July 2 – World Firefly Day

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About the Holiday

World Firefly Day was instituted by Fireflyers International Network to raise awareness of these summer night beauties and the dangers to their survival, including habitat destruction, pesticides, light pollution, and over-collection. More and more, as fields and marshlands are paved over for building and waterways open up to recreation, the fireflies that call these places home are disappearing. This year’s theme is “Let’s stay together in the challenging world” and encourages everyone to learn how to “live in harmony” with fireflies. To learn more about fireflies, how you can make your garden or lawn firefly friendly, and more, visit Firefly Conservation & Research.

Light the Sky, Firefly!

Written by Sheri Mabry Bestor | Illustrated by Jonny Lambert

 

When fireflies begin dotting the summer night sky with light, it may seem like they magically appear out of nowhere. But as Sheri Mabry Bestor eloquently reveals, these beautiful insects have been lurking and luminescing for a long time. How long? Well, as summer rains dampen the earth, a firefly lays her eggs (up to 500!) under brush or fallen leaves. “Under the leaves, the eggs lay still. For the baby fireflies inside the shells, it is time to grow. And begin to glow.”

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Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The larvae hatch after a month, and then they begin to eat, eat, eat. Slugs and snails are on the menu, and a paragraph of scientific information about the firefly’s nighttime dining discloses that “instead of fighting their prey, the larvae bite and then inject the prey with a liquid that keeps it from moving to get away.” All through the rest of summer and fall, the baby firefly grows. During the winter, the larvae undergo many transformations, growing and outgrowing a series of casings.

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Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It isn’t until late spring when the larvae are ready to become an adult. When they are ready, they emerge from their mud nest, and while the sun is high, they stay low to the ground. But “when the sun begins to set, they begin to climb higher. And when the sky turns black, fireflies launch!” Then “the sky is filled with flashing fireflies. They twinkle like faraway stars.”

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Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The darkness of night doesn’t protect them from predators, though, so fireflies always have to be on the alert. If they are caught, fireflies have a bitter surprise for the hungry critter. And what about those blink, blinks that we all marvel at? Those signals aren’t random. As Sheri Mabry Bestor explains, “Fireflies blink with specific rhythms called ‘flash patterns,’ and each species has its own. This helps them communicate with each other.” Not only does that luminescent chemical help fireflies, Bestor describes ways in which scientists and doctors are studying it in hopes of helping people.

“In time, the females are ready to lay their eggs. Pitter-patter, drizzle-drip. Summer rain cools the earth. Bees buzz. Birds glide. A firefly finds a place under the leaves that blanket the ground.” The eggs hide under leaves, waiting until next summer when it’s their turn to shine.

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Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sheri Mabry Bestor’s lovely, poetic story of the lifecycle of fireflies is a beautiful read aloud for summer nights or for whenever you and your kids are missing the simple pleasures of summer. While the story plays out from page to page in flowing and sometimes colorful text, scientific facts about these insects, their transformations, homes, anatomy, protection, and, of course, their bright and glowing communication skills are tucked in the corner waiting to be discovered and explored. Bestor’s rhythmical cadence also highlights the seasonal changes that accompany fireflies’ growth from tiny larvae to adult and the cyclical wonder of nature.

Jonny Lambert’s stunning textured collage-style illustrations portray all the beauty of these unique insects and the landscape they inhabit. Mottled greens and yellows give depth to lush leaves, opaline snail shells catch the light above as the curious snail discovers the glowing eggs below, and delicate spring flowers camouflage the mud nests where the larvae are transforming into adults. But the nighttime scenes are breathtaking with deep blue skies, a canvas for the pin pricks of light that create summer’s most spectacular show. Both realistic and dreamlike, these nighttime pages will have kids and adults scurrying outside to watch and be a part of it.

A gorgeous book to celebrate the exquisite charm of fireflies as well as to impart natural science facts, Light the Sky, Firefly is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111158

Discover more about Sheri Mabry Bestor and her books on her website.

You can connect with Jonny Lambert on Twitter.

World Firefly Day Activity

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Firefly Flight Maze

 

This little firefly wants to join her friends in the forest. Can you help her through the maze to find them in this printable maze?

Firefly Flight Maze Puzzle | Firefly Flight Mage Solution

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You can find Light the Sky, Firefly! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 19 – World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as planting seeds, watching the plants grow, and finally being able to enjoy the bounty of your work. If you live in cooler climates, now is the perfect time to get started, and if you’re already experiencing warm or even hot weather, your garden may well be on its way. Wherever you stand on the growing calendar and whether you plant a large garden plot or enjoy deck gardening, today’s holiday highlights all of the benefits of vegetable gardening and provides education for gardeners of all experience levels. Celebrate the holiday with today’s book and consider planting your own veggie garden. Or, if digging in the dirt really isn’t your thing, you can play the printable Plant a Vegetable Garden Game at the end of this post!   

In the Garden

By Emma Giuliani

 

In her stunningly illustrated interactive guide through the seasons, Emma Giuliani introduces Plum and her little brother, Robin, and invites readers to join them as they tend to their garden and all the plants, animals, and birds that call it home. Plum and Robin begin at winter’s end. “This morning it’s cold. It’s not yet spring, but, in the garden, Plum and her brother Robin see the first catkins appearing on the branches of the willows and hazels. The blossoming mimosa makes the gardeners impatient for spring to come.” As Robin counts the long, drooping catkins, Plum rakes a layer of compost over the ground. On the facing page, readers get a close-up view of the fuzzy catkins, can peek inside a bud, burrow underground with earthworms just waking from hibernation, and view a few early bloomers. They also learn about what makes up the earth’s soil and get a recipe for compost.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

With the arrival of spring, Plum is in her little greenhouse, planting vegetable seeds and spritzing the soil with water to keep it moist while Robin repots some plants who have spent the winter in the greenhouse. Outside, Plum aerates the garden bed with a pitchfork, careful of any tiny creatures below. Children can open the door to Plum’s well-stocked shed to see all the tools tidily stored there and lift the flaps to look inside a bulb and help a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip grow.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At last the warm weather of spring has arrived. The cherry trees are blossoming, and Plum and Robin are setting stakes and planting bean seeds. Next, they provide protection for the tender strawberry plants that are beginning to bloom. Young gardeners will enjoy opening a bean seed to learn what’s inside and then following its growing process. The bees are visiting the cherry blossoms, pollinating the flowers and making honey. What does a bee see as it hovers around the flower? Pull down the flap to see for yourself and learn all the parts of a flower. What other plants are flowering now? Open the flap to see!

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Summer begins and “what a joy to be in the garden in June! The gentle breeze, the smell of cut grass, and the tangy taste of strawberries and cherries make the gardeners smile.” While Plum waters the tomato plants, “Robin looks for ripe strawberries under the leaves.” Join him! Robin is also picking cherries before the birds eat them. How do those bright red, round fruits grow? Lift the flap to learn and see how they develop from flower to fruit. Plum is getting help with the aphids on the bean plants from industrious—and hungry—ladybugs. “Dragonfly larvae are transforming into graceful flying insects….Their presence is a sign of a healthy garden.”

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

It’s high summer and the garden is glorious. Bean pods hang from the vines, and Plum contemplates whether they are ready to pick. She may leave some “husks dry out on the plant before picking them.” Dried completely indoors, they can be stored and eaten during the fall and winter. Take a look inside a pod to see the seven red beans there. Flowers greet you too: an orange marigold with petals like a pinwheel, a brilliant pink and purple fuchsia, and a perky mignon dahlia. Robin took cuttings of these plants and potted them to grow some more. Learn how you can do that with your plants too!

The summer heat is waning and the days are growing shorter. Fall is here. The catkins of early spring have become hazelnuts that are ready to be harvested. Even the squirrel approves! Plum and Robin teach you how to store them—and when to pick the winter squash and keep them for months as well. Can you count the number of seeds inside the winter squash? Plum’s beautiful trellised pear tree is bearing sweet fruit. Yum! But look out—a crafty rabbit is after the last leafy vegetables in the garden. 

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The air is chilly again and winter is on the horizon. “Plum and Robin have donned their warmest clothes and gone out to collect the dead leaves. Some leaves will feed the compost, others will become mulch to protect plants over the winter. The hedgehogs can use the rest of the leaves in making their homes.” Do you see the pile of crunchy leaves? Lift them gently…shhh! A hedgehog is snoozing underneath. Robin and Plum have built an insect hotel to keep the bugs cozy during the winter and have filled the greenhouse again. For the colorful birds who stay awhile or all winter, Robin and Plum put out a bird feeder and fill it with locally produced seeds.

After putting all of their tools back in the shed, Plum and Robin head indoors to plan next year’s garden and “watch eagerly for the very first signs of spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-winter

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

If your family tends a garden or is thinking of starting one, Emma Guiliani’s superb book is a must. At 16 inches tall, In the Garden provides fascinating facts about plants, insects, and animals; helpful tips on when and how to plant a variety of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, information on natural ways to ward off pests; and how to recognize when fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and how to store them. Through copious flaps, children get inside views of flowers, seeds, buds, and vegetables to learn the names of each part and how they contribute to the growth of the plant. Along the way, young and adult gardeners discover how early gardening can begin, directions on how to create and use compost, when bushes can be planted, information on pollination; and how to winter over the garden for the coming spring.

Giuliani’s crisp, lush illustrations are marvels, combining intricate paper cuts that replicate the shapes of delicate bulbs and buds, flowers and seeds, smooth and serrated leaves, the long bean pod, and even Plum’s garden shed with a window in the door. Her extraordinarily beautiful color palette immerses readers in the garden experience; you can almost smell the rich earth, hear the bees buzzing at the blossoms, and feel the air changing season to season.

A brilliant resource and a joy to peruse, In the Garden is a book that adults and children—both gardeners or nature lovers—will share throughout the seasons and from year to year. The book is most highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 12

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898939

You can connect with Emma Giuliani on Instagram.

World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day Activity

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Plant a Vegetable Garden Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

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

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

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You can play the Plant a Flower Garden Board Game with the printable game pieces here:

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You can find In the Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Princeton Architectural Press

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

April 20 – It’s the Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. Getting kids excited about learning and experiencing new things, getting to know their community, engaging in healthy habits like eating well and exercising are important components of a happy life. Today’s book incorporates many of these goals and will delight young readers. Earlier this month, families, schools, and caregivers celebrated the Week of the Young Child with different special activities encouraged each day of the week. These activities are fun all this month and anytime of the year. To learn more about how you can incorporate Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday, and Family Friday into your schedule visit the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Animals Move

Written by Jane Whittingham

 

It’s no secret that little ones love to jump, run, climb, and snuggle. Not only are these activities fun and great for getting the wiggles out, they help kids build strong muscles and develop large and fine motor skills. In her new book, Jane Whittingham entices children to get moving while also introducing them to fifteen baby animals and what they are called through her engaging rhythmical and rhyming text. Even the youngest children will pick up on Whittingham’s lively words and want to read along too.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Beautiful, action-packed nature photographs of each baby animal – from whale calves to swan cygnets , echidna puggles to alpaca crias, puppies and kittens to tadpoles and more – are paired with photos of a wide range of kids, including a girl with Down syndrome and a young ballerina who uses a walker, mirroring the animal’s motions and inviting readers to pounce, nibble, splash, and dash along with them.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Animals Move is part of the Toddler Tough series, which, in addition to the text for children, provides adults with a guide on how the book assists with physical, language, and subject-matter learning development. The spirited photographs of readers’ peers engage kids in recognizing a variety of facial expressions, emotions, and body language, which enhances social emotional learning – important skills for success in school and beyond. Back matter also provides ways in which to use the book as a springboard for your own creativity through games, singing, movement exercises, and even making your own book. Sturdy construction and a padded cover complete this well-thought-out book. 

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

If you’re looking for a book that’s sure to be an active story time favorite at home, in the classroom, or for library programs as well as a terrific take-along for spontaneous fun on walks, at the park, on picnics, and during other outings, you’ll want to add Animals Move to your book collection.

Ages 2 – 5

Pajama Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1772782387

Discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books on her website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animal-matching-cards

Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Test your powers of memory—or your ability to guess correctly—with this Animal Pairs matching game!

Supplies

  • Printable Match Up the Animals! Cards to color
  • Printable Full-Color Funny Matching Cards – Set 1 | Set 2
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

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You can find Animals Move at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 21 – International Day of Forests

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About the Holiday

International Day of Forests was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 to raise awareness of the importance of trees in vast woodlands or in your neighborhood or yard. Trees contribute to the quality of the air we breathe, improve the local climate, reduce noise pollution, shelter wildlife, and provide food for people and animals. This year’s theme is “Forests and sustainable production and consumption.” So many aspects in our lives – from the materials for building homes, making tools, developing new household items, and more to the medicines we take, the water we drink, and the clothes we wear rely on healthy and sustainable forests. This year’s theme encourages people to think about the ways forests benefit not only human life but the wildlife and the earth as a whole. For more information visit the UN International Day of Forests website and The Geneva Environment Network.

Thanks to Boyds Mills for providing a digital copy of The Leaf Detective for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets in the Rainforest

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

As a child, Meg was quite shy to make friends. She spent lots of time studying and playing with wildlife: “Meg wrapped herself in nature, like a soft blanket.” As she continued to grow, so did her passion for leaves, trees, and nature. Meg attended Sydney University in Australia. In 1979, she became the first person at her graduate school to study the rainforest. Through her studies Meg learned that people had been all the way to outer space to study, but nobody had ever ventured to the tippity top of a canopy tree. Instead, they studied trees from far away through binoculars. Oftentimes scientists would spray trees with chemicals so that the harmed leaves and animals would drop to the forest floor where people could study them up close. Meg sought to change this.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

“In the dark, damp forest the trees rose up to distant rustling, squawks and screeches, shadows in the treetops. How could she get up there?” Meg Lowman created her own slingshot and harness and inched up a coachwood tree. When she reached the canopy, she knew she’d found the perfect place to study and explore. Meg is quoted saying, “From then on, I never looked back…or down!”

Meg continued to create new strategies to study the canopy, as a scientist does. And in doing so she made so many discoveries, such as: “We now believe the canopy is home to approximately half the plant and animal species on land.” Many people tried to stop Meg along her journey. They told her she couldn’t take science classes, climb trees, or make inventions because she was a woman. But Meg ignored them. She continued to investigate.

She knew that rainforests were (and are) in danger, and that so many creatures rely on the rainforest ecosystem. People all over the world were cutting down large parts of the rainforests for wood, rubber, paper, and farmland. This worried Meg; she wanted to find a way to protect rainforests before they all disappeared. “She wondered, How can one leaf detective make a difference? How can I save the trees?…Then an idea crawled into Meg’s thoughts—a way to speak for the trees.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Meg traveled around the world. She spoke to people across many different countries; taught them how to climb trees, build canopy walkways—she showed people the many gifts rainforests have to offer. Meg educated communities on how they could share their rainforest with outsiders, showcase its beauty to create revenue rather than chopping them down for resources. By using her voice and creative mind, Meg helped implement systems that have saved many trees and creatures across the world.

Meg Lowman continues to study trees, save rainforests, and teach people how to shift their economies to center around ecotourism and sustainable crops rather than resource extraction. She has used her voice to save rainforests across the world, and yet she still says, “If only I could have achieved as much as the tree!… But I have not. I have whittled away at relatively small goals in comparison to the grander accomplishments of a tree.”

Backmatter includes an author’s note detailing Heather Lang’s visit to meet Margaret Lowman in the Amazon rainforest in Perú. The note includes more information on Dr. Lowman’s advocacy work and is followed by an illustrated educational spread on the layers of canopies, and species featured throughout the story are labeled in the final spread, for readers to learn more about specific animals that make their homes in the rainforest.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Heather Lang’s lyrical writing matches the carefulness with which Meg studies leaves, trees, and the rainforest canopy. Her compelling storytelling is rich with facts and sensory imagery that immerse readers in the environment and Meg’s determination to understand and, later, save it. Scattered images of leaves drop fun facts and definitions for readers about the rainforest, canopies, transpiration, herbivores, and more. Quotes from Dr. Lowman are thoughtfully placed throughout the story in a manner that neatly flows. The Leaf Detective urges readers to understand that “a tree is not just a tree” but rather “a shelter for animals and people, / a recycler and provider of water, / a creator of food and oxygen, / an inventor of medicine/ a soldier against climate change.”

Jana Christy’s digital drawings contain stunning detail and show an accurate scale of one small person in comparison to the vastness of the rainforest. Her mesmerizing wildlife creatures and immersive watercolor blues and greens transport readers right into the rainforest with “Canopy Meg.” The lush greens of the rainforests contrast strikingly with the spread on deforestation, in which fallen trees lay scattered on the bare, brown ground. Readers will also be interested to see the innovations that have made the trees more accessible to people. One can read the book over and over and notice new details every time. It is a book to treasure, to study, to read and re-read again. 

Come unearth the secrets of the rainforest with Margaret Lowman in this book that’s budding with knowledge, empathy, and magic, and is a tale of how one person can make a difference. The intriguing facts, poignant quotes from Dr. Lowman herself, and beautiful poetic writing will leave readers of this book inspired with wonder and with a hunger for advocacy. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest is an urgent must-read for all ages.

A portion of Heather Lang’s royalties for this book go to TREE Foundation—an organization that funds field trips for children to get into nature, canopy projects, and science book distribution for children with limited access to STEAM, girls especially. 

Ages 6 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371778

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Heather Lang

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Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her research has taken her to the skies, the treetops of the Amazon, and the depths of the ocean. Her award-winning picture book biographies include, QUEEN OF THE TRACK: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall, FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, and ANYBODY’S GAME: Kathryn Johnston, The First Girl to Play Little League Baseball. When she is not writing, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and four children. Visit Heather at www.heatherlangbooks.com.

Today I am thrilled to be interviewing author Heather Lang about her new biographical picture book The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest. Heather provides some thoughtful notes for shy readers, riveting stories from the rainforest and insight into the importance of exploring and caring for nature.

Can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to write The Leaf Detective?  

We’ve caused enormous harm to our planet over the last few centuries, and I’m especially concerned about our rainforests. I knew I wanted to write a biography that was also a science book about the rainforest. When I read about Meg’s pioneering work and deep passion for trees, I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to find out how this quiet, nature-loving child, who didn’t know women could be scientists, became a world-class scientist and conservationist.

In the story you talk about how Meg was shy to make playmates with other kids. Were you also a shy kid growing up? Do you have any advice for readers who may relate to this aspect of Meg’s childhood? 

Like Meg, I was very shy as a child and remember wishing I were more outgoing. But as I grew older, I began to recognize the many advantages to being shy! My shy nature led me to sit back and observe. And that led to deeper thinking and understanding, a strong imagination, and creativity. Shy people often think more before they speak. They make their words count, which coincidentally is an important part of writing picture books. This also makes shy people good listeners and thoughtful friends. 

I’m still shy in many ways, and my recommendation to readers who might identify with this is to embrace your shyness! At the same time, don’t let it stop you from doing things you want to do. Meg Lowman told me she used to get so nervous before presenting in graduate school that she’d get physically sick. But with practice, practice, practice, she’s become a captivating presenter and educator. If you watch a few of her FUN FACTS FROM THE FIELD videos on my website, you’ll see what I mean! 

How would you describe your connection to nature? Would you consider yourself a “detective” in any ways? 

I’m constantly in awe of nature and its countless gifts and surprises. Nothing sparks my curiosity more than our natural world, and my curiosity is probably my most important tool as a writer. Being open-minded and asking questions not only generates ideas, but also leads me to think more deeply about a topic and examine it closely from lots of different angles. And of course that generates more detective work and more learning about my topic and myself. Being a detective is one of my favorite parts of writing books.

Do you have a favorite rainforest tree or creature? If so, tell me about it a bit!

When I arrived in the Amazon rainforest, I couldn’t wait to see a sloth! But during my time there I became fascinated with ants. They are everywhere in the rainforest, even in the canopy. I think it’s amazing how such tiny creatures can be so hardworking and organized. Their teamwork is unbelievable. And they are invaluable to the health of our rainforests. Among other things, they’re in charge of waste management on the rainforest floor, and they disperse seeds and aerate the soil!

What was the most rewarding part of writing The Leaf Detective?

This writing project was filled with rewards every step of the way! I learned so much about our rainforests and trees and gained a true understanding of how interconnected we all are—plants, animals, and humans. Getting to really know Meg Lowman and learning from her firsthand was thrilling and strengthened my writing in many important ways. It was also really rewarding to stretch myself as a writer and find a way to effectively write a book that seemed ambitious at first—a biography and conservation book that wove in quotes and science facts. 

Are there any stories from your trip to meet Meg that you did not get the chance to include in your author’s note that you’d like to share?

While I was on my Amazon adventure with Meg, I had many exciting moments. I loved learning from the Indigenous people how to use a blow gun, make clay, and braid palm leaves to make thatched roofs. The local shaman taught me how he uses different plants in the rainforest to treat and prevent injuries and illnesses—from bronchitis to poisonous snake bites. He also helped me confront my fear of snakes by bringing one over for me to touch. I even let it gently coil around my neck! But my favorite moments were exploring with Meg, especially at night and early in the morning when there’s so much activity in the rainforest.

Thanks so much for chatting with me Heather! I had a lovely time hearing about your inspiration, stories, writing process and tips for shy readers. Looking forward to learning and reading more from you in the months and years to come.

International Day of Forests Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Climb-a-Tree-Word-Search-Puzzle II

Climb a Tree! Word Search

 

There are so many kinds of trees that make our world beautiful. Can you find the names of twenty threes in this printable puzzle?

Climb a Tree! Word Search Puzzle | Climb a Tree! Word Search Solutio

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-detective-cover

You can find The Leaf Detective at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 3 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

March 3rd is not only part of National Reading Month, but it’s World Book Day and World Wildlife Day too! How can readers celebrate all three holidays at the same time? With today’s book! Here’s a little bit about each holiday:

National Reading Month

All month long, people celebrate all the joys and benefits of reading. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is typically marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities.

World Wildlife Day 

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd to be World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. This year’s theme is “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration,” which seeks to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora and to drive discussions toward devising and implementing solutions to conserve them. To learn more, visit the World Wildlife Day website.

World Book Day

World Book Day was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be celebrated on April 23rd, 1995 in honor of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who all died on this date. Some countries, such as Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland celebrate on March 3. No matter what date you pick – or whether you choose to celebrate on both days – the holiday encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading for pleasure and promotes the availability of a wide range of books to all and in all languages. 

Thanks to Running Press Kids for sharing a copy of Battle of the Butts with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Battle of the Butts: The Science Behind Animal Behinds

Written by Jocelyn Rish | Illustrated by David Creighton-Pester

 

Get ready to RUUUMBLE! as ten of the world’s most fascinating animals put their butts on the line in Jocelyn Rish’s genius look at how certain sea creatures, mammals, insects, and reptiles eat, swim, talk, and defend themselves using their powerful posteriors. Readers don’t have to passively sit by and read, though. Rish invites kids to judge the challengers based on their own preferences and assign a rating from “Terrific Tushie” to “Boring Backside” on their way to crowning the “King of Keisters.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-battle-of-the-butts-wombats-sleeping

Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

As each challenger steps up, readers are presented with their stats, which include their “genus, length, weight, home turf, and posterior power.” Turning the page, kids are then drawn into the science of each critter’s anatomy and how they use it as Rish – in her conversational, detailed, and descriptive text – uses dynamic phrasing and familiar comparisons to help kids visualize each animal’s endgame. An “Extra Booty” paragraph and a highlighted “Butt Bonus” provide more info.

So who’s on the roster for this awesome competition? First up is the manatee, who moves through the water by holding onto or releasing farts. Lest kids begin “picturing a manatee zipping through the water like it has a jetpack on its back end,” Rish goes on to explain the mechanics of their gas-fueled swimming, how they fill up, and the enormity of their intestinal system that allows them to store their gas until they need it. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-battle-of-the-butts-wombat

Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

Another fierce contender is the bombardier beetle, which at a max length of 1.181 inches (30 millimeters), proves that mighty things come in small packages. This mini-monster might just become the next superhero, with moves worthy of a big-budget blockbuster. Just picture this movie trailer: “A bombardier beetle strolls through the leaves, minding its own business. A bunch of hungry ants attack. Things don’t look so good for the beetle. Then . . . Pew! Pew! Pew! The bombardier beetle fires a pulsing spray of scalding chemicals from its butt, twisting its tushie in different directions to hit all the ants. The bombardier beetle escapes, while the ants regret their decision to snack on the beetle.” Phew! Pass the popcorn! How do they do this? Rish takes kids step-by-step through the bombardier beetle’s chemical processes that read like a blue-ribbon-winning science fair project, complete with boiling blasts ejected at a “speed of 22 miles per hour.” What if the beetle gets eaten anyway? Find out in the explosive Butt Bonus.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-battle-of-the-butts-herring

Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

Not all of these challengers use their powers for defense. Parrotfish, which are found in “shallow tropical and subtropical waters around the world” use their poop to do double doody – I mean duty. You might feel a little squeamish about walking barefoot on a beautiful beach that’s near a coral reef once you learn that “a large portion of that white sand is actually parrotfish poop.” Say what?! Yep! Parrotfish “eat the algae, polyps, and bacteria that live on and in coral reefs.”

To get at it, they also end up ingesting coral and, after its well ground up by the 1,000 teeth along the fish’s beak and the “throat-teeth [that] work like a pepper grinder to crush the bits of coral into fine sand,” they deposit this non-nutritious detritus which then becomes the stuff of sandcastles, tanning beds, and sunny day seaside playgrounds. Sounds like a lot of poop, huh? The Butt Bonus tells you just how much.

These are just a few of the entrants vying for your verdict. Will any of them win the crown? Or will it be the wombat, with its armored butt; the Fitzroy river turtle, that’s a butt breather; the herring and its unusual communication style; the silver-spotted skipper caterpillar, that puts medieval warriors to shame; the beaded lacewing and its fatal farts; the Sonoran coralsnake that’s a master of confusion; or the sea cucumber, that throws everything it’s got at would-be predators? It’s up to you! Award your favorite with the trophy while rewarding yourself with a full flush of scintillating facts with which to entertain friends and dazzle your teachers!

A Glossary of words found in bold type throughout the book follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-battle-of-the-butts-herrings

Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

If you’re looking for a riveting book steeped in nature and environmental science with some chemistry and lots of laughs thrown in for your child, classroom, or other group of kids, you can’t miss with Jocelyn Rish’s Battle of the Butts. Perfect for both younger kids as a read aloud and for independent readers, the book offers opportunities for exciting learning, expanded research, and even experimentation. Rish’s knowledge of her subject and talent for captivating kids jumps off the page with her smooth, alliterative, and hilarious storytelling.

Accompanying each chapter are David Creighton-Pester’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations that accentuate the humor while realistically showing kids how each creature uses their particular skills in their natural environment. Catapulted poop, shooting toots, and funny facial expressions make each page turn a blast. The book’s excellent format also makes it easy to navigate the short chapters and get the most out of all the material presented. At the end of each chapter, kids are invited to rate the creature in this mega-battle of the butts.

A superb way to engage kids in science learning, The Battle of the Butts would be a favorite on any home bookshelf and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Running Press Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0762497775

Discover more about Joycelyn Rish and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Creighton-Pester, his books, and his art, visit his website.

 National Reading Month Activity

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Wildlife Coloring Pages

 

You can have fun coloring the animals from today’s book while celebrating all three of today’s featured holidays with these printable coloring pages!

Cute Wombat Coloring Page | Parrotfish Coloring Page | Manatee Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-battle-of-the-butts-cover

You can find The Battle of the Butts at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Old Rock Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love rocks—the history they tell, their versatility, intricate patterns, and glorious colors? Today’s holiday celebrates these wonders of nature and encourages geologists—both professionals and amateurs—to indulge their passion. You can learn a bit more about the history of the study of rocks, the first use of the term “geology,” and on to more modern times at NationalToday. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your backyard or neighborhood, pick up a few rocks, and research a little more about them. Then have fun with today’s craft.

Thank you to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for sharing a copy of Old Rock (is not boring) with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Old Rock (is not boring)

By Deb Pilutti

 

It seemed that Old Rock had been sitting in the same spot forever. Tall Pine and Spotted Beetle thought being a rock must be pretty boring. Hummingbird wondered, “‘Don’t you ever want to go anywhere?’” She knew she would be if she couldn’t fly all over the world and taste exotic nectars. But Old Rock had flown once, and he began to tell his story.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

It was during the time when he was surrounded by darkness, but then the volcano erupted and Old Rock “‘soared through a fiery sky into the bright light of a new world.’” Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird weren’t very impressed. They still thought Old Rock must be bored. Spotted Beetle told him how much he might see if he climbed to Tall Pine’s very highest branch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-volcano

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Old Rock countered that he had seen a lot. He’d watched dinosaurs pass by and had even hidden a spinosaurus from a hungry T. rex. He’d traveled in a glacier and been left teetering on a ridge overlooking a vast desert, where he “could see the place where the sky touches the earth.” Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird were intrigued, but Tall Pine dismissed these experiences as “ages ago.” He wanted to know about now. Didn’t Old Rock feel like moving? Tall Pine showed Old Rock how his limbs could dance in the wind.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-dinosaurs

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

While Old Rock couldn’t dance, he did recall how he’d turned somersaults off the ridge, landing in a prairie where mastodons grazed near a lake. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird were mesmerized by Old Rock’s story and wanted to know what had happened next. Out of the prairie, sprang a pine forest, Old Rock revealed. And from one of the pine trees a pinecone fell and a seed was released. That seed grew “to be the tall pine who dances in the wind and keeps me company.” Sometimes, he continued, a spotted beetle and a hummingbird meander by. Old Rock was very pleased with his spot, and the others had to agree that it was “very nice” and “not boring at all.”

An illustrated timeline of Old Rock’s life from 18 billion years ago to the present day follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-time-line

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

So much clever thought went into Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock as she reveals to kids what a fascinating and active life the rocks and boulders we see every day have had. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird’s skepticism keeps the suspense building as Old Rock rolls out stories of his various travels and talents. Once he has them hooked, they—like young readers—want to hear more, leading to the just-right ending that sweetly encompasses shared history, happiness with one’s place in life, and friendship. The trio’s questions to Old Rock and their related experiences also engage children to think about issues and opinions from a variety of perspectives.

Pilutti’s mixed-media illustrations are nicely textured to bring out Old Rock’s grainy surface while highlighting nature’s vivid colors. Her vignettes from the dinosaur eras, the ice age (where the skeletons of dinosaurs are also swept up and away in the same glacier as Old Rock), and beyond impress upon readers the long time-frame involved, how the earth has changed, and even the fascinating science of the fossil record.

A multi-layered story, perfect for general story times or as a lead in to science lessons and to promote discussion and research in the classroom, Old Rock (is not boring) would be an original and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518181

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Old Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on a light-weight stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

CPB - rock painting craft

To make a paper weight or kindness stone

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone, let dry
  2. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place or find a spot around town to leave your rock for someone to find and enjoy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-cover

You can find Old Rock (is not boring) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus on the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or living on farms or in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. The day also raises awareness of the dangers that threaten many species of birds with extinction. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your area or even just in your backyard and take special note of the birds you see. Now that winter has set in making food scarce for wild birds, consider hanging a bird feeder or making one from a pinecone, peanut butter, and seed as in the activity below. 

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me a copy of Birds: Explore their extraordinary world for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Birds: Explore their extraordinary world

Written by Miranda Krestovnikoff | Illustrated by Angela Harding

 

To love birds is to marvel over everything about them from their smooth gliding flight and beautiful songs to their colorful plumage and intricate nests that protect fragile eggs from the elements and predators. With a stunning number of species, birds are found around the world and living in every kind of climate. In Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding’s eye-catching compendium, readers learn about seven families of birds – birds of prey, seabirds, freshwater birds, flightless birds, tropical birds, tree dwellers, and passerines. 

Each chapter opens with general facts on the behavior, anatomical features, and habitat that determine the order in which a bird is categorized. Integrated with this information are descriptions of specific birds within the order. In the section on Birds of Prey, for instance, readers learn about sparrowhawks; fish-eating ospreys; and golden eagles, which can “spot a rodent from over a mile away and a rabbit from nearly double that distance.” Children also learn about extreme birds of prey: the fastest, largest, smallest, tallest, and baldest and how their distinctive feature helps them thrive. Kids also discover how they “can tell when each species of owl prefers to hunt by looking at the color of its eyes.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-owls

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The next chapter takes readers to coastal areas to learn about the seabirds that scour the water from the sky, searching for food and waders, that are found along the water’s edge and “feed on the variety of high-protein invertebrates that lie hidden in the mud.” Children learn about the birds that populate warmer waters, such as blue-footed boobies, terns, and frigatebirds as well as those who survive in colder waters, such as gulls, and kittiwakes. Readers will also find a fascinating description of the gannet and learn how it can safely “dive into the sea at speeds of 60 miles an hour from an impressive height of up to 100 feet” to feed.

From sea birds, readers move on to freshwater birds like ducks, swans, grebes, and Canada geese. Even the bright flamingo is here with its distinctive scoop-shaped beak that is “uniquely designed to be used upside down and helps them to filter out tiny brine shrimps and blue-green algae from the water, which, when digested, give them their pink color.” The flamingo isn’t the only bird with an unusual way to acquire their prey, and kids will discover the clever ways pelicans, herons, and kingfishers (which use “objects such as sticks, feathers, and even discarded popcorn as lures”) find food.

And then there are the “more than 50 bird species across the world [that] stay firmly on the ground (or on water)” or just “choose not to fly very often.” These flightless birds include kiwis, kākāpōs, southern cassowaries, ostriches, and Penguins. Penguins vary in size, from the “little penguin (also known as the fairy or blue penguin)” which comes to shore to nest only at night and stave off predators with their oversized voices, to the emperor penguin. Occasional fliers include great bustards, domestic chickens, and tinamous.

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Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

When you hear about extravagant birds, you most likely think of tropical birds. “Rainforests are packed with a range of incredible species with dazzling plumage and bizarre courtship displays.” Readers will learn about the appearance and mating rituals of scarlet macaws, Raggiana birds of paradise, and the Andean cock-of-the-rock. A detailed description of the bowerbird and the male bird’s careful and artistic nest (or bower) building is funny, poignant, and even a little bit human. Then readers are treated to some tropical bird extremes: smallest bird, longest bill, and smelliest as well as a poisonous species and one that makes its own musical instrument.

Of course, woodlands are the home of many bird species, and in the chapter on Tree Dwellers, readers learn about acorn woodpeckers and great hornbills that use trees for food and shelter; tawny frogmouths and potoos that use trees for camouflage; and nuthatches, greater honeyguides, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, which find all the food they need among the bark, leaves, and branches of trees.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-chickens

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Next up are passerines, or perching birds, which make up the “largest group of birds, with over half of all known species falling into this category.” Corvids, a group that includes the common raven, crows, magpies, and rooks, are considered to be the most intelligent birds. “These birds have a remarkable ability to solve problems in order to find food, in some cases performing better than young children or chimpanzees!” Readers will be impressed with their tricks and clever use of tools (that even include cars). Children learn about cooperative breeders, which rely on their extended family to help raise the young from year to year. Passerines also include many of the garden birds we find in our backyards and which fill the air with song. Readers discover facts about blue tits, robins, and finches in this section.

The next sections give detailed and interesting information on the features we most associate with birds: their feathers, beaks, eyes, nesting habits, eggs, migration patterns, and birdsong. The book ends with perhaps the most adaptable birds in the world: those that make their homes on glaciers, mountain tops, and in the Arctic snow as well as urban birds, which live among people in crowded cities, nesting on tall cathedrals and skyscrapers and foraging for food in garbage cans and on the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-woodpeckers

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

For young ornithologists, Miranda Krestovnikoff, a wildlife expert, offers a compelling, eye-opening, and accessible introduction to a wide variety of birds, placing them in their natural environments and revealing intriguing facts and tantalizing tidbits that inform and will spark a continued interest in learning more about the world’s feathered creatures. Krestovnikoff’s engaging writing style will captivate readers and keep them turning the pages to discover birds that are both familiar and new to them. The comprehensive nature of the book allows kids in all parts of the world to learn more about their native birds while creating a global connection with these most recognized and widely distributed creatures.

Accompanying Krestovnikoff’s text are Angela Harding’s beautiful linocuts that depict birds in mid-flight, capturing prey on land and water, engaging in mating rituals, and building and protecting their nests and young. Harding’s use of natural colors and exquisitely etched landscapes set off each bird in breathtaking illustrations that invite readers to linger to enjoy their full impact. Each illustration is captioned with the bird’s species.

A gorgeous and educational book that readers of all ages will love dipping into again and again, Birds: Explore their extraordinary world is a must for bird lovers and highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 78-1408893913

Discover more about Miranda Krestovnikoff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Angela Harding, her books, and her art on her website.

National Bird Day Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

cpb-bird-feeder-i

Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-cover

You can find Birds: Explore their extraordinary world at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review