Thanking Nature for Bounty and Blessings

Girl in leaves

What’s your post-Thanksgiving dinner ritual? Do you try to get the kids outside to blow off some steam, shuffle through fallen leaves or gather pine cones for holiday decorations?

We try to do all three while celebrating at my parents’ home.  Walking around the country place where my six siblings and I grew up, I marvel each Thanksgiving at my dad’s stewardship of the land.  There’s the pond that his grandkids now like to explore, the organic garden plot, the windbreak of towering pines we planted as seedlings.

Thanksgiving might be the perfect time to thank the natural world by doing a “giving back” family project. You might brainstorm with your kids and come up with something that speaks to everyone’s interests.  The project might be one time (planting a native shrub), seasonal (ensuring a winter water source for backyard birds) or longer (regularly picking up trash in a local park or along a trail).

Celebrating that giving-back spirit is Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals (Earth Heroes Series) (Dawn, 2010, ages 8 and up), the third and final book in the nonfiction Earth Heroes series.  Wife-and-husband team Carol and Bruce Malnor have authored dynamic portraits of eight wildlife advocates.

Your whole family will enjoy learning about chimp ambassador Jane Goodall, ant expert Edward O. Wilson and wolf conservationist Ronald Lawrence.  These carefully researched mini-biographies are fascinating—and show how an interest sparked in childhood often flames into lifework.

One of the most intriguing portraits is of personable Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling (1876-1962), who as a teen loved working on his uncle’s Michigan farm and watching ducks on the millpond.  He grew up to be a cartoonist, conservationist, duck painter and co-founder and first president of the General Wildlife Federation (now the National Wildlife Federation).

Period photos and black-and-white artwork by Anisa Claire Hovemann add visual details.  Hovemann manages to capture vividly both the realistic appearance and the lively spirit of the ducks, bison, elephants and other wildlife that so entranced these naturalists and scientists.