Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Practical Naturalist by Chris Packham

The Practical Naturalist contains information about the natural world around us. It features some introductory material (including a supply list for adventurers) and is then sectioned into habitats. Further breakdowns are used when needed. The book has hundreds of labelled photographs as well as plenty of text to describe aspects of the area. It’s designed to give readers a better understanding of nature and to get them involved in observing it more closely.

This is an absolutely gorgeous book that’s not just beautiful to look at, it’s informative as well. It’s nicely organized with plenty of stunning photographs. I especially love that each of the photographs is labelled. No looking at a photograph and saying “Nice, but what is it?” There’s an introduction to each habitat with broad panoramas giving the reader an idea of what the habitat looks like. It’s followed up by more information about the various regions and a close-up view of smaller items you might encounter in the habitat. The whole book is filled with everything in nature: animals, insects, birds, plants and much more.

The table of contents and the index make things easy to find. A real plus with a book like this. Also, there’s a two page glossary to define some of the terms used.

I really liked the activities that are scattered throughout the book: making sand trap to see who’s been visiting your yard after dark (page 55), bark rubbing of interesting trees (page 95), making a plaster cast of footprints (page 104) and sieving a mudflat for life (page 227). Both children and adults would enjoy these. We plan on making a sand trap because something quite large is knocking down our birdfeeders at night. I'd love to know who or what it is.

As I said above there are tons of great photographs. My favourites include:
- Arctic Fox (pages 236-237), which features a white fox walking in the snow. You can clearly see his black eyes and nose, but the rest of him blends in to the point he’s almost invisible.
- European Starlings at sunset (pages 72-73). I’m not a great fan of starlings because they travel in large noisy flocks and occasionally invade my backyard birdfeeders. However, this photograph, which features several thousand birds flying in a loose formation against a yellow, orange and red sunset, is awesome.

This book made me realize how vitally important each and every item in a habitat is. The forest is not just trees; the ocean is not just water; the desert isn’t just sand. There are many, many items in those areas that depend on each other for survival. It was all so fascinating. I realize now there so much to learn about my backyard and other corners of the world.

Speaking of my yard (which is part forest), this book was also helpful in identifying some plants and insects that I’ve encountered since moving here just over a year ago. I’m sure the book will be helpful in the future as I journey further away from my back door.

There is only one minor drawback in the book. Because it contains information about a lot of different things, the material on one particular item is not extensive. However, if it did contain comprehensive details about each thing, I would be able to lift the book, never mind open it and read it.

Favourite quotes:
Dedicated naturalists are careful, patient observers with an insatiable curiosity and a sense of wonder about the world. (from the Foreward)

Highly recommended. Perfect for nature lovers or anyone curious about the world around them.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the DK Canada Publishingwebsite.

For more information about the author, please visit Chris Packham’s website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Practical Naturalist by Chris Packham, DK Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9780756658991(paperback), 256p.

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