July 28 – It’s Wild about Wildlife Month

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About the Holiday

We may be winding down Wild about Wildlife Month, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy all that nature has to offer the rest of the summer and all year long. Exploring parks, woodlands, grassy fields, or the shores of lakes, rivers, or the ocean is a fun and educational family activity that is different each time you head out the door. Whether you and your kids like plants, animals, insects, or the rocks that hold everything together, a nature walk provides something for everyone. The best way to enjoy the outdoors is with a relaxed pace that lets you decompress, take it all in, and say “Ahhh!” The little quail in today’s book definitely has the right idea!

Thanks to Pajama Press for sending me a copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up

Written by Jane Whittingham | Illustrated by Emma Pedersen

 

Twice every day Mama Quail led her ten chicks through the meadow, and while nine hurried and scurried along after Mama, Queenie, the smallest, always lagged behind. Mama and the other chicks chirped and cheeped for Queenie to “hurry hurry hurry,” but it was just so hard when there was so much to see. Queenie loved stopping to look at the “pink blossoms and green grass, shiny stones and fuzzy caterpillars, buzzy bumblebees and wiggly worms.”

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

Her papa admonished her to learn to hurry—“It is what we quails do!” he told her. And Queenie promised to try. She really did try too, but she just couldn’t pass by all her favorite things without stopping to enjoy them. One day, in addition to the blossoms, grass, stones, caterpillars, bees, and worms, Queenie spied a feather. And when she stopped to admire it, she saw “an unusual flash of orange.”

As Queenie watched, the “the furry orange slid softly, smoothly, silently through the green grass.” Queenie followed at a careful distance. Suddenly, Queenie saw that she was following a cat—a cat that was stalking her mama and brothers and sisters. Queenie knew just what she had to do. She raced down the path “hurry, hurry, hurrying,” chirping, cheeping, and warning her family.

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

In the nick of time, Papa heard her and swooped down on the cat. Mama came running too. With a hiss, the cat jumped into the grass and fled. “‘You’ve saved us, Queenie Quail!’ Mama Quail chirped.” And Papa and her little siblings praised her too. Now, when the family heads out along the meadow trail and Queenie can’t keep up, they all ask, “‘What have you found, what have you found, what have you found?’” And they stop and hurry hurry hurry over to take a look too.

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

Jane Whittingham’s story of an adorable quail who stops to smell all the roses is a charming, charming, charming read-aloud that adults will love sharing and kids will enthusiastically chime in on during the fun repeated phrases. Whittingham’s agile storytelling shines with lyrical rhythms and alliteration that bounce along like the little stars of her book. The gentle suspense will keep young listeners riveted to the story, and afterward they’re sure to join Queenie and her brothers and sisters in slowing down to enjoy the world around them.

Readers will immediately fall in love with Queenie and her siblings as Emma Pedersen’s cute-as-can-be, tufted quail babies race and bob along the trail to keep up with Mama. With expressive eyes and tiny beaks that form a perpetual smile, they nestle next to Mama and pile on top of Papa. As they watch out for Queenie, one or two often peer out at readers, inviting them along on their excursions. As the heroine of the story, Queenie is a sweetie, fascinated by everything she sees. Pedersen’s lovely gauche paintings are as fresh as a spring meadow and will entice kids and adults to take a nice slow walk together.

A unique and tender story that will have children entranced from the first page, Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Pajama Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1772780673

You’ll discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books as well as blog posts, interviews, and lots more on her website.

To learn more about Emma Pedersen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Jane Whittingham

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Today, I’m excited to be talking with Jane Whittingham an author and librarian from British Columbia, Canada, about the inspiration for her adorable quails, what she loves about being a librarian, and how nature features in her life and books.

I believe Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up was inspired by your dad and a true story. Can you talk about that a little?

My parents moved to a small town on Vancouver Island when they retired, and their backyard is home to all sorts of wildlife, including families of quails that hurry and scurry here and there. My dad  always liked watching them, and he mentioned to me once that quails would make perfect picture book stars with their round little bodies and their amusing personalities and antics. Well, I was inspired! I’d never really thought much about quails, since we don’t have them where I live, so every time I visited my parents I would spend a bit of time watching the quails for inspiration.

Queenie, the little quail who is just too easily distracted to keep up with her siblings, is definitely inspired by me, and the fact that I’m always falling behind because I have to stop and look at everything! The book is a bit bittersweet to me because my father passed away before it was published, but I know he would’ve gotten a real kick out of it, and he would have probably introduced himself to everyone as my muse!  

Have you always liked to write? Can you talk a little about your process? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I’ve always been a writer, and even before I could physically write I was a storyteller. I was an only child and spent a lot of time using my toys to tell epic stories, which I would then recount breathlessly to my parents in an endless stream of words.

I don’t really have a process – like many people I fit writing around my full-time job (I’m a librarian) and into my busy life, so I snatch moments here and there whenever I can. I write on my phone, I write on scraps of paper, I write on my computer. I write on my commute, at coffee shops, and in grocery store lineups. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Besides Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up,  you have two more very well-received books out from Pajama Press—Wild One and A Good Day for Ducks. The outdoors features in all of your books in some way. Are you inspired by the outdoors? What is your favorite outside activity or a memorable experience you’ve had?

I am absolutely inspired by the outdoors – even though my childhood wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things, I do feel like I had a very different childhood than many kids experience today. I spent a lot of my free time outdoors, wandering or biking around the neighborhood with a band of kids, making (and falling out of) tree forts, playing kickball on the street, and turning local playgrounds into the settings for all sorts of imaginary worlds. My parents often had no idea where I was, but that was totally normal for the time—I never left the neighborhood, and they knew I would come home when it started to get dark.

Sometimes it feels like I grew up in a whole other era! Through my books I really want to encourage families to get outside, to explore, to learn through doing and through experiencing. Nature is such an incredible source of inspiration, of knowledge, of enjoyment, and even of healing, and we really miss out on so much by cooping ourselves up in front of our screens all day long!

In doing a little research for this interview, I raided your wonderful website and discovered that you made a few resolutions this year. One is to read outside your comfort zone, which includes murder mysteries, historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction. How is that going? Can you give me one mystery title in your comfort zone and one “departure” book you’ve dipped your toes (eyes?) into?

Oh dearie me, you’re holding me accountable! I recently finished a YA novel, which is very, very unusual for me—I never read young adult fiction even when I was a young adult, so this was a major departure for me! It’s called The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, and tells the story of a young Muslim lesbian whose family discovers her secret girlfriend and sends her off to Bangladesh to straighten her out, as it were. It’s definitely an eye-opening look into a culture and experience very different from my own, and I really enjoyed it.

As for my taste in mysteries, I tend to favour the classic British who-dunnit style, with authors like Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh being particular favorites. I also really enjoy mysteries with historical settings, which allow me to check off two favorite genres at once!

Queenie is an adorable little quail! What was your reaction to seeing Emma Pedersen’s illustrations for the first time? In your blog post “Queenie Quail and the Road to Publication,” you talk about needing to cut your original manuscript. Can you describe one place where the illustration reflects the text that is no longer there? Can you describe a place where Emma included something that surprised or particularly delighted you?

I was absolutely floored when I first saw Emma’s illustrations, they’re beyond wonderful, and even more adorable than I ever could have imagined! It’s a funny thing, being a picture book author, because you craft these characters and this environment, and then you hand the whole thing over to a stranger to make real—it can be a bit nerve-wracking, not knowing what your little characters will end up looking like! I was immensely relieved when I saw Queenie and her siblings, and I think Emma’s classic artistic style perfectly complements my old-fashioned writing style.

One of the aspects of the text that was really shortened related to all the things that distracted Queenie on her daily walks with her family. I described the worms and the bees and the flowers in great detail, which turned out to be entirely unnecessary, since everything appeared so beautifully in Emma’s illustrations!

And as for an illustration that particularly delighted me, there’s a spread where Mama and Papa quail nuzzle Queenie as they thank her for saving the day, and the loving expressions on everyone’s faces really just melted my heart, I loved them so much!

What drew you to becoming a librarian? What is a favorite part of your day?

I am a children’s librarian for an urban library system here in British Columbia, Canada, and I’m responsible for developing and facilitating programming for children and families in an older residential neighborhood. I get to do a lot of fun things in my job—I lead story times for caregivers and their babies, facilitate writing and book clubs for tweens, and get to host and visit local preschools, daycares and elementary schools. I think my favourite part of the entire year is Summer Reading Club, which runs from June – August every year. We spend the entire year planning all sorts of exciting programs to get kids reading all summer long, and it’s so much fun! Sometimes I can’t quite believe I get to do this as my job. I also manage the physical collections in the library, organizing and weeding the books to make sure the collection is in tip- top shape and helps meet the reading needs of my community.

I was raised in a family of voracious readers and I love working with people, so librarianship always seemed like a natural fit, but it took me quite a while to get here. I worked in various jobs for about six years following my initial graduation from university, before finally feeling confident enough to take the plunge and go back to school to do my masters in librarianship. It was a real leap of faith, quitting a well-paying, stable but unfulfilling job to take a chance on a career that everyone around me said was dying out, but it’s certainly paid out for me, so far at least! I can’t stress enough that simply loving books is not enough of a reason to become a librarian, especially not a public librarian – you really do need to love working with people more than anything, because it’s definitely not for the faint of heart sometimes!

On your website you have a gallery of pictures from libraries you’ve visited. How many libraries have you been to? Which library is the farthest from home? Which was your favorite and why?

I love visiting libraries at home and abroad, I find so much inspiration from looking at how other libraries organize their collections, decorate their spaces, and plan their events. I’m not even sure at this point how many libraries I’ve visited. I need to update my website to include the ones I visited on my most recent trip to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick!

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Jane visits one of her favorite libraries – the Nikko Library – in Japan

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A view of a bridge and beyond in Nikko, Japan

Some of the furthest libraries I’ve visited have been in New Zealand and Japan (which I’ve visited on three separate occasions so far), though I’ve visited libraries in different US states and Canadian provinces, too. I don’t know that I have a single favorite library, but I do particularly enjoy visiting rural libraries – they can be so creative with their often-limited resources, and really do serve as the hearts and souls of their communities. 

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Can you share an anecdote from an author’s event you’ve held or been part of?

I love everything about writing for kids! I really am a big kid at heart, which is why I’m a children’s librarian, too! I’ve had wonderful experiences reading my books to kids at different author events, and it’s so much fun to get everyone involved.

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Jane and kids act out animals during an exciting author visit.

With Wild One I like to get kids to guess which animal they think the protagonist is pretending to be, and then we act out the animals together, which is heaps of fun, and with A Good Day for Ducks we act out all sorts of fun raining day actions, then talk together about all the things you can do, inside and outside, on a rainy day. I live in a very rainy place, so it’s important to find the joy in even the gloomiest of days! One of the most meaningful events I’ve done was a visit to a local children’s hospice, where I was able to connect with a small group of really amazing children who have been through so much in their short lives. To be able to share my stories with them, and listen to their stories, was an incredibly inspiring and moving experience.

What’s up next for you?

I’m not quite sure! I’ve got a couple of manuscripts that I’m still working on, and some that I’m waiting to hear back about from editors, so I don’t really know yet what’s coming down the pipeline. But I’ll always keep on telling stories, no matter what. 🙂

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favourite holiday is definitely Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the music, the baking, the food, the decorating, the music, the family get-togethers, I love it all! I don’t actually do any of the decorating or baking or cooking myself, I mostly just listen to Christmas carols for a month straight and watch hours of Christmas movies on TV, but I love it all the same!

Thanks, so much, Jane! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you and am sure readers have too! I wish you all the best with Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up and all of your books!

You can connect with Jane Whittingham on:

Her website | Instagram

Wild about Wildlife Month Activity

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Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!
  • 1 = Flamingo – South America
  • 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 3 = Giraffe – Africa
  • 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
  • 5 = Ibex – Europe
  • 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
  • 7 = Panda – Asia
  • 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 9 = Toucan – South America
  • 10 = Buffalo – North America
  • 11 = Koala – Australia
  • 12 = Lion – Africa
  • 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
  • 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
  • 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
  • 16 = Tiger – Asia

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You can find Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 6 – It’s Wild about Wildlife Month

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About the Holiday

This month we honor wildlife—all those majestic creatures of the air, land, and sea that share the earth with us. But what about all of the creatures that live through mythology, legends, stories, and our imagination? Today, we celebrate one of these unique and wild beings that has been around for a long, long time. Maybe you’ve seen one?

Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz?

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Kyle Reed

 

As kids open the cover to this delightful mythologically based story, the narrator asks: “Have you ever zeen a Ziz? Do you wonder what one iz?” Could it be an alien floating through space, or a “giant cat or a prehistoric bat?” It turns out that it’s none of these. A Ziz is a bird with brilliant feathers and a wing span that can block out the sun—or moon.

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

But even though the Ziz is huge, “she’s a kindly, gentle bird. / Big and yellow, sweet…absurd.” She lets children play on her enormous back and helps farmers keep their crops on track. But the Ziz is best know for her lilting zongs, which she zings with great gusto no matter the time or place or who she’s with. But when she sleeps, those zongs turn into loud, LOUD snores.

Now if you happen to see one passing by or you look up and can’t see the sky, you’ll know precisely, exactly why.

An Author’s Note following the story reveals that “the Ziz is a mythological bird found in a collection of ancient Jewish writings” and is even mentioned in the Biblical book of Psalms. Marshall includes more information on this legendary bird as well as a reference work.

Funny and endearing, Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz is a joyful read aloud with many applications for classroom lessons and story times. It would be an entertaining addition to home, school, and public library collections.

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s jaunty, rhyming read aloud is feathered with imagination that will have kids’ own musings soaring. Enchanting in her size, talents, and kindliness, the Ziz will delight readers even as Marshall’s rhythmic storytelling gives teachers and homeschoolers a fun way to interact with language and rhyme schemes, introduce lessons on mythology, and extend story time with an artistic project. After reading, children are sure to want to draw or otherwise create a Ziz or invent a mythological creature of their own. Musical readers may even be inspired to write a song for the Ziz to zing.

Kyle Reed’s collage-style illustrations are whimsical and sweet. As this most unusual bird soars over the ocean, her broad wingspan dwarfs a whale on one side and a crocodile on the other. After seeing a group of friends slide down the Ziz’s loooooong back and neck, kids will wish they had a Ziz at their own playground, and the image of the Ziz standing on the ground with its head in the clouds is a textural beauty. After enjoying Reed’s sightings of the Ziz on mountaintops, skyscrapers, the beach, and anywhere the sky beckons, readers will no doubt be keeping their eyes and ears open for their own view of this spectacular creature.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807531730

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kyle Reed and see a portfolio of his work, visit his website.

Wild about Wildlife Month Activity

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Draw Your Own Wild Creature

 

With a little imagination, kids can create their own mythological creature to roam the earth under the smiling sun on this printable drawing page.

Wild Creature Drawing Page

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You can find Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 5 – Build a Scarecrow Day

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About the Holiday

With so many crops – from corn to berries to peppers to squash – ripening in fields across the country, it’s time for farmers on small and large farms to put up a scarecrow to watch over all that bounty. To celebrate, gather some old clothes, a bale of straw or other filling, and a pole and put your imagination to work. This is a fun activity for the whole family – even if you don’t have a farm! 

The Scarecrow

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

 

Golden autumn has quieted the fields. The hay is rolled and the scarecrow waits for spring. The animals and the crows stand at a distance, afraid of this figure that does his job so well. “He never rests. / He never bends. / He’s never had a single friend, / for all the woodland creatures know / not to mess with old Scarecrow.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Winter comes with gentle snow, and Scarecrow dreams of “spring…of buds and blooms and things that sing.” When spring dawns with warm sun and green grass, a tiny crow—with a “broken wing?”—“drops from midair” and attracts Scarecrow’s attention. Then Scarecrow does a most surprising thing: “He snaps his pole, / bends down low, / saves the tiny baby crow.” He tucks the baby in the straw near his heart, and as he sleeps and settles in, Scarecrow “sings the sweetest lullaby.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The baby heals and the two become the best of friends. As the little crow grows, he and Scarecrow “will laugh and wish on stars, forgetting who they really are…” Spring turns to summer, and Scarecrow proudly watches as Crow learns to fly, but with the return of autumn, he knows that Crow must leave. Through late autumn and the frigid winter, Scarecrow slumps on his pole, alone—“Broken heart. Broken pole. Nothing fills the empty hole.” Then with the spring rains, the crow returns with wings wide open and Scarecrow welcomes him with a hug. The crow mends Scarecrow’s broken pole and refreshes his hay and then he says, “‘I’m here to say.’”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Crow and his mate build a nest in the spot where he grew up. Soon, “five small eggs are tucked unseen,” and Scarecrow watches over them for he knows that soon they will hatch baby crows. “And they will love him from the start, and they will grow up in his heart.” Throughout the year, these friends and more keep Scarecrow company and love him so.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

In her story of a scarecrow and a baby crow who form a family, Beth Ferry’s gorgeous, lyrical language sweeps readers into Scarecrow’s world and lets them stand with him through the changing seasons and the progression of his transformation from a lonely existence as bleak as winter to a life as bountiful as summer. Ferry’s alternating short, staccato lines and longer, flowing rhythms create an emotional bond between the reader and Scarecrow. With a single sentence, in which Scarecrow and Crow forget “who they really are,” and through her periodic use of future tense, Ferry sparks hope and welcome reassurance for the future—not only for these two characters, but for us all. Crow’s return to raise his own family where he learned love and security and to help the aging Scarecrow is a moving portrayal of home, and the reciprocal devotion between Scarecrow and the crows will bring a tear to readers’ eyes.

Through their softly hued and textured mixed-media illustrations, The Fan Brothers create a tapestry of rural life, with its sometimes generous, sometimes harsh conditions.  As autumn turns to winter, Scarecrow is seen from a distance as animals look on, showing the divide in this natural landscape and the fear that rules it. But when a baby crow drops into the scarecrow’s life, he changes the dynamic, as children often do. With this life-changing event, The Fan Brother’s images become brighter, and the gauziness of the first spreads—so effective in depicting the barrier between Scarecrow and the rest of the world—clears. In turns Scarecrow is tender and proud, wistful and overjoyed—images that will tug at adults’ hearts. As Scarecrow once again stands tall and is surrounded by his crow family and the other animals on a sunny fall day, The Fan Brothers bring readers full circle in this story where the seasons of bounty and hardship mirror so well the cycles of life.

A thoughtful and beautifully conceived masterpiece, The Scarecrow is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062475763

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books on her website.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers, their books, and their art, visit their website.

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

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Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow-cover

You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 2 – Kat and Juju Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today I’m happy to be participating in the Kat and Juju book tour! The months of summer vacation often provide an opportunity for growth, change, and the kind of self-discovery that comes without the constraints of a regular schedule and school assignments. This can be especially true for hesitant children or those who prefer more studied steps into new experiences. Today’s book may spark discussion and ideas for integrating internal feelings and external opportunities when they come along.

Thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing Kat and Juju with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Kat and Juju

By Kataneh Vahdani

 

Kat had her own special way of doing things. While other kids scribbled outside the lines, she preferred to stay inside them. “She found wonder in places no one else thought to look.” And her confidants were decidedly of the strong, silent, and leafy type. She was too timid to talk to the other kids, who always seemed to be laughing and talking and playing. She did feel lonely sometimes.

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Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Kat’s birthday was coming up, and she was looking forward to the moment when “her very best friend would arrive,” just as “had happened to all the other kids.” She wasn’t disappointed. At her door on her birthday was Juju—a huge, red, dapper bird who’d brought her a bouquet of flowers and a definitely different perspective on things. She loved him immediately. Juju was fearless and encouraged her to be brave. “Sometimes,” he said  as he hopped from foot to foot and spun on the floor, “you’ve just got to LET GO and do a HAPPY DANCE.” Kat thought it looked like fun, but she just couldn’t get herself to do it.

 

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Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Then one day. Kat and Juju found a lost baby bird. Kat could relate to the fear in its eyes. With Juju’s help, she overcame her initial doubts about her ability to take care of it. She wrapped the birdie up, fed it, and, when it was stronger, took it on adventures—adventures that even took Kat out of her comfort zone. The birdie loved them, and pretty soon so did Kat.

It didn’t take long for the birdie to feel “brave enough to fly on its own.” Kat was so excited for her little friend that she forgot all of her inhibitions and broke out into a happy dance. The other kids suddenly saw Kat in a whole new way. Now, Kat still does things her own special way, but she has friends to do them with.

A good conversation-starter on the value of trying new things while staying true to yourself, Kat and Juju makes a fun read on the journey and would be an inspiring choice for home, school, and public library collections.

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Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In her thoughtful story, Kataneh Vahdani explores the emotions of a girl who has a hard time letting go of her fears and inhibitions to reach outside of her comfort zone. When Juju—a buoyant, larger-than-life bird—enters Kat’s life, he brings spontaneity and courage closer, but it’s not until the little birdie needs her that Kat participates in Juju’s silly fun and daring adventures. Over time, Kat discovers she likes these escapades too, and when the little bird is ready to fly, so is she. It’s a truism that we will often do things for a friend or our children that we might not do for ourselves.

Kat is a sweet companion for readers on their own road to discovering the bravery inside themselves, and Vahdani’s storytelling gives adults and children a starting point for discussion. She provides metaphorical examples—coloring inside the lines, a special birthday present that gives her a new start, learning to fly—as well as honestly depicted nagging internal doubts to help readers articulate and share their feelings. Vahdani also includes an important reminder that branching out doesn’t mean losing one’s unique qualities, instead it allows them to grow.

Kataneh Vahdani’s textured gray-scale and red and blue digital illustrations, punctuated with the little yellow fluff of a birdie, puts the focus on Kat and Juju, who sport red clothing and feathers. Kat’s wide-eyed, expressive face reflects her emotions clearly and Juju is a sweetie with smiling eyes who’s always ready with a hug or a bit of encouragement or reassurance.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043281

Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also rescues fallen baby birds. Together with her students, they have raised more than thirteen fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju

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Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s National Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

As birds begin coming back to your area during this last bit of winter to build nests, mate, and hatch little cheepers, they still need help finding nutritious food to sustain them. Without the lush vegetation and increased insect activity that will come with warmer weather, birds often rely on backyard feeders for food. Attracting colorful birds to your home can be a rewarding and joyful hobby – one you can enjoy year-round. If you’ve been considering hanging a bird feeder to one of your trees, today is the perfect day to get started!

Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook

Written by Martin Jenkins | Illustrated by Richard Jones

 

It’s early morning and Bird is already chirping. It’s going to be a busy day! To get started she needs breakfast. Of course, “what she wants is a nice, juicy…worm.” What the worm wants, though, is to not be eaten. So while “bird pulls hard…the worm pulls back.” This is one strong worm, and it ends up winning the tug-of-war. Nearby, though, is a smaller and weaker worm that is just as delicious.

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Image copyright Richard Jones, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Full and satisfied, Bird takes off on her next task. She needs to find twigs. “Lots of twigs.” The first one she finds is more like a branch to the little bird—and is too heavy. The next one is as long as a snake and too heavy too. But there are plenty of perfectly small twigs scattered around, so Bird gets to work. She “can carry one large twig or two medium-size twigs or three or four small twigs (although it’s hard to fit that many in her beak at once).”

What is Bird doing with all of these twigs? Building her nest, of course! It takes time to arrange the twigs she brings back to the branch of her tree. “Carefully, she pushes a twig into the side of the nest and pulls its end back out.” As if weaving a basket, Bird intertwines more and more sticks, making her nest strong. It takes hours to complete her new home. Once in a while a twig falls or she drops one, but there are plenty more to find.

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Image copyright Richard Jones, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once the twigs are all in place, Bird searches for soft material to line it. She gathers dried grass and feathers. These are so light that it’s easy to carry a lot at one time. Back in her nest she places the grass and feathers inside and “turning around and around, pushing with her whole body, she makes a snug little cup, smooth and soft on the inside.” Now the nest is comfy and all ready for…the five little eggs that are waiting to hatch!

Bird Builds a Nest is a First Science Storybook for young readers that, while showing how birds build nests also demonstrates various scientific forces. As kids see the baby birds emerge from the nest for the first time, they can also answer a few questions in the Afterward that prompt them to think about pushing and pulling, moving light and heavy objects, and the force of gravity. An Index reveals where in the text these forces can be found.

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Image copyright Richard Jones, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Spying a nest in a tree, eave, or other tucked-away space is like finding a secret, and is one of the joys of spring. Martin Jenkins’ delightful day out with Bird gives kids…well…a bird’s eye view of the nest-building process. Just like an artist, this sweet, industrious feathered friend gathers her materials and sets to work to make her instinctual vision come true. Jenkins’ step-by-step description is conversational and homey with words such as snug, tuck, fetching, and twigs that lend themselves to the charming alliteration that gives the story a poetic sound and feel.

Richard Jones’ mixed-media illustrations sing with beautiful folk-art inspired scenes of Bird gathering her material and creating her nest. Softly vibrant earth tones of autumn and spring accentuate Bird’s quiet and solitary endeavor. Bird is bright-eyed and cheerful as she flies back and forth carrying twigs and arranging them just so—activities that are clearly shown for budding scientists to see and understand. Readers will enjoy finding small details here and there—a mouse in a tree hole, a tiny ladybug, hearts in the swirls of the tree bark and formed by leaves, and even a bit of foreshadowing of the eggs to come. The male and female bird cuddle together in the finished nest as two ladybugs find each other under a purple heart, and the little chicks venturing out for the first time will enchant children.

Bird Builds a Nest wonderfully weaves together facts and a sweet story to introduce young readers to one particular natural phenomenon and some of the scientific forces involved. The captivating story would be a terrific addition to home libraries and classroom bookshelves for discussions about the natural world.

Ages 4 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2018 |ISBN 978-0763693466

To learn more about Richard Jones and view a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

National Bird-Feeding Month Activity

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Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle

 

When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different kinds of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

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Picture Book Review

January 30 – Bird Hugs Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

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A new picture book by Ged Adamson is always an event to be celebrated, so I’m thrilled to be a stop on the book tour for his latest book—Bird Hugs.

Ged Adamson is a children’s book author and illustrator. His picture books include A Fox Found a Box; Douglas, You Need Glasses!; Shark Dog!; and Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed). He has also worked as a cartoonist, storyboard artist, and composer for film and TV. He lives in London with his partner, Helen, and son, Rex. To learn more, visit his website.

You can connect with Ged Adamson on: Instagram | Twitter

Bird Hugs

By Ged Adamson

 

Bernard had a feature quite unlike other birds. As a baby, he didn’t know there was anything different about his long, long wings. He “blurrped” with the other babies, pretended to be a sleeping bat, and waved his wings spookily while chasing his friends. But when his friends learned to fly, Bernard knew something was amiss. “No matter how many times he tried, it was something he couldn’t seem to do himself.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Soon all of his friends had flown away to other places. Longing to do the same, Bernard decided he just needed another approach. He had his friend Lawrence fling him into the air from a palm tree catapult. And for a glorious moment Bernard was flying. And then…he wasn’t. “Embarrassed by his useless wings, he tried to make them smaller.” He rolled and tied them up, made a scarf of them, and tied them in a bow on the top of his head. But nothing worked.

“Bernard felt utterly sorry for himself.” He chose a branch where his wings could hang to the ground and “made it his home.” Day and night and all through the seasons, he sat there as the world went on around him. But one day he heard someone sobbing. Bernard left his branch to find out who was crying. He discovered an orangutan, who wailed, “‘I feel very sad and I’m not sure why!’”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In an instant Bernard had wrapped his long wings around the orangutan in a “BIG HUG.” In a bit the orangutan felt better and thanked Bernard. Bernard was happy too. He began to think that “maybe his wings were good for something after all.” And he was right. In the morning a long line of animals was waiting for him—all looking for a hug. Bernard was busy all day…and the next day…and the next. Besides wanting hugs, “the animals told Bernard their problems.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

All this hugging made Bernard happier too. His wings even felt stronger. He wondered if maybe they were strong enough to fly. Bernard leaped from a cliff top and for a moment he was flying. And then…he wasn’t. But Bernard was philosophical: there was more to life than flying, he decided. And all the new friends he made showed him that with a little support, anyone can soar.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Trailing wings as long as a knitted winter scarf, little Bernard is an unforgettable cutie who only wants to be like all the other birds and fly. But is that his only talent? His only option? During Bernard’s year-long funk, it seems he finds the answers to these questions as his quick response to the orangutan’s sobs reveals, Bernard discovers that far from useless, his wings give him a gift more precious than flying––the opportunity to help his fellow animals. It’s a talent that brings him love in return. Readers can take comfort in and a lesson from Bernard’s hard-won but keen sense of empathy by embracing and using whatever makes them unique.

As in his other books, Adamson’s profound message is wrapped in images that combine kid-pleasing silliness, a bit of slapstick humor, and a diverse array of emotive characters. As Bernard mopes on his branch feeling lonely and sorry for himself, kids will notice that he’s not as alone as he might think. An anteater keeps him company on a rainy day, wide-awake nocturnal animals watch over him at night, and even the bees make room for him in their flight pattern. Bernard’s realization that life is filled with more than one might expect is welcome and heartening, and Adamson’s finale is wonderfully surprising and pitch perfect.

Bird Hugs is highly recommended for all kids and has multiple applications for story times at home, in classrooms, and for public libraries. The book would quickly become a favorite on any bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542092715

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

I received a copy of Bird Hugs for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

December 30 – It’s the Christmas Bird Count

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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!

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You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Indiebound

Picture Book Review