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Book Review

Nature's Best Hope (Young Readers' Edition)

Violet Dickey
Matthew Wieckowski

Nature’s Best Hope (Young Readers’ Edition) by Douglas W. Tallamy is about how you can save the world with your own backyard. He explains how making a couple of small changes in your garden can be beneficial for the wildlife around you. One of the small changes Tallamy talks about is building a mini habitat for smaller animals like caterpillars and birds. Another suggestion Tallamy makes is that we need to reduce overpopulated animals, which includes humans. We need to plant more native species and create native habitats. Even small gardens that can grow in the middle of a city like New York City allow pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and other insects to populate an area and thrive.

Overall, there are many positive aspects to this book. We like how it brings awareness to a problem that young readers can help solve. The solutions in this book are practical and available to anyone. It helps you see the natural world in a new and better way and it has good stories that make it relatable to a younger audience. We also believe reading this book would have been more enjoyable with colored pictures and if it was a bit less repetitive. Ideally, we believe the next version could be an elementary level graphic novel. 

In conclusion, Nature’s Best Hope (Young Readers’ Edition) encourages and empowers people of all ages to plant more native species and teaches how to support ecosystems essential for all life on earth to survive and thrive.

Lady Bug on Milkweed Photo Credit: Jennifer Wieckowski

For a more in depth explanation of Nature’s Best Hope (Young Readers’ Edition), we have created a brief summary and our favorite quote for each chapter: 

In chapter one, Tallamy talks about creating protected places, such as National Parks, because of humans using all of the natural resources. This caused the disappearance of many animals.

“People began to stop seeing the world as dangerous and started seeing it as beautiful and they also noticed that it was disappearing”. (Tallamy, pg 14)

Chapter two introduces new ideas. The author talks about how Aldo Leopold became the first to understand the idea of a balanced ecosystem and that one action has multiple consequences in nature. Edward Wilson, a myrmecologist, helped explain the importance of biodiversity. He calls for people to save half of the planet. He believes this is the only way to keep biodiversity from disappearing.

“We have to give up the idea that we human beings live only in houses, apartments, and cars and nature is somewhere else.” (Tallamy, pg 35)

In chapter three, Tallamy discusses the size of a habitat matters for the health and size of a species. If we want them to thrive and not go extinct, they need a bigger habitat.

“Any living thing whose numbers are small, are in trouble” (Tallamy,  pg 41)

Chapter four is about making forest corridors for animals to pass through safely.

“Islands need bridges to connect them to other pieces of land and small habitats need the same thing, bridges of land that connect habitats” (Tallamy, pg 50).

Some people are scared of animals, but we need to share the world with them. Tallamy offers three choices: Squeeze the natural world until it's gone, humans disappear, or share the world. What choice would you make? 


Chapter five is about how current lawns are not beneficial to our ecosystem. We use too much water on our lawns, we use poisonous insecticides that kill bugs, and we overuse fertilizer that runs off into our water supply. Traditional grass lawns do not provide the proper plants for a thriving habitat. We need to plant native species instead.

“We have to change the way we think about plants, then, a yard that looks like a meadow won’t say I don’t belong here instead such a yard that looks like a meadow could announce to the world I know how good it is for the environment to use plants that aren’t just grass” (Tallamy, pg 69)

Bergamot or Bee Balm native to Gulf of Maine Region Photo Credit: Jennifer Wieckowski

Chapter six discusses Tallamy’s idea of a Homegrown National Park.  A homegrown national park is your garden on your land but planted with native plants. If half of every lawn was planted with native plants there would be over 20 million new acres functioning as a part of the natural world. You can spend time every day in your own home grown national park in your backyard.

“A yard full of native plants gives us a lot to see and discover, plus admission is free'' (Tallamy, pg 77)

In chapter seven, the author maintains that native plants are best to carry wildlife and pollinators. Non native plants do not provide any benefit because they aren't meant to be here in the first place. The wildlife are unable to feed off of these plants and trees. Animals that are native to that area need to eat the plants that naturally grow there.

“We don't want to get rid of a lot of human beings! So we have to do something else. We have to try to make it possible for the earth to carry more. How do we do that? It starts with plants” (Tallamy, pg 100)

Chapter eight clarifies the difference between good plants and bad plants. Non native plants are invasive and they keep native plants from growing. Our ecosystem needs native plants to survive and thrive.

“... if we start thinking about choosing plants that can carry the most living things, we’ll choose differently” (Tallamy, pg 106)

In chapter nine, Tallamy talks about the little creatures that run the world. For example, don't kill insects because we need them to survive, and bringing back native plants will attract more insects. Caterpillars need native plants to feed on and subsequently provide a large amount of food for the ecosystem. One change you can make today is to turn off outdoor lights at night.  This will reduce insects tiring themselves out flying around the light and making them easy prey.

Swallowtail caterpillar Photo credit: Jennifer Wieckowski

“None of the people on earth could exist without insects” (Tallamy, pg 128)

Chapter ten is all about bringing back bees. Bees are very important to the ecosystem because without pollinators many plants on earth would disappear. This, in turn, would create a disaster that most animals would not survive, including humans. To help bees thrive, we need to provide shelter, food and water. Shelters include stems of native plants, loose soil and stone walls. It helps to provide for the pickiest eaters to feed the most bees, which includes goldenrod and asters.

“Bees are the greatest pollinators in the world” (Tallamy, pg 152)

*Bees pollinating Milkweed (Video credit: Jennifer Wieckowski)

Chapter eleven challenges the idea that weeds are our enemy. Most often “weeds” are native plants that are the most beneficial to a Homegrown National Park. Perhaps changing the names of some weeds would help them become more acceptable, such as changing Milkweed to “Monarchs delight” or Sneezeweed to “Radiant Sunset.” Tallamy discusses the benefits of the top native weeds in North America - goldenrod, aster, ragweed and many more.

“Does this mean that we have to leave every weed in our garden alone? No, of course not. But if Homegrown National Park is to be a success, we have to make room for some of the plants we've been taught to turn up our noses at.” (Tallamy, pg 187)

Chapter twelve ponders if a Homegrown National Park will work. Tallamy believes this idea can work anywhere. It has been seen working in cities and the suburbs proving nature is resilient.

“Again and again, we’ve seen that, if we just give the natural world a chance, it will eventually heal.” (Tallamy, pg 192)

In chapter thirteen, Tallamy reviews some obstacles to his Homegrown National Park idea and provides solutions. For example, it is okay if you do not have a big enough space; just planting a couple of native species still makes a difference. You can also incorporate native plants among flowers in organized ways to create an attractive garden.

“A Homegrown National Park yard may not look like the lawns we’re used to, but it doesn't have to look messy either” (Tallamy, pg 208) 

Tallamy takes the opportunity in chapter fourteen to list ten things you can do to move the Homegrown National Park movement forward. These are:

  1. Shrink the lawn: keep some of the grass but not all of it.

  2. Get rid of invaders: search your state name + invasive species to identify these.

  3. Pick the best plants: all landscapes need some of these best of the best natives.

  4. Yards need quantity and diversity of plants.

  5. What the bees need: feed the picky eaters first (goldenrod). 

  6. Ask the neighbors: connecting with neighbors helps make HNP (Homegrown National Park) bigger and bigger.

  7. Think beyond just plants: 

    1. turn off the lights at night

    2. lift up your mower blade

    3. build a bee hotel.

  8. A soft place to land: leave some fallen leaves and plant ground cover under trees.

  9. Do not spray for fertilization: the truth is that most fertilizers we spray on our gardens get washed away before they do any good.

  10. Spread the word: be enthusiastic about HNP and other people will be too.

“Now we have to show that we are smart enough and thoughtful enough and caring enough to restore what we have ruined” (Tallamy, pg 227) 

In the final chapter of Nature’s Best Hope (young reader’s edition) Tallamy considers more questions and answers about HNP. For example, climate change makes it harder for native plants to grow and one non-native invasive species can ruin a whole ecosystem. Why should humans care about what happens to the birds or bees? The ecosystem that supports birds and bees also supports humans, and if birds or bees start disappearing, then humans could potentially disappear as well.

“When your family sees how easy it is to start a Homegrown National Park and how good it will be for the birds, bees, butterflies, and other animals, I bet they'll be ready to make it bigger and bigger and bigger” (Tallamy, pg 239) 


Violet Dickey

Violet is a homeschooled rising 8th grader who enjoys learning about our natural world and understanding true ways of environmental stewardship. When she isn't writing, art-making, or rollerskating, Violet likes to be out in the woods on family hikes and camping trips.

Matthew Wieckowski

Matthew is a rising 8th grader and is currently homeschooled. He is an avid reader, has an interest in all things WWII, and knows every make/model of John Deere tractors. He can be found in his spare time in the garden helping harvest vegetables and herbs, humoring his mother. Matthew loves to play hockey, ride bikes, kayak and is learning how to fly a Cessna 210 with his father.

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