April 30 – Save the Frogs Day

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About the Holiday

Frogs and other amphibians are some of the most threatened species on our planet. Pollution, loss of habitat, climate change, and invasive species are just some of the causes of amphibian extinctions. Save the Frogs Day aims to educated the public and raise awareness of the declining frog and amphibian populations and to promote conservation of their environments to ensure their survival.

I Don’t Want to be a Frog

Written by Dev Petty | Illustrated by Mike Boldt

 

“I want to be a cat,” a little frog announces to his father. “You can’t be a cat,” his dad answers, which elicits the inevitable “Why not?” from his son. His dad isn’t quite ready for this conversation and gives him the standard “because you’re a frog” response.

Well, it turns out the little frog would rather be almost anything other than what he is. As he rattles off a list of alternatives that he considers much better, his dad warms to the game and counters each of his son’s suggestions with the realities of life (at least their life).

When little frog opines that he’d like to be a rabbit, his dad points out that he doesn’t have long ears. Being a pig seems like an attractive option, but little frog’s dad tells him he doesn’t have a curly tail or eat garbage. His son thinks garbage for dinner sounds okay, but his dad disagrees.

While both son and father believe being an owl would be “the greatest thing ever,” three things are standing in the way: Frogs don’t have wings, they don’t look wise, and they can’t spin their heads around.

So what’s so bad about being a frog? It’s “too wet,” “too slimy,” and there’s “too much bug eating,” little frog complains. Just then a wolf sneaks up on the father-son duo and wants to know why the little guy is so glum. Without turning around to see who he’s talking to, the frog reveals his plight.

Well, says the wolf, I’ll tell you a secret. With glee he explains that he revels in eating cats, rabbits, pigs, and owls. In fact, just talking about it makes him hungry. But “guess the one thing I never eat,” the wolf urges. “Badgers?” guesses the little frog. But no, the answer is “frogs.” And why? Because they are “too wet and slimy and full of bugs.”

Wiser for this fresh perspective, the young frog sends the wolf off with a hearty, “I guess you can’t fight nature. We are what we are. You are a fierce hunter.” 

As the wolf walks away all’s well that ends well—except not so much for the creature who next happens upon the scene!

Dev Petty’s sassy-in-a-good-way young frog’s identity crisis is pure fun! The notion of self-acceptance and that each person is built, has talents, and embodies skills just right for who they are is playfully presented by Petty’s sweet father-and-son team. The humorous, escalating dialogue will keep kids laughing, and the surprise ending is a perfect twist.

Mike Boldt’s olive green frogs are a delight as they trade off assurance and skepticism in their life-lesson conversation. The dad, initially mystified by his son’s pronouncements, discusses the issue with patience and genuine curiosity, his eyes registering cunning and understanding behind oversized glasses. His son, wide-eyed and vocal, displays the honesty of children with questions. Boldt’s illustrations of the rabbit, pig, and owl that so captivate the young frog juxtaposed with the father’s objections are comical joy, as are the frogs’ looong legs and expressive faces. And the final scenes with the enlightening wolf, whose head spans two pages, offer more laughs as the father and son resolve their differences.

Adult readers should be prepared—and will be happy—to read I Don’t Want to be a Frog again and again!

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385378666

Save the Frogs Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frog-matching

Hop Along Matching Game

 

Hop along now and help these frogs! Each of these fantastic frogs has a twin, but they’ve gotten separated. Can you spot the identical pairs? Print out the Hop Along Matching Game and draw a line between the pairs.

picture book review

April 29 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

The whole month can’t go by without celebrating one of the most fantastic things about life—humor! Whether you’re laughing at a funny joke, your favorite comedian or comic strip, a silly mistake, or even yourself, a chuckle is good for you! Today, take time to relax and enjoy the absurd—and give a few hearty “Ha! Ha! Ha’s!” along the way.

Meet the Dullards

Written by Sara Pennypacker | Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

 

Gray—that’s what the Dullards are. Gray and happily extra boring. Their life is going on in its monotonous way until one day when Mr. and Mrs. Dullard happen upon a most disturbing sight. Their three children are reading—and not only that, they are reading books about befriending lions, juggling, and walking a tightrope. The elder Dullards do what any self-respecting dullard would do. They retrieve the books and hand their children blank pieces of paper to read instead.

The children are definitely becoming a problem. They want to go to school and have been playing outside. It’s not our fault bemoan the parents; it must be the town where last fall some leaves actually turned color and there’s that unruly snail in the driveway. In fact the whole atmosphere is like a circus! There’s only one thing to do. The Dullards pack up their house and Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud and move away.

Immediately upon moving into their new home, they are bombarded by the neighbor lady bringing exclamation marks and chunky applesauce cake into their perfectly dull new home. The kids are sent to watch the (unplugged) TV, but instead their eyes are drawn to the window. While unpacking Mr. and Mrs. Dullard discover a sight so shocking that Mrs. Dullard faints into the arms of her distressed husband. It’s yellow flowered wallpaper. (An exclamation mark would be appropriate here, but you know…)

On the way to the paint store the family stops to get ice-cream cones, and with 90,000 flavors to choose from they pick vanilla. Plain cone or sugar cone? No cone, of course. At the paint store Mr. Dullard suggests medium gray, but Mrs. Dullard deems it too risky. Its similarity to highways could make the kids think of travel. Beige? Mrs. Dullard counters. Too much like clay, says Mr. Dullard which can be used to create stuff. They come to a compromise and go home to—you’ve got it—watch the paint dry.

While their parents are mesmerized the kids sneak away and out the window that so enthralled them before. The sight of Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud juggling, teaching a dog tricks, and somersaulting on the clothesline, ushers in another move—back to where they came from just in time for the kids to join the circus.

With dry wit and laugh-out-loud dialogue Sara Pennypacker delivers a spot-on family story. While seen through the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Dullard, this funny tale is all about the kids. What kids don’t think their parents are dull and conventional? And can parents really understand what’s going on in those little minds? Both children and adults will love the Dullards, and after reading you may be inspired to go out for vanilla chocolate ice-cream (ok, you can still hold the cone!)

Daniel Salmieri’s Dullards are comic genius! With their oval bodies and gray attire they blend with their oatmeal-hued walls to perfect effect. Identical square houses give way to identical triangular houses as the Dullards move to avoid catastrophic enthusiasm. The kids’ facial expressions as they adhere to boooring rules are priceless as are the parents’ reactions to the slightest excitement. Details such as a yellow snail in the driveway, the elder Dullards’ looks of horror when discovering the bright wallpaper, the signs on the ice-cream kiosk, and the name of the moving van make provide humorous jokes on each page.

Ages 4 – 8

Balzar + Bray, Harper Collins, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062198563

National Humor Month Activity

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Paint Strip Inspiration

 

Do you like to laugh? Do you like to watch paint dry? It is kind of cool how it changes color a bit as it dries….Oh, sorry! Where was I? Oh yeah—this craft. Paint sample strips make brilliant backdrops to your thoughts about love, life, laughter—anything! You can mix and match your favorite colors and arrange them any way you like to decorate your wall. Frame them for a more put-together look!

Supplies

  • 4 -5 paint strips from a hardware store OR You could also make your own color stips with poster board and craft paint
  • Poster board
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Markers or adhesive letters
  • Scissors
  • Mounting squares
  • Frame (optional)

Directions

  1. If you are making your own paint strip, cut poster board into strips 9 inches long by 2 inches wide, or to desired size
  2. Paint squares of color to fill the strip, leaving a 1/8-inch-wide stripe between colors
  3. Think of a phrase that expresses your thoughts on life and laughter OR use a favorite quote
  4. Print the words on the squares of color OR use adhesive letters. You can print one letter per square or multiple letters or even whole words. Mix styles of print to give it your own unique look.
  5. Mount or frame your paint strip phrase

April 28 – Workers’ Memorial Day

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About the Holiday

Some jobs are so dangerous that workers get hurt or even die doing them. Around the world organizations have been established to help industries provide safer working environments for their employees by establishing standard rules and regulations for buildings, machinery, working hours, and more. Unions and other groups have also been founded that represent workers to ensure their rights are upheld and their needs are met. Today we honor the sacrifices of workers in dangerous professions and raise awareness for safe working conditions.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Among the immigrants sailing to New York, stands five-foot-tall Clara Lemlich. She may not know it now, but she’s going to change her new city. While her father can’t find work, Clara gets a job in the garment industry, which hires school-age girls to make women’s clothing. Instead of going to school, Clara spends her days hunched over her sewing machine in a dark, smelly factory with many other girls, making clothes as fast as she can.

The rules of the factory are severe. For minor mistakes workers can be fined or worse—fired, leaving their families without an income. The doors are locked so the girls can’t leave without being inspected to ensure they haven’t stolen anything. And the workers must toil long into the night. Despite it all Clara is determined to get an education even though it means walking to the library after work and missing sleep to read her lessons. 

At the factory the girls become friends and reveal stories and secrets. The working conditions make Clara angry. She hears that the men at the factory want to form a union. If all the workers team up, they can hold a strike and force the management to treat them better, the men say. But they don’t think the girls are tough enough.

Clara knows what the girls are capable of. Every day she talks to her friends and the other women, urging them to fight for their rights—and they do! But it’s not as easy as the men predicted. The bosses don’t want to give in. In fact Clara’s life is in danger! She is beaten and arrested. Despite the intimidation she continues to picket. These small strikes make little difference, however—the bosses just hire new girls and the work continues.

Clara and other union leaders think only a huge strike by all workers in every garment factory in New York will cause the bosses to listen and make changes. At a union meeting workers pack the seats to listen to leaders from across the country. Not one of them recommends such a large strike. Clara can keep silent no more. She moves to the front of the hall and calls out. People lift her to the stage. Shouting “Unity is strength” she rallies the crowd and begins the largest strike of women workers ever in United States history.

The next morning thousands of women take to the sidewalks, leaving their sewing machines empty and silent. New York is stunned! Newspapers call the strike a “revolt,” and the girls an “army.” But this is really an army of children—the girls range in age from only 12 to 25 years old. Clara knows how to lead and motivate the girls. She gives rousing pep talks, sings, and stands up to thugs sent to harass them.

All winter the girls join the men strikers. They are starving and cold and become the inspiration for newspaper articles and fundraising. Many wealthy women donate to their cause and join them on the picket lines. Finally the bosses relent. They agree to the formation of unions in their factories, raise salaries, and shorten the work week. Factory workers in Philadelphia and Chicago take heart from Clara’s work and improve conditions in their cities.

Even though Clara is young and small, she proves that anyone can right wrongs and make a difference.

The final pages include more information about the garment industry in the early 1900s as well as a bibliography.

Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl is a spirited biography of Clara Lemlich, clearly outlining the life and working conditions of immigrants in the early 1900s—especially industries’ use of children to fill low-paying, oppressive jobs. This true-life story of a girl who wouldn’t give up or give in is told with pride and balance, touching on the dangers Clara faced in a sensitive manner appropriate for children. Overall, the idea that one person can make a difference no matter how big or how old shines through, making this not only a tale of the past, but an inspiration for today’s children and the future.

Melissa Sweet cleverly combines watercolor and gouache paintings with colorful fabric, ribbon, sewing pattern paper, and ledger pages to create illustrations fitting to the story. The pictures appear sewn onto the pages with straight, zigzag, and embroidery stitches, and the vibrant colors depict the fiery nature of Clara and all the workers who strove for better lives.

Ages 4 – 9 (and up as Brave Girl makes a wonderful teaching text)

Balzar + Bray, Harper Collins, 2013 | ISBN 978-0061804427

Workers’ Memorial Day Activity

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Dream Job Application

 

Work isn’t working when you love your job—it’s fun! What is your perfect job? Is it working with animals? Playing a sport? Being an artist, scientist, entrepreneur? Fill out this application and get started on following your dreams! Print the Dream Job Application below!

Dream Job Application 

April 27 – Tell a Story Day

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About the Holiday

Are you a raconteur? Do you love to weave a tale so intricate and intriguing that your listeners are on the edge of their seats? Or are you the one leaning forward, all ears, feeling the tingling thrill of that story? Either way—this day is for you! So take some time to tell or listen to a story—or even write your own!

One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories

Written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich | Illustrated by Fred Koehler

 

Hey! I have a fantastic story to tell you! Ya gotta minute? Ok! See… “One day I went to school. I came home. The End” What do you mean, “Is that it?” Don’t you get it?  So many things happened—funny, messy, worrisome, happy. It was an amazing day! I didn’t say that? But it’s all right there! Where? In the middle. In the pictures!

On other days the little girl who went to school in the story above becomes a detective to find her lost dog, invents ingenious ways to hide from her brother, and creates something awesome for her mom. She also runs away from home, but of course comes back, and shadows her cat to a surprising discovery. On yet another day she just feels like stomping. And on still another she  relents to a much-needed bath…and shares it with her dog!

And what does she want to do after all these adventures? She wants to write a book…and does!

Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day…The End is such an ingenious concept that readers will keep turning the pages just to see what clever idea comes next. Each story consists of a first sentence that introduces a plot and the last line that wraps it up. Sure Dotlich could have fleshed out the characters, detailed the setting, added dialogue, and symbolized a theme, but sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words, and this is where Fred Koehler comes in.

Koehler takes these kid-centric tales and fills in the exploding science experiments, ice-cream trucks, accidental oopsies, distractions, clues, and more that make up each day’s adventure. With humor and an eye for real-kid emotions and actions (the little girl pours glue from the bottle held above her head), Koehler creates a unique plot for each story.

In “One day I felt like stomping” the little girl doesn’t stomp for no reason: her cat eats her pizza lunch, she splatters herself with purple paint, and her fishing pole breaks. She just feels like…! The word STOMP grows bigger across the page and even gets stomped on itself as the girl vents her frustration in a puddle, on a pile of leaves, and—almost—on a flower. But seeing the daisy saves her day and she saves the daisy. Haven’t we all been there?

One Day…The End is a joy to share with kids. They’ll love to spend time pointing out the humorous details and depth of story each page holds, and may even like to “tell” the story as they read. This book would be a fantastic jumping off point for kids wanting to write their own stories or for teachers wanting to demonstrate the elements of active, detailed story writing. As Dotlich says on the first page: “For every story there is a beginning and an end, but what happens in between makes all the difference.”

Ages 4 – 8

Boyds Mills Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1620914519

Tell a Story Day Activity

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Story Maze

 

This puzzle may look like a regular maze, but there’s a secret to it! Within this maze is any story you’d like to make up. Why do you go left instead of right? Are you avoiding a zombie or a rainy shower? Why do you go up instead of down? Is it because you can you float? What lurks in that dead end you’ve entered? There are as many cool stories as you can imagine right in those little pathways. And when you find your way to The End, you’ll have written a story! Print the Story Maze and the Solution here!

picture book review

April 26 – Hug an Australian Day

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About the Holiday

Hug an Australian Day was initiated by Ruth and Thomas Roy of Wellcat.com. It’s a perfect time to celebrate all things from the land Down Under—like the people’s sunny personalities and the awesome (or should I say aussieome?) wildlife. Today, listen to your fav Australian music, watch an Australian movie, and if you have friends or relatives who are Australian, send them good wishes.

Alfie’s Lost Sharkie

By Anna Walker

 

It’s Alfie’s bedtime, but Alfie is lodged headfirst in his toy basket searching for Sharkie. He’s quite distinctive, Alfie tells his dad. with “white fins, sharp teeth, and scary eyes.” Oh, yeah, and “he’s blue.” Could he be outside? Alfie’s dad relents and lets him look while he runs water in the tub.

Outside in a tall tree Alfie hangs from a branch and asks a bug, a bird, and a cat if they’ve seen Sharkie. Come down now, his dad calls, it’s bath time. Alfie dives to the depths of the bathtub to look for Sharkie, but all he finds is a jellyfish. Pajama time, says his dad.

Like quicksand the pajama drawer sucks Alfie in. “I’m okay,” he says, struggling to the top only to see his cat wearing his pajama bottoms. Alfie looks under the chair and in his jack-in-the-box. A tear rolls down Alfie’s nose as he stares longingly out the window. It’s story time, says his dad.

While his dad reads, Alfie stands on his head contemplating the whereabouts of Sharkie. Why is his dad making him brush his teeth and pick out a toy to sleep with when he’s obviously so not tired? Reluctantly Alfie chooses a toy—in fact all his toys—and marches toward bed.  And who should he find? The armful of toys goes flying as Alfie leaps onto the covers. He’s so happy to see Sharkie!

Dad tucks Alfie and all the toys under the blankets, and Alfie closes his eyes hugging Sharkie tight. But a new thought strikes Alfie—“Where’s Bunny?”

In Alfie’s Lost Sharkie, Melbourne-based Anna Walker has created a picture book that will have kids and adults laughing at the familiar bedtime scenario. The story’s spare text echoes the rhythms of the nighttime routine with a child trying to wring just a few more minutes out of the day.

The sweetly drawn illustrations are equal parts humorous and cute as Alfie wrangles time under the curious gaze of his toys and mischievous cat. The final picture of Alfie tossing Sharkie aside will make adults nod their heads in recognition while kids will probably think, “Yeah! That’s a good point!” Funny visual details and the loving relationship between Alfie and his patient dad will make Alfie’s Lost Sharkie a book kids will want to read again and again.

Ages 3 – 7

Clarion Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544586567

Hug an Australian Day Activity

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Awesome Aussie Word Scramble

 

A cute koala invites you to unscramble the names of Animals found in Australia and discover the secret phrase!  Print your Awesome Aussie Animals Word Scramble here!

April 25 – World Penguin Day

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About the Holiday

As Antarctica’s Adelie Penguins begin their northern migration today, we should remember that conservation of the environment is crucial to the survival of this and all 17 living species of penguins. Eleven species are listed as vulnerable or endangered. Why not learn a little more about the various kinds of penguins today? Or it would be a perfect day to visit a local aquarium and watch these waddling wonders dive and frolic in the water!

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups

By Tadgh Bentley

 

“Oh, hello. It’s so nice to HIC! meet you,” the little penguin greets readers from his ice floe on the first page. The penguin’s been expecting you and he’s so glad you’re here. You see, he has a HIC! problem and needs your help. Ever since last week when he ate a bowl of chili, he’s had the worst hiccups!

His friend Frederick—the one who told the penguin you were coming—suggested he stand on his head. Chester said to drink backward from a cup. And Albert thought a combination of the two would do the trick. But nothing works. Franklin came up with another idea, and that’s where you come in.

The penguin needs someone to scare him. Unfortunately the little guy doesn’t like being scared, so he’s ready for you to say “Boo!” on the count of three. Ready? “One – two – three.”

“boo”

“Hic!”

Well, that didn’t work. How about louder? “Boo!” Nope. Will nothing cure the hiccups? The disappointed penguin lies on the ice wondering if he’ll have the hiccups forever, but he’s willing to give it another go. This time shout, go crazy! Ready? “One – two – three.”

“ROAR!”

Was that you? No? Oh! It was Franklin! “What are you doing, Franklin?” the very scared penguin says, climbing out of the ocean. Now his feathers are all wet and his mom is NOT going to be happy because she just washed them and…wait a minute! His hiccups are gone, and he wants to celebrate! But, wait—with tacos? Hmmm…this could be a problem…

Tadgh Bentley’s adorable penguin with a problem of hicstorical proportions is sure to get kids giggling and shouting “Boo!” in this interactive picture book. The conversational tone and hiccup-interrupted story will have kids empathizing with and rooting for the little penguin in the throes of a very familiar condition. Bentley’s illustrations of the cute, plump penguin are full of angst, action, and humor. As little penguin greets readers, his friends play cards, fish, eat chili, and frolic on other ice floes. Kids will laugh out loud at the penguin’s attempts to banish the hiccups, and roar along with Franklin when he makes his dramatic appearance.

Ages 3 – 8

Balzar + Bray, Harper Collins, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062335364

World Penguin Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-puzzle

Puzzled Penguin Puzzler

 

These four penguins have lost their stuff! Can you untangle the paths that will lead the right penguins to the snowballs, sled, fish, and baby? Print the Puzzled Penguin Puzzler here!

April 24 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

Snow still blankets the ground as a little girl and her Nana survey their garden plot. The girl’s head is full of dreams of the bounty to come. As the days warm and the wind whistles, the girl and her Nana dig in the mud. “’It’s not quite time,’” says Nana. “’Down in the dirt, things need to dry out and warm up.’” Her granddaughter is curious about what’s below.

Down in the dirt, Nana tells her, a whole world of insects are already working. Up above, the two gardeners are working too—gathering scattered twigs, removing weeds, and spreading compost.

Down in the dirt, pill bugs chew dead leaves, rolling into tight balls when poked. Up in the garden planting is taking place, the seeds carefully snuggled into beds and watered. As peas and other early plants sprout, bees pollinate and wasps hover.

Down in the dirt earthworms tunnel, enjoying the cool soil. Up in the garden the girl and her Nana rest in the shade then play in a sprinkled shower. Down in the dirt the water soaks deep, feeding the squash plants’ roots.

The summer is progressing and up in the garden tomatoes and beans are ripe for eating. Down in the dirt a robin finds a meal too. Up in the garden there’s so much to harvest. Nana and her granddaughter work until dark, sharing the garden with bats and June bugs. With nightfall a skunk finds grubs and cutworms down in the dirt.

The air is turning cooler up in the garden. Pumpkins turn orange under towering sunflowers while down in the dirt a spider weaves her sticky web. As Autumn wanes it’s time for the final garden harvest. Down in the dirt the insects know it too; they scurry to gather food.

Up in the garden and down in the dirt everything is prepared for winter. As snow once again blankets the garden plot, the girl and her Nana, the earthworms and pill bugs, the bees, and the skunk are all waiting for spring to come again.

Kate Messner’s lyrical paean to gardening is a wonderful way to introduce children to the changing seasons and how nature works together. Comparing and contrasting what gardeners do up above as they plant, tend, and harvest their crops to the work insects and animals perform down below emphasizes the interconnectedness contained in even a small plot of land. Messner’s language is beautifully evocative—the snow is sleepy, brittle stalks snap and are rustly when gathered, chickens squabble and scratch, newly planted seeds snuggle in the dark, pumpkins blush orange, and sunflowers bow to September.

Christopher Silas Neal illustrates the changing garden with striking up-close, ground view images of the plants and creatures that call the garden home. Vibrant green grasshoppers, brilliant yellow sunflowers, deliciously red tomatoes, soft pink worms, scruffy backyard animals, and more join a sprightly Nana and her curious granddaughter in soil so dark and fertile that any gardener would be envious.

The final pages include more information on the creatures found in the book, a list for further reading, and an author’s note. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt would be a welcome and special addition to any budding gardener’s or outdoor lover’s library.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452119366

National Garden Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-garden-word-search

 

Plant a Flower Garden! Word Search

 

Whether you like to plant your flower bed in horizontal or vertical rows or just scatter the seeds for a wild burst of color, you’ll love this word search planted with favorite spring and summer blooms. Print your Plant a Flower Garden! word search and the Solution here!