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Aldo Leopold's Shack (Nina's Story) Review by Krystin Corneilson

By Nancy Nye Hunt
Publisher: The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago
Distributor: The University of Chicago Press
1427 E. 60 th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 702-7898

We are homeschooling in a time of economic challenges, so positive stories of families who have been there and survived that--thrived, even--are most welcome. Aldo Leopold's Shack offers children (and adults) a peek into a can-do family in the throes of the Great Depression and the 1940s. Told from the perspective of Nina, the eldest daughter, this is the tale of how the Leopold family worked together to transform a dilapidated Wisconsin shack on useless terrain into a comfortable home and bountiful land.

Starting in 1935, naturalist Aldo Leopold, his wife, Estella, and their five children spent all of their free time restoring an abandoned farm in Sand County, Wisconsin, northwest of their Madison home. Nina's story records the events starting with the supper table conversation where her parents told the excited children about finding a farm. She then describes the improvements and memories they made, season by season. The text is richly enhanced by black and white as well as color photographs, recipes, maps, drawings, and journal entries. Nina Leopold herself shares her comments about the book as well. The extra resources at the end of the book include details of Aldo Leopold's concepts, the Leopold and Bergere family tree, and information on organizations formed by Aldo Leopold and his family.

Although the hard-covered Aldo Leopold's Shack is aimed at children ages eight and up, young and old will enjoy reading about the family adventures and the nature lessons offered. It could be used as a casual reading book, a read-aloud selection, or as part of a bigger nature unit study for readers from third grade up. Aldo Leopold became a famous naturalist and the scientific observations he recorded in his family's "Shack journals" were published as A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There in 1949. It is still a highly respected naturalist's treasure. Other books about Aldo Leopold and his work are also available.

We are a homeschooling farm family, so the sepia photograph of the "Shack" on the cover is what drew me to this book. In fact, the photographs throughout are beautiful and tell the tale all by themselves. There are pictures of how the land and dwelling looked before and after and now! After experiencing the spirit of adventure of the Leopolds, I am further inspired to teach our children even more about the land on which we live. Resourcefulness, respect, and appreciation for God's Creation are central to our daily lives.

Frankly, I had never heard of Aldo Leopold or his work, so the title did not mean much to me. However, I am now excited to know that there are other books to read and even actual places to visit where his formal work and his family's contributions to the study of nature are recorded and are living on, season after season.

Product Review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2011