BOOK REVIEW: It’s a Jungle Out There!

When you live in a city like Portland, it is not at all difficult to get outside and explore in nature. Whether one of the major parks, the many smaller pockets of natural areas that dot the landscape, or the river that runs through it, including within downtown and on its edges, Portland is a nature sanctuary (see my last book review).

In other cities, however, it can be a challenge for parents to find places to explore nature. Jennifer Ward, in her latest book geared toward children and nature - It’s a Jungle Out There! 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids -provides a year’s worth of activities for parents to do with their children. Just because one lives in an urban setting does not mean that nature isn’t nearby. Nature is abundant in the unlikeliest places.

This book is organzied by season, with a fifth section on activities that can be done inside (which I really like). In the spring, be curious about worms and learn to identify local birds. During summer, play with shadows and discover what animals use ponds to drink. In the fall, gaze at the stars and and watch the leaves fall. In winter, seek out previously hidden bird nests and track creatures in the snow. And inside, learn about thunder and lightning and care for a potato.

Each activity is offered as a way to promote certain skills or teaching topics, including creativity, artistic expression, wonder, curiosity, observation, discovery, awareness, stewardship, respect, appreciation, bonding, imagination, physical activity, motor skills, concepts, counting, and classification. And deep time. Yes, deep time! Ward does not shy away from evolution and the earth being millions of years old, another topic I love.

Also included with each activity – in the spirit of connecting children to nature for the hope that they will continue to be connected as decision-making adults – is a Plant the Seed suggestion for further inquiry. As an historian married to a librarian, I was delighted to see that many of the Plant the Seed suggestions are for books to read. Well done, Jennifer!

It’s a Jungle Out There! is a useful – and pocket-ready – guide to exploring nature in urban areas, especially in spots where mom or dad might not notice is absolutely teeming with nature. As Ward says, “nature is as nearby as a crack in the sidewalk and a tree on the street, and rewarding experiences in nature can take place in everyday places and spaces.”

It’s a Jungle Out There! 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids, by Jennifer Ward. Illustrated by Susie Ghahremani (Boston: Trumpeter, 2001). 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches. 176 pages. ISBN 978-1-59030-908-7. Paperback. $14.00. For ages 4 to 8.

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