December 12 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month couldn’t come at a better time than during the gift-giving season. Books make gifts that have long-lasting appeal and can seem “new” with every reading or provide comfort, laughs, and joy that never gets old. Today I review two pop-up books for the younger set that adults will enjoy sharing as much as the kids will love hearing—and seeing—them.

I’d like to thank Twirl Books and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures and The Pop-Up Guide: Animals with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures

Written by Arnaud Roi | Illustrated by Charlotte Molas

 

If you’d like to see your child’s eyes pop open in delight each time they open a particular book and you have a child who loves dinosaurs, then Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures is the book for them! This easy-to-hold book opens upward to provide “Wow!”-inducing reactions to seven awesome dinosaurs three reptiles that kids may recognize as early ancestors to some of today’s land and ocean-dwelling animals—fierce and not so. 

With the lift of the first page, kids come face to face with a giant Argentinosaurus who’s foraging among the foliage to satisfy its daily 880-pound dietary requirement. How did these herbivores digest all of those leaves, ferns, grasses, and other plants? They “also swallowed rocks, which helped grind up the food in its stomach.” Readers also discover the period during which these dinosaurs lived, the region they were found in, their maximum size and their maximum weight. All measurements are given in feet and pounds as well as meters and kilograms.

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Image copyright Charlotte Molas, 2022, text copyright Arnaud Roi, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

Other dinosaurs that come out to meet young paleontologists include the Spinosaurus—who, at “over 49 feet (15 meters) long and 13 feet (4 meters) tall” with a maximum weight of 20,000 pounds (9,000 kilograms) “was the largest known carnivore on land. The most distinctive feature of this popular dino was the sail on its back, which measured “almost 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall” in itself! Kids will also enjoy saying hello to the baby Triceratops that appears to be walking right off the page! Standing nearby is a watchful mom or dad ready to protect their little one. Readers will learn that “Triceratops lived in herds” and when threatened “they would form a circle around their young and face the predator with their horns.”

Of course, the Tyrannosaurus pops up to eat and greet with his fierce “banana-shaped teeth that could grow up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long.” This 20,000-pound behemoth may have roamed North America 68 million years ago, but it had a surprising connection to today’s crocodiles. Kids will also learn about two herbivores— one with claws more than 3 feet (1 meter) long, and one with a very tiny brain but very intimidating spikes to keep predators at bay—and the largest raptor ever found. The prehistoric reptiles represented here plied the land, sea, and air and were no less impressive than the dinosaurs they shared the earth with.

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Image copyright Charlotte Molas, 2022, text copyright Arnaud Roi, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

Arnaud Roi describes each dinosaur and prehistoric creature in engaging language accessible for even the youngest reader and sprinkles in the kinds of facts about the animals’ anatomy, preferred habitat, diet, and physical prowess that make kids’ eyes widen and spur them to learn more. Roi brings the same enthusiasm and feeling of amazement to his subject that kids feel themselves, making this a book readers will really connect with.

In her three-dimensional illustrations, Charlotte Molas puts the dinosaurs front and center while including images of the environments they called home. You can bet kids will love opening, closing, and reopening the pages to interact with the dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, complete with roars, stomps, chomps, and shrieks.

With a thick padded board cover and sturdy pages, plus eye-popping illustrations and text that’s just right for young learners, Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures is a top choice for dinosaur and science lovers. The book would make a terrific gift and take-along and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Twirl, 2022 | ISBN 978-2408037512

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You can find Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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The Pop-Up Guide: Animals

Written by Maud Poulain | Illustrated by Peggy Nille

 

The fourth book in this well-conceived series that includes Pop-Up Guides to Space, Vehicles, and Natural Wonders takes children around the world to meet the animals that live in ten different environments. Upon opening the book kids find themselves in the African Savanna, where a hippopotamus, three flamingos, and three lions have gathered for a drink. A crocodile suns itself on the bank, while another pokes its head above the water. A cheetah, lounging on a tree branch, also pops out to say hello. Behind them, a zebra, giraffes, gazelle, and mother and baby elephants roam and find food.

In her short paragraph, Maud Poulain tells readers about the African Savanna while also setting up talking points about the illustration: “It stays warm all year round here, with just two seasons: wet and dry. During the wet season, the animals have fresh grass and plenty of water to drink at the watering holes. In the dry season, many creatures may have to travel in search of food and water.” In addition to enjoying the vibrant illustration, adults and kids can talk about which time of year it is and how they know to identifying all of the animals and their particular attributes. Each animal is also labeled on the page.

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Image copyright Peggy Nille, 2022, text copyright Maud Poulain, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

With the lift of the page, children then enter the temperate Forest, where “trees, shrubs, herbs, and mosses provide shelter and food for all kinds of animals.” Little ones will be “aww!” struck by the cute rabbits, fawn and mother deer, and baby wild boars greet them. A pheasant takes to the air, while a tawny owl and a squirrel hang out in an oak tree. Colorful butterflies flit among flowers, and a pinecone lies hidden, just waiting to be discovered.

The vast expanse of snowy white meets readers next, along with the polar bears, little auks, ringed seals, caribou, orcas, and snowy owls that live in the Far North. There’s even someone riding a sled pulled by sled dogs making their way over the hills. Leaving the glittering snow, readers enter the eye-popping lushness of the Rain Forest, where vivid blues, oranges, greens, yellows, and reds are on display on the birds, chameleon, poison dart frog, tiger, boa, orangutans, and the thick vegetation will wow kids.

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Image copyright Peggy Nille, 2022, text copyright Maud Poulain, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

The fish, rays, mammals, and coral of the Ocean swim by up close for kids, and then it’s off to the driest areas of the world—the Desert. In the African desert, “it almost never rains…and while it is hot during the day, it can get cold at night. From there, readers get to know the birds, animals, and amphibians that call Freshwater Rivers home, then it’s back up into the mountains, which are warm and welcoming during spring and summer but can be snow-covered in late fall and winter. How do the animals and birds survive these opposing environments? Readers witness the ptarmigan, “whose fur and feathers change from brown to white” in snowy conditions in transition, while the snowshoe hare nearby has already become fully white. 

Readers finish their tour of the world’s various environments with a dive into the Tropical Seas, where they can see a large array of creatures—from a clown fish, seahorse, and sea turtle to a porcupine fish, sea urchin, sea star, and more—all in bright colors and on the move in their warm-water paradise. But nature’s bounty is not reserved just for these magnificent habitats. The simple backyard also teems with life, and kids get to spend some time with a little girl and her cat as they sit on the porch as life hums around her.

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Image copyright Peggy Nille, 2022, text copyright Maud Poulain, 2022. Courtesy of Twirl.

In her informative paragraphs—which are written in easy-to-understand language and are the perfect length for young children—Maud Poulain introduces readers to an impressive array of the world’s animals while also imparting facts and tidbits about their habits, anatomy, diet, and other attributes that make them well-adapted to their environment. She also reveals details about the plants and weather conditions of each unique region. Every animal is labeled on the page, allowing kids to play and “I-spy” game as the adult reads the text. 

Peggy Nille realistically depicts each animal while giving them personalities that will charm young readers and draw them into learning about their lives and habitats. Eye-catching colors and beautifully detailed dioramas make each pop-out page one that kids will want to linger over. Their time will be rewarded with enchanting finds tucked here and there and plenty of nature’s gifts to talk about. 

This well-constructed book has a thick cardboard cover with elastic bands on the top corners that can be placed around each page as the book is read to keep it upright for easy viewing or wrapped around the back cover to keep the book closed. The pop-ups, made from sturdy card stock, provide a depth of perspective that enhances the reading experience.

For young readers who are just learning about animals and for those who are ready to discover more about the world’s habitats and the animals that live in each, The Pop-Up Guide: Animals is a book they’ll want to read again and again. It would enhance any child’s home library and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Twirl, 2022 | ISBN 979-1036345166

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You can find The Pop-Up Guide: Animals at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 7 – It’s the December Cold Moon

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About the Holiday

December’s full moon is commonly known as the Cold Moon—a Mohawk name that reflects the changing temperatures and the onset of winter’s sustained cold weather—and tonight’s moon offers not only glorious viewing but a rare celestial event. As the moon rises and moves across the sky, it will pass in front of Mars, eclipsing the planet for an hour—a phenomenon called an occultation. What makes tonight’s lunar occultation special is that the moon will block Mars near it’s brightest point, which happens only once every 26 months. This event will be visible to people living in central, western, and southwestern parts of North America on December 7 as well as to those in Western and Northern Europe and Northern Africa on December 8. To learn more about tonight’s Cold Moon and the lunar occultation and to find a schedule of viewing times, visit Space.com. You can also provide interesting information as well as a visual of the moon’s trajectory at In-The-Sky.org. To enjoy the wonder of the full moon anytime, read on about today’s featured book!

I’d like to thank Page Street Books for sending me a copy of Mending the Moon for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mending the Moon

Written by Emma Pearl | Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti

 

“The full moon was shining bigger and brighter than ever. So big and so bright that it was too heavy to hold itself up in the sky.” Although the moon valiantly tried to hold itself in place, it fell to Earth, shattering like glass as it landed upon a mountain peak. Luna, who watched the sky every night, saw it all. She rushed to wake her grandfather, and together they ran out of the house to try to help. As they entered the woods, they saw moon shards scattered everywhere. “They were hard and smooth and warm. They were pearly and glistening and beautiful.”

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Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When Luna wondered if they could fix the moon and set it back in the sky, her grandfather told her they had to try. “‘The moon is more important than you can imagine,'” he said. Luna and Poppa prepared to begin the big job of picking up the pieces of the moon, but as turned to look around, they discovered that the woodland animals had already begun gathering the pieces. Deer, bears, foxes, rabbits, owls, squirrels, and other animals had all picked up shards and brought them to Luna.

They all carefully reconstructed the moon like a jigsaw puzzle, but when they had put the last piece in place, they realized that one shard was missing. They looked and looked without success. Then Luna saw the lake. “‘The missing piece must be in the lake!’ she cried.” Hearing this, an elk talked to a frog, and he dove in. When the frog resurfaced, he held the missing shard in his mouth. Luna found that it fit perfectly. 

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Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Now, how to make sure the pieces stuck together? After an unsuccessful attempt, the silkworms were enlisted to spin thread. With pine needles and lots of patience, Luna, Poppa, and the animals stitched the moon together again with the silk that “…glowed like it was made of moonlight.” Once the moon was reassembled, it was time to think about how to return it to its place in the sky. Luna thought maybe the birds could help, but they were already flying away to their nests.

Or were they? Soon, more birds than Luna had ever seen whooshed out of the darkness—birds, it seemed, from all over the world. As the birds got into position to lift the moon and began soaring into the sky, Luna provided instructions—and encouragement. At last, the moon was back where it belonged. Its sparkled light shone on Luna, Poppa, and the animals, who danced, cavorted, and fluttered in the clearing on the mountaintop.

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Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Emma Pearl’s imaginative story shines with the fantastical and nature-focused elements that infuse folktales with their magical power to enthrall children and adults alike. Young readers will instinctively empathize with Luna’s deep connection to the night sky, reflected even in her name, and marvel as the forest animals band together to retrieve the shards and sew them together again. Pearl’s cleverly conceived plot makes enchanting use of the woodland setting, especially in sewing the moon together. Her dialogue between Luna and Poppa as well as the secret communications among the animals will also captivate children and draw them into the mystery and wonder of the story.

Sara Ugolotti’s striking illustrations glow with an exquisite color palette of lush colors sprinkled with light evanescing from the shards of the moon and the brilliant stars above. Luna’s interactions with woodland animals are filled with joy as they all work together to mend the moon and return it to the sky. Images of the birds in all colors and sizes swooping down to the mountain to help Luna and Poppa will mesmerize kids, and you may even find them dancing in the moonlight along with Luna, Poppa, and all of the animals.

For children who love folktales, fantasies, and a touch of magic to their stories, Mending the Moon will be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675600

Discover more about Emma Pearl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Ugolotti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

December’s Cold Moon Activity

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Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

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You can find Mending the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 13 – It’s Positive Attitude Month

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About the Holiday

No matter how old (or young) you are there’s no getting around the fact that sometimes things are tough or don’t work out the way you planned. For kids, learning how to accept and even make the best of setbacks or disappointments is part of living a happier life. And that’s what Positive Attitude Month is all about. The holiday was established to encourage people to see the bright side of things since being upbeat can improve your health, lower chances of depression, make you more motivated, and lead to better relationships with family and friends. One way for kids to learn this skill is through reading, and today’s book—the true story about a little guy overcoming a few rocky patches of his own—is an adorable and joyful place to start. 

I’d like to thank the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Raising Don with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir

By Georgeanne Irvine

 

Get ready to open Raising Don and fall in love with this little Baird’s tapir, an absolute cutie with the sweetest of personalities to match. From the first pages—which show the wildlife care team at the San Diego Zoo eagerly anticipating Don’s birth, describe the moment of lucky serendipity when one member of the team witnessed this exciting event, and then reveal that Don’s mother, Luna, as a hesitant “first-time mom” rejected her calf—readers will find themselves invested in the future of “this endangered Baird’s tapir born at the zoo in more than 30 years.”

As the wildlife care team takes over bottle-feeding Don, children learn about the extraordinary steps they took to provide Don with some of Luna’s milk while ensuring that each animal was treated with affection. Discovering that Luna enjoying being scratched with a soft scrub brush while being milked and Don being fed after first having “his back scratched and his face rubbed before he would take his bottle” and getting a belly rub afterwards will make readers with pets of their own smile at this universal favorite. 

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Copyright Georgeanne Irvine, 2022, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

Tapirs, kids learn, have noses that are “similar to an elephant’s trunk, only shorter.” Don used his little trunk “for smelling as well as picking up things like branches and bits of lettuce.” But Don was also as playful as any toddler and after eating “often grabbed the bottle with his tiny trunk and tried to run off with it!” Next, when Don was only a week old, the specialists introduced him to a shallow pool. Tapirs are good swimmers, but they need to be taught—just like kids.

In no time, Don was “running, jumping, and belly flopping into the pool.” He even liked to blow bubbles in the water with his trunk. Children then see photographs and read about how Don was gradually introduced to a deeper pond in the habitat where he would eventually live with guanacos, capybaras, and a llama—and, of course, rewarded with “extra back scratches and belly rubs for being such a good swimmer.”

Soon Don would be old enough to be moved to his habitat, so now it was time for him to make a friend. The wildlife care specialists picked out a sweet-tempered capybara, Bristle, with whom he “took naps in a cave, shared ficus leaf snacks, and soaked in the pond together.” Don also met an elderly tapir who, over time, taught him good manners and other particulars about being a tapir. 

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Copyright Georgeanne Irvine, 2022, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

But Don learned some other lessons about life too. Even when Don was a baby and the guanacos and the llama saw him through a fence, they didn’t like him. And when, later, Don approached them in the habitat, they bullied him in the way llamas do—by spitting and kicking at him. Don simply took to avoiding them and sticking with his good friend Bristle. 

In these first months of life, Don discovered his favorite foods and learned to accept regular examinations from the care specialists that would keep him healthy. “Tapirs have sensitive feet and need them looked at every day to make sure there aren’t any cuts, scrapes, or bruises.” As he grew older, Don became more independent and confident. He celebrated his first birthday with his favorite foods and a swim. Soon he’d be moving to the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee. “There, he would meet a female tapir and hopefully become a father someday.”

And what about Luna? She has given birth to and is taking care of Don’s sister, named Taiyari (which “means ‘our heart’ in the language of Mexico’s Huichol people”). Now, Don and his new best friend Juju, a female tapir, live in a spacious habitat with shade trees and a pond. Don, as you might imagine, has “won the hearts of his new caregivers,” and someday soon he and Juju will “become parents of their own precious calf, helping to bring more of these endangered animals into the world.”  

Back matter includes fun facts about tapirs, a map showing where they live, the dangers to wild tapirs, and a list of ten ways readers can do to help wildlife.

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Copyright Georgeanne Irvine, 2022, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press.

Full of joy, humor, and personality, Georgeanne Irvine’s story about one plucky tapir born at the San Diego Zoo will capture readers’ hearts. The fervent love felt by Irving and the wildlife care specialists for Don and all the animals at the zoo radiates from the pages. With lively language and detailed, yet easy-to-understand descriptions, Irving reveals the day-to-day attention Don enjoys as well as the ways the specialists became his surrogate mothers.

Children also learn about the thoughtful methods zoo caregivers use to introduce animals to their particular habitats, behaviors, diet, and other animals. Children will respond to the parallels between Don’s experiences while learning skills and making friends and their own, examples that provide wonderful teachable moments and opportunities to fully appreciate the natural world as well as their place and responsibilities in it.

Endearing photographs of Don from babyhood and throughout his first year allow readers to follow his progress and see first hand his adorable, spunky personality as well as how he learns to swim, discover favorite foods, make friends, gets health examinations, and finally moves to Nashville and meets a new best friend.

Nature nonfiction at its finest, Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir is sure to be a favorite choice for all animal lovers as a read aloud or for independent reading. The book offers a wide range of learning and discussion opportunities for teachers, educators, and homeschoolers and is a must-addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 10 (Younger children will also enjoy this book as a read aloud taken in parts)

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1943198146

To learn more about the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, visit their website.

About the Author

Georgeanne “George” Irvine has devoted her career to raising awareness about animals and wildlife conservation. She is director of publishing for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, where she has worked for more than four decades, as well as the author of over two dozen children’s books about animals, including the award-winning Hope and Inspiration collection. Photographing and learning about animals in their native habitats are passions for George. Her worldwide adventures have taken her to many of the wildest places on Earth—from the jungles of Borneo and South America to the mountains of China and the forests of India to the Outback of Australia and the savannas of Africa. 

About the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press is the book publishing division of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and working toward a world where all life thrives. Through its publishing efforts, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press seeks to motivate and inspire multiple generations to care about wildlife, the natural world and conservation.  

Positive Attitude Month Activity

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Tapir Mom and Baby Coloring Page

 

If you love Don, you’ll love this adorable coloring page created by Honduran graphic designer Jen Chibi! Just download and print—and don’t forget to give the baby stripes and spots like Don!

Tapir Mom and Baby Coloring Page

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You can find Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Zoo Keeper Week

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About the Holiday

This week we honor the zookeepers and aquarists who care for the animals in our nation’s zoo and aquariums. Not only do they see to the animals’ feeding, housing, and health needs; maintain the facilities; and educate guests, zookeepers and aquarists also help scientists conduct research that helps them learn more about how to protect and preserve the world’s varied species. To celebrate today, take a trip to your local zoo or aquarium or visit the website of a zoo far away and learn about the animals there. 

One Blue Gnu

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Ana Zurita

 

Feeling lonely at the zoo and with a new cellphone from an accidentally dropped box in hoof, one blue gnu calls two white sheep and gets a party started. The sheep call three orange apes with an invitation, and they in turn call “four red pandas in the sun” who  “agree a party would be fun.” The invitation calls and texts get passed along to more and more animals at the zoo until a sleepy pig calls the wrong number, and instead of reaching the hippos, gets the tiger.

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Another try alerts those hippos and then, finally, “ten purple birds” receive an invitation. At last, it’s party time with “fifty-five beasts just keeping cool, / splashing around in Blue Gnu’s pool.” Floating and diving, the animals are having so much fun, but who is creeping closer and closer? One hungry-looking tiger! In no time, he’s in the midst of them all—and has a plan: “The tiger calls a pizza man!”

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Full and happy and dry, Blue Gnu’s friends decide it’s time to go back to their homes. The animals leave as they came. “Ten purple birds take off in flight. / Nine gray hippos slip from sight.” After each group finds their way home, Blue Gnu is alone once more. But not for too long—another party is in the works.

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Danna Smith’s rollicking zoo story combines counting up to ten and back down to one for younger kids and more advanced addition and subtraction for older children with the names of colors, numbers, and animals in her clever rhyming romp that kids will want to visit again and again. And let’s not forget friendship—that’s here in abundance too, as sequence calls go out from one group to another to another to create one enormous bash! The added suspense of Tiger’s intentions is quickly resolved in a surprising and kid-favorite way that’s sure to please readers. Smith’s jaunty cadence is a joy to read aloud, and the non-stop action and exceptional vocabulary will captivate both kids and adults.

Ana Zurita populates this zoo with adorable animals, depicted in vibrant colors set against textured and wildly detailed backgrounds that also accentuate the educational aspects on each page. Readers will love pointing out the colors and patterns of the animals’ clothes, counting the animals in each group, and recognizing ascending and descending numbers set in circles on each page. Humorous details also reward careful searching of the pages, such as a sneaky hippo trying to nab a cupcake and the yak’s “snack.” Tiger’s determined stride and furrowed brow will have kids guessing, but only until the page is turned and the laughs ring out. Eagle-eyed future math whizzes may love discussing fractions as the pizzas are gobbled up, and saying goodbye to each group gives kids another chance to show their growing number skills.

Sure to be an immediate favorite read aloud, One Blue Gnu is a must on home bookshelves and for all classroom and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Amikus Ink, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681527451

Discover more about Danna Smith and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ana Zurita, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Zoo Keepers Week Activity

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One Blue Gnu Activities

 

You’re invited to enjoy these One Blue Gnu activities that let you do everything from designing your favorite pizza to practicing your counting, coloring, writing, and observational skills in these printable activity sheets.

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You can find One Blue Gnu at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 15 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available from farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month, spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way for them to learn cooking skills and even practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats! Today’s book should get you off to a delicious start!

Thanks to Oni Press for sharing a digital copy of This Is a Birthday Cake with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

This is a Birthday Cake

Written by Andrew Cangelose | Illustrated by Josh Shipley

 

Andrew Cangelose’s two-layered story about making a cake and the history of cake is by turns hilarious and informative. First, kids meet Shelly, a turtle and the forest’s official baker, and Bucky, a rabbit and baker-in-training. Shelly explains that she is “teaching Bucky how to make a birthday cake.” Bucky is rarin’ to go because as soon as the cake is baked, “the party will start.”

But wait! A narrator breaks in on the very next page to reveal that “cake was first used to celebrate birthdays in the Roman Empire two thousand years ago,” but “only became widely popular about two hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution.” Bucky isn’t too keen on the delay this history lesson has caused, and even less patient with Ms. Shelly’s directive to “visualize out beautiful cake in our minds.”

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

But wait! The narrator has another interesting point to make, during which Bucky takes to sticking birthday candles up his nose and in his ears. Finally, Shelly says it’s time to get the recipe and all of the ingredients. Bucky, it seems, is already those steps ahead of Ms. Shelly and hot-foots it out the door, giving her a podcast-worthy “Byeeeee!”

As Bucky speeds into the forest, the recipe tightly gripped in his hand, he imagines his success and the accolades that will follow. At home, Shelly is slowly and methodically making the batter. Bucky takes a moment to reflect on the results of his soon-to-be triumph: “another party just to celebrate [his] accomplishment” and the sad fact that he will most likely be asked to be the new official forest baker.

But what about the ingredients, Bucky? The narrator begins to outline the necessary elements to a good cake. Hmmm… seems Bucky has forgotten to bring these along. No worries, though. Garbage, the ground hog tells Bucky that dirt is delicious: “a little sweet. A little sour. A lot of worms.” Bucky adds it to his pot. Still, he needs a sweetener and a liquid as the narrator describes.

Now, with her cake in the oven, Shelly is relaxing with a hot cup of tea with honey, while Bucky is hightailing it away from a swarm of angry bees. A champion-spitting frog is happy to help out with the liquid. At last, it’s time for the mixing. Ignoring the narrator’s warning about overmixing, Bucky goes at it like a tornado. With no oven to bake his cake in, Bucky comes up with an… ingenious?… solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-is-a-birthday-cake-roman-empire

Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

What’s a birthday cake without decoration, though? To get things moving along quicker, Bucky elicits the help of his forest friends, and in no time, it’s finished. What about Shelly? She’s still carefully drizzling colorful icing on the layers. It’s a good thing Bucky’s cake is ready. The forest animals line up for big pieces, excited to party.

But while Bucky’s congratulating himself and extolling his speed, the animals are coming to a grim realization. It doesn’t take long for Bucky to understand that maybe his cake is a disaster. Fortunately, Shelly is on her way with another cake. The animals watch her coming closer, and closer, and closer… until ta da! “The birthday cake has arrived!”

With two cakes on offer, Shelly wonders about the voracious response to hers, and Bucky reveals his unique recipe. He even admits that he went to fast and that he needs to slow down when he’s excited. Shelly is understanding and promises they can try again tomorrow—if only they can get home before morning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-is-a-birthday-cake-bucky

Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

Wonderfully paced and with funny, realistic dialogue, Andrew Cangelose’s fourth book in his This is a Taco series will have kids and adults laughing out loud as they read it together. Suspense builds as Bucky runs out to bake his own cake with only the recipe to follow. Wanting to discover what substitutions he makes for each ingredient will have readers whipping through the pages as fast as Bucky stirs the batter. And his self-confidence throughout adds another layer of amusing storytelling. Cangelose’s intermittent inclusions of information on the history of cake and a typical recipe is a genius device that not only informs but amplifies Shelly’s slow, careful process that drives Bucky crazy. Bucky’s admission that he worked too fast and Shelly’s patient and understanding response to his failed cake serve up just the right message, sweetened with love.

Josh Shipley’s hilarious illustrations perfectly convey Bucky’s impatience as well as his confidence in his baking prowess. As Bucky’s forest friends help him create his cake, their roles are all the more comical for Shipley’s understated depictions. Clever juxtapositions and well-loved cartoon tropes add to the fun. As the animals—all except one—reject (and eject) the cake, kids will laugh but also empathize with Bucky’s now-sheepish and disappointed expression.

A masterful collaboration between story and art, This Is a Birthday Cake is a humorous and heartfelt must for fans of the series and newbies alike. The book will become a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Oni Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1637150450

You can connect with Andrew Cangelose  and Josh Shipley on Twitter.

You can read my review of This Is a Flying Rat here.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whisk-bookmark

Don’t Whisk Losing Your Page Bookmark

 

The author’s of your favorite books have cooked up such fantastic stories that you don’t want to risk missing a word! To make sure that doesn’t happen, use this culinary-themed bookmark!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print your bookmark
  2. Glue it to the poster board
  3. Cut out the bookmark
  4. Slip it into the book you’re reading now!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-is-a-birthday-cake-cover

You can find This Is a Birthday Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 20 – It’s the Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. Getting kids excited about learning and experiencing new things, getting to know their community, engaging in healthy habits like eating well and exercising are important components of a happy life. Today’s book incorporates many of these goals and will delight young readers. Earlier this month, families, schools, and caregivers celebrated the Week of the Young Child with different special activities encouraged each day of the week. These activities are fun all this month and anytime of the year. To learn more about how you can incorporate Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday, and Family Friday into your schedule visit the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Animals Move

Written by Jane Whittingham

 

It’s no secret that little ones love to jump, run, climb, and snuggle. Not only are these activities fun and great for getting the wiggles out, they help kids build strong muscles and develop large and fine motor skills. In her new book, Jane Whittingham entices children to get moving while also introducing them to fifteen baby animals and what they are called through her engaging rhythmical and rhyming text. Even the youngest children will pick up on Whittingham’s lively words and want to read along too.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Beautiful, action-packed nature photographs of each baby animal – from whale calves to swan cygnets , echidna puggles to alpaca crias, puppies and kittens to tadpoles and more – are paired with photos of a wide range of kids, including a girl with Down syndrome and a young ballerina who uses a walker, mirroring the animal’s motions and inviting readers to pounce, nibble, splash, and dash along with them.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Animals Move is part of the Toddler Tough series, which, in addition to the text for children, provides adults with a guide on how the book assists with physical, language, and subject-matter learning development. The spirited photographs of readers’ peers engage kids in recognizing a variety of facial expressions, emotions, and body language, which enhances social emotional learning – important skills for success in school and beyond. Back matter also provides ways in which to use the book as a springboard for your own creativity through games, singing, movement exercises, and even making your own book. Sturdy construction and a padded cover complete this well-thought-out book. 

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

If you’re looking for a book that’s sure to be an active story time favorite at home, in the classroom, or for library programs as well as a terrific take-along for spontaneous fun on walks, at the park, on picnics, and during other outings, you’ll want to add Animals Move to your book collection.

Ages 2 – 5

Pajama Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1772782387

Discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books on her website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animal-matching-cards

Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Test your powers of memory—or your ability to guess correctly—with this Animal Pairs matching game!

Supplies

  • Printable Match Up the Animals! Cards to color
  • Printable Full-Color Funny Matching Cards – Set 1 | Set 2
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-move-cover

You can find Animals Move at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 3 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

March 3rd is not only part of National Reading Month, but it’s World Book Day and World Wildlife Day too! How can readers celebrate all three holidays at the same time? With today’s book! Here’s a little bit about each holiday:

National Reading Month

All month long, people celebrate all the joys and benefits of reading. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is typically marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities.

World Wildlife Day 

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd to be World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. This year’s theme is “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration,” which seeks to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora and to drive discussions toward devising and implementing solutions to conserve them. To learn more, visit the World Wildlife Day website.

World Book Day

World Book Day was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be celebrated on April 23rd, 1995 in honor of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who all died on this date. Some countries, such as Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland celebrate on March 3. No matter what date you pick – or whether you choose to celebrate on both days – the holiday encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading for pleasure and promotes the availability of a wide range of books to all and in all languages. 

Thanks to Running Press Kids for sharing a copy of Battle of the Butts with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Battle of the Butts: The Science Behind Animal Behinds

Written by Jocelyn Rish | Illustrated by David Creighton-Pester

 

Get ready to RUUUMBLE! as ten of the world’s most fascinating animals put their butts on the line in Jocelyn Rish’s genius look at how certain sea creatures, mammals, insects, and reptiles eat, swim, talk, and defend themselves using their powerful posteriors. Readers don’t have to passively sit by and read, though. Rish invites kids to judge the challengers based on their own preferences and assign a rating from “Terrific Tushie” to “Boring Backside” on their way to crowning the “King of Keisters.”

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

As each challenger steps up, readers are presented with their stats, which include their “genus, length, weight, home turf, and posterior power.” Turning the page, kids are then drawn into the science of each critter’s anatomy and how they use it as Rish – in her conversational, detailed, and descriptive text – uses dynamic phrasing and familiar comparisons to help kids visualize each animal’s endgame. An “Extra Booty” paragraph and a highlighted “Butt Bonus” provide more info.

So who’s on the roster for this awesome competition? First up is the manatee, who moves through the water by holding onto or releasing farts. Lest kids begin “picturing a manatee zipping through the water like it has a jetpack on its back end,” Rish goes on to explain the mechanics of their gas-fueled swimming, how they fill up, and the enormity of their intestinal system that allows them to store their gas until they need it. 

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

Another fierce contender is the bombardier beetle, which at a max length of 1.181 inches (30 millimeters), proves that mighty things come in small packages. This mini-monster might just become the next superhero, with moves worthy of a big-budget blockbuster. Just picture this movie trailer: “A bombardier beetle strolls through the leaves, minding its own business. A bunch of hungry ants attack. Things don’t look so good for the beetle. Then . . . Pew! Pew! Pew! The bombardier beetle fires a pulsing spray of scalding chemicals from its butt, twisting its tushie in different directions to hit all the ants. The bombardier beetle escapes, while the ants regret their decision to snack on the beetle.” Phew! Pass the popcorn! How do they do this? Rish takes kids step-by-step through the bombardier beetle’s chemical processes that read like a blue-ribbon-winning science fair project, complete with boiling blasts ejected at a “speed of 22 miles per hour.” What if the beetle gets eaten anyway? Find out in the explosive Butt Bonus.

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

Not all of these challengers use their powers for defense. Parrotfish, which are found in “shallow tropical and subtropical waters around the world” use their poop to do double doody – I mean duty. You might feel a little squeamish about walking barefoot on a beautiful beach that’s near a coral reef once you learn that “a large portion of that white sand is actually parrotfish poop.” Say what?! Yep! Parrotfish “eat the algae, polyps, and bacteria that live on and in coral reefs.”

To get at it, they also end up ingesting coral and, after its well ground up by the 1,000 teeth along the fish’s beak and the “throat-teeth [that] work like a pepper grinder to crush the bits of coral into fine sand,” they deposit this non-nutritious detritus which then becomes the stuff of sandcastles, tanning beds, and sunny day seaside playgrounds. Sounds like a lot of poop, huh? The Butt Bonus tells you just how much.

These are just a few of the entrants vying for your verdict. Will any of them win the crown? Or will it be the wombat, with its armored butt; the Fitzroy river turtle, that’s a butt breather; the herring and its unusual communication style; the silver-spotted skipper caterpillar, that puts medieval warriors to shame; the beaded lacewing and its fatal farts; the Sonoran coralsnake that’s a master of confusion; or the sea cucumber, that throws everything it’s got at would-be predators? It’s up to you! Award your favorite with the trophy while rewarding yourself with a full flush of scintillating facts with which to entertain friends and dazzle your teachers!

A Glossary of words found in bold type throughout the book follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-battle-of-the-butts-herrings

Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

If you’re looking for a riveting book steeped in nature and environmental science with some chemistry and lots of laughs thrown in for your child, classroom, or other group of kids, you can’t miss with Jocelyn Rish’s Battle of the Butts. Perfect for both younger kids as a read aloud and for independent readers, the book offers opportunities for exciting learning, expanded research, and even experimentation. Rish’s knowledge of her subject and talent for captivating kids jumps off the page with her smooth, alliterative, and hilarious storytelling.

Accompanying each chapter are David Creighton-Pester’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations that accentuate the humor while realistically showing kids how each creature uses their particular skills in their natural environment. Catapulted poop, shooting toots, and funny facial expressions make each page turn a blast. The book’s excellent format also makes it easy to navigate the short chapters and get the most out of all the material presented. At the end of each chapter, kids are invited to rate the creature in this mega-battle of the butts.

A superb way to engage kids in science learning, The Battle of the Butts would be a favorite on any home bookshelf and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Running Press Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0762497775

Discover more about Joycelyn Rish and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Creighton-Pester, his books, and his art, visit his website.

 National Reading Month Activity

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Wildlife Coloring Pages

 

You can have fun coloring the animals from today’s book while celebrating all three of today’s featured holidays with these printable coloring pages!

Cute Wombat Coloring Page | Parrotfish Coloring Page | Manatee Coloring Page

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You can find The Battle of the Butts at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review