Nature's Book Nook

Many of these books can be found on PrairieCat; many are available for as little as 1 cent or 99 cents from booksellers on Amazon (with $3.99 for postage and handling).

For Kids:


Kevin Henkes

This straightforward book is perfect for any budding ornithologist. With simple illustrations and even simpler prose, this book offers a beginning survey to the world of birds starting with simple descriptions of color, size, before venturing into the philosophical. What would the world look like if clouds were birds? Where do birds go when it’s stormy and they can’t go home to their nests? Why do birds sit on the telephone line for so long and then only leave when I’m not looking? All of these and more are pondered in this book of first step birding.


I Love the Earth
Todd Parr

“I love the Earth and I want to help take care of it.” That’s the premise of the book. Making sure the owls have a place to live, and the oceans stay blue are some of the subcategories, but it all comes back to that overall concept of wanting to protect the Earth as much as it protects us. Keep the skies clear so we can see the stars. Grow enough food so everyone can eat. Make sure that you can walk barefoot in the grass. These are the principles covered in this book. There is even a convenient guide at the back of 10 things we can all do to help the earth. It’s a big job, but if you and your little one start here, you’ll be off to a good start.


My Side of the Mountain
Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain follows Sam Gribley who in an attempt to escape his large family in New York, studies survival skills and prepares to run away from home. Sam strikes out and lives every adolescent’s dream of forging their own home in the wild. He makes a home in the hollow of a tree, forages for and traps his food, and even befriends a Peregrine Falcon and weasel. This novel even features the occasional illustration of the techniques Sam uses to survive longer than anyone expected on his own. For anyone of any age who has ever thought of getting away from it all, My Side of the Mountain presents a delightful depiction of the determination required, and the serenity of, being surrounded by the wild. If this book does the trick, there are a handful of sequels to check out as well.

For Adults:

The World Without Us
Alan Weisman

Tomorrow morning, there are no humans on the planet. It could be disease, catastrophic war, alien abduction, anything. The point is, if tomorrow, there were no humans, how would the world respond? From how quickly the subways would flood to what animals would flourish and which ones would perish in our absence, this book explores this fascinating – if a bit morbid – thought experiment. From the first day to years and years down the road, The World Without Us illustrates just how the world would fill in our absence and how what we leave behind would continue our impact. This isn’t a doom-and-gloom story, but it is a useful image to hold as we all try to have a positive impact on the world around us.

Kids and Families
April/May 2019
Beginning Birder  |  Get Linked In

Listen to Amphibians

Saturday, April 6, 6:30 p.m. and/or
Friday, April 26, 6:30 p.m.

Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve, Forreston, IL

Listen to the spring calls of frogs and toads! We will walk near wetland areas that are great amphibian habitats.

Meet in the parking lot, in the NE corner of Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve, off of West Grove Rd. at 6:30 p.m. There will be a carpool from the Harbor Freight east parking lot in Freeport at 6 p.m. The preserve is located 3 miles southwest of Forreston in the SE corner of Freeport and West Grove Rds.

If weather is questionable, call Mary Blackmore at 815-938-3204.

Listen to Amphibians

EARTH Day celebration at Krape Park

Saturday, April 27, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Krape Park, 1799 Park Blvd., Freeport, IL

EARTH Day celebration at Krape Park
  • 9:30 a.m.: Bird walk for kids and families led by Richard Benning
  • 11 a.m.: Live bird presentation at by Hoo Haven (community building)
  • 9 a.m. - noon: Pollinator activity with University of Illinois Extension
  • 2 p.m.: Walking meditation with Pat Leitzen-Fye
  • All day: Art project with the Freeport Art Museum (Gunkel shelter)
  • All day: Informational displays on sustainability/ environment (Gunkel shelter)

Annual Bird Festival

Saturday, May 11, 8 – 11 a.m.

Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve

Annual Bird Festival

Join us for an informative, fun, family-friendly morning as we explore the Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve for the many migrating and resident birds found there. Tours will begin at 8, 9, and 10:00 a.m. The 10:00 tour will be specifically oriented to kids and families, including information on how to use binoculars!

If you do not have binoculars, we have some for you to borrow!

There will be free “Illinois Birds” pocket guides to the first visitors while supplies last.

The preserve is located about 2 miles south of Leaf River (S. Main St. in Leaf River becomes Leaf River Rd.), with parking just off of Leaf River Rd.

If weather is questionable, call Mary Blackmore at 815-938-3204.

Beginning Birder

Great Blue Heron
Ardea Herodias

Great Blue Heron The Great Blue Heron is a magnificent bird. While you won’t see it visiting your bird feeders, you may see it at any park you visit that has water nearby. These birds tend to be near water, often scanning for fish, frogs, snakes, or crayfish to eat. Their long legs allow them to wade in the water and see their prey below. They have excellent speed and snatch their prey with lightning speed.

If you join the amphibian hikes at Elkhorn Creek you might hear or see these birds! But listen carefully – a Great Blue Heron call sounds a lot like a frog!

Cool Facts*

  • Great Blue Herons can be 4 feet tall but weigh only 5 or 6 pounds.
  • They can have a wingspan of 6 feet.
  • Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers that grow and fray, producing a powder that removes fish slime and oils as they preen themselves.
  • Great Blue Herons have special photoreceptors in their eyes to allow them to hunt well during day and night.
  • The oldest recorded Great Blue Herons was at least 24 years old found in Texas.
  • The male typically gathers all of the nesting material, and the female builds the nest. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs.

* Sources include and

Get Linked In

Children, Nature and You Resources to help you give the children you influence the awe and wonder that only the natural world can inspire

Freeport Park District Information on all the Freeport parks

Freeport Public Library More than books on a shelf...visit the Freeport Public Library

Freeport Outdoor Experience Events located in Freeport and Stephenson County

Getting Kids Involved (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology) Includes bird information, tips, and more for kids and families

Jane Addams Recreation Trail Ride or Hike the beautiful Jane Addams Trail

Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots A program of the Jane Goodall Institute offering a variety of programs and resources

NASA Climate Kids to tell the story of our changing planet through the eyes of NASA missions studying Earth and provides games, activities, and articles that make climate science accessible and engaging for children

National Audubon for Kids provides resources for classroom curriculum, DIY activities, and bird activities for children at home

National Wildlife Federation Many family-friendly articles; Ranger Rick family magazine

Resource Guide Supplement to Last Child in the Woods Designed for parents, teachers, and community leaders to help them encourage children’s enjoyment of the great outdoors.

Severson Dells Nature Center Located near Rockford, IL.

Sierra Club Outdoors The program's goal is to give every child in America an outdoor experience.

World Migratory Bird Day Learn about the importance of migratory birds and how to celebrate birds any day of the year!

Family Activity

Spring Exploration

Take a family trip out to Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve on Saturday, May 11th at 10:00 a.m. to go on a tour and learn how to use binoculars!

As spring begins, more species of insects and birds can be seen outside. On a sunny day, consider going outside with your family and friends to see how many different types of insects you can find!

One fun thing to do this spring for the birds is to make a bird feeder! Take an empty juice carton, and cut a few holes about halfway down the side. Then, paint it your favorite color, poke two holes in the top to attach string to, and glue a stick for the birds to perch on near the bottom. Fill the carton with bird food, hang on a nearby tree, and watch for the birds to come!


and Events

Check out our full calendar of activities, events, and educational opportunities. You're sure to find something to interest you. Please join us!

Events include:

  • Monthly educational programs and issues discussions
  • Local bird walks
  • Field trips
  • Preserve work days

For more details, see the current newsletter.


Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023
Program: Hidden Prairie: Photographing Life in One Square Meter... >

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023
Christmas Bird Count... >

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023
Beginning Birder Club- Bird Movement - REGISTRATION CLOSED - Contact for waitlist... >

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024
Program: Birds and Beauty in Arizona... >