Book Review: “The Nature Connection”

The crickets felt it was their duty

to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever.

Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year,

the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

—E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web


I’m starting this entry in mid-August outdoors in my garden. Here in New England, the hot and humid weather of July has given way to cool nights and mornings and the 70s during the day. It’s a welcome relief.

One of the pleasures of working at home is the option of abandoning my keyboard and computer, and sitting on the patio with pen and paper. No longer do I seek the shade under our magnificent birch tree — I can just don my hat and enjoy the sunshine. I’ve even given up weeding my perennial beds. I figure that if any plant is green, I’ll just let it stay and take care of it later when I begin my autumn cleanup.

As I gaze on the Black-Eyed Susans, Autumn Joy, Yellow Marigolds, White Balloon Flower, Cleome, Red Geraniums and cherry tomato plants, I’ve decided to write about a nature book. It is one of those serendipitous “gems” I promised to write more about—The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clair Walker Leslie.

I met Clare at the annual New England Independent Bookseller’s Association (NEIBA) in  Providence, RI. She was signing and giving out copies of her book as part of the Authors’ Night held the evening before the conference.  I always look forward to meeting authors and seeing which books are just pre-pub galleys or ones about to hit the bookstore shelves.

This book cover was bright and pleasing, the subject was of interest to me, and her publisher was Storey Publishing of North Adams, MA, a publisher I follow. Fortunately for me, there wasn’t a long line of other attendees waiting to see her book at that moment and I had a chance to talk with her at some length.

As soon as I picked up the book and perused its pages, I knew it would be a wonderful resource to help children to connect to each other and the Earth.  Even adults who  have read Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, and know their  children ought to go outdoors more frequently often need some inspiration and ideas to begin any kind of nature study. If so, start with this book.

It is just the right size for taking on a walk or tucking into a backpack and its design is practical and attractive. It’s divided  into twelve months with learning ideas for each one. Our summer may we winding down here in the northern hemisphere, but you can start anywhere in the year. Just open the front door, take this book, and go outdoors. You’ll find an adventure right in your neighborhood.

Clare looks beyond nature study, integrating many other subjects—math, language arts, other sciences—and provides activities for diverse conditions. It doesn’t matter if you live in an urban setting, small town or out in the country—there’s so much you can see, do and have fun learning.

The book’s design is also enhanced with Clare’s nature sketches. I learned from her that she didn’t grow up intending to be naturalist nor an artist nor even an author. But she loved to play in the woods and fields near her home outside Philadelphia and with more study, she became a self-taught naturalist.

After obtaining a B.A. in Art History from Carleton, she combined her love of nature studies with drawing, painting, teaching and now writing. Having kept a nature journal since 1978 to keep track of seasonal changes over the years, Clare includes plenty of easy-to-use Journal Worksheets in the book with more to download from Storey’s website.

Clare is a warm, engaging woman with so much love and curiosity for the world around us. It’s easy for me to be passionate about The Nature Connection and want to tell others about it. This is her 11th book and her other titles may delight you as well.

David Sobel, Director of Teacher Certification, Antioch University and an author says of Clare: “If I could choose one person to be my child’s Rachel Carsonesque grandmother, then I’d choose Clare Walker Leslie. But if Clare wasn’t available in person, then I’d want my grandchildren to have this book.”

A note about Storey: They are one of my favorite publishers and I have followed their success for years and particularly under the leadership of Pam Art. I’ll probably write a separate blog about them some day, but please go to their website to see the diversity and breadth of their titles. Make sure you look for their books when you visit your local independent bookstore.

Simplified Chinese editions are available of three of Clare’s titles through the internet: “Keeping a Nature Journal”(《笔记大自然》)”Drawn to Nature: Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie” (《新笔记大自然》),”The Nature Connection”(《我的自然笔记

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