There’s something about the outdoors — the openness, the falling leaves or gently drizzling rain, and the army of insects and bugs that go about their business on any given day. No one, it seems, knew this better than a little girl named Anna Comstock, whose love of nature made a huge impact on American education.
In author Suzanne Slade’s newest picture book, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, readers learn the light and breezy story of young Anna Comstock, the girl who, “from the time she was no higher than a daisy…was wild about nature.” Anna touched nature, squished it between her toes, and leaned close and observed it, too. In fact, things that presumably made girls squeamish (tadpoles, ants, hairy moths and bees) were a delight to Anna, and she studied them — and the rest of nature — when she went off to college instead of getting married like other young ladies her age.
But Anna didn’t only study nature, she drew it. Her sketches were so realistic that farmers studied them to help them combat pests on their land, teachers happily became Anna’s students, and schools began to adopt her lesson plans so their students could conduct nature classes.
This is an absolutely WONDERFUL book about an unsung heroine whose contribution represents at least one way that nature classes, outdoor classrooms and nature drawing evolved into what they are today. The sweet prose is written in such a way that it excites younger readers and reminds older readers of what it was like to go for a nature walk back in the day. Artist Jessica Lanan’s illustrations are soft, woodsy and wild—and full of lush green colors, leaf-laden trees, fallen logs and swirling water. Budding nature lovers will thrill at the hanging bats, marching ants, crawling bugs and caterpillars changing into butterfly.
This book can be used in a host of lessons. It can be used to introduce professions, discuss stereotypes, or examine the history of women’s contributions to education and society. It can be used to inspire young naturalists about what they may find in their own back yard, or to remind young girls that they can be absolutely whatever they want to be – no matter what anyone else thinks.