Nature's Keeper
by Gary Ferguson

Price at time of review: $24.95
216 pp.
Farcountry Press
Helena, MT
ISBN: 9781591520856

Grade Level: College

Reviewed by Margaret Franzen
Program Director

Nature’s Keeper: John Ripley Forbes and the Children’s Nature Movement is a biography of a man I had never heard of before—but am delighted to have met through the book! Forbes was the driving force in establishing hundreds of children’s nature centers across the US, with a strong focus on direct interactions with live animals. (Some of the nature centers included animal loan programs.)

Gary Ferguson weaves Forbes’ life story in the context of world, national, and local history and conveys Forbes’ convictions and humility that were the driving forces for his impact on nature literacy. Forbes was extremely effective at convincing people to provide financial support for creating nature centers and conservation areas. The discussion of the value of providing opportunities for children to interact with nature, and live animals in particular, really resonated with me. Ferguson expertly conveyed Forbes’ passion for nature centers for children—not museums where animals are displayed in dioramas, and not geared towards adults.

For anyone who has struggled to get approval for having live animals in the classroom, this book is a must read. Forbes argued that animals taught children both responsibility and compassion for others, and animals provide a calming influence. Nature’s Keeper is well researched and well written and contains numerous photos of Forbes, the children he impacted, and the lands he was able to set aside for nature trails and centers. Ferguson provides insight into the culture and times that impacted Forbes’ efforts to create opportunities for children to interact with nature throughout the country over nearly two–thirds of a century. The book is well suited for use as a supplemental reading in an undergraduate conservation course, but also as a great read for anyone who wants to be reminded of the value of interacting with nature, or be inspired by the impact a single person can have on so many.

Review posted on 12/1/2014

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