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Review: Outside Your Window May 5, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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I’ve been a fan of Nicola Davies for awhile now. When I started looking for non-fiction books to use as read alouds in the classroom, I noticed that a lot of recommendations were for books in the Read and Wonder series, published by Candlewick. As I tracked each of them down, I realized that many of these poetic, informative and engaging books about animals were by the same author–Nicola Davies.

Davies maintains a lovely balance between science and poetry–she’s a zoologist, in addition to being a writer–and nowhere more so than in this new book, Outside Your Window. Subtitled “A First Book of Nature,” it mixes poems about the natural world with instructions for activities like building a den and baking a berry crumble. I can see people reading these poems at night before bedtime and also working through all the different activities with their kids. The book is structured around the seasons and focuses on lots of little details–seagulls, moths, cherry blossoms–that will fascinate young children. Davies is British, and some poems made me wish I could take a trip into the imaginary English countryside and pet lambs or keep chickens.

Mark Herld’s collage illustrations almost deserve a post all their own. The combination of cut paper, linocuts, crayon and paint is amazing. Children will delight in the little details, especially when they are reinforced by lines in the poems. My favorite parts of this book are when the text and pictures interact, such as the little backward swimming shrimp in a tide pool poem, the lovely drape of baby silver “spiderlings” and the perfect match of word and image in “Patchwork Pigeons”: “Patchwork pigeons, made of sky/catch the rain clouds when they fly.”

Find this beautiful book, share it with your class, buy it as a baby shower gift (no one needs another copy of Pat the Bunny anymore) or for a young child interested in the outdoors. This is a treasure of words and pictures that will make anyone appreciate this Earth a little more.

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