Books & Essays
A Natural Sense of Wonder: Connecting Kids with Nature Through the Seasons
University of Georgia Press 2008
The technology boom of recent years has given kids numerous reasons to stay inside and play, while parents' increasing safety concerns make it tempting to keep children close to home. But what is being lost as fewer kids spend their free time outdoors? Deprived of meaningful contact with nature, children often fail to develop a significant relationship with the natural world, much less a sense of reverence and respect for the world outside their doors.
A Natural Sense of Wonder is one father's attempt to seek alternatives to the "flickering waves of TV and the electrifying boing of video games" and get kids outside and into nature. In the spirit of Rachel Carson's The Sense of Wonder, Rick Van Noy journeys out of his suburban home with his children and describes the pleasures of walking in a creek, digging for salamanders, and learning to appreciate vultures. Through these and other "walks to school," the Van Noys discover what lives nearby, what nature has to teach, and why this matters.
From the backyard to the hiking trail, in a tide pool and a tree house, in the wild and in town, these narrative essays explore the terrain of childhood threatened by the lure of computers and television, by fear and the loss of play habitat, showing how kids thrive in their special places. In chronicling one parent's determination (and at times frustration) to get his kids outside, A Natural Sense of Wonder suggests ways kids both young and old can experience the wonder found only in the natural world.
Book Review #1:
"A wonderful, timely, and much needed lyrical reminder of the fundamental importance of children's ongoing experience of nature as the basis of creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and so much more that ultimately makes us human. Van Noy's book is a profoundly moving, powerful, and eloquent reminder of this basic truth, with which our modern society, estranged from nature, has lost touch to its ultimate detriment."
--Stephen R. Kellert, coeditor of Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations
Book Review #2:
"The question of how parents should appropriately connect their children with nature is accessibly and gently articulated here. This is a great book for a wide range of parents and is full of the realities of parenting in a postmodern age. Whereas Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods is issues oriented and broadly sociological, A Natural Sense of Wonder is hands on."
--David Sobel, author of Beyond Ecophobia
Book Review #3:
Named one of the ten best books for teachers. "Best call for nature: A Natural Sense of Wonder, by Rick Van Noy. Through his experiences raising his own two children, Van Noy offers hands-on ideas for connecting kids with nature through the seasons."
Book Review #4:
"'Here?s something!' says Van Noy?s daughter when she spots a snail trail on their sidewalk, and her father pays attention. A Natural Sense of Wonder is filled with explorations of such 'ordinary enchantments' too often lost in the swirl of our hyper-scheduled lives. Van Noy treats his children and his readers with warmth and respect, seamlessly squeezing a good deal of natural history, etymology, and literary savvy into his stories of snot-otters and snake whisperers. He is a 'full participant' in his family?s home territory on Virginia?s New River, and we can ask for no better reminder that 'every moment is a now' in our own home landscapes."
?Stephen Trimble, coauthor of The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places
Book Review #5:
"All parents, take note! In this enthusiastic and poetic drift of essays, Van Noy sets out to unveil the natural world for his children and finds himself on his own voyage of discovery. Walking in the footsteps of Rachel Carson, who believed that nature provided young people an 'inner resource of strength' to last a lifetime, Van Noy seeks to imbue children with wonder. This book, which moves at the delightful pace of a summer?s day, is filled with the passion of a good naturalist and the sensibilities of a loving parent. Its motherlode chapter, 'Dirt World,' which offers advice on how to get children outdoors, is worth the price of the book."
?Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
Book Review #6:
"Fans of Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods (2005) will find much to enjoy here, although Van Noy's unique combination of parenting memoir and naturalist treatise makes him a more readable and prescient author than most on this subject . . . Van Noy is forging new ground by combining environmentalism and parenting in a fresh and engaging manner. His collection can serve as a blueprint for future works on bringing nature back into the lives of children."
?Colleen Mondor, Booklist
Surveying the Interior: Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place
University of Nevada Press 2003
From a cartographer who wrote to a writer who mapped, the literary significance of surveying is revealed in this study of human relationships to the landscape.
From the very beginning, American literature was closely intertwined with surveying. In Surveying the Interior, Rick Van Noy explores the ways that four American literary cartographers?Henry David Thoreau, Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, and Wallace Stegner?concerned themselves with what it means to map or survey a place and what it means to write about it. In the process, he helps define the ways by which space enters the human psyche as definable place, as well as the ways by which physical landscape is transmuted into a sense of place as an intimate, personal manifestation of both physical and existential realities.
Book Review #1:
?Rick Van Noy connects literature and cartography in ways that illuminate both the history of environmental writing in America and the particular authors on whom he focuses. This perceptive study is especially welcome at a time when G.I.S. becomes more central to environmental studies and when Native American authors like Leslie Silko ask us to view certain ?stories? as ?maps? in their own right.? ?John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home and The Frog Run
Book Review #2:
?Surveying the Interior takes on an extremely important topic?how people come to see landscapes as places, how they become attached to places and feel part of them. Rick Van Noy sheds new light onto ideas about both mapping and writing about places.? ?Karla Armbruster, coeditor of Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism
Book Review #3:
"Maps and narratives may seem like inimical modes of communication; indeed, Van Noy's subjects needed both in order to arrive at a satisfying assessment of landscape. In bringing these modes together, Van Noy both helps us deepen our sense of what constitutes a western writer and demonstrates just how firmly the West has resisted?and continues to resist?definitive understanding." ?Kent C. Ryden, Western American LIterature, Fall 2006
Double Take Magazine