One of the best vacations our family has ever taken was to a state park right
next to the Okefenokee Swamp at the southernmost tip of our beautiful state of
Georgia. We stayed in a cabin and even took an 11-mile boat ride into the swamp.
We saw alligators, cypress trees, Spanish moss, deer, fox, turtles, herons, and
countless other kinds of wildlife, flora, and fauna. We also made acquaintance
with tons of mosquitoes! Our children had a delightful time, and we all learned
a lot about this special, yet mysterious, type of ecosystem.
The haunting beauty of a swamp is breathtaking, and we are fortunate to live less than two hours away from one of the best-preserved freshwater wetlands in the U.S. In fact, over 90 percent of the Okefenokee's 438,000 acres is government-protected, making it a true oasis for a southern swamp explorer! However, if you do not live near a swamp, never fear. Irene Brady has created a wonderful resource for both seasoned and wannabe "swampers" of all ages.
The Southern Swamp Explorer, a 128-page, comb-bound, paperback book, is a perfect handbook/field guide for anyone interested in learning more about the amazing ecosystem of a swamp. Brady's writing style is engaging and sometimes humorous, and she covers a lot of ground in this book. It is compact yet comprehensive. Moreover, I really like the way she employs a narrative--almost storytelling--approach to introduce each animal and its habits, habitat, and special characteristics. Ms. Brady uses a hook, almost like an author does at the end of each chapter of a chapter book, to lead into the next part of the narrative and the next animal introduction. This method seamlessly weaves the "story" of the swamp "characters" together. Beautifully done!
The book has a two-page spread for each animal. On the right-hand page, Ms. Brady tells the story of what is happening to each of the animals, while integrating interesting facts about their habits and activities--and sometimes their life cycles and how they relate to the other swamp dwellers. The left-hand page includes diagrams, scientific names/data, illustrations, and interesting facts. This left-hand page is almost like a group of sidebars to provide the reader with a great deal more information. Kids will love the gross and icky facts that Ms. Brady has included about some of the animals! She even added drawings and measurements of many of their tracks and scat. Do you know what scat is?
In addition to covering more than 46 species of swamp inhabitants, Ms. Brady briefly gives overviews of the different types hardwood forests, pinelands, pine flatwoods and scrub, and cypress swamps--all of which surround or compose southern swamps. There are also pages in the back of the book called "other stuff." These pages cover aliens (non-native plants and animals), swamp safety, things to do, and swamp highlights. A final section describes and gives the names and contact information for nine southern swamps. This is a great resource for trip planning!
The cost for the book is $19.95, and you can find more information, samples, excerpts, and links on the author's website at www.natureworkspress.com.
I found this guide to be comprehensive, informative, and a fabulous resource overall. However, please be aware that the author does mention "millions of years ago" in a few places. I plan to use this book with my own children before our next trip to the Okefenokee (simply omitting the old-earth references), as it is the best handbook on southern swamps I have ever seen. The author has done her research. The
Southern Swamp Explorer is a nature guide/journal and a mesmerizing science story all rolled into one compact compendium of swamp knowledge. Highly recommended!