August 21 – Poet’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate poets—both those who are professionally published and those who compose poetry in their secret hearts. Poets bring clarity and new perspectives to life—like a little pinprick of light in a dark room. Whether you like long, epic poems, short, evocative verse, humorous poetry, or poetry set to music, take the opportunity today to enjoy some poetry—or write a bit of your own.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-plums

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poet’s Day Activity

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Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

August 20 – World Mosquito Day

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About the Holiday

World Mosquito Day dates back to 1897 when Sir Ronald Ross discovered the connection between these biting insects and malaria. The purpose for the holiday is to raise awareness about the causes of malaria and prevention methods. It is also marked by fundraisers to provide more resources for both research and preventative measures for people and communities that need them.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale

Retold by Verna Aardema | Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

 

One day a mosquito has a secret for Iguana. The iguana bit at this enticing invitation, but when Mosquito told him that he had seen a farmer harvesting mosquito-sized yams, Iguana said, “‘What’s a mosquito compared to a yam?’” Iguana was so angry at this tall tale that he put sticks in his ears and went on his way. A little later, Iguana happened to pass Python, who greeted him with a cheery “Good Morning.” Because of the sticks in his ears, however, Iguana didn’t hear it and just continued walking.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

This snub caused Python to think something nefarious was up. He looked for the first place to hide—which was a rabbit hole. Seeing the large python invading her space, the rabbit high tailed it out the back way and hurried across the field. Crow spied “the rabbit running for her life. He flew into the forest crying kaa, kaa, kaa! It was his duty to spread the alarm in case of danger.” Monkey began screeching and leaping through the tree tops, also on a mission to alert others.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

In his rush, Monkey happened to step on a dead limb, which fell onto a baby owlet in a nest below, killing it. When Mother Owl returned from her hunting and found her little owlet, she was so sad that she could not hoot to wake up the sun. “The night grew longer and longer.” The animals thought the sun might never rise again. Finally, King Lion called a meeting. Owl explained that Monkey had killed one of her babies and that she could not “bear to wake the sun.”

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The lion called for the monkey to explain himself. He said that it was the crow’s fault. Because of the crow’s warning, he was also trying to help. He told about the branch and how it fell on the baby owl. King Lion next summoned the crow. He said that it was the rabbit’s fault. If he had not seen her running pell-mell through the field, none of this would have happened. “The king nodded his head and said to the council: ‘So, it was the rabbit / who startled the crow, / who alarmed the monkey, / who killed the owlet— / and now Mother Owl won’t wake the sun / so that the day can come.’”

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The rabbit was called to speak next. The lion asked her why she had broken a rule of nature by running during daytime. The rabbit related how Python had invaded her home. Next, Python was asked to tell his side of the story. He slithered to the front of the group and cried, “‘it was the iguana’s fault! He wouldn’t speak to me. And I thought he was plotting some mischief against me.’”

Of course, Iguana hadn’t heard about the meeting, so “the antelope was sent to fetch him.” The other animals laughed when they saw the sticks in Iguana’s ears. King Lion pulled them out and demanded to know what he had planned for Python. Iguana didn’t know anything about it. “Python is my friend!” he said. “‘Then why wouldn’t you say good morning to me?’” Python asked. Iguana said he hadn’t heard him. He explained about the “big lie” mosquito had told him and the sticks in his ears.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

All the animals cried that Mosquito should be punished. This idea satisfied Mother Owl, and she hooted toward the sun, waking it. The mosquito was tricky, though. She had listened to the council meeting from nearby. When she heard she was to be punished, she hid and was never found. From that day on, however, Mosquito has had a guilty conscience. “To this day she goes about whining in people’s ears: ‘Zeee! Is everyone still angry at me?’” And when people hear this question, you know swat the answer is!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why-mosquitoes-buzz-in-people's-ears-sun-comes-up

Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Verna Aardema’s classic retelling of this West African tale is suspenseful, engaging, and inviting. Aardema’s animals mek, krik, wasawusu, kaa, and pem with evocative onomatopoetic actions as they react to mosquitoe’s influence. Their pass-the-buck testimony leads into lyrical and fun-to-say repetitive phrases that build on each other and allow children to read along and become one of the forest group. The ending is both humorous and appropriate while also providing an opportunity to delve into deeper ideas of responsibility,quick judgments, and guilt.

Leo and Diane Dillon won the Caldecott Medal in 1976 for this stunning book that encompasses airbrushed watercolors, pastels rubbed on by hand, india ink, and die-cut shapes made of velum. This combination of styles creates pages of modern folkart that seem to be in motion as the animals slither, scurry, run, and bound away from some perceived but indistinct danger. The colors are magnificent, and as each animal takes its turn in front of the council, the black nighttime gives way to a bit of daylight. The animals may be in the dark, but enlightenment is on its way. The final pages in which the mosquito tickles the ear of an innocent bystander may make children cringe a little even as they look forward to what they know, from experience, is coming.

Ages 5 and up

Puffin Books/Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004 (Paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0140549058

World Mosquito Day Activity

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Mosquito Facts Page

 

Mosquitoes are an unavoidable part of summer. You can learn a few interesting things about them from this printable Mosquito Facts Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

August 19 – World Honey Bee Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 1990 by American beekeepers and once known as Honey Bee Awareness Day, this holiday has grown to world-wide stature. The importance of honey bees to sustainable farming cannot be overstated. In recent years the mysterious depletion of bee colonies has threatened not only the population of these beneficial insects but also the industries that rely on them. There are many ways to celebrate! If you have a yard or garden, plant bee-attracting plants such as lavender or marjoram, have a cup of tea—with honey, of course, or consider donating to the preservation of bees.

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book

By Britta Teckentrup

 

As the sun comes up over the meadow of poppies, a bee gets ready for her day. She flits through the forest, blending her quiet buzz with the songs of the birds in the trees. “As she travels here and there, / A gentle humming fills the air.” With no map to guide her, the bee knows exactly what route to take to visit each colorful flower. “Gathering nectar as she goes, / From every foxglove, every rose, / Dusty with pollen, the little bee / Buzzes, buzzes, busily.”

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Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2017, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

The flowers attract the little bee with their sweet perfume, and with the sun as her compass, she finds them all. As she flies from flower to flower, tree to tree, she picks up and leaves bits of pollen that will create more blossoms.  But when she looks out over the field, the bee sees more flowers than she could ever hope to visit. The bee hurries back to her hive to tell the others about the smorgasbord waiting for them.

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Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2017, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In droves they leave the hive, gliding over a pond, navigating an orchard, and continuing on. “The bees pass over a woodland stream. / Droplets sparkle and pebbles gleam. / Water trickles, bubbles, and weaves. / A weeping willow trails its leaves.” As the bees stop here and there along the way, they give life to new flowers and plants, expanding the wildflower meadow that is home to so many creatures.

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Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2017, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Readers can see that Britta Teckentrup’s beautiful tribute to bees is something special before they even open the book. On the cover, a sunset-hued flower stretches into the blue sky. Through its die-cut center, children can see the complexity of the flower and, in its very middle, a honey bee harvesting nectar. Teckentrup’s lyrical story of a bee’s day is complemented by gorgeous illustrations of the vibrant wildflowers that call to the little bee. Each page is rendered in a breathtaking palette that surrounds young readers with the mysteries of the natural world—and in the center is the bee, going about her job as squirrels scamper, deer silently look on, and butterflies flutter nearby.

Children will adore following the bee—and later, more and more bees—through open windows to the final two-page spread of a meadow in full bloom. All along the journey, the bee has made friends with woodland, pond, and orchard creatures, and young readers will delight in finding each of them hidden in this glorious field.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1524715267

Discover more about Britta Techentrup, her books, and artwork on her website!

World Honey Bee Day Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

August 18 – National Men’s Grooming Day

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About the Holiday

If men need a special day to be reminded of this, I’m glad it’s on the calendar!

Beard in a Box

By Bill Cotter

 

A little boy is so proud of his dad. He thinks his dad is “the coolest…the tallest, the fastest, the strongest. The awesomest!” The boy has done a little research and can boil all this greatness down into one quality: his dad’s beard. In fact, he’s found that the length of a beard has a direct connection to the awesomeness factor. Knowing this, the little boy wants to grow a beard of his own.

He tries everything. He scribbles one on with markers, attaches hairy patches from his pet cat to his cheeks with glue, and smudges on chocolate syrup (but that disappears with a few licks by the cat). Then he hears “an amazing offer” on TV. “SCAM-O! Makers of the Talking Toupee and the Baby Barber Kit” have created “Beard in a Box.”

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Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

This great kit promises that in just 5 easy steps anyone can “grow a beard (almost) instantly” With such a fabulous face of hair, in no time you’ll have the life of a lumberjack, a pirate, or a rock star. What’s in the box? Glad you asked! Each kit comes complete with “beard seeds, mirror, step-by-step instruction manual, style guide, comb, trimming scissors, and  mustache mousse.”

The boy rushes to the phone and orders one. Every day he sits by the mailbox waiting for his kit to come in. Finally, “6 – 8 weeks later” it arrives. The boy opens the package and starts his treatment. First up, is choosing a style. There are so many to pick from! Does he want the hippie look? The wizard? Maybe, the hipster, the tycoon, or the beatnik. The Octopus may be a little too tentacle, the King Tut a little too ancient, and the Double-Beard a little too…two.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beard-in-a-box-water-seeds

Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

But that can all be decided later. The boy slathers on the seeds, waters them, does the prescribed facial exercises, and repeats “steps 1 – 4 for 10 – 15 years.” Wait? What?! The boy is incensed. “AHHHHHH!!! Stupid Beard in a Box!…Who would have thought SCAM-O would be a dishonest company?” Dad comes on the scene just then and wonders what all the fuss is about.

His son begins to tell him, but…wait a second…something’s different. What is it? His dad has shaved his beard! Well, this is the last straw! How will the boy be awesome like his dad now? But Dad puts his arm around his son and tells him, “Awesomeness doesn’t have anything to do with beards. It’s about the kind of person you are.” And then he shows his boy what he means. They play basketball together, ride bikes together, and jam together. And as they head out to the fishing hole, what’s the cat up to? “Beep, boop, beep.” He’s ordering “SCAM-O’s new Fur-Ever Spray-On Fur.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beard-in-a-box-different-beards

Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

Bill Cotter’s unique, multi-level story revels in visual humor that will get kids laughing and thinking about issues of growing up. Through SCAM-O’s Beard-in-a-Box come-on, Cotter addresses the consumerism that tells kids and adults that outer appearances are more important than what’s inside. With gentle understanding and active participation, the boy’s father demonstrates the kinds of qualities that makes a thoughtful and caring person. Cotter knows how much children look to their parents and other adults in developing their own personalities and behavior. By juxtaposing the two influences in the boy’s life, Cotter nudges young readers to recognize and reject the artificial.

Cotter’s little boy, enthusiastic to be like his awesome dad, will charm children. Young readers will also have fun choosing their favorites from among the suggested beards in SCAM-O’s kit. The boy’s pet cat makes a funny sidekick, and the final scene of the loving dad and son heading out on another adventure is heartwarming.

Ages 4 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553508352

To discover more about Bill Cotter, his picture books, chapter books, and art, visit his website!

National Men’s Grooming Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moustache-template

Marvelous Moustaches

 

Moustaches can look distinguished or madcap! Here are some printable Marvelous Moustaches that you can use to make yourself look whacky, wild, and wonderful! Just color them, glue or tape each to a thin wooden craft stick and hold them to your face for fun!

Picture Book Review

August 17 – It’s National Catfish Month

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About the Holiday

National Catfish Month honors the hard work and innovations of America’s catfish farmers, many of whose families have been farmers for two or three generations. This delicious fish has many nutritional benefits. It is found mostly in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana and is one of the most sustainable species of fish. Fried or blackened with spicy Cajun or other spices, catfish makes for a scrumptious meal! Try some this month!

A Catfish Tale: A Bayou Story of the Fisherman and His Wife

Written by Whitney Stewart | Illustrated by Gerald Guerlais

 

Down in the bayou, so the story goes, there lived two young sweethearts named Jacques and Jolie. Jacques liked to “pole his skiff through cypress knees to his favorite fishing hole,” and Jolie cooked up peppery hot gumbo and sang “so true even the cicadas hushed up to listen.” One day Jacques hooked a big one, and when he pulled up his line a catfish sprang from the water. But this was no ordinary catfish. The wily fellow explained that he was a magic catfish and not at all a catch for supper. Jacques was so frightened that he freed the “jabbering critter” and took off for home.

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Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, 2014, text copyright Whitney Stewart, 2014. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

When Jolie learned Jacques had given up their chance for a wish that could replace their shack with “a proper house where she could sing for a crowd,” she was steamed. Jacques thought everything was all right the way things were, but he hightailed it back to the swamp and asked that catfish for a house. The catfish was obliging and with a grin said, “‘Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.’”

In her big, beautiful house, Jolie entertained loads of friends and decided to take her show to all the cities down the river. All she needed, she said, was a paddle wheel boat. The catfish smiled when he heard Jacques’ request and said, “‘Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.’” Every night Jolie sang from the bow of her grand paddle wheeler. Her fans called her the Queen of the Mississippi, and she ate it up.

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Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, 2014, text copyright Whitney Stewart, 2014. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

Jacques was miserable stuck in his stateroom with a pounding headache and no fishing pole, so he returned to the bayou to find his catfish friend. Meanwhile, Jolie took the New Orleans nightclubs by storm. With Mardi Gras approaching, Jolie had one more little favor to ask of the catfish, and with a “tooloulou” Jolie became Queen of Mardi Gras. She wore a diamond crown and a white satin gown. Even though things were a little rocky—the cheering crowds couldn’t hear her sing, and the Mardi Gras beads she tossed to her fans got tangled in her crown—she loved being queen.

Jolie wrote to Jacques and asked to become Queen of the Bayou. The catfish said his magic words and in no time Jolie was crowned Queen amid blaring musicians and applauding fans. Jolie smiled and began to sing. Suddenly, a fierce hurricane blew up, “snakes, alligators, and swamp creatures slithered up the riverbank. Ghosts, and goblins flew from the cemeteries and pirate skeletons escaped watery graves to dance in the streets.” And Jolie? She was swept up and unceremoniously dropped in a tree. From among the branches she called to a passing pelican, “‘Tell my husband to ask that catfish for one more little thing!’”

Jacques “paddled faster than an alligator could swish its tale” and asked that catfish for one last wish…, and what do you think he said? Well, he just slipped back beneath the water ‘cause he knew “Jolie didn’t need nothin’ more.”

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Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, 2014, text copyright Whitney Stewart, 2014. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

A Catfish Tale includes a Bayou Glossary as well as a recipe for Seafood Gumbo by New Orleans native Hans Andersson.

Whitney Stewart’s tall tale of a magic catfish, the woman who learns enough is often enough, and the man who loves her will capture kids’ fancy. Jolie’s overreaching ambition and the catfish’s ready spell give children plenty of opportunity to join in with repeated phrases, and the well-paced suspense will keep kids engrossed in the action. The unique bayou setting and colloquial lilt sets A Catfish Tale apart as a rollicking story-time romp with a bit of Cajun caution and a whole lot of magic.

Gerald Guerlais brings the mystery and flavor of the deep south to A Catfish Tale with moss greens and shadowy blues that well depict the bayou’s natural environment. Twisty Cypress trees dip their roots in still, lily pad-filled waters, shimmering lights glow in the nighttime swamp, and spooky critters teem in the stormy sky. The magic catfish wears an ever-present, easy-going grin, and a crusty, good-ol’-boy alligator spins the tall tale just the way he’s heard it. Children will love the scenes of the paddle wheeler and the festive atmosphere of Mardi Gras.

Whitney Stewart’s  A Catfish Tale, a deft retelling of  Grimm’s A Fisherman and His Wife, is a fantastic introduction to the distinctive qualities of the southern Mississippi region, one which kids may want to explore further.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2014 | ISBN 978-0807510988

To learn more about Whitney Stewart and her work as well as to discover activities for children and teachers, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustrations by Gerald Guerlais on his website!

National Catfish Month Activity

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Catfish Coloring Page

 

The catfish is a most unusual creature! Add your own swamp or river setting to this Printable Catfish Coloring Page!

August 16 – It’s Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources. Worldwide, millions of people do not have access to clean water. Climate change is also contributing to alterations in water temperature which affects sea life and coastal animals. Pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides, and a disregard for the crucial importance of this limited resource all threaten not only the quality of water, but the quality of life on this planet. To get involved in the solution, volunteer to clean up waterways, be mindful of the products you use, and consider donating to the cause.

Over and Under the Pond

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A mom and her son have taken their rowboat out on the pond, where they “slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.” As they gaze over the side of their little boat, they can see the sun, the clouds, and themselves reflected in the still surface. But the little boy wonders what is below, where they can’t see. His mom tells him there is a “hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

On top the two can see tall grasses that break the water’s surface and little beetles and skaters making their way along the water. Below, a brook trout waits for his dinner. As the mom and her son paddle between thick stands of cattails, three painted turtles take turns slipping from their sunny perch back into the safety of the pond. Hidden in the cattails is a small nest, just a pocket of sticks and grass for red-winged blackbird babies.

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

There are babies under the pond, too. “A secret shelter of pebbles and sand” that hold the larva of a caddisfly. Along the shore, trees cast shadows on the water as a moose makes a lunch of water lilies. It’s also mealtime under the pond, where three beavers pull up roots to chew on. The weather is turning breezy over the pond, making the current stronger and blowing leaves here and there. All around animals are maturing: “a new goldfinch teeters, finally ready to fly” while tadpoles are “losing tails, growing legs, growing up.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Carefully picking his way in the muddy shallows, a great blue heron searches for food. He spies a minnow and with a flash snaps it up with his long, pointy beak. Way up in the trees the tat-tat-tat of a woodpecker looking for ants echoes through the air while down below an otter has her eyes set on a passel of mussels. The sun is beginning to set, and an iridescent dragonfly takes a rest on the little boy’s knee. Perhaps it is related to the dragonfly larvae underwater who has just grabbed a minnow for its dinner.

The nocturnal animals begin making an appearance in the spindly grasses. “Ospreys circle on quiet wings. Raccoons and mink stalk the shoreline for supper.” In the blue-black evening, the mother and her son head home as “a far-off loon calls good night.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about the ecosystem of a pond and the animals that live in and around the water follows the text.

Kate Messner’s lyrical environmental books invite young readers to discover the world around them through the eyes of their peers. In Over and Under the Pond, Messner takes children on a leisurely afternoon boat ride that compares and contrasts what is happening on top of and below the water. Along the way, kids learn fascinating facts while absorbing the feel and beauty of the outdoor world.

Christopher Silas Neal gorgeously depicts the mysteries of a pond environment in his matte, mixed media illustrations that allow readers to view the birds, fish, insects, plants, and animals in action as they go about their day. The mixture of familiar and new creatures will engage children interested in learning more about the natural world. As the sun goes down and evening falls with its comforting starlit sky, young readers will feel happy to be part of this wonderfully complex world.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452145426

To learn more about Kate Messner and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Christopher Silas Neal on his website!

Water Quality Month Activity

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Busy Pond Coloring Page

 

There’s so much going on at the pond! Get your pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun with this printable Busy Pond Coloring Page! You can even add tissue paper grass, real sand, and other materials to make it look realistic!

Picture Book Review

August 15 – Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

Don’tcha wish every day could be relaxation day? Of course, if it were, though, we wouldn’t be celebrating this special occasion. Everyone has their own version of what’s relaxing, so if you’re a beach person, a reader, a binge watcher, a laze around the house person, or even if you find work relaxing, take the opportunity to indulge yourself today! Sometimes, as today’s book reveals, a relaxing day may not turn out as quiet as you might like. But a good laugh can set it right again.

BE QUIET!

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Rupert, a scholarly little mouse is so excited to be writing a book in which he will be the starring character. It’s going to be great—a wordless book that is “very artistic.” But just as he gets started his friend Nibbs, pops over and wonders what Rupert is doing. Rupert tells him, “Shhh. Be QUIET. This book does not have words.” When Nibbs hears this, he wants to help, but there’s supposed to be no talking and he’s talking. In fact, he’s “talking about talking.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Rupert wants to throw his friend out of the book, but Nibbs begs and pleads to be included. He’ll even be “extra wordless” if he can just stay. Rupert is beside himself. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” Just then their friend Thistle drops by wondering what all the shouting is about. Nibbs tells him in some detail what’s going on and why he can’t talk about it.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Thistle thinks a wordless book sounds perfect and also wants to be included. Nibbs says sure, but says they won’t tell Rupert because they’re not supposed to be talking. Rupert, though, is keeping count of all these words, and there are too many of them. Thistle rubs his hands in glee: it’s going to be such fun. But Rupert takes him to task. His book is going “to be more than FUN. It will be visually stimulating.” Nibbs isn’t sure what that means, so Thistle explains that it means they’re going to “poke our readers in the eyeballs with pictures.”

After a bit of strong-man silliness, Nibbs and Thistle buckle down to find “strong-but-silent types.” Nibbs suggests a very familiar bear, but Thistle thinks he looks too grumpy. Rupert thinks a cute kitten would be a good addition, but those claws? And those teeth? On second thought perhaps a cucumber would be better. With just a squiggly smile and some googly eyes, the cucumber makes a great vegetarian character. Thistle tries to explain about vegetarians, and Rupert is in a fury over all this nonsense clogging up his “brilliant piece of wordless literature.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-visually-stimulating

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Oh! Well, if “serious” is what Rupert wants, how about a portrait of Vincent van Mouse? Too esoteric? Then maybe the three mice should be converted into three potatoes. Rupert yells that he doesn’t even like potatoes. Action is what’s needed, says Thistle. A silent superhero, like “Captain Quiet the Vocabulary Vigilante. Bam! Pow! Kaboom!” No, no, no! Rupert is hopping mad. “No superheroes and no onomatopoeia either.” Say what? “I’m-a-gonna-pee-a?” asks Nibbs “What’s that mean?” Thistle thinks Rupert “should have gone to the bathroom before the book started.”

Really, Thistle and Nibbs just want to help. What about mimes? Nibbs comes up with a great routine, flapping arms and all. Thistle tries to guess what he is, and Rupert can’t understand how they don’t know what “quiet” means. Oh!, say Nibbs and Thistle. Like that saying about the tree in the forest. Is that what quiet is? With a chain saw and a nearby tree, they try it. But Rupert is screaming so much they can’t hear if it makes a sound or not.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Poor Rupert! All he wants is for them to “be quiet for just one page!” He can’t hold his frustration in any longer. He goes on a tirade of words. Nibbs quietly interrupts him. “WHAT?!” yells Rupert. “Shhh. Be Quiet. This book does not have words,” Nibbs reminds him just as the book ends. Now that the book is finished, Thistle and Nibbs think it came out pretty good and hope they can do another one.

Ryan T. Higgins’ laugh-out-loud book about best intentions gone awry is a definite day brightener. Kids and adults will recognize the zany truth of control lost to the unexpected or the oblivious. While we may often feel Rupert’s frustration in real-life situations, Higgins reminds us that it’s good to step back and see the humor in it all. Higgins’ action-packed illustrations and rakish mice ramp up the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing a glimpse of their favorite grumpy bear, Bruce, and discovering what the three mice have been up to since they transformed Bruce’s home into a hotel.

Clever wordplay, realistic dialogue, and sweet characters make BE QUIET! a perfect read-aloud book that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a funny and fun addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484731628

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins and his books on his website!

Relaxation Day Activity

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Homemade Bath Clings

 

Taking a nice long soak—or playing in the bathtub—can be a nice change of pace. With these homemade bath clings, kids can make up their own stories—wordless or not—right on the bathtub wall!

Supplies

  • Craft foam in various colors
  • Scissors
  • Cookie cutters for creating shapes (optional)

Directions

  1. Trace cookie cutters on the craft foam (optional)
  2. Cut out cookie cutter shapes or hand-drawn shapes from the craft foam
  3. With a little bit of  water, the clings will hang on the wall

Picture Book Review