use the book as intended or if they don't get to do everything outlined in the book).

It is a very good idea to get kids outside more and outside exploring nature with their children. Hooray for that!! I applaud the author for writing this book which seems to be trying hard to give parents some tools and ideas about how to explore nature with their children (and throw in some education in the process).

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1 comment:

Rick Van Noy said...

Would you be interested in reviewing another book, hopefully with more depth: _A Natural Sense of Wonder: Connecting Kids with Nature Through the Seasons_?