March 26 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

No matter whether you live in a city, a small town, or a farm, in a house or an apartment, you can travel anywhere through books. The magic of reading lies in its ability to transport readers through history, to far-away places and long-ago times, or perhaps to the future, where all it takes is one’s imagination to make it so. National Reading Month invites readers of all ages to experience the world in new and unfamiliar ways through amazing books like today’s that transports you to medieval times.

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

 

A young girl introduces herself and her father from their fire-warmed room in the castle. Outside the window, a majestic bird waits. The girl says, “This is our hawk: a sight to behold, / a master of flight, graceful and bold. / My father trains this bird of prey / who lives with us at the castle.” An inset on the page reveals facts about the birds of prey used in medieval times for hunting: hawks and falcons.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Down in the courtyard the girl and her father prepare the hawk to fly as it sits on its favorite perch, which, as the inset explains, resembles a tree branch a hawk would normally search out in the wild. Falcons, on the other hand, prefer perches with flat surfaces like the cliffs they gather on. The girl’s father puts on a thick leather glove that protects him from the hawk’s “razor-sharp claws” as they take the bird outside the castle walls. Next, the girl gets out the hood the hawk “wears on his head, / with fancy top feathers of purple and red. / It hides his eyes so he’s not afraid / of soldiers who roam ’round the castle.” Readers learn more about this hood and its purpose in the illustrated inset.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Out in a nearby field, the girl, her father, and the hunting hound they have also trained are ready to begin the day. But before the hawk’s flight begins, children learn an astonishing fact about the bells hawks wear on their legs. Then the girl’s father raises his arm, signaling to the hawk that it’s time to take flight. The hawk takes to the sky with a cry that echoes over the castle.

As the hound flushes grouse from under a bush, the hawk, “…folds his wings and dives headfirst / in pursuit of his prey for the castle.” In midair the hawk grasps the grouse with its talons and brings it to the ground. More information about how a hawk captures its prey is found in the inset. The girl and her father follow the sounds of the bells to where the hawk and its catch hide in the tall grass. Readers discover more about the bells and what a falconer does if the raptor does not catch its prey.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

As a reward, the girl feeds the hawk a treat. The inset explains what kinds of treats falconers often provide for their birds. And when they get back to the castle, a large shallow bowl of water is put out for the hawk to bathe in. When the sun goes down, the sleepy hawk settles on its perch in its own room, called a mews, designed to keep the bird safe. “Built with windows for natural light and ventilation, a mews is large enough for a hawk to move freely inside without damaging its wings.”

Backmatter includes an extensive Authors Note about Danna Smith’s personal experience with falconry, the history of falconry, fascinating information about social standing and different types of raptors, and modern falconry. A list of books and websites is also provided for further reading and research. An index makes finding specific facts and topics easy for young readers.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Readers will be mesmerized by Danna Smith’s rich tale of a girl and her father and their important role in a medieval castle. The girl’s pride in her father and awe for the hawk they have trained and care for stands out on every page, creating a story steeped in history and emotional bonding. A wealth of knowledge about falconry and hunting flows fluidly through Smith’s enchanting poetry, and the graceful language of her insets, some of them illustrated, allow for smooth transitions while reading the story aloud.

Bagram Ibatoulline’s breathtakingly realistic acrylic gouache paintings of the castle and countryside will wow kids and draw them into the story to discover the processes, equipment, and purposes of falconry. No detail has been overlooked in these sumptuous pages that make readers feel they only need to reach out to feel the rough stone walls, the elegant fabrics, or the soft feathers of the stunning hawk. The castle environment is fully realized as soldiers in armor stand guard, a horse and rider exit through a stone arch, and plants even wait to be watered on a high ledge.

The centerpiece, of course, are the images of the girl and her father preparing the hawk for hunting and the hawk itself. Through various perspectives, Ibatoulline gives children an idea of the scale of the castle and the rolling countryside outside its walls. In their colorful clothing, father and daughter stand out as they kneel with the bird on its perch, summon it with an outstretched arm, add hood and bells, and release it into the sky. The facial expressions on the father and the girl depict love and trust, not only for each other but also for their hawk.

Enthralling for family reading or as an exciting addition to school or homeschool lessons on many levels, The Hawk of the Castle is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763679927

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

To view a portfolio of work by Bagram Ibatoulline, visit his website.

About Danna Smith

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-danna-smith-with-owlDanna Smith is a poet and an award-winning author of seventeen books for children, including Arctic White, Swallow the Leader, Mother Goose’s Pajama Party, and several Little Golden Books. Her nonfiction picture book, The Hawk of the Castle: A story of Medieval Falconry, received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Danna was exposed to all sorts of creatures through her father, who trained, bred, and rehabilitated animals. It wasn’t uncommon to find bobcats, alligators, monkeys, hawks, or even vultures at her home. A love of animals and nature has spilled over into her love of writing.

Danna is currently living in northern California, where she is hard at work on her next book. For more information about her books, upcoming releases, and teaching activities, visit her book website and her poetry blog. You can also connect with Danna on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Learn about why Danna Smith wrote her beautiful story and how it came to be on The Story Behind the Story on Lynne Marie’s blog

Look for these forthcoming books from Danna Smith
One Blue Gnu (Amicus / Spring 2022)
Wake Up, Freight Train (Little Simon / Spring 2022)
Rooftop Garden (Barefoot Books / Summer 2022)
The Thank You Book (Little Simon / Summer 2022)

National Reading Month Activity

The Hawk of the Castle activity sheet questions

The Hawk of the Castle Activity Sheet

 

Can you identify this equipment used in falconry? Learn the answers and more about each item in the Answer Sheet

The Hawk of the Castle Activity Sheet | The Hawk of the Castle Activity Sheet Answers

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Hawk Coloring Pages

 

Enjoy these printable coloring pages while you learn about three kinds of hawks.

Broad-winged Hawk | Red-shouldered Hawk | Ridgeway’s Hawk

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You can find The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 25 – It’s National Bird Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Spring comes early for our feathered friends. You may have noticed more bird activity in the past few weeks as birds get ready to build nests and mate. February can be a tough month for these little creatures, though. In some places snow still covers the ground, and the spring blooms that offer nutrition haven’t sprouted yet. To remedy this situation, in 1994 John Porter read a resolution into the United States’ Congressional record recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of the American population have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive. To celebrate, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one. Enjoying the beauty and songs of birds is a day brightener!

How to Find a Bird

Written by Jennifer Ward | Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

 

If you have or know of a child who is fascinated by birds, then How to Find a Bird will pique their interest and entice them to get outside to look for birds—those obvious as they fly by and those who take a bit of detective work to spot. As Jennifer Ward assures young birders: “There are a lot of ways to find a bird. That’s the wonderful thing about birds.” She then reveals helpful tips for spying on birds without scaring them away. Being “quiet is good.” How quiet? “So quiet you can hear your heartbeat.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2020, text copyright Jennifer Ward, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

But where can birds be found? Sure, we all know birds fly, but Ward reminds readers to “look down, low to the ground, where some birds forage” for food on land and in the water. And Ward reveals other reasons besides grabbing a meal that birds may be found at feet level instead of overhead. Between down below and up in the sky, there’s eye level. But to find a bird here, “you will have to have a sharp eye” as it may be cleverly camouflaged. “Of course, you can always look up to find a bird too!” But even here you may find surprises.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2020, text copyright Jennifer Ward, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

If you make your home and yard welcoming, Ward says, you won’t have to search for them, the birds will come to you. They may talk to you or warn other birds about you. “And if you feed them, they will come. Then all you need is a window to find a bird.” But there is one sure way to find a bird that doesn’t involve looking at all. So closer your eyes… and listen: “‘Honk! Honk!’ ‘Cheerily cheerily cheerily.’ ‘Who cooks for you who cooks for you?’ That’s the wonderful thing about birds.”

Backmatter includes a discussion about birdwatching, a list of tools and tips, where to find distinguishing marks on birds, how to create a life list, and resources for becoming a citizen scientist.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2020, text copyright Jennifer Ward, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jennifer Ward’s joyful, lyrical storytelling invites kids to engage in the rewarding activity of birdwatching. Whether readers would like to make it a hobby or just become more observant to their surroundings, How to Find a Bird shows kids easy ways to enjoy watching birds and discovering their behaviors without disturbing them or their habitats. By reminding children to take a broad approach to finding birds, Ward reveals the wide variety of birds that populate our planet, their behaviors, and their defenses. Ward’s direct address makes readers feel they’re already part of this exciting activity that can become a lifelong love.

Diana Sudyka’s charming, realistic illustrations of more than fifty species of birds take kids to marshlands and rocky deserts, lakeshores and beaches, a bright blue sky and a flower-filled backyard. Along the way kids get a look at families of California quails and tundra swans; a northern flicker gobbling ants; an anhinga tossing a minnow; burrowing owls underground; and a long-eared owl, an eastern whip-poor-will, and a brown creeper hiding in plain sight among many others. Readers will also see some birds who have become extinct and several matched with their song. Sudyka’s vibrant images show birds in motion and at rest. A careful study of the pages will reward kids with enchanting details and a couple of surprising hidden birds.

For nature buffs, bird lovers, and school or homeschooling environmental lessons, How to Find a Bird is an enchanting introduction to birds and birdwatching and would be a terrific take-along on outdoor outings. The book would be a quick favorite on home bookshelves and an excellent reference for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Land Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1481467056

Discover more about Jennifer Ward and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Sudyka, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bird Feeding Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-on-reed-coloring-page

Bird Coloring Pages

 

The birds you usually see in your area may not be back from their winter vacation yet, but you can still enjoy some beautiful birds with these coloring pages.

Owl in the Forest | Bird on a Reed | Bird on a Branch

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You can find How to Find a Bird at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s Nest Box Week

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About the Holiday

Nestle in for Nest Box Week! Nest Box Week was founded in 1997 by the British Trust for Ornithology to raise awareness about the widespread loss of habitats for birds. During the week people are encouraged to put up nest box homes to support bird conservation and breeding. The holiday begins on Valentine’s Day, marking the beginning of bird breeding season. To celebrate Nest Box Week, listen closely for backyard birdcalls, look out for local neighborhood birds, read books about birds, or even install your own nest box at home!

Thank you to Carolrhoda Books for sharing a copy of Rissy No Kissies for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Rissy No Kissies   

Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Jess Engle

 

Everybody loves a kiss goodnight, right? Well no, not quite! Rissy the lovebird does not love kisses, even though lovebirds are known for loving to kiss each other. The book begins when Miss Bluebird came over for a visit and tea; she leaned in to give Rissy a smooch on the cheek and, “‘NO KISSIES!’ Rissy chirruped with a most emphatic squeak.”

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Image copyright Jess Engle, 2021, text copyright Katey Howes, 2021. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

At first everyone laughed, but later as Rissy continues refusing “kissies,” family members are perplexed. They worry Rissy might be confused or coming down with a bug. Grandma Lovebird says, “We know lovebirds all love kisses. I think Rissy’s being rude.” Meanwhile at school, Rissy meets some friendly chick friends, and the three sit and smile and sing together. When Rissy’s friends cuddle in and try to show their love with a kiss, Rissy erupts “NO KISSIES!” once again. Rissy’s friends feel hurt and dejected.

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Image copyright Jess Engle, 2021, text copyright Katey Howes, 2021. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

Rissy is worried too. She wonders if she’s being mean by refusing kisses. Perhaps if she doesn’t like kisses, she isn’t even a lovebird after all. Rissy tells her mother, “Kissies make my tummy icky. I feel worried, weird, and wrong. If I can’t show love with kissies, then I’ll never quite belong.” But, does Rissy’s not liking kisses really mean she can’t ever show her affection for others? Why of course not! That would be silly. Rissy’s mother comforts her, tells Rissy she’s a lovebird “through and through.” She explains, “Your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share. You get to pick the ways you want to show us that you care.”

With this reassurance, Rissy is able to speak up for herself and show others the way she feels comfortable sharing her love. She braces her wings in a heart shape and pulls out a homemade card. While she isn’t one for kisses, she loves to make cookies, sing with friends, give feather fives, and hold wings. She realizes it’s okay – we all like different things!

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Image copyright Jess Engle, 2021, text copyright Katey Howes, 2021. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

Author Katey Howes draws on her experience with neuro-diverse children and adults to provide a story that normalizes issues of sensory processing, bodily autonomy, and consent. Rissy is a loveable narrator who will make readers and caregivers alike giggle and smile as the story provides a gentle way to jumpstart conversations about limits and differences.

Jess Engle’s beautiful water-colored lovebirds show clear emotional responses, allowing for kids to easily connect to the feelings in the story beyond just the words. Through subtleties in the pictures, she captures Rissy’s confusion surrounding forms of affection and how lovebirds can show their love. Additionally, the illustrations add depth to the storyline. For example, on the first page Rissy is shown coloring a card with the image of a lovebird and a heart while Miss Bluebird visits with her mother. When Miss Bluebird later admonishes Rissy for refusing a kiss, Rissy’s card appears crumpled and hidden behind her back. The card motif returns at the end, when Rissy declares that making cards is one of the ways she enjoys sharing her love. Together, Howes and Engle have created an accessible story that can help everyone feel loved in a better and comfier way—what could possibly be sweeter?!

Rissy No Kissies provides a platform to empower children to discuss what makes them feel good and how they like to show their love best. With Jess Engle’s gorgeous painted pages and Katey Howes’ singing AB rhyme scheme, Rissy’s story is a joy for all. The book is filled with love, wisdom, kind dialogue, and little hearts brimming from the pages. Following the story there is one note for kids, and another for caregivers; both offer guidance on how to respect one’s personal boundaries and others. Rissy No Kissies teaches that it’s never too early to teach listening and caring practices and the power of consent.

Rissy No Kissies is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for school and public library picture book or family issues collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Carolrhoda Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1541597983

Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jess Engle, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Nest Box Week Activitiescelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-consent-heart-coloring-page

Consent Heart Coloring Page & Activities

 

Love can be shown in so many ways! Share what’s in your heart with this printable coloring page! Parents, teachers, and other caregivers can engage with their kids on the issue of consent with more activities and coloring pages found at SafeSecureKids.org.

Consent Heart Coloring Page

Baby Love Birds

You’ll fall in love with the baby love birds in this video!

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You can find Rissy No Kissies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. This year, if you’re working from home, your sphere of inspiration is nearly limitless. Whether your thoughts on what you see and hear tend toward poignancy, inspiration, or humor, take a moment to jot them down. Then share your poem or poems with your family or friends!  

This Poem is a Nest

Written by Irene Latham | Illustrated by Johanna Wright

 

In the introduction to her astonishing poems, Irene Latham explains the concept of “nestling poems,” which provides the structure to her collection. Similar to “found” poems, that can use the words from any source text to create other poems, nestling poems use words discovered within another poem. In the case of This Poem is a Nest, Latham first penned four poems about a single nest surviving through a year of season and then found 161 other poems inside them. These other poems—some small, even tiny snippets—pack a powerful ability to wow, just like a single candy in a large assorted box.

First, readers are introduced to the nest in Spring, where “safe in its crook, it’s a cradle that sways across day and dark.” There are “fragile eggs,” but soon “the happy nest overflows with flap-flapping and endless feast.” In Summer after the robins have flown away, the “empty nest becomes nothing more than a morning house of light.” Below, the tree hosts other creatures who call it home or use it as a resting place.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Autumn, readers are invited to climb the “branches like a ladder— / up and up—where the crispcool world turns both smaller and bigger.” From here one can see “distant woodsmoke” and quiet creatures going about their day. Winter brings a new resident to the nest, a tiny mouse who “makes needed repairs” and lays in stores of food for the snowy days ahead.

After reading these four three-stanza poems, readers enter Part II, where Latham’s nestling poems are divided into seven categories. The first explores the idea of time, and Latham begins by marking the passing of a day. With Dawn, “day rustles open / overflows / morning boat” while at Dusk “sky weaves / gold-dust / world / turns.” But Latham knows there are those other hours, the hours when a profound Middle-of-the-Night Question may come: “wing away, / or take / the stage?” Latham next reveals truths about the months of the year, the seasons, and—in clever “Before & After Poems”—the emotions that lead up to and follow an announcement, a storm, and a game (one that is won and one that is lost).

The next chapter titled “Color My World” gives physical shape to nature’s hues from Red (“autumn leaves / puddle / beneath roof / of sky”) to Black (“dark splash / whispers / ancient glimmersong”). In the following chapter—”Animals Among Us”—Latham describes a menagerie of animals, including the beauty of a Papa Emperor Penguin with Egg: “feet stitched / together, / both anchor / and dream.” She also shares lessons that wildlife can teach us about meeting life’s challenges, such as how to hang in there and how to combat boredom, how to find the power in imagination, and what to do if something is wrong or you’re feeling down.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Chapter Four—”Only Human”—Latham looks at our emotions with observations that are weighty, thrilling, hopeful, and joyous. Of course, we are not alone in life, and Latham finds poems within her nest to describe relationships with friends, parents, and teachers and others. As a poet Latham knows a thing or two about a Love of Words, and in a short chapter she has fun creating poems that will surprise and delight.

From their nest, birds look out on a vast landscape. Likewise Latham presents readers with poetic “Views and Vistas.” Children can roam from the Desert to a Meadow; and explore a Cave, a Fox Den, and an Iceberg. Expanding out into the world, kids visit the African Serengeti, the Australian Outback, Tahiti, and the Amazon River, among other spots. Pan out even farther and readers contemplate space, the sun, the constellations, and all of the planets—including Pluto, despite its demotion.

At last, Latham includes a few final verses about poems and poets themselves and leaves readers with My Wish for You: blue adventure / in seaglass morning— / green buzz, / gold thrumming— / life / a poem” Backmatter consists of detailed tips on how poets or would-be-poets can write their own nestling poems.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

Lovely, deep, and awe-inspiring, Irene Latham’s poems allow readers to discover the world with microscopic precision and a broad view from as far away as outer space. As you read the poems, it’s intriguing to go back to the first four poems and find the individual words in their original context. As meaningful is to let the small verses float in your mind and take root in your heart. Many will make you look at and consider objects, places, time periods, and emotions in ways that bring new insight and understanding, hope, joy and peace.

Johanna Wright’s lovely black-and-white line drawings, shaded with a gray scale offer whimsical interpretations of Latham’s poems and introduce each chapter with thoughtful, creative, and happy children interacting with each other and their world. A few sweet, individual drawings include a mother and child snuggling under a warm quilt for December; a snail whose shell contains true contentment in All You Need, According to a Snail; two children painting the sky with stars in Painting; and a little girl sleeping in the crook of a crescent moon while her dreams become poems in While You Sleep.

For any poetry lover—whether adult or child—or anyone looking to experience the world afresh, This Poem is a Nest is a must. Original, creative, and beautiful, the book would enhance any home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 7 – 14 and up

Wordsong, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684373635

Discover more about Irene Latham, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Johanna Wright, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Poetry at Work Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find This Poem is a Nest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Cuddle Up Day

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About the Holiday

As the icy days of January settle in, National Cuddle Up Day reminds us that snuggling up with someone you love warms you, warms your heart, and builds strong relationships. Children especially love the comfort and security that hugs bring. And what would bedtime be without snuggling in with a good book – like today’s sweet sure-to-be favorite.

Little Owl’s Bedtime

Written by Debi Gliori | Written by Alison Brown

 

“It was late o’clock” when Little Owl was cuddled up next to Mommy for a bedtime story. Mommy read, “‘Then all the little bunnies closed their eyes and fell fast asleep. The end.’” As she closed the book, she told Little Owl that it was time for him to go to sleep too. But Little Owl wasn’t having it. “‘NO, NO, NO!’” he stated. He didn’t want to close his eyes, fall asleep, or have the day end. What he did want was another story.

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Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mommy Owl made a bargain with Little Owl that involved one more book and then sleep. Little Owl agreed. The little mice were all tucked in and dreaming when Mommy read “‘The End,’” and Little Owl snuggled down into bed, where… what with the lumpy pillow and hot blanket, Little Owl just could not get comfortable enough to go to sleep. Plus, why was it sooo dark? Little Owl called for Mommy.

Mommy Owl explained about the “Bashful Frog Chorus” and how the shy frogs would only come out to sing when it was completely dark. But she gave Little Owl a tiny nightlight to make him feel better. Little Owl tried again, but he tossed and turned and suddenly realized that Hedge, his favorite toy, was missing. He could never sleep without Hedge. Mommy thought Hedge may have gone in search of a snack at the Acorn Bakery, but a few minutes later Little Owl found her under his pillow.

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Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

All was quiet until Little Owl heard a strange “‘quiet, snorty kind of noise.’” Mommy knew right away that this was the gentle snoring of the butterflies slumbering “in their flower beds”—a lucky sound to hear. Once more, Mommy and Little Owl said goodnight. But the next minute brought more complaints. Mommy Owl came to her son’s bedside and said, “‘Look, you’ve woken up Hedge. Poor Hedge! Let’s tuck her back in.’”

As they were settling Hedge in, Little Owl had a confession. He couldn’t fall asleep because he was “too excited about seeing Grandma and Grandpa Owl” the next day. Now that Mommy knew what was really on Little Owl’s mind, she had a secret: “‘Tomorrow will come much faster when you fall asleep.’” Little Owl was surprised to hear this, and with a kiss from Mommy, he nestled into bed. He read Hedge a story, calmed her fears about the dark, and explained that the sound she heard was just Mommy singing in the bathtub. Then he snuggled deep into his covers and fell asleep, not even waking for the one last kiss Mommy gave him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-mommy

Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Adorable from beginning to end and full of sweet and creative on-the-fly explanations for the darkness, strange sounds, and lost toys that can disrupt a child’s sleep, Debi Gliori’s story will enchant both fans of the Little Owl series and new readers. Kids and adults will be charmed by the relationship between Little Owl and Mommy built on patience, trust, and love. Little Owl’s real reason for his wakefulness couldn’t be more endearing, and the way he repeats his and Mommy’s bedtime routine with Hedge shows the comfort of multigenerational bonds.

Alison Brown invites kids into Little Owl’s cozy tree-trunk home for cuddly bedtime routines that may remind them of their own “Goodnights.” Little Owl is sweetly expressive as he asks for just one more book and wrestles with sleeplessness, while Mommy answers his calls with cheerfulness and warmth. Brown’s lovely illustrations bring to life Mommy’s inventive stories of the Bashful Frog Chorus, Acorn Bakery, and snoozing butterflies with beautiful details that will delight kids and adults. Little Owl’s thoughts of visiting his grandparents come with hugs and happiness and a special cake made just for him and his little sister.

A loving hug in a book, Little Owl’s Bedtime is sure to bring cuddly comfort and sweet dreams and will be a favorite for children and adults to share at bedtime or any story time. The book would make a treasured gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections. Readers will also want to check out the other two books in the series, Little Owl’s First Day and Little Owl’s Egg.

Ages 2 – 5 

ISBN 978-1547604494

Discover more about Debi Gliori and her books on her website.

To learn more about Alison Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Cuddle Up Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

Kids find going to sleep so much easier with a buddy to snuggle with! With this easy-to-make craft, your child can make a friend to dream with and personalize their pal anyway they want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-cover

You can find Little Owl’s Bedtime at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus on the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or living on farms or in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. The day also raises awareness of the dangers that threaten many species of birds with extinction. Now that winter has set in making food scarce for wild birds, ensure that feeders are kept full. If you don’t already have a bird feeder, consider hanging one in your yard. The birds that come to visit will enchant you all winter long. 

Little Bird Visits the Big City

By Domenico Granata

 

When Little Bird gazed out at the little city in the distance, he couldn’t help but compare it to his little forest. The houses he saw in the city had roofs, and he said that one day he would like a house with a roof. His mother reminded him that the branches and leaves were his roof and that in the woods they could find everything they needed. “But Little Bird was still curious to see what was out there.”

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Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

One day Little Bird announced that he was going to fly to the city to see what he could find. His mother told him to be careful and suggested he take along some friends. “But Little Bird wanted to have an adventure of his own….” With a feeling of freedom, he soared over the trees to the edge of the city. He was proud of his accomplishment, but a bit weary. He searched for a tree to rest in, but there were few trees and all of the branches had been pruned back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-ball

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As Little Bird explored the city, he had no words for the many things he saw, and so many things—like cars and bicycles and dogs on leashes—made little sense to him. He was even confused by all of the children running around. After a near miss with a big red ball, Little Bird found that he was hungry. Fortunately, the park was full of seeds, but as he gobbled them down, he noticed that other birds “glared at him angrily when he came too close to their seeds.” Little Bird did encounter one friendly face when a boy was excited to discover him perched on a bench. After he’d left with his mother, Little Bird “wished he had a friend here with him now.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-boy

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As nighttime fell, Little Bird began to feel alone and he missed his cozy nest. Just then, he became aware of something moving behind him. He turned and saw a pile of leaves walking his way. “He was scared out of his wits,” but a voice assured him there was nothing to be frightened of. With a shake and a laugh, the leaves fell away to reveal Little Bird’s forest friends.

After Little Bird recovered from his shock, the three friends flew “back home to their cozy little forest.” Perhaps when they were older, Little Bird thought, they could take another trip—one even farther than the little city—but one they would take together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-friends

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

Domenico Granata’s sweet story of a little bird who wants to prove his independence by exploring a far-off city by himself only to feel homesick for his friends and familiar comforts reassures children that no matter where they go, home and friends are always close by. As little ones head off to daycare or preschool and older children begin navigating the world of extracurricular activities, sleepovers, and other activities, Granata’s story resonates with the kinds of experiences—surprising, disappointing, and confusing as well as friendly and empowering—that everyone encounters on their way to growth and knowledge. His heartening ending lets kids know that the journey to independence can be taken one step at a time and with friends.

Granata’s bright illustrations that make evocative use of simple shapes to convey his story will charm readers. Soft, rounded birds, leaves, and a winter-clad boy denote friendship while the unfamiliar city offers angular trees and buildings. Readers will giggle at images of Little Bird’s friends hiding as a pile of leaves and his shocked reaction to seeing them. Early hints to the presence of the little boy help kids realize that friends can be found in any new experience.

An original story for those who are ready to strike out on their own as well as for those who are still thinking about it, Little Bird Visits the Big City would make a thoughtful storytime read at home and in the classroom, and a terrific addition to public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342037

National Bird Day Activity

cpb-bird-feeder-i

Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-cover

You can find Little Bird Visits the Big City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s Time for the Christmas Bird Count

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds

By Matt Sewell

If you have a budding ornithologist in the family, they will be awed by Matt Sewell’s gorgeous compendium of more than 150 birds from around the world. Organized by continent—Europe, North and Central America, South America, Antarctica, Oceana, Asia, and Africa—each chapter begins with a green watercolor map of the area delineated into the countries within its borders and includes a short introduction to the size, climate, surrounding oceans, and number of birds found there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-painted-buntings

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first stop on this ornithological tour is Europe, where readers discover first the European roller, a lovely species with a cyan body and rust-and-blue-mottled wings that summers in Southern Europe and the Middle East and winters in Africa. This bird’s beauty belies the less-than-attractive way they have for protecting themselves as chicks in which “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.”

The European golden-plover chick—a little fluff of green and white that blends in with its mossy surroundings—takes a different tack: By looking like “a small clump of cotton balls flecked with gold leaf, it is possibly one of the cutest chicks out there.” With its speedy wingbeats, the European golden-plover also claims another mark of distinction as the “genesis for the idea for the book of Guinness World Records.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-woodpecker

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

North America and Central America are home to more than 900 species of birds. Many are as colorful as a child’s painting, including the Montezuma oropendola, painted bunting, indigo bunting, and the resplendent quetzal, which boasts an iridescent blue tail that can reach over 2 feet long. Unique among birds is the common poorwill, a North American nightjar, which besides being nocturnal, “is possibly the only bird that hibernates.” Mottled gray and brown, the common poorwill perfectly blends into rocky crevices. “It has a low odor so it cannot be detected by predators, and it can descend into a sleepy torpor for months.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-riflebird

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

South America, with its vast expanse of land and variety of climates hosts “more than 3,400 known species of birds, more than any other continent.” With that many different types of birds, South America offers ornithologists a full range of species to study from familiar faces, such as the hyacinth macaw and the keel-billed toucan, to truly wondrous creatures, such as these: the sunbittern, which upon opening its wings presents a frightening “mask” of markings to scare away predators; the white bellbird, which has a single wattle above its beak that can be inflated to appear much like a unicorn’s horn; and the oilbird, which you cannot be faulted for mistaking for a bat as it “breeds and roosts in the totally dark interiors of caves,” uses echolocation to navigate here, and flies at night. Among the other weird and distinctive birds of this region is the hoatzin, “known as the reptile bird” because it “dates back 64 million years, which is roughly when all the big land-based dinosaurs disappeared.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-roadrunner

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Oceania, comprising Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand, provides shelter to “some of the most brilliant and flamboyant birds in the world….” These include a variety of birds-of-paradise, each of which sport colorful and intricate features that would look just as at home on ornaments and party favors. One of the most unusual birds may be the multi-talented superb lyrebird. Not only does the male possess fabulous peacock-like tail feathers that seem part quill-pen, part feather duster, it is a master mimic. “It can imitate just about any other bird it hears, as well as other sounds, such as chainsaws, telephones, barking dingoes, roaring cars, and crying babies—often repeated one after the next.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-birds-of-paradise

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Combined, Antarctica, Asia, and Africa also give homes to more than 6,000 species of some of the most adorable, beloved, brilliant, and extraordinary birds in the world. Readers will meet penguins and birds with vibrant blocks of color as sculpted as any stained-glass window—such as the Malabar trogon of India and Sri Lanka, the Himalayan monal, and Ruspoli’s turaco of southern Ethiopia.

They’ll also get to know towering birds, such as the secretarybird and the ostrich, and formidable-looking creatures, such as the marabou stork and the shoebill. To tie up this description that barely scratches the surface of all that bird-lovers will learn, I present the common tailorbird of tropical Asia—a clever and industrious little warbler that sews leaves together to create a cup of a nest that it lines with cobwebs to further confound predators.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-condor

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Matt Sewell knows just how to entice young readers with engaging, humorous, and insightful text that provides a robust and individual introduction to each bird as well as their status in the world. Every entry is accompanied by brilliant watercolors that highlight each species’ spectacular, surprising, and sometimes even seemingly Dr. Seussian plumage. Dipping in and out of the pages will inspire children and adults to learn more about birds, geography, and how they can become stewards for our feathered friends.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds is highly recommended for bird and nature lovers and would make an excellent addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898571

To learn more about Matt Sewell, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Christmas Bird Count Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | Indiebound

Picture Book Review