August 16 – It’s Water Quality Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-cover

About the Holiday

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources. Worldwide, millions of people do not have access to clean water. Climate change is also contributing to alterations in water temperature which affects sea life and coastal animals. Pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides, and a disregard for the crucial importance of this limited resource all threaten not only the quality of water, but the quality of life on this planet. To get involved in the solution, volunteer to clean up waterways, be mindful of the products you use, and consider donating to the cause.

Over and Under the Pond

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A mom and her son have taken their rowboat out on the pond, where they “slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.” As they gaze over the side of their little boat, they can see the sun, the clouds, and themselves reflected in the still surface. But the little boy wonders what is below, where they can’t see. His mom tells him there is a “hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-what's underneath

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

On top the two can see tall grasses that break the water’s surface and little beetles and skaters making their way along the water. Below, a brook trout waits for his dinner. As the mom and her son paddle between thick stands of cattails, three painted turtles take turns slipping from their sunny perch back into the safety of the pond. Hidden in the cattails is a small nest, just a pocket of sticks and grass for red-winged blackbird babies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-hidden-world

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

There are babies under the pond, too. “A secret shelter of pebbles and sand” that hold the larva of a caddisfly. Along the shore, trees cast shadows on the water as a moose makes a lunch of water lilies. It’s also mealtime under the pond, where three beavers pull up roots to chew on. The weather is turning breezy over the pond, making the current stronger and blowing leaves here and there. All around animals are maturing: “a new goldfinch teeters, finally ready to fly” while tadpoles are “losing tails, growing legs, growing up.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-woodpecker

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Carefully picking his way in the muddy shallows, a great blue heron searches for food. He spies a minnow and with a flash snaps it up with his long, pointy beak. Way up in the trees the tat-tat-tat of a woodpecker looking for ants echoes through the air while down below an otter has her eyes set on a passel of mussels. The sun is beginning to set, and an iridescent dragonfly takes a rest on the little boy’s knee. Perhaps it is related to the dragonfly larvae underwater who has just grabbed a minnow for its dinner.

The nocturnal animals begin making an appearance in the spindly grasses. “Ospreys circle on quiet wings. Raccoons and mink stalk the shoreline for supper.” In the blue-black evening, the mother and her son head home as “a far-off loon calls good night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-otter

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about the ecosystem of a pond and the animals that live in and around the water follows the text.

Kate Messner’s lyrical environmental books invite young readers to discover the world around them through the eyes of their peers. In Over and Under the Pond, Messner takes children on a leisurely afternoon boat ride that compares and contrasts what is happening on top of and below the water. Along the way, kids learn fascinating facts while absorbing the feel and beauty of the outdoor world.

Christopher Silas Neal gorgeously depicts the mysteries of a pond environment in his matte, mixed media illustrations that allow readers to view the birds, fish, insects, plants, and animals in action as they go about their day. The mixture of familiar and new creatures will engage children interested in learning more about the natural world. As the sun goes down and evening falls with its comforting starlit sky, young readers will feel happy to be part of this wonderfully complex world.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452145426

To learn more about Kate Messner and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Christopher Silas Neal on his website!

Water Quality Month Activity

animal-celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-habitat-coloring-pages-for-kids-cooloring-com-coloring-pages-of-pond-animals

Busy Pond Coloring Page

 

There’s so much going on at the pond! Get your pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun with this printable Busy Pond Coloring Page! You can even add tissue paper grass, real sand, and other materials to make it look realistic!

Picture Book Review

August 5 – National Oyster Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the oyster—that mysterious ocean mollusk that many find delicious and that can hide a most precious gem. While some of you may honor the day with a plateful of fried or raw oysters, I’m choosing to highlight the bit of grit—that little mistake—that when it becomes embedded into the animal, creates a pearl of surprising value and uniqueness.

The Book of Mistakes

By Corinna Luyken

 

The whole thing started while drawing a picture. The head of the child looks good—nice little ear and nose, a dot for the left eye. The hair goes on pretty well—a swoop on the right side, straight on the left. The eyebrows are tiny dashes, and the mouth the size of a chocolate sprinkle. Just have to add the right eye…Oh, no! The right eye is too big!! Okay, okay, this mistake can be fixed. The left eye just needs to be a liiittle bigger…Oh, good grief! “Making the other eye even bigger was another mistake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-splotch-on-head

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Maybe…the perspective might just be right for…Yes! “the glasses—they were a good idea.” Okay on to the body. Hmmm… “The elbows and the extra-long neck? Mistakes. But the collar—ruffled, with patterns of lace and stripes—that was a good idea.” And elbow patches make the arms look a little less pointy.

Moving on to the background, a thick and leafy bush is just the thing to hide the animal. Animals? It could be a cat, a cow, or a frog. “Another mistake.” And why is the ground so far below the girl’s feet anyway? Oh! Because she’s wearing roller skates. Nice save! “Those were definitely not a mistake.” Let’s see, the “second frog-cat-cow thing made a very nice rock.” Now, what about the other girl with long hair and one very long leg? Got it! She “looks like she always meant to be climbing that tree” on the side of the page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-leaves

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The ink smudges at the top of the paper can be leaves, but back to the roller-skating girl. What to do with those awkwardly positioned arms? Oh dear—the pen should not have been hovering over the page. How to fix the splotch on the side of her head? Ah-hah! An old-fashioned aviator’s helmet. Or is it a swimming cap? No matter…she’s now holding a yellow balloon in her left hand and lots of strings in her right. Wow, tons of yellow balloons are at the ends of those strings!

She’s skating toward the tree with the long-legged girl, and there are a bunch of other kids playing in it too. Cool! They’re all wearing aviator helmets/swimming caps too. Some are wearing roller skates—good—and they’re erecting some kind of tent over a big branch. Wow! Look at the pink balloons and the green ones! There’s a kid riding a hot-air unicycle through the sky and a skateboarder is floating down to a ramp supported by springs in the top of the tree. Someone’s even tatting a lace banner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-tree

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

“Do you see?” They’re all waiting for the roller-skating girl to bring the yellow balloons. But let’s step back a little. “Do you see—how with each mistake she is becoming?” If we back up some more, she and the tree look so tiny and there’s a big, dark forest in the foreground. “Do you see—” Looking from way far away, doesn’t that forest look a bit like curly hair or…Oh! The top of the roller-skating girl’s cap! She’s so big now, and she’s gazing out of those green glasses at the white page where she’s drawing a small head with a nice little ear and nose and a dot for the left eye. “Do you see—who she could be?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-girl-as-artist

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Kids will be charmed by the start of the little head on the first page, begin giggling at the one too-big eye on the third page, and laugh out loud at the even bigger eye on the fifth in Corinna Luyken’s magically inventive The Book of Mistakes. As each mistake is adjusted for or inspires a new twist in the story, young readers will appreciate how creatively right the fix is and look forward to the next mistake and the next. The final pages presenting the tree full of children are so enticing that readers will want to linger over each one to find all the details. Luyken’s minimally colored drawings are funny and endearing and lead readers to question their own perspective and give free reign to their imagination.

The Book of Mistakes is a must for classrooms and highly recommended for home libraries for all those times when mistakes can be perfect conversation starters or the inspiration for…anything!

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735227927

To find a portfolio of artwork and more information about Corinna Luyken and her books visit her website.

National Oyster Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pearl-and-oyster-coloring-page

Secret Pearls Coloring Page

 

Finding a pearl in an oyster is a lucky thing! Here are two oysters brimming with shiny pearls. Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils—maybe even some glitter—and have fun with this printable Secret Pearls Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chow-mein-and-potstickers-cover

About the Holiday

During the month of July we honor those professional chefs who provide us with tantalizing dishes at our favorite restaurants. In addition to cooking old favorites, chefs also stay up on trends and create new recipes to make life deliciously fresh and surprising. To celebrate, visit your local restaurants and try something new! If you like to cook at home, gather some different ingredients and see what you can create! This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-pictureb-books-picture-book-review-Kids-Baking-Cake-in-Cooking-Show-Bakery-Coloring-Pages

Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 18 – It’s Park and Recreation Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-cover

About the Holiday

We’ve hit mid-summer, and maybe you’re looking for something to do. This month’s holiday encourages people to get out and enjoy some exercise and fun in parks, at home, at the gym, in the pool, on tennis courts, or wherever you like to play. Biking is another wonderful activity that adults and kids can share, whether you live in a small town or the city.

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

By Allan Drummond

 

If you were to visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you’d be amazed at the number of bicyclists sharing the roads with cars and trucks. In fact, if you could count all of the bicycles going here, there, and everywhere, you’d see that “bikes rule the road.” It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1970s cars were still king, making the roads unsafe for cyclists.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-bikes

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But then “young moms like Maartje Rutten and her friends—and their children” decided to make a change. They called their friends, who called their friends, and word started to get around that roads should be shared by all. People in Amsterdam and all over the Netherlands started protesting. “At first the demonstrations were great fun. People even held parties in the middle of the road.” People sang songs, made human chains across streets, and talked to the media.

Then a tragedy made people look at the issue more seriously. A little girl riding her bike to school was killed by a car. Her father was a newspaper reporter, and he wrote a story revealing that just in that year alone five hundred children had been killed on the roads and “many of them were riding bikes.” This situation made people angry. More and more citizens joined the protests.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the same time, gas prices were rising and fuel was becoming scarce. The government even banned cars from the roads on Sundays. “That gave Maartje an incredible idea.” She gathered her friends and told them her plan: they would ride their bikes through the new tunnel that was strictly for cars. Many people were wary but they came anyway, and on a quiet Sunday they pedaled through the darkness.

As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they could see the police waiting for them. Some of the riders wanted to turn around and go back, but Maartje pushed on and they followed. When they reached the end, the cops told them they had broken the law. The cyclists were taken to the police station. There, they were given lemonade and cookies. Maartje even “noticed that the policemen were smiling just a little bit. Maybe all of this protesting is working, she thought.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-more-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

She was right! After that Maartje and her friends thought of other ways cars and bikes could share the roads. “They proposed special bike lanes on busy routes, traffic bumps and curves in the roads to slow down vehicles, and new laws giving bikes the right-of-way over cars.” Finally, it all came together. Now Amsterdam is known as the bike capitol of the world. Their ideas, including bike lanes, bike sharing, and new laws, are used in countries all over the globe.

Biking offers so much more than just less-crowded streets. It provides exercise, a quiet form of transportation, and a pollution-free way to get around. And, of course, bikes don’t require fuel to go. If you visit Amsterdam, you might even see Maartje riding around town on her bike. “Now that’s pedal power!”

An Author’s Note about how Pedal Power came to be and about the past and future of city biking follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-Amsterdam-today

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Allan Drummond’s city bike-ography is an interesting look at the revolution and evolution of bike-friendly roads in Amsterdam and other large cities. By following the story of Maartje Rutten and how she transformed the mindset of both local drivers and government officials, Drummond allows young readers to see how one person can make lasting changes that benefit all.

Drummond’s colorful and clearly depicted illustrations take children into the heart of Amsterdam—and Amsterdam traffic—to understand the problem and join in the protests. As Maartje and her friends ride through the dark tunnel to face the police, readers will wait in suspense to learn how this peaceful demonstration played out.

Pedal Power would be a great addition to Social Studies units and an engaging read for kids interested in biking, history, and environmental issues.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374305277

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his books, and his art on his website!

Park and Recreation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bicycle-coloring-page-2

Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page

 

Riding a bicycle is a fast, fun way to exercise, do shopping, and spend time with friends. This printable Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page combines them all and then some! Grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers and give it a go!

Picture Book Review

July 4 – Independence Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-night-before-the-fourth-of-July-cover

About the Holiday

On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress voted for Independence from Great Britain. Two days later delegates from the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document penned by Thomas Jefferson asserting the equal rights of all and establishing a democratic government. It went on to name the America’s grievances against Great Britain and to create from the colonies the United States of America. Independence Day was made a federal holiday in 1941. The day is celebrated with official ceremonies, parades, picnics, and fireworks displays.

The Night Before the Fourth of July

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Amy Wummer

 

The Fourth of July is tomorrow, and one family is getting ready! While Dad hangs the American Flag on the front porch, Mom is decorating the fence with red, white, and blue bunting. While they sleep, the brother and sister dream about fireworks. The next day every one dresses up in patriotic stripes and stars to attend the town parade, complete with “marching bands and 4-H club goats.” Even the Mayor joined in the fun, tossing candy to the crowds from a convertible car, while “an Uncle Sam walking on stilts brought up the rear.”

After the parade friends and family came to the house for a barbeque, but as Dad flipped burgers and the table was laid with summer treats, gray clouds threatened overhead. Just as everyone “sat down it started to pour. ‘Grab the food!’ shouted Mom and [they] raced through the door. In hot dogs! In salads! In blueberry pie! In melon and corn! Keep those potato chips dry!”

Everyone piled into the kitchen and continued to munch. But what about the fireworks? They watched out the window at the rain pouring down. A Fourth of July without rockets and sparkle and light just wouldn’t be the same. But there was no need to worry. After the storm burst, the clouds went away and the sky turned blue.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-night-before-the-fourth-of-July-house

Image copyright Amy Wummer, text copyright Natasha Wing. Courtesy of Grosset & Dunlap

As dusk approached they all drove to the park. Dad lit the sparklers and set the glow sticks alight. Soon, “the first firework was launched high into the night. It bloomed like a flower exploding with light.” People oohed and ahhhed, but for some little ears the booms were too loud. Then the band played the national anthem and Dad sang along, even if he was “way out of key.”

As the last notes faded into the air, it was time for the finale – a spectacular display of color and wonder. “When the last firework fizzled like fairy dust in the sky, [they] all cheered and shouted, “Happy Fourth of July!”

Part of Natasha Wing’s “The Night Before” series, this summer holiday book offers young readers all the excitement and fun of the Fourth of July from community events to family picnics to, of course, the fireworks that wrap up this patriotic celebration with flair. While maintaining some of the cadence of its Christmas cousin, The Night Before the Fourth of July is jauntily unique. Young readers will be captivated by the story’s joyous preparations and “Uh-oh! What now?” moment and will enthusiastically look forward to their own family traditions.

Amy Wummer’s engaging illustrations invite kids into a big family Fourth of July celebration with all the red, white, and blue decorations and glitzy fireworks. All young readers’ favorite parts of the holiday are here and warmly depicted as the family raises their flag, enjoys the flavor of summer delights, and joins the rest of the town at the annual fireworks show.

The Night Before the Fourth of July is a great book to keep on the shelf for the holiday itself (it makes a great take along to that wait for the sky to turn dark) and for other family story times.

Ages 3 – 5

Grosset & Dunlop, 2015 | ISBN 978-0448487120

Independence Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fourth-of-july-coloring-page-2017

Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page

 

The fireworks display is one of the best parts of the Fourth of July. You can make this printable Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page as sparkly as the real thing by outlining the bursts with a sprinkling of red, white, and blue glitter! Just grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers plus some glue and glitter and have fun!

Picture Book Review

July 2 – Build a Scarecrow Day

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-cover

About the Holiday

The first Saturday in July is reserved for Build a Scarecrow Day. Today, community members gather together and create scarecrows to ward off birds that would like nothing more than to nibble at ripening crops. Although the celebration is traditionally an American holiday, it is being embraced by other areas of the world, such as Great Britain, which has joined in the fun since 1990.

The Scarecrow’s Hat

By Ken Brown

 

Chicken was quite taken with Scarecrow’s straw hat. In fact, she would have liked it for herself. When she complimented Scarecrow on his hat, he agreed that it was nice, but not as handy as a walking stick for his tired arms. “‘I’d love a walking stick to lean on. I’d swap my hat for a walking stick any day.’” Hmmm, thought chicken, she just happened to know someone who had such a stick.

She went to see her friend Badger who was struggling to prop open his door with a cane. When Chicken complimented Badger on the cane, he agreed, but said he’d really prefer a ribbon to tie his door open. Chicken thought she could help. She found Crow adding a blue ribbon to her nest. Chicken thought the ribbon was very nice, and Crow agreed. But she admitted that she’d rather have some soft wool to line her nest and make it more comfortable. “Now Chicken didn’t have any wool, but she knew someone who did.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-badger

Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Sheep was covered in wool and said she would be more than happy to trade some of it for a pair of glasses. Her eyes were getting old, and Wolf was always lurking. Chicken nodded and went on her way. When Chicken came calling at Owl’s, she couldn’t help but admire his new glasses. Owl agreed with a yawn, but revealed that he’d rather have a blanket to sleep under because the sun kept him awake. “Now Chicken didn’t have a blanket, but she knew someone who did.”

Donkey’s blanket was very handsome, but it couldn’t help Donkey shoo the flies away from her ears. Her tail was just a bit too short to “‘flick them away. But if I had some long feathers tied to the end of it,’” she explained, “‘I could swat them easily.’” Here was something Chicken did have. “Quick as a flash, Chicken pulled out one, two, three of her longest feathers and tied them to Donkey’s tail.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-owl

Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Off came Donkey’s blanket, and quick as a wink Chicken took it to Owl. Owl’s old glasses looked splendid on Sheep, and the fluff of wool made Crow cozy. The blue ribbon held Badger’s door nicely, and finally, Chicken “took the walking stick to Scarecrow. With a grateful sigh of relief, he leaned his tired old arms on the stick and gladly swapped it for his battered old hat.

But what could Chicken want with such a big hat? Filled with “fresh, sweet-smelling straw,” it made a perfect nest; and when Duck came around to compliment it, Chicken agreed and said, “‘And I wouldn’t swap it for anything!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-chicken-gets-hat

Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Ken Brown’s classic story is a fun and gentle mystery that trades on the idea that value is in the eye of the beholder. Clever Chicken is an observant character with plenty of foresight. Young readers will enjoy following her from friend to friend to find exactly what is needed. The repeated phrases invite kids to read along out loud, and the neatly wrapped-up ending will delight them. Brown’s detailed watercolors are masterful depictions of the countryside dappled with sunlight and vibrant with red flowers, golden wheat, and verdant pastures. Children will also enjoy the up-close views of Chicken and her friends.

Ages 4 – 7

Peachtree Publishing, 2011 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1561455706

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

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

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!

Picture Book Review

May 10 – Mother Ocean Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-giant-squid-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 2013 by the South Florida Kayak Fishing Club, Mother Ocean Day honors the beauty and wonder of the oceans and the fascinating creatures that live in them. It’s estimated that nearly one quarter of the earth’s species live in the world’s five oceans. To join in the celebration take a break and visit a beach near you to swim, snorkel, surf, or go boating.

Giant Squid

Written by Candace Fleming | Illustrated by Eric Rohmann

 

“Down, down in the depths of the sunless sea, deep, deep in the cold, cold dark, creatures, strange and fearsome, lurk.” These mysteries of the ocean silently glide undetected, even though some are as “large as buses” and weigh a ton. They are known only from the quickest of glances or by parts washed up on shore. Many questions remain unanswered, but little by little scientists are learning more about the Giant Squid.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-giant-squid-waiting

Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

When a Giant Squid is hungry it reaches its two tentacles into the ocean waters “curling and twisting and thirty feet long, waiting for—a passing fish…another squid…anything swimming by.” When the Giant Squid grabs its prey, the tentacle’s “suckers ringed with saw-like teeth” immobilize it, and with the help of eight arms the meal is fed into the squid’s sharp beak.

The parrot-like beak is just the beginning, for within the giant squid’s mouth lies a muscle “covered with sharp, tiny blades that slice…grind…file the food into a pasty sludge easy for giant squid to digest.” How does the giant squid see prey swimming by? It has the largest eyes on the planet—“some as big as soccer balls.” With these eyes the squid can see the tiniest flashes of light as sea creatures navigate the black depths. The squid’s gigantic eyes protect it, too, from whales or other predators on the hunt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-giant-squid-tentacles

Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

The giant squid is capable of changing colors, even patterns. Why? No one knows. Perhaps it enjoys changing its appearance “to impress a mate.” The birth cycle is also a mystery. Scientists have yet to discover where females lay their eggs or how long they take to hatch. But once they do, the baby squid are little—“just two inches long.” They have to scurry away from the barracuda wanting a snack, but in a flume of ink they vanish!

Before readers even turn to the first page, Candace Fleming sets a chilling, atmospheric tone that sinks them into the depths of the ocean on flat, black pages, where writhing arms and tentacles creep into view threatening the white, lyrical text. As the story opens and begins to describe the tentacles, beak, and other physical attributes of the giant squid, Eric Rohmann’s brilliant illustrations grow in size, giving readers close-up views of the brutal beauty of this eerie sea creature.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-giant-squid-big-eye

Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Working in perfect concert, Fleming and Rohmann take kids on a deep, deep ocean dive to witness firsthand what very few humans have ever seen. Fleming’s gripping rhythm will have children riveted to her thrilling vocabulary that describes the drama of the giant squid’s existence in unforgettable terms. Rohmann’s color palette consists of murky blues and blacks and raw pinks and reds. The squid’s tentacles loop and slither across the page divulging their serrated suckers; the enormous eye stares out questioningly at the reader; and the fearsome beak will make more than a few readers shrink back in awe. A double foldout spread reveals the immensity of the giant squid for a brief glimpse before it disappears back into its mysterious realm.

Following the text, readers can study an illustration of a giant squid that is clearly labeled with detailed descriptions of the various parts of its body, read more about the sea creature, and find resources for further investigations.

For kids fascinated by the ocean and its denizens, budding marine or environmental scientists, or those who love an exhilarating story, Giant Squid is nonfiction at its best. The book deserves prominent placement in public and school libraries and would be a terrific gift or addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1596435995

Discover more about Candace Fleming and her books on her website!

Learn more about Eric Rohmann, his books, and his art on his website!

Mother Ocean Day Activity

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

Beautiful Ocean Coloring Page

 

There are so many varied creatures in the earth’s oceans! Grab your pencils or crayons and make this printable Beautiful Ocean Coloring Page as vibrant as the sea!

Picture Book Review