May 30 – National Water a Flower Day

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About the Holiday

If the showers of April have dried up where you are and the May flowers are getting a bit thirsty, today’s holiday makes the perfect reminder to fill the watering can or turn on the sprinkler and give them a drink. Colorful flowers are some of the joys of summer and provide food for birds and insects all season long. If you haven’t begun your garden yet, it’s not too late! Grab a packet of seeds or visit your local nursery and see what a wonderful, wild patch you can grow!

The Curious Garden

By Peter Brown

 

“There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind.” People didn’t notice because they spent most of their time inside—working, going to school, or at home. “As you can imagine, it was a very dreary place.” There was one boy, though, who loved being outside. One rainy day Liam discovered a stairway leading to a bridge that held unused railway tracks. Of course, he was curious, and when he reached the top he discovered a scrawny patch of wildflowers. They needed water; they needed a gardener.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2009, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Liam wasn’t officially a gardener, “but he knew that he could help.” After a few false starts and a mis-snip here and there, the plants began to look better. After several weeks, “Liam began to feel like a real gardener, and the plants began to feel like a real garden.” Now that the garden was healthy, it began to be curious about what lay up and down the railway track. The weeds and mosses crept down the tracks while the “more delicate plants” plucked up their courage and followed. During the next few months, Liam and the garden explored all the nooks and crannies of the railway bridge. Liam looked out over his city with a new perspective.

When winter came, the garden lay under a blanket of snow and Liam stayed below, sledding and preparing for spring. With warmer weather, Liam gathered his new shovel, hoe, pruners, and watering can in his red wheelbarrow and went back to the railway. “Winter had taken a toll on the garden.” The grass and moss were brown, the flowers were just brittle twigs, and the little tree was dull and unkept. But Liam watered, snipped, and even sang to the plants, and soon they “awoke from their winter sleep.”

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2009, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Now the garden was even more curious about the rest of the city, and the brave weeds and mosses led the way. “They popped up farther and farther from the railway and were closely followed by the more delicate plants.” They explored “old, forgotten things,” wiggled their way into sidewalk cracks, and even poked their heads out of broken basement windows. When some plants planted themselves where they didn’t belong, Liam moved them. He also began leaving them in surprising spots around town.

This led to an even more surprising thing: new gardeners also popped up all over the city. Now there were rooftop gardens, backyard gardens, and even gardens that climbed walls. Plants created soft carpets for stairs, huge lily pad boats, an animal parade, and high-rise tree houses for neighbors to share. “Many years later, the entire city had blossomed.” But Liam still loved his patch on the railway line the best.

An Author’s Note following the text reveals the true-life inspiration for the story.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2009, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Peter Brown’s classic story about a little boy who brings new life to a city that has shut itself off from the natural world, reminds readers of the importance of the environment and getting outside to enjoy it and participate in its survival and growth. But Brown’s story is about so much more too. As Liam’s garden begins to branch out, readers see how one person can be instrumental in spreading ideas, happiness, good news, kindness, in fact any number of life-changing events. In the title and the description of the garden, Brown taps into a dual nature of “curious.” What may seem odd or new or even forgotten sparks interest and exploration and new, often better, perspectives that can bring people together.

Brown opens the story with a two-page, aerial-view spread of the drab city dotted in only two places with a bit of color and giving readers a bit of foreshadowing of the transformation to come. The scrubby patch of greenery next to the rotted tracks includes a tiny tree, cleverly imbued with personality. As the garden spreads, kids will love hunting for the itty-bitty birds, bees, and beetles that appear among the colorful flowers. Kids will “ooh” and “ahh” over the pages that show how and where the garden has spread (a parking lot reclamation is a bright spot) and its influence on new gardeners. The final spread completes the promise held in the first and is a true showstopper.

Ages 4 – 9

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009 | ISBN 978-0316015479

To learn more about Peter Brown, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Water a Flower Day Activity

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Spoon Flowers Craft

 

Plastic spoons aren’t just for enjoying yummy treats, they make cute flowers too! With this easy and quick craft, you can give everyone you love a bouquet!

Supplies

  • Colorful plastic spoons
  • Heavy stock paper or construction paper in various colors, including green for leaves
  • Multi-surface glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Cut petals from the heavy stock paper or construction paper
  2. Glue the petals to the bowl of the spoon
  3. Cut leaves from the green paper (optional)
  4. Glue leaves to the handle of the spoon (optional)

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You can find The Curious Garden at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 20 – It’s Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week

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About the Holiday

Animals and humans coexist on Earth in so many amazing ways. Our pets are beloved family members, we interact and care for the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other backyard animals that we see every day, and we are mindful of and should be caretakers of the wild animals that inhabit the plains, mountains, and seas of our planet. Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week was established by the Animals & Society Institute, which “helps improve and expand knowledge about human-animal relationships in order to create safer and more compassionate communities for all.” Over this week people are encouraged to think about companion animals, assistance animals, animals in shelters, and the safety and well-being of the animals in our care. To celebrate, spend more time with your pet and consider donating to your local animal shelter or wildlife organization.

Children Make Terrible Pets

By Peter Brown

 

One day Lucy Beatrice Bear was practicing ballet when she smelled someone nearby. She ordered whoever it was to come out. “Squeak,” said the little boy. When he emerged from his hiding place and Lucy got a good look at him, she was delighted. “OH. MY. GOSH! You are the cutest critter in the WHOLE forest!” she exclaimed. “Squeak,” said the boy.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2010, courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young People.

Lucy picked him up and raced home. She burst in where her mom was reading and held him up. “Look what I found outside! I call him Squeaker because he makes funny sounds.” She begged her mom to let her keep him. Lucy’s mom scolded her daughter for bringing a child into the house, reminding her, “Don’t you know children make terrible pets?” But Lucy pleaded and showed her mom how cute he was and assured her that he would be no trouble.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2010, courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young People.

Finally, Lucy’s mom relented—but with one stipulation: Lucy had to take care of him herself. Lucy agreed and told her mom that she’d see that this child would be “the best -+pet EVER.” Lucy and Squeaker did everything together, but while they had fun playing, eating, and napping together, having Squeaker as a pet wasn’t all a bed of roses. For one thing, he was hard to litter box train. He also ran wild and tore up the furniture, tracked in mud, threw food, and even swung from the chandelier.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2010, courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young People.

Then suddenly, Squeaker disappeared. Lucy searched everywhere, but just as she was about to give up, “her sensitive nose caught a whiff of her Squeaker.” Lucy followed her nose all through the forest until she finally found him. But as Lucy watched Squeaker having a picnic lunch with three other humans outside a house, “Squeaker didn’t seem like a pet anymore.” Sadly, Lucy said goodbye to Squeaker and headed back home. On the way she thought about how much she would miss him but decided it was all for the best.

When she got home, she told her mom all about it and had to agree that her mom had been right. “Children do make terrible pets,” she said. But she knew the elephant she found would be just perfect….

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2010, courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young People.

Peter Brown’s flip-flop of the “Mom-can-I-keep-him” story will have all readers laughing along—pet owners because they know what a new animal in the house can do, adults because they know what shenanigans little ones can get up to, and kids because…well, the story’s so funny. Brown’s dialog between Lucy and her mother perfectly reflects children’s unbridled zeal when they really, really want something and a parent’s wariness of giving in to a request. On the final page as Lucy finds another pet to love, kids share the knowledge of their own boundless capacity for enthusiasm.

Brown’s illustrations delight with the uninhibited zest kids have for adventures as well as their ability to move on from a disappointment to something new. Lucy’s eager expressions will make kids giggle and adults smile knowingly. Squeaker’s silent acquiescence to being adopted by Lucy and his wild behavior humorously depict children’s readiness for pretend play.

Ages 4 – 7

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010 | ISBN 978-0316015486

You can learn more about Peter Brown, his books, and his art as well as find coloring pages and activity sheets on his website.

Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week Activity

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Animal Matching Game

 

There are so many animals to love! Play this fun matching game to find pairs of favorite animals!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two sheets of the Animal Matching Cards for each player
  2. Color the cards (optional)
  3. Cut the cards apart
  4. Scramble the cards and lay them out face-side down
  5. Choosing one card at a time, turn one face up and then another.
  6. If the two cards match leave them face up
  7. If the two cards do not match lay them face down and try again.
  8. As you find matching pairs, leave the cards face up until all the pairs have been found.
  9. If playing against other players, the first to match all their animal cards is the winner

Picture Book Review