Maddeningly, I could not get my Fire to cooperate and let me write some kind of review yesterday.
Scientists in the Field Series
I've read two now, and on behalf of the parents of inquisitive children, let me say "Thank You! HMH Books for Young Readers, thank you so much for producing non-fiction books for children that have actual content. Mere words cannot express my gratitude. Here, take all my money and produce more of these fine volumes."
I can't be the only adult to rend my garments and gnash my teeth and having to read aloud the one hundredth book on say, pandas, that the child has managed to find, and that contains several lovely pictures and not enough facts or even theories to fill a photo caption. Three year olds may lack context, but they aren't stupid. Nor are they afraid of big words. Everyone has met the equivalent of the child who knows the correct names and pronunciations (I always had a hard time with these, the stress is never where I expect it to be) of every dinosaur ever cataloged. All that brainspace, and nothing to fill it up. But not this series. These books, bless 'em,these books tell the reader so much. This one gives a bit of personal history of the lead researcher on the project, what he studied in college, what kinds of jobs and graduate school lead to him being in expert on the snow leopards of Mongolia and how to count them, despite being one of the most difficult animals to locate in the wild.
There's a bit of background on the political and cultural history of Mongolia, a bit of the climate and ecology of the Gobi. there's a bit on language, on the practicality of gers (Mongolian yurts), and the popularity of the color orange in the painting of doors, which with the frames can be popped into the ger as it is set up. there's information on the physical demands of this particular field work, on the challenges of feeding a vegetarian writer in a region whose diet is almost entirely meat and dairy.
And then, of course, there is the science. In order to save an endangered species you have to be able to estimate the population and gauge the trend in population after an intervention. Tracking animals with radio collars is helpful, but first you have to safely capture the animals, and these big kitties are so perfectly camouflaged it is possible to be within two feet of one with a tracking collar and still not see it.
I'll stop now. I think I've made it clear how enjoyable and informative the books in this series are. I haven't managed to talk anyone in the family into starting either of these yet, but my ceaseless yammering will wear down their resistance. Perhaps you are not a fan of books for younger readers, or you're not interested in the science of [insert fascinating topic here]. Even so, I ask you to keep them in mind. Make sure the youngest people of your acquaintance have a copy that suits their particular interests. Keep them in mind as an introduction to a topic that is more entertaining and encompassing than the average Wiki, but short enough to read in a couple of hours. Or just check one out of the library to look at the pretty pictures (the photography meets the same high standards as the text, and the back matter) and read the captions, that'll teach you enough to sound well informed at the next cocktail party [I've never actually attended a cocktail party, possibly they do not exist outside of fiction. Feel free to substitute the making-conversation-with-strangers-or-nearly scenario that works best for you.]
If you aren't in the habit of reading nonfiction for children, but you've read this gushing review anyway, I thank you. If you didn't read the review, but somehow found this bit at the end, I'll put it in this perspective: if I graded books on a scale, all the others would have to be marked down from five stars to one.