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Book recommendations for young naturalists and outdoor lovers

By Manhattan Public Library

Early spring days of tree buds and hungry birds make me look for books that include the outdoors. Here are some great new children’s books for nature lovers.

“Applesauce Weather,” by award-winning poet Helen Frost, is a gentle story made of poems that surround the reader like a soft fall breeze. Faith knows her Uncle Arthur will arrive when the first apple falls from the apple tree, but this year is different because Aunt Lucy is not there with him.

Uncle Arthur seems to have lost his stories and his twinkle, but Faith is determined to help him find them both again.

Frost delicately shares this short story of family love and grief, of weather and trees and grass beneath your feet. “Applesauce Weather” would be a perfect family read-aloud under a shady tree this spring.

For a page-turning adventure, try Linda Coggin’s “The Dog, Ray.” When 12-year-old Daisy meets an unfortunate end, her soul is returned to earth for unfinished business. What makes things tricky is that she returns as a dog.

As she makes new friends, she is adopted by a loving homeless boy who names her Ray and sticks with her through danger and uncertainty.

They travel many miles together, both searching for what they need, until Ray remembers less and less what she came for but fulfills her duty as a dog — to protect her family.

In “Otherwise Known as Possum,” by Maria D. Laso, Possum Porter is a rough and tumble tomboy who soaks up country life
with her best dog friend, Traveler, and her best human friend, Tully, by her side.

But this story begins just after Momma has passed away, along with the new baby, leaving Possum at the mercy of the nosy town ladies who are apt to convince Daddy that “LizBetty” needs a proper education.

Shooting pecans from her slingshot while sitting under Momma’s tree, Possum notices, “The Town Ladies were back: It was them Traveler’d heard. They’d swooped onto the porch, all black wings and beady eyes like giant crows, beaks fixing to stick into our business. I considered taking a shot. After all, a crow is a crow, and I have dead-keen aim, on account of I am naturally gifted for such things.”

Possum’s honest, rebellious voice is sure to strike a chord with many kids, as she navigates the social hierarchy of the one-room school house, loses friends, makes friends, and saves her daddy from a romance … with the teacher, no less!

“Me and Marvin Gardens,” by Amy Sarig King, is sort of a “boy and his dog” book, except that the critter Obe Devlin has found is not a dog. It is not a cat, possum, pig, or anything Obe has ever seen before.

In fact, as Obe reached out to touch it for the first time, he felt it “was totally, unquestionably, certainly, worryingly not a dog.” Obe is bullied by the kids in his neighborhood so he avoids them and instead spends time at Devlin Creek, pulling out the trash other people have dropped in.

When he befriends the plastic-eating animal he names Marvin Gardens, Obe has even more reason to protect the Devlin land, and all of nature, from the pollution and urbanization threatening to take over.

Kids will find an unlikely heroic pair in Obe and Marvin.

Young scientists may also enjoy checking out the library’s Nature Discovery Pack, one of 20 backpacks kids can check out on various themes.

The Nature pack includes books such as “How Does a Seed Sprout,” “Nature Ranger,” and “Crinkleroot’s Guide to Giving Back to Nature.”

Each pack has media and activities, and this one comes with a Magic School Bus DVD, children’s binoculars and textured rubbing plates to create a nature art project.

Kids can join us during spring break this week for a Nature Storytime at 11 a.m. Thursday, and ZooFari Tails Storytime at 10 a.m. Friday. Other events include kids’ yoga, CanTEEN, Chess Club and a free kids’ movie. Check the library calendar for details.









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