Celebrate National Parks Month by reading up before your trip

August is National Parks Month. If your family is planning one last vacation before school starts or a holiday break later in the year, your library can help you choose a destination.

For an overview of the parks, Complete National Parks of the United States promises information on more than 400 parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, scenic trails, recreation areas and seashores. Other publishers, such as Fodor's, offer similar overviews. Even young children can join the search for the perfect vacation while reading M is for Majestic: A National Parks Alphabet. Should you prefer your travelogue on DVD, Wonders of America's National Parks will give you a 90-minute taste of really being there. Still can't decide? Try to narrow the field using National Parks of the American West for Dummies or Guide to the National Park Areas, either the eastern or western states version.

Have you chosen your destination? Then let's get specific. It is probably too late this year, but next year you could look for a place to stay in The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges, or alternatively, The National Park Service Camping Guide if your family members are outdoors types. Your local library has both books, or can get them within a few days from another branch or SCLENDS location.

Assume that Yellowstone is your preferred destination. Usually information on Yellowstone is presented in conjunction with that of nearby Grand Teton National Park. You can learn about the sights through books and videos such as Compass American guides, Frommer's guides and The American National Parks collection of films. Libraries also own books on the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone and the unexpected results of the experiment. Check it out, you'll be surprised.

Should the Grand Canyon be your destination, trusted guides from Fodor's and Frommer's can assist you. If your traveling companions are very energetic, there is a guide to hiking the Grand Canyon. Want your information without moving a muscle? Try Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon: Gripping Accounts of All Known Fatal Mishaps in the Most Famous of the World's Seven Natural Wonders. You'll get your thrills and chills without even leaving your armchair.

Your national park research can also include younger readers. Who Pooped in the Park is an unexpected title with a real purpose. Readers in late elementary or middle school can learn how to track animals in Yellowstone and other parks. Younger readers can also use National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast.

One of the most fascinating bits of information on national parks can be found in our DISCUS databases. On our website, click on Online Resources, and then choose Research Resources. Choose all the databases from the bottom right-hand corner, then click on Discus Databases. The first in the list is "20th Century Historic Videos." Use the search box at the top to ask for "national parks." The list that appears is interesting. See a clip of President Calvin Coolidge and sculptor Gutzon Borglum at Mount Rushmore. Imagine Coolidge in a towering cowboy hat and fringed gloves preparing to ride a horse to the future site of the Mount Rushmore sculptures. The end of the film features blasting at the site and men rappelling down George Washington's nose. What an introduction to one of our spectacular national parks.

Let your local library help you enjoy your trip.

Fran Hays is the reference manager at St. Helena Branch Library.