March 14 – National Learn about Butterflies Day

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About the Holiday

Spring has sprung – or is right around the corner – so today’s holiday reminds us to watch out for the butterflies in your area. With more than 20,000 species of butterflies around the world, these delicate beauties are one of the most recognized and beloved natural wonders on earth. Butterflies are important to our ecosystem, too, but habitat destruction and climate change are decreasing their numbers by alarming amounts. You can help! By planting milkweed and other plants as well as nectar-producing flowers in your yard or community, you can create an area where butterflies can find shelter, food, and a place to lay their eggs. To learn more about saving monarch butterflies, visit Save Our Monarchs.

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Written by Deborah Hopkinson | Illustrated by Meilo So

 

Last spring, the narrator of the story reveals, she was a “little like a caterpillar…quiet and almost invisible.” She had recently moved to the United States and couldn’t read English. The school librarian gave her books with a lot of pictures and her favorite was one about butterflies. Since then she has learned a lot about Monarch butterflies and how they “make a long, long journey” just like her family did. The frame of her story leads into a detailed discussion of the spring monarch migration and the life cycle of caterpillars.

When summer came, the girl thought for sure she would see monarch butterflies. She “wanted to see them flit from flower to flower sipping nectar.” But no matter where she looked—the park, grassy fields, an even the community garden—she couldn’t find any. She began to wonder “if monarch butterflies belonged here.” Sometimes she wondered if her family did either. Turning the page, kids learn how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly and how, once it emerges from its chrysalis, it “pumps fluid into its wings, which expand and take their final shape” and creates the “straw” it drinks nectar with.

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Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

In the fall when school began, the girl rushed to find her favorite book. Now she could read it, and she discovered that butterflies need milkweed to multiply and thrive. She also learned that milkweed is sparse now, due to habitat destruction due to building, chemical use, and climate change. She also learned some shocking facts, such as “in 20 years, the number of monarchs has fallen by 90 percent.”

One day the librarian calls the girl over and tells her that she has ordered new butterfly books and offers them to her first. The librarian also explains that over the summer she created a monarch way station. The girl knows about these special butterfly gardens. She points out the library window at a place within the school yard that would make a perfect monarch way station. “‘It takes just one person to get things started,’” the librarian says. “‘I’m not that kind of person,’” the girl whispers. But the librarian is encouraging. She reminds the girl about the amazing trip monarchs take and says, “‘It’s surprising what such a tiny creature can do.’” Readers next learn about the generations of butterflies that are born during the summer and how the final generation is different from the rest.

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Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

During the winter, the girl remembers the monarchs who lived “high in the fir forests of Mexico, waiting out the cold to make their long journey north.” She thinks about what the librarian said, and wonders if she could “ever be brave enough to speak up, take charge, and be noticed.” But when she presents a research project on butterflies for her class, the kids loved it. At the end she tells the class how important butterflies are and that they need to help them.

She is surprised by how excited the class is to help and that they want to make a butterfly garden as the class project. The teacher turns to her and asks if she has any ideas on what they could do. The girl is prepared. She turns her poster around and shows them her “plan for a monarch way station, the beginning of a timeline, a list of supplies, and how much it might cost.” And so, they started on their garden. Over the next few weeks, the girl says “‘I could feel myself growing and changing, little by little.’”

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Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The class talked to the principal, made a presentation to parents, and invited gardeners and scientists to speak to the class. They also wrote letters to students in other places who were doing similar projects. Then they held an all-school assembly and asked for volunteers. Kids from all classes—even kindergarten—signed up. They even went to a town council meeting and explained how important milkweed was. They asked that it not be sprayed with poison but instead “be planted in every city park.” The mayor even shook the girl’s hand and told her the city needed citizens like her.

Finally, with a fence and garden plots built, it was planting day. When spring class picture time rolls around again, the girl can be found in the front row, right in the center and holding the class sign. The kids met students from another school who have been helping the butterflies for two years and now serve as monarch trackers, placing tags on their legs and following their migration routes. The class’s monarch way station is thriving, and while they don’t have monarchs yet, the girl is already thinking about how the class can become monarch trackers next year. Just like a caterpillar, the girl thinks again, she has grown and emerged “as something new, unexpected, surprising.”

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note about the story, a guide for making a school or home monarch way station, facts about monarchs, and books and internet resources for learning more about monarchs and how you can help.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-migration

Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Deborah Hopkinson’s moving and educational story combines a fictional account of growing up with scientific information on butterflies. The structure is exceptionally effective in showing kids and adults that some children find their voice, discover a talent, or overcome hesitation or shyness when they become involved in a cause or activity they believe in. The school librarian and the teacher both model actions and words that can encourage children to express and extend themselves. The girl’s thoughts allow children to see that fears of speaking up or taking charge are not uncommon while also reassuring them that by taking even small actions one step at a time, their confidence will grow. The cyclical structure of the story enhances the idea that change is gradual—in nature and in people. Hopkinson’s text revolving around butterflies and making a butterfly garden way station will excite kids to do the same at their school, at home, or in their community.

Meilo So’s gorgeous and tender illustrations portray vibrant scenes of flower bedecked balconies, blooming community gardens, and a busy, colorful town. So cleverly depicts the library’s stacks of books in similar floral hues, connecting the nurturing of children and butterflies. The faces of all the children and the adults are thoughtful and enthusiastic. Readers can clearly see the protagonist’s physical growth throughout the seasons as well as her developing self-confidence and will want to watch for ways in which she mirrors a butterfly. The children in the classroom and the school are a diverse mix and demonstrate the enthusiasm and determination of kids who want to make a difference.

So is a master at illustrating butterflies, caterpillars, and other insects, and her realistic images will fascinate readers. Children get to see a caterpillar form a chrysalis, transform into a butterfly inside, and emerge. They also see the seeds inside a milkweed pod as well as the plants themselves, throngs of monarchs during migration, and maps of migration routes. 

Exhilarating, poignant, and inspirational on many levels, Butterflies Belong Here is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452176802

Discover more about Deborah Hopkinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Meilo So and view portfolios of her art, visit her website and heflinreps.

National Learn about Butterflies Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-butterflies-maze

Beautiful Butterflies Maze

 

Can you find the sixteen words associated with butterflies in this printable puzzle?

Beautiful Butterflies Maze Puzzle | Beautiful Butterflies Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-cover

You can find Butterflies Belong Here at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Thanks to Two Lions for sending me a copy of Bird Hugs for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Bird Hugs

By Ged Adamson

 

Bernard had a feature quite unlike other birds, but as a baby, he didn’t know there was anything different about his extremely long wings. He made them work for him: he pretended to be a sleeping bat, wrapping his wings around his body as he hung from a tree. And he chased after his friends, waving his wings spookily. But when his friends learned to fly, Bernard knew something was amiss. “No matter how many times he tried, it was something he couldn’t seem to do himself.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Soon all of his friends had flown away to other places. Longing to do the same, Bernard decided he just needed another approach. He had his friend Lawrence fling him into the air from a palm tree catapult. And for a glorious moment Bernard was flying. And then…he wasn’t. “Embarrassed by his useless wings, he tried to make them smaller.” He rolled them under and tied them up; he made them into a scarf, and he created a fancy headdress by tying them in a bow on the top of his head. But nothing worked.

“Bernard felt utterly sorry for himself.” He chose a branch where his wings could hang to the ground and “made it his home.” There he sat, day and night, all through the seasons feeling sorry for himself as the world went on around him. But one day he heard someone sobbing. Bernard left his branch to find out who was crying. He discovered an orangutan, who wailed, “‘I feel very sad and I’m not sure why!’”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In an instant Bernard had wrapped his long wings around the orangutan in a “BIG HUG.” In a bit the orangutan felt better and thanked Bernard. Bernard was happy too. He began to think that “maybe his wings were good for something after all.” And he was right. In the morning a long line of animals was waiting for him—all looking for a hug. Bernard was busy all day…and the next day…and the next. Besides wanting hugs, “the animals told Bernard their problems.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

All this hugging made Bernard happier too. His wings even felt stronger. He began to think maybe they were strong enough to fly. Bernard leaped from a cliff top and for a moment he was flying. And then…he wasn’t. But Bernard was philosophical: there was more to life than flying, he decided. And all the new friends he’d helped knew how they could help him. Taking him by the wings, they showed him that with a little support, anyone can soar.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Trailing wings as long as a knitted winter scarf, little Bernard is an unforgettable cutie who only wants to be like all the other birds and fly. But is that his only talent? His only option? During Bernard’s year-long funk, it seems he finds the answers to these questions as his quick response to the orangutan’s sobs reveals, Bernard discovers that far from useless, his wings give him a gift more precious than flying––the opportunity to help his fellow animals. It’s a talent that brings him love in return. Readers can take comfort in and a lesson from Bernard’s hard-won but keen sense of empathy by embracing and using whatever makes them unique.

As in his other books, Adamson’s profound message is wrapped in images that combine kid-pleasing silliness, a bit of slapstick humor, and a diverse array of emotive characters. As Bernard mopes on his branch feeling lonely and sorry for himself, kids will notice that he’s not as alone as he might think. An anteater keeps him company on a rainy day, wide-awake nocturnal animals watch over him at night, and even the bees make room for him in their flight pattern. Bernard’s realization that life is filled with more than one might expect is welcome and heartening, and Adamson’s finale is wonderfully surprising and pitch perfect.

Bird Hugs is highly recommended for all kids and has multiple applications for story times at home, in classrooms, and for public libraries. The book would quickly become a favorite on any bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542092715

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

World Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1 |  Sheet 2 | Sheet 3

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-cover

You can find Bird Hugs at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

 

August 13 – Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

It’s all up to you to make his month-long holiday happen. It offers an opportunity for each person to ask: What makes me happy? During these last weeks of summer, be sure to include those things that truly bring you and your children joy. While many of the usual activities may not be available, finding new ways to use your talents or to help others can bring a new kind of happiness, as you’ll see in today’s book.

Dewdrop

by Katie O’Neill

Little Dewdrop, an adorable axototl, runs to join the line to sign up for the Sports Fair. He asks his friends if they’re going to go too. Mia, a turtle, says she’s entering the “pebble-throwing contest,” Newman the Newt tells Dewdrop that he’s going to be writing “a song to cheer everyone on, and three minnows are using their cooking talents to make the food. Dewdrop says he’s working on a cheerleading routine, but he wants to help everyone else too.

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Copyright Katie O’Neill, 2020, courtesy of Oni Press.

When Mia wears herself out training, Dewdrop brings her healthy snacks. Then he joins in on the recorder while Newman composes his song, but he falls asleep before they finish. Next, Dewdrop is happy to supply ingredients for the minnows’ concoction. Everyone is busy building the tents and stands for the fair, while the participants train. Mia sweats it out lifting rocks, but then she sees Bear lifting a heavy barbell with one arm. She feels dejected and wonders if there’s even a point in competing.

Writing a song seemed easy to Newton, but now none of his tunes are coming out just right. The ground around him is littered with balled-up paper. The minnows are worried that the food they’re making is too boring and think maybe a new recipe would be better. Dewdrop, on the other hand, is leaping and dancing and shaking his pompoms. “WOW! I am so good at cheerleading!” he says to himself.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dewdrop-pebble-throwing

Copyright Katie O’Neill, 2020, courtesy of Oni Press.

The next day Dewdrop goes off to see if his friends need any help. He finds Mia struggling to lift a barbell as big as Bear’s. She manages to raise it over her head as Dewdrop applauds. Then he asks her to lift him the way she used to when they were younger. She does it easily, and Dewdrop is impressed by how much stronger she’s gotten. As Dewdrop runs off to find another friend, Mia realizes that Dewdrop is right and that she doesn’t need to compete against anyone but herself and should just “try to do better than [she] did yesterday.”

Dewdrop finds Newton down in the dumps. He still hasn’t written a song he likes. Dewdrop encourages him to relax and listen quietly to his inner voice. When he does, a beautiful tune bursts out. Next, Dewdrop follows his nose to where the minnows are trying yet another recipe, worried that no one will like what they make. Dewdrop has a solution to that. “I will bravely volunteer to lay my life on the line…and taste test for you,” he says. He dips his spoon into what one minnow calls “a boring old stew” and declares it…”probably the best thing I have ever tasted!” Cheered by this news, the minnows realize they can’t please everyone and go to work creating dishes that would make them happy.

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Copyright Katie O’Neill, 2020, courtesy of Oni Press.

At last the day of the sports fair comes. The stage and playing fields are ready; the stands are packed, and the food court is open. Newton steps up to sing his song that he says expresses his feelings about the sports fair. The audience smiles and claps along. First up, it’s time for Mia to show her stuff at the pebble pitch. When she steps up to the line, Dewdrop performs his special cheerleading routine just for her. She throws…. The rock sails over the-much-bigger Bear, Tortoise, and Lobster’s heads. At the end of the competition, the judge presents her with a medal for “New Personal Best.”

At lunchtime everyone rushed to get in line at the minnows’ booth. When Dewdrop finally gets to the front, one minnow tells him that they made something special for him and that Mia and Newman are waiting for him to join their picnic. Dewdrop finds them in a field, and they present him with a basket to thank him for everything he’d done to remind them about “what’s important.” Dewdrop lifted the cover and discovered… a Worm Pie! Which made this “the best day ever.”

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Copyright Katie O’Neill, 2020, courtesy of Oni Press.

Everyone needs a little encouragement now and then and Katie O’Neill’s endearing axototl, Dewdrop, is just the one to deliver it. A natural cheerleader, he helps his friends and readers learn a simple, but most-important lesson about growing up and growing into your individual talents. As Dewdrop enthusiastically gives his friends a hand when they worry, strain, and struggle to become the very best at the fair, kids will see that comparing oneself to others and trying to please everyone is a losing proposition and actually stifles ones creativity and ability. When Mia, Newton, and the minnows succeed at the fair by being themselves, kids will understand that it’s only when they are true to themselves that they are really winners. O’Neill adds humorous touches throughout the story that will charm kids and fleshes out the characters’ personalities. Comics’ and graphic-novel-loving kids will be drawn to O’Neill’s candy-colored illustrations that prompt them to examine and empathize with the actions and emotions of excitement, disappointment, pride, and friendship depicted.

Fun and confidence-boosting, Dewdrop would make a thought-provoking addition to home, school, and public library collections. 

Ages 6 – 9

Oni Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1620106891

Discover more about Katie O’Neill and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dewdrop-cover

You can find Dewdrop at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 14 – National Children’s Day

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About the Holiday

On National Children’s Day, parents, grandparents, and other family members and caregivers are encouraged to spend the day with their children, celebrating each child’s unique qualities, listening to them, and recommitting the family to core values of love and acceptance. To celebrate today, talk to your children about their dreams and how the family as a whole can help them achieve their goals. Then have some fun with an activity that’s meaningful to all. 

Happy Dreamer

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

A child floats on a golden, sparkling swirl of their own creation. “I am a happy dreamer,” they say. “I’m really good at dreaming. Daydreams, big dreams, little dreams, creative dreams.” In fact, this child is a “dreamer maximus!” There are times when they’re told to ignore that voice inside…to “sit still” and pay attention. But the music inside is persistent and persuasive, inviting the child to move, to play along and let it out.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Sometimes dreams require quiet. Then the child says, “I make time to stay still and hear myself think—to let go and see what takes shape.” Can you see it too? There are dreams so big, the child reveals, that sometimes “I’m a shout-at-the-top-of-my-lungs dreamer (even if I’m just a loud-inside-my-head dreamer!)”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-musical-beat

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

There are times when dreams come in colors that paint a surprising path, and sometimes there are so many dreams firing at once that they cause “creative chaos.” When you ask make me clean up, the child says, I will, but “cleaning up hides my treasures” and “there is less of ME to show.” When that happens, the child explains, “…I feel alone. BOXED IN.” But there is always an escape, a way to recover the “happy dreams.”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

You know what? the child says, “I’m really good at being me. A dreamer—surprising, caring, funny, gentle, smart.” Falling or failing don’t hurt because dreamers always bounce back and keep going. Do you know what kind of dreamer you are? There are so many kinds! What makes you happy? Exploring, working hard, being with family or friends, being alone? Maybe laughing, acting, being wild, being strong. Are you civic-minded, peaceful, thoughtful?

What’s “the best way to be a happy dreamer? Just be YOU.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-all-kinds-of-dreamers

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Peter H. Reynolds is always inspirational, finding just the right words to include all readers while speaking directly and intimately to each reader individually. In Happy Dreamer, Reynolds taps into the ways ideas and talents come knocking, whispering, or shouting to be heard and set free. His lyrical language is engaging for even the youngest readers and meaningful for adults as well—on both a personal level and for those who are parents, caregivers, or teachers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-bouncing-back

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

From the first image in which the child floats on the glowing swirl of dreams, readers will follow the child as they play music, discover shapes in the clouds, swing to lofty heights, shout to the world, paint a rainbow path, create fireworks and treasures, and break free from the restraints of the world that sometimes tamp down dreams. A double gate-fold filled with dreamers will delight readers as they search for just the type of dreamer they are. Written in the first-person and with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, Happy Dreamer is a universal story.

Empowering, encouraging, and accepting, Happy Dreamer is a superb choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545865012

Discover more about Peter Reynolds, his books, and his art on his website.

National Children’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-briefcase-craft

Imagine you are applying for your dream job. What would it be? Why are you the right candidate? Have fun with this portfolio or briefcase craft and printable Dream Job Application and start on the road to your happy future!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-cover

You can find Happy Dreamer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 18 – International Museum Day

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About the Holiday

On today’s date, museums around the world typically hold special exhibits, events, and activities with visitors in their buildings and other venues. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic means that the 40th anniversary of International Museum Day will be celebrated online through digital activities. The theme for this year’s remembrance is “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion.” The International Council of Museums––a global network of more than 44,000 museum professionals at 20,000 museums in 138 countries––”hopes that this special day will ‘become a rallying point to both celebrate the diversity of perspectives that make up the communities and personnel of museums and champion tools for identifying and overcoming bias in what they display and the stories they tell.'” To take part, visit the website of your local museums or a favorite museum elsewhere in the world and see what treasures they have to share.

Rocks in His Head

Written by Carol Otis Hurst | Illustrated by James Stevenson

 

Carol Otis Hurst tells the story of her father, who—even when he was a boy—loved everything to do with rocks. He collected them and in his spare time walked “along stone walls and around old quarries, looking for rocks.” Everyone said “he had rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head,” and he had to agree. When he thought about what he wanted to do when he grew up, he imagined it would have something to do with rocks, and when he was told “‘There’s no money in rocks,’” he was okay with that. In the end, though, he opened a gas station in Springfield, Massachusetts with his father’s help. He called it the Antler Filling Station.

In the back of the filling station, Carol’s father displayed his rock and mineral collection. “He carefully labeled each rock to show what kind it was and where it had come from.” When the Model T automobile came out, more people could afford to buy a car. Carol’s father learned every inch of the Model T by taking it apart and reassembling it many times. He thought that someone who could repair the car and sell spare parts would have a good business, so he began collecting parts for the Model T—so many that “the pile of parts was bigger than the filling station.”

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Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Most people in town said he “had rocks in his head” if he thought he would sell all those parts, but pretty soon drivers were flocking to the Antler Filling Station for gas and fixes to their cars. They also came inside to see the rocks, ask questions, and hear the stories of each rock and gemstone. Then the stock market crashed and people didn’t have the money for gas or to fix their cars. Things slowed down at the Antler, and when things were really slow, Carol, her father, and her friends would pile into their Model T and go searching for more rocks.

But while the collection at the filling station grew, people stopped coming because they were all out looking for jobs. Soon the Antler Filling Station closed and the family had to move to a new house. The house was falling apart, but Carol’s father began repairing it—after building shelves in the attic for his rock collection. When he wasn’t repairing the house, he was studying more about rocks. Along the way, he looked for work, taking any job he could even if they only lasted a day or two.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-antler-filling-station

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

On days when he had no work, Carol’s father went to the Springfield Science Museum, where “they had a whole room full of glass cases containing many rocks. Sometimes he’d spend the whole day in that room.” One day, he met a woman who asked him what he was looking for. He answered “‘I’m looking for rocks that are better than mine.’” Out of the hundreds of rocks in that room, he told her, he’d only found ten, “‘maybe eleven,’” that were better. They smiled at each other.

Then the lady introduced herself as Grace Johnson, the director of the museum. “‘These rocks have come from all over the world,’” she told him, and he said that his had too. She wanted to see his collection, and so they drove out in her big car. Carol’s father showed her up to the attic. After looking around, she told him that while the board of directors wouldn’t allow her to hire him as a mineralogist because he lacked a college degree, she did need a night janitor. When he heard that the job sometimes included cleaning rocks, he took it.

One day, Mrs. Johnson discovered him correcting a label on one of the rocks. She smiled and told him that she had told the board of directors that she needed “‘somebody with rocks in his head and rocks in his pockets.’” Then she asked, “‘Are you it?’ Maybe I am,’” Carol’s father answered. “‘Maybe I am.’” And he was!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-antler-filling-station-shelves

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Carol Otis Hurst’s lovely and affectionate memoir of her father offers young readers a snapshot of history while introducing them to a man who stayed true to himself and his life-long love of rocks despite obstacles and good-natured jibes by those around him. Hurst’s easy-going, conversational storytelling represents her father well, allowing children to get a feel for his personality and steady outlook on life. His acceptance as a mineralogist (and ultimate position as director of the Springfield Science Museum as told in the author’s bio on the jacket flap) will satisfy readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-rock-samples

James Stevenson’s familiar watercolor-and-ink illustrations are infused with charm, taking children beside an old stone wall that meanders through the woods, back to old-style filling stations and Model-T cars, and into the heart of a true collector. Images of the author’s father attentively setting up his collection in the filling station and later in the attic will resonate with any young collectors reading the book, and the full-page illustration of Grace Johnson and the author’s father talking and smiling together is happy validation that kindred spirits do cross paths in life.

For children who love collecting, history, museums, and biographies, Rocks in His Head is a delightful choice for home libraries and would make am appealing lead in to science lessons or museum field trips for elementary classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0060294038

International Museum Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Museum Exhibit

 

Every item has a story. A fun and educational way for kids to learn family stories and interact with their own history is to create a museum exhibit of objects in your home. Maybe there’s a funny anecdote behind a knick-knack on the shelf. Perhaps the family’s favorite serving dish holds sentimental value. How about your child’s best-loved toys or  drawings or crafts they’ve made? This can be a fun way to spend some time while staying at home and let everyone see common objects in a whole new light.

Supplies

  • A number of household 
  • Paper or index cards
  • Marker, pen, or pencil
  • A table, shelf, or other area for display

Directions

  1. To get started help children gather a number of items from around the house to be the subjects of their exhibit. An exhibit can have a theme, such as Travel Souvenirs, or it can contain random items of your child’s choice, like toys, plants, tools, or artwork.
  2. Using the paper or cards, children can create labels for their exhibit items. Older children can write the labels themselves; younger children may need adult help.
  3. Spend a little time relating the story behind each object: where it came from, how long you’ve had it, and when and how it was used in the past. Include any funny or touching memories attached to the item. Or let your child’s imagination run free, and let them create histories for the objects.
  4. When the labels are finished, arrange the items on a table, shelf, or in a room, and let your child lead family members on a tour. You can even share the exhibit with family and friends on FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or other app.

Museum Coloring Pages

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Museum Coloring Pages

 

You may not be able to visit a museum in person right now, but you can enjoy three of the most amazing museums in the world with these coloring pages. 

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art | London’s British Museum | The Louvre in Paris

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You can find Rocks in His Head at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 23 – National Frog Month

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About the Holiday

As the weather gets warmer, rain falls, and swampy areas and wetlands swell with water, the peeps and throaty croaks of frogs begins to fill the nighttime air. April is the perfect time to learn more about frogs and their importance to the ecosystem. Frogs are vital to the food system, and they eat insects that are harmful to crops and carry disease. Because they don’t drink water but absorb it through their skin, frogs are particularly susceptible to pollution. This, in addition to habitat destruction, climate change, and an increase in invasive species, threaten the frog population, making the conservation of their environment of utmost importance. This month, visit an aquarium, nature preserve, or zoo where you can learn more about these fascinating creatures.

By Jakki Licare

Pokko and the Drum

By Matthew Forsythe

Pokko’s parents believe that giving Pokko a drum was the biggest mistake they have ever made. There had been other questionable gifts: Once, Pokko had tried to launch herself with the slingshot they had given her. The llama had been another poor choice since it liked to sit on Pokko’s parents. When Pokko’s parents had given her a balloon, it had carried Pokko away. “But the drum was the biggest mistake.” 

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

Pokko’s father tries to complain to his wife about giving Pokko the drum, but she shouts back that she can’t hear him over the noise. In bed that night, Pokko continues to beat her drum. Her father continues to complain, but still no one can hear him. The next day, Pokko’s father suggests that Pokko take the drum outside. She can’t be too loud though, he explains, because they are a quiet family who likes to keep to themselves. Pokko agrees and takes the drum outside.

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

“It had just rained, and the forest was sparkling like an emerald.” Pokko thinks the forest is a little too quiet. She narrows her eyes and decides it is definitely too quiet. She starts to gently hit her drum. Behind her something moves. A raccoon playing a banjo emerges from the forest and joins Pokko. Pokko plays her drum proudly. Then a rabbit playing a trumpet tags along while Pokko continues to tap her drum. Next, a wolf appears and happily joins the parade. Pokko leads the group, continuing to beat her drum.

Suddenly, the wolf eats the rabbit and they all stop. Pokko turns to the wolf and tells him he can’t be in the band if he eats band members. The wolf apologizes. They continue on and play their instruments. A huge crowd gathers with instruments and joins them. More animals emerge from the forest. “And they were all following Pokko.”

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

Pokko’s father shouts to her that dinner is ready, but Pokko doesn’t respond. Far away her father can hear music playing. He stands in the kitchen and can hear the music getting louder… and louder. The animal crowd spills into the house, sweeps up Pokko’s parents, and carries them off into the forest. Her father notices that Pokko is leading all the animals and listens thoughtfully. He admits to Pokko’s mother that Pokko is a great drummer. The music is too loud and no one can hear him speaking, but if they had…. “they all would have agreed.”

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

“The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum.” This beautiful beginning sentence sets the readers up for the witty adventures of Pokko. This book has the perfect combination of spirited characters, playful text, and illustrative humor. Pokko is a strong froglet who isn’t afraid of her individuality like her frog family is. She is warned not to attract attention to herself, but she can’t stand how quiet the forest is. She makes her beautiful music unashamed of the attention, and the forest animals can’t help but to follow her. 

Forsythe’s visual humor delivers  punchline after punchline, making young readers giggle throughout this book. He illustrates a balloon carrying Pokko away, the parent’s legs sticking out from under the llama’s body, and Pokko launching herself with a slingshot. But through all this humor there is a sweet message of female empowerment. Pokko is the leader of the band and she bravely admonishes the wolf for eating the rabbit. Forsythe also paints the father making dinner and wearing an apron through the whole story.  

Forsythe’s glowing watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations make for a magical world of cozy toadstool homes in the colorful forest. Forsythe uses close ups of his characters to show emotions and to add humor. The first close up  is when Pokko decides the forest is too quiet. Her narrow-eyed determination builds the reader’s anticipation for her to start drumming. The second zoom-in comes when Pokko’s father hears the music getting louder and closer. The father is wide-eyed and, once again, the reader cannot wait to see what will happen next. 

A fun read aloud that could be accompanied by a variety of instruments and/or hand clapping, Pokko and the Drum is a multi-award-winning book that will quickly become a favorite for home, school, and public library collections. 

Ages  4 – 8 years

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2019 | ISBN: 978-1481480390

To learn more about Matthew Forsythe, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Frog Month Activity

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Hopping Frog

Ready to hop to the beat of your own drum? Follow the instructions below to make your own hopping frog.

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or paint

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Directions

  1. Fold plate in half

  2. Fold the bottom of the plate (folded side) 2 inches up.

  3. Now fold the same part back down a one inch. This creates a zig zag fold and will make the spring for the frog to hop.

  4. Copy the shape in this picture onto your plate. You can make your frog bigger or smaller just be sure the triangles are the same height.

  5. Cut out your frog

  6. Fold triangles down to make front legs

  7. Color your plate green and add color in eyes

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You can find Pokko and the Drum at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review