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The Story Book of Science Review by Melissa Theberge

By Jean Henri Fabre
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

This collection is our family's new favorite read-aloud during outdoor time! Weaving together the inquisitive observations of children with the factual explanations of adulthood, the author captures the imagination while teaching about nature's wonders. It is, quite literally, a timeless classic.

Jean Henri Fabre was a teacher in France during the 19th century. He wrote numerous books, the most popular of which were translated into English. This 80-chapter soft-cover book is an unabridged 438-page re-publication of the original work from 1917, which appeals to my sentimental side as well as to my desire to find quality reading with rich vocabulary for my children to enjoy.

The opening chapters set the scene, inviting us to join three children on a visit to spend time with their uncle. During a story-telling time, the children become bored with fairy tales and "not true stories," as they call them. When Uncle Paul hears this, he closes his own personal reading book and engages the children on a "true story" adventure, noting that "truth . . . is the work of God."

Uncle Paul tells stories of animals, plant life, and all of nature, always within the context of something they are casually observing or experiencing during their time together, and often giving glory to God for His creation. Stories span the topics of insects, animals, trees, metals, cotton, storms, electricity, weather, seasons, fruit and pollen, earthquakes, pearls, the sea, honeybees, and more! Uncle Paul's casual scientific instruction varies widely, sometimes including details of the parts of plants, the legends and lore behind mushrooms, and even the danger of poisonous berries. The children's uncle has a wealth of knowledge, and the stories are woven together with conversations, observations, and lessons in the field. At times the stories are suspenseful, others are based on an informal experiment the children are conducting, and some are based on experiences (such as an earthquake) that happen during the children's time with Uncle Paul.

This book appeals to a wide range of ages and can be enjoyed as a read-aloud to the youngest naturalist and as a fun yet meaningful science supplement for older children. The suggested age for reading is nine, and this is likely due to the exquisite vocabulary and challenging sentence structure. Even so, it can be enjoyed with younger children if read aloud, because the author charms the young student into meaningful scientific learning without it ever seeming like schoolwork. In our home, it is used as a nature study companion, if the children can be patient enough to wait for our next outing! The Story Book of Science is truly a story--one that is as difficult to put down as an engaging novel.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2009