2006 Winner: Hands-On Science Book

The Amateur Naturalist, by Nick Baker. National Geographic Press, 2005.

With a very appropriate title, this book is meant for those who like to investigate the outdoors and who see themselves as amateur naturalists. The first chapter addresses the types of equipment a naturalist would need. Subsequent chapters are each devoted to a major group of animals, except for one chapter, which is given over to plants. Each chapter is a practical combination of natural-history information about the organisms and the particulars involved in tracking, observing, capturing, or otherwise interacting with those organisms. Safety and the ethical treatment of living things are stressed. The level of detail provided is adequate for those who are familiar with the outdoors, but might be perceived as lacking by those who spend little time outdoors. The text is illustrated with lovely photos and drawings. Being a British publication, the book describes species that are native to Britain, but the information about how best to observe certain types of animals (e.g., squirrels) is applicable anywhere. Preceding the index is a list of conservation organizations, suppliers of specialized equipment, and books for further reading. Teachers who are looking for outdoor investigations would be interested in the projects described in this book, which would be a good addition to any public, college or university, or high school library.

About the Author

Nick Baker contributes to a number of successful wildlife and science TV programs, including the BBC's popular Really Wild Show and cult science show Tomorrow's World. He has written two books on wildlife and the outdoors, Baker's Bug Book and Nick Baker's British Wildlife.