Robert U. Montgomery

June 2019

Here's Why Nature Is Good for Kids:

Laura and Lily fishing

It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.

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Fan Letter for Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature

This letter was sent to me by a young man. It contains wonderful insights from a young man whose father tells me that he is on the autism spectrum.
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Dear Robert Montgomery,

I love your book. I love it because I love the outdoors and everything about it. I agree that kids today use computers too much. I also love this book because it teaches me about everything from fish to frogs, toads to crawdads.
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Pippa and Zeus: Tales of Two Lost Dogs

Just about six years ago, I lost my best friend, Pippa.

I had adopted her a few months before. She was an adult dog who had spent her first two years of life in a shelter, and adjusting to life in the outside world was both exhilarating and frightening for her.

For example, with a stream-lined body, she was born to run, and now she could. And she did, often streaking in joyful manic circles around the yard after we came back from long walks. She daily rolled on her back in the grass, moaning ecstatically. And when it was just the two of us, she was the happiest dog in the world.

But strangers frightened her. So did sudden noises. And on that fateful day six years ago, a week before Fourth of July, someone set off firecrackers early on a Saturday morning.


Pippa loves rolling in the grass

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Kids' Book Not Just For Kids!



First feedback for my new illustrated children's book, Who Let the Bugs Out?, came from four grandparents, and they all loved it!

And, no, they didn't love it because their grandchildren liked it. Their grandkids weren't around when they read it. They personally loved it!

I made the target audience for the book ages 9 to 11, believing that younger advanced readers also can enjoy it on their own. But I also suspected that grandparents who read the book to their grandchildren might like the mystery just as much as the kids because of the setting and the time, which was before cell phones and video games, when kids played outside until their parents called them in at dusk.

Meanwhile, first kid feedback was forwarded from someone who bought copies of the book for her son and his buddies. Here is what she said:

"We got them! Already sat down and read it! The kids liked it! They want to try and play 'kick the can.'"

In the book, I explained that Bobby and his friends played that game on summer evenings, as they waited for the fireflies to come out. Of course, fireflies are the "bugs" mentioned in the title of the book.

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kick the can copy

My first children's book was inspired by Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature, another of my books. Chasing and catching those little flashing beetles was a big part of my summer fun, as it was for many others from that more innocent time. Here's an excerpt from the chapter "Nature's Night Lights":

If you grew up in a rural area or even in a subdivision near woods, you probably chased fireflies on summer nights. It’s a tradition as uniquely American as baseball and Fourth of July picnics.

In my neighborhood, we competed. We darted about, grabbing as many of the little illuminative beetles as we could and stashing them in mayonnaise jars. Then we’d count each stash to see who caught the most, before releasing them to once again light up the night in their search for mates.

A former student of mine, Kathy Tyler Paul, told me that she and her friends used jars of lightning bugs as lanterns when they played tag. And Matt Ellis, a friend and host of the Outdoor Scoreboard podcast, said that his father fed the insects to a toad on their front porch.

“When the toad ate the fireflies, we would see them glowing in its belly,” he recalled. “That was entertainment right there, for a little kid in the country.”

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Sadly, not as many fireflies are around today as there were just a few decades ago, according to
Firefly.org, which includes both of my books in its educational presentations to kids.

“The problem is that in America and throughout the world, our open fields and forests are being paved over, and our waterways are seeing more development and noisy boat traffic,” the website explained. “As their habitat disappears under housing and commercial developments, firefly numbers dwindle. Logging, pollution, and increased use of pesticide may also contribute to destroying firefly habitat and natural prey," the website says.

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Finally, here's a little something from
Scientific American that I'll bet you didn't known about fireflies:

"Flashes are the firefly language of love. 

"Fireflies use flashes as mating signals. The flashes that you see in your yard are generally from males looking for females. They flash a specific pattern while they fly, hoping for a female reply. If a female waiting in the grass or bushes likes what she sees, she responds back with a flash of her own.
"They will engage in this twinkling 'conversation' until the male locates the female and they mate. Each species has its own pattern—a code that lets individuals identify appropriate mates of the same species."

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LINK

Here's the link to firefly.org

https://www.firefly.org/