Check It Out: Get a little help with those end-of-summer plans




Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

This past week has been a doozy weather-wise. Triple-digit temperatures and hazy, smoky skies caused by regional wildfires — in one word, meh. Doing anything outside was more of a chore than a pleasure; and gosh darn it, that’s not fair when you live in the beautiful Northwest. Fortunately, it looks like our forecast is improving — at least for the next 10 days (thank you, WeatherBug app!) — so, let’s get outside before the rainy season starts. We know it’s coming.

For Check It Out readers with kids, the other thing that’s coming is the big S word (yes, SCHOOL — ack!).

Perhaps you’re planning on being outside for the solar eclipse. After a few minutes, the eclipse will be done and then what are you going to do? And the remaining days until the school bell rings? It’s not too late to take advantage of some summer fun, and if you’re looking for some ideas, let the library guide your way.

In case you’re thinking that this week’s reading recommendations are just for parents and their “out-of-school-but-nearly-back-to-school” offspring, au contraire, mes amis. Adults need breaks, too, and not just the water-cooler kind. See below for a small sampling of family-friendly and kids-at-heart outdoorsy entertainment.

Reality check: less than 40 days to autumn. Ready, set, get your summer on!

• “The Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-Round Guide to Outdoor Learning,” by Jacob Rodenburg: From the publisher’s description: “The average child can identify over 1000 corporate logos, but only 10 native plants or animals.” Yikes. I’m sure this isn’t true for readers of “Check It Out,” but it never hurts to have a virtual backpack of activities when planning outdoor activities. Encouraging an interest in nature? Priceless.

• “Born to Be Wild: Hundreds of Free Nature Activities for Families,” by Hattie Garlick: Wild? Free? Having fun in the summer sun doesn’t have to break the bank.

• “Camping Activity Book for Families: The Kid-Tested Guide to Fun in the Outdoors,” by Linda Parker Hamilton: Now that I’m older — well-seasoned, shall we say — I’m more of a backyard camper. Backyard as in “grill a hamburger, watch the sun set, marvel at the stars, and hike back inside for a warm bath and a good night’s sleep on the memory foam mattress.” But, listen, camping is awesome (according to people I know), so get the whole family camp-happy by checking out this camp-tastic guide.

• “The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Heading Into the Wild (and How to Get Back in One Piece),” by Brendan Leonard: Again, a helpful description from the publisher: “Brendan Leonard, writer, filmmaker, and outdoor adventurer, shows the reader how rewarding it can be to live life away from the computer and get outside.” You mean life exists beyond email, YouTube and Twitter? Far out! Learn how to enjoy “far out” with minimal risk and maximum benefit.

• “Make It Wild!: 101 Things to Make and Do Outdoors,” by Jo Schofield: Kid-oriented, but friendly for all ages, learn how to make more than “one hundred projects, using materials found in the outdoors.” Turn couch potatoes into artful artichokes. Sorry — vegetable metaphor gone bad.

• “The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket,” by Marnie Hanel: Having outdoor adventures doesn’t necessarily mean wearing hiking boots or using a compass. Sometimes outdoor fun is as simple as going on a picnic — local or otherwise. For a tutorial on how to prepare scrumptious picnic food, take a lesson from Marnie Hanel’s delightful cookbook. No ants allowed.

• “Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life,” by Richard Louv: Nature-deficit disorder is a real thing, and unfortunately, many young people — and adults — suffer from it. Find out how nutritious nature is for our bodies and souls by checking out this vitamin-enriched read.