A Child’s View of the Prairie
by Susan C. McDermott

"Welcome to a Wisconsin prairie. This is a different world with many interesting things to see."

Two little boys, Mike and his older brother Dave, lead readers on a guided tour of a western prairie illustrated with large color photographs on every page. Through their dialogue, one learns that there are no trees or bushes in the prairie, but flowers and grasses can get up to ten feet tall, blooming and thriving through the year. Perhaps the most prolific are the black-eyed Susans with their bright yellow petals and dark brown centers. Yellow and purple coneflowers are distinguished by their “droopy” petals. Native Americans used purple prairie clover with its tall stems for healing wounds, while delicate pink bergamot blooms were made into tea. Prickly white rattlesnake master was believed to help heal snakebite. Bright orange butterfly weed attracts honeybees, and its seedpods are used to fill life jackets. Insects—bees, moths, ladybugs and dragonflies—are also seen in their habitat and examined by the enthusiastic boys.

The author (and mother of Dave and Mike) has made a study of all the plant species depicted. She uses her photographs to lead educational workshops, having once owned a plant nursery specializing in prairie plants. Her clear, professional photographs show her sons strolling about, animatedly discussing the lore that McDermott has shared with them about each newly-discovered wonder. The result is an enjoyable method for teaching children about their natural environment. The book, though designed for children, contains enough factual material to interest a parent or grandparent who can equally appreciate this book as a read-to with the photographs of the boys’ adventure as vivid accompaniment. In fact, there is a subtle attraction for the older generation, who may not only add prairie species to their own home gardens but also, through the youthful perspective presented, draw their children or grandchildren into the project.

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