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Rachel Carson's "The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children"

Rachel Carson's "The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children"

The book in a quote: “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

Rachel Carson's qoute

You should read it if: you are between books and you look for a quick, yet inspiring, read.

Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, writer, and conservationist whose sea trilogy (1941–1955) and book “Silent Spring” (1962) are credited with advancing marine conservation and the global environmental movement. Carson, the mother of the modern environmental movement, figures in “A Sense of Wonder” as aunt to his baby nephew Roger.

This book tells us about Carson’s intimate expeditions with her nephew, during a summer spent at Carson’s household in Maine. They explored many ecosystems at many times of day (and night). They went in sunny and rainy weather. They even looked at the moon during bird migrations. Some basic tools were involved: a magnifying glass, binoculars. Carson's lyrical prose sparks vivid descriptions, emotional and sensory imagery. Never had I imagined that each living creature could be entitled to its own Christmas tree.

Little things suddenly become magnified things; little humans suddenly become ‘magnified’ humans who steal the show. I can’t wait to become the cool aunt ;) For now, I'm just a translator. I try to apply wonder to words, as if they were alive. I distance myself from them. I look at them closely to find something unexpected.

Language, memory, nature

Young Roger seemed to know by heart names of plants and animals in their environment and called them out as soon as he saw them later, projected indoors. His aunt Rachel found this simply astonishing. She says she didn't call out the creatures they saw. Yet, the boy seemed to already know their names. To me, it’s astonishing to note how much we can learn about our loved ones when we are engaged in stimulating activities. 

A book is basically a bridge between author and reader. Precise authors force readers to resort to the dictionary or visuals. Readers shouldn’t find it discouraging. Sometimes, it is better to keep reading than to understand everything.

Intergenerational dialogue

Night and day, sunshine and rain: Carson engaged her nephew in outdoor activities. She did so not to teach him, only just for fun. Carson reminds us that a child needs at least one adult to share adventures with. But the adult must be able to adopt a child’s outlook.

Rachel Carson started writing “The Sense of Wonder'' in 1955. The short yet unfinished essay was then published in 1965, a year after her death. At some point, Carson reports a conversation between Otto Pettersson and his son before Otto Pettersson’s death. It is very touching. So is the idea of being curious about the future you’re missing.

I started and finished "The Sense of Wonder" between two jobs on the same day. I read its Italian translation by Miriam Falconetti, which was only published in 2020. I read it in plain text. It had no illustrations or photos. This had huge benefits for imagination and focus. It took me more or less 30 minutes to read it from cover to cover: the ultimate mind-cleanser. Did you also read it in your native language? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Great review Cecilia! Can't wait for the next one!!


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