August 16 – It’s Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

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

Over and Under the Pond

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

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

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-woodpecker

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-otter

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452145426

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

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

Water Quality Month Activity

animal-celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-habitat-coloring-pages-for-kids-cooloring-com-coloring-pages-of-pond-animals

Busy Pond Coloring Page

 

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

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

Are you feeling a bit parched? Is the grass turning brown and the garden droopy? Would a rainy day be the perfect antidote? Well, today, wishing might just make it so! Throughout history people have relied on rain to nourish crops, fill up reservoirs, and cool things down. Rain is a crucial part of the ecosystem and a weather pattern that deserves its own holiday. So, no saying “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” You can do that tomorrow!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

On a gray and rainy day, Elephant went out walking with his green umbrella. He met a hedgehog who hailed him and said, “‘Excuse me. I believe you have my boat.’” Elephant was perplexed, so Hedgehog expounded on his theory. “‘I crossed deep oceans on my boat and faced the crash of icy waves. I saw dolphins leap two by two and tasted the salty spray of whales. The stars were my guide and my boat a faithful friend.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-hedgehog

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This poetic travelogue did not convince Elephant of the umbrella’s provenance, but he offered to let Hedgehog ride along and share in its protection. The two came upon a Cat, who took one look at the green umbrella and recognized it as her tent. Hmmm…said Elephant and Hedgehog. It was true replied Cat, and she related how when she visited the woods to study plants and flowers, she would rest in its shade and drink a cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-bear

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This story seemed no more plausible than Hedgehog’s, but Elephant invited Cat to ride along and share in its protection. As they continued on, a Bear approached, sure that they had his flying machine. “‘Your what?’ asked the Elephant, the Hedgehog, and the Cat.” The Bear got a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “‘I soared through clouds high up in the air and saw Northern Lights glimmer above rolling hills. I floated on wings free and far from the noise of busy towns below.’”

Well, Elephant could play this game too. The umbrella was his and his alone. When he was a child, Elephant said, the umbrella was his pirate sword, his tightrope balance, and his baseball bat. By this time the rain had stopped. Elephant rolled up his umbrella and said good-bye to the Hedgehog, the Cat, and the Bear. The three couldn’t stand to see their boat/tent/flying machine taken away, so they clung to the Elephant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-tea-party

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moment later they met an old Rabbit. “‘I believe you have my cane,’” he said. The others thought he was wrong. But this handy stick, the Rabbit explained, had helped him climb pyramids, hike mountains to ancient ruins, and navigate dark caves full of treasure. Again the Elephant objected, but seeing the old Rabbit mopping his forehead, he opened it and shaded the Rabbit from the sun. The Cat offered to make a pot of tea, and the Bear and the Hedgehog helped lay out a picnic lunch.

Under the cool umbrella, the five “shared their stories, drank tea, planned adventures, and became fast friends.” From then on when it was sunny, they went “Sailing, Camping, Flying, and Hiking” together. “And when it rained they stayed dry under the green umbrella.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-friends

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s multi-layered story delves into the large points and small nuances of relationships old and new. The Elephant’s green umbrella is both a subject of envy and a uniting object. It also serves to demonstrate Elephant’s ability to stick up for himself as well as his willingness to share. As each animal presents an imaginative and compelling reason why the green umbrella belongs to them, the Elephant rejects the story while accepting the friend. In each animal’s lushly described imagination, Kramer does a beautiful job of showing readers how each of these friends are similar. She reveals that while friends can have different opinions, they can still find common ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-followers

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maral Sassouni’s dream-like illustrations are both exotic and homey. Village houses give way to turreted and domed towers, and the imaginative stories the animals tell are accompanied by details as free, cozy, or eccentric as their tales. The Elephant’s account is cleverly rendered in sepia tones, showing the age of the memories and who the original owner of the coveted umbrella really is. The final images of the five new friends sharing adventures in the green umbrella are sure to delight little ones.

The Green Umbrella is a perfect book to share on rainy days or sunny days. With humor and creativity, the book provides an opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship and sharing with children. It would make an often-read addition to public, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, her books, and a fun book-related activity on her website!

Learn more about Maral Sassouni and her artwork on her website!

Don’t wait for a rainy day to watch The Green Umbrella book trailer!

Rain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rain-stick-craft

 

Rain Stick Craft

 

The steady sssshhhhhh of gentle rain is a sound that never fails to relax. With this easy craft, you can create your own rainfall for whenever you need  to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Heavy cardboard tube
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wrapping paper or other paper 
  • Rice or popcorn – 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • Rubber bands – 2

Directions

  1. Paint the cardboard tube, let dry (optional)
  2. Cut the paper into 3-inch or 4-inch squares
  3. Cover one end of the tube with paper and secure with a rubber band
  4. Crumple and twist two or three long pieces of foil 
  5. Put the foil strips into the tube
  6. Add the rice or popcorn to the tube
  7. Cover the open end of the tube with paper and a rubberband
  8. Turn the tube end-to-end and listen to the rain

Picture Book Review

July 22 – It’s National Zookeeper Week

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About the Holiday

Going to the zoo is a fun summertime event. This week we honor the zookeepers and aquarists who care for the nation’s zoo and aquarium animals and work to protect the species in the wild. Through research conducted at zoos and aquariums around the country, scientists learn more about how to protect animals and their environments from danger.

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids

Written by Kristen Fischer | Illustrated by Susi Schaefer

 

“Lyla is ready / to try something new. / Can she learn yoga / from friends at the zoo?” In her room Lyla dresses in comfy clothes and rolls out her red yoga mat. She remembers the bear who “grabbed onto his feet” as she does the same while lifting her legs in the air. Two slithering cobras teach Lyla their moves, and from three eagles Lyla learns to stand as if ready to fly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zoo-zen-a-yoga-story-for-kids-bear

Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

“Lions stalk and they prowl, / in this pride there are four. / Hands pressed to her knees, / Lyla bellows a roar.” Next come five camels who bend their knees back when they sit. Lyla kneels too and grabs onto her heels. She bends backwards while relaxing her neck and in no time “she’s got the knack.” But Lyla needs a bit of a rest. Six alligators lounging in the river show her it’s easy to relax on her tummy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zoo-zen-a-yoga-story-for-kids-lions

Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

After her rest, Lyla’s ready for more. She gets an assist from seven dolphins passing by as she bends at her hips and lays her forearms flat on the mat. While they swim away, “eight gorillas screech. / Lyla folds in half, / clasps hands under feet, / and lets out a laugh.” Nine lizards gathered on a rock invite Lyla to be one of them. But what will she do for a tail? With one leg outstretched and one near her hand, she can look like a lizard sunning on land.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zoo-zen-a-yoga-story-for-kids-dolphins

Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

At the pond are ten frogs having high-jumping fun. With her legs stretched out wide and her arms as a prop, Lyla looks like those frogs as they get ready to hop. The flamingo stands steady on only one leg. It says, “Remember to breathe / use only your nose. / Inhale and exhale. / Stay calm in each pose.” With the thought to “always be present / right here and right now,” Lyla finishes her yoga with a thankful bow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zoo-zen-a-yoga-story-for-kids-lizards

Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

Kristen Fischer’s charming rhymes that describe the moves for each pose are sure to entice children to try yoga. Pairing the poses with familiar animals brings comfort and fun to this popular relaxation practice. With each page, the number of animals grows, making Zoo Zen a cute counting book as well. Kids will love learning ways that they can de-stress and clear their mind after or before a busy day.

Susi Schaefer’s adorable Lyla with a frothy updo of blue and black curls invites young readers to join her and some friendly zoo animals in fun yoga poses. Each move is depicted clearly in Schaefer’s colorful, textured illustrations. The animals not only demonstrate the poses but offer a little advice on placement of hands, feet, arms, and legs. The happy zoo animals and smiling Lyla are perfect friends to help introduce young readers to the benefits of yoga.

For children interested in learning yoga, Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids is sweet and gentle and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves. Its engaging rhymes support multiple readings as kids learn the poses.

Ages 4 – 8

Sounds True, 2017 | ISBN 978-1622038916

Discover more about Kristen Fischer, her books, and her work as a freelance writer on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Susi Schaefer on her website!

National Zookeeper Week Activity

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Strike a Yoga Pose Word Search

 

Many yoga poses for kids are named after animals you can see at the zoo. Find the names of twenty yoga poses in this printable Strike a Yoga Pose Word Search and then try some of them! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 15 – National Give Something Away Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the joy of giving. Whether you donate items from home to charity, volunteer your time in your community,or bring a friend a homemade treat, generosity will make both recipient and you feel good!

Hooray for Hat!

By Brian Won

 

Elephant wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. He’s hardly had a chance to fully shake off sleep when the doorbell rings. He clomps down the stairs yelling, “‘Go away! I’m grumpy!’” But there’s no one at the door. Instead Elephant finds a prettily wrapped present on his doorstep. Unwrapping it, Elephant finds the grandest hat he’s ever seen. It has everything – A pompom, a star, a feather, a mortar board with a tassel, a crown, a coo-coo clock bird, and even a cup holder! Elephant puts it on. How can he be grumpy with such a hat on his head? He can’t! “‘Hooray for Hat!’” he cheers and goes off to show Zebra.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-gift-for-elephant

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Elephant finds Zebra sitting alone on a tree stump. She doesn’t even turn around when her friend approaches. “‘Go away! I’m grumpy!’” she states. Elephant removes the top hat from his own new chapeau—a party hat with the pompom—and gently places it on Zebra’s head. Zebra can’t help but smile. “‘Hooray for Hat!’” they both cheer and head out for Turtle’s house.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Oh, but Turtle is so grumpy that they won’t even come out of their shell. Elephant lifts down the cowboy hat with the star and feather from his own towering hat and gives it to his pal. Out pops Turtle who proudly joins the parade. “‘Hooray for Hat!’” they all cheer and march off to show Owl. “But Owl did not want to see them or their hats. ‘Go Away! I’m grumpy!’” she hoots from her tree trunk hole.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-hat-for-turtle

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Elephant is as wise as Owl, however, and thinks the striped mortar board is just the thing to change her mood. “‘Hoo-Hoo-Hooray for Hat!’” Owl says, leading the way to find Lion. Lion’s frowning face peers out at them from his den, and he shoos the group away with the familiar “‘Go Away! I’m Grumpy!’” Down comes the golden crown from Elephant’s hat and while Lion loves it, he’s more concerned with their friend Giraffe who isn’t feeling well. “‘What can we do?’” Lion asks the group.

They all know exactly what to do. They pack up the very special hat and take it to Giraffe, who is standing with her head hidden in a treetop. “Do Not Disturb” reads the sign hanging on the trunk. As soon as Giraffe dons that hat, though, a toothy smile breaks out, and the six best buddies cheer, “‘Hooray for Friends!’”

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Brian Won’s joyful celebration of the power of surprise, friendship, and a great hat is a day brightener for anyone, whether they wake up grumpy or feeling fine. His adorable animal friends don’t mind a little grumpiness—they’ve experienced it themselves—but only want to make each other happier. The repeated phrasing throughout the story invites kids to read along, and the absence of pronouns offers open interpretation and inclusiveness. The confetti-colored hats will make kids smile, and the tribute to friendship will have them cheering along with this fun picture book.

A cheer-ful book, Hooray for Hat! would make a happy addition to children’s home libraries for those days when they need a little more encouragement or inspiration. Kids will want to get together with Elephant, Zebra, Turtle, Owl, Lion, and Giraffe again and again and will no doubt love to create a magnificent hat of their own!

Ages 3 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544159037

Visit the world of Brian Won on his website

Hooray for this book trailer!

 National Give Something Away Day Activity

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Hats Off to You! Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs. Can you find the two that match before you give them away?

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 pages of the Hats Off to You! game cards (or more to make the game harder)
  2. Cut the cards apart
  3. Shuffle the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table
  5. By turning one card over at a time, find all the matching pairs

Picture Book Review

July 14 – National Shark Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to raise awareness of the importance of sharks to the marine ecosystem and to dispel myths that lead to misunderstandings and mistreatment of these majestic creatures. Today would be perfect for visiting your local aquarium or stopping by the library or bookstore to learn more about sharks and the scientists who study and care for them.

Shark Dog!

By Ged Adamson

 

When you have a dad who’s an explorer, life can be full of adventures. There are fabulous trips to far-flung places where you see “beautiful butterflies and strange plants, tortoises as big as cars, and colorful birds in huge trees.” Yes, the days can be magical, but they can be mysterious too. How? Well, listen to this amazing story…

Hi! You heard about the incredible trip with the butterflies and tortoises, right? Great! But what you didn’t hear is how on that same trip “I had a strange feeling I was being followed.” I even heard a strange noise toward the back of our boat, but I was so tired I didn’t investigate. In the middle of the night, though, “something woke me from a deep, peaceful sleep. Something slobbery!” You’ll never in a million years guess what it was. Next to my bunk was the oddest creature I ever saw—a little guy that was “half dog and half shark.”

Dad was as surprised as I was. But the best part was that he said I could keep him. As soon as we landed on shore, Shark Dog was off like a shot, checking out the surroundings…in his own special way. Let’s just say when Shark Dog dove into the fountain, all the other creatures dove out, and at the park, while other dogs retrieved sticks, Shark Dog retrieved a whole tree.

Sometimes Shark Dog seemed to get his sharkiness and his doginess a little mixed up, but at all times he “was a fun friend to have around.” As you might imagine, Shark Dog loved the beach even though there could be a lot of screaming and panicked paddling when his fin popped up among the waves. One day, the beach was extra exciting. Shark Dog spied another shark dog and was super happy—until he saw that it was just a rubber floaty.

“For the first time, my Shark Dog was sad,” and he stayed sad. When he saw a travel poster of a far-flung ocean paradise, he even shed a tear. Dad thought we should take him home. This time we traveled by plane, and it was like the other shark dogs knew he was coming because as soon as we landed he “got the most wonderful welcome.” We spent a fantastic day with Shark Dog and his friends. The next morning, I gave Shark Dog a hug goodbye, and Dad and I started home.

But before we got too far, we saw Shark Dog following our raft. Then when we transferred aboard ship, so did Shark Dog—with one flying leap. It seemed that Shark Dog made a choice. “And that was just fine with me.”

Ged Adamson’s unique and funny story will delight pet owners, pet dreamers, and dog and shark aficionados alike. The little shark-dog hybrid, with his long snout, sturdy body, and sweet expression, is everything a friend should be as he plays along no matter what the escapade. Infused with lots of heart, Adamson’s story is also a reassuring choice for kids facing a move, a new school, or other new experiences. Just like Shark Dog, young readers will see that old friends remain true, new friends can be pretty great too, and exploring outside one’s comfort zone can open up a whole world of adventure.

Adamson’s artwork is loaded with personality, humor, and deeper emotion highlighted with the vibrant palette and chalked-in details that make his illustrations so distinctive. Those familiar with Adamson’s picture books may notice winks to his other characters among the pages. Kids will love Dad, all decked out in retro gear and sporting wavy, red hair and a handlebar mustache. Both boys and girls will identify with the child narrator, who is dressed in gender-neutral clothing and tells the story from the first-person point of view without gender-specific pronouns.

Discover more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062457134

National Shark Awareness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-jar-craft

JAWRS!

 

Are some of your favorite things scattered here and there? Would you like to be able to get a good clamp on them? Then here’s a craft you can really sink your teeth into! This shark jar is easy and fun to make and a fin-tastic way to keep your stuff tidy!

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut-butter jar
  • Gray craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Find a point in the middle of the jar on opposite sides of the jar
  2. Mid-way between these points on the other sides of the jar, find a point about 1 1/2 inches above the first points
  3. From the first point draw an angled line up to the higher point and down again to the lower point to make the shark’s upper jaw
  4. Repeat Direction Number 3 to make the shark’s lower jaw
  5. With the gray paint fill in the jar below these lines to make the shark’s head
  6. Along the jawline, paint jagged teeth with the white paint
  7. Add black dots for eyes on either side of the shark’s head
  8. Let dry

Picture Book Review

July 2 – Build a Scarecrow Day

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About the Holiday

The first Saturday in July is reserved for Build a Scarecrow Day. Today, community members gather together and create scarecrows to ward off birds that would like nothing more than to nibble at ripening crops. Although the celebration is traditionally an American holiday, it is being embraced by other areas of the world, such as Great Britain, which has joined in the fun since 1990.

The Scarecrow’s Hat

By Ken Brown

 

Chicken was quite taken with Scarecrow’s straw hat. In fact, she would have liked it for herself. When she complimented Scarecrow on his hat, he agreed that it was nice, but not as handy as a walking stick for his tired arms. “‘I’d love a walking stick to lean on. I’d swap my hat for a walking stick any day.’” Hmmm, thought chicken, she just happened to know someone who had such a stick.

She went to see her friend Badger who was struggling to prop open his door with a cane. When Chicken complimented Badger on the cane, he agreed, but said he’d really prefer a ribbon to tie his door open. Chicken thought she could help. She found Crow adding a blue ribbon to her nest. Chicken thought the ribbon was very nice, and Crow agreed. But she admitted that she’d rather have some soft wool to line her nest and make it more comfortable. “Now Chicken didn’t have any wool, but she knew someone who did.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-badger

Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Sheep was covered in wool and said she would be more than happy to trade some of it for a pair of glasses. Her eyes were getting old, and Wolf was always lurking. Chicken nodded and went on her way. When Chicken came calling at Owl’s, she couldn’t help but admire his new glasses. Owl agreed with a yawn, but revealed that he’d rather have a blanket to sleep under because the sun kept him awake. “Now Chicken didn’t have a blanket, but she knew someone who did.”

Donkey’s blanket was very handsome, but it couldn’t help Donkey shoo the flies away from her ears. Her tail was just a bit too short to “‘flick them away. But if I had some long feathers tied to the end of it,’” she explained, “‘I could swat them easily.’” Here was something Chicken did have. “Quick as a flash, Chicken pulled out one, two, three of her longest feathers and tied them to Donkey’s tail.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-owl

Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Off came Donkey’s blanket, and quick as a wink Chicken took it to Owl. Owl’s old glasses looked splendid on Sheep, and the fluff of wool made Crow cozy. The blue ribbon held Badger’s door nicely, and finally, Chicken “took the walking stick to Scarecrow. With a grateful sigh of relief, he leaned his tired old arms on the stick and gladly swapped it for his battered old hat.

But what could Chicken want with such a big hat? Filled with “fresh, sweet-smelling straw,” it made a perfect nest; and when Duck came around to compliment it, Chicken agreed and said, “‘And I wouldn’t swap it for anything!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-chicken-gets-hat

Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Ken Brown’s classic story is a fun and gentle mystery that trades on the idea that value is in the eye of the beholder. Clever Chicken is an observant character with plenty of foresight. Young readers will enjoy following her from friend to friend to find exactly what is needed. The repeated phrases invite kids to read along out loud, and the neatly wrapped-up ending will delight them. Brown’s detailed watercolors are masterful depictions of the countryside dappled with sunlight and vibrant with red flowers, golden wheat, and verdant pastures. Children will also enjoy the up-close views of Chicken and her friends.

Ages 4 – 7

Peachtree Publishing, 2011 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1561455706

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scareccrow-coloring-page

Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page

 

Building a scarecrow with old clothes, some twine, and just the right amount of stuffing is creative fun! If you’d like a simpler way to make a scarecrow, enjoy this printable Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

June 27 – It’s Effective Communications Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, body language can say a lot, but effectively expressing yourself in words and writing helps decrease misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hurt feelings, and conflict. Learning to handle important relationships and work obligations with thoughtful care, consideration, and empathy can take patience and practice. This month people are invited to work on their communications skills to enhance their life with family, friends, co-workers, and others.

The Bear Who Stared

By Duncan Beedie

 

Bear loves to stare…and stare…and stare. One morning he emerges from his den to find a family of ladybugs having a picnic breakfast. He can’t help but gaze at them intently. “‘What are you staring at?’” the daddy ladybug demands before he and his family pack up to find a more private leaf. Bear continues on his way. In a bit he climbs a tree and stares at a bird feeding her chicks. “‘Can I help you?’” the mother bird asks, but Bear remains silent. The chicks don’t like Bear interfering with their meal, so the mother bird angrily tells him to “‘sshhhooooo!’”

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Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At the bottom of the tree Bear spies a badger hole and sticks his head inside. The badger, particularly irritated at Bear’s badgering stare while he is shaving, bites poor bear on the nose. Sore and dejected, Bear wanders through the forest to a large pond. He sits down on a log to ponder his situation. He doesn’t mean to be annoying, he’s “just curious but too shy to say anything.”

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Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

A little frog floating on a lily pad in the middle of the pond pipes up, “‘I’ve seen that look before.’” Bear stares at the frog and the frog stares back. “‘Not much fun being stared at, is it?’” he says. Bear confesses that he just doesn’t know what to say to anyone. Just then Bear catches a glimpse of another bear staring back at him from the mossy water of the pond. This bear looks exactly like Bear, except that he is green and wavy. Suddenly, the green bear smiles. “‘You see?’” says the frog. “‘Sometimes a smile is all you need.’” The frog dives off his lily pad into the pond, and the green bear disappears too.

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Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The next day Bear leaves his den and discovers the ladybug family breakfasting again. As soon as they spot Bear, they begin to gather their things. “‘Hello!’” Bear says with a big smile on his face. The ladybugs are surprised and happy. “‘Oh, hello!’” replies the dad, smiling back. With renewed confidence Bear wanders into the forest. He smiles at the birds and smiles at the badger, and they smile at him in return. Bear makes a lot of new friends that day. And there’s even that friend down at the pond who likes to stare as much as he does!

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Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Duncan Beedie highlights the awkward feeling many kids—and even adults—often feel in social situations. Nothing pops immediately to mind to say and yet there’s a desire for connection. As Bear discovers, staring is not the answer—so what is? In The Bear Who Stared, Beedie offers a simple, but universal solution through an engaging and humorous story. Bear, sporting a bemused expression that aptly depicts his predicament, is such an endearing character that readers will wish they could give him a hug as he suffers slights from the woodland creatures.

The full-bleed, oversized pages put readers at eye level with bear and his subjects, and the very up-close look into Bear’s staring eyes will make kids laugh. The green, rust, and blue palette on matte paper is bold, but muted, giving the pages an organic, environmental feel that is perfect to carry the story.

The Bear Who Stared is a funny story time read with a heart that kids will ask for again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802856

Check out more of Duncan Beedie’s illustration and animation work on his website!

Take a good looong look at this The Bear Who Stared book trailer!

Effective Communications Month Activity

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Expressive Bear Craft

 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or how to express your emotions and thoughts. With this easy-to-make felt (or paper) set, you can give the bear different emotions and talk about them, make up stories to go with each facial expression, or play a fun game. Below, you’ll find a couple of ideas!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

Picture Book Review