April 22 – Earth Day and National Poetry Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-cover

About the Holidays

Earth Day

Earth Day was created in 1970 by a US Senator, Gaylord Nelson. Nelson created the day because he was worried about how humans were harming the environment through their actions. Heard of this holiday before? We certainly hope so! In 1990, environmental leaders mobilized to make the holiday go global. And now, according to earthday.org, 1 BILLION people mobilize on Earth Day every year, to help save and celebrate our beloved planet. You can watch an educational animated video on Gaylord Nelson here. Learn more about Earth Day and how you can make a difference all year around at Earthday.org.

National Poetry Month

2021 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Poetry Month. The holiday was launched by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate writers, poets, poetry lovers and the positive impact poetry has on our culture, literacy and lives. Check out the 2021 National Poetry Month Poster here. You can learn more about National Poetry Month at Poets.org.

Today’s book celebrates both of these holidays with a collection of ocean poems for children. Not a huge lover of poetry? Perhaps the following collection will sway you like an ocean tide. Crafted by The Writers’ Loft Authors and Illustrators, Friends and Anemones is truly as dazzling as a sea-floor pearl.

Thanks to The Writers’ Loft for sending me a copy of Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children

By The Writers’ Loft Authors & Illustrators

 

Dive headfirst into poetry month by exploring “the very, very, bottom of the deep blue sea. With: Salty snails and tuna tails. Bottle caps and lobster traps. Popped balloons, Plastic spoons…” and everything in between! (The Bottom of the Ocean by Kristen Wixted.) In honor of Earth Day AND National Poetry month, Celebrate Picture Books presents a book that deserves to be celebrated twice over: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Seventy New England authors and illustrators joined ship with the Rozalia Project to create a treasure-worthy collection of ocean-themed poems and illustrations.

As described in the title page, “Rozalia Project works to conserve a healthy and thriving marine ecosystem—the plants and animals need our help to keep human debris out of their homes.” Through this partnered anthology, children will learn about subject matter ranging from unique sea creatures and beach dwellers – like cuttlefish, vampire squids, red knots, and rainbow lobsters – to the habits of more well-known ocean dwellers, like whales taking off debris, sharks getting their teeth cleaned, and sea turtles hatching eggs.

They’ll also find poems about human additions to the ocean scene in odes to lighthouses, ships’ remnants, sea litter, and more. Each poem contains deep knowledge to share with readers about poetry, the ocean, and marine life. Little pieces of advice float in between hysterical ocean puns. This perfect concoction of sea-worthy information is also backed by all types of fin-tastic and crabulous art.

Some of the poems are sure to make you laugh out loud. Deep-Sea Jellyfish by Cindy Cornwall opens with: “Jelly of the sea, not jam for your toast. It’s deep in the water, a silky scarf ghost.” Seal of disApproval by Lynda Mullay Hunt fills a whole page with the rhyming, pun-y story of a seal who becomes a dentist and stands up to sharks.

Other poems are less humorous and more pensive; the last of the series, Sea Serenity by Luke Hargraver, holds an existential truth for readers to swim through: “The world is like water / Easily disturbed by ripples / But when still, / Beautiful.” Under a short and sweet poem called Minnow, by Brook Gideon, a message to ocean explorers reads: “It’s very important to release everything you catch back into the ocean right away!”

Each spread is distinctly created in the individual poets’ and artists’ styles. Yet, the whole compilation works together in perfect, charming harmony. Some poems mirror each other in content. Horseshoe Crabulous by Doreen Buchinski is followed by Red Knots by Jane Sutton, in which: “In the sand their goal is chiefly / To dart—and swerve —on twiggy legs / In mad search for horseshoe eggs.” The two beautifully crafted poems are followed by a third gem, Mollusk Mansions by Charlotte Sheer, and accompanied with an illustration featuring horseshoe crabs, red knots, and mollusk shells—all painted by Doreen Buchinski herself!

Children will explore the deep cerulean sea through a range of sincere rhyming couplets, honest haikus, positively silly prose, magical motifs, and everything in between. All poems and artwork share with readers a deep admiration for under the sea creatures, while spreading ocean knowledge, and a love for poetry and beauty.

The watercolors, collages, and digital art pieces mesh beautifully while each achieving a distinctly artistic picturesque scene. Some illustrations run horizontally across the spread to create poster-like, masterful images. On page 23 illustrator Julia Young Cuffe paints a long, horizontal lighthouse against a watery dark blue sky, littered with stars. A person stands at the top, waving a piece of cloth, illuminated by the lighthouse light. The poem, Boston Light by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, is artfully placed running vertically down the lighthouse.

Others run across the two-page spreads to create one image that ties together the poems featured on the separate pages into a collective unit. An example of this can be seen in Marlo Garnsworthy’s opening spread of deep ocean waves intermingling with whales, and Amanda Davis’s DEEP deep sea spread that features spookily realistic vampire squids, angler fish, and sea plumes. Each piece stands out as thoughtfully crafted to instill in readers a sense of awe for the beauty of marine life and ocean ecology.

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children would make a wonderful addition to classroom science and language arts lessons as well as a fun collection to share at home, especially in conjunction with trips to the beach or aquariums. 

The Writers’ Loft is a community based in Sherborn, Massachusetts which helps local writers foster their creativity, strengthen their spirit, and grow professionally by providing them with quiet writing space, educational programs, opportunities to connect with supportive colleagues, and access to industry experts, as well as opportunities to give back to the greater writing community. To learn more about The Writers’ Loft, visit their website.

The Rozalia Project runs educational programs, ocean cleaning initiatives and research projects focused on how to aid ocean clean-up and maintain sustainability of ocean and shoreline ecosystems. The Rozalia Project, along with the “Writer-and-Artist-Ocean-Protectors from the Writers Loft” hopes to use this book to “foster an appreciation of the importance, beauty, and wonder of the ocean in the change-makers of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Rozalia Project, or get involved with them on this Earth Day, check out their website. You can also watch this video on their Expedition CLEAN.

Earth Day and National Poetry Month Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-coloring-page  celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-coloring-page

Color pages from Friends & Anemones in your OWN style with these black and white versions of the illustrations. You can find 18 more pages to print or download to your iPad to color on The Writers’ Loft website.

Manatee and Mermaid Coloring Page | Kids on the Beach Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-under-the-sea-word-search

Find ten ocean critters’ names in this printable sea-star shaped word search.

Under the Sea Word Search Puzzle | Under the Sea Word Search Solution

Explore some poems specifically written for younger readers at Poets.org and write your own poetry if you feel inspired.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-and-anemones-cover

To support The Writers’ Loft, you can order Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children from their website.

You can find Friends & Anemones at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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

 

May 29 – Learn about Composting Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-compost-stew

About the Holiday

Composting is a wonderful way to use organic waste to help the environment. Whether you keep a small composting container in your kitchen, set aside a pile in the corner of your yard, or invest in a compost tumbler, letting non-meat or dairy kitchen scraps, outdoor vegetation cuttings, and even hair or dryer lint decompose into nourishing soil additives will make your garden grow bigger and better!

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

 

“Environmental chefs, / here’s a recipe for you / to fix from scratch / to mix a batch / of Compost Stew.” This clever alphabet book reveals the ABCs of gathering the perfect ingredients for a compost pile, which creates a nutritious meal for gardens, flower beds, and the environment:

“Apple cores / Bananas, bruised / Coffee grounds with filters, used / Dirt clods, crumbled / Eggshells, crushed / Fruit pulp left behind, all mushed / Grass clippings / Hair snippings / and an Insect or two / Just add to the pot / and let it all rot / into Compost Stew.”

The catchy rhymes and easy-to-follow directions will make kids excited about saving left-overs, raking up fallen leaves, and shredding paper to add to the pile. Readers may also be surprised by some of the other items that will decompose to make rich soil, such as seaweed, laundry lint, and teabags. Three simple steps for cooking up compost stew follow the alphabet, and create a refrain that kids will love to repeat.

Mary McKenna Siddals brings the science of composting and recycling to kids in a fun, interactive way. Children may even like to think of their own ingredients for each letter of the alphabet. The author’s note at the end of the book reveals substitute ingredients as well as items that are not appropriate or safe for composting.

Ashley Wolff’s brilliant, textured collage artwork depicts four multicultural kids (along with their helpful Dalmatian and goose) gathering the ingredients for their compost bag wherever they are—in the yard, in the kitchen, at the hair salon, at the beach, and more.

Kids interested in gardening and environmental issues will love to have Compost Stew on their bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385755382

Learn about Composting Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-composting-word-search

Creative Composting Word Search

 

Composting takes individual ingredients and combines them to create nourishing soil. Can you find the words that relate to this environmental science in this printable Creative Composting Word Search? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

picture-book-review-green-city-allan-drummond

About the Holiday

In 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated to bring awareness to environmental issues and begin a dialogue about how governments, corporations, communities, and individuals could create change that would benefit the Earth and all her inhabitants. Forty-six years later, we are working toward solutions to problems like pollution, climate change, renewable energy, and more. Today look around your home, office, school, or community and see how you can better support our Mother Earth.

Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future

By Allan Drummond

 

On May 4, 2007 a devastating tornado hits Greensburg, Kansas, destroying the town in 9 minutes. When the residents of the town climb from their shelters, they emerge into a world completely changed. There are no more homes, no school, no hospital, no grocery store or other shops. No banks, theater, churches, or water tower. Even the trees have been shredded. Only three buildings remain.

The citizens are urged to move away. Rebuilding will be impossible, some say, and what’s the point anyway when the wind could destroy it all again? But others see opportunity to construct a different kind of town. With the help of volunteers and donations from around the world, Greensburg begins the Herculean task of designing and building a new town.

After clearing away 388,000 tons of debris and moving into a community of trailer homes, the people begin to envision a unique, green town. Individuals design sustainable houses of different shapes and materials to work with the environment. Businesses, too, incorporate sustainability into their offices, retail centers, and hotels as do the hospital and the water tower. A wind farm large enough to provide energy for the entire town is built on the edge of this innovative city.

A new school is central to the town’s survival, and for three years the teachers hold class in small trailers. Along with their regular studies, the kids become experts in environmental science. After several years Greenburg is now thriving—a testament to conservation and sustainability that is an example for global communities now and in the future.

Allan Drummond tells this fascinating story of a community that would not give up in an honest and sensitive way that highlights the courage and pride of a town amid devastating loss. Told from a child’s point of view, the story has extra impact for readers who are growing up amid an era of environmental awareness and activism. The sustainable construction of homes and other buildings is effectively explained and clearly depicted in Drummond’s colorful illustrations.

The images also demonstrate the process of negotiation and cooperation among townspeople that went into designing and building a new Greensburg. The final two-page spread of the town’s layout will interest kids as well as adults who have followed this story in the news.

Ages 5 – 9

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016 | ISBN 978-0374379995

Earth Day Activity

celebrate-picture-book-review-caterpillar-planter-craft

Hatch a Caterpillar Planter

 

As spring days grow warmer, it’s fun to start growing your own garden. Propagating plants from seed on a windowsill or sun room gives you an up-close view as the seeds develop roots, sprout, and flourish!

Supplies

  • Egg carton made from recycled paper
  • Seeds for your favorite veggies or flowers
  • Potting soil
  • Spoon or small shovel
  • Craft paint or markers in the colors you’d like for your caterpillar
  • Pipe cleaners or wire
  • Googly eyes
  • Marker

Directions

  1. Carefully cut the egg carton into two rows lengthwise, you may need to trim the cardboard between cups
  2. If the cups have low openings on one side, place the second row of cups inside the first facing the opposite way.
  3. Paint or color the carton, let dry
  4. Push pipe cleaners or wire through the edge of the egg carton on one end to form antennae (I used wrapped wire and painted it)
  5. Attach googly eyes and draw a smile on the front of the carton
  6. Fill cups with soil
  7. Plant seeds according to package directions
  8. Place caterpillar planter in a sunny spot

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Find a Rainbow Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-cover

About the Holiday

It’s not often someone wishes you a rainy day. Today, though, I’m doing just that because you can’t see a rainbow without a little of the wet stuff. This early spring month was chosen for this special day because, as we all know, April showers bring May flowers. Those same April showers lead to beautiful rainbows—even double rainbows sometimes! So, I hope you have a bad (weather) day and good luck finding a rainbow today! By the way—what do May flowers bring? Right! Pilgrims!

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids, and his granddaughter and two grandsons are excited to be visiting where they can play outside all day. Through the window the kids see that it’s a rainy day. Does this mean they’ll have to stay inside? Their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-picking-vegetables

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Out to the garden they run in their raincoats and hats. “Splish, splash, / puddle dash, / We bounce right out the door. / We’re off to find some red and green, / some yellow, orange, and more. / Grandpa shows us how to move / Between each garden row. / Lifting up the drippy leaves, /  we see what colors grow.” They collect green spinach, kale, and zucchini; yellow peppers, purple cabbage and eggplant, red radishes and tomatoes; brown potatoes; and orange carrots. After some muddy fun among the plants, the kids go inside, get dried off, and begin to prepare their colorful stew.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-in-the-garden

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Peel, slice / chop and dice, / colors fill the pot. / Stir in herbs and water / and then wait till it gets hot.” While the pot simmers on the stove, Grandpa and the kids snuggle on the couch with favorite books, reading together until the stew has simmered to perfection. The family then sits down to a homemade, colorful, delicious lunch of Rainbow Stew. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-cooking-together

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables in his stew, which could be made into a matching game for extra fun. The rhyming verses—each begun with an energetic couplet that would be fun for kids to repeat or act out—draw listeners into the story. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store.

Children will identify with the disappointment of the three siblings when they learn it’s too wet to spend the day outside as well as their glee at squishing in the mud. The close bond between the kids and their grandfather as they cook and read together is a strong anchor for this story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-reading-together

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Combined with the craft below, the book and recipe could make for a fun rainy-day get-together!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1643790572 (Paperback, 2019)

National Find a Rainbow Day Activity

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 3

Crayon Rainbow Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 2

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 1 (2)

Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. Glue the crayons with their tips facing down to the board with the hot glue gun
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the poster board shape onto the corrugated cardboard, let dry
  8. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons
  9. Set up a space to melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  10. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  11. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  12. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter
  13. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  14. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  15. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  16. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  17. Hang or display your art!