Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Wait Till it Gets Dark

The subtitle of this wonderful 2017 book is "A Kid's Guide to Exploring the Night," but parents, naturalists, camp counselors, and other adults will find it a captivating read; and it is full of activities designed to enthrall children of all ages. This book is a perfect vehicle for leaving no child indoors, no matter where you live.

Wife and husband authors Anita Sanchez and George Steele, with the help of illustrator John Himmelman, examine life after dark through the heightened senses of a variety of non-human animals. The writers invite the reader to become the eyes of an owl, ears of a frog, nose of a deer, and so forth, chapter by chapter. We are invited to embrace our own animal-ness and train our senses and faculties to become more acute. It is an ingenious strategy for any book about natural history.

The layout of the book is occasionally difficult in that one never knows whether to continue from one page to the next and then go back to read the "You Can Do It" activity box, or stay on the page and then pick up the storyline after reading about the activity. This minor drawback does nothing to compromise the quality of the text and illustrations; and there are few other bones to pick at all.

What does perplex me is the chapter "A Tongue Like a Gila Monster." Nowhere does it mention that this is a venomous lizard, not to be approached or handled. That this warning is absent when the text is discussing organs inside the mouth of the reptile strikes me as not just an oversight, but highly irresponsible.

One other thing I would appreciate clarification about is the chapter on the ability of many animals to perceive and utilize the Earth's magnetic field with "The Mysterious Sixth Sense." When mention is made that perhaps human beings may have a latent ability to relate to the magnetic field, this becomes "A Seventh Sense?" Considering that Homo sapiens is also an animal, I fail to see the distinction.

Again, these are rather minor quibbles considering that this is otherwise an excellent 60-pages of exciting natural history observation and exercises. The back matter talks about the need to preserve true darkness, general safety precautions when doing the activities, and citizen science projects that the whole family can participate in. There is a glossary (omits defining GPS, though), and valuable bibliography to conclude.

Wait Till it Gets Dark would make an outstanding holiday gift to any young naturalist in your life, or anyone who works with children in an outdoor setting. I can hardly wait for the next book by Sanchez and Steele, courtesy of muddy boots™, an imprint of Globe Pequot publishing.

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