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Dianne Hayley and Pat Wishart
Illustrated by Jo-El Berg Sherwood Park (Alta.), Knee High Nature, 1989. 150pp, paper
$14.95, ISBN 0-9693743-1-3. CIP

Subject Headings:
Natural history-Alberta-Juvenile literature.
Nature study-Juvenile literature.
Autumn-Alberta-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13

Reviewed by Peter Croskery

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

As may be deduced from their titles, the Knee High Nature books use a seasonal approach for presenting wildlife information. Each book is approximately 150 pages, divided into a number of chapters (five to nine per book), each dealing with a specific topic. For example, Spring in Alberta includes chapters on pond life, frogs, toads and salamanders, butterflies and moths, green and growing things, hares and rabbits, and spring birds.

Within each chapter, the material is organized according to a standard format. First is background biological information at a very basic, nontechnical level. Then follows a section dealing with appropriate poems, songs and stories, followed by follow-up activities and a bibliography.

Having a book or manual that contains both the background information and the activities in the same source is a desirable feature. It's not necessary for the adult "leader" to have to seek alternate sources of information before proceeding with the activity.

The poems, songs and stories are not all original pieces but rather a collection of items that the authors have gleaned from a variety of sources. It appears that the follow-up activities contain some original material. Regardless of the originality of the material, it is the fit of the stories and activities to the topic that makes the books such useful and workable manuals.

The format of the books is excellent. With a coil binding, the books lie open at the page being used or can be wrapped around without worrying about splitting the binding. Scattered throughout are simple, uncluttered pen-and-ink sketches by Alberta artist Jo-EI Berg that illustrate "critters" and/or activities.

The books were designed to help an adult enjoy the outdoors with a child or children. Whether it's a parent "playing" with his or her own child or a teacher working with a group of children, there's something useful for every scenario.

If there is a criticism of the books some might suggest that lack of a curriculum tie-in or a keying of activities to age group is missing. However, this won't be a limitation for most adults used to working with youngsters.

The follow-up activities include a good mix of physical activities, craft style projects, and observation/collecting projects. All are most appropriate for elementary school aged children.

The book contains some degree of cross-reference rather than repetition. For example, in the Spring book's chapter on pond life, reference is made to the other animals that might be seen near a pond in spring but that are the subject of another chapter in another book (i.e., Moose see Winter in Alberta). Although this might be intended to encourage the reader to buy the other books in the set, each book is very much a self-sufficient, stand-alone unit.

Don't be misled by the Alberta reference in the sub-title. These books have lots of "good stuff for kids everywhere. I would strongly recommend these books to any adult who would like to share and explore the outdoors with children.

Peter Croskery, Grimsby, Ont
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