October 13 – National Fossil Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that some fossils date back to 4.1 BILLION years ago? Just think of that the next time you’re feeling a little bit old (or so recommends the website National Today). Today we celebrate National Fossil Day to recognize the importance (and, well, awesomeness) of paleontologists, geologists, and fossils in providing us with information on the history of our earth and those who have inhabited it before us. ​National Today provides some further information, with a timeline of fossil history, and fun facts like this one: The highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil was $8.3 million (they named it “Sue”).

To celebrate National Fossil Day, check out National parks near you, learn more about fossils, do something to help protect the earth, read some books about evolution—like Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!—or visit the National Parks page for more information and resources on how to celebrate our geologic heritage.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

Written by S.K. Wenger | Illustrated by Jojo Ensslin

 

If you ask Chicken Frank he’ll tell you, “I’m a dinosaur! Cluckity-roar!” But the other barnyard animals aren’t so sure. Everyone is puzzled by this evolution thing Frank keeps talking about (“Evo-what?”). Chicken Frank tries to explain, “Evolution! Change! Change happens over time so we can survive.” He takes a stick and draws lines of lineage, connecting crocodiles to plant-eating dinosaurs and eventually birds. “From a dinosaur. See?” But the other animals don’t see it: “I see a chicken who was a chicken five minutes ago,” a sheep says. “I see a chicken who’s been a chicken since he hatched,” a pig chimes in.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank then presents different types of evidence to try to convince the farm that birds evolved from dinosaurs. He points out his feet look like those of T. rexes, to which another chicken looks at the readers and says, “More like T. crazy.” Frank explains that feathers evolved from dinosaur scales, and that both dinos and chickens had little tails when they were embryos. Other animals start wondering if they come from dinosaurs, since they have tails too. So, in a last straw attempt, Chicken Frank returns to his mud lineage map once more.

He shows how fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals come from different branches in the evolutionary tree. Birds, however, branch off from reptiles. Nobody is convinced, and pig, sheep, and horse turn their attention to pretending to be unicorns with carrot horns instead. But then, the results from Frank’s DNA test arrive. The data shows Chicken Frank has a reptilian cousin: Crocodile Ike.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank decides to send a post card to his cousin Ike inviting him to come for a family reunion, much to the dismay of everyone. A crocodile and a chicken in the same place? Seems like a recipe for disaster…and maybe some chicken franks too. And while Crocodile Ike and his mom are first tempted to gobble Frank up, they take some time and study his charts. And, to everyone’s surprise, they get it! “One of us isn’t a dinosaur… But we’re both Archosaurs! KINGS of the dinosaurs! Roar!” Ike tells Frank. Ike’s mom wonders who else they may be related to, so Frank starts a letter to an even further distant cousin—the sharks!

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

They all decide to take a trip to the aquarium, where the pig, sheep, and horse are delighted to find “a swimming unicorn!” (a narwhal), and Crocodile Ike exclaims, “family!” Chicken Frank happily agrees and adds, “Ours is the very best.”

The story is followed by five informational sections: “What Is DNA?”, “What Is Evolution?”, “Is Chicken Frank Really Related to T. rex?” “Similarities Between Dinosaurs, Chickens, and Alligators”, and “Frank’s Glossary of Favorite Animal Groups” Each of these sections provide in-depth scientific explanations for those who want to know a bit more about how it all works. S. K. Wenger masterfully explains each of these concepts at an advanced level that is clear to read and understand for readers of a wide range of age and abilities.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A joyous read, with important concepts about evolution scattered in with the fun. This comic-style picture book will have kids laughing out loud at the farm animals’ speech bubble puns and jokes. S. K. Wenger (and Chicken Frank) explain concepts of evolution in easily digestible terms for readers of all ages. The story is quick-paced and intriguing, with distinct characters and a quirky humor. A must-read for all kids, especially those with a fondness for dinosaurs.

The story would not be nearly as fun or educational without Jojo Ensslin’s colorful, cartoon-like drawings. As Chicken Frank explains his evolutionary reasoning, Ensslin depicts the ideas clearly and closely juxtaposed. For example, when Frank talks about how his feet match those of a T. rex, kids see both feet on the same page. Likewise, a scaled dinosaur and an ancient bird are portrayed on the same blackboard.

Later, when Ike receives the postcard from Frank in a muddy swamp, swarming with crocodiles, and calls out, “Does anyone know a cousin named Frank?” little speech bubbles with “Nope!” scatter the swamp, prompting kids to join in. In a carved-out corner, a close-up view of Ike and his mom show their evil plans to crash the reunion with some chompers. The facial expressions of each of the animals add to their characters and the humor of the story. Many carefully placed illustrative details add to the plot in meaningful and silly ways, such as, the DNA Test Kit shown the page before the story begins and the large bone Chicken Frank stores in his coop; the illustrations and text come together to create a read-aloud that is enjoyable to all.

Creative nonfiction at its best, Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! is both a hilarious story and a highly engaging way to explain evolutionary science in a way kids will respond to and remember. Sure to spark an interest in further science learning, the book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807511411

Discover more about S. K. Wenger and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jojo Ensslin and view a portfolio of his illustration, animation, and woodcout work, visit his website.

National Fossil Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-national-park-service-dinosaur-coloring-pageDinosaur Coloring Pages

 

Enjoy these four dinosaur coloring pages from the National Park Service’s free prehistoric coloring book in honor of National Fossil Day!

Dinosaur Coloring Pages

For more, you can download the whole coloring book from the National Park Service here.

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You can find Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 8 – World Octopus Day

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About the Holiday

With fossils dating back 300 million years, the octopus is one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating creatures. It’s also one of the smartest—as it has more than 500 million neurons firing information through its brain and arms, allowing them to learn from experience and solve problems. Octopuses are adaptable and are found in all the world’s oceans. While most prefer warmer waters and living along the ocean floor, some species swim in shallower, cooler waters. Octopuses have an excellent sense of touch and sense of vision—some even see in color. They fool predators by hiding or camouflaging themselves and can escape capture by shooting an inky substance at their pursuers. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan a visit to an aquarium or other sea life center!

All I Want is an Octopus

Written by Tracy Gunaratnam | Illustrated by Valentina Fontana

 

Throughout the city, a little boy sees pets of all kinds going here and there with their humans. He knows kids with dogs and cats, hamsters and turtles, mice and even a horse. “But all he wants is an… octopus!” His dad tells him an octopus “‘belongs in the sea.’” His son’s response? “‘But DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! My octopus would wash your car. / He’d paint the house and play guitar.’” His dad thinks about it and is pretty impressed. As he sprinkles food into their fish tank, he says he’ll leave it up to Mom.

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Image copyright Tracy Gunaratnam, 2021, text copyright Valentina Fontana, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

But when the boy asks his mom, she tells him the idea is silly and to get ready for bed. Her son’s response? “‘But MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!’” Then he tells her how helpful the octopus would be, and she’s just as impressed as Dad had been. She tells him to go ask his Gran. Gran doesn’t need any convincing at all. In fact, she thinks an octopus will “‘roller skate and jump in puddles… /…Play mini golf and give wonderful cuddles.’”

The boy is star struck—even he didn’t think of these. But while his Gran thinks having an octopus would be a great bet, she’s already invited another pet. Who could it be? Ding Dong! Open the door and you will see!

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Image copyright Tracy Gunaratnam, 2021, text copyright Valentina Fontana, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Silly in the best way and with dialogue kids are going to love to chime in on, Tracy Gunaratnam’s funny rhyming story is perfect for lively family, classroom, or library story times. All I Want is an Octopus would make a captivating lead-in and prompt for classroom writer’s workshops on pets and family negotiations. At home, kids would have fun imagining what other jobs around the house an octopus could do as well as talking about an unusual pet they’d like to have.

Valentina Fontana’s adorable guitar-playing, hair-styling, mini golf-playing pink octopus will have kids wanting one of their own. Her fresh, vibrant illustrations, rendered in a lovely color palette, also hold clues that kids will have fun deciphering as to why each of the various other pets are a perfect match for its owner. The book Gran is reading also hints at the surprise ending, and the final spread will bring a smile to all kids with big dreams.

A light-hearted read aloud that kids and adults will enjoy sharing at story time or bedtime, All I Want is an Octopus makes a terrific gift and sure favorite on home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867796

You can connect with Valentina Fontana on Instagram.

World Octopus Day Activity

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Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Who wouldn’t like to have a cute octopus for a pet? With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little cephalopod to hang out on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, in any color
  • Polyfill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head
  8. To display, set the octopus down and arrange the legs in a circle around the head

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You can find All I Want is an Octopus at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 1 – International Raccoon Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

International Raccoon Appreciation Day was begun by a young girl in California to celebrate raccoons and all animals that are considered to be pests or “nuisance animals,” but who are actually an important part of their ecosystem. Raccoons help out by eating carrion, keeping the numbers of some other animals in check, and spreading seeds while foraging and eating berries and nuts. Raccoons live in diverse climates, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas. Despite habitat loss, their population has continued to increase in North America. One remarkable aspect of raccoons is their hand-like paws, which are almost as nimble as ours and from which they derive their name. “Raccoon” comes from the Powhatan word aroughcun, which means “animal that scratches with its hands.” The Aztecs named them mapachitli, which means “one who takes everything in its hands.” Today’s book stars a raccoon who makes good use of her hands while having a grand adventure.

Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon

Written by Jill Atkins | Illustrated by Kristen Humphrey

 

Even though Raccoon was happy living in the forest, she longed for adventure, so when she heard a screech, she went to investigate. What she found was a baby eagle that had fallen from her nest and become stuck between two branches. Raccoon easily climbed up the tree, rescued the chick, and returned it to its nest. Just then the chick’s mother swooped down, and Raccoon felt a pang of fear. But the eagle just wanted to thank her for helping her baby.

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Image copyright Kristen Humphrey, 2021, text copyright Jill Atkins, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Raccoon went back to her tree, wishing that she could fly. As she napped, she dreamed “of faraway places where she would go if she could fly.” She was suddenly awakened by a loud roar. Looking up, she saw a hot air balloon soar by and land in the nearby field. Raccoon was astonished and decided that she would ride in it too. “‘It would be such a fantastic adventure!’” she told herself.

As the riders left their balloon, Raccoon hopped in and nibbled through the rope tethering it to the ground. “Up shot the hot air balloon! ‘Whee! I’m flying! It’s the beginning of my great adventure!’” Raccoon exclaimed. Seeing their balloon take to the air, the riders chased after it. The balloon continued to rise and rise. It soared over the eagle’s nest, rivers, forests, and fields.

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Image copyright Kristen Humphrey, 2021, text copyright Jill Atkins, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

In a little while, Raccoon decided it was time for lunch. But how could she get the hot air balloon to go down? There was a red button in the basket, but pushing it did nothing. Raccoon tried pulling on the rope that hung from the balloon, but this just made the balloon go higher. “‘Help! I can’t get down!’ she shouted” as the ground appeared smaller and smaller. “At that moment, she heard a swoosh of wings. The mother eagle landed on the basket.” With the promise to help, the eagle flew away. Soon she was back grasping a big rock in her talons. “She dropped it in the basket” and took off again.

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Image copyright Kristen Humphrey, 2021, text copyright Jill Atkins, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Suddenly, the sky filled with birds all carrying stones. One by one they dropped them in the hot air balloon’s basket. Slowly, the hot air balloon began to descend—right in her very own tree. Raccoon called out a relieved “‘thank you!’” to the eagle. She’d had a wonderful adventure, but she was happy to be home—until she saw the motor boat zooming by and decided “‘I think it’s time for another adventure!’”

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Image copyright Kristen Humphrey, 2021, text copyright Jill Atkins, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Jill Atkins’ clever and accessible story about how good deeds are often repaid in kind offers young readers humor, excitement, and adventure along the way. Her engaging storytelling clearly shows kids the reciprocal friendship that grows between Raccoon and Eagle after Raccoon rescues her chick. Atkins also helps readers see that exploring new things leads to opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and discover parts of their neighborhood, state, or even the world that they’ve never seen before. Eagle’s rescue of Raccoon is an ingenious solution to his predicament and will also shows kids that many helping hands—including theirs—can make a big difference.

Kristen Humphrey’s bright illustrations of Raccoon’s forest, populated with deer, bears, owls, and other birds, mirrors Atkins’ evocative storytelling and will please kids. When Raccoon makes his dream to fly come true, readers can watch step-by-step as he takes his wild ride. Humphrey’s images provide excellent prompts for readers to predict what will happen to the hot air balloon and Raccoon. As Raccoon quickly recovers from his harrowing experience and decides to have another adventure, readers will knowingly laugh to see him at the wheel of a motorboat.

Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon is a humorous and impactful title to share ideas of following ones dreams and the importance of helping our friends and neighbors near and far for all kids.

Ages 4 – 9 

Maverick Arts Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867772

Discover more about Jill Atkins and her books on her website.

You can connect with Kristen Humphrey on Instagram.

National Raccoon Appreciation Day Activity

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Raccoon Coloring Pages

 

If you like mischievous raccoons, you’ll enjoy these two printable coloring pages!

Raccoon in the Woods | Raccoon by the Shore

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You can find Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 26 – International Dog Day

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About the Holiday

In 2004 Colleen Paige established International Dog Day to remind people – especially those who may be looking for a new pet – of all the dogs in shelters that need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. If you’re thinking of adding a new family member of the furry kind, or if you’d just like to make a difference to animals in shelter care, call or visit your local humane society or other shelter.

Thanks go to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Pug & Pig and Friends for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Pug & Pig and Friends

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Joyce Wan

 

Whether fans of Pug and Pig or new readers, kids will be delighted with the invitation to spend time with Pug, Pig, Squirrel, Robin, and Cat at their trim blue-and-white home. These friends like to play together, but not all of them have the same idea of what fun is.

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Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

While Pug, Pig, Squirrel, and Robin “like to explore in the bushes,” Cat “watches from the fence.” Pug, Pig, Squirrel, and Robin like to chase each other around the yard. “But not Cat. She watches from the porch. What does Cat like to do?” Cat thinks surprises are fun. She likes to sneak up on Pug, especially when he’s snoozing. With a loud “MRROW!” Cat startles Pug and makes him jump. Then Cat and Pig laugh. But Pug, Squirrel, and Robin do not. “They do not like surprises at all.”

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Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Suddenly, the sky grows dark and rain begins to fall. Pug and Pig run to their little house, while Squirrel and Robin scurry to their nests. But where can Cat go? Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes. Cat quickly climbs into the tree and holds on tight. When the rain turns to sprinkles, Robin, Squirrel, and Pig try to get Cat to come down, but she’s too afraid. “Pug has an idea.”

Pug curls up on the welcome mat and closes his eyes. Cat sees him and has an idea of her own. She climbs down from the tree and sneaks up to the front porch. Suddenly, there’s a sound. But who surprises who? And who gets the giggles afterward?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-chase

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Kids are sure to want to giggle along with Sue Lowell Gallion’s latest Pug & Pig story again and again as surprises abound and these fast friends care for each other despite their small differences. Gallion’s gentle reminder that not all kids like surprises becomes a clever plot twist when Pug helps Cat while showing her that he can enjoy her favorite game too.

With her adorable, brightly colored illustrations, Joyce Wan once again brings to life Gallion’s story in ways that are both familiar and fresh and will enchant little ones. The sweetly smiling faces of the characters and their sheer joy of playing together is captivating and will put a smile on the faces of kids and adults. As the sky turns from blue to rainy gray, kids will love getting caught up in the excitement as the friends make their mad dash for cover. As the sun returns so do the shenanigans and the belly laughs.

Whether you’re adding to your collection of the Pug & Pig series or just getting started, the charming Pug & Pig and Friends is a must for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534463004

You can read a fun interview with Sue, Joyce, Pug, and Pig here.

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

To learn more about Joyce Wan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Dog Day Activity

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Pug & Pig and Friends Activity Kit

 

Kids can have lots of fun with Pug, Pig, Squirrel, Robin, and Cat with the puppets, puzzles, and craft in this printable Activity Kit found on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website! You’ll also find Activity Kits for Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat plus extra coloring pages!

Pug & Pig and Friends Activity Kit 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-cover

You can find Pug & Pig and Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 17 – Get Ready for Preschool

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About the Holiday

Not only are kindergarteners and “seasoned” elementary-school kids getting ready to go to school—or already back in the classroom—the youngest students are beginning their school career with preschool. Some children eagerly look forward to this new adventure, while others are more hesitant about the transition from home to school. Books like today’s warm and funny story that shows how teachers welcome and care for their students and the fun that’s waiting with new friends in a new, exciting environment.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sharing a copy of What Does Little Crocodile Say? with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

What Does Little Crocodile Say?

By Eva Montanari

 

It’s that time! “The alarm clock goes Ring Ring.” Big Crocodile comes into Little Crocodile’s room and tickles their child awake. A quick splash in the tub, a zip of the overalls, and a messy breakfast later, the pair are out the door. Zipping along the street, “the car goes vroom vroom.” When they get where they’re going, Big Crocodile locks the car, rings the bell, and—at her little one’s urging—carries them up the stairs to where “the Elephant says Good Morning!”

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Copyright Eva Montanari, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hugging Mom tight, the little crocodile looks around the room full of toys and other kids. The piglet, kitten, bird, frog, and wolf all say hello in their own way. “And what does little crocodile say” as Mom puts them down? “WWWWAAH WWWWAAH.” But Elephant is there to soothe the tears and read a story. The teacher helps Little Crocodile beat the drum. By the time the kids ting the triangle, Little Crocodile is feeling comfortable, and when they have a trumpet parade, the little crocodile is first in line.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-does-little-crocodile-say-classroom

Copyright Eva Montanari, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

At lunch time, “the food goes nom nom nom” and “the milk goes glug glug glug” and Little Crocodile is right at the table with the other kids. They nap, play with bubbles, and then… “the door goes knock knock. Big Crocodile says Peekaboo!” Little Crocodile is surprised. There are kisses and kisses “muah muah muah muah muah” for Big Crocodile and a wave and “See you tomorrow!” for the new friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-does-little-crocodile-say-crying

Copyright Eva Montanari, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Eva Montanari’s delightful step-by-step story envelops little ones in the experience of preschool through the sounds—from the morning ring of the alarm clock to the cheerful farewell at the end of the day—and the sights of home and preschool classrooms. In Montanari’s enchanting pencil and pastel illustrations, a messy bath and messy breakfast lead with gentle humor to the suspenseful page turn in which readers see that the handoff from Big Crocodile to Elephant is a bit messy too.

Little Crocodile’s meltdown, however, lets little ones who may also be unsure about this transition in their life see how their teacher will care for them and all the friends and fun activities that await. The correlating page spread in which Little Crocodile jumps back into Big Crocodile’s arms with kisses instead of tears is comfort at its best and is sure to inspire plenty of “Muahs” all around. Adults will love sharing this read aloud over and over and kids will have a giggly blast chiming in on all of the sounds. What will little ones say to this book? “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Captivating and interactive, What Does Little Crocodile Say? transends its concept book roots to reassure little ones just beginning their school journey and celebrate all the love and new friends they’ll find along the way. The book is a must for home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268135

Discover more about Eva Montanari and her books on her website.

Get Ready for Preschool Activity

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Crocodiles on the Loose! Matching Puzzle

 

These crocodiles have gotten separated from their twins. Can you help them find each other again in this printable puzzle?

Crocodiles on the Loose! Matching Puzzle

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You can find What Does Little Crocodile Say? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

This year World Elephant Day celebrates its 10th anniversary. The holiday was launched to raise awareness of the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants, discover how you can be elephant ethical, and commemorate today’s holiday with virtual events led by elephant specialists, artists, zoos, and other organizations, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

Written by June Smalls | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

The elephant matriarch is the queen of the family group. “She is usually the oldest, but not always. It is her job to guide and teach her subjects to give them the best opportunities for survival.” Her family group consists of blood relatives—daughters and granddaughters—living together. When groups get too big, some elephants break off and form their own group. The matriarch leads the other elephants to food and water, and when water is scarce “she guides them on journeys to watering holes remembered from long ago.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Like a loving grandmother, the matriarch teaches younger elephants how to take care of their little ones. Everyone in the family group helps rear the young. “The clumsy babies are sometimes caught in mud or water and the older elephants will work together to push, pull, or dig to rescue them.”

Sometimes, groups of elephants that once lived together will meet. They remember each other and spend time “foraging for food together. These meetings are like a family reunion.” When danger from another animal lurks, the elephants watch and learn how the matriarch defends them. They also huddle together and surround the smaller elephants for protection. “If nature, or predators, or poachers take her friends, she will comfort and care for the orphans.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones grow and play under the watchful eye of the matriarch and, just like human children, “elephants are not born with all the skills they need.” The matriarch helps teach her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren how to use their trunks for heavy work like moving logs and for delicate finessing, such as having the “ability to gently pluck a leaf from a tree.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

The matriarch also thinks about the future when she won’t be able to lead the group anymore. She passes on her knowledge and skills to the elephants in her lineage, “so that when she is gone another matriarch will lead her family.” When the matriarch does die, the elephants mourn their loss in ways similar to humans. “Elephants have been observed burying their dead with grasses and branches,” and they will return to the spot months later to “touch the bones of their lost family member.” A new matriarch emerges to lead the family group. This is “usually the oldest daughter of the matriarch,” and her call “to her daughters and their daughters” can be heard for miles and miles – sometimes up to 110 square miles – as this new queen begins her reign.

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

June Smalls’ tribute to the matriarchal society of elephants and, through her lyrical storytelling, to strong women in every family and community is both poignant and powerful. The main story reveals the role of the matriarch in leading and teaching her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters over a lifetime, which can span seventy years. Smalls’ stirring text illuminates the similarities between elephants and humans in everyday needs, behavior, memory, familial care, and even in death. In addition to the story, each page spread includes fascinating, and often touching, facts about how a family group forages for enormous amounts of food, finds crucial water supplies, protects each other, rears their young, and sustains each other in the passing of the matriarch. Smalls’ book ends with an inspirational entreaty to young girls to awaken to their future role as leaders.

Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning realistic illustrations of an elephant matriarch leading and teaching her family group in the wild will thrill readers. On each page spread, young readers follow their elephant peer as she (or he, as male elephants stay with the family group until about age thirteen) plucks leaves from a sun-drenched tree, splashes in a watering hole, walks in the shade of two adults on a long, hot journey, is protected from predators, and plays games with sticks and other babies in the group. Shimokawara’s delicate color palette and beautifully composed images depict the intelligence and gentle manner of these animals in lively and tender moments that children will want to view again and again.

An exquisite combination of inspiration and education, She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch will captivate children as a spark for further learning about these majestic animals, the environment, and nature conservation as well as encouragement to bravely take their place in the world with grace, love, and strength. The book is a must for all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702324

Discover more about June Smalls and her books on her website.

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

World Elephant Day Activity

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Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for families to do together. Using siblings’ hands or the hands of a child and an adult to make the elephants can make a meaningful and comforting picture to hang in a child’s room or gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers make the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s or adult’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye.
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint or crayon.
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features if desired.

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You can buy She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch on the Familius website.

 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review

August 5 – Back to School Month Blog Tour Stop for Turkey Goes to School

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About the Holiday

Although we may not know what going back to school will look like this year, we can be sure that the excitement kids feel for seeing their friends and teachers, celebrating special themes and occasions, and reading new books together will be as strong as ever. Sharing today’s featured book – the latest in a favorite series – will make sure kids can look forward to a farm-tastic first day. 

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Turkey Goes to School for review consideration. I’m eggs-cited to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Turkey Goes to School

Written by Wendi Silvano | Illustrated by Lee Harper

 

Max and Millie were excited about the first day of school. “So were the animals on Farmer Jake’s farm—especially since the first week’s theme was ‘Farm Days.’” Could an invitation to visit the school be far behind? Turkey imagined all the fun they would have. To make sure everything went smoothly, Turkey engaged the other animals in extensive practice of all the skills he thought they’d need. They read, wrote, counted, and even played recess games.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

But when the bus pulled up in front of the farm gate, Millie delivered the bad news: “‘Critters aren’t allowed at school.’” Turkey just couldn’t take “no” for an answer, so he gathered up his friends and hitched a ride in the back of a passing pickup truck. When they got to school, the animals decided Turkey should sneak in to class. Turkey had an idea that just might work. Strapped onto Pig’s back in a makeshift backpack, Turkey was ready to go, but Max spied something amiss and told them to go home. But Turkey couldn’t take “no” for an answer. Peeking in the window, Turkey saw that story time had begun, and thought of another great disguise. This time he was able to “‘book it inside,’” but when a little girl pointed him out, the teacher said, “‘I’m page-ing the principal.’”

Back outside, Turkey had another brainstorm. Recess was coming up, so Turkey crossed his wings, folded down his feathers, pulled in his head and feet, and with some help from his friends landed in the middle of the playground. “‘Cool—jumbo soccer!’ cried a boy.” Too bad for Turkey, Millie was the referee. “‘I call a fowl!’” she cried.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The other animals were getting into the spirit of Turkey’s subterfuge, and Cow came up with a plan for Turkey to masquerade as a “‘lunch lady in the calf-eteria.’” Side-by-side with the real lunch lady, Turkey was fitting right in, until… he wasn’t. Outside once more, Turkey huddled with the other animals next to a scarecrow advertising Farm Days. Rooster just couldn’t understand why they weren’t “front and center” during Farm Days. That gave Turkey another idea. This time, Turkey put on a disguise that just could not miss. He even got help from the principal.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With her endorsement, what could the teacher say but “yes.” Millie and Max cheered as their animals trooped in with instruments, ready to sing a song with the class. And what better song to sing than Old MacDonald… I mean “‘Farmer Jake, he had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.’” (And you can guess which animal came first!) At the end of the song, Millie asked the teacher if they could sing some more. The teacher thought about it, and since it was Farm Days, after all, they were allowed to stay for a “Farm-tastic first—and last—day at school.”

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Turkey is back in Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper’s fifth adventure featuring the animals from Farmer Jake’s farm. All Turkey wants is a chance to go to school with Max and Millie, and he’ll go to any length to make it happen. As Silvano sets up funny obstacles that Turkey continues to overcome by taking advantage of opportunities and through clever school-based disguises, kids will find plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to celebrate Turkey’s ingenious initiative. Stuffed with witty puns that readers will be repeating throughout a school day, Silvano’s storytelling is fresh and dialogue-rich. Each animal gets a chance to shine in this smart and inventive celebration of teamwork.

Laying on lots of slapstick and exaggerated imagery, Lee Harper brings the beloved gang from Farmer Jake’s farm back for another madcap romp. In Harper’s hands, the animals are nothing less than high-spirited kids in sheep’s (Pig’s, Horse’s, Cow’s, Chicken’s and, of course, Turkey’s) clothing. Readers will love poring over the bright, action-packed pages to pick up all of the comical details, visual puns, and allusions to the trappings of school. Kids will cheer along with Turkey’s ultimate triumph and the rockin’ sing-along that makes this a school day for the books.

Whether your kids are already fans of the Turkey Trouble series—which includes Turkey Trouble, Turkey Clause, Turkey Trick-or-Treat, and Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter—or meeting these friends for the first time, Turkey Goes to School will captivate them and make them laugh. A perfect book to share for the first day of school and all the others along the way, Turkey Goes to School is sure to be a much-asked-for favorite and must addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542023641

Discover more about Wendi Silvano and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lee Harper, his books, and his art, visit his website.

A Quick Chat with Wendi Silvano

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Wendi Silvano was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has lived in Oregon, Colorado, and Peru. The author of the Turkey Trouble series, she has a BA in early childhood education and taught preschool and elementary school for eleven years. She is the mother of five children and the owner of an assortment of odd pets that are not nearly as clever as Turkey. She now writes from her home in Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, reading, and playing the piano. Visit her online at www.wendisilvano.com.

Hi Wendy! It’s so wonderful to see Turkey and his friends back… off the farm, I suppose we can say! They’re eager to make school-time memories, but we still have a little bit of summer left, so I was wondering, Do you have a favorite summer memory?

One summer, my kids and I were camping with some family friends. My son David and his friend Sean (who were about 7) were exploring near our campsite. They were hanging out under a very tall pine tree and goofing off a bit. They must have worried some chipmunks who were up in the tree. All of sudden, the chipmunks started bombing them with pinecones from the tree! We were all watching and laughing our heads off.

Of course, being boys, they didn’t just move to another spot to calm the chipmunks, but rather started trying to throw the pinecones back up at the chipmunks. They didn’t get them anywhere near high enough and the chipmunks won the battle in the end. As a children’s writer, my imagination immediately pictured that pair of chipmunks up high in the tree catching sight of the intruders,  planning their attack, carrying it out and eventually celebrating their victory. (Come to think of it… maybe I should write a story about that!).

I’d say readers will be pining for that picture book! What a hilarious experience! Animals truly are incredible. Thanks so much for sharing that story with us!

Back to School Month Activity

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Smile! It’s a Back to School Fun Word Search Puzzle

 

There are twenty school-related words in this happy word search puzzle. Can you find them all?

Back to School Fun! Word Search PuzzleBack to School Fun! Word Search Solution

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You can find Turkey Goes to School at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review