August 12 – National Middle Child Day

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About the Holiday

Elizabeth Walker, feeling that middle children were often overlooked, established National Middle Children’s Day in the 1980s. The holiday was initially celebrated on the second Saturday in August, but became associated with the 12th and so it stuck. The name was later shortened to National Middle Child Day. To commemorate the day, let all the middle kids you know how terrific they are.

Bunny in the Middle

Written by Anika A. Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Being right between the oldest and the youngest means that “there’s someone bigger who helps you and someone smaller who needs you.” When you’re that middle child, you learn when to stand your ground, when to relent, and “how to solve sticky situations.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

There are times when you’re the leader and times when you’re the follower. But there are also those times when you can strike out on your own—even if you are wearing hand-me-downs and just left your siblings in a room you share. But being in the middle has its perks, too. You grow up just a little more quickly, making you “not too small for the big stuff,” while you’re still little enough to enjoy “the small stuff.” 

But what’s the very best thing about being in the middle? Always being surrounded by love!

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

Anika and Christopher Denise created Bunny in the Middle as a loving tribute to their middle child, and their love glows on each page with storytelling that embraces the reader like a snuggled heart-to-heart in a comfy chair and art that is beyond adorable. Anika’s sweet insights remind middle kids of the advantages of their position and the benefits they reap from their older and younger siblings.

Christopher’s three bunnies charmingly display recognizable personalities of their birth order as the oldest takes up more than her third of the reading chair, helps her sister with her math homework, and is the head cupcake baker to her sister’s recipe-reading assistant. The middle bunny helps her tiny brother onto the swing, relents with rolled eyes to his crying entreaty to wear her chef’s hat, and gazes skeptically into the mirror at her reflection in a too-big, hand-me-down dress. Meanwhile, their little brother meditates on his toes, plays with the flour sifter on the floor, and concentrates on running his train around the track (and his younger sister).

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

Interspersed with these experiences, are images of the middle bunny displaying her confident, sensitive nature as she connects directly with the reader (probably a middle child like herself), licks a spoonful of icing, is blissfully alone to spy a butterfly at the pond and play with her toys, and is bravely the first in line to enter school. The final two spreads are as cozy as it gets as the three siblings share a book in bed before drifting off to cuddled-up sleep.

An enchantment for quiet and heartening story times at home with a middle child alone or with the whole gang as well as uplifting reassurance for preschool and kindergarten classrooms, where at any given time a student might feel like a middle kid. Bunny in the Middle would be a touching addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1250120366

Discover more about Anika Denise and her books on her website.

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

National Middle Child Day Activity

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Triple the Fishy Fun!

 

These fishy siblings have three times the fun swimming together. Grab your crayons or pencils and give them and their world some color with this printable page.

Triple the Fishy Fun Coloring Page

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You can find Bunny in the Middle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

June 21 – World Giraffe Day & Interview with Author Monica Bond, Illustrator Kayla Harren, and Educator David Brown

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, celebrates the animal with the longest neck on the longest day or night of the year, depending on which hemisphere you live in. The purpose of World Giraffe Day is to honor these majestic animals while also promote awareness of the dangers and threats they face. Events supporting these gentle giants are held around the world at zoos and conservation organizations as well as by governments, institutions, and companies involved in education about and protection of the giraffe. To celebrate today, learn more about these animals, visit a zoo or wildlife refuge, or consider donating to the cause of giraffe conservation. To learn more visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation website.

Juma the Giraffe

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Juma, a baby giraffe, loved to play with his friends Upendo and Rafiki on the African safari while their mothers watched. “Upendo likes to explore new places” while “Rafiki jokes and makes everyone laugh with his silly faces. Juma is kind and generous.” With his long neck, he’s able to reach the sweet acacia leaves to share with the dik-diks. One day, though, while the giraffes were at the water hole, Juma caught a glimpse of his reflection.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Looking at himself alongside all the other giraffes, he realized that they all looked the same. “And because they all looked alike, he felt he wasn’t special.” His mama noticed Juma standing alone and sad and asked him what was wrong. He told her that he wished he “looked different from everyone else.”

Juma’s mama gazed at her child lovingly and told him how special giraffes are. “‘There is no other animal in the whole world like us,’” she said. Then she gently reminded him how his long legs and neck help him get food, how his thick tongue and lips protect him from the thorns of the acacia trees, and how his “‘swishy tail sweep away the pesky flies that like to bite us.’” Their brown spots camouflaged them from lions and hyenas.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Then Mama asked Juma to look closely at his spots and notice that “‘each spot is different from the others and every giraffe has a unique pattern of spots.’” Juma saw that Mama was right. He saw one spot “shaped like a star and another like a flower.” Mama’s spots were different too, and so were Upendo’s and Rafiki’s. Mama reassured Juma that each giraffe was unique outside and inside.

Juma was happy and continued to notice other ways that each giraffe was different, including their various personalities. Then Mama nuzzled her little one and told him that to her he was the “‘most special giraffe of all’” because he was her baby and she loved him.

Fascinating facts about the anatomy of giraffes, newborn giraffes, and where giraffes live follow the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Young readers who are at that stage where they wonder about how they are different from other kids and how they fit into their community will find loving reassurance in Monica Bond’s touching story even as they learn about a giraffe’s distinctive features. The sweet relationship between Juma and Mama, depicted through tender dialogue, will charm little ones. A welcome exchange comes when Mama points out Juma’s unique features and the little giraffe enthusiastically adds more observations of his own. Just as Juma does, young readers will see that they too are special in their own way.

As readers open the cover, Kayla Harren’s stunning panoramic view of the verdant African savanna places them close to zebras, an ostrich, a greater kudu, a grey crowned crane, a stalwart warthog, a family of mongoose, and a herd of elephants. Smiling out from the page is little Juma. As the story progresses, Mama spotlights each of Juma’s attributes, and readers see how he uses them. A shimmering two-page spread of the giraffes lined up at the watering hole and the close-up on the next page will awe kids and adults. Images of smaller animals hiding in rock crevices and big cats and monkeys resting on tree limbs will entice readers to learn more about these creatures. As Mama nuzzles Juma on the book’s final page, adults and little ones are sure to find time to cuddle too.

A sweet story that gives parents, teachers, and other caregivers a way to show the children in their life how special they are, Juma the Giraffe would be an often-asked for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2016 | ISBN 978-0989818292

Learn more about Juma the Giraffe and find videos and teachers resources here.

You can connect with Kayla Harren on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram

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Helping Brother Rhinoceros

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Brother Rhinoceros and his friend Father Oxpecker went to the waterhole to cool off on a blazing hot day. When they got there, they saw “that most of the water had dried up, leaving a big patch of gooey, sticky mud.” But Brother Rhinoceros lied down in the cool mud anyway and pronounced it “‘Perfect!’” Then Father Oxpecker nestled in behind Brother Rhinoceros’s ear, folded his wings, and the two drifted off to sleep.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros woke up hungry, but when he tried to leave the waterhole, he discovered that he was stuck in the mud. Father Oxpecker flew off to find help. First he brought back Sister Vervet Monkey, who was good at tying. “She ran around the mud patch looking for something to tie together that might help Brother Rhinoceros. But there was nothing.”

Next, Father Oxpecker brought Grandfather Giraffe, who thought his height could help, but he didn’t know exactly how. So, the bird flew off again in search of someone else. This time he came back with Grandmother Spider, who “produced a delicate thread of beautiful silk from her abdomen. It fluttered in the breeze, of no help whatsoever to Brother Rhinoceros.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Father Oxpecker left once again and returned with Mother Elephant. Although she was big and strong, she could only watch from the sidelines. Last, Father Oxpecker found Brother Weaverbird, who declared that he could “weave anything” if only there was something to weave. All of the animals sat nearby wondering what they could do. “They were all so proud of the things they could do, but none of them could help Brother Rhinoceros out of the mud.”

It was Grandmother Spider who suggested that they combine their talents and work as a team. She began by “spinning long streams of silk.” Brother Weaverbird braided “the silk into a long, strong rope.” Sister Vervet Monkey tied the rope around Brother Rhinoceros, using Grandfather Giraffe’s long neck as a bridge to reach him. Then it was Mother Elephant’s turn. She grabbed the rope, “took a deep breath and began to pull.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros helped push. “Finally, with a big squishy sound, Brother Rhinoceros lifted his body up out of the mud.” He was free! His friends cheered. Brother Rhinoceros thanked each one individually for their special skills that helped to save him. “They certainly made a great team and the best friends a muddy rhinoceros could ever have.”

Back matter reveals facts about Africa’s black and white rhinoceros. A map of Africa shows the historical range and the much smaller current range for each type of rhino.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

With the lyricism of a fable, Monica Bond weaves a story about individuality and teamwork and how every person has the ability to help others. As Father Oxpecker flies off again and again searching for just the right animal to help, readers will enjoy the suspense and learning each animal’s special ability. When Grandmother Spider suggests they all work together, kids will see that by combining their talents with friends and classmates, they can move mountains. The format of the story makes it a multi-layered choice for teaching the elements of a story, prediction, and comprehension.

Kayla Harren’s sun-drenched pages are bathed not only in the heat of a hot African day but in the warmth of friendship these animals share. Harren’s beautifully textured and realistic depictions of the animals and the surrounding savanna will inspire awe and an enthusiastic desire in kids to learn more about the animals, insects, and birds in the story.

A perfect book for social studies, science, and reading classes and for kids who love nature and animals, Helping Brother Rhinoceros makes an excellent choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Wild Nature Institute, 2018 | ISBN 978-1732323414

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Our Elephant Neighbors

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Robert and his little sister Mary live on their family’s small farm in Tanzania. There are cattle and goats, which Robert helps watch while Mary helps her mother wash clothes and cook. Sometimes they went to the waterhole to get water. “They splash each other with cool water on hot days.” One day, when it was very hot, they saw something amazing at the waterhole. A family of elephants was enjoying the cool water too. “Robert and Mary climbed up a nearby tree to watch and wait for the elephants to leave.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Soon, two elephants came to stand in the shade of the tree, right under the branch where the two children sat. “The elephants looked up and saw Robert and Mary.” They had been taught to fear people. Nervous, they backed up a few steps. Robert and Mary had been taught to fear elephants, and Mary hid behind her brother. The bigger elephant, Tomas, introduced himself and his little sister, Teresa. Robert introduced himself and Mary.

“Robert looked thoughtfully at the elephants below. ‘You are an elephant, and elephants can hurt people,’ Robert pointed out.” Tomas replied, “‘Well, you are a human, and humans can hurt elephants too.’” Even though Mary knew she should be afraid, she liked the elephants. She reached down and touched Teresa’s upturned trunk. Mary said that she could pick things up with her fingers, and Teresa showed her how she could pick things up with her trunk.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

The elephants and the children talked back and forth about all of their similarities. They were even the same ages. They talked about how all the aunties help out when a baby person and a baby elephant are born, how the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts in both human and elephant families teach the children important lessons and protect them, and how all the members of a both families feel sad when another member dies.

When they talked about the food they liked, Robert said that his “‘father gets angry when elephants eat” the vegetables in their garden.’ Then Tomas told Robert and Mary a secret.” He said that “all elephants hate chili pepper powder” and if they hung chili pepper powder on their fences, it would keep the elephants away. One reason elephants were eating from people’s gardens, Tomas said, was because their habitat was getting smaller as people planted more and more farms. Also “more and more of their family members are being hurt by people, because the elephants have fewer places to go.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Robert promised Tomas that when he grew up and had a farm of his own, he would build it where it would not disturb the elephants. He also promised to report anyone who tried to hurt the elephants. Soon it was time for Robert and Mary to get back home with the water, and Tomas and Teresa heard their mother calling for them. “They shook hands and trunks” and hoped they would see each other again. They knew “they would never forget their new friends from the waterhole.”

Interesting facts about African elephants follows the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Through Monica Bond’s charming story of a sister-brother pair and their elephant counterparts, young readers learn surprising ways in which they and elephants are alike. With similar abilities, family units, and even feelings, people and elephants should be friends, but too often they come into conflict, and the result has been a decrease in the elephant population and at times danger for humans as well. As the adorable Robert and Mary talk with Tomas and Teresa, Bond’s enchanting storytelling and realistic dialogue, draw in children, giving them even more reasons to love these popular animals. A major take-away is how people can protect and care for these gentle and intelligent animals and their habitats now and in the future.

Against gorgeous backdrops of Tanzania and its savanna, forests, and mountains, Kayla Harren depicts one family’s simple farm and a family of elephants enjoying a day at the nearby waterhole. At nine and five years old, Robert and Mary will steal readers’ hearts with their infectious smiles, sweet sibling relationship, and enthusiastic interactions with elephants Tomas and Teresa. Harren juxtaposes illustrations of the elephants’ family with those of Robert and Mary’s family in similar situations, showing readers how alike we really are. The pages are washed in soft-blue skies and glowing peach-hued sunsets, as realistic portrayals of the elephants, birds, and other animals create detailed and awe-inspiring panoramas.

Our Elephant Neighbors is an excellent addition to home, classroom, and public libraries to further understanding of elephants, conservation, and nature.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2017 | ISBN 978-1732323407

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Nature’s Giants Magazine

In this new magazine from the Wild Nature Institute, an enthusiastic dung beetle named Doug invites kids to learn about animal and plant giants of the African savanna through articles, games, crafts, and other activities that will keep them busy having fun and learning for a long time. Let’s get rolling and see what’s inside! Kids love finding stuff and right on the first pages they’re prompted to spot five differences on two identical (?) giraffes and search the pages for five beetles to see which one will would win a beetle race.

Along the way kids will enjoy:

Comics:

  • Doug engages kids in funny and interesting banter about the dung beetle’s ecological importance, including facts on their very, very long family history, three different dung beetle lifestyles, how dung beetles roll their dung balls in a straight line, and various job sites where dung beetles do their work.

Articles:

  • Ele-Fence!: About new ways farmers are protecting their crops from elephant raiders without engaging in Human-Elephant Conflict
  • Lions vs. Giraffes: About ways scientists use scars found on giraffes to study predation
  • Black Mambas: about the women rangers who patrol the Balule Nature Preserve to stop poaching of black and white rhinoceros and who teach environmental education programs in local schools. Since the group was formed “poaching of all species has decreased by 79%.”
  • Barking up the Right Tree: about the beautiful, sprawling baobab trees.
  • Infographic: on elephants, giraffes, termites and a surprising fact about biomass

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Activities:

  • Ideas for backyard or neighborhood science exploration
  • A savanna word search puzzle
  • An illustrated search-and-find animal puzzle
  • Craft instructions for making an Insect Hotel and an African Savana Scene
  • Jokes
  • A maze
  • How to draw an elephant, a giraffe, and a rhinoceros
  • A Giant Birds coloring page

Meet the Team Behind the Books and Magazine

I’m excited to have an opportunity to talk with Kayla Harren, Monica Bond, and David Brown about the work of the Wild Nature Institute, their lovely books that combine nature science with enchanting writing, and their new magazine for children.

Meet Monica Bond

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Hi, Monica! It’s nice to be chatting with you today! The love you have for Tanzania comes through in your stories so clearly and touchingly. Can you talk a little about your work and what brought you to this area?

My partner Dr. Derek Lee—quantitative ecologist and population biologist—and I chose to live and work in Tanzania because this country has some of the best wildlife experiences on Earth. As wildlife scientists, the lure of the African savanna is very strong; it is truly a wildlife paradise. In Tanzania there is incredible biological diversity combined with an extremely high density of mammals and birds, and we still have the full suite of predators and scavengers which means that the food web is intact. Tanzania also holds some of the best habitat for the last remnants of our planet’s pleistocene megafauna — elephant, rhino, and giraffe.

Derek and I are studying giraffes in Tanzania using a computer program that matches each individual’s unique spot patterns from photographs. We are monitoring thousands of giraffes in northern Tanzania, and learning where they spend their time, which other giraffes they hang out with, and how they move around the ecosystem. Our goal is to understand the things that hurt or help giraffes so we can help to preserve these magnificent animals for the future.

What is it like to live so closely to these majestic animals?

Every time I go to the bush and interact with these creatures, I am awed anew. They are so very special. Every day I feel that I am living the dream and I cannot get enough of watching them in their beautiful savanna habitat. Although we work in the bush, we often go back out to the bush on our days off!

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How did the Wild Nature Institute get its start? Can you talk a bit about the organization?

Formed in 2010, Wild Nature Institute conducts scientific research on endangered wildlife and inspires the public to protect wild nature. Next year we will celebrate a decade of work! The Institute was started as a platform for two dedicated wildlife scientists to realize our dream of doing interesting and bold science that protects the earth’s remaining bits of wild nature. The Wild Nature Institute is me and Derek at the core, but with lots of other partners and cooperators in our network (like David Brown and Kayla Harren) who are all critical to accomplishing our important work.

The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania. As we celebrate World Giraffe Day today, could you talk about the giraffe—it’s importance to its ecosystem, the threats and pressures the animal faces from human and environmental factors, and how people can help protect them?

The gentle, iconic giraffe is popular around the world, but scientists know surprisingly little about them in the wild. We chose to work with giraffes because they are amazingly beautiful and peaceful animals, but they are vulnerable to extinction because people have taken so much of their wild natural habitat for human uses like farming and houses. Poaching is also a serious problem for giraffes. They need our help.

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Tanzania in East Africa is a stronghold for giraffes, supporting more than any other country. Although the Masai giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania, populations have declined here since the 1980s—yet few people are aware of the plight of the beloved giraffe in the wild. It is our job as scientists to bring this problem to light.

How are can families and organizations around the world help in the mission?

What can you do to help save giraffes and wild nature? (1) You can donate money or time to conservation groups like Wild Nature Institute and others. People can use their skills by providing advice, services, or goods in their personal area of expertise that can help the cause. (2) You can raise awareness about the silent extinction of giraffes. Speak up within your social circles and encourage others to donate money or time to saving giraffes. You can raise awareness in your home communities by writing, speaking, and contributing to the global conversation about our planet’s climate and biodiversity crises. (3) You can plant native trees.

Giraffes, elephants, and many other species need native trees, but deforestation continues worldwide. Planting native trees helps fight the global climate crisis and helps biodiversity too! (4) You can support legal protections for wildlife. Laws like the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws make the world safer for wildlife and people. Call and write to your congressperson, senator, governor, and president telling them you support strong law enforcement to protect wildlife. (5) You can commit to not buying body parts, and if you live in Africa you can commit to not eating bushmeat.

The programs that the Institute sponsors and supports—from education in schools and communities to environmental conservation of animals and land to publishing materials for children—is extensive. How has your work been received? What successes have been achieved and what benefits do you hope to see in the future?

To save wild nature, we must know it and love it, so Wild Nature Institute and our partners developed environmental educational materials for children and teachers. The materials teach biology, geography, science, math, and language skills using focal animals and fun, beautifully illustrated stories. Our first book, The Amazing Migration of Lucky the Wildebeest, was a tri-lingual children’s book about wildebeest migration, and the ecological and economic benefits of conservation. The book was so successful that we created our “Celebrating Africa’s Giants” program to use environmental education to build community support for conservation efforts that will ensure the long-term survival of Africa’s giants giraffes, elephants, and rhinos.

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We now produce and distribute our four multi-lingual storybooks, two Swahili activity books, and seven posters, as well as learning activities to accompany the books and posters, to tens of thousands of children throughout Tanzania. These materials teach ecological and social lessons, build national pride in Tanzanian wildlife, and motivate children to read and learn about their natural world. The learning activities help Tanzanian teachers meet environmental education curricula requirements, and also meet Next Generation Science Standards for American schools.

To ensure the materials are used to their best advantage, we host workshops for teachers, led by our education consultant Lise Levy, a retired high school biology teacher with 32 years of experience in education. At the workshops, teachers have a wonderful time learning the stories and practicing the hands-on activities that they will use in the classroom to accompany the books and posters.

Can you talk a little about the impact that these books and the new Nature’s Giants Magazine have on the children and families in Tanzania?

Every year since we introduced our education program, we have expanded its reach and impact through word-of-mouth. Our books and posters are now recognized and requested by Tanzanian educators throughout Tanzania, from Ruaha and Ruvuma in the south to Serengeti in the west to Dar es Salaam in the east. We hired a Tanzanian education coordinator who regularly visits classrooms, orphanages, and community centers and brings “Giraffe in a Box,” “Elephant in a Box,” and “Rhino in a Box” with all of the materials needed to implement the activities. We made our storybooks into videobooks which are playing on Tanzanian television. We organize “fun days” at the schools to celebrate Africa’s giants where we do tree-planting, sports, drama and arts, and creative learning. 

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We are constantly dreaming up new and fun ways to spread the word about the fascinating animals of the African savanna. Our ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation to love and care for their wildlife and conserve the environment.

On your website you talk about the importance of zoos in supporting the environmental work in Tanzania. How do/can zoos help?

Zoos have an important role to play both in providing financial support for field conservation as well as promoting the conservation of giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceros through environmental education directed at visitors. Many zoos are using our Celebrating Africa’s Giants education program. Zoos also conduct their own scientific research. We couldn’t do our work without our zoo partnerships and we are really grateful for their support.

To learn more about Monica Bond and the work of the Wild Nature Institute, visit their website.

Meet Kayla Harren

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Welcome back, Kayla! I’m thrilled to be talking with you about these three beautiful books and Nature’s Giants Magazine.

How did you get involved with the Wild Nature Institute and this project? What does it mean to you to be part of it?

In 2015 my husband, Peter, who is also an artist, was asked to illustrate a picture book about a baby giraffe that was written by a friend of a friend. He wanted to pursue a different path in his illustration career, so he passed the job to me. I fell immediately in love with the story of Juma. My passions have always been art and animals. Being able to combine those two loves feels incredible.

I feel so lucky to be involved with the Wild Nature Institute because I get to help wildlife in my own way even though I am not a scientist. I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to wildlife education and hopefully spark a love for nature in other people. It feels like fate the way the first book found me through a friend of a friend of a friend and now it has turned into an amazing partnership.

Your artwork in Juma the Giraffe, Our Elephant Neighbors, and Helping Brother Rhinoceros is stunning and full of such wonderful detail and personality. What kind of research did you do to bring the characters to life? Do Juma—or any of the animals—depict real giraffes, elephants, or rhinos in the area?

Thank you! Monica was incredibly helpful with providing plenty of photographs that she and the other scientists had taken of the scenery and wildlife in Tanzania. It made my job so much easier to know that people who actually lived in Tanzania and knew the area were checking all the details of my work to make sure it was accurate. For each book I was able to look through images provided by Wild Nature Institute of people, landscapes, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and plenty of birds and animals to add in the background of each illustration. I did study the spot patterns of many giraffes, but Juma is a made-up combination of many giraffes I studied.

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Readers of your many books know what realism and sensitivity you bring to your illustrations of animals. Do you have a special affinity for animals and nature? Where did that come from?

Absolutely! Animals are my favorite. It started with my love of stuffed animals when I was very young. I had a huge collection, and I would spread them all out on my bed so none were hidden and they all got equal attention from me. I was introduced to many animal species through my toys. I remember fondly a stuffed white Bengal tiger that was bigger than me and a plump little panda bear. I loved the zoo, nature shows, and all the pet cats and dogs my family had. I feel most comfortable and relaxed in nature. I love going for walks with my dog because she stops every few steps to sniff something and that makes me pause and look around at all the beautiful shapes and textures and colors of the plants surrounding me. Nature is infinitely inspiring.

Have you ever visited Tanzania?

Not yet. Visiting Tanzania is very high on my list of things I need to do. Seeing a giraffe in the wild would be an absolute dream come true.

I’m going to let David Brown answer the next few questions about “Nature’s Giants Magazine.” David is a biologist, wildlife conservationist, and environmental educator—and he’s the co-creator and major writer of “Nature’s Giants.”

Welcome, David! As a nature lover, puzzle doer, and crafter myself, I love “Nature’s Giant’s Magazine!” There’s so much for kids to fall in love with!

“Nature’s Giants” magazine is full of fascinating articles (I learned a lot!), fun crafts, science prompts, challenging puzzles, and even a funny dung beetle named Doug. Can you talk about how the magazine came to be, what your role in the magazine is. and about how it can be used in the classroom? 

A group of conservationists and educators were meeting about how we could make Celebrating Africa’s Giants accessible and interesting to kids who love giraffes, elephants, and rhinos. We discussed how magazines like “Ranger Rick” and “National Geographic Kids” helped spark and sustain our love of nature when we were young, and we realized that there wasn’t really anything like that for even the most popular animals like giraffes and elephants. We decided to start our own nature magazine to fill that gap. We decided that our host of the magazine should be a dung beetle named Doug Beetle.  Doug Beetle helps show that there are many ways to be a giant in nature beyond physical size.

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My role is to help coordinate the creation of the magazine, develop story and activity ideas, and write the articles that bring those ideas to life. I also write the Doug Beetle comics. Megan Strauss, a wildlife biologist and illustrator, creates activities, crafts, and provides content for the magazine with her scientific expertise.  Kayla creates illustrations to accompany the articles and designs the layout of each page.

Accessible and interesting are perfect adjectives for Nature’s Giants! The magazine really promotes exploration and hands-on activities to engage kids in science learning. Can you describe some of the elements parents, teachers, and kids will find inside?

The magazine can be enjoyed casually for its art, stories, and activities. We also designed it for use in classrooms, zoo education programs, and other learning environments. In the first issue, we have a story about how scientific information can be visualized with infographics and how that helps us see the world in different ways.

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We also have a story about how a scientist makes an observation, asks questions about what she observed, and then solves a scientific mystery. Readers will learn how scientists study animals in the field, and hopefully get inspired to take part in citizen science themselves. 

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Environmental issues around the world are important to all of us. In what ways can children help from home or in their own communities?

The young people of the early 21st century are going to be the deciders of whether big animals like giraffes, elephants, and rhinos and their habitat survive this century and beyond. These animals are beloved around the world. They are the biological equivalent of the great works of art, architecture, and popular culture that are the common heritage of people around the world.

The young people in countries like Tanzania and Kenya, where these species and their habitats live, are the primary decision makers, but these animals need a global constituency of conservationists. They need people to help pay attention to them and keep their conservation needs visible in the world. Just as we pay constant attention to our favorite sports teams, celebrities, and technology products, we need to find ways to keep attention on giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and other animals.

If you love a species, then helping your local social network of family and friends be aware of the animal is a meaningful conservation action. Our goal for “Nature’s Giants” is to help connect young people with these animals and their conservation challenges and find ways to keep that connection growing.

What are the future plans for the magazine? How can teachers or other organizations order copies?

The first issue of “Nature’s Giants” is themed about African animals and plants. If the magazine finds an audience and there is an appetite for future issues, we would love to do a theme issue for each continent. We have also thought about doing an issue about the oceans. There are endless possibilities for issue themes. We would love to explore the future adventures of Doug Beetle.

To order copies of the magazine and all three storybooks, you can contact Monica Bond: monica@wildnatureinstitute.org

If you are interested in ordering Juma the Giraffe, Helping Brother Rhinoceros, and/or Our Elephant Neighbors for your classroom, organization, or yourself, contact Monica Bond monica@wildnatureinstitute.org. Individual copies of the books cost $12.00. Substantial discounts are offered when ordering multiple copies. All prices include shipping and handling.

Individuals, schools, and other organizations can also order single and/or multiple copies of “Nature’s Giants Magazine” for $4.25 each, plus shipping and handling.

You can also download printable posters with illustrations and information about giraffes, rhinos, and elephants from the Africa’s Giants website: www.africasgiants.org

To find the books with major online booksellers, see the information and links below.

Nature’s Giants Books & Magazine Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to be partnering with Wild Nature Institute in a giant giveaway! You could win this prize package that includes

  • One (1) copy of Juma the Giraffe signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Helping Brother Rhinoceros signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Our Elephant Neighbors signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of “Nature’s Giants Magazine”

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your favorite African animal for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

The giveaway will be held from June 21 to June 27.

A winner will be chosen on June 28

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

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You can find Helping Brother Rhinoceros at these booksellers

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

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You can find Our Elephant Neighbors at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-juma-the-giraffe-cover

You can find Juma the Giraffe at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 16 – Father’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today is all about celebrating dads and telling them how much you love them. It’s a great day to think of all the things dads do for their kids and their families and to share a thank-you, a hug, and of course a book! Reading together is one of the best ways for dads and their kids to bond not only today, but every day!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that makes a wonderful gift for dad and would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Father’s Day Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

You can find It’s Great Being a Dad at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 14 -It’s National Camping Month

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About the Holiday

June is the perfect month to explore the great outdoors up close through camping. Whether you enjoy pitching a tent, renting a cabin, or parking an RV, all the enjoyment of hiking, fishing, swimming, and of course toasting marshmallows and singing around the campfire await! 

Digger and Daisy Go Camping

Written by Judy Young | Illustrated by Dana Sullivan

 

Summer vacation has come and Digger and Daisy are packing up for another adventure together. At least Daisy is. She’s excited to go camping, “but Digger is worried. There might be bears,” he thinks. With reassurance from Daisy that the trip will be fun, Digger fills his own backpack and grabs his sleeping bag. Out on the trail, “There is a noise. Digger hears it. He looks all around. He is worried. ‘I hear a bear!’ says Digger.”

Daisy points out that “bears growl” and the sound Digger hears is just a bird singing in a tree. Digger and Daisy sing along too all the way to the lake. Here there’s another noise that worries Digger. “‘I hear a bear!’” he tells Daisy. But this sound is just a fish jumping, and soon Daisy and Digger are splashing along with it. After a nice swim, Daisy thinks a fire will warm them up. While they’re picking up sticks, Digger hears another noise that he’s sure is a bear. But this sound isn’t a growl either. It’s a squirrel munching on nuts.

Digger and Daisy enjoy roasted nuts too along with their hot dogs and marshmallows. “‘It will be dark soon,’ says Daisy. ‘We need to put up the tent.’” Daisy feels safe and cozy in her sleeping bag, but Digger hears a noise. “He looks all around. He is worried. ‘I hear a bear!’ says Digger.” But this sound isn’t a growl—Daisy tells him it’s a howl from the wind.

Daisy quickly falls asleep, but Digger doesn’t. He listens to all the sounds and recognizes the wind, a jumping fish, and the hoot of an owl. Satisfied, “Digger closes his eyes. Soon he is sound asleep.” Suddenly, there is a noise that Digger does not hear. It wakes Daisy. She shines her flashlight all around. “She is worried. ‘Digger, wake up! I hear a bear!’ says Daisy.” When Digger opens his eyes, the sound stops. Is a bear on their trail, or was it something a little tamer?

In their seventh adventure, Daisy plans an overnight camping trip. Daisy’s protective older-sibling instincts are sweetly in evidence as she encourages Digger to put his fear of bears aside and join her. Once in the forest, she reassures him that the noises he hears are harmless woodland creatures. Kids will love catching up with their favorite canine duo through Judy Young’s simple sentences that contain enough repetition of key words to bolster early readers’ confidence as well as accumulative drama, gentle suspense, and a humorous ending.

Every camping trip is filled with moments of wonder and humor, and Digger and Daisy’s adventure is no exception. In Dana Sullivan’s colorful snapshots, the birds are singing, butterflies flutter along, a gymnastic fish startles a fly, and a squirrel stuffs its cheeks with nuts. Daisy sports her trademark tutu skirt (even her bathing suit is a one-piece tutu), and Digger has not forgotten his favorite cap. Young readers will giggle as Digger panics, sending his firewood flying, and gets tied up in the tent ropes. They’ll also appreciate Sullivan’s cleverness in making Daisy and Digger’s tent look like a red doghouse. Of course, the siblings’ loving relationship is a highlight of this series, and this story strengthens that bond as Daisy takes care of her little brother and he in turn trusts her.

Fans of Digger and Daisy will want to add this new adventure to their collection. Digger and Daisy Go Camping also makes a sweet introduction to the series and will entice readers who have not yet met this brother and sister team to explore all of their escapades. The book would make a welcome addition to classroom and public library shelves as well.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110229

Discover more about Judy Young and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dana Sullivan, his books, and his art, visit her website.

National Camping Month Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-canoe-maze

Come Canoeing With Us Maze

 

These campers want to canoe together but first they must pick up their friend from the center of the lake. They need your help navigating their way in this printable puzzle.

Come Canoeing With Us Maze Puzzle |  Come Canoeing With Us Maze Solution

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You can find Digger and Daisy Go Camping at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 23 – It’s National Humor Month

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National Humor Month was established in 1976 by comedian and author Larry Wilde who is also the director of the Carmel Institute of Humor to promote all things funny and raise awareness of the benefits of laughter and joy. The health benefits of an optimistic outlook are well documented. Lightheartedness also improves communication skills and boosts morale. Reading funny books is a fantastic way to share a laugh—for kids and adults—and to encourage a love of literature. In fact, there’s even a Funny Literacy Program that offers lots of resources and activities to fill your days with humor! Click here to learn more. Get started with today’s book and enjoy a good guffaw not only during April but everyday! 

Too Much! Not Enough!

By Gina Perry

 

It’s bedtime and Moe is just trying to get to sleep. “‘Too much jumping,’” Moe calls up from the bottom bunk. But Peanut’s still wide awake and thinks there’s “‘Not enough time to play!’” When pint-sized Peanut and towering Moe head out into the rain to go to the store, Peanut loves stomping in the puddles, but Moe’s not so crazy about all the splashing.

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Copyright Gina Perry, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

When Moe’s tummy is grumbling, Peanut springs into action and whips up a breakfast in which there’s never “too much” of anything. When Moe and Peanut sit down to the food-laden table, though, Moe’s shocked to see “‘too much food.” Peanut’s only concerned is that there’s “‘Not enough syrup!’” Washing up, playtime, and art time also bring some gentle differences of opinion until Peanut, teetering on a stack of chairs to add to his growing block building, crashes to the floor sending toys, musical instruments, and even half a sandwich flying.

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Copyright Gina Perry, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Moe loses it and shouts “TOO MUCH!” Grabbing a book about the stars, Moe steps outside and sits on the porch as rain pours down. With a remorseful look, Peanut peeks out the window and watches Moe sadly reading about the constellations. Peanut wipes away a tear and begins to clean up all of the “too much” around the house. Meanwhile, Moe, lonely among the “not enough” on the porch, begins to have a change of heart. Moe comes back inside to see a perfectly clean house. Peanut worries and asks if it’s a bit “‘too much?’” But with a hug Moe reassures Peanut that it’s “‘Just enough.’”

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Copyright Gina Perry, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Gina Perry takes on those differences of opinion that can vex even the most devoted friends and siblings in her humorous and charming story of two besties who, together, aren’t “too much” or “not enough” but just perfect. Perry’s enthusiastic, dialogue-rich storytelling makes for an engaging read aloud that young readers will love chiming in with. Young actors and actresses would have a blast acting out the story, and the facial expressions on Perry’s sweet and caring characters give adults and kids lots of opportunities to talk about empathy, understanding, and listening to one another.

Moe and Peanut, drawn in Perry’s smile-inducing signature style may seem like opposites in every way—Peanut is small with a button nose and long ears while Moe is tall, aqua, and sports a large pink nose between his tiny ears—but their love for each other is evident. Readers will notice it’s clear that Peanut looks up to Moe (in more ways than one): When Moe is hungry, Peanut makes breakfast; while Moe washes dishes, Peanut entertains; during art time, Peanut creates a portrait of Moe; and when Moe explodes, Peanut worries and is sorry. Perry’s vibrant pages are full of details that kids will love lingering over, naming, and counting—and don’t forget to keep an eye out for that half sandwich!

A fun and funny book that adults and kids will love sharing, Too Much! Not Enough! makes a terrific choice for pre-readers and early readers at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919507

To learn more about Gina Perry, her books, and her art and to find fun activity sheets—including ones on how to draw Moe and Peanut—visit her website.

You can’t get too much of this Too Much! Not Enough! book trailer!

National Humor Month Activity

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Silly Balloons

 

You can have lots of silly fun with balloons! Try some of these ideas—they’re sure to make you laugh!

Goofy Faces

Blow up a balloon and draw a funny face on it. Rub the balloon on your shirt or a blanket and stick it to the wall, your shirt, or even your mom or dad!

Crazy Hair

Rub a blown-up balloon on your shirt or a blanket (fleece works well) then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

Bend Water

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Rub a blown-up balloon on a blanket (fleece works well). Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 

Volleyballoon

This is a fun game for two or more people played like volleyball—but with balloons! All you need is a balloon and a line on the floor. Players form teams and bat the balloon back and forth over the line, keeping it in the air.as long as possible. A team wins a point when the opposing team can’t return the balloon.

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You can find Too Much! Not Enough! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 14 – National Dessert Day

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About the Holiday

Fermented chocolate drinks date back to 1900 BCE and the Aztecs believed cacao seeds were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, their god of wisdom. Who can argue that chocolate is a pretty smart thing? Almost anything is better covered in chocolate, and today’s holiday proves it! Whether you like your chocolate straight up or on the…potato chips, enjoy the day with a little indulgence!

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake

Written by Michael B. Kaplan | Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

 

Betty Bunny knows she’s a “handful” because her parents often tell her so. Betty Bunny also knew her parents love her, so she figures that “being a handful must be very, very good.” One day when her mom offered her a piece of chocolate cake after dinner, Betty Bunny declined. She didn’t like trying new things, and “announced: ‘I hate chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is yucky.” But then added “‘What’s chocolate cake?’”

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

With her first bite, Betty Bunny was in love. She was so in love, in fact, that she decided that when she grew up she was “going to marry chocolate cake.” Her siblings were supportive—kind of—but her older brother Bill thought “‘you’re going to have really weird-looking kids.’” The next day at school, Betty Bunny had chocolate on the brain. When her teacher went over the A B C’s Betty said, “‘A is for chocolate cake, B is for chocolate cake, C is for chocolate cake.’”

On the playground when Betty Bunny mixed together dirt and water, it looked like chocolate cake, but sure didn’t taste like it. At dinner Betty Bunny was ready for her dessert before her healthy dinner, but her mom said no; and her dad agreed with her mom. Her siblings tried to help—kind of. Henry suggested she eat some peas. Kate told her to eat her carrots, and Bill taunted, “‘Why don’t you have some chocolate cake? That’s what you really want. Oh, no, wait. You can’t. Ha-Ha.’”

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

Betty Bunny exploded. She threw peas at Henry, tossed carrots at Kate, and lobbed mashed potatoes at Bill. Betty Bunny’s mother was not pleased and sent her little daughter to bed without chocolate cake. “Betty Bunny screamed, ‘This family is yucky!’” and stomped up the stairs. Later, her mom came up to kiss her goodnight, and she had a plan. She would put a piece of cake in the fridge and the next day after a good dinner, Betty Bunny could have it. “‘Maybe if you know it’s there waiting for you, it will be easier to be patient,’” her mom said. Betty Bunny thought this was a great idea and “wanted to say something especially nice to her mother. ‘Mommy,’ she said, ‘you are a handful.’”  

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

The next morning Betty Bunny couldn’t leave the house without first checking on her piece of cake. It looked so alone sitting on the plate all by itself, so Betty Bunny decided to put it in her pocket and take it to school with her. All day the secret knowledge of what was in her pocket made Betty Bunny happy. At dinner, after she had cleaned her plate, she reached into her pocket for her chocolate cake, but all she found was “a brown, goopy mess” that made her cry.

After her mom explained to her that putting the cake in her pocket was not the same as being patient, she prepared another piece for the next day. In the morning, Betty Bunny remembered her lesson in patience—and that’s why she put the cake…in her sock.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty-bunny-loves-chocolate-cake-kiss-goodnight

Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright Michael B. Kaplan, 2016. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

Michael B. Kaplan’s adorable Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake is a delight from its beginning to its smashing ending. He hits all the right notes in this humorous family drama, from the “helpful” siblings to the hair-trigger tantrums to the Ramona Quimby-esque misunderstanding of phrase. Along with the giggle-inducing fun kids learn a bit about patience, and adults discover insight into what goes on in their little bunny’s mind when obsession meets disappointment.

Stéphane Jorisch’s Bunny family is as cute as…well…a bunny.  His watercolor, pen and ink, and gouche paintings employ brilliant color and crisp lines to depict the loving relationship among the siblings and parents as well as the realistic home and school environments. The perfectly drawn body language—including folded arms, sly looks, emotional meltdowns, and understanding smiles—will resonate with kids and adults alike. And once the piece of chocolate cake appears, it’s easy to see how little Betty Bunny could become such a fan.

Ages 3 – 7

Puffin Books, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1101998632

Chocolate Covered Anything Day

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Delicious Dot-to-Dot

 

Everything is better with chocolate—even this printable Delicious Dot-to-Dot! Get your pencils, follow the dots, and then color this delectable page!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty-bunny-loves-chocolate-cake-cover

You can find Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

September 27 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As all the major holidays start rolling around, it’s fun to find new books to celebrate them with. Kids all over are looking forward to Halloween—devising costumes, creating spooky decorations, building eerie haunted houses, and dreaming of candy, candy, candy! Books about this most frightful of holidays is part of the excitement too! If your kids can’t wait for Halloween night, they’ll love meeting Sammy—who thinks about it all year around!

Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween

By Mike Petrik

 

On Halloween night all the kids looked forward to visiting the Loomis’s barn, where “the biggest, creepiest, jump-scariest haunted house in the neighborhood” took place. Everyone in the family helped out as witches, spirits, and vampires and in making lots of thunder, fog, and eerie sounds. Sammy, especially, wanted to make “sure to give the trick-or-treaters a fang-tastically fun time.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

On the morning after Halloween, the whole family gathered for pumpkin pancakes to relive the thrill of the night before. This year, Sammy could hardly concentrate on his pancakes because he already had so many ideas for the haunted house next year. Sammy’s older siblings, Luke and Molly, thought Sammy was too young to think of cool ideas, but his dad told Sammy to “give it a whirl.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

After a couple of weeks, Sammy began testing his ideas on the family. There were a few missteps – especially the jack-o’-lantern turkey and spiders and bats décor at Thanksgiving. And a Zombie Christmas really wasn’t what the rest of the family had in mind. As the winter wore on, Sammy perfected his scares. Molly’s sleepover was bone-chilling when Sammy made a skeleton skateboard through the living room.

Instead of a marshmallow egg Easter, Sammy conjured up a Happy Hallow-Easter egg hunt. But when the family’s Fourth of July barbecue was “rained out” by the sprinkler hiding in the tree, Sammy’s dad put his foot down. “‘Your ideas are wonderfully creepy,’ said Dad, ‘but Halloween has taken over everything.” He put the kibosh on all further haunting until everyone was onboard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-haunted-house

Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Sammy was feeling pretty down until Molly and Luke told him they thought his tricks were real treats and offered to help him create more. Under Sammy’s direction, they came up with amazing new hauntings. When the barn was finally decorated,  “Mom and Dad were spellbound.” Dad said, “‘We admire how you’ve stuck with it all year long,’” and Mom added, “‘So we’re naming you Halloween Spirit this year.’”

On Halloween night, Sammy welcomed all the neighbors with a spooky “‘HAPPY HALLOWEEN!’” and a “‘beware what lurks in the dark. Muah ha ha!’” The trick-or-treaters were shivering as they passed a skateboarding skeleton, an electrified Frankenstein, roiling fog, bubbling cauldrons, and bats, spiders, and ghosts galore. For Sammy, it was the best Halloween ever—and he was already planning for next year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-haunted-barn

Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Young Halloween lovers—i.e. all kids—will find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween frightfully funny and, no doubt, inspirational too. From the list of Sammy’s haunted house elements titled “Scares! Spooks!” on the front cover to the experimental tricks to the other holiday mash-ups, Sammy’s imaginative ideas will enthrall kids. Engineers-in-the-making will eagerly await each page turn as they mull over the possible ways to recreate Sammy’s devices. While Sammy learns that a bit of moderation in his year-long quest for the best Halloween ever may be in order, Mike Petrik’s inclusion of helpful siblings and supportive parents is heartening and will please readers—especially youngest family members.

Petrik’s pages are electrified with bold, vibrant colors and Sammy’s thrilling Halloween haunts that move, shiver, and shake. A house full of fog, ghosts that rappel into Dad’s cereal, a turkey carved like a jack-o’-lantern, and a crew of zombie snowmen are just some of the delights awaiting readers. Images of Luke and Molly assisting Sammy and Mom and Dad’s happy faces as they reward Sammy for his hard work will bring a smile. The final two-page spread of the family’s haunted barn is a showstopper that kids will want to explore.

A terrific book to inspire Halloween fun and sibling harmony, Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween would be a super (natural) selection for home and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901797

To learn more about Mike Petrik, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Jack-o’-Lantern Bookend or Decoration

 

With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch! Use your rock jack-o’-lanterns as decoration for Halloween or as a boo-tiful bookend to keep your books tidy!

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. Glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

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You can find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review