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Holland, C. (2012) I Love My World Wholeland Press ISBN 978 0 9561566 0 0

There are a lot of books out there, that are full of ideas for encouraging us to take our families away from the TV and back into the great outdoors to re-engage with nature, but for those who want to read just one book on the subject, then this is the one I’d recommend.

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 I love my World, as best selling children’s author Michael Morpurgo rightly says, ‘is a must’. He goes on to say:

“Here’s a book which puts children in touch with the natural world. It will open their eyes and their ears, their hearts and their minds, to the countryside. Full of fun and imaginative, practical ideas this book is a must for everyone concerned with children, the environment and the part we must all play in protecting it.”

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In 200 pages of exuberant text Chris Holland distills elements of nature awareness, basic bushcraft, outdoor games, story telling, plant lore and more, and mixes it with care, understanding and gentle humour.

As a practical handbook it’s an accessible and easy read, with the activities laid out in a ‘ready, get set, go’ format which encourages you to do just that.

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The book is also imbued with Chris Holland’s deep love and understanding of the subject and this helps make up for the frankly awful production values and layout with has more than a hint of a rather dated photocopied hand-out about it. The illustrations are often too dark and vague to be of any value, but perhaps that’s just the point as it’s absolutely meant to be a practical guide to getting outdoors, it’s not a stay-at-home coffee table tome, your rucksack is a much better place for it and for that it’s well suited to its purpose.

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Time to get out, find a stick, a campfire and an adventure!

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At first hold ‘I Love My World’ seems like a slim volume, and certainly slips comfortably into the hands. Deceptively, however, it comprises a fulsome 200 pages and manages to cover an extensive array of topics drawn from bushcraft, outdoor education and environmental play. In fact, it’s really two books neatly rolled into one: a wide-ranging compendium of activity ideas for creatively teaching, mentoring and playing with children in the great outdoors, alongside words of gently distilled wisdom about how we can each live in closer harmony with the natural world. It succeeds in engaging at both levels. As a children’s work practitioner, I immediately wanted to stuff the book in my coat pocket and head out into the woods to try out some of the activities for myself. There’s plenty of new material that caught my eye and tickled my enthusiasm: Follow that log, Fairy plates, Elephant walk and Tribal wheel maps just for starters. But as I’ve dipped into the book again and again, it’s the knowledge, ethos and attitude of the author that really shines through. Here is someone that genuinely believes in the value of what he does – sharing the joys and bounty of nature – and can communicate this with the both extensive first-hand experience of the wild and with the freshness of someone who understands children and their inherent playfulness. He uses some lovely language through the book too, phrases such as ‘lost-proofing’, that describe important concepts with appealing good-humour.

The book is usefully split up into 11 main chapters and further easily digested sub-headings. In particular the format of the activities is helpful and accessible, split into three parts: Ready (the underlying concept), Get set (what equipment and materials you need to prepare) and Go! (a clearly laid out example of how the activity is introduced to children and facilitated, based on the authors experience). There are plenty of photographs throughout to help illustrate practical points, which ideally would be better in colour rather black and white, but the text is so clear and insightful this doesn’t detract from understanding any of the activities.

Many years ago the American naturalist and campaigner Rachel Carson wrote: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” Motivational words for those of us who aspire to taking on that role. ‘I Love My World’ keeps alive that same spirit and provides a cornucopia of practical, down to earth ideas for how to mentor children in connecting with a sense of wonder in the world we still live in.

Amazon Review by Dr Martin Maudsley, Playwork Partnerships, University of Gloucestershire.

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There’s more information about Chris Holland’s activities HERE.

ps. All illustrations in this review were selected from Chris Holland’s Google Plus page, many others can be found HERE.

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