Saturday, July 12, 2008

Smithsonian's Backyard

Smithsonian's Backyard Series
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprints

As a child, I was always intrigued by the different wildlife that was lurking in my own backyard. We had a crabapple tree that deer frequented nearly every morning, eating up the tiny sour green apples. One summer I made a homemade bird feeder out of a 2-liter soda bottle and a wire clothes hanger and remember being amazed at all of the different birds and even squirrels who came by for a visit. Lifting up rocks, I would find potato bugs and earthworms squirming away, and there was no shortage of "wooly worms" on the sidewalks. Down by the creek near my house, we found crayfish, some sort of small mollusks, and even more diverse wildlife.

As an adult, I'm still intrigued by wildlife and always feel a little flutter in my belly when I see a beautiful fox, a deer, or even a rabbit munching on greens. Last summer, we had a not-so-welcome visitor, and I felt a different type of flutter in my stomach. A copperhead snake made its way from the reservoir near our house to our front porch.

When my daughter gets a little older and is a little more quiet and less clumsy, I want to take her exploring near our house to see what types of wildlife we can find. As you can imagine, I was very excited when Soundprints sent some of the titles from their Smithsonian's Backyard Series. This is a wonderful series of books that introduces children to the animals and insects that may be hanging out in their backyards and the backyards or other children who live in different parts of the country.

Each book not only gives lots of details about the featured animal or insect, but it also gives information about its habitat through the text and the beautifully-illustrated pictures. For example, here's how River Otter at Autumn Lane begins:

"After a long, snowy winter in Vermont, spring has finally arrived. Behind an old white farmhouse on Autumn Lane, runs a lazy stretch of river. At the river's edge, in a den between the roots of fallen trees, a river otter is nursing her three newborn cubs."

The illustrations take you a serene river scene, geese swimming on the misty river, a white farmhouse peeking through the trees, and a mama otter safely tucked away with her babies. The book tells more about river otter cubs, the mother's preparation for their arrival, her search for food under the green and rocky river, the swimming lessons she gives them when they get older, and more. At the end of the book and all others in the series is a page with more information about the otter, a glossary, and the names of all of the other wildlife pictured in the book.

This is a wonderful series of books that can help develop a child's appreciation for the wildlife that shares our living space, and it can introduce them to new animals they may have never seen or heard of.

Visit Soundprints' website for all titles and ordering information. Audiobooks and stuffed animals are also available.

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