Summer vacation is a great time of year to plan a special outing. Experiences that involve science and nature can be particularly rewarding.
Pairing an outdoor adventure with a wonderful book can expand learning -- and fun.
Begin with a visit to the local farmers market. The book "What's in the Garden?" by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cris Arbo (Dawn Publications, $8.95, ages 3-8), introduces children to fruits and vegetables.
This interactive book allows the reader to guess what food is being described through simple rhyming text and realistic illustrations. Ms. Berkes supplements the guessing game with lots of interesting information.
An easy recipe for families to make together reinforces the importance of healthy eating. The book concludes by describing the variety of foods featured, the parts of a plant, cooking tips, vocabulary and more.
Together Ms. Berkes and Ms. Arbo have created a factual overview that's appealing and engaging. Who knows -- maybe this book will inspire you and your family to start your very own garden.
Enjoy a double dose of vegetables with the wonderful picture book "Rainbow Stew" by Cathryn Falwell (Lee & Low Books, $17.95, ages 5-8). Ms. Falwell is the author and illustrator of more than 20 picture books including a previous food-themed story, "Feast for 10."
Three African-American children wake to a dreary, rainy day at Grandpa's house. In order to put smiles on their faces, Grandpa suggests, "Let's go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!"
The book is aptly named, featuring vibrant illustrations in multimedia collage of the colorful vegetables found in Grandpa's garden. Ms. Fallwell's text enhances the book's appeal with rhyming and rich vocabulary words.
This book also concludes with a recipe to make your very own Rainbow Stew. You don't have to be a grandpa to cherish the time spent reading this picture book with a preschooler.
If you are planning a visit to an aquarium or the beach this summer, check out the latest book by Jim Arnosky, "Shimmer and Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life" (Sterling Children's Books, $14.95, ages 6-10).
Mr. Arnosky has been stimulating children's love of animals and nature for more than 30 years. Winner of a number of awards, he has also been honored by having his books selected as ALA Notable books.
"Shimmer and Splash" was inspired by sea life from stingrays to fiddler crabs. The text is written in a personal way, straight from the journals of the author presenting first-hand accounts and observations.
Included in the book are four fold-out spreads that depict the actual size of some of the sea life he documents. For creatures too big to illustrate, Mr. Arnosky provides the maximum lengths they could reach.
Mixed among the colorful acrylic paintings of ocean animals are pencil sketches of the many other creatures he observed.
The ocean is vast and it would take you a lifetime to learn about all of its occupants. Just like Mr. Arnosky, you too will be enthralled by the marine life habitats.
Are you one who cares about the environment? Do you want to learn more about the past and the early conservationists?
"Friends of the Earth: A History of American Environmentalism" by Pat McCarthy (Chicago Review Press, $16.95, 9 to 12) is a great way to learn about the lives of those who began the conservation movement. We learn that environmentalism didn't just develop within the past 50 years but rather began with the Native Americans and continued on through the years.
Read short biographies of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Margaret Murie to name a few. "These men and women dedicated their lives to saving our Earth."
The book also features 21 projects to provide hands-on learning with activities such as making a recycled bird feeder or turning salt water to drinking water. After reading the chapter about John James Audubon, author of "Birds of America," plan a trip to the National Aviary or Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel.
Perhaps reading about Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring," the book that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, will inspire a visit to the Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale or the Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill.
Author Ms. McCarthy packs in plenty of information but keeps the pace lively, ensuring that young readers won't feel too much like they are stuck in summer school. She also includes a list of places to visit in the United States and websites to explore to continue the learning of science and nature and the environment.
If you're not into gardening, animals or the environment, add the library to your list of local attractions to explore. Whatever your area of interest, there's sure to be a book that can expand your enjoyment -- and we'll be happy to help you find it at Carnegie Library.bookreviews
Caralee Sommerer is senior librarian, children's services, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, East Liberty.