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

December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the variety of evergreen trees that grow locally and around the world. During the winter these giants stand out against snowy landscapes with their deep-green needles that retain their color all year around and always offer the hope of spring. For those who celebrate Christmas, the evergreen is a highlight of the celebration. Decorated with lights and sparkly ornaments, the tree is where family and friends gather to exchange gifts and share time together. Look for an Evergreen Day was created by the National Arborist Association to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of these special trees.

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves

Written by Annemarie Riley Guertin | Illustrated by Helena Pérez Garcia

 

Little Redbird was taking her last sleep before flying south for the winter when she was thrown from her nest onto the hard ground by a strong gust of wind. When she got up, the pain in her wing told her she would not be able to fly. “‘How will I survive the long, harsh winter winds? Surely I will perish,’” she thought. But then she saw all the trees in the forest and “chirped with relief.” She could build a new nest on a low branch of one of them and find shelter.

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Image copyright Helena Pérez Garcia, 2019, text copyright AnneMarie Riley Guertin, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

The first tree she hopped to was a birch. Politely, she told the tree her predicament and asked, “‘May I live in your warm branches until spring returns?’” But the birch only wanted to look out for itself and told Little Redbird to “‘move along.’” Next, Little Redbird came to a large oak tree. She explained about her injured wing and asked if she could spend the winter in the oak’s strong branches. The oak was surprised by the request and suspicious that the little bird would also want to eat up all of its acorns. The oak shooed Little Redbird away. When she came to the maple tree, Little Redbird repeated her request. The maple told her that it was “‘too busy making sap for maple syrup. I have no time for little birds,’” it continued and sent Little Redbird on her way.

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Image copyright Helena Pérez Garcia, 2019, text copyright AnneMarie Riley Guertin, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Afraid and uncertain, Little Redbird began to cry. Then she heard a voice offering to help. She looked up and saw “a smiling fir tree.” She approached and told her story again. At once, the fir tree offered Little Redbird a safe and warm place to stay within its many branches. Little Redbird thanked the fir tree, but said that she didn’t have the strength to fly up into the branches. The fir told the little bird not to worry as he reached out his lower branches.

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Image copyright Helena Pérez Garcia, 2019, text copyright AnneMarie Riley Guertin, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Overhearing this exchange, a nearby blue spruce called out that he would help shield Little Redbird from the wind with his strong branches. “‘How kind of you!’ replied Little Redbird.” Then another voice came whispering on the breeze. It was the juniper tree offering berries to heal the little bird’s wing. Little Redbird happily “built a warm nest inside the fir tree’s branches and waited for winter’s arrival.”

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Image copyright Helena Pérez Garcia, 2019, text copyright AnneMarie Riley Guertin, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

One evening soon after, the Frost Queen and her son Jack came strolling through the forest. Jack wondered if he could touch the leaves on every tree. His mother pointed to the fir, the blue spruce, and the juniper and explained that he could touch the leaves on every tree except these. “‘They were very kind to one of my precious birds who had injured her wing,’” the Frost Queen told Jack. “‘They may keep their green leaves all year round. And they shall forevermore be called evergreen.’” It is also said that these acts of kindness inspired these little red birds to stay and keep these trees company all winter long.

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Image copyright Helena Pérez Garcia, 2019, text copyright AnneMarie Riley Guertin, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Annemarie Riley Guertin offers a charming and well-rounded telling of the legend of how evergreens got their name and their unique feature that also provides a heartwarming reason for why cardinals do not fly south for the winter. This delightful pairing deepens the meaning of the story by demonstrating that kindness is recognized and often comes back to those who give it. Guertin’s clear and emotionally rich dialogue allows readers to fully appreciate Little Redbird’s distress, the rebuffs of the deciduous trees, and the acceptance of the others. The appearance of the Snow Queen and her son Jack bring a human element to the story that will resonate with children, who are themselves learning to be kind.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why-evergreens-keep-their-leaves-frost-maple-tree

Image copyright Helena Pérez Garcia, 2019, text copyright AnneMarie Riley Guertin, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Helena Pérez Garcia’s vibrant, folk-art inspired illustrations are simply gorgeous. Set against a black forest floor, the autumn flowers, fallen leaves, and trees in full fiery color pop off the page. Just as in any real-life garden, the red cardinal immediately catches the eye, putting readers’ focus on Little Redbird and her plight. The image of Little Redbird crying is touching, making the fir tree’s offer of help and outstretched branches all the more emotional. Garcia’s imaging of the Snow Queen and her son Jack will enchant any lover of fairy tales, and the final image of a flock of cardinals keeping the evergreens company during the winter is a sight we can all hope to see.

A beautiful tale to share during the winter season or along with other fairy tales or fables, Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and public library collections. Pair with a bird feeder or small evergreen tree to plant to make a gift any child would love.

Ages 5 – 8 

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701587

Discover more about Annemarie Riley Guertin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Helena Pérez Garcia, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Find-the-Perfect-Pine-Tree-maze

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze

 

Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze | Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze Solution

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You can find Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

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

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.

Picture Book Month Activity

CPB - Bookmobile

Books on the Move!

 

Bookmobiles deliver books to people who are homebound or don’t live near a library. This month you can celebrate these little libraries on wheels by making this bookmobile from a recycled box. Make it with the open top up, and you can even use it as a desk organizer!

Supplies

  • Printable Book Shelves and Sign Template
  • Cardboard box, 16-oz pasta or other recyclable boxes work well (I used a 5” x 7 ¼ -inch pasta box)
  • Small wooden spools or wheels
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

1.Gently pull the box apart at the seam and lie flat with the unprinted side facing up

2. To Make the Awning:

  • On one of the wide sides of the box, measure a rectangle 1 inch from the top of the box, leaving at least 1 ¼ inches at the bottom of the box and 1 ¼ inches on both sides
  • With the x-acto knife or scissors cut the sides and bottom of the rectangle, leaving the top uncut
  • Paint the top and underside of the awning (if you want to make stripes on the awning lay strips of tape side by side across the awning. Remove every other strip of tape. Paint the open stripes one color of paint. When the paint dries replace the tape over the paint and remove the tape from the unpainted stripes. Paint those stripes a different color.)

3. Paint the rest of the box on the unprinted side any way you like, let dry

4. Cut the Printable Book Shelf template to fit the size of your window opening, leaving at least a ½ inch margin all around

5. Tape the book shelf to the inside of the window

6. Reconstruct the box, making the original seam an inside flap

7. Glue the flap and sides together

8. If using small spools for wheels, paint them black. Let dry

9. Glue the wheels to the bottom of the box

10, Attach the Bookmobile sign, found on the printable template, above the awning

** To Make a Desk Organizer from the Bookmobile

  • Cut an opening in the top of the bookmobile with the x-acto knife or a scissor

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You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 15 – National Smile Day

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About the Holiday

Where do you find enough smiles to fill twenty-four hours? Come on, you know! Friends, loved ones, books, movies, videos, jokes, and more funny stuff can instantly elicit that bright, shiny facial expression! Today is a day to share smiles with people you know and those you don’t. So get out there and be happy!

Happy

By Emma Dodd

 

Nestled in a hole in a pine tree, an owl—who could be a mom, a dad, or any caregiver—cradles an adorable tiny owlet under its wing. “I know that / you are happy / when you wake me / with a song,” the owl says. As they venture out onto a limb, the owl adds, “I know that / you are happy / when you hop / and skip along.” With the repeated “I know that you are happy” the owl describes other ways the owlet shows her joy: giggling, with rambling conversation, playing loudly, acting proud, and trying “something new…and / if you don’t succeed at first, I’ll help until you do,” the owl reassures the little one.

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

But every day cannot be happy, the owl concedes, and when “things are looking gray, / I’ll do my best to chase / the gloomy clouds away.” As the sun sets on the secluded home and the owl and owlet drift into sleep, the owl reveals: “I love it when you cuddle close / and whisper, ‘I love you.’ / And I am happiest / of all… / when you are happy too.”

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Perfect for all parents and caregivers, Emma Dodd’s celebration of how a child’s joy resonates in others’ hearts makes shared reading time special. The lyrical rhythm of the repeated lines accompanied by the sentiments of encouragement and the transposition of point of view give this book impact and poignancy.

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Dodd’s lovely illustrations of the endearing owl and owlet pair perfectly express the type of discovery that leads to joy on both a child’s and an adult’s part. With its little raised foot, extended tiny wings, and jubilant, smiling beak, the young owlet is both lovable and loved. Dodd’s beautiful muted, blue, green, brown and orange settings shimmer with gilded accents: delicate gold pine needles frame the owls’ home, the baby owl splashes in a glistening puddle under a gleaming moon, sparkling stars light the midnight blue sky, and rain showers fall in glinting streaks as the owls look on.

Simply put, Happy will put a smile on your face and bring a tear to your eye. This lovely lullaby will quickly become a favorite for bedtime or cuddle time and is a must for young children’s bookshelves. Happy also makes a perfect gift for new parents or other caregivers. 

Ages Birth – 5

Nosy Crow, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763680084 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0763696429 (Paperback)

Smile Power Day Activity

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Make Someone Smile Cards

 

Sharing a smile can make someone’s day! With these printable Make Someone Smile Cards you can spread joy to people you know—and even to those you don’t! Give one to a family member, coworker, or friend. You can surprise your favorite barista, hair stylist, librarian, or shop owner by handing them a card or leaving it where they’ll find it. It’s even fun to tuck a card among the items on a shelf or in a book for someone to find later. Remember, the power of a smile is awesome!

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You can find Happy at these booksellers

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

April 3 – National Walking Day and Interview with Author Jane Whittingham

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About the Holiday

The American Heart Association established National Walking Day in 2007 to remind people of the benefits of taking a walk. Even twenty to thirty minutes a day can improve your health and wellbeing. If you have a desk job or spend long hours sitting, getting up and out can make you feel better and even more connected to your community. While walking through your neighborhood, the park, or the woods take time to notice interesting details and the beauty around you. Walking with a friend, your family, or a group can also be fun and motivating. So grab your sneakers and use today to spark a new habit that will pay dividends now and in the future.

I received a copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up from Pajama Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Pajama Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

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

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Pajama Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up written by Jane Whittingham | illustrated by Emma Pedersen

This giveaway is open from April 3 through April 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

It’s easy to enter! Just:

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Pajama Press.

National Walking Day Activity

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Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

These kids are getting out and enjoying nature! Can you help them find the right shoes so they can start their adventures in this printable puzzle?

Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

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

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

Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Have you been noticing more bird activity in your yard or neighborhood? Maybe you’ve been awakened by birdsong that you haven’t heard in many months. During February, as temperatures creep up, birds begin returning to their homes to nest and mate. But the effects of the long winter still make it hard for these little creatures to find enough to eat. Recognizing a need, John Porter created a Congressional resolution in 1994 recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of Americans have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive when natural resources are scarce. To celebrate this month, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one and enjoy the beauty and songs of the birds in your area. 

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

By Laurie Ellen Angus

 

All birds get hungry, but not all birds eat the same thing, of course. Did you know that a bird’s feet are important in determining what they eat? Let’s find out how different kinds of feet help birds find the right food for them. “If you had webbing between your toes, you could… Paddle like a swan to dabble for pond plants.” Long legs and toes could help you “wade like a heron to sneak up on a school of fish.”

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Birds who have long, strong legs can run and catch their dinner, and birds whose feet have sharp claws can climb tree trunks and hunt for insects in the bark. Birds with “small flexible toes” find their feet handy for perching on branches of trees and bushes to pick berries or—like towhees—to scratch in the dirt for bugs. There are also those birds that have “powerful feet with sharp talons” to snatch a meaty meal for themselves or their babies.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

There are many kinds of birds in the world, and each one has just the right kind of feet that help them move through their environment, find or catch food, and survive.

Extensive back matter that offers many opportunities to extend STEM learning in the classroom or at home includes

  • a detailed and illustrated exploration of each bird mentioned in the text, complete with a description of their feet and how they help the bird procure food. Kids will also enjoy learning the fun fact about each
  • A description of the bird that inspired the book
  • A discussion of adaptations, with a chart categorized with facts on habitat, feet, and beaks for seven birds and suggestions for a creative activity 
  • Common characteristics of birds
  • A discussion on predators
  • Bird-watching tips
  • More resources for further learning
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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In her engaging text, Laurie Ellen Angus takes kids out to the pond, desert, forest, and backyard to watch as a variety of birds catch or gather their dinner. Using evocative verbs, Angus reveals not only the action of getting a meal, but the way each bird goes about it—through stealth, quick motion, pecking, scratching, and more. Specific examples of bird/feet combinations give readers a starting point for further exploration. Each category also includes a partially hidden predator, such as a fox, bobcat, snake, and hawk, that the particular bird is warned about and which readers will want to join in pointing out.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Angus beautifully employs collage-style illustrations to give her birds and environments texture, color, and movement. Her use of various perspectives, lets readers wade into the pond with the heron, chase after the roadrunner that is trotting off the edge of page, cling to a tree trunk with a woodpecker, and come in for a landing with an owl. 

A visually stunning book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat is a science book that will attract the attention of young learners and excite them to learn more about the wonders of the natural world.

Ages 4 – 8

Dawn Publications, 2018 | | ISBN 978-1584696131 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1584696148 (Paperback) 

To learn more about Laurie Ellen Angus, her books, and her art on her website.

Wild Bird Feeding Month Activity

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When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different types 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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You can find Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all our feathered friends from the birds in our backyards to the chickens and turkeys that provide us with food to the penguins of Antarctica. They include wild birds and those in captivity, either as pets or in zoos or other aviaries. National Bird Day was established to promote an awareness of issues concerning the safety, health, and protection of the world’s birds. To celebrate put out birdseed and suet for winter birds or learn a little more about the birds in your area.

Trevor

Written by Jim Averbeck | Illustrated by Amy Hevron

 

“Trevor stretched his wings the width of his safe, boring cage.” Even though he knew the door would open easily, he never ventured out because everything he needed was right within reach. Today, instead of being tempted to eat his one remaining striped seed—his favorite kind—he sang a lonesome song. Outside his window, Trevor suddenly saw a lemon bump his windowsill. He took it for a fellow canary and asked it to join in singing with him. “The lemon said nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Thinking that the canary was shy, Trevor picked up his cherished seed, opened the cage door, and flew outside. He placed the seed near the lemon, but the lemon stayed quiet. It didn’t take the hint that Trevor liked gifts too, either. Trevor jumped up and down on the branch, trying to get some reaction, but he only caused the seed to fall to the ground and the lemon to drop and be caught on a branch below.

Trevor was angry at the lemon and turned his back on it. He “saw the vast, frightening world stretched out before him. He felt very lonely.” Trevor looked back at the lemon and made a bargain. If the lemon was sorry for being rude, he said, it should say nothing. The lemon obliged, and Trevor forgave it. Trevor built a nest for himself and the lemon, and the two spent a cozy summer together. Below, the striped seed began to grow.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Every morning they sang together. “Trevor sang the notes. The lemon sang the silences.” Trevor was happy snuggling with the lemon and decided he was never leaving the nest. One day, a storm blew up. It shook the branch and then, in a strong gust of wind, the lemon flew out of the nest. On its way down, it hit the sunflower and knocked out its seeds. The lemon soon rolled out of sight.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Trevor flew into the storm to look for his friend, but he couldn’t find the lemon anywhere. “Trevor cowered among the scattered seeds and wept.” Suddenly, though, a group of colorful birds appeared, wondering if the seeds were Trevor’s and whether  he would share them. He agreed, knowing that the lemon “would have wanted it that way.” In the fall, Trevor and his new friends flew south to spend the winter there. They sang together on their journey. Trevor was happy, “but he never forgot his first shy friend…who gave him everything, and asked for nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jim Averbeck’s gentle nudge for children who are hesitant to venture out of their comfort zone tenderly shows how taking a chance and sharing one’s talents or favorite things can lead to positive and rewarding experiences and new friendships. Through Trevor’s friendship with the silent lemon, Averbeck highlights Trevor’s natural kindness, a quality that leads him to find his inner strength and sociability. Cleverly weaving together the ideas of “leaving the nest” and “sowing seeds of friendship,” Averbeck creates a moving storyline that will hearten quieter children and inspire them to reach out in ways that are comfortable and meaningful to them.

Amy Hevron endears little Trevor to readers with her soft acrylics-on-wood illustrations full of sweet hugs and selfless acts that bring this adorable bird his first, best friend. The close-up focus of these images serves to also emphasize Trevor’s loneliness and trepidation when he later turns away from the lemon and overlooks a vast forest. The appearance of a diverse group of birds attracted by Trevor’s seeds will cheer readers, especially as Trevor joins them on their flight south. The last page offers a just-right surprise that gives kids and adults another opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship.

A tribute to formative friendships and self-discovery, Trevor makes an uplifting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250148285

Discover more about Jim Averbeck and his books on his website.

To learn more about Amy Hevron, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bird Day Activity

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Cheery Canary Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your winter table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape
  • Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

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You can find Trevor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review