December 7 – It’s the December Cold Moon

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About the Holiday

December’s full moon is commonly known as the Cold Moon—a Mohawk name that reflects the changing temperatures and the onset of winter’s sustained cold weather—and tonight’s moon offers not only glorious viewing but a rare celestial event. As the moon rises and moves across the sky, it will pass in front of Mars, eclipsing the planet for an hour—a phenomenon called an occultation. What makes tonight’s lunar occultation special is that the moon will block Mars near it’s brightest point, which happens only once every 26 months. This event will be visible to people living in central, western, and southwestern parts of North America on December 7 as well as to those in Western and Northern Europe and Northern Africa on December 8. To learn more about tonight’s Cold Moon and the lunar occultation and to find a schedule of viewing times, visit Space.com. You can also provide interesting information as well as a visual of the moon’s trajectory at In-The-Sky.org. To enjoy the wonder of the full moon anytime, read on about today’s featured book!

I’d like to thank Page Street Books for sending me a copy of Mending the Moon for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mending the Moon

Written by Emma Pearl | Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti

 

“The full moon was shining bigger and brighter than ever. So big and so bright that it was too heavy to hold itself up in the sky.” Although the moon valiantly tried to hold itself in place, it fell to Earth, shattering like glass as it landed upon a mountain peak. Luna, who watched the sky every night, saw it all. She rushed to wake her grandfather, and together they ran out of the house to try to help. As they entered the woods, they saw moon shards scattered everywhere. “They were hard and smooth and warm. They were pearly and glistening and beautiful.”

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Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When Luna wondered if they could fix the moon and set it back in the sky, her grandfather told her they had to try. “‘The moon is more important than you can imagine,'” he said. Luna and Poppa prepared to begin the big job of picking up the pieces of the moon, but as turned to look around, they discovered that the woodland animals had already begun gathering the pieces. Deer, bears, foxes, rabbits, owls, squirrels, and other animals had all picked up shards and brought them to Luna.

They all carefully reconstructed the moon like a jigsaw puzzle, but when they had put the last piece in place, they realized that one shard was missing. They looked and looked without success. Then Luna saw the lake. “‘The missing piece must be in the lake!’ she cried.” Hearing this, an elk talked to a frog, and he dove in. When the frog resurfaced, he held the missing shard in his mouth. Luna found that it fit perfectly. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-looking-for-missing-piece

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Now, how to make sure the pieces stuck together? After an unsuccessful attempt, the silkworms were enlisted to spin thread. With pine needles and lots of patience, Luna, Poppa, and the animals stitched the moon together again with the silk that “…glowed like it was made of moonlight.” Once the moon was reassembled, it was time to think about how to return it to its place in the sky. Luna thought maybe the birds could help, but they were already flying away to their nests.

Or were they? Soon, more birds than Luna had ever seen whooshed out of the darkness—birds, it seemed, from all over the world. As the birds got into position to lift the moon and began soaring into the sky, Luna provided instructions—and encouragement. At last, the moon was back where it belonged. Its sparkled light shone on Luna, Poppa, and the animals, who danced, cavorted, and fluttered in the clearing on the mountaintop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-dancing

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Emma Pearl’s imaginative story shines with the fantastical and nature-focused elements that infuse folktales with their magical power to enthrall children and adults alike. Young readers will instinctively empathize with Luna’s deep connection to the night sky, reflected even in her name, and marvel as the forest animals band together to retrieve the shards and sew them together again. Pearl’s cleverly conceived plot makes enchanting use of the woodland setting, especially in sewing the moon together. Her dialogue between Luna and Poppa as well as the secret communications among the animals will also captivate children and draw them into the mystery and wonder of the story.

Sara Ugolotti’s striking illustrations glow with an exquisite color palette of lush colors sprinkled with light evanescing from the shards of the moon and the brilliant stars above. Luna’s interactions with woodland animals are filled with joy as they all work together to mend the moon and return it to the sky. Images of the birds in all colors and sizes swooping down to the mountain to help Luna and Poppa will mesmerize kids, and you may even find them dancing in the moonlight along with Luna, Poppa, and all of the animals.

For children who love folktales, fantasies, and a touch of magic to their stories, Mending the Moon will be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675600

Discover more about Emma Pearl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Ugolotti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

December’s Cold Moon Activity

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Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-cover

You can find Mending the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Bright Winter Night

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Thank you to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Bright Winter Night for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bright Winter Night

Written by Alli Brydon | Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Something magical is happening as “the song of snow” begins, and all of the woodland animals are gathering to complete a special task. Falcon flies in “silken strings” as “Wren flutters while she chirps and jigs, determined as she lays down twigs.” Beaver’s brought more sturdy boughs, and Stag’s back and antlers provide a sturdy base as the Rabbits use the wood and ribbons to build a sleigh. Attaching the reins Mouse brings and with the Wolves “all clear,” Bear climbs aboard to provide a comfy seat. 

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The Wolves take up the reins. “There’s just one goal. They must move fast— /  for soon the northern lights will pass!” The Wolves race over clearings and down hills, pulling the sleigh behind them. But the terrain is tough, and “the sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as all the rest go . . . BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” But Stag is there to dig them out of the snowy drifts, and Beaver rights the sleigh and gets it back on track.

Suddenly through the bare and silent branches, “they spy a flash, and Squirrel says, ‘WHOA— / COME ON FRIENDS, LET’S GO, GO, GO!'” They hurry through the crystal night to a clearing, where, gazing upward, they’re enveloped in the grandeur of the northern lights. “The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze— / the flashes sizzle, shock, amaze!” In this moment, huddled together—”beak and muzzle, fur and feather”—this diverse group of animals are united in their awe of nature’s beauty, and a “peacefulness so warm and bright, / settles in their hearts tonight.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bright-winter-night-sledding

Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alli Brydon’s brisk and lovely story is at once a lyrical call to appreciate and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and a poignant appeal to put aside perceived differences and embrace what connects us. As the animals work together to build a sleigh that will transport them to view the northern lights, they each bring to the project their own talents to make it sturdy and comfortable for all. When the sleigh flips, they again pull together to set things right. Brydon’s deft rhymes and rhythms build step-by-step as the animals construct the sleigh then flow as smoothly and quickly as the runners over the snowy trail. Even the sled’s momentary mishap is palpably felt with Brydon’s well-paced “BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” And when the friends finally reach the clearing, Brydon captures not only the breathtaking view but the tranquil contentment it brings.

Using lush blues and shades of grey, Ashling Lindsay draws readers into the snowy woods, where blushes of pink, purple, and auburn highlight scampering rabbits, squirrels, and beaver as well as fluttering birds and majestic stag. Stylized trees, their feathery leaves touched with pink lend a mysterious air to the silent forest. As snowflakes fall, readers watch as the animals bind the twigs and branches just so to create their sleigh. And then they’re off. A two-page spread lets kids run with the wolves as they race into the oncoming snow. Lindsay’s image of the animals all snuggled together on the sleigh, protected by Bear, is heartwarming, while their topsy-turvy tumble into the snow will make some kids say “oh no!” and others giggle with memories of their own spills. Her interpretation of the northern lights sparkles and shimmers and will have kids adding their own “OOOOH! AHHHH!” to those of the animals gazing skyward.

An inspiring story for snuggly bedtime or daytime read alouds, Bright Winter Nights swells the heart with it’s focus on the power and beauty of nature to spark friendship and peace. The book is sure to be asked for again and again and is highly recommended for home and public library collections as well as for teachers, homeschoolers, and other educators, who will find it a stirring addition to lessons on space, geography, and natural phenomenon.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542022248

About the Author

Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydon.com. You can also connect with Alli on Instagram: allibrydon and Twitter: Alli Brydon

About the Illustrator

Ashling Lindsay is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. Learn more at www.ashlinglindsay.co.uk. You’ll also find her on Instagram: ashling.lindsay

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bright-winter-night-cover

You can find Bright Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 21 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!

Penguin and Penelope

By Salina Yoon

 

One day while taking a walk, Penguin saw a baby elephant stuck in the mud. “Her name was Penelope.” Penguin helped her out of the mud then gave her food, water, and a much-needed bath. Penguin noticed elephant tracks on the ground, and he and Penelope followed them, hoping to find Penelope’s herd. But when they came to a break in the tracks, they found a wide ravine through which a river flowed. “‘Oh dear,’ said Penguin. ‘We’d better find another way.'”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-following

Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

They walked for days trying to find a way around the ravine, but couldn’t find one. “The world is so big!” Penelope said when they slept under the stars, blanketed with Penelope’s long scarf. The days of searching turned into weeks, and “over time, their friendship grew and grew, and so did Penelope.” One afternoon as they were lying on a beach watching the birds in the sky, Penelope said that she wished she could fly. This gave Penguin an idea.

They went down to the river’s edge. Penguin dived in, but Penelope only waded in carefully. “Penguin asked her to trust him. And she did.” To Penelope, swimming felt like flying. When they reached the other bank, they discovered elephant footprints. They followed them a long way until, finally, they found Penelope’s herd. Penelope and Penguin hugged goodbye with promises never to forget each other, and Penguin gave Penelope his scarf to remember him by. 

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Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Penelope’s family was so happy to see her. “‘How we’ve missed you!’ they cried.” Penelope was happy to be back with her herd, but she also missed Penguin. One day, Penelope went back to the riverbank where she and Penguin had come ashore. She found him there, and once again they “flew like the birds” together.

A panel on the back of the cover jacket holds images of Penguin and Penelope for children to cut out and play with. The front and back endpapers offer a river backdrop, where kids can play with Penguin and Penelope while engaging their imagination.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-swimming

Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Salina Yoon’s latest Penguin adventure begins with a surprise discovery that leads to a fast and forever friendship as Penguin helps Penelope find her way home. Penguin’s kindness and pluck are unwavering as the search extends over time, during which Penelope grows in size and experience while following her new friend. After being welcomed home with excitement and much love, Penelope is happy to be back with her family. Her longing to see Penguin again, however, spurs her to set out on her own adventure, one that demonstrates her growing independence while still guided by her family’s footsteps. This development as well as a beautiful fold-out page that shows Penelope’s family lovingly watching over her from a distance as she swims with Penguin will cheer and reassure young children.

Yoon’s storytelling is gentle and sprinkled with dialogue that conveys the characters’ emotions in ways that even the youngest child will appreciate and understand. Penguin is as adorable as ever, and Penelope is sweet and expressive as Penguin feeds her, makes her giggle while giving her a tickle-y bath, and discovers how big the world is. Yoon’s imagery, drawn with vibrant colors and boldly outlined dynamic shapes highlights adorable Penguin and Penelope, and little ones will laugh when Penguin—with just an “Oof!”—lifts Penelope out of the mud. Penelope’s homecoming is poignant, and the panoramic fold-out will thrill readers.

A sweet story of friendship found and never forgotten on life’s journey, Penguin and Penelope will enchant fans of the series as well as those just discovering it. The book is a must addition for school and library collections and for anyone looking for a charming and tender story their child will want to hear again and again.

Ages 3 – 6 

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681193441

Discover more about Salina Yoon, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-coloring-page

Penguin and Penelope Activity Kit

 

You can join Penguin and Penelope in some fun with the coloring page, maze, and connect-the-dots page  you’ll find on Salina Yoon’s website!

Penguin and Penelope Activity Kitcelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-cover

You can find Penguin and Penelope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 9 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

If you love picture books, you know the thrill of holding a new or a new-to-you book in your hands and opening up to that very first page. The children’s sections of bookstores and libraries draw you in with humor, fairy tales, poetry, biographies, science, and so much more—a whole universe of creativity, thought, knowledge, and imagination—that enlightens and entertains. This month take time to indulge your passion for picture books!

I’d like to thank Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Jaimie Whitbread

 

The air in the rainforest rang with “squeaks, squawks, grunts, growls, hisses, harrumphs, and frenetic feather-and-fur-flying fury. It was quite the rumpus.” But all of these sounds didn’t make the animals happy, in fact, they were miserable and, even worse, all the noise “made them feel very alone—even though they weren’t alone.” But then one day, a visitor emerged from the river with sounds of her own—sounds the other animals had never heard before, like a “fwippa fwip of flickering ears” and a “shookita shimmy of a shaking booty bottom.” 

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

Suddenly, the rainforest was silent as the animals stared at this unusual interloper as she yawned and stretched. A river turtle was the first to approach and ask what, exactly, she was. The answer came quickly (a capybara)—and with an invitation to “join my Sleepy Happy Copy Cuddle.” The turtle rebuffed this invite, thinking it would in some way soften his shell. When the capy reassured the turtle that he would stay as tough as ever, he relented. 

So they cuddled next to each other, and the river turtle had to agree that he felt better. “‘That makes me happy,’ said the capy. So she floofed. Floof!” Hearing this FLOOF, an iguana came by to see what was happening. The iguana did not want to get so close, and the capy let the iguana know this was perfectly all right. So she had another happy cuddler and enjoed another happy FLOOF. All this FLOOFing started to attract more and more animals, each wanting to cuddle in their own way. The capy agreed that all these ways of cuddling were valid and just perfect.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-happy-capy-cuddles-crocodile

Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

At last, all the rainforest animals were content. Then a dark shape came slowly moving into view just below the surface of the river, and in a moment a crocodile splashed onto shore with a “ROOOOOOAR!” Undaunted, the capy asked if the crocodile would like a cuddle. The crocodile was baffled, bewildered, and even a bit alarmed. But then he was touched, if a little confused. “‘No one ever wants to cuddle me,’ the crocodile sniffled.” The capy assured the crocodile that she did. Now everyone was capy cuddle happy. 

But what was this? More dark shapes and burbling bubbles were swimming their way. Was it? It was! “‘More Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddlers!'” Lots of them! Now there were plenty of cuddles—and FLOOFS—to go around for everyone!

In a short note Mike Allegra tells a little more about capybaras and includes a photo of the adorable cuddlers.

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

Mike Allegra, a very funny writer well versed in the magical gymnastics of language, dazzles with sentences energized with alliteration, assonance, and delightfully gleeful onomatopoeia. Add to that his recurring “sleepy happy capy cuddles” and infectious “Floofs,” and this is one story that will have kids and adults smiling from page one and long after the story is over. (Of course, adults should be ready to close the cover just to open it again immediately for at least one “one more time!”) What’s even more ingenious, perhaps, is that along with this giddiness comes some thought-provoking truths about feeling alone among a crowd, the diversity of ways to feel comforted, comfortable, and happy, how the most prickly of personalities may need love the most, as well as an education on capybaras and their behaviors.

Jaimie Whitbread brings this transformed rainforest to life with her realistic depictions of a wide variety of animals in all their glorious color and raucous, curmudgeonly, chill, or playful personalities. Her bold imagery clearly shows the difference in the stressed-out tension that existed pre-floof and the relaxed contentedness bestowed by the capy cuddles. Animal lovers and kids eager to do more research on the rainforest will find Whitbread’s illustrations particularly fascinating while the final floof-a-rama super cuddle is sure to inspire group snuggles at home.

A masterful combination of comical and educational that’s sure to be a favorite for kids and adults alike, Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles is a joyful read aloud and a must for any home, classroom, school, and public library collection. If you’re looking for a gift for any child, this book is a superb choice.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675594

Discover more about Mike Allegra and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jaimie Whitbread, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-take-a-bookworm-trek-maze

Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze

 

These two friends love reading! Can you help them through the maze to meet the bookworm? 

Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Puzzle | Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-happy-capy-cuddles-cover

You can find Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 20 – International Sloth Day

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About the Holiday

The AIUNAU, a non-profit dedicated to protecting all wildlife, established International Sloth Day in 2010 to raise awareness of the dangers facing these gentle animals who always seem to have a smile on their face. There are six species of sloth and two types—two-toed and three-toed. Each of the six species lives in its own unique habitat and has its own characteristics. While all species are seeing a population decline, the pygmy sloth is rated as “critically endangered” as there are fewer than 100 animals in existence. Sloths need protection from power lines, cars, and poachers who capture them to sell as pets as well as from other environmental issues that destroy their habitats. To learn more about the various species of sloths, visit AZ Animals.

Sloth’s Treehouse Inn

Written by Carrie Hasler | Illustrated by Christina Wald

 

Deep in the rainforest, a sloth named Santiago provided rest and comfort to animals from all over within the “gnarled branches that stretched to the sky” and “twisted roots that spread across the forest floor” of his Treehouse Inn. He was a caring innkeeper, always finding the perfect spot for each guest and their needs. One of his favorites was a blue morpho butterfly chrysalis that he gently checked on every day.

While there was usually plenty of room for everyone who visited, Santiago had noticed that his inn was getting crowded. When two toucans came looking for a place to spend the night, Santiago discovered why. The toucans told him that trees in large areas of the rainforest were being cut down, leaving the animals and birds nowhere to live. “The lush forest brimming with life was becoming nothing more than a swath of dirt and mud.” Hearing this made Santiago sad, and he found “he didn’t have the heart to turn anyone away,” so his Treehouse Inn was soon full.  

But Santiago continued watching out for each one of his guests. He served tea every afternoon, provided games, and was happy to play slooow games of checkers with anyone who was willing. Before bedtime, Santiago told stories to young guests, who “didn’t seem to mind that the sloth was always the first to fall asleep, long before the story was over.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth's-treehouse-inn-Santiago

Image copyright Christina Wald, 2022, text copyright Carrie Hasler, 2022. Courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

The crowded conditions soon led to some squabbling among the guests. The howler monkeys complained loudly, and the tamarins hogged all the fruit. Santiago knew the animals needed more room; they needed homes. Most of all, he worried about where the butterfly would go when it finally emerged from its chrysalis.

One morning, Santiago awoke to see the beautiful butterfly looking back at him. “They both stayed still for a very long time, something the sloth happened to be very good at.” Then, in a flash, the butterfly took off and soared away. Wanting to see his friend one more time to say good-bye, Santiago climbed to the top of the tree. From there he saw how many trees had been cut down. But he also saw something else. 

In the distance, he saw people planting new trees—saplings and seeds. Young trees were already growing, and other plants that made up the forest floor were also sprouting. “Filled with hope, Santiago couldn’t wait to tell the others.” As the trees and plants reclaimed their place in the rainforest, the animals found new homes, leaving the Treehouse Inn quiet once again. and “even though business was slow, its very fine innkeeper was happy just the way it was.”

The front endpapers offer fun facts about animals of the rainforest and the back endpapers offer a key to the types of animals found in a vertical, double-page spread midway through Sloth’s Treehouse Inn. Frontmatter provides a map of South America that highlights the location of the Amazon Rainforest while backmatter includes photographs, information about the rainforest, the causes of deforestation, and what individuals, environmentalists, and governments are doing to save the Amazon. There’s also a guide to how kids can help protect animals and plants in their own community.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth's-treehouse-inn-bedtime-stories

Image copyright Christina Wald, 2022, text copyright Carrie Hasler, 2022. Courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

In her well-crafted story, Carrie Hasler takes readers into the Amazon Rainforest—and to one tree in particular—to show them the vast array of wildlife and plants that call this unique region home as well as a major cause of habitat destruction. Through Hasler’s engaging storytelling, full of lyrical descriptions of the Treehouse Inn and its surroundings, kids meet Santiago, the innkeeper, who embodies the actual attributes of sloths in the wild—gentleness, caring, respectfulness to other creatures, and, of course, a slow, sleepy manner. Whimsical elements, such as the afternoon tea and games Santiago provides, will delight kids while inviting them to empathize with the growing number of guest who have lost their homes. Readers will also like following the progress of the blue morpho butterfly, whose departure leads to Santiago’s discovery of people’s work to replant the rainforest.

Christina Wald realistic illustrations burst with the color, light, and lush vegetation of the Amazon Rainforest. Each page will have readers lingering to view and appreciate the beauty of the rainforest and its denizens. As Santiago settles a group of poison dart frogs in just the right place to give them (and a tadpole) a pool and leaves to climb, the frogs appear as if they could simply hop out of the book. Turning from these types of gorgeous images, the two-page spread of trucks, machinery, and people with large saws cutting through the forest comes as a heartbreaking shock.

Wald’s show-stopping vertical illustration of the Treehouse Inn full of guests—from anteaters and tapirs below to a kinkajou, emerald tree boa, and hoatzin in the middle to a howler monkey and harpy eagle at the top—will have kids trying to spot all the creatures here and later in the book, while her clever checkerboard woven from leaves may inspire creative kids to make their own. The image of people replanting the clearcut forest area is inspiring and will prompt readers to learn more about how they can help.

An inspiring mix of fiction and nonfiction that will engage kids, Sloth’s Treehouse Inn would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves and is highly recommended for school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1943198139

Discover more about Carrie Hasler and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christina Wald, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Sloth Day Activity

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Wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest Word Search Puzzle

 

You’ll find eighteen names of creatures who call the Amazon Rainforest home in his printable puzzle

Wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest Word Search Puzzle | Wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest Word Search Solution

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You can find Sloth’s Treehouse Inn at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 13 – It’s Positive Attitude Month

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About the Holiday

No matter how old (or young) you are there’s no getting around the fact that sometimes things are tough or don’t work out the way you planned. For kids, learning how to accept and even make the best of setbacks or disappointments is part of living a happier life. And that’s what Positive Attitude Month is all about. The holiday was established to encourage people to see the bright side of things since being upbeat can improve your health, lower chances of depression, make you more motivated, and lead to better relationships with family and friends. One way for kids to learn this skill is through reading, and today’s book—the true story about a little guy overcoming a few rocky patches of his own—is an adorable and joyful place to start. 

I’d like to thank the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Raising Don with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir

By Georgeanne Irvine

 

Get ready to open Raising Don and fall in love with this little Baird’s tapir, an absolute cutie with the sweetest of personalities to match. From the first pages—which show the wildlife care team at the San Diego Zoo eagerly anticipating Don’s birth, describe the moment of lucky serendipity when one member of the team witnessed this exciting event, and then reveal that Don’s mother, Luna, as a hesitant “first-time mom” rejected her calf—readers will find themselves invested in the future of “this endangered Baird’s tapir born at the zoo in more than 30 years.”

As the wildlife care team takes over bottle-feeding Don, children learn about the extraordinary steps they took to provide Don with some of Luna’s milk while ensuring that each animal was treated with affection. Discovering that Luna enjoying being scratched with a soft scrub brush while being milked and Don being fed after first having “his back scratched and his face rubbed before he would take his bottle” and getting a belly rub afterwards will make readers with pets of their own smile at this universal favorite. 

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Copyright Georgeanne Irvine, 2022, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

Tapirs, kids learn, have noses that are “similar to an elephant’s trunk, only shorter.” Don used his little trunk “for smelling as well as picking up things like branches and bits of lettuce.” But Don was also as playful as any toddler and after eating “often grabbed the bottle with his tiny trunk and tried to run off with it!” Next, when Don was only a week old, the specialists introduced him to a shallow pool. Tapirs are good swimmers, but they need to be taught—just like kids.

In no time, Don was “running, jumping, and belly flopping into the pool.” He even liked to blow bubbles in the water with his trunk. Children then see photographs and read about how Don was gradually introduced to a deeper pond in the habitat where he would eventually live with guanacos, capybaras, and a llama—and, of course, rewarded with “extra back scratches and belly rubs for being such a good swimmer.”

Soon Don would be old enough to be moved to his habitat, so now it was time for him to make a friend. The wildlife care specialists picked out a sweet-tempered capybara, Bristle, with whom he “took naps in a cave, shared ficus leaf snacks, and soaked in the pond together.” Don also met an elderly tapir who, over time, taught him good manners and other particulars about being a tapir. 

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Copyright Georgeanne Irvine, 2022, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

But Don learned some other lessons about life too. Even when Don was a baby and the guanacos and the llama saw him through a fence, they didn’t like him. And when, later, Don approached them in the habitat, they bullied him in the way llamas do—by spitting and kicking at him. Don simply took to avoiding them and sticking with his good friend Bristle. 

In these first months of life, Don discovered his favorite foods and learned to accept regular examinations from the care specialists that would keep him healthy. “Tapirs have sensitive feet and need them looked at every day to make sure there aren’t any cuts, scrapes, or bruises.” As he grew older, Don became more independent and confident. He celebrated his first birthday with his favorite foods and a swim. Soon he’d be moving to the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee. “There, he would meet a female tapir and hopefully become a father someday.”

And what about Luna? She has given birth to and is taking care of Don’s sister, named Taiyari (which “means ‘our heart’ in the language of Mexico’s Huichol people”). Now, Don and his new best friend Juju, a female tapir, live in a spacious habitat with shade trees and a pond. Don, as you might imagine, has “won the hearts of his new caregivers,” and someday soon he and Juju will “become parents of their own precious calf, helping to bring more of these endangered animals into the world.”  

Back matter includes fun facts about tapirs, a map showing where they live, the dangers to wild tapirs, and a list of ten ways readers can do to help wildlife.

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Copyright Georgeanne Irvine, 2022, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

Full of joy, humor, and personality, Georgeanne Irvine’s story about one plucky tapir born at the San Diego Zoo will capture readers’ hearts. The fervent love felt by Irving and the wildlife care specialists for Don and all the animals at the zoo radiates from the pages. With lively language and detailed, yet easy-to-understand descriptions, Irving reveals the day-to-day attention Don enjoys as well as the ways the specialists became his surrogate mothers.

Children also learn about the thoughtful methods zoo caregivers use to introduce animals to their particular habitats, behaviors, diet, and other animals. Children will respond to the parallels between Don’s experiences while learning skills and making friends and their own, examples that provide wonderful teachable moments and opportunities to fully appreciate the natural world as well as their place and responsibilities in it.

Endearing photographs of Don from babyhood and throughout his first year allow readers to follow his progress and see first hand his adorable, spunky personality as well as how he learns to swim, discover favorite foods, make friends, gets health examinations, and finally moves to Nashville and meets a new best friend.

Nature nonfiction at its finest, Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir is sure to be a favorite choice for all animal lovers as a read aloud or for independent reading. The book offers a wide range of learning and discussion opportunities for teachers, educators, and homeschoolers and is a must-addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 10 (Younger children will also enjoy this book as a read aloud taken in parts)

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1943198146

To learn more about the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, visit their website.

About the Author

Georgeanne “George” Irvine has devoted her career to raising awareness about animals and wildlife conservation. She is director of publishing for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, where she has worked for more than four decades, as well as the author of over two dozen children’s books about animals, including the award-winning Hope and Inspiration collection. Photographing and learning about animals in their native habitats are passions for George. Her worldwide adventures have taken her to many of the wildest places on Earth—from the jungles of Borneo and South America to the mountains of China and the forests of India to the Outback of Australia and the savannas of Africa. 

About the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press is the book publishing division of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and working toward a world where all life thrives. Through its publishing efforts, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press seeks to motivate and inspire multiple generations to care about wildlife, the natural world and conservation.  

Positive Attitude Month Activity

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Tapir Mom and Baby Coloring Page

 

If you love Don, you’ll love this adorable coloring page created by Honduran graphic designer Jen Chibi! Just download and print—and don’t forget to give the baby stripes and spots like Don!

Tapir Mom and Baby Coloring Page

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You can find Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Zoo Keeper Week

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About the Holiday

This week we honor the zookeepers and aquarists who care for the animals in our nation’s zoo and aquariums. Not only do they see to the animals’ feeding, housing, and health needs; maintain the facilities; and educate guests, zookeepers and aquarists also help scientists conduct research that helps them learn more about how to protect and preserve the world’s varied species. To celebrate today, take a trip to your local zoo or aquarium or visit the website of a zoo far away and learn about the animals there. 

One Blue Gnu

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Ana Zurita

 

Feeling lonely at the zoo and with a new cellphone from an accidentally dropped box in hoof, one blue gnu calls two white sheep and gets a party started. The sheep call three orange apes with an invitation, and they in turn call “four red pandas in the sun” who  “agree a party would be fun.” The invitation calls and texts get passed along to more and more animals at the zoo until a sleepy pig calls the wrong number, and instead of reaching the hippos, gets the tiger.

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Another try alerts those hippos and then, finally, “ten purple birds” receive an invitation. At last, it’s party time with “fifty-five beasts just keeping cool, / splashing around in Blue Gnu’s pool.” Floating and diving, the animals are having so much fun, but who is creeping closer and closer? One hungry-looking tiger! In no time, he’s in the midst of them all—and has a plan: “The tiger calls a pizza man!”

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Full and happy and dry, Blue Gnu’s friends decide it’s time to go back to their homes. The animals leave as they came. “Ten purple birds take off in flight. / Nine gray hippos slip from sight.” After each group finds their way home, Blue Gnu is alone once more. But not for too long—another party is in the works.

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Danna Smith’s rollicking zoo story combines counting up to ten and back down to one for younger kids and more advanced addition and subtraction for older children with the names of colors, numbers, and animals in her clever rhyming romp that kids will want to visit again and again. And let’s not forget friendship—that’s here in abundance too, as sequence calls go out from one group to another to another to create one enormous bash! The added suspense of Tiger’s intentions is quickly resolved in a surprising and kid-favorite way that’s sure to please readers. Smith’s jaunty cadence is a joy to read aloud, and the non-stop action and exceptional vocabulary will captivate both kids and adults.

Ana Zurita populates this zoo with adorable animals, depicted in vibrant colors set against textured and wildly detailed backgrounds that also accentuate the educational aspects on each page. Readers will love pointing out the colors and patterns of the animals’ clothes, counting the animals in each group, and recognizing ascending and descending numbers set in circles on each page. Humorous details also reward careful searching of the pages, such as a sneaky hippo trying to nab a cupcake and the yak’s “snack.” Tiger’s determined stride and furrowed brow will have kids guessing, but only until the page is turned and the laughs ring out. Eagle-eyed future math whizzes may love discussing fractions as the pizzas are gobbled up, and saying goodbye to each group gives kids another chance to show their growing number skills.

Sure to be an immediate favorite read aloud, One Blue Gnu is a must on home bookshelves and for all classroom and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Amikus Ink, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681527451

Discover more about Danna Smith and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ana Zurita, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Zoo Keepers Week Activity

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One Blue Gnu Activities

 

You’re invited to enjoy these One Blue Gnu activities that let you do everything from designing your favorite pizza to practicing your counting, coloring, writing, and observational skills in these printable activity sheets.

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You can find One Blue Gnu at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review