Planet Earth would make a great present for a young person who is interested in the natural world. It opens up views from the microscopic level up to the perspectives from the moon that unveil the Earth and its animals and plants in new ways. It's almost as though you have just arrived on a spaceship to an unknown world. Most of the book will seem unfamiliar to you.
Where many books about the natural world are filled with seeming hyperbole ("you can see this feature from space"), Planet Earth does its best to display the basis for those references by making the statement and showing the photographic evidence. As a result, this book makes a serious impression on the range of challenging environments on Earth, the reasons for each challenge, and examples of how animals and plants have successfully adapted to those challenges. Darwin would be envious that you can see more in one book than he could in a lifetime of study.
If you didn't see the television series or the DVD, here's the structure:
Whole Earth (overview of how the various regions differ and why)
Frozen Poles (the Arctic and the Antarctic and why they differ)
Great Forests (huge bands of trees in temperate climes)
Great Plains (the semi-arid regions)
Grand Sands (extended deserts both hot and cold)
Mountain Heights (the highest peaks and their environments)
Fresh Water (lakes and rivers)
Rainforests (tropical jungles)
Shallow Seas (Coral-inhabited areas)
Open Ocean Depths (the bulk of the seas)
Each section contains information about the geology, physics, and chemistry of the region's character and origins. A number of stories about the plants and animals that inhabit the areas are included. The section also displays some of the most magnificent views. The book is generously illustrated with the text being less than half of the pages printed.
The book's main drawback is that the photographs are often not reproduced very well. As a result, views may be muddy, indistinct, and hard to interpret. Take a few extra seconds and stare closely, and you'll usually see something remarkable. The book was obviously edited to provide the most unusual views, even where reproduction would suffer some. I think the decisions were usually pretty wise.
I cannot emphasize enough how fascinating I found the book. By taking me to so many places I will never see (restricted caves, unusual mountainsides, rare tropical locales, and Antarctica), I was able to extend my understanding of life on Earth in important new ways. I'm sure I'll be integrating the views for years to come.
I especially commend the sections about the whole Earth, Antarctica, untouched forests, limitless deserts, and caves as showing me new dimensions of why wilderness is important to us. Ansel Adams would have liked to see and photograph these sites.
Take a good look!