September 10 – Grandparents Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feathers-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the grandparents in a child’s life. A close relationship between children and grandparents can benefit kids in so many ways. When children spend time with grandparents they can discover family history, learn new hobbies, and always feel the unconditional love a grandparent has to give. Children also learn compassion and a long view of the world that inspires empathy and kindness for others – as the girl in today’s book shows. 

Lotus & Feather

Written by Ji-li Jiang | Illustrated by Julie Downing

 

Lotus was lonely since her winter illness had left her without a voice. The children at school “treated her like a strange creature,” and she was left without playmates or someone to keep her company on the walk home. She lived with her grandfather who made reed baskets and found solace when he took her to ride in his boat on the nearby lake. As he poled the boat through the still water, Lotus’ grandfather sadly pointed out how the lake had changed. No longer did the lotus flowers, fish, birds, or animals thrive. Instead, the landscape had “‘been ruined by greedy fishermen and hunters, and by ignorant people who took over the land where animals once lived.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feather-lotus-meets-feathers

Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

One morning while Lotus was out collecting reeds for her grandfather she spied a rare crane. It’s wide white “wings were edged with black feathers, like lace on a dress”…and “its head was crowned with a red top like a dazzling ruby.” As she watched a gunshot rang out. Unable to alert the hunter by shouting, Lotus banged on her bucket, frightening him away. Lotus rushed toward the wounded bird, picked it up and carefully brought it home to Grandpa.

Grandpa tended to the crane’s injury and fed him rice soup while Lotus stroked the soft head. For two days, Lotus hardly slept as she took care of the crane. On the third day she fell asleep next to the crane, waking when he stirred and nestled her cheek. “Lotus’s heart pounded, and tears sprang to her eyes.” Lotus named the crane Feather. As it grew stronger she gathered food for it, and on the day Feather took his first steps, “Lotus jumped and swirled and hugged Grandpa blissfully.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feather-lotus-comforts-feather

Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Soon Feather was following Lotus everywhere—even to school. After class Lotus would blow her whistle and Feather would come running and dance as Lotus played. The other children joined in, dancing and playing along every day. One night Lotus heard Feather crowing and woke to find that the village was flooded. Poling his boat through the streets, Grandpa shouted, Lotus banged her pail, and Feather crowed to alert the neighbors. “Over three hundred villagers were saved. Feather was the hero.” He became famous, and people wanted to hear his story again and again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feather-lotus-dancing

Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

When Spring arrived Feather was still too weak to fly but he looked longingly at the birds migrating north. Lotus was frightened that her friend might want to leave them, but she “knew she would never separate him from his home and family.” One day Feather spread his wings and leaped into the air. Lotus realized that he had healed and knew it was time for him to leave. Grandpa and Lotus took Feather to the lake. Grandpa tossed Feather into the air, but he returned again and again. Grandpa gave Feather to Lotus. Lotus hugged Feather one more time and threw him into the sky.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feather-lotus-lets-feather-go

Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Holding back tears, Lotus watched as “Feather flapped his big wings and soared north, disappearing into the horizon.” Lotus and the other children missed Feather. They gathered together listening to Lotus play her whistle, imagining that Feather could hear them. One autumn morning, Lotus heard a familiar crow and rushed outside. There stood Feather with his family. Then Lotus gasped. The sky was filled with hundreds of cranes coming to the lake. Lotus blew her whistle, and the notes, “accompanied by the birds’ singing, echoed far, far away in the golden sky.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feather-lotus-waves-goodbye

Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Ji-li-Jiang’s tender story resonates on every page with love and friendship. The relationship revealed in Jiang’s tale exists not only between Lotus and Feather, but between readers and their environment. Beautifully interwoven throughout the plot, the idea of responsibility between friends, to the earth, and to ourselves makes Lotus & Feather a compelling book to read and discuss. Through lyrical passages and detailed storytelling, Jiang develops a deep, emotional bond between Lotus and Feather that readers will respond to. The heartwarming connection between Lotus and her grandfather brings comforting and another level of family commitment to the story.

Julie Downing’s stunning illustrations allow readers to walk, sit, worry, and cheer with Lotus as she finds and cares for Feather. Her sadness is palpable as she walks home from school past a group of classmates playing ball; in the corner of the dark lake, children will find bottles, cans, and other debris floating among the reeds; and Feather makes his debut with a graceful ballet. Readers will love watching the progression of Feather’s healing and Lotus’ reintegration into her circle of friends and will applaud when Feather and his family and friends return to the lake.

Lotus & Feather is a multi-layered story that will captivate readers. It is a must for public and school libraries and would make a beautiful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 5 – 9

Disney Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1423127543

Discover more about Ji-li Jiang and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork as well as other books by Julie Downing on her website!

Grandparents Day Activity

 

I Love Grandma and Grandpa!

 

Grandparents are the best! On this special day, tell your grandparents what you love most about them and why with this printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages!

Picture Book Review

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

April 22 – Earth Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-wild-cover

About the Holiday

While we should be mindful of our impact on the earth every day, today’s holiday puts a focus on how we can conserve and protect the beauty and resources of our planet. Now more than ever, it’s up to us to do what we can on a personal level to make sure the environment is clean, healthy, and sustainable for the future. If you’d like to learn how you can make a difference or get involved with your global community, here’s a good place to start!

Finding Wild

Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd | Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

 

A girl and a boy stand with their backs to the stairs leading down to the subway contemplating the jungle of growth in front of them. A single floating leaf seems to lead the way. They follow along the path, leaving the city behind and enter the wild. Here “Wild is tiny and fragile and sweet-baby new. It pushes through cracks and crannies and steals back forgotten places.” Wild comes in many guises—some obvious, some not.

Wild also moves in various ways. As the boy and girl continue on the path passing a spider’s web and shadowy shapes with glowing eyes, wild “creeps and crawls and slithers. It leaps and pounces and shows its teeth.” Everywhere the pair ventures, wild has a distinct smell—fresh or musty, sharp or sweet, tangy or acrid. They discover wild can be as hot as a forest fire or as cold as an icicle. Running through a field of flowers and climbing a rocky cliff, the two find that wild is “as smooth as the petals of poppies, and as rough as the fierce face of a mountain.” They also find that wild can hurt in so many ways.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-wild-creepy

Image copyright Abigail Halpin, text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd. Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Plunging deeper into the wild the boy and girl uncover more secrets—delicious and quenching. The sounds of wild chill and soothe them. Suddenly, though, the girl and the boy find themselves outside of the wild, back in front of a subway entrance. The wild, now seems far away, invisible and unknown, as if “the whole world is clean and paved, ordered and tidy.” As the pair gaze upward, the tall buildings and skyscrapers block the sky. But the girl points to a leaf swirling through the air. They follow it through an open door that leads to a most surprising discovery.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-wild-water

Image copyright Abigail Halpin,  text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd, Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Megan Wagner Lloyd entreats readers to rediscover the wild no matter where they live. Her lyrical descriptions of the splendor of nature in all its incarnations—from gentle to intense, quiet to loud, mysterious to open—delightfully capture the way children interact with the environment. Lloyd reminds readers that tasting a single juicy blackberry, thrilling to a coyote’s howl on a dark night, even feeling the prick of a cactus needle connect them to the greater world and that searching for and finding the wild—especially in the midst of an “ordered and tidy” world—brings peace and happiness.

Abigail Halpin’s lush illustrations of the wild environment gorgeously depict the vibrant colors, sometimes chilling shadows, and refreshing water the two children discover in the middle of their city. The thick vegetation rendered in a palette of greens is a riot of ferns, pines, flowering trees, and vines that hide small birds and animals. As the children huddle in a tent, the indigo night crackles with lightning and the songs of coyotes. A two-page scrapbook-type spread displays various plants and insects that sting, burn, or cause itching. When the boy and girl reenter the city, buildings—old and new—billboards, and traffic meet their eyes, but they keep their gaze on the leaf leading them on. That leaf invites readers, also, to get outside and explore the wild.

Ages 3 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101932810

Discover more about Megan Wagner Lloyd, the world of Finding Wild, and news on her upcoming book on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Abigail Halpin on her website!

Earth Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-earth-day-coloring-page

Love the Earth Coloring Page

 

Earth Day is all about loving the Earth and treating her well. Have fun with this printable Love the Earth Coloring Page and think of one thing you can do to make a difference!

Picture Book Review

 

April 7 – International Beaver Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-skydiving-beavers-cover

About the Holiday

Two species of today’s honored animal are found across America, Canada, and Eurasia. Known primarily for building dams in rivers and streams, the beaver is a fascinating animal in many ways. Perhaps one of the greatest natural conservationists, beavers use all parts of the trees they fell. The buds, bark, and leaves are consumed as food, and the rest is gnawed into smaller bits to be used as building materials. The dams, themselves, are helpful in preventing droughts and floods, restoring wetlands, and keeping the water clean. The beaver population has seen a decline for several decades, and today’s holiday aims to promote awareness of this beneficial animal in order to protect it.

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

 

The time was post-World War II and families were eager to build homes and enjoy life again. In McCall, Idaho this meant that people moved to the shore of the beautiful lake, where they could fish, sail, waterski, and have fun. So roads were constructed, docks built, and land cleared. “Trouble was, that lakeside land had already been claimed. For decades—centuries, even—beavers had been the only ones doing the building there.”

Now, though, there was a turf war, of sorts. “Where the beavers once gathered wood for dams and food, now there were houses and people. And where the people tried to drive their cars, now water flooded the roads because of the dams.” Trees were also being “toppled left and right” by those busy beavers. Something needed to be done.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-skydiving-beavers-a-true-tale-water-skiing

Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

Elmo Heter had an idea. Elmo had experience with beavers from his job with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He knew that beavers needed open areas with lots of trees, rivers, and creeks—and no people. There was a place just like this many miles away. The Chamberlain Basin would be perfect for the beavers, but there was a problem—how could he move all those beavers “to a place with no roads, no railway, no airport, and no bus station?”

Elmo thought about loading them into boxes carried by horses or mules, but the rough trip would be too hard on both the beavers and the pack animals. Then Elmo remembered that there were piles of parachutes left over from the war going unused. “What if he dropped the beavers from a plane? Skydiving beavers? Well, why not?” Elmo decided.

Elmo went to work to design a crate that could hold the beavers safely. His first idea was to build a box of woven willow branches. Once the boxes hit the ground, the beavers could gnaw their way out. But then Elmo feared that those champion chewers might escape before the box touched down. Next, he came up with the idea for a box that opened automatically when it hit the ground. After he created his box, Elmo found a beaver to test it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-skydiving-beavers-a-true-tale-sunset

Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

He found his daredevil and named him Geronimo. Geronimo, cozy in his box, was loaded onto a plane, and as the plane flew low over the test field the box was dropped. “The chute bloomed like a buttercup, then caught the breeze….The box fell as gently as a mountain snowflake, landing softly on the grass.” Just as it was designed to do, the box opened and Geronimo scrambled out.

Elmo wanted to make sure his invention would work every time, so he tested it again and again.  All this flying and skydiving seemed to agree with Geronimo. He soon began to treat it like a game, shuffling out of the box when the door opened and then crawling “right back in for another go.” Now that Elmo knew the plan would work, he gathered the beavers from McCall, put them in their special traveling crates, and headed for the Chamberlain Basin.

When they found the perfect spot, Elmo and his team prepared the chutes and let the beavers go. One by one the parachutes opened, and the beavers “wafted like falling leaves on the autumn wind to their new woodsy patch of paradise.” And who was the first pioneer? Why Geronimo, of course!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-skydiving-beavers-a-true-tale-plans

Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about this true story. It also discusses what scientists have since learned about the benefits of beavers to the environment and how communities now work with and around them. A list of interesting facts about beavers is also included.

Susan Wood’s story of a little-known event is a thought-provoking glimpse into early conservation efforts. Her conversational tone and lyrical phrasing enhance the tale, lending it suspense and personality that will draw readers in. Wood’s detailed descriptions allow children to understand the problems for the community as well as the concern for the animals that led to this historical event. 

Gorgeous paintings by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen uncover the beauty of Idaho’s backcountry with its sparkling lakes and tree-covered mountains. Glorious sunsets fill the two-page spreads, turning the rolling hills pink and gold as beavers scurry near the shore building their dams. Readers will be intrigued by the clear and close-up views of Elmo Heter as he works on his plans to relocate the beavers. A table strewn with publications and photographs from World War II, set children in the time period, and his schematics of the box he designs as well as his workshop are plainly displayed. Kids can ride along with Geronimo as he climbs into his crate, travels by plane over wide-open vistas, and floats into the Chamberlain Basin at the end of a parachute.

The Skydiving Beavers would be a fresh addition to classroom environmental units to spur discussions on past, present, and future conservation science and will delight young readers interested in the natural sciences.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369942

Learn more about Susan Wood and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen on his website!

International Beaver Day Activity

CPB - Beaver craft picture (2)

Make a Spool Beaver

 

Do you have a gnawing need to have a beaver of your own? Make one with this Spool Beaver craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 6-inch long x ¾ inch wide craft stick
  • Small piece of foam board
  • Brown “chunky” yarn
  • Brown felt, small piece for ears and tail
  • Black felt, small piece for nose
  • Acorn top for hat (optional)
  • Brown craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Black marker
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

CPB - Beaver craft picture with tail

Directions

  1. Print the Ears and Nose template
  2. Paint the spool with the brown paint, let dry
  3. Cut the ears from the brown felt
  4. Cut the nose from the black felt
  5. Cut a piece from the end of the craft stick
  6. Paint the craft stick brown or black, let dry
  7. Cut two small pieces from the foam board, ½-inch long x 3/8 inch wide
  8. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, leaving the ears sticking up over the rim of the spool
  9. Glue one end of the yarn to the spool
  10. Holding the spool horizontally, wind the rest of the yarn around the spool back and forth from front to back. Glue the end to the body of yarn. This will be the bottom of the beaver.
  11. Glue the nose over the hole in the spool
  12. Glue the teeth below the nose
  13. Glue the flat edge of the craft stick to the back of the spool to make the tail

Picture Book Review