Robert U. Montgomery

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A More Innocent Time

How did you discover that Santa Claus isn't real?

As a college composition teacher, I asked my students to write essays about that. Following the obligatory moans and groans expressed for every assignment and some pretend indignation that I had spoiled the holiday with this revelation, they wrote wonderful stories of childhood innocence lost.

As a writer and editor, as well as teacher, I can "read" the motivation in someone's writing and I have no doubt that this assignment moved them, as they shared their memories. Some were funny. One was tragic. All were insightful. With their permission, I shared the stories with the class, as we all came to realize that almost everyone who celebrates Christmas has had this experience.

My own is what prompted that assignment, as well as my book
Under the Bed: Tales From an Innocent Childhood. You can read how I made the discovery in the essay by the same name. Also, you can read about a secret Santa who brought presents to a Jewish friend and her family in "The Shiny Red Fire Truck."

Overall,
Under the Bed is about growing up during a more innocent time, before we allowed so much of our lives to be ruled by technology. It's about family vacations in the station wagon, crazy relatives, and playing outside until dark during the summer. It's about a time when the new television season was a big deal in the fall and kids fell asleep with their transistor radios under their pillows, listening to rock and roll music.


Robert Montgomery - Copy

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.

Read More…

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.
Read More…

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/

Welcome

Nature was my first love, and time has not diminished the passion.

Nature also was my teacher. From her, I learned about love and loyalty, life and death, kindness and compassion. And yes, the birds and bees.

My books, both fiction and non-fiction, are a tribute to my first love and mentor. Read them and you will know me. Read them and, I hope, you will learn, laugh, cry, and maybe even wax nostalgic about your own time spent in the outdoors, especially as a child. Read them and, I hope, you will be inspired to spent more time in nature.

And take your kids along. Youngsters in today's world are more in need of that introduction than any of generations past.

Share my books with them too, especially
Who Let the Bugs Out?, which I wrote especially for young readers.

Another I wrote with adults in mind, but children discovered it and enjoy many of its stories as well. At a book signing, one little girl told me that "the one about the toads" was her favorite in
Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature. I've included an excerpt from that tale at the end of this post.

I'll add more excerpts from my books occasionally on this site, as well as news about them. I'll also include articles, essays, and stories about nature, animals, and the outdoors, including my adventures, some intentional and others not so much. Maybe I'll even write about writing from time to time.

Please check back to find out what's new. Now here's that excerpt from the story about the tiny toad invasion of my grandmother's house, and how I might have been to blame:

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I’m not sure how much time passed, maybe thirty minutes or maybe an hour. Sprawled on the kitchen floor, I was intently drawing cowboys when my grandmother screamed. As my grandfather came running, she pointed frantically toward the door of my bedroom.

I’m not sure how it happened. When I looked later, the box was overturned. Probably it flipped over when I threw it under the bed. But who is to say? Possibly the toads had climbed on each others’ backs and popped off the lid. As they marched out of the bedroom door, they seemed to be engaged in a coordinated counter-attack.

My grandmother already was infamous for taking off her dress in the front yard when a grasshopper fell down her back. Her response to the toads was just as noteworthy. As their collective mass spread like some Biblical plague, swallowing up the linoleum floor, she jumped from chair to table, screaming “Ernest! Do something!”

From there, time blurred. But here is what I know: Some little known, but immutable law of science must state that toads placed in a cigar box under a feather bed will multiply exponentially.