As my 11-year-old daughter trudges home from school, the leaves under her feet make a calming rustle and crunch. These days my “How was your day?” might be answered variously with “it rocked,” “highly stressful” or an eloquent eye roll (or sometimes all three depending on whether she’s talking about lunch, a test or a particular kid). But that daily 20-minute walk gives her a chance to stretch and release mind, body and spirit after the intensity of school.

Natural spaces offer quiet and sanctuary–and that seems especially important as kids get older. The tween and teen years fill with homework, structured activities, cell phones, computers, chatty friends and, yes, stress. And young people this age are thinking, “What will I be when I grow up? What choices will define my life?”

The Frog Scientist (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, ages 9 to 14) tells the true story of one young man whose curiosity about the natural world fueled his career. Dr. Tyrone Hayes recalls: “My neighborhood was near a swamp full of frogs, snapping turtles, and snakes. My interest in them started when I was four or five. I tell kids, if there is something you like doing, stick with it!”

Hayes is an engaging, likable man, given to practical jokes and passionate about his research. A scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, he is part of a worldwide scientific inquiry into the deformities and diminishing numbers of frogs. Through Pamela Turner’s lively, informative text and Andy Comins’s dynamic color photographs, readers can go on a frog-catching field trip with Hayes and his graduate students and observe their painstaking work in the lab. This book is marvelous, offering a good sense of the scientific process and the life path of one particular scientist.

As for favorite books from childhood, Hayes is shown reading What Is a Frog? (a gift from his mom) to his own children. And Young Kim-Parker, a graduate student, mentions her childhood love of tadpoles and of Arnold Lobel’s classic Frog and Toad series.

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 15 award-winning children’s books, including Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns (Random House) and two chapter-book sequels, all set in a city community garden. Check for activities connected with Mary’s books.

| , , , ,
Published: November 9, 2009