The New Golden Treasury of Natural History
Bertha Morris Parker ~ Simon and Schuster, 1952
At my house, I like to keep the larger children's nature books on the coffee table so my son can look at them without having to heft the jumbo tomes off the shelf... plus they are all older and pretty fragile so it keeps them relatively safe from a crash-and-spine-smash scenario. Really, it seems like every person between the ages of 40 and 60 who walks in our house and sees The Golden Treasury of Natural History says, "Hey! I had that book when I was little." Then, they invariably spend the next 15 minutes flipping through the pages in amazement.
Since the boy was 16 months and became obsessed with animals, I've been collecting these vintage illustrated nature books... like the Golden Guides I had and this one that was one of the first vintage books I bought for my son. I've been particularly focused on them all leading up to our annual trip back to New York City and the boy's third jaunt to The American Museum of Natural History... and now that he is bird nut, the visit will be all the more targeted.
I can't recommend this treasury more, from dinosaurs to the stars, it has everything with gorgeous illustrations and commentary. If you want to inspire children to get back to nature, there is really no better way. I love DK books, as does the boy, but somehow I don't feel like photographs show the pure essence of nature in the same way these drawings do. Perhaps there is more mystery or intrigue, or maybe I'm just a stubborn old romantic, but honestly, aren't courtroom drawings always more filled with drama than photos of dour-faced convicts? Something about it sparks the imagination is such an incredible way.
A shiny pebble is no longer just something pretty to add to one's collection; it is a bit of one of the rock pages on which the earth has written its diary. A garden is not just a source of vegetables to eat and flowers to cut; it is also a collection of plant immigrants from many foreign lands, and the results of experiments in plant breeding. A star is not simply a twinkling point of light; it is a great sun, perhaps with planets much like our own earth traveling around it. In the same way, an ant is not merely a bothersome little insect; it is one of the few kinds of animals besides man that work together in an organized way.
I try and talk to my son about the world around him throughout the day, and any reinforcement I can give is a plus. I know this is a simplified explanation, but since the first time my son asked me at the gas station what I was feeding the car, he now loves to tell people that gasoline is made from rotten dinosaurs. He just thinks that's the must awesome thing in the whole world. And isn't it?