December 2 – I AM TODAY Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for I Am Today by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa. This season of giving is the perfect time to share this gorgeous book that reflects the desire of children to give their thoughts, talents, and actions to causes that are meaningful to them. If you’d like to follow I Am Today’s blog tour, see the graphic below for further dates and blogs.

I Am Today

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

 

A child stands on the edge of the beach, letting the sea foam run over her bare toes. Below, a turtle wrapped in a strand of wire floats nearby, while in the background a factory belches smog into the air, and a pipe snakes over the dunes to the water, where it spills its industrial waste. As the child picks up the turtle and removes the wire, she states, “Grown-ups say I am the Future.” Then while releasing the freed turtle, she finishes her thought: “But I’d rather be the Now.” The child then makes her case, explaining that she’s ready to contribute in positive ways, having learned decency, fairness, and generosity from her family and other role models.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The memory of the turtle she saved stays with her—her one small act inspiring her to do more. She determines “if I see something isn’t right, / I need to take a stand! / Why wait to offer kindness? / Why wait to lend a hand?” While trying to go to sleep, the little turtle and a whole sea of fish and other creatures swim in her mind. Suddenly, she has an idea and gets out of bed. She writes note after note and folds each paper into origami turtles. She then goes to her window and releases them on the wind.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The next morning, despite the rain, a crowd of children has gathered at the child’s door—all are holding her note. They and their parents and other adults, many carrying signs urging protection for the sea animals, march down the sidewalk and past the polluting factory to the beach. Living in that moment, they think: “The past is far behind us, / the future, well beyond. / There’s never been / a better time to listen… / …learn… / …respond!”

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

At the beach the group fans out across the sand to pick up debris, and a turn of the page reveals a clean beach and a newspaper containing a front-page article on the factory’s waste pipe that has been closed. “Someday I’ll be the Future” the child says, “But right now… / …I am Today.”

Illustrated instructions on how to make an origami turtle follow the story.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

Children, having lived on our planet for only a few years, are all progress, moving forward, not looking back yet as each day they learn something new, develop another skill, break old barriers, and form unique opinions. So it’s no surprise that kids are concerned about what is happening today and how it will affect the future—their future and the world’s. In I Am Today, Matt Forrest Esenwine harnesses that power of wonder, confidence, and ambition that children possess and gives it a lyrical voice. Flowing with a rhythm as stirring as ocean swells, Esenwine’s story will resonate deeply within any child’s heart.

While Patricia Pessoa’s lovely illustrations depict a child concerned with protecting the ocean and its creatures, Esenwine’s text is universal and equally inspiring for any child and any cause. While recognizing the desire and ability of children and young people to bring about change, Esenwine also provides concrete ways that they can do so, from small gestures to larger actions, allowing all readers to feel included and important. I Am Today also presents a meaningful way for kids and adults to talk about causes that are important to them and ways that they can get involved.

With a warm, vivid color palette and fresh perspectives that allow readers to make some of their own deductions, Patricia Pessoa presents a lush landscape of a child’s family life, imagination, and ideas brought to fruition. Her images of the family’s picture wall and dinner time are full of heart and humor, and kids will enjoy lingering over the pages to catch all the action. Pessoa portrays the importance of saving the turtles and other sea creatures with clever imagery as the turtle appears in the bathroom mirror as the child brushes her teeth, swimming in the bathtub, and decorating the cup of water on her nightstand. Pessoa’s illustrations of the fish and other ocean creatures that fill the child’s mind are especially beautiful, as is the spread in which she sends her origami messengers out into the world.

I Am Today is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational book that children will want to frequently revisit and one that families, classrooms, schools, and public libraries will want to add to their collections. The book’s beauty and message makes it a wonderful gift for any child on your list.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

POW! Kids Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1576879948

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry on his website.

You can connect with Patricia Pessoa on Instagram.

Check out these upcoming dates and discover how other bloggers are celebrating I Am Today

I Am Today Blog Tour Schedule

This year many books have been delayed from their original publishing date to a later time due to shipping and supply issues. The best way to support authors and their wonderful new books is to preorder titles from your favorite bookseller.

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You can preorder I Am Today at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 29 – International Day of the Tropics

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About the Holiday

The International Day of the Tropics is a United Nations–sponsored holiday that celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the tropics while putting a spotlight on the unique challenges and opportunities the nations of the Tropics face. The Tropics are a region roughly defined as the area between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn and have in common a warm and typically unvaried seasonal temperature fluctuations and the prevalence of rain  determined by a region’s proximity to the equator. While it is projected that by 2050, the Tropics will be home to most of the world’s population and two-thirds of its children, the area faces challenges due to climate change, deforestation, logging, urbanization, and demographic shifts.  Today’s observance provides individuals, organizations, and governments an opportunity to take stock of progress across the tropics, to share stories and expertise, and to acknowledge the diversity and potential of the region. Today’s book tell the true story of one woman who is working to make a difference.

Thanks to Lee & Low Books for sending me a copy of Galápagos Girl/ Galápagueña for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. 

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Lee & Low Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0892394135

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website. You can also download activity sheets and teachers’ guides for most of her books here as well.

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

Welcome Marsha Diane Arnold

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In 2018, I was thrilled to talk with award-winning picture book author Marsha Diane Arnold about the backstory of Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña. Her interview, originally for National Wildlife Day, is just as timely today. Marsha was inspired to write this story after traveling to the Galápagos Islands, where she met Valentina Cruz and had the opportunity to swim with sea lions and dolphins.

Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning picture book author whose books have sold over one million copies. Her 21st book, Lights Out, was published in the fall of 2020. Arnold’s other books include Badger’s Perfect Garden, May I Come In? and Mine. Yours. Among Marsha’s honors are the Ridgeway Award for Best First Book, state Children’s Choice awards, IRA Distinguished Book, and Smithsonian Notable Book. Her bilingual book Galápagos Girl was selected as a 2019 Bank Street Best Books of the Year, a Campoy-Ada honor book, and a 2019 Green Prize in Sustainable Literature. The media has referred to her as, “a born storyteller.” Educators have called her a “true literary artist” whose books show “warmth and respect for one’s self.”  She lives with her family in Alva, Florida.

Thank you, Kathryn, for inviting me to celebrate Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña, along with conservation of wild places and animals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Valentina showing us the lay of the land.

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

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

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Valentina and her father on Floreana

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Valentina, her mother, and her sister

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

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

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

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One of eleven species of Galápagos tortoise

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

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

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

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on

Her Website | Earth’s Voices | Facebook

International Day of the Tropics Activity

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Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

 

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

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day and National Poetry Month

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About the Holidays

Earth Day

Earth Day was created in 1970 by a US Senator, Gaylord Nelson. Nelson created the day because he was worried about how humans were harming the environment through their actions. Heard of this holiday before? We certainly hope so! In 1990, environmental leaders mobilized to make the holiday go global. And now, according to earthday.org, 1 BILLION people mobilize on Earth Day every year, to help save and celebrate our beloved planet. You can watch an educational animated video on Gaylord Nelson here. Learn more about Earth Day and how you can make a difference all year around at Earthday.org.

National Poetry Month

2021 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Poetry Month. The holiday was launched by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate writers, poets, poetry lovers and the positive impact poetry has on our culture, literacy and lives. Check out the 2021 National Poetry Month Poster here. You can learn more about National Poetry Month at Poets.org.

Today’s book celebrates both of these holidays with a collection of ocean poems for children. Not a huge lover of poetry? Perhaps the following collection will sway you like an ocean tide. Crafted by The Writers’ Loft Authors and Illustrators, Friends and Anemones is truly as dazzling as a sea-floor pearl.

Thanks to The Writers’ Loft for sending me a copy of Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children

By The Writers’ Loft Authors & Illustrators

 

Dive headfirst into poetry month by exploring “the very, very, bottom of the deep blue sea. With: Salty snails and tuna tails. Bottle caps and lobster traps. Popped balloons, Plastic spoons…” and everything in between! (The Bottom of the Ocean by Kristen Wixted.) In honor of Earth Day AND National Poetry month, Celebrate Picture Books presents a book that deserves to be celebrated twice over: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Seventy New England authors and illustrators joined ship with the Rozalia Project to create a treasure-worthy collection of ocean-themed poems and illustrations.

As described in the title page, “Rozalia Project works to conserve a healthy and thriving marine ecosystem—the plants and animals need our help to keep human debris out of their homes.” Through this partnered anthology, children will learn about subject matter ranging from unique sea creatures and beach dwellers – like cuttlefish, vampire squids, red knots, and rainbow lobsters – to the habits of more well-known ocean dwellers, like whales taking off debris, sharks getting their teeth cleaned, and sea turtles hatching eggs.

They’ll also find poems about human additions to the ocean scene in odes to lighthouses, ships’ remnants, sea litter, and more. Each poem contains deep knowledge to share with readers about poetry, the ocean, and marine life. Little pieces of advice float in between hysterical ocean puns. This perfect concoction of sea-worthy information is also backed by all types of fin-tastic and crabulous art.

Some of the poems are sure to make you laugh out loud. Deep-Sea Jellyfish by Cindy Cornwall opens with: “Jelly of the sea, not jam for your toast. It’s deep in the water, a silky scarf ghost.” Seal of disApproval by Lynda Mullay Hunt fills a whole page with the rhyming, pun-y story of a seal who becomes a dentist and stands up to sharks.

Other poems are less humorous and more pensive; the last of the series, Sea Serenity by Luke Hargraver, holds an existential truth for readers to swim through: “The world is like water / Easily disturbed by ripples / But when still, / Beautiful.” Under a short and sweet poem called Minnow, by Brook Gideon, a message to ocean explorers reads: “It’s very important to release everything you catch back into the ocean right away!”

Each spread is distinctly created in the individual poets’ and artists’ styles. Yet, the whole compilation works together in perfect, charming harmony. Some poems mirror each other in content. Horseshoe Crabulous by Doreen Buchinski is followed by Red Knots by Jane Sutton, in which: “In the sand their goal is chiefly / To dart—and swerve —on twiggy legs / In mad search for horseshoe eggs.” The two beautifully crafted poems are followed by a third gem, Mollusk Mansions by Charlotte Sheer, and accompanied with an illustration featuring horseshoe crabs, red knots, and mollusk shells—all painted by Doreen Buchinski herself!

Children will explore the deep cerulean sea through a range of sincere rhyming couplets, honest haikus, positively silly prose, magical motifs, and everything in between. All poems and artwork share with readers a deep admiration for under the sea creatures, while spreading ocean knowledge, and a love for poetry and beauty.

The watercolors, collages, and digital art pieces mesh beautifully while each achieving a distinctly artistic picturesque scene. Some illustrations run horizontally across the spread to create poster-like, masterful images. On page 23 illustrator Julia Young Cuffe paints a long, horizontal lighthouse against a watery dark blue sky, littered with stars. A person stands at the top, waving a piece of cloth, illuminated by the lighthouse light. The poem, Boston Light by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, is artfully placed running vertically down the lighthouse.

Others run across the two-page spreads to create one image that ties together the poems featured on the separate pages into a collective unit. An example of this can be seen in Marlo Garnsworthy’s opening spread of deep ocean waves intermingling with whales, and Amanda Davis’s DEEP deep sea spread that features spookily realistic vampire squids, angler fish, and sea plumes. Each piece stands out as thoughtfully crafted to instill in readers a sense of awe for the beauty of marine life and ocean ecology.

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children would make a wonderful addition to classroom science and language arts lessons as well as a fun collection to share at home, especially in conjunction with trips to the beach or aquariums. 

The Writers’ Loft is a community based in Sherborn, Massachusetts which helps local writers foster their creativity, strengthen their spirit, and grow professionally by providing them with quiet writing space, educational programs, opportunities to connect with supportive colleagues, and access to industry experts, as well as opportunities to give back to the greater writing community. To learn more about The Writers’ Loft, visit their website.

The Rozalia Project runs educational programs, ocean cleaning initiatives and research projects focused on how to aid ocean clean-up and maintain sustainability of ocean and shoreline ecosystems. The Rozalia Project, along with the “Writer-and-Artist-Ocean-Protectors from the Writers Loft” hopes to use this book to “foster an appreciation of the importance, beauty, and wonder of the ocean in the change-makers of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Rozalia Project, or get involved with them on this Earth Day, check out their website. You can also watch this video on their Expedition CLEAN.

Earth Day and National Poetry Month Activities

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Color pages from Friends & Anemones in your OWN style with these black and white versions of the illustrations. You can find 18 more pages to print or download to your iPad to color on The Writers’ Loft website.

Manatee and Mermaid Coloring Page | Kids on the Beach Coloring Page

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Find ten ocean critters’ names in this printable sea-star shaped word search.

Under the Sea Word Search Puzzle | Under the Sea Word Search Solution

Explore some poems specifically written for younger readers at Poets.org and write your own poetry if you feel inspired.

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To support The Writers’ Loft, you can order Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children from their website.

You can find Friends & Anemones at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 5 – National Cheese Pizza Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re wondering what you should have for dinner or lunch…or…heck—even breakfast!—ponder no longer. It’s National Cheese Pizza Day, which gives you carte blanche to indulge in this hot, bubbly favorite any time today. And even though the official holiday only mentions cheese, I don’t think anyone will mind if you add a few toppings!

Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster

By Claire Lordon

 

Lorenzo is one adventurous lobster! Not only does he like exploring new places, he loves getting his claws on new foods. One day while at the beach, Lorenzo meets a seagull who has found a tasty slice of pizza to nosh on. “‘What’s that?’” Lorenzo asks, “‘It smells amazing!’” The seagull tells him and invites him to try it. Lorenzo takes a nibble…and then a bigger bite. He loves this pizza thing so much that he eats it all up.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On his way home to tell his friends about his discovery, Lorenzo runs into Kalena, his turtle friend, and tells her all about the triangular food that is “‘crispy and chewy at the same time; salty, tangy, and full of flavor, too!’” Kalena is intrigued and suggests they try to make one themselves. At Lorenzo’s house they begin gathering the ingredients, but when Kalena asks what was in the pizza, Lorenzo can’t remember. Kalena looks in the cupboard and pulls out seaweed cake and kelp paste. “‘Perfect!’” agrees Lorenzo. For the “stringy” part, Kalena suggests eelgrass, which also has the benefit of being extra salty. And the “round things on top”? Sand dollars sound delicious!

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Image and text copyright Claire Lorden, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

So the pair bake up their green concoction, and when the timer rings they dig in only to find that it “‘isn’t quite right.’” Not one to give up, Kalena offers a new set of ingredients: “‘kelp dough, squid ink, algae, and coral rings.’” This pizza isn’t right either—in fact, Kalena says, “‘This tastes icky! And the algae is stuck in my teeth!’” Suddenly, Lorenzo has a brainstorm. He remembers that the pizza was made of “‘sponge patties, jellyfish jelly, seaweed noodles, and seashells.’”

Listening to that recipe, Kalena isn’t so sure, but they make it anyway. When this creation comes out of the oven, one small nip convinces Kalena that this one is “‘gross.’” Poor Lorenzo—he so badly wanted to make a delicious pizza with his friend. Kalena leaves Lorenzo’s house with the distinct impression that pizza is terrible. But as she heads up the beach toward home, she smells a delicious aroma. Coming closer she spies a “round food,” and buys one.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With one bite, she’s smitten! This round food is “‘so chewy, and salty, and…wait a minute.’” It dawns on Kalena that this might be the very pizza Lorenzo was talking about. There’s just one thing—why is it a circle? Even though Kalena wants to devour the whole thing, she thinks about how sad Lorenzo was and hurries back to his house with the steaming box. Sure enough, Lorenzo is moping about the afternoon’s debacle.

“‘Hey Lorenzo, look what I found!’” Kalena calls. “‘Holy anchovy!’” Lorenzo exclaims when he tastes it, “‘This is exactly like the pizza I had earlier, but this time it’s big and round!’” They are excited to dig into their treat, but they carefully study the pizza’s ingredients before eating it all up. One pizza just isn’t enough, so Lorenzo and Kalena make another…and another…and another—and share them with all their friends at a huge pizza party.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Who knew pizza and the ocean had so much in common—the same salty tang, the same appealing aromas, the same recognizable shapes? Claire Lordon, that’s who! In her funny culinary adventure, Lordon captures the enthusiasm children have to share and replicate a new discovery  but also presents the moments of disappointment when reality and memory don’t match. Kids will “ewww…ohhh…yuck…and yuck it up at the alternative pizza ingredients Lorenzo and Kalena combine in their attempts at a “normal” pizza. These two friends are sweetly supportive of each other through kelp paste and pepperoni and know how to share life’s ups and downs.

Lordon’s adorable sea creatures populate vibrant underwater and beach environments that will be as familiar to kids as their own homes and playgrounds, but with an oceanic twist. Images of the alternate ingredients are clever adaptations of the elements of a normal pizza as Lorenzo remembers the shapes but not the names of the fixings.

Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster is a delicious ingredient to add to any child’s bookshelf, and kids will no doubt want to build their own pizzas just like Lorenzo—a crustacean who really knows his crust!

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802283

Learn more about Claire Lordon and her work on her website!

To read my interview with Claire, click here!

Cheese Pizza Day Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient and pass the playing die to the next player

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You can find Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

 

March 12 – It’s Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

National Women’s History Month is all about celebrating women who broke barriers with their intelligence, creativity, courage, persistence, and unwavering confidence in their abilities. In every discipline, women have brought and continue to bring new perspectives, experiences, and talents to make contributions toward a better world. Celebrate this month-long holiday by reading about some women pioneers in all areas. Today’s book is a great place to start!

By Jakki Licare

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

Written by Jess Keating | Illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns

 

Eugenie’s favorite place was the aquarium. She loved the smell, the colors of the fish, but most of all she loved the sharks. Eugenie wondered what it would be like to live underwater and swim with the sharks. She had to find out. In the summer, Eugenie’s mother took her to Atlantic City. “Stuffing sticky gum into her ears to keep the water out, Eugenie dove, … down, …down, …down.” She pretended to be a shark swimming strong through water. 

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Image copyright Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2017, text copyright Jess Keating, 2017. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Explore.

Most people were scared of sharks, but Eugenie thought they were magnificent.  She was determined to learn more about them. “So she dove…this time into books.” At the library she learned about every shark she could find. She also became Queens County Aquarium Society’s youngest member. While Eugenie’s mother couldn’t give her a pet shark, she did surprise Eugenie with a fifteen gallon fish tank. Eugenie bought guppies, clown fish and snails. 

As Eugenie grew older she decided to become a zoologist, but many professors didn’t encourage her. Most thought women couldn’t and shouldn’t be scientists. “Eugenie knew better. Her dream was as big as a whale shark. So again, Eugenie dove.” She studied hard and rose to the top of her field. 

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Image copyright Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2017, text copyright Jess Keating, 2017. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Explore.

Eugenie was ready to finally dive into the ocean. In the red sea, she discovered three new species. In the Palau Islands, Eugenie finally saw her first wild shark. It was beautiful. At the time many believed sharks had to always be moving to stay alive, but Eugenie discovered caves with sharks resting together. “Eugenie had proven she was smart enough to be a scientist and brave enough to explore the oceans.”

Still most of the world believed sharks to be dangerous and hunting sharks was very common. Eugenie wanted to prove to the world that sharks weren’t ‘mindless killers.’ Eugenie created an experiment where she would train a shark to push a target. It was a success! Sharks even remembered their training two months later. Eugenie proved that sharks were smart and deserved to be protected. 

Facts about sharks, a detailed timeline of Eugenie Clark’s life, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

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Image copyright Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2017, text copyright Jess Keating, 2017. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Explore.

Jess Keating’s straightforward manner of writing really homes in on the  struggles and successes of Eugenie Clark. Keating adds in splashes of nautical language,  making this a fun and engaging read. Eugenie’s fight for gender equality was a strong theme that ties in nicely with the world’s misunderstanding of the sharks that Eugenie loved. In Eugenie’s college years, Keating writes how people tried to convince Clark to be a secretary or housewife and poignantly points out that even after she earned her degree many still doubted her ability. Young readers can see how Eugenie didn’t let that stop her from doing what she was meant to do.

Keating emphasizes not only Clark’s passion, but her hard work and courage in a variety of situations as well. The picture book begins with Clark’s passion for sharks and then transitions to the brave girl trying to deep dive with bubble gum in her ears. Later, Keating shows the reader how hard Eugenie worked to earn her degree and how brave she was to deep dive alone. The conclusion of the book  circles back to her passion to protect her beloved sharks’ through scientific experiments. Kids with any passion can see how hard work and perseverance can create a huge impact on the world.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-lady-ear-plugs

Image copyright Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2017, text copyright Jess Keating, 2017. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Explore.

Marta Álvarez Miguéns’ illustrations are beautiful and whimsical. Bright blues and greens invite you to dive right in.  Sharks swim through the library aisles while Eugenie reads and tag along with her through her aquarium trip. The illustrations do a great job of reinforcing Clark’s determination and courage. In the college classrooms Miguéns depicts Eugenie as the only girl in the lecture hall. She depicts her with squinty eyed determination; taking notes while the rest of her classmates look bored. Eugenie is also illustrated bravely diving alone with sharks.

The sharks’ large eyes make the sharks feel friendly and encourages the readers to give them a chance as well. In the conclusion of the book, Miguéns shows Eugenie standing next to a little girl who looks happily at the sharks. This illustration emphasizes the fact that Clark’s scientific achievements have given younger generations the chance to enjoy sharks as well.  The end pages are covered with realistic depictions of different types of sharks and nautical sea creatures, allowing those less familiar with these animals to analyze and compare.

Shark Lady is not just for shark enthusiast. This wonderful book shows us  that any dream is possible with hard work and perseverance. It would make an inspiring addition to home, school, and public library collections.

 Ages 4 – 8 and up

Sourcebooks Explore, 2017 | ISBN 978-1492642046 (Hardcover) | Scholastic, 2018 ISBN 978-1338271478 (Paperback)

Discover more about Jess Keating and her books and illustrations on her website.

To learn more about Marta Álvarez Miguéns, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Women’s History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-fin-craft

Fintastic Shark Fun

 

Eugenie wanted to swim with the sharks and now you can too! Follow the directions below and to make your own shark fin. 

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of 8.5 x 11 gray cardstock paper
  • Ribbon
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

fin outline white

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Directions

  1. Tape the top of the two pieces of paper together
  2. Fold them back together
  3. Measure an inch up from the bottom of the papers (the un-taped side) and trace a straight line across both papers
  4. Trace a shark fin outline onto your paper. The shark outline should stop an inch above the bottom
  5. Cut out the fin on both pieces of paper. If you should cut through the tape, re-tape the tops together
  6. Fold along the lines of both papers so the folds face towards each other.
  7. Tape the folds so the fin becomes a triangle
  8. Cut two slits parallel to the folded lines
  9. Thread ribbon through slits

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You can find Shark Lady at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 23 – Measure Your Feet Day

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About the Holiday

While we may not really consider that when our feet are happy, we’er happy, we all know that when our feet are unhappy, so are we. Today’s holiday has its roots in ancient Icelandic springtime celebrations but has developed into a day when we take extra care of our feet. This pampering can take many forms, including a nice warm soak, a pedicure, or making sure that our shoes fit well and give our feet the support they need. To celebrate today, give your feet a little extra attention.

Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

A day at the beach includes a bit of animal tracking as a brother and sister and their puppy romp and play as ocean creatures go about their day. Near the ocean’s edge, they find “wading feet, / sandpiper hops, / water curls and sprays. / Crawling feet, / click-clack crab scuttles on its way.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandy-feet-whose-feet-cover

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seagulls and pelicans looking for a snack leave webbed prints on the sandy shore while underwater “wriggling feet, / on five orange legs, sea star makes its way.” A turtle on her way to dig her nest mingles her distinctive track with familiar five-toed footprints that run back and forth from the water to a tall sand castle. But the most surprising feet are “buried feet, / children laugh, / Daddy’s toes poke through.” At last, as the sun sets, tired feet head home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandy-feet-whose-feet-sand-piper

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Back matter includes a short discussion about ecology and prompts children to become “ecology detectives” at home, observing the tracks of creatures who live nearby, or on a hike to the forest, beach, or park. Photographs and descriptions of the sea creatures mentioned in the text teaches children more about these animals and how they move.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandy-feet-whose-feet-sand-crab

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Susan Wood’s short, dynamic rhyming verses are a perfect way to entice young scientists to keep their eyes on the ground and observe tracks that can tell them about the creatures that traverse their backyard, playground, beach, park, or woods. Wood’s evocative vocabulary mirrors the action of the ocean as it “curls and sprays” and the animals who hop, scuttle, and wriggle to find food and shelter. Readers will also enjoy following the family who has come to spend the day at the beach with their lively dog in tow.

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Steliyana Doneva takes kids to the seashore in her lovely illustrations in which the aqua sea froths and bubbles, inviting swimmers, and the peach-hued sand preserves footprints, turtle eggs, and a growing sand castle—all overseen by a stalwart lighthouse. Kids get an up-close look at sandpipers, crabs, seagulls, pelicans, sea stars, barnacles, a turtle, and other fish as well as ocean and dune grasses. At the end of the day as the family heads home, Doneva’s beautiful sunset offers a perfect moment of quiet cuddle time during which readers can happily match the footprints on the final spread to the animals they’ve learned about in the story.

A terrific take-along for trips to the beach or a primer for outdoor jaunts, Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? makes for a fun and educational addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-158536409

Discover more about Susan Wood and her books on her website.

Measure Your Feet Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-shoes-maze

Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

 

These kids are getting out and enjoying nature! Can you help them find the right shoes so they can start their adventures in this printable puzzle?

Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandy-feet-whose-feet-cover

You can find Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

I received a copy of Iced Out from Cicada Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Cicada Books on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Iced Out

Written by CK Smouha | Illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

 

At Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals, Wilfred, a walrus, and Neville, a narwhal, stood out among the rest of the class of seals—but not in the way they wanted to. With his pointy horn that deflated every ball he caught, Neville “never got picked for the football team.” And Wilfred’s overly aromatic lunch meant he always sat by himself. Even parties were perilous, “so they didn’t get invited very often.” You might think that Neville and Wilfred would be friends, but they weren’t—not really.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-iced-out-awesome

Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Wilfred and Neville disliked mornings, and thinking about the week ahead made Sundays tough too. But one Monday something amazing happened. A new student joined the class—Betty Beluga. “Everyone wanted to play with her. But Betty wasn’t interested.” She sat alone at lunch, didn’t join the football team even though she was an awesome scorer, and declined the invitations she got for parties. “Wilfred and Neville were smitten.” In fact, now they couldn’t wait to go to school as they daydreamed about Betty.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-iced-out-Betty

Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Neville decided he had to prove himself to Betty, and he practiced catching a ball without impaling it on his horn. Finally, he had the knack. The next day, though, just as he was showing Betty, Wilfred “accidentally” bumped into him and Neville’s trick went splat. Wilfred swam off with Neville in pursuit. Wilfred was good at hiding and Neville couldn’t find him anywhere. Betty thought they were playing hide-and-seek—her favorite game—and she joined the search. When she found Wilfred, it was her turn to hide. The three played all afternoon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-iced-out-nailed-it

Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Even though they were getting along, there was still a rivalry between Wilfred and Neville for Betty’s affections. “Who would you like to rescue you from dragons,” they wondered. But Betty set them straight. “I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much,” she told them. After that was understood, they became best friends. They ate lunch together, did classwork together, sometimes went to parties, and were just fine with not being like everyone else.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-iced-out-school-better

Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

CK Smouha’s story about a narwhal and a walrus who are ostracized by their classmates but find friendship with a new student is a complex tale that touches on group dynamics, self-esteem, independence, jealousy, finding your niche, and other topics that children deal with every day. There is a difference between totally fitting in and being accepted that frames the story and gives it its emotional punch. The pages in which Wilfred cowers under his covers, not wanting to go to school and Neville spends Sundays replaying the bullying he’s endured are heart-wrenching and important in that they reveal to readers that what happens in school colors life out of school. These pages also give children for whom these feelings are a reality a opening for discussing them. When Betty Beluga joins the class, she becomes a role model for Neville and Wilfred as well as for readers. While she has all the prerequisites to fit in with the seals, she charts her own course, maintaining her individuality.

As Neville and Wilfred become smitten with their new classmate, their hearts swell with romantic love, depicted with humorous snapshots of the two listening to love songs, writing adoring messages, playing cupid, and imagining themselves as rescuing heroes. Betty’s welcome reaction shuts this down, showing her burgeoning independent self-image while opening the door to true friendship. Accepted by Betty, Neville and Wilfred discover that where and how they fit in is just right for them.

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Isabella Bunnell’s matte illustrations, rendered in hues of blue, gold, red and black give a distinctive look to this multilayered story. Bunnell uses subtle shifts in the characters’ faces and body positions to portray their full range of emotions, giving readers much to think and talk about. With the exception of the hide-and-seek scenes, Bunnell chooses to depict the setting without an ocean background. Her pages thus orient readers in school, home, and sports-field environments that are familiar to them, reinforcing the universal theme of the story.

A unique and thoughtful look at the dynamics of groups, defining oneself, and friendship, Iced Out would be a discussion-starting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for all children.

Ages 3 – 8

Cicada Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1908714626

To view a portfolio of artwork by Isabella Bunnell, visit her tumblr.

Iced Out Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Cicada Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Iced Out written by CK Smouha | illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite sea creature for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 7 through November 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 14.

Prizing provided by Cicada Books

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

Picture Book Month Activity

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

Sea Animal Friends Coloring Pages

 

These cute sea animals like playing together. Grab your crayons and give their world some color!

Beluga | Narwhal | Seal | Walrus 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-iced-out-cover

You can find Iced Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review