Wonders of Nature
Jane Werner Watson with pictures by Eloise Wilkin
Golden Press, 1957
When I was little, two literary things hugely influenced my feelings toward nature. Golden Nature Guides and Eloise Wilkin. Golden Nature Guides put knowledge into tiny hands. Without having to find a parent or ask a question, I could run to my bookshelf and discover what type of butterfly I'd just spied or if a particular snake was poisonous. (Darn you Internet for spoiling the tactile fun!)
As for Ms. Wilkin, she drew nature as if it belonged to children. The intimacy of her drawings, always a small child going nose to nose with a caterpillar or handling a baby chick. Her images made nature accessible and cute and and touchable. Very different from the unhinged nature we obsessed over while watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (I mean who didn't have a childhood crush on Marlin Perkins or his hottie sidekick Stan Brock?), Wilkin's world was kind and delicate. It was an idealized backyard fantasy where ecosystems bloomed right before our eyes and the sense of wonder was commonplace. Watson's story here has always been my favorite of hers, begging little ones to open their eyes and see the miracle of life all around.
Isn't it a wonder that out in the pond smooth wiggly tadpoles lose their tales and grow legs and turn into frogs? And that fuzzy caterpillars weave silken cocoons around themselves and go to sleep, then wake up as pretty moths and butterflies. Isn't it a wonder that a little baby that couldn't walk or talk or feed itself... should grow up to be you?
I love how in the end after exploring all the animals and creatures, she wraps it back around, reminding us we are all the same. All part of this precious world. This one as a whole almost trumps the pair's other book, Birds, at our house... almost. You'll have to wrestle with the wee ornithologist around here on that one. I have two versions of this book, my tattered Big Golden from childhood and a Little Golden collected recently, but on a quick Google, I was happy to find that it's being reissued as a Little Golden Book in January. A whole new generation inspired by the whispering shift of a pussy willow branch or the twirl of a maple tree seed as it falls from the sky. Oh, to be five again. The wonder.
We Like Kindergarten
Wonders of Seasons
The Golden Bible