Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Hearld, RL 2

Outside Your Window

Outside Your Window - A First Book of Nature by zoologist and author Nicola Davies with mixed-media illustrations by Scottish printmaker Mark Hearld, is exactly the big, gorgeous, thick-paged book that makes the perfect gift for a new baby, first birthday or any birthday after that. This is a book that is staying on the shelf and will not donated, lost or re-gifted, as so many books from our childhoods seem to have been. Outside Your Window - A First Book of Nature is a book your children will read to their children. And, with shelves (deservedly) dominated by the rhyming, musical and frequently silly poems of Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein and Mary Ann Hoberman, there is really nothing quite like Davies book on the shelves these days. As Pamela Paul says in her review of the book (and a few other great books of poetry for kids) in the New York Times, "Unlike so much poetry geared toward children, not all the verse here rhymes, introducing readers to poetic language outside the predictable cadences of Dr Seuss."

Arranged by seasons, each is introduced with a description of what happens during that time of year. Being a zoologist, Davies has many poems about animals and their habitats, but she also has wonderful poems about the natural world and the changes that it goes through. The illustration below is from Outside Your Window - A First Book of Nature while the rest in this review are Mark Herald's and taken from images found online.
For winter, Davies writes, "Winter is a slow, low time. Everything is hiding from the cold; just staying alive is enough. Days are short, but the long frosty nights blaze with stars and spring is just a month or two away." Davies poems encourage children to look at the world around them, as in her poem, "Winter Trees,"

Winter Trees

Winter trees are naked.
All their leaves are gone.
You can see their trunks,
some smooth and straight,
some bent and wrinkled.
You can see the way
some branches
dip down to the ground
and some reach up high.
And you can see
the crisscross patterns
that twigs make against the sky.

Although Davies is a zoologist and her other books focus on animals almost exclusively, Outside Your Window - A First Book of Nature is not all about animals. From the section on summer, "Shell Song" and "Tide" are especially lovely poems, while poems from other sections feature composting, cherry blossoms, acorns, baking bread and the stars. Her poem "Night" is a wonderful example of this:


The breeze shivers through the barley,
                and the sea sighs.
         Far away an owl is calling
               and a star shines.
The moon sails white and silver
           in the dark sky.
     Sometimes you can feel,
     sometimes you can feel,
sometimes you can feel the world is turning.

And, as if I needed to say anything more to entice you to buy this book, Davies also includes recipes (berry crumble!) and, not in poetic form, instructions for seed saving and making bird cakes.

Don't miss these other fantastic books by Nicola Davies!

For the five and under crowd:

For everyone or seven and up as a read-alone don't miss this quintet of books, including Just the Right Size and Talk, Talk, Squawk!, reviewed here.

OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW: A FIRST BOOK OF NATURE. Text copyright © 2012 by Nicola Davies. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Mark Hearld. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

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