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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hopping-frog-craft

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

August 29 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby this month!

Back Roads, Country Toads

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

Best toady friends, Hank and Buckaroo, were just hanging out in “their favorite drainpipe near Cooper’s General Store” sipping the last drops from a discarded bottle of strawberry soda when they overheard Mr. Cooper and his friends talking about going fly-fishing. Hank and Buckaroo thought FLY-fishing sounded awesome and wanted to go along. They spied the perfect place to catch a ride: the fishermen’s open lunch basket. With a KERPLOP! they jumped in.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soon they were on their way to what Buckaroo said would be “‘the greatest day of their lives.’” “‘Toadally,’” agreed Hank. While they rode to the fishing stream, Hank and Buckaroo sang “When You Fish Upon a Star,” and as soon as the truck stopped they jumped out and hid in a nearby bush. But Emmitt the raccoon was already there. Hank and Buckaroo were reveling in the glory that was going to be that day’s “‘fly cafeteria’” and “‘down-home big-time fly barbecue’” when Emmitt gave them the bad news. Hank didn’t believe it. He thought “‘fishing WITH flies’” instead of “‘fishing FOR flies’” sounded ridiculous.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And just then a nice juicy fly sailed by. Hank leaped and released his long tongue, but Emmitt pulled him back just before he grabbed onto the fake fly. The three watched as the fishermen caught fish after fish with the imitation flies. Hank and Buckaroo couldn’t imagine what Mr. Cooper and the rest of the fishermen would want with “‘those smelly fish.’” Emmitt disagreed—he loved smelly fish. To prove his point, he ran up and snatched one from the fishermen’s bucket.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seeing the fish, Hank had a brainstorm and asked to “‘borrow’” Emmitt’s fish. He placed it on a rock in the sun and went back to their hiding place in the bushes. Emmitt and Buckaroo were confused. But “before long, a swarm of flies hovered over the fish.” When there was a large cloud of flies, “Hank croaked, ‘Let’s go fishing!’” Their tongues snapped in the air, reeling in dozens of flies. When they were filled to the brim, they gave the fish back to Emmitt and happily made plans to go fly-fishing again the next Saturday.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s clever, pun-filled fish story has everything needed to hook young readers and deliver a funny story time. With the lure of all the flies they can eat, Hank and Buckaroo take action to have the best day of their lives and discover a new hobby. When they meet up with Emmitt the raccoon and learn that their initial idea was a bit off the mark, Hank shows persistence and innovative thinking to make their fishing dreams come true. Demonstrating acceptance of each other’s different tastes and some creative cooperation, the camaraderie among Hank, Buckaroo, and Emmitt serves as a good example for readers. The close bond between Hank and Buckaroo—and their hilarious dialog—will endear them to kids, leaving them wanting more from this “toadally” charming duo.

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Tim Bowers’ energetic toads, with their wide smiles, eager eyes, and spirited personalities are obvious best friends from the first page. Bowers’ vibrant, action-packed illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny as Buckaroo and Hank grow giddy at the thought of all those flies they’re going to catch, flick their loooong tongues, and hobble down the road with overstuffed bellies. Emmitt may chuckle at the toads’ misinterpretation of “fly-fishing,” but he’s a true and trusting friend to rescue Hank from a fisherman’s line and lend his filched treat to attract their lunch. In the background, images of the two fishermen and their young protégés casting their lines and reeling in bucket-loads of fish add depth, interest, and visual clues for readers.

A comical, well-developed tale that will captivate kids, Back Roads, Country Toads is a winner for group story times or one-on-one fun at home, in the classroom, or for public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-153411039

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, music, and journalism on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game

Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color their set of playing cards (optional)
  4. Three spaces are left blank for kids to design their own lures, bait, and flies too (optional)
  5. Cut the cards apart
  6. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  7. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  8. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  9. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  10. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  11. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

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You can find Back Roads, Country Toads at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 13 – National Frog Jumping Day

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About the Holiday

Once upon a time there was a writer named Samuel Clemens who published his first short story titled Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog. He later published the story under the title The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which even later became The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The title of this story wasn’t the only name change in Clemen’s life. He is best known as Mark Twain, one of the best known and most read American authors. The story of this fabled jumping frog and the California Calaveras County’s actual annual Frog Jumping Contest, begun in 1849, are the origins of today’s holiday. The present day frog-jumping record was set by Rosie the Ribeter, who in 1986 jumped 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches.

There’s Nothing to Do!

Written by Dev Petty | Illustrated by Mike Boldt

 

So… Frog has accepted that he’s a frog, and he knows it’s okay to get bigger, but now he can’t think of anything worth doing. His dad finds it hard to believe there’s nothing to do. He suggests swimming, but Frog says it’s “too wet”; playing, but none of the toys surrounding Frog inspire him, and even joining Pig in doing crafts, but Frog is so bored he has to rest up against Pig’s popsicle-stick Eiffel Tower.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

What’s left? Cleaning his room. This choice gets Frog hopping to see if his “friends have any better ideas.” Rabbit’s idea of a good time alternates between jumping and staring. Cat shows Frog how to lick between his toes, and Owl advises napping all day. Perhaps  Pig can come up with the perfect activity after all. Pig is happy to unfurl his “Fantastic List,” and he and Frog take a look.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Frog’s not too keen on most of the to-dos and lies flat on his back in disgruntlement. Just then another frog comes by wondering what’s the matter. Frog complains that the whole day is almost over and he hasn’t done anything. Well, the frog says, when there’s nothing to do, do nothing. “Sometimes the best ideas come when you stop looking for them.” Then this amphibious guru shows Frog how to sit still, empty his mind, and wait.

Suddenly, the world glows with beauty and promise. Frog has never seen life in just this way. Later, when Dad asks Frog what he did all day, Frog is enthusiastic about the Nothing he did. In fact, he wants to do it all over again tomorrow. So what if there’s school the next day—Frog has a long To-Do List of his own now. What’s on it? Nothing!

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Dev Petty’s Frog is any child’s sure (web)-footed guide to the big issues of growing up. This time he’s looking for help in overcoming his boredom, but he learns that what’s good for the goose (or the Pig, Rabbit, Cat, and Owl) isn’t necessarily good for the gander. When he discovers that inner voice that leads him to his own kind of fun, Frog finds that his lily pad is loaded with possibilities. As in I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and I Don’t Want to Be Big, Frog’s impish questions and opinions will have kids giggling and hoppy to come to the same realizations about life as Frog does.

Mike Boldt’s Frog is sly and endearing as he jumps from friend to friend and activity to activity in search of the perfect day. Kids will love laughing at Rabbit’s goofy stare, ewwing along with Frog at Cat’s bathing ritual, and cheer Pig’s enthusiasm and do-anything attitude. Frog’s glowing revelation lets readers discover their own vistas, and Dad’s proud and satisfied look at the end shows kids that dreaming up their own fun leads to a day well-spent.

There’s Nothing to Do! is a terrific addition to the series, and it’s witty banter will make it an often-asked-for read on any child’s bookshelf. A ribeting choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399558030

Discover more about Dev Petty and her books and find fun activities on her website

To learn more about Mike Boldt, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Got nothing to do? Hop on over and watch this There’s Nothing to Do! book trailer!

National Frog Jumping Day Activity

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Frog Dot-to-Dot Activity Sheet

 

Can you hop from number to number and help the frog appear in this printable Frog Dot-to-Dot Activity Sheet? Then give him a lily pad or other place to live and color it all in!

Picture Book Review

April 24 – It’s 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.

I Don’t Want to be a Frog

Written by Dev Petty | Illustrated by Mike Boldt

 

“I want to be a cat,” a little frog announces to his father. “You can’t be a cat,” his dad answers, which elicits the inevitable “Why not?” from his son. His dad isn’t quite ready for this conversation and gives him the standard “because you’re a frog” response. Well, it turns out the little frog would rather be almost anything other than what he is. As he rattles off a list of alternatives that he considers much better, his dad warms to the game and counters each of his son’s suggestions with the realities of life (at least their life).

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2015, text copyright Dev Petty, 2015. Courtesy of Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

When little frog opines that he’d like to be a rabbit, his dad points out that he doesn’t have long ears. Being a pig seems like an attractive option, but Dad reminds him that he doesn’t have a curly tail or eat garbage. While both son and father believe being an owl would be “the greatest thing ever,” three things are standing in the way: Frogs don’t have wings, they don’t look wise, and they can’t spin their heads around.

So what’s so bad about being a frog? It’s “too wet,” “too slimy,” and there’s “too much bug eating,” little frog complains. Just then a wolf sneaks up and wants to know why the little guy is so glum. Without turning around to see who’s asking, the frog reveals his plight.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2015, text copyright Dev Petty, 2015. Courtesy of Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

With glee the wolf lets the frog in on a little secret, explaining that he revels in eating cats, rabbits, pigs, and owls. In fact, just talking about it makes him hungry.  “Guess the one thing I never eat,” the wolf urges. “Badgers?” guesses the little frog. But no, the answer is “frogs.” And why? Because they are “too wet and slimy and full of bugs.”

Wiser for this fresh perspective, the young frog sends the wolf off with a hearty, “I guess you can’t fight nature. We are what we are. You are a fierce hunter.” As the wolf walks away all’s well that ends well—except not so much for the creature who next happens upon the scene!

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2015, text copyright Dev Petty, 2015. Courtesy of Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

Dev Petty’s sassy-in-a-good-way young frog’s identity crisis is pure fun! The notion of self-acceptance and that each person is built, has talents, and embodies skills just right for who they are is playfully presented by Petty’s sweet father-and-son team. The humorous, escalating dialogue will keep kids laughing, and the surprise ending is a perfect twist. Petty’s endearing amphibian has spawned two sequals—I Don’t Want to Be Big and There’s Nothing to Do. A third, I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep, is due this fall.

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Mike Boldt’s olive green frogs are a delight as they trade off assurance and skepticism in their life-lesson conversation. Dad, initially mystified by his son’s pronouncements, discusses the issue with patience and genuine curiosity, his eyes registering cunning and understanding behind oversized glasses. His son, wide-eyed and vocal, displays the honesty of children with his questions. Boldt’s illustrations of the rabbit, pig, and owl that so captivate the young frog, juxtaposed with the father’s objections, are comical joy, as are the frogs’ looong legs and expressive faces. The final scenes with the enlightening wolf, whose head spans two pages, offer more laughs as the father and son resolve their differences.

Kids will love hearing I Don’t Want to be a Frog again and again, making it sure bet for home and classroom bookshelves. And now, even the littlest tadpoles can enjoy the story with the new board book edition.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2018 (Board Book) | ISBN 978-0525579502 | 2017 (Paperback) 978-1338225259 | 2015 (Hardcover) 978-0385378666  

Discover more about Dev Petty and her books on her website

To learn more about Mike Boldt, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You do want to watch the I Don’t Want to be a Frog book trailer!

National Frog Month Activity

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Hop Along Matching Game

 

Hop along now and help these frogs! Each of these fantastic frogs has a twin, but they’ve gotten separated. Can you spot the identical pairs? Print out the Hop Along Matching Game and draw a line between the pairs.

picture book review