I'm stepping out on a limb today to recommend a pamphlet -- South Carolina Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species (State Nature Guides) [Pamphlet] by James Kavanagh copyright 2002 -- that received terrible customer reviews on amazon.com. Why did it receive terrible reviews? And why in the world am I recommending it?
Why bad customer reviews? Well, I'll tell you: it seems that the folks who bought it missed that Amazon clearly (I might add) advertises it as a pamphlet (as the Mr. says, "You'd think that before people bought something, they'd read up on what they were getting!"). They thought they were getting a book, and a book with specific descriptions, habits, and growth of each bird at that. Yes, I agree, it's a tad bit overpriced for a pamphlet (it would be an amazing price for a book). But I guess the author and publishers have to pay themselves, regardless how little, for their effort. Take note: these pamphlets are available at our local library.
This is why we like it around here: the kids LOVE this pamphlet (enough said, right)! They eat, literally, with it by their side. They sleep, literally sleep with it on their bed. Because they rationalize, if they have it with them at all times, then they can identify the birds as they see them. Makes sense to me!
Why does it work? You see, the pamphlet folds out into six (6) panels, allowing kids to see all the different species of birds at once. Therefore, they're able to quickly identify the bird they're observing without flipping through the overwhelming volume of hundreds of pages in more descriptive books (which, by that time the dear birds have flown away, and they still haven't found "their" bird, ending in frustration)!
So our experience has been that the Pocket Naturalist pamphlets are GREAT tools for kids to identify the birds (etc.) they see. The proof is in the evidence: my kids have never before been so excited about bird identification (and butterfly identification) as they are now. And why? because these tools have allowed them the time to be successful at their own identification!
I also think this would be a great resource for hiking. I mean who wants to lug several books on the trail? (They publish butterfly, flower, wildlife, etc. pamphlets for your specific region or state.) So you have your nifty, little, lightweight pamphlet for identification purposes. And then you can come home to the descriptive books (and for those I recommend the National Audubon Society's field guides published by Knopf) to read more about what you've identified.
Well, it just makes sense to me. But it took the kids to show me that!