Earth Day All Year | 10 Children’s Books That Parents Will Want to Read, Too

Earth Day may have come and gone, but these books for young readers, selected for their entertainment value, vivid illustrations, or interesting story-line will tune kids into environment all year long.  Parents may also learn a thing or two along the way!

Animals and Insects

UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian

Toddlers learn the origin of honey through this lyrical collection of rhymes.  Each page features a different poem along with a bit of information about honeybees to help adults learn, too.  In just a few pages, it covers where honeybees live, their anatomy, social structure, about pollination, honey and more, making it perfect for bedtime.

Bugs Galore by Peter Stein, Illustrated by Bob Staake

With its animated illustrations and catchy rhymes, Bugs Galore will become a favorite that parents won’t mind reading over and over again. Read it before your next nature hike to introduce insects of every size, shape and color.

Sustainable Forestry

Luna & Me: The True Story of a Girl who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest by Jenny Sue Kotecki-Shaw

This story is about Julia Butterfly Hill’s fight to save an ancient redwood tree from being cut down for profit by the Pacific Lumber Company.   Kotecki-Shaw takes the reader from the time the tree was born 1000 years ago till the end of Hill’s two year-sit in. The pastel, water colored illustrations provide a calm backdrop and keep little ones engaged. Pair it with Hill’s memoir — the adult version of this story.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

First African woman Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai’s  story comes to life in this beautifully illustrated, child-friendly recount of her effort to mobilize villagers to replenish central Kenyan forests.  Simple language makes it easy for little ones to understand the role of local, small scale farms in providing inexpensive food sources and how conserving the natural forests can prevent soil erosion.

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynn Cherry

Animals of the Amazon Rain Forest convince a man to put down his ax when he breaks from his chopping to take nap.  He awakes to a beautiful menagerie and a newfound appreciation for the rain forest’s value.

Experiential Learning

Eyewitness Explorer:  Nature Ranger by Richard Walker

Invite kids to explore the natural world through one of the 20+ hands on activities presented in this book.  Use a magnifying glass to explore creatures living in a nearby pond.  Collect pine cones, harvest their seeds, and observe their variations. Each activity includes a simple supply list, instructions, and detailed information about each concept which make it easy for adults to guide kids along.


One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, Illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon

When plastic bags become a big problem in the Gambia, the women reused them to weave beautiful things.  This story will inspire children to be creative in making seemingly useless items useful again.  As a bonus, introduce children to the Gambian language, Wolof. A language glossary and pronunciation guide is included in the book.

Stuff! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Steven Kroll, Illustrated by Steve Cox

Pinch, the pack rat that has collected so many things that they are spilling out of his house!  Children will be entertained as they discover how he purges most of his things and convinces his friends to do the same.

Marine Life Conservation & Water

The Sea, The Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle by Lynne Cherry

This book is one to take along to your next beach vacation.  It vividly describes the important role of mangrove trees — the only tree that grows in salty sea-water.  Explore the habitats for a variety of sea creatures and learn how the mangroves protect them.

Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home by Michelle Mulder

More of a reference book than a story book, parents can turn here for answers about how ancient and modern people collect and care for water.   How do underground wells work? What is a rain barrel? Why did water pollution became such a big problem?  This book answers all of these and features photographs of people from all over the world, collecting water and using it in everyday life.

It’s never too early to get children interested in the environment.  I challenge you to get started today!

Why America’s Public Libraries Will Never Die

Daedalus Books and Music helped us build a respectable home library for our toddlers. It specialized in selling leftovers — unsold copies sold by the publisher at discounted prices.  We would spend a couple of hours on Saturday browsing the shelves for deeply discounted “good reads.”  I was sad. . . no . . . I was ticked the day our neighborhood branch closed seven years ago.  And when Daedalus closed its last standing branch last month, it was clear that the digital age had scored again.  Even the 4th richest county in America couldn’t keep my favorite bookstore open.

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Nowadays we go to the public library just about every week.  Ours looks and smells like an ordinary library.  Quiet? Check. Books? Check. Cheerful librarians that are way too eager to help? Check.  But the tiny library, always busy, appears to be enjoying celebrity status.  It is surviving in a space that bookstores have failed. Here’s why:

Libraries keep retail hours, too.

All of our county’s libraries are open from 10am to 9pm on weekdays and are also open on Saturday and Sunday.  We can usually get to the stacks whenever the mood strikes.  We could wait until the weekend; but we don’t have to.

People still read books.

There is a strong camp of people who haven’t signed on to the digital trend.  They enjoy the feel and smell of books. When they want to know something, they to turn to books just as naturally as others turn to Google. They collect autographed books and display them like trophies.  They don’t ever lend books to friends (not books they care to see again, anyway). Instead they usher their friends towards  (you guessed it) the library.

gwen and zak library

Children will always judge.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is not advice followed by children.  Kids absolutely judge books by their covers, their art work, and their titles. The page count and the print size all figures into the selection process.  This is much easier to do in a library than on a website. It’s even easier to do after a passionate, highly energetic librarian has read it to them in a dramatic voice.

Libraries also have something for people who don’t read.

People who prefer to listen to books can borrow audio books or CDs in person or use an app such as Libby, Overdrive and Hoopla to borrow audio books, music, movies, and TV free with a library card.

Libraries have awesome adult programs.

Whereas bookstores are in the business of selling products, libraries are in the business of providing information.  Participation in library programming has been steadily increasing ,according to the Public Library Association’s 2017 Public Library Data Service Report .

Our county’s system has a “Do it Yourself” (DIY) education center to learn about anything ranging from repair and maintenance to adventure. The Center features a borrowing collection of small tools for home projects, such as bicycle repair kits, DIY classes and a “mess friendly” classroom and workspace for children, teens, and adults.  The library organizes free  book clubs, lectures, book signings, music lessons, foreign language classes, SAT prep classes — classroom style and online.


The children’s programs are even more awesome.

The library organizes children’s scavenger hunts, story hours, art classes, chemistry experiments, coding/STEM classes, homework clubs, sewing workshops, and more. Parents’ tax dollars allow children to explore their interests through the library’s programs without making a costly financial commitment.

Libraries are embracing technology.

A click will reserve and transfer books to your closest branch through inter-library loan. Avoid long lines with self-check out. Receive receipts and reminders by email.

Reserve books, sign up for activities and book meeting rooms through a dedicated account.  Use the library’s computers if you don’t have a device but need internet access.  Some libraries even offer automatic renewals.  No late fees. No questions asked.

Some libraries are destinations.

They have historical significance, amazing architecture or are just plain beautiful.  Make a point to tour New York City’s Schwarzman Library or the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. during your next visit.


So what are you waiting on?  Go to the library. What you find will surprise you.


Book Review: Best Tent Camping Maryland

tent campingSlapacking in the Australian Blue Mountains; glamping at Lake Langano, New Years Eve on Japan’s Kaseda Beach.  Some of my best memories involve sitting around a bonfire with friends, eating, sleeping and storytelling under the stars. I want to make more camping memories with my family; but I have no idea how to really camp.  Spending more time around the campfire means learning how to tent camp.

When I set out to learn something new,  I go deep — tinkering somewhere between highly engaged and completely obsessed.  Like my grade-school trip to Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Georgia, I need the children’s first tent camping experience to be everything.  My first obsession was figuring out where to camp.  After hours and hours (and hours) of pouring over the many state park websites, selecting the perfect campsite still felt like playing lottery.

In comes Best Tent Camping Maryland, my trusty companion; my loyal friend.  Evan Balkan’s  guidebook features some of the best campgrounds in Maryland, organized by region. Balkan then rates every park’s beauty, security, peacefulness, cleanliness, and privacy while providing a detailed overview of what makes each park special. He offers up tips on the best sites for those concerned lot-size, scenic views, access to trails, boat rentals/launches, proximity to bathrooms, lifeguards, and RV campers. Detailed maps allow you to quickly compare campsites.

I hoarded the public library’s copy for 3 weeks before finally purchasing my own.  That the 2016 edition is due for an update, didn’t stop me from adding it to my shelves.  Sure, I can find some of this information online. But internet research usually tires me out well before I get anywhere near the answer I need.  Best Tent Camping Maryland is concise, comprehensive and efficient.

Now that I’ve checked “find a campsite” off my to-do list it’s time to start obsessing over buying our first tent.  Hours and hours (and hours) of fun.

“The Best Tent Camping” is part of a series, which covers several states and regions across the United States.