One of my favourite children’s authors is Byrd Baylor. Her open-ended books make ideal springboards to many outdoor activities. They challenge the readers to investigate the statements in her stories for themselves. She writes beautifully about fostering a deep connection to the landscape which values simplicity and nature. Byrd does this in a way that children just seem to implicitly understand. It doesn’t seem to matter that she lives in Arizona and writes about the hot and dry climate of South-West United States and I live and work with children in the cooler, wetter climate of Scotland.
I’m always surprised at how children of all ages will sit and listen to Byrd’s books. The illustrations are mostly by Peter Parnall and are quite abstract. Yet somehow they miss the “hippie” label and create a niche of their own. I first discovered her books when living in Canada – a friend told me to buy Everybody Needs a Rock and from there on I was hooked! I’ve blogged about this book and ideas for follow-up activities here and here. It remains Byrd’s most popular and well-known book yet not one which won an award.
The Way to Start a Day is a Caldecott Honor Book. It is a great winter read because of the opportunities to experience dawn breaking without having to get up at an early hour. It’s about how people all over the world have welcomed the sun rising through facing east, giving gifts and singing songs.
The only drawback is that Byrd Baylor’s books can sometimes be hard to come by, here in the UK. Some are out of print and so keeping an eye on Amazon for ones turning up at a reasonable price helps.
When Clay Sings is the book every teacher should read to help children understand the beauty of clay and how it connects us to the Earth. It is also a useful connector to mud. “Every piece of clay is a piece of someone’s life.”
The Table Where Rich People Sit will probably resonate with every parent whose children have questioned their material values. How much is a sunset worth to you? What about the freedom to work under a blue sky?
I recommended The Other Way to Listen in a recent blog post. It is is about the sounds of “silence.” and listening hard for things we think we can’t hear. It involves tuning into the world in which we live. Each time I read this book I’m further motivated to calm down and simply be when outside.
Today a stick fell from a branch and landed plop in some mud right in front of a child. This makes this The Day the Stick Fell Day. The stick is special. The day is memorable. What surprised, amazed or impressed you today? I’m in Charge of Celebrations encourages us to celebrate natural events which are unique and special to us alone. It’s about the joys of creating a personal connection with the natural world. For a more in-depth book review, look here.
So, for every teacher needing a book as a springboard to a range of outdoor activities, then a Byrd Baylor book is a good buy. If you have any experience of Byrd Baylor books and how you’ve used them with children then I would really like to know. It’s time to celebrate an amazing author whose timeless work will be relevant and meaningful for years to come. Thank you Byrd.