Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Long Ago and Today, Too

        Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!

     It seems appropriate to share this today after Mother Nature has packed such a wallop to places in our world these past weeks. I have spent much time in my years as a teacher out in nature with my students. I was fortunate that my school held the philosophy that "outside" was learning, and the more hours the better. Students kept field journals, learned to identify so many animals and plants, made ongoing observations, etc. Now I think that some of this work is due to the long ago work of Anna Comstock, a person I'm sorry to admit I've never heard of.

      Anna grew up loving the outdoors, curious about everything she observed, did not follow the norm of girls at that time, to play inside having tea parties. Instead of a more stately older life waiting to marry, Anna pushed ahead and went to Cornell University, again pursuing the study of natural sciences. She eventually did marry a man who also loved insects, "Harry" Comstock, and began to draw insects, the work which transformed into carvings, then engravings, celebrated as beautifully accurate. One large influence she later had was to be challenged by New York officials to see why so many children were leaving their farms, with little love for the land. Anna discovered that teachers were not teaching about nature at all, keeping children inside with no other kind of learning. She developed a nature-study program for teachers which it was controversial at first, but grew into a nation-wide program.  
      Suzanne Slade tells a basic and poetic story of Anna's life from youth to old age. She writes: "Through the years, Anna grew like a sunflower. So did her love of nature." That love of nature told by Suzanne Slade is illustrated by Jessica Lanan in different approaches to the pages, some double-spreads, some in circles, some replicating Anna's detailed insect drawings, and all in beautiful watercolor. I am excited to see that Jessica grew up in Colorado and lives nearby in Boulder.
       Using the book with students may be best accompanied with experiences out in nature, observations collected and noted in their own journals. There are many books available and here is one link from Project Learning Tree you may find helpful:  It also offers a short book list.
        After reading Anna Comstock's story, I am also reminded of Richard Louw's book, Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Evidently, there are those today who believe as Anna did, it is important for children to both experience and to be taught the natural sciences.


  1. Your post also made me think of the wonderful book Out of the Woods, which is about one child's up close and personal experience with nature. It would make an interesting pair with this book!

    1. What a great idea, Annette. I have the book, had forgotten about it. What an amazing story it is. Thanks!

  2. Suzanne Slade is a local author. That's funny the illustrator is local to you! I'll have to check this one out!

    1. That is fun to hear, Michele. It's a lovely book!


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