September 29 – It’s National Courtesy Month

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About the Holiday

A bit of common courtesy goes a long way. Just think of how two little words, like “I’m sorry,” “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” can make a frown turn into a smile and make a bad day suddenly feel okay.  Today’s holiday encourages people to use good manners, watch out for others, and treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. When these niceties are forgotten…. Well, today’s book shows us what can happen….

Hotel Bruce

Written by Ryan T. Higgins

 

“Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese,” but he was not happy about it. Since he was their mom, however, it meant going south with them every winter even though he would rather have taken a loooong nap. Leaving home, taking public transport, and hanging out on crowded beaches took a toll on Bruce. So one spring when Bruce returned home to discover mice had turned his home into the Woodland Hotel, he went on a grouch-fueled rampage and swept the mice out into the night.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Satisfied, he climbed the stairs to bed only to find it overrun with a moose, a porcupine, a raccoon, and a rabbit; three turtles were snoozing underneath. Let’s just say quarters were a bit snug. “The next morning Bruce woke to the sounds of birds chirping, and squirrels chattering, and possums having a pillow fight.” He found a frog in his toilet, got porcupine prickles in his posterior, was sprayed with skunk perfume right after showering…and a beaver gnawed the corner off his kitchen table. There was even a fox at the stove trying to convince the turtles to jump into a hot, veggie-filled “bath.” But when the mice tried to politely usher Bruce out of the Woodland Hotel, he’d had enough and asked to see the manager.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

While the mice argued over who was the manager, things in the kitchen were getting steamy. The fox’s turtle soup had “turned bad.” The kitchen looked as if a turtlenado had blown through—even Bruce’s best silverware was missing! “Bruce started to lose his cool.” Just then a vanload of elephants arrived for a vacation. “Finally, Bruce lost his temper. ‘THIS IS NOT A HOTEL! THIS IS MY HOUSE! EVERYBODY OUT RIGHT NOW!’”

Drooping with dejection, the “guests” tromped away. “Sheesh! I thought they’d never leave,” one mouse snarked. At that, Bruce tossed the interlopers out into the rain, where they sat sad and bedraggled. “Bruce’s house was a quiet, peaceful place once again.” At least until the geese honked sympathetic honks. Bruce sighed and opened the door….

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Ryan T. Higgins’ curmudgeonly bear is back with a fine, funny sequel that will have kids giggling at poor Bruce’s plight. Adults will appreciate the sly wink to the penchant of woodland animals to take up roost in any warm, unoccupied space and will perhaps feel more than a little sympathy with Bruce as he finally rousts his “guests” from his home. The wise-cracking mice add levity and a few well-placed honks from Bruce’s “kids” tug at his heart.

Higgin’s madcap illustrations put readers in Bruce’s big, burly paws as he endures one predicament after another. While the woodland animals run wild, their slightly guilty faces reveal that even they know all is not on the up-and-up as they watch Bruce’s unibrow rise with surprise and furrow in anger. The geese, so eager to follow and fit in, look ridiculously cute in their bellhop uniforms, and Higgin’s detailed depictions of Bruce’s home will have kids lingering over each page.

Ages 5 – 8

Disney – Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484743621

Connect with Ryan T. Higgins on his website and learn more about his books, school visits, and summer camp for kids.

National Courtesy Month Activity

 

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Courtesy is Contagious Word Scramble

 

When you use good manners and courtesy, people notice and are inspired to do the same! Can you unscramble the twelve words or phrases in this printable Courtesy is Contagious Word Scramble. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 26 – Love Note Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

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Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review

September 23 – International Rabbit Day

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About the Holiday

With their little pink noses, long ears, and soft fur, rabbits make your heart melt. Today’s holiday was established to promote the protection and care of rabbits—both domestic and wild. Found in almost all types of environments—with more than one half of their total population living in North America—rabbits need protection from habitat destruction and predators. They are also a popular gift in spring, and families are encouraged to learn all about their needs and behaviors to determine if a rabbit is the best fit for the household. Because of their sweet, innocent nature, bunnies are often featured in children’s books. To celebrate the holiday, read a few of your favorites—including today’s book!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

International Rabbit Day Activity

Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages

 

Bunnies are such loveable little creatures that you just can’t help but say “Awwww!” when you see one. Here are two printable Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Bunny Coloring Page | Three Bunnies Coloring Page 

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day and Interview with Sara Levine

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About the Holiday

Today is one of the best days of the year! Anyone who loves books will want to take the opportunity of the holiday to visit their favorite bookstore and buy one of those books you’ve been hearing and reading about. And why stop at just one? Winter is coming—that time when there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling in with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and reading late into the night. As the school year begins, children benefit from having new books in their home libraries that reflect their changing interests and maturing thoughts. Take a little time to look through the children’s or tween sections of the bookstore and let your kids pick out some new favorites! Yes, today is a wonderful day, no bones about it! 

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth

 

Can you imagine if we sloshed through life like soup without a bowl? What would we set our hats on? Where would we carry our phones? How could we sit in class or the office or perform our favorite activities? And what would happen to our organs, our hair, our homes? It’s all a little disturbing! Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that scenario because “we’re vertebrates, animals with bones. Our bones hold us up.” Phew!

There are different kinds of vertebrates—mammals, reptiles, fish, and more—but many of our bones are similar. For example, “all vertebrates have skulls and ribs. And we all have vertebrae. Vertebrae stack up one on top of another to make the spine, or backbone.” Humans have vertebrae that end…well…you know where, but imagine for a minute if your vertebra kept on going. What if they poked a hole right through your shorts? Yes! You’re right—you’d have a tail. Tails are pretty helpful for some animals. They help them swim, communicate, even keep their balance.

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Image copyright T. S Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Publishing

Good job! Let’s try again…how about if you only had a skull, vertebrae, and ribs. No arm bones; no leg bones. You’ve got it! A slithery snake! Nah…really…you’d look great! Okay, maybe you’d prefer if you had a skull, vertebrae, and arm bones—but no leg bones—and your nose was transferred to the top of your head. Sounds fishy? Maybe, but not quite. Oh! Did I give it away? Yep, you’d be a whale or a dolphin, and you’d use those powerful vertebrae to propel yourself to the ocean’s surface to grab a breath.

Imagine what kind of gloves and shoes you’d need if your “middle fingers and middle toes were so thick that they supported your whole body.” Hey, you’re good at this! It was a trick question. You wouldn’t need gloves, but you’d wear horse shoes (or no shoes if you’re a less domesticated animal like a zebra). Now, let’s take a trip through a room full of fun-house mirrors. What kind of animal would you be if your neck was reeeaally long and each vertebrae was “as big as your head?” Or if your legs were muuuuuch longer than your arms? Or your “finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Seeing those transformations is definitely worth the price of admission, right?

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Image copyright T. S Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Publishing

But getting back to the bowl of soup: “Could you be an animal if you didn’t have any bones at all?” Sure! Some insects and sea creatures “have their hard parts on the outside,” and some are just “mushy.” Think of worms, slugs, and jellyfish, just to name a few. But bones make life more fun, don’t ya think? So if all vertebrates have bones, what makes humans different? Well, for one thing we (as well as some apes and monkeys) have opposable thumbs, which means that “we can move our thumbs in a special way that allows us to do many things, including turning the pages of a book,” using tools, and picking up objects. “Did you get that one? If so, give yourself a thumbs-up!”

An Author’s Note including more about bones, the types of vertebrates, a glossary, and resources for further reading follow the text.

With humor and a kid’s sensibility of the bizarre, Sara Levine presents an anatomy lesson that young readers will respond to. Juxtaposing individual bony features of humans and animals is a brilliant idea to give children perspective on the differences in animal skeletons and the uses of each unique trait. Levine’s quiz-like format engages readers, encouraging independent thought and active participation as well as building suspense for what transformation comes next. Kids will laugh and learn and be on the lookout for other ways human and animal skeletons differ as they become more aware of the natural world around them.

With illustrations of tailbones sticking out of pants, empty socks, two fingered hands and two toed feet, a neck that needs two scarves, and more, T. S Spookytooth illuminates what it means to be human in an animal world or an animal in a human world. Kids will laugh imagining themselves as Spookytooth depicts them with animal features and “Ewww” when their portrayal dissolves into a muddy mess. The accurate drawings of human and animal skeletons educate readers on the names and placement of particular bones.

The unique approach to the study of human and animal skeletons, the wide range of animals presented, and the enticing writing and illustrations make Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons a wonderful choice for libraries and home bookshelves of budding scientists and nature lovers.

Ages 5 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0761384649

To learn more about Sara Levine and her books, visit her website! You’ll also discover fun Bone by Bone activities to enhance your reading!

View a gallery of artwork by T. S Spookytooth, plus videos and more on his website!

Buy a Book Day Activity

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Dog Paw and Human Hand X-Ray Craft

 

X-rays are cool to look at, but they always stay at the doctor’s office! With this craft you can simulate an X-ray of a dog’s paw and a human hand!

Supplies

  • Printable skeleton templates: Human Hand Template | Dog Paw Template
  • Black chalkboard drawing paper, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • White colored pencil
  • White chalk
  • Clear Plastic Report Sheet Protectors
  • Magnetic clip to hang your x-ray on the refrigerator or other metal surface (optional) OR
  • String or wire, adhesive squares, and clothes pins to hang x-ray on the wall (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Human Hand and Dog Paw Templates (you may want to print two—one to cut and one to follow when transferring the bones to the black paper)
  2. Cut the bones apart
  3. Lay the bones on the black chalkboard paper
  4. Trace the bones with the white colored pencil
  5. Color in the bones with the white chalk
  6. Slip the black paper into the plastic report sheet protector
  7. If desired, hang the x-ray on the refrigerator with the magnetic clip or on the wall using string, adhesive squares and clothespins

 

Q & A with Author Sara Levine

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Today, I’m thrilled to talk to Sara Levine about her writing as well as to learn about her early experiences with animals and to discover a kid’s-eye-view of women in science.

Your writing for kids is so infused with humor that really captures their attention. What were some of the books that you liked best as a child?

When I was younger, one of my favorite picture books was Katerine and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch. I’ve noticed that this book has gone back into print; I was so happy to find it online. It’s basically about creativity. A girl and her friend keep finding new uses for a large cardboard box—a house, a car, a dance platform. I can still recall my feeling of excitement when hearing it read to me—it made me want to go make something. It’s actually a feeling very similar to what I have today when I think of a new idea for a book. There was also a book called Wisher, which was about difference—about a cat who dreamt he was really a fish. I remember that the illustrations were beautiful and somewhat scary—just done in blues, browns and yellows.  As an older child, I loved Charlotte’s Web by E.B White, Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater and pretty much everything by Judy Blume.

I don’t suppose any of these books are like the books I write. I used to tell people that I liked my science and my books separate. I just wanted to go outside to learn about science. But, I wanted stories in my books. I don’t think there were any of the sorts of books I write about science out for kids when I was young. At least I didn’t find them. But if I had, I think I would have enjoyed them—the fact that they were funny and interactive. But here’s a picture book I LOVE that I found as an adult that is certainly infused with humor and captures a kid’s (and a grown-up’s) attention: Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer. I think this is currently my favorite picture book.

You grew up on a farm in Guilford, Connecticut. Can you tell me a little about the farm and how or if it influenced your current work?

Calling it a “farm” might be a bit of a stretch. My parents were two kids who grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to CT and decided to get some animals, cheered on by their enthusiastic offspring. First there was a goat, who got lonely. So then there was another goat. And they had a baby. And there was a chicken at school who needed a place to go for the summer. And then never went back to school… And so on. We ended up having over 100 named animals—a horse, a cow, peacocks, geese, a donkey and more. I loved taking care of the animals, with my siblings. It was a wonderful experience, one that I’m very grateful for. But it wasn’t at all lucrative. I think the only money made was by my brother who would sell extra eggs to his teachers.

How did it influence my current work? I’m not sure. Certainly my interest in animals is a lifelong one. I think the stories about the animals actually show up more in my writing for adults than in my picture books. The ideas for the books for children come more from teaching ideas that I think will translate well into a picture book format.

You have a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a masters in fine art. When and how did the two merge into your work as an author?

What a great question. I have always had this science side and this humanities side. A lot of my life, I’ve been struggling with how to balance and feed both sides of myself. It’s taken me a long time to find a way to merge the two interests, and it’s been very satisfying to do so in writing about science, especially for kids.

You offer four different school and library programs, all of which sound fascinating. Do you have any anecdotes from a presentation you’d like to share?

In one of my workshops, the one for Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons, I bring in an articulated skeleton for the kids to see and a disarticulated skeleton in a box. The kids learn the bones, and I then hand them each a bone which they take up to the standing skeleton to figure out which bone it is, and then work together to put together the second skeleton on the floor. Inevitably, someone asks if the skeletons are real. They are. I literally found them in the closets, when I started my teaching at Wheelock. There are all sorts of questions about that, generated by the kids, and then, often, someone will ask if the skeletons are “boys or girls.” Recently, at a school near Boston, I was explaining to a group of second graders that both were female, that we could tell by the shape of the hips, and I heard one girl, going, “YES!” and pumping her arm up and down, in victory. The boy next to her says, “Why are you so happy? That means a girl died.” To which she responds, “That’s true. But it also means one more girl in science!”

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Sara Levine leads a workshop at Cold Spring School

What’s the best thing about writing for kids?

I enjoy trying to think of engaging and interactive ways to teach something that hasn’t been taught before. I like the creativity involved. And, of course, reading it to the kids when I’m done and seeing them respond!

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Students at Al Hamra Academy examine a skeleton

You also write articles for adults and were nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007. Can you tell me more about your writing for adults?

I write science related essays for adults. The writing comes more from my own experiences.  I do have a handful of essays published. I think the one that was nominated for the Pushcart, “What Hands Can Do” is still available to read online. Here’s a link to it on Fictionaut. It’s about spaying a dog. And more, of course. I think my most successful essay is “The Body of a Cow” which originally appeared in the Massachusetts Review. It’s also on Fictionaut, if anyone wants to have a look. Eventually, I hope to work the essays into a memoir for adults.

What’s up next for you?

I have a book on dinosaur bones which will be published by Lerner next year. I also have three children’s books written which I’m trying to find homes for at the moment—one on animal classification (but interactive, written like a “do your own adventure” story), one on how plants communicate with animals, and one very funny one (if I can say so myself) called “Breakfast at the Omnivore Café,” which is about what animals eat. This one might never get published because it falls into the cracks between nonfiction and narrative fiction, but I haven’t given up on it yet. The book I’m currently working on is an attempt to explain climate change through stories of the carbon cycle. Doesn’t sound very interesting when put that way, but it’s written as an interactive story, and is also actually quite funny in parts, so I think kids will like it.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you what your favorite holiday is…

Passover. You get to tell a story to children in a way that is interactive and engaging for kids, AND it involves food. What could be better?

Thanks so much for chatting and sharing your unique perspective on the natural world, Sara! I, for one, would love to read Breakfast at the Omnivore Café—that would be one interesting menu, I bet! I wish you the best with all of your books!

You can connect with Sara Levine on:

Her Website | FacebookTwitter

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Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons and Sara’s other books can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Lerner Publishing

About Sara Levine

Sara Levine is an assistant professor of biology at Wheelock College and a veterinarian.  Her science books for children include Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (2013) and Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks and Chompers (2016).  Her third book, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones will be published in 2018.  Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons has received much recognition, including the Utah Beehive Book Award, selection as a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, and finalist for the Cook Prize for best STEM picture book.

Sara also writes science-related essays for adults, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007.  Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Review, Bayou, and in the anthology And Baby Makes More. In addition to teaching college students, she has taught children’s environmental education classes for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and other nature centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut for over 15 years. 

Sara holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Tufts University, a master of fine arts degree (MFA) in creative nonfiction writing from Lesley University and a bachelor of arts degree (BA) in English from Haverford College.  She is a native New Englander and lives with her daughter and their dogs and cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Picture Book Review

September 4 – National Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day, founded in 2005, serves to bring awareness to the number of endangered animals that need to be preserved and rescued each year. The holiday also acknowledges the zoos, outstanding animal sanctuaries, and other global organizations for everything they do to help preserve this planet’s animals and educate the public about conservation – especially the children, who are our future conservationists and animal’s caretakers.

 

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

When young Eugenie Clark pressed her face against the aquarium window at the sharks swimming by, she did not see “piercing eyes…rows of sharp teeth…vicious, bloodthirsty killers.” Instead she saw “sleek, graceful fish” and dreamed of being inside the tank to swim among them. She loved to spend Saturdays at the New York Aquarium sharing her knowledge of fish with visitors. She wished there was more information available about sharks and hoped for a day when she could learn more about them.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

At home her mother bought Genie her own little fish tank, and soon the whole apartment was full of fish and reptiles. Genie kept careful notes on her pets as she tried to answer her many questions. William Beebe, a famous scientist who studied fish, was Genie’s hero. She too wished to explore the ocean like he did. But this was the 1930s and not many people “dared to study the depths of the sea, and none were women.” Eugenie’s mother suggested she study typing and try to become Beebe’s secretary. The life of a secretary was not what Genie had in mind.

Eugenie received a Master’s Degree in zoology, and when a well-known ichthyologist offered her a job as his research assistant and an opportunity to take oceanography classes, she moved to California. There she collected fish and water samples. The beauty of the underwater world astonished her. In the lab she was able to dissect a swell shark to learn “how and why it puffs up.” But Genie wanted to dive deeper—to swim with sharks.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

One day, Genie’s professor allowed her to try helmet diving. Wearing the heavy metal helmet, Genie was able to descend into the cold, murky deep where kelp forests waved with the current. “In 1949 the US Navy hired Genie to study poisonous fish in the South Seas. As she collected fish, she came face to face with a shark. The shark swam closer and closer then suddenly dove and disappeared out of sight. Genie was thrilled by the encounter.

In 1955 Eugenie moved to Florida and opened the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, becoming the first to study sharks in their natural environment. The more she studied sharks, the more she realized that they were intelligent creatures, not stupid “eating machines” as most people thought. She wondered if sharks could be trained.

Eugenie set up an experiment in which a shark needed to press a white board to receive a reward a short swim away. Soon, the female shark of the pair realized that if the male shark pressed the board, she could swim to retrieve the reward. The pair remembered the exercise even after a ten-week break. Soon, scientists from around the world wanted to work with Genie. 

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Word reached her about “‘sleeping sharks,’” off the coast of Mexico. Instead of swimming around, these sharks stayed on the ocean floor. Eugenie was determined to learn how they breathed without moving. She dived deep into their territory, finding a requiem shark in an ocean cave. Here, she was face-to-face with one of the most feared fish in the sea. Genie swallowed any worry and watched as the fish opened and closed its mouth, providing itself with oxygen as a remora fish cleaned its gills.

Genie took water samples and completed other tests that revealed astonishing facts about the ocean caves and the habits of sharks. But while Genie was learning the facts about these mysterious sea creatures, most people still feared them and considered them with suspicion and superstition. As time went by, Genie began seeing fewer and fewer sharks on her dives. They were being killed out of fear, for their fins, and because people thought it would make beaches safer.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Genie began talking about her research, and people listened. “Dr. Eugenie Clark had become one of the most respected fish scientists in the world.” She taught people that there is always more to learn and “always more surprises.”

An extensive Author’s Note about the life and work of Eugenie Clark as well as more information on sharks follows the text.

Heather Lang delves into the life’s work of a woman who fearlessly challenged herself and the prevailing science to increase our knowledge of sharks and change people’s perspective on these beautiful creatures. Readers will love Lang’s comprehensive storytelling—beginning with young Genie’s fascination with fish and the sea—that reveals the pivotal events which led to her discoveries. Fascinating anecdotes from Eugenie’s research and personal encounters with sharks will enthrall children, and the idea that there is much more to discover will resonated with young scientists in the making.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Jordi Solano takes readers to the depths of the ocean in his sea-green, atmospheric illustrations that beautifully mirror the world of sharks. Textured and layered images of marine plants and a variety of creatures give children an up-close view of Eugenie Clark’s work and the fish she encountered on her dives. Each type of shark is magnificently and realistically drawn, giving kids an idea of coloring, size, movement, and more. Children will also see Eugenie’s research facilities and the equipment she used in her studies.

For anyone interested in marine science, history, biographies, or the environment in general, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark is a can’t-miss book.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807521878

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Jordi Solano on Plum Pudding Illustration!

National Wildlife Day Activity

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Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble

 

Read the clues and unscramble the names of 14 types of sharks in this printable Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

September 3 – It’s Happy Cat Month

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About the Holiday

A happy cat is a joy forever! Today, we celebrate those feline pets who give their owners so much happiness. To honor the holiday, why not give your kitty a special treat. It’s also a great day to make sure that your cat or kitten is current on all medical appointments to keep your pet healthy and happy!

Black Cat, White Cat

By Silvia Borando

 

“Ever since he was a kitten, Black Cat has been entirely black….from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail.” White cat is entirely white “from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail.” Black Cat likes to roam during the day and watch the black swallows swoop through the sky. White Cat prefers nighttime when the twinkling stars gleam.

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Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Black cat becomes curious about the night, though, and asks his friend Blackbird what he could see in the darkened sky. Blackbird doesn’t know because he is asleep in his nest during the night. Blackbird suggests that Black Cat go out when the sun goes down and “see what you can see.” At the same time White Cat wonders what the daytime holds. She asks her friend Snowy Owl, but Snowy Owl doesn’t know because she is always asleep by the time the sun comes up. Snowy Owl suggests White Cat go out during the day and “see what she can see.”

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

With good wishes from their friends, both Black Cat and White Cat head off on their new adventures, and somewhere between day and night, Black Cat meets White Cat. They tell each other where they are going and invite the other along with them. They agree, and so “White Cat takes Black Cat to discover the night.” Then Black Cat introduces White Cat to the day.

“The night is full of wonder. ‘Purr, purrrr, look at those glittery, fluttery fireflies,’” Black Cat says. “And the day is full of surprise. ‘Meow, look at those busy, buzzy bumblebees,’”  White Cat exclaims. Black Cat shows White Cat all of his favorite daytime things, such as “daisies, doves, and butterflies…” while White Cat dishes up the most delicious nighttime goodies—“snakes, bats, and mice.”

From then on Black Cat and White Cat are inseparable whether it’s daytime or nighttime. “So inseparable, in fact, that they have one, two, three, four, five, SIX… KITTENS! And can you guess what color they are? Orange!”

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Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

In her adorable book that proves opposites really do attract, Silvia Borando presents two cute cats that live in only half the world until their curiosity and friendship broaden their horizons. Borando’s gentle, lyrical language elevates this concept book to include the ideas that treasures can be found outside one’s comfort zone and that mutual sharing of one’s life and favorite things leads to strong relationships–even magic and sometimes the seemingly impossible! The soft curves of the figures and stark white-on-black and black-on-white pages make for striking illustrations that will delight even the youngest child.  The final spread of the six orange kittens will delight little readers.

Wonderful for story time or bedtime, Black Cat, White Cat is a sweet addition to home libraries for young readers.

Ages birth – 5

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763681067

Whether it’s day or night, watch this Black Cat, White Cat book trailer!

Happy Cat Month Activity

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Cute Cat and Kittens Coloring Page

 

Here is a happy cat and her new little kittens! Enjoy coloring this printable Cute Cat and Kittens Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

September 2 – It’s National Save a Tiger Month

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About the Holiday

National Save a Tiger Month promotes awareness of the dangers facing the world’s wild tiger population. With only 4,000 still in existence, the tiger is threatened with extinction unless people work together to protect them. Many factors have led to the tiger’s decline, including habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching. Environmental and other groups, such as the World Wildlife Federation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Smithsonian Institution are working towards a solution.

A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School)

By Mike Boldt

 

Even before the story properly begins, Anya discovers something incredible and incredibly disturbing. Overnight she has grown a tiger tail—not a pony tail or pigtails, but an honest-to-goodness black-and-orange-striped tiger tail! All she wants is to stay in bed, but unfortunately that’s not possible because it’s Anya’s first day of school.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Anya wonders if “girls with tiger tails are even allowed to go to school” and what the other kids will say. Her mom thinks it’s wonderful. The tail goes so nicely with Anya’s red hair and brings out her “fun, wild side.” But Anya’s only worried about her back side! Her dad likens her predicament to when he got glasses and tells her she’s still “exactly the same wonderful Anya you’ve always been.”

Anya figures she’s on her own with her problem. She tries tugging on her tail, pulling on it, and squishing it, but it remains firmly attached. Perhaps the right outfit from her closet—or all of them together—could hide her tail, but that solution had its own problems. There was just one last thing to do—panic! “‘Calm down,’” says her mom. “‘You’ll make yourself sick.’” Ah-ha! There’s a good idea! Anya thinks as she goes back to bed with tissues and feeling for a fever.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Anya’s mom thinks her antics are so funny and that the kids will love her sense of humor, then she shoos her off so she doesn’t miss the bus. Ah-ha! There’s another good idea! Anya hides in the bushes, but her dad discovers her and considers it a “special treat” to drive her to school.

Walking up the sidewalk to the school’s front door, Anya realizes that she has only one option—running away to join the circus. How bad could that be? But as Anya daydreams about eating popcorn for dinner and swinging from a trapeze, she misses her chance to escape. The school bus pulls up to the door and all the kids pile out. “Anya was doomed.” But she watches all the kids race past her without a glance and doesn’t see the boy headed straight for her who also doesn’t see her. CRASH! Their impact sends them tumbling to the ground amid fluttering papers and flying books, shoes, and backpacks. Even the boy’s baseball cap pops off! Anya stares and then smiles. Standing straight up from the boy’s head are two long rabbit ears.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“‘Hi, my name is Ben,’” the boy says as he holds out Anya’s shoe. “‘I’m Anya,’” Anya replies. Joe takes his hat from Anya and bounds up the steps. “‘Come on, Anya! We don’t want to be late on the first day.’” Anya follows, and when she sees her class she knows she’ll fit right in.

Mike Boldt whimsically captures the first-day jitters—of school or any new experience—that can result in an explosion of self-consciousness, doubt, and fear. Boldt’s little girl with a wild cloud of red hair is a loveable, plucky heroine as she takes matters into her own hands when the adults around her seem oblivious to her plight. Boldt’s vivacious illustrations burst with energy and emotion that kids will recognize and respond to. Boldt depicts children so honestly, from their crinkled nose abhorrence to their enthusiastic smiles, and the adults, with their clueless dialogue and quirky expressions, are rendered through a child’s eyes.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Readers will laugh at Anya’s panicked face and her multi-layered getup designed to hide the tail that is still obvious through its ribbon wrapping. The crash meeting between Anya and Ben provides delightful surprise and insight, and the final spread of the classroom is inspired. Not only do most of the kids have unique traits, but the teacher also displays rabbit teeth as everyone poses for a class picture.

A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School) offers comfort and understanding as it reminds readers that everyone is an individual, and that one of humankind’s strongest and most common bonds is our diversity. A Tiger Tail should be embraced by every classroom and will make an often-asked-for addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481448857

Learn more about Mike Boldt and his books and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Pounce on this awesome book trailer for A Tiger Tail!

National Save a Tiger Month Activity

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Tricky Tigers Find the Differences and Coloring Page

 

These two picture of tigers in the jungle have some differences—just like Anya and her classmates. Can you find all eleven changes? Have fun searching and coloring this printable Tricky Tigers Page!

Picture Book Review