BOOK REVIEW: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Here in Portland we are back in the rainy part of the year (pretty much October through early June). I admit it becomes all too easy to just want to hang out indoors, laptop at one’s fingertips and a to-do list needing to be checked off. Should I be surprised that my preschooler wants to watch episode after episode of Daniel Tiger? This new book, written and beautifully illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna, follows a young girl as technological boredom inside becomes what she thinks will remain boredom outside. But that boredom is anything but uneventful and unexciting!

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Beatrice Alemagna, On a Magical Do-Nothing Day (New York: HarperCollins, 2016), 48 pp.

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Publisher’s description A compelling, magical picture book with “startlingly beautiful words and pictures” (Kirkus). A book to spur imagination and exploring and a break from boredom or screen time. All I want to do on a rainy day like today is play my game. My mom says it’s a waste of time, but without my game, nothing is fun! On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong about that… While reading On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, one gets the sense that the illustrator became lost in her drawings, and as a reader, you will want to do the same.

After losing her connection to a game device (which she brought outside), and through meeting snails, walking among mushrooms, and digging hands in dirt, the young girl comes to see the outside world as something worthy of experiencing, even in the yuckiest of days.

While it is wonderful for parents to get outside with their kids, sometimes parents DO have things they need to work on. On those days, parents can push their kids outside to do what kids are meant to do: explore, play, and get dirty. In our current culture of over-scheduled weeks for kids, On a Magical Do-Nothing Day serves as a reminder that it is okay – really, it is – to have days where kids should let boredom lead the way to discovery and play. And allowing that happens begins with encouragement from parents.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Creaky Knees Guide Pacific Northwest National Parks and Monuments: The 75 Best Easy Hikes

As a family we’ve explored in many national parks, from Yosemite National Park in California to Yellowstone National Park in (mostly) Wyoming. And while we’ve certainly visited the flagship NPS sites in the Pacific Northwest – Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and Olympic – this new hiking guide serves as a reminder that there are many more to add to our list. Like the similar guides in the “Creaky Knees” series, this one offers descriptions of a variety of hikes that are great for families – while some of the hike suggestions are a bit tough, most are doable for the prepared family.

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Seabury Blair Jr., The Creaky Knees Guide Pacific Northwest National Parks and Monuments: The 75 Best Easy Hikes (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2016), 320 pp.

Order from Amazon – Order from Powell’s City of Books –

Publisher’s description Timed perfectly with the National Park Service centennial celebration in 2016, this guidebook features the 75 best day hikes in national parks and monuments throughout Washington and Oregon including: North Cascades National Park, San Juan Islands National Monument, Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon Caves National Monument, and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Written in an informative style that will appeal to anyone, regardless of age, each trail description includes elevation gains, including a topographical map; clear, up-to-date driving directions; mileage and estimated hiking time; trail conditions; and more. Creaky Knees hiking guides are perfect for aging baby boomers, seniors, those traveling with small children, and anyone else interested more in a stroll than a climb.

Also by Seabury Blair Jr.: The Creaky Knees Guide Washington: The 100 Best Easy Hikes and The Creaky Knees Guide Oregon: The 85 Best Easy Hikes

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BOOK: Rainy Day Kids Adventure Book

For many of us the rainy season is either here or soon upon us. It can be difficult to muster the energy for getting outside with kids when it’s pouring out. The advice and suggested activities in this new book can help make it all go a little smoother.

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Steph Scott and Katie Akers, Rainy Day Kids Adventure Book (London: Batsford, 2017), 160 pp.

Order through Powell’s City of BooksOrder through Amazon.com

Publisher’s description As the weather turns into autumn and the kids start watching more television and stare at the computer, how can you get them out and about to enjoy the cooler months? Outdoor enthusiasts Steph and Katie are teachers and mothers and have years of experience of finding new and novel ways to get kids to enjoy the great outdoors, whatever the weather. This great little tome is packed with ideas for games, activities and nature crafts that are perfectly suited to the autumnal and winter months of rain and wind. Activities range from puddle painting and making your own nature paint brushes, to making wind spinners from golden leaves and feathers. Why not try puddle pouncing or raindrop racing, or create a pool and spa for an elf? Or make a leafy woven kite, windmill or nature parachute for the windy weather? Nature offers loads of autumnal bits and bobs just waiting for a creative hand. And if you don’t want to stay out for too long, the book lists things to collect outdoors for taking home and used for stay-at-home projects. The book encourages youngsters to see the excitement of wind, snow, rain and to enjoy the elements with fun projects that excite the imagination.

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BOOK REVIEW: Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

I have yet to visit the Grand Canyon. My family and I have visited many of the familiar national parks of the west, but so far not this miles-wide chasm in Arizona. After reading the new children’s book Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (New York: Roaring Book Press, 2017; order from Amazon or Powell’s City of Books), not only do I feel a bit of the reported awe that visitors usually claim they feel (I don’t doubt this!), but I feel that I shouldn’t wait too much longer to experience this geological wonder.

Jason Chin books

Chin’s books, which I have shared about here and on my other blog, splendidly mix an imaginative story line and artwork with accurate scientific content. Grand Canyon is no exception to this blending skill of Chin’s. Like in two of his previous books, Redwoods and Coral Reefs, a child is immersed in an activity and is suddenly transported to a new world. In Redwoods, a boy in a subway station reading about redwoods finds himself in a redwood forest upon exiting the station; and in Coral Reefs, a girl in a library opens a book about coral reefs and the reading room becomes an undersea world and gets a firsthand experience of coral reef life.

Likewise, in Grand Canyon a girl on a hike with her father is sent time traveling into the past to see geological processes at work and the ancient life that lived in the Grand Canyon region. Whether shadowed by gigantic redwoods, swimming with sea turtles, or playing witness to geological and paleontological history, Chin’s books show curious kids exploring and learning about the natural world. The result of kids reading these books, I hope, is a shared appreciation for nature and awe at its grandness and diversity. I highly recommend Grand Canyon and Chin’s other books, including one he illustrated for another author – Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle.

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BOOK: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather & GIVEAWAY!

Last spring when I attended the annual Children & Nature Network conference in Vancouver, B.C., I met Linda McGurk, a Swedish-born, Indiana-living freelance journalist and mother of two girls who writes the blog Rain or Shine Mamma. We had been connected on social media for some time before then, and I always appreciate getting to meet people in real life:

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She was in a poster session sharing her views on the differences between how parents and teachers in the US and those in Scandinavia provide opportunities for children to play and learn outside. She grew up in Sweden, and when she became a parent in the United States, the freedoms of her childhood spent outside were not the same as where she was now raising her daughters.

I’m about half-way through her new book – released today – based on her experiences here and having moved to Sweden with her daughters for a period of time. So far There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is balanced mixture of narrative regarding her experiences as a parent (observing her own and other kids at play in communities and at school) and a great overview of relevant research and commentary on the ever-growing movement to reconnect children to nature. And just as Linda encourages parents and teachers to let kids play not just when it is dry out, her style of writing is anything but dry – it’s sharp, humorous, and full of insight.

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Linda Åkeson McGurk, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) (New York: Touchstone, 2017), 304 pp. 

Order through Powell’s City of BooksOrder through Amazon.com

Publisher’s description Bringing Up Bébé meets Last Child in the Woods in this lively, insightful memoir about a mother who sets out to discover if the nature-centric parenting philosophy of her native Scandinavia holds the key to healthier, happier lives for her American children. When Swedish-born Linda McGurk moved to small-town Indiana with her American husband to start a family, she quickly realized that her outdoorsy ways were not the norm. In Sweden children play outside all year round, regardless of the weather, and letting young babies nap outside in freezing temperatures is not only common—it is a practice recommended by physicians. In the US, on the other hand, she found that the playgrounds, which she had expected to find teeming with children, were mostly deserted. In preschool, children were getting drilled to learn academic skills, while their Scandinavian counterparts were climbing trees, catching frogs, and learning how to compost. Worse, she realized that giving her daughters the same freedom to play outside that she had enjoyed as a child in Sweden could quickly lead to a visit by Child Protective Services. The brewing culture clash finally came to a head when McGurk was fined for letting her children play in a local creek, setting off an online firestorm when she expressed her anger and confusion on her blog. The rules and parenting philosophies of her native country and her adopted homeland were worlds apart. Struggling to fit in and to decide what was best for her children, McGurk turned to her own childhood for answers. Could the Scandinavian philosophy of “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” be the key to better lives for her American children? And how would her children’s relationships with nature change by introducing them to Scandinavian concepts like friluftsliv (“open-air living”) and hygge (the coziness and the simple pleasures of home)? McGurk embarked on a six-month-long journey to Sweden to find out. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather is a fascinating personal narrative that highlights the importance of spending time outdoors, and illustrates how the Scandinavian culture could hold the key to raising healthier, resilient, and confident children in America.

I have a history project deadline coming up, and look forward to getting back to Linda’s book after that (and so many others I wish to read!). Until then, here are some reviews to look over, and a cool GIVEAWAY on my Facebook page Children at Nature Play (US & Canada only)!

Publisher’s Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Hike It Baby (text interview)
Wildschooling Wild Chat (video interview)
Big Blend Radio: Nature-Centric Parenting (podcast interview)

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Upcoming nature events in Portland

— Please check for any schedule changes or registration requirements —

Have you checked out The Intertwine’s new mobile app Daycation to learn about things to do in nature around the Portland area?

Also check out the new Metro Park Finder!

Nature Night lecture series from Audubon Society of Portland

Upcoming Family canoe paddles with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership

Upcoming OMSI Science Pubs about the OR/WA geology, protecting Oregon’s biodiversity

Upcoming events with the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (in WA)

Upcoming Sunday Parkways events around the city

Nature classes at Portland area parks from Tinkergarten

Discovery Hikes with the Forest Park Conservancy

Family-friendly hikes with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge (click on the family-friendly filter to the right of the screen)

Hike series with Oregon Wild

Tours at the Hoyt Arboretum

Fall nature programming from THPRD (Beaverton area)

Summer nature programming from the Friends of Tryon Creek

Summer nature programming at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro)

Summer nature programming at the Tillamook Forest Center

Summer nature programming at the Leach Botanical Garden

Free Skills Series from Rewild Portland (every month)

Bird watching outings with Audubon Society of Portland

Bird and kid’s nature walks with Backyard Bird Shop

Aug. 25-Sept. 25 | Swift Watch at Chapman Elementary| Audubon Society of Portland

September 19 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

September 23 | SOLVE’s annual Beach & Riverside Cleanup | SOLVE

September 23 | The amazing geology of Chehalem Ridge | Metro

September 23 | Hogan Butte Grand Opening | City of Gresham

September 24 | Salmon Celebration at Westmoreland Park | Johnson Creek Watrshed Council

September 24 | Nature Days in the Park: Melilah Park (Aloha) | THPRD

October 1 | Tracktoberfest: Celebration of Nature & Community | Trackers Earth

October 11 | Free Metro parks day | Metro

October 11 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

October 13 | Spooky Streamside Community Celebration (Dirksen Nature Park) | Tualatin Riverkeepers

October 13 | Fall Family Farm Day | Sauvie Island Center

October 15 | Morning and afternoon mushroom discovery hikes at Scouters Mountain Nature Park | Metro

October 17 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

October 21 | Nature Days in the Park: Barrows Park | THPRD

October 21-22 | Salmon Homecoming at Oxbow Regional Park (Sat. or Sun.) | Metro

October 24 | Introduction to mushroom identification (at Oregon Zoo) | Metro

October 28 | No Ivy Day | Portland Parks & Recreation

October 28 | Hike: Lichen Loop: Exploring Lichens As Indicators Of Air Quality | Forest Park Conservancy

October 29 | 2017 Fall Mushroom Show (at World Forestry Center) | Oregon Mycological Society

November 4 | Newt Day at Tualatin Hills Nature Park | THPRD

November 11 | The secret life of birds (Blue Lake Regional Park) | Metro

November 12 | Morning and afternoon mushroom discovery hikes at Mount Talbert Nature Park | Metro

November 12 | Nature Days in the Park: Foothills Park | THPRD

November 12 | Morning and afternoon mushroom discovery hikes at Oxbow Regional Park | Metro

December 2 | Fantastic mosses and where to find them (Scouters Mountain Nature Park) | Metro

Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling):
Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park
Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks Environmental Education
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Nature Mobile from THPRD’s Natural Resources
Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden
Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm
Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA
Guided hikes at Columbia Springs in Vancouver, WA (third Wed. of most months)
Tillamook Tales at the Tillamook Forest Center

Did you know?
– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Thursday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the first Thursday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents

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BOOK REVIEW: Where’s Rodney?

Not every child can sit still in a classroom setting all day long. Children need to move their bodies and explore their environment.

A new book from the Yosemite Conservancy follows young Rodney, an elementary-grade student who just can’t remain at his desk. and focus on what the class is learning.

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Carmen Bogan, Where’s Rodney? (San Francisco: Yosemite Conservancy, 2017), 32 pp. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Age: 4-8 (preschool-2nd grade)

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Publisher’s description Rodney was inside, but he wants to be outside. Outside is where Rodney always wants to be. Rodney is that kid who can’t sit still. Then Rodney gets the chance to be more outside than he’s ever been before. And that makes all the difference.

This is a charming story – a boy has difficulty focusing and remaining at his desk at school, but is completely in tune when outdoors. As the environmental educator Erin Kenny said, “You can’t bounce off the walls if there are no walls.” Children are not meant to be confined to indoor spaces. And it’s a notion that I wish more teachers and school administrators would grab on to and move their students outside for greater portions of the school day (it’s surely a reason many parents opt to homeschool, unschool, or wildschool their kids, or send them to nature-based preschools or forest schools in their younger years).

Many teachers DO know the benefits of increased time outside, for play and instruction, yet are held back by the school system that wants them to push more and more work on students to ready them for standardized testing. But, students can and do learn subjects better when outside and can be more engaged in the subject at hand.

In this book, Rodney is asked during class what the word majestic means. He doesn’t know, and the teacher ends up telling him.

Then, after exploring all there was to see during their field trip (to Yosemite, it appears), his teacher asks Rodney if he liked the park. His answer: “It’s majestic.” It’s a simple yet powerful message: put learning outdoors and everyone will benefit from it!

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BOOKS: Six recent titles from Dawn Publications about the natural world

I am incredibly tardy in sharing about these new books from Dawn Publications, a publisher that focuses on books about nature for kids. I always enjoy getting these from them and sharing about them here!

Here are the three books they published in the fall of 2016:

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Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna, by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Jill Dubin. This book continues the “Over in the…” series. Following the classic rhythm “Over in the Meadow,” readers will gallop with zebras, graze with hippos, and dig with aardvarks on the plain. Seven more animals from African grasslands are represented, and there is more detailed information about the animals and savannas at the end of the book for parents and educators to use for learning opportunities. (order through Powell’s City of Books or Amazon.com)

Octopus Escapes Again!, written and illustrated by Laurie Ellen Angus. Octopus are incredibly interesting ocean creatures, and this book does a great job at showing how they defend themselves from animals that might want to eat them. At the back of the book are pages that cover the anatomy of an octopus, all about its defense strategies, activity suggestions, and information about all the other animals that the octopus is escaping from. (order through Powell’s City of Books or Amazon.com)

A Moon of My Own, by Jennifer Rustgi and illustrated by Ashley White. Beautiful silhouettes of a young girl and animals and notable places from around the globe contrasted with the glow of the changing moon make for a pleasing reminder that this large chunk of rock orbiting our planet is ever present in our night sky. Information about the various places in the book and the phases of the moon, as well as some actiivty suggestions, follow the story. (order through Powell’s City of Books or Amazon.com)

And the three books that came out in the spring of 2017:

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There’s a Bug on My Book!, written and illustrated by John Himmelman. Do you ever get interrupted while trying to start reading a book? You’re about to immerse yourself in learning some new knowledge and your ability to do that is stopped…. a bug? Yes, this clever book about insects and other small animals does just that. The fun illustrations go along with interactive text to make an enjoyable read that is best done outside. (order through Powell’s City of Books or Amazon.com)

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young, by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Cathy Morrison. Who can resist baby animals? General cuteness aside, this book looks at how a variety of animals move around with their offspring in tow. Young kids who still get carried or pushed by their parents will find this book familiar. (order through Powell’s City of Books or Amazon.com)

Wonderful Nature, Wonderful You, by Karin Ireland and illustrated by Christopher Canyon. Learning about nature is more than just science and facts, or the human relationship with the natural world.  Observing nature can also help us with our emotions, challenges, and self-identify. The rhythms in nature can speak to the rhythms in our own lives. (order through Powell’s City of Books or Amazon.com)

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Upcoming nature events in Portland

— Please check for any schedule changes or registration requirements —

List of Summer Camp 2017 opportunities

Have you checked out The Intertwine’s new mobile app Daycation to learn about things to do in nature around the Portland area?

Summer fun days at Blue Lake Park, every Tues, Wed and Thurs, July 11-Aug. 10, 11:30am-2:30pm

Family canoe paddles with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership

Upcoming OMSI Science Pubs about the total solar eclipse, volcanoes, PNW geology, and protecting Oregon’s biodiversity

Upcoming events with the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (in WA)

Upcoming Sunday Parkways events around the city

Upcoming community paddles with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership

Nature classes at Portland area parks from Tinkergarten

Discovery Hikes with the Forest Park Conservancy

Family-friendly hikes with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge (click on the family-friendly filter to the right of the screen)

Hike series with Oregon Wild

Summer tours at the Hoyt Arboretum

Summer nature programming from THPRD (Beaverton area)

Summer nature programming from the Friends of Tryon Creek

Summer nature programming at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro)

Summer nature programming at the Tillamook Forest Center

Summer nature programming at the Leach Botanical Garden

Free Skills Series from Rewild Portland (every month)

Bird watching outings with Audubon Society of Portland

Bird and kid’s nature walks with Backyard Bird Shop

July 19 | Bat Chat at Tryon Creek | Friends of Tryon Creek

July 22 | Walking among the giants (at Oxbow Regional Park) | Metro

July 22 | Help clear out 2,200 square feet of pavement to make way for a nature-playscape | Depave

July 25 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

July 26 | Bat Chat at Sauvie Island | Friends of Tryon Creek

August 2 | Bat Chat at Tryon Creek | Friends of Tryon Creek

August 4 | Families in the field: winged wildlife discovery (Blue Lake Regional Park) | Metro

August 6 | 23rd Annual Columbia Slough Regatta | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

August 9 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

August 10 | Twilight Thursday (Smith and Bybee Wtlands Natural Area) | Metro

August 12 | Nadaka Park Festival | Friends of Nadaka & Columbia Slough Watershed Council

August 12 | The wild side of the wetland (Blue Lake Regional Park) | Metro

August 12 | Backyard Bats Family Program (at Cooper Mountain) | THPRD

August 12 | NW Fossil Fest | Rice Museum of Rocks & Minerals

August 13 | Bat Chat at Sauvie Island | Friends of Tryon Creek

Aug. 25-Sept. 25 | Swift Watch at Chapman Elementary| Audubon Society of Portland

August 26 | Sneak peek of Newell Creek Canyon (in Oregon City) | Metro

August 26 | 10th Annual Johnson Creek Cleanup | Johnson Creek Watrshed Council

August 30 | Bat Chat at Tryon Creek | Friends of Tryon Creek

September 2 | Vulture Awareness Day | Audubon Society of Portland

September 13 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

September 15 | Free Metro parks day | Metro

September 15 | Friday night hike (at Blue Lake Regional Park) | Metro

September 19 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

September 23 | The amazing geology of Chehalem Ridge | Metro

September 24 | Salmon Celebration at Westmoreland Park | Johnson Creek Watrshed Council

October 11 | Free Metro parks day | Metro

October 11 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

October 17 | Puddle Stompers | Friends of the Refuge

Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling):
Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park
Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks Environmental Education
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Nature Mobile from THPRD’s Natural Resources
Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden
Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm
Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA
Guided hikes at Columbia Springs in Vancouver, WA (third Wed. of most months)
Tillamook Tales at the Tillamook Forest Center

Did you know?
– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Thursday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the first Thursday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents

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BOOK: Curious Kids Nature Guide: Explore the Amazing Outdoors of the Pacific Northwest

Most books that discuss flora and fauna for a particular geographic region are usually geared toward adults. This new book provides descriptions and beautiful illustrations to many of the neat things kids can see in a variety of habitats of the Pacific Northwest. While the sections on Forest, Beach, and Freshwater are good, the section on Backyards and Urban Parks is particular great. Kids need to learn that nature does exist in cities and where they live. Curious Kids Nature Guide should be on the bookshelf of every family in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia – it’s a great guide for kids to learn about the natural world outside their homes!

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Fiona Cohen, Curious Kids Nature Guide: Explore the Amazing Outdoors of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2017), 96 pp. Recommended age: 5-9. Illustrated by Marni Fylling.

• Order through Powell’s City of Books • Order through Amazon.com •

Publisher’s description Filled with fun facts and 100 full-color, beautiful, and scientifically accurate illustrations, this nature guide will inspire kids to go outdoors and discover the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest. Did you know that baby raccoons are smaller than a bar of soap? Or that salmon smell using little pits in the front of their eyes? Curious Kids Nature Guide is filled with full-color illustrations and fun facts about the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest, encouraging kids to discover and explore nature in their own backyards and beyond. Organized by habitat–forest, beach, fresh water, and backyards and urban parks–this book will teach kids about some of the most intriguing flora, fauna, and natural phenomena of the region while also sharing ecological lessons.

 

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