April 22 – Earth Day and National Poetry Month

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About the Holidays

Earth Day

Earth Day was created in 1970 by a US Senator, Gaylord Nelson. Nelson created the day because he was worried about how humans were harming the environment through their actions. Heard of this holiday before? We certainly hope so! In 1990, environmental leaders mobilized to make the holiday go global. And now, according to earthday.org, 1 BILLION people mobilize on Earth Day every year, to help save and celebrate our beloved planet. You can watch an educational animated video on Gaylord Nelson here. Learn more about Earth Day and how you can make a difference all year around at Earthday.org.

National Poetry Month

2021 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Poetry Month. The holiday was launched by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate writers, poets, poetry lovers and the positive impact poetry has on our culture, literacy and lives. Check out the 2021 National Poetry Month Poster here. You can learn more about National Poetry Month at Poets.org.

Today’s book celebrates both of these holidays with a collection of ocean poems for children. Not a huge lover of poetry? Perhaps the following collection will sway you like an ocean tide. Crafted by The Writers’ Loft Authors and Illustrators, Friends and Anemones is truly as dazzling as a sea-floor pearl.

Thanks to The Writers’ Loft for sending me a copy of Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children

By The Writers’ Loft Authors & Illustrators

 

Dive headfirst into poetry month by exploring “the very, very, bottom of the deep blue sea. With: Salty snails and tuna tails. Bottle caps and lobster traps. Popped balloons, Plastic spoons…” and everything in between! (The Bottom of the Ocean by Kristen Wixted.) In honor of Earth Day AND National Poetry month, Celebrate Picture Books presents a book that deserves to be celebrated twice over: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Seventy New England authors and illustrators joined ship with the Rozalia Project to create a treasure-worthy collection of ocean-themed poems and illustrations.

As described in the title page, “Rozalia Project works to conserve a healthy and thriving marine ecosystem—the plants and animals need our help to keep human debris out of their homes.” Through this partnered anthology, children will learn about subject matter ranging from unique sea creatures and beach dwellers – like cuttlefish, vampire squids, red knots, and rainbow lobsters – to the habits of more well-known ocean dwellers, like whales taking off debris, sharks getting their teeth cleaned, and sea turtles hatching eggs.

They’ll also find poems about human additions to the ocean scene in odes to lighthouses, ships’ remnants, sea litter, and more. Each poem contains deep knowledge to share with readers about poetry, the ocean, and marine life. Little pieces of advice float in between hysterical ocean puns. This perfect concoction of sea-worthy information is also backed by all types of fin-tastic and crabulous art.

Some of the poems are sure to make you laugh out loud. Deep-Sea Jellyfish by Cindy Cornwall opens with: “Jelly of the sea, not jam for your toast. It’s deep in the water, a silky scarf ghost.” Seal of disApproval by Lynda Mullay Hunt fills a whole page with the rhyming, pun-y story of a seal who becomes a dentist and stands up to sharks.

Other poems are less humorous and more pensive; the last of the series, Sea Serenity by Luke Hargraver, holds an existential truth for readers to swim through: “The world is like water / Easily disturbed by ripples / But when still, / Beautiful.” Under a short and sweet poem called Minnow, by Brook Gideon, a message to ocean explorers reads: “It’s very important to release everything you catch back into the ocean right away!”

Each spread is distinctly created in the individual poets’ and artists’ styles. Yet, the whole compilation works together in perfect, charming harmony. Some poems mirror each other in content. Horseshoe Crabulous by Doreen Buchinski is followed by Red Knots by Jane Sutton, in which: “In the sand their goal is chiefly / To dart—and swerve —on twiggy legs / In mad search for horseshoe eggs.” The two beautifully crafted poems are followed by a third gem, Mollusk Mansions by Charlotte Sheer, and accompanied with an illustration featuring horseshoe crabs, red knots, and mollusk shells—all painted by Doreen Buchinski herself!

Children will explore the deep cerulean sea through a range of sincere rhyming couplets, honest haikus, positively silly prose, magical motifs, and everything in between. All poems and artwork share with readers a deep admiration for under the sea creatures, while spreading ocean knowledge, and a love for poetry and beauty.

The watercolors, collages, and digital art pieces mesh beautifully while each achieving a distinctly artistic picturesque scene. Some illustrations run horizontally across the spread to create poster-like, masterful images. On page 23 illustrator Julia Young Cuffe paints a long, horizontal lighthouse against a watery dark blue sky, littered with stars. A person stands at the top, waving a piece of cloth, illuminated by the lighthouse light. The poem, Boston Light by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, is artfully placed running vertically down the lighthouse.

Others run across the two-page spreads to create one image that ties together the poems featured on the separate pages into a collective unit. An example of this can be seen in Marlo Garnsworthy’s opening spread of deep ocean waves intermingling with whales, and Amanda Davis’s DEEP deep sea spread that features spookily realistic vampire squids, angler fish, and sea plumes. Each piece stands out as thoughtfully crafted to instill in readers a sense of awe for the beauty of marine life and ocean ecology.

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children would make a wonderful addition to classroom science and language arts lessons as well as a fun collection to share at home, especially in conjunction with trips to the beach or aquariums. 

The Writers’ Loft is a community based in Sherborn, Massachusetts which helps local writers foster their creativity, strengthen their spirit, and grow professionally by providing them with quiet writing space, educational programs, opportunities to connect with supportive colleagues, and access to industry experts, as well as opportunities to give back to the greater writing community. To learn more about The Writers’ Loft, visit their website.

The Rozalia Project runs educational programs, ocean cleaning initiatives and research projects focused on how to aid ocean clean-up and maintain sustainability of ocean and shoreline ecosystems. The Rozalia Project, along with the “Writer-and-Artist-Ocean-Protectors from the Writers Loft” hopes to use this book to “foster an appreciation of the importance, beauty, and wonder of the ocean in the change-makers of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Rozalia Project, or get involved with them on this Earth Day, check out their website. You can also watch this video on their Expedition CLEAN.

Earth Day and National Poetry Month Activities

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Color pages from Friends & Anemones in your OWN style with these black and white versions of the illustrations. You can find 18 more pages to print or download to your iPad to color on The Writers’ Loft website.

Manatee and Mermaid Coloring Page | Kids on the Beach Coloring Page

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Find ten ocean critters’ names in this printable sea-star shaped word search.

Under the Sea Word Search Puzzle | Under the Sea Word Search Solution

Explore some poems specifically written for younger readers at Poets.org and write your own poetry if you feel inspired.

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To support The Writers’ Loft, you can order Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children from their website.

You can find Friends & Anemones at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 10 – Mother Ocean Day

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About the Holiday

The brain child of the South Florida Kayak Fishing Club and enacted in 2013, Mother Ocean Day promotes awareness of the beauty and wonder of the world’s oceans. Teeming with rare and surprising creatures and plants, the ocean remains one of Earth’s most amazing mysteries. Today, take time to enjoy all the ocean has to offer—go to the beach and walk, snorkel, swim, or fish—or if you’re more of a landlubber read a book about our Mother Ocean.

At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems

Written by Leslie Bulion | Illustrated by Leslie Evans

 

With a jaunty exhortation to “Dive In!” Leslie Bulion invites readers to “…visit a habitat shallow and deep. / and boiling hot, where acids seep, / and frigid and pressured and mountainy-steep, / Come explore the sea! Seventeen species of “odd critters, enormous and tiny…hunters and foragers, hiders and peekers” are described in clever, informative verse.

The Coconut Octopus is a wily creature: “This octopus walks backwards on two arms, / And wraps the other six around its top. / It ambles free of predatory harms, / And thus avoids becoming shark-chewed slop.” The symbiotic relationship between the Leopard Sea Cucumber and the Emperor Shrimp is told in alternating lines of blue and red.

“I inch along.”

“We hitch a ride. / We tour the seafloor country side.”

“I’m ship,”

We’re crew. / We swab the decks / By eating scummy algae specks.”

I’m camouflaged / in leopard spots.

While not the swiftest / Of the yachts, / A top-notch spot to meet a mate.”

When threatened I eviscerate.

To spew my guts / Is quite a chore, / And it takes weeks / To grow some more. / But I keep predators away.

We live to crew / Another day.

The unexplained habit of the convict fish, which “eats” its young every night just to spit them out again, is described in “Fish Food,” and readers can dig their teeth into another meal-related relationship between the reef shark and the cleaner wrasse in “Healthy Eating.” In “Dental Health” readers learn that narwhal’s tusks are much more than defense mechanisms. Instead, each tooth “contains ten million nerves to sense / environmental evidence.” And what’s more—“…when we see them crossing spars / and jousting underneath the stars, / one’s tusk above and one’s beneath, / it’s not a fight; their brushing teeth.”

“Crabby Camouflage” has never been so elaborate or decorative as that concocted by the jeweled anemone crab, and “Dolphin Fashion” reveals an ingenious way to protect a tender snout: “A bottlenose counseled her daughter: / Put this sponge on your beak underwater. / You can scare out more fish, / Poke sharp stones as you wish, / And your skin’ll stay smooth like it oughter.”

Snapping shrimp, epaulette sharks, the violet snail, sea spiders, krill, the broody squid, sipohonophores, erenna, larvaceans, osedax, and the remotely operated vehicles that give us a view of the ocean floor are also celebrated in this fun poetry collection.

Each poem is followed by scientific information about the subject of the verse.

Leslie Bulion piques readers’ interest in these fascinating ocean creatures with her smart, witty rhymes that reveal little-known facts.

Leslie Evans, with her printmaker’s eye, illustrates the deep blue pages with stylized depictions of the fish and animals that populate the sea, allowing readers to visualize the quirks and adaptations written about.

Ages 6 and up

Peachtree Publishers, 2011 | ISBN 978-1561455652

Gardening for Wildlife Month Activity

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Spoon Flowers

The rounded scoop and long “stem” of plastic ice-cream spoons make a perfect base for pretty wildflowers. You can use the printable petal template or make petals of your own design to fill your vase with color

Supplies

  • Printable Petal Template
  • 3 – 4 plastic ice-cream spoons, these are available in different colors at party supply stores or you can paint them the color you’d like
  • Multi-purpose paint in colors of your choice, if you are painting the spoons
  • Heavy craft paper in your favorite flower colors
  • Green ribbon
  • Ribbon, hairbands, weaving loom bands, or colored wire
  • Glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush 
  • Scissors
  • Beans, sand, pebbles, or glass or plastic beads to fill the vase

Directions

  1. Print or trace the petals onto colored paper. The number of petals you need for each flower will depend on the size of the spoon
  2. Cut out the petals
  3. With the glue gun or strong glue, attach the petals to the spoon, gluing the end of the petals around the inside edge of the spoon, Let dry
  4. Wrap the handle of the spoon with the green ribbon and glue in place
  5. Fill the vase ¾ full with beans, sand, pebbles, or beads
  6. Decorate the rim of the bottle with the ribbon, bands, or wire
  7. Push the flower stems into the vase and arrange