September 20 – It’s World Beach Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-cover

About the Holiday

This month we celebrate beaches and all of the beauty and recreation they offer. Whether you’re a beachcomber or a swimmer, a sandcastle builder or a sunbather, the beach provides endless ways to enjoy the environment. This month also raises awareness of the types of pollution that mar and endanger the beach as well as the ocean and all of its varied sea life. The world’s coastal areas are irreplaceable habitats and offer crucial resources. Learn what you can do to help our beaches and oceans remain healthy by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website. You can discover more ways to enjoy World Beach Month here.

Constellation of the Deep

By Benjamin Flouw

 

Fox and his cousin, Wolf, spend summer mornings walking along the coast. One day as Fox explores the unusual plants along the path, a seagull lands on a nearby boulder and asks if they have ever heard of the constellation of the deep. The Seagull goes on to tell them that “‘it’s an amazing plant: it grows on the bottom of the ocean, but no one knows exactly where.’” Then he adds that he’s “‘heard that it glows in the dark.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-seagull

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing this, Fox immediately determines to find the constellation of the deep. Wolf has all the diving equipment he’ll need. Outfitted with a wet suit, snorkel, mask, scuba tank, camera, and all the other equipment, Fox and Wolf return to the ocean. While Fox gets ready and dives into the sea, Wolf discovers a crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, scallops, sea anemones, and even a sea star living among the rocks along the shore.

Fox swims above an underwater meadow of posidonia, which he knows “are flowering plants, but they don’t glow in the dark. He leaves the scorpion fish, conger eels, and damselfish behind and dives more deeply. Here, Fox discovers a forest of algae. He recognizes the tall, slender leaves of macrocystis, the fan-shaped leaves of eisenia, the feather-shaped alaria, and many more. While exploring, Fox meets Otter, who’s hunting for sea urchins. Fox tells Otter about his quest, and Otter tells him about “‘a place full of strange plants’” that he encountered just the other day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Exiting the forest, Fox finds “rocks covered with strange, multicolored sculptures. These aren’t plants, but corals.” Fox is so stunned by their beauty that he gets out his camera and takes some pictures. “He marvels at the different shapes of corals.” He sees “corals that look like brains, trees, tables . . . and curled paper.” Some of the corals are enormous and some are as small as mushrooms.

Still, Fox hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He begins to ask for help. No one has seen the constellation of the deep, but Grouper agrees to help in the search. They glide into the open ocean, where they come upon a mountain jutting up from the ocean floor. Grouper knows of a hole in the mountain. As they approach, Fox sees something glowing inside. He swims closer only to find “a tiny glowworm!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox wants to take a photograph and reaches for his camera, “but oh no! His camera is gone!” Staring down into the depths of the ocean, Fox spots an unusual shape. He swims down to see what it is. It’s Whale, who has become tangled in a fishing net along with bottles, cans, trash, and even a boot. What else is snagged in the net but Fox’s camera! Whale gives Fox a ride back to the surface. Wolf waves at his friend riding on top of Whale’s back.

Even though Fox hasn’t found the glowing plant, “he has made some wonderful memories.” Back home, he hands his cousin his camera to show him his pictures. Wolf is particularly taken with one that is very beautiful. “‘Look at this one,’” he says to Fox. Fox can’t believe it. His camera had captured a picture of the constellation of the deep when it fell to the ocean floor. Happy, Fox relaxes with a glass of mushroom juice, knowing that the photo of the constellation of the deep will always remind him of “the fabulous beauty of the underwater world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-rocks

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

In his follow up to The Golden Glow, in which plant-loving Fox and readers travel to the top of a mountain to discover a fascinating rare plant and a surprising decision, Benjamin Flouw plumbs the depths of the ocean to introduce kids to the wonders found there. Just as the sea itself, Flouw’s charming and straightforward storytelling is full of mystery and discovery. As Fox swims deeper and deeper through schools of fish, meadows and forests of sea plants, past coral reefs, and finally to an underwater mountain, readers learn about specific sea life found at each level. Interspersed with the story are several glossary-type pages with illustrations and names of scuba diving gear, tidal pool sea creatures, algae, and corals. Fox’s miraculous recovery of his camera and equally astonishing discovery among his photographs is the type of magical happenstance kids love best. Flouw’s understated environmental message is eloquent and effective.

Just as in The Golden Glow, Flouw’s stylized and textured illustrations, rendered in fresh and soothing tones, will get readers excited about discovering more about the environment. Here, the sea beckons with its colorful and varied creatures and plants. Two-page spreads of the algae forest and coral-encrusted rocks are stunning and the image of Whale wrapped in netting offer educators and kids a jumping off place to further research.

Mesmerizing, educational, and conveying a compelling message, Constellation of the Deep is sure to be a favorite. The book is highly recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268968

You can find a Constellation of the Deep Activity Kit from Tundra Books here.

Discover more about Benjamin Flouw, his books, and his art on his website.

World Beach Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

You don’t have to live near the beach to enjoy playing in the sand! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-cover

You can find Constellation of the Deep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 22 – National Summer Leisure Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-cover

About the Holiday

Ah, summer! Just the word makes you think of leisurely pursuits – wild rides at an amusement park, toasting marshmallows over a campfire, taking in the exhibits at a science, history, or art museum, hiking a mountain trail, or splashing in the surf during a long beach day. No matter what makes a summer day relaxing and fun for you and your kids, why not take today off and enjoy it! 

Down Under the Pier

Written by Nell Cross Beckerman | Illustrated by Rachell Sumpter

A group of kids are having fun on the pier. They ride the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster and “gobble clouds of cotton candy” as they walk in the sunshine. On the carousel they vie for the one goat to sit on. “Up on the pier,” they tell readers, “we feed the machines, roll Skee-Balls, whack moles, and trade our tickets for toys.” When their money runs out, “is the fun all done?” Not at all. For these kids, it’s just begun.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-downstairs

Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

They pad downstairs and kick off their flip-flops. “Down under the pier, it’s dark and cool. We inhale sea spray and squish slimy sand through toes.” They listen to the waves crash and when the water recedes, they “find creatures clinging. Mussels, barnacles, sea stars, and anemones festoon a forest of pilings.” Gently they touch these creatures, let crabs tickle their palms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-seaweed

Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

“Sanderlings scamper, their stick legs a blur” as they lead the children in a race down the beach. Here they find long strands of kelp, strong enough for a game of tug-of-war, wild enough to make a seaweed monster costume. Down under the pier they “collect seashell souvenirs” and watch the changing rainbow colors of the setting sun in the quiet twilight away from the blinking lights, clanging bells, and ringing voices on the pier. “Fun is free,” they know, “and the world is ours.”

Through an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, readers learn that a portion of the proceeds from Under the Pier are donated to Heal the Bay Aquarium, an educational nonprofit located under the Santa Monica Pier, where visitors can see and touch one hundred local sea creatures. An illustrated guide to seven sea creatures found in an intertidal community follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-shells

Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

Lyrical, entrancing, and full of the wonder of childhood, Nell Cross Beckerman’s story will transport readers to a languid summer day where a group of friends spend the afternoon reveling in the rides, games, and treats of the pier and then continue their fun under the pier, where nature provides as many delights as the carnival above. Through her detailed and evocative language, readers can hear the thrill of the crowds, taste the cotton candy, and run with the kids to be the first to claim the goat on the carousel.

But it is when the kids “slip down the stairs” to the sand below that Beckerman’s descriptions truly shine with the deep and lasting impressions of new discovery. The children’s mindful awe of the sea creatures they find when the tide goes out and their creative games played out with relished spontaneity reflect this one trip to the beach but also all moments of free play that this group of friends—and readers—will experience and remember as they grow up.

Rachell Sumpter’s glorious artwork blends realism and that feeling of magic that expands a child’s world. Her gorgeous soft pinks, yellows, greens, and blues, embroidered with lacy white accents, swirl with the kids on the carousel and beckon them downstairs. Here, with the page turn, the colors burst into vibrancy as the sea tickles their toes and sea creatures climb the pilings and blanket the rocks and sand. Frothy waves and pearled outlines create a dazzling backdrop to the children’s fun. As they wrap themselves in nature-made costumes and art, the fiery sun sets on a perfect day.

A mesmerizing escapade children will want to join in on, Down Under the Pier is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. The book would pair well with lessons on marine science and United States geography, giving it cross-curricular appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

Cameron Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1944903862

Discover more about Nell Cross Beckerman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rachell Sumpter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Summer Leisure Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

Sand is so much fun to play with at the beach that you just wish you could bring it home. Now you can! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-cover

You can find Under the Pier at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 6 – It’s National Vacation Rental Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-cover

About the Holiday

A great vacation starts with a great place to stay! Whether you like a cabin by the lake, a cottage by the shore, a tent or camper in the woods, an airbnb, or that good-ol’ staple the hotel, getting away from home is an adventure in itself. National Vacation Rental Month takes place in July because this is the month when most people go on vacation. If you haven’t planned a get-away yet, there’s still time to find just the right accommodation for maximum enjoyment! You might even look into staying in a sandcastle – especially if it’s as luxurious as the one in today’s story!

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary sandcastle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-decorating

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside, chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses during construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. It didn’t take long for more kings and queens from across the globe to discover the girl’s castle and come to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-royal-visitors

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a playing card from the stack. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one elderly queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-floating

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity that will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Vacation Rental Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vacation-rental-maze

Family Vacation Fun! Maze

 

This family is really looking forward to their vacation in the woods. Can you help them find their way to their cabin in this printable maze?

Family Vacation Fun! Maze | Family Vacation Fun! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-cover

You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 30 – National Oceans Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-cover

About the Holiday

During National Oceans Month, we celebrate the wondrous diversity of sea life. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the oceans have to show us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering some of the most unique creatures in the world. The holiday also gives us an opportunity to pledge our help to preserving the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the world’s oceans from climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. To join in on this month’s holiday, visit a beach or aquarium, learn more about the animals and resources of the sea, and consider donating to or volunteering with an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. To learn more about the world’s oceans, including information on ocean health, life, science, and trivia; find education resources, podcasts, videos, and more, visit the National Ocean Service website.

The Big Beach Cleanup

Written by Charlotte Offsay | Illustrated by Katie Rewse

 

At the end of the summer, the Crystal Beach Sandcastle Competition would be held and Cora planned on being crowned the champion. She had all summer to practice and she had visions of castles she could build – from towering ones to funny ones to “ones that made you want to pack up your bags and move on in.” But when she got to the beach to begin practicing, she discovered a sign that said the sandcastle competition had been postponed because the beach was so filled with trash. In fact, everywhere Cora dug she unearthed more and more trash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-fliers

Image copyright Katie Rewse, 2021, text copyright Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Cora asked Mama if she could fix it. “‘I wish I could,'” Mama answered. “‘I don’t have enough hands.'” Cora wondered if their four hands together could do the job. Mama took gloves from her truck and she and Cora began filling bags with trash. Cora wondered where all the trash came from and Mama explained that some of it could come from trash dropped in cities or towns that makes its way to the ocean or the beach through a drain. Before Cora and Mama could pick up much more, it started raining. Four hands just weren’t enough, thought Cora.

The next day Cora asked her grandfather to join them in cleaning up the beach, but when they got there Cora felt discouraged. The sand looked just as bad as it had the day before. After they’d worked a while, Grandpa suggested taking a “sandcastle break.” Nearby, Cora was upset to see a seagull eating a food wrapper. Six hands weren’t nearly enough, either. Then she looked at the posters on the beach bulletin board and had an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-twelve-hands

Image copyright Katie Rewse, 2021, text copyright Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Cora drew her own posters, reading “Chrystal Beach needs your HANDS” and “BIG BEACH CLEANUP.” She and her mother posted the signs around town. Outside the ice-cream shop, Cora tried to hand out her fliers but everyone just walked past without taking one. Everyone seemed to busy to come to get involved. But Mama told Cora that there are many other ways people could help, “‘like not littering, or saying no to things we use only once, like straws, so that less trash ends up in the ocean.'”

Cora understood, but she kept asking friends, neighbors, and others. Little-by-little, there were eight hands, then ten, and twelve. More people caught on and came out to the beach to pick up litter. Cora got so many hands that the sandcastle contest was reinstated “thanks to local activists.” On the day of the contest, families came out and built all kinds of creative castles. Cora wasn’t crowned champion, but “her heart swelled with pride” at what she had accomplished. And that was just the beginning….

An Author’s Note outlining steps everyone can take to reduce trash and prevent it from littering the oceans and beaches as well as a list of facts about ocean pollution follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-contest

Image copyright Katie Rewse, 2021, text copyright Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Through her earnest and activist protagonist, Cora, Charlotte Offsay gives a voice to those children who want to make a difference in their communities. While Offsay touches on how trash makes its way to oceans and beaches, the real appeal of the story is in her realistic, hands-on ideas that can empower kids to find activities for cleaning up their neighborhood or local beach, park, woodland, or other public space. Her straightforward and accessible storytelling reflects the questions children have about today’s issues and their enthusiasm to help solve problems as well as the disappointments that sometimes come with trying to solicit the involvement of others. Offsay’s well-paced narrative show kids that change can be or seem to be slow, but that sticking with any effort pays benefits.

Katie Rewse’s vibrant illustrations will keep children riveted to the pages as they watch Cora dig up more and more trash from an already well-littered beach. Images of Cora making and hanging posters will inspire kids to try similar outreach in their own communities. Page spreads depicting clean-up efforts realistically portray the types of trash found on beaches and other recreation areas. For children who may be unsure if one pair of hands can really make a difference, Rewse’s illustrations of Cora and Mama working together at the beginning of the story show the positive impact of just one or two people, while later in the story, as more and more people join in, they will see the transformative power that a group effort can make. Kids will love being invited to the sandcastle competition to see all the entrants as well as the winning sculptures.

Inspiring, empowering, and offering realistic ideas and expectations for budding environmentalists, The Big Beach Cleanup is sure to spark awareness and action for children at home and at school. The book would make an impactful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807508015

Discover more about Charlotte Offsay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Katie Rewse, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Oceans Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

Sand is so much fun to play with at the beach that you just wish you could bring it home. Now you can! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-cover

You can find The Big Beach Cleanup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day and National Poetry Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-cover

About the Holidays

Earth Day

Earth Day was created in 1970 by a US Senator, Gaylord Nelson. Nelson created the day because he was worried about how humans were harming the environment through their actions. Heard of this holiday before? We certainly hope so! In 1990, environmental leaders mobilized to make the holiday go global. And now, according to earthday.org, 1 BILLION people mobilize on Earth Day every year, to help save and celebrate our beloved planet. You can watch an educational animated video on Gaylord Nelson here. Learn more about Earth Day and how you can make a difference all year around at Earthday.org.

National Poetry Month

2021 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Poetry Month. The holiday was launched by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate writers, poets, poetry lovers and the positive impact poetry has on our culture, literacy and lives. Check out the 2021 National Poetry Month Poster here. You can learn more about National Poetry Month at Poets.org.

Today’s book celebrates both of these holidays with a collection of ocean poems for children. Not a huge lover of poetry? Perhaps the following collection will sway you like an ocean tide. Crafted by The Writers’ Loft Authors and Illustrators, Friends and Anemones is truly as dazzling as a sea-floor pearl.

Thanks to The Writers’ Loft for sending me a copy of Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children

By The Writers’ Loft Authors & Illustrators

 

Dive headfirst into poetry month by exploring “the very, very, bottom of the deep blue sea. With: Salty snails and tuna tails. Bottle caps and lobster traps. Popped balloons, Plastic spoons…” and everything in between! (The Bottom of the Ocean by Kristen Wixted.) In honor of Earth Day AND National Poetry month, Celebrate Picture Books presents a book that deserves to be celebrated twice over: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Seventy New England authors and illustrators joined ship with the Rozalia Project to create a treasure-worthy collection of ocean-themed poems and illustrations.

As described in the title page, “Rozalia Project works to conserve a healthy and thriving marine ecosystem—the plants and animals need our help to keep human debris out of their homes.” Through this partnered anthology, children will learn about subject matter ranging from unique sea creatures and beach dwellers – like cuttlefish, vampire squids, red knots, and rainbow lobsters – to the habits of more well-known ocean dwellers, like whales taking off debris, sharks getting their teeth cleaned, and sea turtles hatching eggs.

They’ll also find poems about human additions to the ocean scene in odes to lighthouses, ships’ remnants, sea litter, and more. Each poem contains deep knowledge to share with readers about poetry, the ocean, and marine life. Little pieces of advice float in between hysterical ocean puns. This perfect concoction of sea-worthy information is also backed by all types of fin-tastic and crabulous art.

Some of the poems are sure to make you laugh out loud. Deep-Sea Jellyfish by Cindy Cornwall opens with: “Jelly of the sea, not jam for your toast. It’s deep in the water, a silky scarf ghost.” Seal of disApproval by Lynda Mullay Hunt fills a whole page with the rhyming, pun-y story of a seal who becomes a dentist and stands up to sharks.

Other poems are less humorous and more pensive; the last of the series, Sea Serenity by Luke Hargraver, holds an existential truth for readers to swim through: “The world is like water / Easily disturbed by ripples / But when still, / Beautiful.” Under a short and sweet poem called Minnow, by Brook Gideon, a message to ocean explorers reads: “It’s very important to release everything you catch back into the ocean right away!”

Each spread is distinctly created in the individual poets’ and artists’ styles. Yet, the whole compilation works together in perfect, charming harmony. Some poems mirror each other in content. Horseshoe Crabulous by Doreen Buchinski is followed by Red Knots by Jane Sutton, in which: “In the sand their goal is chiefly / To dart—and swerve —on twiggy legs / In mad search for horseshoe eggs.” The two beautifully crafted poems are followed by a third gem, Mollusk Mansions by Charlotte Sheer, and accompanied with an illustration featuring horseshoe crabs, red knots, and mollusk shells—all painted by Doreen Buchinski herself!

Children will explore the deep cerulean sea through a range of sincere rhyming couplets, honest haikus, positively silly prose, magical motifs, and everything in between. All poems and artwork share with readers a deep admiration for under the sea creatures, while spreading ocean knowledge, and a love for poetry and beauty.

The watercolors, collages, and digital art pieces mesh beautifully while each achieving a distinctly artistic picturesque scene. Some illustrations run horizontally across the spread to create poster-like, masterful images. On page 23 illustrator Julia Young Cuffe paints a long, horizontal lighthouse against a watery dark blue sky, littered with stars. A person stands at the top, waving a piece of cloth, illuminated by the lighthouse light. The poem, Boston Light by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, is artfully placed running vertically down the lighthouse.

Others run across the two-page spreads to create one image that ties together the poems featured on the separate pages into a collective unit. An example of this can be seen in Marlo Garnsworthy’s opening spread of deep ocean waves intermingling with whales, and Amanda Davis’s DEEP deep sea spread that features spookily realistic vampire squids, angler fish, and sea plumes. Each piece stands out as thoughtfully crafted to instill in readers a sense of awe for the beauty of marine life and ocean ecology.

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children would make a wonderful addition to classroom science and language arts lessons as well as a fun collection to share at home, especially in conjunction with trips to the beach or aquariums. 

The Writers’ Loft is a community based in Sherborn, Massachusetts which helps local writers foster their creativity, strengthen their spirit, and grow professionally by providing them with quiet writing space, educational programs, opportunities to connect with supportive colleagues, and access to industry experts, as well as opportunities to give back to the greater writing community. To learn more about The Writers’ Loft, visit their website.

The Rozalia Project runs educational programs, ocean cleaning initiatives and research projects focused on how to aid ocean clean-up and maintain sustainability of ocean and shoreline ecosystems. The Rozalia Project, along with the “Writer-and-Artist-Ocean-Protectors from the Writers Loft” hopes to use this book to “foster an appreciation of the importance, beauty, and wonder of the ocean in the change-makers of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Rozalia Project, or get involved with them on this Earth Day, check out their website. You can also watch this video on their Expedition CLEAN.

Earth Day and National Poetry Month Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-coloring-page  celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-coloring-page

Color pages from Friends & Anemones in your OWN style with these black and white versions of the illustrations. You can find 18 more pages to print or download to your iPad to color on The Writers’ Loft website.

Manatee and Mermaid Coloring Page | Kids on the Beach Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-under-the-sea-word-search

Find ten ocean critters’ names in this printable sea-star shaped word search.

Under the Sea Word Search Puzzle | Under the Sea Word Search Solution

Explore some poems specifically written for younger readers at Poets.org and write your own poetry if you feel inspired.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-cover

To support The Writers’ Loft, you can order Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children from their website.

You can find Friends & Anemones at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 19 – National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day

About the Holiday

While some celebrate Sandcastle Day on the first Saturday of August and others take part in National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day on August 19, any sunny summer day is perfect for going to the beach and letting your artistic abilities take over! In expert hands, sand and water become elaborate  multistory castles and sculptures of animals, ships, mermaids, and nearly anything one can imagine. 

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary castle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-decorating

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses her construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. Soon more kings and queens from across the globe had discovered the girl’s castle and came to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-royal-visitors

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a card from the pile. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one old queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-floating

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity and will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day Activity

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

Sandcastle Coloring Page

 

No matter whether you live near a beach or in the city, if the day is sunny or rainy, you can make a sandcastle with this printable coloring page.

Sandcastle Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-cover

You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 14 – National Lazy Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-cover

About the Holiday

Lazy Day may be the easiest day of the year! Today you have carte blanche to do absolutely nothing. Don’t feel like changing out of your pajamas? Don’t! Feel like lounging in front of the TV all day – or taking a nice long nap? Do it! We all need down time, maybe this year more than most. So grab some snacks (ready-made, of course), find your comfort spot, and relax!

The Little Blue Cottage

Written by Kelly Jordan | Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

 

All year long the little blue cottage waited at the edge of the bay for the little girl to come visit again, and every summer she did. Then the house “whistled and hummed and filled with light.” Up in her room, sitting on the window seat and gazing out at the of the large, porthole-shaped window, the girl “whispered, ‘you are my favorite place.'”

From the end of the dock, the little girl watched sailboats skim over the waves and dolphins leap above them. In the sky seagulls and pelicans circled, looking for food. When evening came, the girl and her mother and father sat in the creaky rocking chairs and watched the moon rise and the stars twinkle. Waves were the little girl’s lullabies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-warm-weather

Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Fall came too soon, and as the family drove away, the little girl waved goodbye to the blue cottage. All winter long, “the little cottage shivered through snow, ice, and rain.” But with the warm sun, the girl and her family returned. Then “the little cottage smelled like bacon, pancakes, and popcorn. The little girl smelled like syrup, sunscreen, and sea.”

As summers came and went, the girl grew. She took to the outdoors and the sea, swimming with the fish and waterskiing on top of the waves. On hot nights she caught fireflies. When summer storms battered the little cottage, it “stood strong” as the girl stayed snug and safe inside. And so it was that the girl and the little blue cottage “grew up together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-year-after-year

Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

One year, the girl didn’t return with the summer. That year turned into many more, and the blue cottage became weather-beaten and gray, but it never gave up hope that the girl would come back. Then it happened. The cottage heard a beep-beep and the crunch of gravel. The girl – now, though, a mother herself – had returned with her own family. In her old room, she sat at the round window and whispered, “‘I missed you while I was away.'”

Once again the cottage became filled with light and the sounds and smells of summers long ago. The girl painted the cottage blue and “it was just like always.” And at night they fell asleep to the waves’ lullaby.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-summer

Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Infused with the deep-seated impressions of childhood, Kelly Jordan’s lyrical The Little Blue Cottage speaks of tradition, growing up, and the steadfast continuity of life. While the story beautifully depicts a seaside setting, readers will be reminded of their own special place or tradition – the one that will grow with them, coloring their hopes and dreams just as the blue cottage does for the little girl. Throughout the story, children follow two storylines: that of the family and that of the cottage. This dual storyline reinforces Jordan’s reminder of the cyclical nature of life and assures them that memories are never lost but always in reach to sustain them.

Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s airy and enchanting illustrations shine with sun-dappled loveliness and delicate renderings of the vegetation and sea creatures that make the seaside unique. Courtney-Tickle’s rich colors give each scene depth and movement. The storm scene is especially compelling From panel to panel and page to page, children can see changes taking place, and pointing these out while reading will give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the transformations in the book as well as in their own lives. As the girl – now a mother – sits on the end of the dock with her smiling face tipped toward the sun, children will happily bask in the story as well as their own dreams for the future.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1624149238

Discover more about Kelly Jordan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jessica Courtney-Tickle, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lazy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Cute-Sloth-coloring-page

Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

If there’s any animal that represents carefree relaxation, it’s the sloth. On this laziest of days, grab some crayons or colored pencils (or maybe just one or even none at all!) and enjoy this printable coloring page.

Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-cover

You can find The Little Blue Cottage at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review