Book Review: Backyard Explorer, by Lonely Planet Kids

Available now from bookshops nationwide.

cv_backyard_explorerHi, there. Kia Ora. My name is Kate and I am 8 years old. When this book arrived in the post and Dad showed it to me I wasn’t really interested at first. You see, I’ve seen plenty of books about the bugs and snails and icky things that live at the bottom of my garden. I’ve done those family tree exercises and stalked my cat to see where he goes at night. And I’ve spent many cold nights outside looking for Matariki and the Big Dipper. So, you know, I’ve ‘been there – done that’ – as Dad says.

However, this book is different. Full of lots of quirky activities to do by yourself or with family, like Dad, it reminded me of those car travel activities books – only you never really go any further than the end of your street. Well, The next block maybe.

Let me give you an example. Dad and I spent Sunday morning walking around the block counting how far a particular coloured door was from our house. And then another and another. 15 different doors, even the orange coloured one. Who has an orange door – really? We had to walk 2 blocks to find one. We also did another activity as we headed to the local swimming pool, coming up with 26 local features or landmarks that each began with a different letter of the alphabet (Called ‘Area Alphabet’). By the way, you can use ‘X-ing’ and ‘Zebra’ for X and Z.

There are more longer activities, too. Like making a weather chart for a month, measuring wind, sun and rainfall and recording all the different cloud shapes that I could see. There was a memory quiz. I had to match up all the street names in my area: one ending in ‘Grove’; one in ‘Avenue’; another in ‘Square’ – we don’t have one of those – and ‘Place’, ‘Court’, ‘Hill’, Rise’ and ‘View’. So many ways to say ‘Street’.

There’s lots of drawing oppotunities. I got to draw the skyline from my bedroom window and make a map of my neighbourhood, then ‘using my superpowers’, I cut it up and re-did the whole area the way I wanted with parks, shops, houses and so on placed exactly where I wanted them. I could be a better town planner than the guys who do it now, I reckon.

Despite my earlier comments about Matariki, I really enjoyed the stargazing tasks. One activity involved finding and naming my own star and then tracking it a cross the sky. That was quite hard but the book shows you how to do it. Towards the end of the book there’s a bit of a test asking lots of random questions like how many stair steps there are to my bed or how my street name got its name.

I loved this book because I got to find out all about my own community and do it with my Dad. We do a different activity every day, so it’s our special thing. He says that he wishes his work was like this – more collaborative and fun. Overall, because of everything above, I loved this book, and all kids from 6 to 10 will, too. Plus, it’s got a hard back cover, so it won’t get damaged on your adventures and a bookmark elastic thingy so you don’t loose your place. The layout is simple and vibrant, with clear illustrations and lots of space to fill in the answers. More good reasons to like this book.

Reviewed by Kate Gruar (8)

Backyard Explorer
by Lonely Planet Kids
Published by Lonely Planet Kids
ISBN 9781786573186