Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
National Library of Australia (2012), will take pride of place as a reference book in any home. But most importantly, it will delight young readers with its accessibility, readability, enthusiasm for every tiny detail of the natural world, and sheer visual appeal.
That Macinnis understands kids is evident. He speaks to them through the book as fellow naturalists, in a voice they will understand and relate to:
Teeth are amazingly tough and last much better than bones. The teeth of mammals are worth studying because they can often tell you what animal they belonged to. The teeth in dead animals are safer to look at than those of live animals. (p7, The Australian Backyard Naturalist)
I love that understated humour and believe kids will too.
One of my favourite features in Australian Backyard Naturalist is the project pages. These explain how to do all sorts of fascinating practical things - make a pit trap, or a small pond for frogs; how to catch and keep spiders, slugs and ant lions; a method for watching a spider eat his meal. Even kids who believe they don't enjoy reading will be rapt in these activities. Other features include pictures from the National Library of Australia, "In My Backyard" where Macinnis relates some of his own encounters with backyard wildlife, and "A closer look" where a more complicated topic is explored.
Australian Backyard Naturalist is a must for libraries everywhere, but what an excellent gift it would make for children who are fascinated by the creatures they encounter outside! Parents will appreciate that kids will enjoy the book for years - it will appeal to pre-schoolers because of the great sketches and photos; beginner readers will cope with text boxes, labels and lots of help on the more scholarly sections; and independent readers will relish it all. It's also a perfect book to share as a family - reading it aloud together would make a truly wonderful family project, both entertaining and educational.
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