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In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Each day of the year I will post something here about nature. It may be any format, a photo, video, audio, sketch or entry from my nature journal. It could be a written piece. Each day I will connect to nature in some way and share it here by the end of that day. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to the RSS feed or be notified by email. See all the 365 Nature posts.

When my daughter was born I entered the world of children’s books. As a naturalist I gravitated towards books with a nature theme and I was pleasantly surprised at how many there are. Over the last four years we’ve read many, many picture books and quite a few have ended up on our shelves permanently. Recently I was looking at our library loan history to find a book I couldn’t remember the name of and saw that from February of 2015 to February of 2016, we’d checked out 400 books. Nearly all of those were picture books. I was shocked and amazed at how many books we were able to read in a single year. Through the library we discovered many favorites and near the top of our list are many Jan Brett books. We love to read Trouble With Trolls and The Mitten is one of my all-time favorites, but the Jan Brett book closest to my heart is Mossy.

The description of Mossy from the Jan Brett website:

Scoot has never seen a turtle as beautiful as Mossy. But as Mossy walks toward him, her amazing garden swaying back and forth on her shell, someone picks her up and puts her in a basket. Dr. Carolina has found the perfect exhibit for her museum.  She and her niece, Tory, take Mossy there, and a large glass-enclosed case becomes Mossy’s new home.  How she misses sitting on her rock by the waterfall.  But most of all, she misses Scoot. As more and more visitors come to admire Mossy, Tory realizes that Mossy is sad.  She is sure that Mossy wants to go home. How Mossy goes back to Scoot and how Dr. Carolina finds a way to keep the spirit of Mossy alive in the museum makes for a most satisfying and surprising ending.

There are several reasons I love this book and the art is among those reasons. Jan Brett’s art is wonderful, but it’s the details which I particularly enjoy. Like many of her books the pages are laid out with a central, framed panel, and two side panels. The framing around the panels and in the background are full of wonderful and relative details. For example on pages featuring the museum, stones and butterflies surround the panel while the pond pages have mushrooms around the edges. Jan Brett doesn’t illustrate generic nature, she draws specific species. The details are really wonderful.

The other aspect I really appreciate in Mossy is that the scientist is a woman and she has her niece helping her who eventually grows into a scientist herself. It’s still hard today to find books with women in important rolls, especially scientists.  Lastly I love the natural history museum aspect of this book and how it illustrates the importance of connecting kids to nature.

Jan Brett has a website full of activities related to her books, it’s well worth a look.


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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.


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