June 10 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday, expanded from a week-long event to take in the full month of June in 2004, encourages people to get outside and explore. There’s so much to see, from the delicate details of a flower to the wonders of the big open sky. If time permits, take a walk with your kids and really look at what you are passing. When you’re walking with children, stop to examine and talk about the marvels you see. Sometimes the most familiar sights turn out to be the most surprising!

I received a copy of Under My Tree from Blue Dot Press for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

By Jakki Licare

Under My Tree

Written by Muriel Tallandier | Illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa 

 

“There once was a tree different from all the rest.” Most people think trees are all the same, but to Susanne there is no other tree like her tree. Susanne spends her vacations at her Grandma and Grandpa’s country house far away from the city where she lives. Initially, Susanne is scared to walk around the forest near her grandparent’s house because of the fairy tales she’s heard.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

But when Susanne goes on a walk with her Grandma in the forest and it starts to rain, they find shelter under a big tree. Susanne feels safe under its canopy and she is not alone. There is a nest of baby owls hiding in the tree too. Susanne convinces her grandmother to have lunch under the tree with the owls.

Susanne visits her tree a lot. Susanne touches the bark and then she hugs it! “That’s the first secret I learned: you have to touch a tree if you really want to talk to it,” Susanne says. The next time she visits the tree, she climbs up all the way to the top and is amazed by the view. On another visit she discovers the tree has grown fruit.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

One day it is very windy when she visits her tree and it seems like the whole forest is performing. “My tree sang with her leaves, using the wind as her lungs. The other trees sang back.” Susanne whistles along with the forest. Another time she finds insects all around her tree. In fact, the entire forest teems with life. Next time Susanne brings her best friend Max to meet her tree. Together they create a fort under Susanne’s tree. They use branches from the forest for the walls and moss on the ground as their carpet.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

Her tree’s leaves are starting to fall, and Susanne knows that summer is winding down. Susanne will not visit her grandparents often during the winter, but she knows that her tree will be taking a nice long rest. Susanne cannot wait to go back in the spring and watch her tree start to bud.

When Susanne’s mother comes to visit, she introduces her to the tree and they relax together underneath it. Before Susanne goes back to the city, she hugs her tree tightly and takes a leaf as a memento. Susanne may only be able to visit her tree occasionally, but she loves it “…all year long.”

There are eight tree facts and “try this” opportunities spread throughout the book.

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Image copyright Mizuho Fujisawa, 2020, text copyright Muriel Tallandier

This lyrical story is written in first person and will surely make readers fall in love with Susanne’s tree. Many kids will be able to relate to Susanne, who has grown up in the city, and is initially afraid of the forest. As Susanne points out, there are many scary things like witches and wolves in fairy-tale forests. Susanne soon discovers, however, a wonderful natural world in her grandparent’s forest, and she becomes good friends with a special tree. Muriel Tallandier shows us how important trees are, not only in the facts written in the sidebar, but also in the simple ways Susanne enjoys her tree.

Young readers will be interested in Susanne’s exploration of her favorite tree where she climbs, hugs, touches its bark, and watches its leaves change. The “try this” opportunities written in the sidebar will encourage young readers to explore the trees in their own yard, neighborhood, or local park just like Susanne. Under My Tree will certainly convince all children that trees are our friends.

Mizuho Fujisawa’s timeless illustrations depict a fun natural world that is filled with colors, animals, and of course beautiful trees. Her transparent overlapping leaves give the trees depth while maintaining a delicate nature.  The soft blue, green, and yellow palette of the forest invites readers to explore the natural world with Susanne. Fujisawa explores Susanne’s tree from a variety of perspectives. On the windy day, readers are looking up at Susanne and her tree, watching the leaves and her hair blowing in the wind. When her mother comes to visit, readers are looking down on the tree with a bird’s eye view and see the mother and child relaxing under the tree’s leaves. 

Under My Tree is the perfect read to encourage children to get outside and explore nature.  The book would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3-8 years old

 Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121231

Discover more about Muriel Tallandier and her book on Blue Dot Kids website.

To learn more about Mizuho Fujisawa, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Patterned Transparent Leaf Mobile

 

Recreate Susanne’s tree with your own transparent leaves in a leaf mobile. This is a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

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You can find Under My Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop| IndieBound

 

 

 

 

May 29 – It’s Gifts from the Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Many of us – and perhaps even more this year – spend the summer digging, planting, and tending our garden and yard. We look forward to all of the delicious vegetables and fruit our gardens provide and the hours of fun we have playing or lounging in the yard. But if you look closely, these areas offer up other gifts too. That profusion of dandelions may seem like bothersome weeds, but their sunny flowers and puffball seeds also create beauty and unforgettable childhood moments. Watching industrious insects reminds us of the wonder of nature below our feet or pollinating our crops. And – as today’s book shows – with some imagination and creativity that garden or yard can be transformed into a work of art. So, get outside and see what your gifts are sprouting in your backyard.

I received a copy of Leafy Critters from Blue Dot Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

By Jakki Licare

Leafy Critters

By Yvonne Lacet

This creative and imaginative earth art book by Yvonne Lacet an artist and photographer, whose work incorporates urban environments, landscapes, and nature play, will inspire children to look at nature in a whole new light. Yvonne Lacet uses petals, twigs, stems, and leaves to create “Leafy Critters.” Simple items from nature are arranged together to become different animals: foxes, polar bears, butterflies, mice, and more.

Not only is the artwork stunning but on many pages Lacet shows readers the before and after photos which makes it simple for kids to duplicate her animals. My kids enjoyed pointing out the different items in the before photos and discovering how Lacet used them in her completed artwork. A leaf, for example, transforms into a head or a wing.

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

One of the extraordinary things about this book is not only that any child can find the natural materials needed in their backyard or local park, but the artistic eye Lacet uses to create the eighteen creatures presented. The piglet (pictured on the front cover) is simply six pink petals arranged together. Yvonne takes it a step further, though, and uses the portions of the petals that are near the pistil and have a darker pigment to add shading and detail that  transform into the pig’s hooves and snout.

The image of the polar bear also shows how contrasting colors can create a whole new scene. With the black paper background and white petals sprinkled over the page, we are suddenly transported into an arctic snowstorm at night! The great thing about Leafy Critters is that it makes young readers think outside the box. If you don’t have white petals on hand, then rice could make a great substitution. 

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

My boys are often frustrated with art projects because they cannot create “realistic art.” Earth art, however, is an easy way for kids to explore colors and composition without the frustration of being limited by their skills. It only requires a little nature and a creative eye. So take Leafy Critters outside! You’ll be surprised to discover what creatures creep, crawl, swim, and lurk in your own backyard. 

A DIY page at the back gives kids tips on how to search for materials, gather them, and look at the colors, shapes, and sizes of leaves, petals, seeds, and more to spark their imaginations. Younger children will enjoy the creativity in each design on the pages while older children and even teens and adults will be inspired to create their own works of art.

Whether you are looking for a fun home art project or inspiration for your elementary art students, Leafy Critters will make a creative addition to your library.

Ages 3 and up

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121224

Discover more about Yvonne Lacet and her work on her website.

Gifts from the Garden Month Activity

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Natural Art Note Card

Send a special note to a loved one with your own leafy critter. This idea could be a great card for Father’s Day too! Just write in Dad after otter!

Supplies

  • Natural Materials (I used brown leaves, bark, clover flowers, and stems)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Paper

Directions

  1. Gather your natural materials outside

  2. Arrange your pieces together to make an otter shape

  3. Cut any pieces that need to be shaped or trimmed

  4. Glue your otter down

  5. Write “There’s no OTTER like you!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leafy-critters-cover

You can find Leafy Critters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review