March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday was established in 2013 to celebrate the world’s wild animals and plants and to raise awareness of the perils they face. Since that time, World Wildlife Day has grown to be the most important global event dedicated to wildlife. This year’s theme is “Big cats: predators under threat.” The big cats are some of nature’s most majestic animals, and they are now being threatened by habitat destruction, declining prey populations, conflicts with people, poaching, and illegal trade. It is up to us to protect the animals that share our planet. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about the world’s creatures and consider donating to a wildlife cause. To learn more about the holiday, visit the official website of UN World Wildlife Day.

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals

Written by Gabrielle Balkan | Illustrated by Sam Brewster

 

When you think about bones, you know a lot, right? You know they’re hard and not soft, you know they form your skeleton and that they come in different sizes and various shapes, and you know that all vertebrates have them. But have you ever wondered “which animal has the biggest bone in the world? Or the smallest, Or the spikiest?” Well, you’re about to find out thanks to this big book all about bones.

So, let’s get started! About that biggest bone…would you like to take a guess who it belongs to? Here are some clues: This mandible bone “is a whopping 20 feet long. That means three motorcycles could sit in a row” on it. The animal it belongs to lives in the ocean, swims great distances, and “can live for 100 years.” Just take a look at the skeleton on the next page with one long spine, two flippers, fifteen pairs of ribs and a huge skull. Good guess! Let’s turn the page and see… Yes, it is a Blue Whale!

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Now that you know, you can learn more about the blue whale—like how its mouth is so big that you and one hundred of your friends could fit on its tongue, how it eats 700,000 krill in one gulp, and slurps down 40,000,000 krill every day! Go ahead—touch the illustration of the whale. Feel all of those bones?

Ready for another one? Okay! We did the biggest, how about the smallest bones? Here are some clues from the animal herself: “I am teeny tiny. My skull is smaller than your pinky nail….Inside my ears are the smallest bones in the world: my hammer, anvil, and stirrup bones,” which are about the size of a • . You’d find this animal on farms, in gardens and in olive groves, and even though it’s small, its bite is poisonous. But you’d have to look very closely to find it because its skeleton is “the size of a paperclip and weighs less than a single raisin. What is it? The Etruscan Shrew! You can pet it to feel its bones—this one isn’t venomous.

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Imagine if your bones were as thin as a strand of spaghetti. It might make lifting heavy boxes and throwing baseballs or running on the playground pretty hard, if not impossible. But for this next animal having such thin bones is just right. Let’s see if you can guess what it is from these clues: “I sleep upside down, snuggled with my family. I flit through cool limestone caves. I am an amazing flyer…but can’t walk very well.” You know it—it’s a bumblebee bat!

This bat is as small as its namesake, and its thin finger bones support its wings. “If your finger bones were as long and thin as [the bumblebee bat’s], your pinky would be as thin as a strand of hair and keep going past your toes!”

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

This is fun! How about another? Guess who has the spikiest bones? You’d find these bones covered with keratin on top of the animal’s head to protect its brain—and to keep it from being eaten by snakes or coyotes or other predators. This animal lives in the deserts of Arizona, eats ants, and…can shoot stinky blood from its eyes when threatened! What is it? It’s a Regal Horned Lizard! Now, feel those spiky horns and all of the rib bones that make this lizard so round.

You’re a great guesser! So try them all—there are a lot more animals to discover and fascinating facts to learn in this book! No bones about it! You’ll find out more about the Reticulated Python, Reticulated Giraffe, African Bush Elephant, Peregrine Falcon, Alaska Moose, and Hammerhead Shark. At the end, there’s also a Glossary of Bone Words for you to bone up on!

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Gabrielle Balkan makes learning about the ten animals Book of Bones exciting by including the kinds of facts that kids find most eye-popping and eww-inspiring described in ways that they can relate to. Comparing the size of an animal to a paperclip or the thickness of a bone to a strand of spaghetti creates an immediate visual that makes budding scientists want to learn more. Balkan’s conversational style lends a personal touch to the text—as if the reader is interacting with a wildlife expert one-on-one.

Opening the oversized Book of Bones is like walking into a natural history museum where skeleton exhibits stand side by side with natural habitat dioramas. Sam Brewster introduces each animal with accurately drawn skeletons on black backgrounds that let readers see the placement of each bone. Special features are called out in a whisper of gray, adding to the museum display feel. Turning the page allows children to see each animal in its vibrant, natural habitat. Ingenious printing lets readers feel and see the rough bones beneath the skin.

A fun, fact-filled resource for nature lovers, Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals would make a great gift and addition to classroom, school library, public library, and home bookshelves.

Ages 8 – 12

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875125

Discover more about Gabrielle Balkan and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of illustration work by Sam Brewster, visit his website.

World Wildlife Day Activity

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Lion and Lioness Coloring Pages

 

The lion is one of the most majestic of the big cats, and is—of course—the king (and queen) of the jungle. Here are two lion coloring pages for you to enjoy!

Lion Coloring Page | Lioness and Cub Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day and Interview with Sara Levine

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About the Holiday

Today is one of the best days of the year! Anyone who loves books will want to take the opportunity of the holiday to visit their favorite bookstore and buy one of those books you’ve been hearing and reading about. And why stop at just one? Winter is coming—that time when there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling in with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and reading late into the night. As the school year begins, children benefit from having new books in their home libraries that reflect their changing interests and maturing thoughts. Take a little time to look through the children’s or tween sections of the bookstore and let your kids pick out some new favorites! Yes, today is a wonderful day, no bones about it! 

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth

 

Can you imagine if we sloshed through life like soup without a bowl? What would we set our hats on? Where would we carry our phones? How could we sit in class or the office or perform our favorite activities? And what would happen to our organs, our hair, our homes? It’s all a little disturbing! Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that scenario because “we’re vertebrates, animals with bones. Our bones hold us up.” Phew!

There are different kinds of vertebrates—mammals, reptiles, fish, and more—but many of our bones are similar. For example, “all vertebrates have skulls and ribs. And we all have vertebrae. Vertebrae stack up one on top of another to make the spine, or backbone.” Humans have vertebrae that end…well…you know where, but imagine for a minute if your vertebra kept on going. What if they poked a hole right through your shorts? Yes! You’re right—you’d have a tail. Tails are pretty helpful for some animals. They help them swim, communicate, even keep their balance.

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

Good job! Let’s try again…how about if you only had a skull, vertebrae, and ribs. No arm bones; no leg bones. You’ve got it! A slithery snake! Nah…really…you’d look great! Okay, maybe you’d prefer if you had a skull, vertebrae, and arm bones—but no leg bones—and your nose was transferred to the top of your head. Sounds fishy? Maybe, but not quite. Oh! Did I give it away? Yep, you’d be a whale or a dolphin, and you’d use those powerful vertebrae to propel yourself to the ocean’s surface to grab a breath.

Imagine what kind of gloves and shoes you’d need if your “middle fingers and middle toes were so thick that they supported your whole body.” Hey, you’re good at this! It was a trick question. You wouldn’t need gloves, but you’d wear horse shoes (or no shoes if you’re a less domesticated animal like a zebra). Now, let’s take a trip through a room full of fun-house mirrors. What kind of animal would you be if your neck was reeeaally long and each vertebrae was “as big as your head?” Or if your legs were muuuuuch longer than your arms? Or your “finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Seeing those transformations is definitely worth the price of admission, right?

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

But getting back to the bowl of soup: “Could you be an animal if you didn’t have any bones at all?” Sure! Some insects and sea creatures “have their hard parts on the outside,” and some are just “mushy.” Think of worms, slugs, and jellyfish, just to name a few. But bones make life more fun, don’t ya think? So if all vertebrates have bones, what makes humans different? Well, for one thing we (as well as some apes and monkeys) have opposable thumbs, which means that “we can move our thumbs in a special way that allows us to do many things, including turning the pages of a book,” using tools, and picking up objects. “Did you get that one? If so, give yourself a thumbs-up!”

An Author’s Note including more about bones, the types of vertebrates, a glossary, and resources for further reading follow the text.

With humor and a kid’s sensibility of the bizarre, Sara Levine presents an anatomy lesson that young readers will respond to. Juxtaposing individual bony features of humans and animals is a brilliant idea to give children perspective on the differences in animal skeletons and the uses of each unique trait. Levine’s quiz-like format engages readers, encouraging independent thought and active participation as well as building suspense for what transformation comes next. Kids will laugh and learn and be on the lookout for other ways human and animal skeletons differ as they become more aware of the natural world around them.

With illustrations of tailbones sticking out of pants, empty socks, two fingered hands and two toed feet, a neck that needs two scarves, and more, T. S Spookytooth illuminates what it means to be human in an animal world or an animal in a human world. Kids will laugh imagining themselves as Spookytooth depicts them with animal features and “Ewww” when their portrayal dissolves into a muddy mess. The accurate drawings of human and animal skeletons educate readers on the names and placement of particular bones.

The unique approach to the study of human and animal skeletons, the wide range of animals presented, and the enticing writing and illustrations make Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons a wonderful choice for libraries and home bookshelves of budding scientists and nature lovers.

Ages 5 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0761384649

To learn more about Sara Levine and her books, visit her website! You’ll also discover fun Bone by Bone activities to enhance your reading!

View a gallery of artwork by T. S Spookytooth, plus videos and more on his website!

Buy a Book Day Activity

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Dog Paw and Human Hand X-Ray Craft

 

X-rays are cool to look at, but they always stay at the doctor’s office! With this craft you can simulate an X-ray of a dog’s paw and a human hand!

Supplies

  • Printable skeleton templates: Human Hand Template | Dog Paw Template
  • Black chalkboard drawing paper, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • White colored pencil
  • White chalk
  • Clear Plastic Report Sheet Protectors
  • Magnetic clip to hang your x-ray on the refrigerator or other metal surface (optional) OR
  • String or wire, adhesive squares, and clothes pins to hang x-ray on the wall (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Human Hand and Dog Paw Templates (you may want to print two—one to cut and one to follow when transferring the bones to the black paper)
  2. Cut the bones apart
  3. Lay the bones on the black chalkboard paper
  4. Trace the bones with the white colored pencil
  5. Color in the bones with the white chalk
  6. Slip the black paper into the plastic report sheet protector
  7. If desired, hang the x-ray on the refrigerator with the magnetic clip or on the wall using string, adhesive squares and clothespins

 

Q & A with Author Sara Levine

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Today, I’m thrilled to talk to Sara Levine about her writing as well as to learn about her early experiences with animals and to discover a kid’s-eye-view of women in science.

Your writing for kids is so infused with humor that really captures their attention. What were some of the books that you liked best as a child?

When I was younger, one of my favorite picture books was Katerine and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch. I’ve noticed that this book has gone back into print; I was so happy to find it online. It’s basically about creativity. A girl and her friend keep finding new uses for a large cardboard box—a house, a car, a dance platform. I can still recall my feeling of excitement when hearing it read to me—it made me want to go make something. It’s actually a feeling very similar to what I have today when I think of a new idea for a book. There was also a book called Wisher, which was about difference—about a cat who dreamt he was really a fish. I remember that the illustrations were beautiful and somewhat scary—just done in blues, browns and yellows.  As an older child, I loved Charlotte’s Web by E.B White, Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater and pretty much everything by Judy Blume.

I don’t suppose any of these books are like the books I write. I used to tell people that I liked my science and my books separate. I just wanted to go outside to learn about science. But, I wanted stories in my books. I don’t think there were any of the sorts of books I write about science out for kids when I was young. At least I didn’t find them. But if I had, I think I would have enjoyed them—the fact that they were funny and interactive. But here’s a picture book I LOVE that I found as an adult that is certainly infused with humor and captures a kid’s (and a grown-up’s) attention: Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer. I think this is currently my favorite picture book.

You grew up on a farm in Guilford, Connecticut. Can you tell me a little about the farm and how or if it influenced your current work?

Calling it a “farm” might be a bit of a stretch. My parents were two kids who grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to CT and decided to get some animals, cheered on by their enthusiastic offspring. First there was a goat, who got lonely. So then there was another goat. And they had a baby. And there was a chicken at school who needed a place to go for the summer. And then never went back to school… And so on. We ended up having over 100 named animals—a horse, a cow, peacocks, geese, a donkey and more. I loved taking care of the animals, with my siblings. It was a wonderful experience, one that I’m very grateful for. But it wasn’t at all lucrative. I think the only money made was by my brother who would sell extra eggs to his teachers.

How did it influence my current work? I’m not sure. Certainly my interest in animals is a lifelong one. I think the stories about the animals actually show up more in my writing for adults than in my picture books. The ideas for the books for children come more from teaching ideas that I think will translate well into a picture book format.

You have a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a masters in fine art. When and how did the two merge into your work as an author?

What a great question. I have always had this science side and this humanities side. A lot of my life, I’ve been struggling with how to balance and feed both sides of myself. It’s taken me a long time to find a way to merge the two interests, and it’s been very satisfying to do so in writing about science, especially for kids.

You offer four different school and library programs, all of which sound fascinating. Do you have any anecdotes from a presentation you’d like to share?

In one of my workshops, the one for Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons, I bring in an articulated skeleton for the kids to see and a disarticulated skeleton in a box. The kids learn the bones, and I then hand them each a bone which they take up to the standing skeleton to figure out which bone it is, and then work together to put together the second skeleton on the floor. Inevitably, someone asks if the skeletons are real. They are. I literally found them in the closets, when I started my teaching at Wheelock. There are all sorts of questions about that, generated by the kids, and then, often, someone will ask if the skeletons are “boys or girls.” Recently, at a school near Boston, I was explaining to a group of second graders that both were female, that we could tell by the shape of the hips, and I heard one girl, going, “YES!” and pumping her arm up and down, in victory. The boy next to her says, “Why are you so happy? That means a girl died.” To which she responds, “That’s true. But it also means one more girl in science!”

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Sara Levine leads a workshop at Cold Spring School

What’s the best thing about writing for kids?

I enjoy trying to think of engaging and interactive ways to teach something that hasn’t been taught before. I like the creativity involved. And, of course, reading it to the kids when I’m done and seeing them respond!

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Students at Al Hamra Academy examine a skeleton

You also write articles for adults and were nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007. Can you tell me more about your writing for adults?

I write science related essays for adults. The writing comes more from my own experiences.  I do have a handful of essays published. I think the one that was nominated for the Pushcart, “What Hands Can Do” is still available to read online. Here’s a link to it on Fictionaut. It’s about spaying a dog. And more, of course. I think my most successful essay is “The Body of a Cow” which originally appeared in the Massachusetts Review. It’s also on Fictionaut, if anyone wants to have a look. Eventually, I hope to work the essays into a memoir for adults.

What’s up next for you?

I have a book on dinosaur bones which will be published by Lerner next year. I also have three children’s books written which I’m trying to find homes for at the moment—one on animal classification (but interactive, written like a “do your own adventure” story), one on how plants communicate with animals, and one very funny one (if I can say so myself) called “Breakfast at the Omnivore Café,” which is about what animals eat. This one might never get published because it falls into the cracks between nonfiction and narrative fiction, but I haven’t given up on it yet. The book I’m currently working on is an attempt to explain climate change through stories of the carbon cycle. Doesn’t sound very interesting when put that way, but it’s written as an interactive story, and is also actually quite funny in parts, so I think kids will like it.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you what your favorite holiday is…

Passover. You get to tell a story to children in a way that is interactive and engaging for kids, AND it involves food. What could be better?

Thanks so much for chatting and sharing your unique perspective on the natural world, Sara! I, for one, would love to read Breakfast at the Omnivore Café—that would be one interesting menu, I bet! I wish you the best with all of your books!

You can connect with Sara Levine on:

Her Website | FacebookTwitter

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Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons and Sara’s other books can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Lerner Publishing

About Sara Levine

Sara Levine is an assistant professor of biology at Wheelock College and a veterinarian.  Her science books for children include Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (2013) and Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks and Chompers (2016).  Her third book, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones will be published in 2018.  Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons has received much recognition, including the Utah Beehive Book Award, selection as a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, and finalist for the Cook Prize for best STEM picture book.

Sara also writes science-related essays for adults, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007.  Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Review, Bayou, and in the anthology And Baby Makes More. In addition to teaching college students, she has taught children’s environmental education classes for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and other nature centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut for over 15 years. 

Sara holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Tufts University, a master of fine arts degree (MFA) in creative nonfiction writing from Lesley University and a bachelor of arts degree (BA) in English from Haverford College.  She is a native New Englander and lives with her daughter and their dogs and cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Picture Book Review

August 27 – Just Because Day

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About the Holiday

With a full calendar of days dedicated to specific topics, causes, holidays, animals, food, places, and emotions, someone thought it would be a good idea to leave one day up to you, and today is it! So if you have a special occasion; a favorite animal; a unique knick-knack; a best-loved book, poem, song, or art piece; or if you just want an excuse to throw a party, celebrate it today!

Animals Hide and Sneak

By Bastien Contraire

 

Just because things are grouped together, it doesn’t mean they’re the same! In his clever discovery books, Bastien Contraire takes advantage of people’s visual flexibility to offer a book full of puzzles that charm and surprise. In his newest book—a board book for little ones—he uses his striking tri-colored imagery to invite readers to really think about what they are seeing.

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Image copyright Bastien Contraire, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Once readers spot the look-alike, they’re enticed to consider the connection between it and the others on the two-page spreads. Opening to the second spread, eight horses of different sizes, mane length, and coloring face off on either side of the split. So, which one is different? Ah! There’s a little rocking horse among them! Children will love talking about what makes it the visitor to the ranch.

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Image copyright Bastien Contraire, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The pretty butterflies, with their yellow, violet, and brown markings and frilled wings almost hide the hibiscus flower in their midst. With its fancy petals and thin, center style it seems to fit right in. But isn’t there more of a connection? Young readers will happily tell you!  Turn the page and—Yikes!—you’ll find eight wiggly snakes all in a row. Wait a minute, though…one of the snakes is kind of stiff, and is that a buckle for a head? Those dots aren’t markings—they’re holes! And it’s not a snake at all—it’s a belt! So what’s the similarity? Kids and adults can take turns on that one.

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Image copyright Bastien Contraire, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Here’s one that’s clever and a pun! A bird crane, a construction crane, a flamingo, and a bird crane. So which one is really the odd-one-out? This one will give readers lots to discuss! Next up is a puzzle you can really sink your teeth into—a group of big cats and one walrus! Also included in the pages are heavy movers, farmyard fowl, dogs, barnyard animals, sheep, tropical birds, and some silly monkeys.

The answers to the puzzles are given in the back of the book.

Bastien Contraire’s stylish stencil prints are eye-catching and cheery. The range of images allows young readers to engage with the book in many different ways from categorizing to shape recognition to counting to logical thought and to just plain fun.

Animals Hide and Sneak is an amusing and entertaining book to enjoy at home “just whenever” and to pack along for playground visits, picnics, waiting times, or other outside adventures. 

Ages 1 – 4

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874227

Learn more about Bastien Contraire and his work on his website!

Just Because Day Activity

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Hop Along Matching Game 

 

Just because they wanted to, these crazy frogs have gotten mixed up! Can you find the matching pairs in this Hop Along Matching Game?

Picture Book Review

July 2 – Build a Scarecrow Day

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About the Holiday

The first Saturday in July is reserved for Build a Scarecrow Day. Today, community members gather together and create scarecrows to ward off birds that would like nothing more than to nibble at ripening crops. Although the celebration is traditionally an American holiday, it is being embraced by other areas of the world, such as Great Britain, which has joined in the fun since 1990.

The Scarecrow’s Hat

By Ken Brown

 

Chicken was quite taken with Scarecrow’s straw hat. In fact, she would have liked it for herself. When she complimented Scarecrow on his hat, he agreed that it was nice, but not as handy as a walking stick for his tired arms. “‘I’d love a walking stick to lean on. I’d swap my hat for a walking stick any day.’” Hmmm, thought chicken, she just happened to know someone who had such a stick.

She went to see her friend Badger who was struggling to prop open his door with a cane. When Chicken complimented Badger on the cane, he agreed, but said he’d really prefer a ribbon to tie his door open. Chicken thought she could help. She found Crow adding a blue ribbon to her nest. Chicken thought the ribbon was very nice, and Crow agreed. But she admitted that she’d rather have some soft wool to line her nest and make it more comfortable. “Now Chicken didn’t have any wool, but she knew someone who did.”

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Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Sheep was covered in wool and said she would be more than happy to trade some of it for a pair of glasses. Her eyes were getting old, and Wolf was always lurking. Chicken nodded and went on her way. When Chicken came calling at Owl’s, she couldn’t help but admire his new glasses. Owl agreed with a yawn, but revealed that he’d rather have a blanket to sleep under because the sun kept him awake. “Now Chicken didn’t have a blanket, but she knew someone who did.”

Donkey’s blanket was very handsome, but it couldn’t help Donkey shoo the flies away from her ears. Her tail was just a bit too short to “‘flick them away. But if I had some long feathers tied to the end of it,’” she explained, “‘I could swat them easily.’” Here was something Chicken did have. “Quick as a flash, Chicken pulled out one, two, three of her longest feathers and tied them to Donkey’s tail.”

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Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Off came Donkey’s blanket, and quick as a wink Chicken took it to Owl. Owl’s old glasses looked splendid on Sheep, and the fluff of wool made Crow cozy. The blue ribbon held Badger’s door nicely, and finally, Chicken “took the walking stick to Scarecrow. With a grateful sigh of relief, he leaned his tired old arms on the stick and gladly swapped it for his battered old hat.

But what could Chicken want with such a big hat? Filled with “fresh, sweet-smelling straw,” it made a perfect nest; and when Duck came around to compliment it, Chicken agreed and said, “‘And I wouldn’t swap it for anything!’”

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Copyright Ken Brown, courtesy of Peachtree Publishers

Ken Brown’s classic story is a fun and gentle mystery that trades on the idea that value is in the eye of the beholder. Clever Chicken is an observant character with plenty of foresight. Young readers will enjoy following her from friend to friend to find exactly what is needed. The repeated phrases invite kids to read along out loud, and the neatly wrapped-up ending will delight them. Brown’s detailed watercolors are masterful depictions of the countryside dappled with sunlight and vibrant with red flowers, golden wheat, and verdant pastures. Children will also enjoy the up-close views of Chicken and her friends.

Ages 4 – 7

Peachtree Publishing, 2011 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1561455706

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

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Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page

 

Building a scarecrow with old clothes, some twine, and just the right amount of stuffing is creative fun! If you’d like a simpler way to make a scarecrow, enjoy this printable Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

May 29 – It’s National Smile Month

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About the Holiday

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

Tooth By Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 9

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

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

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

National Smile Month Activity

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-brush-up-on-your-smile-maze

Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze

 

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

Picture Book Review

May 28 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

If I Had a Gryphon

Written by Vikki VanSickle | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

 

Sam gazes at her first pet—a hamster—as he slumbers on his bed of shavings. She’s a little disappointed because mostly all he does is eat, sleep, and hide. She snuggles into her reading chair with a cup of tea and a book of mythical creatures and thinks: “If only I could have a pet / With strange, exotic powers, / I know that I’d find lots to do / To while away the hours.” She considers having a unicorn whose mane she could braid and who she could ride through fields of posies, then remembers that “Unicorns are pretty, / but they’re also very shy. / On second thought, I’d like to give a hippogriff a try.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam plans to take her hippogriff to the dog park to “run and jump and fetch” and “to give his wings a stretch.” Considering it again, though, she realizes that the dogs may find a hippogriff scary and that “when it comes to playing ball, / Well, things could get quite hairy.” Instead, she decides to get a sasquatch “with burly, curly fur,” but then she remembers all the time she’d spend brushing out the tangles. A gryphon with “flashing feathers” sounds better until she thinks how she’d have to fly it every day “regardless of the weather.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

A kraken would be an unique pet, but to survive the cold, wet depths while playing with it she’d need a scuba suit. A warmer companion might be a dragon, although she thinks with its “temperamental snout / I’d need a fire extinguisher / to put her sneezes out.” A kirin could be a possibility, although it “needs a field of grass / At least an ocean wide” to keep it happy; and a jackalope, while cute, is much, much, much too hoppy.

A phoenix might be an enduring pet, but it “needs a chimney nest / That’s smoke and fire proof” while a “Manticore needs special floss / For EACH and EVERY tooth.” There are oh so many creatures to contemplate—from harpies and chupacabras to fairies and kelpies to basilisks and sprites—but each is problematic in its own way.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam takes another look at the adorable hamster in its cage and reconsiders: “He may not be a gryphon, / Or a creature from the sea, / But I am his and he is mine / And that’s enough for me.”

Vikki VanSickle’s entertaining rhymes frolic, gallop, and prance through her encyclopedic array of fantastic beasts. Her young readers will be delighted that the fun of an imaginary menagerie is not just for the older set and will eagerly await each newly considered pet. VanSickle includes all the favorite mystical creatures, plus fascinating new ones that will spark kids’ imaginations and have them scrambling to find out more about them. The juxtaposition of attractive and less so traits of each possible pet adds a nip of humor to the verses that will make kids giggle. Sam’s ultimate realization that her hamster is the perfect companion is a sweet ending that reaffirms readers’ own relationship with their pets.

Cale Atkinson’s Sam is already a dreamer when she acquires her hamster. Her mug of tea sports a picture of a narwhal, her bookmark is a paper-thin dragon, and the book of Mythological Creatures that she consults is already well-thumbed. As the little girl with the square-rimmed glasses contemplates each creature as pet, Atkinson presents an illustration that is both humorous and beautiful. The hippogriff with its bird legs in front and horse legs in back is a gorgeous hue of blue, but it’s expressive reaction to seeing the dogs at the park as well as its enthusiasm to play along also causes the dogs to hide behind a tree. The sasquatch is a cutie, but he also snarls Sam’s bike and bed, trees, road signs, and a dog in its thick brown hair. And a turquoise dragon may shimmer with lovely scales, but it also chars walls and furniture. Despite its apparent sloth, Sam’s hamster actually is the perfect pet—besides, he might have a secret identity of his own!

If I Had a Griffin is a fun romp through a mystical realm of pets that kids will love to hear again and again. The book would be a welcome addition to kids’ bookshelves, especially if they have older siblings enjoying that other series that features magical creatures!

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498099

To learn more about Vikki VanSickle and her books as well as to download an If I Had a Gryphon Activity Guide and coloring page, visit her website!

National Pet Month Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Treats

 

Pets love it when you do something special for them! Here’s a recipe for homemade dog biscuits that will taste even better than store-bought because they’re made with love! Making dog biscuits is a fun way to spend time together and benefit furry friends. These biscuits make tasty treats for your own pet, or consider making a batch to donate to your local animal shelter. This recipe is easy and proven to be a favorite.

Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, 1 Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits

May 5 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Initiated in 1999 and sponsored by the Association of American Publishers, Get Caught Reading Month inspires people of all ages to discover or rediscover the joys of reading. No matter what types of books you like best—from fiction to nonfiction, mystery to humor, picture books to novels—there are stories on bookstore and library shelves that will enhance your life! This month take the opportunity to read a new book or an old favorite and get caught up in the magic!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In Old Lion and Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, Old Lion and Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Catch a Book! Maze

 

One boy has a whole stack of books to share with his friends! Can you help him through this printable Catch a Book! Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review