June 14 – International Bath Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encompasses so much more than keeping clean. Sure, a soaking in a tub of warm water is necessary and relaxing, but did you know that a bath is responsible for a mathematical and a linguistic discovery? The story goes that on June 14th in the year 287 BCE, Greek mathematician, scientist, and scholar Archimedes, noticed that when he stepped into the bathtub, the water rose. He realized then that by submerging an object in water, he could accurately find its volume by measuring the amount of water displaced. Unable to contain his excitement over this discovery, Archimedes leaped out of the bathtub and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse, Greece yelling “Eureka, Eureka!” Thus, both a scientific principle and a new word were born! To celebrate today, take some time for yourself and indulge in a nice long soak!

Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath

Written by Todd Tarpley | Illustrated by Vin Vogel

 

Naughty Ninja had been training in the jungle when his rumbling stomach told him it was time to go home. As he stepped in the door, he announced that he needed food. But Naughty Ninja aka Will “was covered with river mud, smelly leaves, and beetle dung. Flies buzzed around him.” His mom and dad told him he needed to take a bath before he had his “ninja nuggets.”

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Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Will’s dad filled the tub and calmly reminded him not to say “‘Ninja to the rescue’” because whenever he did bad things happened. But Naughty didn’t hear. He was focused on the flies that were now swarming around his dad. He recognized them as “wild, poisonous flies from the jungle.” His dad saw the gleam in his eyes and begged him not to say those dreaded words.

But they were already leaving Naughty Ninja’s mouth, and his foot was already coming up to kick those flies. Unfortunately, he kicked his dad instead. Dad fell backward into the tub of water. Naughty Ninja was sure a fierce alligator had dragged his dad into the tub. Calling out his signature phrase, Naughty Ninja leaped into the air and rescued his dad. Of course, he also caused a tidal wave of water to fill the bathroom. He was sure his dad was okay now, but Dad said he was ‘not better.’ Naughty Ninja thought about this. “It could only mean one thing…invading samurai warriors!” In on smooth move, Naughty Ninja picked up the bubble bath, soared into the air, and poured it into the tub. In a moment, clouds of bubbles filled the room. Naughty Ninja yelled for his dad to run.

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Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As water and bubbles, bath toys and toothbrushes flowed out of the bathroom, Naughty Ninja bounded across the bathroom and out the door. Ninja Dad gave chase with an armload of towels. But Dad slipped and slid on a towel across the room and back again. “Naughty Ninja thought that looked like fun.” He grabbed a towel and slid loop-de-loops around the floor, walls, and ceiling. By this time even Ninja Dad was having fun.

They came to a halt in front of Mom, who wanted to know what they were doing. “Naughty Ninja and Dad stopped and slowly pointed at each other.” Mom didn’t care who started it or how it had happened. She was just thrilled with how clean the house looked. Dad smiled at Will. It was just another successful Ninja rescue.

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Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Todd Tarpley’s madcap ninja adventure will thrill kids who play hard and have active imaginations. His funny description of Naughty Ninja’s dire need for a bath segues naturally into the slapstick comedy to come. Ninja Dad’s wary warning ramps up the suspense, and readers will be eagerly anticipating Naughty Ninja’s catch phrase to see what “bad things” happen. Tarpley’s disconnect between Naughty Ninja’s thought process and his dad’s desires to get him in the tub create moments that will have appreciative kids laughing out loud. As Dad embraces the slip-sliding fun and Mom thanks them for cleaning the house, readers will be happy to adventure with this Ninja Family again and again.

Vin Vogel’s humorous, action-packed illustrations depict all the fun of Naughty Ninja’s imagination with clever details and a deft eye for scenes that make kids giggle. Flailing arms, heroic leaps, and air-born kicks are all part of Naughty Ninja’s repertoire, and his ninja outfit (which includes a black hoodie with the size tag sticking out and one untied sneaker) is inspired. Readers will enjoy pointing out the flies, bath toys, and bath accessories that become unwitting stars of Naughty Ninja’s daring rescue.

Sure to be a favorite of Ninja-loving kids and fun-loving adults, Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542094337

Discover more about Todd Tarpley and his books on his website.

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

International Bath Day Activity 

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Recycled  Bathtub Catapult Battleship 

 

If your kiddo isn’t interested in taking a bath like Otis P. Oliver then you should give this craft a try! Blast the bubbles away as you sail your battleship in the tub.

Supplies

  • Applesauce or yogurt cup
  • Skewer
  • Plastic spoon
  • Popsicle stick
  • 10-15 pennies
  • Rubber band
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Crayons (are best since they are waterproof)
  • Tape

These supplies are just suggestions. Play around with different recycled materials and see what works!

Directions

To Make the Mast

  1. Cut the bottom of the popsicle stick off so the end is flat

  2. Take the cut-off part of the popsicle stick and hot glue the flat side to the popsicle stick, one inch down from the top. This will help hold the rubber band in place

  3. Hot glue the popsicle stick to the center of your yogurt or applesauce cup.

To Make the Catapult

  1. Cut off the pointy ends of skewer

  2. Hot glue the handle of the plastic spoon to the skewer

  3. Hold the catapult at an angle and hot glue the skewer next to the popsicle stick

To Make the Flag

  1. On paper draw a triangle and color in.

  2. Cut out triangle and tape to popsicle stick as a flag

To Finish

  1. Place pennies in front of popsicle stick to balance it out for floating (mine needed 12 pennies to keep it from tipping over backwards)

  2. Attach rubber band around popsicle stick and skewer

  3.  Float in bathtub and attack those bubbles!

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You can find Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

June 13 – National Weed Your Garden Day

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About the Holiday

So, you’ve planted your seeds and seedlings and they’ve started coming up, but so is something else. Suddenly, it’s a race for ground space, water, and nutrition between the veggies, fruit, or flowers and a fast-moving intruder. How do you slow down the intruder or keep it at bay? That’s where today’s holiday comes in. National Weed Your Garden Day encourages people to set aside some time each day to weeding their gardens and give their crops the best environment to grow in.

Dandy

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Charles Santoso

 

When Daddy Lion looked out the window and saw the little yellow flower of a dandelion nodding to him “on his perfect lawn. He ran for his clippers….” But when he got out there, his adorable daughter, Sweetie, was already there watering her “flower.” “‘Her name is Charlotte. She’s my best friend,’” the tyke said, gazing up at her daddy with her big, bright eyes.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Daddy may have let it go, except for the neighbors who railed over the hedge that the weed would take over his yard, the neighborhood, and even the universe. The giraffe caught Daddy in a steely gaze and said, “‘You KNOW what you have to do.’” While his daughter read in the family room, Daddy snuck out with his shovel, and even though the dandelion gave him its most winning look, he raised the shovel high above it, readied for the forward swing, and… “‘Hi, Daddy!’” Sweetie was there reading to Charlotte.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

During nap time, Daddy tiptoed out of Sweetie’s room and ran pell-mell with his mower toward the little weed. “But Sweetie was there” camped out with a tent and sleeping bags for her and Charlotte. When Sweetie was preoccupied with raiding the cookie jar for snack time, Daddy leashed up a hungry goat… but Sweetie beat him to it with a tea party, complete with cookies for her, Charlotte, and the goat.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

“Once again, Daddy hoped his friends wouldn’t notice. They did.” They spurred him on to get rid of that dastardly dandelion, and Daddy tried everything from nunchucks to chemicals to a jackhammer and, finally, a cannon. But each time, Sweetie was there. Until, that is, she took the bus to her swimming lesson. Promising his daughter to “take care of Charlotte,” Daddy waved goodbye and rushed out to the yard with the neighbors cheering him on.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

But there, propped up on Charlotte’s leaves, was a painting by Sweetie of Daddy standing next to Charlotte surrounded in hearts. When Daddy held it up, he and the neighbors shared a good cry. “(They were daddies, too.)” But just then, Daddy’s clippers slipped out of his hand. Daddy and the neighbors put Charlotte back together as best they could and “hoped Sweetie wouldn’t notice.” With tears in her eyes, though, she came to Daddy and pulled him outside to show him that something was “‘WRONG with Charlotte!’” And there, bent and broken but taped together, stood Charlotte, and where her bright yellow flower had been there was a cloud of white fluff.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Daddy gazed out at the lawn and then down into Sweetie’s crumpled face and chose. He picked up Charlotte and blew, sending the fluff flying. And soon, Sweetie was introducing Daddy to “‘Charlotte Two! And Charlotte Three! And Charlotte Four! And…’” And Daddy thought they were all “DANDY.”

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Smart, sweet, and surprising, Dandy is a delight from beginning to end. The book’s cover, dotted with posing dandelions, hint at the endearing personalities that preserve these sunny weeds while the front endpapers depict perfect lawns where kids play and dads snip, clip, and dig up any interlopers. The back endpapers show a change of heart on the part of these dads following the story.

In between, Ame Dyckman’s pitch-perfect, laugh-out-loud series of events in which Sweetie is always there to protect her best friend, Charlotte, will charm kids and adults. Dyckman’s Sweetie lives up to her name with her invitation to tea, love-filled painting, and ever enthusiastic “Hi, Daddy!” greeting from Charlotte’s side. Clever wording introduces a plot twist that will melt the heart of even the most stalwart lawn lover, and the touching suspense leads to a tender moment between father and daughter.

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Charles Santoso infuses every page of Dandy with humor that grows more and more hilarious as Daddy tries to placate the neighbors only to be bested by his adorable daughter who has enormous eyes, rosy cheeks, and even a heart-shaped nose. The action gets off to a fast start as Daddy Lion, his face plastered to the window in horror, is taunted by the waving dandelion. Clippers in hand, he’s caught up short by Sweetie’s introduction of her “best friend Charlotte,” a scene that only grows funnier as Daddy’s methods of destruction escalate.

The five neighbors—a modern day, suburban-dressed Greek chorus—keep up the pressure, but crumble in the end. As the dads surround the injured Charlotte, surgical masks in place and holding a variety of medical instruments, kids and adults will be thoroughly invested in Charlotte’s prognosis. The final illustration of Sweetie and Daddy happily watering their crop of Charlottes proves that love has the deepest roots.

Highly original, funny, and touching, Dandy is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries, and makes a perfect gift for dad on for Father’s Day or any day.

Ages 4 – 8

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0316362955

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

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

National Weed Your Garden Day Activity

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Dandelion Garden Coloring Page

 

With their bright yellow petals and soft fluff, it’s easy to see why dandelions can be a child’s favorite flower, so here’s a little patch of dandelions that kids can keep inside! Just add some color and maybe a bit of cotton or polyfill  to bring this printable garden to life.

Dandelion Garden Coloring Page

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You can find Dandy at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 12 – National Get Outdoors Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2008, National Get Outdoors Day was instituted to inspire people – and especially young people – to enjoy healthy, active outdoor fun and exploration. Celebrated in conjunction with national parks, people are encouraged to hike, explore, and enjoy the natural wonders near them. You can also head out into your yard to play games or into your neighborhood with bikes, scooters, skates, or just for a walk. There’s so much for kids to see and discover – even concepts that may seem simple are beautiful and complex in the eyes of a child, as you’ll see in today’s book. 

Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Southwest Sunrise with me for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Southwest Sunrise

Written by Nikki Grimes | Illustrated by Wendell Minor

 

Jayden mopes all the way from New York to New Mexico, upset about moving from his beloved city to “a place of shadows.” Shadows and drabness are all he sees when he gets off the plane. In the morning, though, he wakes up “to a knife of sunlight slicing through” his room. Here, his window doesn’t have bars, and the view is of a “mountain striped in rainbow.” Jayden is surprised; he didn’t know that was there.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A string of chili peppers brightens the kitchen. Jayden isn’t optimistic that he’ll see any other colors in his new desert surroundings. His mom gives him a field guide to New Mexico at breakfast, and as he pages through it he doesn’t really think he’ll find any of the colorful flowers inside. But then, as he looks around, he spies the burgundy wine-cup and yellow bells that “wake up the desert with their silent ring.” He finds more flowers from the book that add red and purple to the landscape.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jayden walks on, farther away from his new house. The unfamiliar silence is broken by “the mad chatter of winged gossips passing secrets” from one piñon tree to another. He watches the long-tailed magpies swoop through the “deep waves of turquoise overhead” and wonders why he never saw so much sky in New York. Still, he misses looking up and seeing the grandeur of the skyscrapers.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Looking down again, Jayden finds a striped lizard that seems happy to run along his hand, tickle his fingers. Instead of seashells, he finds bones and an abandoned turtle shell. “What stories do they have to tell?” he wonders. He continues his walk and, upon turning the corner, finds himself in the shadow of a different kind of skyscraper—rugged, red, and rocky. On the air, Jayden hears his mom calling. He picks some flowers the colors of sunset to take home to her. He waves as he nears the house and sees her standing on the porch and flashes her “the first smile she’s seen since New York.” He thinks that maybe New Mexico can be Home.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Nikki Grimes’ lyrical story is in plot a tale about moving from one part of the country to another, but in spirit it is a invitation for children and adults alike to open their heart to new experiences, to find the beauty in the unfamiliar and the joy in the unexpected. As Jayden journeys from New York to New Mexico and then around his new environment, Grimes explores honest emotions—the disappointment and anger change can bring, the preconceived ideas about the unknown that can color feelings and actions, and even that moment when a person can reject or accept the new circumstance or opportunity. As a poet, Grimes excels at the perfectly chosen detail and sublime description. Here, her words put readers in the spotlight of New Mexico’s laser sun, let them feel the skittering feet of a lizard, meet a haughty raven, and bask in the rainbow of colors Jayden never expected he’d see. His final smile and resolve to give his new city a chance fulfills the new dawning inherent in the title and is uplifting encouragement for all.

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Slouched down in his airplane seat, baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, Wendell Minor’s Jayden is a picture of despondency. But things begin to look brighter when, in the morning, he notices the mountains and colors he missed the night before. Minor’s sun-washed illustrations allow readers to discover the beauty of the New Mexico desert along with Jayden. His new home is light and open, with a timbered ceiling and windows free of the bars he’s used to. Minor’s use of perspective allows children to view sweeping vistas of the desert landscape as well as images of some of the creatures found there. Putting the raven front and center gives kids an idea of the size and attitude of this striking bird. Fiery reds and oranges, vivid yellows, pinks, and purples, and glorious blues punctuate the sandy backdrop as Jayden’s thoughtful expressions depict his growing appreciation for his new home.

An exquisite book for any child, whether they are moving to a new home, exploring new experiences, or keen observers of their surroundings, Southwest Sunrise would be a joyful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547600823

Discover more about Nikki Grimes  and her books as well as educator guides and resources on her website.

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

National Get Outdoors Day Activity

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Beautiful Desert Coloring Pages

 

The desert has plants, animals, and landmarks seen nowhere else. Grab your crayons or pencils and give these two printable scenes some of its unique color.

Curious Rabbit Desert Scene | Western Sun Desert Scene

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You can find Southwest Sunrise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Apriori Beauty in 2015 to recognize all those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways. Spending more time talking with someone lets them know you care. Sharing your talent for baking, art, music, gardening, home repair, or any skill with a friend, family member, or coworker brings joy to them and you. Even just giving a smile to those you meet can brighten someone’s day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

A boy notices a new girl, Violet, at school. He knows what it’s like to be the new kid, so he waves to her as she sits on a bench alone, reading. She gives him a small smile—he thinks—but doesn’t say anything. He knew that Violet lived near him because they always “walked home the same way,” although he “was on one side, she on the other.” She was “always quiet. Always alone.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was always the same until one day when the wind blew a red candy wrapper Violet’s way and the boy watched her pick it up and put it in her backpack. When she looked up, Violet saw the boy watching. “She looked at me,” he says. “She waved. Then her eyes went down and she turned the corner.” Now, the boy noticed how many things Violet picked up along the way home. “Bright blue cookie wrappers. Yellow pieces of paper. Green bottle caps. Red fall leaves. All disappearing into the gray backpack.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One day the boy crosses the street and asks Violet what she does with the things she picks up. Violet invites him to come see. They come to a brownstone and up a few flights of stairs, Violet takes him inside her home and opens the door to her room. “Here in her room, the sun comes to shine,” the boy says. “It reaches in and makes her glow. It makes her collection glow as well.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What the boy sees—on the walls, the ceiling, the door—is “her sky, her beach, her village” recreated from the wrappers, paper, leaves, caps, and other bits she’s found. “We came here for a better life,” Violet tells the boy. “I miss home, though. I miss the sounds and smells. And I miss the colors.” The boy tells her the mural is beautiful. Then Violet tells him stories about her village, the people there, and the ocean. The boy and Violet “sit and talk. Then laugh. Then talk some more.” The boy sees that Violet is not so sad or alone anymore, and he’s glad to be her friend. When he leaves, he and Violet wave goodbye and “smile the same.” One the way home, the wind blows a red leaf his way. He picks it up and puts it in his backpack.

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Poignant and honest, Nicholas Solis’s multilayered story touches on friendship, loneliness, new experiences, immigration, creativity, and how acts of welcome, empathy, and kindness can change perspectives and bring joy to life. Told from the boy’s point of view in short, straightforward observations, the story captures readers’ emotions and curiosity as they walk with him and Violet, waiting to see why the reason for her collection. As days and maybe weeks or months pass before the boy speaks to Violet, readers on “both sides of the street” (those who are hesitant to talk and share as well as those who would like to get to know someone better) learn that friendship takes time, patience, trust, and sincere interest. 

Renia Metallinou adds visual eloquence to the story with his gray- and dun-hued illustrations, which pick up increasing hints of color as Violet and the boy grow closer to Violet’s house and finally explode with vibrancy when she opens the door to her room. The first clue of the importance of color to the “new girl” is in her name, and to punctuate this fact, Metallinou gives Violet purple hairbands for her braids. As Violet walks home on a parallel track to the boy, purple tints the pots and flowers decorating the sidewalk, a woman’s purse, and her dog’s collar as if to show that Violet is already assimilating and contributing to her new community.

After she picks up the red wrapper, red flowers, and accents dot the next page, and after the boy describes the blue, yellow, and green items she finds, the trees gain red and yellow leaves, container gardens overflow with greenery, an orange cat watches a trio of red-bellied birds, and blue curtains hang in a downstairs room. But it’s when Violet opens her bedroom door that the real magic happens.

Readers are treated to one more two-page spread of suspense, heightened by the boy’s look of wonder and Violet’s proud gaze. Surrounded by light, Violet smiles. Her gray-and-white-striped shirt turns green and yellow, her brown skin glows with joy. Then readers turn the page and, like the boy, step into a sun-drenched coastal village with candy-colored buildings, lush foliage, a sparkling sea, and a woman – perhaps Violet’s grandmother – looking toward the horizon, maybe looking for Violet herself. Metallinou has made Violet’s mural a masterpiece of art, life, longing, and love. As Violet’s stories pour forth, she and the boy discover how to let their true colors show.

A beautiful and evocative story about the power of friendship, empathy, and kindness, The Color Collector provides a unique and highly effective way for kids and adults to talk about feelings of loneliness, homesickness, making new friends, opening up to others, and many other feelings kids experience. The book could spark meaningful art projects for classrooms and homeschoolers and would be an excellent addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

Discover more about Nicholas Solis and his books on his website.

To learn more about Renia Metallinou, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

Today’s holiday is all about making someone feel special. With this easy craft, kids can make a gift for a family member, friend, or teacher that shows them why they think the person makes the world more beautiful. And don’t forget to make one for yourself too!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block of the recipient’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words on the letter that you think best describe the person you’re giving it to
  3. Wrap and give your letter!

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You can find The Color Collector 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 National Rivers Month

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About the Holiday

Rivers are beautiful, provide recreation, and are crucial to our water supply. Did you know that in the United States 65% of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams? This month environmentalists and others work to promote awareness of the importance of keeping the nation’s rivers pollution free to protect the fish and animals that call them home and increase enjoyment for all. To help the cause, find out how you can help an environmental organization in your area. This year get to know your local river system and the insects and animals that live in and near these rivers. 

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Mae the Mayfly for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Mae the Mayfly

Written by Denise Brennan-Nelson | Illustrated by Florence Weiser

 

“Near the bank of the river one warm spring day / a new life began, and her name was Mae.” Before her mama said goodbye, she hugged her daughter and told her that she had her “whole life—a day, perhaps more” to explore her world. As Mae flitted along the river, a large, hungry trout waited for just the right moment to lure her in. It smiled deceitfully and beckoned to her, and, even though her inner voice told her not to, Mae flew down closer to take a look.

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Image by Florence Weiser, 2020, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That’s when the trout leapt from the water to snatch Mae from the air. But she darted and dodged and got away. Shaking with fear, Mae found a hole in a hollow tree and flew in. “I’ll stay here forever! I’m not coming out!” she told herself.  But once her heart stopped beating so loud, she heard a happy tweet and peeked out of the tree. She saw a mother robin feeding her chicks and a spider web glittered in the sun. “The mist on the river was a fine, pink cloak. / A bullfrog bellowed his morning croak.” 

Mae remembered what her Mama had said and “launched herself from the dark, hollow place.” She followed the river, where she saw flowers and birds, a deer and a bear and one “stubby toad.” Then, she came to a clearing where she found “a singing, dancing jamboree… a wild mayfly jubilee! / Joining in, Mae danced with glee!”

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Image by Florence Weiser, 2020, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As morning turned to afternoon, Mae was floating on the breeze when she heard a call for help. She went in search of who it was and found Trout lying motionless and barely breathing. Fearful that he might leap at her again, she carefully went closer to inspect. “But Trout was weak, no flip or flail. / Tangled line had caught his tail.” Then Mae noticed something else—his shimmering “rainbow stripes in every hue, silver, pink, and shades of blue.” And in his eyes she saw his fear and realized that she and Trout were alike.

Mae went to work to try to free him. The knot was tight, but Mae worked patiently until the line slipped free and Trout swam away with the current. Mae hoped that he would be okay. Just then she saw a flash as Trout returned and with a flip of his tail said, “Thank you.” As nighttime settled over the river and the moon rose high, Mae settled on a cattail leaf. She listened to the bullfrogs and watched the fireflies glow. “The stars came out early for  sweet, little Mae. / She counted each one… then called it a day.”

Back matter includes a message about mindfulness, an exercise to try and facts about mayflies.

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Image by Florence Weiser, 2020, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soaring and uplifting, Denise Brennan-Nelson’s unique story reminds children and adults alike to live each day to the fullest and reveals where the treasures that make life so fulfilling can be found. The short lifespan of a mayfly gives Brennan-Nelson a perfect canvas for compressing the lessons of a lifetime into one day, and her superlative storytelling incorporates parental love, fear, appreciation for our surroundings, courage, selflessness, and friendship. Her language is triumphant, carried breezily on rhyming couplets that are a joy to read aloud. The pitch-perfect ending may bring a tear to the eye but spur readers to find the beauty in every day.

Through Florence Weiser’s lovely textured illustrations, readers can almost feel the breeze ruffling the tall grasses, the spray of river water, and the warmth of the sun as they follow Mae on her adventure. Mae is a cutie with lacy wings and a sweet, expressive face. A powerful image of empathy comes in a close-up, two-page spread in which Mae, looking into Trout’s frightened eye, sees her own reflection. Whereas up to now Mae has been an observer of life, she now becomes an active participant by helping a fellow creature. Working in perfect tandem with Brennan-Nelson’s text, Weiser’s pages take readers on a journey of growth and discovery they’ll take to heart. Calming shades of green dotted with subtle pinks, purples blues, and browns reflect Mae’s mindful approach to life, making this a delightful book to share for quiet story times.

Beautiful and resonant, Mae the Mayfly is highly recommended and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110519

Discover more about Denise Brennan-Nelson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Florence Weiser, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Denise Brennan-Nelson

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Denise Brennan-Nelson has written a number of books for children, including Tallulah: Mermaid of the Great Lakes, Leopold the Lion, Someday Is Not a Day of the Week, My Momma Likes to Say, Santa’s Secret, and the popular Willow series. As a national speaker, Denise encourages adults and children to tap into their imaginations to create richer, fuller lives. She travels the country, sharing her reading and writing enthusiasm with schoolchildren and teachers. Denise lives in Howell, Michigan with her husband, Bob. She strives to spend each day teaching and learning with a creative spirit. Find out more about Denise at www.denisebrennannelson.com.

Today, I’m really thrilled to be talking with Denise Brennan-Nelson about her inspiring story, her journey in writing it, and how we can all appreciate the life around us. My blog partner Jakki’s sons, Jack and Steve, also loves Mae the Mayfly and had a few questions of their own. 

Jack wonders: What inspired you to write about a mayfly? 

The inspiration to write about a mayfly came when I discovered that they live, on an average, only one day. I started digging and discovered that while mayflies have many interesting qualities, it was their life cycle that reeled me in and set the basis for the story: a mayfly begins as an egg, then hatches into a nymph. It then lives as a nymph for one to three years before emerging from the water as an adult. Once they have molted––the only insect known to molt twice!––they only have about a day to live. ONE DAY? How do you live your entire life in ONE day? Where would you go? What would you do? I had so many questions. And so, the journey began!

Steve would like to know: Where is your favorite place to go and enjoy nature?

Our backyard has many trees and a few paths to meander on. One of those paths leads to a playhouse that my husband built years ago for our children, Rebecca and Rachel. I love to sit on the steps and take it all in––especially the forever-changing trees and the way the light filters through them. It’s quiet and I watch the birds and the chipmunks, squirrels, and occasionally deer show up. It’s far enough away from our house that I can forget about my “to-do” list and relax.

There are also a couple of parks nearby that have trails and lakes and offer a beautiful place to enjoy nature.

Jack and Steve asked if you spent a lot of time at a pond while creating the story.

No, I didn’t spend a lot of time at a pond, but I did a lot of research to help me visualize the setting.

In early drafts, I pictured Mae’s life beginning on a pond but as the story emerged it turned into a river. Unlike a pond, a river “flows.” It seemed to fit with the ebb and flow of Mae’s life.

The river became integral to the story; Mae’s life began there, she experiences a harrowing ordeal with Trout, which causes her to flee the river out of fear, but ultimately, Mae returns “home” to the river and completes her life. (This was in keeping with a mayfly’s lifecycle.)  

Hi Denise! I love your answers to Jack and Steve’s questions! What an amazing character a mayfly makes. You’ve published many, many books for kids. What inspired you to become a children’s writer? What’s the best part about your job?

I had been happily writing for myself – journals and poetry mostly – when inspiration came knocking at my door in the form of a documented study about bumblebees. According to scientists, bumblebees are not “equipped” to fly. Aeronautically, their wings are too small for their bodies. Upon hearing that, I was compelled to write what was in my head and my heart. I wanted to answer the questions I had: What would happen if bumblebees found out about their small wings? Would fear and doubt stop them from doing what they love to do? Once it was written, I felt I had written something that I wanted to share with others. Four years and many rejection letters later, my first book, Buzzy the Bumblebee was published.

The best part about my job is creating something – taking an idea and turning it into something new that entertains and inspires children and adults. I also love the freedom to work when and where I want to, often in my pajamas in the wee hours of the morning.

Mae the Mayfly is a gorgeous, poignant reminder for both kids and adults to look around and appreciate the beauty all around us. Not only the mayfly, but all of the sights that Mae sees are ephemeral parts of nature. How did you choose each of these?

I felt they had to be simple, yet remarkable acts of nature that would draw Mae out from the hollow of a tree. You know that awe-inspiring feeling you get when you discover a bird’s nest or a spider’s web? That was the basis for the sights and sounds Mae encountered.

I also drew from a trip to Yellowstone where the vivid images of rivers, flowers, bear cubs, and other magnificent acts of nature are forever embedded in my mind.

The rhymes of Mae the Mayfly are as light as she is, and your rhythm is as jaunty as a mayfly’s flight. Could you describe your journey in writing this story?

After learning of a mayfly’s short lifespan, the mulling-over period ensued. A lot of thinking and dialogue in my head takes place before taking pen to paper. Often, I share my initial thoughts with family and friends which helps the pieces come together.

I did more research, too. I watched a video showing how some mayfly nymphs resist the pull to come to the surface when it is time to shed their outer covering and expose their wings. After spending years at the bottom of the dark river, why would they resist? I wondered. Why would they want to stay at the bottom of the river when they could break through the surface into the light, and fly––if only for a day?

Ah, fear.

It was starting to come together – I would write about a mayfly and how beautiful and meaningful one day could be, if she can overcome her fears.

Initially, the story was written in prose and then I wrote it in verse. At one point, I even wrote a funny version for my kids about Mae being stubborn and not listening to her mama. That version didn’t end well for Mae, because, well, she didn’t listen to her mama! My kids got a kick out of it.

Before she was Mae, she was Martha. From Martha to Marvin. Then I changed it to May. And then May became Mae.

My first submission was declined. So, I gave it a rest. The idea was there but I needed to start over. I believed in this story with my whole being and I wasn’t giving up. In June 2018, I resubmitted it and in August I learned that Sleeping Bear Press wanted to move forward with it. I signed the contract in September and it was released in March of 2020 amid a pandemic. It wasn’t the launch I envisioned, but the story is about appreciating the simple things and living life to the fullest. It is also about empathy, fear, and gratitude. Perhaps the timing was just right.

Florence Weiser’s illustrations are adorable while truly highlighting the beauty of what Mae sees. Do you have a favorite spread? Why do you love it?

I love the cover and the end sheets, and the illustration of Mama saying good-bye to Mae tugs at my heart. But my favorite is the spread where Mae encounters Trout tangled in fishing line and Mae sees herself – literally and figuratively – in Trout’s eyes. Mae is confronted with a difficult decision between fear, or courage and compassion. This was a pivotal part of the story and Florence did a remarkable job capturing the emotion of both Mae and Trout.

You encourage people to be aware of and open to inspiration and those small moments in life that make them the best version of themselves they can be. How can kids and adults practice this kind of mindfulness while at home during this time of self-isolating and social distancing?

In a robust and enthusiastic voice my dad often proclaims, “This is living!” He says it with such conviction that you might think he won the lottery. On the contrary, he says it to express his delight over life’s simple/small pleasures; a sunset, eating a fresh-picked tomato from the vine, watching the birds, the daffodils sprouting, a delectable meal, a rainstorm . . .

I am by no means an expert on mindfulness, but I have learned a few things that help me enjoy life a little bit more:

  • Be aware/pay attention – the list of things to delight over is endless when we notice what is going on around us
  • Make room for quiet time and stillness every day
  • Focus on one thing at a time and do it with intention and purpose
  • Write down 3-5 things daily that you are grateful for. Do it as a family with a “family journal” or get a notebook for every member and make it a nightly ritual

Lately I’ve been asking people, “What do you like most about the shelter-in-place order that we are being asked to follow?” Over and over, I’ve heard, “It feels good to slow down . . . less hectic . . .” I hope we emerge from this unique experience with the realization that life is not a race, it’s a gift.

What inspires you each time you start a new story?

When I have an idea that interests me I feel invigorated and purposeful. What can I do with it? Where will it take me? What can I learn from it?

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes, “If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its only little lighthouse.”

Each time I begin a story I am hopeful that what I write “will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse.”

Thanks so much, Denise! This has been such a wonderful talk! I wish you all the best with Mae, the Mayfly and can’t wait to see more from you in the future.

You can connect with Denise Brennan-Nelson on 

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

National Rivers Month Activity

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World Rivers Word Search Puzzle

 

The world’s rivers provide homes for fish, animals, and birds; offer opportunities for recreation; and supply drinking water for millions. Can you find the names of twenty rivers of the world in this printable puzzle? Then learn where each river runs!

World Rivers Word Search | World Rivers Word Search Solution

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You can find Mae the Mayfly at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Sleeping Bear Press

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

June 9 – It’s International Clothesline Week

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About the Holiday

International Clothesline Week was established by Gary Drisdelle to encourage people to hang their laundry on outdoor clotheslines or indoor drying racks as a way to engage in and think about more sustainable living. Hanging up laundry has many benefits for you and the environment, from saving on electricity to providing natural exercise to cutting down on ironing. And that fresh, sun-dried smell can’t be beat. This week-long holiday also gives you a chance to appreciate that hamper or basket full of laundry sitting in your house right now. If you think laundry is drudgery now, wait until you learn how our long-ago ancestors handled it in today’s book!

A Brief History of Underpants

Written by Christine Van Zandt | Illustrated by Harry Briggs

 

Have you ever wondered, while you’re pulling on your underwear, where and how this whole tradition started? Well, you’re about to find out in four fun chapters that iron out the facts—no ifs, ands, or… well, you know! Chapter 1: Crusty Old Buns takes readers back in time when our earlies ancestors “needed protection from spiky plants, curious bugs, and the weather.” We come from some pretty smart stock, it seems, as these prehistoric people made undergarments from “natural plant and animal materials.” How do we know? Archaeologists have dug up the evidence and continue to find more examples all the time. You’ll also find out how early ancestors of the Inuit kept their buns warm and how the first Europeans protected themselves too.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

In Chapter 2: Underpants around the World, readers travel to ancient Egypt to learn about the schenti—a kind of wrap-around loincloth. While the common folks’ schenti was made from rough fabric, pharaohs’ fannies were graced by more gentile cloth. “King Tut’s royal rear was covered with a fancy, silky” schenti, and “because this famous Egyptian pharaoh believed in life after death, he was buried with 145 pairs of underpants.” After all, who “wants to be stuck doing laundry in the afterlife?”

Between 1000 and 1500 warriors in Mongolia and Knights in Europe discovered that the right kind of underwear offered protection from pointy arrows and long, bouncy horse rides. And what about women during this time? European women kept their bottoms bare under their long skirts, but they did have to contend with washing everyone else’s “once or twice a year on Wash Day.” Washing—clothes and people—was inconvenient to say the least in those days, but a good soak in “ashes mixed with pee helped remove stains, brighten colors, and degrease spots” and a vigorous scrubbing on rocks in the river did the rest.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

In Central and South America, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, a person’s social standing was instantly recognizable by the style, material, color and adornments of their loincloth. And in India, Mahatma Gandhi used his dhoti as a powerful symbol in the country’s fight for independence from Britain in the early to mid-1900s.

Chapter 3: Cheeky Inventions takes kids on a fast-paced, surprising history of innovations large and small that revolutionized the making and wearing of undies—and perhaps most importantly the time spent in the bathroom. Chapter 4: Tushes Today Worldwide reveals a few ways people have fun celebrating and strutting their underwear, and if you’ve ever wondered how the astronauts in the International Space Station handle the whole underwear thing, you’ll find the answers here.

So, that takes us up to current times, but we’re not done yet! Kids learn how to make and wear a Japanese fundoshi, worn by Samurai warriors, they’ll find a couple of jokes to share, and there’s a list of books for further reading.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

Full of puns and cheeky asides, Christine Van Zandt’s A Brief History of Underpants uncovers fascinating facts about these garments we take for granted while also revealing tidbits of historical, cultural, and societal traditions from earliest times to the present. Van Zandt’s breezy writing, punctuated by lots of “ewww”-inspiring descriptions, will keep kids laughing and learning and even the most reluctant reader riveted to the pages.

Harry Briggs’ silly cartoon illustrations will have kids laughing out loud as a self-assured King Tut struts across the desert past a pyramid of undies while a less-fortunate Egyptian whips up a vat of red dye made of “sheep poop and rotten olive oil;” Genghis Khan safely pulls a poisoned arrow from his silk under-armor; and downtrodden women gather at the riverbank on the annual Washing Day. A naked caribou, flaming underwear, and a pair of underpants that stretches to fit eleven people are just a few of the funny images that will keep kids turning the pages. Readers will have fun turning the wheel on the front cover to give the kid a revolving evolution of underwear.

Witty, intriguing, and informative, A Brief History of Underpants will captivate any child and makes a unique addition to history or social studies lessons for teachers and homeschoolers.

Ages 4 – 8

becker&mayer! kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0760370605

Discover more about Christine Van Zandt and her books on her website.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-brief-history-of-underpants-cover

You can find A Brief History of Underpants at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 8 – World Oceans Day

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About the Holiday

Since 1992, The United Nations has sponsored World Oceans Day on this date to raise awareness of the importance of the Earth’s seas. Institutions, science centers, schools, research centers, businesses, governments, and communities around the world take part in special events, webinars, meetings, a photography contest, and other programs. This year’s theme is “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods” and sheds “light on the wonder of the ocean and how it is our lifesource, supporting humanity and every other organism on earth.” This year’s virtual program begins at 10:00 a.m. and features a line up of thought-leaders, celebrities, community activists, entrepreneurs, and industry experts. The day ends with a concert given by musical artists from around the world. For more information on World Oceans Day, visit the UN World Oceans Day website. For educational resources, click here. To see the schedule of events, click here.

Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Lucy Semple

 

“From afar the vast ocean appears pure and clean. / How if sparkles and shimmers—a beautiful scene.” But what will you find if you look at just a small portion of the ocean—even a tiny drop—up close? Under a microscope, “the sea looks more like…soup” with “ingredients” that have been simmering for decades. And what’s in this soup? Many “chefs” have created it with Styrofoam cups and their lids; single-use bottles, bags, and straws; microbead soaps, synthetic materials, and balloons.

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Image copyright Lucy Semple, 2021, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“The real problem is plastic; it’s in all that stuff. Whether hard or elastic, that plastic is tough!” Dumps around the world are overflowing with plastic, and much of it ends up in the ocean “churning round the five gyres— / the huge saltwater whirlpools / where breakdown transpires.” As the plastic churns under the sun, it turns into “specks” that can’t be removed. This plastic soup is “…gulped by the dolphins, the whales, and the seals, / and it’s slurped by the fish, / and the plankton and eels.”

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Image copyright Lucy Semple, 2021, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

This confetti of plastic is found above the water in icebergs and deep on the ocean floor. If it’s in the fish that we eat, “is it in you and me” too? To clean up the oceans, we need new chefs and a new recipe for ending the manufacturing of plastic, practicing new habits with sustainable, reusable materials, and refusing products packaged in plastic. “Ocean soup may have simmered before we were here, / but the call for us all to pitch in rings out clear.”

Extensive backmatter includes an author’s note; a discussion about the invention of plastics and the astounding amount of “‘plastic smog'” that is in the ocean, as well as a description of how gyres break down plastic into tiny particles. Readers also learn what eight types of plastic are the worst polluters and are given ten steps for reducing daily plastic use. 

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Image copyright Lucy Semple, 2021, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Meeg Pincus’s eye-opening comparison between the ocean and a pot of soup gives young readers crucial information about the plight of our oceans that is easy to understand and visualize. Her entreaty to look closely at what lies beneath the shimmering blue surface of the water grabs readers’ attention, and her short history of how and when plastics came on the scene provides context and perspective. The plastics Pincus mentions show the magnitude of the problem, and kids will be familiar with most if not all of these products. Pincus’s unstinting rhyming verses present the science of how plastic is shredded by the sea, where it ends up, and how it is ingested by ocean creatures in a way that is sure to spur readers to action. Her examples of ways we can reduce our plastic use within the story and in the backmatter empowers readers of all ages to make changes to protect the Earth’s oceans now and for future generations.

Lucy Semple’s bold illustrations show kids exactly how pervasive the kinds of containers, toys, wrappers, and other plastic products that are polluting our oceans really are and how blithely we use them. Through successive panels she demonstrates how plastic bags, bottles, straws, and cups break apart due to sun and water currents, and a double-spread map orients kids to where the five gyres are found. Images of sea creatures gulping down the tiny shards of plastic are effective and will resonate with children, as will the final pages where readers will find reinforcement for new habits of using and promoting recycled and reusable products.

An excellent overview of and introduction to the crisis of plastics in the world’s oceans, Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea will spark in readers a desire to embrace more sustainable products, adopt better recycling habits, and take action to reduce plastics use. The book would be an impactful way to begin science, environment, history, and other cross-curricular lessons as well as a jumping off place for more extensive research in classrooms and for homeschoolers. Ocean Soup is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111189

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

You can connect with Lucy Semple on Instagram and Twitter.

World Oceans Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Turtle-Swimming-coloring-page

Sea Creatures Coloring Pages

 

Grab your crayons and enjoy these printable coloring pages of favorite sea creatures!

Fish | Octopus | Seahorse | Turtle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ocean-soup-cover

You can find Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review