August 16 – It’s Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources. Worldwide, millions of people do not have access to clean water. Climate change is also contributing to alterations in water temperature which affects sea life and coastal animals. Pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides, and a disregard for the crucial importance of this limited resource all threaten not only the quality of water, but the quality of life on this planet. To get involved in the solution, volunteer to clean up waterways, be mindful of the products you use, and consider donating to the cause.

Over and Under the Pond

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A mom and her son have taken their rowboat out on the pond, where they “slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.” As they gaze over the side of their little boat, they can see the sun, the clouds, and themselves reflected in the still surface. But the little boy wonders what is below, where they can’t see. His mom tells him there is a “hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

On top the two can see tall grasses that break the water’s surface and little beetles and skaters making their way along the water. Below, a brook trout waits for his dinner. As the mom and her son paddle between thick stands of cattails, three painted turtles take turns slipping from their sunny perch back into the safety of the pond. Hidden in the cattails is a small nest, just a pocket of sticks and grass for red-winged blackbird babies.

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

There are babies under the pond, too. “A secret shelter of pebbles and sand” that hold the larva of a caddisfly. Along the shore, trees cast shadows on the water as a moose makes a lunch of water lilies. It’s also mealtime under the pond, where three beavers pull up roots to chew on. The weather is turning breezy over the pond, making the current stronger and blowing leaves here and there. All around animals are maturing: “a new goldfinch teeters, finally ready to fly” while tadpoles are “losing tails, growing legs, growing up.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-woodpecker

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Carefully picking his way in the muddy shallows, a great blue heron searches for food. He spies a minnow and with a flash snaps it up with his long, pointy beak. Way up in the trees the tat-tat-tat of a woodpecker looking for ants echoes through the air while down below an otter has her eyes set on a passel of mussels. The sun is beginning to set, and an iridescent dragonfly takes a rest on the little boy’s knee. Perhaps it is related to the dragonfly larvae underwater who has just grabbed a minnow for its dinner.

The nocturnal animals begin making an appearance in the spindly grasses. “Ospreys circle on quiet wings. Raccoons and mink stalk the shoreline for supper.” In the blue-black evening, the mother and her son head home as “a far-off loon calls good night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-otter

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about the ecosystem of a pond and the animals that live in and around the water follows the text.

Kate Messner’s lyrical environmental books invite young readers to discover the world around them through the eyes of their peers. In Over and Under the Pond, Messner takes children on a leisurely afternoon boat ride that compares and contrasts what is happening on top of and below the water. Along the way, kids learn fascinating facts while absorbing the feel and beauty of the outdoor world.

Christopher Silas Neal gorgeously depicts the mysteries of a pond environment in his matte, mixed media illustrations that allow readers to view the birds, fish, insects, plants, and animals in action as they go about their day. The mixture of familiar and new creatures will engage children interested in learning more about the natural world. As the sun goes down and evening falls with its comforting starlit sky, young readers will feel happy to be part of this wonderfully complex world.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452145426

To learn more about Kate Messner and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Christopher Silas Neal on his website!

Water Quality Month Activity

animal-celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-habitat-coloring-pages-for-kids-cooloring-com-coloring-pages-of-pond-animals

Busy Pond Coloring Page

 

There’s so much going on at the pond! Get your pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun with this printable Busy Pond Coloring Page! You can even add tissue paper grass, real sand, and other materials to make it look realistic!

Picture Book Review

June 28 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

Great Outdoors Month may be winding to a close, but the season for enjoying outside adventures is just beginning! Make this a great summer by planning to spend more time in and with nature—whether you do that in a majestic national park, at a local playground, on a patch of green in the city, at the seashore, or in your own backyard! The fresh air and sunshine will make you happy!

The Fog

Written by Kyo Maclear | Illustrated by Kenard Pak

 

“Far north, on a wild sea, was an island covered with ice.” The island was a favorite tourist destination, and while the people explored their home, most birds took no notice. “But there was one bird, a small yellow warbler, who did pay attention.” In fact, “Warble was a devoted human watcher.” With so many visitors, Warble always had new specimens to investigate. He kept a journal of his sightings. #671 was a “Behatted Bibliophilic Female.” Warbler remembered her well, reading a book in her wide-brimmed hat. A man bedecked in gold jewelry was entry “#672 Bald-Headed Glitzy Male.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-tourists

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

One day, though, a dense fog seeped across the valley, hiding everything in its gauze-like swirls. Warbler’s hobby came to a complete stop. After several days, he tried to blow the fog away with a fan and with a particularly blaring horn of his own invention. Nothing dispelled the fog. When Warbler consulted the other birds, they were nonchalant. It didn’t take long before the sign welcoming guests to the island was changed from “Welcome to Icy Land” to “Welcome to Fog Land.” And it took even less time for the other birds to forget there was ever clear air before.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-chasing-fog

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Warbler could not forget, and the creeping dark sea was worrying also. He tried to alert others to the danger, but they had already taken up other pursuits and were too busy to care. Finally, after spotting no more humans, Warbler put away his binoculars, books, and journal, and tried move on. “But then, one foggy morning, Warble spotted a colorful speck in the distance.”

Upon closer inspection, Warble saw that it was a “rare female species and she was singing a song.” He jotted it down in his journal: “#673 Red-hooded Spectacled Female (Juvenile).” She consulted a map and then put her binoculars to her eyes. She found herself staring into the binoculars of Warble. Warble was so happy to see her that he made her a picnic lunch, complete with insects. The girl gave Warble gifts from her pack and taught him origami.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-girl

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

It turned out that she also understood “Chirp.” Warble asked her about the fog and whether others knew about it. They decided to find out. They made a paper boat and wrote “Do you see the fog?” on it. Then they launched in from shore. No reply came. They launched more and more boats until they got an answer. A walrus in Canada sent back a “Yes, I see the fog.” So did a musk ox from Norway and some cats from England. Notes came from every part of the globe. “With each one, the fog began to lift a little. And the wind began to blow again until the world grew a little less ghostly and it became easier to notice things.”

Warble and the human explored the island together, finding big things and little things. As the island brightened, they relaxed together and sang their songs to “each other and to the moon” which shone down through the clear night air on the happy pair.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-fog-clears

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

From her clever turn-about plot Kyo Maclear has crafted a story that has a multitude of applications for the natural world as well as for the realm of personal relationships. The fog that descends on the island can clearly be read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring threats to the environment. While the tangible fog surrounds the island, the residents are in fogs of their own—preferring indifference to solving the problem. Only when others—who are brave enough or caring enough—acknowledge that they too recognize the trouble and want to fix it, does the fog begin to lift.

Maclear’s The Fog also gives readers an opportunity to talk with children about other examples of clouded issues. Misunderstandings, confusion, miscommunication, and loneliness can also create personal fogs for children and adults that negatively affect relationships and quality of life. Telling a family member or friend and reaching out to others can be the first step in “clearing the air” and living a happier life.

In his gauzy watercolor and pencil illustrations in frosted sages and yellows, Kenard Pak creates an island paradise that attracts attention from around the world. As the fog thickens, Pak’s colors darken and become denser. As the fog lingers smudges of gray surround the characters, but Pak resists the temptation to fill the pages with darkness. The Fog is, at its core, a story of hope and resolution and while the problem may be worsening, it is not yet insurmountable. The illustrations are sprinkled with puns and visual humor, and both kids and adults will love lingering over the endpapers, which offer a gallery of the humans Warbler has recorded on his life list.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770494923

To discover the unique world of books for children by Kyo Maclear, visit her website! You can learn about Kyo Maclear’s books for adults here.

Learn more about Kenard Pak and his books, as well as about his illustration and animation work on his website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Fog in a Jar

 

A foggy day or night can be mysterious and pretty cool! It’s also a fascinating part of nature and the science of weather! With this experiment you can make fog at home.

**Because a candle lighter is used in this experiment, adult supervision is required for children

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth glass jar, like a spaghetti sauce jar, cleaned and dry
  • Plastic baggie with a zip closure
  • Candle lighter
  • Ice
  • Dark paper
  • Tape

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Directions

  1. Wrap one side of the jar with the black paper and tape in place
  2. Fill the baggie ½ full of ice
  3. Fill the jar 1/3 full of hot to boiling water
  4. Hold the lighted lighter inside the jar above the water for 3 or 4 seconds and remove
  5. Put the baggie with ice over the opening of the jar
  6. Watch the fog form!
  7. Remove the ice and watch the fog curl out of the jar!

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday encourages people to get outside and explore. There’s so much to see, from the delicate details of a flower to the wonders of the big open sky. If time permits, take a walk alone, with your kids, or with friends and really look at what you are passing. If you’re walking with children, stop to examine and talk about the marvels you see. Sometimes the most familiar sights turn out to be the most surprising!

Owl Sees Owl

Written by Laura Godwin | Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

 

An adorable baby owl, wide awake in the full moonlight while its family sleeps, gazes out from its nest in a tree at the surrounding forest. The night is filled with “Home / Mama / Brother / Sister.” The little owl ventures out onto a sturdy limb. It knows “Tree / Nest / Hop / Look.” From its perch with a “Jump / Flutter / Flap / Fly,” the owlet soars through the deep blue sky, its white face shining like the stars. It floats over autumn leaves while in the “Moon / Beam / Eyes / Gleam.”

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Down below other nocturnal animals have come out to play. On the farm the barn is quiet and dark, but someone is stirring in the house. The baby owl passes them by with a “Soar / Glide / Swoop / Swoosh.” Something glistens in the midst of the forest, and the owl descends to investigate. “Owl… / Sees / Owl” in the rippled rings of the small pond.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

After a moment the owlet takes off with a quick “Swoosh / Swoop / Glide / Soar,” reversing its nighttime flight. Once more the curious baby passes over the star- and moonlit field, feeling bolder: “Scamper / Mice / Twinkle / Stars.” Deer perk up their ears and stare alert to the nearly silent woosh of the owl’s wings above. “Yellow / Red / Leaves / Fall as the owl zooms with a “Fly / Flap / Flutter / Jump toward “Sister / Brother / Mama / Home,” where Mama waits wide awake for her little one’s return.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-owl-sees-owl-little-owl

Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Inspired by reverso poetry, Laura Godwin’s lovely Owl Sees Owl is a language- and emotionally rich story to share with young children. With only four words per two-page spread, Godwin tells the detailed adventure of an inquisitive baby owl who leaves home for a nighttime caper through woods and over farmland to a pond where it sees itself reflected in the mirror-like surface. In a minute the owl is back in the air for the trip home, reversing its path and also the order of the words. Godwin’s dynamic, lyrical words are joyful to read and allow for readers to linger over each page and talk about what they see, what the little owl is doing, and even whether a sentence such as “Fall / Leaves / Red / Yellow” is active or descriptive. The reverse nature of the story brings the baby owl’s adventure to a sweet, satisfying conclusion that children will love.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Rob Dunlavey’s illustrations transfer the most beautiful clear, moonlit night to the page, creating a perfect quiet time or bedtime book for young children. The lush, dark woods rendered in deep olives, rusts, browns, grays, and blacks as well as the indigo sky highlight the gleaming moon, twinkling stars, and white feathers of the owl. In one spread deer appear in silhouette in the background as mice scamper over pumpkins in the foreground; in another fiery red, yellow, and orange autumn leaves make a spectacular backdrop to the owl’s outstretched wings. The central spread in which the owl sees its own reflection offers readers much to talk about. Is the owl startled? Wondering? Happy? Is the owlet going home for comfort or to tell of its amazing discovery? Kids will love lingering over each page to think and talk about all that is there.

Owl Sees Owl makes a wonderful gift for young children or children who love poetry and art. The book would be a welcome and often read addition to home libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497823

To see a gallery of illustration work for picture books, nature sketches, and other artwork by Rob Dunlavey, visit his website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cattails

Creative Cattails

 

Cattails are one of nature’s wonders! They’re sleek and sophisticated, soft and fuzzy! Here’s a simple craft for making cattails that can help you bring the look of the great outdoors inside!

Supplies

  • 6-inch by 5/8-inch craft stick
  • 3/16–inch by 12-inch dowel
  • Chunky brown yarn,  
  • Green origami paper, 8-inch square
  • Green craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Glue gun

Directions

To make the cattail:

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. With the glue gun, attach the craft stick to the dowel, overlapping 1 inch, let dry
  3. Glue an end of the brown yarn to the bottom of craft stick where it overlaps the dowel
  4. Wind the yarn upward around the entire craft stick to the top. You will leave the 1/2 –inch curved part of the craft stick open.  Then reverse.
  5. Wind the yarn downward, going past the end of the craft stick about ½ inch to make the tapered end of the cattail
  6. Wind the yarn upward once more to the top
  7. When you reach the top, put glue on either side of the curved top of the craft stick and pull a little of the existing yarn onto the glued area, pinching it closed.
  8. Cut the end of the yarn from the skein and tuck the end into the glued top.

To add the leaf:

  1. Cut a thin triangle from one side of the origami paper, starting with a 1-inch base and angling to the top of the paper
  2. Glue the base of the triangle to the dowel about 1 ½ inches from the bottom
  3. Wind the paper upward around the dowel, leaving 5 inches unwound
  4. Glue the paper to the dowel, letting the 5-inch section stick up

Picture Book Review

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June 13 – It’s National Camping Month

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About the Holiday

Early summer is the perfect time to plan a camping trip. There are so many beautiful out-of-the-way places to explore from a camper or a tent. Spending quality time with friends or family on a hike or around a campfire can be surprising, low-tech fun that can challenge and exhilarate. 

Rhoda’s Rock Hunt

Written by Molly Beth Griffin | Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

 

Rhoda goes camping with her Auntie June and Uncle Jonah. On a days-long hike, her shower was a “bucket of cold lake water, dinner was salami and cheese, and her bed was a skinny little pad and ratty sleeping bag.” But Rhoda puts up with it all because along the way she finds rocks—and Rhoda loves rocks.

Auntie June doesn’t mind Rhoda’s collecting rocks—as long as she carries them in her own pack. Rhoda agrees. One day while hiking through a birch forest Rhoda spies “jagged rocks and bumpy rocks and one with tiny sparkly bits that glinted in the dappled sunlight. Ooo!” Rhoda puts them all in her pack and trudges on, sweating a bit with the effort.

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Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

The next day while crossing a stream, Rhoda reaches into the cool, flowing water and comes up with a bunch of smooth stones. One has “a curve that fit into her palm just right. Ooo! Into the pack they all went—Yarg!” Rhoda is beginning to slump under the weight of her pack, but she continues on. After a sleepless night, Rhoda is tired, hungry, dirty, and a little bit crabby—until she sees the lake. “Waves crashed on the shore, and gulls called overhead. The water stretched out to the horizon, and the beach was covered with millions and billions of rocks!”

Rhoda lies on the “sun-warmed treasures,” studying the beauty of each stone. She finds red ones, blue ones, and stripy ones. “Then she discovered tiny banded ones that glowed the color of sunsets. Ooo!” She pours them all into her pack. When Auntie June and Uncle Jonah tell her it’s time to go, Rhoda grabs her pack, but it stays put. She pushes, pulls, and tugs, but the bag doesn’t budge. With no one to help carry her pack or any of the rocks, Rhoda has a hard decision to make. She doesn’t want to give up any of her stones, but she knows she must.

Then she has an idea. Carefully working “with the weight of each rock, with the curves and bumps and bulges of each rock,” she stacks them on a flat slab of stone near the water’s edge until they all “balanced in perfect towers.” Well, almost all. Into her pockets “went the one glinting forest rock, and the one palm-snuggling river rock, and a small handful of tiny glowing agates from the Big Lake.”

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Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

As she heads on her way she looks back at her rock cairns—her gift to others passing by—and continues on with Auntie June and Uncle Jonah to the cabin. There, on her windowsill, she builds her own cairns from her beloved treasures.

Collectors everywhere will relate to Rhoda and her enthusiastic gathering of treasures beyond price. Each one is unique and almost calls out to be taken along life’s road. As Rhoda discovers, however, the physical items can begin to weigh you down, impeding progress. Molly Beth Griffin, in her distinctive and quietly powerful book, remind readers that freedom and happiness come from sharing your talents and treasures—and yourself—with others. With evocative description of a camping trip (and well-placed expressions of “Ooo!”), Griffin captures with honesty, grace, and humor the vexations and thrills of childhood.

Jennifer A. Bell gorgeously depicts the forest with its birch stands, rushing streams, vast lake, and variety of stones in soft greens, reds, purples, and blues that blend to reflect the depth and beauty of nature. Adorable Rhoda expresses the range of emotions—from excitement in finding her beloved rocks to annoyance at the travails of camping—that readers will recognize and respond to. Detailed illustrations of the rocks Rhoda finds reveal their attraction to the young collector, and the final spread of the cairns Rhoda builds will have kids wanting to build their own.

A wonderful accompaniment to a hike or camping trip and a quietly inspirational read, Rhoda’s Rock Hunt would make a welcome addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0873519502

To see more books by Molly Beth Griffin for children and young adults, visit her website!

View Jennifer A. Bell’s illustration work for picture books, chapter books, and more on her website!

National Camping Month Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Around a campsite or on a hike you can find smooth stones that would give talented artists like yourself 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 the 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

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

Picture Book Review

June 1 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

The warmer weather begs to be enjoyed—whether you’re playing, working, or just lounging around. Established in 1998 as Great Outdoors Week, the holiday expanded to a month-long celebration in 2004. There’s so much to see and do outside as the wonders of nature are always changing and challenging you in new and surprising ways.

Round

Written by Joyce Sidman | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little girl spies an orange on the ground and bends to pick it up. She sees more—many more—of the brightly colored orbs hanging from a tree and reaches up to touch them. “I love round things,” she says. “I like to feel their smoothness. My hands want to reach around their curves.” The girl continues on her singular scavenger hunt for round things that grow.

She scatters some seeds in a hole and parts tall grasses to peek in on a turtle waiting for her eggs to hatch. On a hillside, a little patch of mushrooms “swell into roundness,” while tiny, plump blueberries beckon on a nearby bush and fill the family’s baskets. On the bike ride home, the girl and her crew pass fields of sunflowers with their dark, mysterious round centers.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At the beach the little girl finds seashells in the sand near the tall craggy rocks which some day, whittled by water and wind, will become round when “all the edges wear off.” Back on dry land, the girl watches a dung beetle transport a ball, persistently moving it with its legs, and body motions. The girl stands by, fascinated. She loves “to watch round things move. They are so good at it! Rolling, spinning, bouncing.” She always wonders “where they’re headed.”

An old, old tree, chopped down now, reveals its secret age as the little girl counts the rings in the trunk. She’s excited to discover hidden round things—like the tiny ladybugs and snails concealed beneath green leaves. As the rain splatters a pond, the little girl, safe in her yellow slicker, reveals, “I love how water can be round, gathered in beads of silver…or falling in wet splats leaving circles of ripples behind.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-round-orange-tree

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, text copyright Joyce Sidman. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The sun sets, turning the sky yellow and orange, while the girl blows transparent bubbles and watches them float toward the clouds. When the sun is gone and the sky is dark, she gazes through a telescope at the twinkling dots of light that “spin together slowly…and last billions of years.” And waits for that one constant celestial body that grows “rounder and rounder, until the whole sky holds its breath.”

The girl shares the beauty of roundness with her friends as they hold hands in a never-ending circle of friendship, and when she is alone she curls up into a cozy ball to read or feels arms around her in a loving hug.

An explanation of why so many things in nature are round—including the shape’s sturdiness, balance, and ability to spread and roll—follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-round-mushrooms

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Joyce Sidman’s lyrical story of discovery is a perfect introduction for little ones to the wonders of nature. Focusing on a shape that is familiar to children, Sidman takes them on a walk from grove to field to beach where they can find circles in common and surprising places. After coming home, kids discover an even more poignant idea—the circular beauty of love and friendship.

Taeeun Yoo’s delicate illustrations gorgeously depict examples of circles in nature. Bold sunflowers, tiny insects, snowball-white eggs, expanding ripples, and smooth boulders invite readers to notice the shapes and colors of the wild world around them. Children will be enticed to hunt for all the circles on each page as lily pads, fireflies, polka dots, balloons, the sun, and other objects create an exciting journey of exploration. The little girl’s pets—a dog (appropriately spotted) and a duck—add humor and companionship along the way.

Round would be an excellent take-along book for nature hikes, waiting times, or other outdoor activities and could spur at-home scavenger hunts for circles and other shapes. This original concept book is a wonderful introduction to shapes and nature for little ones.

Ages 3 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544387614

Learn more about Joyce Sidman and her books on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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

Shapely Butterfly Coloring Page

 

This butterfly is made up of many different shapes. Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun coloring this printable Shapely Butterfly Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

April 25 – National DNA Day

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About the Holiday

National DNA Day commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953 that have led to advanced research in the medical, science, and other fields. As part of the observance, students in grades 9 through 12 can compete in an essay contest for monetary prizes and grants.

When I Grow Up

By Anita Bijsterbosch

 

In Anita Bijsterbosch’s adorable and eye-catching animal kingdom book, little ones will identify with their counterparts in the wild who are also just starting out on their journey through life. Opening to the first page, children enter the jungle, where a lion cub romps among the foliage. He looks directly at the reader as he tells them, “Now I’m just a little lion and I can only growl softly. But someday….” This lead-in to the future invites kids to turn the half-cut page and discover the cub all grown up and able to “roar so loudly that all the animals can hear me!”

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When I Grow Up is available in Dutch and English versions. Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl

Next, children visit the bayou, where a young crocodile can now only wade through puddles. On the next page, though he’s big enough to “jump into the deep water to swim with my friends!” Little Toucan is just learning how to fly. With a monkey, a lemur, and a bird looking on, he tells readers a secret: “I pretend to fly when I jump. But someday…I’ll be a big toucan and I’ll spread my winds. Then I’ll fly high in the sky!”

In the savanna, a baby giraffe lifts her head toward the treetops. She says, “Now I’m just a little giraffe and I can barely touch the leaves with my nose.” When she gets older, however, young readers can see that meals and snacks of tasty leaves will be within easy reach.

Curled around a thin branch, a little snake dreams of the day when he will be long enough to wrap around the whole tree—many times. Turning to the last page, Little Elephant happily splashes in the water and sprinkles her friends, but someday she knows that she will be big enough to use her trunk “to spray everything and everyone!”

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When I Grow Up is available in Dutch and English versions. Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl

Toddlers and older youngsters beginning to learn about the vast world around them will delight in this early science book that combines the sturdiness of a board book and the sensory-stimulating interactivity of a lift-the-flap book. Anita Bijsterbosch’s vibrant illustrations engage little ones’ visual senses with bold images of the animals as well as smaller pictures of birds, insects, and flowers for them to discover. A tiny red bird with rakish green head feathers seems to be friends with all of the animals, and readers will love pointing him out on every page.

Little ones will recognize the animal traits spotlighted through Bijsterbosch’s straightforward and easy-to-understand language and will be reassured that they too will soon grow big enough and old enough to do what the “big kids” do.

With sweet illustrations and opportunities for multiple types of learning, When I Grow Up would make a great baby shower or new baby gift as well as a nice addition to a toddler’s growing home library.

Ages 2 – 5

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373348

You’ll find more books and artwork by Anita Bijsterbosch on her website!

National DNA Day Activity

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Mom and Baby Elephant Coloring Page

 

This mommy elephant and her baby are out for a walk. Give their world a little color with your crayons or pencils and this printable Mom and Baby Elephant Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

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About the Holiday

While we should be mindful of our impact on the earth every day, today’s holiday puts a focus on how we can conserve and protect the beauty and resources of our planet. Now more than ever, it’s up to us to do what we can on a personal level to make sure the environment is clean, healthy, and sustainable for the future. If you’d like to learn how you can make a difference or get involved with your global community, here’s a good place to start!

Finding Wild

Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd | Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

 

A girl and a boy stand with their backs to the stairs leading down to the subway contemplating the jungle of growth in front of them. A single floating leaf seems to lead the way. They follow along the path, leaving the city behind and enter the wild. Here “Wild is tiny and fragile and sweet-baby new. It pushes through cracks and crannies and steals back forgotten places.” Wild comes in many guises—some obvious, some not.

Wild also moves in various ways. As the boy and girl continue on the path passing a spider’s web and shadowy shapes with glowing eyes, wild “creeps and crawls and slithers. It leaps and pounces and shows its teeth.” Everywhere the pair ventures, wild has a distinct smell—fresh or musty, sharp or sweet, tangy or acrid. They discover wild can be as hot as a forest fire or as cold as an icicle. Running through a field of flowers and climbing a rocky cliff, the two find that wild is “as smooth as the petals of poppies, and as rough as the fierce face of a mountain.” They also find that wild can hurt in so many ways.

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Image copyright Abigail Halpin, text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd. Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Plunging deeper into the wild the boy and girl uncover more secrets—delicious and quenching. The sounds of wild chill and soothe them. Suddenly, though, the girl and the boy find themselves outside of the wild, back in front of a subway entrance. The wild, now seems far away, invisible and unknown, as if “the whole world is clean and paved, ordered and tidy.” As the pair gaze upward, the tall buildings and skyscrapers block the sky. But the girl points to a leaf swirling through the air. They follow it through an open door that leads to a most surprising discovery.  

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Image copyright Abigail Halpin,  text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd, Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Megan Wagner Lloyd entreats readers to rediscover the wild no matter where they live. Her lyrical descriptions of the splendor of nature in all its incarnations—from gentle to intense, quiet to loud, mysterious to open—delightfully capture the way children interact with the environment. Lloyd reminds readers that tasting a single juicy blackberry, thrilling to a coyote’s howl on a dark night, even feeling the prick of a cactus needle connect them to the greater world and that searching for and finding the wild—especially in the midst of an “ordered and tidy” world—brings peace and happiness.

Abigail Halpin’s lush illustrations of the wild environment gorgeously depict the vibrant colors, sometimes chilling shadows, and refreshing water the two children discover in the middle of their city. The thick vegetation rendered in a palette of greens is a riot of ferns, pines, flowering trees, and vines that hide small birds and animals. As the children huddle in a tent, the indigo night crackles with lightning and the songs of coyotes. A two-page scrapbook-type spread displays various plants and insects that sting, burn, or cause itching. When the boy and girl reenter the city, buildings—old and new—billboards, and traffic meet their eyes, but they keep their gaze on the leaf leading them on. That leaf invites readers, also, to get outside and explore the wild.

Ages 3 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101932810

Discover more about Megan Wagner Lloyd, the world of Finding Wild, and news on her upcoming book on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Abigail Halpin on her website!

Earth Day Activity

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Love the Earth Coloring Page

 

Earth Day is all about loving the Earth and treating her well. Have fun with this printable Love the Earth Coloring Page and think of one thing you can do to make a difference!

Picture Book Review