January 2 – Motivation and Inspiration Day & Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

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About the Holiday

The beginning of a new year is often filled with optimism and excitement. We feel motivated and inspired to try new things, make positive changes, and accomplish goals—not only for ourselves but for the world around us. Finding new and diverse books is a fantastic way to get started.

To honor today’s holiday, I’m posting a review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an annual event that takes place every January and, this year, culminates on January 27 with a huge online celebration. Throughout the month bloggers, reviewers, and individuals post reviews of children’s books that offer multicultural themes, characters, and stories that inspire young readers and introduce them to peers, situations, and ideas around the world. To learn more about Multicultural Children’s Day and follow the fun, visit their website and see the information below.

Gokul Village and the Magic Fountain

Written by Jeni Chapman and Bal Das | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

In a faraway land with fresh air and blue skies, Gokul Village was built around “a very special fountain.” The fountain had always provided the people of Gokul Village with “water to drink, wash clothes, and to splash friends.” But now the fountain had fallen into disrepair. The six orbs that circled the pool were dirty and broken, and the pipes were clogged so water could not flow anymore. “The fountain was lonely, except when six friends visited it.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

The friends met at the fountain on the way to school and gathered there in the afternoons. Zoya was an artist and loved to paint pictures of “how beautiful the fountain could be.” Christopher loved to build and had “plans to fix the fountain one day.” Riya was inspired by the music of the dripping water when she played her flute, and Dalai rode his bike faster and faster as he circled the fountain. Jacob would bring his own homemade treats, and Noelle experimented with the drone iDEA that she had designed.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

When the friends played together they imagined that the fountain connected to all the world’s waterways and could take them on adventures. They joined hands and skipped around the fountain singing, “‘Waters of the world, connect us this day. Waters of the world, take us away.’” New Year’s Day was approaching, and the children were looking forward to the big village party. Soon, they would be helping to decorate the square. But one day, Dalai brought bad news. The mayor had canceled the party because the fountain—the centerpiece of the celebration—could not be fixed in time.

The friends were disappointed, but then Christopher had an idea. If they all worked together, he thought, they could fix the fountain in time. They were all in! Riya gave each person a job to do. Noelle was to research the history of the fountain. She and Zoya were to find new orbs to replace the old ones. Christopher was going to fix the pipes. Dalai could restore the broken decorative stonework, and Jacob would keep them all working hard with his snacks.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

The next step was to convince the mayor that they could do it. Dalai, who loved talking with people, met with the mayor and got her approval. “If they could clean up the fountain, the celebration wouldn’t be canceled.” The kids went to work and in two days, the fountain was beautiful and the water flowed again. When the mayor came to look, she declared the New Year’s festival was “back on.”

Suddenly, “the fountain glowed with extra shimmer,” and the water glistened. The orbs shone and granted each child “an extraordinary gift. Notes from Riya’s flute transformed into singing birds.” Zoya could paint pictures in the air. “The beads of Dalai’s bracelet glowed with light.” Jacob’s backpack suddenly filled with all types of cooking ingredients and utensils. Christopher’s tools grew, and iDEA gained the ability to speak.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

iDEA told Noelle to look in the heart of the fountain for its hidden words. There, the kids found an invitation: “The world is big, are you bold? / With my help you’ll soon know. / Say the words. Watch me glow / 1, 2, 3…and off you go!” Then each orb shone with a different color. The children each placed a hand on an orb and sang their song. All at once, they found themselves floating to places they’d always wanted to see. They “saw the jostling, jolly New York City crowd” and watched the ball drop in Times Square to celebrate “the arrival of the New Year.” They joined the Chinese New Year parade and “watched millions of people clap and sway together, hoping for happiness and good fortune for all.” Then they found themselves in the midst of the “dazzling glow of the Diwali festival in India, signifying the power of light over darkness.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

Just as quickly as they had left, the children were back at the fountain. To commemorate their magical adventure, the children decided to name the fountain “‘Friendship Fountain.’” But they had no time to waste! They made decorations inspired by all the celebrations they had seen and hung them in the town square. The next day, Gokul Village’s New Year’s celebration was the best ever.

The six friends were eager to have another adventure. Since Dalai had set the adventure in motion the first time, he whispered, “‘Friendship Fountain awake, Friendship Fountain activate.’” With that, Dalai’s bracelet glowed. Each child touched one of the fountain’s orbs and sang their song. As their voices soared into the sky, they felt themselves being lifted up too. “Where in the world would they go this time?”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

There is much to entice young readers in Jeni Chapman and Bal Das’s enriching story of six friends who have their sights set on their connections to each other and the world and the positive things they can accomplish. As the diverse group of children is introduced along with their unique talent, readers will recognize their various personalities and be eager to learn more about them. The children’s enthusiasm is infectious as they team up to fix the fountain and are rewarded with magical gifts and a special power to travel the world. Organically incorporating ideas of inclusiveness, cooperation, compromise, volunteering, and teamwork through realistic dialogue, this story is upbeat and affirmative and one that readers will respond to.

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Copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, courtesy of gokulworld.com.

Upon opening the book to the first page, children are welcomed into the heart of Gokul Village where homes, each representing a different style of world architecture, circle the fountain. The effect is immediately inviting while introducing the story’s theme of unity. Each of Charlene Chua’s vibrant illustrations is infused with a joyful harmony as the children of diverse ethnicities pursue their individual talents while embracing each other as friends.

For today’s children, the Friendship Fountain—decorated with symbols of love, direction, and world religions—is a fitting metaphor for the global community, and the friends are excellent role models. The children of Gokul have inherited a monument that they love, that can provide for their needs, and that gives them a place to come together. The children want to improve it for all the townspeople, and without hesitation, they go about fixing it. Images of the festivals the children visit are full of light and cheer, and the decorated square shows that there is room for all traditions.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

Gokul Village and the Magic Fountain is the first in a planned series of books and other entertainment, including digital shorts, an animated series, and interactive games that prepare “children ages 4 -7 for success by fostering exploration, understanding and celebration of cultural diversity.” The book would be a welcome and relatable addition to home and classroom libraries to foster discussions, learning, and creative projects.

Ages 4 – 7

Big, Bold, Beautiful World Media, 2017 | ISBN 978-0692917381

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Charlene Chua on her website.

You can find Gokul Village and the Magic Fountain at:

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

Motivation and Inspiration Day Activities

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World Friendship Bracelet

 

Like Dalai in the story, you can make and wear a special bracelet with colorful beads that represent your friends, your dreams, or various places in the world that you would like to visit.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in six colors. For the center beads, get one of each color in a medium size. For the rest of the bracelet, get beads in a smaller size. (Dalai’s bracelet has red, purple, blue, yellow, green, and orange beads.)
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Measure your wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie on the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  2. Thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  3. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  4. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  5. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in a color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  6. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  7. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  8. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

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A World of Friends Word Search Puzzle

 

There are friends all over the world waiting to meet you! Learn the word for “Friend” in twenty-one languages and find them all in this printable A World of Friends Word Search Puzzle!

A World of Friends Word Search Puzzle | Word Search Puzzle Solution

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About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12 5-book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

 

Social Media

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Be sure and look for and use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Picture Book Review

December 4 – National Sock Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates togetherness—the togetherness of matched socks that always seem to find each other even after being tumbled around in the washer, separated in the drier, stuffed into different shoes, and tossed onto the floor. Mismatched socks are fun, but having a pair of matching socks goes a long way toward looking neat and put together. To  honor today’s holiday, you might want to spend a little time organizing your sock drawer or doing a little laundry. As winter approaches, your tootsies will thank you for having warming socks ready to go!

Red Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills. Free of gender-specific pronouns, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job) as well as to find activities to accompany each book, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

National Sock Day Activity

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Sock Tumble Matching Game

 

These socks were separated in the laundry. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Sock Tumble Matching Game.

 

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day and Interview with Sara Levine

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About the Holiday

Today is one of the best days of the year! Anyone who loves books will want to take the opportunity of the holiday to visit their favorite bookstore and buy one of those books you’ve been hearing and reading about. And why stop at just one? Winter is coming—that time when there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling in with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and reading late into the night. As the school year begins, children benefit from having new books in their home libraries that reflect their changing interests and maturing thoughts. Take a little time to look through the children’s or tween sections of the bookstore and let your kids pick out some new favorites! Yes, today is a wonderful day, no bones about it! 

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth

 

Can you imagine if we sloshed through life like soup without a bowl? What would we set our hats on? Where would we carry our phones? How could we sit in class or the office or perform our favorite activities? And what would happen to our organs, our hair, our homes? It’s all a little disturbing! Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that scenario because “we’re vertebrates, animals with bones. Our bones hold us up.” Phew!

There are different kinds of vertebrates—mammals, reptiles, fish, and more—but many of our bones are similar. For example, “all vertebrates have skulls and ribs. And we all have vertebrae. Vertebrae stack up one on top of another to make the spine, or backbone.” Humans have vertebrae that end…well…you know where, but imagine for a minute if your vertebra kept on going. What if they poked a hole right through your shorts? Yes! You’re right—you’d have a tail. Tails are pretty helpful for some animals. They help them swim, communicate, even keep their balance.

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

Good job! Let’s try again…how about if you only had a skull, vertebrae, and ribs. No arm bones; no leg bones. You’ve got it! A slithery snake! Nah…really…you’d look great! Okay, maybe you’d prefer if you had a skull, vertebrae, and arm bones—but no leg bones—and your nose was transferred to the top of your head. Sounds fishy? Maybe, but not quite. Oh! Did I give it away? Yep, you’d be a whale or a dolphin, and you’d use those powerful vertebrae to propel yourself to the ocean’s surface to grab a breath.

Imagine what kind of gloves and shoes you’d need if your “middle fingers and middle toes were so thick that they supported your whole body.” Hey, you’re good at this! It was a trick question. You wouldn’t need gloves, but you’d wear horse shoes (or no shoes if you’re a less domesticated animal like a zebra). Now, let’s take a trip through a room full of fun-house mirrors. What kind of animal would you be if your neck was reeeaally long and each vertebrae was “as big as your head?” Or if your legs were muuuuuch longer than your arms? Or your “finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Seeing those transformations is definitely worth the price of admission, right?

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

But getting back to the bowl of soup: “Could you be an animal if you didn’t have any bones at all?” Sure! Some insects and sea creatures “have their hard parts on the outside,” and some are just “mushy.” Think of worms, slugs, and jellyfish, just to name a few. But bones make life more fun, don’t ya think? So if all vertebrates have bones, what makes humans different? Well, for one thing we (as well as some apes and monkeys) have opposable thumbs, which means that “we can move our thumbs in a special way that allows us to do many things, including turning the pages of a book,” using tools, and picking up objects. “Did you get that one? If so, give yourself a thumbs-up!”

An Author’s Note including more about bones, the types of vertebrates, a glossary, and resources for further reading follow the text.

With humor and a kid’s sensibility of the bizarre, Sara Levine presents an anatomy lesson that young readers will respond to. Juxtaposing individual bony features of humans and animals is a brilliant idea to give children perspective on the differences in animal skeletons and the uses of each unique trait. Levine’s quiz-like format engages readers, encouraging independent thought and active participation as well as building suspense for what transformation comes next. Kids will laugh and learn and be on the lookout for other ways human and animal skeletons differ as they become more aware of the natural world around them.

With illustrations of tailbones sticking out of pants, empty socks, two fingered hands and two toed feet, a neck that needs two scarves, and more, T. S Spookytooth illuminates what it means to be human in an animal world or an animal in a human world. Kids will laugh imagining themselves as Spookytooth depicts them with animal features and “Ewww” when their portrayal dissolves into a muddy mess. The accurate drawings of human and animal skeletons educate readers on the names and placement of particular bones.

The unique approach to the study of human and animal skeletons, the wide range of animals presented, and the enticing writing and illustrations make Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons a wonderful choice for libraries and home bookshelves of budding scientists and nature lovers.

Ages 5 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0761384649

To learn more about Sara Levine and her books, visit her website! You’ll also discover fun Bone by Bone activities to enhance your reading!

View a gallery of artwork by T. S Spookytooth, plus videos and more on his website!

Buy a Book Day Activity

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Dog Paw and Human Hand X-Ray Craft

 

X-rays are cool to look at, but they always stay at the doctor’s office! With this craft you can simulate an X-ray of a dog’s paw and a human hand!

Supplies

  • Printable skeleton templates: Human Hand Template | Dog Paw Template
  • Black chalkboard drawing paper, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • White colored pencil
  • White chalk
  • Clear Plastic Report Sheet Protectors
  • Magnetic clip to hang your x-ray on the refrigerator or other metal surface (optional) OR
  • String or wire, adhesive squares, and clothes pins to hang x-ray on the wall (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Human Hand and Dog Paw Templates (you may want to print two—one to cut and one to follow when transferring the bones to the black paper)
  2. Cut the bones apart
  3. Lay the bones on the black chalkboard paper
  4. Trace the bones with the white colored pencil
  5. Color in the bones with the white chalk
  6. Slip the black paper into the plastic report sheet protector
  7. If desired, hang the x-ray on the refrigerator with the magnetic clip or on the wall using string, adhesive squares and clothespins

 

Q & A with Author Sara Levine

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Today, I’m thrilled to talk to Sara Levine about her writing as well as to learn about her early experiences with animals and to discover a kid’s-eye-view of women in science.

Your writing for kids is so infused with humor that really captures their attention. What were some of the books that you liked best as a child?

When I was younger, one of my favorite picture books was Katerine and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch. I’ve noticed that this book has gone back into print; I was so happy to find it online. It’s basically about creativity. A girl and her friend keep finding new uses for a large cardboard box—a house, a car, a dance platform. I can still recall my feeling of excitement when hearing it read to me—it made me want to go make something. It’s actually a feeling very similar to what I have today when I think of a new idea for a book. There was also a book called Wisher, which was about difference—about a cat who dreamt he was really a fish. I remember that the illustrations were beautiful and somewhat scary—just done in blues, browns and yellows.  As an older child, I loved Charlotte’s Web by E.B White, Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater and pretty much everything by Judy Blume.

I don’t suppose any of these books are like the books I write. I used to tell people that I liked my science and my books separate. I just wanted to go outside to learn about science. But, I wanted stories in my books. I don’t think there were any of the sorts of books I write about science out for kids when I was young. At least I didn’t find them. But if I had, I think I would have enjoyed them—the fact that they were funny and interactive. But here’s a picture book I LOVE that I found as an adult that is certainly infused with humor and captures a kid’s (and a grown-up’s) attention: Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer. I think this is currently my favorite picture book.

You grew up on a farm in Guilford, Connecticut. Can you tell me a little about the farm and how or if it influenced your current work?

Calling it a “farm” might be a bit of a stretch. My parents were two kids who grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to CT and decided to get some animals, cheered on by their enthusiastic offspring. First there was a goat, who got lonely. So then there was another goat. And they had a baby. And there was a chicken at school who needed a place to go for the summer. And then never went back to school… And so on. We ended up having over 100 named animals—a horse, a cow, peacocks, geese, a donkey and more. I loved taking care of the animals, with my siblings. It was a wonderful experience, one that I’m very grateful for. But it wasn’t at all lucrative. I think the only money made was by my brother who would sell extra eggs to his teachers.

How did it influence my current work? I’m not sure. Certainly my interest in animals is a lifelong one. I think the stories about the animals actually show up more in my writing for adults than in my picture books. The ideas for the books for children come more from teaching ideas that I think will translate well into a picture book format.

You have a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a masters in fine art. When and how did the two merge into your work as an author?

What a great question. I have always had this science side and this humanities side. A lot of my life, I’ve been struggling with how to balance and feed both sides of myself. It’s taken me a long time to find a way to merge the two interests, and it’s been very satisfying to do so in writing about science, especially for kids.

You offer four different school and library programs, all of which sound fascinating. Do you have any anecdotes from a presentation you’d like to share?

In one of my workshops, the one for Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons, I bring in an articulated skeleton for the kids to see and a disarticulated skeleton in a box. The kids learn the bones, and I then hand them each a bone which they take up to the standing skeleton to figure out which bone it is, and then work together to put together the second skeleton on the floor. Inevitably, someone asks if the skeletons are real. They are. I literally found them in the closets, when I started my teaching at Wheelock. There are all sorts of questions about that, generated by the kids, and then, often, someone will ask if the skeletons are “boys or girls.” Recently, at a school near Boston, I was explaining to a group of second graders that both were female, that we could tell by the shape of the hips, and I heard one girl, going, “YES!” and pumping her arm up and down, in victory. The boy next to her says, “Why are you so happy? That means a girl died.” To which she responds, “That’s true. But it also means one more girl in science!”

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Sara Levine leads a workshop at Cold Spring School

What’s the best thing about writing for kids?

I enjoy trying to think of engaging and interactive ways to teach something that hasn’t been taught before. I like the creativity involved. And, of course, reading it to the kids when I’m done and seeing them respond!

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Students at Al Hamra Academy examine a skeleton

You also write articles for adults and were nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007. Can you tell me more about your writing for adults?

I write science related essays for adults. The writing comes more from my own experiences.  I do have a handful of essays published. I think the one that was nominated for the Pushcart, “What Hands Can Do” is still available to read online. Here’s a link to it on Fictionaut. It’s about spaying a dog. And more, of course. I think my most successful essay is “The Body of a Cow” which originally appeared in the Massachusetts Review. It’s also on Fictionaut, if anyone wants to have a look. Eventually, I hope to work the essays into a memoir for adults.

What’s up next for you?

I have a book on dinosaur bones which will be published by Lerner next year. I also have three children’s books written which I’m trying to find homes for at the moment—one on animal classification (but interactive, written like a “do your own adventure” story), one on how plants communicate with animals, and one very funny one (if I can say so myself) called “Breakfast at the Omnivore Café,” which is about what animals eat. This one might never get published because it falls into the cracks between nonfiction and narrative fiction, but I haven’t given up on it yet. The book I’m currently working on is an attempt to explain climate change through stories of the carbon cycle. Doesn’t sound very interesting when put that way, but it’s written as an interactive story, and is also actually quite funny in parts, so I think kids will like it.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you what your favorite holiday is…

Passover. You get to tell a story to children in a way that is interactive and engaging for kids, AND it involves food. What could be better?

Thanks so much for chatting and sharing your unique perspective on the natural world, Sara! I, for one, would love to read Breakfast at the Omnivore Café—that would be one interesting menu, I bet! I wish you the best with all of your books!

You can connect with Sara Levine on:

Her Website | FacebookTwitter

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Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons and Sara’s other books can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Lerner Publishing

About Sara Levine

Sara Levine is an assistant professor of biology at Wheelock College and a veterinarian.  Her science books for children include Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (2013) and Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks and Chompers (2016).  Her third book, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones will be published in 2018.  Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons has received much recognition, including the Utah Beehive Book Award, selection as a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, and finalist for the Cook Prize for best STEM picture book.

Sara also writes science-related essays for adults, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007.  Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Review, Bayou, and in the anthology And Baby Makes More. In addition to teaching college students, she has taught children’s environmental education classes for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and other nature centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut for over 15 years. 

Sara holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Tufts University, a master of fine arts degree (MFA) in creative nonfiction writing from Lesley University and a bachelor of arts degree (BA) in English from Haverford College.  She is a native New Englander and lives with her daughter and their dogs and cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Picture Book Review

July 18 – It’s Park and Recreation Month

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About the Holiday

We’ve hit mid-summer, and maybe you’re looking for something to do. This month’s holiday encourages people to get out and enjoy some exercise and fun in parks, at home, at the gym, in the pool, on tennis courts, or wherever you like to play. Biking is another wonderful activity that adults and kids can share, whether you live in a small town or the city.

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

By Allan Drummond

 

If you were to visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you’d be amazed at the number of bicyclists sharing the roads with cars and trucks. In fact, if you could count all of the bicycles going here, there, and everywhere, you’d see that “bikes rule the road.” It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1970s cars were still king, making the roads unsafe for cyclists.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-bikes

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But then “young moms like Maartje Rutten and her friends—and their children” decided to make a change. They called their friends, who called their friends, and word started to get around that roads should be shared by all. People in Amsterdam and all over the Netherlands started protesting. “At first the demonstrations were great fun. People even held parties in the middle of the road.” People sang songs, made human chains across streets, and talked to the media.

Then a tragedy made people look at the issue more seriously. A little girl riding her bike to school was killed by a car. Her father was a newspaper reporter, and he wrote a story revealing that just in that year alone five hundred children had been killed on the roads and “many of them were riding bikes.” This situation made people angry. More and more citizens joined the protests.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the same time, gas prices were rising and fuel was becoming scarce. The government even banned cars from the roads on Sundays. “That gave Maartje an incredible idea.” She gathered her friends and told them her plan: they would ride their bikes through the new tunnel that was strictly for cars. Many people were wary but they came anyway, and on a quiet Sunday they pedaled through the darkness.

As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they could see the police waiting for them. Some of the riders wanted to turn around and go back, but Maartje pushed on and they followed. When they reached the end, the cops told them they had broken the law. The cyclists were taken to the police station. There, they were given lemonade and cookies. Maartje even “noticed that the policemen were smiling just a little bit. Maybe all of this protesting is working, she thought.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-more-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

She was right! After that Maartje and her friends thought of other ways cars and bikes could share the roads. “They proposed special bike lanes on busy routes, traffic bumps and curves in the roads to slow down vehicles, and new laws giving bikes the right-of-way over cars.” Finally, it all came together. Now Amsterdam is known as the bike capitol of the world. Their ideas, including bike lanes, bike sharing, and new laws, are used in countries all over the globe.

Biking offers so much more than just less-crowded streets. It provides exercise, a quiet form of transportation, and a pollution-free way to get around. And, of course, bikes don’t require fuel to go. If you visit Amsterdam, you might even see Maartje riding around town on her bike. “Now that’s pedal power!”

An Author’s Note about how Pedal Power came to be and about the past and future of city biking follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-Amsterdam-today

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Allan Drummond’s city bike-ography is an interesting look at the revolution and evolution of bike-friendly roads in Amsterdam and other large cities. By following the story of Maartje Rutten and how she transformed the mindset of both local drivers and government officials, Drummond allows young readers to see how one person can make lasting changes that benefit all.

Drummond’s colorful and clearly depicted illustrations take children into the heart of Amsterdam—and Amsterdam traffic—to understand the problem and join in the protests. As Maartje and her friends ride through the dark tunnel to face the police, readers will wait in suspense to learn how this peaceful demonstration played out.

Pedal Power would be a great addition to Social Studies units and an engaging read for kids interested in biking, history, and environmental issues.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374305277

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

Park and Recreation Month Activity

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Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page

 

Riding a bicycle is a fast, fun way to exercise, do shopping, and spend time with friends. This printable Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page combines them all and then some! Grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers and give it a go!

Picture Book Review

May 29 – It’s National Smile Month

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About the Holiday

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

Tooth By Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

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

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tooth-by-tooth-human-mouth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 9

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

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

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

National Smile Month Activity

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-brush-up-on-your-smile-maze

Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze

 

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

Picture Book Review

May 18 – International Museum Day

CPB - How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum II

About the Holiday

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

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

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum

By Jessie Hartland

 

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

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

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

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

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Image copyright Jesse Harland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-dinosaur-got-to-the-museum-exhibit

Image copyright Jesse Harland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

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

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

Ages 5 – 9

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

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

International Museum Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Museum Exhibit

 

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

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

April 7 – International Beaver Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-skydiving-beavers-cover

About the Holiday

Two species of today’s honored animal are found across America, Canada, and Eurasia. Known primarily for building dams in rivers and streams, the beaver is a fascinating animal in many ways. Perhaps one of the greatest natural conservationists, beavers use all parts of the trees they fell. The buds, bark, and leaves are consumed as food, and the rest is gnawed into smaller bits to be used as building materials. The dams, themselves, are helpful in preventing droughts and floods, restoring wetlands, and keeping the water clean. The beaver population has seen a decline for several decades, and today’s holiday aims to promote awareness of this beneficial animal in order to protect it.

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

 

The time was post-World War II and families were eager to build homes and enjoy life again. In McCall, Idaho this meant that people moved to the shore of the beautiful lake, where they could fish, sail, waterski, and have fun. So roads were constructed, docks built, and land cleared. “Trouble was, that lakeside land had already been claimed. For decades—centuries, even—beavers had been the only ones doing the building there.”

Now, though, there was a turf war, of sorts. “Where the beavers once gathered wood for dams and food, now there were houses and people. And where the people tried to drive their cars, now water flooded the roads because of the dams.” Trees were also being “toppled left and right” by those busy beavers. Something needed to be done.

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

Elmo Heter had an idea. Elmo had experience with beavers from his job with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He knew that beavers needed open areas with lots of trees, rivers, and creeks—and no people. There was a place just like this many miles away. The Chamberlain Basin would be perfect for the beavers, but there was a problem—how could he move all those beavers “to a place with no roads, no railway, no airport, and no bus station?”

Elmo thought about loading them into boxes carried by horses or mules, but the rough trip would be too hard on both the beavers and the pack animals. Then Elmo remembered that there were piles of parachutes left over from the war going unused. “What if he dropped the beavers from a plane? Skydiving beavers? Well, why not?” Elmo decided.

Elmo went to work to design a crate that could hold the beavers safely. His first idea was to build a box of woven willow branches. Once the boxes hit the ground, the beavers could gnaw their way out. But then Elmo feared that those champion chewers might escape before the box touched down. Next, he came up with the idea for a box that opened automatically when it hit the ground. After he created his box, Elmo found a beaver to test it.

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

He found his daredevil and named him Geronimo. Geronimo, cozy in his box, was loaded onto a plane, and as the plane flew low over the test field the box was dropped. “The chute bloomed like a buttercup, then caught the breeze….The box fell as gently as a mountain snowflake, landing softly on the grass.” Just as it was designed to do, the box opened and Geronimo scrambled out.

Elmo wanted to make sure his invention would work every time, so he tested it again and again.  All this flying and skydiving seemed to agree with Geronimo. He soon began to treat it like a game, shuffling out of the box when the door opened and then crawling “right back in for another go.” Now that Elmo knew the plan would work, he gathered the beavers from McCall, put them in their special traveling crates, and headed for the Chamberlain Basin.

When they found the perfect spot, Elmo and his team prepared the chutes and let the beavers go. One by one the parachutes opened, and the beavers “wafted like falling leaves on the autumn wind to their new woodsy patch of paradise.” And who was the first pioneer? Why Geronimo, of course!

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about this true story. It also discusses what scientists have since learned about the benefits of beavers to the environment and how communities now work with and around them. A list of interesting facts about beavers is also included.

Susan Wood’s story of a little-known event is a thought-provoking glimpse into early conservation efforts. Her conversational tone and lyrical phrasing enhance the tale, lending it suspense and personality that will draw readers in. Wood’s detailed descriptions allow children to understand the problems for the community as well as the concern for the animals that led to this historical event. 

Gorgeous paintings by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen uncover the beauty of Idaho’s backcountry with its sparkling lakes and tree-covered mountains. Glorious sunsets fill the two-page spreads, turning the rolling hills pink and gold as beavers scurry near the shore building their dams. Readers will be intrigued by the clear and close-up views of Elmo Heter as he works on his plans to relocate the beavers. A table strewn with publications and photographs from World War II, set children in the time period, and his schematics of the box he designs as well as his workshop are plainly displayed. Kids can ride along with Geronimo as he climbs into his crate, travels by plane over wide-open vistas, and floats into the Chamberlain Basin at the end of a parachute.

The Skydiving Beavers would be a fresh addition to classroom environmental units to spur discussions on past, present, and future conservation science and will delight young readers interested in the natural sciences.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369942

Learn more about Susan Wood and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen on his website!

International Beaver Day Activity

CPB - Beaver craft picture (2)

Make a Spool Beaver

 

Do you have a gnawing need to have a beaver of your own? Make one with this Spool Beaver craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 6-inch long x ¾ inch wide craft stick
  • Small piece of foam board
  • Brown “chunky” yarn
  • Brown felt, small piece for ears and tail
  • Black felt, small piece for nose
  • Acorn top for hat (optional)
  • Brown craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Black marker
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

CPB - Beaver craft picture with tail

Directions

  1. Print the Ears and Nose template
  2. Paint the spool with the brown paint, let dry
  3. Cut the ears from the brown felt
  4. Cut the nose from the black felt
  5. Cut a piece from the end of the craft stick
  6. Paint the craft stick brown or black, let dry
  7. Cut two small pieces from the foam board, ½-inch long x 3/8 inch wide
  8. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, leaving the ears sticking up over the rim of the spool
  9. Glue one end of the yarn to the spool
  10. Holding the spool horizontally, wind the rest of the yarn around the spool back and forth from front to back. Glue the end to the body of yarn. This will be the bottom of the beaver.
  11. Glue the nose over the hole in the spool
  12. Glue the teeth below the nose
  13. Glue the flat edge of the craft stick to the back of the spool to make the tail

Picture Book Review