The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson (1965)

The sense of wonder by rachel carson2

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, best known for the environmental classic Silent Spring (1962) was published in 1965, a year after her death.

This widely praised book was intended to be enjoyed by children and parents together, was expanded from an essay Carson wrote in the 1950s. It’s designed to inspire families to explore and appreciate the wonders of nature together.

The book was originally embellished with black & white as well as color photographs by Charles Pratt, many of which were taken along the Maine coast, where Carson enjoyed spending summers.

Republished in 2017, the book is as fresh and relevant as it ever was — perhaps even more so, given the alarming state of the environment. The new edition features new photography by Nick Kelsh. The publisher, HarperCollins, offers this description of the new edition:

“First published a half-century ago, Rachel Carson’s award-winning The Sense of Wonder remains the classic guide to introducing children to the marvels of nature.

In 1955, acclaimed conservationist Rachel Carson began work on an essay that she would come to consider one of her life’s most important projects. Her grandnephew, Roger Christie, had visited Carson that summer at her cottage in Maine, and together they had wandered the surrounding woods and tide pools.

Teaching Roger about the natural wonders around them, Carson began to see them anew herself, and wanted to relate that same magical feeling to others who might hope to introduce a child to the beauty of nature. ‘If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder,’ writes Carson, “he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.’

The Sense of Wonder is a timeless volume that will be passed on from generation to generation, as treasured as the memory of an early-morning walk when the song of a whippoorwill was heard as if for the first time. Featuring serene color photographs from renowned photographer Nick Kelsh, this beautiful book “helps us all to tap into the extraordinary power of the natural world.”

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Learn more about Rachel Carson
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A 1965 Review of The Sense of Wonder

From the original review in the Alamogordo Daily News (NM), December 19, 1965: Many readers will remember Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which caused much discussion and alarm a few years past.

Some may have read this same text in magazines, but for the parent of small children I can think of no more exciting experience than reading and examining this new book— The Sense of Wonder. The title is exceptionally apt, and the text is both stimulating and delightful.

Through these pages Rachel Carson tells how she presented the wonders of nature to a small nephew and with what almost unbelievable results. She believes that a child has this natural wonder about life and nature, but that it soon becomes calloused over and crushed back until by the time we are grown up most of us have lost this priceless gift.

A child’s world is bright and shining-new and wonderful; it is only when we disregard their enthusiasm and show indifference that they begin to lose the freshness and delight of the world around them. In helping to keep their wonder alive, we will remind ourselves of its existence.

We will regain our own “seeing eyes” and “hearing ears.” We may rediscover that the world is a marvelous place, full of exquisite sights and sounds and daily miracles all around us. From the tiniest insects to the rainbow, or the brilliant etching of the lightning against a black sky, she brings to mind all the enchantments of nature.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder… he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in,” says Miss Carson, and as in all other sharing, one soon finds that in helping the child to retain his own gift for discernment, we will have gained fully as much as we have given.

Some rare souls such as poets and artists never lose their appreciation for natural beauty, but for most of us, “the world is too much with us… late and soon, with getting and spending we lay waste our powers,” to quote another gifted writer.

We rush here, and dash there always in such a hurry that we miss half that transpires about us. The lively, unconscious rhythm of a bird’s flight, or its sweet and joyous call; the delicate tint of color in a sunset sky, or the sheen of sunlight on a leaf. All these things have a soothing quality for the heart of mankind, if he should take time to notice and ponder them.

As a gift for yourself, and one which you can share with many others, both young and old, take Rachel Carson’s lovely book and enjoy it. The photographer too, has given us a thing of beauty in his various mood-setting, graphic pictures of some of the beauties of nature such as dew-drops, leaves, and butterflies.

You will find in this book something of your lost childhood, and something of the great mystery of creation for which we should be thankful every day of our lives. If you enjoyed Miss Carson’s The Sea Around You. you will indeed be captivated by this one.

And when you take some small trusting hand in yours and go forth to explore together, you will thank her for reminding you that life is a wonderful experience and a that in keeping the joy of it in our hearts and lives will not only enrich ourselves, but all others with whom we come in contact.

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More about The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson

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Under the Sea Wind (1942)
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