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.”

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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 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.”

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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.

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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

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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

May 30 – Loomis Day

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About the Holiday

On Loomis Day we remember Mahlon Loomis, a Washington DC dentist working in the mid-1800s who had a very inventive mind. Not only did he invent artificial teeth, he also had some revolutionary ideas on communication. He understood about the electrical properties of the atmosphere and experimented with sending signals long distances using kites flown many miles apart but at the same height. In July of 1872 he received a U. S. patent for “An Improvement in Telegraphing” on wireless telegraphy. Further research revealed that while his wireless telegraphic system worked, it did not work the way Loomis thought. His experiments, however, advanced the science at the time, leading to one of the world’s most transformative discoveries and an ongoing quest for better and faster communications.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph

Written by Lucy Margaret Rozier | Illustrated by Leo Espinosa

 

Anyone who looked at the baby with legs “so long they looped like a pretzel” and required a stroller with “an extra axle” knew that he’d been born to run. In fact, his legs grew so fast that if his mother dressed him in long pants in the morning, they were shorts by that evening. Little Jack McCabe used those legs to chase “whatever would run: hogs, dogs, even his own shadow” and “as he got older, he raced trains flying past his house in Windy Flats. By the time he turned eighteen, he’d beat every stagecoach, antelope, and locomotive in the territory.”

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The people of Windy Flats called him Jackrabbit and relied on him to deliver messages that were urgent. On Sundays he joined the horses on the track, making money when people bet on him to come in first. One day, though, the electric telegraph came to Windy Flats. The poles and wires already crossed the eastern part of the country. Each connected city had “a telegraph and an operator who sent and received messages in Morse code, an alphabet of dots and dashes.”

The people of Windy Flats didn’t think this newfangled contraption could carry messages faster than Jackrabbit, so the telegraph man suggested, “‘How ‘bout a race between your fella and this here electric telegraph? Sandy Bluff’s just got themselves an operator, That’s pert near twenty-five miles, as the crow flies.’” Jackrabbit was all for it.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On the day of the race, the whole town of Windy Flats came out with flags, banners, and even a brass band. “The mayor carefully wrote down the same message on two slips of paper. He handed one to the telegraph man and the other to Jackrabbit.”  On the shout of “GO!” the telegraph man plunked his finger on the key sending the pulses through the wire while Jackrabbit took off down the road toward Sandy Bluff “like a tornado.”

The townspeople watched as in only a few moments “a reply came clattering back as that telegraph key jumped and smacked all on its own.” The telegraph man read the code and yelled, “‘Message received. Stop. Sandy Bluff Operator.’” But where was Jackrabbit McCabe? Although he made it to Sandy Bluff in only 9 ½ minutes, it was still too long to beat the telegraph. When he stopped short at the door of the depot, he was met by a telegram tacked to the door. Jackrabbit read it and then pulled the paper that contained the mayor’s message out of his pocket. The two were the same.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Riding home in a stagecoach, “Jackrabbit felt lower than a snake’s navel.” The mayor also felt pretty low, thinking of Jackrabbit, until he realized that if Jackrabbit’s fingers were as fast as his legs, he’d make an excellent telegraph operator. When Jackrabbit stepped out of the stagecoach and heard the mayor’s offer, he whooped with joy. It didn’t take long for Jackrabbit to learn the new code, and soon “his fingers flew like a banjo player’s strumming that telegraph key.” Every day he sent and received messages. He even “teamed up with the local typesetter, who printed the news that came over that wire, linking Windy Flats to the whole entire country,” and whenever a telegram or the newspaper needed to be delivered, Jackrabbit was there in a flash!

An Author’s Note outlining the pivotal event that sparked Samuel F. B. Morse’s interest in a quicker communication method and the history of the telegraph as well as a Morse code key and a riddle to translate follow the text.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Lucy Margaret Rozier has written a funny and fact-based addition to the fine American tradition of tall tales with Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph. From her folksy delivery to her humorously exaggerated details, Rozier presents an engaging history of the telegraph through the story of one man affected by this new technology. Kids will love the fast-paced story full of crackling dialog and gripping suspense.

Leo Espinosa infuses his brightly colored, vintage-style illustrations with the charm and innocence of the mid-1800s while highlighting the humor of Rozier’s yarn. Jackrabbit’s looong legs take up a whole page—sometimes two—as he runs with dogs and hogs, sprints past steam trains, speeds off at the starting line, and wedges himself into the stagecoach, with one foot hanging out the window. The small town of Windy Flats and the townspeople are decked out in period details, and the enthusiasm of the time is infectious.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph will become a favorite read lightening quick. The book would make a fun addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385378437

Discover more about Lucy Margaret Rozier plus book-related resources on her website!

View a gallery of illustration work by Leo Espinosa on his website!

Loomis Day Activity

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Morse Code Decoder

 

Sending secret messages in code is cool! Use this printable Morse Code Decoder to learn how to write your name and those notes you don’t want anyone else to read in this early method of communication.

Picture Book Review

May 29 – It’s National Smile Month

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About the Holiday

Today we honor that happiest of expressions—the smile! Celebrating its 41st anniversary this year, National Smile Month was established as a weekly event in 1977 by the British Dental Health Foundation (now known as the Oral Health Foundation) to focus on good dental health practices. Over the years the initiative has grown in length and now includes countries worldwide. With the introduction of the Smiley—a bright smile on a stick—and the Smiley Photo campaign on social media in 2012, everyone now has an opportunity to join in the fun, spread the message, and become the face of National Smile Month. National Smile Month runs from May 15 to June 15. If you’d like to participate, visit nationalsmilemonth.org.

Tooth By Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth

 

“Open wide!” a little girl with a good set of teeth herself encourages readers on the first page of this fun nonfiction book. “Look at all the chompers in there.” Mirror in hand she proceeds to reveal that human teeth are unusual because we are mammals, and mammal teeth come in different shapes and sizes. In fact there are three distinct types. A little boy takes over to describe them. Incisors are the four flat teeth in a person’s mouth—two on the top and two on the bottom right in front.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Books

The four pointy teeth next to the incisors are canines, and the rest of the teeth are molars. Other mammals also have these teeth, and you can tell what an animal eats by which type is largest. For example, say your incisors were bigger than all your other teeth and they were so big they stuck out of your mouth even when it was closed, then you would be a beaver…or a squirrel…or a rabbit. These animals are herbivores and their oversized incisors help them break into nuts and scrape bark from trees.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, courtesy of Lerner Books

From here on Tooth by Tooth offers up amusing illustrations and “what kind of animal would you be if…” questions to spark kids’ powers of recognition. How about if your canines were so long they poked out of your mouth? Well, then you could be a “seal or a cat or a dog or a bear!” All these animals eat meat and need the sharp teeth to do it.

What if you had really tall molars? Then you’d be a “horse or a cow or a giraffe!” These guys use their molars to grind up grass. And if all your teeth were the same height? Come on…you know! You’d be you! Because humans eat plants and meat, we “need teeth that do many different jobs.”

But there are a lot more wacky teeth out there waiting for us to brush up on. So let’s get started. What if “two of your top incisors were so long that they grew out of your mouth and pointed to the sky? What if they were so long you could use them to carry your school bag?” You’ve probably guessed this one—you’d be an elephant. While an elephant’s tusks aren’t used for eating, they are used to procure the bark, roots, and other plant material that make up the elephant’s diet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tooth-by-tooth-beaver

Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Books

What if you could almost trip over your canine teeth? Yep, you’d be a walrus, and you would use those sharp bad boys to poke holes in the ice to grab your favorite oysters and clams. But after eating they’re not done using their teeth. “After diving down for a meal, walruses can use their tusks to pull themselves back up onto the ice for a nap. Imagine if “your top and bottom canine teeth curled up out of your mouth so you had two pairs of tusks?” Or if your one upper canine grew through your upper lip and kept on growing?  Or if you had no teeth at all? Yikes! The remarkable answers are just a read away!

Fish, amphibians, and reptiles also have teeth of a sort, but because they are all the same shape and size, they don’t get special names—that doesn’t mean you can ignore them, though, because sharks are among this group, and you know what they can do!

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Books

More information about mammals, mammal teeth, a glossary, and a list of online and print references follow the text.

There’s nothing like the Wow! factor to capture kids’ attention, and Sara Levine uses it to humorous and fascinating effect in Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers. After giving a solid description of each kind of tooth and what it is used for in language that kids use and will relate to, Levine begins her guessing game that leads to even more discovery. We’ve all seen elephants and walruses with their mighty tusks, but how many know what they are really used for? And what about warthogs and narwhals? It’s all here in this creative nonfiction title.

T. S. Spookytooth took a big bite out of the “how to make kids laugh” manual in illustrating each question and type of tooth. Pictures of girls and boys with enormous teeth jutting this way and that will make readers glad to be human. And while the animals that belong to each molar, incisor, or canine sport the scarf, bow, or head band of its human counterpart, they are clearly and scientifically drawn to provide full understanding. Animal skulls also demonstrate the placement of teeth. The cover, with its close-enough-to-eat-you view of a very scary mouth is a show stopper and will attract kids as soon as they see it.

Ages 5 – 9

Millbrook Press, Lerner Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1467752152

Check out Sara Levine’s website for more books, stuff for kids, teachers’ resources, and more!

View a gallery of T. S. Spookytooth’s art and read his biography (?!) on his website!

National Smile Month Activity

 

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Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze

 

These kids are practicing good dental heath! Can you bring them the toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss they need in this printable Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 18 – International Museum Day

CPB - How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum II

About the Holiday

Created in 1946, the International Council of Museums established International Museum Day in 1977 to institute an annual event highlighting museums as “important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation, and peace among peoples.” The day also aims to unify “the creative aspirations and efforts of museums and draw the attention of the world public to their activity.” Each year a theme is chosen to spotlight a relevant issue. This year’s theme is “Museums and contested histories: saying the unspeakable in museums.” Museums around the world will take the opportunity to show how they “display and depict traumatic memories to encourage visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences” and promote peace and reconciliation for the future. To learn more visit the International Council of Museums website!

To celebrate today’s holiday show your support for museums by visiting and/or donating to your favorite museum!

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum

By Jessie Hartland

 

“So…” asks a little boy visiting the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, “how did the dinosaur get to the museum?” Thus begins the tale—not of the dinosaur’s life, but of its journey from life to the museum exhibit hall.

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Image and text copyright Jesse Harland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

One hundred and forty-five million years ago, the dinosaur roamed the plains of what is now Utah. Overcome by weather and evolutionary events, the dino is buried. It is only much, much later that this prehistoric creature is once again exposed. A Dinosaur Hunter finds one large bone and believes it to be from a Diplodocus Longus. He calls in the Paleontologist who confirms it. A team of Excavators arrives and unearths the rest of the skeleton.

The Movers pack the skeleton that was found by the Dinosaur Hunter, confirmed by the Paleontologist, and dug up by the Excavators. They load it onto a train that transports it to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Here, the bones are cleaned and preserved by the Preparators, who discover that the head and neck are missing!

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Image copyright Jesse Harland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

The Curator locates a plaster cast of a Diplodocus head at another museum, and work continues until the whole Diplodocus is assembled. That night while making his rounds in the dark, the Night Watchman trips over the skeleton’s tail and breaks it! In come the Welders to fix it. Finally, the Riggers can lift the dinosaur into the display.

The Exhibits Team creates an educational background for Diplodocus. Then with a final dusting, the Cleaners make the Diplodocus presentable. At long last, the Director invites the public into the museum. He gives a speech and makes a toast then opens the doors to the magnificent exhibit.

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Image copyright Jesse Harland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

Jessie Hartland’s highly entertaining and educational text will keep kids riveted to the process of creating a museum exhibit even as they giggle at the mishaps. As each page and step in the process build on each other, readers will enjoy reciting along. Hartland’s bold, colorful, folk-style illustrations allow kids to see the lengthy and meticulous journey the dinosaur skeleton makes from burial spot to museum exhibit. Along the way, they view the desert landscape where the skeleton was found, view the tools used to excavate and preserve it, get a tour of the back rooms where the dinosaur bones are reassembled, and are given a front-row look at the finished display. 

For children interested in dinosaurs, museums, history, and a fun story, How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum is a great take-along book for museum trips and a wonderful addition to a young armchair traveler’s library

Ages 5 – 9

Blue Apple Books, New Jersey, 2011 | ISBN 978-1609050900

Learn more about Jesse Hartland, her books, and her artwork on her website!

International Museum Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Museum Exhibit

 

Every item has a story. Maybe there’s a funny anecdote behind that knick-knack on your shelf. Perhaps your favorite serving dish holds sentimental value. How about your child’s best-loved toy or a drawing or craft they’ve made? A fun and educational way for kids to learn family stories and interact with their own history is to create a museum exhibit of objects in your home.

For teachers this can be a fun classroom activity that incorporates writing, art, and speaking as well as categorizing skills. Students can use objects in the classroom or bring items from home to set up museum exhibits. This activity can be done as a whole-class project or by smaller groups, who then present their exhibit to the rest of the class.

Supplies

  • A number of household or classroom items
  • Paper or index cards
  • Markers
  • A table, shelf, or other area for display

Directions

  1. To get started help children gather a number of items from around the house to be the subjects of their exhibit. An exhibit can have a theme, such as Grandma’s China or Travel Souvenirs, or it can contain random items of your child’s choice, such as toys, plants, tools, even the furniture they see and use every day.
  2. Using the paper or cards and markers, children can create labels for their exhibit items. Older children will be able to write the labels themselves; younger children may need adult help.
  3. Spend a little time relating the story behind each object: where it came from, how long you’ve had it, when and how it was used in the past, and include any funny or touching memories attached to the item. Or let your child’s imagination run free, and let them create histories for the objects.
  4. When the labels are finished, arrange the items on a table, shelf, or in a room, and let your child lead family members or classmates on a tour. You can even share the exhibit with family and friends on social media.
  5. If extended family members live in your area, this is a wonderful way for your child to interact with them and learn about their heritage.

May 10 – Mother Ocean Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2013 by the South Florida Kayak Fishing Club, Mother Ocean Day honors the beauty and wonder of the oceans and the fascinating creatures that live in them. It’s estimated that nearly one quarter of the earth’s species live in the world’s five oceans. To join in the celebration take a break and visit a beach near you to swim, snorkel, surf, or go boating.

Giant Squid

Written by Candace Fleming | Illustrated by Eric Rohmann

 

“Down, down in the depths of the sunless sea, deep, deep in the cold, cold dark, creatures, strange and fearsome, lurk.” These mysteries of the ocean silently glide undetected, even though some are as “large as buses” and weigh a ton. They are known only from the quickest of glances or by parts washed up on shore. Many questions remain unanswered, but little by little scientists are learning more about the Giant Squid.

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Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

When a Giant Squid is hungry it reaches its two tentacles into the ocean waters “curling and twisting and thirty feet long, waiting for—a passing fish…another squid…anything swimming by.” When the Giant Squid grabs its prey, the tentacle’s “suckers ringed with saw-like teeth” immobilize it, and with the help of eight arms the meal is fed into the squid’s sharp beak.

The parrot-like beak is just the beginning, for within the giant squid’s mouth lies a muscle “covered with sharp, tiny blades that slice…grind…file the food into a pasty sludge easy for giant squid to digest.” How does the giant squid see prey swimming by? It has the largest eyes on the planet—“some as big as soccer balls.” With these eyes the squid can see the tiniest flashes of light as sea creatures navigate the black depths. The squid’s gigantic eyes protect it, too, from whales or other predators on the hunt.

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Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

The giant squid is capable of changing colors, even patterns. Why? No one knows. Perhaps it enjoys changing its appearance “to impress a mate.” The birth cycle is also a mystery. Scientists have yet to discover where females lay their eggs or how long they take to hatch. But once they do, the baby squid are little—“just two inches long.” They have to scurry away from the barracuda wanting a snack, but in a flume of ink they vanish!

Before readers even turn to the first page, Candace Fleming sets a chilling, atmospheric tone that sinks them into the depths of the ocean on flat, black pages, where writhing arms and tentacles creep into view threatening the white, lyrical text. As the story opens and begins to describe the tentacles, beak, and other physical attributes of the giant squid, Eric Rohmann’s brilliant illustrations grow in size, giving readers close-up views of the brutal beauty of this eerie sea creature.

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Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Working in perfect concert, Fleming and Rohmann take kids on a deep, deep ocean dive to witness firsthand what very few humans have ever seen. Fleming’s gripping rhythm will have children riveted to her thrilling vocabulary that describes the drama of the giant squid’s existence in unforgettable terms. Rohmann’s color palette consists of murky blues and blacks and raw pinks and reds. The squid’s tentacles loop and slither across the page divulging their serrated suckers; the enormous eye stares out questioningly at the reader; and the fearsome beak will make more than a few readers shrink back in awe. A double foldout spread reveals the immensity of the giant squid for a brief glimpse before it disappears back into its mysterious realm.

Following the text, readers can study an illustration of a giant squid that is clearly labeled with detailed descriptions of the various parts of its body, read more about the sea creature, and find resources for further investigations.

For kids fascinated by the ocean and its denizens, budding marine or environmental scientists, or those who love an exhilarating story, Giant Squid is nonfiction at its best. The book deserves prominent placement in public and school libraries and would be a terrific gift or addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1596435995

Discover more about Candace Fleming and her books on her website!

Learn more about Eric Rohmann, his books, and his art on his website!

Mother Ocean Day Activity

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Beautiful Ocean Coloring Page

 

There are so many varied creatures in the earth’s oceans! Grab your pencils or crayons and make this printable Beautiful Ocean Coloring Page as vibrant as the sea!

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