Beasts at Bedtime

Revealing the Environmental Wisdom in Children’s Literature

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Pub Date 15 May 2018 | Archive Date 18 Jun 2018

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Description

Talking lions, philosophical bears, very hungry caterpillars, wise spiders, altruistic trees, companionable moles, urbane elephants: this is the magnificent menagerie that delights our children at bedtime. Within the entertaining pages of many children’s books, however, also lie profound teachings about the natural world that can help children develop an educated and engaged appreciation of the dynamic environment they inhabit.
 
In Beasts at Bedtime, scientist (and father) Liam Heneghan examines the environmental underpinnings of children’s stories. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories. Some of the largest environmental challenges in coming years—from climate instability, the extinction crisis, freshwater depletion, and deforestation—are likely to become even more severe as this generation of children grows up. Though today’s young readers will bear the brunt of these environmental calamities, they will also be able to contribute to environmental solutions if prepared properly. And all it takes is an attentive eye: Heneghan shows how the nature curriculum is already embedded in bedtime stories, from the earliest board books like The Rainbow Fish to contemporary young adult classics like The Hunger Games.
 
Beasts at Bedtime is an awakening to the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide—from the misadventures of The Runaway Bunny to more overt tales like The Lorax. Heneghan serves as our guide, drawing richly upon his own adolescent and parental experiences, as well as his travels in landscapes both experienced and imagined. Organized into thematic sections, the work winds its way through literary forests, colorful characters, and global environments.
 
This book enthralls as it engages. Heneghan as a guide is as charming as he is insightful, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Beasts at Bedtime will help parents, teachers, and guardians extend those cozy times curled up together with a good book into a lifetime of caring for our planet. 

Talking lions, philosophical bears, very hungry caterpillars, wise spiders, altruistic trees, companionable moles, urbane elephants: this is the magnificent menagerie that delights our children at...


Advance Praise

Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
“A fascinating and fresh new look at animal tales, often classic, and how they pertain to the present-day and our often fraught relationship to our environment. Highly relevant and highly recommended.”

Seth Lerer, author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter
“This is a beautifully written, personal, and evocative book about children’s literature and the fostering of an environmental sensibility through acts of reading with the child. There is a genuinely musical, almost mystical quality to Heneghan’s writing. Deeply felt and voiced by a highly personalized narrative persona, Beasts at Bedtime reads, at times, like a nighttime tale to a child; at times, like a comforting set of adages to a confused adult; at times, like a TED talk.”

Timothy Morton, author of Humankind: Solidarity with Non-Human People
“Don't put this book down or click it away. Stunningly scholarly yet also moving and magical, Beasts at Bedtime is a brilliant treatise and true ideological work. What you are holding is a permission and a chance to read stories in a way that was previously closed off to adults. Thank you, Liam Heneghan, for doing your bit for the rest of us—human and nonhuman alike—unlike and in between.”
Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
“A fascinating and fresh new look at animal tales, often classic, and how they pertain to the present-day and our often fraught relationship to...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780226431383
PRICE $27.50 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

This is a fascinating exploration of environmental wisdom in children literature. It is beautifully written and is accessible to the general reader. Liam Heneghan is a zoologist whose passion and love for the natural world truly shines through in the text. He argues that most, if not all, children's stories have an environmental component that young readers can learn from. Parents and educators are provided with an arsenal of tools that they can use to promote environmental literacy in young readers. Environmental themes are explored in various stories such as the Grimm fairytales, Peter Rabbit, Where the Wild Things Are, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Calvin and Hobbes and many others. I really enjoyed going down memory lane and revisiting these childhood favourites! As environmental calamities continue to increase, it is important that future generations have the tools and knowledge they need to be stewards of this changing world. If you instill a deep love and an empathetic connection to the natural world at a young age, this will only continue to grow. Thanks to University of Chicago Press and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Creative and perfect collection of stories -- we enjoyed evenings reading this book together -- well written

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