May 12 – It’s Gifts from the Garden Month

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About the Holiday

If you’re into gardening then you know what a joy it is to harvest your vegetables and fruit or cut a beautiful bouquet of flowers. But gardens provide so many more gifts than these. Digging the dirt, planting the seeds, and even keeping the weeds at bay can be a mindful, relaxing experience as well as good exercise. Watching plants sprout and grow gives an appreciation for the wonder of nature. And a garden beautifies the view whether it’s a large plot or a window box. So, celebrate this month by enjoying all the gifts of your garden.

I received a copy of Badger’s Perfect Garden from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Badger’s Perfect Garden

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

 

On a spring morning, Red Squirrel watched as Badger brought out all of his jars of the seeds he had collected and kept safe all winter. He was planning on planting a perfect garden. Red Squirrel noticed that all the seeds looked different. Badger explained that they were “‘all kinds. Green and brown. Flat and round, Bumpy and smooth. Whirly-curly and straight as my whiskers.’”

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Red Squirrel wanted to help plant them. As Badger carefully studied his garden plan, Weasel showed up with his rake and Dormouse gathered string. Everyone helped Badger weed and rake his garden plot until it was smooth. Then they set up stakes on each side and ran string between them to make perfect rows. After that Weasel poked holes in the dirt for the seeds. Badger directed where each seed should go so that each type stayed together. That evening the friends had a party with muffins and mulberry juice, and Badger “imagined the plants that would grow in perfect rows in his perfect garden.”

The next morning, just in time, it began to rain. But the next day the rain turned heavy, and the day after that it became a deluge. Badger ran out into the storm to try to save his garden, but the strings collapsed and the soil washed away. Badger sniffled as he thought of his ruined garden. His friends tried to cheer him up by telling him they’d help gather new seeds in the summer, but Badger despaired of not having his perfect garden this year.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To ward off the sadness, Badger kept busy reading, cleaning, exercising, and sleeping. One summer day, he heard a knock on his door. It was Red Squirrel, Weasel, and Dormouse. They grabbed Badger’s hand and pulled him outside to a glorious field of wildflowers. Badger gazed at it in wonder. “‘Those can’t be my seeds,’ said Badger, rubbing his eyes. They’re all mixed up.’” But they were! The wild garden  was a “jumble-tumble of shapes and sizes. They made him feel jumbly and tumbly, too.” Badger thought it was “the most perfect garden of all,” and the friends raced into it for a perfect summer celebration.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Marsha Diane Arnold fills Badger’s Perfect Garden with sprightly, lyrical language that makes the story a delight to read. Little gardeners will relish the descriptions of Badger’s seeds and enjoy the precision of planting day. As the rains come, kids will empathize with Badger’s disappointment, knowing how it feels when plans don’t work out quite right. But the riotous results will spark their own happy, “jumbly-tumbly” excitement for Badger, his friends, and even their own endeavors. in the beauty of the wild, carefree, mixed-up garden can see the joy that can be found in new experiences outside one’s comfort zone.

Ramona Kaulitzki’s charming illustrations are a perfect mix of the whimsical and the realistic and will captivate readers. With soft colors and flowing textures, Kaulitzki depicts early spring with its light green grasses and mellow, cloud-filled skies. When stormy days come, the sky turns purple and rain whips through Badger’s garden, leaving things topsy-turvy and Badger’s plans uprooted. Late summer brings a series of show-stopping two-page spreads, where flowers of all kinds and colors mix with vegetable plants to attract bees and butterflies and, of course, provide the perfect spot for a summer party.

Beautiful through and through, Badger’s Perfect Garden plants the seeds of gentle encouragement, heartening friendship, and cheerful celebration. The book would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110007

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ramona Kaulitzki, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Q & A with Marsha Diane Arnold

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Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “whimsical,” “inspiring,” and “uplifting.” Marsha was raised on a Kansas farm, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, a place Luther Burbank called “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned,” and now lives with her husband, near her family, in Alva, Florida. Nothing makes her happier than standing in her backyard in the midst of dragonflies, listening to cardinals sing.

I’m so glad to be chatting with you, Marsha, about her newest book, Badger’s Perfect Garden! This story seems to have a close personal connection for you. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to write this book?

Having a father who was a farmer and gardener and a mother who was a perfectionist, must have had something to do with it! I grew up surrounded by nature, animals, and gardens. Growing up with so many animals around me, I talked with them all the time and I felt they talked back, so anthropomorphism comes easily to me. Illustrations of animal characters are so often enchanting, drawing young children into a book. They can create a strong emotional connection for children to learn from and remember.

Can you tell me more about what it was like growing up on a farm? What kind of farming did your family do?

My father was most proud of being a dairy farmer, but he, his father before him, and his five brothers also grew wheat and corn. I often stayed with my grandmother during the day; I loved being on the farm. Grandmother had to feed 8 children, Grandpa Henry, and herself, so she had a huge vegetable garden and did home canning. But her heart was with her flower gardens. There was spirea, yards and yards of bearded iris, a line of lilacs from the house to the outhouse, petunias, Bachelor buttons, hollyhocks, and more. Badger and Grandmother would have been fast friends.

As a child, what was your favorite part of farming or the farm? What do you appreciate more now as an adult?

I most loved being around the farm animals, although I was a bit frightened of those protective hens when I had to collect the eggs, and I enjoyed helping my father with the calves. One of our neighbors had a pet raccoon that I have fond memories of “hanging out” with, often in my friend’s tree house. (Remember, it was a long time ago and there were no wild animal rehabilitation centers near us.)

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Marsha having fun with her dog.

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Marsha hanging out with a calf on her family’s farm.

I think I always appreciated the freedom of big spaces and gardens to play in and trees and barns (don’t tell) to climb on, but now I realize even more how very lucky I was.

Have you continued the family farming tradition?

I had a spectacular garden in Sonoma County, California. Mostly I grew flowers and a small plot of fruit trees. My favorite part of creating the gardens was designing them, using the land as my canvas. I collected over 50 heirloom roses, selecting plants for their fragrance and color. I loved the stories that came with them, like, “This one was collected from an old farm house in Windsor.” I had over 30 sweet pea varieties. There’s nothing better than a home filled with the fragrance of sweet peas. Most of my fruits were “antique” varieties. There was a Spitzenburg, reputed to have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, and a Calville Blanc, traced back to 1598 France. The fruit from my trees was unique and absolutely delicious. The stories behind them were delicious too.

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Roses from Marsha’s flower garden.

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A beautiful bouquet of sweet peas.

How have your experiences with nature influenced your writing for children?

When a child grows up surrounded by nature, he or she grows to understand it and respect it. I learned to see the small things in nature, like my father before me. His neighbors said he knew the name of every wildflower or “weed” in the county. When you pay attention to something in that way, you come to love it and it becomes part of you. So, nature is what I write about, from my first book Heart of a Tiger, about a small kitten who had a dream to give himself a name like that of the Magnificent Bengal Tiger, to Galápagos Girl, about the unique animals of the Galápagos Islands, to the jumble tumble beauty of Badger’s Perfect Garden.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What is your favorite wildflower and why?

Wild rose! At our California home, there was a wild rose growing in our gully. Every spring I would walk down the hill to see if it was still blooming. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I looked carefully for it each year, telling myself that if it was still in bloom, in the shade of our oak forest, alone and straggly, I would still be well. I’m sure it’s blooming still.

Thank you for sharing so much about your passion for nature and what joy living fully within it can bring. I wish you all the best with Badger’s Perfect Garden and all of your wonderful books!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Spring Equinox Activity

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Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden rows with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.           

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

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You can find Badger’s Perfect Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Sleeping Bear Press

Support your local independent bookstore with these book sellers

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

 

April 25 – National Zucchini Bread Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday seems to anticipate the prolific zucchini and yellow squash yields of summer gardens. Of course, they’re delicious too—giving a snap of flavor to side dishes, salads, pastas, and even breads—but, really, how do you keep up with the harvest? Today’s holiday offers a suggestion. And today’s book offers a humorous and creative way to share the bounty. Even if we can’t get together in person right now, we can always enjoy a great book and the scrumptious recipe at the end of this post!

Zora’s Zucchini

Written by Katherine Pryor | Illustrated by Anna Raff

 

Summer vacation was only three days old, but already Zora was bored. She was tired of riding her bike aimlessly around the neighborhood. But this time when she rode through town, she noticed a Free Zucchini sign in the window of the hardware store. She liked that the plant’s name began with a Z like her name, so she loaded up her basket and went home.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Zora showed her dad her new plants. As she carefully dug in the garden and settled them in, her dad said “‘That’s going to be a lot of zucchini.’” “‘We’ll eat it!’ Zora promised.” All June and July, Zora tended her garden, cheering “every time she saw a yellow-orange zucchini blossom.” When Zora saw her first zucchini, she picked it and ran inside to show her family. Soon, they were enjoying zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was zucchini bread, zucchini soup, and grilled zucchini. “By the first day of August, Zora’s garden was a jungle of prickly, tickly, bushy, blossomy plants,” and each one “was covered in zucchini. There was no way her family could eat it all.”

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

When Zora peeked into her neighbor’s yard, she noticed there was no zucchini in her garden—but plenty of tomatoes. She asked Mrs. Thompson if she’d like to trade. Mrs. Thompson was delighted to swap a bushel of tomatoes for a bushel of zucchini. But Zora’s zucchini kept on coming. “‘This is crazy,’ Zora said.” She filled her bicycle basket and rode through the neighborhood, giving them all away. But the day after that, more zucchini was ripe for picking. Then Zora had an idea and got her family involved. “Her brother painted the signs. Her parents printed the fliers. Zora and her sister posted them all over the neighborhood.”

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

On Saturday, Zora stood next to her homemade stand that sported a sign that read: “Take a Veggie, Leave a Veggie” with an added entreaty that said “Or at least please take some zucchini.” As sun rose in the sky, though, no one had visited her stand. But then Mrs. Rivera came by with a bowl of raspberries, Mr. Peterson brought potatoes, and others traded carrots, green beans, and peppers as well as apricots, plums, and cherries. “Zora traded and traded until all her zucchini was gone.”

But Zora’s Garden Swap stand had done much more than share fruits and vegetables. As she looked around at all of the people laughing, talking, and nibbling, she realized that “her zucchini garden had brought so many people together.” She couldn’t wait for next year’s garden!

Back matter includes a note about gardening and the amount of food from a prolific garden that can go to waste. It also includes ideas for donating, preserving, and sharing excess harvests.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Katherine Pryor’s easy-going storytelling and gentle humor will charm kids with its realistic portrayals of the excitement that every growth spurt, bud, and blossom in a garden creates. As the zucchini keeps coming, Zora’s family’s willingness to keep trying new recipes is heartening, and their help in making her Garden Swap Stand a success shows welcome family unity and support. Zora’s outreach, first to one neighbor, then to individuals throughout her neighborhood, and finally through her stand, encourages creative problem-solving. As Zora realizes that her garden has brought many people together, readers will also embrace the ideas of camaraderie and sharing and see that they too can foster such friendship in their school and community. For today’s food-savvy and socially conscious kids, Pryor’s addressing the issue of food waste and ways to share our bounty with others will appeal to and resonate with children.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Anna Raff’s cheery illustrations sparkle with the enthusiasm of children who go all in on a new interest. Kids will love seeing the zucchini plants grow from tiny seedlings to leafy giants that produce a flood of zucchini. Raff clearly shows Zora’s disbelief in her inexhaustible supply of squash and puzzlement as to what to do with it all, letting readers join in on her ever-growing problem. As Zora tries one solution after another and then hits on an idea, suspense grows, helped along with Raff’s visual clues in the signs and fliers her family makes. When the neighbors come together, smiling and chatting, at Zora’s stand, readers can see what a close-knit community can accomplish.

Sure to inspire a child’s interest in gardening and community sharing, Zora’s Zucchini, an award-winning book, is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves. The book also makes a fun pairing with picnics and visits to farmers markets and food festivals.

Ages 4 – 10

Eaters to Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0983661573 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0998436616 (Paperback, 2017)

Discover more about Katherine Pryor and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anna Raff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Zucchini Bread Day Activity

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Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread from Creme de la Crumb

 

If you have zucchini to spare, you’ll love this delicious zucchini bread from Creme de la Crumb that’s sweet and moist and flavored with the homey taste of cinnamon! To find this scrumptious recipe and lots more, visit Creme de la Crumb!

Creme de la Crumb’s Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread

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You can find Zora’s Zucchini at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 16 –National Orchid Day

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About the Holiday

National Orchid Day was established to celebrate one of the world’s most intricate and diverse flowering plants. With over 25,000 recognized species each, the orchid and the sunflower families of flowers vie for the title of largest as new species are discovered every year. Orchids range in size from a tiny 2.1mm flower with transparent petals only one cell thick to the grammatophyllum speciosum or Queen of Orchids, which grows to nearly 10 feet tall. Vivid coloring and striking patterns make the petals of each species things of wonder and prized plants for homes and botanical gardens. To celebrate today, learn how flowers use their colors and other features with today’s book!

I received a copy of Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate from Millbrook Press to check out. All opinions are my own.

Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by Masha D’yans

 

A little purple prickly pear has something he wants to get off his spines. He shouts up at the reader holding the book. “Pssst! Down here! That’s right—I’m a plant, and I’m talking to you!” Once the reader is all attention, he goes on: “I want to clear up some of your crazy ideas about what the colors of our flowers mean.” You’ve got it all wrong if you think “red roses stand for love and white ones are good for weddings.” The prickly pear may see that the reader feels a bit confused, even a little embarrassed, so he softens his tone a bit and explains that while we may interpret a flower’s colors in certain ways, that’s not what they’re really for.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

He then continues to reveal “we use our flowers to talk to the animals” so that we can make seeds and more plants. To do that each plant needs pollen from another plant of the same kind. Flowers are like big ads, the prickly pear explains, that attract just the right birds, bees, or butterflies to help them out. Often, if they’re hungry, they fly from flower to flower and bring pollen along with them.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

But how does each bird, butterfly, or bee know which flowers to pollinate? That’s where a flower’s colors come in, the prickly pear says. “A flower’s color invites specific animals to visit.” Then he lets children in on their conversations. Hear the red flowers talking? They’re calling out to birds, offering hummingbirds a bit of nectar in exchange for carrying pollen. Insects can’t see the color red. Blue and other vibrant flowers whisper sweet nothings to bees, inviting them to take along some pollen – to their hives and also to other flowers, thanks! White flowers are perfectly hued to attract pollinators at a particular time of day. Brown flowers may not be showy, but they appeal to certain insects too. And green flowers? Well they don’t need to talk at all. The prickly pear encourages kids to guess why.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press

Colors aren’t the only trick that flowers have either. Most emit a scent and some are just the right shape. But now, the prickly pear excuses himself with an abrupt “Go take a hike.” Why the brush off? It seems he’s making a new flower and is just about done with it. When you see it, you’ll think it’s the bee’s knees!

Back matter includes an illustrated step-by-step look at how pollination works, information on how to protect pollinators, and a list of other books for further reading.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

With an impish attitude, Sara Levine’s hilarious and knowledgeable prickly pear narrator engages kids in witty banter while taking them on a colorful garden tour. As the cactus explains a plant’s growing cycle and the need for pollinators, the information it imparts is eye-opening for children and adults. Why and how each flower’s color and scent attract just the right pollinator is clearly described in conversational language that kids will laugh along with and learn from. Every page contains an “ah-ha” moment that will spark discussion and an excitement to plant a colorful garden and watch nature at work.

Like a riotous field of wildflowers, Masha D’yan’s dazzling illustrations put colors on glorious display as the flowers lure insects and animals to them. D’yan’s detailed images provide a great place for young naturalists to start researching the various plants introduced. Depictions of the prickly pear, birds, and bees match the humor of Levine’s text. Kids will love lingering over the two-page spreads to point out the various animals and insects and how they interact with the plants. They’ll also like following the growth of the prickly pear’s bud as it grows bigger and blossoms.

A superb book for teaching children about this fascinating feature of flowers and plants as well as providing a guide for gardeners interested in attracting a variety of pollinators, Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate would be an outstanding addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 11

Millbrook Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1541519282

Discover more about Sara Levine and her books on her website.

To learn more about Masha D’yans, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Plant a Flower Day Activity

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Flower Garden Stakes

 

It’s fun to start a garden from seeds, but how do you remember what you’ve planted where? With these easy to make garden stakes, you can mark your pots with style! 

Supplies

  • Wide craft sticks
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Colorful chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the stakes with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write the name of the different flowers or plants
  3. After planting your seeds, stick the stake in the pot 
  4. Wait for your seeds to grow!

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You can find Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 14 – National Gardening Day

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About the Holiday

For many of us, spring means gardening. Today’s holiday encourages avid gardeners and those new to this rewarding activity to turn over some dirt, plant seeds, and prepare to tend the little sprouts on their way through the season. While this year may pose challenges to regular gardening routines, ordering options, creative solutions

In the Garden

By Emma Giuliani

 

In her stunningly illustrated interactive guide through the seasons, Emma Giuliani introduces Plum and her little brother, Robin, and invites readers to join them as they tend to their garden and all the plants, animals, and birds that call it home. Plum and Robin begin at winter’s end. “This morning it’s cold. It’s not yet spring, but, in the garden, Plum and her brother Robin see the first catkins appearing on the branches of the willows and hazels. The blossoming mimosa makes the gardeners impatient for spring to come.” As Robin counts the long, drooping catkins, Plum rakes a layer of compost over the ground. On the facing page, children get a close-up view of the fuzzy catkins, can peek inside a bud, burrow underground with earthworms just waking from hibernation, and view a few early bloomers. They also learn about what makes up the earth’s soil and get a recipe for compost.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

With the arrival of spring, Plum is in her little greenhouse, planting vegetable seeds and spritzing the soil with water to keep it moist while Robin repots some plants who have spent the winter in the greenhouse. Outside, Plum aerates the garden bed with a pitchfork, careful of any tiny creatures below. Children can open the door to Plum’s well-stocked shed to see all the tools tidily stored there and lift the flaps to look inside a bulb and help a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip grow.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At last the warm weather of spring has arrived. The cherry trees are blossoming, and Plum and Robin are setting stakes and planting bean seeds. Next, they provide protection for the tender strawberry plants that are beginning to bloom. Young gardeners will enjoy opening a bean seed to learn what’s inside and then following its growing process. The bees are visiting the cherry blossoms, pollinating the flowers and making honey. What does a bee see as it hovers around the flower? Pull down the flap to see for yourself and learn all the parts of a flower. What other plants are flowering now? Open the flap to see!

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Summer begins and “what a joy to be in the garden in June! The gentle breeze, the smell of cut grass, and the tangy taste of strawberries and cherries make the gardeners smile.” While Plum waters the tomato plants, “Robin looks for ripe strawberries under the leaves.” Join him! Robin is also picking cherries before the birds eat them. How do those bright red, round fruits grow? Lift the flap to learn and see how they develop from flower to fruit. Plum is getting help with the aphids on the bean plants from industrious—and hungry—ladybugs. “Dragonfly larvae are transforming into graceful flying insects….Their presence is a sign of a healthy garden.”

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

It’s high summer and the garden is glorious. Bean pods hang from the vines, and Plum contemplates whether they are ready to pick. She may leave some “husks dry out on the plant before picking them.” Dried completely indoors, they can be stored and eaten during the fall and winter. Take a look inside a pod to see the seven red beans there. Flowers greet you too: an orange marigold with petals like a pinwheel, a brilliant pink and purple fuchsia, and a perky mignon dahlia. Robin took cuttings of these plants and potted them to grow some more. Learn how you can do that with your plants too!

The summer heat is waning and the days are growing shorter. Fall is here. The catkins of early spring have become hazelnuts that are ready to be harvested. Even the squirrel approves! Plum and Robin teach you how to store them—and when to pick the winter squash and keep them for months as well. Can you count the number of seeds inside the winter squash? Plum’s beautiful trellised pear tree is bearing sweet fruit. Yum! But look out—a crafty rabbit is after the last leafy vegetables in the garden. No need for a fence, though. Milk will do the trick of shooing him away.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The air is chilly again and winter is on the horizon. “Plum and Robin have donned their warmest clothes and gone out to collect the dead leaves. Some leaves will feed the compost, others will become mulch to protect plants over the winter. The hedgehogs can use the rest of the leaves in making their homes.” Do you see the pile of crunchy leaves? Lift them gently…shhh! A hedgehog is snoozing underneath. Robin and Plum have built an insect hotel to keep the bugs cozy during the winter and have filled the greenhouse again. For the colorful birds who stay awhile or all winter, Robin and Plum put out a bird feeder and fill it with locally produced seeds.

After putting all of their tools back in the shed, Plum and Robin head indoors to plan next year’s garden and “watch eagerly for the very first signs of spring.”

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

If your family tends a garden or is thinking of starting one, Emma Guiliani’s superb book is a must. At 16 inches tall, In the Garden provides fascinating facts about plants, insects, and animals; helpful tips on when and how to plant a variety of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, information on natural ways to ward off pests; and how to recognize when fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and how to store them. Through copious flaps, children get inside views of flowers, seeds, buds, and vegetables to learn the names of each part and how they contribute to the growth of the plant. Along the way, young and adult gardeners discover how early gardening can begin, directions on how to create and use compost, when bushes can be planted, information on pollination; and how to winter over the garden for the coming spring.

Giuliani’s crisp, lush illustrations are marvels, combining intricate paper cuts that replicate the shapes of delicate bulbs and buds, flowers and seeds, smooth and serrated leaves, the long bean pod, and even Plum’s garden shed with a window in the door. Her extraordinarily beautiful color palette immerses readers in the garden experience; you can almost smell the rich earth, hear the bees buzzing at the blossoms, and feel the air changing season to season.

A brilliant resource and a joy to peruse, In the Garden is a book that adults and children—both gardeners or nature lovers—will share throughout the seasons and from year to year. The book is most highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 12

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898939

You can connect with Emma Giuliani on Instagram.

National Gardening Day Activity

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Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden rows with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.           

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

To play a printable Vegetable Garden Board Game, click here.

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You can find In the Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Princeton Architectural Press

Picture Book Review

August 8 – National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a gardener, you know how prolific summer squash plants can be! By now you’re probably knee deep in luscious zucchini and yellow squash. Of course, they’re delicious—giving a snap of flavor to side dishes, salads, pastas, and even breads—but, really, how do you keep up with the harvest? Today’s holiday offers a suggestion. Perhaps, you can put together a box or basket of fresh squash with a recipe or two and—when no one’s looking—leave it where a neighbor or a friend will find it. What to do if all of your neighbors and friends are gardeners too? Have a zucchini party!

Zora’s Zucchini

Written by Katherine Pryor | Illustrated by Anna Raff

 

Summer vacation was only three days old, but already Zora was bored. She was tired of riding her bike aimlessly around the neighborhood. But this time when she rode through town, she noticed a Free Zucchini sign in the window of the hardware store. She liked that the plant’s name began with a Z like her name, so she loaded up her basket and went home.

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Zora showed her dad her new plants. As she carefully dug in the garden and settled them in, her dad said “‘That’s going to be a lot of zucchini.’” “‘We’ll eat it!’ Zora promised.” All June and July, Zora tended her garden, cheering “every time she saw a yellow-orange zucchini blossom.” When Zora saw her first zucchini, she picked it and ran inside to show her family. Soon, they were enjoying zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was zucchini bread, zucchini soup, and grilled zucchini. “By the first day of August, Zora’s garden was a jungle of prickly, tickly, bushy, blossomy plants,” and each one “was covered in zucchini. There was no way her family could eat it all.”

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

When Zora peeked into her neighbor’s yard, she noticed there was no zucchini in her garden—but plenty of tomatoes. She asked Mrs. Thompson if she’d like to trade. Mrs. Thompson was delighted to swap a bushel of tomatoes for a bushel of zucchini. But Zora’s zucchini kept on coming. “‘This is crazy,’ Zora said.” She filled her bicycle basket and rode through the neighborhood, giving them all away. But the day after that, more zucchini was ripe for picking. Then Zora had an idea and got her family involved. “Her brother painted the signs. Her parents printed the fliers. Zora and her sister posted them all over the neighborhood.”

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

On Saturday, Zora stood next to her homemade stand that sported a sign that read: “Take a Veggie, Leave a Veggie” with an added entreaty that said “Or at least please take some zucchini.” As sun rose in the sky, though, no one had visited her stand. But then Mrs. Rivera came by with a bowl of raspberries, Mr. Peterson brought potatoes, and others traded carrots, green beans, and peppers as well as apricots, plums, and cherries. “Zora traded and traded until all her zucchini was gone.”

But Zora’s Garden Swap stand had done much more than share fruits and vegetables. As she looked around at all of the people laughing, talking, and nibbling, she realized that “her zucchini garden had brought so many people together.” She couldn’t wait for next year’s garden!

Back matter includes a note about gardening and the amount of food from a prolific garden that can go to waste. It also includes ideas for donating, preserving, and sharing excess harvests.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Katherine Pryor’s easy-going storytelling and gentle humor will charm kids with its realistic portrayals of the excitement that every growth spurt, bud, and blossom in a garden creates. As the zucchini keeps coming, Zora’s family’s willingness to keep trying new recipes is heartening, and their help in making her Garden Swap Stand a success shows welcome family unity and support. Zora’s outreach, first to one neighbor, then to individuals throughout her neighborhood, and finally through her stand, encourages creative problem-solving. As Zora realizes that her garden has brought many people together, readers will also embrace the ideas of camaraderie and sharing and see that they too can foster such friendship in their school and community. For today’s food-savvy and socially conscious kids, Pryor’s addressing the issue of food waste and ways to share our bounty with others will appeal to and resonate with children.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-biking

Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Anna Raff’s cheery illustrations sparkle with the enthusiasm of children who go all in on a new interest. Kids will love seeing the zucchini plants grow from tiny seedlings to leafy giants that produce a flood of zucchini. Raff clearly shows Zora’s disbelief in her inexhaustible supply of squash and puzzlement as to what to do with it all, letting readers join in on her ever-growing problem. As Zora tries one solution after another and then hits on an idea, suspense grows, helped along with Raff’s visual clues in the signs and fliers her family makes. When the neighbors come together, smiling and chatting, at Zora’s stand, readers can see what a close-knit community can accomplish.

Sure to inspire a child’s interest in gardening and community sharing, Zora’s Zucchini, an award-winning book, is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves. The book also makes a fun pairing with picnics and visits to farmers markets and food festivals.

Ages 4 – 10

Eaters to Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0983661573 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0998436616 (Paperback, 2017)

Discover more about Katherine Pryor and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anna Raff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day Activity

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Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread from Creme De La Crumb

 

If you have zucchini to spare, you’ll love this delicious zucchini bread from Creme de la Crumb that’s sweet and moist and flavored with the homey taste of cinnamon! To find this scrumptious recipe and lots more, visit Creme de la Crumb!

Creme de la Crumb’s Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread

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You can find Zora’s Zucchini at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 10 – Don’t Step on a Bee Day

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About the Holiday

The bee population is in decline around the world due to habitat disruption and destruction, pesticide use, and colony collapse disorder. Bees (and other pollinators) are crucial to the world’s food supply. Today’s holiday is a reminder to protect bees and help preserve their habitats. By planting flowers and herbs that attract bees and providing safe nesting places for them, you can be part of the solution.

Bee & Me

By Alison Jay

 

As you open the cover of Alison Jay’s glorious, wordless Bee & Me, don’t be surprised if your heart skips a little faster when you find yourself in a city that’s familiar but also magical. From a high vantage point, you look down on a main thoroughfare where a café, a music store, a hat shop, an optometrist, a barber, and a shoe shop line the busy street; stylized cars, buses, and trucks pass by; and people—tiny from this distance—walk a dog, ride a unicycle, carry bags, and try to keep up with two running children. Elevated trains traverse their arched track and helicopters and planes dot the sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-apartment

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Turn the page and you’re looking into a four-story apartment house. On the first floor a woman does battle with a fly as her husband types at his green typewriter; on the third floor a boy tries to coax a pigeon to eat out of his hand; and in the fourth-floor apartment, a woman sits at her easel, painting. And what about the second floor? That’s where the story gets started.

A bee, attracted by flowered curtains, has just flown into a little girl’s window as she’s reading a book about flowers. The little buzzy guy flies right up to her face, causing her to toss the book aside and run away in fright. She procures her weapon and raises the fly swatter into position but reconsiders when she sees the bee’s scared face and little legs waving in his own defense. The girl decides to trap him under a drinking glass, but when the bee weakens and then faints, she reads up on bee culture and offers him a spoonful of sugar water, which he slurps up eagerly. The girl goes to the window and releases the bee under the interested gaze of the little boy upstairs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-rained-on

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night a storm rages and the rain continues the next day. At her window, the girl finds the bee soaked through. She brings him in, feeds him another spoonful of sugar water, and then, while he sits on a playing die on her vanity, she dries him with her hairdryer and a toothbrush. Happy and fluffy, the bee decides to stay. He and the little girl become fast friends and begin doing everything together. They play checkers, dance, have tea parties, and go places with the bee riding in the girl’s doll carriage or bicycle basket. Nourished with cups of sugar water and popsicles, the bee begins to grow and grow, becoming as tall as the girl, and then taller. They play at the park on the slide and the swing, and the bee even learns how to ride the girl’s bike.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-seeds

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But on a stroll downtown, the bee sees a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a florist’s window. He presses his face to the glass, and the little girl, noticing, buys him a flower. At home, the bee thinks of a meadow of flowers, and his sad face tells the little girl all she needs to know. She gets out a map and shows her friend where there’s open green space. The girl climbs on the bee’s back and they soar from the window, unseen by anyone except the little boy on the third floor.

They fly out of the city, over the river, and into farmland where they find a field of flowers. Carefully, they gather seeds in their bags and on the way back home scatter them across the city. The last seeds in the girl’s bag go into her new window box. Fall has come and the bee and the girl hug and then say goodbye as the bee flies away from her window.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-flying

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With winter, an invitation comes from the boy upstairs in the form of a yellow-and-brown striped scarf dangled out of his window, and the two build a snow bee outside their apartment building. In the spring, they walk together through the rain under a polka dot umbrella, and summer sees the seeds in the girl’s window box begin to sprout. In fact the whole city has begun to sprout, with colorful gardens blooming on rooftops, along the edges of sidewalks and streets, and in yards sprinkled here and there.

The purple, yellow, blue, pink, and white flowers attract butterflies and bees, and the people on the street stop now to enjoy the beauty around them. And the girl’s BeeFF? He, of course, comes back to visit and play.

A Bee Aware! Author’s Note about the importance of bees, the kinds of flower and herb plants that attract bees, and how to create and help bees find places to nest follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-blooming

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

While following the story, which is played out with perfect pacing, humor, and sensitivity, readers can glimpse surprising, delightful, and funny details on every page that tell them more about the people who live in the little girl’s apartment house and the buildings nearby. Alison Jay cleverly uses these snippets of life to show the passage of time and the subplot of what is happening for the little boy who lives upstairs. The girl’s kindness and attention to the needs of the bee, whom she once feared, reminds readers of the benefits of education and opening your heart.

A superb story that encompasses awareness of nature, urban sprawl, the power of friendship, and the change one person can make on another and the world at large all wrapped in stunning art that invites multiple readings, Bee & Me is perfect for cuddly story times with little ones and impactful read alouds with older kids. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 8

Old Barn Books, Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763690106

You can learn more about Alison Jay and her books, and view a portfolio of her art on Children’sIllustrators.com

Don’t Step on a Bee Day Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Bee & Me at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

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About the Holiday

One of the best parts of summer is all the fresh fruit and veggies that are available in your own garden, at farmers markets, and at grocery stores. Vibrant red strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and tomatoes; deep green lettuce and kale; and a rainbow of squash, peppers, and potatoes make cooking and eating a special treat. There’s no better way to celebrate the season than by making favorite recipes—and trying some new ones—with your favorite fruits and vegetables.

I received a copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

Written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan | Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

 

Your birthday present wish list isn’t that long, but it is tech-y, full of dreams for a phone, a computer, headphones, and even a drone. But what does Grandma bring? “Surprise! It’s a…lemon tree.” Fortunately, you know your manners, so you look happy—even excited—on the outside while inside you feel more frown-y and maybe a bit cry-y as you thank her sweetly. What you don’t do is “drop it off a bridge. Tie it to your birthday balloons. Play ding dong ditch the lemon tree.”

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Instead, the next day you find a sunny spot for your tree, water it just enough, and protect it from danger. When winter comes, you bring it inside and keep it warm. When you see that it’s growing, you repot it. You wait and wait some more. “Once the snow melts, it’s time to bring your lemon tree back outside,” and pretty soon, you find yourself “picking lemons! Woo-Hoo!”

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

All those lemons are great for slicing and squeezing. But that’s a lot of lemon juice. What to do? “Gather these items: 1. Lemon juice. 2. Water. 3. A pinch (or handful) of sugar. 4. Flashy lemonade stand. Cue dazzling smile and…” you’ll have plenty of money to “finally buy exactly what you want.” You know what that is, right? Something off that wish list, or… “something you can really enjoy.” Something like that wagon full of plants and flowers you’ve bought to make a garden that “you can share with others too”—especially Grandma!

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Directly addressing the reader, Jamie L. B. Deenihan introduces the unthinkable gift and the inexpressible emotions it elicits with droll wit that kids will respond to with knowing giggles. But today’s crop of readers is a complex bunch, and they’ll also appreciate the value of a living, growing, giving present that they can care for and share. As the little girl tends to her lemon tree through the seasons—reading to it, transplanting it to roomier quarters, measuring it, and even naming it—Deenihan lends a layer of depth that readers will recognize from their own experiences of growing up.

At last, the lemons are ready to be picked and made into lemonade and the girl reaps the fruits of her labor in her popular lemonade stand. But these are more profound than perhaps expected as, instead of spending her cash on items from her electronics-heavy wish list, she buys a garden-load of new plants with which she transforms her neighborhood. How do the other kids react? They seem happy enough to leave their robots on the sidewalk and put away their phones to enjoy a day in nature.

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Between the front endpapers—where the neighborhood streets are empty of people, a vacant lot between apartment buildings collects trash, and a kite lies forgotten on a rooftop—and the back endpapers—where the sidewalks are full of kids, flower pots dot stoops, the vacant lot is a thriving park, and the kite soars above the buildings—an unforeseen and surprising transformation takes place. Lorraine Rocha captures the girl’s internal conflict about her gift with humorous snapshots of what she shouldn’t do with the tree and then juxtaposes them with others that show her becoming more and more invested in her little, leafy charge.

When the lemons are picked, they spill out of the bowl and dot the counter, a sunny accents to the girl’s soft-blue kitchen. The long line at her lemonade stand attests to their delicious allure. Rocha cleverly mirrors the ubiquity and sterility of electronics in her illustration of the gray Mega Store, where the only colorful element is the display of plants on sale. The final two-page spread of the lush and vibrant garden is joyously inclusive, and kids will love peering into the windows to see how the neighborhood has been brought together.

A book to spark a love of gardening, discussions on community, and a second look at all of those tech toys, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-145492381

Discover more about Jamie L. B. Deenihan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lorraine Rocha, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lemon-birds

Lovely Lemon Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape

Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-grandma-gives-you-a-lemon-tree-cover

You can find When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review