March 15 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! The month is only half over, so gather the kids and discover some new books to enjoy together–why not start with today’s book?!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

On a large river island in India, there lived a boy who loved the trees that provided food and shade for the people and shelter for the many native animals. But each year, the floods of the rainy season took more and more of the land. “The boy’s precious island was shrinking—eroding away with the rushing river, leaving empty sandbars behind.” Animals’ homes were destroyed and the animals died or didn’t come back. The boy was afraid this would happen to the people of the island too.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When he took his fears to the elders of his village, they gave him twenty bamboo saplings. He rowed over to one of the sandbars and began to plant the saplings. He came back every day to water the plants and then devised an easier way to water them. Under his care, the bamboo began to grow. In time they became “a healthy thicket.” But for the bamboo to spread further, the boy knew the soil needed to be richer.

He brought in “cow dung, earthworms, termites, and angry red ants that bit him on the journey to their new home.” From other villages, he got seeds of different trees and planted those too. Over the years, a forest grew, covering acres and acres of land. Animals like rhinos, elephants, birds, and monkeys began to return. But with these animals, dangerous predators also came. The villagers were afraid. To provide food for the tigers, the boy—now a man—sowed grasses to attract rabbits, mice, deer and other prey.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To keep other animals fed, the boy planted fruit trees, and when the villagers cut down trees to build homes, the man sowed more seeds. Hunters came for the animals’ “horns and fur, but the man was there to protect.” Today, the forest is thriving and is called Molai for the man who planted and preserved it. His name is Jadav “Molai” Payeng.

More information about Jadav Payeng, an Author’s Note, and a seed-planting activity follow the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If anyone questions how much one person can do, Sophia Gholz puts these doubts to rest in her inspiring biography of a child who recognized a danger to the people and wildlife of his island and solved the problem for generations to come. Children will marvel at the story of Jadav Payeng’s dedication and lifelong perseverance told through Gholz’ lyrical text. As children learn about Jadav Payeng, they also discover the components of fertile soil and how a lush environment attracts the animals and other wildlife vital to a flourishing community.

Kayla Harren’s exquisite sundrenched illustrations transport readers to the Indian island where Jadav Payeng grew up and let them see the effects of eroded shorelines, stranded animals, and the overwhelming task Jadav took on. Harren’s realistic images show Jadav’s hard work and ingenuity as he cares for his first twenty plants and expand the forest little by little. With stunning texture and depth, Harren depicts the verdant foliage and diversity of wildlife Jadav recreated. The true-to-life illustrations will thrill nature and animal lovers and have them exploring each page to capture all the details.

A gorgeous and beautifully told story about the power of one, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng will excite children to make a difference in their own way. The book is an excellent choice to add to home, classroom, and library collections for science, sustainability, and inspirational story times and discussions.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110243

Discover more about Sophia Gholz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read an interview with Sophia and Kayla about their inspirations for this book and how it came to be!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Boy Who Grew a Forest written by Sophia Gholz | illustrated by Kayla Harren

This giveaway is open from March 15 through March 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Just do these things to enter:

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Reading Month Activity

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

 

You can be an environmental crusader in your neighborhood too! Print these activity sheets and challenge yourself with the questions. Then think about what you can do to help plants and wildlife in your neighborhood or even your own backyard!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

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You can find The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd as World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. Every year a different theme is chosen to spotlight an area of the world, a particular species, or a group of activists. This year’s theme is “life below water for people and planet” and focuses on marine species, the importance of marine wildlife, and the issues affecting the health and survival of the ocean and ocean creatures. The day also celebrates successful conservation and sustainability initiatives. To learn more about the day, special events, and how you and your kids can get involved today and throughout the year, visit the World Wildlife Day website.

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Angela Dominguez | Translated by Adriana Dominguez

 

On the day when baby Valentina joined Mamá, Papá, and eleven brothers and sisters, even the sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and iguanas seemed to welcome her to the “island formed by fire.” Valentina loved growing up on the Galápagos Island of Floreana. She explored the lava rocks, where Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttled back and forth. She swam with dolphins and manta rays, and even played with penguins.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

“Valentina watched pink flamingoes wading near mangroves. Blue butterflies fluttering on the breeze. Red-and-green iguanas sneezing salt like tiny geysers.” The crashing waves, albatross, and finches created a symphony as Valentina stopped to rest on a grassy cliff overlooking the ocean. The lava lizards, blue-footed boobies, and twirling sea lions provided young Valentina with a variety of dance partners.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

At home, Valentina’s family shared their home with two giant tortoises—Carlitos and Isabella. One day Papá told Valentina their story as they fed the tortoises plums that had fallen from their backyard trees. Papá had gotten Carlitos and Isabella from a friend when he first moved to Floreana. Although it was nearly impossible to imagine now that the tortoises were grown, at the time they were so small that they fit into Papá’s pockets.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

There was also a sad note to Papá’s story. He said that while giant tortoises still lived on other Galápagos islands, pirates and whalers had wiped out the population on Floreana. Papá went on to tell Valentina that many Galápagos animals were in danger. They were “threatened by other animals that don’t belong here. Threatened by people who don’t understand how to care for our islands.” Valentina promised that she would always protect them.

When she was older, Valentina left the island to go to school. She didn’t want to leave her beautiful home, but Mamá told her that she was “ready to learn about the world beyond.” And Papá reminded her that “like our islands, you have a heart full of fire.” On school vacations, Valentina always came back to study the wildlife on the Galápagos islands. She had not forgotten her promise to keep them safe.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

After she graduated with a degree in biology, Valentina returned to the islands as a nature guide to teach visitors about the beauty and uniqueness of the Galápagos. Some visitors were even lucky enough to meet Carlitos and Isabella when the plums dropped from the trees and the two old tortoises returned from exploring Floreana to eat them. Because of Valentina’s commitment to the Galápagos, her visitors also made a promise to always remember and protect them.

Extensive backmatter includes an Author’s Note about Valentina Cruz, the tortoises Carlitos and Isabella, and the history of tortoises on Floreana. There is also information on the Galápagos as well as fun facts about all of the animals in the story. A bibliography of sources invites readers to learn more.

Each two-page spread presents the text in English and translated into Spanish by Adriana Dominguez.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s lyrical and buoyant passages sing with the carefree joy Valentina felt as a girl exploring her beloved Galápagos and which brought her back home as a biologist to protect them. After seeing Valentina playing and swimming with the native animals and feeding Carlitos and Isabella, readers will also feel Valentina’s sadness at the dangers they face and want to make a positive difference to the environment and the world around them. Arnold’s dialogue-rich storytelling highlights the personal nature of the subject and will draw children into Valentina’s world.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-blue-footed-booby

Saturated with glorious color, each of Angela Dominguez’s illustrations is a celebration of the splendor of the Galápagos. Playful sea lions, high-stepping blue-footed boobies, scampering crabs, and even a sneezing iguana will captivate young readers and inspire them to learn more about these creatures and the islands. Images of Valentina camping out to study the animals during school breaks will excite environmentally conscious kids, and pictures of Carlitos and Isabella happily munching on plums will generate smiles and “awwws.”

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña will excite kids to learn more not only about the Galápagos region but about their own local environment, and the call to action will spark an enthusiasm for protecting the earth’s animals. The book would make an inspiring addition to home bookshelves and an excellent way to begin classroom discussions on environmental issues and science lessons. The engaging Spanish translation will delight Spanish-speaking and bilingual families.

Ages 4 – 8

Lee & Low Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0892394135

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

Read an interview with Marsha Diane Arnold here.

To learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Wildlife Day Activity

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Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

 

There are so many fascinating animals that live in the Galápagos! Can you match the picture of each animal to its description in this printable Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle? You can find and download the activity sheet from the Lee & Low Books website:

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

February 19 – It’s Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Have you been noticing more bird activity in your yard or neighborhood? Maybe you’ve been awakened by birdsong that you haven’t heard in many months. During February, as temperatures creep up, birds begin returning to their homes to nest and mate. But the effects of the long winter still make it hard for these little creatures to find enough to eat. Recognizing a need, John Porter created a Congressional resolution in 1994 recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of Americans have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive when natural resources are scarce. To celebrate this month, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one and enjoy the beauty and songs of the birds in your area. 

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

By Laurie Ellen Angus

 

All birds get hungry, but not all birds eat the same thing, of course. Did you know that a bird’s feet are important in determining what they eat? Let’s find out how different kinds of feet help birds find the right food for them. “If you had webbing between your toes, you could… Paddle like a swan to dabble for pond plants.” Long legs and toes could help you “wade like a heron to sneak up on a school of fish.”

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Birds who have long, strong legs can run and catch their dinner, and birds whose feet have sharp claws can climb tree trunks and hunt for insects in the bark. Birds with “small flexible toes” find their feet handy for perching on branches of trees and bushes to pick berries or—like towhees—to scratch in the dirt for bugs. There are also those birds that have “powerful feet with sharp talons” to snatch a meaty meal for themselves or their babies.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

There are many kinds of birds in the world, and each one has just the right kind of feet that help them move through their environment, find or catch food, and survive.

Extensive back matter that offers many opportunities to extend STEM learning in the classroom or at home includes

  • a detailed and illustrated exploration of each bird mentioned in the text, complete with a description of their feet and how they help the bird procure food. Kids will also enjoy learning the fun fact about each
  • A description of the bird that inspired the book
  • A discussion of adaptations, with a chart categorized with facts on habitat, feet, and beaks for seven birds and suggestions for a creative activity 
  • Common characteristics of birds
  • A discussion on predators
  • Bird-watching tips
  • More resources for further learning
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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In her engaging text, Laurie Ellen Angus takes kids out to the pond, desert, forest, and backyard to watch as a variety of birds catch or gather their dinner. Using evocative verbs, Angus reveals not only the action of getting a meal, but the way each bird goes about it—through stealth, quick motion, pecking, scratching, and more. Specific examples of bird/feet combinations give readers a starting point for further exploration. Each category also includes a partially hidden predator, such as a fox, bobcat, snake, and hawk, that the particular bird is warned about and which readers will want to join in pointing out.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Angus beautifully employs collage-style illustrations to give her birds and environments texture, color, and movement. Her use of various perspectives, lets readers wade into the pond with the heron, chase after the roadrunner that is trotting off the edge of page, cling to a tree trunk with a woodpecker, and come in for a landing with an owl. 

A visually stunning book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat is a science book that will attract the attention of young learners and excite them to learn more about the wonders of the natural world.

Ages 4 – 8

Dawn Publications, 2018 | | ISBN 978-1584696131 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1584696148 (Paperback) 

To learn more about Laurie Ellen Angus, her books, and her art on her website.

Wild Bird Feeding Month Activity

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When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different types of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

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You can find Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 17 – National Take a Hike Day

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About the Holiday

There may be a dusting of snow on the ground—or more—but that doesn’t need to stop you from enjoying a good hike. With over 60,000 miles of trails across the United States, there’s sure to be a trail that’s perfect for getting you out to enjoy some fresh air, beautiful scenery, and refreshing exercise. So take inspiration from the subject of today’s book, tie up your walking shoes, and get out on a path near you! 

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail

By Jennifer Thermes

 

With eleven children, a farm to tend, and chores to do, Emma Gatewood’s days were plenty busy. When she needed a bit of escape, “a long ramble through the hills behind the farm was all Emma needed to set her heart right again.” So when her children had all left home and sparked by a magazine article about the Appalachian Trail, Emma put on her walking shoes and took to “‘the longest footpath in the world.’” The article had said that no woman had ever hiked the Trail from beginning to end, and Emma determined to change that.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

On May 3, 1955, at the age of sixty seven, Emma left her home in Ohio and traveled to Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia to begin her hike along the 2,190-mile-long Appalachian Trail. With just a light homemade sack and canvas shoes, Emma made her way up the trail, eating berries and drinking from streams as she went. When the trail took her through small towns and mountain farms, she got a real “supper and a cozy place to sleep.”

Word traveled about the older woman hiking the trail, and “Emma soon became known as ‘Grandma Gatewood.’” In June Emma crossed into Virginia and at the beginning of July took a quick jog through Maryland. The magazine article had said that hiking the trail was easy, but Emma had a different perspective. She once said the trail always seemed to “‘lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find.’”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Grandma Gatewood walked in all weather and saw sights that were sometimes dull, but more often stunning. During July she crossed Pennsylvania, traced an edge of New Jersey, and hopped a corner of New York State. Pennsylvania’s sharp rocks “tore the soles of Emma’s shoes, so she held them together with tape.” By this time the newspapers had heard about Emma too, and “reporters met her at almost every stop.” Pretty soon, the whole country was talking about her! When people asked her why she was doing it, she answered, “‘Just for the heck of it.’”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It was late summer and Emma was over halfway finished, but a bigger challenge was headed her way. A hurricane was swirling toward the East Coast. In early August, Emma hiked through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. When the hurricane hit, she was soaked by rain, threatened by falling trees, and blown by the wind. She found shelter in a hut where a group of teenage boys were also waiting out the storm. They carried her across a swollen stream, and Emma continued her journey.

She met up with boy scouts and even went to tea with someone who had pinned an invitation to a tree along the trail. On September 3, she crossed from New Hampshire into Maine. Cold weather was coming, but the last mountain was in her sights. She bundled into every bit of clothes she had, and with torn shoes, cracked glasses, and aching muscles, Emma scrambled up the mountain all the way to the top. She had accomplished what she set out to do—and two years later, she did it again!

A timeline and an extensive author’s note about Emma Gatewood and the Trail follow the text.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Inspiring from beginning to end, Jennifer Thermes’ story highlights a woman who lived life on her terms and accomplished a personal goal while, literally, blazing a trail for women and the elderly. The jaunty lilt of Thermes’ storytelling mirrors Emma’s brisk pace while giving readers an excellent sense of her personality and the twists, turns, and obstacles of the Appalachian Trail. Facts about landmarks along the trail are sprinkled throughout.

The story of Grandma Gatewood and the Appalachian Trail is a perfect match for Thermes’ superb artwork and map-making skills. Colorful and detailed two-page maps, set every three pages, keep readers apprised of the dates that Emma passed through each state on her trek north. In between, kids get to see Emma scaring off a bear, making friends with townspeople along the way, trudging up mountains, cooling her feet in rushing streams, climbing over rocks, and weathering the storm. Themes also includes some of the gorgeous vistas that have made the Appalachian Trail a must for hikers of all ages and experience.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail  would make an inspiring addition to home libraries for children who love nature, history, and the outdoors. The book would also enhance many classroom discussions and lesson plans from language arts to social studies to science.

Ages 5 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1419728396

Discover more about Jennifer Thermes, her books, and her art on her website

National Take a Hike Day Activity

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National Park Coloring Pages and Map

 

The national parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. With lots of marked trails, these parks offer great places to take a hike. Enjoy these coloring pages while you learn a little bit about four of America’s national parks. Then check the map and see if there’s a park near you!

Acadia National Park | Everglades National Park | Mesa Verde National Park | Rocky Mountains National Park | National Parks Map

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You can find Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail at these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

November 8 – Parents as Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

The idea for Parents as Teachers goes back to the 1970s when Missouri educators noticed that not all kindergarteners were beginning school with the same skill set. Research demonstrated the benefits of parental involvement in reading, writing, and math before children began school as well as early detection and intervention for children with delayed development and health issues. Support services and parental education aided an awareness of the importance of children’s earliest years. Parents as Teachers Day was officially instituted in 2001 by the Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Community events and outreach to parents mark the day’s activities.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes | Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

 

You may not remember, but when you were little your parents, grandparents, and others carried you – a lot! But what do animals do with their babies? “There are no baby backpacks, / no wraps or straps or slings, / no seats to buckle kids in, / or many other things.” Let’s take a look at some very different animals and see how they take care of their young.

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

A sea otter pup rides on her mother’s belly as she floats along on her back. But what does the mother sea otter do when she needs to hunt for food? She “wraps her baby in long strands of kelp seaweed to keep her pup from floating away.” Hanging upside down high in a tree seems pretty dangerous for a baby, but a little sloth clings on tight to his mother’s fur and stays there “for almost a year.”

While mother animals do much of the rearing of their little ones, both moms and dads in common loon families are involved. They both give their chicks rides on their backs to keep them “safe from fish and turtle predators.” No person wants to get close to an alligator’s sharp teeth, but inside her wide jaws is just where baby alligators feel safest. When they want to leave their nest, the hatchlings call to their mother, who returns and “gently lifts them out, a few at a time, and carries them to the water for safety.”

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Do you see the baby anteater? She’s cleverly concealed! “Blending in with mama’s fur, you hardly see this pup. It rides upon her hairy back while she digs insects up.” What about kangaroos, opossums, manatees, chimpanzees, wolf spiders, emperor penguins, and lions? How do they carry their babies and protect them while they grow? You’ll find out all about what these animals do. Then it’s time for you to learn “how did someone carry you?”

Backmatter presents an illustrated matching game for kids as well as extensive resources, including more information about each animal, language arts, math, science, engineering, and movement lesson extentions, and suggestions for further reading for teachers and parents.

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Marianne Berkes engages young readers in learning about twelve familiar and more unusual animals in two ways. First, a sweet rhyming couplet—which can be used as a fun guessing game—introduces each animal. Berkes then expands on the information with a brief and fascinating fact or two about how the animal’s method of holding her or his young protects them, feeds them, or moves them from place to place.

Little environmentalist in the making will be awed by Cathy Morrison’s realistic illustrations of each adult animal and baby in their natural habitat. Morrison’s images are so lifelike that readers can count individual hairs on the mother sloth’s arms and marvel at the sharpness of her claws as they wrap around a tree branch and almost feel the softness of the baby otter’s curly fur as she and her mother float in a bed of kelp. The animal’s facial expressions are likewise realistic while showing concern on the part of the adult and complete trust on the part of the babies.

There will be plenty of ewwws and ahhhs for the wolf spider and alligator, and as they watch the lion cup nearly bound off the page, kids will want to start all over and see these majestic wonders again. Morrison’s detailed backgrounds are no less fascinating as they contain clear images of the landscapes each animal calls home, complete with plants, trees, insects, waterways, and more.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young provides nature and animal lovers much to learn and talk about. The extra resources also make this a valuable book to add to classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 6

Dawn Publications, 2017 | ISBN 978-1584695936

Discover more about Marianne Berkes and her books on her website. 

To learn more about Cathy Morrison, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Parents as Teachers Day Activity

cute animal coloring pages Best of rhino and her baby free animal coloring pages kleurplaat

Animal Family Coloring Pages

 

Here are three animal families for you to enjoy coloring. Grab your crayons or pencils and have fun!

Lion and Baby | Zebra and Baby | Hippo and Baby

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You can find Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 18 – World Bamboo Day COVER REVEAL: The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

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About the Holiday

World Bamboo Day was established in 2009 by the Thai Royal Forest Department during the 8th World Bamboo Congress held in Bangkok in order to raise awareness of bamboo around the world. The day is dedicated to educating people about this natural resource, to protect it and the environment, to ensure it sustainability, to promote new cultivation of bamboo for new industries in regions around the world, and to promote traditional uses for community economic development. This year’s theme is “Sustainability = Environment + Society + Economy. To learn more about World Bamboo Day and what you can do to help, visit the World Bamboo Organization’s website.

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng 

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

On Majuli Island in northeastern India, located in the Brahmaputra River, there is a mighty forest. The Molai Forest covers over 1,300 acres and contains thousands of different species of plants and trees. It is also home to many kinds of wildlife, including some endangered animals.

But the Molai Forest was not always there.

In 1979 young Jadav Payeng witnessed the devastating effects on Majuli Island from rising floodwaters, eroding land and killing wildlife. With an idea for saving his beloved island, Jadav began planting bamboo seedlings, which over time literally built a forest and an ecosystem from the ground up. In this true story, young readers will see that the mightiest of results really do begin with a small seed of an idea. 

When a book is this inspiring, you just can’t wait to see it! But before we get to the book’s stunning cover, let’s meet the author and illustrator who are bringing this incredible story to kids. 

Meet Sophia Gholz

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Sophia Gholz is a children’s author, tree-hugger, music lover, magic seeker, and avid reader. Sophia grew up in the swamps of Florida, went to art school in Southern California, met her husband in Manhattan, and now enjoys life by the beach with her family. As a child, Sophia spent most of her time at the farm riding horses, causing mischief with her brothers, or exploring the globe with her parents. The latter often included tents and large forests. For more, find Sophia online at: www.sophiagholz.com

Hi, Kathy! Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here and am so excited to reveal the cover of The Boy Who Grew a Forest!

What inspired you to write The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

I first learned about Jadav Payeng when I watched a short documentary film about him a few years ago. The instant the film began, I was completely fascinated with Jadav’s journey. Here is one single person who managed to plant an entire forest all by himself—what a feat! But more than that, Jadav’s mission wasn’t for fame or fortune—he had a vision and a passion to help the environment around him, and he worked tirelessly to do so.

To put it simply: I was in awe. I immediately began searching for interviews and updates on Jadav and the more I read, the more I knew I had to share this amazing story with others.

How did growing up in Florida influence your interest in environmental issues?

My youth in Florida was filled with forests. My father was a prominent forest ecologist and conservationist who, at the beginning of his career, worked with the University of Florida’s Forestry Department. My mother has two degrees: one in horticulture and one in science education and worked as both a science writer and freelance journalist. Our house was always filled with scientists from around the world, and we were constantly exposed to tales of the environment and faraway places. So, I was raised from day one with a deep love and appreciation for the environment (especially trees) and an interest in searching for wonderful stories to share.

I think what really struck me most about Jadav’s story was that his mission was one that everyone I knew while growing up fought for as well.

Can you tell me about your journey to publication with this book?

I wrote the initial manuscript a few years ago, and then set it aside for a while. This was one of those stories that was incredibly close to my heart and I feared I wouldn’t be able to capture it the right way. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About a year later, the Florida Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) put out a call for submissions to their annual Rising Kite Contest and, on a whim, I decided to submit The Boy Who Grew a Forest. You can imagine my surprise when my manuscript was awarded a Rising Kite in the nonfiction category! Winning that award was a turning point for me. I realized then that I couldn’t give up. My only hope was that this story would inspire others, like it did me.  

When I read Sarah Rockett’s response to my manuscript, I knew she and the team at Sleeping Bear Press shared my passion for this story. And I was thrilled when they brought Kayla on board—her artistic style is beautiful and fitting. Working with them both has been a dream!

I’ve also had the chance to talk with the director of Jadav’s short film and am happy to know he’s excited for this book as well.

How exciting was it for you to see the final cover for The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

This is my debut picture book, and the first time I’ve witnessed one of my stories brought to life. From viewing initial sketches to full-color layouts, the entire experience has been beyond anything that I could have imagined.

On top of that, this book is particularly personal for me, so it’s been quite emotional. I definitely cried the first time I saw the cover. Not only is my name on a book—a real book!—but also Kayla’s illustrations are breathtaking. I think she’s done a phenomenal job of portraying Jadav and capturing the spirit of this story. 

What can environmentally conscious children do to help protect nature?

There are so many ways we can all make positive changes on a daily basis. Simple things, like recycling and not using straws or plastic bags in order to lessen the amount of plastic in the world are great places to start. On a grander scale, reforestation efforts are vital to our future and the preservation of our planet. And, like Jadav has shown us, reforestation begins with planting. Children can start with seeds or seedlings for yard plants, house plants, gardens, or just spreading native seeds in the wild. Every little bit helps. We actually have a seed planting activity included in the book and will also share downloadable activities that kids can do in the classroom or at home.

What do you hope children will take away from The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

At its heart, this book is about a person who had a dream and refused to give up. I hope that after reading this, children are inspired to care for our planet. But most of all, I want children to know how important they are. Nothing is impossible, and it only takes one person to make a difference.

Meet Kayla Harren

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Kayla Harren studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of  Mary Had a Little Lizard, as well as the illustrator of Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich and many other books and projects. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

To learn more about Kayla, visit http://www.kaylaharren.com/

 

What intrigued you the most about this project?

Jadav and his amazing love of nature.  His dedication to helping wildlife is truly inspiring.  I get overwhelmed thinking about all the problems I can’t solve on my own, but then here is a person who takes action and saves an entire island by himself.  It is an amazing story and a good reminder that making a difference really can start with just one person.

What kind of research did you do for creating the illustrations for The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

I watched the documentary Forest Man and knew instantly that I wanted to illustrate Jadav’s story.  I watched many more interview videos of Jadav, read articles about his accomplishments, and read through Sophia’s bibliography for the book.  I looked through images of Majuli, read about the flooding of the Brahmaputra River, and researched the various wildlife species in Jadav’s forest.

Can you describe the process in creating and choosing this gorgeous cover image?

I have Sleeping Bear Press designer Jennifer Bacheller to thank for the cover design.  She played a big role in deciding the layout and I just filled in the spaces with plants and animals.  I am a sucker for sunsets and warm light. Jadav’s story felt magical to me, so I wanted to hint at his extraordinary spirit with an orange glow around him and his forest.

The illustrations in your books, such as your recent Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich, are so beautifully and richly detailed. What methods did you use to create the lush natural landscape in this book?

Aw thanks! I love adding details.  One of my teachers in art school said that you can focus on any square inch of a great painting and it will be interesting. I try to keep that in mind when I am illustrating, I don’t want any part of the image to be wasted.

For this book I spent a lot of time in the sketch stage. I started studying a bunch of images of the forest, of Jadav, of each animal, of color palettes and lighting. I looked at reference photos to create rough sketches, but once I finished sketching I stopped looking at the references so I wouldn’t get too attached or copy the photos. 

I drew on my computer so I could move elements around to get just the right composition. Once I was happy with a layout, I drew the lines with a pencil brush on my tablet.  Then I began coloring layer by layer in Photoshop. I started with flat color, then added textures, then a layer of shadows, and finally details.

What inspired you to become an illustrator for children’s books and publications?

I don’t remember a defining moment when I decided to pursue picture book illustration. I think I always knew that if I was going to try making art my career, it had to be in children’s books. I have always loved books and fondly remember being read to as a child.  I would fervently study the illustrations of each book as my mom read aloud. I learned to read pictures before I could read the words. Picture books are where my obsession with books began. My goal is to create illustrations that draw a child in and get them excited about learning to read the story the pictures are telling.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a children’s illustrator?

Definitely knowing that I play a role in helping children read and learn. I love when children notice small details I include in my illustrations that the parents pass right over. It is exciting to see children be observant and curious and inquisitive.

Thanks so much Sophia and Kayla! You’ve both put so much of yourselves and heart into The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng. I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out in March, and I’m sure readers are excited for it too!

To learn more about The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, visit Sleeping Bear Press.

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest, will be released in March, 2019 from Sleeping Bear Press. The book is available for preorder at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 4 – National Wildlife Day – Guest Post by Author Marsha Diane Arnold

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige in memory of conservationist Steve Irwin. The day promotes awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide and offers education on the number of endangered and threatened species across the globe. To honor today’s holiday, visit a local zoo, aquarium, or other nature preserve and take some time to learn about what you can do to help protect the environment.

Lee & Low Books sent me a copy of Galápagos Girl/ Galápagueña to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Lee & Low in a giveaway of a copy of the book. See details below.

Welcome Marsha Diane Arnold

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I’m thrilled to have award-winning picture book author Marsha Diane Arnold as a guest blogger today revealing a bit of the backstory of Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña. Her past titles include the Smithsonian Notable Book The Pumpkin Runner and Lost. Found., which received three starred reviews. With more than one million books sold, Marsha’s stories have been called “whimsical,” “wacky,” “heartwarming,” and “uplifting” by captivated young readers. Marsha was inspired to write this story after traveling to the Galápagos Islands, where she met Valentina Cruz and had the opportunity to swim with sea lions and dolphins. She lives with her family in Alva, Florida.

Thank you, Kathryn, for having me visit your site on National Wildlife Day. It’s a perfect day to celebrate my newest book, Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña, along with conservation of wild places and animals!

As a child, would you have enjoyed swimming with sea lions? Feeding plums to giant tortoises by hand? Having warblers fly through your house? That was the life of Valentina Cruz. Galápagos Girl is based on her idyllic life on remote Floreana island in the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago west of Ecuador.

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My photos of actual blue-footed booby and Galápagos marine iguana.

Valentina grew up surrounded by nature, but perhaps more accurately, she grew up in nature. I think when a child grows up seeing wild wonders every day, they grow up respecting and protecting nature and wildlife. Valentina and her siblings certainly did. She grew up to be a biologist and naturalist guide. One brother, Eliecer Cruz, was director of the Galápagos National Park and, later, director of the Galápagos branch of the World Wildlife Fund. Another brother, Felipe, worked on many projects with the Charles Darwin Research Station, including studying the challenges that face the Galápagos petrel. Her sister, Marilyn, is director of Galápagos Biosecurity Agency, which helps control and prevent invasive species in the islands.

In some ways, Valentina’s childhood was similar to mine. She was surrounded by a loving family—her parents and eleven brothers and sisters. I only had one brother, but along with my parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, we gathered on many Sunday afternoons at my grandmother’s house. Valentina and I both delighted in nature, though hers was a more exotic nature—the distant Galápagos Islands, where Charles Darwin discovered those famous finches and came up with his theory of natural selection. Mine was a small farm on the Kansas plains—I didn’t see the ocean until I was an adult. Valentina had Galápagos tortoises as pets and swam with sea lions. (Of course, keeping tortoises as pets is not allowed today.) I played with my neighbor’s pet raccoon (also, not allowed today) and listened to the meadowlark’s song from the roof of my house.

Valentina loves nature, home, and family, but has the soul of an adventurer. I’m much the same. When I grew up I yearned to see as much of the world as possible. When my long-time traveling buddy, Jean Gallagher, asked me to travel with her to the Galápagos, one of my long-time dreams came true.

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The Galápagos Gang – fellow travelers to a far-off land. Jean is 3rd to right in front. I am 4th.

It was on that 2007 trip that I met Valentina, one of our naturalist guides. With her, we visited Floreana and saw the home where she grew up. I was enamored. I thought how wonderful a book about the islands and their unique wildlife, woven together with Valentina’s childhood, would be. Yet it wasn’t until April 2009 that I emailed Valentina and told her of my dream to write a picture book based on her life. Over months and years, Valentina generously shared her stories with me.

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Valentina showing us the lay of the land.

Valentina got her sense of adventure and love of nature from her father, Eliecer Cruz Cevallos, who first arrived in the Galápagos in 1939. He was one of only 100 people living in the Galápagos at that time!

Eliecer returned to Ecuador and married Valentina’s mother, Emma Bedon. She made him promise they would never live in the Galápagos. Who can blame her? They’d have almost no human neighbors! But in 1944, she changed her mind. Emma sailed to Floreana with Eliecer to build a life together. Valentina told me that even living in the wild, her mother taught her children “to keep all the rules of a city so we do not grow up wild.”

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Valentina and her father on Floreana

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Valentina, her mother, and her sister

Two Galápagos tortoises were a big part of Valentina’s childhood, so I had to include them in Galápagos Girl. Floreana tortoise had long been extinct (or so it was thought).  So when Eliecer moved to Floreana, his friend gave him young tortoises from other islands. Eventually, the family released the tortoises to roam free. One of the most exciting things that happened to Valentina as a child was seeing the tortoises return to their farm that first year after their release. The main reason was the tasty plums dropping from the trees. Every year after that, when the plums ripened, the family waited for the tortoises to return. They always did!

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An illustration of one of the family’s tortoises eating a plum treat by Angela Dominguez

The tortoise story changed several times during the writing of my book due to Valentina’s remembering more over time, checking facts with her family, and a discovery near Wolf Volcano on Isabela, another Galápagos Island. What’s in my book isn’t exactly the way things were, but it’s close to the real story. As Valentina wisely shared: “Each of us remember things in different ways. Our memory is like pictures of what impresses us in that specific moment, so everything can be true and everything can be fiction.”

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One of eleven species of Galápagos tortoise

Regarding the exciting discovery on Wolf Volcano, scientists recently found tortoises there that carry some of the Floreana tortoise genes! There is a project now to bring these tortoises back to Floreana. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have partial Floreana tortoises wandering freely, restoring the ecology of Floreana?

You may ask, “How did Floreana tortoises get on Isabela Island?” That’s one more fascinating question about the Galápagos. If I visit your school, you can ask me and I’ll share more.

Thanks so much, Marsha, for sharing the fascinating story behind Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on

Earth’s Voices | Facebook

National Wildlife Day Review

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Angela Dominguez | Translated by Adriana Dominguez

 

On the day when baby Valentina joined Mamá, Papá, and eleven brothers and sisters, even the sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and iguanas seemed to welcome her to the “island formed by fire.” Valentina loved growing up on the Galápagos Island of Floreana. She explored the lava rocks, where Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttled back and forth. She swam with dolphins and manta rays, and even played with penguins.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

“Valentina watched pink flamingoes wading near mangroves. Blue butterflies fluttering on the breeze. Red-and-green iguanas sneezing salt like tiny geysers.” The crashing waves, albatross, and finches created a symphony as Valentina stopped to rest on a grassy cliff overlooking the ocean. The lava lizards, blue-footed boobies, and twirling sea lions provided young Valentina with a variety of dance partners.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

At home, Valentina’s family shared their home with two giant tortoises—Carlitos and Isabella. One day Papá told Valentina their story as they fed the tortoises plums that had fallen from their backyard trees. Papá had gotten Carlitos and Isabella from a friend when he first moved to Floreana. Although it was nearly impossible to imagine now that the tortoises were grown, at the time they were so small that they fit into Papá’s pockets.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

There was also a sad note to Papá’s story. He said that while giant tortoises still lived on other Galápagos islands, pirates and whalers had wiped out the population on Floreana. Papá went on to tell Valentina that many Galápagos animals were in danger. They were “threatened by other animals that don’t belong here. Threatened by people who don’t understand how to care for our islands.” Valentina promised that she would always protect them.

When she was older, Valentina left the island to go to school. She didn’t want to leave her beautiful home, but Mamá told her that she was “ready to learn about the world beyond.” And Papá reminded her that “like our islands, you have a heart full of fire.” On school vacations, Valentina always came back to study the wildlife on the Galápagos islands. She had not forgotten her promise to keep them safe.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

After she graduated with a degree in biology, Valentina returned to the islands as a nature guide to teach visitors about the beauty and uniqueness of the Galápagos. Some visitors were even lucky enough to meet Carlitos and Isabella when the plums dropped from the trees and the two old tortoises returned from exploring Floreana to eat them. Because of Valentina’s commitment to the Galápagos, her visitors also made a promise to always remember and protect them.

Extensive backmatter includes an Author’s Note about Valentina Cruz, the tortoises Carlitos and Isabella, and the history of tortoises on Floreana. There is also information on the Galápagos as well as fun facts about all of the animals in the story. A bibliography of sources invites readers to learn more.

Each two-page spread presents the text in English and translated into Spanish by Adriana Dominguez.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s lyrical and buoyant passages sing with the carefree joy Valentina felt as a girl exploring her beloved Galápagos and which brought her back home as a biologist to protect them. After seeing Valentina playing and swimming with the native animals and feeding Carlitos and Isabella, readers will also feel Valentina’s sadness at the dangers they face and want to make a positive difference to the environment and the world around them. Arnold’s dialogue-rich storytelling highlights the personal nature of the subject and will draw children into Valentina’s world.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-blue-footed-booby

Saturated with glorious color, each of Angela Dominguez’s illustrations is a celebration of the splendor of the Galápagos. Playful sea lions, high-stepping blue-footed boobies, scampering crabs, and even a sneezing iguana will captivate young readers and inspire them to learn more about these creatures and the islands. Images of Valentina camping out to study the animals during school breaks will excite environmentally conscious kids, and pictures of Carlitos and Isabella happily munching on plums will generate smiles and “awwws.”

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña will excite kids to learn more not only about the Galápagos region but about their own local environment, and the call to action will spark an enthusiasm for protecting the earth’s animals. The book would make an inspiring addition to home bookshelves and an excellent way to begin classroom discussions on environmental issues and science lessons. The engaging Spanish translation will delight Spanish-speaking and bilingual families.

Ages 4 – 8

Lee & Low Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0892394135

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

To learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

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Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

 

There are so many fascinating animals that live in the Galápagos! Can you match the picture of each animal to its description in this printable Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle? You can find and download the activity sheet from the Lee & Low Books website:

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review