May 16 – National Love a Tree Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oliver-the-second-largest-living-thing-on-earth-cover

About the Holiday

Trees are some of the most majestic, surprising, and giving things on Earth. The glorious beauties that make up our forests provide shelter, shade, and food to countless birds and animals and fruit trees around the world provide nutrition all year long. Trees’ root systems hold soil in place, and their leafy branches work as wind breaks on flat prairie land. The foliage of trees and plants provide us with oxygen and clean our air. Today, we celebrate all of these benefits and more. To participate, consider planting a tree in your own yard or contributing to an organization dedicated to protecting our forestland.

Oliver, The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth

Written by Josh Crute | Illustrated by John Taesoo Kim

 

Sherman towers over all the other trees in the forest. In fact, “he is the largest living thing on Earth, and, boy does he know it.” A sign at the base of his trunk even proves it. People from all over the world come to see him, take pictures, stretch their arms around a tiiiny part of him, and even eat their lunch nestled next to his roots.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oliver-the-second-largest-living-thing-on-earth-sherman

Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

There’s another tall tree in the forest—Oliver. “He is the second-largest living thing on Earth, but there isn’t a sign for that.” Visitors to the forest hardly give him the time of day, and even though he’s 268.1 feet tall, “he often feels invisible.” One day, he decides he was going to change the dynamics. All year long, he worked on growing bigger—and he did. Unfortunately, Sherman had also grown.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oliver-the-second-largest-living-thing-on-earth-work-out

Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of johntaesookim.com.

“Oliver wilted.” And while he was bent over, he noticed Agnes. Agnes “is the third-largest living thing on Earth” and stands 240.9 feet tall. But she wasn’t all Oliver saw. There was also Gertrude, Peter, Guadalupe, and Lars—all in descending order. “Oliver waved shyly.” Suddenly, Oliver had a change in perspective. Now, he stands proud and happy because he realizes “he is part of something larger”— the Sequoia National Forest.

Back matter reveals that even General Sherman isn’t the largest living thing on Earth—that distinction goes to the Humongous Fungus in Oregon. It also includes a discussion about sequoias as well as several other first- and second-largest things on Earth.

Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of johntaesookim.com.

Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of johntaesookim.com.

In his spare, but compelling story, Josh Crute reveals a truth that often gets overlooked in the competitive nature of the world today: no matter how hard one works to be the best, the biggest, or the most renowned, there is usually someone or an up-and-comer who can or will best them. Crute ingeniously uses the example of the Sequoia National Forest to show readers that true happiness comes from doing their best, being true to themselves, and recognizing that they are an important part of something bigger, which might include their group of friends, their class, a team, an organization, and definitely their family and the world at large.

John Taesoo Kim’s anthropomorphic trees include the actual General Sherman Sequoia, here with a muscular-looking trunk and sporting a leafy hairdo and beard along with bushy hands and several offshoots. Images of people with arms outstretched and sitting at the base of Sherman will impress kids with this tree’s grandeur. Oliver, with striking foliage of his own, appears thinner even though he too towers over the other trees. His work-out routine shows results, encouraging children to develop their own talents and personal style. When Oliver notices all the other tall trees in the forest, this confident crew—made up of all different sizes and personalities—shows him that they all have their place and role in the forest.

A straightforward and reassuring look at how readers can consider their place in the world, Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624145773

To learn more about John Taesoo Kim, his art, and his animation, visit his website.

National Love a Tree Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paper-plate-tree-craft-2

Paper Plate Tree

 

On Earth Day children love planting trees in their yard or as part of a community project. With this easy craft, they can also plant a tree on their wall or bulletin board.

Supplies

  • Two paper plates 
  • Paper towel tube
  • Brown craft paint
  • Green craft paint (using a variety of green paints adds interest)
  • Paintbrush, cork, or cut carrot can be used to apply paint
  • Glue or hot glue gun or stapler

Directions

  1. Paint the paper towel tube brown, let dry
  2. Paint the bottoms of the two paper plates with the green (or other color) paints, let dry
  3. Flatten about 4 inches of the paper towel tube 
  4. Glue or tape the flat part of the paper towel tube to the unpainted side of one paper plate
  5. Glue the edges of the two paper plates together, let dry.
  6. Straighten the tree so that it can stand up, or hang your tree on a wall, bulletin board, in a window

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oliver-the-second-largest-living-thing-on-earth-cover

You can find Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s National Pear Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-seeds

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-soil

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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-rain

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-x-ray

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-cover

You can find Are We Pears Yet? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-cover

About the Holiday

Earth Day, the largest global civic-focused day of action, is celebrated in 192 countries and aims to raise awareness of issues concerning the sustainability and protection of our earth. This year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution with the goal of eliminating single-use plastics while promoting global regulation for the disposal of plastics. Plastics are a danger on land, in our oceans, and in our food. 2018 begins a multi-year effort to bring about alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, one hundred percent recycling of plastics, “corporate and government accountability,” and our own attitudes concerning plastics. Around the world people also celebrate Earth Day by picking up trash along roadways and waterways, recycling, making family and business plans for using less water and electricity, and by planting trees bushes, and flowers that benefit both humans and animals.  For more information on how to get involved, visit the Earth Day Network.

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

Written by Liz Garton Scanlon | Illustrated by Lee White

 

There once was a man who lived in a house on top of very tall, dusty hill. Being so high up, the man’s house captured breezes that set his curtains fluttering and his wind chimes tinkling. Sometimes the wind blew, rattling the shutters, sending the laundry flying from the line, and tearing boards from the house. Inside, the wind whipped, the “table tipped, and the tea spilled.” The man’s hat flew off and out the window, joining the birds who were leaving too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-spilled-tea

Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The man cried, “What to do?” Down on the sidewalk below, a little girl named Kate caught the man’s hat and the man’s cry too. Kate wanted to help. She “couldn’t stop the wind,” but she knew of something that could slow it down. When she returned the man’s hat, she also brought a wagon full of saplings. Kate and the man planted the trees, and they tended them as they grew—even while the wind blew.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-kate-catches-hat

Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

“The trees grew, the wind blew, and the time flew. The time flew as the trees grew…and grew…and Kate did too.” As the trees got bigger, taller, and stronger, the “leaves fluttered,” but the shutters quieted and the board stayed still. Inside, the tea brewed, the dust settled down, and the man’s hat stayed put. Even the birds came back. With the house ringed in trees, Kate and the man enjoyed a picnic in the yard, cooled just enough by the gentle breeze.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-planting-trees

Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Readers will love getting carried away by Liz Garton Scanlon’s breezy lines that through alliteration and rhyme replicate a windy day as things bang, flap, whip, and go flying. As the trees that Kate and the man plant grow and begin to shelter the house from the wind, the rhythm of Scanlon’s text becomes more staccato and rooted. Little Kate is a terrific role model for young readers for her environmental know-how and her stick-to-itiveness as the trees grow from saplings to maturity. The long friendship between the man and Kate is also endearing.

Lee White’s softly hued pages swirl with swipes and swishes that whip curtains, steal laundry, and upend the table and tea. The man’s bewilderment serves as a foil to Kate’s determination and problem-solving, and the difference she makes in the man’s quality of life is evident as the trees grow, their friendship develops, and the wind is finally tamed. Kids will identify with this kind and intelligent child who grows up to be a caring adult.

Beautifully conceived and with lovely details, Kate, Who Tamed the Wind is an environmentally conscious story that will inspire young readers at home and in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101934791

Discover more about Liz Garton Scanlon and her books on her website

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

Earth Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paper-plate-tree-craft-2

Paper Plate Tree

 

On Earth Day children love planting trees in their yard or as part of a community project. With this easy craft, they can also plant a tree on their wall or bulletin board.

Supplies

  • Two paper plates 
  • Paper towel tube
  • Brown craft paint
  • Green craft paint (using a variety of green paints adds interest)
  • Paintbrush, cork, or cut carrot can be used to apply paint
  • Glue or hot glue gun or stapler

Directions

  1. Paint the paper towel tube brown, let dry
  2. Paint the bottoms of the two paper plates with the green (or other color) paints, let dry
  3. Flatten about 4 inches of the paper towel tube 
  4. Glue or tape the flat part of the paper towel tube to the unpainted side of one paper plate
  5. Glue the edges of the two paper plates together, let dry.
  6. Straighten the tree so that it can stand up, or hang your tree on a wall, bulletin board, in a window

Picture Book Review

 

 

March 21 – International Day of Forests

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-a-peek-through-picture-book-cover

About the Holiday

International Day of Forests was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 to raise awareness of the importance of trees in vast woodlands or in your neighborhood or yard. Trees contribute to the quality of the air we breathe, improve the local climate, reduce noise pollution, shelter wildlife, and provide food for people and animals. This year’s theme is Forests and Sustainable Cities and aims to promote the integration of trees and vegetation within urban and surrounding areas. The benefits are many, from encouraging health lifestyles to providing fresh water to flood prevention to beautification. Clever architecture and infrastructure can create cities and towns that are healthy and happy to live in! For more information visit the UN International Day of Forests website.

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book

By Britta Teckentrup

 

In the midst of winter, the tree stands bare of leaves. Tucked away in a hole “Owl sits watching in his tree / No one sees as much as he.” He watches as the snow melts and young flowers, grass, and plants begin sprouting. Then bear cubs leave their hibernation and climb the tree where Owl sits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-a-peek-through-picture-book-winter

Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2016, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Young leaves and colorful blossoms cover the tree and flutter in the breeze as a spider spins her web and more baby animals come to frolic. In the branches, “squirrels scamper here and there. / Playful fox cubs sniff the air.” Birds stop by to rest and sing, while others build nests high in the treetop. The little fox has found a friend as summertime approaches.

“Now summer’s here, the sun is high, / Bees are humming in the sky.” Butterflies flit and ladybugs crawl, and the scent of “juicy apples, ripe and sweet” fills the air. Midsummer brings its own delights. The tree welcomes baby birds and the newborn foxes that sleep below under the starlit sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-a-peek-through-picture-book-summer

Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2016, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The air turns cooler in early fall and “apples tumble to the ground. Grass is damp with morning dew. / Clouds drift across the skies of blue.” The green leaves turn red, orange, and yellow, and Owl watches as the animals begin gathering food for the long winter ahead. Soon, snow falls and the animals find shelter in the woods and underground.

A blanket of snow covers the earth, but in his nest Owl stays cozy. The forest is quiet, as if asleep. “The seasons have all come and gone. / Snow has fallen, sun has shone. / Owl sees the first new buds appear, / And so begins another year….”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-a-peek-through-picture-book-late-summer

Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2016, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Britta Teckentrup’s Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book is an interactive triumph of design and story that begins with the cover where a little owl peeks out of his hole deep in the tree. As each season approaches, matures, and gives way to the next in Techentrup’s lovely verses, readers watch along with Owl as bear cubs, squirrels, birds, and bees also take up residence in the tree. With the turn of each page and as the seasons get warmer, die-cut holes reveal the animals, birds, and insects playing among the branches. When summer wanes and autumn and winter come, the die-cut holes decrease as each species goes off to spend the winter in their own way.

Young readers will love interacting with the holes in the sturdy pages, discovering the blossoming forest in such a tactile way. They’ll also enjoy watching the stories of the foxes, birds, and one industrious spider play out throughout the year. The jaunty rhymes are fun to read aloud and will entice children to read along as well.

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book is a delightful book for home and classroom story times as spring blossoms and throughout the year.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101932421

Discover more about Britta Teckentrup, her books, and her art on her website.

International Day of Forests Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-craft

Your Special Tree

 

Every tree is unique—just like people! With this craft you can use your imagination to make a tree that’s as special as you are.

Supplies

  • Printable Tree Template
  • Two 8 ½ by 11-inch sheets of foam or heavy stock paper in whatever color you’d like your tree to be
  • Colored paper for the leaves,
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape

Directions

  1. Print and cut out 2 copies of the trunk template
  2. Make a cut half way down the middle of the first trunk from the top of the trunk
  3. Make a cut half way up the middle of the second trunk from the bottom of the trunk
  4. Fit the two pieces of the trunk together

Personalize Your Tree

  1. Cut leaves from colored paper, you can make a spring, summer, autumn or rainbow-colored tree!
  2. On the leaves you can write some of your favorite books, the names of your friends, things you’re thankful for, your goals, or any special things about yourself. Your leaves could even make a poem!
  3. Then glue or tape the leaves to your tree and display it

Picture Book Review