A Virtual Garden Tour

Take a (virtual) tour through some of the most beautiful gardens of the world! 

Though the weather might not be well-suited for a garden tour right now, with books borrowed or downloaded from the library, you can enjoy armchair travelling from the safety of your home, take pleasure in looking through books with gorgeous color illustrations and photographs of splendidly designed gardens from all over the world, and learn about the people who designed them.

A Garden for All Seasons: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Hillwood by Kate Markert is the first book on the history and design of Hillwood, the estate of Marjorie Post, the businesswoman and the heir of General Foods, Inc.

The gardens were designed with the idea of planting a very diverse range of plants and trees, thus providing something flowering or simply beautiful to look at for every season. The new commissioned photography for the book perfectly reflects the beauty of the garden.

For Rachel Lambert Mellon – best known as Bunny Mellon – plants and gardens have been a passion for all her long life (1910-2014), and she was really remarkable with garden designs. Best known for her redesign of the White House Rose Garden, she planned grounds designs for all the multiple estates her family owned in various parts of the world. She also designed a couple of gardens for the celebrated French couturier, Hubert de Givenchy, and several other gardens of the White House.

The Gardens of Bunny Mellon by Linda Holden includes spectacular newly commissioned photographs of some of Mellon’s gardens, as well as her sketches and watercolors.

In American Gardens, Monty Don, an eminent British horticulturist, travels across the US with celebrated photographer Derry Moore, exploring the country’s iconic as well as lesser-known gardens. Best known as a presenter of the BBC gardening television series, Mr. Don did one of the episodes this past year on American gardens; the book complements the series, and includes some previously unpublished photographs. 

The Garden Tourist: 120 Destination Gardens and Nurseries in the Northeast by Jana Milbocker describes 120 botanical gardens, historic estates, and nurseries from Southern Maine to Pennsylvania. 

665 luscious photos make this book more than a guidebook; it offers aesthetic enjoyment of horticultural colors and designs.

For those wishing to explore outside North America, the library has the following offerings:

Japanese Gardens: Kyoto by photographer Akira Nakata showcases 96 stunning Japanese gardens of Kyoto. These awe-inspiring works of art date between the 13th and the 17th centuries.

A recognizable aspect of Japanese culture, gardens embody a philosophy about the relationship between humanity and nature through seamless incorporation of living elements with man-made design and the surroundings (such as buildings).

Not to be missed, especially if Kyoto is a travel destination.

Everyday Monet: A Giverny-inspired Gardening and Lifestyle Guide to Living Your Best Impressionist Life by Aileen Bordman will take you to France, to the third most-visited site in the country: Giverny, a commune in Normandy best known for the location of an estate that was once home to Claude Monet, one of the founders of the French Impressionism.

Gorgeously illustrated with photos of Monet’s spectacular garden designs, reproductions of his paintings, and filled with instructions, the book becomes a practical guide for creating a lifestyle inspired by Monet’s works.

As always, these books are available through the library catalog, either in print or digital format, sometimes both. 

Digital downloads are available through Overdrive/Libby with your library card. To obtain a print copy, please carefully read the instructions for reserving and Curbside Pickup.

Dig Up Some Facts About Prehistoric Creatures for National Fossil Day!

As part of Earth Science Week, National Fossil Day was created to promote the importance of preserving fossils. The National Park Service, the American Geosciences Institute, and hundreds of other museums, institutions, organizations, and other groups provide activities to help the public understand the scientific and educational purposes of fossils. Abbot Public Library has a number of items in the library catalog, on Overdrive/the Libby app, and on hoopla for all ages that relate to fossils of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

Here are a sampling of books for kids on fossils, paleontology, dinosaurs, and other prehistoric creatures: 

also available on hoopla
also available on hoopla

Also check out the Pebble Plus Dinosaurs books, which includes 4D titles featuring different species of dinosaurs, including T. Rex, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and others.

For adults who would like to learn more about these subjects, check out the following items about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, including humans! 

also available on hoopla
in print format from other NOBLE libraries
also available on hoopla

Check out these feature films and documentaries on hoopla for various age groups…

… or reserve DVDs for Curbside Pickup (currently with no charge!).

For more information about fossils, paleontology, dinosaurs, and prehistoric animals, browse through the items in these collections and searches: 

Who Also Comes to the Picnic?

There are, of course, the people that you invited. But sometimes there are also the uninvited! Bees, flies, mosquitoes, squirrels, and other animals. Let us not forget the ants! Here are books for early readers that are filled with facts about ants, as well as stories starring an ant. Learn about the tiny uninvited visitors to your next picnic. You might appreciate them more! 

How Strong is an Ant? by Kurt Waldendorf

Part of the Comparison Fun Series 

Learn about the characteristics, habitat, and the role in nature of ants. 


The Adventures of Mr. Ant by Lloyd Shores 

Sweet stories of an ant’s mild adventures. 


Ants are Farmers and Other Strange Facts by Gary Sprott 

Learn surprising facts about ants. 


Ants by Sophie Lockwood

Part of the World of Insects Series

More about species of ants and their characteristics and activities.


Anthony Ant by Linda Dennis 

He is noble and he is an ant. 


Anthony and the Ants by Gemma Raynor 

Things start going wrong with the arrival of ants, but turn out alright in the end. 


Common Critters: the Wildlife in Your Neighborhood by Pat Brisson 

Learn about the usual creatures (including ants), that live and thrive in your backyard or neighborhood.


Explore more ant books for children on Overdrive/Libby and hoopla. Now you can also request print copies of children’s ant books for Curbside Pickup. And, for even more facts about ants, visit the Abbot Public Library’s Gale Elementary database!

Outdoor Listens for the Great Indoors(wo)man on hoopla!

After an unusually cooped-up spring, the longed-for season of the great outdoors is here! If the balmy weather is stirring up long dormant wanderlust, the Abbot Public Library is here to help you with your “itchy feet”! You’ll find a library-curated, one-stop adventure guide on hoopla.

If you’d really prefer just to ponder the wonders of nature from the comfort of an easy chair placed squarely in front of your AC, you can pop on your headphones, close your eyes, and tune in to a series of three NPR Soundtrek audiobooks. Adventures will help you shake off the dog-day doldrums with “whitewater rafting on the Hudson River, mountain climbing in the Himalayas, kayaking in Alaska, air boarding in Oregon’s Cascade mountains, or bungee jumping in Australia”–take your pick, or try them all! Get up close and personal with the world’s feathered folk in Birds, which interweaves colorful stories from ornithological experts with sample bird calls. Or listen in on a plethora of creatures in their natural habitats as they communicate and go about their daily lives in Animals.

For the armchair philosophers out there, take a dive into Izaak Walton’s classic, 17th-century The Compleat Angler. Far from just a fishing handbook, this delightful text brings to vivid life the joys to be found at the riverside, from baiting the hook to cooking the catch (yes, there’s a recipe involved!)–as well as the glory of British landscapes.

If you really do want to get out there but just don’t quite know how to do it (and are too embarrassed to ask your outdoorsy friends), you can get expert advice and learn vital basic skills from the comfort of your earbuds. First stop: How to Survive Your First Trip in the Wild: Backpacking for Beginners. From the basics of tent set-up to the nitty-gritty of what–and what not–to pack, seasoned outdoorsman Paul Magnanti has the answers. 

Worried that your kids aren’t getting outside enough but unable to commit to a full-on camping trip? Angela J. Hanscome’s Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children can be your playbook for creatively and intuitively improving that connection to nature on a daily basis. Get your own nature fix in a low-key fashion with a similar offering for adults who feel trapped in a concrete jungle–Sue Belfrage’s Down to the River and Up To the Trees: Discover the Hidden Nature on Your Doorstep.

So whether your idea of an escape into nature’s paradise is literal or virtual, you’ll find plenty on this audio bookshelf to aid you in your quest! 

If you’re new to hoopla, have a look at the FAQs page. If you need a library card, you can get started here.

*Quoted material from publisher description via hoopla.

For more about nature, find out how to go on a backyard safari and connect with nature during difficult times.

More Features of NoveList To Help You Choose What To Read Next!

Here are more exciting features of NoveList Plus for the avid reader! We first mentioned this useful book selection tool in a blog post back in April. Here are some features you may not know about!

NoveList has a wide variety of Book Lists. There are fiction lists and narrative nonfiction lists, each separated by age groups. You can browse through different genres such as Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery, and Historical Fiction. You can also check out forthcoming titles as well as many specific subgenres.

For example, if you are interested in reading cozies, search under Adult > Fiction > Mysteries > Getting Cozy, where you will find such titles as M. C. Beaton’s The Witch’s Tree (which happens to be in Overdrive and hoopla) and Buried in Books by Kate Carlisle (available as an audiobook on hoopla).

There are extensive lists of Award Winners, which are also separated by age and include fiction and nonfiction. The most recent Pulitzer Prize winner, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, is one of the books displayed under Recent Awards, and it can be checked out on Overdrive.

As we mentioned in the previous NoveList blog post, when you see a book you like and click on the title, a wonderful feature is that you can click on the Series and get a list of the whole series in order, as well as Read-alikes listed on the side.

There are a wide variety of narrative nonfiction book lists, including Biography and Memoir, History, Travel Writing, and Nature and Science. These are also broken down into subcategories.

If you find a title you like, you can visit Overdrive/Libby or hoopla to see if the library has an electronic version of it.

Click here to access NoveList, and feel free to email the Reference Staff at mar@noblenet.org for assistance with using this resource, as well as getting further book recommendations.

Wellness in Difficult Times: Connecting with Nature

We all face difficult times at one point or another. In search of tools helping to ease stress and anxiety, stop worrying, and gain a sense of comfort, people resort to various pursuits, such as yoga or meditation, cooking or gardening.

Connecting with nature is one of those tools. Being out in nature energizes and rejuvenates, makes humans more relaxed, happier, and healthier.

Dr. Qing Li, the author of the book Forest Bathing, explains this phenomenon and teaches readers to maximize its benefits to wellbeing.

A medical doctor and a leading specialist in forest medicine in Japan, he researches all the ways in which being in a forest can improve wellbeing. He shows the scientific reasoning behind the humans’ sense of enjoyment and happiness, and by taking quantitative measurements (such as levels of stress hormones in the blood) and analyzing the results, he convincingly proves huge positive health effects of connecting with a forest.

Forest bathing is something that the Japanese have been practicing since the early 1980s. It is not hiking or exercising – though those are very beneficial, too. Forest bathing is a way of connecting with a forest; it is immersion into a forest atmosphere, experiencing it all through all senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch; soaking in those feelings and sensations.

The author notices that not all senses are used when indoors, causing sensory deprivation; outside, all the senses open up, creating a connection to the natural world and creating a feeling of health and wellness. 

In the book, you will find recommendations on how to best practice forest bathing and learn why, in Japan, it is considered essential for maintaining good health and wellbeing. Moreover, for those thus inclined, the book contains numerous scientific data points in support of the claim.

According to the author, under certain conditions and equipped with all that is required (which is not much and easily acquired), it is possible to practice forest bathing even at home or at work. Check out the book in Overdrive or through the Libby app to learn more, and browse other forest bathing titles available on hoopla

Mysteries of Nature is a nature trilogy from another forest and nature devotee and bestselling author, Peter Wohlleben. 

In The Hidden Life of Trees , he uses the findings of latest research to weave stories of the lives of trees, their death and regeneration. He shares the secrets of trees’ hidden life and reveals hidden communication between species. You can find it in ebook and audiobook format on Overdrive and hoopla.

The Inner Life of Animals is the book about the animal world, about the animals’ feelings and emotions, and the ways they interact with the world. Check it out on Overdrive or hoopla.

The last book in the trilogy, The Secret Wisdom of Nature, is about the entire nature system, and connections between all living creatures, how they affect each other, and how the smallest change can cause a huge impact on the entire system. The audiobook is on Overdrive and an ebook version is on hoopla

What It’s Like to Be a Bird is the Abbot Public Library’s newest acquisition in nature books. It is a lovely birdwatching guide with absolutely gorgeous pictures.

Digital format makes it easy to bring the book to the forest or park or anywhere else where birdwatching happens.

Happy discoveries in nature explorations!

As always, all suggested items are free and available through Overdrive/Libby or hoopla with a library card.

We’re Going on a (Backyard) Safari!

Spring has finally sprung! In New England, that means that nice weather is (hopefully) here to stay and we can all enjoy the great outdoors. It also means that you can observe wildlife galore enjoying the spring sunshine, too. Luckily, our friends over at the Museum of Science, Boston Children’s Museum, and Zoo New England have created some fabulous resources for your family’s flora and fauna explorations.

A great place to start your backyard safari is by listening to the Museum of Science’s Pulsar: A Podcast episode on “Observing Wildlife in Your Backyard.” Biologist Colleen Hitchcock of Brandeis University offers tips and tricks for observing and identifying wildlife that you may see around your house. It is also particularly helpful for observing nature in more urban or highly populated areas, as this episode was originally broadcast as a resource for the City Nature Challenge at the end of April. Be sure to also check out some of their fantastic Family STEM Activities, especially Outdoor Explorers and Ecosystem Exploration, and the Museum’s guides to bird flight pattern identification and butterfly watching for more great activities and ideas for exploring nature in your backyard!

The Boston Children’s Museum also has some wonderful activities designed to get kids outside and in touch with nature. In their Activities Archive, you can find resources for getting creative and going on a National Geographic Neighborhood Safari or Nature Scavenger Hunt. The Museum’s Beyond the Chalkboard educational resource site also includes many great ideas for exploring nature, including how to figure out what wildlife shares your habitat.

Finally, head over to Zoo New England for a wide-array of ideas to connect with nature. Learn how to turn your backyard into a certified wildlife habitat or build a habitat for your favorite animal (if your favorite creature is a butterfly, use their guide to creating a butterfly garden). For the birdwatchers out there, check out the Zoo’s guide to birding in your own backyard, and how to make a bird feeder for your feathered friends. For even more fun, their Kid’s Corner site has lots of awesome nature-inspired activities, including instructions on how to identify trees through touch!

And, of course, we’ve got you covered for all of your bird-watching, butterfly-garden-building, and backyard-exploring reading needs — all free, with your library card, through our Overdrive/Libby and hoopa e-collections:

Pamela Hickman’s Nature All Around series: Trees, Plants, and Bugs

Counting Birds by Heidi E.Y. Stemple

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valério

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jaqueline Davies

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben

Winged Wonders by Meeg Pincus

Common Critters: The Wildlife in Your Neighborhood by Pat Brisson

The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More

Spring is in full bloom, and most of us are itching to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer us. We admire the trees for their blossoming buds, and we plant gardens full of colorful flowers and aromatic herbs. In Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More, readers learn how to connect more deeply and spiritually with the natural environment they live in. 

Living in Salem’s neighboring cities and towns, we’re all familiar with the terms witch and witchcraft. A common misconception about witchcraft is that it is the same as Wicca. Wicca is a specific and formal nature-based religion, whereas witchcraft (as Hiscock describes) “refers to the practice of working with natural energies to attain goals, without the specific religious context” (p. 14). 

There are many forms and focuses of witchcraft, but the path of the green witch is defined by her relationship to the world around her, by her ethics, and by her affinity with the natural world. With green witchcraft, there are no unique prayers, no uniforms, no holy texts, no obligatory tools, and no specific holiday. Instead, green witchcraft is a practice that combines the use of herbs and other green matter with seven basic energies: harmony, health, love, happiness, peace, abundance, and protection.

Throughout Hiscock’s guide, readers will learn how to use the various elements of nature—the sun, the moon, trees, stones, flowers, and herbs—to connect more closely with the Earth, to create and craft green witch magic, to become a natural healer, and much more.The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More is now accessible in Overdrive and the Libby app!

Virtual Read Aloud With Author Kate Messner

Children’s author Kate Messner has written over 35 books on many science and nature topics, easy readers, picture books, and mysteries. On her website, the former classroom teacher and well-known author includes:

  • Video clips of her reading aloud from many of her books. Videos include her reading from Over and Under the Snow, The Next President, and a chance to hear her latest, which will come out in August; Over and Under the Rainforest.
  • Activity tips for kids following the readings, which mainly involve a single question from the book.
  • Video clips of other well-known authors reading from their books aloud, including Grace Lin and Nikki Grimes.
  • Resources with mini lessons for different grade levels.

You can listen to Messner reading her picture book, The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. It’s also available on hoopla to borrow as an ebook. She tells the true story of how a young boy who loved coral reefs became an adult who devised a method to transplant coral to create new colonies on devastated sites where corals have died. Ken Nedimeyer grew up near Florida’s coral reefs and became a pioneer in the techniques of grafting stag coral to create new coral colonies. The illustrations are as intense in coloring as the corals. The story is geared to ages 4-7, and adds simple descriptions for young readers of how corals grow.

Messner includes a link to the Coral Restoration website, which details the threats facing coral reefs worldwide. There is also a link to the NASA Climate Kids site, which helps kids learn what they can do to help the oceans.

The History of Marblehead’s Conservation Efforts: An “Appetizer” for the Postponed April 2020 Exhibit!

One of the Abbot Public Library’s most prized spaces is our Virginia A. Carten Gallery, named for the local artist whose bequest made the creation of this community treasure possible. Each year, a series of varied month-long exhibits is presented in the Gallery, featuring the work of area artists and other displays of interest.

A special exhibit, prepared by the Marblehead Conservancy, on the history of Marblehead’s conservation efforts was planned for April 2020. The exhibit uses aerial photographs, maps, and a video to tell the story of natural open space conservation during the development of Marblehead.

Although the Library’s closure, due to COVID-19, has required the postponement of this show, we would like to give you a small taste of its content. 

Watch this two-minute animation, produced for the April exhibit, showing how Marblehead grew and filled in, starting in 1636 and ending in 2018. As the town began to fill, far-sighted individuals started a conservation movement to set aside natural open space for future generations. The video highlights each of the Town’s natural open spaces and shows the date that conservation efforts for a particular area began.

1954 Aerial photos of Marblehead showing conservation areas on a current map of Marblehead. Courtesy of the Marblehead Conservancy.


Aerial photos overlaid on a map highlight several conservation areas. See if you can spot Hawthorn Pond (pictured in the post header), Robinson and Jermyn Farms, Turner Woods, and a corner of Seaside Park.

When the exhibit takes place, images like this will be displayed as 4 ft. wide by 3 ft. high prints. Viewers also will see detailed historical information on all the publicly accessible natural open space conservation areas of the town, showing how the areas were obtained, when, and from whom. It’s a fascinating journey through time and space — a different perspective on Marblehead’s history!