Discover Discover the Desert

Geek Culture

Image: Nomag PressImage: Nomag Press

Image: Nomad Press

Our world is full of many different types of ecosystems. We tend to be very familiar with the ones in which we live, and with the ones where we spend a great deal of time. But we’re often unfamiliar with many of the others. Since the world’s deserts are only a small part of what covers our globe, there are plenty of people who haven’t had first hand experience with them. I have, having lived for five years in the Sonoran desert of Arizona as a child, and also during frequent visits back there. I also currently live in an almost-desert, a high plateau that is just a couple of inches of rain over the amount that defines a desert. During certain times of the year, we go months at a time without rain. I’ve seen my share of dust devils, tumbleweeds, washes, cacti and desert creatures. Javelinas are regular visitors to our house. So I was a good choice to review Discover the Desert, written by our very own Kathy Ceceri. Kathy sent me a copy to review, knowing that I could read her book from a place of personal experience.

Discover the Desert: The Driest Place on Earth has a very colorful cover that really pulls you in. As you open the book, though, it’s almost as if you’ve entered the desert itself. The pages are monochrome in various shades of slightly reddish brown. That really gives an immersive experience, since most deserts aren’t quite as colorful as the well-watered areas of the globe. Deserts do have plenty of green and other colors, however. Experience Tucson in the spring and you’ll see what I mean. The colors just don’t tend to be as vibrant as in wet areas.

This book is part science, part history, part culture and part art, all combined into one really fun read. It is part of the Discover Your World series by Nomad Press that also includes Discover the Amazon, Discover the Oceans, Discover National Monuments: National Parks and Discover the Seven Wonders of the World. Also for this series, Kathy has written The Silk Road: Discover the World’s Most Famous Trade Route, which has a particularly gorgeous cover. It will be out sometime in the future.

Discover the Desert talks about many types of deserts all over the world. Not all deserts are hot, but they are all dry. And even the hot ones can get mighty cold when the sun goes down, since there is little moisture in the air and ground to hold onto the heat. The book describes what a desert is, how they are categorized, which plants and animals live in them, how deserts form, different desert rock formations and dune patterns and a little bit about the culture of people who live in the desert. Also covered is the importance of water, desert survival skills, how plants and animals adapt to different desert conditions and how people have adapted their ways to best live in those deserts. One of the most interesting and helpful chapters is Chapter 4: Water, the Most Important Resource. Learn what role water has in the desert and how much you’ll need to have to survive.

Throughout the book, there are many sidebars and boxes with more information on the chapter’s topic. “Words to Know” boxes are mini-glossaries defining the bolded words on that page. “Fascinating Fact” blurbs are scattered throughout, to give more information on related topics. While more than half of the text in the book gives you the chapters’ main information, these extra boxes of text and plenty of sidebars tackle interesting sub-topics.

There are twenty projects along the way to keep you involved with the desert, teaching about survival, art and science. In particular, learning how to capture moisture from plants or how to figure out which direction is north might come in handy at some point.

The book has a main glossary in the back followed by a resource section and then a detailed index. The web links listed in the resources are also on the book’s website, along with a sample activity.

Discover the Desert is a really good book, with lots of useful and interesting information. There is so much to learn about different kinds of deserts. This book would be useful to anyone who wants to learn more about deserts, but would be particularly helpful to families who like to do projects together. Learning something new with your child is incredibly rewarding.You’ll learn more about deserts than you probably think. There is so much to see and look at in the book, including the gorgeous, playful and detailed illustrations and desert cultural symbols, so take your time and soak it all in.

Discover the Desert costs $16.95, but, as usual, it is cheaper at Amazon. The age range for the book is 9-12. Kathy Ceceri also has another book coming out later this year called World Myths and Legends: 25 Projects You Can Build Yourself. You can find out about many of her endeavors at Crafts for Learning. Kathy also will be doing “Discover the Desert” author visits to libraries where kids can try some of the survival activities.

Wired: The book gives a great overview of deserts of the world, with plenty of specifics and important safety tips. You will come away with a much greater knowledge of what the world’s deserts are like, culturally, meteorologically and biologically. People tend to learn by doing, and the included activities and projects will be very memorable.

Tired: None that I can think of.

Note: It does actually rain in most kinds of deserts. Often the whole year’s moisture is gotten during just a few rain storms, so sometimes the storms can be violent or give heavy rain. So here’s a tip that wasn’t in the book, but is very important to know. If you end up in a flash flood, don’t try to outrun the water. Climb to higher ground. Also, don’t try to drive through seemingly shallow water running across the road. It may carry your car (and you) away.

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