October 15 – It’s National Book Month

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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.

Nature’s Giants Books & Magazine Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

A winner will be chosen on June 28

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

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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

 

March 19 – National Let’s Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than a good laugh! Today people are encouraged to share jokes and funny stories and to find the humorous side of events. Laughing every day can make you feel better, and it’s good for your health. So, pick out a funny show to watch and, of course, lots of funny books! There are so many out there to discover—like today’s upcoming holiday offering!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m eggcited to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter

Written by Wendi Silvano | Illustrated by Lee Harper

 

On a perfect spring morning, Turkey read a sign alerting park-goers to an Easter egg hunt on Saturday. Those who found a “special” egg would “win an eggstraspecial prize.” Turkey thought it was “‘gobble, gobble great,’” but there was just one problem—only kids were allowed at the hunt. Sheep wondered if they could sneak in undetected. The rest of the animals thought this was a good idea and volunteered Turkey to “‘go in disguise and snoop out one of those eggs.’”

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2019, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Turkey figured he wouldn’t get caught if he were disguised as a rabbit, and on Saturday he donned two wooden buck teeth, tall leaf ears, and a huge wooly tail. As he hopped through the park, Cow kept watch and stayed in communication with headsets. Finally, Turkey saw a special egg. He was on the move and almost there when Cow whispered, “‘Alert! Alert! Child approaching!’” Turkey stopped in his hops. The girl grabbed the special egg, reminding the “bunny” that the hunt was for kids only.

Busted, Turkey changed his costume. This time he was a daffodil in a basket. He zipped here and there and was just about to nab a special egg near a bench when the woman sitting there tried to nab him for her Easter bouquet. Another girl picked up the special egg and went on her way.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2019, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Suddenly, Rooster saw a special egg at the top of the slide. But how to get Turkey up there? In a flash he was transformed into a bee. Turning a tree into a Turkey catapult, the animals flung Turkey toward the slide. He landed with a plop. With a whee he whooshed down the slide, and with a “splat” at the bottom he lost the egg to a little boy.

Turkey looked up to find Farmer Jake standing over him. “‘Buzz your way back to the barn!’” he said. The animals gathered and came up with another plan. “‘I’m no eggspert,’” Rooster suggested. “‘But maybe to get a special egg you have to be one.’” They constructed an egg-shaped basket for Turkey to hide in. Then they rolled it right into the middle of the hunt – where he was mistaken for a special egg before he could even find one. When Max brought his giant egg to the prize table, Farmer Jake and Edna burst out laughing. Then they let both Max and his “eggstraspecial egg” choose a prize. As the animals carried off their jelly bean pizza, they knew it would be the most “eggcellent Easter” ever.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2019, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Turkey’s fans know, he’s a master of disguises—sort of. With a yummy Easter prize only an eggstraspecial egg away, Turkey and his friends dream up some pretty inventive costumes to put him in the middle of the Easter egg hunt. With her gobble, gobble great dialogue peppered with puns, Wendi Silvano sets in motion a buddy comedy of errors that will keep kids laughing from beginning to end.

If you’ve ever wondered what the modern farm animal looks like when exercising, you’ll find out in Lee Harper’s hilarious illustrations that open the book. These easily segue into hilarious illustrations of the farm animals as spies and then into hilarious illustrations of the animals outfitting Turkey as a rabbit—you get the pattern! As each costume grows more and more complex, readers will wonder how Turkey will fare this time and (almost) be happy those special eggs get snatched away so the fun can continue. The final two-page spread showing the animals enjoying their Easter pizza will delight kids—and maybe inspire a new holiday tradition.

With plenty of pluck and eggcitement, Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter will crack kids up. The book is a must for fans of the series—which includes Turkey Trouble, Turkey Claus, and Turkey Trick or Treat— and a great place to start for those new to Turkey’s shenanigans.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542040372

Discover more about Wendi Silvano and her books on her website.

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

Take a peep at this eggceptional Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter book trailer!

Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter written by Wendi Silvano | illustrated by Lee Harper

This giveaway is open from March 19 through March 25 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 26.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

  • Like a Giveaway Post
  • Follow me @celebratepicturebooks 
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of Easter treat for an extra entry! (Each comment gives you one more entry)

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

National Let’s Laugh Day Activity

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Silly Balloons

 

You can have lots of silly fun with balloons! Try some of these ideas—they’re sure to make you laugh!

Goofy Faces

Blow up a balloon and draw a funny face on it. Rub the balloon on your shirt or a blanket and stick it to the wall, your shirt, or even your mom or dad!

Crazy Hair

Rub a blown-up balloon on your shirt or a blanket (fleece works well) then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

Bend Water

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Rub a blown-up balloon on a blanket (fleece works well). Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 

Volleyballoon

This is a fun game for two or more people played like volleyball—but with balloons! All you need is a balloon and a line on the floor. Players form teams and bat the balloon back and forth over the line, keeping it in the air.as long as possible. A team wins a point when the opposing team can’t return the balloon.

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You can find Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture

 

January 3 – Festival of Sleep Day

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About the Holiday

Are you still revved up from the holidays? Having trouble getting back into your usual sleep routine? Feeling a bit discombobulated, grumpy, or just plain tired? Without enough sleep our wellbeing suffers. We’re more susceptible to illness, our work drags, we’re not as alert when driving, and our mood can be a little…well…see above. If you’re not getting enough sleep, today’s holiday encourages you to rethink your routines or get back to them. Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and that your bedroom is not too hot or too cold. Putting a priority on sleep will make you feel better all day!

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

Written by Eugenie Doyle | Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

 

As the winter days become shorter, a family readies their farm for bed. With most of the crops harvested—“strawberries, raspberries, vegetables, honey, and hay—now is the time to prepare for deep front, the coming wind and snow.” The berry plants are blanketed with straw that will keep them warm until June when “they’ll give fruit so red and juicy we’ll make jam and freeze berries to eat till summer comes again.”

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, beets, and potatoes are cut and dug and placed in storage in the barn to “await winter markets and our own winter meals!” With everything put away, the family calls, “Good night, fields, peaceful and still.” Then it’s time to cut and stack wood that will heat the farmhouse during the cold months and fire up the sugarhouse for making maple syrup in early spring.

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The hoophouse, home to the “baby greens…with mouth-filling names—spinach, mizuna, tatsoi, arugula—” that “will nap till stronger sun can wake them” is secured to the ground to keep it in place through winter’s howling winds. Out in the chicken coop, a timer is set to “give the hens the light they need to lay eggs all winter.” Fresh grain and hay and a water heater keeps the chickens well fed and comfortable. “Good night, chickens, snug in your coop.” A wall of hay bales creates a wind break for the bee hives and the entrances are narrowed to keep field mice out.

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the harvest stocks the farm stand with “fresh eggs, greens and roots, onions and garlic braids, decorative corn, honey and maple syrup.” Finally, the farm vehicles are driven into the equipment shed. Back in the farmhouse, the wood stove glows, and colored lights rim the roof and windows. Beeswax candles on the sills “soften the longest night.” As white flakes softly fall, “the farm is ready for down quilts of snow, the shh-shh of the wind…. Good night, farmers, sleep tight. Sleep tight, farm.”

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Eugenie Doyle’s quiet memories of a busy year as a family buttons up their farm, remembering the crops of luscious fruit and hardy vegetables, hot days of summer, and fall’s sweet honey offer a dreamy beginning to winter. With lyrical phrasing, she shows young readers the work that goes into preparing a farm for winter so that the plants and animals are well taken care of as they wait for warmer weather. Doyle’s straightforward storytelling, sprinkled with evocative verbs and adjectives, will enchant children, who may see similarities between the snug farm and the changes in their own routines during a cold, but cozy winter.

Becca Stadtlander’s folk-art inspired paintings are rich in color as they take readers from the warm farmhouse kitchen out to the fields, where green rows of berry plants, still dotted with red fruit become golden as hay is strewn over them, the wood pile behind the house grows, a sheath of white cloth is gently unfurled, and the beehives are secured from weather and interlopers. Children accustomed to visiting farmers markets will recognize many of the fruits and vegetables depicted and will long for the reopening of their local store when spring arrives again.

A beautiful book to share during cold-weather story times, Sleep Tight Farm will be a favorite of young gardeners and foodies and of any child who loves farms, nature, and family togetherness.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452129013

To learn more about Becca Stadtlander, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Festival of Sleep Day Activity

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Flashlight Fun Maze

 

It may be time for bed, but there’s always time for a little flashlight fun! Can you follow the beam of the flashlight to find the kids sneaking one last story in this printable maze?

Flashlight Fun Maze | Flashlight Fun Maze Solution

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You can find Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 5 – Job Action Day

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About the Holiday

Job Action Day was created in 2008 as a day for job seekers and employees to assess their career goals and take action to make them a reality. Today, experts across the web and in participating companies offer special seminars and training sessions to provide the latest in career advice. Today’s holiday, which is sponsored by LiveCareer, gives people a chance to reflect on what is most important in their life. Are you doing the job you’re passionate about? Are you bringing your passions to the job you are doing? If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your position, take another look at your job and where it leads. It’s possible that new opportunities lie within your current job—you never know where a particular job will lead you until you put all your creativity, knowledge, and—most importantly—unique personality—into it. If your current job doesn’t offer these kinds of opportunities, today is a good day to polish that resume and begin a search for a better fit.

Business Pig

By Andrea Zuill

 

When Jelly Bean gave birth to five piglets at the Sunshine Sanctuary for Farm Animals, one was a standout. Dressed in a pinstripe suit and tie and drinking from a mug, he smiled at the farmer and two volunteers. “What kind of pig is that?” one volunteer asked. “Well, I believe what we have here is a gen-u-wine Business Pig,” the farmer answered. The little girl volunteer named him Jasper.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Right from the start, Jasper didn’t like playing in the mud, and instead of rooting for grubs with his snout, he used a shovel. “Everyone at the sanctuary loved little Jasper. But that didn’t keep him from feeling out of place.” So the volunteers made him an office in the corner of the barn with a hay bale desk, a comfortable chair, and a computer. They gave him a job helping with the bookkeeping. When Jasper held a meeting, everyone came “to show their support.”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But when it came right down to it, some of the animals didn’t understand him. The chickens ignored his flow charts, “and the goat ate his business card.” And no one seemed to want him as a pet. Jasper decided to be proactive. He wrote articles for the newspaper touting the benefits of pigs as pets, he hung out billboards, and he tacked signs with pull-off tabs onto electrical posts. Then he waited.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Soon a little girl carrying a briefcase visited the sanctuary. She studied Jasper’s flow charts, “wanted to exchange business cards with him,” and carefully read his résumé. Jasper was pleased with the interview, “but upper management had to be consulted.” Fortunately, the little girl’s mother was also impressed, and Jasper went home with his “perfect fit.”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Andrea Zuill’s Jasper will make you swoon. Adorable doesn’t go far enough to describe the absolute perfect expressions on this piglet’s face as he meets the volunteers, sees his office for the first time, reacts to having his business card devoured, and with hope hands out his résumé. Jasper’s gestures are equally as endearing and will make readers’—kids and adults—hearts swell. Zuill’s story is humorous in its use of business jargon (Jasper is “smart, outgoing, proactive,” and enlists the help of his contacts), uplifting in the way the sanctuary’s volunteers and animals support the little pig, and emotionally resonant when this diminutive businessman is passed over for adoption. Kids will feel good all over when the piglet finally meets his perfect match and gets the “job” he’s been searching for.

With both laugh-out-loud and heartwarming moments, Business Pig would make a much-loved gift and addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves that will be asked for again and again. 

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926849

Discover more about Andrea Zuill, her books, and her art on her website.

Job Action Day Activity

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Briefcase Craft

 

Every business kid needs a briefcase! With this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application, young talents will be taking the world by storm in no time!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Business Pig at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 9 – National Hug Your Hound Day

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About the Holiday

Of course you love your pooch, but have you ever thought about life from their point of view? What does the world look like from their perspective? How does the grass or sidewalk feel under their paws? What hat makes that so enticing? And what are they really thinking when dressed up for Halloween? Today’s holiday encourages people to really observe their dog in their home and outdoor environment to make sure they have everything they need to be healthy and happy. Which, of course, includes lots of hugs!

George the Hero Hound

By Jeffrey Ebbeler

 

“George was a good old hound dog” and the best kind of farm dog. Even before the rooster crowed, he was helping Farmer Fritz with his chores. Farmer Fritz needed a lot of help because there were always slop buckets to carry, the old rusty tractor was always breaking down, and the cows were always “plotting to get out and feast on the cornfield.” But it wasn’t so bad because there was always an afternoon nap on the porch waiting for him. In fact, “he had a good life for a hound dog.”

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Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of jefferyebberley.com.

But one day Farmer Fritz packed up his belonging, put on a Hawaiian shirt and caught the bus to a retirement cabana on the beach where cows, pigs, and, sadly, even dogs weren’t allowed. But George wasn’t alone for long. Soon the Gladstone family moved in with all of their city apartment things and two kids, Owen and Olive. The Gladstones were happy to see the old hound dog. The little boy wanted to be the one to name him.

“George could tell right away that the Gladstone family would need a whole heap of help. There’d be no afternoon naps on the porch for a while.” When Mr. Gladstone tried to fix the tractor, it was George who found the missing part that made it work. When Mr. Gladstone saw that the old dog camouflaged among the rusty tractor parts, he said, “Maybe we should call you Rusty.” But before that name could take hold, the tractor took off on its own. When the tractor smashed through the cows’ fence, George went to work rounding them up and herding “those sneaky cows back into their pen, where they belonged.”

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Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of jefferyebberley.com.

George toddled into the house for a drink of water, but Mrs. Gladstone swept him right back out again, saying, “You are the dustiest dog! I ought to call you Dusty.” George loped off to his dog house when something blue fluttering from a tree caught his attention. Owen came running. It was Olive’s blue scarf, but where was Olive? “George took a good sniff of Olive’s ribbon—he was a hound dog, after all—and off they went.” George followed the scent through the corn field, across a stream, and over a hill. There they found Olive having a tea party with a chicken.

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Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of jefferyebberley.com.

Owen thought George was such a good tracker that they should call him Rover. Happy to have helped find Olive, George figured he’d certainly get his nap now. But they reached the farm just in time to see the tractor crash into the barn and Mrs. Gladstone, who was up a ladder, drop her can of red paint. It landed on George’s head, turning him…”Red!” It was Olive’s first word. Maybe, thought Owen, Red would be a good name for the old hound.

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Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of jefferyebberley.com.

After that day George didn’t get too many naps. But that was okay. Turned out “that he liked herding Olive a lot more than he liked herding cows.” He also taught the Gladstones everything he knew about running the farm and dealing “with those crafty cows.” George was so clever he even devised a plan to “drum up business” on Farmer Fritz’s beach, where the retirees loved the Gladstone’s sweet corn. “Now, if only George could teach his new family one last thing…his name!”

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Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of jefferyebberley.com.

Jeffrey Ebbeler’s sweet hound dog George will capture readers’ hearts as he manages the farm, the wily cows, and the clueless Gladstones with good humor and aplomb. With such a good nature and so many talents, it’s no surprise that George is special to each family member. Ebbeler’s vibrant illustrations are full of humor that will keep kids laughing as the cows plan their escapes, Farmer Fritz and Mr. Gladstone tinker with the tractor on the fritz, and a goggle-eyed chicken becomes Olive’s playmate. Kids will especially like hunting for all the cows hiding, showering, camping, hot-air ballooning, and getting into other shenanigans throughout the book.

A fun and funny read aloud, George the Hero Hound is a day-brightener for any story time at home or in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503941762

Discover more about Jeffrey Ebbeler, his books, and his art on his website.

National Hug Your Hound Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog. Why not get together with your friends and make a batch? Then share them with your pets, or consider making some for dogs who need a little extra love at your local shelter.

  • Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

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You can find George the Hero Hound at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

 

June 23 – It’s National Dairy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1937 as National Milk Month to encourage people to drink more milk to stabilize the dairy industry during a time of surplus. The event grew to celebrate all the benefits provided by the dairy industry around the world. The name was changed when the National Dairy Council took over promotion of the holiday. 

A Symphony of Cowbells

Written by Heather Preusser | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

With the dawning of spring, Gimmelwald came alive with the “Da-ding, da-ding. Jingle-jangle, jingle-jangle. Clang-clong-clank, clang-clong-clank” of bells as the cows were led to the sweet, green grass in the high meadows. The cows’ milk would become “scrumptious cheese…sold by the wedge, wheel, and wagonload.” As Petra walked with her family’s herd, she led her favorite cow, Elfi, who “wore the most booming brass bell of all.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But one day Elfi’s bell was missing. Petra’s father told her they had a schedule to keep and that Elfi would have to go without her bell, but Elfi wouldn’t hear of it. She stomped her hoof and stood her ground. No amount of pushing, pulling or prodding could move Elfi from her spot. Petra ran and retrieved a tiny tin bell to hang around Elfi’s neck, but Elfi only “sniffed and snorted at the embarrassing tinkling. Tittle-tattle-tink, tittle-tattle, tink.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-stubborn-elfi

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Without Elfi to lead them, Petra’s other cows lay down in the meadow and refused to move as well. “‘No milk? No cheese? What’ll we do?’ Petra gulped.” She begged Elfi to get up, but Elfi simply gazed at Petra with “eyes wide as milk saucers.” Petra knew she had to find Elfi’s bell. She searched the house, looked in the barn, and combed the field, but didn’t find the bell. The sun went down, and “the stubborn cows remained rooted among the bellflowers.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-tiny-bell

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In the morning, Petra spied a crow with something shiny in its beak. She ran after it and discovered the bird’s huge nest high on a cliff. She was much too small to reach it, so she called her father, her mother, and a couple of neighbors. They piled on top of one another, and as Petra teetered on her mother’s shoulders, she reached into the nest and pulled out…Mr. Schmid’s pocket watch, Miss Baumann’s reading glasses, Farmer Felber’s wrench, Mother’s bracelet, Father’s keys, and…Elfi’s brass bell!

Petra skipped all the way to where Elfi and the other cows were keeping their protest, the brass bell announcing “Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG. Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG” all the way. When Elfi saw her bell, she danced with joy. Petra placed the bell over Elfi’s head and kissed her velvety nose. The other cows took notice. “On cue, they stood and moseyed up the mountainside….The symphony of cowbells was harmonious again—and LOUD. It was springtime in Gimmelwald after all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-clanging-bells

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Heather Preusser’s enchanting Swiss tale of tenderhearted but stubborn Elfi will delight readers with its musical mystery and gentle humor. Kids will love hearing and reading along with the melodic verses of jingling cowbells sprinkled throughout the text. Preusser’s lyrical phrasing is as fresh as the mountain air and will transport children to the beautiful Swiss countryside.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a perfect example of text and illustrations working together to present the story and add layered details that elevate the reading experience. Eileen Ryan Ewen’s gorgeously detailed and charming paintings take readers to the heart of Gimmelwald, with its glorious mountain backdrop, quaint village architecture, and cozy homes decorated with Alpen cuckoo clocks, dainty curtains, and window boxes overflowing with flowers.

Along the way Ewen frames a consecutive story along the bottom of most pages. Through these panels, eagle-eyed readers will notice a curious happenstance occurring in Gimmelwald which just may explain a few things…. It’s not until the end, however, that kids discover the answer to the story’s mystery.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a captivating and humorous look at country life with a little science sprinkled in. Readers may be enticed to do a little more research into the animal behaviors that influenced the story. The book would make a lovely addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369683

To learn more about Heather Preusser and her book as well as see a video about the real Gimmelwald, visit her website!

Discover more about Eileen Ryan Ewen and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Dairy Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-a-symphony-of-cowbells

Ring a Bell for Reading Bookmark

 

It’s easy to make a stylish bookmark that can ring out your love of reading while marking your page!

Supplies

  • 3 shoelaces or ribbon of different designs
  • Small “sleigh” bells or other bellscelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-a-symphony-of-cowbells

Directions

  1. Hold three shoelaces together and knot them together at the top
  2. Braid the shoelaces together as long as you want your bookmark to be
  3. At the end, string three or more bells onto the ends of the shoelaces and knot the shoelaces together to hold the braid closed.
  4. Alternately, you can knot the braid at the end and tie a group of bells to the end.
  5. The end with the bells becomes the top of the bookmark.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-cover

You can find A Symphony of Cowbells at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review