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Comments for The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors

The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors: 02/15/14

cover art

The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors by Stepehen Moss offers to help children and parents rediscover the great outdoors. And while it does offer some beautifully illustrated suggestions, the book is not the be-all and end-all to juvenile outdoor activities you might be looking for.

My problem here two fold — the intended audience and the (unintentional?) smugness to the text. The book contains, not one, but two letters of introduction. The first is addressed to concerned parents and grandparents who worry about their children's Nature Deficit Disorder. The second is to children who might not know what to do out in nature (condescending, much?). The introduction also includes a trip down memory lane to the author's own suburban childhood and all the adventures he had between houses and the bit of scrub behind the houses.

With the audience question — the book as a "handbook" seems to offer a promise of helping any child with limited access to nature make the most of what little access there is. There are also different types of animals, birds, plants, and flowers lovingly rendered in full color. The book is further divided into things to do during different seasons.

Now stop and think for a moment what the different seasons mean where you live — they may not line up with the book. Now think about the types of flora and fauna around your home. Things just didn't seem to add up to me.

So I started keeping a tally of what things would work in the natural surrounds of the San Francisco East Bay. I also counted the number of represented animals, birds, flowers and trees. For each section, there was on average — one relevant, doable thing — or one plant, or one flower, or one bird, and a couple animals.

That got me thinking about other parts of North America. I looked for things relevant to kids growing up in desert areas, or tropical places, or urban areas (think New York City, San Francisco, etc.) and found a similar lack of on-topic, relevant (meaning possible) things to do.

So although I love the artistry of the line drawings and the water colors, I can not recommend this book with any sort of enthusiasm to anyone living in an area that doesn't match the author's own childhood. It is very Eastern Seaboard centric in its outlook, and more specifically, very upper middle class, suburban oriented. If you or the child you are thinking of doesn't fit that description, move on to another book.

Two stars

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