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Liam Heneghan Launches New Book

Yesterday, BEI Scholar Liam Heneghan hosted an event at DePaul University for Beasts at Bedtime: Revealing the Environmental Wisdom in Children’s Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

In his new book, scientist (and father) Heneghan examines the environmental underpinnings of children’s stories.  Within the entertaining pages of these books lie profound teachings about the natural world that can help children develop an educated and engaged appreciation of the dynamic environment they inhabit.

Read an excerpt from the book regarding the uncanny nature of Where the Wild Things Are on


Editorial Reviews:

“Today’s children will face huge environmental challenges, from climate change to oceanic pollution. In Beasts at Bedtime, ecologist Heneghan argues that books can help children deal with these grim eventualities. . . . Story has the power to develop empathy and build knowledge, as well as nurture curiosity and imagination. Childhood reading is undeniably formative, and it’s refreshing to see it being taken seriously. Children’s books alone cannot save the natural world; but they can spark concern, teach the science and reveal strategies in ways both subtle and direct.”


“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.”

(Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy)

“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 Bedtimereads, 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.”

(Seth Lerer, author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter)

“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.”

(Timothy Morton, author of Humankind: Solidarity with Non-Human People)

“There is no book similar to this today. Heneghan dives deep into the world of children’s literature and brings out the environmental wisdom from works old and new. So many of our favorite books in our youth use nature or ideas from nature to enlighten our imagination. From Peter Rabbit to Harry Potter, from Middle Earth to the hungry nation of Panem, it’s all covered in here.”

(Daily Journal)