March 15 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! The month is only half over, so gather the kids and discover some new books to enjoy together–why not start with today’s book?!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

On a large river island in India, there lived a boy who loved the trees that provided food and shade for the people and shelter for the many native animals. But each year, the floods of the rainy season took more and more of the land. “The boy’s precious island was shrinking—eroding away with the rushing river, leaving empty sandbars behind.” Animals’ homes were destroyed and the animals died or didn’t come back. The boy was afraid this would happen to the people of the island too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-who-grew-a-forest-erosion

Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When he took his fears to the elders of his village, they gave him twenty bamboo saplings. He rowed over to one of the sandbars and began to plant the saplings. He came back every day to water the plants and then devised an easier way to water them. Under his care, the bamboo began to grow. In time they became “a healthy thicket.” But for the bamboo to spread further, the boy knew the soil needed to be richer.

He brought in “cow dung, earthworms, termites, and angry red ants that bit him on the journey to their new home.” From other villages, he got seeds of different trees and planted those too. Over the years, a forest grew, covering acres and acres of land. Animals like rhinos, elephants, birds, and monkeys began to return. But with these animals, dangerous predators also came. The villagers were afraid. To provide food for the tigers, the boy—now a man—sowed grasses to attract rabbits, mice, deer and other prey.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-who-grew-a-forest-bamboo

Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To keep other animals fed, the boy planted fruit trees, and when the villagers cut down trees to build homes, the man sowed more seeds. Hunters came for the animals’ “horns and fur, but the man was there to protect.” Today, the forest is thriving and is called Molai for the man who planted and preserved it. His name is Jadav “Molai” Payeng.

More information about Jadav Payeng, an Author’s Note, and a seed-planting activity follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-who-grew-a-forest-elephantscelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-who-grew-a-forest-elephants

Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If anyone questions how much one person can do, Sophia Gholz puts these doubts to rest in her inspiring biography of a child who recognized a danger to the people and wildlife of his island and solved the problem for generations to come. Children will marvel at the story of Jadav Payeng’s dedication and lifelong perseverance told through Gholz’ lyrical text. As children learn about Jadav Payeng, they also discover the components of fertile soil and how a lush environment attracts the animals and other wildlife vital to a flourishing community.

Kayla Harren’s exquisite sundrenched illustrations transport readers to the Indian island where Jadav Payeng grew up and let them see the effects of eroded shorelines, stranded animals, and the overwhelming task Jadav took on. Harren’s realistic images show Jadav’s hard work and ingenuity as he cares for his first twenty plants and expand the forest little by little. With stunning texture and depth, Harren depicts the verdant foliage and diversity of wildlife Jadav recreated. The true-to-life illustrations will thrill nature and animal lovers and have them exploring each page to capture all the details.

A gorgeous and beautifully told story about the power of one, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng will excite children to make a difference in their own way. The book is an excellent choice to add to home, classroom, and library collections for science, sustainability, and inspirational story times and discussions.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110243

Discover more about Sophia Gholz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read an interview with Sophia and Kayla about their inspirations for this book and how it came to be!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Boy Who Grew a Forest written by Sophia Gholz | illustrated by Kayla Harren

This giveaway is open from March 15 through March 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Just do these things to enter:

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-who-grew-a-forest-activity-sheet-2

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

 

You can be an environmental crusader in your neighborhood too! Print these activity sheets and challenge yourself with the questions. Then think about what you can do to help plants and wildlife in your neighborhood or even your own backyard!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-who-grew-a-forest-cover

You can find The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 25 – Earth Hour Day

picture-book-review-green-city-allan-drummond

About the Holiday

Earth Hour was organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature as a way to engage people in the discussion on climate change. First enacted in Australia in 2007, the observance has grown to include cities, businesses, corporations, and individuals world wide. For one hour – from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time – participants will turn off all unnecessary lights in a show of solidarity and commitment to protecting our earth. Among the places going dark this year are the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Sydney Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower.

Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future

By Allan Drummond

 

On May 4, 2007 a devastating tornado hit Greensburg, Kansas, destroying the town in 9 minutes. When the residents of the town climbed from their shelters, they emerged into a world completely changed. There were no more homes, no school, no hospital, no grocery store or other shops. No banks, theater, churches, or water tower. Even the trees had been shredded. Only three buildings remained.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-after-tornado

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The citizens were urged to move away. Rebuilding would be impossible, some said, and what was the point anyway when the wind could destroy it all again? But others saw opportunity to construct a different kind of town. With the help of volunteers and donations from around the world, Greensburg began the Herculean task of designing and building a new town.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-rebuilding-starts

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After clearing away 388,000 tons of debris and moving into a community of trailer homes, the people began to envision a unique, green town. Individuals designed sustainable houses of different shapes and materials that would work with the environment. Businesses, too, incorporated sustainability into their offices, retail centers, and hotels as did the hospital and the water tower. A wind farm large enough to provide energy for the entire town was built on the edge of this innovative city.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-one-house

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A new school was central to the town’s survival, and for three years the teachers held class in small trailers. Along with their regular studies, the kids became experts in environmental science. After several years Greenburg became a thriving city—a testament to conservation and sustainability that remains an example for global communities now and in the future.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-Greensburg-now

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Allan Drummond tells this fascinating story of a community that would not give up in an honest and sensitive way that highlights the courage and pride of a town amid devastating loss. Told from a child’s point of view, the story has extra impact for readers who are growing up amid an era of environmental awareness and activism. The sustainable construction of homes and other buildings is effectively explained and clearly depicted in Drummond’s colorful illustrations.

The images also demonstrate the process of negotiation and cooperation among townspeople that went into designing and building a new Greensburg. The final two-page spread of the town’s layout will interest kids as well as adults who have followed this story in the news.

Ages 5 – 9

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016 | ISBN 978-0374379995

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his illustration work and his books on his website!

Earth Hour Activity

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Flashlight On, Flashlight Off Game

 

It’s fun to play games in the dark! During Earth Hour flip off your lamps and overhead lights and play this game that challenges your memory while you think about our planet! This game can be played with two or more players.

Supplies

  • Flashlight 
  • 6 – 12 small objects (the number of objects can be adjusted depending on the ages of the players)
  • A table or floor area large enough to lay out the objects

Directions

With the Flashlight On:

  1. Lay out the objects on a table or on the floor
  2. Give all the players time to look at the objects and try to memorize them
  3. Choose one player to remove one of the objects

With the Flashlight Off

  1. Turn off the flashlight
  2. While the room is dark, the designated player removes one object from the rest
  3. Turn the flashlight back on

With the Flashlight Back On

  1. The other players try to figure out which object is missing

Variations

  • In addition to removing one object, the other objects can be moved around to different positions
  • Remove more than one object at a time
  • Add an object instead of removing one

Picture Book Review

 

August 2 – It’s Water Quality Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-water-can-be-cover

About the Holiday

Water Quality is a crucial world-wide issue. In fact, 2015 closed out a decade-long United Nations initiative “Water for Life” to promote awareness of the importance of water quality as it relates to sanitation, geography, human rights, urbanization, and sustainability. The Audobon Society emphasizes the interconnectedness of all water systems and urges people to be mindful of the dangers that can lurk in runoff from construction, forestry, factories, agriculture, and personal yards as it combines in rivers, lakes, or the ocean. To observe this month be conscious of what is in your water. Limit the use of anti-bacterial soaps that contain a certain pesticide harmful to marine life, don’t flush unused medications, choose nontoxic household cleaners, avoid using fertilizers and pesticides, and clean up leaks from cars and other machinery. Protecting our water sources protects us.

Water Can Be…

Written by Laura Purdie Salas | Illustrated by Violeta Dabija

 

“Water is water— / it’s puddle, pond, sea. / When springtime comes splashing, / the water flows free.” So begins an inventive journey through the ways that water enriches our lives. With four-word rhyming couplets Laura Purdie Salas illuminates specific moments or circumstances to reveal water’s important role from season to season. From filling ponds, lakes, oceans, and even puddles to roaring down hillsides to floating in misty fogs and forming snowflakes, water sustains us and makes the world a more beautiful place.

During spring and summer when ponds nurture new life and rain puddles reflect, “Water can be…a tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher.” In hot weather water refreshes as a “Thirst quencher / Kid drencher.” And the seas, at times calm and at others roiling, can be both “Home maker / Ship breaker.”

As the air cools in autumn, water can be found in alternate forms. It squirts from fountains for the “school drink-er” and hardens to ice for a “Bruise shrinker.” A river’s winding trail becomes a “Salmon highway / Eagle flyway.” Winter brings water in a more solid form. Whipped by wind snow swirls as a “Storm creator” or gently sticks to surfaces as a “Decorator.” Outside, both animals and people enjoy the frozen precipitation. Snow serves as a “Woodchuck warmer / Snowman former.”

On the final pages as ice sculptors carve castles and dragons, moon beams and rabbits, Laura Purdie Salas encourages readers: “Water is water— / it’s ice, snow, and sea. / Now go and discover / what else it can be.”

Fascinating facts concerning the subject of each rhyme, a glossary, and a bibliography for further reading follow the text. Laura Purdie Salas donates a portion of the royalties from Water Can Be… to WaterAid, an international non-profit organization that transforms lives by improving and providing access to safe water, hygiene, and sanitation.

Laura Purdie Salas always surprises with her selection of examples and clever rhymes leading readers to more fully appreciate the world around them. Water doesn’t just flow, it feeds, speeds, cloaks and soaks, it decorates and bejewels, fluffs and snuffs. After reading Sala’s poetic tribute, readers will never experience water the same way and will be on the lookout for how they can interpret water’s gifts.

Violeta Dabija has created gorgeous, ethereal interpretations of each two-word rhyme. The nourishing blues and aquas of the sea, gauzy whites of fog and clouds, and brilliant whites of snow and ice are subtly crosshatched giving each illustration depth and movement. While the words on each page are short, kids will want to spend a long time taking in the beauty of Dabija’s paintings.

Ages 3 – 8

Millbrook Press, Lerner Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1467705912

Check out the book trailer for Water Can Be…. It really makes a splash!

There’s so much to see and do on Laura Purdie Salas’s website!

View more beautiful art by Violeta Dabija on her website!

Water Quality Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-angel-fish-coloring-page

Angel Fish Coloring Page

 

Clean water is important for all fish to survive! You can make the ocean sparkling clear by adding a bit of glitter to your printable Angel Fish Coloring Page!

May 29 – Learn about Composting Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-compost-stew

About the Holiday

Composting is a wonderful way to use organic waste to help the environment. Whether you keep a small composting container in your kitchen, set aside a pile in the corner of your yard, or invest in a compost tumbler, letting non-meat or dairy kitchen scraps, outdoor vegetation cuttings, and even hair or dryer lint decompose into nourishing soil additives will make your garden grow bigger and better!

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

 

“Environmental chefs, / here’s a recipe for you / to fix from scratch / to mix a batch / of Compost Stew.” This clever alphabet book reveals the ABCs of gathering the perfect ingredients for a compost pile, which creates a nutritious meal for gardens, flower beds, and the environment:

“Apple cores / Bananas, bruised / Coffee grounds with filters, used / Dirt clods, crumbled / Eggshells, crushed / Fruit pulp left behind, all mushed / Grass clippings / Hair snippings / and an Insect or two / Just add to the pot / and let it all rot / into Compost Stew.”

The catchy rhymes and easy-to-follow directions will make kids excited about saving left-overs, raking up fallen leaves, and shredding paper to add to the pile. Readers may also be surprised by some of the other items that will decompose to make rich soil, such as seaweed, laundry lint, and teabags. Three simple steps for cooking up compost stew follow the alphabet, and create a refrain that kids will love to repeat.

Mary McKenna Siddals brings the science of composting and recycling to kids in a fun, interactive way. Children may even like to think of their own ingredients for each letter of the alphabet. The author’s note at the end of the book reveals substitute ingredients as well as items that are not appropriate or safe for composting.

Ashley Wolff’s brilliant, textured collage artwork depicts four multicultural kids (along with their helpful Dalmatian and goose) gathering the ingredients for their compost bag wherever they are—in the yard, in the kitchen, at the hair salon, at the beach, and more.

Kids interested in gardening and environmental issues will love to have Compost Stew on their bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385755382

Learn about Composting Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-composting-word-search

Creative Composting Word Search

 

Composting takes individual ingredients and combines them to create nourishing soil. Can you find the words that relate to this environmental science in this printable Creative Composting Word Search? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

picture-book-review-green-city-allan-drummond

About the Holiday

In 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated to bring awareness to environmental issues and begin a dialogue about how governments, corporations, communities, and individuals could create change that would benefit the Earth and all her inhabitants. Forty-six years later, we are working toward solutions to problems like pollution, climate change, renewable energy, and more. Today look around your home, office, school, or community and see how you can better support our Mother Earth.

Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future

By Allan Drummond

 

On May 4, 2007 a devastating tornado hits Greensburg, Kansas, destroying the town in 9 minutes. When the residents of the town climb from their shelters, they emerge into a world completely changed. There are no more homes, no school, no hospital, no grocery store or other shops. No banks, theater, churches, or water tower. Even the trees have been shredded. Only three buildings remain.

The citizens are urged to move away. Rebuilding will be impossible, some say, and what’s the point anyway when the wind could destroy it all again? But others see opportunity to construct a different kind of town. With the help of volunteers and donations from around the world, Greensburg begins the Herculean task of designing and building a new town.

After clearing away 388,000 tons of debris and moving into a community of trailer homes, the people begin to envision a unique, green town. Individuals design sustainable houses of different shapes and materials to work with the environment. Businesses, too, incorporate sustainability into their offices, retail centers, and hotels as do the hospital and the water tower. A wind farm large enough to provide energy for the entire town is built on the edge of this innovative city.

A new school is central to the town’s survival, and for three years the teachers hold class in small trailers. Along with their regular studies, the kids become experts in environmental science. After several years Greenburg is now thriving—a testament to conservation and sustainability that is an example for global communities now and in the future.

Allan Drummond tells this fascinating story of a community that would not give up in an honest and sensitive way that highlights the courage and pride of a town amid devastating loss. Told from a child’s point of view, the story has extra impact for readers who are growing up amid an era of environmental awareness and activism. The sustainable construction of homes and other buildings is effectively explained and clearly depicted in Drummond’s colorful illustrations.

The images also demonstrate the process of negotiation and cooperation among townspeople that went into designing and building a new Greensburg. The final two-page spread of the town’s layout will interest kids as well as adults who have followed this story in the news.

Ages 5 – 9

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016 | ISBN 978-0374379995

Earth Day Activity

celebrate-picture-book-review-caterpillar-planter-craft

Hatch a Caterpillar Planter

 

As spring days grow warmer, it’s fun to start growing your own garden. Propagating plants from seed on a windowsill or sun room gives you an up-close view as the seeds develop roots, sprout, and flourish!

Supplies

  • Egg carton made from recycled paper
  • Seeds for your favorite veggies or flowers
  • Potting soil
  • Spoon or small shovel
  • Craft paint or markers in the colors you’d like for your caterpillar
  • Pipe cleaners or wire
  • Googly eyes
  • Marker

Directions

  1. Carefully cut the egg carton into two rows lengthwise, you may need to trim the cardboard between cups
  2. If the cups have low openings on one side, place the second row of cups inside the first facing the opposite way.
  3. Paint or color the carton, let dry
  4. Push pipe cleaners or wire through the edge of the egg carton on one end to form antennae (I used wrapped wire and painted it)
  5. Attach googly eyes and draw a smile on the front of the carton
  6. Fill cups with soil
  7. Plant seeds according to package directions
  8. Place caterpillar planter in a sunny spot

Picture Book Review