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Budding naturalists: head outdoors!

Outside: A Guide to Discovering Nature

Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Ines Texeira do Rosario
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
360 pp.
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Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Grade Level: 3 – 6

Turn off your electronics and open the door. What’s out there? These authors want you to go outside and look for yourself. A few pages of the book are set aside for full-color paintings of plants and animals, but most pages offer muted but inviting black-and gray- ink-wash paintings that hint at wild landscapes and the life that populates them.

Even rainy days are taken as an opportunity rather than a limitation: Rain soup, anyone?

Bright monochromatic color drawings illustrate the diversity of shapes in nature: of bird beaks, tree leaves, and insect legs; of rocks, seashells, and clouds. A two page cerulean-blue cutout shows readers the shape of a grasshopper (which are not, generally, blue), but if you want to see the grasshopper in all its multihued, iridescent, jumping glory, you’d better go outside and look for yourself.

From the big city to the wild mountains, the book is inclusive of a great variety of environments while reminding the budding naturalist about taking nothing but experience, leaving nothing but footprints, and being prepared for the sometimes unwelcome surprises that wild nature holds. The
authors detail sounds, tracks, and leavings (shedded exoskeletons, half-eaten nuts), as well as conservation, evolution, and endangered species. Field trip suggestions explore the diversity of biomes.

The roadmap for a nocturnal expedition listening to amphibians sing in wetlands would no doubt have come in handy on the night I mistook a not-so- big bullfrog in the Rocky Mountains for a really big moose.