June 21 – World Giraffe Day & Interview with Author Monica Bond, Illustrator Kayla Harren, and Educator David Brown

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, celebrates the animal with the longest neck on the longest day or night of the year, depending on which hemisphere you live in. The purpose of World Giraffe Day is to honor these majestic animals while also promote awareness of the dangers and threats they face. Events supporting these gentle giants are held around the world at zoos and conservation organizations as well as by governments, institutions, and companies involved in education about and protection of the giraffe. To celebrate today, learn more about these animals, visit a zoo or wildlife refuge, or consider donating to the cause of giraffe conservation. To learn more visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation website.

Juma the Giraffe

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Juma, a baby giraffe, loved to play with his friends Upendo and Rafiki on the African safari while their mothers watched. “Upendo likes to explore new places” while “Rafiki jokes and makes everyone laugh with his silly faces. Juma is kind and generous.” With his long neck, he’s able to reach the sweet acacia leaves to share with the dik-diks. One day, though, while the giraffes were at the water hole, Juma caught a glimpse of his reflection.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Looking at himself alongside all the other giraffes, he realized that they all looked the same. “And because they all looked alike, he felt he wasn’t special.” His mama noticed Juma standing alone and sad and asked him what was wrong. He told her that he wished he “looked different from everyone else.”

Juma’s mama gazed at her child lovingly and told him how special giraffes are. “‘There is no other animal in the whole world like us,’” she said. Then she gently reminded him how his long legs and neck help him get food, how his thick tongue and lips protect him from the thorns of the acacia trees, and how his “‘swishy tail sweep away the pesky flies that like to bite us.’” Their brown spots camouflaged them from lions and hyenas.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Then Mama asked Juma to look closely at his spots and notice that “‘each spot is different from the others and every giraffe has a unique pattern of spots.’” Juma saw that Mama was right. He saw one spot “shaped like a star and another like a flower.” Mama’s spots were different too, and so were Upendo’s and Rafiki’s. Mama reassured Juma that each giraffe was unique outside and inside.

Juma was happy and continued to notice other ways that each giraffe was different, including their various personalities. Then Mama nuzzled her little one and told him that to her he was the “‘most special giraffe of all’” because he was her baby and she loved him.

Fascinating facts about the anatomy of giraffes, newborn giraffes, and where giraffes live follow the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Young readers who are at that stage where they wonder about how they are different from other kids and how they fit into their community will find loving reassurance in Monica Bond’s touching story even as they learn about a giraffe’s distinctive features. The sweet relationship between Juma and Mama, depicted through tender dialogue, will charm little ones. A welcome exchange comes when Mama points out Juma’s unique features and the little giraffe enthusiastically adds more observations of his own. Just as Juma does, young readers will see that they too are special in their own way.

As readers open the cover, Kayla Harren’s stunning panoramic view of the verdant African savanna places them close to zebras, an ostrich, a greater kudu, a grey crowned crane, a stalwart warthog, a family of mongoose, and a herd of elephants. Smiling out from the page is little Juma. As the story progresses, Mama spotlights each of Juma’s attributes, and readers see how he uses them. A shimmering two-page spread of the giraffes lined up at the watering hole and the close-up on the next page will awe kids and adults. Images of smaller animals hiding in rock crevices and big cats and monkeys resting on tree limbs will entice readers to learn more about these creatures. As Mama nuzzles Juma on the book’s final page, adults and little ones are sure to find time to cuddle too.

A sweet story that gives parents, teachers, and other caregivers a way to show the children in their life how special they are, Juma the Giraffe would be an often-asked for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2016 | ISBN 978-0989818292

Learn more about Juma the Giraffe and find videos and teachers resources here.

You can connect with Kayla Harren on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram

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Helping Brother Rhinoceros

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Brother Rhinoceros and his friend Father Oxpecker went to the waterhole to cool off on a blazing hot day. When they got there, they saw “that most of the water had dried up, leaving a big patch of gooey, sticky mud.” But Brother Rhinoceros lied down in the cool mud anyway and pronounced it “‘Perfect!’” Then Father Oxpecker nestled in behind Brother Rhinoceros’s ear, folded his wings, and the two drifted off to sleep.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros woke up hungry, but when he tried to leave the waterhole, he discovered that he was stuck in the mud. Father Oxpecker flew off to find help. First he brought back Sister Vervet Monkey, who was good at tying. “She ran around the mud patch looking for something to tie together that might help Brother Rhinoceros. But there was nothing.”

Next, Father Oxpecker brought Grandfather Giraffe, who thought his height could help, but he didn’t know exactly how. So, the bird flew off again in search of someone else. This time he came back with Grandmother Spider, who “produced a delicate thread of beautiful silk from her abdomen. It fluttered in the breeze, of no help whatsoever to Brother Rhinoceros.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Father Oxpecker left once again and returned with Mother Elephant. Although she was big and strong, she could only watch from the sidelines. Last, Father Oxpecker found Brother Weaverbird, who declared that he could “weave anything” if only there was something to weave. All of the animals sat nearby wondering what they could do. “They were all so proud of the things they could do, but none of them could help Brother Rhinoceros out of the mud.”

It was Grandmother Spider who suggested that they combine their talents and work as a team. She began by “spinning long streams of silk.” Brother Weaverbird braided “the silk into a long, strong rope.” Sister Vervet Monkey tied the rope around Brother Rhinoceros, using Grandfather Giraffe’s long neck as a bridge to reach him. Then it was Mother Elephant’s turn. She grabbed the rope, “took a deep breath and began to pull.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros helped push. “Finally, with a big squishy sound, Brother Rhinoceros lifted his body up out of the mud.” He was free! His friends cheered. Brother Rhinoceros thanked each one individually for their special skills that helped to save him. “They certainly made a great team and the best friends a muddy rhinoceros could ever have.”

Back matter reveals facts about Africa’s black and white rhinoceros. A map of Africa shows the historical range and the much smaller current range for each type of rhino.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

With the lyricism of a fable, Monica Bond weaves a story about individuality and teamwork and how every person has the ability to help others. As Father Oxpecker flies off again and again searching for just the right animal to help, readers will enjoy the suspense and learning each animal’s special ability. When Grandmother Spider suggests they all work together, kids will see that by combining their talents with friends and classmates, they can move mountains. The format of the story makes it a multi-layered choice for teaching the elements of a story, prediction, and comprehension.

Kayla Harren’s sun-drenched pages are bathed not only in the heat of a hot African day but in the warmth of friendship these animals share. Harren’s beautifully textured and realistic depictions of the animals and the surrounding savanna will inspire awe and an enthusiastic desire in kids to learn more about the animals, insects, and birds in the story.

A perfect book for social studies, science, and reading classes and for kids who love nature and animals, Helping Brother Rhinoceros makes an excellent choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Wild Nature Institute, 2018 | ISBN 978-1732323414

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Our Elephant Neighbors

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Robert and his little sister Mary live on their family’s small farm in Tanzania. There are cattle and goats, which Robert helps watch while Mary helps her mother wash clothes and cook. Sometimes they went to the waterhole to get water. “They splash each other with cool water on hot days.” One day, when it was very hot, they saw something amazing at the waterhole. A family of elephants was enjoying the cool water too. “Robert and Mary climbed up a nearby tree to watch and wait for the elephants to leave.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Soon, two elephants came to stand in the shade of the tree, right under the branch where the two children sat. “The elephants looked up and saw Robert and Mary.” They had been taught to fear people. Nervous, they backed up a few steps. Robert and Mary had been taught to fear elephants, and Mary hid behind her brother. The bigger elephant, Tomas, introduced himself and his little sister, Teresa. Robert introduced himself and Mary.

“Robert looked thoughtfully at the elephants below. ‘You are an elephant, and elephants can hurt people,’ Robert pointed out.” Tomas replied, “‘Well, you are a human, and humans can hurt elephants too.’” Even though Mary knew she should be afraid, she liked the elephants. She reached down and touched Teresa’s upturned trunk. Mary said that she could pick things up with her fingers, and Teresa showed her how she could pick things up with her trunk.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

The elephants and the children talked back and forth about all of their similarities. They were even the same ages. They talked about how all the aunties help out when a baby person and a baby elephant are born, how the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts in both human and elephant families teach the children important lessons and protect them, and how all the members of a both families feel sad when another member dies.

When they talked about the food they liked, Robert said that his “‘father gets angry when elephants eat” the vegetables in their garden.’ Then Tomas told Robert and Mary a secret.” He said that “all elephants hate chili pepper powder” and if they hung chili pepper powder on their fences, it would keep the elephants away. One reason elephants were eating from people’s gardens, Tomas said, was because their habitat was getting smaller as people planted more and more farms. Also “more and more of their family members are being hurt by people, because the elephants have fewer places to go.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Robert promised Tomas that when he grew up and had a farm of his own, he would build it where it would not disturb the elephants. He also promised to report anyone who tried to hurt the elephants. Soon it was time for Robert and Mary to get back home with the water, and Tomas and Teresa heard their mother calling for them. “They shook hands and trunks” and hoped they would see each other again. They knew “they would never forget their new friends from the waterhole.”

Interesting facts about African elephants follows the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Through Monica Bond’s charming story of a sister-brother pair and their elephant counterparts, young readers learn surprising ways in which they and elephants are alike. With similar abilities, family units, and even feelings, people and elephants should be friends, but too often they come into conflict, and the result has been a decrease in the elephant population and at times danger for humans as well. As the adorable Robert and Mary talk with Tomas and Teresa, Bond’s enchanting storytelling and realistic dialogue, draw in children, giving them even more reasons to love these popular animals. A major take-away is how people can protect and care for these gentle and intelligent animals and their habitats now and in the future.

Against gorgeous backdrops of Tanzania and its savanna, forests, and mountains, Kayla Harren depicts one family’s simple farm and a family of elephants enjoying a day at the nearby waterhole. At nine and five years old, Robert and Mary will steal readers’ hearts with their infectious smiles, sweet sibling relationship, and enthusiastic interactions with elephants Tomas and Teresa. Harren juxtaposes illustrations of the elephants’ family with those of Robert and Mary’s family in similar situations, showing readers how alike we really are. The pages are washed in soft-blue skies and glowing peach-hued sunsets, as realistic portrayals of the elephants, birds, and other animals create detailed and awe-inspiring panoramas.

Our Elephant Neighbors is an excellent addition to home, classroom, and public libraries to further understanding of elephants, conservation, and nature.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2017 | ISBN 978-1732323407

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Nature’s Giants Magazine

In this new magazine from the Wild Nature Institute, an enthusiastic dung beetle named Doug invites kids to learn about animal and plant giants of the African savanna through articles, games, crafts, and other activities that will keep them busy having fun and learning for a long time. Let’s get rolling and see what’s inside! Kids love finding stuff and right on the first pages they’re prompted to spot five differences on two identical (?) giraffes and search the pages for five beetles to see which one will would win a beetle race.

Along the way kids will enjoy:

Comics:

  • Doug engages kids in funny and interesting banter about the dung beetle’s ecological importance, including facts on their very, very long family history, three different dung beetle lifestyles, how dung beetles roll their dung balls in a straight line, and various job sites where dung beetles do their work.

Articles:

  • Ele-Fence!: About new ways farmers are protecting their crops from elephant raiders without engaging in Human-Elephant Conflict
  • Lions vs. Giraffes: About ways scientists use scars found on giraffes to study predation
  • Black Mambas: about the women rangers who patrol the Balule Nature Preserve to stop poaching of black and white rhinoceros and who teach environmental education programs in local schools. Since the group was formed “poaching of all species has decreased by 79%.”
  • Barking up the Right Tree: about the beautiful, sprawling baobab trees.
  • Infographic: on elephants, giraffes, termites and a surprising fact about biomass

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Activities:

  • Ideas for backyard or neighborhood science exploration
  • A savanna word search puzzle
  • An illustrated search-and-find animal puzzle
  • Craft instructions for making an Insect Hotel and an African Savana Scene
  • Jokes
  • A maze
  • How to draw an elephant, a giraffe, and a rhinoceros
  • A Giant Birds coloring page

Meet the Team Behind the Books and Magazine

I’m excited to have an opportunity to talk with Kayla Harren, Monica Bond, and David Brown about the work of the Wild Nature Institute, their lovely books that combine nature science with enchanting writing, and their new magazine for children.

Meet Monica Bond

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Hi, Monica! It’s nice to be chatting with you today! The love you have for Tanzania comes through in your stories so clearly and touchingly. Can you talk a little about your work and what brought you to this area?

My partner Dr. Derek Lee—quantitative ecologist and population biologist—and I chose to live and work in Tanzania because this country has some of the best wildlife experiences on Earth. As wildlife scientists, the lure of the African savanna is very strong; it is truly a wildlife paradise. In Tanzania there is incredible biological diversity combined with an extremely high density of mammals and birds, and we still have the full suite of predators and scavengers which means that the food web is intact. Tanzania also holds some of the best habitat for the last remnants of our planet’s pleistocene megafauna — elephant, rhino, and giraffe.

Derek and I are studying giraffes in Tanzania using a computer program that matches each individual’s unique spot patterns from photographs. We are monitoring thousands of giraffes in northern Tanzania, and learning where they spend their time, which other giraffes they hang out with, and how they move around the ecosystem. Our goal is to understand the things that hurt or help giraffes so we can help to preserve these magnificent animals for the future.

What is it like to live so closely to these majestic animals?

Every time I go to the bush and interact with these creatures, I am awed anew. They are so very special. Every day I feel that I am living the dream and I cannot get enough of watching them in their beautiful savanna habitat. Although we work in the bush, we often go back out to the bush on our days off!

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How did the Wild Nature Institute get its start? Can you talk a bit about the organization?

Formed in 2010, Wild Nature Institute conducts scientific research on endangered wildlife and inspires the public to protect wild nature. Next year we will celebrate a decade of work! The Institute was started as a platform for two dedicated wildlife scientists to realize our dream of doing interesting and bold science that protects the earth’s remaining bits of wild nature. The Wild Nature Institute is me and Derek at the core, but with lots of other partners and cooperators in our network (like David Brown and Kayla Harren) who are all critical to accomplishing our important work.

The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania. As we celebrate World Giraffe Day today, could you talk about the giraffe—it’s importance to its ecosystem, the threats and pressures the animal faces from human and environmental factors, and how people can help protect them?

The gentle, iconic giraffe is popular around the world, but scientists know surprisingly little about them in the wild. We chose to work with giraffes because they are amazingly beautiful and peaceful animals, but they are vulnerable to extinction because people have taken so much of their wild natural habitat for human uses like farming and houses. Poaching is also a serious problem for giraffes. They need our help.

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Tanzania in East Africa is a stronghold for giraffes, supporting more than any other country. Although the Masai giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania, populations have declined here since the 1980s—yet few people are aware of the plight of the beloved giraffe in the wild. It is our job as scientists to bring this problem to light.

How are can families and organizations around the world help in the mission?

What can you do to help save giraffes and wild nature? (1) You can donate money or time to conservation groups like Wild Nature Institute and others. People can use their skills by providing advice, services, or goods in their personal area of expertise that can help the cause. (2) You can raise awareness about the silent extinction of giraffes. Speak up within your social circles and encourage others to donate money or time to saving giraffes. You can raise awareness in your home communities by writing, speaking, and contributing to the global conversation about our planet’s climate and biodiversity crises. (3) You can plant native trees.

Giraffes, elephants, and many other species need native trees, but deforestation continues worldwide. Planting native trees helps fight the global climate crisis and helps biodiversity too! (4) You can support legal protections for wildlife. Laws like the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws make the world safer for wildlife and people. Call and write to your congressperson, senator, governor, and president telling them you support strong law enforcement to protect wildlife. (5) You can commit to not buying body parts, and if you live in Africa you can commit to not eating bushmeat.

The programs that the Institute sponsors and supports—from education in schools and communities to environmental conservation of animals and land to publishing materials for children—is extensive. How has your work been received? What successes have been achieved and what benefits do you hope to see in the future?

To save wild nature, we must know it and love it, so Wild Nature Institute and our partners developed environmental educational materials for children and teachers. The materials teach biology, geography, science, math, and language skills using focal animals and fun, beautifully illustrated stories. Our first book, The Amazing Migration of Lucky the Wildebeest, was a tri-lingual children’s book about wildebeest migration, and the ecological and economic benefits of conservation. The book was so successful that we created our “Celebrating Africa’s Giants” program to use environmental education to build community support for conservation efforts that will ensure the long-term survival of Africa’s giants giraffes, elephants, and rhinos.

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We now produce and distribute our four multi-lingual storybooks, two Swahili activity books, and seven posters, as well as learning activities to accompany the books and posters, to tens of thousands of children throughout Tanzania. These materials teach ecological and social lessons, build national pride in Tanzanian wildlife, and motivate children to read and learn about their natural world. The learning activities help Tanzanian teachers meet environmental education curricula requirements, and also meet Next Generation Science Standards for American schools.

To ensure the materials are used to their best advantage, we host workshops for teachers, led by our education consultant Lise Levy, a retired high school biology teacher with 32 years of experience in education. At the workshops, teachers have a wonderful time learning the stories and practicing the hands-on activities that they will use in the classroom to accompany the books and posters.

Can you talk a little about the impact that these books and the new Nature’s Giants Magazine have on the children and families in Tanzania?

Every year since we introduced our education program, we have expanded its reach and impact through word-of-mouth. Our books and posters are now recognized and requested by Tanzanian educators throughout Tanzania, from Ruaha and Ruvuma in the south to Serengeti in the west to Dar es Salaam in the east. We hired a Tanzanian education coordinator who regularly visits classrooms, orphanages, and community centers and brings “Giraffe in a Box,” “Elephant in a Box,” and “Rhino in a Box” with all of the materials needed to implement the activities. We made our storybooks into videobooks which are playing on Tanzanian television. We organize “fun days” at the schools to celebrate Africa’s giants where we do tree-planting, sports, drama and arts, and creative learning. 

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We are constantly dreaming up new and fun ways to spread the word about the fascinating animals of the African savanna. Our ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation to love and care for their wildlife and conserve the environment.

On your website you talk about the importance of zoos in supporting the environmental work in Tanzania. How do/can zoos help?

Zoos have an important role to play both in providing financial support for field conservation as well as promoting the conservation of giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceros through environmental education directed at visitors. Many zoos are using our Celebrating Africa’s Giants education program. Zoos also conduct their own scientific research. We couldn’t do our work without our zoo partnerships and we are really grateful for their support.

To learn more about Monica Bond and the work of the Wild Nature Institute, visit their website.

Meet Kayla Harren

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Welcome back, Kayla! I’m thrilled to be talking with you about these three beautiful books and Nature’s Giants Magazine.

How did you get involved with the Wild Nature Institute and this project? What does it mean to you to be part of it?

In 2015 my husband, Peter, who is also an artist, was asked to illustrate a picture book about a baby giraffe that was written by a friend of a friend. He wanted to pursue a different path in his illustration career, so he passed the job to me. I fell immediately in love with the story of Juma. My passions have always been art and animals. Being able to combine those two loves feels incredible.

I feel so lucky to be involved with the Wild Nature Institute because I get to help wildlife in my own way even though I am not a scientist. I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to wildlife education and hopefully spark a love for nature in other people. It feels like fate the way the first book found me through a friend of a friend of a friend and now it has turned into an amazing partnership.

Your artwork in Juma the Giraffe, Our Elephant Neighbors, and Helping Brother Rhinoceros is stunning and full of such wonderful detail and personality. What kind of research did you do to bring the characters to life? Do Juma—or any of the animals—depict real giraffes, elephants, or rhinos in the area?

Thank you! Monica was incredibly helpful with providing plenty of photographs that she and the other scientists had taken of the scenery and wildlife in Tanzania. It made my job so much easier to know that people who actually lived in Tanzania and knew the area were checking all the details of my work to make sure it was accurate. For each book I was able to look through images provided by Wild Nature Institute of people, landscapes, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and plenty of birds and animals to add in the background of each illustration. I did study the spot patterns of many giraffes, but Juma is a made-up combination of many giraffes I studied.

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Readers of your many books know what realism and sensitivity you bring to your illustrations of animals. Do you have a special affinity for animals and nature? Where did that come from?

Absolutely! Animals are my favorite. It started with my love of stuffed animals when I was very young. I had a huge collection, and I would spread them all out on my bed so none were hidden and they all got equal attention from me. I was introduced to many animal species through my toys. I remember fondly a stuffed white Bengal tiger that was bigger than me and a plump little panda bear. I loved the zoo, nature shows, and all the pet cats and dogs my family had. I feel most comfortable and relaxed in nature. I love going for walks with my dog because she stops every few steps to sniff something and that makes me pause and look around at all the beautiful shapes and textures and colors of the plants surrounding me. Nature is infinitely inspiring.

Have you ever visited Tanzania?

Not yet. Visiting Tanzania is very high on my list of things I need to do. Seeing a giraffe in the wild would be an absolute dream come true.

I’m going to let David Brown answer the next few questions about “Nature’s Giants Magazine.” David is a biologist, wildlife conservationist, and environmental educator—and he’s the co-creator and major writer of “Nature’s Giants.”

Welcome, David! As a nature lover, puzzle doer, and crafter myself, I love “Nature’s Giant’s Magazine!” There’s so much for kids to fall in love with!

“Nature’s Giants” magazine is full of fascinating articles (I learned a lot!), fun crafts, science prompts, challenging puzzles, and even a funny dung beetle named Doug. Can you talk about how the magazine came to be, what your role in the magazine is. and about how it can be used in the classroom? 

A group of conservationists and educators were meeting about how we could make Celebrating Africa’s Giants accessible and interesting to kids who love giraffes, elephants, and rhinos. We discussed how magazines like “Ranger Rick” and “National Geographic Kids” helped spark and sustain our love of nature when we were young, and we realized that there wasn’t really anything like that for even the most popular animals like giraffes and elephants. We decided to start our own nature magazine to fill that gap. We decided that our host of the magazine should be a dung beetle named Doug Beetle.  Doug Beetle helps show that there are many ways to be a giant in nature beyond physical size.

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My role is to help coordinate the creation of the magazine, develop story and activity ideas, and write the articles that bring those ideas to life. I also write the Doug Beetle comics. Megan Strauss, a wildlife biologist and illustrator, creates activities, crafts, and provides content for the magazine with her scientific expertise.  Kayla creates illustrations to accompany the articles and designs the layout of each page.

Accessible and interesting are perfect adjectives for Nature’s Giants! The magazine really promotes exploration and hands-on activities to engage kids in science learning. Can you describe some of the elements parents, teachers, and kids will find inside?

The magazine can be enjoyed casually for its art, stories, and activities. We also designed it for use in classrooms, zoo education programs, and other learning environments. In the first issue, we have a story about how scientific information can be visualized with infographics and how that helps us see the world in different ways.

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We also have a story about how a scientist makes an observation, asks questions about what she observed, and then solves a scientific mystery. Readers will learn how scientists study animals in the field, and hopefully get inspired to take part in citizen science themselves. 

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Environmental issues around the world are important to all of us. In what ways can children help from home or in their own communities?

The young people of the early 21st century are going to be the deciders of whether big animals like giraffes, elephants, and rhinos and their habitat survive this century and beyond. These animals are beloved around the world. They are the biological equivalent of the great works of art, architecture, and popular culture that are the common heritage of people around the world.

The young people in countries like Tanzania and Kenya, where these species and their habitats live, are the primary decision makers, but these animals need a global constituency of conservationists. They need people to help pay attention to them and keep their conservation needs visible in the world. Just as we pay constant attention to our favorite sports teams, celebrities, and technology products, we need to find ways to keep attention on giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and other animals.

If you love a species, then helping your local social network of family and friends be aware of the animal is a meaningful conservation action. Our goal for “Nature’s Giants” is to help connect young people with these animals and their conservation challenges and find ways to keep that connection growing.

What are the future plans for the magazine? How can teachers or other organizations order copies?

The first issue of “Nature’s Giants” is themed about African animals and plants. If the magazine finds an audience and there is an appetite for future issues, we would love to do a theme issue for each continent. We have also thought about doing an issue about the oceans. There are endless possibilities for issue themes. We would love to explore the future adventures of Doug Beetle.

To order copies of the magazine and all three storybooks, you can contact Monica Bond: monica@wildnatureinstitute.org

If you are interested in ordering Juma the Giraffe, Helping Brother Rhinoceros, and/or Our Elephant Neighbors for your classroom, organization, or yourself, contact Monica Bond monica@wildnatureinstitute.org. Individual copies of the books cost $12.00. Substantial discounts are offered when ordering multiple copies. All prices include shipping and handling.

Individuals, schools, and other organizations can also order single and/or multiple copies of “Nature’s Giants Magazine” for $4.25 each, plus shipping and handling.

You can also download printable posters with illustrations and information about giraffes, rhinos, and elephants from the Africa’s Giants website: www.africasgiants.org

To find the books with major online booksellers, see the information and links below.

Nature’s Giants Books & Magazine Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to be partnering with Wild Nature Institute in a giant giveaway! You could win this prize package that includes

  • One (1) copy of Juma the Giraffe signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Helping Brother Rhinoceros signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Our Elephant Neighbors signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of “Nature’s Giants Magazine”

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your favorite African animal for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

The giveaway will be held from June 21 to June 27.

A winner will be chosen on June 28

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-helping-brother-rinoceros-cover

You can find Helping Brother Rhinoceros at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-elephant-neighbors-cover

You can find Our Elephant Neighbors at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-juma-the-giraffe-cover

You can find Juma the Giraffe at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 6 – National Smile Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mom-loves-little-jumbo-cover

About the Holiday

During this month we take time to make sure our smiles are as bright and healthy as they can be by ensuring that we’re following the latest advice by dental professionals about brushing, diet, and oral health and scheduling dental visits for ourselves and our children. It’s also a great time to celebrate all the things that make us smile. One of which is spending time with our kids. On May 12 families will celebrate Mother’s Day—a holiday that’s guaranteed to bring out smiles all around!

Mom Loves Little Jumbo: Hello I Am Jumbo

By Yasushi Muraki

 

When young readers open the cover of this sweet board book, a tiny elephant named Jumbo introduces himself and his mom. “Mom is big,” he says. “I am small.” Mom’s size and strength come in handy when he falls, Jumbo explains, and if he’s in trouble, his mom keeps him safe. Jumbo’s mom not only protects him from big dangers like lions but from small bothers like rain.

Every day Jumbo’s mom takes good care of him. She shows him where to find the freshest grass and the most delicious fruit. Jumbo’s mom also remembers other things he loves, like having fun and playing hide-and-seek “She makes me laugh,” he says.

To show Mom how much he loves her, Jumbo picks “the most beautiful flower” for her. And at the end of the day? “At bedtime Mom cuddles me tightly. I like this best of all.” Yes, Jumbo reveals, “My mom loves me. And I love my Mom.”

Yasushi Muraki revels in that deeply felt awe little ones feel for their mom and all the things she does for them in his adorable board book. By using the matriarchal, close-knit structure of elephant families for his story, Muraki reinforces the bond between mother and child, which he simply, but lovingly demonstrates in his rich, textured images. Each page welcomes children with comforting  earth tones and actions by Jumbo’s caring mom that even the youngest readers will find meaningful.

Told from Jumbo’s point of view, Muraki’s storytelling incorporates two straightforward sentences on each page. In the first, Jumbo reveals something that his mom does for him, and in the second, he explains how it makes him feel. Jumbo even plays a game with readers midway through the book. When Jumbo picks a flower for his mom, little ones will learn that gestures of love are reciprocal, and the cuddly ending will lead to lots of snuggling between mom and child.

A perfect book for little ones to share with their mom on Mothers’ Day or any day, as a new baby present, or baby shower gift, Mom Loves Little Jumbo: Hello I Am Jumbo would be a favorite on home bookshelves and to find at public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

minedition, 2019 | ISBN 978-9888341788

Discover more about Yasushi Muraki, his books, and his art on his website.

National Smile Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Spool-Elephant-Craft

Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mom-loves-little-jumbo-cover

You can find Mom Loves Little Jumbo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 16 -It’s National Young Readers Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interrupting-chicken-and-the-elephant-of-surprise-cover

About the Holiday

Sponsored by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress since 1989, this week-long holiday centers on raising awareness of reading. Schools participate in setting reading goals for their students who are then rewarded for meeting them. Principals, teachers, and families get involved too, as kids all over the country get excited about reading.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise

By David Ezra Stein

 

The little red chicken was excited to come home from school and tell her Papa the amazing thing she’d learned that day. “Today,” she said, “my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise.” She grabbed her papa’s arm and hurried him to the big comfy chair to read a story and find the elephant. Papa corrected her, saying that her teacher hadn’t mentioned an elephant of surprise but an element of surprise. What’s that? Chicken wanted to know.

Papa explained that the element of surprise is the part that “makes you say, ‘Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen.’” That sounded like an elephant to Chicken, so she urged her papa to start reading. Papa opened the book with a caution that he didn’t think there were any elephants in the story. Papa began reading The Ugly Duckling. He had just gotten to the part where the ugly duckling peered into the pond at his reflection and discovered that… “Surprise! I’m an Elephant!” The blue elephant with pink wings and a waterlily hat thanked Chicken for finding him.

Papa looked askance at Chicken, but Chicken was undaunted and argued that her teacher had said that every good story had an elephant, that The Ugly Duckling was a good story, and therefore The Ugly Duckling “must have an elephant of surprise.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interrupting-chicken-and-the-elephant-of-surprise-go-read

Copyright David Ezra Jones, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Next Chicken picked out the story of Rapunzel. Papa read, and the Prince had just climbed up the tower and was gazing at his love while she said… “Surprise! I’m an Elephant!” The elephant was impressed by Chicken’s powers of detection. Papa considered his little chicken and told her that the idea of an elephant in Rapunzel was “ludicrous.” But Chicken just looked at him with eyes sad and sorry for the poor elephant “waiting for someone to find him.”

Chicken told Papa she had to read one more story and find the elephant for homework. Papa was resigned. Chicken pulled The Little Mermaid off the shelf and Papa began to read. The little mermaid drank the magic potion, crawled from the sea, and fainted. When she awoke, the prince was there, and she saw that her dream had come true—she had… “elephant legs! Wow! That was a surprise!” Chicken exclaimed.

Now that Chicken had found her three elephants, Papa was ready to tell her a story that could in no way have elephants in it. Chicken was ready with her pencils to draw the pictures. Papa’s story was about a daughter who loved elephants so much she saw them everywhere—even when there were no elephants. There were no elephants when she got dressed or when she had breakfast before she went to… “Elephant school!” Chicken was so happy to find an elephant right at the end of the story that she gave Papa a big hug before asking him to help her with her math homework.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interrupting-chicken-and-the-elephant-of-surprise-ugly-duckling

Copyright David Ezra Jones, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

You can feel the giggles forming in giddy anticipation of where the elephant of surprise will appear from the very first page of David Ezra Stein’s adorable sequel to Interrupting Chicken. The little red chicken’s glee at her certainty that an elephant lives in every good story is infectious, and empathetic readers will be on the lookout for this well-placed pachyderm. Stein expertly wrings droll humor from the juxtaposition of the flowery retellings of The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid with the weighty substitution of the elephant at the moment of greatest suspense.

The endearing relationship between Papa and his little chicken is one of the sweetest charms of this series, and Stein fills every page with this warmth through his color palette of rich reds and blues and the little details of home: a steaming cup of tea sits on a small table next to Papa’s chair, Chicken brings in a snack of chips and dip to munch while listening, and a single lamp throws a cozy glow over the room. It’s easy to see by the gleam in little chicken’s eyes that she cherishes not only the stories but her special time with Papa. Young readers will embrace Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise with the same zeal.

For laugh-out-loud, snuggly story times, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise can’t be beat. Whether your child is a fan of Interrupting Chicken or just meeting the little red chicken for the first time, David Ezra Stein’s sequel makes a perfect gift and will be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763688424

National Young Readers Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-elephant-coloring-page-1

Elephant Coloring Pages

 

Color these pages and put them in your favorite books to make sure you can always find an elephant of surprise inside!

Elephant Coloring Page 1 | Elephant Coloring Page 2

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interrupting-chicken-and-the-elephant-of-surprise-cover

You can find Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 22 – National Elephant Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

While today’s holiday was established in 1996 by Mission Media and its owner Wayne Hepburn because of Hepburn’s love for elephants, the day has garnered official recognition and deserves wide acknowledgement. These gentile, giant animals need our protection from environmental and human dangers. To celebrate today’s holiday visit a zoo or animal preserve, watch a documentary on elephants, or consider donating to their cause.

Strictly No Elephants

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little boy, his adorable pet elephant by his side, kneels on his bed and gazes out the window at the brownstones across the street. There he sees other kids with their—more conventional—pets: a bird, a cat, a fish, and dogs. “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” the boy reveals. Every day the boy takes his elephant for a walk, but even in this common pet-owner activity, the boy and the elephant show their special relationship. The elephant is thoughtful—protecting the boy with an umbrella on rainy days—and the boy is considerate—carrying his elephant over cracks in the sidewalk that frighten it. Why? Because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-thoughtful-pet

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On this particular day the boy winds a red scarf around his elephant’s neck and joins the parade of kids on their way to Number 17 where the Pet Club meets. The elephant is reluctant, but the boy is reassuring, even carrying his pet on his back the last few feet. “‘It’ll be fine,’” he says. But when they reach the apartment, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Strictly No Elephants.” There’s even a picture of a crossed out elephant on the sign.

The elephant understands all too well and leads the boy back onto the sidewalk, now ignoring the cracks. “‘That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you,’” the boy says. The day has suddenly become rainy, and they are caught on the sidewalk without an umbrella. Taking shelter under an awning, the two find a little girl holding her pet skunk. “‘Did you try to go to the Pet Club meeting too?’” she asks. “‘Yes,’” the boy says, “‘But they don’t allow elephants.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-girl-with-skunk

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

While the sign may not explicitly forbid skunks, the little girl says that the other members didn’t want to play with her and her skunk either. Wisely, the boy tells her “‘They don’t know any better.’” The elephant reaches out its trunk toward the skunk with the girl’s reassurance that he doesn’t stink. The two new friends decide to start their own pet club and head down the sidewalk to find a venue. The boy makes sure that his elephant follows because friends “‘never leave anyone behind.’”

On the way the boy, girl, elephant, and skunk encounter a whole crowd of kids with unusual pets—a tiny giraffe, a mini narwhal, an armadillo, a bat, a hedgehog, and a penguin. They come to a park, complete with tree house, that is perfect for their club. The kids and pets eagerly adopt their new play space—swinging on the tire swing, waddling around the balcony, exploring the roof, playing tag, reading, and more. The boy quickly does the most important thing of all: he paints a new sign for the clubhouse door. “Strictly No Strangers, No Spoilsports ALL ARE WELCOME” it reads. And if you need directions to the club, the boy’s tiny elephant will give them to you “‘because that’s what friends do.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-new-friends

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Lisa Mantchev has written a story addressing the types of isolation and rejection that kids (and adults) can face—sometimes because of a single perceived difference—in an uplifting and productive way. With gentle honesty and thoughtfulness, Mantchev invites kids to consider their actions, attitudes, and responses to others. As Mantchev reveals, more inclusiveness leads to more understanding and better relationships. Her lyrical language and sweet reminders of “what friends do” elevate this tribute to camaraderie and companionship and make it a story kids will want to hear again and again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-new-clubhouse

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Taeeun Yoo’s adorable illustrations of the boy, his tiny pet elephant, and the other animal-and-owner pairs are irresistible. Any reader would want a pet as cute and adaptable as these, which leads to a good opportunity for adults and children to discuss the ideas of and attitudes behind exclusion in this story and in real life. As the boy and his elephant are turned away from the Pet Club door, the day turns dark and stormy. The two-page spread is rendered in somber shades, except for the little boy with his yellow-striped shirt and red scarf, the elephant sporting a matching red scarf, and the soon-to-be-met brown-skinned girl who wears a red and yellow-striped dress, emphasizing the connections between these two children. The final pages in which the new friends meet and play together are joyful, inviting all readers to “join the club.”

Strictly No Elephants gives readers so much to see, think about, and discuss. The book is a must for school and classroom libraries and would be a very welcome addition to children’s home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481416474

Discover Lisa Mantchev’s books for children, young adults, and adults on her website.

See a gallery of books by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Elephant Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Spool-Elephant-Craft

Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-cover

You can find Strictly No Elephants at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

World Elephant Day was launched on August 12, 2012 to raise awareness to the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants and today’s holiday, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Mela and the Elephant

Written by Dow Phumiruk | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

When Mela headed out to explore the banks of the Ping River, her little brother wanted to go too, but Mela would only take him if he had something to give her in return. When he said he had nothing, Mela told him, “‘Then you stay home.’” When she reached the river, she jumped into her uncle’s boat to try and catch the big fish that swam in the sparkly water. She tossed out her net and nabbed the fish in her net, but he swam on, carrying Mela downstream. Soon, Mela found herself deep in the jungle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-mela-leaving
Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When “the boat caught against a tangle of tree roots, Mela stepped out onto a large rock.” She looked around and realized she was a long way from home.  A crocodile happened by and Mela asked him if he could tow her boat back home. “‘What will you give me for my help?’” the crocodile asked. Mela told him he could have her fish, and the crocodile agreed. But as soon as Mela gave him the fish, he grabbed it and swam away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-crocodile

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela had just begun to walk in the direction of home when “a leopard slinked into sight.” Mela asked her if she knew how to get to the village. She did, but would only show Mela if she gave her something. Mela thought, then took off her sweater and gave it to the leopard, saying, “‘It will keep your cubs warm on cool nights.’” The leopard “snatched it up and leaped away.”

Mela continued on and was soon walking down a narrow path, where three monkeys swung from vines in the trees. Again Mela asked for help finding her way home. “‘What will you give us if we help you?’ one chattered. Mela held out her backpack.” It would be helpful for carrying fruit, she told them. As soon as the largest monkey grabbed the backpack, the three disappeared into the forest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-mela-fishing

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela began to cry. She had no idea how to get home, and night was coming. Just then “she heard the rustling and snapping of branches.” She looked up to see an elephant approaching. The elephant asked Mela if she were lost. When Mela said, yes, the elephant offered to give her a ride. Mela told him that she had nothing to give him. But the elephant said, “‘It would make my heart happy to help you. I don’t need anything else in return.’”

Then he allowed Mela to climb up his trunk and onto his back and they started off. When they reached the village, Mela thanked the elephant and he gave her a last hug with his trunk. The next day when Mela’s brother asked to accompany her to the riverbank, she remembered what the elephant had taught her and agreed to take him. And “from then on, she offered many kindnesses to others, asking nothing in return.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-riding-elephant

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her lovely story, Dow Phumiruk reminds children that the heartfelt rewards of kindness are more precious than material gain. Such inner happiness often radiates to others, creating strong bonds and long-lasting happiness. It’s interesting to note that Mela is actually inherently thoughtful, offering each potential rescuer an object that is useful to them. But this inner generosity is lost when she interacts with her brother and brushes off his friendship. Through her experiences in the jungle, however, she comes to empathize with her brother. Back at home, she embraces and includes him, and shares the lesson she’s learned with others as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-strong-current

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As Mela wanders deeper and deeper into Ziyue Chen’s lush jungle of Thailand, readers will understand that while she may be lost, she is also finding her way on her path in life. The animals that approach her initially look friendly and helpful, but as soon as they have their payment, they turn their back on Mela and desert her. The elephant, on the other hand, has kindly eyes and a gentle manner. The final scene in which Mela takes her little brother by the hand as they begin an adventure together demonstrates her change of heart and growth along life’s road.

An Author’s Note includes information about the history, geography, and customs of Thailand, where there story is set, introducing readers to the diverse culture of the country.

Mela and the Elephant employs a mix of traditional storytelling with today’s focus on kindness, empathy, and generosity. The book would make an excellent addition to home and classroom libraries for story time and to prompt discussions about compassion and helpfulness.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-998-0

Discover more about Dow Phumiruk, her books, and her art on her website

To learn more about Ziyue Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Elephant Day Craft

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-cover

You can find Mela and the Elephant at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

February 10 – National Umbrella Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-cover

About the Holiday

When you grab your umbrella and open it (not indoors of course!), do you ever think about what an ancient device it is? The umbrella was invented over four thousand years ago and appears in art from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and Assyria. The Chinese developed waterproof umbrellas to use in the rain by waxing and lacquering paper umbrellas. One of the first umbrella shops opened in London in 1830 and is still open for business there today. If it’s raining or snowing where you are today, celebrate the holiday by taking your umbrella for a spin. If you’re having fair weather, why not get yourself a new umbrella? After all, spring is coming!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

On a gray and rainy day, Elephant went out walking with his green umbrella. He met a hedgehog who hailed him and said, “‘Excuse me. I believe you have my boat.’” Elephant was perplexed, so Hedgehog expounded on his theory. “‘I crossed deep oceans on my boat and faced the crash of icy waves. I saw dolphins leap two by two and tasted the salty spray of whales. The stars were my guide and my boat a faithful friend.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-hedgehog

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This poetic travelogue did not convince Elephant of the umbrella’s provenance, but he offered to let Hedgehog ride along and share in its protection. The two came upon a Cat, who took one look at the green umbrella and recognized it as her tent. Hmmm…said Elephant and Hedgehog. It was true replied Cat, and she related how when she visited the woods to study plants and flowers, she would rest in its shade and drink a cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-bear

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This story seemed no more plausible than Hedgehog’s, but Elephant invited Cat to ride along and share in the umbrella’s protection. As they continued on, the Bear approached, sure that they had his flying machine. “‘Your what?’ asked the Elephant, the Hedgehog, and the Cat.” The Bear got a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “‘I soared through clouds high up in the air and saw Northern Lights glimmer above rolling hills. I floated on wings free and far from the noise of busy towns below.’”

Well, Elephant could play this game too. The umbrella was his and his alone. When he was a child, Elephant said, the umbrella was his pirate sword, his tightrope balance, and his baseball bat. By this time the rain had stopped. Elephant rolled up his umbrella and said good-bye to the Hedgehog, the Cat, and the Bear. The three couldn’t stand to see their boat/tent/flying machine taken away, so they clung to the Elephant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-tea-party

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moment later they met an old Rabbit. “‘I believe you have my cane,’” he said. The others thought he was wrong. But this handy stick, the Rabbit explained, had helped him climb pyramids, hike mountains to ancient ruins, and navigate dark caves full of treasure. Again the Elephant objected, but seeing the old Rabbit mopping his forehead, he opened it and shaded the Rabbit from the sun. The Cat offered to make a pot of tea, and the Bear and the Hedgehog helped lay out a picnic lunch.

Under the cool umbrella, the five “shared their stories, drank tea, planned adventures, and became fast friends.” From then on when it was sunny, they went “Sailing, Camping, Flying, and Hiking” together. “And when it rained they stayed dry under the green umbrella.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-friends

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s multi-layered story delves into the large points and small nuances of relationships old and new. The Elephant’s green umbrella is both a subject of envy and a uniting object. It also serves to demonstrate Elephant’s ability to stick up for himself as well as his willingness to share. As each animal presents an imaginative and compelling reason why the green umbrella belongs to them, the Elephant rejects the story while accepting the friend. In each animal’s lushly described imagination, Kramer does a beautiful job of showing readers how each of these friends are similar. She reveals that while friends can have different opinions, they can still find common ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-followers

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maral Sassouni’s dream-like illustrations are both exotic and homey. Village houses give way to turreted and domed towers, and the imaginative stories the animals tell are accompanied by details as free, cozy, or eccentric as their tales. The Elephant’s account is cleverly rendered in sepia tones, showing the age of the memories and who the original owner of the coveted umbrella really is. The final images of the five new friends sharing adventures in the green umbrella are sure to delight little ones.

The Green Umbrella is a perfect book to share on rainy days or sunny days. With humor and creativity, the book provides an opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship and sharing with children. It would make an often-read addition to public, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, her books, and a fun book-related activity on her website!

Learn more about Maral Sassouni and her artwork on her website!

Don’t wait for a rainy day to watch The Green Umbrella book trailer!

National Umbrella Day Activity

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Rain Stick Craft

 

The steady sssshhhhhh of gentle rain is a sound that never fails to relax. With this easy craft, you can create your own rainfall for whenever you need  to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Heavy cardboard tube
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wrapping paper or other paper 
  • Rice or popcorn – 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • Rubber bands – 2

Directions

  1. Paint the cardboard tube, let dry (optional)
  2. Cut the paper into 3-inch or 4-inch squares
  3. Cover one end of the tube with paper and secure with a rubber band
  4. Crumple and twist two or three long pieces of foil 
  5. Put the foil strips into the tube
  6. Add the rice or popcorn to the tube
  7. Cover the open end of the tube with paper and a rubberband
  8. Turn the tube end-to-end and listen to the rain

Picture Book Review

January 25 – Opposite Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Opposite Day! If you hear that the sky’s blue, it’s probably gray, if you’re told dinner’s yucky, that’s a compliment, and if your boss says that report is due today—well, you better finish it because not everyone plays along. Kids are especially fond of today’s holiday, and why not? Challenging yourself to think differently is fun! Of course there’s one emotion that can make us act a little turned upside down and backwards every day—as you’ll see in today’s book!

When an Elephant Falls in Love

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Alice Lotti

 

“When an elephant falls in love, he does many foolish things.” He takes unusual risks and hides when he sees the apple of his eye. Instead of sloughing off in the hygiene department, he “takes a bath every day, and even washes behind his ears.” Even though he knows it’s better to eat nutritious foods, there’s that yummy dessert in the fridge that calls to him.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

While his appearance never seemed to concern him before, now “he dresses with care” even though deciding which tie to wear is difficult. Letters to his beloved get written and then crumpled up and tossed away. And his work is abandoned in favor of “staring at the clouds for hours and hours.”

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When he gathers his courage, the elephant in love will get close to his loved one—well, close enough to leave flowers, but not so close that he stays after ringing the bell. Sometimes that happy, in-love feeling turns into sadness when the elephant thinks, “‘If only she knew I existed!’” There comes a day, however, when it all comes together—the natty dressing, the nice, clean scent, the words in the letters, and those flowers that are discovered before the elephant has fully disappeared. What happens then? “It’s love!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-an-elephant-falls-in-love-picking-flowers

Copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Davide Cali’s sweetly honest look at what it’s like to fall in love—for the first time or any time—will charm young readers and resonate with adults. The story is enchanting in its unapologetic presentation of the “foolish” things the elephant does—all things that are just part of growing up. Readers will see that with a few steps forward (and a few steps back), they will achieve their heart’s desire.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Alice Lotti’s little boulder of an elephant is as adorable as they come. With a tiny dot of an eye and simple lines accenting his ears, toes, and trunk, the elephant expressively goes about his days with her on his mind. Lotti’s white background highlights the elephant as he walks a tightrope holding a tiny pink umbrella, showers himself while immersed in a claw-foot bathtub, and searches the mirror for the answer between the green and orange tie. Lotti’s color palette is fresh and vibrant, and her clean lines give the illustrations a sophisticated look. The elephant’s beautifully textured, mottled hide lends a soft vulnerability to her sensitive pachyderm. Readers will have fun spotting the little yellow bird that is the elephant’s constant companion, a special cloud floating into view, and the flowers that bring the two elephants together.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452147277

Learn more about Alice Lotti and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website.

Opposite Day Activity

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Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots

 

Dot-to-Dot pictures offer a little bit for everyone—a little mystery, a little counting, a little bit to color, and a lot of fun! Since it’s Opposite Day, why not work from the last number to the first in this printable Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots.

Picture Book Review