Jim Arnosky is a naturalist who began writing and illustrating his own children's books because of the hysteria the media created over Lyme disease and the subsequent negative impact on those wanting to spend time outdoors enjoying nature. He advises sensible precautions boots, hat, etc. and took to wearing a pith helmet.
Girls always seemed responsive to his nature books, so to attract boys he developed the Crinkleroot character, who also wears a pith helmet, thus giving a sense of adventure to his books. This series now numbers eleven, and the latest will focus on butterflies and moths. Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Trees (1992, Macmillan, Ages 4 to 10, $14.95) was one of the first "high end" picture books printed on recycled paper. Crinkleroot now has his own TV series, "Backyard Safari;" his mission is to introduce urban children to nature.
Jim also invented the phrase "wildlife watcher." His many sketching and drawing books are designed to help children understand how to draw and how nature has designed plants and animals. He is appalled when he finds books with bird feathers overlapping incorrectly. In one of his books, Jim explains how the wing does one thing when a bird goes up and another when it goes down, and he draws the feathers as they are in nature. Butterflies, for example, have beauty and a perfect symmetry. Drawing them required exacting detail. Moths, which are in the same family are also beautiful, but since they come out mostly at night, children don't get to see as much of their beauty.
In developing the illustrations for a new book, Rabbits and Raindrops (1997, Putnam, Ages 2 to 6, $15.95), he learned that raindrops are not tear shaped but perfect globes. Furthermore, when they cling to a surface, the raindrop contains an upside down view of the scene. Then there was the problem of showing falling rain. Getting everything correct required many hours of drawing and an ingenious use of strings of various thickness to create the background wash of falling rain. The perspective is through the eyes of five baby rabbits who are hiding under a hedge during a rain shower. Arnosky shows all of the other little creatures who populate this woodland world.
The terms "nature and environment" are not synonymous. While very much concerned about the environment, he emphasizes the positive and doesn't feel that it is right to saddle very young kids with worries about saving the earth. Jim strongly believes that these worries at too early an age will result in kids being turned off.
I had the pleasure in 2005 of serving on the AAAS Committee thst awarded the first SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books and Jim was among the winners. It was a wonderful day at the annual meeting in Washington DC where all of the award winners were present.
For more information visit Jim Arnosky at his own site.
All About Alligators
Beautiful watercolors depict the natural history of alligators. Each illustration accurately captures the alligator's habitat and the other animals and plants that share its watery realm. The text provides lots of information in a concise and understandable manner. Did you know that alligators have a transparent eyelid to protect their eyes underwater? A fascinating peek into the world of these modern-day dinosaurs. 1994, Scholastic, $15.95. Ages 4 to 10. Reviewer: Dr. Judy Rowen (Children's Literature).
Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, 1995; National Science Teachers Association; United States
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, September 1994; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal: Best Books, 1994; Cahners; United States
All About Deer
Written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Arnosky drew on many years of tracking, observing, and learning about deer before writing this comprehensive look at one of nature's most graceful animals. He has written several books about animals including All About Alligators and All About Owls. In his examination of deer, Arnosky poses and answers several common questions and questions that may not be so common. Readers will learn many facts about a variety of deer by reading the wonderfully written text complemented by informational illustrations. An easy to read book that could be used as an independent resource for readers of various abilities. Arnosky's love and respect for these charming animals is apparent throughout the book. 1996, Scholastic, Ages 4 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Susan Fournier
All About Owls
Written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Noted naturalist, author, and painter, Jim Arnosky, has created another fine addition to the "All About"...series of books. In this close look at owls, their habits, physiology, variety, and specialization, Arnosky captures the attention of both the casual reader and the information seeker. Captioned watercolor illustrations provide a colorful backdrop for the text which is specific enough to answer most reader's questions. It's a courteous look at one of Mother nature's creatures by a man who has obvious respect for all her work. 1995, Scholastic, Ages 4 to 8, $14.95. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
All About Frogs
Wonderfully illustrated, this child's introduction to frogs is a delight. All kinds of facts are presented in an artistic and memorable fashion. First, frogs are clearly and succinctly distinguished from their toad relatives. Then, representative samples of the more than one thousand species of frogs are illustrated and labeled, from a one-inch chorus frog to a six-inch bullfrog. Next follows the discussion and depiction of tree frogs, including colorful poisonous ones. There are several pages on the parts of the frog. In the mating call section, we see how vocal sacs produce distinctive sounds such as JUG-O-RUM for the bullfrog or GRUNT GRUNT for the pig frog. The metamorphosis of the amphibian from tadpole to frog is shown as the gill and tail are replaced by lungs and limbs. A surprising two-page spread shows what frogs eat--grubs, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies and other frogs! Next, there's a spread on black of many of the animals that hunt frogs day and night, followed by a sunshiny spread of the escaped frog from the dark page into a happy, lily-pad-filled pond. The naturalist author-illustrator weds a scientific knowledge of the precise makeup of these creatures with a sensitive appreciation of nature. 2002, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2003; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2003; H.W. Wilson; United States
The Children's Literature Choice List, 2002; Children's Literature; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
Garden State Children's Book Award, 2005; Nominee; Juvenile Non-Fiction; New Jersey
All About Turkeys
With the approach of fall and the Thanksgiving holiday, Arnosky's book offers some basic information to kids about these strange birds. They are really funny looking especially with a protrusion called a caruncle on their heads that changes color when the bird is agitated. Turkey tracks, feathers and other features are highlighted in Arnosky's excellent watercolors. He also informs us that wild turkeys are making a comeback, and that they now range all over the east and southwest down into Mexico. These facts and other will amuse and amaze and may lead to some interesting discussions at the Thanksgiving meal. Teachers may want to pair this book with The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (1998, Farrar, Ages 10 up, $16.00) a humorous story about herding turkeys that will make a great read aloud for the early elementary grades. 1998, Scholastic, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
All Night Near The Water
The premise of providing children a glimpse into nocturnal life around a lake is a good one, but in this case, execution doesn't do it justice. Children need to learn about the dangers that face wild fauna, but this little book doesn't measure up to the possibilities. The illustrations are uninspired and uninviting, and both art and text contain non sequiturs for children who do not have the luxury of an older co-reader to help them to understand whether the prominent bats pose a danger to ducklings, or the relationship between a proximate pike and a nervous mother duck, or whether one illustration represents lightning bugs or ants carrying egg yolks. Despite the deficiency of the illustrations, this book could provide the basis for an opportunity to explain about nature and fill in the many gaps left by the author. 1999 (orig. 1995), Puffin Books/Penguin Putnam Books, Ages 3 to 8, $5.99. Reviewer: Craig Lancto ISBN: 0-14-056211-7
What a wonderful idea-create your own ark and fill it with the animals you want to bring into the 21st century. Twelve animals are singled out to be part of Ark 2000. In very personal narrative, the author explains his relationship with the animals he is including in his ark. His selections include beavers, bison, alligators, crocodiles, cougars, black bears, deer, brook trout, osprey, manatees, whales and mountain gorillas. Some, like the beaver are animals that live close to his home in Vermont. Many of these animals are endangered, or like deer are numerous and need management. Mostly, Arnosky's Ark is a story of changing or disappearing habitats and the impact this has on species. Beautiful painted illustrations grace each page, and give each animal a real presence. A wonderful addition to any library. Note: the introduction expresses an optimistic attitude about concern for the Earth and it's creatures. 1999, National Geographic Society, Ages 4 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Kristin Harris
Beachcombing: Exploring the Seashore
While this is a helpful resource for the very young student, it is also a wonderful book for parents and caregivers to share with youngsters before, or during, a visit to the seashore. There are so many treasures to be found in the sand and the tidal basins, and beachcombing is a great activity to be enjoyed with kids. A two-page spread exhibits many types of shells and the author adds a warning to the collector that any inhabited shells should be returned to the water. Crabs, jellyfish, and shore birds are shown as well as special finds such as sea beans and whelk egg cases. Various types of coral are pictured and the chance of coming across a coconut washed in from a faraway place is presented as an interesting prospect. The book has a playful tone, reflecting a love of the beach and the illustrations will encourage the beachcomber in readers of all ages. A listing of books for further study is included. 2004, Dutton/Penguin, $15.99. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford (Children's Literature).
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Big Jim and the White-Legged Moose
Jim Arnosky has long since earned his place in the natural history hall of literary fame, so any book with his name on it deserves a close look. This book does not disappoint. It's the story, told in rhyme of a wildlife artist and his quest for a chance to sketch the big, reclusive, white legged moose. Mr. Arnosky has taken an actual event in his life and transformed it into a balladeer's dream. It's a nature song. It's a story poem. It's a lesson on expectations gone awry. And it's a story that people will want to listen to again and again. Accompanied here by humorous, full page illustrations by the author, this book will delight the usual picture book audience along with music teachers, teachers with a tall tale unit to teach, and readers who like their lessons delivered with a side order of humor. 1999, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, Morrow Junior Books, Ages 4 to 9, $16.00. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
Bring 'Em Back Alive! Capturing Wildlife on Home Video
Arnosky has produced a step-by-step guide on how to capture wildlife on video. The book is full of shots by the author to illustrate his points. Topics covered range from caring for your camcorder, using a tripod and telephoto lens, experimenting with natural light, to advice on how to capture shots of elusive animals. The book is accessible to anyone old enough to operate a personal camcorder. 1997, Little, Brown, Ages 10 up, $9.95. Reviewer: Karen Saxe
Bug hunting outdoors might seem a futile project during the winter. Not so, says Nathan Erwin, Manager of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History. "Native insects from summer are still around but usually in a different stage. They are probably eggs or pupae rather than adults that fly or swim." However, for those not choosing to venture out into the cold winter air to look for bugs, the home is still a great place to try bug watching in winter. Chances are there's at least one cricket in the basement and a spider tucked in some forgotten corner. No matter where your kids decide to hunt for bugs, this wildlife journal guides kids in choosing equipment, identifying bugs, recording findings and making sketches. There are lots of interesting facts scattered throughout and ample blank paper so youngsters can note their observations beside those of the naturalist-author. 1997, Random House, Ages 7 to 12, $7.99. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
Coyote Raid in Cactus Canyon
Into a peaceful desert canyon come four, ornery mischievous young coyotes "bringing trouble." They chase the cottontail rabbit into a thicket, bark at the cactus wren, frighten the quail and the antelope squirrel. Without any other creatures to bother, they begin to eye each other. As they snarl and snap, they roll atop a startled rattlesnake, who gets ready to strike. Unintimidated by their show of ferocity, the snake stands her ground until they slink away. Gradually peace returns to the inhabitants of the canyon. The simple tale offers Arnosky a chance to introduce the flora and fauna of the desert, which he does in double-page scenes from the perspective of the desert floor. Opaque watercolors produce sculptural forms, with many close-ups of the animals, plants, and rocks against a pink, pebbly ground. The thoughtful natural history is designed as an esthetic tableau, with the few computer-generated, dramatically-charged events contrasting with the on-going quiet of the desert. 2005, G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Young Readers Group, $15.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
Crinkleroot's Visit to Crinkle Cove
Naturalist Arnosky's state purpose with this book is "to provide children with a sense of place-a constant, familiar place to return to..." Crinkleroot has lost his friend, Sassafrass, a small orange snake. As he follows her trail through the cove, kids learn about the animals, plants, rocks and other things that make their home in the cove. Along the way, Crinkleroot asks questions and urges kids to be on the lookout for certain things during their own outdoor ventures. It is a slight text that will not overwhelm young kids, and is number twelve in the "Crinklroot" series. 1998, Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 8, $14.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
The Empty Lot
Dale H. Fife
Illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Harry Hale has owned an empty lot for years, and finally decides to sell it. Traveling a great distance from his office in the city to inspect his property before it sold, Harry discovers that it is not empty at all. First he meets the resident woodpecker, then a host of other birds. Gradually Harry becomes familiar with the myriad of wildlife that lives on his property and the thought of having a bulldozer come in the level the place becomes less and less appealing. Harry makes a big change in his plans. 1991, Sierra Club Books/Little, Brown, Ages 4 to 8, $14.95 and $6.95. Reviewer: Kristin R. Harris
Every Autumn Comes the Bear?
Very young kids will find this story about the big bear and how it gets ready for hibernation written at their level. The bear is big and powerful, nothing challenges him in his domain as he prowls and prepares for the onset of winter. The text is spare. It is the illustrations in beautiful watercolors that set the fall scene and really tell the story. It is a great choice for budding nature lovers. 1993, Putnam, Ages 2 to 6, $15.95 and $5.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Following the Coast
Are there snakes in coastal marshes? What is the legend of how wild ponies arrived on Assateague? So many questions are posed and answered in this most interesting book. This is a picture book for older readers and is about a fantastic trip from the Atlantic coast salt marshes along Florida's Banana River to Bombay Hook on the Delaware shore. What makes this book different from other travel books is the format; it is written in journal style. In the introduction, Arnosky instructs the readers to look long at the pages and guides them to, "let the words and pictures be your dream of someday--all grown up and on your own--happily, slowly, lazily following the coast." By doing this, the reader is absolutely pulled into each fascinating page filled with beauty, adventure, and information. The reader will spend a lot of time looking at the illustrations, as each page is well laid out. The illustrations will make the reader want to read the text. The one thing that should have been included was a map. This is an excellent book to use in language arts classes when teaching students how to keep a journal. 2004, HarperCollins Publishers, $15.99. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs (Children's Literature).
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2004; National Science Teachers Association/CBC; United States
I See Animals Hiding
Animals are clever, and that becomes apparent when Arnosky presents his renderings of animals and the way that they hide. Some moths, owls and rabbits blend into their surroundings either through their own natural coloring or by changing color to match a season. Other animals have perfected the ability to remain motionless, or to hide behind or in a ground hole or tree opening. Kids are challenged to find the animals hidden in the scenes. It is a lesson coupled with excellent watercolor illustrations of the plants and animals that will encourage children to become more observant of nature. 1995, Scholastic, Ages 3 to 8, $12.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
The mountain lion mother patiently cares for her rambunctious cubs. They crawl all over her, playing and wresting with each other. She is their source of food and comfort, and it is she who will eventually teach them how to survive in the wild. In this book, Arnosky turns his hand to the cat family, specifically American lions which are often known as cougars, pumas or panthers. While the text is limited, the drawings are captivating. They reveal the size of the little lions in relation to the mother, and her constant watchfulness is quite evident in pictures that fill each spread. 1998, Putnam, Ages 3 to 6, $15.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
A very clever little book, this counting drama offers more than may initially be apparent. A little mouse, not of the cute, cuddly variety, heads out from his hole. He jumps over a mushroom, one. He climbs over two hills. So his journey goes. Up stairs, across a river, etc., as we count along. He even gets quite disgusted when he slips into the water. The twist to this tale is the surprise at his destination, and the rapid retracing of his steps back to one, and home. A small child's book which will be well received with a concept that is more compelling than the art work. 1999, Clarion Books, Ages 2 to 5, $4.95. Reviewer: Kristin Harris
In this intriguing, large-format book, well-known nature observer, writer and illustrator, Jim Arnosky, shares essays and many black and white drawings from a journal that he kept in 1987, as winter turned into spring and early summer. These friendly, conversational glimpses into Arnosky's forested, hilly Vermont farm present a theme that has appeared in his other work, "that once you take the time to look, and realize that there is a world -- animal, vegetable and mineral -- in nearly every footprint, you begin to step more carefully." Artists and naturalists of all ages should be amused and inspired by his verbal and visual sketches about trying to save newborn lambs, appreciating spring wildflowers and observing the harrowing and comical mating of two snapping turtles, plus a variety of other activities from field, forest and pond. 1996, Lothrop, Ages 10 up, $18.00. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
Turtle in the Sea
What is the life of a turtle like? What types of dangers do turtles encounter every day in the sea? This book talks about the life of a turtle in colorful detail and wonderful images. The beautiful paintings and descriptive story teach natural history to young children. They will learn the dangers of being a turtle in the sea, how a turtle survives things such as a shark attack, being caught in a net, and surviving a storm at sea. Children will also see the beauty of the sea with the colorful fish, the coral, and the beautiful turtles. Soon-to-be marine biologists will enjoy learning about the life cycle of sea turtles. The book can be used in a science class or during a reading lesson for children interested in the ocean. 2002, G. P. Putnam's Sons, $15.99. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Nicole Peterson (Children's Literature).
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2003; H.W. Wilson; United States
Under the Wild Western Sky
Master of naturalistic art direct from nature, Arnosky takes us exploring the American West. As his wife photographed and he videotaped and sketched, they collected the materials to recreate their journey into the Sonoran Desert area and beyond. In addition to descriptions of the many different creatures and plants they encounter, such as cattle, cowboys, horses, buffalo, quail and hawks, even Native Americans, small sidebars add further information. The sense of wonder and appreciation of our heritage is clear throughout while the representational style also creates an aura of romance. Acrylic paints loaded on the brushes for the look of oils fill the double pages with portraits of animals and plants in appealing colors. Occasional soft pencil vignettes supply details which might prove distracting in the broader visions. Arnosky encourages the reader to "feel free to copy all the illustrations using your own favorite medium," to have "dreams become reality under the wild western sky" as theirs did. 2005, HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 6 to 9, $15.99 and $16.89. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Watching Desert Wildlife
This is a record in words and pictures of the journey Arnosky and his wife took through the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts of the America Southwest. Told in the first person, it is an invitation to observe and be awed by the incredible diversity of wildlife that call this dry landscape home. Roadrunners, birds of prey, lizards, rattlers and coral snakes, and hummingbirds-they are all here, and Arnosky's brush captures their many colors in splendid detail. 1998, National Geographic Society, Ages 6 to 10, $15.95. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
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