Beach Books

New Books on New Jersey


When I flipped through the pages of New Jersey for Kids, the first thing I saw was the photo at the beginning of the chapter “History Made Fun.” It was a picture of a bunch of children at the edge of a cornfield and the caption explained that at the Howell Living History Farm, the kids were shucking corn. This is history? Don’t those kids help their parents shuck the Jersey corn for one of those summer dinners, when the corn is as tall as you know what and the tomatoes are ripening on the vine in the garden?

This new Rutgers University Press book by Patrick Sarver, former editor of New Jersey Monthly and author of the best-selling New Jersey Day Trips, is aimed at kids 12 and under and covers hundreds of educational and entertaining ideas for children and their parents to explore and enjoy. Activities cover a wide array of fun ways to enrich their intellectual lives, build athletic skills, express themselves creatively or just have room to play.

The history chapter includes all the information about historic parks, sites, homes, farms around the state, and venues like our own Tuckerton Seaport and the exceptional Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in Madison. Do I hear a kid yelling they get enough education in school and they want to have fun fun fun? OK.

There are sections on robotics workshops, themed tea parties, plays and performances for children, pony rides and horseback riding lessons, specialized summer camps (can’t just play on the beach all summer long), arts and crafts classes, gymnastics, zoos and nature activities, sports clinics and acting and dancing lessons.

Whoops! There’s that word “lesson” again. Let’s go to the first chapter, “Theme Parks and Amusements” – that’s where the mindless fun is found. Detailed here is all you need to know about everything from Six Flags Great Adventure, with its giant Ferris Wheel, to shoot-outs at Wild West City in Netcong, to Blackbeard’s Cave in Bayville (on Route 9 about 15 miles north of Long Beach Island), to Sahara Sam’s Oasis, a huge water park on Route 73 in West Berlin.

The chapter titled “One of a Kind Places” is a good guide to seven of our state lighthouses, including of course, Barnegat. Kids love to climb the 217 steps in our light, and afterwards come to the Barnegat Light Museum to see the original lens, where I, as a docent, have taken dozens of photos of children posing in front of the lens. The author doesn’t mention the lens, so I assume he was never in the museum.

But he can’t go everywhere, can he, ’cause he’s not a kid, and much too old for all the activities he describes in this very inclusive and practical book. If you are planning a birthday or special celebration, check out New Jersey for Kids.

Along with descriptions and commentary, listings include recommended age ranges and estimated durations of activities, as well as practical information on hours, price ranges, websites and phone numbers. A good book to have on the shelf when you need it. And if anyone wants to experience shucking corn this summer, just call me.

Three other New Jersey books that came across our desk this summer are for kids or adults, and all abound with gorgeous photos. In New Jersey Birds and Beyond (Schiffer Publishing), photographer Susan Puder takes an intimate look at the resident and visiting bird species that inhabit the shores, fields and forests of New Jersey. From the formerly rare double-crested cormorants, to the common but colorful Baltimore oriole, to portraits of gulls so beautifully crafted they might make you feel more kindly disposed to the beach scavengers, Birds and Beyond gives a sense of the great diversity in habitats and species here year round.

Another from Schiffer Publishing is Naturally New Jersey, a lush look at the state through photographs by Larry Zink, who has turned his camera toward New Jersey’s state parks. As Jeff Tittle, NJ Director of the Sierra Club, says in the Foreword: “New Jersey is unique. It has some of the most diverse ecosystems anywhere in the country, going from sand dunes to marshes, field and forest, all the way up to granite mountains.”  Zink chose to shoot in areas open to the public, so his criteria are “parks, preserves or wildlife management areas.” He wrote, “Natural New Jersey provides a welcome respite from a busy and connected world.” His “Orange Sunset” and “Canal Reflections” are impressionistic triumphs. Thumb through the pages of this stunning book and you, too, will want to visit the state’s wide-open spaces. The back of the book contains a visual index to the parks and the photographs, guiding you to the locations.

Life Along the Delaware Bay by Lawrence Niles, Joanna Burger and Amanda Dey, with photographs by Jan van de Kam (Rutgers University Press) has a broader overview of a smaller area. It includes detailed maps, photos and descriptions of the Delaware Bay flyway, migratory patterns, tracking methods, plus chapters on sanderlings, mud birds and horseshoe crabs. The photographs are extraordinary. My favorite shows a pair of black-necked stilts balancing on their very long, red legs, claiming the beach as a flock of semi-palmated sandpipers take flight. Another is a close-up of an osprey carrying breakfast – half of a fish – back to the nestlings. A final chapter, Against the Tide, documents with pictures and essays both the threats and efforts at conservation along the shore. Truly an exceptional, large-format book from Rutgers University.

Margaret Thomas Buchholz is the former owner of this paper and author of Island Album, Shore Chronicles, New Jersey Shipwrecks, and the newly released book Josephine: A Memoir 1917-1959, From Washington Working Girl to Fisherman’s Wife. Reach her at








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