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 accidently 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 then “four red pandas in the sun / agree a party would be fun.” When the “five green ducks out on the lake” hear their “Quack! Quack! Quack!” ring tone, they begin to giggle. They’re in on the party idea and know just who to contact next. “Six yellow snakes receive a call. / The laughing ducks invite them all.”

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

The invitation calls and texts get passed along to more animals at the zoo until a sleepy pig calls the wrong number, and instead of reaching the hippos, he gets the tiger. Another try alerts those hippos and, finally, “ten purple birds.” 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, colors, numbers, names of animals, and an opportunity for some fun addition and subtraction for older children in a 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 one group calls 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 guess, 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.

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

This year World Elephant Day celebrates its 10th anniversary. The holiday was launched to raise awareness of the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants, discover how you can be elephant ethical, and commemorate today’s holiday with virtual events led by elephant specialists, artists, zoos, and other organizations, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

Written by June Smalls | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

The elephant matriarch is the queen of the family group. “She is usually the oldest, but not always. It is her job to guide and teach her subjects to give them the best opportunities for survival.” Her family group consists of blood relatives—daughters and granddaughters—living together. When groups get too big, some elephants break off and form their own group. The matriarch leads the other elephants to food and water, and when water is scarce “she guides them on journeys to watering holes remembered from long ago.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Like a loving grandmother, the matriarch teaches younger elephants how to take care of their little ones. Everyone in the family group helps rear the young. “The clumsy babies are sometimes caught in mud or water and the older elephants will work together to push, pull, or dig to rescue them.”

Sometimes, groups of elephants that once lived together will meet. They remember each other and spend time “foraging for food together. These meetings are like a family reunion.” When danger from another animal lurks, the elephants watch and learn how the matriarch defends them. They also huddle together and surround the smaller elephants for protection. “If nature, or predators, or poachers take her friends, she will comfort and care for the orphans.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones grow and play under the watchful eye of the matriarch and, just like human children, “elephants are not born with all the skills they need.” The matriarch helps teach her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren how to use their trunks for heavy work like moving logs and for delicate finessing, such as having the “ability to gently pluck a leaf from a tree.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

The matriarch also thinks about the future when she won’t be able to lead the group anymore. She passes on her knowledge and skills to the elephants in her lineage, “so that when she is gone another matriarch will lead her family.” When the matriarch does die, the elephants mourn their loss in ways similar to humans. “Elephants have been observed burying their dead with grasses and branches,” and they will return to the spot months later to “touch the bones of their lost family member.” A new matriarch emerges to lead the family group. This is “usually the oldest daughter of the matriarch,” and her call “to her daughters and their daughters” can be heard for miles and miles – sometimes up to 110 square miles – as this new queen begins her reign.

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

June Smalls’ tribute to the matriarchal society of elephants and, through her lyrical storytelling, to strong women in every family and community is both poignant and powerful. The main story reveals the role of the matriarch in leading and teaching her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters over a lifetime, which can span seventy years. Smalls’ stirring text illuminates the similarities between elephants and humans in everyday needs, behavior, memory, familial care, and even in death. In addition to the story, each page spread includes fascinating, and often touching, facts about how a family group forages for enormous amounts of food, finds crucial water supplies, protects each other, rears their young, and sustains each other in the passing of the matriarch. Smalls’ book ends with an inspirational entreaty to young girls to awaken to their future role as leaders.

Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning realistic illustrations of an elephant matriarch leading and teaching her family group in the wild will thrill readers. On each page spread, young readers follow their elephant peer as she (or he, as male elephants stay with the family group until about age thirteen) plucks leaves from a sun-drenched tree, splashes in a watering hole, walks in the shade of two adults on a long, hot journey, is protected from predators, and plays games with sticks and other babies in the group. Shimokawara’s delicate color palette and beautifully composed images depict the intelligence and gentle manner of these animals in lively and tender moments that children will want to view again and again.

An exquisite combination of inspiration and education, She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch will captivate children as a spark for further learning about these majestic animals, the environment, and nature conservation as well as encouragement to bravely take their place in the world with grace, love, and strength. The book is a must for all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702324

Discover more about June Smalls and her books on her website.

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

World Elephant Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for families to do together. Using siblings’ hands or the hands of a child and an adult to make the elephants can make a meaningful and comforting picture to hang in a child’s room or gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers make the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s or adult’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye.
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint or crayon.
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features if desired.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-she-leads-cover

You can buy She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch on the Familius website.

 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review

July 11 – All American Pet Photo Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday probably needs no special promotion since sharing pictures of our singular pets with our friends, coworkers, and family is something all many of us pet owners do every day, whether it’s on social media or just scrolling through pics of our pet’s latest antics on our phone. Our pets are just so cute and funny and clever that it’s hard not to show everyone. To celebrate today, capture your pet doing something extraordinary—or ordinary, it doesn’t really matter—and share them for your family, friends, and the world to see!

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Tails from the Animal Shelter for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Tails from the Animal Shelter

Written by Stephanie Shaw | Illustrated by Liza Woodruff

 

Welcome to the Humane Society Animal Shelter! The animals are waiting to meet you, and the staff are happy to introduce you to the wonderful animals who are available for adoption. While most animals who arrive at shelters across the country are dogs or cats, there are lots of other pets looking for a new home. Why do some animals come to live in a shelter? The book reveals many reasons. Among them are that “some of the animals are strays; some are rescued from natural disasters” and “some have been given up for adoption because their owners can no longer care for them.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-shelter

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Are you ready to find a new friend? If it’s a puppy you’re looking for, you’ll love Tinkle, who’s so excited to see you that he “cannot help but piddle.” But it’s okay. “Happy puppies always dribble….As time passes and pups grow, / This little guy won’t pee ‘hello.’” If you don’t know what type of dog is best for your family, the staff at the shelter can help match you to the perfect one.

Cats also make wonderful pets for many reasons. Whether you like long-haired or short-haired, large or small cats, you’ll find just the right fit for your family at the shelter. Not ready for a long-term commitment? You can look into fostering a newborn kitten to get them ready for adoption. What kinds of kittens will you find? All sorts, like Ariel, who says: “I’m an acrobat cat! / I can climb anywhere! / I’ll roll in a ball and then / leap to a chair!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-skunks

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These dogs and puppies, cats and kittens are only a few of the animals that turn up needing a new home. Take Pooter, for example. Pooter is black and white and, despite the recognizable stripe down its back, does not stink. Skunks that make their way to shelters “have never lived in the wild” and have had surgery so they cannot make their “smelly spray.”

Veterinary advances have improved the lives of injured animals or animals with health problems. Animals with special needs can now be fitted with “rear-support leashes or wheelchairs” and “can live happily for many years.” If you can adopt “an animal with special needs [you] will bring a grateful and loyal pet into your family.” A popular pet that has some surprising talents, a rabbit can also be a top choice for people who live in a smaller home. Trained to use a litter box, rabbits “can live indoors just like cats do.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-special-needs-pets

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If you live on a farm or have a lot of land in an area that allows for farm animals, you may be interested in Hamlet, who tells readers, “I am a sweet potbellied pig. / I started small but I grew BIG….I know some tricks. I’m neat and clean. / I’m many things. I’m just not… / lean.” Around the nation there are many “pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens [that] need new homes. There are over two hundred thousand horses alone rescued or surrendered to shelter care every year.” 

Along with detailed descriptions of the birds, reptiles, and senior animals that also make loving pets, the book is packed with information about how and why certain animals come to shelters and programs that sponsor a variety of animals and help get them ready for adoption. Back matter reveals how animal shelters were established, gives extensive tips on and issues to consider when adopting a shelter animal, lists ways people can help shelter animals even if they can’t adopt, and provides online resources for learning more and finding shelters in your area.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-rabbits

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her fascinating and accessible text, Stephanie Shaw combines poetry with facts and interesting tidbits about each type of animal to discuss why they make excellent pets for the right person or living condition. Her humorous, whimsical verses that accompany each category and introduce a particular animal will charm kids with a snapshot of the animal’s personality. Kids will also enjoy talking about how each name fits the animal.

Liza Woodruff’s cheery illustrations will enchant animal lovers with adorable images of funny, loving, and endearing animals happy to find a forever home. The joy that pets bring to a family is evident as kids hug, play with, and react to their pets.

An excellent introduction to shelter animals and pet ownership, Tails from the Animal Shelter is highly recommended for any family thinking about adopting a pet as well as for young animal lovers and kids interested in veterinary medicine or volunteering to help animals. The book would also make a favorite addition to school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110489

Discover more about Stephanie Shaw and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liza Woodruff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All American Pet Photo Day Activity

CPB - Pig Day pigs

Roly Poly Spool Potbellied Pig and Piglets

 

Get ready to have fun making this cute and easy craft! Ham it up with your own pig and piglets who can keep you company on your desk, near your bed or anywhere it’s fun to play!

Supplies

  • Printable Pigs Ears Template
  • 2 ½-inch wooden spoon, available from craft stores
  • 1-inch wooden spool, available from craft stores
  • Pink yarn, I used a wide-strand yarn
  • Pink fleece or felt
  • Pink craft paint
  • Pink 5/8-inch or 1-inch flat button with two holes
  • Pink 3/8-inch flat button with two holes
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker

CPB - Pig Day with spools (2)

Directions

  1. Print Pigs Ears Template
  2. Trace the ears onto the fleece or felt and cut them out.
  3. Paint the spool with the pink paint
  4. Let spool dry
  5. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, letting the ears stick up over the rim of the spool.
  6. Wrap yarn in straight layers around spool until the body of the pig is a little bigger than the end of the spool, which will be the face
  7. Cut yarn off skein and glue the end to the body
  8. To make the nose, glue the button over the hole in the middle of the spool
  9. Mark the eyes and mouth with a marker
  10. To make the tail for the large pig, cut a 4-inch long piece of yarn. Tie a triple knot in the yarn (or a knot big enough to fill the hole in the spool). Then tie a single knot near the other end of the yarn. Insert the large knot into the spool’s hole at the back of the pig. Trim the yarn in front of the second knot as needed.
  11. To make the tail for the piglets, tie a single knot in the yarn and another single knot below the first. Insert one of the single knots into the hole. Trim yarn as needed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-cover

You can find Tails from the Animal Shelter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 2 – World Porcupine Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-mine-porcupine-cover

About the Holiday

Whether you know today’s holiday – which was established in 2018 – as World Porcupine Day or as National Porcupine Appreciation Day, it’s the perfect day to celebrate and learn more about these distinctive rodents that are native to the forests of North America. Second in size behind the beaver, porcupines sport more than 30,000 quills that serve them well as a defense against predators. While porcupines may not be the cuddliest of creatures, when they’re congregated together, they may just have the cutest name, as a group of porcupines is called a prickle. To commemorate the holiday,  spend a little time getting to know more about porcupine families with today’s sweet book. To view some adorable baby porcupines from around the world, visit ZooBorns.

You Are Mine, Porcupine

Written by Helen Wilbur | Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

 

A mother porcupine is teaching her little pup the ways of their world. Because porcupines move rather slowly, her first lesson is to beware of the dangers, like bears and wolves, that lurk in the forest. She reminds her little one: “So don’t forget those long, sharp spines / Protect all wandering porcupines.” The baby sleeps the day away in a hollow log, coming out at night for “porcu-play.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-mine-porcupine-pup

Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2020, text copyright Helen L. Wilbur, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

After dinner, mama porcupine shows her porcupup how they use their “claws and padded feet” to “climb where porcu-grown-ups sleep.” After a swim, the little pup is lured away from his mother’s side by the promise of sweet clover and dandelions. But after nibbling his fill, porcupette discovers he is lost. Unseen by the pup, “a wolf creeps softly through the night, / His eyes aglow, his teeth shine white.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-mine-porcupine-tree

Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2020, text copyright Helen L. Wilbur, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But he smells the wolf coming close and knows just what to do. He doesn’t back away or flee but instead starts to chatter. The wolf moves closer, his teeth are near, but the porcupup raises his quills. “A growl, a howl––the wolf backs out, / A pack of prickles in his snout!” Hearing the ruckus, Mama hurries over and is proud to see that her little one has sent the wolf running. Now, it’s time to have some fun. They find tasty berries for a snack then curl up in their tree trunk den. As Mama sings “porcu-lullabies” she reassures her porcupette, “‘You’ll grow and grow; you’ll be just fine. / You are mine, porcupine.’”

Back matter reveals interesting facts about porcupines, their quills, teeth, diet, and habits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-mine-porcupine-back-matter

Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2020, text copyright Helen L. Wilbur, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

With charming rhymes, lovely language, and clever endearments, Helen L. Wilbur teaches readers about the life of a porcupine through her sweet mother-and-child story. Sprinkled with suspense, the story will captivate kids as they explore the forest with a porcu-peer and cheer as he outwits an adversary. Wilbur’s heartening tale also shows children how much they are loved by their own family and reassures them that they too will grow up to be brave, smart, resourceful, and just fine.

Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s striking illustrations of a forest at twilight invites readers into the porcupines’ world where they slumber in a hollow log, nibble clover, and climb a tree. Her mottled greens and violets, accented with vibrant foliage, create a peaceful and tender setting for the mama porcupine’s important lessons. The silhouette of the wolf gives way on the next page to obvious danger, but is little porcupine paying attention? Readers need not worry as the porcupette knows just what he’s doing—an instinct clearly shown in the following spread. Along the way, children will enjoy finding other forest creatures behind trees, in tall grasses, and among branches. The final pages, dotted with cheerful flowers and depicting the porcupines’ delightful mother/child relationship, make this an engaging daytime or bedtime book.

Lyrical, comforting, and informative, You Are Mine, Porcupine makes a sweet, multilayered addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110038

Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Fizer Coleman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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

Cute Porcupine Coloring Page

 

This little porcupine is just waiting for you to come and play, so print this coloring page, grab your crayons, and have fun!

Cute Porcupine Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-mine-porcupine-cover

You can find You Are Mine, Porcupine at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound