Starting out July with a bang is The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups by Gina Ingoglia.
You learn to expect high quality books from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and this wonderful book is no exception. First of all, the information is top notch. Gina Ingoglia is associated with the garden, and she knows her trees. She also knows children, as she has written numerous children’s books. Her experience shows as she strikes just the right note to enlighten the reader.
The watercolor illustrations are deceptively simple, almost childlike, but also charming. If you look closely, however, you will see all the important details used for identification are accurately depicted, for example the page showing all the different patterns found in the bark of trees. It turns out that Ingoglia has studied the fine art of botanical illustration.
Put all these ingredients together and you get a book that will likely be passed down from generation to generation. The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups is a must for any child (or adult!) interested in trees, plants and/or nature.
With the increasing popularity of gardening, let’s look at a classic book: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy.
This book has been a family favorite. Lovejoy’s creativity and obvious joy in her subject make it a unique treasure among gardening books. So much more than a simple how-to plant a garden, children learn to experience the garden with all their senses. Their interest is engaged in complex and multi-layered ways. Hollyhocks aren’t just tall plants with pretty flowers; they are forts or hideouts, dolls and even snacks.
Not only is this book filled with accurate and fun information about gardening, but also the creatures you find there. For example, under “Harvest Treats for the Birds & Bees” on page 36, Sharon Lovejoy gives instructions for a simple “Stalk Hotel” as a place for pollinating insects to nest. This is a wonderful way to re-purpose a part of the garden that might otherwise be tossed away (more on small carpenter bees.) As an entomologist who has led bug walks for kids, I love her “Explorer’s Kit” on page 137.
I could go on and on at all the wonderful things in this book. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend you take a look at it. There’s something in it for everyone to love.
The Backyard Explorer Kit: 3-in-1 Collector’s Kit! by Rona Beame is for children who love hands on activities and want to learn more about trees. The kit includes a 3 1/2 by 8 inch Leaf and Tree Guide to trees (that will conveniently fit in a pocket or backpack), a plastic leaf-collecting bag, and an unbound 25 page Leaf Collecting Album. Although the product has been around for several years now, it is still a great deal of fun and worth a look.
The guide has information about trees, how to identify a number of common species (with color photographs of specimens), and 16 hands on activities. Some are the usual activities, such as making a bark rubbing or forcing buds. Others are novel, such as hatching leaf galls. We did one experiment and proved that open pine cones will close again if you soak them in water. Cool!
The Leaf Collecting album has two awesome features. First of all it is unbound, and comes with a long shoelace so you can put it together yourself. This allows children to add as much of their own material as they want without worrying about crushing the material or breaking the binding of the book. Secondly, the album pages have lightly printed illustrations on them, which means that if a child hasn’t collected a particular leaf yet, the album still remains a useful learning tool. The best part is that it doesn’t ask for collection of a particular species of tree, only a leaf of a given shape. Therefore it can be used in almost any locale.
For the child who loves hands on and nature, this is a wonderful kit.