July 5 – Build a Scarecrow Day

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About the Holiday

With so many crops – from corn to berries to peppers to squash – ripening in fields across the country, it’s time for farmers on small and large farms to put up a scarecrow to watch over all that bounty. To celebrate, gather some old clothes, a bale of straw or other filling, and a pole and put your imagination to work. This is a fun activity for the whole family – even if you don’t have a farm! 

The Scarecrow

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

 

Golden autumn has quieted the fields. The hay is rolled and the scarecrow waits for spring. The animals and the crows stand at a distance, afraid of this figure that does his job so well. “He never rests. / He never bends. / He’s never had a single friend, / for all the woodland creatures know / not to mess with old Scarecrow.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Winter comes with gentle snow, and Scarecrow dreams of “spring…of buds and blooms and things that sing.” When spring dawns with warm sun and green grass, a tiny crow—with a “broken wing?”—“drops from midair” and attracts Scarecrow’s attention. Then Scarecrow does a most surprising thing: “He snaps his pole, / bends down low, / saves the tiny baby crow.” He tucks the baby in the straw near his heart, and as he sleeps and settles in, Scarecrow “sings the sweetest lullaby.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The baby heals and the two become the best of friends. As the little crow grows, he and Scarecrow “will laugh and wish on stars, forgetting who they really are…” Spring turns to summer, and Scarecrow proudly watches as Crow learns to fly, but with the return of autumn, he knows that Crow must leave. Through late autumn and the frigid winter, Scarecrow slumps on his pole, alone—“Broken heart. Broken pole. Nothing fills the empty hole.” Then with the spring rains, the crow returns with wings wide open and Scarecrow welcomes him with a hug. The crow mends Scarecrow’s broken pole and refreshes his hay and then he says, “‘I’m here to say.’”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Crow and his mate build a nest in the spot where he grew up. Soon, “five small eggs are tucked unseen,” and Scarecrow watches over them for he knows that soon they will hatch baby crows. “And they will love him from the start, and they will grow up in his heart.” Throughout the year, these friends and more keep Scarecrow company and love him so.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow-little-crows

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

In her story of a scarecrow and a baby crow who form a family, Beth Ferry’s gorgeous, lyrical language sweeps readers into Scarecrow’s world and lets them stand with him through the changing seasons and the progression of his transformation from a lonely existence as bleak as winter to a life as bountiful as summer. Ferry’s alternating short, staccato lines and longer, flowing rhythms create an emotional bond between the reader and Scarecrow. With a single sentence, in which Scarecrow and Crow forget “who they really are,” and through her periodic use of future tense, Ferry sparks hope and welcome reassurance for the future—not only for these two characters, but for us all. Crow’s return to raise his own family where he learned love and security and to help the aging Scarecrow is a moving portrayal of home, and the reciprocal devotion between Scarecrow and the crows will bring a tear to readers’ eyes.

Through their softly hued and textured mixed-media illustrations, The Fan Brothers create a tapestry of rural life, with its sometimes generous, sometimes harsh conditions.  As autumn turns to winter, Scarecrow is seen from a distance as animals look on, showing the divide in this natural landscape and the fear that rules it. But when a baby crow drops into the scarecrow’s life, he changes the dynamic, as children often do. With this life-changing event, The Fan Brother’s images become brighter, and the gauziness of the first spreads—so effective in depicting the barrier between Scarecrow and the rest of the world—clears. In turns Scarecrow is tender and proud, wistful and overjoyed—images that will tug at adults’ hearts. As Scarecrow once again stands tall and is surrounded by his crow family and the other animals on a sunny fall day, The Fan Brothers bring readers full circle in this story where the seasons of bounty and hardship mirror so well the cycles of life.

A thoughtful and beautifully conceived masterpiece, The Scarecrow is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062475763

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books on her website.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers, their books, and their art, visit their website.

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scareccrow-coloring-page

Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page

 

Building a scarecrow with old clothes, some twine, and just the right amount of stuffing is creative fun! If you’d like a simpler way to make a scarecrow, enjoy this printable Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow-cover

You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 23 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1998 to celebrate nature and encourage people to enjoy outside activities, Great Outdoors Month is a favorite summer event. With indoor activities curtailed this year, heading out to explore, hike, picnic, or have other adventures with your family is a great way to rediscover familiar places and to set your sights a little farther

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati

 

At home in London, young Beatrix Potter loved drawing and painting pictures of her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer and other woodland creatures. Beatrix and her brother didn’t go to school but were taught at home under a strict daily timeline. “Then came summer and … freedom! During the summer, Beatrix’s whole household—pets included—moved to a country house where there were ducks, chickens, cows, and a garden.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

When Beatrix’s brother grew a little older, however, he went away to a boarding school while Beatrix had to stay home. “But Beatrix wanted to do something important, something that mattered. She often helped her father with his hobby, photography.” She visited artists’ studios and museums. She learned about art and how to make her drawings better.

She made more pictures of Benjamin Bouncer and sent them to publishers. One publisher put her drawings on the front of greeting cards, and Beatrix began making money from her work. But Beatrix was also interested in the science of nature. She even wrote a paper about mushrooms and hoped to have it printed in a scientific journal, but it was rejected. Beatrix was disappointed but went back to drawing.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Then one day, to cheer up a sick child, Beatrix wrote and illustrated a story about Peter Rabbit. Later, she submitted it to publishers. When they told her they weren’t interested, she had books printed herself. She sold every copy—the second batch too. Finally, a publisher agreed to print her books. Beatrix went on to write more and more stories. At last she had fulfilled her dreams of creating something important. She was also an excellent marketer and self-promoter, and “soon people all over the world knew about Peter Rabbit, and they knew about Beatrix Potter too.”

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

As Beatrix grew older, she couldn’t draw in the way she had, but that didn’t mean she left the countryside behind. She wanted to protect the farmland she loved. She helped farms and families, paying for needed veterinary care for animals when the farmers couldn’t afford it and for a nurse when the flu hit. Beatrix Potter’s life was made up of so many things that mattered. Not only did she give the world the beloved Peter Rabbit and his friends, but through donations of farms and acreage she “made sure the land would be cared for, protected, and cherished. Forever.”

An Author’s Note about how she came to write this book and more information on Beatrix Potter’s legacy follows the story.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s delightful and surprising biography of Beatrix Potter delves into the depths of her desire to make a difference with her life. A woman far ahead of her time, Beatrix Potter remains an inspiration for each new generation of readers not only for her well-loved stories but for her community work and foresight. Marshall’s thorough and well-paced story will captivate today’s children, who have the same hopes as Beatrix to influence the world with their talents and opinions. Marshall’s descriptions of Beatrix’s later largesse swell the heart and readers’ admiration for this exceptional woman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-artwork

Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Marshall’s words are set among Ilaria Urbinati’s exquisite illustrations that take children inside Beatrix Potter’s world at home in London and out to the countryside she adored. Her delicate and detailed renderings of young Beatrix drawing with her pet Benjamin Bunny by her side, the farm where she spent summers, her scientific explorations, and her later successes immerse readers in the late 1800s to mid-1900s, allowing them to experience the environments that created one of the world’s most beloved authors. Urbinati’s glorious panoramas of the lake district farms that Beatrix saved are breathtaking and inspiring in their beauty.

For fans of Peter Rabbit and any lover of children’s literature, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit is a must. Stirring on so many levels, the book will inspire multiple readings as well as the discovery or rediscovery of Beatrix Potter’s tales. Perfect for home, school, and public library collections for story times and to enhance language arts lessons and even nature science studies.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1499809602

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ilaria Urbinati, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-garden-board-game-1

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

As all readers know, Peter Rabbit loved vegetable gardens. With this fun game you and your family can grow your own gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-cover

You can find Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 16 – National Love a Tree Day

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About the Holiday

 

In the middle of Gifts from the Garden and Garden for Wildlife Month, we celebrate Love a Tree Day. Trees provide so much––for us and for the earth. Trees release oxygen into the atmosphere, give much-needed shade from the sun’s heat, and beautify the land. And their impact doesn’t end there. Trees also inspire art and literature and ingenious solutions, which all come together in today’s book.

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

Written by Liz Garton Scanlon | Illustrated by Lee White

 

There once was a man who lived in a house on top of very tall, dusty hill. Being so high up, the man’s house captured breezes that set his curtains fluttering and his wind chimes tinkling. Sometimes the wind blew, rattling the shutters, sending the laundry flying from the line, and tearing boards from the house. Inside, the wind whipped, the “table tipped, and the tea spilled.” The man’s hat flew off and out the window, joining the birds who were leaving too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-spilled-tea

Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The man cried, “What to do?” Down on the sidewalk below, a little girl named Kate caught the man’s hat and the man’s cry too. Kate wanted to help. She “couldn’t stop the wind,” but she knew of something that could slow it down. When she returned the man’s hat, she also brought a wagon full of saplings. Kate and the man planted the trees, and they tended them as they grew—even while the wind blew.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-kate-catches-hat

Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

“The trees grew, the wind blew, and the time flew. The time flew as the trees grew…and grew…and Kate did too.” As the trees got bigger, taller, and stronger, the “leaves fluttered,” but the shutters quieted and the board stayed still. Inside, the tea brewed, the dust settled down, and the man’s hat stayed put. Even the birds came back. With the house ringed in trees, Kate and the man enjoyed a picnic in the yard, cooled just enough by the gentle breeze.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-planting-trees

Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Readers will love getting carried away by Liz Garton Scanlon’s breezy lines that through alliteration and rhyme replicate a windy day as things bang, flap, whip, and go flying. As the trees that Kate and the man plant grow and begin to shelter the house from the wind, the rhythm of Scanlon’s text becomes more staccato and rooted. Little Kate is a terrific role model for young readers for her environmental know-how and her stick-to-itiveness as the trees grow from saplings to maturity. The long friendship between the man and Kate is also endearing.

Lee White’s softly hued pages swirl with swipes and swishes that whip curtains, steal laundry, and upend the table and tea. The man’s bewilderment serves as a foil to Kate’s determination and problem-solving, and the difference she makes in the man’s quality of life is evident as the trees grow, their friendship develops, and the wind is finally tamed. Kids will identify with this kind and intelligent child who grows up to be a caring adult.

Beautifully conceived and with lovely details, Kate, Who Tamed the Wind is an environmentally conscious story that will inspire young readers at home and in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101934791

Discover more about Liz Garton Scanlon and her books on her website

To learn more about Lee White, her books, and his art, visit his website.

National Love a Tree Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paper-plate-tree-craft-2

Paper Plate Tree

 

With this easy craft, children can make a tree to decorate their room or to use as a centerpiece for play. 

Supplies

  • Two paper plates 
  • Paper towel tube
  • Brown craft paint
  • Green craft paint (using a variety of green and yellow paints adds interest. Use orange, red, and yellow to make a fall tree.)
  • Paintbrush, cork, or cut carrot can be used to apply paint
  • Glue or hot glue gun or stapler

Directions

  1. Paint the paper towel tube brown, let dry
  2. Paint the bottoms of the two paper plates with the green (or other color) paints, let dry
  3. Flatten about 4 inches of the paper towel tube 
  4. Glue or tape the flat part of the paper towel tube to the unpainted side of one paper plate
  5. Glue the edges of the two paper plates together, let dry.
  6. Straighten the tree so that it can stand up, or hang your tree on a wall, bulletin board, in a window

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-cover

You can find Kate, Who Tamed the Wind at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

March 27 – National Reading Month: Rosie: Stronger than Steel Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

The month of March is dedicated to reading—an initiative that’s taken on new importance as parents and caregivers search for resources for homeschooling and to share family time. Authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, publishers, and others in the publishing and education fields are finding new ways to connect with readers and bring them the books they love. Today, I’m happy to be taking part in a book tour for Rosie: Stronger than Steel, an original look at another momentous time in history that brought people together to work for the good of all.

I received a copy of Rosie: Stronger than Steel from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Rosie: Stronger than Steel

By Lindsay Ward

 

Rosie, a tractor built during World War II, reveals what she’s made of as her story begins: “Refrigerators, fences, old cars, and a toaster… all melted down to build me up strong.” In the factory four women weld and rivet Rosie together. As they work on her they sing…”This is our Rosie, / stronger than steel. / She’ll plow all the land / with a turn of her wheel.” A finishing touch—a single red rose—is painted on, and Rosie offers a promise: “I’ll plow and I’ll dig. / I’ll dig and I’ll plow. / No matter the job, / this is my vow.”

Then Rosie is sent out, traveling by air, ship, truck, and train to a farm far away. The fields are overgrown—in need of Rosie’s expertise. Rosie is happy to get to work, churning the ground so that the Land Girls can plant seeds to grow crops—“wheat and barley. Oats and potatoes. Sugar beets, currants, apples, tomatoes.”—to support the war effort.

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Some days Rosie toiled in the shadow of a war plane, her green body hiding among the green crops. But she never faltered, always singing to herself promise she made to the women who built her. Year after year “more crops were needed! Load after load, sent out to the troops. To feed them. To help them. To win the war!”

Rosie did more than plow. She was hitched to wagons that carried milk and wool and hauled bushels and bushels of apples. She trudged uphill with logs to be converted into supplies. And then one day Rosie heard cheers ringing out across the farm. “The celebration spread throughout the world. The war was over!”

As time passed, new-model tractors joined Rosie on the farm. And then came the day when Rosie sputtered to a halt. She was taken to the barn, where the farmers tinkered and brought her back to life. Now Rosie had rubber tires and new paint, and the little rose had blossomed to fill her hood. Rosie was back, working the farm but never forgetting her promise to the women who built her and her fight for freedom.

In an extensive Author’s Note and accompanying timeline, Lindsay Ward talks about the inspiration behind her story, the work of women in factories during World War II in the US, and the Women’s Land Army in England. She also reveals fascinating facts about tractors built by Ford Motor Company and sent to England. Ward also includes a list of resources for those interested in learning more.

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Lindsay Ward introduces children to the heroism and sacrifice displayed during World War II through her unique story. Told from the perspective of a tractor built by women factory workers in the United States and shipped to a British farm supplying food for the troops, Ward’s story reveals details of the time period that children may not know but that will make an impact: In the first page spread, children see women lined up with donations for the scrap metal collection—not only cans and unneeded items, but toasters and bed frames too. The reason for Rosie’s green paint—a familiar color for tractors—also becomes apparent later in the story.

With the war’s end and the passage of time, Ward demonstrates the return to normalcy and progress again through tractors—Rosie, who acquires rubber tires, and new, sleeker models. Straightforward storytelling describing Rosie’s origins and her hard work on the farm intermittently shares the page with Rosie’s inspiring rhymed promise to do any job necessary.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosie-stronger-than-steel-plow

Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Ward’s colored pencil and cut paper illustrations evoke the 1940s and give Rosie a determined personality while maintaining a realistic view of the important work of these valuable machines. Green predominates, highlighting Rosie, reminding readers of the camouflaged troops she served, and spotlighting the crops she fostered while adding a touch of metaphorical depth in the idea of renewal. Images created from lined notebook paper hint at the importance of remembering history through stories, and other choices of paper add texture and interest.

An excellent story to add to lessons on World War II, women’s history, American history, farming, and industry as well as for children interested in vehicles and machinery, Rosie: Stronger than Steel would be an inspirational addition to home, school, and public library collections.

To learn more about Lindsay Ward, her books, and her art, visit her website.

For a Learn to Draw Rosie Activity Sheet, visit Lindsay’s Rosie: Stronger than Steel page.

Ages 4 – 8 

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542017947

National Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tractor-jigsaw-puzzle-3

Build a Tractor Jigsaw Puzzle

 

With this printable jigsaw puzzle, you can color and build a tractor of your own! Just print the Tractor Template, color, cut, and have fun putting it together!

Supplies

  • Printable Tractor Template
  • Card stock paper, poster board, or cardboard (optional)
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue (optional)
  • Tape (optional)

IMG_2750

Directions

  1. Print the Tractor Template. For a sturdier puzzle, print on card stock or glue the pieces to poster board or cardboard before cutting.
  2. Color and cut out the pieces
  3. Put the tractor together

Optional Game

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If you’d like to play with your tractor, you can print this Vegetable Garden Game.

  1. To use your tractor to play with the game, tape the pieces together.
  2. Then pretend to plow and plant your garden then play the game with the directions provided.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosie-stronger-than-steel-cover

You can find Rosie: Stronger than Steel at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

November 25 – It’s Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

National Farm City Week aims to raise awareness of America’s farmers and ranchers, who “dedicate their lives to promoting our nation’s agricultural abundance and environmental stewardship.” During this week we take the opportunity to support the crucial relationship “between farms and families and work to ensure farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations.” It is through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Farmblock

Written by Chrisopher Franceschelli | Illustrated by Peskimo

 

A rooster calls all kids to take a trip to the farm to see all that happens year ‘round in this adorably chunky board book! Little readers will have a blast following a sister and brother—and their dog—as they say good morning to the ducks in the pond, the cows outside the barn, and the chickens who are happy to share their eggs and show off a dozen newly hatched chicks.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Morning greetings give way to morning chores, and the children take buckets of compost “past the old blue tractor” to the pile, where their dog has discovered a perfect place to roll and play. Ewww! A hose and a tub of soapy water cleans him up. Then it’s time to visit the “big red barn” to “help mild the cows, brush the horses, and feed the goats. Even the “mama sow and all her piglets” get their breakfast slop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farm-block-ducks

Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

On this fall day, the corn and the apples are ready to be harvested. The fresh corn is just right for a picnic, and the apples will make a delicious pie for Grandpa. There are pumpkins in the field for making jack o’ lanterns, and later all the members of the family sit down around the long dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving.

As the weather turns frosty, Mama chops logs and the kids gather kindling for the woodpile. The “horses in the paddock don’t mind a little snow, but the birds in the forest appreciate the seeds the girl and boy scatter for them. Evening falls and it’s time to “head home to roast marshmallows by the fire.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farm-block-horse

Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

The family is happy when spring comes. “Bees buzz in every flower…and the lambs are born.” The animals are excited to be outside in the pasture again. It’s time to get the ground ready for planting “so the plants grow up…and up! And the plants grow down…and down!” The grass grows high in summer, but then it is cut and “rolled into bales to hoist high into the hayloft.” Berry bushes produce plump, juicy berries for jam to sell on farmers market day!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farm-block-barn

Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With plenty of surprises and sprightly storytelling, Christopher Franceschelli gives little readers a tour of a farm throughout the year. His straightforward sentences are cheery and sprinkled with words such as compost, harvest, paddock, and hoist that children who are developing their vocabulary will be proud to know. Kids will be excited to see annual events that their familiar with as well as to learn about the crops and the changes for the animals that occur during each season.

Just as in the other block books in the series, Peskimo delights readers with lots of cut-out windows to peek through, gate-fold pages to open out…and out and even up and down. Behind the gate folds await sweet and humorous discoveries that will have little ones giggling and aww-ing. Each page is bright and bold, and smiles abound from the close siblings to their mom, dad and grandpa to the cute animals and their babies. Even the jack o’ lanterns have wide grins. Kids and adults will enjoy pointing out and talking about all of the details of farm life included on every page and especially the antics of the tiny mouse on each spread.

A charmer that will captivate little ones’ imagination, Farmblock is a book that children will want to read again and again. The book makes a terrific gift and addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages Baby to 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738258

You can view a portfolio of artwork by Peskimo on their website.

Farm City Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-garden-board-game-1

Grow a Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farm-block-cover

You can find Farmblock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 15 – It’s National Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-night-little-blue-truck-cover

About the Holiday

For readers every month is Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now, or new titles to give to all the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves!

I received a copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in an amazing book and toy prize pack. See details below.

Good Night, Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle | Illustrated in the style of Jill McElmurry by John Joseph

 

Toad, driving Little Blue Truck, bumpity-bumped down the road. “Thunder crashing! / Lightening flashing! / Two good friends / were homeward dashing.” They drove into their warm garage and closed the door. Soon, Goat and Hen came knocking, wanting a dry place to hide. Then “‘Honk!’ said Goose. ‘Don’t care for lightning! / Stormy nights are a little bit frightening!’” Cow agreed and asked to come in too.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Duck and Pig wanted in too but wondered if there was enough room for them. “‘Beep-beep-beep!’” Little Blue Truck invited them in. He said that inside they were “‘warm and dry’” while the “‘plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!’” The animals huddled on and around Blue and listened as it rained and thundered. Feeling safe and comfortable, “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’” Then Goat and Pig joined in to say that they weren’t afraid of a little thunder…well, “‘not very.’”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When the storm had blown itself out and the moon shone in the sky, all the animals were ready to head home to get some sleep. “‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’” With Goat and Hen, Goose and Cow, and Pig and Chicken in the back and Duck on the hood, Toad drove them home. They stopped at Pig’s pen, Duck’s tranquil pond, and Hen’s cozy coop. Goat put on his pajamas in the barn, Goose took to her nest, and Cow stood under a tree in the grassy field.

Then Toad and Blue drove home again. Back in the garage, warm and snug, “Toad lay down on his own small bed. / ‘Croak! Good night, Little Blue,’ he said. / Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

A new Little Blue Truck book always gives readers and the adults who share these adventures with them a reason to cheer. With her enchanting rhymes that are a delight to read aloud, Alice Schertle once again creates a story of friendship and comfort that’s just right for bedtime. As lightning and thunder crackle in the sky, Blue and Toad make it into the warm garage just as the rain begins pelting down. The other animals aren’t so lucky and come in search of a dry place and friendship. Little Blue and Toad invite them in with reassurance that there’s room for all. As the animals bravely wait out the storm, little readers will also feel snug and part of the group. When the storm is over and Little Blue and Toad deliver Cow, Duck, Goose, Pig, Hen, and Goat to their comfy beds, kids will also feel their eyes closing as they drift off to sleep in their own cozy bed.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Readers will love reuniting with Jill McElmurry’s familiar blue truck and his good friend Toad in this nighttime adventure. As the wind whips the trees and large raindrops and jagged lightning fill the dark sky, Little Blue’s eyes shine and his garage glows with welcome. Kids will be happy to see their favorite friends gathered together for this impromptu party. The muted colors brighten as the storm passes and a “smiling” moon lights up the starry sky once more. Readers will enjoy pointing out the family of rabbits that hop into the scene from page to page and seeing which of Little Blue’s cozy comforts Pig, Duck, and Hen take home with them.

A perfect way to snuggle into bed for fans of Little Blue and his friends as well as for those just getting to know him, Good Night, Little Blue Truck will be a beloved and often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves. The book is a must for school and public libraries to include with the rest of the series.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328852137

Visit HMHBooks.com to learn more about Good Night, Little Blue Truck.

Check out the rest of the Little Blue Truck series!

You can connect with HMH Kids on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Good Night, Little Blue Truck Giveaway

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Pack up your toys, it’s bedtime!

 

I’m thrilled to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in this fabulous giveaway prize pack!

One (1) winner receives:

  • A copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck,
  • Plus a racing tire toy chest! (toys not included)

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

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

A winner will be chosen on October 22.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.

National Book Month Activity

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Little Blue Truck Pajama Party!

 

Whether your child invites friends or just has fun with siblings or on their own, this Little Blue Truck Pajama Party Kit has everything you need to throw a blast of a party! 

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Inside the downloadable booklet you’ll find:

  • Decorating Ideas
  • Circle Time Activity Ideas
  • Two Coloring Pages
  • A Connect-the-Dots Coloring Page
  • A Full-color Little Blue Truck Mask

You’ll find the printable booklet here: Pajama Party Event Kit

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You can find Good Night, Little Blue Truck at these booksellers

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

 

 

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

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About the Holiday

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

Juma the Giraffe

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2016 | ISBN 978-0989818292

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

You can connect with Kayla Harren on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram

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Helping Brother Rhinoceros

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 10

Wild Nature Institute, 2018 | ISBN 978-1732323414

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Our Elephant Neighbors

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting facts about African elephants follows the text.

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2017 | ISBN 978-1732323407

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Nature’s Giants Magazine

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

Along the way kids will enjoy:

Comics:

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

Articles:

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

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Activities:

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

Meet the Team Behind the Books and Magazine

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

Meet Monica Bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Kayla Harren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever visited Tanzania?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can find Helping Brother Rhinoceros at these booksellers

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

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You can find Our Elephant Neighbors at these booksellers

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

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You can find Juma the Giraffe at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review