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Underwater Nature Search.

Now here's something you don't see every day: children's books about nature study that come complete with their own magnifying glasses. Those curiosity-satisfying accessories are included in two new children's books, Rainforest Nature Search and Underwater Nature Search. Though Sarah (8) and Lucy 5) enjoyed handling the magnifyers as they pored over the pages, I'm not entirely sure if the tools are absolutely essential to enjoying the books.

The books are curious hybrids of Where's Waldo? and more conventional, straightforward nature books. Each features luscious spreads, loaded with visually-interesting details, many of which are too small to pick out readily with the naked eye--but are revealed when the hand lens is applied to the page, provided that the detective can find the proper focal distance that allows the difficult-to-see object to be revealed, while not losing it in a blur of tiny dots that make up the printed picture.

Both books have several spreads filled with factual information about the environments they're describing, intermingled with a number of puzzle spreads. Rainforest Nature Search includes lots of information on creatures found in the rainforest canopy, in mid-canopy, and near bodies of water. Underwater Nature Search has spreads on shallow waters, the coral reef, the Sargasso Sea, a harbor, the Izu Peninsula (japan), and the deep sea. I found that I liked the more educational spreads, while my children preferred the puzzle spreads. The pages are busy, since they are designed for hand-lens hide-and-seek, but they are well-organized.

I had some pedagogic questions about the puzzle spreads: in each book there is a spread of animals that "don't belong" in the environment the book is about: a dalmatian is depicted in the middle of the rain forest, a hippo and a penguin are shown under water at Izu Peninsula. The children are to use their hand lenses to spot these animals. To me, this went a little against logic and learning. Why have a puzzle filled with animals that "don't belong" in the middle of books that are trying to show children hundreds of animals that "do belong?"

Another quibble: though I'm far from an ichthyologist, I questioned whether all of the deep-sea fish shown on pages 20 and 21 of the undersea book would coexist at the same depth. Are flounder, giant squid and angler fish deep-sea neighbors? My uncertainty about that gave me a little bit of pause. (Editors note: WHOI biologist Jim Craddock suggests that this co-existence is, in fact possible, though "almost nobody" knows exactly where giant squid live, and there are many different kinds of flounder and |angler fish'). Also, the authors of the book are British. I wondered if some Britishisms might have been inadvertently left in by the US editors. For example, the flounder mentioned above is actually referred to in the text as a "plaice."

Nonetheless, the illustrations are really quite lovely, and hunting with the magnifying glass is a lot of fun. These books do give children a more-active-than-usual peek at two fascinating regions.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kovacs, Deborah
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Previous Article:Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.
Next Article:Rainforest Nature Search.

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