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January 4, 2008 Edition

Earth Then and Now, by Fred Pearce

Our world is always changing, sometimes through forces of nature (landslides, volcanoes and floods, for instance) and sometimes through human intervention (urbanization and war). Amaze (and perhaps depress) yourself with images from this book, which contrast the same spots over various years. Marvel over what’s left of Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, which became a shadow of its former self on December 14, 1991 thanks to an avalanche. Aerial views of Bolivia’s second-largest city show the effects of a government-instigated move of tens of thousands of people from the highlands down to the fertile forests. And the before and after photos of the Luxor Temple in Egypt, once half-buried in sand, are a testament to the diligence of humans.

A Complete Guide to Arctic Wildlife, by Richard Sale.

Whether or not you’ve got plans to head north, this lovely and precise field guide to the arctic is a great read for curious naturalists. Starting with a fairly detailed overview of arctic geology, habitats, climate, and phenomena, it then gets down to business with nearly 300 pages of birds and another 100 pages of mammals. Each entry has a map showing the animal’s distribution and information on its habits, in addition to characteristics important for identification (including possible “confusion” species). Drawn maps and photos of each animal and its habitat give a sense of place and help distinguish similar species.

A Leaky Tent is a Piece of Paradise, edited by Bonnie Tsui

These twenty stories highlight the experiences had by young writers in the natural world, broadly speaking, since it includes a tennis court and a cemetery, as well as old, unmarked mountain trails. Whether the author is trying to work out teenage angst in a tent in his parents’ backyard, work through a fear of lightning when the place she’s chosen to live is full of it, or work in a Petersburg fish cannery, this is ultimately a lighthearted and fun collection of stories about the importance of having a connection to nature in one’s life.

Turtles: an Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making, by Carl J. Franklin

Beautiful close-ups of turtles and various bits of their anatomy will entice you to flip through this informative book meant for curious naturalists rather than pet owners. Those who get through the somewhat dense text will learn amazing things about these creatures which were in existence long before humans evolved. Some of their habits and practices are pretty surprising: there’s a species of turtle that practices “worm stomping” to harvest meals, and several others use their specially-shaped shells to funnel rain towards their mouths. Franklin gives an overview of turtle anatomy first, then information about their ecology and origins before diving in to the large variety of turtles in existence today.

Home Team Advantage, by Brooke de Lench

While mostly aimed at mothers of sports-active kids, fathers and coaches will find great information here as well. De Lench’s focus is on helping boys and girls of all ages have safe and fun experiences with organized sports. Zeroing in on topics such as keeping winning low-key, communicating with coaches and other parents, and getting organized to lessen the stress, the author writes from her experiences raising three boys, and adds anecdotes and case histories from her sports-mom website. She is solution-oriented, and even the grimmer chapters on preventing sports injuries and abuse of various types are filled with positive steps parents can take to protect their young athletes. An extensive bibliography rounds out this excellent manual.

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