National Geographic Prehistoric Mammals

Tiny and giant horses, big sloths and other amazing animals star in this nonfiction book.

Prehistoric mammals are always amazing to me, and I think the reason why is because we never learned about them in school. The only prehistoric animals I remember ever studying—however briefly—were dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers, and perhaps mammoths. Honestly, I think much of this “studying” was autodidactic from my own library or the Science Center and had nothing to do with school anyway, but it still never really included many mammals.

So when I learned about the giant tree sloth and the enormous rhinoceros who used to inhabit the earth, you can bet I was both stunned and riveted. If you want to check out a really cool guide to such creatures and dozens of others, check out National Geographic Prehistoric Mammals. This full-color guide presents an exciting peek into the world as it was once known—by humanoids and non-humanoid creatures!

You’ll find stunning renditions of what we assume creatures looked like according to their fossils and other clues, but you’ll also get to see actual bones and complete skeletons, as well as photos of these creatures’ descendants and relatives.  This is particularly interesting to children as it provides a connection between this ancient world and their own.

Other amazing sections in the book include the evolutionary family tree of humans—which my daughter was fascinated by—and a few pages about some reptiles who were mammal-like, and became the direct ancestors of some of the mammals that we know today. How did these creatures cross classes? Of the mammals that exist today, which once had reptilian DNA? And besides the mammoth, what other elephant-like beasts roamed the earth—and which was the biggest? You’ll have to check out this book to find out!

In addition to individual profile pages of dozens of interesting creatures, you will find full two-page spreads of full color illustrations of how these creatures might have interacted with one another. For example, one spread depicts a pig-like animal growling ferociously at a pair of fox-like dogs; Another shows Macrauchenia (which look like horses or camels with elephant seal-like noses) fleeing from Smilodon (tiger-like predators). These are my daughter’s favorite pages of the book overall.

If you have animal, dinosaur, or history lovers in the house, this book is a must-have for your library. If not for reports and research, you’ll definitely return to it just for the fun of it over and over again.


Swirl by Swirl: Spirals In Nature

Nature is never more wondrous than when you’re a child and you are seeing everything for the first time. You begin seeing familiar shapes in the world around you and revel in the majesty of Mother nature.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals In Nature shows children how spirals are plentiful and common in nature and in places that you never would consider. Everyone knows that a snail’s shell is spiral, but did you know that there are spirals in your ear and in rushing rivers?

Joyce Sidman, a Caldecott medalist and Newberry Honor-winning poet, delves into the wonders of nature by showing children how spirals make up much of the natural landscape. It’s not just in animals that we see spirals, but in weather, space and the rocks in the river. Children will be amazed when they realize such a unique shape is an integral part of nature.

Children see squares, circles and rectangles every day from the shape of houses to the signs along the road, but in an industrial society spirals are not a common occurrence. Modern society prefers their shapes to be clean and straight with crisp lines. Mother Nature is not so technical. She understands that in order for a world to have uniqueness, then you need diversity of shape.

My children are big fans of this book and have asked me to read it to them over and over again. It’s nice to see their eyes light up when I read about elephants tusks and spiraling galaxies.


America's Neighborhood Bats

There are few nocturnal creatures that can create more fear and panic than the bat. For centuries, they have been vilified as bloodsucking vermin and demonized by modern vampire literature. When people think of bats, they see the giant vampire bats of the jungle and expect all bats to be that way.


In truth, bats are incredibly beneficial to the environment and your home if you would just give them a chance. Merlin Tuttle's America's Neighborhood Bats: Understanding and Learning to Live in harmony With Them gives you the honest truth of these amazing creatures and how your understanding of them is flawed.


Contrary to popular belief, common neighborhood bats don't survive on the blood of the innocent, but rather those pesky insects you complain about all the time. If you are worried about them coming and nesting in your attic or home, then the book teaches you how to build a bat house. The house can provide a living space for the bats, so they can eat all the insects you hate and still stay in your neighborhood.


Far too many people call the exterminator as soon as they see a bat, but by treating them with respect and understanding how they live, you can both survive peaceably. The belief of bats as pests is leading to threats to their survival and if things don't change, they may no longer be part of your neighborhood ecosystem. That would lead to a massive insect increase and potentially an increase in insect-borne diseases.

Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature

Life’s hard. We all know it. Few people live the fairy tale lives of the rich and famous where they never have to decide between paying the electric or the gas bill. When Kathleen Moore found herself lost in her own life, trying to figure out the untimely death of several loved ones, she decided to back to where it all began.

She started going back to nature and visiting some of the most spiritual and pristine forest, grottos and islands to gain ground in her life. The goal wasn’t only to travel, but also see and experience all that wonder the world had to offer from tracking otters to wading with migrating salmon.

Through nature, she was able to make sense of the world and her own life. The book chronicles her journey, what she found and how it impacted her. We can’t all go and see the world, but we can learn to appreciate the world we do have access to.

Moore visited national parks and tropical island, but we can find answers in the forest down the road or among the caves of the local state park. Nature is all around us and nothing is stopping you from taking a break and seeing the world for what it truly is. You’ll be surprised how tranquil life can become if you just take the time to see and experience nature.

The chaos of life doesn’t seem so bad if you can experience it at its most basic.

Animals: The Definitive Visual Guide

Children; and let’s face it, adults too; are visual creatures and will learn and remember far more from pictures than they ever would from words. Animals: The Definitive Visual Guide shows the world’s diverse animal population with colorful photos and wondrous descriptions that will keep children wanting more.

It’s not often that children read a book and immediately want to learn more about the subject, but my child read some of this book and then asked me to look up more information about the animals on the Internet.

If you have someone in your family that has an interest in animals, then you need to get this book. The pictures are visually stunning. Each animal featured has snippets of information to accompany the photos. There is information in this book that not even the parents will know about. I know, I learned a lot from the book as well.

If the photos and information wasn’t enough, the book was created with the help of the Smithsonian. You know that anything with the Smithsonian’s name on it is quality. You can’t get a more reputable source than the nation’s leading museum.

If you have a child that loves animals or need a colorful book for your coffee table, then Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide is the book for you. You’ll be amazed at the crazy colors of the baboon and be amazed to learn surprising facts about African elephants and other animals. The world is filled with animals and this book lets you catch a glimpse.

Make Your Own Nature Journal

How many of you out there like to walk the woods and take note of the world around you? Are there specific area of nature that you enjoy such as plants or animals? Do you have a knack for drawing, but just can't decide on what you want to draw.


Put your pen to paper and create your own nature journal. This is a fun way to examine the world around you and create a lasting memento of your travels. When you see a plant or animal that you like, sit down and try and sketch it. It might be a little difficult if it is a larger more skittish animal like a deer or a raccoon, but you can be pretty safe around insects and birds.


You should take your time and really catch the nuances of each subject. When your done, do some reading and jot down some cool facts about then animal or label the different parts of the flower or other plant.


There is a cool sense of accomplishment in creating your own nature journals. You can read about the flowers and spend money on books, but chronicling your own observations would mean so much more to you. You can create different journals on different subjects such as flowers, herbs, leaves, trees, etc. Imagine the look on your children's face when they come across them and want to learn more about it. Your own nature journal can be a rewarding past time not only for you, but also your family.

Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills

Have you ever toyed with the notion of chucking all the trappings of modern society and getting back to nature...completely? Or have you ever found yourself wondering how our more primitive ancestors could get by with all the modern conveniences we embrace in our everyday living? I have. There's just something fascinating about living on what's available around you and getting back to a simple, primitive lifestyle, far from what I've always known.


That's why when I found a copy of John and Geri McPherson's book Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness at a flea market, I couldn't resist picking it up. First, it's important to mention that if you're looking for a funny how-to, this is far from it. The McPhersons have put together this book with the intent of sharing the true essence of basic human survival, sans any type of modern convenience or intervention.

While it's not the type of book I'd read cover to cover for entertainment, it is a compelling, and quite fascinating, resource outlining everything you need to know to truly survive the wilderness. It's amazing how thorough and detailed every section is, from how to tan hides with brains to baking over a campfire. You'll learn how to trap animals and what insects you can count on to nourish you.


If you're into survival guides, you have to get Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills. It's an outstanding resource among the genre and really gives you an appreciation for how simple and complex living without can truly be.

Tornado!: The Story Behind These Twisting, Turning, Spinning, and Spiraling Storms

Living in the Midwest, tornados have become a common occurrence with a number of funnel clouds being spotted every year. Rarely, do we get a touchdown in a populated area, but the phenomenon fascinated many young people.


Tornados start as mere severe thunderstorms, but when the clouds begin to rotate, they can become one of nature most devastating disasters with winds reaching speeds well in excess of 100 miles per hour. When one of these massive funnels come in contact with a home, it can make it look s if it simply exploded while leaving the house next door completely intact.


Tornado!: The Story Behind These Twisting, Turning, Spinning, and Spiraling Storms by National Geographic Kids provides children with an understanding of these potentially deadly storms. It goes behind the hype and media to describe the science behind the storms. They learn about the mechanism that creates the tornado and the conditions necessary to create the storms. You need more than just a severe storm, there are number of conditions that all need to happen to create a tornado.


As someone who has lived through more than one tornado and seen the devastation they can create, it's important that children and adults have a resource to make sense of it all. A tornado is not something to be taken lightly and a understanding how it works makes you respect what it is. If you ever find yourself in a tornado, having this knowledge may end up saving your life.

Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution

The world is a constantly changing place and humans are doing their best to turn it from a beautiful natural space to a mechanized monstrosity at the cost of the animals and plants of the world. You can't read the paper without hearing about a new species on the brink of extinction or some criminal illegally hunting endangered species.


If you are like me, then you felt that there is little hope for the animals of the world. Humans will destroy without abandon and kill anything in their path for the sake of progress and money. Then I read, Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution by Caroline Fraser. For the first time, I had hope that maybe we're not screwing it all up after all. The book outlines the efforts and plans to repopulate the wild and reclaim natural habitats.


It was quite an inspiration to me to hear about how they are taking back the lands that once belonged to the animals and saving a few precious species on the brink of extinction. There are still plenty of businesses and companies bent on seemingly destroying all life on Earth, but there are people out there fighting for the animals and the plants.


They are a small group, but they are growing. This book should serve as an inspiration to all and give them the incentive to get involved in some way. It may be as simple as sending in a few dollars or volunteering at an animals shelter. This book will restore you faith in humanity and show you that there is hope and we are it.

National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography

Nature is so inspiring. Between the brilliant colors of flowers and animals and the dazzling light show put on by the sun, moon and stars, there isn't any shortage of potential for truly breathtaking photographic art. If you like taking pictures of the amazing world around us, you know that sometimes it's hard to capture the true essence of your natural subject, be it flora or fauna. There are times when you may get lucky, but you can take literally a hundred pictures before you get one that really tells the story the way you want it to.

The beauty part is that with digital photography you can get a good idea of how you're doing while you're at the location. Before digital, you could snap a couple hundred pictures without knowing if any turned out the way you'd hoped. Then, you'd have to wait for processing before you could see the final products of your efforts. It was costly and often frustrating. Now, with digital photography the wait time is minimized and you don't have to spend money developing pictures that you don't want. The trouble is that using digital cameras requires different techniques to get the most out of your work.

Picking up a full-spectrum guide to digital natural photography can save you some frustration by showing you tricks that will help you get the best pictures for various subjects, from sunsets to reptiles and everything in between. I suggest taking a look at Tim Fitzharris's National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography: Digital Edition. This book is a great guide that you can use as a resource for planning from home and take with you when you go out to take pictures.

Nature photography can be a very satisfying hobby, and with digital cameras it's much less expensive than with traditional film. Still, getting the best pictures in the great outdoors takes skill. Having a great guide can help you snap beautiful photos that you'll love to show off or enjoy from