April 4 – World Rat Day & Guest Post by Mike Allegra

About the Holiday

In 2002 Robyn Archer and James Kitlock thought people should take another look at rats and recognize them for their endearing traits. They established World Rat Day to celebrate these rodents and promote the adoption of Fancy Rats as pets. Clean, smart, and devoted, Fancy Rats are beloved by many. How can you celebrate today? Why not hold a Rat Day party, read a book or watch a movie starring a rat, or if you’re looking for a new pet, check out your local shelter for these furry friends. To learn more about World Rat Day, visit the official website!

The Reliable Rodent

Guest Post by Mike Allegra

 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am pro-rodent (or, as I prefer, “prodent”).

In elementary school, I took care of two four-legged gerbils and one three-legged gerbil. (The three-legged one was much faster than the four-leggers, by the way). In the years since, I have cuddled and cared for field mice, hamsters, one fancy rat, one sewer rat posing as a fancy rat, and the world’s most ornery guinea pig. My bucket list dream is to skritch a capybara’s belly. (A capybara, in case you don’t know, is the world’s largest rodent. Fully grown capys can be 100 pounds and nearly as big as a golden retriever.) 

My prodent views can be found in my fiction. One of my picture books stars a mouse with a commanding grasp of the principals of scientific inquiry. In another picture book, I feature a guinea pig the size of a mastodon.

The more I work rodents into my stories, the more I realize that a rodent is The Best Picture Book Protagonist Ever. This discovery isn’t a revelation by any means; wee rodents have been helming stories since the days of Aesop and will continue to do so as long as children’s books continue to be published.

But here’s my take:

Three Reasons why Rodents are Perfect for Picture Books

 

Rodents Are Teensy-Eensy Tiny

CPB - tiny mouse

Rodents are so very vulnerable. They’re surrounded by larger, stronger, more aggressive animals. And, jeepers, the world is just so dang big!  

If that doesn’t describe kid-dom, I don’t know what does.

I’m 48 years old, yet I still remember the toddlerhood ordeal of having to reach waaaay above my head to grab a doorknob. I remember having to stand of a stool to peek over the lip of the bathroom sink. I remember everything being either too bulky or heavy to lift. And I remember how Mom could thwart me by putting the object of my desire inside The Top Cabinet. God, how I hated, hated, hated The Top Cabinet.

It seemed so unfair to be so little in such a large world. Rodents—mice, rats, guinea pigs, and the rest (except capybaras)—have to live in that world for their entire lives. They can embody the same frustrations and physical limitations that children know all too well.

And yet…

Rodents Have Moxie!

Mouse Clip Art 6 Cliparting

I love the word “moxie” because it has so many great definitions. And every rodent adheres to every moxie definition:

Are rodents energetic? Lord, yes (except capybaras).

Intelligent? Yup.

Resourceful? My Houdini Rat escaped from her cage six times (six times!). So, yeah!

Curious? The fact that my Houdini Rat explored the entire house before choosing to cuddle in my son’s bed is a big yup.

The “moxie” definitions apply to children, too. Who but a kid would jump from the highest monkey bar? Or run a half-mile to chase down the ice cream truck? Or ask questions both innocent and profound. Or find a hundred different ways to play with an empty cardboard box? Kids tick off all the moxie boxes. Rodents are their spirit animals.

Which leads to my final reason…

Rodents are Cuuuute!

Clipart mouse clipart 2 image #11921

All rodents are cute (especially capybaras). Sure a naked rat might take a little getting used to, but as soon as you see one washing his widdle face in a bathroom sink, the cuteness is oh, so apparent.

We go the extra mile for cute things, don’t we? Of course we do. That’s why we all tolerate (and often chuckle fondly) at all of our kids’ nonsense. And, really, who doesn’t wanna read about a cute something? I do! And you probably do, too!

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I gotta go. I’m calling dibs on a capybara picture book.

While Mike’s off doing that, you can check out this giveaway!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-cover

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist Giveaway

 

I’m giving away a signed copy of Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, written by Mike Allegra and illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel from Dawn Publications. It’s a story of excitement and experimentation in which Scampers and her friend Nibbles (who, by the way, are teensy-eensy tiny, have moxie, and are cuuuute) reclaim their vegetable patch from a wide-eyed owl.

To enter all you have to do is:

Leave a comment here on this post about your favorite kind of rodent or favorite literary rodent

OR

Check out my Giveaway on Instagram. To enter just

  • Like a giveaway post
  • Follow me at celebratepicturebooks.
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of rodent or your favorite literary rodent for an extra entry (each comment gives you one more entry)

This giveaway runs from April 4 through April 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only

Read my reviews of 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-cover

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-cover

Everybody’s Favorite Book

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mike-allegra-headshot

Mike Allegra is the author of Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, Everybody’s Favorite Book, the Prince Not-So-Charming series, and Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday. 

To learn more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other work, visit his website.

 

 

 

You can find Mike’s books at these booksellers:

 

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

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

Everybody’s Favorite Book

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

Prince Not-So-Charming: Once Upon a Prank (and the rest of the series)

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

Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

March 18 – International Ideas Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-cover

About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. They ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. This month-long holiday invites all you would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. So, write down those ideas you have while driving, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel

 

All the field mice gathered at the vegetable garden to play and eat, eat, eat. But one day an owl arrived, so the mice went off to the grassy fields far away where they were safe but not nearly as well-fed. “Still they all agreed that having a hungry belly was better than filling the belly of a hungry owl.” After that the mice kept their distance from the farm—all except Scampers, who hid nearby and watched the owl. She thought there was something a little suspicious about it since the owl never moved.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-band

Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

When Scampers’ friend Nibbles saw what she was doing, he was afraid for her safety. But Scampers was gung-ho on finding out what was going on. The next day they waved a rag-doll mouse above the cauliflower, but the owl stayed put. “‘Maybe owls can tell if a mouse is fake,’ Nibbles whispered.” That gave Scampers another idea. She jumped out and yelled “HELLO!” to the owl, but the owl didn’t blink. Nibbles thought maybe owls were hard of hearing, so Scampers put on her one-girl-band set. Nothing.

Next it was time to bring out the heavy machinery, but even when Scampers lobbed an egg at the owl from her homemade eggapult, the owl didn’t move. Nibbles thought that owls might not like eggs, but a soaring rock had the same result. Scampers decided it was time to try out all of her experiments on another owl—one they’d find in the woods.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-owl

Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

While Nibbles hid in the hollow of a tree, Scampers called out “HELLO!” “An owl’s head spun around.” The owl nabbed the rag-doll mouse in a snap, and he did not sit still for the eggapulted rock. “‘Maybe you’ve figured out why the garden owl doesn’t move,’” Nibbles said. Now it was time to explain it all to the other mice. With a glittery display, Scampers and Nibbles presented their findings.

As Scampers and Nibbles raced to raid the veggies, the other mice lagged behind, skeptical about what they’d heard. “‘Sometimes a new discovery is so amazing that others need a little time to accept it,’” Scampers told Nibbles. “‘So while they’re thinking it over, let’s eat.’”

Extensive back matter includes an illustrated description of how scientists think over a problem, more information about Great Horned Owls and field mice, suggestions for teachers on reading the book to students, ways teachers can discuss science and engineering practices, and four activities kids can do at home or in school that engage them in science, technology, engineering, and math learning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-catapult

Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In his clever story, Mike Allegra infuses the scientific method with enthusiasm, humor, and a problem that will engage kids. When the field mice are run out of their vegetable garden by an owl who has taken up residence on a fence post, readers will love following Scampers as she uses her logical mind and a few experiments to restore their food source. Through Scampers’ keen sense of observation and engineering know-how, kids see how to go about proving a hypothesis correct. As Nibbles eats away at Scampers’ results with the kinds of alternate theories scientists must disprove, children get caught up in the suspense and thrill of discovery that fuels scientific advancement.

Elizabeth Zechel’s field mice know how to feast—and how to get things done. With bright eyes and jubilant expressions, the mice chow down on corn and tomatoes, and as Scampers performs her experiments her joy in the process is evident. More timid Nibbles bites his nails, wraps his tail tightly around himself, tries to stop the eggapult in its tracks, and cowers in the crook of a tree as danger looms. Zechel’s detailed drawings realistically depict the garden, forest, and wildlife. Her two Great Horned Owls beautifully demonstrate the difference between the false one and the real one, which has focused and piercing eyes, soft textured feathers, sharp talons, and quick reflexes.

Perfectly aimed at young scientists with charming characters, fun language, and a glittery final report that mirrors school projects, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is a terrific addition to home, classroom, and library STEM collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2019 | ISBN 978-1584696438

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other writing on his website

To learn more about Elizabeth Zechel, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Ideas Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Green-Onion-Jar-Day1

Green onions as they looked when put in the jar on Day 1

Green Onions Garden in a Jar

 

Kids will be wowed by this gardening experiment that shows results in as little as two days and just keeps getting more dramatic as the days go by.

Supplies

  • 1 or 2 batches of green onions (also called scallions and spring onions)
  • Jar
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Green-Onion-Jar-Day-2

Here’s how the onions looked two days later.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Green-Onion-Jar-Day-3

Three days later, the green onions are really growing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Green-Onion-Jar-Day-4

In four days the stalks have gotten much longer and new shoots have appeared.

Directions

  1. Cut the stalks off of each onion so that the bulb and about two inches of stem remain. 
  2. Place all of the onions in a jar with the bulbs and roots in the water and the stalks above the rim of the jar
  3. Place the jar in a sunny spot and watch the onion tops grow taller day by day
  4. Harvest the stalks and enjoy them in a variety of recipes and as a substitute for chives

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-cover

You can find Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s Bird-Feeding Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paddle-perch-climb-cover

About the Holiday

Have you been noticing more bird activity in your yard or neighborhood? Maybe you’ve been awakened by birdsong that you haven’t heard in many months. During February, as temperatures creep up, birds begin returning to their homes to nest and mate. But the effects of the long winter still make it hard for these little creatures to find enough to eat. Recognizing a need, John Porter created a Congressional resolution in 1994 recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of Americans have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive when natural resources are scarce. To celebrate this month, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one and enjoy the beauty and songs of the birds in your area. 

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

By Laurie Ellen Angus

 

All birds get hungry, but not all birds eat the same thing, of course. Did you know that a bird’s feet are important in determining what they eat? Let’s find out how different kinds of feet help birds find the right food for them. “If you had webbing between your toes, you could… Paddle like a swan to dabble for pond plants.” Long legs and toes could help you “wade like a heron to sneak up on a school of fish.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paddle-perch-climb-heron

Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Birds who have long, strong legs can run and catch their dinner, and birds whose feet have sharp claws can climb tree trunks and hunt for insects in the bark. Birds with “small flexible toes” find their feet handy for perching on branches of trees and bushes to pick berries or—like towhees—to scratch in the dirt for bugs. There are also those birds that have “powerful feet with sharp talons” to snatch a meaty meal for themselves or their babies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paddle-perch-climb-roadrunner

Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

There are many kinds of birds in the world, and each one has just the right kind of feet that help them move through their environment, find or catch food, and survive.

Extensive back matter that offers many opportunities to extend STEM learning in the classroom or at home includes

  • a detailed and illustrated exploration of each bird mentioned in the text, complete with a description of their feet and how they help the bird procure food. Kids will also enjoy learning the fun fact about each
  • A description of the bird that inspired the book
  • A discussion of adaptations, with a chart categorized with facts on habitat, feet, and beaks for seven birds and suggestions for a creative activity 
  • Common characteristics of birds
  • A discussion on predators
  • Bird-watching tips
  • More resources for further learning
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paddle-perch-climb-back-matter

Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In her engaging text, Laurie Ellen Angus takes kids out to the pond, desert, forest, and backyard to watch as a variety of birds catch or gather their dinner. Using evocative verbs, Angus reveals not only the action of getting a meal, but the way each bird goes about it—through stealth, quick motion, pecking, scratching, and more. Specific examples of bird/feet combinations give readers a starting point for further exploration. Each category also includes a partially hidden predator, such as a fox, bobcat, snake, and hawk, that the particular bird is warned about and which readers will want to join in pointing out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paddle-perch-climb-cardinals

Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Angus beautifully employs collage-style illustrations to give her birds and environments texture, color, and movement. Her use of various perspectives, lets readers wade into the pond with the heron, chase after the roadrunner that is trotting off the edge of page, cling to a tree trunk with a woodpecker, and come in for a landing with an owl. 

A visually stunning book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat is a science book that will attract the attention of young learners and excite them to learn more about the wonders of the natural world.

Ages 4 – 8

Dawn Publications, 2018 | | ISBN 978-1584696131 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1584696148 (Paperback) 

To learn more about Laurie Ellen Angus, her books, and her art on her website.

Wild Bird Feeding Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-go-birding-word-search

When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different types of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paddle-perch-climb-cover

You can find Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 8 – Parents as Teachers Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-on-board-cover-2

About the Holiday

The idea for Parents as Teachers goes back to the 1970s when Missouri educators noticed that not all kindergarteners were beginning school with the same skill set. Research demonstrated the benefits of parental involvement in reading, writing, and math before children began school as well as early detection and intervention for children with delayed development and health issues. Support services and parental education aided an awareness of the importance of children’s earliest years. Parents as Teachers Day was officially instituted in 2001 by the Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Community events and outreach to parents mark the day’s activities.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes | Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

 

You may not remember, but when you were little your parents, grandparents, and others carried you – a lot! But what do animals do with their babies? “There are no baby backpacks, / no wraps or straps or slings, / no seats to buckle kids in, / or many other things.” Let’s take a look at some very different animals and see how they take care of their young.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-on-board-kangaroo

Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

A sea otter pup rides on her mother’s belly as she floats along on her back. But what does the mother sea otter do when she needs to hunt for food? She “wraps her baby in long strands of kelp seaweed to keep her pup from floating away.” Hanging upside down high in a tree seems pretty dangerous for a baby, but a little sloth clings on tight to his mother’s fur and stays there “for almost a year.”

While mother animals do much of the rearing of their little ones, both moms and dads in common loon families are involved. They both give their chicks rides on their backs to keep them “safe from fish and turtle predators.” No person wants to get close to an alligator’s sharp teeth, but inside her wide jaws is just where baby alligators feel safest. When they want to leave their nest, the hatchlings call to their mother, who returns and “gently lifts them out, a few at a time, and carries them to the water for safety.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-on-board-sloth

Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Do you see the baby anteater? She’s cleverly concealed! “Blending in with mama’s fur, you hardly see this pup. It rides upon her hairy back while she digs insects up.” What about kangaroos, opossums, manatees, chimpanzees, wolf spiders, emperor penguins, and lions? How do they carry their babies and protect them while they grow? You’ll find out all about what these animals do. Then it’s time for you to learn “how did someone carry you?”

Backmatter presents an illustrated matching game for kids as well as extensive resources, including more information about each animal, language arts, math, science, engineering, and movement lesson extentions, and suggestions for further reading for teachers and parents.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-on-board-emperor-penguin

Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Marianne Berkes engages young readers in learning about twelve familiar and more unusual animals in two ways. First, a sweet rhyming couplet—which can be used as a fun guessing game—introduces each animal. Berkes then expands on the information with a brief and fascinating fact or two about how the animal’s method of holding her or his young protects them, feeds them, or moves them from place to place.

Little environmentalist in the making will be awed by Cathy Morrison’s realistic illustrations of each adult animal and baby in their natural habitat. Morrison’s images are so lifelike that readers can count individual hairs on the mother sloth’s arms and marvel at the sharpness of her claws as they wrap around a tree branch and almost feel the softness of the baby otter’s curly fur as she and her mother float in a bed of kelp. The animal’s facial expressions are likewise realistic while showing concern on the part of the adult and complete trust on the part of the babies.

There will be plenty of ewwws and ahhhs for the wolf spider and alligator, and as they watch the lion cup nearly bound off the page, kids will want to start all over and see these majestic wonders again. Morrison’s detailed backgrounds are no less fascinating as they contain clear images of the landscapes each animal calls home, complete with plants, trees, insects, waterways, and more.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young provides nature and animal lovers much to learn and talk about. The extra resources also make this a valuable book to add to classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 6

Dawn Publications, 2017 | ISBN 978-1584695936

Discover more about Marianne Berkes and her books on her website. 

To learn more about Cathy Morrison, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Parents as Teachers Day Activity

cute animal coloring pages Best of rhino and her baby free animal coloring pages kleurplaat

Animal Family Coloring Pages

 

Here are three animal families for you to enjoy coloring. Grab your crayons or pencils and have fun!

Lion and Baby | Zebra and Baby | Hippo and Baby

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-on-board-cover-2

You can find Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review