Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: Keeping a Nature Journal

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth is a delightful, inspiring, and beautifully illustrated book for artists, journal keepers, naturalists, and scientists alike.

The book begins with an introduction to nature journaling - what it is and why someone would want to do it. As Leslie and Roth write, "Nature journaling is your path into the exploration of the natural world around you, and into your personal connection with it." They present nature journaling as a simple, rewarding activity that is accessible to everyone, yet they also stress the importance of practice to improve your writing and drawing skills, and of making the time to work in your journal.

The next chapter gets into the actual practice of keeping a nature journal. It describes the equipment you need - nothing more complicated than a blank book and some basic pens and pencils. Leslie and Roth then describe a basic format that can be used for any journal entry. This format is very useful for beginners, who might be intimidated by the blank page. They discuss basic drawing techniques and give suggestions on how to overcome your fear of drawing. The chapter finishes with specific suggestions on where to go and what to look for while journaling.

The third chapter presents a sampling of pages from various journal keepers, many of whom have very different styles. Both beginners and more advanced journal keepers will find much to inspire them here. Following this are four chapters that focus on journaling in the four seasons. Leslie and Roth write, "To get the most out of journaling, try to integrate the practice into your life, day to day and year to year." Interspersed throughout this section are exercises on drawing specific aspects of nature, such as leaves, trees, birds, and insects.

The next chapter gives more detailed information on drawing techniques. Its placement at the back of the book allows those who are more experienced in drawing to easily skip over this chapter if they wish. The last two chapters are about how to teach nature journaling to both children and adults and how to use nature journaling in schools. If you are a teacher, I am sure you would find these chapters of interest. The book ends with a lengthy list of suggested books to read and a list of some famous (and not-so-famous) naturalists and journalists throughout history.

Overall, Keeping a Nature Journal is an excellent book filled with practical information, inspiration, well-chosen illustrations, and quotes from a variety of naturalists, artists, and journal keepers. I recommend this book whether you want to expand your journaling style or if you want to become more attuned to your natural environment.

Note: Keeping a Nature Journal has also been published as Nature Journaling: Learning to Observe and Connect with the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth.

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