Each day, during our book basket time, we read a double-page spread from a beautifully illustrated nature book. I leave the book open on a bookstand or shelf for the rest of the day to allow the images to blend into our day. We also follow this approach for both poetry and art.
Currently, we are enjoying the stunning book Ireland’s Hidden Depths by Paul Kay. I bought it on sale for €10 directly from Sherkin Island Marine Station, who do a range of great Irish nature books. Their books work so well for Irish home educators, and are also very economical. They include An A to Z of Geology, Gráinne Gull visits the Seashore Nature & Activity Book and their Colouring & Guide Books to Irish Birds, Wild Flowers, Sea Life, Fossils, Butterflies & Moths and Creepy Crawlies. There are lots of copies of Ireland’s Hidden Depths in the Library.
You can see sample pages of Ireland’s Hidden Depths here. As the cover claims, we have definitely been experiencing Paul’s enthusiasm for the beautiful, intriguing and fascinating creatures that can be found in the shallow waters around Ireland’s coast. The large, glossy, detailed photographs are truly beautiful and have had mine fascinated. Equally, the writing on each page is concise but full of interesting details which keep my lot interested often emerging into conversations later in the day. The book works systematically through each of the different divisions of sea life. I love how this provides a broad overview of understanding of the different forms of life in our Irish waters.
Previous to this one we all enjoyed reading a page a day of the stunningly illustrated Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals by Aga Grandowicz and Rob Maguire (Amazon, Library, Book Depo, publisher: Gill Books), which has two-page spreads of 28 Irish animals with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations. This is definitely a living book with fun little anecdotes about the animals, not dry facts. Every page was a pleasure to see open on the shelf for the remainder of the day. See inside it in this video.
I think it is helpful to hear of books that haven’t worked for others too. The oversized book Naturama: Open Your Eyes to the Wonders of Irish Nature by Michael Fewer and Melissa Doran (Amazon) was not a success for us. I love the concept, but not the execution. The language was often so overly simplistic it made it challenging to read aloud. The pictures often did not support the text, for example, on the page below, an image showing the summer plumage compared to the winter coat would have made the page. Instead, there is what looks like a hastily done black line drawing. On the plus side, children aren’t likely to compare their nature book entries negatively to the images in this book. I took both Naturama and the Dr Hibernica Finch book out of the library, and subsequently purchased Dr Hibernica Finch for our home. Above and below are pages from each book showing a hedgehog for comparison.
We were gifted The Great Big Book of Irish Wildlife: Through the Seasons by Juanita Browne and Barry Reynolds (Amazon, Book Depo, Library). I think it more successfully goes through the seasons than Naturama. It does have an often jarring juxtapositioning of photographs and highly caricatured illustrations, but the information is varied. We didn’t use this as a page a day, but it may work for this purpose.
Not specific to Ireland, but in our library, we previously enjoyed DK’s The Wonders of Nature (Amazon, Book Depo, Library). This 224 page book goes through 13 rocks and minerals, then microscopic life, then plants and animals. Each page includes a small amount of interesting text, a full page photo and also some realistic colour pictures.
Also, at my son’s request, I bought The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures by Tom Jackson, illustrated by Tom Jackson (Amazon UK, Book Depo). This oversized book, filled with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, also has one animal for each of it’s 36 double-page spreads. He examined the turtle page and just loved it. After we enjoyed reading a page a day of this one, and decorating the shelf with it, I bought two others in the series: Animals and Reptiles & Amphibians, but we haven’t read through those yet.
Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to be reading and learning themselves. I haven’t read a lot of Irish nature books myself, but I did read and enjoy Blooming Marvellous: A Wildflower Hunter’s Year by Zoë Devlin (Amazon, Book Depo, Library). This entertaining and enlightening easy read is filled on every page with beautiful photographs of wildflowers, with a few landscapes and animals thrown in for good measure. It is perfect to pick up and read a few pages on a day, for the month you are currently in. Zoë’s book Wildflowers of Ireland Field Guide is on Maireen’s inspiring Guest Post: Nature Study – How Can I Teach What I Don’t Know?
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