January 2 – It’s Book Blitz Month & Interview with Author Lydia Lukidis

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deep-deep-down-cover

About the Holiday

If your motto is “So many books, so little time” then you’ll be happy to know that January is Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read as many books as possible! For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting as they discover new fiction and nonfiction that captivates their imagination. To celebrate, take your kids to a local bookstore and the library to find new and favorite books to binge on all month long. If you don’t have a dedicated space for your children’s books, this month is also a great time to create a home library for your child so that they have a shelf, a crate, or even a whole bookcase of stories they can enjoy again and again!

I’d like to thank Lydia Lukidis for sharing a digital copy of Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. You can read my interview with Lydia below.

Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench

Written by Lydia Lukidis | Illustrated by Juan Calle

 

Imagine being invited to visit a mysterious place where only a few have ever been; where only they have truly seen the creatures that inhabit it; and where it’s murky depths are accessible by only one type of vehicle. Would you dare to go? Lydia Lukidis and Juan Calle extend just such an invitation, but no notes for missing school, packing a suitcase, or plucking of courage need to be considered, for through their phenomenal book, readers find a seat in the incredible submersible that will transport them to “…the deepest underwater valley in the world”: the Mariana Trench.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deep-deep-down-shark

Image copyright Juan Calle, 2022, text copyright Lydia Lukidis, 2022. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

The submersible plunges deeper and deeper to where the sun doesn’t penetrate. Here, in the darkness, “food is scarce, and a bone-chilling cold blasts through the water. Earthquakes shake the ocean floor, and the water pressure, like a thick, heavy blanket with a thousand hands, presses down, / down, / down.” What flashes by the porthole window? A monster? No—a fish with a long and slender tail perfectly suited for its austere home, where it can survive for months without eating if necessary. “Diving deeper, a long, thin body slinks and sways, ever so slowly. The cutthroat eel is not fearsome, some rather, mesmerizing.”

The light beam of the submersible also reveals feathery crinoids “twirling and whirling like an underwater acrobat,” and a curious snailfish “dances, ghost-like, to the rhythms of the ocean” as it comes to take its own peek in the window from the other side. Snailfish aren’t affected by the heavy water pressure because “they can swim deeper than any other fish in the world. That’s because their bodies contain RMAO. This special substance protects the fish from high pressure, making sure their bodies aren’t crushed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deep-deep-down-plunging-down

Image copyright Juan Calle, 2022, text copyright Lydia Lukidis, 2022. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

It might seem impossible to sink still lower, but the submersible plummets into water populated by tiny creatures, almost insect-like with their multiple pairs of legs and long antennae that propel them and help them find food. But explorers are not at the very bottom of the Mariana Trench even yet. The submersible floats slowly down to the bottom—“the very deepest spot on Earth. Look out the window . . . and witness a world of surprises.” Extraordinary creatures, some small, soft, and translucent and others—neither plant nor animal—large and with protective shells, and all adapted to thrive in their formidable surroundings will amaze you.

At last it’s time for the submersible to return to the surface. Slowly, it makes its way through the darkness to lighter seas, where it passes by more familiar fish and other creatures on its way to “SPLASH!” surfacing once again and “leaving the marvels of the Mariana Trench far below” still waiting to be explored again.

Insets of scientific information on diet, anatomical adaptations, and other aspects that make them suited to their environment also accompany the introduction of each sea creature.

Back matter includes an illustrated cutaway of the ocean above and descending into the Mariana Trench with various sea creatures labeled and oriented to the level in which they are found; “Did You Know?” facts about the water pressure in the Trench, its creation, and how many people have visited; why the Mariana Trench matters; an author’s note; and a glossary.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deep-deep-down-deepest-spot-on-earth

Image copyright Juan Calle, 2022, text copyright Lydia Lukidis, 2022. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

When undertaking an excursion into unknown territory—especially through words and pictures—explorers need guides who can truly immerse them not only in the sights and sounds of an area but also the rhythms and almost intangible aura that makes it so uniquely compelling. Readers of all ages find that quality in Deep, Deep Down. Lydia Lukidis’s lithe and lyrical language is at once straightforward—answering questions any reader might have—and evocative—capturing the enigmatic and secret world at the bottom of the Earth as it flashes into view or slowly reveals itself and retreats again. Her vocabulary, rich with active verbs, ensures that readers appreciate the Mariana Trench as teeming with life and alive with wonders more amazing than we can even imagine.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself forgetting that you’re looking at illustrations of a vampire squid, anglerfish, rattail fish, cutthroat eels, crinoids, and even the rocky and sandy ocean floor instead of photographs as you inspect Juan Calle’s magnificent pages. As the submersible—seen from many angles—plunges into darker and darker water, bioluminescent fish begin to appear alongside their grayer sea mates (children will enjoy pointing out the dark shapes that lurk in the shadows of the submersible and the stony outcroppings.)

As a rattail drifts into view, each rose-gold scale is visible, shimmering in the beam of light thrown from the submersible; it’s blue eye seemingly as curious about readers as they are about this unusual fish. Calle mesmerizes with careful details, shading, and perspective that portrays each creature in all of their weird and wonderful floating, creeping, or stock-still spectacle.

Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench will thrill ocean and nature lovers and will spur increased interest and research into this unique, nearly untouched habitat that we are only now beginning to discover. The book is a must for any environmental science enthusiast at home and for all classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 10

Capstone Editions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1684466153

About the Illustrator

Juan Calle is a former biologist turned science illustrator, trained on the Science Illustration program at UC Monterrey Bay. He worked early on his illustrator career for field guides of plants and animals of his country of origin, Colombia, and now owns and works in his art studio, LIBERUM DONUM in Bogota, Columbia, creating concept art, storyboarding and his passion: comic books. You can connect with Juan on Instagram.

Take a plunge into Deep, Deep Down with this book trailer!

 

Meet Lydia Lukidis

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lydia-Lukidis-headshot

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023), THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, and NO BEARS ALLOWED (Clear Fork Media, 2019). A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books.

Lydia is an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, 12 x 12, and The Authors Guild. She’s very involved in the kidlit community and also volunteers as a judge on Rate your Story. Another passion of hers is fostering love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools. Lydia is represented by literary agent Miranda Paul from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

You can visit her on her Website (with order links) | her Blog | Facebook | Twitter and you’ll also find her on Goodreads.

Hi Lydia! I’m really thrilled to have the chance to talk to you about this gorgeous book, how it all came together, and your other work as a writer.

You have degrees in Pure and Applied Science as well as English Literature. After graduating from college did you work in the science field? If so, can you talk about your work a little? How has your science background influenced your writing?

When I was younger, I was drawn to both science and the arts. I once saw them as mutually exclusive but then came to realize how connected these disciplines are. Upon graduating university, I did something completely out of left field but that satiated my artistic desires. I started my own jewelry line! After that, I became a puppeteer, writing plays for children. That brought me back to my love of writing, and here I am writing kidlit. I often focus on STEM topics so it’s full circle. I feel like this is truly where I belong.

What drew you to write about the Mariana Trench for children? What kind of research did you do in creating this book?

In 2019, I read an article about how scientists found a plastic bag floating in the Mariana Trench. They also discovered plastic in the belly of various marine animals. My heart sank. I wondered how we human beings managed to start damaging one of the most remote places on the planet.

At that point, I didn’t know that much about the Mariana Trench and my curiosity grew. I began my research on the internet and then came to realize most of that information was false. The book really came together once I interviewed a slew of experts (7 in total) who’ve devoted their lives to studying the deep sea, the hadal zone, and geology. They also helped me find the right books and articles to read for updated information.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your research? Do you have a favorite creature or one that you’d like to learn more about?

The most surprising thing was that despite the hostile conditions in the trench (no sunlight, scarcity of food, and crushing pressure), life still thrives deep, deep down. Though, the creatures are not what you would expect. There aren’t any sharks, for example, or any large creatures for that matter. My favorite has to be the sea cucumber. I must have watched hours and hours of them oscillating and floating, like underwater ballet. I was love struck!

Your storytelling in Deep, Deep Down is so fluid and as mesmerizing as the Mariana Trench itself. Can you talk about your writing process for this book and how you achieved such a visceral experience for readers?

Wow, what a compliment! Writing this book was nothing short of magical. I’m normally very hard on myself and many books don’t even make it to my agent. Other books take years to figure out. With nonfiction, finding the right structure is crucial. But somehow, with DEEP, DEEP DOWN, I didn’t have my usual “tormented writing struggle.” The writing was fluid and literally flowed out, and never changed in structure. There was a lot of editing, to be sure, I had to rewrite the manuscripts over 55 times to get the facts right, but the vision never changed. Will that always be the case? No! The next book I tried to write crashed and burned (maybe to be resurrected one day), so I’m grateful for this experience.

As a biologist who turned to illustration and who studied at the University of California at Monterrey Bay, Juan Calle must have been a dream match for Deep, Deep Down. Can you talk about how was he paired with your manuscript? When during the publication process did you begin to see his work? What emotions did his interpretations of your words stir in you?

Yes! It was Capstone who wisely suggested Juan. When I saw the proofs, I think my jaw hit the floor. He did SUCH a great job at getting all the details right (and believe me, it was tough—I had made a 20-page document with reference photos and notes vetted by Dr. Gerringer, my main consultant.) Although we never met, spoke, or even corresponded via email, Juan was able to follow my direction and bring his own flavor to the table. I think I first started seeing artwork about 8 months ago, so it was a speedy process. His work was stunning and scientifically accurate, although we couldn’t always draw everything to scale. It was also infused with magic.

What do you hope children will take away from Deep, Deep Down?

My goal in writing this book was twofold: firstly, to educate children on the deepest ocean of our world and debunk the myth that “scary” creatures live within its depths, and, secondly, to talk about ocean conservation and the importance of this fascinating ecosystem.

Kids may think the Trench is so far removed from their lives and that their actions don’t matter, or that what happens in the Trench doesn’t affect them. But that’s simply not true. Everything is connected, and I’d like to remind them that our actions affect our planet, even in its deepest spots.

You’ve written over 50 books for children and are very active in the writing community. What do you love best about being an author? What do you find rewarding about helping other writers succeed?

Thank you for the sweet words! I got my start with work-for-hire and most of my published books are for the educational market. DEEP, DEEP DOWN is my first trade nonfiction book, so it feels like a big accomplishment.

What do I love about writing? Everything. That said, it’s also a tough profession and every year, I usually have a moment when I reassess why I keep choosing this craft.

I also love supporting the kidlit community; it comes deep from the heart. I know what it is to struggle as a writer, and I see so many others struggling, hustling, working so hard. I like to support and acknowledge their efforts. Every little achievement is a milestone and should be celebrated!

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited to have just announced my second trade nonfiction book, DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024). I actually wrote this in 2015, and it’s a very long and convoluted story about how it got acquired. I did think long and hard whether or not I should tell this story and I ultimately decided to follow my heart because I felt so connected to the hook of the story. I invested in a sensitivity reader and will do so again once we start the editing process at Albert Whitman. They also chose a fantastic illustrator, Sawyer Cloud.

Other than that, I’m knee deep in other WIPs, some of them fiction. I wanted to try to stay in one lane as an author but it’s just not happening—it seems there are different stories of different genres inside me that need to come out. I’m always following the flow of my inspiration, which is often not linear!

Thanks again, Lydia, for sharing so much about your writing life! I know readers are going to love Deep, Deep Down and will be looking forward to Dancing Through Space!

Book Blitz Month Activity

Screen Shot 2022-12-31 at 10.56.42 AM

Creatures of the Mariana Trench Word Search

 

The Mariana Trench is home to so many amazing creatures! Can you find the names of seventeen in this printable word search puzzle?

Creatures of the Mariana Trench Word Search Puzzle | Creatures of the Mariana Trench Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deep-deep-down-cover

You can find Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 19 – A Christmas Carol Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

About the Holiday

It just isn’t Christmas without reading favorite traditional stories. Familiar characters, heartfelt themes, and feelings of warmth and excitement are tucked inside the pages just waiting to be released again after a long year. A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens was published on December 19, 1843. By then, Dickens had already published the Pickwick Papers (1837), Oliver Twist (1838), and Nicholas Nickleby (1839) and was the most popular author of the time. Spurred on by financial need and a desire to highlight the miserable way those less fortunate were treated in Victorian England, Charles Dickens wanted to produce a novel before the Christmas holiday. He began writing the story in October and finished it six weeks later. As we all well know, Dickens’ tale has become one of the most beloved and widely read stories of all time. Today’s book allows you to share this Christmas classics with the youngest members of your family. 

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands for review consideration. all opinions of the book are my own. 

A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands

Adapted by Brooke Jorden | Illustrated by David Miles

 

One of the world’s most recognizable novels, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has thrilled readers ever since it was published on December 19, 1843. The novel’s combination of spooky ghosts, a loving family, and a lost soul in need of redemption keeps readers and listeners enthralled no matter how many times they’ve read it. But why should adults and older kids have all the fun? Now, with this Lit for Little Hands board book, even the youngest readers can enjoy all the intrigue of A Christmas Carol.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-counting-house

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Brooke Jorden’s nimble adaptation loses none of the snap of the original. Turn to the first page and there is Bob Cratchit toiling away under the gaze of a stern Ebenezer Scrooge who “was the meanest miser the world had ever known.” The counting house is as cold as Scrooge’s hatred of Christmas. On a pull-out tab kids even see him send away a little boy who’s come caroling. That night at home “a terrible clanking noise” interrupts Scrooge’s meager meal. What we know—but little ones might not—is what lurks on the other side of Scrooge’s door. With the pull of a tab, kids slide open the door to reveal the ghostly figure of Jacob Marley “surrounded by a heavy iron chain: punishment for all the cruel things Marley had done while he was alive.” He tells Scrooge he’s in for the same unless he changes his ways and tells him to expect three more ghosts.

Another turn of the page brings the Ghost of Christmas past. When kids pull the tab, the ghost and Scrooge fly from the window into the night sky and to the boarding school where Scrooge spent lonely Christmas’s alone. It makes Scrooge think of the boy who’d come caroling and sorry that he hadn’t given him a bit of money. As you may remember, the Ghost of Christmas Past also takes Scrooge to a party given by his former boss Mr. Fezziwig. Kids can spin a wheel and set old Scrooge dancing round and round with his younger self and his former colleagues and friends. “Scrooge remembered the joy he used to feel around Christmas, surrounded by friends and a kind employer.” He realizes that when money became the most important thing to him, he became sad and friendless.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-christmas-past

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When the clock strikes two, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears in the midst of an enormous feast, Nearby a fire quivers and crackles as kids spin the wheel. The ghost transports Scrooge to the window of Bob Cratchit’s house, where he sees the large family having dinner. With a toggle, readers can set Tiny Tim’s famous cheery toast in motion as Scrooge “marveled that the Cratchit family has so little and yet were so happy.”

Scrooge didn’t have long to wait until the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come visited. In a cemetery, Scrooge saw Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit crying at Tiny Tim’s gravestone. The sight broke his heart, but then the ghost pointed Scrooge to another stone. Who’s is it? Children pull a tab that reveals the engraved name: Ebenezzer Scrooge. When he woke up the next morning, “Scrooge knew he must change.” He went out into town spreading Christmas cheer and “became as good a man as the world had ever known.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-christmas-present

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Quotations from Dickens’ original novel are sprinkled throughout the text, giving it the Old-World atmosphere that contributes so much to the effect of the story. With each visit of a ghost, Brooke Jorden includes a lesson that Scrooge learns or a memory he has of a recent time when he could have been generous or happy and chose not to, allowing young readers to understand how the ghosts affect Scrooge and how he changes in that night. Jorden chooses evocative language that kids will enjoy hearing and learning. Jorden’s board book version of A Christmas Carol demonstrates anew the genius of Charles Dickens in this story that touches all ages and is ever timely.

Using fresh tones of red and green, David Miles brings 1800’s England to life for kids. Bob Cratchit scratches away in his ledger with a quill pen and only a candle for light as thick snow falls outside the window. At home, Scrooge sits in a darkened room where the eerie, translucent ghost of Jacob Marley, wrapped in a chain, is sure to impress. Miles’ image of the feast surrounding the Ghost of Christmas Present contrasts sharply with the small turkey and plum pudding on the Cratchit’s table, a detail that will resonate with today’s children just as it did when the novel was first published. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is appropriately spooky, but not too frightening for young children. When Scrooge wakes up a changed man, the dark shades of Miles’ pages give way to bright pinks and cheery aqua, and the icy blizzard has ended.

Terrific fun and a fabulous way to share this classic with kids (adults will get a kick out of it too), Lit for Little Hands: A Christmas Carol would be a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701518

A Christmas Carol Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowflake-matching-puzzle

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

If you’re wishing for a white Christmas, you’ll enjoy finding the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle.

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

You can purchase A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands from the publisher at

Familius

You’ll also find A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 15 – It’s Gift-Giving Season

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-legendary-escapes-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re looking for a gift for an older child or tween who’s curious about history, loves a good mystery, and is into puzzles, cyphers, and seemingly impossible feats, then you’ll want to put today’s book at the top of your shopping list. Books that encourage a child’s natural interests, stretches their knowledge, and sends them off to discover more about the world will always be gifts they appreciate.

I’d like to thank Little Gestalten for sending me a copy of Legendary Escapes for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Legendary Escapes

Written by Soledad Romero Mariño | Illustrated by Julio Antonio Blasco

 

There may be nothing as as thrilling as a daring escape from a dangerous situation or as mind-boggling as a seemingly impossible breakout from a high-security location. “How did they do that?” we ask, and usually we’re left scratching our heads as a few details trickle out and then the information dries up. But that’s not what happens when you get your hands on Legendary Escapes! Here, children (and, I dare say, a good number of adults) will learn each escapee’s backstory, discover the conditions of the prison, territory, or situation left behind, become privy to the planning stages of the escape, and then follow along, step-by-step, as the escapee fools their captors.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-legendary-escapes-strelzyk-family

Image copyright Julio Antonio Blasco, 2022, text copyright Soledad Romero Mariño, 2022.

In nine information-packed chapters, Soledad Romero introduces readers not only to these ingenious masterminds but to history, geography, and culture from 1750s Venice to Mexico in 2015. Her compelling narrative style draws readers in with straightforward, easily understood descriptions that allow them to immerse themselves in every aspect of the case at hand. Fascinating tidbits sprinkled throughout each chapter will amaze and may spark further research, while the titles of movies made about some of these events will have families grabbing the remote.

Among these astounding true stories, readers learn how one escapist “vanished” from prison by recreating the key to his cell from memory after seeing it in his jailer’s hand; how three prisoners fashioned papier-mâché heads to fool the guards at bed checks; how a man slipped through the meal-tray slot in his prison door to gain his freedom; how a slave fled the South for the free North with the help of the postal system; and how a charming rogue and conman, jailed for having a banned book, finally broke out of a notorious prison after a first attempt was thwarted. And that’s just to get you started!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-legendary-escapes-operation-star

Image copyright Julio Antonio Blasco, 2022, text copyright Soledad Romero Mariño, 2022.

Each color-coded chapter of this book, ingeniously designed by Julio Antonio Blasco, reads like above-the-fold newspaper articles published in The Los Angeles Examiner, the Daily Mirror, El País, Die Welt, and Korea Joongang Daily, among others, all complete with attention-grabbing headlines, sidebars, and eye-catching images that tell stories of their own. Stylized illustrations replicate over-the-wall scrambles, dangerous escape routes, WANTED posters, and insider views of some of the world’s toughest prisons. Readers will pore over each page, wanting to discover each fact, parse the clues, and find out what happened to each escapee.

Legendary Escapes is a book that will excite any history, journalism, mystery, or crime buff and offers a thrilling way to engage students in discovering the wider stories around these escapes. The book would make an excellent gift and is a must for any reader who loves to delve into the details of captivating true stories and compelling biographies. Legendary Escapes is a book that every school and public library should hold in its collection.

Ages 10 – 13 

Little Gestalten, 2022 | ISBN 978-3967047301

About the Author

Soledad Romero began her career as a creative director in advertising. In parallel, she founded her own publishing house where she collaborated with artists from all over the world. She now dedicates herself exclusively to the creation of children’s books as an author and editor. You can connect with her on Instagram.

About the Illustrator

Julio Antonio Blasco has worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for 15 years. He uses drawing, painting, collage, and other techniques in order to bring his books, and the characters within them, to life. You can view a portfolio of his work on his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-legendary-escapes-cover

You can find Legendary Escapes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 12 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dinosaurs-and-other-prehistoric-creatures-cover

About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month couldn’t come at a better time than during the gift-giving season. Books make gifts that have long-lasting appeal and can seem “new” with every reading or provide comfort, laughs, and joy that never gets old. Today I review two pop-up books for the younger set that adults will enjoy sharing as much as the kids will love hearing—and seeing—them.

I’d like to thank Twirl Books and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures and The Pop-Up Guide: Animals with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures

Written by Arnaud Roi | Illustrated by Charlotte Molas

 

If you’d like to see your child’s eyes pop open in delight each time they open a particular book and you have a child who loves dinosaurs, then Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures is the book for them! This easy-to-hold book opens upward to provide “Wow!”-inducing reactions to seven awesome dinosaurs three reptiles that kids may recognize as early ancestors to some of today’s land and ocean-dwelling animals—fierce and not so. 

With the lift of the first page, kids come face to face with a giant Argentinosaurus who’s foraging among the foliage to satisfy its daily 880-pound dietary requirement. How did these herbivores digest all of those leaves, ferns, grasses, and other plants? They “also swallowed rocks, which helped grind up the food in its stomach.” Readers also discover the period during which these dinosaurs lived, the region they were found in, their maximum size and their maximum weight. All measurements are given in feet and pounds as well as meters and kilograms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dinosaurs-and-other-prehistoric-creatures-utahraptor

Image copyright Charlotte Molas, 2022, text copyright Arnaud Roi, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

Other dinosaurs that come out to meet young paleontologists include the Spinosaurus—who, at “over 49 feet (15 meters) long and 13 feet (4 meters) tall” with a maximum weight of 20,000 pounds (9,000 kilograms) “was the largest known carnivore on land. The most distinctive feature of this popular dino was the sail on its back, which measured “almost 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall” in itself! Kids will also enjoy saying hello to the baby Triceratops that appears to be walking right off the page! Standing nearby is a watchful mom or dad ready to protect their little one. Readers will learn that “Triceratops lived in herds” and when threatened “they would form a circle around their young and face the predator with their horns.”

Of course, the Tyrannosaurus pops up to eat and greet with his fierce “banana-shaped teeth that could grow up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long.” This 20,000-pound behemoth may have roamed North America 68 million years ago, but it had a surprising connection to today’s crocodiles. Kids will also learn about two herbivores— one with claws more than 3 feet (1 meter) long, and one with a very tiny brain but very intimidating spikes to keep predators at bay—and the largest raptor ever found. The prehistoric reptiles represented here plied the land, sea, and air and were no less impressive than the dinosaurs they shared the earth with.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dinosaurs-and-other-prehistoric-creatures-quetzalcoatius

Image copyright Charlotte Molas, 2022, text copyright Arnaud Roi, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

Arnaud Roi describes each dinosaur and prehistoric creature in engaging language accessible for even the youngest reader and sprinkles in the kinds of facts about the animals’ anatomy, preferred habitat, diet, and physical prowess that make kids’ eyes widen and spur them to learn more. Roi brings the same enthusiasm and feeling of amazement to his subject that kids feel themselves, making this a book readers will really connect with.

In her three-dimensional illustrations, Charlotte Molas puts the dinosaurs front and center while including images of the environments they called home. You can bet kids will love opening, closing, and reopening the pages to interact with the dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, complete with roars, stomps, chomps, and shrieks.

With a thick padded board cover and sturdy pages, plus eye-popping illustrations and text that’s just right for young learners, Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures is a top choice for dinosaur and science lovers. The book would make a terrific gift and take-along and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Twirl, 2022 | ISBN 978-2408037512

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dinosaurs-and-other-prehistoric-creatures-cover

You can find Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-guide-animals-cover

The Pop-Up Guide: Animals

Written by Maud Poulain | Illustrated by Peggy Nille

 

The fourth book in this well-conceived series that includes Pop-Up Guides to Space, Vehicles, and Natural Wonders takes children around the world to meet the animals that live in ten different environments. Upon opening the book kids find themselves in the African Savanna, where a hippopotamus, three flamingos, and three lions have gathered for a drink. A crocodile suns itself on the bank, while another pokes its head above the water. A cheetah, lounging on a tree branch, also pops out to say hello. Behind them, a zebra, giraffes, gazelle, and mother and baby elephants roam and find food.

In her short paragraph, Maud Poulain tells readers about the African Savanna while also setting up talking points about the illustration: “It stays warm all year round here, with just two seasons: wet and dry. During the wet season, the animals have fresh grass and plenty of water to drink at the watering holes. In the dry season, many creatures may have to travel in search of food and water.” In addition to enjoying the vibrant illustration, adults and kids can talk about which time of year it is and how they know to identifying all of the animals and their particular attributes. Each animal is also labeled on the page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-guide-animals-forest

Image copyright Peggy Nille, 2022, text copyright Maud Poulain, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

With the lift of the page, children then enter the temperate Forest, where “trees, shrubs, herbs, and mosses provide shelter and food for all kinds of animals.” Little ones will be “aww!” struck by the cute rabbits, fawn and mother deer, and baby wild boars greet them. A pheasant takes to the air, while a tawny owl and a squirrel hang out in an oak tree. Colorful butterflies flit among flowers, and a pinecone lies hidden, just waiting to be discovered.

The vast expanse of snowy white meets readers next, along with the polar bears, little auks, ringed seals, caribou, orcas, and snowy owls that live in the Far North. There’s even someone riding a sled pulled by sled dogs making their way over the hills. Leaving the glittering snow, readers enter the eye-popping lushness of the Rain Forest, where vivid blues, oranges, greens, yellows, and reds are on display on the birds, chameleon, poison dart frog, tiger, boa, orangutans, and the thick vegetation will wow kids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-guide-animals-rain-forest

Image copyright Peggy Nille, 2022, text copyright Maud Poulain, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

The fish, rays, mammals, and coral of the Ocean swim by up close for kids, and then it’s off to the driest areas of the world—the Desert. In the African desert, “it almost never rains…and while it is hot during the day, it can get cold at night. From there, readers get to know the birds, animals, and amphibians that call Freshwater Rivers home, then it’s back up into the mountains, which are warm and welcoming during spring and summer but can be snow-covered in late fall and winter. How do the animals and birds survive these opposing environments? Readers witness the ptarmigan, “whose fur and feathers change from brown to white” in snowy conditions in transition, while the snowshoe hare nearby has already become fully white. 

Readers finish their tour of the world’s various environments with a dive into the Tropical Seas, where they can see a large array of creatures—from a clown fish, seahorse, and sea turtle to a porcupine fish, sea urchin, sea star, and more—all in bright colors and on the move in their warm-water paradise. But nature’s bounty is not reserved just for these magnificent habitats. The simple backyard also teems with life, and kids get to spend some time with a little girl and her cat as they sit on the porch as life hums around her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-guide-animals-desert

Image copyright Peggy Nille, 2022, text copyright Maud Poulain, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

In her informative paragraphs—which are written in easy-to-understand language and are the perfect length for young children—Maud Poulain introduces readers to an impressive array of the world’s animals while also imparting facts and tidbits about their habits, anatomy, diet, and other attributes that make them well-adapted to their environment. She also reveals details about the plants and weather conditions of each unique region. Every animal is labeled on the page, allowing kids to play and “I-spy” game as the adult reads the text. 

Peggy Nille realistically depicts each animal while giving them personalities that will charm young readers and draw them into learning about their lives and habitats. Eye-catching colors and beautifully detailed dioramas make each pop-out page one that kids will want to linger over. Their time will be rewarded with enchanting finds tucked here and there and plenty of nature’s gifts to talk about. 

This well-constructed book has a thick cardboard cover with elastic bands on the top corners that can be placed around each page as the book is read to keep it upright for easy viewing or wrapped around the back cover to keep the book closed. The pop-ups, made from sturdy card stock, provide a depth of perspective that enhances the reading experience.

For young readers who are just learning about animals and for those who are ready to discover more about the world’s habitats and the animals that live in each, The Pop-Up Guide: Animals is a book they’ll want to read again and again. It would enhance any child’s home library and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Twirl, 2022 | ISBN 979-1036345166

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-guide-animals-cover

You can find The Pop-Up Guide: Animals at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 9 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-cover

About the Holiday

The month of December is a gift-giver’s delight, and there’s no better gift for everyone on your list than a book (or two or…). With so many new books hitting bookstore shelves, there really is a perfect one to fit everyone’s taste. Young children, especially, benefit from reading a wide range of picture books from laugh-out-loud or touching stories to nonfiction that introduces them to influential people, science, history, nature, math—like today’s book. If you’re looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find books that will make your child’s eyes light up.

I’d like to thank Tra Publishing for sending me a copy of Octopuses Have Zero Bones for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Octopuses Have Zero Bones: A Counting Book about Our Amazing World

Written by Anne Richardson | Illustrated by Andrea Antinori

 

If you’re looking for a book that opens kids’ eyes and mind to new ways to interact with numbers and fall in love with everything they have to tell about us and the world around us, then you’ll want to wrap your arms around Octopuses Have Zero Bones. This multilayered and eye-opening romp through the ability of numbers to describe, explain, provide perspective, and amaze celebrates the numbers from zero to nine and the power of numbers ten to nine billion.

Kids at all levels will find accessible ways to explore the math concepts that enliven every page, from basic counting to higher-level ideas that include measurement, extrapolation, and estimation as well as complex scientific facts. And how does all of this learning begin? With 0 and simple statement and probing question: “ZERO, all by itself, is nothing. Can you imagine nothing?” It might be hard for kids to think about how “nothing” can be important or have an effect. But Anne Richardson, with illustrative help from Andrea Antinori, reveals that because “octopuses have ZERO bones…” they “can squeeze through very small places.” And, if that doesn’t surprise you, she also presents this fascinating tidbit: “Dry Valleys, Antarctica, gets ZERO rain or snow.” In fact “there’s been no precipitation for two million years.” Two million! That’s nearly as impressive as zero!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-whale

Image copyright Andrea Antinori, 2022, text copyright Anne Richardson, 2022. Courtesy of Tra Publishing.

But that’s not all! There are more examples, and then Richardson shows how that simple digit 0 can make a single whole number explode into 100, 1,000, 100,000 and so on. She moves from there to tackle the numbers 1 through 9, by themselves and then attached to one 0. Readers next learn about 10—10 decibels, a creature with 10 legs, 10 fingers, and 10 toes. Those familiar with counting know that 2 comes after 1, and Richardson and Antinori help kids visualize this number with peanut shells that contain two individual nuts, the 2 moons of Mars, and more. Here, readers are shown what happens when two zeros are attached to the number two, and, of course, they’re given a few intriguing examples of 200.

This pattern is continued throughout the pages from 3 and 3,000 to 9 and 9,000,000,000. Along the way, children learn about the different types of clouds, how many times a bear’s heart beats per hour, how many chambers the human heart has, how many grains are in a two-pound bag of rice, and the astounding number of leaves you’d find on a typical mature oak tree. Ever wonder how many gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls every ninety seconds? You’ll find out here—along with the ph of water (7), what that means, and the ph number of other common liquids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-two

Image copyright Andrea Antinori, 2022, text copyright Anne Richardson, 2022. Courtesy of Tra Publishing.

Have you ever tried to measure a raindrop? It’s okay! Richardson shows kids just how big the biggest raindrop can be and reveals what happens if one happens to exceed this limit. Kids fascinated by space will want to check out the pages about the number 8, and future biologists will find interesting facts there too. Entomologists may want to flip to the discussions of the numbers 4, 6, and 9 before settling in to start again at the beginning. The number 9 is pretty awesome, especially if you like narwhals and bananas, and you’ll discover that no matter how antsy you might get while waiting for what seems like for. ev. er, you’ll never, ever be able to jiggle as many times as a cesium atom.

While Octopuses Have Zero Bones ends at nine billion, Richardson reminds readers that while “NINE BILLION is a big number…it’s not the biggest. You can keep counting forever.” Even into the trillions and beyond. In her Author’s Note that follows the text, she reveals the event that sparked the idea for this book and encourages children to “go out into the world and count or measure something, anything”; to do this short-term and long-term; to “be astonished, take a closer look” and “discover many wonderful things.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-six-million

Image copyright Andrea Antinori, 2022, text copyright Anne Richardson, 2022. Courtesy of Tra Publishing.

Andrea Antinori depicts each concept with whimsical illustrations that exude humor and personality while pointing readers to examples of the featured number or numbers. But her pages do much, much more as well. Take two page spreads that portray the number 1 for example. There is an image of our one sun as is mentioned in the text, and there is an image of a man with one heart as mentioned in the text. But this heart is a tattoo, which leads kids to notice that the man has other tattoos—all single images.

He is raising one arm, but at the end of that arm is a hand with five fingers just waiting to be counted. And—oh yeah—next to him is the adorable red octopus from the page about zero, who is also waving at the reader with one arm, but there’s a line of suckers on it (some singular, some in pairs) that also invite counting. And that’s just to get kids started. There are clouds, birds, and a sea full of dots to check out too. Now multiply that kind of clever detail and recurring characters by 30 pages and kids have almost innumerable ways to learn from and engage with this book.

Octopuses Have Zero Bones is a book that readers can page through from beginning to end or dip into whenever curiosity hits. It’s the perfect boredom buster because, as Anne Richardson notes, kids can jump off from any randomly chosen page into their own discovery and research at home, in their neighborhood, or on the Internet.

This book would be a much-used reference on home and bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and library collections.

Ages 5 – 9 and up

Tra Publishing, 2022 | ISBN 978-1735311524

You can find a Kids Activity Guide, Teacher’s Guide, and Posters for Octopuses Have Zero Bones to download on the Tra Publishing website.

About the Author

Anne Richardson is an author of experiences that kindle your curiosity. In her work, everything in the world is astonishing and worthy of our attention, from a drop of rain to the way we figure things out together. She is the senior director of Global Collaborations at the Exploratorium, San Francisco, where she works with partners worldwide to imagine and create new science centers and other extraordinary learning experiences. Richardson holds a PhD and an MS in environmental studies from Antioch University New England, and a BA in art history from Northwestern University. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, including two little explorers. Visit her at her website.

About the Illustrator

Andrea Antinori is an award-winning illustrator based in Bologna, Italy. Since he was a child, he has loved animals and he has loved to draw them. His favorite animal changes all the time. He likes octopuses very much, but right now, lemurs are the creatures he loves most. He wrote and illustrated the book On the Lives of Lemurs: A Short Treatise on Natural History. Other books he has illustrated include A Book about Whales and The Great Battle, the latter of which has received major international awards including: Best International Illustrated Book — China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair, Premio Andersen — Best book 6-9 years olds, Selected illustrator for exhibition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017, Italian illustrator in IBBY Honor List 2016. You can learn more about her books and her art on her website and connect with her on Instagram.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-octopus-craft

Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Octopuses may have zero bones but they sure do have a lot of arms! With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little octopus to count on to keep you company on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, in any color
  • Polyfill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-cover

Buy a Book, Plant a Tree

If you purchase Octopuses Have Zero Bones from the Tra Publishing website, they, in partnership with One Tree Planted, plant one tree for every book purchased. At checkout, you have the opportunity to make an additional donation.

Purchase from the Tra Publishing website

You can find Octopuses Have Zero Bones at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 7 – It’s the December Cold Moon

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-cover

About the Holiday

December’s full moon is commonly known as the Cold Moon—a Mohawk name that reflects the changing temperatures and the onset of winter’s sustained cold weather—and tonight’s moon offers not only glorious viewing but a rare celestial event. As the moon rises and moves across the sky, it will pass in front of Mars, eclipsing the planet for an hour—a phenomenon called an occultation. What makes tonight’s lunar occultation special is that the moon will block Mars near it’s brightest point, which happens only once every 26 months. This event will be visible to people living in central, western, and southwestern parts of North America on December 7 as well as to those in Western and Northern Europe and Northern Africa on December 8. To learn more about tonight’s Cold Moon and the lunar occultation and to find a schedule of viewing times, visit Space.com. You can also provide interesting information as well as a visual of the moon’s trajectory at In-The-Sky.org. To enjoy the wonder of the full moon anytime, read on about today’s featured book!

I’d like to thank Page Street Books for sending me a copy of Mending the Moon for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mending the Moon

Written by Emma Pearl | Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti

 

“The full moon was shining bigger and brighter than ever. So big and so bright that it was too heavy to hold itself up in the sky.” Although the moon valiantly tried to hold itself in place, it fell to Earth, shattering like glass as it landed upon a mountain peak. Luna, who watched the sky every night, saw it all. She rushed to wake her grandfather, and together they ran out of the house to try to help. As they entered the woods, they saw moon shards scattered everywhere. “They were hard and smooth and warm. They were pearly and glistening and beautiful.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-Luna-and-Poppa

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When Luna wondered if they could fix the moon and set it back in the sky, her grandfather told her they had to try. “‘The moon is more important than you can imagine,'” he said. Luna and Poppa prepared to begin the big job of picking up the pieces of the moon, but as turned to look around, they discovered that the woodland animals had already begun gathering the pieces. Deer, bears, foxes, rabbits, owls, squirrels, and other animals had all picked up shards and brought them to Luna.

They all carefully reconstructed the moon like a jigsaw puzzle, but when they had put the last piece in place, they realized that one shard was missing. They looked and looked without success. Then Luna saw the lake. “‘The missing piece must be in the lake!’ she cried.” Hearing this, an elk talked to a frog, and he dove in. When the frog resurfaced, he held the missing shard in his mouth. Luna found that it fit perfectly. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-looking-for-missing-piece

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Now, how to make sure the pieces stuck together? After an unsuccessful attempt, the silkworms were enlisted to spin thread. With pine needles and lots of patience, Luna, Poppa, and the animals stitched the moon together again with the silk that “…glowed like it was made of moonlight.” Once the moon was reassembled, it was time to think about how to return it to its place in the sky. Luna thought maybe the birds could help, but they were already flying away to their nests.

Or were they? Soon, more birds than Luna had ever seen whooshed out of the darkness—birds, it seemed, from all over the world. As the birds got into position to lift the moon and began soaring into the sky, Luna provided instructions—and encouragement. At last, the moon was back where it belonged. Its sparkled light shone on Luna, Poppa, and the animals, who danced, cavorted, and fluttered in the clearing on the mountaintop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-dancing

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Emma Pearl’s imaginative story shines with the fantastical and nature-focused elements that infuse folktales with their magical power to enthrall children and adults alike. Young readers will instinctively empathize with Luna’s deep connection to the night sky, reflected even in her name, and marvel as the forest animals band together to retrieve the shards and sew them together again. Pearl’s cleverly conceived plot makes enchanting use of the woodland setting, especially in sewing the moon together. Her dialogue between Luna and Poppa as well as the secret communications among the animals will also captivate children and draw them into the mystery and wonder of the story.

Sara Ugolotti’s striking illustrations glow with an exquisite color palette of lush colors sprinkled with light evanescing from the shards of the moon and the brilliant stars above. Luna’s interactions with woodland animals are filled with joy as they all work together to mend the moon and return it to the sky. Images of the birds in all colors and sizes swooping down to the mountain to help Luna and Poppa will mesmerize kids, and you may even find them dancing in the moonlight along with Luna, Poppa, and all of the animals.

For children who love folktales, fantasies, and a touch of magic to their stories, Mending the Moon will be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675600

Discover more about Emma Pearl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Ugolotti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

December’s Cold Moon Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moon-phases-craft

Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-cover

You can find Mending the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Dark on Light

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-cover

Thanks to Beach Lane Books and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Dark on Light for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Dark on Light

Written by Dianne White | Illustrated by Felicita Sala

 

The setting sun paints the sky a golden yellow, deepening to rose as it slips below the horizon. Trotting down the path from the cozy red farmhouse, it’s windows already aglow, a dog makes its way towards the woods. Three children—a brother and two sisters—look out over their yard and beyond to the rolling hills, wondering where their pet might be. They pull on boots and grab a flashlight. The youngest sister checks the doghouse just in case.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-horizon

Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2022, text copyright Dianne White, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Following behind the beam of light, they pass through the gate, leaving their garden gnome behind while knowing how “inviting the trail. Timid the fawn. / Dark the hedge that borders the lawn.” The older sister waves to a doe and her baby standing silently in the meadow as she passes by, The full moon is on the rise as the children wade into the tall grasses where “lavender blooms, fragrant and bright. / Hedge and trail and dark on light.”

The late autumn sky is scattered with stars now as a ghostly figure moves overhead. The boy directs his flashlight upward, just in time to catch a barn owl pass by on its way to perch in a nearby tree. The older children call out their dog’s name and look behind trees while their little sister inspects tiny discoveries hidden in the grass and turns cartwheels in the deepening shadows. The flashlight’s beam illuminates something that begs more investigation. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-garden

Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2022, text copyright Dianne White, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

As a fox looks on and a squirrel, curled up in its nest, dozes, the girl bends down and shines the light into the hollow underneath a tree’s thick roots. And who should appear, but their adventurous pup. The game of hide-and-seek over, the four take in the mystery of the forest: “Damp the moss. Ancient the sky. / Dark the leaves, crisp and dry.” The dog runs from the woods as the kids give chase, the flashlight no longer needed under the glimmering moon. A lone rabbit hidden in undergrowth at the edge of the woods witnesses their play.

They near the house, elated by their nighttime escapade and brimming with the story as they run toward their father, who has come out to meet them with a lantern. The door opens and silver light spills across the porch, down the steps, and onto the well-worn path. Inside, it’s time for quiet cuddling, a story, and saying goodnight: “Cozy the blanket. Pillowed the head. / Dark the attic. Snug the bed. / Sapphire the window, glowing and bright. / Attic and blanket and dark on light.” Downstairs, the dog snoozes in his bed while in the sky above: “white the star, shimmering bright. / House and room and dark on light.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-trail

Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2022, text copyright Dianne White, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

In this follow up to Green on Green, also illustrated by Felicita Sala, and Blue on Blue, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Dianne White calls readers back to explore the natural world. Her lovely, effortlessly flowing cadence transports readers into the wonders and mystery of a late autumn night with a trio of siblings on a mission to find their playful dog. As the three search, White invites readers to notice animals and plants, scents and sounds, and the colors and comfort of darkness and light with her overlapping and repeated phrasing. Her evocative vocabulary (a “timid fawn,” the “burnished moon,” an “ancient sky,” and the forest “veiled and deep,” among other beautiful choices) not only adds to the ambiance of the story but encourages readers to reflect on the complexity of the world around them. White does all of this while also presenting a mystery that kids will no less compelling for it’s gentle and straightforward resolution.

Accompanying White’s lyrical storytelling are Felicita Sala’s captivating watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations that glow with the setting sun, the warmth of a waiting home, the shimmer of the rising full moon, and the steadfast comfort of a flashlight in hand. Sala perfectly captures the rhythms of childhood, from the three siblings gathered at the window looking for their dog to their search through bushes and grasses close to home and farther afield to their excited return home and quiet bedtime routine. You can almost feel the smooth paving stones leading away from the house, smell the lavender as the older sister picks a small bouquet, and hear the children’s shouts and laughter upon returning home with their pet. The final scenes of cuddled-up reading and goodnight kisses and the house finally dark for the night make Dark on Light a perfect book for bedtime story times.

A superlative melding of lyrical storytelling and exquisite illustration that invites discovery and a love for language, Dark on Light is a book that both children and adults will love sharing for snuggly story times any time. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.   

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534487895

About the Author

Dianne White is fond of lavender blooms and the way an orange moon hangs in the evening sky. She’s the author of several picture books, including the award-winning Blue on Blue, illustrated by Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes, and Green on Green, illustrated by Felicita Sala. Dianne lives with her family in Gilbert, Arizona, where many nights at twilight, the desert blazes rose on sapphire on dark on light. For more information and to download a free activity kit, visit diannewrites.com. You can connect with Dianne on Facebook: Dianne White | Instagram: @diannewrites | Twitter: @diannewrites

About the Illustrator

Felicita  Sala is a self-taught illustrator and painter. She has a degree in philosophy from the University of Western Australia. She now lives and works in Rome. She draws inspiration from nature, children, mid-century illustration,  folk art, and architecture. To learn more, visit felicitasala.com. You’ll also find Felicita on Instagram: @felicita.sala

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-clip-art

Flashlight On, Flashlight Off Game

 

It’s fun to play games in the dark! During Earth Hour flip off your lamps and overhead lights and play this game that challenges your memory while you think about our planet! This game can be played with two or more players.

Supplies

  • Flashlight 
  • 6 – 12 small objects (the number of objects can be adjusted depending on the ages of the players)
  • A table or floor area large enough to lay out the objects

Directions

With the Flashlight On:

  1. Lay out the objects on a table or on the floor
  2. Give all the players time to look at the objects and try to memorize them
  3. Choose one player to remove one of the objects

With the Flashlight Off

  1. Turn off the flashlight
  2. While the room is dark, the designated player removes one object from the rest
  3. Turn the flashlight back on

With the Flashlight Back On

  1. The other players try to figure out which object is missing

Variations

  • In addition to removing one object, the other objects can be moved around to different positions
  • Remove more than one object at a time
  • Add an object instead of removing one

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-cover

You can find Dark on Light at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review