Reviews and Praise

Marvelous Mysteries of California’s Oak Woodlands (Monterey Bay Birding Festival); Bay Nature reviewBlue Heron reviewUkiah Daily Journal articlePacific Horticulture review); 


Dear Kate, I keep your beautiful book “Secrets of the Oak Woodlands” handy at all times, as a mood elevator. I live with these complex spirits you describe and love. Heartfelt thanks!  — John Lewallen

“Your book is a beautiful masterpiece of fine writing alongside skillful, deep research. I love the way you observe the natural world and bring the reader into generous, loving relationship with plants and animals that might otherwise be overlooked. This book is a classic of California natural history writing.” David Lukas, author, naturalist, and guide

“Your book is like a rich painting to me. I never put it away or get tired of it, and I’m continuously reading it. It never leaves my night stand.”—Joe Mueller, biology professor, College of Marin

“My class on Ecology Writing at Developing Virtue School is reading your book. So far, we have read Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Aldo Leopold, John Muir and now you. They are enjoying your book immensely and think it’s the best of what we’ve read so far.” ––Victoria Patterson, PhD

“I love this book. It reads like a walk in the woods with the best naturalists. The clear layout helps me scan for the information that I am looking for, or browse and learn something new. The natural history stories in this book are detailed and rich, sharing discoveries from the latest research and field observations. You cannot help falling more deeply in love with oak woodlands and feeling inspired to care for them.”John Muir Laws, author-illustrator of The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada 

“A wide range of nature enthusiasts will enjoy Kate Marianchild’s informative and well-balanced natural history book….Marianchild’s articulate yet easy to understand writing style makes the book suitable for armchair readers to investigative scholars. The science is clear, research up-to-date, and depth satisfying…At the same time she inserts interesting relevant information and builds the readers’ appreciation for intricately rich oak woodlands.”—Fremontia (statewide newsletter of the California Native Plant Society). Read full review.

“I’ve been meaning to write to you, now that I have a copy of your book. It’s wonderful!! You’re a talented writer, and you bring the oak woodlands to life in a very lively and entertaining way while at the same time presenting a lot of scientific information (for which I know you did an enormous amount of research). The gall chapter looked good–I didn’t notice any errors. I’m glad the book is doing well — I’m not surprised.”Joyce Gross, photographer, naturalist, and oak gall expert

“In this sublime ode to California’s most ubiquitous plant community, Kate Marianchild fills the oak woodlands with life, enabling us to peer under fallen leaves, gaze inside layers of bark, and look deeply at animals that scurry on the branches, burrow under the roots, and rest in the shade of trees and shrubs. Secrets of the Oak Woodlands introduces you to the magical community of the oak and its neighbors—like the coyote, western fence lizard, and California quail—and once you’ve read this book, you’ll forever see the oak woodland as the catalyst for a marvelous array of life.”—Beth Pratt, California director, National Wildlife Federation 

“I  want you to know that I’ve been raving about your book wherever I go! I have a new relationship with my environment, one of great delight, now. And you are a fabulous writer–it’s engaging, informative, and just plain well written.”–Margo Frank

“Marianchild’s enthusiasm is infectious because she grounds it so well in precise observation, skilled prose, and careful research. Each essay is packed with fascinating and marvelously concise assemblages of facts gleaned from scientific studies. The result is both educational and entertaining. Like the best entertainment, it leaves the reader wishing for more.” (Full review at Blue Heron.)

“I have purposely read only half a chapter at a time, savoring it. I finished it last night. I may need to start over at the beginning. I thought I knew the most familiar plants and critters I share the area with, but I was wrong! There is much to marvel at in Kate’s description of their interconnectedness; her way of turning detailed information into descriptive anecdotes is compelling. Definitely the book I’m giving as gifts this year!––Janet Rosen

“I read your chapter on oak galls to my 7 & 10 year olds tonight as a bedtime story–they love your book too. I also gave your book to my mother; we are both excited and surprised to see how much we are learning about our local flora and fauna. Your book shows us how many more exciting secrets the natural world has to teach us. A naturalist who can write words that seem as alive as their subject is actually quite rare.”––Kathleen Fogarty-Chaniot

“The book, Secrets of the Oak Woodland, by Kate Marianchild, is an absolute jewel. I have been doing a lot of docent training (Topanga Docents, Children’s Nature Institute, Stunt Ranch Docents) lately, and her book is at the top of my list of recommendations for new docents.––Doug Allan,  Coordinator of annual Field Ecology Weekend at Malibu Creek State Park (from an email addressed to Heyday).

“Did you know that bluebelly lizards have a third eye? Most people don’t know this important tidbit of information. If you want to find out more, read this book! We hike the Sutter Buttes all winter long with field trips of students. This winter we took around 1500 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. This book, Secrets of the Oak Woodlands, has been an excellent source of information about oak woodlands.” —Kathleen Payne, on the website Goodreads (where Secrets of the Oak Woodlands has received mostly five-star ratings).

“Dear Kate, Your book has become a favorite with our docents. In fact, we’re planning to build a public hike around the concept of the oak woodlands, concentrating on your featured plants and animals.––Staci Hobbet, Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, Mount Diablo State Park

“Kate and I share a keen interest in scientific discovery. Her book is like an encyclopedia of science, stories, and characters of the natural world you will delight in. It’s as if you just stumbled upon a world once hidden but now in full view…and it is breath taking.” — Betty Lacy, M.D.

“Dear Kate, Thank you for sending your precious lizard chapter–you are such a beautiful writer and I can’t wait to get your book and tell others.M. Kat Anderson, author of Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources.

“I love your book, the structure of the chapters, the flap that tucks itself into a page to be read aloud to Robin when she gets home and another to mark place. The whimsy mixed with science opens my eyeballs to Grandmother Oak next door with her communities of Woodpecker and Oriole and new insights about the three generations of Quail we have been feeding in our yard.”Margy Henderson

“Just a quick note to let you know my field ecology is loving your book. I’ve heard much unsolicited praise–so much, in fact, that even some of the young people in the class who rarely read books are starting to read it!”  ––Joe Mueller, biology professor, College of Marin

“Kate, You were extraordinary tonight: clearly in your element, comfortably charismatic, warm, vulnerable, quick-witted and responsive to the audience. You are a gifted speaker as well as a gifted writer. The prose that you read touched me to the core.  You captured the crowd’s full attention, including mine. I was astounded by all that I learned. Congratulations. It’s a beautiful, beautiful baby that you materialized, a baby that I expect to better the world in unexpected and impactful ways.”––Shonduel (following the book signing at Mendocino Book Company)

“You were absolutely outstanding! I’ve received many comments from members, new members, attendees in general about how much they enjoyed your presentation.  It really was a wonderful combination of detailed information, humor and good speaking. So many people commented on what they learned about the critical value of Poison Oak, Mistletoe and Lace Lichens.  I’m giving serious consideration, in fact, to planting some poison oak in my own yard, not only for the food value for critters, but for the color, which I’ve always enjoyed.”––Virginia Hotz-Steenhoven, program chair, Milo Baker Chapter of California Native Plant Society (following a slide presentation).

“I purchased a copy of your book in August and every night read a chapter. I must simply say you have written a great book. I love the way you mixed your observations, those of others and the scientific facts in an almost storybook manner.  It was a great read and I have recommended it to others.  Now I’m on the hunt for a copy I can gift to my niece for her birthday.”  Brad Barnwell, docent, Clear Lake State Park

“With the exuberance of a child, a mind able to retain huge amounts of information and the skills of a raconteur, (Kate Marianchild) is eager to share all that she has learned.” Excerpted from “The Woods Have Secrets–and Kate Marianchild Knows Them” by Karen Rifkin. Published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on March 17, 2015. Read article.

“I’ve read your book once, and I’m most of the way thru it the 2nd time. I was inspired by your talk about close focusing binoculars, so I got me a pair. They focus from as close as 18” to as far as infinity. Cool.”—Charlie Seltzer

“Kate Marianchild’s beautiful and celebratory work guides us through an exploration of trees, trunks, and the creatures that make them home. Open this book and join this biologically diverse community. You’ll be glad you did.”Dan Gluesenkamp, executive director, California Native Plant Society

“A wonderful enrichment for hikers and nature lovers, Secrets of the Oak Woodlands is highly recommended.”—The Midwest Book Review

“Dear Malcolm and Associates: Thank you for seeing “Secrets of the Oak Woodlands” from start to this beautiful finished book! Congratulations to Kate Marianchild for weaving her knowledge into magic! With gratitude, Janet.” (from Janet Cobb, President of California Oaks Foundation to Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday.

Note: California Oaks Foundation, a project of California Wildlife Foundation, helped fund the production of Secrets of the Oak Woodlands and has bought 1,600 copies, which it has given away to its members statewide, to Governnor Brown, and to state legislators. CWF is doing all it can to conserve our rapidly disappearing oak woodlands.