January 7 – Old Rock Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love rocks—the history they tell, their versatility, intricate patterns, and glorious colors? Today’s holiday celebrates these wonders of nature and encourages geologists—both professionals and amateurs—to indulge their passion. You can learn a bit more about the history of the study of rocks, the first use of the term “geology,” and on to more modern times at NationalToday. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your backyard or neighborhood, pick up a few rocks, and research a little more about them. Then have fun with today’s craft.

Thank you to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for sharing a copy of Old Rock (is not boring) with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Old Rock (is not boring)

By Deb Pilutti

 

It seemed that Old Rock had been sitting in the same spot forever. Tall Pine and Spotted Beetle thought being a rock must be pretty boring. Hummingbird wondered, “‘Don’t you ever want to go anywhere?’” She knew she would be if she couldn’t fly all over the world and taste exotic nectars. But Old Rock had flown once, and he began to tell his story.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

It was during the time when he was surrounded by darkness, but then the volcano erupted and Old Rock “‘soared through a fiery sky into the bright light of a new world.’” Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird weren’t very impressed. They still thought Old Rock must be bored. Spotted Beetle told him how much he might see if he climbed to Tall Pine’s very highest branch.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Old Rock countered that he had seen a lot. He’d watched dinosaurs pass by and had even hidden a spinosaurus from a hungry T. rex. He’d traveled in a glacier and been left teetering on a ridge overlooking a vast desert, where he “could see the place where the sky touches the earth.” Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird were intrigued, but Tall Pine dismissed these experiences as “ages ago.” He wanted to know about now. Didn’t Old Rock feel like moving? Tall Pine showed Old Rock how his limbs could dance in the wind.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

While Old Rock couldn’t dance, he did recall how he’d turned somersaults off the ridge, landing in a prairie where mastodons grazed near a lake. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird were mesmerized by Old Rock’s story and wanted to know what had happened next. Out of the prairie, sprang a pine forest, Old Rock revealed. And from one of the pine trees a pinecone fell and a seed was released. That seed grew “to be the tall pine who dances in the wind and keeps me company.” Sometimes, he continued, a spotted beetle and a hummingbird meander by. Old Rock was very pleased with his spot, and the others had to agree that it was “very nice” and “not boring at all.”

An illustrated timeline of Old Rock’s life from 18 billion years ago to the present day follows the text.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

So much clever thought went into Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock as she reveals to kids what a fascinating and active life the rocks and boulders we see every day have had. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird’s skepticism keeps the suspense building as Old Rock rolls out stories of his various travels and talents. Once he has them hooked, they—like young readers—want to hear more, leading to the just-right ending that sweetly encompasses shared history, happiness with one’s place in life, and friendship. The trio’s questions to Old Rock and their related experiences also engage children to think about issues and opinions from a variety of perspectives.

Pilutti’s mixed-media illustrations are nicely textured to bring out Old Rock’s grainy surface while highlighting nature’s vivid colors. Her vignettes from the dinosaur eras, the ice age (where the skeletons of dinosaurs are also swept up and away in the same glacier as Old Rock), and beyond impress upon readers the long time-frame involved, how the earth has changed, and even the fascinating science of the fossil record.

A multi-layered story, perfect for general story times or as a lead in to science lessons and to promote discussion and research in the classroom, Old Rock (is not boring) would be an original and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518181

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Old Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on a light-weight stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

CPB - rock painting craft

To make a paper weight or kindness stone

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone, let dry
  2. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place or find a spot around town to leave your rock for someone to find and enjoy

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You can find Old Rock (is not boring) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus on the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or living on farms or in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. The day also raises awareness of the dangers that threaten many species of birds with extinction. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your area or even just in your backyard and take special note of the birds you see. Now that winter has set in making food scarce for wild birds, consider hanging a bird feeder or making one from a pinecone, peanut butter, and seed as in the activity below. 

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me a copy of Birds: Explore their extraordinary world for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Birds: Explore their extraordinary world

Written by Miranda Krestovnikoff | Illustrated by Angela Harding

 

To love birds is to marvel over everything about them from their smooth gliding flight and beautiful songs to their colorful plumage and intricate nests that protect fragile eggs from the elements and predators. With a stunning number of species, birds are found around the world and living in every kind of climate. In Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding’s eye-catching compendium, readers learn about seven families of birds – birds of prey, seabirds, freshwater birds, flightless birds, tropical birds, tree dwellers, and passerines. 

Each chapter opens with general facts on the behavior, anatomical features, and habitat that determine the order in which a bird is categorized. Integrated with this information are descriptions of specific birds within the order. In the section on Birds of Prey, for instance, readers learn about sparrowhawks; fish-eating ospreys; and golden eagles, which can “spot a rodent from over a mile away and a rabbit from nearly double that distance.” Children also learn about extreme birds of prey: the fastest, largest, smallest, tallest, and baldest and how their distinctive feature helps them thrive. Kids also discover how they “can tell when each species of owl prefers to hunt by looking at the color of its eyes.”

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Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The next chapter takes readers to coastal areas to learn about the seabirds that scour the water from the sky, searching for food and waders, that are found along the water’s edge and “feed on the variety of high-protein invertebrates that lie hidden in the mud.” Children learn about the birds that populate warmer waters, such as blue-footed boobies, terns, and frigatebirds as well as those who survive in colder waters, such as gulls, and kittiwakes. Readers will also find a fascinating description of the gannet and learn how it can safely “dive into the sea at speeds of 60 miles an hour from an impressive height of up to 100 feet” to feed.

From sea birds, readers move on to freshwater birds like ducks, swans, grebes, and Canada geese. Even the bright flamingo is here with its distinctive scoop-shaped beak that is “uniquely designed to be used upside down and helps them to filter out tiny brine shrimps and blue-green algae from the water, which, when digested, give them their pink color.” The flamingo isn’t the only bird with an unusual way to acquire their prey, and kids will discover the clever ways pelicans, herons, and kingfishers (which use “objects such as sticks, feathers, and even discarded popcorn as lures”) find food.

And then there are the “more than 50 bird species across the world [that] stay firmly on the ground (or on water)” or just “choose not to fly very often.” These flightless birds include kiwis, kākāpōs, southern cassowaries, ostriches, and Penguins. Penguins vary in size, from the “little penguin (also known as the fairy or blue penguin)” which comes to shore to nest only at night and stave off predators with their oversized voices, to the emperor penguin. Occasional fliers include great bustards, domestic chickens, and tinamous.

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Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

When you hear about extravagant birds, you most likely think of tropical birds. “Rainforests are packed with a range of incredible species with dazzling plumage and bizarre courtship displays.” Readers will learn about the appearance and mating rituals of scarlet macaws, Raggiana birds of paradise, and the Andean cock-of-the-rock. A detailed description of the bowerbird and the male bird’s careful and artistic nest (or bower) building is funny, poignant, and even a little bit human. Then readers are treated to some tropical bird extremes: smallest bird, longest bill, and smelliest as well as a poisonous species and one that makes its own musical instrument.

Of course, woodlands are the home of many bird species, and in the chapter on Tree Dwellers, readers learn about acorn woodpeckers and great hornbills that use trees for food and shelter; tawny frogmouths and potoos that use trees for camouflage; and nuthatches, greater honeyguides, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, which find all the food they need among the bark, leaves, and branches of trees.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-chickens

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Next up are passerines, or perching birds, which make up the “largest group of birds, with over half of all known species falling into this category.” Corvids, a group that includes the common raven, crows, magpies, and rooks, are considered to be the most intelligent birds. “These birds have a remarkable ability to solve problems in order to find food, in some cases performing better than young children or chimpanzees!” Readers will be impressed with their tricks and clever use of tools (that even include cars). Children learn about cooperative breeders, which rely on their extended family to help raise the young from year to year. Passerines also include many of the garden birds we find in our backyards and which fill the air with song. Readers discover facts about blue tits, robins, and finches in this section.

The next sections give detailed and interesting information on the features we most associate with birds: their feathers, beaks, eyes, nesting habits, eggs, migration patterns, and birdsong. The book ends with perhaps the most adaptable birds in the world: those that make their homes on glaciers, mountain tops, and in the Arctic snow as well as urban birds, which live among people in crowded cities, nesting on tall cathedrals and skyscrapers and foraging for food in garbage cans and on the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-woodpeckers

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

For young ornithologists, Miranda Krestovnikoff, a wildlife expert, offers a compelling, eye-opening, and accessible introduction to a wide variety of birds, placing them in their natural environments and revealing intriguing facts and tantalizing tidbits that inform and will spark a continued interest in learning more about the world’s feathered creatures. Krestovnikoff’s engaging writing style will captivate readers and keep them turning the pages to discover birds that are both familiar and new to them. The comprehensive nature of the book allows kids in all parts of the world to learn more about their native birds while creating a global connection with these most recognized and widely distributed creatures.

Accompanying Krestovnikoff’s text are Angela Harding’s beautiful linocuts that depict birds in mid-flight, capturing prey on land and water, engaging in mating rituals, and building and protecting their nests and young. Harding’s use of natural colors and exquisitely etched landscapes set off each bird in breathtaking illustrations that invite readers to linger to enjoy their full impact. Each illustration is captioned with the bird’s species.

A gorgeous and educational book that readers of all ages will love dipping into again and again, Birds: Explore their extraordinary world is a must for bird lovers and highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 78-1408893913

Discover more about Miranda Krestovnikoff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Angela Harding, her books, and her art on her website.

National Bird Day Activities

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Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

cpb-bird-feeder-i

Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

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You can find Birds: Explore their extraordinary world at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 10 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

The month of December is a gift-giver’s delight and looking at the long winter ahead there’s no better gift for everyone on your list than a book (or two or…). With so many new books hitting bookstore shelves, there really is a perfect book to fit everyone’s taste. Young children, especially, benefit from reading a wide range of picture books from laugh-out-loud or touching stories to nonfiction that introduces them to influential people, science, history, and nature. If you’re looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore or their online shop to find books that will make your child’s eyes light up.

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by Kate Slater

 

When you “slurp up your milkshake” or cut up your meat or even cool down with an air conditioner, do you ever wonder how birds accomplish these things? They don’t have hands to hold tools, but that’s okay because each type of bird has just the tool they need to survive handily attached right to its face – its beak! How does each bird use its beak to find food? Sara Levine and Kate Slater let you take a peek at how birds’ beaks are uniquely suited for the foods they eat and the places where they find it as well as for grooming and nest-building.

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Image copyright Kate Slater, 2021, text copyright Sara Levine, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Take that straw we people use to sip up every last drop of a delicious milkshake or glass of lemonade, for instance. Which bird “has a beak shaped like a straw? A hummingbird!” And while hummingbirds don’t “suck up nectar from flowers” through their beaks, “they use their beaks to make their way into tight, narrow places where flowers store nectar. Then their long tongues reach in to gather the treat.” 

If you look into the family toolbox, you’ll probably find a hammer and a needle-nosed pliers. Are there birds whose beaks do similar jobs as these? You bet! The rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker searching for grubs or insects in a tree trunk sounds just about the same as the tap-tap-tap or bang-bang-bang of a hammer, and there are shoreline birds that use their long, thin beaks to “probe deep into the mud to find crustaceans, insects, and worms. A special sensory organ at the beak’s tip lets the bird feel when a meal is nearby.” Can you guess which ones they are?

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Image copyright Kate Slater, 2021, text copyright Sara Levine, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Kids who love helping out in the kitchen will be fascinated to learn that there are birds with beaks that act as strainers, nutcrackers, knives, and tongs. And if you think we’re sophisticated with our central air-conditioning one very distinct bird is born with this capability, while a more common bird has one-upped our technological advances by offering it’s chicks a one-touch “take-out” button long before the smartphone was ever developed. 

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Image copyright Kate Slater, 2021, text copyright Sara Levine, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Sure, you might think – birds can find food and build nests with their beaks, but can they show love? The answer is… Yes! The gannet is especially adept at demonstrating their feelings, and they don’t care who hears it. While “many birds show affection with their beaks,… gannets particularly stand out. These birds raise their beaks in the air and clatter them together to show how much they like each other.” After you’ve learned about all of these amazing birds and their beaks, maybe you’d like to raise a ruckus to show your appreciation too! 

Back matter includes a discussion on the evolution of bird beaks and how they change over time and a list of other books for further reading.

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Image copyright Kate Slater, 2021, text copyright Sara Levine, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Bird, nature, and science lovers as well as teachers and homeschoolers will be fascinated with Sara Levine’s clever way to engage kids in learning about birds by comparing their beaks to well-known tools children and adults use every day. Especially interesting are descriptions of the birds whose beaks’ special abilities are hidden, such as water birds that use their beaks as strainers to filter out water, sand and dirt before swallowing the nutritious plants and animals left behind. Along with information on the construction of birds’ beaks and how, exactly, birds use them, readers learn about the diet of various species and where they hunt for food.

Levine is always an insightful and captivating educator who sparks kids’ interest in nature-science learning and spurs them to further research. Her question-and-answer format gets kids thinking, observing, and theorizing in a way that increases understanding and resonates across subject matter. At-home birdwatchers will also enjoy watching out for the birds depicted in this book and their behavior.

Kate Slater’s mixed-media collage illustrations are vibrant and textured, adding lovely depth to each page. Her silhouettes of birds sporting tool where it’s beak should be are intriguing invitations for kids to ponder and guess at the answers to Levine’s questions before turning the page to discover the answer. Slater populates the pages with a wide variety of birds, realistically depicted, that will kindle an interest in readers and adults to delve into further research on these fascinating and charming creatures.

A unique and high-interest way to engage kids in learning about birds and nature, A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use is highly recommended for bird-lovers at home as well as for science, environment, and nature learning collections in schools and public libraries. 

Ages 5 – 9

Millbrook Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1541587342

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

To learn more about Kate Slater, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Busy Birds Coloring Pages

 

These birds are busy looking for and gathering food to eat! Grab your crayons, pencils, or markers, print the pages, and give the birds and their surroundings some color!

Hummingbird at Flower | Robin Grabbing a Worm | Bird on Branch

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-peek-at-beaks-cover

You can find A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

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

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

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

Written by June Smalls | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702324

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

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

World Elephant Day Activity

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

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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

 

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

Picture Book Review

August 3 – International Owl Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

International Owl Awareness Day raises awareness of these feathered beauties that can be found all over the world in nearly every ecosystem. The day also encourages people to learn more about the owls in their area as well as to consider ways they can make their yards or the surrounding landscape more welcoming and beneficial to owls. To learn more about owls and how you can help these beautiful birds, visit American Eagle Foundation website.

Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls

By Annette Whipple

 

You know owls, right? They hoot, they have glowing eyes, and a beak you wouldn’t want to be on the sharp end of. But is that all? Not by a long feather. For instance, do you know what owls eat (besides mice) or how they catch and eat their prey? What happens to all the bones and fur and teeth they swallow? And have you ever seen an owl’s tongue? You’ll discover all these facts through Annette Whipple’s detailed and engaging text (there are even some puns that might make you owl with laughter) and incredible up-close photographs of a variety of owls doing what owls do best.

Let’s see, what else do we know about owls? Ah! They sleep all day, right? Well, not exactly, and not all owls are nocturnal. Of course, those shining eyes that allow owls to see so well in the dark are one of their most well-known traits. Here, you’ll learn how they work, their range of vision, and how they “see” things that are close.

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Copyright Annette Whipple, 2021, courtesy of Reycraft Books.

Do you wonder why you never see an owl even though you hear them and know they live nearby? Maybe you already have and just didn’t realize it. Each type of owls’ feathers are colored and patterned to ensure they blend in with their surroundings. Look closely at Annette Whipple’s photos. Do you see the owls? You’ll also learn all about how owls use and communicate with their feathered ear tufts.

You’ll also discover where different kinds of owls live—some even call cacti home!—as well as how baby owlets grow up, learn to hunt, and strike out on their own. With their sharp talons, sharp beaks, and sharp eyes, owls can take care of themselves, right? Well, the truth is that owls have plenty of predators and fall victim to cars on busy highways as well as habitat destruction. Your barn owl host even has a suggestion about how homeowners and landowners can help and includes an added benefit: “Please do us a favor and leave some old trees behind. We’re some of the best all-natural ‘pest control’ around.”

Following the text, readers will find a photographic “anatomy of an owl,” a glossary of words found in the book, and an owl pellet dissection activity.

Annette Whipple’s gorgeous introduction to owls provides young readers with a comprehensive look at the anatomy and behavior of owls, beginning with what they know (or think they know) about these majestic birds and expanding their knowledge with fascinating facts and details, illustrated with astounding photographs caught in the act of eating, sleeping, observing, hiding, and even regurgitating a pellet. Sidebars “hosted” by an illustrated and affable barn owl that talks directly to readers reveal more facts about his species and others.

Sure to captivate readers, Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls is a fantastic resource for classroom, homeschool, and casual learning. The book is sure to be a favorite go-to for children and educators and is highly recommended for public libraries as well.

Ages 6 – 10

Reycraft Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1478869634

Discover more about Annette Whipple and her books on her website. You’ll also find STEM activities (indoor and outdoor), crafts, and resources for further reading and research on Annette’s site here.

International Owl Appreciation Day Activity

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Whooo’s There? Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the nineteen types of owls that call the United States home in this printable puzzle?

Whooo’s There? Word Search Puzzle | Whooo’s There? Word Search Solution

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You can find Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 15 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m excited to be celebrating the Book Birthday of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!, a story that makes delicious fun of learning about nature, science, and one fantastic treat! 

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

Written by Cynthia Schumerth | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

A group of kids plants rows of seeds, which with rain and sun grow unseen until “Surprise! Like magic sprouts appear! / Green and tender, finally here.” The kids help their plants grow by pulling weeds and watching out for pests. The seeds grow and grow until they are taller—much taller—than the children. What are the kids growing? Corn, but not just any corn…. Can you guess?

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the ears are picked, shucked, and dried, the kernels are ready to be tossed “Plink, plunk, plink” into a pot and heated up. Do you know what kind of corn it is now, or do you need another hint? Okay… “Steam builds around each kernel’s germ, / puffs the starch called endosperm.” A bit of science brings about explosive results then “first one pop! Then pops galore!” You know now! The kids grew their own popcorn! When the pot is overflowing it’s time for “butter, salt, then give a swish. / Lick our fingers—Mmm! Delish!”

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Fascinating backmatter reveals the science behind this favorite treat. Diagrams and photographs let kids see inside a popcorn kernel and view the progression of a kernel as it is heated. They also learn about the two different shapes of popcorn and how they are used. A science activity gives readers the steps for growing their own popcorn from seed to sprout and reveals what transformations take place inside the kernel as the little plant grows. A popcorn art project fills out this STEAM lesson that’s sure to be a favorite.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There may be no more universally loved snack than popcorn, and Cynthia Schumerth makes learning about the science of growing the plants, preparing the ears for popping, and what happens when the kernels are heated lots of fun. Her bouncy rhyming storytelling will engage kids and get them excited about all the lessons these tiny kernels have to teach. Schumerth’s storytelling builds to its “kaboom” moment, mirroring the suspense popcorn lovers listening for that first Pop. Teachers and homeschoolers will love the resources following the story, which provide for a full lesson appropriate for science, nature, or cross-curricular lessons.

Mary Reaves Uhles’s action-packed illustrations will enthrall kids with their close-up perspectives and relatable details, like the little girl who’s wearing a cat’s ears headband as she digs up the ground for planting. Readers go underground to get a worm’s eye view of the kernels sprouting roots, get down in the dirt to pull weeds, and peek into the pot to make sure there’s going to be enough popcorn for the whole crowd. Images of the kernels pop, pop, popping show the process and will make kids plenty hungry. The final spread of all of the kids enjoying their harvest together is a celebration of popcorn and friendship.

An exuberant story that will spark enthusiasm for science learning and gardening, Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! will be a quick favorite and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110427

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

Want to know more about Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn? You can read my interview with Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles here!

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! Book Birthday Activity

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Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

 

The popcorn’s jumpin’! Can you match the six pairs of kernels so you can enjoy a tasty snack in this printable puzzle?

Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

You can find Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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.

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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