In the spirit of the season, Agate offers a rich list of recently published books that nurture our sense of wonder at nature.
For and about kids:
The Book of Amazing Trees by Nathalie Tordjman, for ages 6-9.
Jennifer Jubenville at The Bookstore at Fitgers, Duluth, says it explains everything about trees from their lifecycles to how they communicate with their neighbors. It’s beautifully illustrated and written in a language that children will understand and adults will appreciate—and probably learn something from as well! Includes activities such as multiple-choice quizzes, seek-and-find pages, and directions for figuring out a tree’s height.
Whale of Wonder by Marie-Paule Mahoney, for ages 4-8
From Blue Ink Review:
A fictionalized version of the story of the whale Tahlequah, who carried her dead daughter on her head for 17 days. In the book, her son asks questions that allow Tahlequah to explain how whales live, how they communicate, their relationship to humans, and their tight bonds with each other. The writing is simple yet lyrical and the book includes an afterword detailing the true story of Tahlequah. The art is vibrant, executed in a realistic, kid-friendly, full-color style.
Outdoor Kids in an Inside World: Getting Your Family Out of the House and Radically Engaged with Nature by Steven Rinella
From Publishers Weekly:
The author wants kids to “see nature eye-to-eye,” which involves parents leading by example and, if needed, starting small, such as with treks in the yard, the local park, or even on an apartment building’s balcony. He suggests a bevy of activities and stories of adventures with his own family. As useful as it is charming, this should go a long way toward convincing readers to get up, gather the family, and enjoy what nature has in store.
White Pine: The Natural and Human History of a Foundational American Tree by John Pastor
An expansive biography of a noble tree. Pastor guides us across a broad canvas, beginning with shifting continental plates, celebrating Thoreau’s early glimmerings about tree succession, tracking later researchers’ slow progress toward the science of ecology, and explaining the complex interactions of tree roots and mycorrhizae and why one can’t survive without the other. Along the way, we meet the young men of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the legendary Bud Heinselman, whose painstaking work showed the importance of wildfires to the survival of white pine, and John Rajala, a fourth-generation steward of a big chunk of northeastern Minnesota who carries on his father’s campaign to bring back the white pine. Pastor shows the interconnections, not just of the trees and their neighbors in the forest, but of human efforts to understand and support the key role played by the white pine in the forest ecosystem. It’s an absorbing read, easy to understand and full of wonder. To hear more from the author, go to MPR: https://tinyurl.com/5h5pae5z
Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth’s Extinct Worlds by Thomas Halliday
This book is an exploration of the Earth as it used to exist, a surprisingly emotional narrative about the persistence of life, the fragility of seemingly permanent ecosystems, and the scope of deep time, all of which have something to tell us about our current crisis.
A Tree a Day: 365 of the World’s Most Majestic Trees by Amy-Jane Beer
From Jennifer Jubenville at The Bookstore at Fitgers, Duluth:
It’s like a devotional shining a light on some of the most famous trees in the world, from the petrified forest in Arizona to the Tree of Hippocrates in Greece. Short readings weave botany, folklore, and history to introduce Earth’s amazing variety of trees, with a carefully curated illustration for each entry.
Elderflora: A Modern History of Ancient Trees by Jared Farmer
“[An] expansive global history of grand and venerable trees…Old trees have much to teach us: we would be wise to listen.
Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis by Annie Proulx
Pulitzer winner Proulx sounds the alarm on the place of Earth’s wetlands in the climate crisis. She says, “the history of wetlands is the history of their destruction.” Dire warnings are enriched by Proulx’s prose: the Earth’s peatlands “resemble a book of wallpaper samples, each with its own design and character… luxuriously diverse landscapes of colors we urban moderns never knew existed.” This resonant ode to a planet in peril is tough to forget.
Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge by Erica Gies
We usually turn to engineers to solve water problems, but this radical book suggests a better idea: figure out the answer to the question, what does water want? The book describes ancient and Indigenous methods that successfully mitigate floods and droughts, scourges that are ever-more-frequent with climate changes. Unlike fast fixes like concrete, these approaches work slowly, along with earth’s rhythms, absorbing floods, storing water for droughts, and feeding natural systems.
Looking for the Hidden Folk: How Iceland’s Elves Can Help Save the Earth by Nancy Marie Brown
“A fascinating inquiry into the Icelandic belief in elves. This compelling and highly readable book offers a thought-provoking examination of nature of belief itself, drawing compelling conclusions among humans, storytelling, and the environment.”
Walleye: A Beautiful Fish of the Dark by Paul Radomski
Ron Schara says, “If you’re an unabashed fan of walleye fishing (in Minnesota that’s almost every angler), Paul J. Radomski’s Walleye: A Beautiful Fish of the Dark is a tribute to one of America’s great gamefish. This is not a how-to-catch-’em manual. Rather, readers will learn about the life and times of walleyes and the intricacies of managing them in our lakes and rivers. Anglers who cherish walleye fishing on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs also will appreciate Radomski’s honest examination of management decisions made by state and tribal fish biologists that continue to keep Mille Lacs in the walleye doldrums.
A Natural Curiosity: The Story of the Bell Museum by Lansing Shepard, Don Luce, Barbara Coffin, and Gwen Schagrin
From Duluth Public Librarian Maureen Maloney:
Drawing on a wealth of materials unearthed during the museum’s move to its new building in 2018, the gorgeously illustrated book chronicles the remarkable discoveries, moments, and personalities that have made the Bell Museum what it is today. Among the stories of ornithologists, botanists, tycoons, and conservationists, readers will encounter the magnificent dioramas created by renowned artist Francis Lee Jaques, many specimens collected by University of Minnesota librarian Margaret Oldenburg during decades of trips to the Canadian Arctic to collect plant samples, and the dramatic accounts of the critical advances made by the museum in wildlife telemetry, conservation biology, and scientific learning—all in defense of our planet’s threatened biodiversity.
The Oak Papers by James Canton
A series of diary entries recounts the author’s observations of nature when he studies the mighty, ancient Honywood Oak on the Marks Hall Estate in England, recording the discoveries he makes in his research and his conversations with arborists, historians, artists, and others. He gains an understanding of the tree and the role of oaks in human culture and literature, from Homer’s Odysseus to D.H. Lawrence. He observes the many organisms that depend on the oak and grows to appreciate the important role the tree plays as kingpin of the ecosystem it sustains. He is spellbound by the abundant harvest of critters they are able to collect by stretching a sheet under the oak and shaking one of its limbs. He is carried aloft by an arboriculturist’s harness and observes the world from the oak’s point of view. But as he draws closer to his subject and his goal of acquiring oak knowledge, he finds that there is a transcendent aspect of the oak’s presence that goes beyond what can be found in libraries or even what words could express.
Lakes: Their Birth, Life, and Death by John Richard Saylor
John Richard Saylor shows us just how deep our connection to lakes runs in a revealing look at lifegiving bodies of water. Think all lakes are the same? Think again. Even the most ordinary of lakes experience a scientific drama not unlike the emotional drama of their human counterparts. In spite of the calm pastoral nature that we see in the small duck ponds or Lake Superior with the sailboat gliding across it in the distance, these everyday lakes experience an array of profound and wondrous processes, often hidden in plain sight. Whether it’s Lake Vostok, located more than two miles beneath the surface of Antarctica, whose water was last exposed to the atmosphere perhaps a million years ago; Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, the world’s deepest and oldest lake formed by a rift in the earth’s crust; or Lake Nyos, the so-called Killer Lake that exploded in 1986, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Along the way we learn all the many forms that lakes take–how they come to be and how they feed and support ecosystems–and what we stand to lose when lakes vanish.
That’s it for now! Please support your local independent booksellers!