March 18 – International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. They ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. This month-long holiday invites all you would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. So, write down those ideas you have while driving, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel

 

All the field mice gathered at the vegetable garden to play and eat, eat, eat. But one day an owl arrived, so the mice went off to the grassy fields far away where they were safe but not nearly as well-fed. “Still they all agreed that having a hungry belly was better than filling the belly of a hungry owl.” After that the mice kept their distance from the farm—all except Scampers, who hid nearby and watched the owl. She thought there was something a little suspicious about it since the owl never moved.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

When Scampers’ friend Nibbles saw what she was doing, he was afraid for her safety. But Scampers was gung-ho on finding out what was going on. The next day they waved a rag-doll mouse above the cauliflower, but the owl stayed put. “‘Maybe owls can tell if a mouse is fake,’ Nibbles whispered.” That gave Scampers another idea. She jumped out and yelled “HELLO!” to the owl, but the owl didn’t blink. Nibbles thought maybe owls were hard of hearing, so Scampers put on her one-girl-band set. Nothing.

Next it was time to bring out the heavy machinery, but even when Scampers lobbed an egg at the owl from her homemade eggapult, the owl didn’t move. Nibbles thought that owls might not like eggs, but a soaring rock had the same result. Scampers decided it was time to try out all of her experiments on another owl—one they’d find in the woods.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

While Nibbles hid in the hollow of a tree, Scampers called out “HELLO!” “An owl’s head spun around.” The owl nabbed the rag-doll mouse in a snap, and he did not sit still for the eggapulted rock. “‘Maybe you’ve figured out why the garden owl doesn’t move,’” Nibbles said. Now it was time to explain it all to the other mice. With a glittery display, Scampers and Nibbles presented their findings.

As Scampers and Nibbles raced to raid the veggies, the other mice lagged behind, skeptical about what they’d heard. “‘Sometimes a new discovery is so amazing that others need a little time to accept it,’” Scampers told Nibbles. “‘So while they’re thinking it over, let’s eat.’”

Extensive back matter includes an illustrated description of how scientists think over a problem, more information about Great Horned Owls and field mice, suggestions for teachers on reading the book to students, ways teachers can discuss science and engineering practices, and four activities kids can do at home or in school that engage them in science, technology, engineering, and math learning.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In his clever story, Mike Allegra infuses the scientific method with enthusiasm, humor, and a problem that will engage kids. When the field mice are run out of their vegetable garden by an owl who has taken up residence on a fence post, readers will love following Scampers as she uses her logical mind and a few experiments to restore their food source. Through Scampers’ keen sense of observation and engineering know-how, kids see how to go about proving a hypothesis correct. As Nibbles eats away at Scampers’ results with the kinds of alternate theories scientists must disprove, children get caught up in the suspense and thrill of discovery that fuels scientific advancement.

Elizabeth Zechel’s field mice know how to feast—and how to get things done. With bright eyes and jubilant expressions, the mice chow down on corn and tomatoes, and as Scampers performs her experiments her joy in the process is evident. More timid Nibbles bites his nails, wraps his tail tightly around himself, tries to stop the eggapult in its tracks, and cowers in the crook of a tree as danger looms. Zechel’s detailed drawings realistically depict the garden, forest, and wildlife. Her two Great Horned Owls beautifully demonstrate the difference between the false one and the real one, which has focused and piercing eyes, soft textured feathers, sharp talons, and quick reflexes.

Perfectly aimed at young scientists with charming characters, fun language, and a glittery final report that mirrors school projects, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is a terrific addition to home, classroom, and library STEM collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2019 | ISBN 978-1584696438

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other writing on his website

To learn more about Elizabeth Zechel, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Ideas Month Activity

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Green onions as they looked when put in the jar on Day 1

Green Onions Garden in a Jar

 

Kids will be wowed by this gardening experiment that shows results in as little as two days and just keeps getting more dramatic as the days go by.

Supplies

  • 1 or 2 batches of green onions (also called scallions and spring onions)
  • Jar
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Here’s how the onions looked two days later.

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Three days later, the green onions are really growing!

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In four days the stalks have gotten much longer and new shoots have appeared.

Directions

  1. Cut the stalks off of each onion so that the bulb and about two inches of stem remain. 
  2. Place all of the onions in a jar with the bulbs and roots in the water and the stalks above the rim of the jar
  3. Place the jar in a sunny spot and watch the onion tops grow taller day by day
  4. Harvest the stalks and enjoy them in a variety of recipes and as a substitute for chives

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You can find Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Have you been noticing more bird activity in your yard or neighborhood? Maybe you’ve been awakened by birdsong that you haven’t heard in many months. During February, as temperatures creep up, birds begin returning to their homes to nest and mate. But the effects of the long winter still make it hard for these little creatures to find enough to eat. Recognizing a need, John Porter created a Congressional resolution in 1994 recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of Americans have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive when natural resources are scarce. To celebrate this month, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one and enjoy the beauty and songs of the birds in your area. 

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

By Laurie Ellen Angus

 

All birds get hungry, but not all birds eat the same thing, of course. Did you know that a bird’s feet are important in determining what they eat? Let’s find out how different kinds of feet help birds find the right food for them. “If you had webbing between your toes, you could… Paddle like a swan to dabble for pond plants.” Long legs and toes could help you “wade like a heron to sneak up on a school of fish.”

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Birds who have long, strong legs can run and catch their dinner, and birds whose feet have sharp claws can climb tree trunks and hunt for insects in the bark. Birds with “small flexible toes” find their feet handy for perching on branches of trees and bushes to pick berries or—like towhees—to scratch in the dirt for bugs. There are also those birds that have “powerful feet with sharp talons” to snatch a meaty meal for themselves or their babies.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

There are many kinds of birds in the world, and each one has just the right kind of feet that help them move through their environment, find or catch food, and survive.

Extensive back matter that offers many opportunities to extend STEM learning in the classroom or at home includes

  • a detailed and illustrated exploration of each bird mentioned in the text, complete with a description of their feet and how they help the bird procure food. Kids will also enjoy learning the fun fact about each
  • A description of the bird that inspired the book
  • A discussion of adaptations, with a chart categorized with facts on habitat, feet, and beaks for seven birds and suggestions for a creative activity 
  • Common characteristics of birds
  • A discussion on predators
  • Bird-watching tips
  • More resources for further learning
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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In her engaging text, Laurie Ellen Angus takes kids out to the pond, desert, forest, and backyard to watch as a variety of birds catch or gather their dinner. Using evocative verbs, Angus reveals not only the action of getting a meal, but the way each bird goes about it—through stealth, quick motion, pecking, scratching, and more. Specific examples of bird/feet combinations give readers a starting point for further exploration. Each category also includes a partially hidden predator, such as a fox, bobcat, snake, and hawk, that the particular bird is warned about and which readers will want to join in pointing out.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Angus beautifully employs collage-style illustrations to give her birds and environments texture, color, and movement. Her use of various perspectives, lets readers wade into the pond with the heron, chase after the roadrunner that is trotting off the edge of page, cling to a tree trunk with a woodpecker, and come in for a landing with an owl. 

A visually stunning book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat is a science book that will attract the attention of young learners and excite them to learn more about the wonders of the natural world.

Ages 4 – 8

Dawn Publications, 2018 | | ISBN 978-1584696131 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1584696148 (Paperback) 

To learn more about Laurie Ellen Angus, her books, and her art on her website.

Wild Bird Feeding Month Activity

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When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different types of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

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You can find Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s National Pear Month

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About the Holiday

In 2004 the United States Department of Agriculture declared December National Pear Month to highlight the flavor of this delicious fruit. Whether you enjoy them fresh off the tree or baked into a delicious treat, pears brighten up any meal or snack! To celebrate this month try one (or more) of the 10 varieties grown in the U.S. and discover a new recipe that makes pears the star!

Are We Pears Yet?

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Carin Berger

 

A pair of pear seeds—one brown and one green—are celebrating what they will become. “Hooray! I love pears!” says the smaller seed as the two dance on stage. The little seed wonders if they are pears yet, but the bigger seed tells her, “not yet.” First, they have to find soil. Just then a quirky fellow appears rolling a wagon mounded with dark, fertile dirt. Perhaps now they’re pears, the little one thinks, but—no—they must wait for rain.

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At that, a stagehand holds up a raincloud overhead and a shower of nourishing droplets falls. Surely, they’re pears now, the small seed thinks, but the bigger seed knows that after rain, they need the sun. The sun answers the call, and the little seed is ready to become a pear. “Are we pears now?” she asks. Her friend furrows his brows. “Be patient. We’re waiting for the cold,” he tells her.

Brrr! The tiny seed doesn’t like being cold, so her friend suggests she “take a nap.” The two lie still and snooze—and what a snooze! Two years later, they wake up, but they’re still not pears. Waiting is so hard! But there’s more waiting to come…. First, these two little seeds have to grow into trees. The small seed can’t believe it! “A-pear-ently you need another lesson,” her pal reveals—and another nap.

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One year later, they wake up again. The little one hardly wants to ask, but she’s so curious…. Are they pears yet? No. And the waiting seems to be taking a toll on the second seed too. He’s tired of all the questions and says, “You know what? I lied. We will never be pears. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER.” But is something happening to these seeds? They seem to be sprouting—and growing tiny leaves!

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Two more years go by and it’s time for a “costume change.” They’re trees! But are they pears? The little tree doesn’t even want to hear it. She runs away covering her ears. But—“Hey, look!”—the big tree is holding a brown pear by the stem, and then the little tree discovers a green pear of her own. “We are pears!” they shout happily. “A pair of friends?” the green pear asks as the two hold hands and dance around. The brown pear agrees and adds, “With something very special inside.” What is it? An x-ray reveals two tiny seeds—that are going to be pears!

Five “peary” interesting facts and a bibliography for further reading follows the story.

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Quirky and fun, Miranda Paul’s story of two pear seeds will delight kids who know what it’s like to wait and wait to grow up. Through her simple, but evocative dialogue, Paul reveals the amazing facts of the life cycle of pear trees while entertaining readers with humor and sowing the seeds of friendship.

Carin Berger’s clever collage-style illustrations are perfectly aimed at young readers familiar with school plays and animation that often bring favorite foods to life. Berger’s carnival-inspired stagehands are charming additions that lend a comical flair to the pages.

A fun and memorable way for kids to learn the life-cycle of pears and spark interest in other crops, Are We Pears Yet? makes a great addition to classroom bookshelves as well as terrific read aloud for little gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017  | ISBN 978-1626723511

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books on her website

To learn more about Carin Berger, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Pear Month Activity

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Delicious Pears! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you like pears, you’ll want to discover all nine types in this printable puzzle!

Delicious Pears! Word Search Puzzle | Delicious Pears! Word Search Solution

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You can find Are We Pears Yet? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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