The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions

Giselle Clarkson, Gecko Press, $39.99

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Giselle Clarkson illustrates our ‘Just So’ columns. She is an artist, an amateur scientist and, most importantly, an ally of small people. She just gets it. Ever thought of hooking a cicada casing into your jersey, and wearing it as a brooch? Or pressing a big rose thorn onto your nose like a rhino horn? Clarkson has. She also understands what it is to be abjectly bored by the world of adults. One of the best pages in the book shows kids in various poses of boredom-induced extremis (see above). Perfect opportunity, she writes, for embarking on some observology. There is a lot of science in The Observologist. Life cycles, taxonomy, anatomy. It’s very funny, too. But mostly, this book—the first for which Clarkson has provided the words, as well as the art—is about nudging kids to look more closely at the critters to which she is guilelessly devoted. The particular pink of a worm is “lovely, pretty… like a rose or an iced bun”. She gives a full page to a single, huge snail. Just your everyday garden snail. The caption: “Magnificent.”

She directs her protegés to inspect “damp and mucky corners” (for slugs and slaters), hot concrete (ants), puddles (drowned worms). Budding observologists might like to take notes, or draw what they see: drawing, she writes, “also gives you something to do instead of just staring”. It’s an autobiography in miniature.