“The authentic watermark running through the background of a life’s work, is an arrival at generosity, and as a mark of that generosity, delight in the hopes of the young.”David Whyte, Consolations
The reasons for wanting to pass down knowledge can be various, but what remains the same is the underlying hope that others can benefit from your experiences. Both Rachel Cason and Charlie Mackesy have reached this place of generosity in their careers and have written short books that have the “hopes of the young” in mind.
The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is a well-known author of several environmental books. She is perhaps most recognized for her 1962 book Silent Spring. However, she also wrote an excellent book titled The Sense of Wonder, describing her philosophy on developing curiosity in the natural world.
In this book, Carson encourages adults to engage with children in activities that foster a sense of awe and fascination with nature. Carson suggests that caregivers not get so worried about the scientific names of the objects around them, but focus on the feelings and the wonder that can be found outside. Through a series of elegant descriptions, Carson shares the delight that can be found in hunting for nocturnal insects, watching the moon, or listening to the sounds of migrating birds. Near the end of the book, Carson states, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth, find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts”. This is a gentle reminder that a connection to the natural world is something that can provide us with stability to weather even the toughest storms. Sharing this connection with a child is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Charlie Mackesy is an illustrator and author of the book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. This book tells the story of four unlikely friends who wander the woods and learn about kindness, friendship, and love. Although the book is not one that would usually fit into our focus on nature writing, its connection to the natural world through character and location seems somewhat relevant.
Elisabeth Egan from the New York Times said this book “combines the simplicity of The Giving Tree, the magic of The Velveteen Rabbit, and the curiosity of Paddington”. The book contains about 100 color and black-and-white illustrations that contribute to the whimsical nature of this story. There is some reader criticism that the handwritten type can be hard to read. But the overall response to this book is positive.
I had this book on audio, narrated by the author, and contained some gentle background music that gave the story a theatrical feel. I will say that the sound effects on this audiobook really added to the story. This type of production usually bothers me. But in this case, it works.
What I really enjoyed about this book was how Mackesy gave the environment a significant supporting role in this story. The snow allows the fox to communicate his gratitude, the raging river allows the friends to come together and support each other, and the thunderstorm is an opportunity to talk about fears. Throughout the book, there are many subtle nods to the symbolism of natural events in our lives, and I think this works here.
There aren’t any major cliffhangers or plot twists in this story, but I don’t think that is the point. It is pretty easy to tell where the story is going and the lessons it wants to teach. But what I do think is that this book has great potential to help spark that sense of wonder and curiosity in the world. Because if a boy, a mole, a fox, and a horse can all be friends, then anything is truly possible.
What books have you read recently that might help spark that nature connection in the next generation? Feel free to share below.
- David Whyte, Consolations
- Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children
- Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.