Preschool Story Time: Cozy Tales for Chilly Days

By Shelly Kilroy, Meijer Gardens Librarian 

Story time is such a great way to introduce children to the wonderful world of reading, and Cozy Tales for Chilly Days Preschool Story Time here at Meijer Gardens does just that.  On a very chilly day last Tuesday twenty children learned about reptiles while volunteers Miss Marge and Miss Betty read from several fun and interactive stories about turtles, chameleons and more.

Cozy Tales

One favorite was Eric Carle’s The Mixed Up Chameleon.  Children delighted in the story of this unique and colorful reptile, while also learning about primary colors.  An opportunity to touch real turtle shells helped introduce another favorite, Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond by Cathryn Falwell.  With these and other books, interaction and hands-on activities were highlights for both the children and their grownups.

Cozy Tales for Chilly Days is in its 5th year and going strong.  We hope you can join the other moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas who have come back week after week.  For more information on dates and themes for future story times, click here.

Cozy Tales
  Cozy Tales

October Book Discussion: Nature’s Visionary

October 2, 2012
By Shelly Kilroy, Meijer Gardens Librarian 

What a beautiful, fascinating and well-written book! Gretel Ehrlich’s John Muir: Nature’s Visionary was a wonderful biographical sketch of a fascinating and inspiring man.

Our members book discussion group dove into John Muir at our latest meeting, learning about who he was and what he accomplished; including numerous inventions, and the many books and articles written by and about him.

We learned that he was the founder of the Sierra Club, and has numerous trails, woods, schools and more named after him. Even a wren bears his name!
Each of us thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it for Ms. Ehrlich’s wonderful writing, the inspiring quotes by John Muir scattered throughout and the beautiful photos of the places John Muir loved.

Next month on November 6, we will be reading and discussing The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock.

September Book Discussion – Founding Gardeners

September 4, 2012
By Shelly Kilroy, Meijer Gardens Librarian 

After Frederik Meijer Gardens’ members book group read Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, we all agreed President’s Day will never be the same.

“Founding Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf

Learning about the great love Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison had for the land and plants and gardens in particular, and how it shaped their politics, was fascinating and enlightening.

For example, in their gardens, these men focused on using native American plants and less formal planting styles than were in fashion in Europe. For them, this was a political statement. Their gardens would be truly American in both plants and in style.

For all of us in the book group this was a fascinating new look at a fledgling nation and the founders we thought we knew.

On October 2, we will be reading and discussing John Muir: Nature’s Visionary by Gretel Ehrlich. This should be a fascinating read and a great prelude to the presentation on John Muir by Lee Stetson at the Wege Environmental Lecture on October 23.

Art & Gardens Book Discussion Group – Join this Fall

By Shelly Kilroy, Librarian

On May 1we wrapped up our third year of discussing interesting and enlightening books in our Art & Gardens Book Discussion Group. Our members-only group reads books related to art, gardening and nature and meets the first Tuesday of each month from September to May at 1 p.m.

For our final discussion we took on two books: Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall and Noah Charney’s Stealing the Mystic Lamb

Our discussion of the novel By Nightfall revolved around beauty in all its forms from pieces of art to people. Though this book gave us the opportunity for some lively discussion we ended up split on the issue of whether we would recommend it or not.

Noah Charney’s non-fiction piece was a fascinating look at art theft throughout history, in particular as it related to the most stolen piece of art of all time, Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. We agreed that though it was dense with information, and sometimes hard to get through, the information was fascinating and we learned a great deal about the issue of art theft and protecting the world’s great art.

This was our last discussion before our summer break. We will gather together again in September to discuss Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf. We hope you can join us to read and discuss this book and these other great titles:

OctoberJohn Muir: Nature’s Visionary by Gretel Ehrlich
NovemberThe Paper Garden: An Artist Begins her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock
DecemberA Naturalist Buys an Old Farm by Edwin Way Teale
JanuaryFlower Confidential: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful by Amy Stewart
FebruaryThe Private Lives of Impressionists by Sue Roe
March: Plastic Ocean by Charles Moore
April: The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus
May: My Love Affair with Modern Art by Katharine Kuh

Interested in being a part of the next book discussion in October? Contact Shelly Kilroy at for more information on how you can become involved.

“The Earth Knows My Name” by Patricia Klindienst

By Shelly Kilroy, Librarian

Even in books for adults, pictures can be important.  After reading The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst, our Art & Gardens Book Discussion Group agreed that we would have loved to see pictures of the gardeners and their gardens and even to have some recipes using the unique foods they grew.

In this series of essays on the gardens of ethnic Americans, from Native Americans to Japanese and Italian immigrants among others, the author shows the strong connection to the land that these groups of Americans hold.  Though many of us thought the book missed the mark in terms of garden descriptions and discussion of the unique plants each gardener cultivated, we all really came to like each of the gardeners and so wanted to see them and their gardens, see the land and plants they so lovingly cared for…and pick up some new recipes!  During our discussion we even chose favorite gardens or gardeners. Our choices ranged from the gardens of a community of descendants of slaves living on St. Helena Island in South Carolina to a group of Khmer gardeners who had escaped Cambodia’s civil war and genocide by coming to America in 1982 to the vineyard of a Polish immigrant living on Bainbridge Island in Washington.  But even without the recipes and photographs, we found this book to be a great introduction to some very interesting people and their gardens.

Next month we will shift our focus to the art world, reading and discussing Edmund deWaal’s The Hare with the Amber Eyes:  A Family’s Century of Art and Loss.

Art and Gardens Book Discussion Group is open to members of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Great discussions of great books take place the first Tuesday of each month from 1-3 PM.

RSVP to Shelly Kilroy at 616-957-3144 or

“A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold

By Shelly Kilroy, Librarian

It is rare that a book that was published over 60 years ago is still completely relevant for our times today.  Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac is just such a book.

It is still relevant because we are still battling the same environmental problems and still need to understand Leopold’s Land Ethic…gaining a respect for and understanding of the land before any tinkering begins.  But even beyond that, this book is just great writing.  In our discussion of the book several people noted the poetic nature of the writing that just drew you in to the place Leopold was writing about.   We all agreed this book is a true classic that is still relevant and still a beautiful read over a half century after it was written.

This was our last discussion before summer break.  We will get together again in September to read and discuss Ruth Ozecki’s novel All Over Creationand in months to come we will also be reading and discussing:

“The Moon and Sixpense” by W. Somerset Maugham

By Shelly Kilroy, Librarian

One great thing about a book discussion group is that all the different viewpoints about the book can really open up your eyes.  And not only that, it makes for some really great discussion.  My first impression of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence was that it was just okay, I expected more from such a well-known author.  But in our discussion on April 5th I realized that maybe there was a lot more to this book than meets the eye.

Image courtesy Penguin Publishing

On the surface The Moon and Sixpence is about the fictional artist Charles Strickland who leaves his comfortable home and family life to pursue his overwhelming need to paint.  But if you look below the surface you come to realize that the main character in the book may not be Charles Strickland after all, but instead art itself and the almost blinding drive experienced by some people to make art.  And that is something I may not have pondered if it weren’t for those other wonderful ways of seeing in our group.

Next month our book turns to the natural side of things and we will be discussing A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold.  After this book we will take a break for the summer and gather together for more reading adventures in September.  Look for the list of books we will be reading in my next entry after our May meeting.