Dorothy Sabarese taught for many years, preparing lesson plans in many forms, but she never wrote a book … until now.

Lake Hopatcong Speaks Out is a critter’s-eye view of damage done by humans to the lake. Sabarese wrote it based on her lessons for field trips to Lake Hopatcong taken by fourth- and fifth-graders. She uses bullet points in her instruction to teach about contamination from litter, oil, gas, fertilizer, pesticides, and more, and included these in the book.

On the cover is a family of mallard ducks. Inside, other lake denizens are shown coping with the pollutants that people allow into the lake. One page features a fish sweeping litter away from her house. The animals’ contribution to polluting the lake isn’t ignored. For example, geese are a problem along the shoreline in many areas.

Lake Hopatcong is only the beginning of the watershed, Sabarese pointed out. Anything that goes into the lake continues into Lake Musconetcong, the Musconetcong River, the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay, and finally the Atlantic Ocean.

While children know a few things already when they come on field trips, especially about litter, they still have a lot to learn – as did Sabarese, who grew up near the water. After working on the field trips for four years and thinking about a book for some time, last summer’s algal bloom made obvious that publishing it was very important.

Book Signing at the Environmental and Cultural Center

Sabarese signed books on Saturday, December 21, at the Lake Hopatcong Foundation Environmental and Cultural Center (former train station). She was joined by editor Lise Greene and illustrator Patricia Mueller, who serves with the author on the Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s education committee. Matt Keown, colorist on the project, was not present at the signing.

Author Dorothy Sabarese, illustrator Patricia Mueller, and editor Lise Greene with copies of Lake Hopatcong Speaks Out. (Photo by Jane Primerano)

Mueller had illustrated an e-book for Waterloo Village to assist teachers on tours of the historic site, but never a children’s book, and she agreed on the need to learn more about the lake herself. “You take for granted the lake will always be there,” she said. “You don’t think about the watershed and how the pollution trickles down to the ocean.” She expects the book will help children educate their parents about what they can do to save the lake, such as cleaning up after their dogs and removing grass clippings.

Greene said most of her editing has been academic publications and journal articles, and the children’s book “was different in a way … but thinking more about it, Lake Hopatcong Speaks Out is also an ‘academic’ book in the sense that it is intended to educate children (and their families) about the importance of protecting our wonderful aquatic resource as well as how they can help. If we can capture the interest of young people, they will become future leaders in ecology and natural resource conservation.”

Sabarese, Mueller, and Greene were busy for the duration of the signing, where books could also be purchased. Representatives of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, which sponsored the project, could not provide a total number of books sold because many have been purchased via Amazon.

Model Train Exhibit

On the same day, the Environmental and Cultural Center was open for the second weekend of a model train exhibit from High Point N-Trak, representing the Sussex County Railroad Club. High Point N-Trak is an N-scale model train group with members in Sussex and Warren counties in New Jersey, Pike County, Pennsylvania, and Orange County, New York.

Marty Kane, president of the board of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, reported that 250 people had visited the trains during the first weekend, December 14 and 15. Many children were fascinated with the trains, but he noticed that adults were just as enthusiastic.

Next year, said Kane, he hopes to have the train club back and serve refreshments – possibly cider and roasted chestnuts from the trees around the station. The building will be decorated for the holidays and there will be more time to plan for the 2020 exhibit. He emphasized that the Foundation is complementing the annual December train show at Camp Jefferson, not competing with it.

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