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Mantrap Valley Conservation Club to host Friday Night Conservation Connections

The Mantrap Valley Conservation Club on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m, will sponsor the first annual summer series of family fun nights aimed at enriching the conservation experience in the community.

Each event will feature a speaker followed by a hands-on experience for kids. MVCC President Russ Olson said, "In an effort to serve our mission and reach out to younger members of the community, the MVCC is introducing Friday Night Conservation Connections."

This summer's dates are July 21 and Aug. 18. The events will begin at 7 p.m. and held at the MVCC building on County Road 24, two miles east of Emmaville.

Aimee Bissonette is exactly what the club had in mind when they planned this series. Aimee's topic will be, "The Value of Connecting Kids with Nature." After the talk, kids will be making a bird feeder to take home. To round off the evening, attendees will enjoy a choose your own toppings sundae bar. Young readers will also have the opportunity to purchase an autographed book and meet the author on Saturday, July 22, at Beagle and Wolf Books in Park Rapids from 12 noon to 2 p.m.

Aimee Bissonette's 2015 picture book "North Woods Girl" explores the rich relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter, and their shared relationship with the north woods.

"When Grandma tucks her pants into her oversized boots and grabs her walking stick, I run to catch up," reports a young girl charmed by her visits to Grandma's north woods home. Their walks take them through the seasons, to a pond with a downed tree just right for sitting, to a garden lush with tomatoes ready for canning, through snowy nighttime woods where the only sounds are the squeak of boots on snow and the hooting of a distant owl. The forest of North Woods Girl is an active, populated place, brought to life by Claudia McGehee's colorful scratchboard artistry. Time with Grandma teaches about quiet observation, generous sharing of resources, the beauty of the forest and pond at any hour. Grandma is the quintessential north woods girl, breathing deep the piney scents, relishing the chirping activity of her animal neighbors. Small wonder that her admiring granddaughter is inspired to follow in her footsteps. With a tale as understated as Grandma herself, Aimée Bissonette shares a message of appreciating the treasures of our natural surroundings.

Bissonette's story illuminates the value for children in having the time to explore the small moments that key relationships are built upon—whether with a significant person or a particular place.

"It's a book that celebrates life's simple, quiet pleasures—from canning summer vegetables to savoring the smell of pine—as well as the importance of sharing them with like-minded souls of any age. Bissonette, who regularly retreats to Lake Superior, or the nature center near her Minneapolis home, has a deep belief in the benefits of exploring the natural environment.

"A walk in the woods or a day at the beach is science and art and movement all in one," she says. She points to the research backing Richard Louv's concept of "nature deficit disorder," linked to problems associated with how little time today's children spend outdoors. And she references research showing that simple outdoor water features have a positive effect on nursing home patients. Bissonette's story also winds in a message about the importance older adults can play in children's lives, modeling the different alternatives for living a full life. Bissonette's young narrator glories in the fact that her grandmother is "not like other grandmas." As the author says, "Children need to believe in possibilities and options. No one should think there is one 'right' way to look, act, think, dream—particularly not children."

Aimée Bissonette was born in Pennsylvania, the sixth of seven children. Her family moved so often that she attended eight different schools before graduating from high school. A University of Minnesota Law School graduate, she works with numerous children's book authors and illustrators in her legal practice. Her picture books include North Woods Girl (Minnesota Historical Society Press, October 2015) and Miss Colfax's Light (Sleeping Bear Press, January 2016). She lives with her family and dogs in Minneapolis.

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