I had hoped Your Big Backyard would be like its sister mag for younger kids, Wild Animal Baby, which was captivating for both my son and daughter up to about age 3 to 3-1/2.
The two mags, both published by National Wildlife Federation, aim to educate kids about wildlife - but neither push the idea of man as a predator, nor do they position man as protector. The editorial goal seems to be purely to educate kids about wild animals - many of which they probably haven't seen, and may never see.
Unfortunately, Your Big Backyard is written for an older audience - meaning, it can't carry a four- or even a five year old's attention. There are a few puzzles and songs, but in my opinion, for a preschool audience (which this is designed for) those are not especially well done.
One good thing in Your Big Backyard, at least from my youngest's perspective, are that it offers the "find Bonnie" (a bird) game, like the "find the raccoon" game in Wild Animal Baby. That may help him transfer his affection from one mag to the other - but it hasn't happened in four issues! :(
My son also enjoyed one of the recent photo essays, '8 Reasons to Love an Octopus,' but I think he liked only the pictures - he didn't seem all that interested when I read to him how an octopus has a beak (I didn't know that!) to crush shellfish, or that some octopuses have stripes. (Again, I think it's the writing. The picture looked for all the world like a zebra; the writer said "candy cane.")
The photography is good, but not great, which is especially disappointing after my son has enjoyed the pics in Birds and Blooms magazine, for one example.
Complaints now registered, I'm not writing off the mag just yet. For one thing, the only way you can get it is via subscription, so it'll keep showing up in the mailbox for another seven months or so. Second, I have given it as a gift to three other boys, and I've heard from at least two of them that they love it. They are older than my son, though - one is seven - so perhaps it's a title he'll grow into. And third, Your Big Backyard has won the Association of Educational Publishers' Excellence in Children's Publishing award at least twice, in '05 & '07.
Still, I doubt my son will ever be quite as excited about this title as he was Wild Animal Baby, and that's too bad.
I should also mention that the competition (like the new National Graphic for *Little* Kids) isn't good enough to get me to subscribe at all. And I do like the idea of letting my son have a magazine of his own, especially one that opens up the greater world to his eager eyes. So, we'll keep reading.