Looking for summer books? Shalaway offers outdoor reading choices


If the book buying bug bites you as summer approaches, here are some timely titles suitable for this time of year.

How to Raise a Wild Child: the Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature

How to Raise a Wild Child: the Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature by Scott D. Sampson (2015, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, $25) is a book whose time has come.

Parents and grandparents looking for ways to help kids break the bonds of computers, phones, and other electronic devices will find help here. Much more than an academic book on conservation education,

How to Raise a Wild Child offers many specific tips and activities that adults can use to help kids fall in love with nature.

Sampson is a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The gist of Sampson’s philosophy unfolds through a series of “secrets” he reveals throughout the book.

The number one secret for raising a wild child, for example, is “A deep connection with nature doesn’t arise only through periodic trips to national parks or other wilderness… even more important are abundant experiences in wild or semi-wild places, typically close to home.” To an inexperienced child even a suburban backyard represents wilderness.

Another of Sampson’s secrets is that, “Children will tend to value what you value, so start noticing nature yourself.”

This is so true. Even my 3-year old grandson is captivated by the plants and insects that grow in his mother’s garden.

Curious Critters — Marine

Curious Critters – Marine by David FitzSimmons (2015, Wild Iris Publishing, $16.95) is the author’s third in a series of picture books about animals that capture kids’ imaginations.

Curious Critters – Marine focuses on species found in or near the ocean. Some, such as lobsters and horseshoe crabs are familiar, and others like the candy stripe shrimp are wildly exotic. Photographic portraits of each featured species appear against white backgrounds. And the brief text that accompanies each species explains just enough to hook readers both young and old.

For example, among the facts readers learn:

  • Black sea bass migrate 400 miles each year.
  • Baby loggerhead sea turtles swim nonstop for two days after hatching to reach the safety of the open ocean.
  • And the giant Pacific octopus is the smartest invertebrate on the planet. In captivity they can be taught to solve puzzles, open jars, and navigate mazes.

The blend of spectacular photos and fascinating factoids make Curious Critters – Marine a perfect storybook for kids and a coffee table book for adults.

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy (2014, Timber Press, $39.95) combines the perspectives of a horticulturalist and landscape designer (Darke) and an entomologist and ecologist (Tallamy).

The collaboration capitalizes on Darke’s aesthetic sense and Tallamy’s understanding of ecosystem function to produce a book that enables readers to appreciate the value that wild plants and animals bring to any backyard landscape. In the preface Darke explains that the book is, “about how native plants can play essential roles in gardens designed for multiple purposes…”

He emphasizes, however, that gardens provide more than just beauty. They also serve as sunscreens to cool backyard spaces, they help recharge groundwater, and they provide habitat for wildlife.

The final section of the book is a useful collection of recommended plants from various regions of the country, complete with scientific names, common names, and landscape and ecological functions for each species.

Other great sources of information on backyard gardening are a series of handbooks published by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden dating back more than 25 years.

Titles I have found particularly helpful over the years include: The Environmental Gardener (1992); Gardening for Wildlife (1987); Native Perennials: North American Beauties (1996); Great Natives for Tough Places (2009); Gardening with Wildflowers & Native Plants (1989); Butterfly Gardens: Luring Nature’s Loveliest Pollinators to Your Yard (1995); Natural Insect Control: The Ecological Gardener’s Guide to Foiling Pests (1994); Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden (1996); Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens (2009); Gardening with Children (2011).


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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.



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