July 2 – Build a Scarecrow Day

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-cover

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-badger

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-owl

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!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow's-hat-chicken-gets-hat

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scareccrow-coloring-page

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

October 23 – Mole Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-friend-for-mole-cover

About the Holiday

From 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. on 10/23 chemists, scientists, students, and others who love numbers celebrate Mole Day to commemorate Avogadro’s Number, which is a basic weight measuring unit in chemistry. Defined by the equation 6.02 x 1023, Avogadro’s number finds that for any given molecule one mole of that substance has a weight in grams equal to its atomic number. The name of this scientific constant naturally led to an association with the furry underground burrowers, and the mole and mascot moles can be found working in tandem to promote a better understanding and enjoyment of chemistry. As today’s book proves there is no better mixture than the chemistry between friends.

A Friend for Mole

By Nancy Armo

Mole loves his cozy burrow. “He liked his soft bed of leaves, the warm smell of the earth, and the quiet darkness all around.” He can imagine the world above him by all the distinct sounds he hears. But one day those sounds become louder. Instead of gentle tapping and buzzing, he hears stomping, shouting, and laughing. He decides to go up above and see what all the ruckus is about.

“The bright light, loud noises and new smells were overwhelming,” and Mole thinks it was a very bad idea to have left his burrow. He tries to find his way home, but he can no longer see the hole. In a panic he starts to run. He trips over a tree root and rolls under a bush. The soft leaves and darkness remind Mole of his burrow and soon he is fast asleep.

Mole wakes up during the night. He hears rustling and sees two shiny eyes staring at him. “‘Oh no!’” thinks Mole. “‘Please don’t be something scary.’” Mole closes his eyes, hoping to hide. But then he hears a small whimper. “‘Are you afraid of the dark too?’” When Mole takes a peek, he sees a wolf. “‘No,’” Mole answers. “‘I’m afraid of the light.’” Wolf tells Mole that he is lost after being chased by the other animals and that he is scared.

celebrate-picture-book-review-a-friend-for-mole-rustling-sound

Copyright Nancy Armo, courtesy of Peachtree Publshers

Mole and Wolf think about what they can do and devise a clever plan. Mole says he will stay with Wolf in the dark, and Wolf agrees to help Mole find his burrow when the sun comes up. To make the time go faster, Mole and Wolf play games, such as hunting “imaginary slithering creatures,” stomping on “pretend scampering bugs,” and “chasing away scary monsters. It was all so much fun they forgot about being lost and scared.”

As daylight breaks, Mole begins to think about home. Wolf also feels homesick. As they search for the entrance to Mole’s burrow, Wolf shields Mole’s eyes from the sun with his tail, and Mole giggles at the tickly softness of Wolf’s fur. Soon they discover Mole’s burrow, and Wolf realizes that he lives nearby. Although Mole is happy to be home, he also feels sad to say goodbye to Wolf.

He asks if Wolf would like to play again sometime. Wolf shouts, “Yes! That was so much fun! I was scared but having you there made everything okay.” As Mole settles back into his leafy bed, he knows “exactly what Wolf meant.”

In her sweet story of friendship found, Nancy Armo relates that most comforting feeling—the knowledge that friends always stand by you even when times are hard or scary. Her characters Mole and Wolf are perfectly chosen foils with opposite strengths that, combined, help solve their immediate problem and form a strong friendship. Armo’s straightforward storytelling is enriched by the endearing personalities of Mole and Wolf as well as their honest sharing of feelings.

In vivid two-page spreads Armo superbly depicts the daytime and nighttime scenes, transporting readers into the heart of her story. Above the “quiet darkness” of Mole’s burrow, cute mice scamper in the rain while an earthworm, a snail, and a bee take shelter. When his roof rings with noise and curiosity gets the better of Mole, he emerges into an open field, and his tumbling trip over the tree root is nimbly portrayed with a series of flips rendered with a filmy transparency. As nightime falls the Mole’s and Wolf’s adventure plays out on pages with a solid black background. Wolf’s eyes shining on a completely darkened page offers just the right amount of suspense for little readers, and a careful look at the expression in his eyes is reassuring. Kids will enjoy the games the two friends enjoy, and will cheer when the sun dawns on their new friendship.

A Friend for Mole is a great book for young readers navigating the world of meeting new classmates, teammates, and other children who may see the world differently but would make good friends.

Ages 3 – 7

Peachtree Publishers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1561458653

You’ll find fun A Friend for Mole activity sheets, a portfolio of artwork, and more on Nancy Armo’s website!

Mole Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mole-mazeMole Tunnels Maze

Dig into this printable Mole Tunnels Maze that has as many twists and turns as a mole’s home!

Picture Book Review

May 10 – Mother Ocean Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-at-the-sea-floor-cafe

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-vase

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