August 16 – It’s Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources. Worldwide, millions of people do not have access to clean water. Climate change is also contributing to alterations in water temperature which affects sea life and coastal animals. Pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides, and a disregard for the crucial importance of this limited resource all threaten not only the quality of water, but the quality of life on this planet. To get involved in the solution, volunteer to clean up waterways, be mindful of the products you use, and consider donating to the cause.

Over and Under the Pond

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A mom and her son have taken their rowboat out on the pond, where they “slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.” As they gaze over the side of their little boat, they can see the sun, the clouds, and themselves reflected in the still surface. But the little boy wonders what is below, where they can’t see. His mom tells him there is a “hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

On top the two can see tall grasses that break the water’s surface and little beetles and skaters making their way along the water. Below, a brook trout waits for his dinner. As the mom and her son paddle between thick stands of cattails, three painted turtles take turns slipping from their sunny perch back into the safety of the pond. Hidden in the cattails is a small nest, just a pocket of sticks and grass for red-winged blackbird babies.

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

There are babies under the pond, too. “A secret shelter of pebbles and sand” that hold the larva of a caddisfly. Along the shore, trees cast shadows on the water as a moose makes a lunch of water lilies. It’s also mealtime under the pond, where three beavers pull up roots to chew on. The weather is turning breezy over the pond, making the current stronger and blowing leaves here and there. All around animals are maturing: “a new goldfinch teeters, finally ready to fly” while tadpoles are “losing tails, growing legs, growing up.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Carefully picking his way in the muddy shallows, a great blue heron searches for food. He spies a minnow and with a flash snaps it up with his long, pointy beak. Way up in the trees the tat-tat-tat of a woodpecker looking for ants echoes through the air while down below an otter has her eyes set on a passel of mussels. The sun is beginning to set, and an iridescent dragonfly takes a rest on the little boy’s knee. Perhaps it is related to the dragonfly larvae underwater who has just grabbed a minnow for its dinner.

The nocturnal animals begin making an appearance in the spindly grasses. “Ospreys circle on quiet wings. Raccoons and mink stalk the shoreline for supper.” In the blue-black evening, the mother and her son head home as “a far-off loon calls good night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-pond-otter

Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about the ecosystem of a pond and the animals that live in and around the water follows the text.

Kate Messner’s lyrical environmental books invite young readers to discover the world around them through the eyes of their peers. In Over and Under the Pond, Messner takes children on a leisurely afternoon boat ride that compares and contrasts what is happening on top of and below the water. Along the way, kids learn fascinating facts while absorbing the feel and beauty of the outdoor world.

Christopher Silas Neal gorgeously depicts the mysteries of a pond environment in his matte, mixed media illustrations that allow readers to view the birds, fish, insects, plants, and animals in action as they go about their day. The mixture of familiar and new creatures will engage children interested in learning more about the natural world. As the sun goes down and evening falls with its comforting starlit sky, young readers will feel happy to be part of this wonderfully complex world.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452145426

To learn more about Kate Messner and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Christopher Silas Neal on his website!

Water Quality Month Activity

animal-celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-habitat-coloring-pages-for-kids-cooloring-com-coloring-pages-of-pond-animals

Busy Pond Coloring Page

 

There’s so much going on at the pond! Get your pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun with this printable Busy Pond Coloring Page! You can even add tissue paper grass, real sand, and other materials to make it look realistic!

Picture Book Review

July 18 – It’s Park and Recreation Month

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About the Holiday

We’ve hit mid-summer, and maybe you’re looking for something to do. This month’s holiday encourages people to get out and enjoy some exercise and fun in parks, at home, at the gym, in the pool, on tennis courts, or wherever you like to play. Biking is another wonderful activity that adults and kids can share, whether you live in a small town or the city.

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

By Allan Drummond

 

If you were to visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you’d be amazed at the number of bicyclists sharing the roads with cars and trucks. In fact, if you could count all of the bicycles going here, there, and everywhere, you’d see that “bikes rule the road.” It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1970s cars were still king, making the roads unsafe for cyclists.

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Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But then “young moms like Maartje Rutten and her friends—and their children” decided to make a change. They called their friends, who called their friends, and word started to get around that roads should be shared by all. People in Amsterdam and all over the Netherlands started protesting. “At first the demonstrations were great fun. People even held parties in the middle of the road.” People sang songs, made human chains across streets, and talked to the media.

Then a tragedy made people look at the issue more seriously. A little girl riding her bike to school was killed by a car. Her father was a newspaper reporter, and he wrote a story revealing that just in that year alone five hundred children had been killed on the roads and “many of them were riding bikes.” This situation made people angry. More and more citizens joined the protests.

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Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the same time, gas prices were rising and fuel was becoming scarce. The government even banned cars from the roads on Sundays. “That gave Maartje an incredible idea.” She gathered her friends and told them her plan: they would ride their bikes through the new tunnel that was strictly for cars. Many people were wary but they came anyway, and on a quiet Sunday they pedaled through the darkness.

As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they could see the police waiting for them. Some of the riders wanted to turn around and go back, but Maartje pushed on and they followed. When they reached the end, the cops told them they had broken the law. The cyclists were taken to the police station. There, they were given lemonade and cookies. Maartje even “noticed that the policemen were smiling just a little bit. Maybe all of this protesting is working, she thought.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-more-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

She was right! After that Maartje and her friends thought of other ways cars and bikes could share the roads. “They proposed special bike lanes on busy routes, traffic bumps and curves in the roads to slow down vehicles, and new laws giving bikes the right-of-way over cars.” Finally, it all came together. Now Amsterdam is known as the bike capitol of the world. Their ideas, including bike lanes, bike sharing, and new laws, are used in countries all over the globe.

Biking offers so much more than just less-crowded streets. It provides exercise, a quiet form of transportation, and a pollution-free way to get around. And, of course, bikes don’t require fuel to go. If you visit Amsterdam, you might even see Maartje riding around town on her bike. “Now that’s pedal power!”

An Author’s Note about how Pedal Power came to be and about the past and future of city biking follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-Amsterdam-today

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Allan Drummond’s city bike-ography is an interesting look at the revolution and evolution of bike-friendly roads in Amsterdam and other large cities. By following the story of Maartje Rutten and how she transformed the mindset of both local drivers and government officials, Drummond allows young readers to see how one person can make lasting changes that benefit all.

Drummond’s colorful and clearly depicted illustrations take children into the heart of Amsterdam—and Amsterdam traffic—to understand the problem and join in the protests. As Maartje and her friends ride through the dark tunnel to face the police, readers will wait in suspense to learn how this peaceful demonstration played out.

Pedal Power would be a great addition to Social Studies units and an engaging read for kids interested in biking, history, and environmental issues.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374305277

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his books, and his art on his website!

Park and Recreation Month Activity

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Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page

 

Riding a bicycle is a fast, fun way to exercise, do shopping, and spend time with friends. This printable Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page combines them all and then some! Grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers and give it a go!

Picture Book Review

July 3 – International Plastic Bag Free Day

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About the Holiday

Plastic bags are everywhere! Used by supermarkets, department stores, discount stores, and just about anywhere goods are sold, plastic bags are a take-home-then-throw-away item that never quite goes away. These bags may seem lightweight, but they do heavy damage to the environment, taking hundreds of years to fully decompose. Many shops encourage patrons to bring their own bags and offer cloth and paper bags as well. These are great alternatives that benefit the earth. Today’s holiday was established to promote awareness around the world to the dangers of plastic bags and spur people to use reusable containers.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

 

In Njau, Gambia Isatou walks home carrying a basket of fruit on her head. As raindrops begin to fall, the basket shields her, but suddenly the basket tips and falls. The fruit inside tumble to the ground. The basket is in shreds; how will Isatou carry her load? “Something silky dances past her eyes, softening her anger. It moves like a flag, flapping in the wind, and settles under a tamarind tree.” Isatou picks it up and finds that it can hold things. She gathers her fruit and puts them in the bag. She leaves her basket behind, “knowing it will crumble and mix back in with the dirt.”

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon , text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

At home Grandmother Mbombeh has a dinner of spicy rice and fish ready. When Isatou tells her about the broken basket and shows her the bag, Grandmother frowns. She has seen more in the city. Now, Isatou notices plastic bags everywhere. They are as colorful as a rainbow. As Isatou swings her bag full of papers, the handle breaks, sending the papers inside flying. She finds another plastic bag lying nearby and transfers her papers. She leaves the torn bag in the dirt as everyone else does.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

As she passes the spot day after day, she spies her old black bag. It has been joined by others, and the pile grows bigger and bigger. Isatou chooses another path to take and forgets about the bags. “Years pass and Isatou grows into a woman. She barely notices the ugliness growing around her…until the ugliness finds its way to her. One day when coming to Grandmother’s house, she hears one of her goats crying. It’s tied up and there is no sign of her Grandmother’s other goats.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Inside, the butcher is talking to Grandmother Mbombeh. He says that the goats have eaten the plastic bags they find lying around. The bags get twisted around their insides, killing the goats. Three of Grandmother’s goats and many more in the village have died. Something must be done. Isatou goes to the road piled with bags. Insects, rotting food, and dirty water mingle with the bags. Goats “forage through the trash for food.”

Isatou retrieves bag after bag from the pile. She and other women wash the bags. While they dry Isatou asks her sister to teach her how to crochet. Isatou has an idea. From a broomstick she carves crochet needles. Then she and her friends cut the bags into strips of thread. The women teach themselves how to crochet with the plastic thread. The work is slow, and some villagers laugh at them. Long into the nights the women continue crocheting by candlelight.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon , text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

At last a day comes when the women can show what they have been working on. “Fingers sore and blistered, Isatou hauls the recycled purses to the city.” People laugh at her until “one woman lays dalasi coins on the table. She chooses a purse and shows it to one friend. The two. Then ten. Soon everyone wants one!” Later that day Isatou puts the money she has made into her own zippered purse. She can’t wait to show Grandmother that she has earned enough to buy a goat. The trash pile is smaller now. Isatou is determined that one day it will be gone. “And one day…it was.”

An Author’s Note provides more details about this true story as well as a Wolof language glossary and pronunciation guide.

Miranda Paul tells this true story of ingenuity and hope with honesty and evocative language. Young readers will learn how one woman’s concern for her community and courage in the face of opposition changed the lives of the people in her village. Paul’s descriptive text interspersed with native Wolof words allows children to discover details about the customs and daily lives of the citizens of Gambia. Paul’s use of the present tense, makes this a universal story that shows the continuing need for answers to ongoing environmental problems. Isatou’s creative solution to a world-wide problem may spur young readers to develop helpful ideas of their own.

Through her collage illustrations, Elizabeth Zunon brings the vibrant colors and patterns of Africa to readers. The textured papers she uses add depth and details to the women’s clothing, homes, foliage, and the plastic bags that Isotau and her friends transform. Children sit in on the candlelit nighttime crocheting sessions and view the beautiful, finished purses—each one unique.

Ages 6 – 9

Millbrook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1467716086

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books and find resources, videos, photos, and more on her website!

Learn more about Elizabeth Zunon and her books and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website!

International Plastic Bag Free Day Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Reusable Book Bag

 

True booklovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review

June 28 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

Great Outdoors Month may be winding to a close, but the season for enjoying outside adventures is just beginning! Make this a great summer by planning to spend more time in and with nature—whether you do that in a majestic national park, at a local playground, on a patch of green in the city, at the seashore, or in your own backyard! The fresh air and sunshine will make you happy!

The Fog

Written by Kyo Maclear | Illustrated by Kenard Pak

 

“Far north, on a wild sea, was an island covered with ice.” The island was a favorite tourist destination, and while the people explored their home, most birds took no notice. “But there was one bird, a small yellow warbler, who did pay attention.” In fact, “Warble was a devoted human watcher.” With so many visitors, Warble always had new specimens to investigate. He kept a journal of his sightings. #671 was a “Behatted Bibliophilic Female.” Warbler remembered her well, reading a book in her wide-brimmed hat. A man bedecked in gold jewelry was entry “#672 Bald-Headed Glitzy Male.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-tourists

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

One day, though, a dense fog seeped across the valley, hiding everything in its gauze-like swirls. Warbler’s hobby came to a complete stop. After several days, he tried to blow the fog away with a fan and with a particularly blaring horn of his own invention. Nothing dispelled the fog. When Warbler consulted the other birds, they were nonchalant. It didn’t take long before the sign welcoming guests to the island was changed from “Welcome to Icy Land” to “Welcome to Fog Land.” And it took even less time for the other birds to forget there was ever clear air before.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-chasing-fog

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Warbler could not forget, and the creeping dark sea was worrying also. He tried to alert others to the danger, but they had already taken up other pursuits and were too busy to care. Finally, after spotting no more humans, Warbler put away his binoculars, books, and journal, and tried move on. “But then, one foggy morning, Warble spotted a colorful speck in the distance.”

Upon closer inspection, Warble saw that it was a “rare female species and she was singing a song.” He jotted it down in his journal: “#673 Red-hooded Spectacled Female (Juvenile).” She consulted a map and then put her binoculars to her eyes. She found herself staring into the binoculars of Warble. Warble was so happy to see her that he made her a picnic lunch, complete with insects. The girl gave Warble gifts from her pack and taught him origami.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-girl

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

It turned out that she also understood “Chirp.” Warble asked her about the fog and whether others knew about it. They decided to find out. They made a paper boat and wrote “Do you see the fog?” on it. Then they launched in from shore. No reply came. They launched more and more boats until they got an answer. A walrus in Canada sent back a “Yes, I see the fog.” So did a musk ox from Norway and some cats from England. Notes came from every part of the globe. “With each one, the fog began to lift a little. And the wind began to blow again until the world grew a little less ghostly and it became easier to notice things.”

Warble and the human explored the island together, finding big things and little things. As the island brightened, they relaxed together and sang their songs to “each other and to the moon” which shone down through the clear night air on the happy pair.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-fog-fog-clears

Excerpted from The Fog by Kyo Maclear. Text copyright © 2017 by Kyo Maclear. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kenard Pak. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

From her clever turn-about plot Kyo Maclear has crafted a story that has a multitude of applications for the natural world as well as for the realm of personal relationships. The fog that descends on the island can clearly be read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring threats to the environment. While the tangible fog surrounds the island, the residents are in fogs of their own—preferring indifference to solving the problem. Only when others—who are brave enough or caring enough—acknowledge that they too recognize the trouble and want to fix it, does the fog begin to lift.

Maclear’s The Fog also gives readers an opportunity to talk with children about other examples of clouded issues. Misunderstandings, confusion, miscommunication, and loneliness can also create personal fogs for children and adults that negatively affect relationships and quality of life. Telling a family member or friend and reaching out to others can be the first step in “clearing the air” and living a happier life.

In his gauzy watercolor and pencil illustrations in frosted sages and yellows, Kenard Pak creates an island paradise that attracts attention from around the world. As the fog thickens, Pak’s colors darken and become denser. As the fog lingers smudges of gray surround the characters, but Pak resists the temptation to fill the pages with darkness. The Fog is, at its core, a story of hope and resolution and while the problem may be worsening, it is not yet insurmountable. The illustrations are sprinkled with puns and visual humor, and both kids and adults will love lingering over the endpapers, which offer a gallery of the humans Warbler has recorded on his life list.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770494923

To discover the unique world of books for children by Kyo Maclear, visit her website! You can learn about Kyo Maclear’s books for adults here.

Learn more about Kenard Pak and his books, as well as about his illustration and animation work on his website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fog-experiment-fog-curling-from-jar

Fog in a Jar

 

A foggy day or night can be mysterious and pretty cool! It’s also a fascinating part of nature and the science of weather! With this experiment you can make fog at home.

**Because a candle lighter is used in this experiment, adult supervision is required for children

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth glass jar, like a spaghetti sauce jar, cleaned and dry
  • Plastic baggie with a zip closure
  • Candle lighter
  • Ice
  • Dark paper
  • Tape

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fog-experiment-materials

Directions

  1. Wrap one side of the jar with the black paper and tape in place
  2. Fill the baggie ½ full of ice
  3. Fill the jar 1/3 full of hot to boiling water
  4. Hold the lighted lighter inside the jar above the water for 3 or 4 seconds and remove
  5. Put the baggie with ice over the opening of the jar
  6. Watch the fog form!
  7. Remove the ice and watch the fog curl out of the jar!

Picture Book Review

June 1 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

The warmer weather begs to be enjoyed—whether you’re playing, working, or just lounging around. Established in 1998 as Great Outdoors Week, the holiday expanded to a month-long celebration in 2004. There’s so much to see and do outside as the wonders of nature are always changing and challenging you in new and surprising ways.

Round

Written by Joyce Sidman | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little girl spies an orange on the ground and bends to pick it up. She sees more—many more—of the brightly colored orbs hanging from a tree and reaches up to touch them. “I love round things,” she says. “I like to feel their smoothness. My hands want to reach around their curves.” The girl continues on her singular scavenger hunt for round things that grow.

She scatters some seeds in a hole and parts tall grasses to peek in on a turtle waiting for her eggs to hatch. On a hillside, a little patch of mushrooms “swell into roundness,” while tiny, plump blueberries beckon on a nearby bush and fill the family’s baskets. On the bike ride home, the girl and her crew pass fields of sunflowers with their dark, mysterious round centers.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At the beach the little girl finds seashells in the sand near the tall craggy rocks which some day, whittled by water and wind, will become round when “all the edges wear off.” Back on dry land, the girl watches a dung beetle transport a ball, persistently moving it with its legs, and body motions. The girl stands by, fascinated. She loves “to watch round things move. They are so good at it! Rolling, spinning, bouncing.” She always wonders “where they’re headed.”

An old, old tree, chopped down now, reveals its secret age as the little girl counts the rings in the trunk. She’s excited to discover hidden round things—like the tiny ladybugs and snails concealed beneath green leaves. As the rain splatters a pond, the little girl, safe in her yellow slicker, reveals, “I love how water can be round, gathered in beads of silver…or falling in wet splats leaving circles of ripples behind.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-round-orange-tree

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, text copyright Joyce Sidman. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The sun sets, turning the sky yellow and orange, while the girl blows transparent bubbles and watches them float toward the clouds. When the sun is gone and the sky is dark, she gazes through a telescope at the twinkling dots of light that “spin together slowly…and last billions of years.” And waits for that one constant celestial body that grows “rounder and rounder, until the whole sky holds its breath.”

The girl shares the beauty of roundness with her friends as they hold hands in a never-ending circle of friendship, and when she is alone she curls up into a cozy ball to read or feels arms around her in a loving hug.

An explanation of why so many things in nature are round—including the shape’s sturdiness, balance, and ability to spread and roll—follows the text.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Joyce Sidman’s lyrical story of discovery is a perfect introduction for little ones to the wonders of nature. Focusing on a shape that is familiar to children, Sidman takes them on a walk from grove to field to beach where they can find circles in common and surprising places. After coming home, kids discover an even more poignant idea—the circular beauty of love and friendship.

Taeeun Yoo’s delicate illustrations gorgeously depict examples of circles in nature. Bold sunflowers, tiny insects, snowball-white eggs, expanding ripples, and smooth boulders invite readers to notice the shapes and colors of the wild world around them. Children will be enticed to hunt for all the circles on each page as lily pads, fireflies, polka dots, balloons, the sun, and other objects create an exciting journey of exploration. The little girl’s pets—a dog (appropriately spotted) and a duck—add humor and companionship along the way.

Round would be an excellent take-along book for nature hikes, waiting times, or other outdoor activities and could spur at-home scavenger hunts for circles and other shapes. This original concept book is a wonderful introduction to shapes and nature for little ones.

Ages 3 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544387614

Learn more about Joyce Sidman and her books on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Shapely Butterfly Coloring Page

 

This butterfly is made up of many different shapes. Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun coloring this printable Shapely Butterfly 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

 

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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

April 22 – Earth Day

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About the Holiday

While we should be mindful of our impact on the earth every day, today’s holiday puts a focus on how we can conserve and protect the beauty and resources of our planet. Now more than ever, it’s up to us to do what we can on a personal level to make sure the environment is clean, healthy, and sustainable for the future. If you’d like to learn how you can make a difference or get involved with your global community, here’s a good place to start!

Finding Wild

Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd | Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

 

A girl and a boy stand with their backs to the stairs leading down to the subway contemplating the jungle of growth in front of them. A single floating leaf seems to lead the way. They follow along the path, leaving the city behind and enter the wild. Here “Wild is tiny and fragile and sweet-baby new. It pushes through cracks and crannies and steals back forgotten places.” Wild comes in many guises—some obvious, some not.

Wild also moves in various ways. As the boy and girl continue on the path passing a spider’s web and shadowy shapes with glowing eyes, wild “creeps and crawls and slithers. It leaps and pounces and shows its teeth.” Everywhere the pair ventures, wild has a distinct smell—fresh or musty, sharp or sweet, tangy or acrid. They discover wild can be as hot as a forest fire or as cold as an icicle. Running through a field of flowers and climbing a rocky cliff, the two find that wild is “as smooth as the petals of poppies, and as rough as the fierce face of a mountain.” They also find that wild can hurt in so many ways.

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Image copyright Abigail Halpin, text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd. Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Plunging deeper into the wild the boy and girl uncover more secrets—delicious and quenching. The sounds of wild chill and soothe them. Suddenly, though, the girl and the boy find themselves outside of the wild, back in front of a subway entrance. The wild, now seems far away, invisible and unknown, as if “the whole world is clean and paved, ordered and tidy.” As the pair gaze upward, the tall buildings and skyscrapers block the sky. But the girl points to a leaf swirling through the air. They follow it through an open door that leads to a most surprising discovery.  

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Image copyright Abigail Halpin,  text copyright Megan Wagner Lloyd, Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Megan Wagner Lloyd entreats readers to rediscover the wild no matter where they live. Her lyrical descriptions of the splendor of nature in all its incarnations—from gentle to intense, quiet to loud, mysterious to open—delightfully capture the way children interact with the environment. Lloyd reminds readers that tasting a single juicy blackberry, thrilling to a coyote’s howl on a dark night, even feeling the prick of a cactus needle connect them to the greater world and that searching for and finding the wild—especially in the midst of an “ordered and tidy” world—brings peace and happiness.

Abigail Halpin’s lush illustrations of the wild environment gorgeously depict the vibrant colors, sometimes chilling shadows, and refreshing water the two children discover in the middle of their city. The thick vegetation rendered in a palette of greens is a riot of ferns, pines, flowering trees, and vines that hide small birds and animals. As the children huddle in a tent, the indigo night crackles with lightning and the songs of coyotes. A two-page scrapbook-type spread displays various plants and insects that sting, burn, or cause itching. When the boy and girl reenter the city, buildings—old and new—billboards, and traffic meet their eyes, but they keep their gaze on the leaf leading them on. That leaf invites readers, also, to get outside and explore the wild.

Ages 3 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101932810

Discover more about Megan Wagner Lloyd, the world of Finding Wild, and news on her upcoming book on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Abigail Halpin on her website!

Earth Day Activity

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Love the Earth Coloring Page

 

Earth Day is all about loving the Earth and treating her well. Have fun with this printable Love the Earth Coloring Page and think of one thing you can do to make a difference!

Picture Book Review