September 7 – Buy a New Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2012 to promote an appreciation for the influence books have made on culture and civilization as a whole. While watching shows and movies is fun, there’s nothing like ensconcing yourself with a good book and letting your imagination soar or learning new facts with the words in your hand.  To celebrate today and Read a New Book Month all through September, visit your local bookstore to see what’s on the shelves, call up and request a title or two, or order online to buy great reads for everyone in the family. And don’t forget to add today’s reviewed book to the list!

The Leaf Thief

Written by Alice Hemming | Illustrated by Nicola Slater

 

Squirrel loved autumn, when he could lounge on a branch under his colorful leafy canopy and count the patterns: “Red, gold, orange… red, gold, orange… red, gold…” Suddenly, Squirrel realized one of his leaves was missing. He began a frantic search. He looked under Ant’s rock and in Bird’s house. Then he spied Mouse floating in a puddle in a boat that looked just like his leaf.

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Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird tried to explain that it was “‘perfectly normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year.’” Squirrel seemed to understand. But the next morning, Squirrel was shocked to discover that more of his leaves had been stolen—probably by Woodpecker, who was making a big blanket from them right outside his knothole. But Woodpecker protested that they were his and he’d “spent AGES collecting them.”

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Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird tried to remind Squirrel that the same thing had happened last year, and Squirrel agreed to try and relax. But the next morning, Squirrel woke up to a “DISASTER!” and when he saw Bird’s house festooned with leafy decorations, he accused her of being the thief. Bird patiently told Squirrel she was not the thief but offered to show him who was. Squirrel was rarin’ to meet them “‘because,” as he said, “I’ve got a few things I’d like to say to them!’”

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Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird took Squirrel to the little porch around her house where the wind whipped the little ladder, swirled leaves, and even blew away Mouse’s sailor’s hat. Then Bird calmly, but sternly, related the facts about fall and reassured Squirrel that the leaves would be back in the spring. Squirrel was relieved. “Of course! No Leaf Thief at all. Silly me,’” he said. “I’m going to sleep well tonight!’” But the next morning the grass was gone! Who had stolen it?!

Backmatter includes an engaging discussion about the changes that take place for trees and other parts of nature during autumn.

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Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Alice Hemming’s clever autumn story about a proprietary squirrel and his beloved leaves is packed with personality, humor, and heart. As long-term memory challenged Squirrel tries to grapple with the changing season, Bird serves as a patient and reassuring friend, undaunted by Squirrel’s mistaken accusations. When Bird’s unflappability is finally pushed to the edge, her curt repeated recitation of the facts brings a laugh. The pitch-perfect ending plays beautifully off the rest of the story and will have kids wanting to read it all again.

Nicola Slater’s witty illustrations capture Squirrel’s bluster, Bird’s forbearance, Woodpecker’s jauntiness, and Mouse’s creativity with emotion and fresh perspectives. Her vibrant colors and nods to today’s decorating whims as well as her character’s lively expressions create an atmosphere that is at once warm, inventive, and inviting. Leaves—and feathers—may get ruffled, but this little community of friends will stick together through all the seasons.

Beguiling, funny, and with a pinch of breezy education, The Leaf Thief is a story kids will want to jump into again and again. As today’s holiday suggests, the book is one to buy for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728235202

Discover more about Alice Hemming and her books on her website.

You can connect with Nicola Slater on Twitter.

Buy a Book Day Activity

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Autumn Leaf Mobile

 

You can bring the beauty of autumn leaves into your home with this fun-to-make mobile. Use tissue paper, construction paper, or even real leaves to make this mobile, that makes a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children too. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

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You can find The Leaf Thief at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 30 – Arbor Day

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About the Holiday

Today is Arbor Day, a national celebration of trees that began as a campaign by J. Morton Sterling and his wife after they moved from Michigan to Nebraska in 1854. Morton advocated for the planting of trees not only for their beauty but as windbreaks for crops on the state’s flat farmland, to keep soil from washing away, as building materials, and for shade. In 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting day to take place on April 10. On that day nearly one million trees were planted in Nebraska. The idea was made official in 1874, and soon, other states joined in. In 1882 schools began taking part. Today, most states celebrate Arbor Day either today or on a day more suited for their growing season. To learn about events in your area, find activities to download, and more, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses

Written by Shira Boss | Illustrated by Jamey Christoph

 

Bob lived in New York, a city crowded with buildings, people, and vehicles. Walking along on the sidewalk, “Bob didn’t like all that rushing around, the eyes of so many people, all those feet on the ground.” He climbed whatever he could find—onto lampposts, up to his apartment building’s roof, even the wall of the castle in Central Park. At school, Bob felt hemmed in by the desks, small classrooms, and packed hallways.

Every day as soon as school let out, Bob ran to Central Park, where it was cool, calm, and uncrowded. People moved slowly there or relaxed on the green grass. The “trees waved their branches in the air, inviting him to come up.” And so he did. Bob scampered up the path made by the bark and climbed higher and higher using the ladder the trees’ limbs provided. He explored cherry trees, pine trees, beech trees, and oak trees. “Each tree was its own world, every limb an adventure.”

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Image copyright Jamey Christoph, 2018, text copyright Shira Boss, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Through the leaves that hid him, Bob could look out over the city. It was quieter and everything looked so small. Bob decided to build himself a treehouse. With scavenged wood and rope, he built a small platform and after school he climbed up to where he could read, think, and listen to the sounds of nature. He even brought peanuts for the squirrels. But one day when he came to the park, his treehouse was gone.

So Bob built another one. This one was bigger, better hidden in the leaves, and had shelter. When rain and wind came, “Bob’s treehouse rocked and swayed—he was a sailor on a ship at sea.” But when the leaves fell in the fall, Bob’s treehouse was discovered and taken down again. In the spring, Bob constructed another treehouse. This one had a long platform and a sturdy house with walls and a roof. Bob devised a rope-and-pulley “elevator” to bring up supplies like “milk crates for tables and chairs” books, snacks, and even his friends.

When the sun went down, Bob stayed and looked at the stars and planets with a telescope he’d set up on the platform. “He became an astronaut, navigating the cosmos.” Seasons came and went and Bob grew older. Each time a treehouse was taken down, he built a bigger and better one.

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Image copyright Jamey Christoph, 2018, text copyright Shira Boss, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Bob’s mom worried that he was spending too much time up in the trees. She wanted him to get a job like everyone else. But he didn’t want to spend his time commuting on a crowded train and moving along crowded sidewalks to work in a crowded office. He didn’t want to deal with the noise and smog-filled air. “Instead, he built the biggest treehouse of all. Five levels and a bridge! Bob was very proud.” He even slept there.

One morning he awoke to voices calling up to him. The park rangers were ordering him to come down. Sadly, he descended. But the man in charge wasn’t angry. He offered Bob a job taking care of the trees. Bob enthusiastically said, “‘I would love to work here!’” Even though he couldn’t build any more treehouses, he still spent his days in the canopy of the trees, climbing up, up, up with special ropes and saddle to trim branches and make sure the trees were healthy. Sometimes at night, though, Bob still found his way to a high, leafy perch to gaze at the stars.

An Epilogue, including a picture of Bob Redman sitting on a branch of one of his beloved trees, tells more about Bob Redman, his treehouses, and what he’s doing now.

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Image copyright Jamey Christoph, 2018, text copyright Shira Boss, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Shira Boss’s captivating true story of a boy who felt more at home in nature than in the city and grew up to care for the trees he loves is a unique story for all kids who love the adventure of their own treehouse or fort and spending time outdoors. With short staccato sentences Boss recreates the cramped in feeling Bob Redman experienced indoors and while moving through the crowded New York streets. As Bob climbs the trees, Boss’s longer, lyrical sentences echo the freedom of the peace, quiet, and slower pace of life Bob craved. His perseverance in building and rebuilding his treehouses, finally to be recognized for his special gifts will encourage kids who also forge their own path.

Jamey Christoph’s charming soft-hued illustrations take kids quickly from the tall skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks of New York City to the lovely green expanse of Central Park to watch Bob swing from the branches as he climbs higher and higher into the parks varied trees. Readers will envy his agility and view of the city. Readers can almost feel the cooler air and the warm sunshine filtered through the leaves as they turn from page to page. Christoph’s recreations of Bob’s platforms and increasingly complex treehouses will impress kids and adults alike. The final images of Bob working a job he was born to do while still enjoying the trees and the city in his own way will inspire children to stay true to what they love.

A lovely and inspiring book with a unique story that will appeal to all readers and especially those who prefer a life of quiet, thoughtful observation and creativity, Up in the Leaves is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454920717

Discover more about Shira Boss and her book, plus a discussion guide with activities on her website

To learn more about Jamey Christoph, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Arbor Day Activity

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Climb a Tree! Word Search

 

There are so many kinds of trees that make our world beautiful. Can you find the names of twenty threes in this printable puzzle?

Climb a Tree! Word Search Puzzle | Climb a Tree! Word Search Solution

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You can find Up In the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 3 – World Wildlife Day and Interview with Author Heather Lang

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About the Holiday

A vast number of plant and animal species are facing endangerment or extinction due to human caused climate change. World Wildlife Day was created in 1973 as an effort to protect the many endangered species of the world. It is an international holiday with a new theme each year to celebrate the biodiversity of our earth while also promoting awareness and advocacy. The theme for this year’s observance is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” There are many wonderful ways to celebrate this holiday; spend some time in nature, pick up litter around your block, find out about activities going on in your hometown, and read books to educate yourself and others on the livelihood of forests, wildlife and the environment.  To learn more about World Wildlife Day, and the virtual events happening today, visit this webpage: https://www.wildlifeday.org/. If you are searching for books to celebrate, The Leaf Detective is a perfect fit!

Thanks to Boyds Mills for providing a digital copy of The Leaf Detective for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

As a child, Meg was quite shy to make friends. She spent lots of time studying and playing with wildlife: “Meg wrapped herself in nature, like a soft blanket.” As she continued to grow, so did her passion for leaves, trees, and nature. Meg attended Sydney University in Australia. In 1979, she became the first person at her graduate school to study the rainforest. Through her studies Meg learned that people had been all the way to outer space to study, but nobody had ever ventured to the tippity top of a canopy tree. Instead, they studied trees from far away through binoculars. Oftentimes scientists would spray trees with chemicals so that the harmed leaves and animals would drop to the forest floor where people could study them up close. Meg sought to change this.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

“In the dark, damp forest the trees rose up to distant rustling, squawks and screeches, shadows in the treetops. How could she get up there?” Meg Lowman created her own slingshot and harness and inched up a coachwood tree. When she reached the canopy, she knew she’d found the perfect place to study and explore. Meg is quoted saying, “From then on, I never looked back…or down!”

Meg continued to create new strategies to study the canopy, as a scientist does. And in doing so she made so many discoveries, such as: “We now believe the canopy is home to approximately half the plant and animal species on land.” Many people tried to stop Meg along her journey. They told her she couldn’t take science classes, climb trees, or make inventions because she was a woman. But Meg ignored them. She continued to investigate.

She knew that rainforests were (and are) in danger, and that so many creatures rely on the rainforest ecosystem. People all over the world were cutting down large parts of the rainforests for wood, rubber, paper, and farmland. This worried Meg; she wanted to find a way to protect rainforests before they all disappeared. “She wondered, How can one leaf detective make a difference? How can I save the trees?…Then an idea crawled into Meg’s thoughts—a way to speak for the trees.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Meg traveled around the world. She spoke to people across many different countries; taught them how to climb trees, build canopy walkways—she showed people the many gifts rainforests have to offer. Meg educated communities on how they could share their rainforest with outsiders, showcase its beauty to create revenue rather than chopping them down for resources. By using her voice and creative mind, Meg helped implement systems that have saved many trees and creatures across the world.

Meg Lowman continues to study trees, save rainforests, and teach people how to shift their economies to center around ecotourism and sustainable crops rather than resource extraction. She has used her voice to save rainforests across the world, and yet she still says, “If only I could have achieved as much as the tree!… But I have not. I have whittled away at relatively small goals in comparison to the grander accomplishments of a tree.”

Backmatter includes an author’s note detailing Heather Lang’s visit to meet Margaret Lowman in the Amazon rainforest in Perú. The note includes more information on Dr. Lowman’s advocacy work and is followed by an illustrated educational spread on the layers of canopies, and species featured throughout the story are labeled in the final spread, for readers to learn more about specific animals that make their homes in the rainforest.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Heather Lang’s lyrical writing matches the carefulness with which Meg studies leaves, trees, and the rainforest canopy. Her compelling storytelling is rich with facts and sensory imagery that immerse readers in the environment and Meg’s determination to understand and, later, save it. Scattered images of leaves drop fun facts and definitions for readers about the rainforest, canopies, transpiration, herbivores, and more. Quotes from Dr. Lowman are thoughtfully placed throughout the story in a manner that neatly flows. The Leaf Detective urges readers to understand that “a tree is not just a tree” but rather “a shelter for animals and people, / a recycler and provider of water, / a creator of food and oxygen, / an inventor of medicine/ a soldier against climate change.”

Jana Christy’s digital drawings contain stunning detail and show an accurate scale of one small person in comparison to the vastness of the rainforest. Her mesmerizing wildlife creatures and immersive watercolor blues and greens transport readers right into the rainforest with “Canopy Meg.” The lush greens of the rainforests contrast strikingly with the spread on deforestation, in which fallen trees lay scattered on the bare, brown ground. Readers will also be interested to see the innovations that have made the trees more accessible to people. One can read the book over and over and notice new details every time. It is a book to treasure, to study, to read and re-read again. 

Come unearth the secrets of the rainforest with Margaret Lowman in this book that’s budding with knowledge, empathy, and magic, and is a tale of how one person can make a difference. The intriguing facts, poignant quotes from Dr. Lowman herself, and beautiful poetic writing will leave readers of this book inspired with wonder and with a hunger for advocacy. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest is an urgent must-read for all ages.

A portion of Heather Lang’s royalties for this book go to TREE Foundation—an organization that funds field trips for children to get into nature, canopy projects, and science book distribution for children with limited access to STEAM, girls especially. 

Ages 6 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371778

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Heather Lang

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Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her research has taken her to the skies, the treetops of the Amazon, and the depths of the ocean. Her award-winning picture book biographies include, QUEEN OF THE TRACK: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall, FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, and ANYBODY’S GAME: Kathryn Johnston, The First Girl to Play Little League Baseball. When she is not writing, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and four children. Visit Heather at www.heatherlangbooks.com.

Today I am thrilled to be interviewing author Heather Lang about her new biographical picture book The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest. Heather provides some thoughtful notes for shy readers, riveting stories from the rainforest and insight into the importance of exploring and caring for nature.

Can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to write The Leaf Detective?  

We’ve caused enormous harm to our planet over the last few centuries, and I’m especially concerned about our rainforests. I knew I wanted to write a biography that was also a science book about the rainforest. When I read about Meg’s pioneering work and deep passion for trees, I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to find out how this quiet, nature-loving child, who didn’t know women could be scientists, became a world-class scientist and conservationist.

In the story you talk about how Meg was shy to make playmates with other kids. Were you also a shy kid growing up? Do you have any advice for readers who may relate to this aspect of Meg’s childhood? 

Like Meg, I was very shy as a child and remember wishing I were more outgoing. But as I grew older, I began to recognize the many advantages to being shy! My shy nature led me to sit back and observe. And that led to deeper thinking and understanding, a strong imagination, and creativity. Shy people often think more before they speak. They make their words count, which coincidentally is an important part of writing picture books. This also makes shy people good listeners and thoughtful friends. 

I’m still shy in many ways, and my recommendation to readers who might identify with this is to embrace your shyness! At the same time, don’t let it stop you from doing things you want to do. Meg Lowman told me she used to get so nervous before presenting in graduate school that she’d get physically sick. But with practice, practice, practice, she’s become a captivating presenter and educator. If you watch a few of her FUN FACTS FROM THE FIELD videos on my website, you’ll see what I mean! 

How would you describe your connection to nature? Would you consider yourself a “detective” in any ways? 

I’m constantly in awe of nature and its countless gifts and surprises. Nothing sparks my curiosity more than our natural world, and my curiosity is probably my most important tool as a writer. Being open-minded and asking questions not only generates ideas, but also leads me to think more deeply about a topic and examine it closely from lots of different angles. And of course that generates more detective work and more learning about my topic and myself. Being a detective is one of my favorite parts of writing books.

Do you have a favorite rainforest tree or creature? If so, tell me about it a bit!

When I arrived in the Amazon rainforest, I couldn’t wait to see a sloth! But during my time there I became fascinated with ants. They are everywhere in the rainforest, even in the canopy. I think it’s amazing how such tiny creatures can be so hardworking and organized. Their teamwork is unbelievable. And they are invaluable to the health of our rainforests. Among other things, they’re in charge of waste management on the rainforest floor, and they disperse seeds and aerate the soil!

What was the most rewarding part of writing The Leaf Detective?

This writing project was filled with rewards every step of the way! I learned so much about our rainforests and trees and gained a true understanding of how interconnected we all are—plants, animals, and humans. Getting to really know Meg Lowman and learning from her firsthand was thrilling and strengthened my writing in many important ways. It was also really rewarding to stretch myself as a writer and find a way to effectively write a book that seemed ambitious at first—a biography and conservation book that wove in quotes and science facts. 

Are there any stories from your trip to meet Meg that you did not get the chance to include in your author’s note that you’d like to share?

While I was on my Amazon adventure with Meg, I had many exciting moments. I loved learning from the Indigenous people how to use a blow gun, make clay, and braid palm leaves to make thatched roofs. The local shaman taught me how he uses different plants in the rainforest to treat and prevent injuries and illnesses—from bronchitis to poisonous snake bites. He also helped me confront my fear of snakes by bringing one over for me to touch. I even let it gently coil around my neck! But my favorite moments were exploring with Meg, especially at night and early in the morning when there’s so much activity in the rainforest.

What are you working on next?

I’m having a blast working on a new informational picture book series about extraordinary animals for Candlewick Press with my co-author/illustrator and close friend Jamie Harper. The first book, Supermoms!, features cool nonfiction facts about 18 amazing animal moms in a graphic format with humorous callouts. 

I’m also working on a collective biography for readers in grades 3 – 7. More to come on that soon!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Heather! I had a lovely time hearing about your inspiration, stories, writing process and tips for shy readers. Looking forward to learning and reading more from you in the months and years to come.

World Wildlife Day Activity

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You can create your own rainforest with this coloring page. Use the blank space around the picture to label the layers as shown on the last page of The Leaf Detective!

Rainforest Coloring Page

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Three different beautiful World Wildlife Day 2021 posters in six languages are available for download here.

You can find The Leaf Detective at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the variety of evergreen trees that grow locally and around the world. During the winter these giants stand out against snowy landscapes with their deep-green needles that retain their color all year around and always offer the hope of spring. For those who celebrate Christmas, the evergreen is a highlight of the celebration. Decorated with lights and sparkly ornaments, the tree is where family and friends gather to exchange gifts and share time together. Look for an Evergreen Day was created by the National Arborist Association to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of these special trees.

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht | Illustrated by Jarvis

 

A family of four and their dog head out to “pick a pine tree / from the lot,” but what kind do they want—“slim and tall or short and squat?” After looking them all over, they choose a nice big one and tie it to the roof of their car for the trip home. At home they clear a place for the tree to stand, give it a drink, and then “find the trimmings / stored within / bulging boxes, rusty tins, / paper bags, a wooden case. / Bring them to that / special place, / there, beside your tree.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But they don’t start decorating yet. They call their friends to come and help. With the house full of cheer, the kids string the lights, wrapping them around the branches. Next come the ornaments—“Jolly Santas, / Dancing elves. / Wooden reindeer. / Jingle bells. / Lacy snowflakes. / Paper dolls. / Candy canes and / bright glass balls.” With hooks and string the bright ornaments are hung on the tree.

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Finally, garlands are “strung / from bough to bough,” and tinsel is draped in “silver drips.” On the top a star shines bright and down below a tiny village springs up, complete with “a train that chugs around a track.” At last it’s finished and the lights are lit. “Look! It’s not a pine tree / anymore. / It’s a… / Christmas tree!” As everyone gathers to singing around the Christmas tree, Merry wishes are bestowed on “one and all.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Patricia Toht’s lively rhymes engage kids in one of the holiday season’s most fun activities—picking out and decorating the Christmas tree. Her step-by-step verses brim with the growing excitement of the day and encourage sharing the celebration with family and friends. As they read, kids will be caught up in the fun and memories of this favorite tradition.

Vivid, action-packed mixed-media illustrations in a rich color palette by Jarvis take readers to the Christmas tree lot with its rows and rows of different trees to choose from and back to the family’s cozy home—where a dog and cat are happy to help out. As friends and neighbors drop by for the decorating party, kids will love recounting their own experiences hanging the lights and pointing out ornaments that may look like their own. The fully decorated tree glows in a two-page vertical spread that will wow little readers.

A sweet family story full of smiles, eager anticipation, and a love of Christmas, Pick a Pine Tree is a magical read to add to holiday story times.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763695712

Discover more about Patricia Toht and her books on her website.

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

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

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Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze

 

Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze | Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze Solution

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You can find Pick a Pine Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 18 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Karen Rostoker-Gruber

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. And don’t forget the littlest readers in your life. Sharing board books, with their sturdy pages and just-right size, is the perfect way to get babies and preschoolers excited about books, reading, and the special times in their life – as you’ll see with today’s book.

Happy Birthday, Trees!

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Holly Sterling

 

Three children are excited to be celebrating Tu B’Shevat together. One boy shows the others the little sapling they can plant then the three dig in with their shovels to create the perfect hole to nurture it. When the hole is just the right size, they carefully place the tree in it and tell readers, “then, we’ll fill the hole with dirt. / (An extra shovel doesn’t hurt.) / We’ll fill the hole with lots of dirt!”

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Image copyright Holly Sterling, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

When the tree is all snug in its new home, it’s time to feed it (and have some giggly fun). “Then, we’ll spray the garden hose, / and wet the tree (and soak our clothes). / On Tu B’Shevat we’ll spray the hose! Throughout the year, the kids watch as their tree grows taller and sturdier. When the weather turns warm, they play around the tree, singing “for all the trees” with delight as they await the day when Tu B’Shevat comes around again and the tree’s blossoms “fill the air with sweet perfume.”

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Image copyright Holly Sterling, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat takes little ones step-by-step through the thrill of planting a tree and watching it grow. Her breezy, exuberant verses incorporate simple rhymes and repeated phrases that will allow even the youngest children to join in after a first reading. In her sweet board book Rostoker-Gruber captures the excitement kids feel for special holidays and the pride they feel when participating in their family’s or friends traditions. The cyclical nature of her story will also inspire children to want to plant and tend to their own tree for Tu B’Shevat (celebrated beginning at sundown on January 27, 2021 through nightfall on January 28) or when weather conditions permit.

Bright and filled with the high spirits of childhood, Holly Sterling’s illustrations of three adorable kids working together to plant a tree will captivate little readers. Decked out in their gardening clothes and each with a shovel, the three crouch and lie on the ground next to the hole to make sure the tree goes in straight and safely. Sterling has an eye for the kinds of realistic details that define children’s behavior: to make sure the hole is filled to the brim, one little boy pours on dirt from two shovels—one in each hand; and under the arched spray of the hose, the girl raises her arms to welcome the cool spray while a boy sticks out his tongue for a sip. Sterling’s lovely color palette and graceful lines create a cheerful, fresh story that adults will want to share with their children again and again.

A joyful and lively way to celebrate and/or introduce Tu B’Shevat to little ones as well as a charming story for young nature lovers any time of the year, Happy Birthday, Trees! would be an enchanting addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 4

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1541545649

You can download a teacher’s guide to Happy Birthday, Trees! from the Kar-Ben Publishing website here.

Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gruber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Holly Sterling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Karen Rostoker-Gruber

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You have a very interesting and varied career! Before you wrote books for children, you published several humorous books for adults. Your children’s books also incorporate humor. Can you talk a little about your style of humor and how you’ve expressed it throughout your life?

I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old. I wanted to write for children, but the adult humor market was easier, at the time, to break into.  

I started writing humor when I began college. Things were so strange at Trenton State that I had to start writing things down. The first humor book I wrote was called The Unofficial College Survival Guide.  

I had worked in the kitchen as a waitress for the college serving alumni dinners—sometimes to 200 – 300 people. I needed the money and it was the only way to secure edible food. 

 
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One night, while piling my tray with plates of food for the next alumni dinner, I noticed a sign on a barrel that said, “grade D,” but edible. I opened the barrel and there were thousands of hot dogs. I had no idea what “grade D, but edible” meant, but I no longer wanted to find out. After that day, I started eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I also kept finding humor on campus—mostly in the cafeteria; it wasn’t hard. There was literally humor everywhere I looked.  

When I got married, my humor book, Remote Controls Are Better Than Woman Because. . . became a HUGE hit.  I was on the Ricki Lake Show back then and over 60 live radio shows.  Then came my book, Telephones Are Better Than Men Because. . . I wrote both of those books on sticky notes in my car because I had a stop-and-go, 45-minute drive to work every day. I’d write new quotes down on a sticky note and fling them around in my car.  

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My book, If Men Had Babies, (lullabies would be burped… Prenatal vitamins would taste like honey-roasted beer nuts…, Golf carts would come equipped with car seats…”) was hysterical to me as a first-time mom. I wrote in between my daughter’s nap time, doing the laundry, the dishwasher, cleaning the house, and making breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

image.pngAs far as incorporating humor into my children’s books, sometimes I use puns, which is why my characters are mostly animals. Animal puns are fun. I would sit on my driveway for hours, while my daughter drove her Barbie car, looking at the dictionary to find good cow, sheep, goat, chicken, and cat puns.

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I also use a bit of adult humor in my books. There should be humor for the adult reading the book, too. In my book, Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match my favorite line is when the sheep say, “Her name was Polly Ester, she was a faaake,” baaed the sheep.

(Get it?  Polyester is fake vs. wool from the sheep!)  

Here’s also a favorite page from my book:

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You’ve had a long and steady career as a children’s author. What first inspired you to write for children? What’s one thing that has changed for writers since you began? What’s one thing that has stayed the same?

I’ve been writing for children since I was 8 years old. The only thing that really changed was that I actually started sending out my work in 1988-ish instead of just keeping manuscripts in my drawer. But from 1988 until 2000, I mostly received rejection letters—nice ones (that are now in my oxymoronic rejection letter binder), but rejection letters nevertheless.

My path to publication changed once I went to a conference and met with editors.  After attending the conference, each mentee was able to submit directly to their mentor and other editors that you met there. And, you were able to write “requested material” on the outside of the envelope. This was important back then because all “Requested Material” manuscripts passed the slush pile and went directly to the editor it was addressed to. (Back in 2000 you submitted via snail-mail and there really were slush piles.)  I saw them! For real!

The conference that I went to was the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. At that conference my mentor (Karen Riskin from Dial Books for Young Readers) took two of my manuscripts back with her to Penguin Putnam (it’s called Penguin Random House now). Both manuscripts wound up getting published: Food Fright was published by Price Stern Sloan in 2003 and Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was published with Dial Books for Young Readers in 2004.  

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After the success of Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo, (selling 250,000 copies) I met another editor (Margery Cuyer) at an informal conference.  She went on to acquire five of my books for Marshall Cavendish: Bandit, Bandit’s Surprise, Ferret Fun, Ferret Fun in the Sun, and Tea Time.

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The difference from then to now is that these days you need to meet editors one-on-one or you need to have an agent. I can’t get into the big publishing houses that I used to submit to before because their policies have changed.  I had 14 traditionally-published books out there with great houses before I got an agent. I’m NOT an overnight success story—far from it. 

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The setting for Happy Birthday, Trees! is Tu B’Shevat or the Jewish Arbor Day. Can you talk a bit about this holiday, it’s meaning, and how it is traditionally celebrated?

Tu B’Shevat is basically Earth Day. I think the PJ Library says it best on my teacher’s guide:

“The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, also known as the Birthday of the Trees, celebrates the critical role that trees play in life.” Jewish concepts: “Trees and the environment have particular importance in Jewish thought. From the very beginning of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) we are taught to respect all things that grow, as Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden to “keep it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). The value of bal tashchit, which translates from the Hebrew as “do not destroy,” has become the Jewish ecology mantra. Put into action, this concept means we are all partners in preserving the beauty and sustainability of our world.” “Traditionally, Jews eat the fruit of a tree only after it is three years old. The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, called Tu B’Shevat, became the trees’ birthday to help people determine when to first harvest their fruit. This holiday is gaining significance today as the Jewish Earth Day.”   

I love the structure of Happy Birthday, Trees!, especially the rhythmic repetition that’s so enticing for little ones to join in on. There’s also a playful humor that kids will love. What was your writing journey for this book?

I love bits of rhyme, repeated refrains, humor, and animal puns, so I always try to incorporate a few of these things in my books. I also know that kids love predictability. The journey for the book, “Happy Birthday, Trees”:  

I was invited to a luncheon in NY for the PJ Library.  About 20 other authors were there. At that time I had three published Jewish-themed  books, Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match, Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, and The Family and Frog Haggadah, which is a real haggadah that was featured in the NY Times!  

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CPB - the family and frog haggadah
 
 

They told us that they were actively looking for board books and chapter books at the time. I had a lot of board books in my drawer already, so I sent them the one that I liked the best. At that time it was called, “Happy Birthday to the Trees.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-birthday-trees-coverMonths later (I forgot all about sending that story into the PJ Library) I got a call from the PJ Library that I won the author incentive award—2,000 dollars. Then my agent (I now had an agent) Karen Grencik found a publisher for it.

Holly Sterling’s illustrations are adorable and really capture the delight of the children. What was your first impression when you saw Holly’s pages?

I was super-excited about Holly’s illustration sample that Joni Sussman from KarBen showed me, so I couldn’t wait to see what she would do with this very simple board book. I LOVE the illustrations. The children look like they are having a blast on the front cover.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale definitely combines humor with a heartfelt message. The story is a retelling of a traditional Yiddish tale. What about this tale really resonated with you for today’s kids? How did you make it your own?

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I was reworking a folktale for one editor, but by the time I found a folktale that I liked and reworked that editor had already taken on a story too similar to it. I remembered this story as a child, but I wanted to make it a folktale for everyone, so I took out the Rabbi and added a wise woman instead.  Every story that I read had a wise man—times have changed.  

I also added a bit of rhyme and a repeated refrain.  The story is basically about being grateful for what you have, which is perfect for COVID times as everyone is feeling like Farmer Earl with family members working and learning in the house; it’s too crowded.

If you had to live with three groups of animals like the family in your book—small, medium, and large—what would they be?

I love hamsters (They’re sooo cute and fuzzy).

Goats crack me up; they always look like they’re up to something. 

As far as large animals go, there are too many that I’d like to have: elephants (I could teach them to paint), dolphins and gorillas (I could teach them to speak—I’m fascinated by Koko the gorilla), and pandas—just because they look so cuddly.

Oh, and unicorns (because they’re magical).

I love Kritina Swarner’s whimsical-yet-realistic illustrations, especially as the house becomes more and more crowded and chaotic. Do you have a favorite spread?

I love her work. There’s so much detail: in the wise woman’s dress, the fabric on her chair. Also, if you look closely, the plants are growing in her window from scene to scene, there’s a mouse under a bed, and my favorite spread is the toilet paper scene. However, I also like the expressions on the cat’s faces throughout the book. They are NOT amused at the amount of animals in the house.

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You’re also an accomplished ventriloquist and have an adorable puppet named Maria who accompanies you on visits to schools and libraries. How did you get involved in ventriloquism and can you describe your program briefly? How do the kids respond to Maria?

I am a self-taught ventriloquist. I used to talk for my sister’s blanket, her food, and her dolls. She was 5 years younger than I was so she was the perfect audience.  

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I take Maria to every school visit–even my virtual ones (I just did one with 600 children). In my program I talk to children about every step I take from sticky notes at 3 am, to revisions, to submitting a polished manuscript to an agent or an editor.  

Maria is my side-kick, because you had better be funny if you are in front of 350 – 600 children. Plus, kids LOVE Maria! Some don’t know how she talks; it’s magical to them and I don’t want to ruin that magic.  

If Maria and I are doing “high tea” at a tea house or a public show at a library, I have to bring Maria’s car seat, eye mask, and blanket. Children follow me out to my car to watch me buckle her in with a seat belt. 

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One time, after a show, a boy came up to me and wanted to know how his parents could “buy” him a puppet like Maria. I told him that I got the last talking puppet on the internet. Enough said. 

Here’s Maria as Alice in Wonderland for another show that we did.  She likes to dress up. (It took me three hours to sew felt Mary Janes onto her white socks. Ugh!)

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One day I had to take Maria shopping to Walmart to get her PJs because we had a bedtime, bears, and books show. I didn’t know her size. I held Maria up in the seat of the cart with my right hand while pushing the cart with my left hand. We had quite the following that day up and down the aisles.  Kids just wanted to follow her around. 

What do you like best about being an author for children?

My favorite part is when I get to see the illustrations; to see if the illustrator took my words to a new level. And, I LOVE seeing children enjoying my books and laughing at the puns.  

What’s up next for you?

I’m always working on something, but it’s always a waiting game.  Anything can happen on any day. An editor can email me from a year ago to tell me that something that I sent them is now a go.  I’m not going to lie— 

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every day is full of surprises and disappointments.  Being an author is very emotional. You have to have thick skin.

Thanks so much, Karen, for this awesome discussion about your books and sharing so much about your life as an author! I wish you all the best with Happy Birthday, Trees!, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, and all of your books!

Picture Book Month Activity

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Plant a Tree! Activity Pages

 

Whether you need to wait awhile before you can plant a tree or are in a warm-weather locale that allows for planting now, you can enjoy these two tree activity pages!

Plant a Tree Coloring Page | Stately Tree Dot-to-Dot

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You can find Happy Birthday, Trees! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

November 14 – It’s Geography Awareness Week

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted in 1994 by National Geographic to get people excited about geography and its importance to education and everyday life. As defined by National Geographic, geography is “the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.” This discipline includes how humans interact with the environment and the impact of location on people. These important questions affect a wide range of issues. More than 100,000 people across the country participate in Geography Awareness Week through special events, focused lessons and activities in classrooms, and attention by government and business policy-makers. To learn more about the week and discover resources for further education, visit the National Geographic website.

Into the Forest: Wander through Our Woodland World

Written by Christiane Dorion | Illustrated by Jane McGuinness

 

Forests, with their stands of ancient, towering trees capped with leafy canopies and thin saplings reaching for their bit of sun are mysterious, awe inspiring, and home to some of the world’s most fascinating creatures. In Into the Forest Christiane Dorion and Jane McGuinness take readers through coniferous forests, deciduous forests, and tropical rainforests around the world to introduce readers to the life found there.

Readers first learn how a single tree grows from a seed to a full-grown beauty and see how the tree is nurtured and how it nurtures insects and animals in return. But a single tree does not make a forest. Children discover the ways in which many trees work together to create a forest and how the creatures attracted to the forest interact as well.

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Deciduous forests are found in places where there is plenty of rain and four distinct seasons through the year.” Animals roost in the trees’ trunks, root systems, and branches. “On the forest floor, small creatures snuffle, crawl, or hop under the thick carpet of fallen leaves in search of food and a safe place to shelter.” These trees have distinctive leaves and undergo changes as the seasons change. Like the trees, the animals that live in a deciduous forest also adapt to the weather, the abundance or scarcity of food, and sheltering needs. Readers learn fascinating facts about the ingenuity of the forest’s insects and animals.

After learning about the deciduous forest, readers will want to discover them for themselves. Through lyrical descriptions and charming, realistic illustrations, Dorion and McGuinness show children and adults how and where to look and listen to find the treasures the forest holds. But there can be so many different trees in a forest—or even in a backyard or neighborhood. How do you know which is which? Dorion and McGuinness provide an illustrated guide to the names, shape, size, and type of leaf of twenty deciduous trees.

Across the northern hemisphere, coniferous forests stand tall and stalwart against bitterly cold winters while attracting some of the most majestic creatures in the animal kingdom. “Most trees in the coniferous forest are evergreens with needle-like leaves” that stay green and shed little-by-little all year round. Instead of flowers, coniferous trees produce their seeds in cones. Squirrels and birds, who can use their sharp beaks and acrobatic flying and hanging skills, find food in these cones during long winters.

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In coniferous forests, the floor is dark, wet, and can be rocky or even frozen year-round. Moss, fungi, lichen, and carnivorous plants are some of the vegetation found here. Readers learn how these plants grow, what they look like, and the animals that thrive on them. How do the forest animals survive the harsh winter conditions? Dorion and McGuinness follow ermine, grouse, a snowshoe hare, bats, chipmunks, bears, and other birds and animals as they navigate their cold home. They then take kids to the west coast to look up, up, up at the mammoth redwoods, some of which “have lived for more than two thousand years.”

There is a wide variety of coniferous trees, and again Dorion and McGuinness present a guide to the size, shape, and type of needles and cones of fourteen trees. And why are evergreens shaped like a triangle? The clever answer to that question is here too.

When you think of colorful birds and animals, you think about tropical rainforests. Dorion and McGuinness. Found near the equator, rainforests are home to “more than half of the know plants and animals in the world” and “more are yet to be discovered.” In a glorious riot of color, climbing vines, vibrant flowers and fruit, Dorion and McGuinness introduce readers to the denizens of these forests, where rain and warm weather provide plenty of food and water; “monkeys leap from tree to tree using their long limbs and gripping tails to move around;” and “screeching macaws, croaking frogs, and howling monkeys make a deafening jungle chorus” to “tell each other where they are in the dense tangle of leaves and branches.”

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers will meet animals including the howler monkey, coati, toucan, parrot, poison dart frog, and sloth. Kids also learn about hanging lianas, orchids, and why plants have waxy leaves. All of that vegetation above means that the forest floor is dark and damp, making it the perfect place for some of the world’s most unusual—and feared—creatures, including snakes, spiders, jaguars, the giant centipede, and the Hercules beetle.

Frequent rain is the lifeblood of these tropical forests, and Dorion and McGuinness describe and depict their unique atmosphere as well as the ingenious adaptations some animals use to hide in plain sight and fool predators and the way nighttime transforms the forest into a feeding ground for nocturnal animals. The guide to fourteen tropical trees introduces readers to a wide variety from palm trees to fruit trees, like mango and avocado, to trees that produce nuts, cinnamon, cacao, and chicle for gum.

Dorion and McGuinness close out their book with discussions on how plants, insects, and animals work together to ensure the growth and heath of a forest; the ways in which a forest benefits the planet; and how to plant a tree so that it will thrive. Readers will love the illustrated prompt to find twenty-seven creatures within the pages of the book, giving them an exciting way to turn back to discover all the gems included in the text.

A glossary defines twenty-two terms found in the text, and a list of organizations and links to their websites complete the back matter.

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Christiane Dorion’s beautiful language and richly detailed narration take children into the three types of forests to see and hear how these natural communities of trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, and even weather patterns work together to maintain what are indispensable parts of our earth. The facts Dorion chooses to present will captivate young learners, telling them enough about each subject to educate while sparking a desire to know more. Perfectly paced, her text creates a lovely flow and visual accompaniment to Jane McGuinness’s gorgeous illustrations.

McGuinness astounds on every page with lush images of the various types of forests in warm weather and the coldest of conditions, during daylight and nighttime, during quiet periods and busy times. Her realistically portrayed intense textures, vivid colors, unique shapes, and furtive or carefree movements of nature invite readers into the depths of the forests to truly see what is there.

Lingering over the pages rewards readers with hidden delights, such as tiny animals peeking from the knot hole of a tree, little caterpillars inching their way across leaves, a nest with three eggs secured within the branches of a spring-green tree, and masters of camouflage motionless and nearly undetectable. Spotlighted facts and the intermittent detailed guides to specific trees, creatures, and the science of forests not only teach readers about these particular features but reinforce how nature collaborates to survive and grow.

Superbly conceived, Into the Forest is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections for nature lovers, school and homeschool lessons, and anyone who would like to learn more about our planet.

Ages 7 – 15

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1526600707

Discover more about Christiane Dorion and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jane McGuinness, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Geography Awareness Week Activity

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Wonderful Wildlife Board Game

 

Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!
  • 1 = Flamingo – South America
  • 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 3 = Giraffe – Africa
  • 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
  • 5 = Ibex – Europe
  • 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
  • 7 = Panda – Asia
  • 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 9 = Toucan – South America
  • 10 = Buffalo – North America
  • 11 = Koala – Australia
  • 12 = Lion – Africa
  • 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
  • 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
  • 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
  • 16 = Tiger – Asia

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You can find Into the Forest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 10 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday, expanded from a week-long event to take in the full month of June in 2004, encourages people to get outside and explore. There’s so much to see, from the delicate details of a flower to the wonders of the big open sky. If time permits, take a walk with your kids and really look at what you are passing. When you’re walking with children, stop to examine and talk about the marvels you see. Sometimes the most familiar sights turn out to be the most surprising!

I received a copy of Under My Tree from Blue Dot Press for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

By Jakki Licare

Under My Tree

Written by Muriel Tallandier | Illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa 

 

“There once was a tree different from all the rest.” Most people think trees are all the same, but to Susanne there is no other tree like her tree. Susanne spends her vacations at her Grandma and Grandpa’s country house far away from the city where she lives. Initially, Susanne is scared to walk around the forest near her grandparent’s house because of the fairy tales she’s heard.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

But when Susanne goes on a walk with her Grandma in the forest and it starts to rain, they find shelter under a big tree. Susanne feels safe under its canopy and she is not alone. There is a nest of baby owls hiding in the tree too. Susanne convinces her grandmother to have lunch under the tree with the owls.

Susanne visits her tree a lot. Susanne touches the bark and then she hugs it! “That’s the first secret I learned: you have to touch a tree if you really want to talk to it,” Susanne says. The next time she visits the tree, she climbs up all the way to the top and is amazed by the view. On another visit she discovers the tree has grown fruit.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

One day it is very windy when she visits her tree and it seems like the whole forest is performing. “My tree sang with her leaves, using the wind as her lungs. The other trees sang back.” Susanne whistles along with the forest. Another time she finds insects all around her tree. In fact, the entire forest teems with life. Next time Susanne brings her best friend Max to meet her tree. Together they create a fort under Susanne’s tree. They use branches from the forest for the walls and moss on the ground as their carpet.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

Her tree’s leaves are starting to fall, and Susanne knows that summer is winding down. Susanne will not visit her grandparents often during the winter, but she knows that her tree will be taking a nice long rest. Susanne cannot wait to go back in the spring and watch her tree start to bud.

When Susanne’s mother comes to visit, she introduces her to the tree and they relax together underneath it. Before Susanne goes back to the city, she hugs her tree tightly and takes a leaf as a memento. Susanne may only be able to visit her tree occasionally, but she loves it “…all year long.”

There are eight tree facts and “try this” opportunities spread throughout the book.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

This lyrical story is written in first person and will surely make readers fall in love with Susanne’s tree. Many kids will be able to relate to Susanne, who has grown up in the city, and is initially afraid of the forest. As Susanne points out, there are many scary things like witches and wolves in fairy-tale forests. Susanne soon discovers, however, a wonderful natural world in her grandparent’s forest, and she becomes good friends with a special tree. Muriel Tallandier shows us how important trees are, not only in the facts written in the sidebar, but also in the simple ways Susanne enjoys her tree.

Young readers will be interested in Susanne’s exploration of her favorite tree where she climbs, hugs, touches its bark, and watches its leaves change. The “try this” opportunities written in the sidebar will encourage young readers to explore the trees in their own yard, neighborhood, or local park just like Susanne. Under My Tree will certainly convince all children that trees are our friends.

Mizuho Fujisawa’s timeless illustrations depict a fun natural world that is filled with colors, animals, and of course beautiful trees. Her transparent overlapping leaves give the trees depth while maintaining a delicate nature.  The soft blue, green, and yellow palette of the forest invites readers to explore the natural world with Susanne. Fujisawa explores Susanne’s tree from a variety of perspectives. On the windy day, readers are looking up at Susanne and her tree, watching the leaves and her hair blowing in the wind. When her mother comes to visit, readers are looking down on the tree with a bird’s eye view and see the mother and child relaxing under the tree’s leaves. 

Under My Tree is the perfect read to encourage children to get outside and explore nature.  The book would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3-8 years old

 Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121231

Discover more about Muriel Tallandier and her book on Blue Dot Kids website.

To learn more about Mizuho Fujisawa, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Patterned Transparent Leaf Mobile

 

Recreate Susanne’s tree with your own transparent leaves in a leaf mobile. This is a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

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You can find Under My Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop| IndieBound