BOOK REVIEW: Fall nature book titles from Dawn Publications look at prairies and seed dispersal

I’ve reviewed books from Dawn Publications (Facebook/Twitter/blog) before (see here). They publish some of the best nature books for kids in my opinion. Their two new titles for Fall are equally as informative, creative, and appealing as previous titles.

In The Prairie That Nature Built (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2014), Marybeth Lorbiecki and illustrator Cathy Morrison teach kids about a particular habitat – the prairie – through text following the popular nursery rhyme “This is the House That Jack Built.” Starting with creatures that “worm and squirm,” we learn about the “diggers, with tunnels so steep,” “roots that plunge so deep,” and the “plants that shoot so high” – all the way through insects, birds, herbivorous mammals, carnivorous mammals, fire’s effect on the landscape, rain, and ecological renewal. All this culminates in the appreciation of the prairie by a young boy and his dog. Lorbiecki presents complex ecological concepts in a fashion suitable for young readers, with charming and colorful artwork by Morrison. Whether or not your family or your students live somewhere near a prairie landscape, it’s an environment that all should learn about, especially to know about the Great Plains. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text (click to enlarge):

The Prairie That Nature Built also comes with a free “pop-up” app that can be downloaded (for both Apple and Android users), making reading this book an interactive adventure in itself!

For those of you in Oregon, did you know that the Nature Conservancy protects North America’s largest remaining grassland of Pacific Northwest bunchgrass, the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in northeast Oregon? Learn more here, and watch a video from OPB’s Oregon Field Guide all about this “ecological jewel.”

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Seed dispersal – how plants spread to new places – is an exciting nature topic. There’s probably no better plant to teach kids about seed dispersal that the dandelion, for many kids regularly pick and blow the seeds off them (and many adults will recall with fondness memories of doing this). In The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2014), Joseph Anthony tells the story of a single dandelion seed as it is carried through the air in a city landscape. Will it find a place to settle in soil and grow into a flower? The seed comes across several obstacles, but eventually finds a home at a community garden. After little yellow flowers finally pop up, new seeds are dispersed and the journey starts again. While this simple yet meaningful story is about a seed, one can take away from it that life is a struggle with hardships but they can be overcome through courage and perseverance. As with all of Dawn Publications’ titles, the illustrations – by Cris Arbo – are full of color and warmth. In the back of the book, Anthony includes factual information about the natural history of dandelions, discusses how they are viewed as beautiful flowers by some or as annoying weeds by others, and offers some ideas for educational activities to learn more about dandelions and seed dispersal. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text and detail in Arbo’s illustrations (click to enlarge):

Here’s a photo from 2011 of my son blowing on dandelion seeds, at Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville, OR:

Graham Oaks Nature Park, Wilsonville, OR

As for most of their titles, Dawn Publication offers downloadable activities related to its books for classroom use. Find them here.

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