September 4 – National Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day, founded in 2005, serves to bring awareness to the number of endangered animals that need to be preserved and rescued each year. The holiday also acknowledges the zoos, outstanding animal sanctuaries, and other global organizations for everything they do to help preserve this planet’s animals and educate the public about conservation – especially the children, who are our future conservationists and animal’s caretakers.

 

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

When young Eugenie Clark pressed her face against the aquarium window at the sharks swimming by, she did not see “piercing eyes…rows of sharp teeth…vicious, bloodthirsty killers.” Instead she saw “sleek, graceful fish” and dreamed of being inside the tank to swim among them. She loved to spend Saturdays at the New York Aquarium sharing her knowledge of fish with visitors. She wished there was more information available about sharks and hoped for a day when she could learn more about them.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

At home her mother bought Genie her own little fish tank, and soon the whole apartment was full of fish and reptiles. Genie kept careful notes on her pets as she tried to answer her many questions. William Beebe, a famous scientist who studied fish, was Genie’s hero. She too wished to explore the ocean like he did. But this was the 1930s and not many people “dared to study the depths of the sea, and none were women.” Eugenie’s mother suggested she study typing and try to become Beebe’s secretary. The life of a secretary was not what Genie had in mind.

Eugenie received a Master’s Degree in zoology, and when a well-known ichthyologist offered her a job as his research assistant and an opportunity to take oceanography classes, she moved to California. There she collected fish and water samples. The beauty of the underwater world astonished her. In the lab she was able to dissect a swell shark to learn “how and why it puffs up.” But Genie wanted to dive deeper—to swim with sharks.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

One day, Genie’s professor allowed her to try helmet diving. Wearing the heavy metal helmet, Genie was able to descend into the cold, murky deep where kelp forests waved with the current. “In 1949 the US Navy hired Genie to study poisonous fish in the South Seas. As she collected fish, she came face to face with a shark. The shark swam closer and closer then suddenly dove and disappeared out of sight. Genie was thrilled by the encounter.

In 1955 Eugenie moved to Florida and opened the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, becoming the first to study sharks in their natural environment. The more she studied sharks, the more she realized that they were intelligent creatures, not stupid “eating machines” as most people thought. She wondered if sharks could be trained.

Eugenie set up an experiment in which a shark needed to press a white board to receive a reward a short swim away. Soon, the female shark of the pair realized that if the male shark pressed the board, she could swim to retrieve the reward. The pair remembered the exercise even after a ten-week break. Soon, scientists from around the world wanted to work with Genie. 

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Word reached her about “‘sleeping sharks,’” off the coast of Mexico. Instead of swimming around, these sharks stayed on the ocean floor. Eugenie was determined to learn how they breathed without moving. She dived deep into their territory, finding a requiem shark in an ocean cave. Here, she was face-to-face with one of the most feared fish in the sea. Genie swallowed any worry and watched as the fish opened and closed its mouth, providing itself with oxygen as a remora fish cleaned its gills.

Genie took water samples and completed other tests that revealed astonishing facts about the ocean caves and the habits of sharks. But while Genie was learning the facts about these mysterious sea creatures, most people still feared them and considered them with suspicion and superstition. As time went by, Genie began seeing fewer and fewer sharks on her dives. They were being killed out of fear, for their fins, and because people thought it would make beaches safer.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Genie began talking about her research, and people listened. “Dr. Eugenie Clark had become one of the most respected fish scientists in the world.” She taught people that there is always more to learn and “always more surprises.”

An extensive Author’s Note about the life and work of Eugenie Clark as well as more information on sharks follows the text.

Heather Lang delves into the life’s work of a woman who fearlessly challenged herself and the prevailing science to increase our knowledge of sharks and change people’s perspective on these beautiful creatures. Readers will love Lang’s comprehensive storytelling—beginning with young Genie’s fascination with fish and the sea—that reveals the pivotal events which led to her discoveries. Fascinating anecdotes from Eugenie’s research and personal encounters with sharks will enthrall children, and the idea that there is much more to discover will resonated with young scientists in the making.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Jordi Solano takes readers to the depths of the ocean in his sea-green, atmospheric illustrations that beautifully mirror the world of sharks. Textured and layered images of marine plants and a variety of creatures give children an up-close view of Eugenie Clark’s work and the fish she encountered on her dives. Each type of shark is magnificently and realistically drawn, giving kids an idea of coloring, size, movement, and more. Children will also see Eugenie’s research facilities and the equipment she used in her studies.

For anyone interested in marine science, history, biographies, or the environment in general, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark is a can’t-miss book.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807521878

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

View a gallery of artwork by Jordi Solano on Plum Pudding Illustration!

National Wildlife Day Activity

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Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble

 

Read the clues and unscramble the names of 14 types of sharks in this printable Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 29 – It’s National Smile Month

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About the Holiday

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

Tooth By Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 9

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

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

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

National Smile Month Activity

 

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Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze

 

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

Picture Book Review

April 25 – National DNA Day

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About the Holiday

National DNA Day commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953 that have led to advanced research in the medical, science, and other fields. As part of the observance, students in grades 9 through 12 can compete in an essay contest for monetary prizes and grants.

When I Grow Up

By Anita Bijsterbosch

 

In Anita Bijsterbosch’s adorable and eye-catching animal kingdom book, little ones will identify with their counterparts in the wild who are also just starting out on their journey through life. Opening to the first page, children enter the jungle, where a lion cub romps among the foliage. He looks directly at the reader as he tells them, “Now I’m just a little lion and I can only growl softly. But someday….” This lead-in to the future invites kids to turn the half-cut page and discover the cub all grown up and able to “roar so loudly that all the animals can hear me!”

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When I Grow Up is available in Dutch and English versions. Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl

Next, children visit the bayou, where a young crocodile can now only wade through puddles. On the next page, though he’s big enough to “jump into the deep water to swim with my friends!” Little Toucan is just learning how to fly. With a monkey, a lemur, and a bird looking on, he tells readers a secret: “I pretend to fly when I jump. But someday…I’ll be a big toucan and I’ll spread my winds. Then I’ll fly high in the sky!”

In the savanna, a baby giraffe lifts her head toward the treetops. She says, “Now I’m just a little giraffe and I can barely touch the leaves with my nose.” When she gets older, however, young readers can see that meals and snacks of tasty leaves will be within easy reach.

Curled around a thin branch, a little snake dreams of the day when he will be long enough to wrap around the whole tree—many times. Turning to the last page, Little Elephant happily splashes in the water and sprinkles her friends, but someday she knows that she will be big enough to use her trunk “to spray everything and everyone!”

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When I Grow Up is available in Dutch and English versions. Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl

Toddlers and older youngsters beginning to learn about the vast world around them will delight in this early science book that combines the sturdiness of a board book and the sensory-stimulating interactivity of a lift-the-flap book. Anita Bijsterbosch’s vibrant illustrations engage little ones’ visual senses with bold images of the animals as well as smaller pictures of birds, insects, and flowers for them to discover. A tiny red bird with rakish green head feathers seems to be friends with all of the animals, and readers will love pointing him out on every page.

Little ones will recognize the animal traits spotlighted through Bijsterbosch’s straightforward and easy-to-understand language and will be reassured that they too will soon grow big enough and old enough to do what the “big kids” do.

With sweet illustrations and opportunities for multiple types of learning, When I Grow Up would make a great baby shower or new baby gift as well as a nice addition to a toddler’s growing home library.

Ages 2 – 5

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373348

You’ll find more books and artwork by Anita Bijsterbosch on her website!

National DNA Day Activity

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Mom and Baby Elephant Coloring Page

 

This mommy elephant and her baby are out for a walk. Give their world a little color with your crayons or pencils and this printable Mom and Baby Elephant Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

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About the Holiday

While we should be mindful of our impact on the earth every day, today’s holiday puts a focus on how we can conserve and protect the beauty and resources of our planet. Now more than ever, it’s up to us to do what we can on a personal level to make sure the environment is clean, healthy, and sustainable for the future. If you’d like to learn how you can make a difference or get involved with your global community, here’s a good place to start!

Finding Wild

Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd | Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

 

A girl and a boy stand with their backs to the stairs leading down to the subway contemplating the jungle of growth in front of them. A single floating leaf seems to lead the way. They follow along the path, leaving the city behind and enter the wild. Here “Wild is tiny and fragile and sweet-baby new. It pushes through cracks and crannies and steals back forgotten places.” Wild comes in many guises—some obvious, some not.

Wild also moves in various ways. As the boy and girl continue on the path passing a spider’s web and shadowy shapes with glowing eyes, wild “creeps and crawls and slithers. It leaps and pounces and shows its teeth.” Everywhere the pair ventures, wild has a distinct smell—fresh or musty, sharp or sweet, tangy or acrid. They discover wild can be as hot as a forest fire or as cold as an icicle. Running through a field of flowers and climbing a rocky cliff, the two find that wild is “as smooth as the petals of poppies, and as rough as the fierce face of a mountain.” They also find that wild can hurt in so many ways.

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Image copyright Abigail Halpin, text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd. Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Plunging deeper into the wild the boy and girl uncover more secrets—delicious and quenching. The sounds of wild chill and soothe them. Suddenly, though, the girl and the boy find themselves outside of the wild, back in front of a subway entrance. The wild, now seems far away, invisible and unknown, as if “the whole world is clean and paved, ordered and tidy.” As the pair gaze upward, the tall buildings and skyscrapers block the sky. But the girl points to a leaf swirling through the air. They follow it through an open door that leads to a most surprising discovery.  

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Image copyright Abigail Halpin,  text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd, Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Megan Wagner Lloyd entreats readers to rediscover the wild no matter where they live. Her lyrical descriptions of the splendor of nature in all its incarnations—from gentle to intense, quiet to loud, mysterious to open—delightfully capture the way children interact with the environment. Lloyd reminds readers that tasting a single juicy blackberry, thrilling to a coyote’s howl on a dark night, even feeling the prick of a cactus needle connect them to the greater world and that searching for and finding the wild—especially in the midst of an “ordered and tidy” world—brings peace and happiness.

Abigail Halpin’s lush illustrations of the wild environment gorgeously depict the vibrant colors, sometimes chilling shadows, and refreshing water the two children discover in the middle of their city. The thick vegetation rendered in a palette of greens is a riot of ferns, pines, flowering trees, and vines that hide small birds and animals. As the children huddle in a tent, the indigo night crackles with lightning and the songs of coyotes. A two-page scrapbook-type spread displays various plants and insects that sting, burn, or cause itching. When the boy and girl reenter the city, buildings—old and new—billboards, and traffic meet their eyes, but they keep their gaze on the leaf leading them on. That leaf invites readers, also, to get outside and explore the wild.

Ages 3 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101932810

Discover more about Megan Wagner Lloyd, the world of Finding Wild, and news on her upcoming book on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Abigail Halpin on her website!

Earth Day Activity

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Love the Earth Coloring Page

 

Earth Day is all about loving the Earth and treating her well. Have fun with this printable Love the Earth Coloring Page and think of one thing you can do to make a difference!

Picture Book Review

 

April 15 – Take a Wild Guess Day

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About the Holiday

Don’t ya get tired of needing to know the right answer all the time? Today’s holiday takes some of the pressure off by allowing you to indulge in wild guesses. So if the opportunity arises, and someone says, “Guess what?” or asks for your opinion, take full advantage of the day and make the wildest guess you can imagine! Get creative! It will feel good – and everyone will enjoy a laugh!

Are You a Monkey? A Tale of Animal Charades

By Marine Rivoal | English adaptation by Maria Tunney

 

The jungle was alive with activity. “The birds were excitedly chitchatting,” Little Starfish had “climbed up on his rock, eager to see what was going on,” and the other “animals were curious about all the fuss.” As they all gathered round, “Parrot fluffed up her feathers and spread her wings wide. ‘Guess who I am!’” she squawked. Toucan thought she was a pineapple, but Parrot laughed and said she was a lion.

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Just then Cockatoo noticed Crocodile moving closer. He wanted to know what the birds were doing. When he learned they were playing charades, Crocodile wanted to join in the fun too. He arched his body and stuck his nose in the dirt. Cockatoo offered, “‘You’re something long….’” Parrot added, “‘…that sticks out of the ground.’” And eager Toucan shouted, “‘I know! You’re a CARROT!’” But Ostrich knew just who Crocodile was imitating. It was Ostrich, herself, sticking her head in the ground to check on her eggs.

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Next, it was Ostrich’s turn. She bent her neck back and spit water into the air. Cockatoo observed, “‘You’re something bendy….’” Parrot said, “‘And something watery….’” And Toucan guessed, “‘Are you…a CUCUMBER?’” Elephant laughed then showed that Ostrich was pretending to be an elephant like her—spraying water from her trunk.

Elephant knew just what to do next. She grabbed onto a high tree branch with her trunk and swung back and forth. Cockatoo stated, “‘You’re something that hangs from a tree….’” Parrot inquired, “‘Are you a bat?’” And Toucan was so sure he was right this time that he yelled “‘YOU’RE A BANANA!’” But Monkey let them know that Elephant was not a bat or a banana but a monkey like him.

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Monkey had an idea and curled up on the branch. Parrot suggested he was a caterpillar, and Toucan decided he was a COCONUT. No! Chameleon said. Monkey is “‘a chameleon, like me!’” Chameleon then stuck out his looong tongue. It wiggled and wrapped around the branch. Cockatoo knew it was something long and wriggly. Parrot guessed a worm, and Toucan, who “was getting VERY hungry,” hoped it was their dessert.

Snake knew Chameleon was pretending to be her, but she did not want to be dessert. She did, however, want a turn. With her long, flexible body, Snake curled “into a most curious shape” and challenged the birds to guess what she was. As much as they looked and pondered, though, they could not even hazard a guess. From way out in the water, however, a tiny voice called, “‘You’re me!’” “‘You’re right, Little Starfish, it is you!’ said Snake.”

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Starfish so wanted to play along too, but didn’t know what to be. “‘I can’t jump, or hang, or change my shape. I can’t do…anything,’” he sighed. All the animals were quiet, thinking. Suddenly, Elephant lifted him up and “sprayed him high into the air.” Toucan was the first to guess—“‘A SHOOTING STAR!’” he exclaimed. All the animals cheered at Toucan’s correct answer and “agreed that Little Starfish’s charade was the very best one of all.’”

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Marine Rivoal’s Are You a Monkey is a fun, clever, kid-enticing way to learn facts about a group of jungle animals. Employing a favorite game and sprinkled with humor, the story keeps readers engaged and guessing with every turn of the page. The personalities of the three birds are charmingly revealed through their answers to the charades, and kids will giggle along with Toucan’s silly suggestions of food after food. The final charade by Little Starfish is touching and reminds readers that everyone has a special talent and can “reach for the stars” in life. After reading, little ones may even be inspired to look for Little Starfish in the night sky.

Painting with a rich Pantone color palette, Rivoal captures the lushness of the jungle while providing a stimulating visual feast for readers. Are You a Monkey is a great choice for energetic story times at home or at school and could introduce interactive classroom lessons on animal traits and behavior.

Ages 3 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874173

Discover a portfolio of work by Marine Rivoal on her website!

Take a Wild Guess Day Activity

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These are just some of the fun activities you can act out in a game of charades using the printable cards from fun-stuff-to-do.com. 

Spectacular Charades!

 

Playing charades is a fantastic way to spend time with family and friends! Gather kids and adult young and older to act out the topics of your choice. In keeping with today’s holiday, don’t hesitate to make the wildest guesses you can—it’s fun and funny! Check out the wide variety of free, printable charades cards on fun-stuff-to-do.com! You can act out animals, people, emotions, toys, food, and more! You can even create your own!

 

Picture Book Review

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd as World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. This year’s theme is “Listen to the Young Voices.” Nearly one-quarter of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24. With a crucial stake in the preservation of the world’s animals and plants and their habitats, more and more young people are getting involved in the preservation of the environment. Today, find a way to get involved in your community or donate to a wildlife cause. A clean, healthy, and protective environment benefits all.

Lotus & Feather

Written by Ji-li Jiang | Illustrated by Julie Downing

Lotus was lonely since her winter illness had left her without a voice. The children at school “treated her like a strange creature,” and she was left without playmates or someone to keep her company on the walk home. She lived with her grandfather who made reed baskets and found solace when he took her to ride in his boat on the nearby lake. As he poled the boat through the still water, Lotus’ grandfather sadly pointed out how the lake had changed. No longer did the lotus flowers, fish, birds, or animals thrive. Instead, the landscape had “‘been ruined by greedy fishermen and hunters, and by ignorant people who took over the land where animals once lived.’”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

One morning while Lotus was out collecting reeds for her grandfather she spied a rare crane. It’s wide white “wings were edged with black feathers, like lace on a dress”…and “its head was crowned with a red top like a dazzling ruby.” As she watched a gunshot rang out. Unable to alert the hunter by shouting, Lotus banged on her bucket, frightening him away. Lotus rushed toward the wounded bird, picked it up and carefully brought it home to Grandpa.

Grandpa tended to the crane’s injury and fed him rice soup while Lotus stroked the soft head. For two days, Lotus hardly slept as she took care of the crane. On the third day she fell asleep next to the crane, waking when he stirred and nestled her cheek. “Lotus’s heart pounded, and tears sprang to her eyes.” Lotus named the crane Feather. As it grew stronger she gathered food for it, and on the day Feather took his first steps, “Lotus jumped and swirled and hugged Grandpa blissfully.”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Soon Feather was following Lotus everywhere—even to school. After class Lotus would blow her whistle and Feather would come running and dance as Lotus played. The other children joined in, dancing and playing along every day. One night Lotus heard Feather crowing and woke to find that the village was flooded. Poling his boat through the streets, Grandpa shouted, Lotus banged her pail, and Feather crowed to alert the neighbors. “Over three hundred villagers were saved. Feather was the hero.” He became famous, and people wanted to hear his story again and again.

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

When Spring arrived Feather was still too weak to fly but he looked longingly at the birds migrating north. Lotus was frightened that her friend might want to leave them, but she “knew she would never separate him from his home and family.” One day Feather spread his wings and leaped into the air. Lotus realized that he had healed and knew it was time for him to leave. Grandpa and Lotus took Feather to the lake. Grandpa tossed Feather into the air, but he returned again and again. Grandpa gave Feather to Lotus. Lotus hugged Feather one more time and threw him into the sky.  

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Holding back tears, Lotus watched as “Feather flapped his big wings and soared north, disappearing into the horizon.” Lotus and the other children missed Feather. They gathered together listening to Lotus play her whistle, imagining that Feather could hear them. One autumn morning, Lotus heard a familiar crow and rushed outside. There stood Feather with his family. Then Lotus gasped. The sky was filled with hundreds of cranes coming to the lake. Lotus blew her whistle, and the notes, “accompanied by the birds’ singing, echoed far, far away in the golden sky.”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Ji-li-Jiang’s tender story resonates on every page with love and friendship. The relationship revealed in Jiang’s tale exists not only between Lotus and Feather, but between readers and their environment. Beautifully interwoven throughout the plot, the idea of responsibility between friends, to the earth, and to ourselves makes Lotus & Feather a compelling book to read and discuss. Through lyrical passages and detailed storytelling, Jiang develops a deep, emotional bond between Lotus and Feather that readers will respond to. The heartwarming connection between Lotus and her grandfather brings comforting and another level of family commitment to the story.

Julie Downing’s stunning illustrations allow readers to walk, sit, worry, and cheer with Lotus as she finds and cares for Feather. Her sadness is palpable as she walks home from school past a group of classmates playing ball; in the corner of the dark lake, children will find bottles, cans, and other debris floating among the reeds; and Feather makes his debut with a graceful ballet. Readers will love watching the progression of Feather’s healing and Lotus’ reintegration into her circle of friends and will applaud when Feather and his family and friends return to the lake.

Lotus & Feather is a multi-layered story that will captivate readers. It is a must for public and school libraries and would make a beautiful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 5 – 9

Disney Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1423127543

Discover more about Ji-li Jiang and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork as well as other books by Julie Downing on her website!

World Wildlife Day Activity

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Endangered Species Word Scramble

Can you find the names of 15 animals in this printable Endangered Species Word Scramble? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of November we’ve celebrated picture books—those wonderful stories and works of art that open the world to children and adults in surprising and amazing ways. Creating home libraries for children as well as reading together every day is an important part of improving language development and literacy. The close bond formed between parents and other caregivers and children during quiet or boisterous reading times last a lifetime. If you have young children or even older kids who love the beauty of picture books, make every month Picture Book Month!

Owl Sees Owl

Written by Laura Godwin | Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

 

An adorable baby owl, wide awake in the full moonlight while its family sleeps, gazes out from its nest in a tree at the surrounding forest. The night is filled with “Home / Mama / Brother / Sister.” The little owl ventures out onto a sturdy limb. It knows “Tree / Nest / Hop / Look.” From its perch with a “Jump / Flutter / Flap / Fly” the owlet soars through the deep blue sky, its white face shining like the stars. It floats over autumn leaves while in the “Moon / Beam / Eyes / Gleam.”

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Down below other nocturnal animals have come out to play. On the farm the barn is quiet and dark while someone is stirring in the house. The baby owl passes them by with a “Soar / Glide / Swoop / Swoosh.” Something glistens in the midst of the forest, and the owl descends to investigate. “Owl… / Sees / Owl” in the rippled rings of the small pond.

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Image copyright Laura Godwin, courtesy of Rob Dunlavey, robd.com

After a moment the owlet takes off with a quick “Swoosh / Swoop / Glide / Soar,” reversing its nighttime flight. Once more the curious baby passes over the star- and moonlit field, feeling bolder: “Scamper / Mice / Twinkle / Stars.” Deer perk up their ears and stare alert to the nearly silent woosh of the owl’s wings above. “Yellow / Red / Leaves / Fall as the owl zooms with a “Fly / Flap / Flutter / Jump toward “Sister / Brother / Mama / Home,” where Mama waits wide awake.

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Image copyright Laura Godwin, courtesy of Rob Dunlavey, robd.com

Inspired by reverso poetry, Laura Godwin’s lovely Owl Sees Owl is a language- and emotionally rich story to share with young children. With only four words per two-page spread, Godwin tells the detailed adventure of an inquisitive baby owl who leaves home for a nighttime caper through woods and over farmland to a pond where it sees itself reflected in the mirror-like surface. In a minute the owl is back in the air for the trip home, reversing its path and also the order of the words. Godwin’s dynamic, lyrical words are joyful to read and allow for readers to linger over each page and talk about what they see, what the little owl is doing, and even whether a sentence such as “Fall / Leaves / Red / Yellow” is active or descriptive. The reverse nature of the story brings the baby owl’s adventure to a sweet, satisfying conclusion that children will love.

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Image copyright Laura Godwin, courtesy of Rob Dunlavey, robd.com

Rob Dunlavey’s illustrations transfer the most beautiful clear, moonlit night to the page, creating a perfect quiet time or bedtime book for young children. The lush, dark woods rendered in deep olives, rusts, browns, grays, and blacks as well as the indigo sky highlight the gleaming moon, twinkling stars, and white feathers of the owl. In one spread deer appear in silhouette in the background as mice scamper over pumpkins in the foreground; in another fiery red, yellow, and orange autumn leaves make a spectacular backdrop to the owl’s outstretched wings. The central spread in which the owl sees its own reflection offers readers much to talk about. Is the owl startled? Wondering? Happy? Is the owlet going home for comfort or to tell of its amazing discovery? Kids will love lingering over each page to think and talk about all that is there.

Owl Sees Owl makes a wonderful gift for young children or children who love poetry and art. The book would be a welcome and often read addition to home libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497823

To see a gallery of illustration work for picture books, nature sketches, and other artwork by Rob Dunlavey, visit his website!

Picture Book Month Activity

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Barn Owl Coloring Page

 

This little guy looks ready for an adventure! Grab your pencils or crayons, color this printable cute Barn Owl Coloring Page, and give him a background to start his journey!

Picture Book Review