April 18 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today, enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Growing Season

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

 

El and Jo weren’t only best friends, they were the smallest kids in their class. They did everything together, even helping “each other reach the unreachable.” On picture day, Jo and El always got to be in front, and during reading time they could both fit into the comfy reading chair. “But in springtime, something BIG happened.” Jo began to grow. Their teacher, Mr. Diaz, said she was “growing like a weed.”

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She no longer needed El’s help to water the plants on the windowsill, and she had graduated to needing a bigger desk. On the last day of school, when Mr. Diaz told everyone they could take a plant home for the summer, El was overlooked and reached over as the other kids took all the colorful flowers. By the time El got to the windowsill, the only plant left was an aster, with no blooms at all.

Mr. Diaz told her that “aster means ‘star.’” El didn’t think her plant was a star, but Mr. Diaz encouraged her to wait and see. “Jo looked over at El’s sad plant, and then at her own” and offered to let El have her zinnia since she was going to be away all summer anyway. El said she’d plant them side by side, and Jo said they could be best friends.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

At home, El planted her aster and Jo’s zinnia. She cared for them and waited. They grew bigger, but while the zinnia had many colorful flowers, El’s aster still had none. All summer long, El and Jo wrote letters to each other. El sent a photograph of her zinnia to Jo and told her that waiting for aster was hard. Finally, Jo came home. It was the last day of summer, and the two girls ran to the garden. There, they saw that “something BIG had happened. Aster had finally bloomed…and so had El!”

An Author’s Note on plant life cycles describes the differences between annual, perennial, biennial, and tender perennial flowers and includes fun facts about peonies, dahlias, marigolds, and foxgloves.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her signature warmth and attention to children’s feelings, Maryann Cocca-Leffler offers a sweet story about growth and how each child’s experience is as varied as garden flowers. El and Jo, as the smallest kids in the class, are natural best friends—a relationship which, in a welcome demonstration of steadfastness, remains strong even when Jo begins to grow. As summer comes, El’s focus is not on herself but on caring for the aster and zinnia and staying in touch with Jo.

When Jo returns, readers will see that something more has happened over the summer too. As the two girls hug, excited to see each other again, children will notice that they are now the same height—a surprise that El and Jo also seem to share with smiles and sidelong glances at each other. The purple asters that greet the reunited pair, remind kids that growth in many forms follows the natural path for each individual.

Cocca-Leffler’s fresh and cheerful gouache, colored pencil, and collage illustrations present a diverse classroom and school details that will be familiar to readers, making this a highly relatable story. Mr. Diaz shows kindness and understanding as he crouches down to talk with El about the aster and offer encouragement.

A gentle, reassuring story, Growing Season would make an excellent story to pair with plant or garden lessons as well as to remind children that everyone grows and develops at their own pace for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927044

Discover more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Starting to dig out the flip-flops for warmer weather and finding they’re a little too small? Don’t get rid of them! Make them into this sandal-ightful way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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You can find Growing Season at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 21 – Absolutely Incredible Kid Day

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About the Holiday

Every kid is incredible! This special day, established by Camp Fire USA in 1997, gives adults an opportunity to tell the kids in their life how much they mean to them. Whether you write your special young person a letter or just sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk, your words of encouragement and appreciation will make a difference.

The Amazing Idea of You

Written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild | Illustrated by Mary Lundquist

 

Have you ever thought that a tiny apple seed holds “the idea of a tree?” And that if planted it “might take root / sprout / shoot up / into the blue?” Beginnings always contain the promise of a future filled with the excitement of more, the way “the caterpillar / creeping through grass / carries inside / the color and flutter / of a butterfly.”

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Image copyright Mary Lundquist, 2019, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild,, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

You began that way too. First as an idea and then, much loved and anticipated, as a promise growing and changing until you were born. “And look at you! What ideas are hidden inside of you?” Will you be musical? Love dancing or painting or adventure? Or perhaps you will create something brand new “for the whole world to share.”

You know what to do! Plant your ideas and tend them carefully as they grow and develop while you experience life with its sunny days and rainy days, warm days and cold. When you grow up, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished and the fruit your ideas have borne—for yourself and the world.

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Image copyright Mary Lundquist, 2019, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild,, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Charlotte Sullivan Wild inspires children to find the promise that’s waiting inside each of them as they experiment with life and discover their special talents. Her cheerful, lyrical text uses examples kids will readily recognize. The lilting rhythm will mesmerize young readers as they take the message to heart. As they go out into the world, they’ll remember and reflect when they see an apple, a butterfly, a bird, and all the promise of nature.

Mary Lundquist’s tranquil and bucolic illustrations give a little girl free reign to play, strum, run, learn, and think as she grows from a curious baby and toddler to a creative and motivated teen to a mother herself who shares the abundant fruits of her labor with friends, neighbors, and others while continuing the natural cycle and her natural talents with her own children. Soft greens highlighted with vivid apple reds, rain-slicker yellows, and spring-sky blues make this a perfect book for quiet, contemplative story times.

An inspiring story that adults will love sharing with the children in their life, The Amazing Idea of You makes a wonderful gift for new babies, teachers, and anyone with a young child. The book is sure to be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681191836

Discover more about Charlotte Sullivan Wild and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Lundquist, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Absolutely Incredible Kid Day Activity

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Incredible You! Measuring Stick Craft

 

Looking for a unique way to measure your growth? This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of small and big growth spurts. You can even use it to record an idea or two as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

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You can find The Amazing Idea of You at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review