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Newsletter Posts

Holiday Gifts:  Garden and Nature Books for the Younger Set

Robin Schachat

Let’s start our review of this year’s wonderful children’s books with a really FUN interactive charmer that turns into a construction project: Turn This Book into a Beehive!  Educational information about bees – both our common natives and imported honeybees – abounds in this happily illustrated, colorful, soft-bound volume.  There are recipes for organic, bee-safe pest controls your young ones can make to use in the garden; experiments with household materials to teach pollination (and why it is necessary if we want to eat pizza); simple methods to illustrate the powers of buzzing, the communication dances of honeybees, and the mechanics of flight; and much more!  And the second half of the book is designed for your young scientists to turn into colorful beehives, complete with instructions.  This book is a definite hit! (recommended for children 8-12 years old, but this can be stretched)

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Those of you who have read my articles on children’s books before will recall that I love few things more than a beautifully illustrated storybook.  This season’s choice is Pandora, by Victoria Turnbull.  Pandora is a fox who lives alone in a world full of cast-off, broken human trash.  One day, she finds a broken bird and nurses him back to life.  You will love the lesson she learns from his recovery, and the beautiful world they create the next spring. (preschool through my age)

Ah, lest we forget, I am one of the Club’s chairs of Conservation!  And I have timely conservation lessons for the younger readers as well!  The first addresses a new concern they will have heard about this year.  Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch follows a real-life team of researchers as, for three weeks, they gather and study materials gleaned from the Patch.  Lessons scattered among the stories, photos, and facts encourage your children – and you, too, we hope – to avoid the worst excesses of tossing away single-use plastics. (ages 8-14)

How Does My Garden Grow? by Gerda Muller gives us a year in a garden of edibles, beginning with our city-dwelling heroine Sophie’s visit to her grandparents’ farm. She lives through a summer of digging and eating fresh food, big storms, nighttime visits by bats and daytime visits by birds and beetles, taking produce to the farmers’ markets, and putting the garden to bed in the fall.  And the next spring, she and her friend Victor plant their own vegetable garden in the city!  There’s a lot of education here, hidden behind the happy story and the beautiful water color illustrations. (ages 4-7)

And now I will go back to my favorite sort of book – another beautifully illustrated book about children in nature, In the Red Canoe.  Written in rhyming couplets from a child’s point of view, this book traces a child’s wonder at seeing nature as she and her grandfather paddle their red canoe through a summer in the wilderness.  It’s a simple, pretty bedtime book, one that every child can enjoy. (preschool – 8)

This year I close with a review of some newly available interactive fun.  As we have all seen, adult coloring books have come into vogue in a big way over the past few years.  They are recommended for adult health and relaxation, lowering our blood pressure and giving our brains a chance to rest while we concentrate on a pleasurable task.  Well, let’s not forget, Ladies, that coloring books are TERRIFIC TREATS FOR KIDS!  And they fit so nicely in a stocking!  Buy a box of Crayolas (64 colors?), or some watercolor colored pencils, and turn the kids loose on some creative fun!  Coloring books for younger children are easy to find, and should be oriented toward your own child’s tastes, but for the older kids who might absorb some education along with their coloring fun, I have a few to recommend from Dover’s current line.  Freshwater Pond, A Walk in the Woods, and Forest Animals are all beauties that explore environments that our children should encounter, with information along the way about the plants, animals, and insects that live there. (ages 8 to forever)

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Another instructive book among this year’s selection for budding conservationists is Trash Revolution.  This one might have been preachy, if it were not such a fun whirl of cartoons and short subjects.  Kids will learn about Supply and Demand, how a sewage treatment plant works (aren’t all kids fascinated by sewage?), how to guess their own carbon footprint (and what that means), why their sneakers take so long to decompose, whether aluminum foil is better to use than plastic wrap, how astronauts clean up their waste in space…this book is full of fun facts and lessons, with experiments and illustrations that break the concepts down into simple lessons from which we can all learn! (ages 8-12)

And finally, because I am the one writing this list and I am a landscape designer, I shall recommend another coloring book that I hope will inspire your family to visit some of the most magical places on earth, Botanical Gardens.  Magic abounds in nature and gardens.  Be sure to give some to your children and grandchildren this holiday season!

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