October 14 – National Fossil Day

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About the Holiday

Welcome to the 11th anniversary of National Fossil Day! Today’s holiday puts a spotlight on paleontology and its value in the scientific community and for education. The day raises awareness of the importance of preserving fossils for future generations. To celebrate today and Earth Science Week all this week, learn more about the prehistory of your area, or read up on fossils and prehistoric creatures. Visit the National Park Service Website to learn more about today’s holiday and find many resources for classrooms, homeschooling, and family fun. There you’ll find to download a Junior Paleontology Activity Book that can help kids explore the ways paleontologists work and learn about Earth’s history, ancient plants and animals as well as changes to past climate and environments. You’ll also find 20 ideas for digging into paleontology with links to museums and national parks, a site where you can view fossils in 3D, coloring pages, and even learn your state’s fossil.

Thanks to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of When Sue Found Sue for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex

Written by Toni Buzzeo | Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

 

Sue Hendrickson was an expert at finding things. The lure of buried or lost treasures kept her busy in her hometown of Munster, Indiana. “Born shy and incredibly smart,” Sue devoured books, discovering everything she could about the things that interested her. One of her favorite places was the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. There, she reveled in the treasures others had found and dreamed of the day when she could “search the wide world for hidden treasure on her own.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

When she was seventeen, Sue began her life of treasure hunting, joining teams that searched for sunken boats, airplanes, and even cars. She went to Dominican amber mines looking for prehistoric butterflies and deserts of Peru searching for whale fossils. Finally, she headed to South Dakota to dig for dinosaurs.

She spent four summers unearthing duck-billed dinosaurs, using more and more delicate tools to expose the bones. But near the end of her fourth summer, “Sue Hendrickson felt pulled to a sandstone cliff far off in the distance.” When she had the opportunity, she took her golden retriever and hiked the seven miles to the rock.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Walking around the perimeter, she noticed what looked like bones lying on the ground. When she looked up, she was astonished to see “three enormous backbones protruding from the cliff.” The size told her they must be from a Tyrannosaurus rex. Sue hurried back to her campsite and told her team the exciting news. They “immediately named the dinosaur Sue the T. rex.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It took five full days for the team to expose the skeleton. Then they mapped the location of each bone, photographing and drawing them. At last they began removing them, and after three weeks the bones were trucked to the Black Hills Institute. Eventually, Sue the T. rex was moved to the Field Museum in Chicago. If you visit the museum today, you will see Sue towering over you. “She is the world’s largest, most complete, best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil discovered so far”—discovered by a woman who was born to find things.

An Author’s Note about Sue Hendrickson and the battle over the T. rex skeleton as well as resources for further study and a photograph of Sue the T. rex follow the text.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Toni Buzzeo’s inspiring story of how Sue Hendrickson discovered the most complete and best-preserved T. rex fossil delves into more than the finding and excavating of the skeleton. Buzzeo also emphasizes Hendrickson’s personality and long-held love of treasure hunting, qualities that informed and aided her career choice. Readers who also harbor dreams outside the mainstream and have a steady focus will find much to admire in Buzzeo’s storytelling and Sue’s example. Kids will be awed by Sue’s early treasure-hunting exploits and fascinated by the painstaking process of unearthing fossils. When Sue follows her intuition to the cliff—without explanation or facts—readers will be reminded that they can rely on their own curiosity, experience, and ideas to carry them forward. With nods toward the value of teamwork and sprinkled with Sue’s own words about her moment of discovery, the story exposes the bones of a life well-lived and points children in the right direction.

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Diana Sudyka opens the story of Sue Hendrickson with a lovely collage of the treasures she found and studied as a child and that led to her life-long love of discovery. As Sue grows, she visits the Field Museum, with its exhibits of a Triceratops and Hadrosaurus. Fast-forward several years and she’s swimming in a sea dotted with colorful coral toward an old sunken ship. But the centerpiece of the story takes place in the South Dakota hills, the layers of rock painted in stripes of earthy brown, rust, rose, and ivory. As the team works late nights to excavate the bones, a T. rex constellation appears above the team in the starry sky, urging them on. A two-page spread of how Sue the T. rex fossil appeared in its entirety in the ground is sure to elicit plenty of “Wows!,” and a rendition of Sue on exhibit in the Field Museum will no doubt inspire some travel wishes.

A book about a modern-day scientist that will engage and inspire children with scientific aspirations of their own as well as a celebration of individuality and big dreams and a must for dinosaur lovers, When Sue Found Sue would be a T. riffic addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731631

Discover more about Toni Buzzeo and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Sudyka, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Dinosaur Day Activity

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Hatch Your Own Dinosaur Eggs

 

Think there are no more dinosaur eggs to be found? Think again! You can make your own with this easy craft that will have you hatching some T.-rex-size fun! All you need are a few simple ingredients!

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Supplies

  • Old clothes or apron
  • Large box of baking soda (makes between 6 and 8 eggs)
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Plastic dinosaur toys
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Wax paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Foil
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Plastic or metal spoon, stick, popsicle stick, or other implement to chisel with
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Spray the egg with vinegar to hatch your dinosaur

Directions

  1. Wear old clothes or an apron
  2. Cover work surface with wax paper, parchment paper, newspaper, or other protection. Food coloring can stain some surfaces
  3. Pour baking soda into the bowl
  4. Add drops of food coloring in whatever color you’d like your eggs to be. The eggs will darken when baked.
  5. Mix in the food coloring with the fork. You may want to use your hands, too
  6. When the baking soda is the color you want it, begin adding water a little at a time
  7. Add water until the baking soda holds together when you squeeze it in your hand
  8. When the baking soda is the right consistency, spoon some out into your hand or onto wax paper
  9. Push one plastic dinosaur into the middle
  10. Cover the dinosaur with more of the baking soda mixture
  11. Carefully form it into an egg shape
  12. Repeat with other dinosaurs
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Chisel the egg open to hatch your dinosaur

To Bake the Eggs

  1. Set the oven or toaster oven to 200 to 225 degrees
  2. Set the eggs on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, check
  4. Turn the eggs over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes
  5. Remove from oven and let cool

To Hatch the Eggs

  1. Eggs can be hatched by chiseling them with a spoon, stick, or other implement
  2. Eggs can also be hatched by spraying or sprinkling them with vinegar

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-sue-found-sue-cover

You can find When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Revie

May 26 – It’s National Bike Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month celebrates all the fun and benefits of cycling. In years past, communities around the country have celebrated with special events, tours, and safety lessons. The month also hosts Bike to School and Bike to Work days to encourage people to leave their cars at home, get fresh air and exercise, and have fun at the same time. While National Bike Month is peddling down, there’s still a whole summer in which to take part in this wonderful activity.

Two Dogs on a Trike

Written by Gabi Snyder | Illustrated by Robin Rosenthal

 

You know that when you open the cover of a book, little ones are counting on hearing something special. That’s just what awaits them with Two Dogs on a Trike. As the story opens “One dog stands alone” behind a wall. But the gate is open and he eyes with interest the tricycle that’s just about to pass out of sight. Someone else—turbaned in a towel and enjoying a steaming mug of coffee—is watching too. As the dog jumps on the back of the tricycle and joins a poodle, the watcher trades the robe, slippers, and coffee  for shorts, sneakers, and a headband and takes off after the “two dogs on a trike.”

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Along the way the dogs pick up another friend and abandon the trike in favor of a scooter as the follower dons a helmet and roller skates. With the addition of a dachshund wearing a cone and the acquisition of a tandem bicycle outfitted for four, the dogs are speeding downhill while their sunglasses-wearing tag-along sips a cool drink while balanced on a skateboard.

Going uphill, those dogs decide on a new mode of transportation. Ding, ding! Now there are “five dogs on a trolley.” And you-know-who? Yep—zipping right behind them in a sporty racecar. It’s lunchtime and there’s no better way to enjoy a slice of pizza in style then on a train with a shaggy sheepdog conductor. Surely, that follower can’t still be…following. Well, yes and no—and how was that pizza delivered on the roof? From pizza on a train to a dance party on a ferry?! These dogs know how to have fun! Do you think they know they’re being spied on from a submarine? Next they all take to the sky and then into outer space where “ten dogs…WAIT! That watcher, follower, tag-along finally catches up with them and…”THAT’S NOT A DOG!”

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Now there are “Nine fleeing dogs on a hot-air balloon!” Then “Eight dogs on a plane!” They hurry, hurry on the ferry and speed back on the train! But still that cat is after them on a Segway, on a unicycle, and on a very low, cool bike. Behind the wall and the now-locked gate, “one dog stands alone.” Next door, a towel-turbaned mouse peeks out a little door and spies someone wheeling into view. As it rolls by, the cat jumps on, and they’re followed by…guess who!

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Learning to count to ten and back should always be this much madcap fun! Gabi Snyder and Robin Rosenthal’s superbly devised and executed concept book offers jaunty rhymes and non-stop laughs to entertain kids while they engage with early math, addition, subtraction and even literacy. Along the way, they’re also introduced to different vehicles and wheels of all kinds. Snyder’s short sentences pop with rhythm, making them easy to remember, and little ones are sure to excitedly join in on subsequent readings. When readers reach the count of ten, Snyder’s clever line break, which, besides turning the story on its head and sending it zooming in reverse, invites kids to supply the missing rhyming word. In this second half, exclamation points replace periods, demanding a dramatic reading that will have kids giggling all the way to one. As the cat hops on the back of a trike with the little mouse in tow, children will eagerly want to turn to the first page again and replace those dogs for cats. Children a little older may like to keep the story going by next putting the mouse on the trike and thinking up their own new follower.

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Robin Snyder’s vibrant digital artwork is crisp and fresh and layered with details that invite giggles, prediction, and lots of engagement. As each spread includes one more (or one less) dog and introduces a new mode of transportation, children and adults will find many concepts to discuss as well as many opportunities to count—from the number of trees on a hill to the stars on a dog’s pants to the windows in a city scape and the stars in the sky. Little ones will want to linger over each page to examine the pack of dogs and see which one is added or subtracted. The dogs’ facial expressions—especially as they discover the cat in their midst—is comic gold, and the cat’s nonchalant surveillance heightens the humor and the suspense.

Sure to unleash a joy for learning and to become a favorite read aloud, Two Dogs on a Trike is a must for  at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages Baby – 5

Abrams Appleseed, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419738913

Discover more about Gabi Snyder and her books on her website.

To learn more about Robin Rosenthal, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Bike Month Activity

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Dog on a Bike Coloring Page

       

Is this dog riding in the city? In the country? Outside your house? Inside your house? Draw a background and then color this printable page.

Dog on a Bike Coloring Page

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You can find Two Dogs on a Trike at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

April 1 – National Siblings Day

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About the Holiday

National Siblings Day gives people a chance to honor the special bond they have with their brothers and/or sisters. Whether you come from a big family or small, are the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between, your siblings have had a big influence on your life. Today, take a little time to text or call and do a little reminiscing. At home, engage in some special sibling-bonding fun!

Elsie

Written by Nadine Robert | Illustrated by Maja Kastelic

 

Elsie Filpot had six siblings—“Francis, Florian, the twins Flavie and Franzi, Fernand, [and] Felice.” They loved to go fishing on sunny Sundays. On this Sunday, each brother and sister gathered something for the trip. But little Elsie didn’t feel like going. She had “better things to do.” But her siblings shouted, “‘YOU ARE COMING ALONG, ELSIE!’” So Elsie tagged along.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Outside, each one wanted to take the path through the woods they’d used before. Franzi remembered that the “trail is so pretty.” Francis liked the “wild rose bushes along the way,” and Felice added: “they smell so nice.’” But Elsie wanted to “walk along the brook. It’s faster,’” she said. Her siblings said, “‘DON’T DO IT, ELSIE! FOLLOW US.’” So Elsie followed them down to the river where their little stick fishing rod holders still stood.

Elsie’s sisters and brothers were eager to get started. Felice needed help casting her line, and Francis offered to help. Florian and Fernand had already dipped their lines in the water when Elsie said, “‘I am going to put this little buttercup on my hook.’” Her siblings told her that would never work, but she baited her line anyway. It was lunchtime before they knew it, so they set out a picnic with sandwiches and cake. Elsie wasn’t hungry and said she was going to feed her sandwich to the ducks. When her siblings heard this, they said, “‘DON’T DO IT, ELSIE! THEY WON’T EAT IT.’’ But the ducks did nibble the bit she gave them.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

After lunch Elsie’s sisters and brothers were so full and sleepy that they took a nap. Elsie watched their rods as she continued fishing with her buttercup lure. In time, even Elsie fell asleep. When her siblings woke up, they rushed to check their lines. One was bobbing—Elsie’s! Fernand tried to wake her, but she just wanted “‘five more minutes…just five minutes. Pleeeease!’” When she heard she’d caught a fish, though, she jumped up to go see.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Each of Elsie’s siblings gave advice on how to bring the fish out of the water. Francis declared that it was “‘a big one!’” Elsie went down into the water with the fishnet, but her brothers and sisters told her that “‘was useless.’” But was it? Everyone was amazed when little Elsie brought up the big fish. The sun was beginning to set, so the Filpot bunnies got ready to go home. Franzi, Flavie, Felice, and Francis carried the fish; Florian grabbed the picnic basket; and Fernand gathered up the rods. And Elsie? She carried her pink umbrella and led the way along the brook. Which her siblings thought was “…AN EXCELLENT IDEA!’”

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Charming and sunny, Nadine Robert’s Elsie combines the feel and rhythms of a traditional classic with the camaraderie and humor that makes for a family favorite today. As each brother and sister chimes in on the plans and execution of their Sunday fishing trip, Robert’s bouncy dialogue is a joy to read aloud and leads to littlest sister Elsie’s contributions and her siblings’ insistent response. On successive readings, children will love joining in on these lines. With the whimsy of little ones, Elsie goes in her own direction, and, to the delight of readers, comes up with the day’s big catch. While the older siblings initially take charge, Robert depicts the family dynamics with love. Elsie’s siblings don’t stop her from doing what she wants and when she does catch a fish with a buttercup and a net, they enthusiastically congratulate her, help her bring it in, and then follow her lead home.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Maja Kastelic’s tempera and watercolor illustrations are as delightful as a lazy warm summer day. From the Filpot’s enchanting home, decorated with dried flowers and cozy touches, to the rolling green hills that lead to the river and are populated with birds, squirrels, deer, and even a hapless mole who pops out of the ground at an inopportune place, Kastelic gives children plenty of “look at that!” moments on each page. She also adds bits of humor—as in the parade of ants that appears as soon as the picnic basket is opened and the bunnies snooze. Children will want to linger over the pages to match the dialogue to the speakers and to keep up with Elsie as she does her own thing. As the sun goes down and stars fill the midnight blue sky, the story may come to an end, but only until you flip to the beginning to read it again.

Lovely in every way, Elsie will become a quick favorite for kids and adults to share. With lots of opportunities for dramatic readings, the book is perfect for bedtime or energetic story times. Elsie makes an excellent gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419740725

Discover more about Nadine Robert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Maja Kastelic, her books, and her art on her website.

National Siblings Day Activity

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A little bit of candy makes any day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (or any small jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches (paper, felt, or other material works too)
  • 1 piece of purple foam or paper (Or any color you’d like to make the hat) 
  • Small piece of pink foam, felt, or paper for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom or cotton ball
  • Craft paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue or other glue
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Large nail (optional)
  • Hammer (optional)

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the threaded lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Attach the hat rim to the lid

Option: Instead of making holes in the jar lid, gather and glue together the wide ends of the ears, let dry. Glue ears to lid. If using paper, fold wide end and glue to lid.

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

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You can find Elsie at these booksellers

Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell’s 

Picture Book Review

 

April 7 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate poets and the poetry they create to illuminate our lives in new and often surprising ways. National Poetry Month is a world-wide event, bringing together tens of millions of poets, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and other poetry lovers in readings, school visits, and special events. To celebrate, check out some events in your area and enjoy reading the work of your favorite—or a new—poet. You might even try writing your own poetry! Get inspired with today’s book!

I received a copy of Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

Growing up in Chicago, Gwendolyn Brooks’ family didn’t have a lot of money but they did own “great treasure—a bookcase filled with precious poems.” Every night Gwendolyn’s father read aloud from those books, and, mesmerized, Gwendolyn memorized poems to recite for her visiting aunts. “When she was seven, Gwendolyn began arranging words into poems of her own.” One day, her mother read her poems and declared that one day she would be as great as Paul Laurence Dunbar—Gwendolyn’s favorite poet.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Gwendolyn loved to sit on her porch and watch the clouds float by. She filled notebooks about them and about her “paper dolls, ticktock clocks, raindrops, sunsets, and climbing rocks.” When Gwendolyn was eleven, she sent four of her poems to a newspaper, and, much to her delight, they were printed. A poem she sent to a national magazine also appeared in print.

Gwendolyn was looking forward to a bright future when the Great Depression hit. But Gwendolyn kept writing. In high school she was an outsider, never seeming to fit in despite trying several schools. “Gwendolyn felt invisible. But when words flowed from her pen, she became invincible.” After college she took whatever jobs she could find and continued writing. She got married and had a baby boy. Even though she was busy, she took poetry classes about modern poems and wrote in a new style herself.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

She wrote about what and who she saw in her South Side Chicago neighborhood, Bronzeville. She began to win poetry contests and had some poems published in a well-known poetry journal. She and her family were still poor, but that didn’t stop her from writing “‘what she saw and heard in the street’” even when there was no electricity. Just as when she was a little girl, Gwendolyn “kept dreaming about a future that was going to be exquisite.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

One day, she gathered her best poems and submitted them to a book publisher in New York. Soon after, they wrote asking for more. She wrote and wrote until she had enough to send. With the next letter from the publisher, she learned that they “loved her poems!” They were published with the title A Street in Bronzeville. After that book, came a second, Annie Allen. Her poems were now read all over the world. They “helped people better understand others” and “changed the way some people thought and acted.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Even with two books published, money was scarce. And yet she kept writing because “everywhere she looked, Gwendolyn saw more stories that needed to be told.” One day two things happened in Gwendolyn’s apartment: the electricity was turned off—again. And the phone rang. The reporter on the phone had one question for her: “‘Do you know that you have won the Pulitzer Prize?’” She and her young son danced around the apartment as “outside, exquisite clouds exploded in the sunset sky, because Gwendolyn had won the greatest prize in poetry!”

“Clouds,” a poem written by Gwendolyn Brooks when she was fifteen, follows the story. An Author’s Note giving more information about Brooks’ work, a timeline of her life, and resources are also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-exquisite-writing

Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

In her outstanding biography, Suzanne Slade highlights the prodigious talent of Gwendolyn Brooks, illuminating the influences, continual study, and inborn voice that informed and created her poetry. Gwendolyn’s self-confidence, unique perspective, and the support she received throughout her youth and career are strong themes that will inspire readers. Slade focuses on the awe Brooks found in her subjects, demonstrating her singular vision and how poetry is found in the everyday aspects of life. Beginning with Gwendolyn’s childhood, Slade links the events of Brooks’ life with beautiful imagery of the clouds she once likened to her exquisite future. Quotes are sprinkled throughout Slade’s lyrical text, allowing children to hear Brooks’ own voice and the dreams and pride had for her work.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s acrylic paintings are stunning representations of Gwendolyn’s life. Her family life with her well-read and supportive family comes alive with images of their home, where the large glass bookcase has pride of place, portraits hang on the walls, Gwendolyn practices the piano while her mother exclaims over her poetry, and the family gathers for a meager dinner during hard times. For young readers, Cabrera visualizes the parts of Gwendolyn’s life that fed her imagination and work and the copious amounts of poetry that she created—even as a child. Images of Gwendolyn’s early publishing successes give way to the changes brought by the Depression, school, marriage, and motherhood, but a pen, paper, and books are still her constant companions. Scenes from Chicago give children a look at the city that inspired Gwendolyn’s poetry, and intermittent views of the pastel clouds let readers dream along with her.

A stirring biography to inspire the dreams of any child, Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks is a story that children will want to hear again and again. On its own or paired with Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry, the book also makes an impactful lesson for homeschooling. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419734113

Discover more about Suzanne Slade and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cozbi A. Cabrera, her books, and her art on her website.

Watch the Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks book trailer

National Poetry Month Activity

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You’re a Poet, Don’t You Know It! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the twenty poetry-related words in this printable puzzle then write a poem of your own!

You’re a Poet, Don’t You Know It! Puzzle | You’re a Poet, Don’t You Know It! Solution

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You can find Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks at these booksellers

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

September 5 – National Be Late for Something Day

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About the Holiday

Established by the Procrastinator’s Club, this holiday encourages people to slow down and even allow themselves to be a little late to that meeting, class, lunch date, or whatever event is on your calendar. Got nothing scheduled for today? Then just take the opportunity to relax. Of course some causes of being late are due to unforeseen circumstances. Still, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the delay—as the family in today’s book shows!

I received a copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! from Abrams Appleseed to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day!

Written by Anne Marie Pace | Illustrated by Christopher Lee

 

It’s nine o’clock in the morning and a family’s packed up a picnic lunch, clambered into their minivan, and headed out on the open road. “But halfway there…THUMP-BUMPTY…SPLAT! / What’s going on? Our tire’s flat!” No worries, they think—there’s always the spare. But when they look, they discover that tire’s flat too. They check a list of roadside helpers and pick Sunny’s Towing. They make the call and begin to wait.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At nine thirty the little boy hears a truck approaching. Is it Sunny? No—it’s a hauler carrying lumber. At ten o’clock the little girl spots another vehicle while her brother munches his sandwich. “Is that her truck? / Just a pickup. Out of luck.” By ten thirty the road is getting busy with construction workers making repairs and other cars traveling here and there. Over the hills black smoke from a fire billows into the sky while Dad enjoys a bite of his lunch.

Mom calls Sunny, who says that she’s so busy it might be noon before she gets to them. In a moment firetrucks and police cars with their sirens blaring speed by. As time passes, they see more trucks—“Tractor trailers, rough and rumbly. / Concrete mixers, tough and tumbly. / Dump trucks filled with piles of muck. But no tow truck. We are stuck.” It’s a good time to have a snack the girl thinks.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

It’s getting close to noon and the family counts down the minutes. Suddenly, they see Sunny approaching. She tows them to her garage, where the tire is changed lickity-split. Finally, the family is ready to enjoy their picnic, but when they look in the cooler all the food has disappeared! Sunny has an idea. She shows the family where the best ice cream is sold, and, with cones in hand, they enjoy a perfect picnic in the park.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With perky rhymes, Anne Marie Pace takes readers on a picnic that doesn’t quite come off as planned. As the family waits by the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive, the little girl and boy enthusiastically point out other vehicles passing by and take in the excitement of the construction work going on beside them. Pace’s verses shine with cleverly paired words, realistic dialog, names of various kinds of cars and trucks, and dynamic verbs that will captivate kids. Readers will love the humor sprinkled throughout that leads to the “Oh, no!” moment when the family discovers they’ve already eaten their picnic. Sunny—with an appropriately sunny personality—saves the day with her delightful dessert idea.

Christopher Lee lends a charming retro feel to his vivid illustrations with funky home decor, old-fashioned ads, and stylized cars and trucks. The family’s emotions are clearly evident—from their smiles as they pack their picnic to the shock of having a flat tire and finding the spare flat as well to their cheerful patience. Images of the various trucks, emergency vehicles, and other cars will thrill vehicle enthusiasts, and the two-page spread of Sunny’s garage, loaded with action and tools, will spark discussion. Humor and details abound on each page, prompting kids to linger, laugh, and learn.

A sweet story that incorporates a love for vehicles, a family outing, and a fresh lesson on patience, Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! will be a favorite story time read and a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731914

Discover more about Anne Marie Pace and her books on her website.

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

Nationa Be Late for Something Activity

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Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

 

These four cars are going to be late! Can you show the tow truck drivers the way to the right cars in this printable puzzle?

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 21 – It’s National Family Month and Interview with Galia Bernstein

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About the Holiday

In the weeks between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day we celebrate National Family Month. The holiday was established by KidsPeace to encourage families to spend more time together. It also gives us the opportunity to honor everything that makes a group of people a family. Common experiences, shared memories, and unconditional love create that unique feeling in the heart that defines family. To celebrate, gather your family together and plan some fun!

I received a copy of Leyla from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Leyla

By Galia Bernstein

 

Leyla has a BIG family! Besides her and her mom and dad, there are “nine aunts and twenty-three cousins,” and…they all live together. There’s always someone who wants “to hug and kiss her. Yuck!” Her home is noisy and rowdy, and it’s often hard to get some peace—or a nap. So Leyla ran far away until she couldn’t see them, smell them, or hear them. On the way, she hurt her foot on a rock.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Out in the quiet wilderness, Leyla met a lizard. She tried to find out its name. She tried to get it to kiss her foot and make it better, but the lizard said nothing. Finally, the lizard opened one eye. “‘Shhh,’ he said. ‘I’m busy.’” It didn’t look like the lizard was busy to Leyla, but it told her he was “busy doing nothing.” Then he showed Lelya how to do nothing too.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Leyla and the lizard sat side by side with their eyes closed. They felt the warmth of the sun and listened to the leaves and the insects and thought about nothing. When Leyla finally opened her eyes, it was evening. Leyla missed her family and knew it was time to go home. The lizard told her she could visit any time. Leyla ran until she smelled the familiar smell, heard the familiar noise, and saw her wonderful family. She told them all about her adventure and the lizard. “They thought she was very brave and wanted to know if she was all right.”

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Well, there was that one thing—Leyla wanted to know if they wanted to kiss her foot better. And, of course, they did! “That night, in her mother’s arms, Leyla didn’t mind the noise.” She remembered her day with the lizard, and “whenever it all got a bit too much,” she went back to see him. “And the lizard was always there.”

An Author’s Note following the text tells a bit about the Hamadryas baboons, who live in large, noisy, and loving families like Leyla and the troop that inspired her story.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Any child—whether they’re from a big family, part of a large class at school, a participant in a team or group activity, or a person who just likes a little quiet—will recognize themselves in Leyla. In her sweet and straightforward story, Galia Bernstein lets children know that when the pressures of a day squeeze in, rejuvenation is close at hand. The astute and chill lizard Leyla meets when she runs away from her large, loud, and loving family teaches her and readers methods of mindfulness and meditation, allowing them to shut out the noise and distractions and find peace within. Feeling refreshed, Leyla returns home with a new appreciation for what she has and a story to share.

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Bernstein’s textured illustrations of a Hamadryas baboon troop, rendered in cool earth tones, is a joyful representation of family, with all the care, concern, and caresses that come with them. Kids will giggle when Leyla meets the lizard with a startled EEEEEEEEEP!, and you can bet they’ll close their eyes and meditate right along with Leyla and the lizard. Leyla is adorable and thoughtful, and her troop eyes her with understanding as she returns to the fold. The final two-page spread is warm and comforting.

In Leyla, Gaia Bernstein reminds readers that looking inward as well as outward toward new experiences and beyond their comfort zone brings new perspectives and happiness. The book would be a tender accompaniment to lessons on meditation or mindfulness as well as a reassuring read for home and classroom story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419735431

To learn more about Galia Bernstein, her books, and her art, visit her website

Meet Galia Bernstein

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Today, I’m really excited to be talking with Galia about her first paying job as an artist, how kids can find their own quiet place, and…a world of cats!

What was your inspiration for Leyla?

As a young child I was terrified of large family gatherings. So many people in the same room who wanted to hug and kiss me, and who wanted, it seemed,  to hear about every single thing that happened to me since we’d last met. It was overwhelming. Over the years, I found that if I took a short break, went to my room for a bit, or walked around the block, I was able to relax myself and was even able to enjoy myself. Years later, I was sitting in the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn watching a small but energetic troop of, who had recently welcomed a new edition to the family—a baby boy. What if that baby, I thought, is a bit different from the other baboons? What if he couldn’t handle the constant attention? Who will teach it how to take a break? And the idea for Leyla was born.

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Galia snapped this picture of 2 female Hamadryas Baboons and the baby that inspired Leyla.

In addition to gaining an appreciation for her big family, Leyla also learns about mindfulness and the benefits of getting some quiet time. Do you have any advice for kids on how they can carve out some time or a place just for themselves?

If you can, go outside. Of course, make sure that you’re safe and an adult knows where you are, but there is nothing like being outside on a beautiful day and breathing some fresh air. You will immediately feel better. Find a little private spot that’s yours—in the back yard, a near-by park, or even in the school yard—sit down and just breath. If you have time to read, bring a book, or listen to music if you prefer. Lying on a blanket under the old lemon tree in our yard on a summer afternoon with a book and a plate of grapes is a very happy childhood memory for me. Today, I listen to books on tape while I walk my dog and, for a while, clear my mind of everyday worries.

Before you moved to New York to study illustration, you were the art director for two children’s magazines in Israel. Were you always interested in working in publishing, and children’s publishing in particular, or how did that come about?

In Israel, military service is mandatory. When you turn 18, you join the army and serve 2 years if you’re a girl, and 3 if you’re a boy. During this time, many people get to learn a profession that they may be interested in as a civilian, and that’s how it was for me. I was lucky enough to join the Israeli Army’s weekly magazine as a graphic designer and an illustrator/cartoonist. It was my first paying job as an artist and I fell in love with publishing. It’s also really fun to say “artist” when people asked me what I did in the army. Since I was mostly interested in illustration, and a big reader as a child, I was naturally drawn to children’s publishing.

Your debut picture book, I Am a Cat, also published by Abrams, was very well received. I understand the spark of the idea goes back to when you were just thirteen years old. Can you talk a little about that? I’m curious if writing was always part of your repertoire and if not when you began to write as well as illustrate and design.

I Am a Cat started as a cartoon I drew for my father. It showed a little house cat looking very grumpy on one side and a bunch of big cats rolling on the floor laughing on the other. The caption underneath said “Yes, I call myself a cat!” That cartoon is hanging in my dad’s study to this day. I am an illustrator first, but I was always a writer as well. In middle school, I wrote and drew comic books starring all my friends and plays for us to perform in class. When I moved to the US, it took me a while to feel confident enough to write in a second language, a problem I didn’t have with the international language of illustration, so for a while, I was more of an illustrator than a writer.

A look through your portfolio reveals that much of your illustration work features animals. How have animals influenced your work?

I’ve loved animals since before I could walk. They always fascinated me and I always wanted to read about them and learn to draw them. My books are always based on real animal behavior, and I am always happy to teach and talk about the amazing creatures we share this world with.

In your bio you say that your art is heavily influenced by mid-20th century design and Eastern European and Scandinavian folk art. What do you love about these styles?

What I like about Scandinavian and folk art is the minimalism—saying so much with very few details and minimal color. My picture books tell a story through body language and facial expression, and the backgrounds are very simple. I work hard on the look of the entire page—not just the art, but the white spaces in between called the negative space. Sometimes what’s not there can tell a story as much as what’s there. In I Am a Cat, I played with the points of view, allowing the readers to see Simon the cat through the eyes of the big cats, and on other pages be Simon and feel what it’s like to be stared at by a lion, a tiger, a puma, a cheetah, and a panther. In Leyla, I used the colors of dusk and sunset to not only show the passage of time, but also the change in Leyla and the way she sees the world around her, before and after meeting the lizard.

What has been the best part about being a children’s author and illustrator? Do you have a story from any book event or classroom visit you’d like to share?

The best thing about writing for children is the children of course. I love to see how smart kids are and  how interested  they are to learn about animals. We always talk about the animals in the books, where they are from, and how their natural behavior inspired their behavior in the books. The most surprising reaction to I Am A Cat came from… cats! The book came out in 14 languages and I get pictures of actual cats “reading” my book from all over the world. It always makes my day!

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Cats of the world, unite!

What’s up next for you?

I’m taking a little break from writing this year. I have 2 more picture books and one nonfiction book I am going to start working on soon, all as an illustrator only. Right now I am working on a very funny Hanukkah book called 8 Knights. It’s about, well.. 8 Knights. With a ‘K.’ The kind with armor and horses. It’s going to be a very fun book, I can’t wait!

What is your favorite holiday?

Now I feel like I should say Hanukkah… but it is a really fun holiday. Amazing food, open flames allowed indoors (!) and for a kid who, as you might remember from question one, is not a big fan of large family gatherings, a very intimate holiday, at home, with the immediate family.

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Galia! I wish you all the best with Leyla, and I can’t wait to see your upcoming books!

You can connect with Galia Bernstein on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

National Family Day Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

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You can find Leyla at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 15 – National Dinosaur Day

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate dinosaurs—those beasts that, although they are of a distant past, remain ever present in our hearts. Their size, diversity, and shear awesomeness make them a favorite of kids, and ongoing discoveries continue to fascinate adults as well. Dinosaurs, in fact, are so huge that Dinosaur Day takes place twice—today and on June 1. To celebrate, visit a national history museum, watch your favorite dinosaur movies or TV shows, join your kids in playing with their dinos (you know you want to!), and pick up today’s book!

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex

Written by Toni Buzzeo | Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

 

Sue Hendrickson was an expert at finding things. The lure of buried or lost treasures kept her busy in her hometown of Munster, Indiana. “Born shy and incredibly smart,” Sue devoured books, discovering everything she could about the things that interested her. One of her favorite places was the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. There, she reveled in the treasures others had found and dreamed of the day when she could “search the wide world for hidden treasure on her own.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

When she was seventeen, Sue began her life of treasure hunting, joining teams that searched for sunken boats, airplanes, and even cars. She went to Dominican amber mines looking for prehistoric butterflies and deserts of Peru searching for whale fossils. Finally, she headed to South Dakota to dig for dinosaurs.

She spent four summers unearthing duck-billed dinosaurs, using more and more delicate tools to expose the bones. But near the end of her fourth summer, “Sue Hendrickson felt pulled to a sandstone cliff far off in the distance.” When she had the opportunity, she took her golden retriever and hiked the seven miles to the rock.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Walking around the perimeter, she noticed what looked like bones lying on the ground. When she looked up, she was astonished to see “three enormous backbones protruding from the cliff.” The size told her they must be from a Tyrannosaurus rex. Sue hurried back to her campsite and told her team the exciting news. They “immediately named the dinosaur Sue the T. rex.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It took five full days for the team to expose the skeleton. Then they mapped the location of each bone, photographing and drawing them. At last they began removing them, and after three weeks the bones were trucked to the Black Hills Institute. Eventually, Sue the T. rex was moved to the Field Museum in Chicago. If you visit the museum today, you will see Sue towering over you. “She is the world’s largest, most complete, best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil discovered so far”—discovered by a woman who was born to find things.

An Author’s Note about Sue Hendrickson and the battle over the T. rex skeleton as well as resources for further study and a photograph of Sue the T. rex follow the text.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Toni Buzzeo’s inspiring story of how Sue Hendrickson discovered the most complete and best-preserved T. rex fossil delves into more than the finding and excavating of the skeleton. Buzzeo also emphasizes Hendrickson’s personality and long-held love of treasure hunting, qualities that informed and aided her career choice. Readers who also harbor dreams outside the mainstream and have a steady focus will find much to admire in Buzzeo’s storytelling and Sue’s example. Kids will be awed by Sue’s early treasure-hunting exploits and fascinated by the painstaking process of unearthing fossils. When Sue follows her intuition to the cliff—without explanation or facts—readers will be reminded that they can rely on their own curiosity, experience, and ideas to carry them forward. With nods toward the value of teamwork and sprinkled with Sue’s own words about her moment of discovery, the story exposes the bones of a life well-lived and points children in the right direction.

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Diana Sudyka opens the story of Sue Hendrickson with a lovely collage of the treasures she found and studied as a child and that led to her life-long love of discovery. As Sue grows, she visits the Field Museum, with its exhibits of a Triceratops and Hadrosaurus. Fast-forward several years and she’s swimming in a sea dotted with colorful coral toward an old sunken ship. But the centerpiece of the story takes place in the South Dakota hills, the layers of rock painted in stripes of earthy brown, rust, rose, and ivory. As the team works late nights to excavate the bones, a T. rex constellation appears above the team in the starry sky, urging them on. A two-page spread of how Sue the T. rex fossil appeared in its entirety in the ground is sure to elicit plenty of “Wows!,” and a rendition of Sue on exhibit in the Field Museum will no doubt inspire some travel wishes.

A book about a modern-day scientist that will engage and inspire children with scientific aspirations of their own as well as a celebration of individuality and big dreams and a must for dinosaur lovers, When Sue Found Sue would be a T. riffic addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731631

Discover more about Toni Buzzeo and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Sudyka, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Dinosaur Day Activity

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Hatch Your Own Dinosaur Eggs

 

Think there are no more dinosaur eggs to be found? Think again! You can make your own with this easy craft that will have you hatching some T.-rex-size fun! All you need are a few simple ingredients!

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Supplies

  • Old clothes or apron
  • Large box of baking soda (makes between 6 and 8 eggs)
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Plastic dinosaur toys
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Wax paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Foil
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Plastic or metal spoon, stick, popsicle stick, or other implement to chisel with

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Spray the egg with vinegar to hatch your dinosaur

Directions

  1. Wear old clothes or an apron
  2. Cover work surface with wax paper, parchment paper, newspaper, or other protection. Food coloring can stain some surfaces
  3. Pour baking soda into the bowl
  4. Add drops of food coloring in whatever color you’d like your eggs to be. The eggs will darken when baked.
  5. Mix in the food coloring with the fork. You may want to use your hands, too
  6. When the baking soda is the color you want it, begin adding water a little at a time
  7. Add water until the baking soda holds together when you squeeze it in your hand
  8. When the baking soda is the right consistency, spoon some out into your hand or onto wax paper
  9. Push one plastic dinosaur into the middle
  10. Cover the dinosaur with more of the baking soda mixture
  11. Carefully form it into an egg shape
  12. Repeat with other dinosaurs

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Chisel the egg open to hatch your dinosaur

To Bake the Eggs

  1. Set the oven or toaster oven to 200 to 225 degrees
  2. Set the eggs on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, check
  4. Turn the eggs over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes
  5. Remove from oven and let cool

To Hatch the Eggs

  1. Eggs can be hatched by chiseling them with a spoon, stick, or other implement
  2. Eggs can also be hatched by spraying or sprinkling them with vinegar

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You can find When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review