Ellie's Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell

ellie's log cover image Ellie's Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell

by Judith L. Li
Children's Activities
Oregon State University Press
Paperback, 112 pages

This book was a finalist for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Children's Award.

We really liked Ellie’s Log for how it artfully combines adventure, storytelling and scientific inquiry. The story is related as fiction but is clearly designed to convey factual information about the forest ecosystem. After a huge tree falls in the forest behind her home during a winter storm, eleven-year-old Ellie and her new friend, Ricky, explore the forest where Ellie lives. Together, they learn how trees provide habitat for plants and animals high in the forest canopy, down among mossy old logs, and deep in the pools of a stream. The plants, insects, birds, and mammals they discover come to life in colored pen-and-ink drawings. Ellie’s father is the U.S. Forest Service forest manager, and her mother is a naturalist so they help Ellie and Ricky identify and explain what they see. However, the two children also demonstrate how to consult appropriate references and explore on their own. 
The narrative alone could be a bit a bit dry for young readers, but it is artfully supplemented with excerpts from Ellie’s own field notebook. Ellie’s drawings and notes are distinctly colorful and childlike, and they create an inspiring model for any young person wanting to explore and record their observations in nature. 
Ellie’s Log also features book recommendations and online resources for readers and teachers—including a Teacher’s Guide—which are available at the companion website.
One caution is that Ellie’s Log is set in the Pacific Northwest, so, while the book generally models good nature journaling, children living in environments very different than the one detailed in the book, might not find it as helpful.