Daily Archives: October 20, 2006

Karen recommends a children’s book on John Muir (and a bonus review/recommedation, too!)

I love nature and natural, wild environments.  I love nature’s restorative beauty, and its never-ending discoveries.  I seek out natural settings, loving to go where few have trod.  I am a constant student of all nature has to teach me, and it is one of my heart’s cries to be able to pass this down to my dear children.  However, I have absolutely mixed feelings about “environmentalism.”  I was raised to be a steward of nature, as in responsibly enjoying that what God has entrusted to us.  Environmentalism, as a movement, tends to, IMO, cross the path into nature-worship, where nature is perfect and anything to do with humans’ agendas are pure evil.  In a way, nature is perfect, because it was created by a perfect God.  And it is true that not all of mankind takes his responsibility of stewardship seriously.  The environment does need protecting, and I’m very glad for our nation’s system of National Forests and National Parks.  But…  because of its loaded implications, I do not call myself an “environmentalist.”

We got the above book from the library, and I read it to my 5yo, Wesley, today — actually, we read about half of it, then I had to tend to baby Audrey, so I finished reading the book as Wesley was down for a quiet time/nap and I nursed Audrey.

It is called John Muir — America’s First Environmentalist, written by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Stan Fellows.  I heartily encourage all of you who have any love of beauty and nature and art to run out and purchase (or, check out) this book.

It could be classified as a wordy picture book, or a colorful elementary-age biography, covering from Muir’s early childhood in Scotland to his death in 1914.

It is an absolutely lovely and interesting work for children ages about 7-8 to 10-12 to read on their own, or as a readaloud for any age.  I loved how the book highlighted Muir’s self-motivation, driving himself to study mathematics on his own, create numerous inventions, write extensively, and travel with scarcely a cent to his name, using hard work to finance his excursions (even though he was university-educated).  The illustrator’s watercolors are beautiful, covering every page of the book.

Potential drawbacks, depending on your beliefs:  The book does make reference to his harsh yet “religious” father, only slightly inferring negativity towards religion.  And, it makes reference to evolution (or perhaps, old Earth creationism).  And it mentions Muir heading to Canada when the Civil War broke out, so he could avoid fighting.  But, as with many things of value in any media, there are still some weeds to pull, or opportunities to teach differently. 

Now, I’m off to find more books illustrated by Stan Fellows.  🙂

Oh, p.s., if you’re like me, into nature but not an “environmentalist,” I recommend this book:  The Young Naturalist, an Usborne book.  It is geared towards kids ages 8-15 or so, with numerous projects and experiments, ranging from super-simple to complex build-your-own projects.  However, many of the illustrations show adults doing the projects, and it’s apparent that it was written as a labor of love by a grown-up.  😀 

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