April 5 – National Dandelion Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-cover

About the Holiday

As warm weather and spring rains begin preparing the ground for grass, flowers, and gardens, there’s another distinctive sprout that appears early – and often. Of course, it’s the dandelion! With its sunny flowers and fly-away seeds, this little plant is part of spring and summer landscapes around the world. The dandelion is far from just a weed, however. In fact, the dandelion is technically an herb and has many health benefits. Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, soups, and teas, and they provide aid with regulating blood sugar, wound healing, gastrointestinal problems, and even vision. Known for its healthy properties since 659 BCE, the dandelion is a staple for many global cultures. To celebrate, check in your favorite grocery store or farmers market for dandelion leaves and try a new recipe! Here are ten delicious-looking dishes from Kitchn!

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a copy of Little Dandelion Seeds the World for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Little Dandelion Seeds the World

Written by Julia Richardson | Illustrated by Kristen Howdeshell  and Kevin Howdeshell

 

A little girl in a South African city finds a dandelion growing in a crack in the sidewalk. She blows on the fluffy head and “swish, swirl, one hundred seeds fly.” One seed flies to an African plain, where it drops into the grass, roots, and grows. “The flower fades. Fluff puffs. POOF!” and a breeze carries one hundred seeds into the air past an elephant and her baby.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-panda

Image copyright Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, 2021, text copyright Julia Richardson. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One seed takes a ride on a cheetah’s ear until it is caught by the wind again and finds itself in Asia. Here it roots and grows. When the flower turns to fluff, a curious panda gives it a swat and “swish, swirl, one hundred seeds fly.” One of the seeds gets lifted up in a cyclone and deposited “far, far away…in Australia.”

Here a kangaroo, hopping along, jumps on the plant, now just a fuzzy ball. Seeds take to the air, dancing on the breeze. One seed circles over a sailboat and latches onto the pantleg of a boy standing on the bow. When he disembarks, he takes the seed with him up, up into the hills. The seed jumps off and “a little dandelion blooms in North America.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-europe

Image copyright Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, 2021, text copyright Julia Richardson. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

This little plant meets up with a skunk and a bird, and a seed wings its way to South America. Disturbed by a snake slithering by, the puff explodes, sending its seeds every which way. “One little seed slips into the sea, far, far away.” Riding on the current it finds a rock to cling too. “Down with a root. Up with a shoot. A little dandelion blooms in Antarctica.” Another dandelion’s life begins. Finally, with the flick of a seal’s tail, the seeds scatter, one “parachuting. Pirouetting” into Europe, where the familiar, graceful dance continues.

Backmatter includes an illustrated world map that shows the route of the dandelion seeds and approximate landing sites on each continent and an Author’s Note about how dandelions grow and reseed themselves as well as a question to spark discussion.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-map

Image copyright Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, 2021, text copyright Julia Richardson. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Julia Richardson’s lyrical descriptions and repeated phrases invite kids to follow dandelion seeds as they travel the world. Richardson’s engaging storytelling will keep kids guessing as to where the seeds will travel next while teaching them about the ingenuity and resilience of nature. The global aspect of the story reminds readers that we are all connected through common experiences, the plants and animals with whom we share our planet, and our responsibilities for conservation.

Through Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell’s bold textured illustrations, readers travel the world with tiny dandelion seeds from the sunbaked African savanna, where cheetahs and elephants roam to a verdant bamboo forest, where a panda almost walks off the page to play with the dandelion, to the lush hills of a coastal town and beyond. In each place local children interact with their environment, giving readers a feeling of inclusion too.

An eye-catching and lyrical introduction to nature science that will spark enthusiasm for learning not only about dandelions but about how all plants grow and thrive, Little Dandelion Seeds the World would be a high-interest addition to science, geography, and social studies lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers as well as to public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110533

Discover more about Julia Richardson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, their books, and their art, visit their website, The Brave Union.

National Dandelion Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-coloring-page

Little Dandelion Seeds the World Activity Pages

 

Grab your crayons and pencils and have fun with this printable coloring page and word search puzzle from Sleeping Bear Press!

Little Dandelion Seeds the World Activity Pages

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-cover

You can find Little Dandelion Seeds the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 27 – Earth Hour

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-cover

About the Holiday

Earth Hour was organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature as a way to engage people in the discussion on climate change. First enacted in Australia in 2007, the observance has grown to include cities, businesses, corporations, and individuals world wide. For one hour – from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time – participants will turn off all unnecessary lights in a show of solidarity and commitment to protecting our earth. Among the places going dark this year are the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Sydney Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower. One action you can take is as easy as turning off a light – as today’s book shows. To read more about the holiday, find virtual events taking place around the world, and learn how you can participate, visit earthhour.org.

Lights Out

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Susan Reagan

 

A little fox peeks out of her den. It’s night, but her surroundings are lit up as if it were noon. A Beetle hovers nearby taking in all the “House lights / Car lights / Truck lights / Street lights… / Blinking lights / Flashing lights / Blazing lights / Flickering lights.” There are lights in every color and on every structure. Fox and Beetle wonder where Darkness is—the dark of Night that invites coyotes to sing, owls to hunt, foxes to hunt, and beetles to become “more than beetles.” Perhaps, they think, Night is lost.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-city

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Fox and Beetle set out to find Night. They pass a wetlands, where Frog waits in vain for darkness to lend his voice to the nighttime chorus. “Across the wide, wide world, / they search… / for the Dark of Night. / But everywhere – Lights!” Up on the mountain, Bear is waiting for the signal to hibernate, but the brightness keeps him awake. Frog and Bear join in the search for Night.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-wandering

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Fox and Beetle travel through forests and fields, over deserts and dunes, and across wide prairies, but don’t find Night. When they come to the seashore, they witness baby turtles hatching. Instead of scuttling toward the ocean, they’re running toward the lights of the boardwalk shops. Frog stops the little turtles then Bear, Fox, and Frog wade out into the waves and shows them the way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-turtles

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

The three friends swim “away from shore and lights” while Beetle and Songbird fly above. Out here, where the sky is dark, Beetle at last sparks and glows. At last the friends reach a far-away island that’s cloaked in darkness. Here “they can see…Everything…. / Mushrooms glowing / Fireflies / Moonlit garden / Shining eyes / Nighttime weavers / Webs of stars / Constellations / Venus, Mars….” Here, they find Night.

An Author’s Note discussing light pollution and its effect on animals and humans and including a resource where readers can learn more about light pollution and what we can do to help precedes the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-moon

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s affecting story about how light pollution changes animal behavior and confuses the natural order of life is a poignant appeal to today’s young environmentally conscious kids, sparking an awareness of the extent of the problem while inviting them to consider ways to restore the darkness of night so important to the health of our planet. Through non-rhyming, yet lyrical language, Arnold takes readers on a journey to find Night. As the friends search place after place, children come to understand that light pollution is a worldwide issue.

Arnold’s capitalization of Night and Darkness makes them characters in the story as well, imbued with living traits and purpose that are just as crucial to wildlife as food and shelter. In one powerful combination of text and illustration, a list of light sources streams from corner to corner in a beam of white light. The number of examples builds to create a glaring realization of all the types of lights that keep the world turned on twenty-four hours a day. After reading Lights Out, children and adults will find themselves paying attention to the lights around them and even in and near their own home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-lights-on

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Susan Reagan’s stunning illustrations of cities, waterways, and even out-of-the-way places bathed in a permanent twilight by street lamps, headlights, lighted windows, neon signs, and more are compelling reminders of just how pervasive light pollution is. As the animals wander from place to place looking for Night, their weary and distressed expressions reflect the loss of their natural nocturnal activities. When Beetle and Fox and their friends reach the distant island, Reagan’s gorgeous spreads of a star-and-moonlit sky and vegetation, in which nocturnal animals hunt, luminescent flowers glow, and spider webs glint will have readers taking a nighttime jaunt to discover what they can see in their surroundings.

A unique and important book that raises awareness not only about light pollution but about natural cycles of sleep and wakefulness, Lights Out would be an excellent addition to lessons in science and the environment and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 8

Creative Editions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1568463407

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Susan Reagan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Earth Hour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-activity

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Lights Out Activity Kit

 

This extensive Activity Kit gives teachers, homeschoolers, and parents many ways to engage with Lights Out in the disciplines of science, language arts, art, and social action. Through the various activities, children will learn about light pollution and its effects as well as about the ways in which darkness benefits wildlife. You can download the kit from Marsha Diane Arnold’s website:

Lights Out Activity Kit

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-cover

You can find Lights Out at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 20 – It’s the Spring Equinox

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes | Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

 

This beautiful tribute to spring is as surprising as new buds pushing through the earth or tiny hatching eggs. Using repeated phrasing, lyrically expressed facts, and poetic rhythms, When Spring Comes echoes the anticipation that sunnier days bring after a long winter. The book opens with a simple, evocative sentence: “Before Spring comes the trees look like black sticks against the sky.” Children will immediately agree—they see trees in this way out their windows and draw them like this in art class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-robins

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The following sentence is equally as true: “But if you wait Spring will bring leaves and blossoms.” The book’s contrasting lines that explore conditions “before Spring comes” and “If you wait” gradually reveal more and more of springtime’s wonder, like the melting snows that usher in rainy days: “Spring comes with sun and it comes with rain and more rain and more rain. Do you like mud? Do you like puddles? I hope you like umbrellas.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-spring

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

As Spring wakes more fully, it takes on a personality of its own: “Spring will call out the pussy willows and new kittens too. Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot. But when Spring is finally here to stay, you will know it…There will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles.”  And there is much more to discover about this season of rebirth as well as the future within these pages.

When Spring visits it brings many wonderful smells, sounds, activities, and creatures, all of which are gorgeously depicted in Laura Dronzek’s radiant illustrations. The early gardens, blooming cherry trees, frolicking kittens, and profusions of flowers are as bright and welcome as the springtime sun. As the sweet-faced boy and girl in the book play, they are surrounded by birds, bunnies, dogs and kittens, and even ponder a little worm poking its head from the garden. Brilliant blues, pinks, greens meld with lush browns to create a joyful celebration of the newness of the season.

When Spring Comes is not only a book about a particular season or even for a particular age. The book is a wonderfully gentile and uplifting way to introduce or discuss the idea of waiting for good things to happen. Everyone, even the smallest child, has “winter days” when life doesn’t look so bright. But if you wait, spring comes with new life and surprises. 

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062331397 (Hardcover, 2016) | ISBN 978-0062741677 (Paperback, 2019) | ISBN 978-0062741660 (Board Book, 2018)

Discover more about Kevin Henkes and his books on his website.

Spring Equinox Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

These paper flowers will brighten any room and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet for yourself or share them with a special friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

You can find When Spring Comes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 14 – National Learn about Butterflies Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-cover

About the Holiday

Spring has sprung – or is right around the corner – so today’s holiday reminds us to watch out for the butterflies in your area. With more than 20,000 species of butterflies around the world, these delicate beauties are one of the most recognized and beloved natural wonders on earth. Butterflies are important to our ecosystem, too, but habitat destruction and climate change are decreasing their numbers by alarming amounts. You can help! By planting milkweed and other plants as well as nectar-producing flowers in your yard or community, you can create an area where butterflies can find shelter, food, and a place to lay their eggs. To learn more about saving monarch butterflies, visit Save Our Monarchs.

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Written by Deborah Hopkinson | Illustrated by Meilo So

 

Last spring, the narrator of the story reveals, she was a “little like a caterpillar…quiet and almost invisible.” She had recently moved to the United States and couldn’t read English. The school librarian gave her books with a lot of pictures and her favorite was one about butterflies. Since then she has learned a lot about Monarch butterflies and how they “make a long, long journey” just like her family did. The frame of her story leads into a detailed discussion of the spring monarch migration and the life cycle of caterpillars.

When summer came, the girl thought for sure she would see monarch butterflies. She “wanted to see them flit from flower to flower sipping nectar.” But no matter where she looked—the park, grassy fields, an even the community garden—she couldn’t find any. She began to wonder “if monarch butterflies belonged here.” Sometimes she wondered if her family did either. Turning the page, kids learn how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly and how, once it emerges from its chrysalis, it “pumps fluid into its wings, which expand and take their final shape” and creates the “straw” it drinks nectar with.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-reading

Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

In the fall when school began, the girl rushed to find her favorite book. Now she could read it, and she discovered that butterflies need milkweed to multiply and thrive. She also learned that milkweed is sparse now, due to habitat destruction due to building, chemical use, and climate change. She also learned some shocking facts, such as “in 20 years, the number of monarchs has fallen by 90 percent.”

One day the librarian calls the girl over and tells her that she has ordered new butterfly books and offers them to her first. The librarian also explains that over the summer she created a monarch way station. The girl knows about these special butterfly gardens. She points out the library window at a place within the school yard that would make a perfect monarch way station. “‘It takes just one person to get things started,’” the librarian says. “‘I’m not that kind of person,’” the girl whispers. But the librarian is encouraging. She reminds the girl about the amazing trip monarchs take and says, “‘It’s surprising what such a tiny creature can do.’” Readers next learn about the generations of butterflies that are born during the summer and how the final generation is different from the rest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-chrysalis

Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

During the winter, the girl remembers the monarchs who lived “high in the fir forests of Mexico, waiting out the cold to make their long journey north.” She thinks about what the librarian said, and wonders if she could “ever be brave enough to speak up, take charge, and be noticed.” But when she presents a research project on butterflies for her class, the kids loved it. At the end she tells the class how important butterflies are and that they need to help them.

She is surprised by how excited the class is to help and that they want to make a butterfly garden as the class project. The teacher turns to her and asks if she has any ideas on what they could do. The girl is prepared. She turns her poster around and shows them her “plan for a monarch way station, the beginning of a timeline, a list of supplies, and how much it might cost.” And so, they started on their garden. Over the next few weeks, the girl says “‘I could feel myself growing and changing, little by little.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-community-garden

Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The class talked to the principal, made a presentation to parents, and invited gardeners and scientists to speak to the class. They also wrote letters to students in other places who were doing similar projects. Then they held an all-school assembly and asked for volunteers. Kids from all classes—even kindergarten—signed up. They even went to a town council meeting and explained how important milkweed was. They asked that it not be sprayed with poison but instead “be planted in every city park.” The mayor even shook the girl’s hand and told her the city needed citizens like her.

Finally, with a fence and garden plots built, it was planting day. When spring class picture time rolls around again, the girl can be found in the front row, right in the center and holding the class sign. The kids met students from another school who have been helping the butterflies for two years and now serve as monarch trackers, placing tags on their legs and following their migration routes. The class’s monarch way station is thriving, and while they don’t have monarchs yet, the girl is already thinking about how the class can become monarch trackers next year. Just like a caterpillar, the girl thinks again, she has grown and emerged “as something new, unexpected, surprising.”

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note about the story, a guide for making a school or home monarch way station, facts about monarchs, and books and internet resources for learning more about monarchs and how you can help.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-migration

Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Deborah Hopkinson’s moving and educational story combines a fictional account of growing up with scientific information on butterflies. The structure is exceptionally effective in showing kids and adults that some children find their voice, discover a talent, or overcome hesitation or shyness when they become involved in a cause or activity they believe in. The school librarian and the teacher both model actions and words that can encourage children to express and extend themselves. The girl’s thoughts allow children to see that fears of speaking up or taking charge are not uncommon while also reassuring them that by taking even small actions one step at a time, their confidence will grow. The cyclical structure of the story enhances the idea that change is gradual—in nature and in people. Hopkinson’s text revolving around butterflies and making a butterfly garden way station will excite kids to do the same at their school, at home, or in their community.

Meilo So’s gorgeous and tender illustrations portray vibrant scenes of flower bedecked balconies, blooming community gardens, and a busy, colorful town. So cleverly depicts the library’s stacks of books in similar floral hues, connecting the nurturing of children and butterflies. The faces of all the children and the adults are thoughtful and enthusiastic. Readers can clearly see the protagonist’s physical growth throughout the seasons as well as her developing self-confidence and will want to watch for ways in which she mirrors a butterfly. The children in the classroom and the school are a diverse mix and demonstrate the enthusiasm and determination of kids who want to make a difference.

So is a master at illustrating butterflies, caterpillars, and other insects, and her realistic images will fascinate readers. Children get to see a caterpillar form a chrysalis, transform into a butterfly inside, and emerge. They also see the seeds inside a milkweed pod as well as the plants themselves, throngs of monarchs during migration, and maps of migration routes. 

Exhilarating, poignant, and inspirational on many levels, Butterflies Belong Here is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452176802

Discover more about Deborah Hopkinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Meilo So and view portfolios of her art, visit her website and heflinreps.

National Learn about Butterflies Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-butterflies-maze

Beautiful Butterflies Maze

 

Can you find the sixteen words associated with butterflies in this printable puzzle?

Beautiful Butterflies Maze Puzzle | Beautiful Butterflies Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-cover

You can find Butterflies Belong Here at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 5 – National Day of Unplugging

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-cover

About the Holiday

National Day of Unplugging is a 24-hour respite from the ever-present technology that can rob us of seeing what’s right in front of us, of actively participating in events, or partaking in activities like playing outside or even reading a physical book. Constant digital connections can also disrupt sleep. This year we’ve been even more tied to our devices for work, school, and socializing, but taking a day to decompress and enjoy nature or just some quiet, contemplation can be refreshing and revitalizing. To celebrate today, push the off button and enjoy a more relaxing day! What you discover may be surprising – just like today’s book!

A New Green Day

By Antoinette Portis

 

Nature provides many surprises from tiny glimpses of underground industry to shocking displays of overhead power. In between are moments that often go unremarked but which enrich our days and, when we stop to think about them, provide new insights. In her lyrical riddles, Antoinette Portis invites readers to listen as animate and inanimate parts of nature describe themselves and then to guess at their identities.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-inchworm

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2020, courtesy of Neal Porter Books.

The day begins with this riddle: “‘Morning lays me on your pillow, / an invitation, square and warm. / Come out and play!’” Can you guess? Will you answer? Or will you doze a minute more? When you do rise and go outside, you may notice a “‘glistening ink’” on the sidewalk that tells you someone passed through during the night. Who might it have been?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-tadpole

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2020, courtesy of Neal Porter Books.

Each riddle, composed of poetic perceptions and whimsical metaphors, is printed in a monochrome square on the righthand pages, enticing readers to contemplate the possibilities before flipping the page. There they discover the answers in sumptuous and lovingly crafted illustrations designed with sumi ink, vine charcoal, leaf prints, and hand-stamped lettering. Each pairing gives kids reasons to head out the door or watch through the window with new perspectives. Who wouldn’t revel in an experience like this: “‘I am cool pudding / on a muggy day. / Let your toes / have a taste!’”

Dynamic, absorbing, and fun, A New Green Day is a perfect take-along for summer outings as well as a captivating addition to any story time. The book is highly recommended for home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Neal Porter Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0823444885

Discover more about Antoinette Portis, her books, and her art on her website.

National Day of Unplugging Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft-3

Dragonfly Decoration

 

After enjoying the outdoors, bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-cover

You can find A New Green Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 4 – National Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-once-upon-another-time-cover

About the Holiday

The month of March is dedicated to reading! Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates all the joys and benefits of reading. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is typically marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. This year, you can find virtual story times,  resources, and activity ideas on the National Education Association website

Thank you to Beaming Books for sharing a digital copy of Once Upon Another Time for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Once Upon Another Time

Written by Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal

 

In their contemplative story, Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine entreat readers to look at the world in a way that’s new yet also as old as time itself. Beginning with the wistfulness of a fairytale, the hypnotic verses take children back to a “land of long ago”… where “wonder waited in the hush / of every new sunrise.” Back to when mountains rose into clean skies and rivers ran though lush valleys. Back to when “there were no cities made of steel, / no buildings, no concrete, / no highways, byways, / billboard signs, / no traffic in the street.”

For kids it may seem impossible that there was ever a time that gazing upward offered no chance of seeing a plane or drone and that all “the webs were spider-spun.” It’s hard to imagine a world with no machines, no mining for gold or oil, no farming, and even no human footprints in the soil. But “before one human step was taken… Earth and moon and stars awakened.”

This world’s still waiting to be found by stepping out, taking along no distractions. Then once outside, really look at the smallest things, “feel the wind,” and “taste the rain.” Listen closely, breathe in smells, and climb a tree. In the dark, “watch the moon. / Listen to the cricket’s tune.” And soon the dawning “sun will climb… / just as it did another time.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-once-upon-another-time-deer

Image copyright Andrés F. Landazábal, 2021, text copyright Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

The collaboration between Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine has created a rhyming story that doesn’t just celebrate nature but invites children to rediscover its awesome power to inspire, nurture, and excite. Ghigna and Esenwine’s story structure takes children backward in steps, reflected in page turns, from noisy cities and cluttered skies to the introduction of dams and factories to simple mining practices to the first humans and finally to the birth of our solar system. The impression these pages forge exposes that well-known duality of time: it moves so quickly; it moves so slowly. And so it is with childhood—that time when one can embrace nature—and life—with innocence and wonder. Esenwine and Ghigna ask kids to leave behind the phones, computers, and games to experience sights, sounds, smells, and feelings for real as well as to imagine the past and all the ways we are connected to it.

Andrés F. Landazábal’s lovely illustrations portray the grandeur of nature as well as its simple surprises that are no less breathtaking. A pink, turquoise and golden sunset over desert plateaus contrasts with a twilit wildflower field where a tiny sparrow watches a flock of birds fly away under the eye of a pale crescent moon. Landazábal’s images of nature are soft and mottled while his depictions of modern society show stark lines and the impenetrable nature of concrete, glass, and metal. As the story invites kids to discover the world unhindered, one page spread that will be a particular favorite of readers shows two children walking into their backyard underneath which a fossilized dinosaur sprawls. In his final pages, Landazábal assures readers that no matter where they live—country, suburbs, or city—there are places where they can experience the wonders of nature.

A unique, beautifully poetic invitation for children to explore nature and their place in it, Once Upon Another Time is a story readers will love to hear again and again. The book can also provide a spark for environmental, science, writing, and history lessons. Once Upon Another Time is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506460543

Discover more about Charles Ghigna, his books, and his poetry on his website.

To learn more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry, visit his website.

You can learn more about Andrés F. Landazábal and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Once Upon Another Time Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Beaming Books in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Once Upon Another Time written by Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine | illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal

This giveaway is open from March 5 through March 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 12.

To Enter:

  • Follow my fabulous intern Dorothy Levine @DorothyJLevine
  • Retweet
  • Reply with favorite part of nature for extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

Prizing provided by Beaming Books

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

National Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-and-books-maze

Book-Loving Shark Maze

 

If you’re like this shark, you love devouring books – the more the better! Can you help this shark find its way to the stack of books in this printable puzzle?

Book-Loving Shark Maze | Book-Loving Shark Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-once-upon-another-time-cover

You can find Once Upon Another Time at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 3 – World Wildlife Day and Interview with Author Heather Lang

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-detective-cover

About the Holiday

A vast number of plant and animal species are facing endangerment or extinction due to human caused climate change. World Wildlife Day was created in 1973 as an effort to protect the many endangered species of the world. It is an international holiday with a new theme each year to celebrate the biodiversity of our earth while also promoting awareness and advocacy. The theme for this year’s observance is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” There are many wonderful ways to celebrate this holiday; spend some time in nature, pick up litter around your block, find out about activities going on in your hometown, and read books to educate yourself and others on the livelihood of forests, wildlife and the environment.  To learn more about World Wildlife Day, and the virtual events happening today, visit this webpage: https://www.wildlifeday.org/. If you are searching for books to celebrate, The Leaf Detective is a perfect fit!

Thanks to Boyds Mills for providing a digital copy of The Leaf Detective for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

As a child, Meg was quite shy to make friends. She spent lots of time studying and playing with wildlife: “Meg wrapped herself in nature, like a soft blanket.” As she continued to grow, so did her passion for leaves, trees, and nature. Meg attended Sydney University in Australia. In 1979, she became the first person at her graduate school to study the rainforest. Through her studies Meg learned that people had been all the way to outer space to study, but nobody had ever ventured to the tippity top of a canopy tree. Instead, they studied trees from far away through binoculars. Oftentimes scientists would spray trees with chemicals so that the harmed leaves and animals would drop to the forest floor where people could study them up close. Meg sought to change this.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-detective-harness

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

“In the dark, damp forest the trees rose up to distant rustling, squawks and screeches, shadows in the treetops. How could she get up there?” Meg Lowman created her own slingshot and harness and inched up a coachwood tree. When she reached the canopy, she knew she’d found the perfect place to study and explore. Meg is quoted saying, “From then on, I never looked back…or down!”

Meg continued to create new strategies to study the canopy, as a scientist does. And in doing so she made so many discoveries, such as: “We now believe the canopy is home to approximately half the plant and animal species on land.” Many people tried to stop Meg along her journey. They told her she couldn’t take science classes, climb trees, or make inventions because she was a woman. But Meg ignored them. She continued to investigate.

She knew that rainforests were (and are) in danger, and that so many creatures rely on the rainforest ecosystem. People all over the world were cutting down large parts of the rainforests for wood, rubber, paper, and farmland. This worried Meg; she wanted to find a way to protect rainforests before they all disappeared. “She wondered, How can one leaf detective make a difference? How can I save the trees?…Then an idea crawled into Meg’s thoughts—a way to speak for the trees.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-detective-bugs

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Meg traveled around the world. She spoke to people across many different countries; taught them how to climb trees, build canopy walkways—she showed people the many gifts rainforests have to offer. Meg educated communities on how they could share their rainforest with outsiders, showcase its beauty to create revenue rather than chopping them down for resources. By using her voice and creative mind, Meg helped implement systems that have saved many trees and creatures across the world.

Meg Lowman continues to study trees, save rainforests, and teach people how to shift their economies to center around ecotourism and sustainable crops rather than resource extraction. She has used her voice to save rainforests across the world, and yet she still says, “If only I could have achieved as much as the tree!… But I have not. I have whittled away at relatively small goals in comparison to the grander accomplishments of a tree.”

Backmatter includes an author’s note detailing Heather Lang’s visit to meet Margaret Lowman in the Amazon rainforest in Perú. The note includes more information on Dr. Lowman’s advocacy work and is followed by an illustrated educational spread on the layers of canopies, and species featured throughout the story are labeled in the final spread, for readers to learn more about specific animals that make their homes in the rainforest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-detective-trampoline

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Heather Lang’s lyrical writing matches the carefulness with which Meg studies leaves, trees, and the rainforest canopy. Her compelling storytelling is rich with facts and sensory imagery that immerse readers in the environment and Meg’s determination to understand and, later, save it. Scattered images of leaves drop fun facts and definitions for readers about the rainforest, canopies, transpiration, herbivores, and more. Quotes from Dr. Lowman are thoughtfully placed throughout the story in a manner that neatly flows. The Leaf Detective urges readers to understand that “a tree is not just a tree” but rather “a shelter for animals and people, / a recycler and provider of water, / a creator of food and oxygen, / an inventor of medicine/ a soldier against climate change.”

Jana Christy’s digital drawings contain stunning detail and show an accurate scale of one small person in comparison to the vastness of the rainforest. Her mesmerizing wildlife creatures and immersive watercolor blues and greens transport readers right into the rainforest with “Canopy Meg.” The lush greens of the rainforests contrast strikingly with the spread on deforestation, in which fallen trees lay scattered on the bare, brown ground. Readers will also be interested to see the innovations that have made the trees more accessible to people. One can read the book over and over and notice new details every time. It is a book to treasure, to study, to read and re-read again. 

Come unearth the secrets of the rainforest with Margaret Lowman in this book that’s budding with knowledge, empathy, and magic, and is a tale of how one person can make a difference. The intriguing facts, poignant quotes from Dr. Lowman herself, and beautiful poetic writing will leave readers of this book inspired with wonder and with a hunger for advocacy. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest is an urgent must-read for all ages.

A portion of Heather Lang’s royalties for this book go to TREE Foundation—an organization that funds field trips for children to get into nature, canopy projects, and science book distribution for children with limited access to STEAM, girls especially. 

Ages 6 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371778

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Heather Lang

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Heather-Lang-headshot

Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her research has taken her to the skies, the treetops of the Amazon, and the depths of the ocean. Her award-winning picture book biographies include, QUEEN OF THE TRACK: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall, FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, and ANYBODY’S GAME: Kathryn Johnston, The First Girl to Play Little League Baseball. When she is not writing, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and four children. Visit Heather at www.heatherlangbooks.com.

Today I am thrilled to be interviewing author Heather Lang about her new biographical picture book The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest. Heather provides some thoughtful notes for shy readers, riveting stories from the rainforest and insight into the importance of exploring and caring for nature.

Can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to write The Leaf Detective?  

We’ve caused enormous harm to our planet over the last few centuries, and I’m especially concerned about our rainforests. I knew I wanted to write a biography that was also a science book about the rainforest. When I read about Meg’s pioneering work and deep passion for trees, I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to find out how this quiet, nature-loving child, who didn’t know women could be scientists, became a world-class scientist and conservationist.

In the story you talk about how Meg was shy to make playmates with other kids. Were you also a shy kid growing up? Do you have any advice for readers who may relate to this aspect of Meg’s childhood? 

Like Meg, I was very shy as a child and remember wishing I were more outgoing. But as I grew older, I began to recognize the many advantages to being shy! My shy nature led me to sit back and observe. And that led to deeper thinking and understanding, a strong imagination, and creativity. Shy people often think more before they speak. They make their words count, which coincidentally is an important part of writing picture books. This also makes shy people good listeners and thoughtful friends. 

I’m still shy in many ways, and my recommendation to readers who might identify with this is to embrace your shyness! At the same time, don’t let it stop you from doing things you want to do. Meg Lowman told me she used to get so nervous before presenting in graduate school that she’d get physically sick. But with practice, practice, practice, she’s become a captivating presenter and educator. If you watch a few of her FUN FACTS FROM THE FIELD videos on my website, you’ll see what I mean! 

How would you describe your connection to nature? Would you consider yourself a “detective” in any ways? 

I’m constantly in awe of nature and its countless gifts and surprises. Nothing sparks my curiosity more than our natural world, and my curiosity is probably my most important tool as a writer. Being open-minded and asking questions not only generates ideas, but also leads me to think more deeply about a topic and examine it closely from lots of different angles. And of course that generates more detective work and more learning about my topic and myself. Being a detective is one of my favorite parts of writing books.

Do you have a favorite rainforest tree or creature? If so, tell me about it a bit!

When I arrived in the Amazon rainforest, I couldn’t wait to see a sloth! But during my time there I became fascinated with ants. They are everywhere in the rainforest, even in the canopy. I think it’s amazing how such tiny creatures can be so hardworking and organized. Their teamwork is unbelievable. And they are invaluable to the health of our rainforests. Among other things, they’re in charge of waste management on the rainforest floor, and they disperse seeds and aerate the soil!

What was the most rewarding part of writing The Leaf Detective?

This writing project was filled with rewards every step of the way! I learned so much about our rainforests and trees and gained a true understanding of how interconnected we all are—plants, animals, and humans. Getting to really know Meg Lowman and learning from her firsthand was thrilling and strengthened my writing in many important ways. It was also really rewarding to stretch myself as a writer and find a way to effectively write a book that seemed ambitious at first—a biography and conservation book that wove in quotes and science facts. 

Are there any stories from your trip to meet Meg that you did not get the chance to include in your author’s note that you’d like to share?

While I was on my Amazon adventure with Meg, I had many exciting moments. I loved learning from the Indigenous people how to use a blow gun, make clay, and braid palm leaves to make thatched roofs. The local shaman taught me how he uses different plants in the rainforest to treat and prevent injuries and illnesses—from bronchitis to poisonous snake bites. He also helped me confront my fear of snakes by bringing one over for me to touch. I even let it gently coil around my neck! But my favorite moments were exploring with Meg, especially at night and early in the morning when there’s so much activity in the rainforest.

What are you working on next?

I’m having a blast working on a new informational picture book series about extraordinary animals for Candlewick Press with my co-author/illustrator and close friend Jamie Harper. The first book, Supermoms!, features cool nonfiction facts about 18 amazing animal moms in a graphic format with humorous callouts. 

I’m also working on a collective biography for readers in grades 3 – 7. More to come on that soon!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Heather! I had a lovely time hearing about your inspiration, stories, writing process and tips for shy readers. Looking forward to learning and reading more from you in the months and years to come.

World Wildlife Day Activity

Screen Shot 2021-03-02 at 9.24.20 PM

You can create your own rainforest with this coloring page. Use the blank space around the picture to label the layers as shown on the last page of The Leaf Detective!

Rainforest Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-world-wildlife-day-poster-2021

Three different beautiful World Wildlife Day 2021 posters in six languages are available for download here.

You can find The Leaf Detective at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review