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Habitat Spy Review by Melissa Cummings

By Cynthia Kieber-King
Sylvan Dell Publishing
612 Johnnie Dodds, Suite A2
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

Binoculars are not something that we have yet had in our home, whether for schooling or playtime--but we are about to amend that situation! Habitat Spy has given us the opportunity to explore various habitats right from the comfort of our living room couch, inspiring us to take it outside. Not only does the book contain beautiful depictions of home grounds from the backyard to the beach to a cave to a desert, but the rhyming narrative on each page directs a sort of spy game, as my child seeks to point out each element and animal as quickly as I can read it. Some of the habitats are more familiar to us than others, and the unfamiliar places particularly have inspired to do some research. But we don't have to look far! In the back of Habitat Spy are four pages of activities and information and resources for our disposal. This section for "Creative Minds" encourages further discussion about each of the 13 North American habitats presented in the book. With lots of discussion questions and ideas for hands-on activities, this is a great way to incorporate Habitat Spy into the school room. On the publisher's website we were able to find links to more information and activities to spur us on in discussion and research.

The book is full of two-page spreads that are colorful, detailed, and incredibly accurate. They are inviting and fun, full of depth and richness. We have even been able to discuss things like perspective, as some things are smaller and some larger, from the perspective of the person behind the binoculars. Habitat Spy involves looking for similarities as well as differences. It encourages creativity and curiosity. It appeals to all ages and group sizes. The youngest of listeners will enjoy the lilting phrases and bright illustrations, while older listeners are invited to delve deeper by searching for the varying plants, birds, invertebrates, and mammals in each habitat. Everyone will enjoy hunting for certain plants or creatures, counting how many are pictured, and then taking these experiences and applying them in their own lives as they study more about the habitats in which they live.

Available in both paperback and hardcover, this book is worth the investment. It would generously aid a study of animals and environments--and it has reminded me that it's about time for me to invest in a pair of binoculars so that my son can go searching for plants, insects, and animals in environments near our own home.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2011