Monday, May 2, 2011

Mix N' Match Monday: Jeff Corwin

It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted anything, it seems that good habits are hard to keep up and bad habits are easy to keep going.  But with this post I hope to get back to a regular schedule, despite the stresses that pile up at the end of every school year. Today, I will be highlighting books by or about the TV naturalist Jeff Corwin. I'll start with the fiction series.

Junior Explorer Series
by Jeff Corwin
Puffin Books, 2009.
Grades 2-4
Reviewed from personal copies.

This new series follows the travels and nature discoveries of Benjamin and Lucy Baxter. In book one, Benjamin and Lucy travel to New York City to visit their cousin Gabe.  While touring the city, Benjamin and Lucy show Gabe a side of New York that he has never noticed before, revealing that the natural world is never to far away, even in an urban environment. 


Book two finds Benjamin and Lucy traveling to Alaska with their mother, a biologist, and father, an ecologist.  While their mother conducts some research, Benjamin and Lucy begin to discover some of the wildlife and habitat that make Alaska so unique.  They experience what it's like to see a brown bear cub and bald eagle in the wild.  They also get to see a glacier up close. 

Book three sends Benjamin and Lucy and their cousin Gabe off camping in the southwest where they experience the unpredictability of weather and wildlife.  After a rough start to their vacation, involving a scorpion and getting rained out. Benjamin, Lucy, and Gabe find petroglyphs, a Gila monster, and white lizards making their trip to New Mexico well worth the effort.

These books are fun, light reads, perfect for students fascinated with the natural world.  Corwin does a nice job of seamlessly integrating information about each of the environments the kids visit into the story, allowing the reader to experience the excitement of discovering things on one's own.  The author's passion for the natural world shines through and urges the reader to a greater appreciation of the natural world.

Jeff Corwin: A Wild Life
by Jeff Corwin
Puffin Books, 2009.
Grades 2-4
Reviewed from personal copy.

Jeff's passion for the natural world developed at a young age.  At the age of six he discovered snakes, scaring his family when he came into the house with a garter snake's teeth sunk into his arm. He didn't want to let it go for fear he would never see it again.  He's had a special affinity for snakes ever since.  He started studying nature both in and out side of the house.  He put aquariums all over his bedroom so he could study the critters he brought home.  But like all of us, Jeff had his struggles too, school was not easy nor did he feel he really fit in with the other kids, being overweight. In high school he discovered theater, from which his television career developed.

With so many biographies written to be used for reports, it's very refreshing to find one that provides a fun and entertaining look at its subject. This book is very readable and the photographs included provide a glimpse of some of the adventures Jeff has been on (my favorite is the picture of him 'sleeping' next to a rhino.) Highly recommended, especially for students who think biographies have to be boring and about dead people.

Animals and Habitats of the United States
by Jeff Corwin
Puffin Books, 2009.
Grades 2 and up
Reviewed from personal copy.

And last, but not least, we have this book about the wildlife and habitats of four different ecosystems of the United States.  The author starts by explaining what an ecosystem is (a house where all the parts work together) in a very straightforward way. I get tired sometimes of books that use a lot of scientific jargon, but Corwin's books are very readable and easy to understand. The four ecosystems covered are Yellowstone, Monterey Bay, The Sonoran Desert, and The Everglades.

In each chapter, the reader is provided with descriptions of both the habitat and some of the wildlife that live there.  Corwin does an excellent job of showing the reader how the different plants and animals each contribute to the uniqueness of the habitat.  Not only is this book easy to read but the attractive layout and photographs add a lot to the overall package.  Highly recommended.

These books would be great to use with kids, in a classroom or out.  In addition to the fascinating information about the natural world, they provide a glimpse into what it's like to live your dream and follow your passion.  It's easy to forget sometimes why we do some of the things we do. Enjoy!

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