Friday, September 24, 2021

What's in Your Pocket?

 My dad is a rock collector. I remember so many summer outings spent at a fossil dig or hiking up a mountain to find one particular kind of stone. Camping adventures were involved. And once home, the rocks were put in boxes or jars and stacked on shelves in his study. So when I heard about this book, I knew I had to check it out. 

What's in Your Pocket?: Collecting Nature's Treasures
by Heather L. Montgomery; illus. by Maribel Lechuga 
48 pages; ages 4-8
Charlesbridge, 2021

theme: curiosity, STEM, biography

When you explore the great outdoors and find something strange and wonderful, do you put it in your pocket?

Scientists do. Scientists collect things so they can observe them more closely. They sort and classify their collections ~ and some of continue collecting through their adult live, haring off on expeditions to add to their – and our - knowledge. In this book, Heather Montgomery shares the stories of nine scientists who, as kids, explored the great outdoors and collected all sorts of treasures, from seedpods to fossils to worms and more!

We meet George Washington Carver, William Beebe, Jane Goodall, and Charles Darwin. We explore alongside a canopy scientist, a herpetologist, an entomologist. Remember Mary Anning? She’s in this book, as is Bonnie Lei, possibly the youngest of the contemporary scientists included.

What I like about this book: I like how Heather begins with something we all have done as kids ~ put something in our pocket to bring home. A treasure to remind us of our day at the beach, a pinecone, nut, stone, flower ... a mouse skull that we want to learn more about. I like how she expands that into a collection, showing how scientists learn through studying collections. And how collecting something might inspire questions that lead to discovery.

I also like the back matter. Maribel Lechuga shares the importance of observation for both scientists and illustrators. And Heather explains more about collecting and offers some guidelines on how to respect nature while collecting samples to study. 

It’s always fun to talk to Heather. But this time I had only One Question for her:

me: What sorts of things have you been carrying about in your pockets lately?

Heather: These are things I've carried in my pockets most recently: 
Twisty twigs
Squishy seed pods
Rocks that roll

It might not be easy to see a pattern in those objects until you learn that I have four young cats. My eyes are seeking things to keep curious cats busy.

I’m also collecting photos and journal drawings of figs and forests and waterfalls. And every once in a while, there’s a bizarre body part that I just have to harvest from a poor animal who lost its life on the side of the road.

Beyond the Books:

What sorts of things from nature do you bring home in your pockets

Do you have a collection of shells or rocks or leaves or insects? How might you go about sorting them? Here’s something Heather wrote about creating a sorting key.

Here are some other ways of “collecting” things from nature without bringing them home:
taking photos
drawing pictures
writing detailed notes
making a recording of sounds 

 You can find out more about Heather  at her website.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. Looks like a fun one, and yes, observation is KEY for illustrators!

  2. Ah, my parents were rock hounds, and I had a pretty great rock collection myself. I thought about majoring in geology. This looks like a really sweet book that will get kids started in enjoying learning about nature. Thanks for telling me about it.

  3. Ah, the pockets. My son's pockets and my own when his filled up. This sounds like a great book!

  4. Oh my gosh, emptying my pockets as a child or when I took kids on a walk was always such an adventure. Great review, Sue.