September 19 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As September winds down, I’m happy to feature another new book for this month’s special holiday. Searching for and sharing new books—whether they are recently published or just new to you—is not only a fun way to spend a day together with kids, but an experience that pays big benefits now and in the future. Make a plan to add a few new books to your home library or visit your local library today!

Thanks go to Bloomsbury Children’s Book for sending me a copy of Time to Roar for review consideration. All opinion on the book are mine.

Time to Roar: A Story about Raising Your Voice

Written by Olivia A. Cole | Illustrated by Jessica Gibson

For Sasha, the meadow in the middle of the forest was where she felt most at peace, where she could “enjoy the feeling of being a bear.” Before dawn, she would lie in the meadow, where “…the smell of green was like a song she knew by heart.” But one morning, Sasha watched as noisy “yellow beasts” began tearing up the meadow with their silver teeth. A squirrel predicted that soon nothing would be left of their home.

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sasha was ready to charge down the hill and confront the machines. But the squirrel advised caution and suggested all the animals have a meeting. Sasha relented. As the squirrel called the animals, they came out of hiding and listed to the squirrel talk about the danger that had come. Sasha was again ready to stop them with her mighty roar, but the bluebird thought she could persuade them with her song. As he flew over the machines, however their noise drowned out his song’s sweetness.

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Rabbit had another idea of how he could distract them, but her attempt went unnoticed too. The deer thought he could lead the machines away from their home, but his appearance made no difference either. In fear, all the animals rushed to hide. “‘It’s the only way we will survive!’” they exclaimed. But Sasha did not hide. “Inside her, anger welled up, sparkling. Maybe it was stronger than yellow beasts.” She thought about all the tactics the other animals had taken. “She knew what had to be done…. Sometimes a bear had to raise her voice.” She ran to the edge of the meadow and ROARED until the echo of her roars shook the yellow machines. This time when the ground shook it was with the rumble of the machines fleeing the meadow.

When the meadow was quiet again, the other animals came out of hiding. They sadly acknowledged that their attempts had not worked, but Sasha consoled them, telling them that there were times when quieter approaches to a problem were needed. But there were also times that required a “ROAR.”

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Olivia A. Cole’s straightforward and powerful story about directly speaking up to oppose dangerous events or people is a very welcome book not only for this time, but for all times and all ages. In an age where young people and even children are leading the charge to procure a peaceful, fair, and unpolluted future, Time to Roar offers encouragement and support for those who courageously “see something and say something,” a lesson they have grown up hearing. A striking feature of Cole’s story is her inclusion of the alternate philosophies and tactics many people advocate to combat threats and her forthright depiction of how and why these approaches often don’t work. Children struggling with bullies or what to do about issues they disagree with at school or in other groups as well as those who want to make a difference in their town, their country, or for the world at large will find much to inspire and empower them in Cole’s well-paced and well-told story.

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Jessica Gibson’s compelling digital illustrations pack persuasive power as Sasha determines to rid the meadow of the bulldozers sent to destroy it. With the turn of one page, the soft colors of an idyllic dawn meadow give way to a harsh glare further spoiled with plumes of smoke and blinding headlights. Black silhouettes of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and dear dash out of the way, visual metaphors for the loss the construction will wreck on the forest. Sasha’s anger and the concern of the other animals shows clearly on their faces, and while the bluebird, rabbit, and deer are well-intentioned, Gibson’s depictions of their attempts to turn back the bulldozers shows the futility of these responses against the enormity of their foe. Gibson’s portrayal of Sasha roaring to shake the earth and the status quo will spur confidence and buoy readers’ hearts.

An empowering story to inspire children to raise their voice, Time to Roar would be an excellent addition to home libraries. The book would also pair well with social studies and history lessons about appeasement and the effects of protest—or the lack of it, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547603701

Discover more about Olivia A. Cole and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jessica Gibson, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Wooden Spoon Microphone

A microphone can help anyone be heard. With this easy craft your child can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for all those times when they have something important to say.

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

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You can find Time to Roar at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 4 – National Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige to promote awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide as well as to acknowledge the education and conservation work of zoos and animal sanctuaries. To honor the memory and birthday of Steve Irwin, National Wildlife Day is also celebrated on February 2. To celebrate today’s holiday, take time to learn about what you can do to help protect the environment. One action might be as easy as turning off a light – as today’s book shows.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

National Wildlife Day Activity

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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

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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

July 30 – International Day of Friendship

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About the Holiday

Established in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Friendship asserts the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The UN resolution places particular emphasis on involving young people in community activities that include different cultures and promote respect for individual diversity. On this day UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges everyone, especially young people who will be our future leaders, “to resolve to cherish and cultivate as many warm relationships as possible, enriching our own lives and enhancing the future.” The day is celebrated with special initiatives, events, and activities that promote dialogue, education, understanding, and cooperation. Children are especially receptive to learning about and reaching out to others to achieve common goals. Today’s book can get them started. For more information about the International Day of Friendship and a list of actions we can all take, visit the United Nations website

Our World: A First Book of Geography

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisk Feng

 

A board book like no other, Our World literally gives kids a well-rounded look at the geography of the countries, oceans, animals, plants, and climate that make up our home planet while engaging them with lyrical verses and information-packed paragraphs. Sue Lowell Gallion invites readers on her journey around the world as the sun, rising over a cool sea where scuba divers swim, brightens the sky with pastel colors: “Many places to explore, / From mountain peaks to ocean floor. / Look around you, step outside… / Find forests tall, / And grasslands wide.”

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Over the three spreads that contain this verse, children learn how the weather influences the types of trees that inhabit wooded areas and what types of leaves they have. Next, Gallion contrasts forests with open grasslands and reveals that while trees may be scarce on the plains, a diversity of animals is not. While herbivores easily find plenty to satisfy their hunger in grassy environments, carnivores must hunt, and their prey have adapted to survive: “Many animals, like zebras, are fast runners because there are few places to hide.”

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Traveling on to the world’s lush rainforests, Gallion provides little learners with enticing snippets of information about the profusion of plants and animals that live here. What might be the counterpoint to rainforests? If you’d say deserts, you’d be right! While some deserts are hot and others cold, Gallion writes, “all deserts have one thing in common: it almost never rains.” Still, an amazing variety of plants and animals thrive in these formidable conditions. Gallion shares how with her young readers.

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Antarctica and the icy tundra of the Arctic and high mountain peaks are populated with animals specially suited to life in our planet’s coldest regions. But, Gallion reveals, “the ice covering both the North and South poles is melting fast now. This makes temperatures and ocean levels rise around the world.” The book’s journey also spans “rivers, lakes, / Oceans deep. / Valleys, hills, / Mountains steep.” Over these pages, children learn how rivers form and where they flow; they discover what types of creatures live in shallow ocean waters as well as those pockets that are “deeper than the tallest mountains on Earth”; and they learn how the most majestic mountains and their valleys were created. 

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

One two-page spread opens to a world map, where the seven continents and major oceans, seas, and gulfs are clearly labeled. Children will love pointing out where they, friends, and family live as well as places they’d like to visit someday. Panning back and back and back again, readers see Earth floating in space as Gallion explains “what makes life on Earth possible for plants, animals, and humans, too.” Then it’s time to zoom in to view a single house under a star-lit sky; a house that will spark in readers an appreciation for the wonder of “our blue planet, / Warmed by sun: / A living home for everyone.”

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sue Lowell Gallion’s enchanting poem and informational text, which is sure to inspire kids to learn more about all of Earth’s natural wonders, are set off in a unique design which allows the book to open into a 3D, freestanding globe that will wow kids and adults alike. Magnets embedded in the front and back cover hold the spherical shape while the fanned-out pages create a sturdy base. 

Giving this view of the world its vibrant and distinctive look are Lisk Feng’s spectacular illustrations of dawn-streaked hills, forests frosted white in winter and ablaze with color in autumn, and an array of creatures big and small that make each region exceptional. The image of the rainforest is especially rich, with its multi-hued vegetation that hides a snake, a jaguar, a toucan, a crocodile, and more creatures that kids will love searching for. Transitioning from the world map to a view of Earth from outer space to a single home at the end of the book reminds readers of their singularly important place in the world as individuals and as custodians of its resources.

A gorgeous and perfectly designed book to spark learning and research about the world’s natural features, Our World: A First Book of Geography is a must for children who love travel, nature, science, social studies, and learning about the environment. It would be a valuable asset for every classroom and homeschooler as well as a favorite pick for public library collections.

Ages 2 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660819

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

A Chat with Sue Lowell Gallion

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Sue Lowell Gallion writes for children because she is passionate about children, reading, and any combination of the two! She’s the author of the award-winning Pug Meets Pig and more.

Sue has three books releasing in 2020. Our World, A First Book of Geography, illustrated by Lisk Feng, is a uniquely formatted board book that opens up to form a free standing globe. Her latest picture book is All Except Axle, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley, is the story of a new car anxious about leaving the assembly plant and learning to drive. Tip and Tucker Paw Painters is the third in her early reader series written with her author pal Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Andre Ceolin. 

Welcome, Sue! As soon as I saw Our World (and, of course, played with it a bit), I knew I had to talk with you about your and Lisk Feng’s eye-popping book. Our World: A First Book of Geography is stunning! Can you take readers on the journey from your original idea for this book to how it became this 3D, free-standing beauty?

I’m a huge fan of the innovative, creative board books on the market now that are such fun for kids and adults to share. Also, I grew up in a family printing company, so I’m intrigued with paper engineering and unique book forms. We did a lot of hand bindery work at home on unusual jobs like pop-up advertising pieces. I was a pro with a tape machine early on.

I went to an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) workshop on board books for authors and illustrators in late 2017. During a brainstorming time, I imagined a board book about the Earth in the shape of a globe with its stand. Afterward, I searched the market to see if something like this already existed. It didn’t! Over the next month, I wrote a rhyming text to match that concept.

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The iconic Earthrise image taken from Apollo 8 in 1968 was part of my initial vision. From space, there are no national borders. I hope this book might inspire people around the world to further value our world, and to act to save and protect our planet and its environment. The melting glaciers, catastrophic weather changes, and other effects of climate change show that immediate action is long overdue.  

When the Phaidon team became interested in the manuscript, we started revising. I can’t tell you how many versions there were over a year and a half! The manuscript went from 56 words to almost 1,000 with the addition of supplementary nonfiction text for older kids. Maya Gartner, the editor, and Meagan Bennett, the art director, are in Phaidon’s London office. The two of them, plus Lisk Feng, the illustrator, were a great team. Many other Phaidon staff were involved in making this idea into a reality, of course. The way the front and back covers connect magnetically to hold the book open is incredible. My 88-year-old printer dad is impressed!

From the cover – which, with its chugging steamer, wheeling seabirds, and diving whale, seems to be in motion – to its lush interior spreads, Lisk Feng’s illustrations are gorgeous representations of each area. What was your first impression of her artwork? How were the final images chosen? Do you have a favorite?

My Phaidon editor told me they had been wanting to do a project with Lisk Feng for some time. I could see why! My first impression of her work was from her website and the middle grade nonfiction book Everest, written by Sangma Francis and illustrated by Lisk (Flying Eye Books, 2018.) It is a fascinating and gorgeous book; do get your hands on a copy! I was thrilled with the opportunity to create a nonfiction book with Lisk.

We worked to make sure each continent and a variety of geographic locations are represented in the illustrations. Each spread representing a biome is based on specific locations that both Lisk and I researched. As the illustrations were in process, I continued to research and revise the text to match the art.

My favorite spread changes all the time. I love the jungle/rainforest spread. The colors and composition are amazing. And I’ve been drawn to the water feature spread, which illustrates rivers, lakes, and oceans, from the very beginning.

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As far as the cover, one of the themes of the book is the connectedness of the world. Early versions of the manuscript included how transportation links the world, and that’s represented on the cover. It’s another conversation point with kids – where would you like to go, and how could you get there? Which oceans would you fly over or sail through?

The text is a combination of lyrical, rhyming verses and explanatory paragraphs that are just right for introducing the youngest readers as well as older kids to geography. How did you choose which details to include? How would you recommend readers, teachers, and homeschoolers use Our World?

I’d love to direct your readers to the two activity guides for the book. One is for babies through kindergarteners, and another guide has games to use with a globe beach ball. Some work with a real globe, too. Globe beach balls are inexpensive and easy to find online. The games can be as simple as playing catch and noticing whether your hand is holding land or water – and a child is learning how much of our earth is covered with ocean. The guides are free to download from my website, suegallion.com, under Resources. Most libraries have globes, so that’s one more reason to go to the library!

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The dual narrative makes the book appeal to a range of ages, I hope. The rhyming text is an introduction, and the supplementary text adds more. We tried to make the text interactive, to encourage conversation and further learning. For example, in the spread about water features (lakes, rivers, and oceans) we mention that places in the ocean are as deep as the tallest mountains on land. Perhaps that will inspire a family to talk about Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space, who recently dove in a submersible to Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth, located in the Pacific Ocean.

It was important to me to include the fact that ocean water is too salty to drink. An easy experiment to do with kids is to have them mix their own saltwater and see what it tastes like. This can lead to a conversation about how in many places people don’t have enough safe, clean freshwater to drink, and what happens when people have to drink dirty or polluted water.

I hope as kids and adults turn the pages to reveal different places in our world, they can talk about contrasts and similarities. What would it be like to live in this place? What would you feel or hear if you were there? What else would you like to know?

Why do you think it’s important for children to learn geography from the earliest ages?

A child’s understanding of the world around them begins at birth, then grows as sight, dexterity, and mobility develop. I like the definition of geography as learning place and space. Spatial thinking and mapping skills are important to understanding concepts later on in math, the sciences, history, and more.

Experiencing other places, either in person or through books, can expand a young child’s world tremendously. Books can help kids feel a connection with places they haven’t been, and people they’ve never met. And in our nature-deficit culture, books also encourage kids and families to explore the outdoors and expand curiosity.

Which of the areas described in the book most closely resembles where you live? What do you like best about this area? Have you ever traveled to any of the other regions in the book? What surprised you most about it/them?

I live on the eastern edge of the Great Plains in the U.S., a grassland biome. In the book, grasslands are represented by the African savanna. We wanted the illustrations to feature animals whenever possible, because animals are so interesting to kids. The African savanna, with all its marvelous large mammals, was the natural choice.

I did want to give a shout out to my region in the book, so you’ll find the cold winters and blizzards that cross the Great Plains of North America included in the secondary text. What do I like best about this region? Well, Kansas City is my hometown. It is a beautiful part of the country, as you see in this image of the Konza tallgrass prairie in eastern Kansas.

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My family circled back here after living in several other regions of the U.S. I love to travel, and I can’t wait for it to be safe to start planning my next trips. I have four more continents to go: South America, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. And I haven’t visited a polar biome yet. It’s on my list.

Thanks, Sue, for sharing the fascinating story of Our World! What an amazing resource for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers! And I hope you get to visit all the places on your list! 

You can connect with Sue on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Our World: A First Book of Geography Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sue Lowell Gallion in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Our World: A First Book of Geography, written by Sue Lowell Gallion | illustrated by Lisk Feng
  • An Inflatable Globe Beachball

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite place for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from July 30 through August 6 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 7.

Prizing provided by Sue Lowell Gallion

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

International Day of Friendship Activity

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Our World Activity Kits

 

You’ll find lots of activities that get kids – from infants to kindergarteners and beyond – interacting with geography through games, movement, songs, a scavenger hunt, and crafts on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website. Learning about our world has never been so much fun!

Our World Activity Kits

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You can find Our World: A First Book of Geography at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 13 – Go West Day

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About the Holiday

On this date in 1865, Horace Greeley, a writer and editor of the New-York Daily Tribune, is purported to have stated, “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” He was, supposedly, reacting to the adverse living conditions he found in his own city and echoing the sentiments of many, who did pack up their family and all of their possessions and begin the long, arduous trek across the country to find a better life. Those intrepid souls expanded our nation, and the idea to “go west” is now synonymous with a certain determination, bravery, and sense of adventure.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Southwest Sunrise with me for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Southwest Sunrise

Written by Nikki Grimes | Illustrated by Wendell Minor

 

Jayden mopes all the way from New York to New Mexico, upset about moving from his beloved city to “a place of shadows.” Shadows and drabness are all he sees when he gets off the plane. In the morning, though, he wakes up “to a knife of sunlight slicing through” his room. Here, his window doesn’t have bars, and the view is of a “mountain striped in rainbow.” Jayden is surprised; he didn’t know that was there.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A string of chili peppers brightens the kitchen. Jayden isn’t optimistic that he’ll see any other colors in his new desert surroundings. His mom gives him a field guide to New Mexico at breakfast, and as he pages through it he doesn’t really think he’ll find any of the colorful flowers inside. But then, as he looks around, he spies the burgundy wine-cup and yellow bells that “wake up the desert with their silent ring.” He finds more flowers from the book that add red and purple to the landscape.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jayden walks on, farther away from his new house. The unfamiliar silence is broken by “the mad chatter of winged gossips passing secrets” from one piñon tree to another. He watches the long-tailed magpies swoop through the “deep waves of turquoise overhead” and wonders why he never saw so much sky in New York. Still, he misses looking up and seeing the grandeur of the skyscrapers.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Looking down again, Jayden finds a striped lizard that seems happy to run along his hand, tickle his fingers. Instead of seashells, he finds bones and an abandoned turtle shell. “What stories do they have to tell?” he wonders. He continues his walk and, upon turning the corner, finds himself in the shadow of a different kind of skyscraper—rugged, red, and rocky. On the air, Jayden hears his mom calling. He picks some flowers the colors of sunset to take home to her. He waves as he nears the house and sees her standing on the porch and flashes her “the first smile she’s seen since New York.” He thinks that maybe New Mexico can be Home.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Nikki Grimes’ lyrical story is in plot a tale about moving from one part of the country to another, but in spirit it is a invitation for children and adults alike to open their heart to new experiences, to find the beauty in the unfamiliar and the joy in the unexpected. As Jayden journeys from New York to New Mexico and then around his new environment, Grimes explores honest emotions—the disappointment and anger change can bring, the preconceived ideas about the unknown that can color feelings and actions, and even that moment when a person can reject or accept the new circumstance or opportunity. As a poet, Grimes excels at the perfectly chosen detail and sublime description. Here, her words put readers in the spotlight of New Mexico’s laser sun, let them feel the skittering feet of a lizard, meet a haughty raven, and bask in the rainbow of colors Jayden never expected he’d see. His final smile and resolve to give his new city a chance fulfills the new dawning inherent in the title and is uplifting encouragement for all.

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Slouched down in his airplane seat, baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, Wendell Minor’s Jayden is a picture of despondency. But things begin to look brighter when, in the morning, he notices the mountains and colors he missed the night before. Minor’s sun-washed illustrations allow readers to discover the beauty of the New Mexico desert along with Jayden. His new home is light and open, with a timbered ceiling and windows free of the bars he’s used to. Minor’s use of perspective allows children to view sweeping vistas of the desert landscape as well as images of some of the creatures found there. Putting the raven front and center gives kids an idea of the size and attitude of this striking bird. Fiery reds and oranges, vivid yellows, pinks, and purples, and glorious blues punctuate the sandy backdrop as Jayden’s thoughtful expressions depict his growing appreciation for his new home.

An exquisite book for any child, whether they are moving to a new home, exploring new experiences, or keen observers of their surroundings, Southwest Sunrise would be a joyful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547600823

Discover more about Nikki Grimes  and her books as well as educator guides and resources on her website.

To learn more about Wendell Minor, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Go West Day Activity

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Beautiful Desert Coloring Pages

 

The desert has plants, animals, and landmarks seen nowhere else. Grab your crayons or pencils and give these two printable scenes some of its unique color.

Curious Rabbit Desert Scene | Western Sun Desert Scene

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-cover

You can find Southwest Sunrise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 1 – It’s Wild about Wildlife Month

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About the Holiday

The theme of this month-long holiday is simply all about wildlife. Whether you like mammals, birds, fish, or insects best, July is the time to celebrate them. The month is just getting started, which give you and your kids lots of time to explore the wildlife in your area and learn about the creatures on the other side of the world and everywhere in between. Today’s book will get you started!

50 Reasons to Love Animals

Written by Catherine Barr | Illustrated by Hanako Clulow

 

In her introduction, Catherine Barr orients readers to the focus of her book with the alarming statistic that “five times in Earth’s history over half of all animals and plants have mysteriously died out. But today,” in large part because of habitat destruction, “species are becoming extinct much faster than the natural rate.” She and Hanako Clulow then take children on around-the-world-trip to various ecosystems to discover facts about the animals that live in each and find spotlighted “how to love…” suggestions for protecting them in every chapter.

The first stop is a dry savanna, where African elephants, giraffes, zebras, and hippos gather around a watering hole. Kids will be interested to learn that baby elephants take about a year to “figure out how to eat and drink with their strange, long noses,” and that hippos have a built-in sunscreen that protects them from the sun. At night, lions, lesser bushbabies, and pangolins come out to eat. They’ll also learn about other animals on the savannah as well as about the shrinking population of elephants—victims of poaching for their ivory tusks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-50-reasons-to-love-animals-coral-reef

Image copyright Hanako Clulow, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Readers next dive into the sea to explore a coral reef, which provides nutrients and a home to a wide variety of creatures—including marine sponges, which contain “chemicals that are used in medicine to treat diseases like cancer, spiny lobsters, seahorses, sharks, dolphins, and various types of sea turtles. Children learn more about these shelled favorites who have populated our oceans for 100 million years and the dangers they face, including polluted waters, fishing nets, and plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish and ingest. How can kids love a turtle? By learning more about climate change and how it is killing coral reefs.

Children return to land to discover the Arctic and Antarctica. The northern icy pole is home to polar bears, harp seals, puffins, whales, while the southern pole is home to seals and emperor penguins. Kids might think about these intrepid creatures—who can “survive in very low temperatures of -76 degrees Fahrenheit” the next time they put on a sweater or coat.

Ahhh! Kids can warm up in an evergreen forest with two cute bear cubs learning how to scratch their back against a tree trunk as a porcupine, a Steller’s jay, and a pine marten look on. There are all kinds of forests, and readers are next transported to a bamboo forest, where a giant panda and her cub chow down on lunch. Here, children learn about the threats to bamboo forests and, by extension, the panda population while meeting a few more denizens of this unique environment. An old forest growing in the shadow of snow-capped mountains gives shelter to a grizzly bear family and majestic elk. Did you know that a grizzly bear “can run as fast as a race horse?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-50-reasons-to-love-animals-pandas

Image copyright Hanako Clulow, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The northern and southern open oceans host whales, octopuses, penguins, seals, a multitude of fish species, and strange creatures we’re only beginning to learn about. Many animals of the cold Southern Ocean eat krill, but the loss of sea ice to climate change decreases the number of krill and threatens to endanger the animals that rely on it. How much does pollution affect our oceans? “Scientists estimate that the population of ocean animals has halved over the last 40 years.”

Finally, kids come to a tropical forest, where Asian elephants are busy scratching an itch and swatting away flies with sticks they use as tools. Bengal tigers, orangutans, sun bears, and hornbills are only a few of the creatures who make these lush forests their home. Tropical rainforests are being diminished by logging and their replacement by palm oil plantations. You can help by checking the ingredients of products you use—”from food to toothpaste” for palm oil and finding “better options such as sustainable palm oil or palm oil-free products.”

As the book closes, readers meet up with elephants once again. These African forest elephants share space with people and gorillas. While the elephants can wreak havoc on farms, “farmers are encouraging elephants away from their crops—with a hum and a sticky reward.” Can you figure out what it is?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-50-reasons-to-love-animals-gentoo-penguins

Image copyright Hanako Clulow, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Catherine Barr’s captivating text and fifty highlighted facts offer readers a fascinating and eye-opening trip around the world to raise awareness of the dangers animals and humans face if we don’t work together to find solutions to pollution, habitat destruction, and other threats to the environment. Today’s environmentally conscious children will eagerly want to participate in the “Show you love…” tips, which provide ideas for classroom and homeschool research and activities.

Hanako Clulow combines lifelike portrayals with the appeal of kawaii to bring the various ecosystems to vibrant life for readers. Through her textured and detailed illustrations, readers will feel transported to a grassy plain, where each blade of grass is visible; dive into warm and frigid waters for a peek at what lies below; and enjoy a warm day on a flower-speckled riverbank. Clulow’s wide vistas also give children a stunning view of each environment, allowing them to see what is in danger of being lost. While clearly depicted and easy to read, the numbered fact boxes do not intrude on the illustrations, making each two-page spread a lovely learning experience. The chapter format makes the book easy to dip into for classroom or homeschool lessons.

An excellent introduction to world environments, 50 Reasons to Love Animals would be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711252462

Discover more about Catherine Barr and her books as well as free learning activities on her website.

You can find a portfolio of work by Hanako Clulow on her website.

Wild about Wildlife Month Activity

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

Handprint Elephants

 

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-50-reasons-to-love-animals-cover

You can find 50 Reasons to Love Animals at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 25 – National Rivers Month

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About the Holiday

Rivers are beautiful, provide recreation, and are crucial to our water supply. Did you know that in the United States 65% of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams? This month environmentalists and others promote awareness of the importance of keeping the nation’s rivers pollution free to protect the fish and animals that call them home and increase enjoyment for all. To help the cause, find out how you can help an environmental organization in your area. This year might be the perfect time to get to know your local river system better and then plan a trip to fish, swim, boat, or just have a picnic on the bank.

River

By Elisha Cooper

 

As a woman begins her solitary trip on a mountain lake, she turns and waves to her family. The familiar shore recedes, and she dips her oar into the blue water under gray skies and in the shadow of the tall mountains. “Three hundred miles stretch in front of her. A faraway destination, a wild plan. And the question: Can she do this?” As she enters the Hudson River, she plucks a pebble from the shallow water and places it beside her gear. Here, she must navigate the scattered rocks—and one that is not a rock at all, but a moose taking a dip.

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Ahead, she rides rapids that steal her hat and threaten to flip her. But she hangs on and makes it out on the other side. Now it’s time to set up camp for the night. Huddled in her tent, “she is alone, but not. The river stays beside her, mumbling to her and to itself all through the night.” With the dawn, she is on the river again, along with “otters, ducks, dragonflies, a kingfisher.” When she stops to pick blackberries, a bear cub ambles by to watch. The woman backs away slowly and continues down the river.

When she comes to a dam, she must carry her canoe. She trips, falls, and bloodies her knee, but on the other side of the dam, she returns to her paddling. When she comes to a waterfall, she gets in line for her turn to go through the lock. Once on her way again, she moves on to “farms with faded barns, to villages with white clapboard houses, to chimneyed factories on the outskirts of a town. Here, she pulls her canoe onto a levee where two boys are fishing. They ask her where she’s going, and she tells them. “It feels funny to talk.” As she walks into town, her legs also feel funny beneath her. She buys supplies and replaces her hat. That night is spent on a small island.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-river-rapids

Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

When she wakes, the white fog has blanketed everything. She can’t see the river, but she watches an eagle high in a tree eating its breakfast. She takes out her sketchbook and draws. The fog lifts and she continues her journey. The days and nights are marked by her hardening callouses and darkening suntan, shortening pencils and waning sketchbook pages. She paddles past “craggy hills” and “around bell-ringing buoys, next to railway tracks and a clattering freight train.”

She dodges a tugboat oblivious to her presence and makes it to another village, where she mails postcards and buys a cookie. A rain drop falls just as she climbs back into her canoe. The raindrop turns into a drizzle and then “a single sheet blowing sideways. A squall.” Her canoe capsizes, “dumping her into the raging water.” When she is able, she drags her canoe and herself onto a rocky shore. “Shivering, she takes stock. Tent, gone, Clothes, soaked. Sketchbook, safe.”

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

In the morning she starts again. As she rounds a bluff, the city spreads out in front of her. Far above her a gull watches as she makes her way past skyscrapers and boats large and small to the harbor and on to the boatyard, where “a bearded man in overalls—the builder of her canoe”—eagerly waits to hear about her trip and the sturdiness of her craft. After a cup of coffee, she launches her canoe for the last leg of her journey.

She is now in the open ocean with its wild waves. The horizon beckons, “but closer in she sees the lighthouse, and she knows it is time for her to be home.” She paddles harder and faster. “She can’t wait to be with them again. Can’t wait to tell them about moose and eagles, rapids and storms…to turn her sketches into paintings and her words into a story.” Her family is on shore waving, her dog running into the surf to greet her. She scuds into the shallows “…and brings the canoe to shore.”

An Author’s Note about the creation of River as well as a Note on the Hudson River and a list of sources and reading resources follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-river-home

Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Elisha Cooper’s loving and lyrical tribute to nature, courage, and self-reliance is nothing short of spectacular. His fluid storytelling plays out with the rhythm of an oar cutting and pushing a canoe along while transporting readers smoothly through this most evocative journey. With exquisite descriptions and compelling obstacles that will leave children wide-eyed and holding their breath, River is an expansive adventure story of one woman pitting herself against the power of the Hudson River and her own tenacity. The story is also one of love—respect for the environment, awe for community, and devotion to family and the support found there.

Cooper’s soft and sprawling watercolors envelop readers in the river setting, where the woman appears tiny against the rocky coastline, towering mountains, waterfalls, dams, and cityscapes. Double-page spreads swell the heart and invite wanderlust in even the most ardent homebodies. And there may be no better way to share this personal and universal journey than by gathering together and reading River in one sitting or—for younger children—breaking away at one of the many cliffhangers that will have everyone yearning to dip into the story again.

A must for school and public library collections, River is highly recommended for all home bookshelves as well for its inspiration for personal goals, it’s reflections on nature, and its encouragement that anything is possible.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338312263

To learn more about Elisha Cooper, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Rivers Month Activity

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

World Rivers Word Search Puzzle

 

The world’s rivers provide homes for fish, animals, and birds; offer opportunities for recreation; and supply drinking water for millions. Can you find the names of twenty rivers of the world in this printable puzzle? Then learn where each river runs!

World Rivers Word Search | World Rivers Word Search Solution

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You can find River at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

June 22 – It’s National Insect Week

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About the Holiday

Insects are endlessly fascinating, and this week celebrates their diversity, purpose, and beauty. This week was established by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people to learn more about insects, from those close to home to the exotic species around the world. This year the theme is Entomology at Home and people are invited to participate by learning about local species of insects and enjoying the resources on the National Insect Week website. There’s a photography contest, learning videos for all ages, access to Instar the Magazine for Young Entomologists, and so much more, including a mention of “the most bizarre use” of an insect ever imagined. To discover all of the resources and fun, visit the National Insect Week website.

I received a copy of Moth for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Moth

Written by Isabel Thomas | Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus

 

“This is a story of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, of survival and hope. It starts with a little moth.” Long ago a peppered moth wiggled out of its cocoon, unfurled its “salt and pepper” wings, its legs, and its antennae and took to the air to avoid predators. It met up with other peppered moths flitting and fluttering among the trees in the night sky. Most of these moths “had speckled, freckled wings,” but some had “wings as dark as charcoal.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-predators

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

During the day, the peppered moths rested, flattening themselves against the speckled bark of the trees, camouflaged from birds and other animals. But the black-winged moths weren’t so lucky. Easy to spot against the light bark, they began to vanish as birds nipped them up for themselves and their chicks. As the speckled peppered moths had more and more babies, they also sported a mottled pattern.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-bird

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Over many years, the speckled moths became dominant while the dark-winged variety dwindled. But then, factories, trains, and other machines that burned coal were built. They spewed dark clouds of soot into the air. The soot settled everywhere, turning buildings and trees black. Now, the lighter-colored moths became the meals of birds and other predators, and the black-winged peppered moths had better camouflage. “Now they lived long enough to lay eggs of their own…and their wing color passed on to their offspring…and their offspring’s offspring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-evolution

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

After decades of pollution and adaptation, the peppered moth population was still strong, but now most of the moths were dark, while the lighter moths were rare. But then, people came together to clean up the pollution. Less coal was burned as new ways to fuel machines were found. In time, the air cleared, the sky was again blue and the clouds white. “The trees shed their sooty bark.” Modern life brought many changes to the landscape, providing places for both dark and speckled peppered moths to hide. Today, a mix of peppered moth can be found flittering and fluttering in the night sky, offering their “story…of survival…and hope.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-cleaner-air

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Isabel Thomas’s superlative nonfiction picture book masterfully combines lyricism with clear descriptions of the science of adaptation and natural selection to create a story that touches on natural history, human history, and the interactions of the two. Thomas’s conversational tone and direct address to the reader makes this a personal story and will captivate children sensitive to nature and the world around them. Her excellent pacing serves to show the passage of time involved in the evolutionary changes within the moth community. Thomas begins and ends her story with a note of hope that living things will adapt to today’s changing world. The underlying lesson may also encourage readers to find ways in which humans can adapt to promote the survival of all living things.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-an-evolution-story-trains

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Exquisite mixed-media illustrations by Daniel Egnéus will immediately draw readers—both children and adults—into the nighttime forest where peppered moths take wing, silhouetted against the golden moon and the deep blues and purples of the midnight sky before finding a hiding place from hungry bats and birds. The story’s theme of light and dark in its variations is powerfully presented. In the early pages, images are set against bright, open backgrounds; foliage is vibrant green; and birds dazzle with color. As a bird brings a charcoal-winged moth back to her nest while speckled moths hide, children can easily see natural selection at work.

As the Industrial Revolution alters the skyline and the quality of the air, the images become denser and the hues of the sky, trees, and birds muted. For children who have not grown up with the air pollution of the past—even the near past—double spreads of smog-churning factories and trains will make a strong impression. The introduction of a child at the beginning and end of the story reminds readers of two things: that we owe it to our children to treat the world with kindness and that our children are the hope this story builds on.

Special mention must be made of the magnificent and poignant illustrations of the speckled peppered moths. Looking closely at their outstretched wings, you will see nature—trees, water, dappled sunlight—reflected in them. The stunning cover—with its foil-embossed lettering, stars, and moth—reflects the importance of each reader to our world: touch or look into the shining silver and you will find yourself mirrored there.

A beautiful book to enhance nature and science studies and help children develop an understanding of the impact of change, Moth is a must for school, public library, and home collections.

Ages 6 – 10

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600205

Discover more about Isabel Thomas and her books on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Egnéus and his work, visit his website.

Take a look inside Moth with this beautiful book trailer.

National Insect Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-branch-with-white-cocoons

Beautiful Moths Game

 

Moths go through many stages of metamorphosis—from egg to caterpillar to cocoon— before they finally emerge as a moth. In this game, help six moths emerge from their cocoons to win!

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-cards

Directions

  1. Print a Tree Branch Game Board and set of Moth Cards for each player
  2. Print one Moth Playing Die
  3. Choose a player to go first
  4. The first player rolls the die and places the matching moth card on one of the cocoons on the Tree Branch Game Board
  5. Play then moves to the player on the left
  6. Players continue to roll the die and place moths on each cocoon
  7. If a player rolls a moth that they already have placed on their game board, they pass the die to the next player and wait for their next turn.
  8. The player who fills their Tree Branch with moths first is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-an-evolution-story-cover

You can find Moth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review