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Usborne Spotter’s Guides

Posted by Big Boo on January 14th, 2009

These little books were great fun and also very educational too.  Each of the books covered a different topic to do with the world around us, but most were about the wide variety of plants and animals that populate this planet.  Whether it was about garden birds, trees, wild flowers or aquarium fishes, as in the example, you could guarantee that each book was chock full of beautifully painted pictures of the various specimens.

What made them so much fun, and the whole reason they were called Spotter’s Guides was that each of the various animals or plants in the book was accompanied by a little tick box and a score.  If you managed to find an example of one of the things in the book you ticked the box and added the specified number of points to your score.  The more rare the animal or plant the more points you scored.  Alternatively you could tot up the total number of times you saw a particular thing and work out a total score that way.

I was first introduced to these at primary school where the library had a small collection.  One of the books was about things you might find in a pond such as newts, water lilies, algae, frogs and my personal favourite, the water boat man or pond skater (you know, those little insect thingies that could sit on the surface of the water because their feet created just the right amount of surface tension in the water that they didn’t sink).

My school had its own pond in the far corner of the playing field (fenced off of course for safety) and one day I remember the teacher taking our class up to the pond with the Spotter’s Guide to Ponds in hand to see how much we could find.  Every member of the class kept running excitedly back and forth to the teacher to say when they had seen something new, although sadly I don’t remember how well we scored in the end…

I’m pleased to say these wonderful books are still available, although they have now lost the distinctive yellow covers that made them stand out on the book shelf, and I don’t think they have the little tick box areas any more.  If you have kids yourself then a walk in the countryside or on the beach would no doubt be made more exciting for them if you bring one of these books along.  You could even keep it to yourself to make your children think you are a countryside expert when you know the names of all the different varieties of trees and birds you see as you walk along!

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