Full disclosure time: When I was a kid – let’s say, like, 3rd-5th grade – I started a Bug Club at school. While the other kids played basketball or football or whatever it was that sporty kids did during recess, I was part of a group of about four nerdy kids who would run around with homemade butterfly nets. Seriously. We made ourselves T-shirts and everything.
We’d catch and examine anything unfortunate enough to get caught in our nets (usually moths and sluggish butterflies), and then we’d crack open my little vinyl-bound National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies – a small behemoth of a book. Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron. If you’ve ever owned one, you know what I mean. Those things were small behemoths. But my goodness, I loved that book.
I loved it because it had hundreds of pages of gorgeous photographs of every butterfly imaginable. And to a charter member of the Bug Club, that was a goldmine. But it was also WELL above my level. In 3rd and 4th grade, I really didn’t get much out of it beyond the photos.
Which is why I crack open these new National Geographic Kids Ultimate Explorer Field Guides, and I honestly think, “Where the heck were these when I was a kid?”
This is a brand-new series that “acts as a hands-on, interactive, pocket-size starting point for beginners learning about the natural world around them.” As you probably expect with National Geographic books, the first two titles – Birds and Rocks & Minerals – are both packed with amazing photos, descriptions, and interesting factoids. But these aren’t simple, old-fashioned guidebooks. Each page is also chock full of weird facts, “Try This!” activities, “bird nerd” or “rock hound” facts, and jokes (yes, jokes).
The birds book covers 175 different species and includes color-coded maps to show where each is found. The rocks book covers similar ground but for 184 different types of rocks and minerals. In the words of my budding naturalist daughter, “You should write that we [her bother and her] fight over the book because the rocks are so cool!”
Also new from National Geographic Kids, and a great way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, is The National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A. Centennial Edition. If you or your kids are fans of the outdoors or the NPS at all (and lord knows we are), then this book is just icing on the cake. Produced in partnership with the National Parks Trust, the book is packed with color photos, fascinating lists, fun facts, maps, cool things to do on long car rides, conservation tips, and more. This guide brings the historic structures, cultural artifacts, snow-capped mountains, amazing wildlife, and clear blue lakes that make up our national parks to life.
We took a copy with us on a recent trip to Florida, which included several days in the Everglades and several other NPS sites. I can honestly say, the book was a huge hit.
Kudos to National Geographic Kids for creating books that my kids love and bring out the kid in me. More please!
(Disclosure: GeekDad was provided was review copies of these books. All opinions remain our own.)