• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Summer fun

Just in time for Summer, and for Alice in Wonderland fans — the new book, Everything Alice: The Wonderland Book of Makes by Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech, published, not surprisingly, by Quadrille Publishing,

At last the Mock Turtle recovered his voice, and, with tears running down his cheeks, he went on again:

“You may not have lived much under the sea—” (“I haven’t,” said Alice)—”and perhaps you were never even introduced to a lobster—” (Alice began to say, “I once tasted—” but checked herself hastily, and said, “No, never”) “—so you can have no idea what a delightful thing a Lobster-Quadrille is!”

Ms. Read-Baldrey is a stylist and illustrator and Ms. Leech is an artist and designer, so the crafts are not the homemade sort. The women met working at the UK craft superstore HobbyCraft. From their own description of the book,

Welcome to Wonderland and the magical world of Everything Alice, where nothing is quite as it seems. Alice’s fantastical adventures in wonderland provide the inspiration for this book which contains a charming and original collection of 50 craft & cookery makes, ranging from a hand-sewn Mr Dandy White Rabbit toy,  to the stylish Time for Tea Charm Bracelet and pom pom-decorated Red King’s Slippers to papercraft Tea Party Invitations and cut-out-and-keep Dress Up  Alice and White Rabbit Dolls.

If the “makes and bakes” are half as charming as the cover, they have a winner. One way to find out: two freebies from the website to get an idea of what the book has: free printable Alice in Wonderland paper doll and Red Kings Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe

The book, which was published in the UK on Monday, will be published in North America in early August. You can wait a month, or if you’re the impatient sort and/or just like ordering from Book Depository (guilty on both counts*), you can go ahead and order from Book Depository, which as always offers free worldwide shipping.

* Now that the Canada Post strike is over and Persephone’s Miss Buncle Married, just reprinted in April but in and out of stock several times since, is finally available again, my copy is on the way

For Canadiana fans

To be published in May, Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing by Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman (University of Toronto Press, May 29, 2010); $25.04 in paperback, $59.57 in hardcover.

I’ve already placed my order.

According to this press release for a grant the authors received in 2008, the book

is the first interdisciplinary history of children’s publishing in Canada from 1800 to the present, interweaving Canadian history with the history of Canadian literature and publishing, illustration and design, childhood and education, and children’s librarianship. Not only historically situated, Picturing Canada documents recent developments in children’s publishing and the book trade, the emergence of Aboriginal Canadian publishing, Canadian publishers in the US market, the decline of school libraries, and government funding to libraries and publishers.

The book sounds like a very useful resource for those of us who like, or need, to use older, out-of-print books in our studies, especially illustrated ones to use with younger children.  And when it comes to children’s books on Canadian history, unfortunately most of the better books tend to be out-of-print.

And I love the cover illustration.

Lust for lit

Micah McCrary on “A Lust for Lit: On the Romance and Appeal of the Used Book” in the March 2010 online journal Bookslut,

Why do people, especially in these times, like to buy used books over new ones? Is it price? People do tend to pinch pennies when in the middle of a recession.

Fred Bass, owner of the Strand Book Store on Broadway and 12th Street in New York, has his own opinion on why people prefer to purchase used books, stating that price is only a part of it (Strand themselves sell used books between 50 and 90 percent off the list price). “Secondly,” he adds, “because the books are very often not available at new bookstores; the only place you can buy them is at a used bookstore — such as the Strand. Also, there are those customers who enjoy thinking about the readers who held the same book before them — that the book had been loved by someone else.”

McCrary also talks with Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller, who says used books

“have a special mystery swirling around them: the mystery over who has read them before, and why. For me, a used book is a sort of launching pad for romantic speculations about the book’s past. Marginal notes are like clues in a detective story: Who went here first? What were they thinking about? What was going on in their lives? And the book itself — where has it been? One can imagine strange ports of call and mad adventures.”

And she’s completely right. There is a magic to a used book. A certain appeal. It’s about history. It’s about character. It’s about finding a book on the shelf that tells a story of its own outside of the printed pages within it. After all, whether it’s new or used, it’s the story that we buy the book for in the first place. “I think we love both,” Keller adds, “the new and the old. New books are invigorating, but old books — used books — are complicated and mysterious and compelling.”

Read the rest here.

Courting Danger

Farm School blog posts

Do It Yourself Science

In search of freedom and independence, and big bangs

Outdoor life, or, How to have an old-fashioned, dangerous summer

Fun with gunpowder

Dangerous Things

A manual for childhood

How can you resist “the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery”?

Still searching for danger

Paddle your own canoe

Science with Tom Edison

Retro-progressives of the world, unite

Why safer isn’t always better

New for dangerous girls and daring boys

Other blogs:

Home Chemistry

The Borderline Sociopathic Book for Boys post introduces The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys

The Dangerous and Daring Blog for Boys and Girls

Wisdom of the Hands

Self-Sufficient Living

Craft Blog

Make Blog


Lenore Skenazy’s blog Free Range Kids (not to be confused, by the way, with the nifty and dangerous home schooling blog Free Range Academy)


Boing Boing

Make Magazine and Maker Faire (where the motto is “Build, Craft, Hack, Play, Make”)

Craft Magazine

Traditional Scouting

TedTalk “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” by Gever Tulley ofThe Tinkering School, a summer program to help kids ages seven to 17 learn to build things; the talk comes from Tulley’s book in progress,  Fifty Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do

Recommended books, some for adults and some for children, from the Farm School shelves and wish lists

The American Boy’s Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard (do yourself a favor and get the Centennial edition published by Godine, with the lovely foreword by the late Noel Perrin)

Shelters, Shacks & Shanties: And How to Build Them by Daniel Carter Beard (also with a foreword by Noel Perrin

Field and Forest Handybook: New Ideas for Out of Doors by Daniel Carter Beard

Camp-Lore and Woodcraft by Daniel Carter Beard

Boat-Building and Boating by Daniel Carter Beard

Daniel Carter Beard’s Online Books

Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger

Woodcraft and Indian Lore by Ernest Thompson Seton

Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton

Scouting for Boys: The Original 1908 Edition (Dover Value Editions) by Robert Baden-Powell

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Dover Books on Americana)

Canoeing with the Cree, the late reporter Eric Sevareid’s account of the expedition he, then 17, and 19-year-old friend Walter Port embarked upon several days after graduating from high school. The boys paddled 2,250 miles in an 18-foot canvas canoe, from the Mississippi River at Fort Snelling to Hudson Bay.

The Boy Mechanic, a four-volume series by the editors of Popular Mechanics, reprinted by the good folks at the Canadian woodworking and gardening institutionLee Valley, which also offers the reprint Boy Craft

Another, one-volume, version of The Boy Mechanicthis one subtitled “200 Classic Things to Build”

Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices by William Gurstelle

The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery by William Gurstelle

Whoosh Boom Splat: The Garage Warrior’s Guide to Building Projectile Shooters by William Gurstelle

Forbidden LEGO: Build the Models Your Parents Warned You Against by Ulrik Pilegaard and Mike Dooley

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture by Robert Bruce Thompson

Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders: From Novice to Master Observer by Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson

Mad Professor by Mark Frauenfelder

Manual Of Formulas: Recipes, Methods and Secret Processes by Raymond B. Wailes (Popular Science Publishing)

Lee’s Priceless Recipes: 3000 Secrets for the Home, Farm, Laboratory, Workship and Every Department of Human Endeavor compiled by Dr. N.T. Oliver, from the Classic Reprint series section of the Lee Valley Tool catalogue

The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, available free online as a PDF file and a bit torrent file, and for under $30 as a reprint from Lulu

The How and Why Wonder Book of Chemistry by Martin L. Keen, illustrated by Walter Ferguson, published by Grosset & Dunlap, 1961, part of The How and Why Wonder Book series; out of print but worth looking for

Mr. Wizard’s 400 Experiments in Science, by Don Herbert and Hy Ruchlis; and don’t miss Mr. Wizard on DVD, especially the episode where he electrocutes the hot dog. Danger at its finest!

The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

Watch Yourself: Why Safer Isn’t Always Better by Matt Hern


The Canadian classic film Song of the Paddle (1978); “Outdoorsman Bill Mason, his wife, and two children set out on a wilderness canoe camping holiday. In this film, the art of canoeing is more than technical expertise; it becomes a family experience of shared joy. Along the way there are countless adventures and much lovely scenery, including the Indian rock carvings of Lake Superior.”




Farm School blog posts on history (world, Canadian, American), and history books we’ve liked and used:



Teaching, and learning, history with passion

“Education Truly Begins at Home”

History and story: When “folklore and fact collide”

Respectable history for a general readership

Tossing textbooks

World history

Getting back to Gombrich: A Little History of the World, with a listing of some of our favorite narrative world history books, for adults and for children

Farm School bait: Children’s history book reviews, including E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World and H.E. Marshall’s Our Island Story.

Canadian history

Canadiana and Canadian history links for children

Beefing Up SOTW3: Adding more Canadian history

Nicola Manning’s Canadian history reading list

American history

A Benjamin Franklin Education

Chris Barton’s American history picture book reading lists for kids, Prehistory-the Present


Miscellaneous links

Sonlight Books in WTM order

Paula’s Archive: Resources for Story of the World (SOTW)

Paula’s Archive: Literature to Supplement History

Paula’s Archive: Movies to Supplement History; many of these can be found at Netflix, Zip.ca, or your local library; and for purchase at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

Regena’s lists of history and science books

Suggestions for copywork

Thomas Jefferson quotations

Benjamin Franklin quotations


*  *  *  *  *


: :  History books on the Farm School shelf  : :

World history books

A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich; for children and the rest of the family; also available inexpensively and unabridged on audio CD

An Illustrated History of the World: How We Got to Where We Are by Gillian Clements; this books seems to have gone out of print recently, which is a great shame.  A cartoon history much enjoyed by the younger historians in the house.

The Story of the World (SOTW) series by Susan Wise Bauer (four volumes), more comprehensive than elegant; for children (grades one to four or five)

Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia Of World History; I have to confess that my kids have a fondness for the previous incarnation, The Usborne Book of World History, and its cartoons

The Golden History of the World: A Child’s Introduction to Ancient and Modern Timesby Jane Werner Watson, illustrated by Cornelius de Witt, 1955.  A Giant Golden book, long out of print but worth finding.  Perfect for Kindergarten, first grade, and up.  Well-written and beautifully illustrated.

Oxford Children’s History of the World by Neil Grant; similar to the Usborne book (above) but not as comprehensive

A Child’s History of the World by Virgil Hillyer; for children

The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, updated by John Merriman; for children

Outline of History and/or A Short History of the World, both by H.G. Wells; for adults and older children

The New History of the World by J.M. Roberts; for adults and older children.  For something less unwieldy, you can try Prof. Roberts’ abbreviated A Short History of the World

Asimov’s Chronology of the World: The History of the World from the Big Bang to Modern Times by Isaac Asimov; for adults and older children

The Columbia History of the World edited by John A. Garraty and Peter Gay; out of print but easy enough to find

National Geographic Visual History of the World, with a foreword by Douglas Brinkley

The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant, the masterful 11-volume series, for adults and older children

Heroes of History: A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age by Will Durant

The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Seekers: The Story of Man’s Continuing Quest to Understand His World by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, her Pulitzer Prize-winning work on the outbreak of World War I

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara W. Tuchman (a more or less complete list of her works here)

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Canadian history books

The Story of Canada by Janet Lunn; beautifully illustrated narrative history book (available new only in paperback, worth tracking down secondhand in hardcover); intended for children but wonderful for the whole family

My First History of Canada by Donalda Dickie; the recent reprint is apparently out of print. Worth tracking down but not worth three figures.

The Story of Canada by Isabel Barclay; also out of print but very good for the very youngest readers

The Kids Book of Canadian History by Carlotta Hacker, for children

Kids Book of Canadian Exploration by Ann-Maureen Owens, for children

Pierre Berton’s series for children, slim yellow paperbacks in the original “Adventures in Canadian History”, recently reprinted as bindups in the new “History for Young Canadians” series: The Battles of the War of 1812by Pierre Berton, with a foreword byCharlotte Gray;  Exploring the Frozen North by Pierre Berton, with a foreword by Eric WilsonCanada Moves West by Pierre Berton, with a foreword by Arthur SladeThe Great Klondike Gold Rushby Pierre Berton, with a foreword by Ken McGoogan

Stampede for Gold: The Story of the Klondike Rush by Pierre Berton, for children

Publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside’s biography series for children

The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881 by Pierre Berton, for adults and older children

The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885 by Pierre Berton, for adults and older children

Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899 by Pierre Berton, for adults and older children

A Short History of Canada by Desmond Morton

The Illustrated History of Canada, edited by Craig Brown

Penguin Books Canada’s new(ish) “Extraordinary Canadians” biography series of twenty of Canada’s “most influential historical figures” by 18 of Canada’s best contemporary writers; the series editor is the writer (and husband of the formerGovernor GeneralJohn Ralston Saul.

Who Killed Canadian History? by Jack Granatstein

American history books

The History of US by Joy Hakim

Betsy and Giulio Maestro’s “The American Story” picture book series: The Discovery of the Americas: From Prehistory Through the Age of ColumbusExploration and Conquest: The Americas After Columbus: 1500-1620The New Americans: Colonial Times: 1620-1689Struggle for a Continent: The French and Indian Wars: 1689-1763;Liberty or Death: The American Revolution: 1763-1783A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution

Out of print but very good: the multi-volume “History for Peter” by Gerald W. Johnson, illustrated by the great Leonard Everett Fisher, for ages 10 or so and up: America Is Born (volume 1, published 1960), America Grows Up (volume 2, 1961), and America Moves Forward (volume 3, 1961). I understand that most families want considerably less than a three-volume US history for children, especially when each volume is the thickness of four or five Hakim books. All three “History for Peter” volumes were selected by The Horn Book as part of its Fanfare/best books for the years they were published, and the first and third volumes were Newbery Honor books for their years. You can read more on the writer/journalist Gerald Johnson and his politics here.

Also out of print and very good is the brief, one-volume illustrated The First Book of American History by noted historian Henry Steele Commager (1957), illustrated too byLeonard Everett Fisher with muscular, energetic woodcuts; part of Franklin Watts’ very good ”First Book” series for children. For ages 6 or so and up.

Jean Fritz’s American history biographies for children

The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong

Kids Make History: A New Look at America’s Story by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock, illustrated by Randy Jones

Places in Time: A New Atlas of American History by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock, illustrated by Randy Jones

Journeys in Time: A New Atlas of American History by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock, illustrated by Rodico Prata

Journeys for Freedom: A New Look at America’s Story by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock, illustrated by Rodico Prata

The Landmark History of the American People by Daniel J. Boorstin with Ruth F. Boorstin

Daniel J. Boorstin’s “The Americans” series, a social history of the United States: The Colonial ExperienceThe National Experience, and The Democratic Experience; for adults and older children

The Growth of the American Republic by Henry Steele CommagerSamuel Eliot Morison, and William E. Leuchtenberg (volume Ivolume II)

1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic by Joseph J. Ellis

To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian by Stephen E. Ambrose


General history books

Practicing History: Selected Essays by Barbara W. Tuchman

Hidden History: Exploring Our Secret Past by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant


Farm School blog posts/General Science:

Tentative high school science plans

Do It Yourself Science

Science with Tom Edison

Learning to think like scientists, and learning how to think about science

More food for thought: connections and disconnections

Science Summer School

In search of freedom and independence, and big bangs

The beautiful basics of science

A virtual education, about the debate on virtual science classes

Farm School blog posts/Biology:

Darwin and evolution resources for Darwin Day aka Darwin 200: Charles Darwin’s Day

I typed this all by myself with my opposable thumbs

Charles Darwin Has a Posse

Celebrating Darwin Day: Many happy returns

Farm School blog posts/Natural History:

Nature writing and writers

Farm School blog posts/Chemistry:

Do It Yourself Science

Retro Chemistry

Still sniffing around the kitchen: Chemistry with the Curious Cook; which means you might be interested in this review by Nicole at Baking Bites of How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni

Review: The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! by Basher and Dingle

Farm School blog posts/Physics:

Spreading the love

Lists of Living Books for Science:

4 Real Learning “Great Outdoors” book list; nature study and natural history books for grammar stage and up, including picture books

Regena’s lists of science and history books

Paula’s Archive: Grammar stage science book list compiled by Carol Richey

Links and Resources:

The Society for Amateur Scientists (“Helping Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Science”), also known as SAS, and SAS’s Labrats program for children; both SAS and Labrats are headed up by Dr. Shawn Carlson

Dr. Shawn Carlson’s CD compilation of 72 years’ worth of “Amateur Scientist” columns from Scientific American magazine: Amateur Scientist 4.0 CD, “Science Fair Edition”

The Guardian‘s Science Course: Part I, The Universe; Part II, Life & Genetics; Part III,The Earth; Part IV, Humans; Part V, Energy; Part VI, Building Blocks; and Part VII, Experiments for Kids

Home Chemistry

Singing Science; free songs to download

Geekdad, from Wired

Charles Darwin Has a Posse: awareness stickers

Boing Boing

“The Way Things Work” two-disc DVD set by David Macaulay

Modern Mechanix

Scientific American article, “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” by John Rennie, September 2002

Science books from the Farm School bookshelves, library list, shopping carts, and wish lists:


The Intelligent Man’s Guide to the Biological Sciences by Isaac Asimov; don’t hold the unfortunate title of the 1960 book against Asimov (for older children and up)

Scientific American: The Amateur Biologist by Shawn Carlson (for ages 9 or 10 and up)

Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth by Andrew H. Knoll (for older children and up)

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin(for older and up)

The Fairy-Land of Science by Arabella Buckley; free online in book form here and as an audiobook at Librivox here (for younger children)

Natural History/Nature Writing (by author):

Edward Abbey

Liberty Hyde Bailey

Wendell Berry

Hal Borland

Rachel Carson

Gerald Durrell

Loren Eiseley

Edward Hoagland

John Kieran

Barbara Kingsolver

Joseph Wood Krutch

Gale Lawrence

RD Lawrence

Aldo Leopold

Barry Lopez

Bill McKibben

John McPhee

Farley Mowat

John Muir

Sigurd Olson

Ernest Thompson Seton

Edwin Way Teale

Henry David Thoreau

and also

Nature Writing: The Tradition in English, edited by Robert Finch and John Elder

American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben(Library of America, April 2008

Nature Study:

How to Be a Nature Detective by Millicent Selsam, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats (for young children)

The Listening Walk by Paul Showers, illustrated by Aliki; I prefer the original unrevised edition of 1961 with Aliki’s black and white, less cutesy illustrations (less distracting), but am glad to see that this one is still in print (for young children)

Exploring Nature with Your Child: An Introduction to the Enjoyment and Understanding of Nature for All by Dorothy Edwards Shuttlesworth (1952); out of print but worth buying secondhand

The Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell, with Lee Durrell; out of print and worth tracking down (for the whole family)

The Amateur Naturalist’s Handbook by Vinson Brown (and also his How to Make a Home Nature Museum and How to Make a Miniature Zoo, two of my childhood favorites)

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock (for the whole family)

The Beginning Naturalist: Weekly Encounters With the Natural WorldA Field Guide to the Familiar: Learning to Observe the Natural World, and A Naturalist Indoors: Observing the World of Nature Inside Your Home by Gale Lawrence (for the whole family)

The Curious Naturalist by John Mitchell and The Massachusetts Audubon Society (for the whole family)

The Fieldbook of Natural History by E. Laurence Palmer and H. Seymour Fowler (originally published in 1949, revised in 1975, and which I suspect grew out of Palmer’s 1927 The Nature Almanac: a Handbook of Nature Education); Palmer, a professor of nature study at Cornell University, was a colleague of Anna Botsford Comstock (for the whole family)

The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors by Ernest Herbert Williams (for the whole family)

Naturalist’s Guide to Observing Nature by Kurt Rinehart (for the whole family)

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth (for the whole family)

The Amateur Naturalist by Nick Baker (not to be confused with the Durrell title, but quite good)

The Study of Life: A Naturalist’s View by RD Lawrence

The Natural History of Canada by RD Lawrence, revised by Dr. Michal Polak

Entrusted to My Care by Grant MacEwan (older readers and up)

Collecting for the City Naturalist by Lois J. Hussey and Catherine Pessino (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975)

John Kieran’s A Natural History of New York City: A Book for Sidewalk Naturalists Everywhere

The Urban Naturalist by Steven Garber

City Birding: True Tales of Birds and Birdwatching in Unexpected Places

Snowshoeing Through Sewers: Adventures in New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia by Michael Aaron Rockland

Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn by Hannah Holmes


The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, and written by Adrian Dingle

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture by Robert Bruce Thompson (DIY Science series)

Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun! by Anita Brandolini

Mad Professor by Mark Frauenfelder

The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments by Robert Brent; out of print but available as a free PDF to download, and available in softcover via Lulu for under $30.

Basic Chemistry Experiments (A Golden Hobby Book) by Robert Brent; an abridged edition of The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, also out of print. Keep your eyes peeled at garage sales.

How and Why Wonder Book of Chemistry by Martin L. Keen

Entertaining Science Experiments With Everyday Objects by Martin Gardner

Chemical Magic by Leonard A. Ford and E. Winston Grundmeier

Mr. Wizard’s 400 Experiments in Science by Don Herbert and Hy Ruchlis

The Joy of Chemistry: The Amazing Science of Familiar Things by Monty L. Fetterolf and Cathy Cobb

Hands-On Chemistry Activities with Real-Life Applications: Easy-to-Use Labs and Demonstrations for Grades 8-12 by Herr and Cunningham

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore by Harold McGee


Physics: Why Matter Matters! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, and writtenby Dan Green

Physics in a Hardware Store by Robert Friedhoffer

Physics in a Housewares Store by Robert Friedhoffer

Rubber-Band Banjos and Java Jive Bass: Projects and Activities on the Science of Music and Sound by Alex Sabbeth

How Do You Lift a Lion? by Robert E. Wells

Gizmos and Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions That Work (& Knowing Why) by Jill Frankel Hauser

Hands-On Physics Activities with Real-Life Applications: Easy-to-Use Labs and Demonstrations for Grades 8-12 by Cunningham and Herr

Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov

Fear of Physics by Lawrence M. Krauss

Earth Science:

Basin and Range, In Suspect TerrainRising from the Plains, and Assembling California by John McPhee (available together in the collection Annals of the Former World)

Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Earth and Space by Isaac Asimov


Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders: From Novice to Master Observer, first in the (DIY Science series) by Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson

Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Earth and Space by Isaac Asimov

The Stars: A New Way to See Them and Find the Constellations by H. A. Rey (of Curious George fame)


Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery by Isaac Asimov

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier

How to Think Like a Scientist by Stephen P. Kramer and illustrated by Felicia Bond

The Way Things Work by David Macaulay

Why Science? by James Trefil

The Nature of Science: An A-Z Guide to the Laws and Principles Governing Our Universe by James Trefil

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy by Robert M. Hazen and James Trefil