Hello readers! My name is Gail Gleeson and I am an elementary school librarian in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. I have three children: a thirteen-year old daughter and twin sons who are eleven. My family just returned from the most amazing trip to California where we enjoyed so many astounding aspects of nature, from walking among ancient Sequoias in Yosemite Park, to viewing mountains and the San Francisco bay from the top of the Golden Gate Bridge to kayaking among sea otters, sea lions, and cormorants in Monterrey Bay. These experiences are a reminder to me that I need to incorporate more outdoor activities into my own daily life. We are diminished as humans if we are missing out on the sense of peace and curiosity inspired by the beautiful natural wonders of our planet.
All of this brings me to the first book that I would like to discuss for children and parents, and it is a book that is a perfect introduction for little ones to begin exploring nature. In the Tall, Tall Grass, by Denise Fleming brings young children to eye level with the creatures of the meadow. Although the cover illustration shows a young face peering into the grass, humans are absent from the illustrations on the inside pages of the book. The book begins with a caterpillar, crawling through a meadow and the simple words, “crunch, munch, caterpillars lunch.“
On subsequent pages, the caterpillar guides us in viewing a variety of insects, small mammals, reptiles and birds busily going about their day. The caterpillar is on each page, in a size proportionate to the other featured animal. The book contains teaching angles: it contains rhyming words, and it progresses from mid-day to nighttime. However, children will mainly delight in the brightly colored illustrations of the creatures that inhabit the grassy meadow. As the book ends, night has fallen and the fireflies are out. Fireflies speak of summertime and bring out the child in all of us. Sit outside with your child, watch the fireflies, and maybe catch a few!
In the Tall, Tall Grass provides an opportunity to introduce very young children to the idea that even when we are not noticing what animals are doing in nature, they are all around us, and we should slow down and pay attention. A parent might even begin to discuss the concept of an ecosystem with children at a very basic level, such as on the pages where toads zip their tongues out to catch flies. For parents who want their children to get out of the stroller or car seat and take a look around, sharing In the Tall, Tall Grass may present just the motivation needed.
[Blog Editor: See also the In the Tall, Tall Grass activity]
Denise Fleming has also written a similar book for exploring pond life, In the Small, Small Pond. On days when it is too hot and humid to explore a meadow, children can get close up to a pond or creek to see what is going on in that environment.
[Blog Editor: See also the In the Small, Small Pond activity]