Two pretty, personal books about the natural world with a homemade aesthetic – sketches, hand-written text, a meandering pace – recently landed on our desk. Both would make nice gifts.

“The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You,” by Clare Walker Leslie, Storey Publishing, $14.95.

736711_548935_book-curiousEven though we live in one of the prettiest states in the country, how often on an ordinary day do most of us remember to look up from our phones, iPads, Instagram accounts, Facebook postings and responsibilities to notice it? “The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You” is packed with teacherly prompts to remind you to do just that: “Try This: Make a spore print with a mushroom cap” or “Take a night walk. Let your eyes and mind adjust to being out after dark.” The book, a combination of photographs and pretty sketches, ranges widely – from smells to “Insect Beauty,” from sunrise to “Solace and Connection,” from dragonfly migration to lichen. But it never strays from the natural world that surrounds us, or, as the subtitle says, the natural wonders.

“Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World,” by Julia Rothman, Storey Publishing, $16.95.

736711_548935_book-anatomyThrough factoids and many charming, brightly colored sketches, illustrator and author Julia Rothman roams through the natural world, giving readers a lot of information about how it’s put together. We found ourselves lingering on the page of bird beaks: Bald eagles’ are hooked to tear up prey, ruby-throated hummingbirds’ are long to probe flowers, and so on. The section on bird calls – the barred owl says, “Who cooks for you all?” the Eastern Meadowlark, “but-I-DO-love-You”) – was much easier to grasp than that tape of actual bird calls we’ve been trying and failing to memorize. We finally understand the differences among sedges, rushes and grasses (and we may even retain the knowledge), and now we think webs are even more remarkable than we thought before. Rothman throws in the occasional sketched recipe, for a Seaweed Facial Mask or sautéed mushrooms with wood sorrel. Dipping into the book is like taking a walk with your favorite naturalist from the comfort of your own armchair.

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