Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Thunder Tree: Book Review

The Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland, by Robert Michael Pyle, is a hard book to summarize. I think the different chapters work better as free-standing essays. Some of them waxed so eloquent I was in tears (and I’m not even pregnant, so I don’t cry at the drop of a hat anymore), and a few others I had to struggle to finish because I got mired in the plants, ecological relationships, and butterfly species Pyle describes. If you are acquainted with Denver and the history of its suburbs, or the history of water use in the western US, you’ll also like The Thunder Tree, but I imagine that this isn’t a huge group of readers.

It is probably more interesting to most as an autobiographical work that combines personal stories about growing up in Aurora, Colorado in the 50’s & 60’s with a look at the importance of “wasteland” (specifically, the High Line Canal) to both children and local ecology. If you want to learn more about how kids interact with nature, you have to read the chapter
“The Extinction of Experience” – it is one of the best things on this I’ve ever read. It deserves to be reprinted somewhere with a much larger audience. So check this out of your library, order it on amazon or half.com (seventy-five cents for hardcover! Unbelievable), put it on your paperbackswap.com wish list, and then skim through the parts that don’t grab you and read the rest when you need to learn something profound about the importance of place, parks, vacant lots, creeks and ditches, children’s play, and bugs.

Here's some interesting biographical information on Pyle and his work, including a link to an online story called The Way of the Monarch that illustrates why I like his writing so much - it combines people and place in such a compelling way.

2 comments:

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

You are *eerie*! I just proposed this book for a bookgroup. Writer is coming to speak in our little town in Nov. Can't wait. I haven't read your post yet. Should I read it? Or wait til I've read the book?

Sandy said...

Oh, I don't give away any secrets in the review. It's mostly just praise. And how exciting you'll get to see Pyle, I'll bet he's a great speaker. It's wonderful that you're reading this for a book group - I really think it deserves much more recognition.