May 7 – It’s National Wildflower Week

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, an “internationally recognized botanic garden dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants in natural and designed landscapes,” today’s holiday celebrates the wildflowers that beautify the country from coast to coast. Lady Bird Johnson once said wildflowers “give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours” as every area hosts its own particular flowers. Wildflower fields are important to the survival of the bee population, and, as pollinators, bees keep the wildflowers blooming and growing.

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book

By Britta Teckentrup

 

As the sun comes up over the meadow of poppies, a bee gets ready for her day. She flits through the forest, blending her quiet buzz with the songs of the birds in the trees. “As she travels here and there, / A gentle humming fills the air.” With no map to guide her, the bee knows exactly what route to take to visit each colorful flower. “Gathering nectar as she goes, / From every foxglove, every rose, / Dusty with pollen, the little bee / Buzzes, buzzes, busily.”

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Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2017, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

The flowers attract the little bee with their sweet perfume, and with the sun as her compass, she finds them all. As she flies from flower to flower, tree to tree, she picks up and leaves bits of pollen that will create more blossoms.  But when she looks out over the field, the bee sees more flowers than she could ever hope to visit. The bee hurries back to her hive to tell the others about the smorgasbord waiting for them.

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Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2017, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In droves they leave the hive, gliding over a pond, navigating an orchard, and continuing on. “The bees pass over a woodland stream. / Droplets sparkle and pebbles gleam. / Water trickles, bubbles, and weaves. / A weeping willow trails its leaves.” As the bees stop here and there along the way, they give life to new flowers and plants, expanding the wildflower meadow that is home to so many creatures.

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Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2017, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Readers can see that Britta Teckentrup’s beautiful tribute to bees is something special before they even open the book. On the cover, a sunset-hued flower stretches into the blue sky. Through its die-cut center, children can see the complexity of the flower and, in its very middle, a honey bee harvesting nectar. Teckentrup’s lyrical story of a bee’s day is complemented by gorgeous illustrations of the vibrant wildflowers that call to the little bee. Each page is rendered in a breathtaking palette that surrounds young readers with the mysteries of the natural world—and in the center is the bee, going about her job as squirrels scamper, deer silently look on, and butterflies flutter nearby.

Children will adore following the bee—and later, more and more bees—through open windows to the final two-page spread of a meadow in full bloom. All along the journey, the bee has made friends with woodland, pond, and orchard creatures, and young readers will delight in finding each of them hidden in this glorious field.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1524715267

Discover more about Britta Techentrup, her books, and artwork on her website!

National Wildflower Week Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

April 27 – It’s National Park Week and Interview with Jennifer Thermes

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About the Holiday

Don’t you feel it? That little nudge to leave home and enjoy the outdoors again? Spring is the perfect time to discover or rediscover the beauty all around by visiting a national park. Whether you like hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, or just the quiet pleasure of a picnic, there’s a national park near you to enjoy. This year’s theme for National Park Week, which runs from April 21 through April 29, is “Park Stars” and encompasses everything from the starry skies to those rock-star rangers and volunteers who maintain the system of parks across the country. This year, why not join them in protecting our national parks and the wildlife that call them home.

I’m thrilled to partner with Abrams Books for a giveaway of one copy of Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail. See more details below.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail

By Jennifer Thermes

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 9

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

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

Meet Jennifer Thermes

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I’m excited to talk with Jennifer Thermes today about mapmaking, her love of history, and how her own house inspired a book.

What drew you to Emma Gatewood as a subject for your latest biography? Have you ever hiked any part of the Appalachian Trail?

I was inspired by Emma’s independence and determination to do something just because she wanted to, without even thinking she might be too old. A few people had solo hiked the entire trail before her, but she did it at a time when it had fallen into disrepair, and when women’s lives were much more constricted. I was also fascinated by the idea of the Appalachian Trail– a footpath that follows so many miles of changing landscape–and wanted to weave a map of it throughout a story.

In your writing and illustrating, you seem to have an affinity for history. Do historical subjects inspire you? What is your favorite time period?

They do! A love of history has led to the non-fiction books I write and illustrate today. Really, there’s something fascinating about all eras, so I can’t say I have just one favorite. I’m very happy to see how many stories about lesser-known people and periods of history are being published today.

You started out as a map designer for magazines and newspapers. How did you get started creating maps? What kind of research goes into that work? Can you talk a little about the aesthetics of a good map?

I was a design major in art school but always wanted to draw. Maps were a good combination of design and drawing. Research involves gathering information about geography, land shapes, picture reference, and figuring out what to include or not. (To be clear, I’m not a cartographer, much as I admire the work they do!) For me, a good map tells a tale of its own, while also inspiring a reader to want to learn more about the story. Clarity is important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Poring over details can be the best part of looking at a map.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-map-sketch

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

How did you transition from designing for magazines and newspapers into writing and illustrating for children?

My map work caught the eye of a children’s book editor who asked if I had any story ideas. (I did!) For a long time I thought of myself as more of an illustrator than a writer, but I’ve always been a big reader, so the writing part felt like a natural progression of storytelling.

I was intrigued to learn you own an 18th century farmhouse in Connecticut. I have an 1898 Connecticut farmhouse with many cool, tucked away features. What is one of your favorite things about your house? Was your first book When I Was Built inspired by your own home?

It was! Our kids were quite young when we bought our home, and we spent a lot of time fixing it up. As we uncovered clues about the house, they had questions about what life might have been like for the people who lived here over the years, which in turn inspired the book. Again, the theme circles back to a love of history.

What’s the best part of being a children’s author and illustrator?

I’m happiest when drawing, or puzzling over a new idea. The feeling of possibility is creatively fulfilling.

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

Do you have any anecdotes from an event with kids that you’d like to share?

“Are you as old as your house?” Kid’s questions are the best kind of unfiltered honesty.

What’s up next for you?

Not sure how much I can share yet, but I’ve recently finished black & white illustrations for a middle grade novel written by a super talented writer, coming out in early 2019. I’m very excited for that book. And currently, I’m immersed in writing and illustrating a picture book about the story of the island of Manhattan. (“Obsessed” is more like it—my history-geek self is on cloud nine!)

What’s your favorite holiday?

Darwin Day 

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog!

Thank you, Jennifer! I know we’ll all be on the lookout for that middle-grade novel, and I can’t wait to see your next picture book! I wish you all the best with Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail!

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

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

You can connect with Jennifer Thermes on:

Facebook | InstagramTwitter | Pinterest

Grandma Gateway Hikes the Appalachian Trail Giveaway

 

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Books for Young Readers in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Thermes

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 27 – May 4. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on May 5.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers

National Park Week Activity

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National Park Coloring Pages and Map

 

The National Parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Enjoy these coloring pages while you learn a little bit about four of them. Then check the map and see if there’s a National Park near you!

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

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

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About the Holiday

Earth Day, the largest global civic-focused day of action, is celebrated in 192 countries and aims to raise awareness of issues concerning the sustainability and protection of our earth. This year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution with the goal of eliminating single-use plastics while promoting global regulation for the disposal of plastics. Plastics are a danger on land, in our oceans, and in our food. 2018 begins a multi-year effort to bring about alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, one hundred percent recycling of plastics, “corporate and government accountability,” and our own attitudes concerning plastics. Around the world people also celebrate Earth Day by picking up trash along roadways and waterways, recycling, making family and business plans for using less water and electricity, and by planting trees bushes, and flowers that benefit both humans and animals.  For more information on how to get involved, visit the Earth Day Network.

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

Written by Liz Garton Scanlon | Illustrated by Lee White

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101934791

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

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

Earth Day Activity

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Paper Plate Tree

 

On Earth Day children love planting trees in their yard or as part of a community project. With this easy craft, they can also plant a tree on their wall or bulletin board.

Supplies

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

Directions

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

April 3 – National Find a Rainbow Day

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About the Holiday

April brings plenty of showers and downright downpours that give rainbow lovers lots of opportunities to see this colorful phenomenon. Legend has it that at the end of every rainbow waits a pot of gold—but if you aim to find it, watch out! It’s guarded by a tricky Leprechaun. Rainbows result when light from the sun reflects and refracts through water droplets in the sky, creating a spectrum of colors. Whether people ooh and ahh over the luck, the science, or the beauty of rainbows, there’s no denying that they always attract attention and create smiles.

I’m happy to be partnering with HarperCollins in a giveaway of a copy of Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)! You’ll find the details below.

Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)

By Ged Adamson

 

After the rain was over and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, Ava was excited because she knew she’d get to see a rainbow. When she reached the perfect rainbow-viewing spot, she was amazed. Up in the sky was “the most beautiful rainbow Ava had ever seen.” She wished it could stay forever. That wish even carried over into her dreams that night, and when she woke up Ava thought she might actually still be asleep. Why? Because when she looked out the window, “the rainbow was still there!”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

It was even still glowing over the town that night. It didn’t take long for people to start coming from all over to see the famous “rainbow who had decided to stay.” The townspeople loved all the attention—and the customers. Shopkeepers held rainbow-inspired sales, rainbow souvenirs like T-shirts, snow globes, and toys flew off the shelves, rainbow science became one of the most popular lectures by university professors, and a rainbow even became the new town mascot. For weeks there were special events and festivities all centered around the rainbow.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ava loved to talk to the rainbow. “She introduced him to her friends…sang to him…and showed him all her favorite books and toys.” The rainbow even stayed throughout the winter, shivering in the cold. When spring rolled around, people seemed to have forgotten all about the rainbow. They didn’t look at him like they used to. In fact, they didn’t look at him at all.

As Ava walked around town, she saw rainbow souvenirs in the trash and graffiti covering signs advertising the rainbow. When she saw the rainbow, Ava was shocked to see him plastered with ads and sporting antennae of all kinds. The rainbow was sad. “‘How could they do this to something so special?’ Ava said in despair.” She cheered up when she saw a crowd of people with cameras rushing toward her and the rainbow, but they were only interested in a little bird in a nearby tree.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

It seemed that the bird was a Russian water sparrow and would only be there for a few hours before continuing its flight. “We’re so lucky!’” someone said. “‘Such a rare and precious sight!’” The rainbow overheard this exclamation and thought about it. The next morning when Ava went to visit the rainbow again, he was gone. Ava hoped that someday he’d return, and every time it rained she looked for him. One day he did come back, and was “a rare and precious sight indeed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ava-and-the-rainbow-who-stayed-sweet-rainbow

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Like a rainbow itself, Ged Adamson’s story is multi-layered and reveals a spectrum of ideas about the often-fleeting moments in life—from wishes and dreams to the unusual or funny even to fads and fame. Learning how to truly appreciate these ephemeral experiences as they happen, to let go of what can’t or shouldn’t be controlled, and to stay true to your own nature goes a long way towards living a happy life. Children will be captivated by Adamson’s charming tale and his lush, whimsical art, which is always expressive of a child’s joy and empathy and which sweetly depicts the better understanding they gain as they grow through life’s experiences.

An enchanting story in itself and a wonderful way to engage children in discussions of true value and happiness, Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) would make a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062670809

Discover more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art on his website.

National Find a Rainbow Day Activity

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Mini Rainbow Magnet

 

If you’re stuck on rainbows, you can make this mini rainbow to stick on your fridge or locker!

Supplies

  • 7 mini popsicle sticks
  • Paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, Indigo, violet (ROYGBIV)
  • Adhesive magnet
  • A little bit of polyfill
  • Paint brush
  • Glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Paint one popsicle stick in each color, let dry
  2. Glue the popsicle sticks together side by side in the ROYGBIV order, let dry
  3. Roll a bit of polyfill into a cloud shape and glue to the top of the row of popsicle sticks
  4. Attach the magnet to the back of the rainbow

It’s an Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) Giveaway!

I’m happy to partner with HarperCollins in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 4 – April 10. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on April 11.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by HarperCollins

Picture Book Review

March 14 – Moth-er Day and Interview with Author Karlin Gray

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About the Holiday

Did you know that some moths are even more beautiful than butterflies? It’s true! Adorned in vibrant oranges, greens, blues, and reds and with patterns more intricate than the finest fabrics, moths are some of nature’s loveliest creatures. With spring right around the corner, moths will once again be emerging in woods, fields, and gardens, so today take a little time to celebrate these often overlooked insects and learn more about them and their habitats.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth to check out. All opinions are my own. 

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

As a grayish-brown moth flits among the leaves framed by the full moon, he says, “I’m an ordinary moth, / as you can plainly see. / A dusty, grayish, dull insect— / nothing-special me.”  He compares himself to the Luna Moth “who floats in graceful green” and to the Spider Moth who’s “so cool at Halloween!” He’s nothing like the Hummingbird Moth who mimics its namesake bird, and he can’t hide like the Wood Nymph Moth that looks like “birdy dung.” He’s much smaller than the Atlas Moth and not as pretty as a butterfly. While all of these are special—extraordinary even—this little guy thinks he is just “a dusty, grayish moth— / very ordinary.”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then a little boy runs through the yard shouting “‘A moth! A moth!’” The moth freezes against a wall, afraid and unsure and hoping to hide. But when the moth sees the excitement in the boy’s eyes, he moves “toward his joyful light.” He lands in the boy’s hands, uncertain still if he’ll be shooed away. And sure enough, the boy’s sister screams, “‘Ew, a bug!’” When she knocks her brother’s hand away, the moth flies off.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The moth hears the boy tell his sister, “‘Hey, it’s an insect—not a bug— / and my favorite kind!’” then he sees the boy trailing him “all through the yard. / with her two steps behind.” She thinks the moth is nothing special, but her brother disagrees. And as the moth alights on his finger, he shows her why. What looks like dust are really “‘scales that keep him warm at night. / And they flake off in a web so he escapes all right.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-web

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The little girl’s a bit more interested but thinks his color is “kind of blah.” The boy explains that the moth is the color of tree bark and can camouflage himself during the day while he sleeps. Then at night he’s ready to fly, guided by moonlight and the scents he smells through his antennae. Now the little girl thinks the moth is pretty cool. She calls their mom to come and see, and when Mom wants to know what bug they found, “the girl says, ‘Mom—a moth’s an insect, / and out favorite kind!’”

Hearing that, the moth soars in the moonlight with a new self image—“So how ‘bout THAT?! / I’m someone’s FAVORITE! / Little grayish me— / proof of how / EXTRAORDINARY / ordinary can be.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-mom

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ten Extraordinary Facts about Moths, as well as an activity for constructing a moth observation box follow the text.

Through her vivacious rhymes, Karlin Gray elevates the “ordinary” back-porch moth to star status with fascinating facts that will lure kids to discover more. The conversational verses echo a sweet sibling relationship while the moth, overhearing them, begins to appreciate himself. The bookending of the children’s story with the moth’s thoughts—first comparing himself to other moths and later realizing his own merits—will encourage readers to think about the nature of nature and about the importance of positive interactions with others. Told from the moth’s point of view, the story also has a deeper meaning, reminding readers that, like this moth, people also have special talents  that make them exceptional. Taking extra time to really learn about another’s unique qualities and to get to know them is exciting and has benefits for all.  

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Steliyana Doneva’s gorgeous illustrations of moths and butterflies will dazzle insect-loving kids and convert the more squeamish. Doneva captures each delicate marking and texture of the little grayish moth as it flits in the light and camouflages itself on the wall and tree. The moth is also well spotlighted against Doneva’s vibrant backyard oasis where the little boy and his sister discover him. Nighttime scenes sparkle with starlight, and the full moon brings out the rich blues of an evening sky. The boy’s enthusiasm for moths and nature is infectious and will captivate young readers, enticing them to look closer at the world around them.

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth is a beautiful, eye-opening book that would spur further discovery for nature and science lovers at home and in science or STEM classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-372-8

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of work by Steliyana Doneva and learn more about her on her website.

Download and have fun with these An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Activity Sheets!

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Matching | An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Fill in the Blank

 

Moth-er Day Activity

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Beautiful Moths Game

 

Moths go through many stages of metamorphosis—from egg to caterpillar to cocoon— before they finally emerge as a moth. In this game, help six moths emerge from their cocoons to win!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print a Tree Branch Game Board and set of Moth Cards for each player
  2. Print one Moth Playing Die
  3. Choose a player to go first
  4. The first player rolls the die and places the matching moth card on one of the cocoons on the Tree Branch Game Board
  5. Play then moves to the player on the left
  6. Players continue to roll the die and place moths on each cocoon
  7. If a player rolls a moth that they already have placed on their game board, they pass the die to the next player and wait for their next turn.
  8. The player who fills their Tree Branch with moths first is the winner

Meet Karlin Gray

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Today I’m excited to talk with Karlin Gray about how moths became extraordinary in her eyes, what types of characters she’s drawn to, and what might be the best holiday in the world

Did you like to write as a child? How did you get started writing books for children?

Yes, I did like to write as a child. When I was little, I would retell stories like Alice in Wonderland, changing the names and some details. Someone must have explained ‘plagiarism’ to me and, eventually, I learned to write my own stories.

I started writing picture books when my son was a toddler (about seven years ago). I joined a local writing center where I workshopped all three of my contracted books, including AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH.

Before you began working in the publishing field and writing for children, you worked for newspapers. Can you talk a little about that experience? What did you like most about it? Has it influenced your work for children?

After college, my first two jobs were graphic design positions at weekly newspapers in Northern Virginia and D.C. I loved learning about the publishing process—how words and images were selected, designed, printed, and distributed. It’s a fast-paced, exhausting business. But those jobs taught me to work on a deadline which helps me as a children’s book writer, for sure!

What inspired you to write about moths?

My son. When he was three, he announced that the moth was his favorite insect. I imagined that moth was having a bad day—comparing himself to “cooler” moths like the Luna moth or Spider moth—and then overheard my son’s statement. It’s a nice reminder that sometimes it takes just one kind comment to improve someone’s day.

What do you think makes the “ordinary” extraordinary?

Perspective. My son saw something special in a creature that I never really considered. But his interest piqued my interest, so I did some research. That led me to learning several amazing things about moths. Now, instead of shooing them away, I celebrate moths in An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth.

What was your process in writing An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth?

Once the first line popped into my head—“I’m an ordinary moth, as you can plainly see…”—the story was set in rhyme. Usually, I research then write a story. But here, I did my research as I wrote the manuscript. The first draft took a couple days and was MESSY. I workshopped the manuscript on and off for two years, tightening the story, rhyme, and meter. I eliminated a whole stanza where the ordinary moth compares itself to other moths like the poodle moth. Trust me, it wasn’t easy cutting out the poodle moth! But, like they say, sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

Do you have a favorite place to write? If so, can you describe it a little? Do you have a favorite thing on your desk or in your writing space?

In my house I have an office but I don’t do much writing there. I usually move from the dining table to the kitchen table to the outside table when it’s warm.

In an earlier interview, you mentioned that you had “stories about presidents, magicians, explorers, athletes, mermaids, monsters, scarecrows, cats, mice, and one sad moth” in your desk drawer. What types of characters—or personalities—attract your creative interest? Do you have a preference for nonfiction? If so, why?

Oh yeah, I guess I’ll have to change that since the “sad moth” is out of the drawer and on the cover of a book. I’m a sucker for characters whose “flaws” are really their strengths, and I love a good finding-your-tribe story. Both nonfiction and fiction stories appeal to me but I enjoy the challenge of taking a true story and translating it into a picture book—selecting a character and timeframe, finding dialogue and active details, setting the tone and style, and staying true to the facts as well as the heart of the story.

In your website biography you have links to “things you like.” These are amazing and range from The American Mural Project to Storyline Online to the Landfill Harmonic. Can you talk about what draws you to these types of projects? Why do you think they are important not only for those directly involved in them, but for all kids—and adults?

Those two projects have a lot of heart. I met Ellen—she is a tiny person who has a big personality and a HUGE dream. The fact that one person had a goal to make the biggest indoor art installation is worthy of a book right there! And the Landfill Harmonic group—kids making music with trash!—was made into a book, Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood. I think both of those stories appeal to kids because it shows them that there are no limitations in art.

What’s the best part about writing for kids?

So many things…but probably the best is when kids tell me that they want to be a writer when they grow up. My response is always: “If I could do it, you can do it.”

You share your books at school and bookstore events. Do you have any anecdote from an event you’d like to share?

Twice a month I volunteer at a nearby school where I read books selected by the teacher. When I read my first book NADIA to the kids, the first graders had a hard time believing that I was the author. They knew me as someone who visited every other week and read a book from their shelves. They didn’t know me as a writer so that was a fun surprise for them.

What’s up next for you?

My next picture book is a biography of Serena Williams—SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER—and will be published in early 2019.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Probably New Year’s Eve. We can see the town fireworks from our back deck so we invite a few families over for a casual get-together. It’s a nice way to end the year and the kids love staying up past midnight.

And, until your email, I didn’t know there was a Moth-er Day. (Not to be confused with Mother’s Day.) Very cool. The moth is also celebrated during National Moth Week in July: http://nationalmothweek.org

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share?

When I was 10-14 years old, I lived in Japan because my dad worked with the military. I remember feeling sorry for Japanese kids because they didn’t celebrate holidays like Christmas or Halloween. But once I discovered that they had an even better holiday—Children’s Day!!—then I just felt sorry for myself.

Thanks so much for this great chat, Karlin! I wish you all the best with An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth and all of your books!

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You can find An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

You can connect with Karlin Gray on

Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Picture Book Review

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday was established in 2013 to celebrate the world’s wild animals and plants and to raise awareness of the perils they face. Since that time, World Wildlife Day has grown to be the most important global event dedicated to wildlife. This year’s theme is “Big cats: predators under threat.” The big cats are some of nature’s most majestic animals, and they are now being threatened by habitat destruction, declining prey populations, conflicts with people, poaching, and illegal trade. It is up to us to protect the animals that share our planet. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about the world’s creatures and consider donating to a wildlife cause. To learn more about the holiday, visit the official website of UN World Wildlife Day.

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals

Written by Gabrielle Balkan | Illustrated by Sam Brewster

 

When you think about bones, you know a lot, right? You know they’re hard and not soft, you know they form your skeleton and that they come in different sizes and various shapes, and you know that all vertebrates have them. But have you ever wondered “which animal has the biggest bone in the world? Or the smallest, Or the spikiest?” Well, you’re about to find out thanks to this big book all about bones.

So, let’s get started! About that biggest bone…would you like to take a guess who it belongs to? Here are some clues: This mandible bone “is a whopping 20 feet long. That means three motorcycles could sit in a row” on it. The animal it belongs to lives in the ocean, swims great distances, and “can live for 100 years.” Just take a look at the skeleton on the next page with one long spine, two flippers, fifteen pairs of ribs and a huge skull. Good guess! Let’s turn the page and see… Yes, it is a Blue Whale!

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Now that you know, you can learn more about the blue whale—like how its mouth is so big that you and one hundred of your friends could fit on its tongue, how it eats 700,000 krill in one gulp, and slurps down 40,000,000 krill every day! Go ahead—touch the illustration of the whale. Feel all of those bones?

Ready for another one? Okay! We did the biggest, how about the smallest bones? Here are some clues from the animal herself: “I am teeny tiny. My skull is smaller than your pinky nail….Inside my ears are the smallest bones in the world: my hammer, anvil, and stirrup bones,” which are about the size of a • . You’d find this animal on farms, in gardens and in olive groves, and even though it’s small, its bite is poisonous. But you’d have to look very closely to find it because its skeleton is “the size of a paperclip and weighs less than a single raisin. What is it? The Etruscan Shrew! You can pet it to feel its bones—this one isn’t venomous.

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Imagine if your bones were as thin as a strand of spaghetti. It might make lifting heavy boxes and throwing baseballs or running on the playground pretty hard, if not impossible. But for this next animal having such thin bones is just right. Let’s see if you can guess what it is from these clues: “I sleep upside down, snuggled with my family. I flit through cool limestone caves. I am an amazing flyer…but can’t walk very well.” You know it—it’s a bumblebee bat!

This bat is as small as its namesake, and its thin finger bones support its wings. “If your finger bones were as long and thin as [the bumblebee bat’s], your pinky would be as thin as a strand of hair and keep going past your toes!”

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

This is fun! How about another? Guess who has the spikiest bones? You’d find these bones covered with keratin on top of the animal’s head to protect its brain—and to keep it from being eaten by snakes or coyotes or other predators. This animal lives in the deserts of Arizona, eats ants, and…can shoot stinky blood from its eyes when threatened! What is it? It’s a Regal Horned Lizard! Now, feel those spiky horns and all of the rib bones that make this lizard so round.

You’re a great guesser! So try them all—there are a lot more animals to discover and fascinating facts to learn in this book! No bones about it! You’ll find out more about the Reticulated Python, Reticulated Giraffe, African Bush Elephant, Peregrine Falcon, Alaska Moose, and Hammerhead Shark. At the end, there’s also a Glossary of Bone Words for you to bone up on!

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Gabrielle Balkan makes learning about the ten animals Book of Bones exciting by including the kinds of facts that kids find most eye-popping and eww-inspiring described in ways that they can relate to. Comparing the size of an animal to a paperclip or the thickness of a bone to a strand of spaghetti creates an immediate visual that makes budding scientists want to learn more. Balkan’s conversational style lends a personal touch to the text—as if the reader is interacting with a wildlife expert one-on-one.

Opening the oversized Book of Bones is like walking into a natural history museum where skeleton exhibits stand side by side with natural habitat dioramas. Sam Brewster introduces each animal with accurately drawn skeletons on black backgrounds that let readers see the placement of each bone. Special features are called out in a whisper of gray, adding to the museum display feel. Turning the page allows children to see each animal in its vibrant, natural habitat. Ingenious printing lets readers feel and see the rough bones beneath the skin.

A fun, fact-filled resource for nature lovers, Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals would make a great gift and addition to classroom, school library, public library, and home bookshelves.

Ages 8 – 12

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875125

Discover more about Gabrielle Balkan and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of illustration work by Sam Brewster, visit his website.

World Wildlife Day Activity

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Lion and Lioness Coloring Pages

 

The lion is one of the most majestic of the big cats, and is—of course—the king (and queen) of the jungle. Here are two lion coloring pages for you to enjoy!

Lion Coloring Page | Lioness and Cub Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

February 28 – It’s National Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

As birds begin coming back to your area during this last bit of winter to build nests, mate, and hatch little cheepers, they still need help finding nutritious food to sustain them. Without the lush vegetation and increased insect activity that will come with warmer weather, birds often rely on backyard feeders for food. Attracting colorful birds to your home can be a rewarding and joyful hobby – one you can enjoy year-round. If you’ve been considering hanging a bird feeder to one of your trees, today is the perfect day to get started!

Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook

Written by Martin Jenkins | Illustrated by Richard Jones

 

It’s early morning and Bird is already chirping. It’s going to be a busy day! To get started she needs breakfast. Of course, “what she wants is a nice, juicy…worm.” What the worm wants, though, is to not be eaten. So while “bird pulls hard…the worm pulls back.” This is one strong worm, and it ends up winning the tug-of-war. Nearby, though, is a smaller and weaker worm that is just as delicious.

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Image copyright Richard JOnes, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Full and satisfied, Bird takes off on her next task. She needs to find twigs. “Lots of twigs.” The first one she finds is more like a branch to the little bird—and is too heavy. The next one is as long as a snake and too heavy too. But there are plenty of perfectly small twigs scattered around, so Bird gets to work. She “can carry one large twig or two medium-size twigs or three or four small twigs (although it’s hard to fit that many in her beak at once).”

What is Bird doing with all of these twigs? Building her nest, of course! It takes time to arrange the twigs she brings back to the branch of her tree. “Carefully, she pushes a twig into the side of the nest and pulls its end back out.” As if weaving a basket, Bird intertwines more and more sticks, making her nest strong. It takes hours to complete her new home. Once in a while a twig falls or she drops one, but there are plenty more to find.

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Image copyright Richard JOnes, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once the twigs are all in place, Bird searches for soft material to line it. She gathers dried grass and feathers. These are so light that it’s easy to carry a lot at one time. Back in her nest she places the grass and feathers inside and “turning around and around, pushing with her whole body, she makes a snug little cup, smooth and soft on the inside.” Now the nest is comfy and all ready for…the five little eggs that are waiting to hatch!

Bird Builds a Nest is a First Science Storybook for young readers that, while showing how birds build nests also demonstrates various scientific forces. As kids see the baby birds emerge from the nest for the first time, they can also answer a few questions in the Afterward that prompt them to think about pushing and pulling, moving light and heavy objects, and the force of gravity. An Index reveals where in the text these forces can be found.

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Image copyright Richard JOnes, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Spying a nest in a tree, eave, or other tucked-away space is like finding a secret, and is one of the joys of spring. Martin Jenkins’ delightful day out with Bird gives kids…well…a bird’s eye view of the nest-building process. Just like an artist, this sweet, industrious feathered friend gathers her materials and sets to work to make her instinctual vision come true. Jenkins’ step-by-step description is conversational and homey with words such as snug, tuck, fetching, and twigs that lend themselves to the charming alliteration that gives the story a poetic sound and feel.

Richard Jones’ mixed-media illustrations sing with beautiful folk-art inspired scenes of Bird gathering her material and creating her nest. Softly vibrant earth tones of autumn and spring accentuate Bird’s quiet and solitary endeavor. Bird is bright-eyed and cheerful as she flies back and forth carrying twigs and arranging them just so—activities that are clearly shown for budding scientists to see and understand. Readers will enjoy finding small details here and there—a mouse in a tree hole, a tiny ladybug, hearts in the swirls of the tree bark and formed by leaves, and even a bit of foreshadowing of the eggs to come. The male and female bird cuddle together in the finished nest as two ladybugs find each other under a purple heart, and the little chicks venturing out for the first time will enchant children.

Bird Builds a Nest wonderfully weaves together facts and a sweet story to introduce young readers to one particular natural phenomenon and some of the scientific forces involved. The captivating story would be a terrific addition to home libraries and classroom bookshelves for discussions about the natural world.

Ages 4 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2018 |ISBN 978-0763693466

To learn more about Richard Jones and view a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

National Bird-Feeding Month Activity

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Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle

 

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

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

Picture Book Review