April 18 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today, enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Growing Season

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

 

El and Jo weren’t only best friends, they were the smallest kids in their class. They did everything together, even helping “each other reach the unreachable.” On picture day, Jo and El always got to be in front, and during reading time they could both fit into the comfy reading chair. “But in springtime, something BIG happened.” Jo began to grow. Their teacher, Mr. Diaz, said she was “growing like a weed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-growing-season-best-friends

Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She no longer needed El’s help to water the plants on the windowsill, and she had graduated to needing a bigger desk. On the last day of school, when Mr. Diaz told everyone they could take a plant home for the summer, El was overlooked and reached over as the other kids took all the colorful flowers. By the time El got to the windowsill, the only plant left was an aster, with no blooms at all.

Mr. Diaz told her that “aster means ‘star.’” El didn’t think her plant was a star, but Mr. Diaz encouraged her to wait and see. “Jo looked over at El’s sad plant, and then at her own” and offered to let El have her zinnia since she was going to be away all summer anyway. El said she’d plant them side by side, and Jo said they could be best friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-growing-season-desks

Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

At home, El planted her aster and Jo’s zinnia. She cared for them and waited. They grew bigger, but while the zinnia had many colorful flowers, El’s aster still had none. All summer long, El and Jo wrote letters to each other. El sent a photograph of her zinnia to Jo and told her that waiting for aster was hard. Finally, Jo came home. It was the last day of summer, and the two girls ran to the garden. There, they saw that “something BIG had happened. Aster had finally bloomed…and so had El!”

An Author’s Note on plant life cycles describes the differences between annual, perennial, biennial, and tender perennial flowers and includes fun facts about peonies, dahlias, marigolds, and foxgloves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-growing-season-picture-day

Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her signature warmth and attention to children’s feelings, Maryann Cocca-Leffler offers a sweet story about growth and how each child’s experience is as varied as garden flowers. El and Jo, as the smallest kids in the class, are natural best friends—a relationship which, in a welcome demonstration of steadfastness, remains strong even when Jo begins to grow. As summer comes, El’s focus is not on herself but on caring for the aster and zinnia and staying in touch with Jo.

When Jo returns, readers will see that something more has happened over the summer too. As the two girls hug, excited to see each other again, children will notice that they are now the same height—a surprise that El and Jo also seem to share with smiles and sidelong glances at each other. The purple asters that greet the reunited pair, remind kids that growth in many forms follows the natural path for each individual.

Cocca-Leffler’s fresh and cheerful gouache, colored pencil, and collage illustrations present a diverse classroom and school details that will be familiar to readers, making this a highly relatable story. Mr. Diaz shows kindness and understanding as he crouches down to talk with El about the aster and offer encouragement.

A gentle, reassuring story, Growing Season would make an excellent story to pair with plant or garden lessons as well as to remind children that everyone grows and develops at their own pace for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927044

Discover more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Garden Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flip-flop-craft

Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Starting to dig out the flip-flops for warmer weather and finding they’re a little too small? Don’t get rid of them! Make them into this sandal-ightful way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-growing-season-cover

You can find Growing Season at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 5 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates reading, its joys, and benefits. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. 

I received a copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! from Abrams Appleseed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Abrams in an Instagram giveaway of the book. See details below.

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day!

Written by Anne Marie Pace | Illustrated by Christopher Lee

 

It’s nine o’clock in the morning and a family’s packed up a picnic lunch, clambered into their minivan, and headed out on the open road. “But halfway there…THUMP-BUMPTY…SPLAT! / What’s going on? Our tire’s flat!” No worries, they think—there’s always the spare. But when they look, they discover that tire’s flat too. They check a list of roadside helpers and pick Sunny’s Towing. They make the call and begin to wait.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-tow-truck-operators

Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At nine thirty the little boy hears a truck approaching. Is it Sunny? No—it’s a hauler carrying lumber. At ten o’clock the little girl spots another vehicle while her brother munches his sandwich. “Is that her truck? / Just a pickup. Out of luck.” By ten thirty the road is getting busy with construction workers making repairs and other cars traveling here and there. Over the hills black smoke from a fire billows into the sky while Dad enjoys a bite of his lunch.

Mom calls Sunny, who says that she’s so busy it might be noon before she gets to them. In a moment firetrucks and police cars with their sirens blaring speed by. As time passes, they see more trucks—“Tractor trailers, rough and rumbly. / Concrete mixers, tough and tumbly. / Dump trucks filled with piles of muck. But no tow truck. We are stuck.” It’s a good time to have a snack the girl thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-construction-vehicles

Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

It’s getting close to noon and the family counts down the minutes. Suddenly, they see Sunny approaching. She tows them to her garage, where the tire is changed lickity-split. Finally, the family is ready to enjoy their picnic, but when they look in the cooler all the food has disappeared! Sunny has an idea. She shows the family where the best ice cream is sold, and, with cones in hand, they enjoy a perfect picnic in the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-trucks

Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With perky rhymes, Anne Marie Pace takes readers on a picnic that doesn’t quite come off as planned. As the family waits by the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive, the little girl and boy enthusiastically point out other vehicles passing by and take in the excitement of the construction work going on beside them. Pace’s verses shine with cleverly paired words, realistic dialog, names of various kinds of cars and trucks, and dynamic verbs that will captivate kids. Readers will love the humor sprinkled throughout that leads to the “Oh, no!” moment when the family discovers they’ve already eaten their picnic. Sunny—with an appropriately sunny personality—saves the day with her delightful desert idea.

Christopher Lee lends a charming retro feel to his vivid illustrations with funky home decor, old-fashioned ads, and stylized cars and trucks. The family’s emotions are clearly evident—from their smiles as they pack their picnic to the shock of having a flat tire and finding the spare flat as well to their cheerful patience. Images of the various trucks, emergency vehicles, and other cars will thrill vehicle enthusiasts, and the two-page spread of Sunny’s garage, loaded with action and tools, will spark discussion. Humor and details abound on each page, prompting kids to linger, laugh, and learn.

A sweet story that incorporates a love for vehicles, a family outing, and a fresh lesson on patience, Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! will be a favorite story time read and a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731914

Discover more about Anne Marie Pace and her books on her website.

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

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Appleseed in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! written by Anne Marie Pace | illustrated by Christoper Lee

This giveaway is open from March 5 through March 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 12.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Abrams

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

National Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tow-truck-puzzle-2

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

Four cars need help! Can you show the tow truck drivers the way to the right cars in this printable puzzle?

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-cover

You can find Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 3 – Festival of Sleep Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-cover

About the Holiday

Are you still revved up from the holidays? Having trouble getting back into your usual sleep routine? Feeling a bit discombobulated, grumpy, or just plain tired? Without enough sleep our wellbeing suffers. We’re more susceptible to illness, our work drags, we’re not as alert when driving, and our mood can be a little…well…see above. If you’re not getting enough sleep, today’s holiday encourages you to rethink your routines or get back to them. Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and that your bedroom is not too hot or too cold. Putting a priority on sleep will make you feel better all day!

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

Written by Eugenie Doyle | Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

 

As the winter days become shorter, a family readies their farm for bed. With most of the crops harvested—“strawberries, raspberries, vegetables, honey, and hay—now is the time to prepare for deep front, the coming wind and snow.” The berry plants are blanketed with straw that will keep them warm until June when “they’ll give fruit so red and juicy we’ll make jam and freeze berries to eat till summer comes again.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-kitchen

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, beets, and potatoes are cut and dug and placed in storage in the barn to “await winter markets and our own winter meals!” With everything put away, the family calls, “Good night, fields, peaceful and still.” Then it’s time to cut and stack wood that will heat the farmhouse during the cold months and fire up the sugarhouse for making maple syrup in early spring.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-hoop-house

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The hoophouse, home to the “baby greens…with mouth-filling names—spinach, mizuna, tatsoi, arugula—” that “will nap till stronger sun can wake them” is secured to the ground to keep it in place through winter’s howling winds. Out in the chicken coop, a timer is set to “give the hens the light they need to lay eggs all winter.” Fresh grain and hay and a water heater keeps the chickens well fed and comfortable. “Good night, chickens, snug in your coop.” A wall of hay bales creates a wind break for the bee hives and the entrances are narrowed to keep field mice out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-coop

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the harvest stocks the farm stand with “fresh eggs, greens and roots, onions and garlic braids, decorative corn, honey and maple syrup.” Finally, the farm vehicles are driven into the equipment shed. Back in the farmhouse, the wood stove glows, and colored lights rim the roof and windows. Beeswax candles on the sills “soften the longest night.” As white flakes softly fall, “the farm is ready for down quilts of snow, the shh-shh of the wind…. Good night, farmers, sleep tight. Sleep tight, farm.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-fields

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Eugenie Doyle’s quiet memories of a busy year as a family buttons up their farm, remembering the crops of luscious fruit and hardy vegetables, hot days of summer, and fall’s sweet honey offer a dreamy beginning to winter. With lyrical phrasing, she shows young readers the work that goes into preparing a farm for winter so that the plants and animals are well taken care of as they wait for warmer weather. Doyle’s straightforward storytelling, sprinkled with evocative verbs and adjectives, will enchant children, who may see similarities between the snug farm and the changes in their own routines during a cold, but cozy winter.

Becca Stadtlander’s folk-art inspired paintings are rich in color as they take readers from the warm farmhouse kitchen out to the fields, where green rows of berry plants, still dotted with red fruit become golden as hay is strewn over them, the wood pile behind the house grows, a sheath of white cloth is gently unfurled, and the beehives are secured from weather and interlopers. Children accustomed to visiting farmers markets will recognize many of the fruits and vegetables depicted and will long for the reopening of their local store when spring arrives again.

A beautiful book to share during cold-weather story times, Sleep Tight Farm will be a favorite of young gardeners and foodies and of any child who loves farms, nature, and family togetherness.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452129013

To learn more about Becca Stadtlander, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Festival of Sleep Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-fun-maze

Flashlight Fun Maze

 

It may be time for bed, but there’s always time for a little flashlight fun! Can you follow the beam of the flashlight to find the kids sneaking one last story in this printable maze?

Flashlight Fun Maze | Flashlight Fun Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-cover

You can find Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Hot Cocoa Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-cover

About the Holiday

There may be no hot drink that dispels the frostiness of winter like hot cocoa. Whether you make it from cocoa powder or from a pack, add extra flavors like peppermint or cinnamon or enjoy it straight, top it with whipped cream or marshmallows, hot chocolate is a favorite for cozy snuggling. And if you think that hot cocoa is too indulgent, you’ll be happy to know that it actually has health benefits. Used medicinally up until the 19th century, this warm drink contains antioxidants that protect against cancer, flavonoids that help with arterial health, and elements that aid in digestion. So sit down with a good book and enjoy a cup – or two!

When the Snow Falls

Written by Linda Booth Sweeney | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

A little curly-haired girl and her younger brother wake up from a sleepover with Grandma to a magical sight. As they gaze out the big picture window in the little girl’s room, they’re dazzled to see “When the snow falls…Frost paints. / Skies gray. / Windows sparkle/ Snow? Yay!” There’s no school today, so Mommy and Daddy and Grandma bundle up and get the kids ready to head outdoors to take care of the farm animals.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-kitchen

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

Soft flakes flutter down, piling into deep drifts and providing a little extra after-breakfast treat as “Boot sink. / Lashes flick. / Tongues tickle. / We lick.” In the barn the horses, puppies, and chickens are just as excited about the snowy day. Riding an old chair sled, Grandma and her grandchildren glide down the hill, following tracks left by lively rabbits and now-dozing foxes.

Deep in the forest the three take in the beauty: “Woods hush. / Fields glisten. / Wren sings. / We listen.” On the other side of the woods, people continue their daily routine but at a slower pace as “plows push” and “mountains grow.” Grandma and the kids slide into town, where people are hard at work keeping up with the storm: “Wheels crunch. / Shovels scoop. / Ice cracks! / Awnings droop.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-barn

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The trio has reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They all grab shovels and help clear the walk. Now it’s Grandpa’s turn to have some fun. He takes his granddaughter by the hand, seats her little brother on a sled, and walk to the park. There, kids are making snowmen, building snow forts, and zipping down hills on their snow saucers. At the bottom of the hill everyone plops into the fluff and make snow angels.

It’s been an exhilarating, adventurous day, but twilight is on the horizon and now “toes tingle. / Lips quiver. / Cheeks glow. / We shiver.” As grandma calls from her front porch, the little girl and Grandpa, carrying his grandson, race toward home amid the swirling snowflakes. Inside, the light, warmth, and cozy comforts of warm soup, popcorn, and a crackling fire await. Later, the two kids enjoy quiet time with Grandma and Grandpa when “Cocoa warms. / Mittens puddle. / Day dawdles. / We cuddle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-fox

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

With her brilliantly expressive staccato sentences—each only two words long—Linda Booth Sweeney evokes the sights, sounds, and joy of a care-free, snowy day. Each four-line, rhyming verse abounds with melodic verbs that spark readers’ imaginations and concrete nouns that in many places form delightful alliterative pairs that softly trip off the tongue. Readers will love the story line that takes them from a rustic farmhouse to Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy home through woods, over hills, past the highway, and into downtown all with the help of an old-style sled. Several verses full of snow day fun play out like a long afternoon spent with friends, leading naturally into the slower pace and loving comfort of the night spent with Grandma and Grandpa.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding-with-grandma

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

In glorious two-page spreads, the wind-swept snow swirls, spatters, and blankets the world in downy white fluff. Jana Christy takes children into the family’s large farmhouse kitchen where a blackboard announces Grandma’s Sunday sleepover as well as Monday’s snow day in place of the crossed-out piano lesson. The family steps out into the sparkling countryside where purple mountains form a backdrop for the barn and sheep pen. As Grandma and the kids start their journey, the forest, a quiet enclave of teal and greens, welcomes them. By the time they reach town, cars are stuck in snowdrifts, snow shovels scrape against the sidewalk, and kids are heading to the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The thrill of playing in the snow is palpable as saucers zoom down hills, hats fly off, and hair blows in the wind. The final spreads of Grandma and Grandpa’s tidy home glow with love and laughter as the kids pull off their snow gear, their dog shakes off the snow, and they settle on the couch for cocoa and cuddles. The busy townspeople, happy playmates, and close-knit mixed-race family make When the Snow Falls a cheerful celebration of diversity.

When the Snow Falls is a joyous book to add to winter collections and would be often asked for during home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399547201

Discover more about Linda Booth Sweeney, her books and her systems work, visit her website.

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

Hot Cocoa Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-cover

You can find When the Snow Falls with these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

October 3 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-poetree-cover

About the Holiday

Are you a poet? Most likely! Inside all of us are poignant moments that tug at our hearts, funny memories that make us laugh, and questions that beg for answers. All of these things are the seeds of poetry! Let these seeds grow by writing down your thoughts. Your ideas don’t have to rhyme or be made up of fancy words to be a poem. Today’s holiday encourages people to publicly share their poetry by grabbing a piece of chalk and writing poems on sidewalks or walls, picking up a pen and composing on paper, or sharing on social media. Rather read poetry than write? Go for it! Find a new or favorite collection of poetry and enjoy! For more ideas on how to celebrate Random Acts of Poetry Day visit Writer’s Digest.

I received a copy of Poetree from Red Deer Press to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Red Deer Press in a giveaway of Poetree. See details below.

Poetree

Written by Caroline Pignat | Illustrated by François Thisdale

 

In Caroline Pignat’s remarkable acrostic poems, readers glean fresh insight into the wonderous life of trees as they germinate, thrive, prosper, and even propagate their own legacy. Divided by season, the poems also metaphorically follow the stages of human life from Spring’s youth to Winter’s old age. Pignat offers six poems for each season, which is introduced by a rhyming couplet.

Exquisite, evocative images – leaves described as “Emerald flags” and “Vibrant bunting” and apples as “plump parcels,” – entice readers to look anew at trees, with their singular seeds, intricate foliage, and long-held histories.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-poetree-spring-seed

Image copyright François Thisdale, 2018, text copyright Caroline Pignat, 2018. Courtesy of Red Deer Press.

As a buried seed nudges its way upward in springtime, it is simultaneously:

Stretching up

  Higher

  Out

  Of darkness, yearning for

  The sky.”

And

Reaching down deep

  Out

  Of sight, anchoring in

  The

  Soil.”

During summer, the sapling grows stronger and mature trees “beckon buzzing bees” and offer strong support where:

Nature’s nursery keeps

  Each egg

  Safely

  Tucked ‘til mother’s return.”

In Fall it’s reaping time for farmers and for small, diligent creatures:

Nestled

  Underground, another harvest hides,

  Thanks to a busy

  Squirrel.”

As the weather turns cold and leaves fly away,

Brittle bark hugs the

 Aging tree at

 Rest as its sap

 Ebbs.”

But with the coming of spring, the cycle begins anew as once again there is “Amazing growth and wondrous deeds / now promised in these tiny seeds.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-poetree-summer-leaves

Image copyright François Thisdale, 2018, text copyright Caroline Pignat, 2018. Courtesy of Red Deer Press.

From the sepia-toned endpaper at the book’s opening—in which a boy carrying a hoe walks past a fog-enshrouded barn—through to the endpaper that closes the book and presents the boy’s home standing silent amid a wintry mix of snow and sleet, François Thisdale recreates the richly textured world of a farm in his double-spread, mixed-media masterpieces. In addition to interpreting the poems, each page gives readers much to see and talk about as life goes on above and underground. Birds, animals, and insects stop by to pluck a worm from the ground, sniff a tender seedling, gather powdery pollen, and prepare for, enjoy, or sleep through winter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-poetree-mouse

Image copyright François Thisdale, 2018, text copyright Caroline Pignat, 2018. Courtesy of Red Deer Press.

As the seasons change, the boy—always shown in silhouette—matures, becoming an adult in summer, passing through middle age in fall, and growing older in winter. While most of the illustrations depict the natural world, two take children inside the farmhouse where an apple-raspberry pie waits in the cozy fall kitchen, and a nearly-finished puzzle is set up next to a warm radiator while a windy and moonlit night makes a “leafy canvas” of the curtain-less window. The final view of the now-old man walking away near the edge of the page and the last image of a straw hat nestled next to a hewn tree present poignant moments for discussion.

Ages 7 and up

Red Deer Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0889954922

Discover more about Caroline Pignat and her books on her website.

To learn more about François Thisdale, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Poetree Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Red Deer Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Poetree, written by Caroline Pignat  | illustrated by François Thisdale
  • To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 3 – 9. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 10.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Red Deer Press.

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

CPB - Plant Poem

Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Printable Flower Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Wooden dowel, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper if leaves will be preprinted
  • Colored paper if flowers will be preprinted
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaves and flowers (you can also write the poem after you have strung the leaves and flowers)
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Gently arrange the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find Poetree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 30 – National Hot Mulled Cider Day

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About the Holiday

As the weather turns cooler and eventually cold, hot drinks become a favorite for their warming properties and the cozy feeling they give inside. Hot Mulled Cider adds a festive touch to parties, dinners, or just sitting by the fire. The drink is made by heating apple cider until it’s nearly boiling and then simmering with adding spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, as well as orange peel or other fruits. One sip will tell you that the apple-picking season of autumn has come and remind you that winter is on its way.

A Pile of Leaves

By Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin

 

As you rake up fallen leaves when autumn turns them from green to vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges and the wind plucks them from the trees, you know that with each swipe nature may present a little treasure. A Pile of Leaves is just as surprising, as page after page reveals deeper and deeper layers that hide colors, life, and even forgotten or lost items.

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Copyright Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Clever transparent pages are rimmed in bold fall colors and painted with cottonwood, oak, maple, birch, ash, and other types of leaves. In their placement they hide something that becomes visible only with the turn of the page. The final little discovery will cause readers to smile in appreciation for the realism in this artistic look at a highlight of autumn.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-a-pile-of-leaves-birch

Copyright Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The fresh and creative design of this board book will keep young readers enthralled as they ask again and again to see what’s underneath each leaf. The book is a wonderful way to inspire nature walks with children and to excite them to explore leaf piles and other seasonal changes in their own backyard.

An illustrated key in the back of the book tells the names of the leaves, insects, and other objects found on the pages.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, Published in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877204

To learn more about Jason Fulford and his books, visit his website.

Discover more about Tamara Shopsin, her books, and her art on her website.

National Hot Mulled Cider Day Activity

celebrated-picture-books-picture-book-review-painted-paper-plate-flowers

Painted Flowers and Trees

 

Little ones are naturally creative, and with a variety of paints, your child will have fun mixing colors and making their own fall flowers and trees.

Supplies

  • Craft paints in different colors
  • Small paper plates
  • Straws (optional)

Or

  • Construction paper (optional)
  • Poster board or large piece of heavy paper
  • Paper grass
  • Paint brush
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Put out a variety of paints and some small paper plates
  2. Let your child paint the paper plates, with single paints or mixing colors as they want
  3. Let the plates dry
  4. Glue the plate or plates to a large piece of poster board or heavy paper
  5. Add a straw as a stem or cut a trunk from construction paper
  6. Add shredded paper grass or a strip of construction paper for the ground
  7. Add leaves if making fall flowers

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-pile-of-leaves-cover

You can find A Pile of Leaves at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 25 – It’s National Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, and the years from 2005 to 2015 were declared an International Decade for Action: Water is Life by the United Nations to focus on the necessity of clean water around the world. Today, the work continues. The importance of clean water cannot be understated. The quality of life and the survival of all ecosystems depends on the availability of good quality water. The fact that the water systems and the water cycle are intrinsically linked not only to bodies of water but to what occurs on land, makes it critical that we treat all parts of the environment with care. Runoff from businesses, industries, and homes can quickly pollute local and remote water system. National Water Quality Month encourages people to be mindful of the amount of water and the household products they use, and it advocates for responsible and environmentally protective policies on the part of industry and governments. To honor this month’s holiday, learn more about what you can do to protect the world’s water supply.

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Jason Chin

 

On a soaking rainy day a sister and brother run up to the house with a turtle they’ve caught in the pond out back. They drink glasses of water and offer a bowlful for the turtle too. “Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup.” Out on the porch Dad is ready with warm mugs of hot chocolate. The ghostly steam tickles their noses. “Whirl. Swirl. Watch it curl by. Steam is steam unless…it cools high.” As the kids return the turtle to the pond they watch a dragon and an eagle play across the sky. “Clouds are clouds unless…they form low.”

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Image copyright Jason Chin, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Through the misty fog the school bus rumbles up the hill as a little garter snake wriggles in the fallen leaves at the end of the children’s driveway. By the time the bus drops the kids off at school the fog has turned to rain. It plinks on the sidewalks and pounds the earth, creating puddles just in time for recess. “Slosh in galoshes. Splash to your knees! Puddles are puddles unless…puddles freeze.”

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Image copyright Jason Chin, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

The turtle is hiding now that winter’s come, and a group of friends slip and speed across the pond, some playing hockey, some figure skating, and a couple just learning the ropes. Then suddenly it’s snowing! A brilliant red cardinal watches from the birdfeeder as three sneaky kids with snowballs spy on their friends who are building a snowman. With a “smack!” the snowball fight begins. Soon, however, spring is back with rushing streams and “Creep. Seep. Squish in your boots” mud. And that “mud is mud unless…there are roots.”

The apple trees in the backyard soak up the spring rains that feed the red, plump apples that are apples “unless…they get pressed. Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup. Cider is cider…until we drink it up!”

More information about water, including illustrated definitions of water-related terms, percentages of water in a variety of plants and creatures, and its importance to the world as well as suggestions for further reading, follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-water-is-water-making cider

Image copyright Jason Chin, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Miranda Paul’s lyrical journey through a year of our interactions with water is a beautiful reminder of all the forms water takes. From life-filled ponds to pouring rains to glasses of refreshment, water sustains every creature and plant on earth. Paul’s transitional “unless…” elegantly introduces each transformation in the natural water cycle in a way that children recognize and appreciate. Her rich rhyming and rhythmical language is a joy to read and makes Water an active character in the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-water-is-water-drinking-cider

Image copyright Jason Chin, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Jason Chin’s superb artwork is as lush and dynamic as the world around us. Each two-page spread is a masterpiece of atmosphere and details that bring not only water’s cycle to life but also that of the children, growing and playing in and around water throughout the year. As the children shelter from the rain at the beginning of the book, a bushel of apples sits snug against the cider press in the corner of the porch foreshadowing the final pages where fresh cider fuels summer fun. Chin’s children are real kids—joyful and playful, enthusiastically and humorously interacting with nature and each other with the kind of abandon that makes hearts sing. Young readers and adults will love lingering over each page.

Water is Water: A Story of the Water Cycle is the kind of book that can get kids excited about one of the quieter aspects of science—but one that is so important to our daily lives. It would make a wonderful accompaniment to elementary school lesson plans and a gorgeous addition to library and home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1596439849

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books plus resources for teachers and writers on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Jason Chin and learn more about him and his books on his website!

National Water Quality Month Activity

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A Sprinkling of Water Words Word Search

 

This tree grew tall and strong by soaking up water through its roots. Can you find the 20 water-related words that are hidden inside this printable tree-shaped A Sprinkling of Water Word Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-water-is-water-cover

You can find Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review