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.”

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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

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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! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, written by Cynthia Schumerth| illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of popcorn for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from March 15 through March 22 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 23

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

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

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Beautiful Butterflies Maze

 

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

Beautiful Butterflies Maze Puzzle | Beautiful Butterflies Maze Solution

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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

March 3 – World Wildlife Day and Interview with Author Heather Lang

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About the Holiday

A vast number of plant and animal species are facing endangerment or extinction due to human caused climate change. World Wildlife Day was created in 1973 as an effort to protect the many endangered species of the world. It is an international holiday with a new theme each year to celebrate the biodiversity of our earth while also promoting awareness and advocacy. The theme for this year’s observance is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” There are many wonderful ways to celebrate this holiday; spend some time in nature, pick up litter around your block, find out about activities going on in your hometown, and read books to educate yourself and others on the livelihood of forests, wildlife and the environment.  To learn more about World Wildlife Day, and the virtual events happening today, visit this webpage: https://www.wildlifeday.org/. If you are searching for books to celebrate, The Leaf Detective is a perfect fit!

Thanks to Boyds Mills for providing a digital copy of The Leaf Detective for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

As a child, Meg was quite shy to make friends. She spent lots of time studying and playing with wildlife: “Meg wrapped herself in nature, like a soft blanket.” As she continued to grow, so did her passion for leaves, trees, and nature. Meg attended Sydney University in Australia. In 1979, she became the first person at her graduate school to study the rainforest. Through her studies Meg learned that people had been all the way to outer space to study, but nobody had ever ventured to the tippity top of a canopy tree. Instead, they studied trees from far away through binoculars. Oftentimes scientists would spray trees with chemicals so that the harmed leaves and animals would drop to the forest floor where people could study them up close. Meg sought to change this.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

“In the dark, damp forest the trees rose up to distant rustling, squawks and screeches, shadows in the treetops. How could she get up there?” Meg Lowman created her own slingshot and harness and inched up a coachwood tree. When she reached the canopy, she knew she’d found the perfect place to study and explore. Meg is quoted saying, “From then on, I never looked back…or down!”

Meg continued to create new strategies to study the canopy, as a scientist does. And in doing so she made so many discoveries, such as: “We now believe the canopy is home to approximately half the plant and animal species on land.” Many people tried to stop Meg along her journey. They told her she couldn’t take science classes, climb trees, or make inventions because she was a woman. But Meg ignored them. She continued to investigate.

She knew that rainforests were (and are) in danger, and that so many creatures rely on the rainforest ecosystem. People all over the world were cutting down large parts of the rainforests for wood, rubber, paper, and farmland. This worried Meg; she wanted to find a way to protect rainforests before they all disappeared. “She wondered, How can one leaf detective make a difference? How can I save the trees?…Then an idea crawled into Meg’s thoughts—a way to speak for the trees.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Meg traveled around the world. She spoke to people across many different countries; taught them how to climb trees, build canopy walkways—she showed people the many gifts rainforests have to offer. Meg educated communities on how they could share their rainforest with outsiders, showcase its beauty to create revenue rather than chopping them down for resources. By using her voice and creative mind, Meg helped implement systems that have saved many trees and creatures across the world.

Meg Lowman continues to study trees, save rainforests, and teach people how to shift their economies to center around ecotourism and sustainable crops rather than resource extraction. She has used her voice to save rainforests across the world, and yet she still says, “If only I could have achieved as much as the tree!… But I have not. I have whittled away at relatively small goals in comparison to the grander accomplishments of a tree.”

Backmatter includes an author’s note detailing Heather Lang’s visit to meet Margaret Lowman in the Amazon rainforest in Perú. The note includes more information on Dr. Lowman’s advocacy work and is followed by an illustrated educational spread on the layers of canopies, and species featured throughout the story are labeled in the final spread, for readers to learn more about specific animals that make their homes in the rainforest.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Heather Lang’s lyrical writing matches the carefulness with which Meg studies leaves, trees, and the rainforest canopy. Her compelling storytelling is rich with facts and sensory imagery that immerse readers in the environment and Meg’s determination to understand and, later, save it. Scattered images of leaves drop fun facts and definitions for readers about the rainforest, canopies, transpiration, herbivores, and more. Quotes from Dr. Lowman are thoughtfully placed throughout the story in a manner that neatly flows. The Leaf Detective urges readers to understand that “a tree is not just a tree” but rather “a shelter for animals and people, / a recycler and provider of water, / a creator of food and oxygen, / an inventor of medicine/ a soldier against climate change.”

Jana Christy’s digital drawings contain stunning detail and show an accurate scale of one small person in comparison to the vastness of the rainforest. Her mesmerizing wildlife creatures and immersive watercolor blues and greens transport readers right into the rainforest with “Canopy Meg.” The lush greens of the rainforests contrast strikingly with the spread on deforestation, in which fallen trees lay scattered on the bare, brown ground. Readers will also be interested to see the innovations that have made the trees more accessible to people. One can read the book over and over and notice new details every time. It is a book to treasure, to study, to read and re-read again. 

Come unearth the secrets of the rainforest with Margaret Lowman in this book that’s budding with knowledge, empathy, and magic, and is a tale of how one person can make a difference. The intriguing facts, poignant quotes from Dr. Lowman herself, and beautiful poetic writing will leave readers of this book inspired with wonder and with a hunger for advocacy. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest is an urgent must-read for all ages.

A portion of Heather Lang’s royalties for this book go to TREE Foundation—an organization that funds field trips for children to get into nature, canopy projects, and science book distribution for children with limited access to STEAM, girls especially. 

Ages 6 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371778

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Heather Lang

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Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her research has taken her to the skies, the treetops of the Amazon, and the depths of the ocean. Her award-winning picture book biographies include, QUEEN OF THE TRACK: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall, FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, and ANYBODY’S GAME: Kathryn Johnston, The First Girl to Play Little League Baseball. When she is not writing, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and four children. Visit Heather at www.heatherlangbooks.com.

Today I am thrilled to be interviewing author Heather Lang about her new biographical picture book The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest. Heather provides some thoughtful notes for shy readers, riveting stories from the rainforest and insight into the importance of exploring and caring for nature.

Can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to write The Leaf Detective?  

We’ve caused enormous harm to our planet over the last few centuries, and I’m especially concerned about our rainforests. I knew I wanted to write a biography that was also a science book about the rainforest. When I read about Meg’s pioneering work and deep passion for trees, I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to find out how this quiet, nature-loving child, who didn’t know women could be scientists, became a world-class scientist and conservationist.

In the story you talk about how Meg was shy to make playmates with other kids. Were you also a shy kid growing up? Do you have any advice for readers who may relate to this aspect of Meg’s childhood? 

Like Meg, I was very shy as a child and remember wishing I were more outgoing. But as I grew older, I began to recognize the many advantages to being shy! My shy nature led me to sit back and observe. And that led to deeper thinking and understanding, a strong imagination, and creativity. Shy people often think more before they speak. They make their words count, which coincidentally is an important part of writing picture books. This also makes shy people good listeners and thoughtful friends. 

I’m still shy in many ways, and my recommendation to readers who might identify with this is to embrace your shyness! At the same time, don’t let it stop you from doing things you want to do. Meg Lowman told me she used to get so nervous before presenting in graduate school that she’d get physically sick. But with practice, practice, practice, she’s become a captivating presenter and educator. If you watch a few of her FUN FACTS FROM THE FIELD videos on my website, you’ll see what I mean! 

How would you describe your connection to nature? Would you consider yourself a “detective” in any ways? 

I’m constantly in awe of nature and its countless gifts and surprises. Nothing sparks my curiosity more than our natural world, and my curiosity is probably my most important tool as a writer. Being open-minded and asking questions not only generates ideas, but also leads me to think more deeply about a topic and examine it closely from lots of different angles. And of course that generates more detective work and more learning about my topic and myself. Being a detective is one of my favorite parts of writing books.

Do you have a favorite rainforest tree or creature? If so, tell me about it a bit!

When I arrived in the Amazon rainforest, I couldn’t wait to see a sloth! But during my time there I became fascinated with ants. They are everywhere in the rainforest, even in the canopy. I think it’s amazing how such tiny creatures can be so hardworking and organized. Their teamwork is unbelievable. And they are invaluable to the health of our rainforests. Among other things, they’re in charge of waste management on the rainforest floor, and they disperse seeds and aerate the soil!

What was the most rewarding part of writing The Leaf Detective?

This writing project was filled with rewards every step of the way! I learned so much about our rainforests and trees and gained a true understanding of how interconnected we all are—plants, animals, and humans. Getting to really know Meg Lowman and learning from her firsthand was thrilling and strengthened my writing in many important ways. It was also really rewarding to stretch myself as a writer and find a way to effectively write a book that seemed ambitious at first—a biography and conservation book that wove in quotes and science facts. 

Are there any stories from your trip to meet Meg that you did not get the chance to include in your author’s note that you’d like to share?

While I was on my Amazon adventure with Meg, I had many exciting moments. I loved learning from the Indigenous people how to use a blow gun, make clay, and braid palm leaves to make thatched roofs. The local shaman taught me how he uses different plants in the rainforest to treat and prevent injuries and illnesses—from bronchitis to poisonous snake bites. He also helped me confront my fear of snakes by bringing one over for me to touch. I even let it gently coil around my neck! But my favorite moments were exploring with Meg, especially at night and early in the morning when there’s so much activity in the rainforest.

What are you working on next?

I’m having a blast working on a new informational picture book series about extraordinary animals for Candlewick Press with my co-author/illustrator and close friend Jamie Harper. The first book, Supermoms!, features cool nonfiction facts about 18 amazing animal moms in a graphic format with humorous callouts. 

I’m also working on a collective biography for readers in grades 3 – 7. More to come on that soon!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Heather! I had a lovely time hearing about your inspiration, stories, writing process and tips for shy readers. Looking forward to learning and reading more from you in the months and years to come.

World Wildlife Day Activity

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You can create your own rainforest with this coloring page. Use the blank space around the picture to label the layers as shown on the last page of The Leaf Detective!

Rainforest Coloring Page

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Three different beautiful World Wildlife Day 2021 posters in six languages are available for download here.

You can find The Leaf Detective at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 14 – It’s Geography Awareness Week

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted in 1994 by National Geographic to get people excited about geography and its importance to education and everyday life. As defined by National Geographic, geography is “the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.” This discipline includes how humans interact with the environment and the impact of location on people. These important questions affect a wide range of issues. More than 100,000 people across the country participate in Geography Awareness Week through special events, focused lessons and activities in classrooms, and attention by government and business policy-makers. To learn more about the week and discover resources for further education, visit the National Geographic website.

Into the Forest: Wander through Our Woodland World

Written by Christiane Dorion | Illustrated by Jane McGuinness

 

Forests, with their stands of ancient, towering trees capped with leafy canopies and thin saplings reaching for their bit of sun are mysterious, awe inspiring, and home to some of the world’s most fascinating creatures. In Into the Forest Christiane Dorion and Jane McGuinness take readers through coniferous forests, deciduous forests, and tropical rainforests around the world to introduce readers to the life found there.

Readers first learn how a single tree grows from a seed to a full-grown beauty and see how the tree is nurtured and how it nurtures insects and animals in return. But a single tree does not make a forest. Children discover the ways in which many trees work together to create a forest and how the creatures attracted to the forest interact as well.

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Deciduous forests are found in places where there is plenty of rain and four distinct seasons through the year.” Animals roost in the trees’ trunks, root systems, and branches. “On the forest floor, small creatures snuffle, crawl, or hop under the thick carpet of fallen leaves in search of food and a safe place to shelter.” These trees have distinctive leaves and undergo changes as the seasons change. Like the trees, the animals that live in a deciduous forest also adapt to the weather, the abundance or scarcity of food, and sheltering needs. Readers learn fascinating facts about the ingenuity of the forest’s insects and animals.

After learning about the deciduous forest, readers will want to discover them for themselves. Through lyrical descriptions and charming, realistic illustrations, Dorion and McGuinness show children and adults how and where to look and listen to find the treasures the forest holds. But there can be so many different trees in a forest—or even in a backyard or neighborhood. How do you know which is which? Dorion and McGuinness provide an illustrated guide to the names, shape, size, and type of leaf of twenty deciduous trees.

Across the northern hemisphere, coniferous forests stand tall and stalwart against bitterly cold winters while attracting some of the most majestic creatures in the animal kingdom. “Most trees in the coniferous forest are evergreens with needle-like leaves” that stay green and shed little-by-little all year round. Instead of flowers, coniferous trees produce their seeds in cones. Squirrels and birds, who can use their sharp beaks and acrobatic flying and hanging skills, find food in these cones during long winters.

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In coniferous forests, the floor is dark, wet, and can be rocky or even frozen year-round. Moss, fungi, lichen, and carnivorous plants are some of the vegetation found here. Readers learn how these plants grow, what they look like, and the animals that thrive on them. How do the forest animals survive the harsh winter conditions? Dorion and McGuinness follow ermine, grouse, a snowshoe hare, bats, chipmunks, bears, and other birds and animals as they navigate their cold home. They then take kids to the west coast to look up, up, up at the mammoth redwoods, some of which “have lived for more than two thousand years.”

There is a wide variety of coniferous trees, and again Dorion and McGuinness present a guide to the size, shape, and type of needles and cones of fourteen trees. And why are evergreens shaped like a triangle? The clever answer to that question is here too.

When you think of colorful birds and animals, you think about tropical rainforests. Dorion and McGuinness. Found near the equator, rainforests are home to “more than half of the know plants and animals in the world” and “more are yet to be discovered.” In a glorious riot of color, climbing vines, vibrant flowers and fruit, Dorion and McGuinness introduce readers to the denizens of these forests, where rain and warm weather provide plenty of food and water; “monkeys leap from tree to tree using their long limbs and gripping tails to move around;” and “screeching macaws, croaking frogs, and howling monkeys make a deafening jungle chorus” to “tell each other where they are in the dense tangle of leaves and branches.”

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers will meet animals including the howler monkey, coati, toucan, parrot, poison dart frog, and sloth. Kids also learn about hanging lianas, orchids, and why plants have waxy leaves. All of that vegetation above means that the forest floor is dark and damp, making it the perfect place for some of the world’s most unusual—and feared—creatures, including snakes, spiders, jaguars, the giant centipede, and the Hercules beetle.

Frequent rain is the lifeblood of these tropical forests, and Dorion and McGuinness describe and depict their unique atmosphere as well as the ingenious adaptations some animals use to hide in plain sight and fool predators and the way nighttime transforms the forest into a feeding ground for nocturnal animals. The guide to fourteen tropical trees introduces readers to a wide variety from palm trees to fruit trees, like mango and avocado, to trees that produce nuts, cinnamon, cacao, and chicle for gum.

Dorion and McGuinness close out their book with discussions on how plants, insects, and animals work together to ensure the growth and heath of a forest; the ways in which a forest benefits the planet; and how to plant a tree so that it will thrive. Readers will love the illustrated prompt to find twenty-seven creatures within the pages of the book, giving them an exciting way to turn back to discover all the gems included in the text.

A glossary defines twenty-two terms found in the text, and a list of organizations and links to their websites complete the back matter.

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Image copyright Jane McGuinness, 2020, text copyright Christiane Dorion, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Christiane Dorion’s beautiful language and richly detailed narration take children into the three types of forests to see and hear how these natural communities of trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, and even weather patterns work together to maintain what are indispensable parts of our earth. The facts Dorion chooses to present will captivate young learners, telling them enough about each subject to educate while sparking a desire to know more. Perfectly paced, her text creates a lovely flow and visual accompaniment to Jane McGuinness’s gorgeous illustrations.

McGuinness astounds on every page with lush images of the various types of forests in warm weather and the coldest of conditions, during daylight and nighttime, during quiet periods and busy times. Her realistically portrayed intense textures, vivid colors, unique shapes, and furtive or carefree movements of nature invite readers into the depths of the forests to truly see what is there.

Lingering over the pages rewards readers with hidden delights, such as tiny animals peeking from the knot hole of a tree, little caterpillars inching their way across leaves, a nest with three eggs secured within the branches of a spring-green tree, and masters of camouflage motionless and nearly undetectable. Spotlighted facts and the intermittent detailed guides to specific trees, creatures, and the science of forests not only teach readers about these particular features but reinforce how nature collaborates to survive and grow.

Superbly conceived, Into the Forest is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections for nature lovers, school and homeschool lessons, and anyone who would like to learn more about our planet.

Ages 7 – 15

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1526600707

Discover more about Christiane Dorion and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jane McGuinness, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Geography Awareness Week Activity

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Wonderful Wildlife Board Game

 

Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!
  • 1 = Flamingo – South America
  • 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 3 = Giraffe – Africa
  • 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
  • 5 = Ibex – Europe
  • 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
  • 7 = Panda – Asia
  • 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 9 = Toucan – South America
  • 10 = Buffalo – North America
  • 11 = Koala – Australia
  • 12 = Lion – Africa
  • 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
  • 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
  • 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
  • 16 = Tiger – Asia

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-into-the-forest-cover

You can find Into the Forest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 1 – It’s Wild about Wildlife Month

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About the Holiday

The theme of this month-long holiday is simply all about wildlife. Whether you like mammals, birds, fish, or insects best, July is the time to celebrate them. The month is just getting started, which give you and your kids lots of time to explore the wildlife in your area and learn about the creatures on the other side of the world and everywhere in between. Today’s book will get you started!

50 Reasons to Love Animals

Written by Catherine Barr | Illustrated by Hanako Clulow

 

In her introduction, Catherine Barr orients readers to the focus of her book with the alarming statistic that “five times in Earth’s history over half of all animals and plants have mysteriously died out. But today,” in large part because of habitat destruction, “species are becoming extinct much faster than the natural rate.” She and Hanako Clulow then take children on around-the-world-trip to various ecosystems to discover facts about the animals that live in each and find spotlighted “how to love…” suggestions for protecting them in every chapter.

The first stop is a dry savanna, where African elephants, giraffes, zebras, and hippos gather around a watering hole. Kids will be interested to learn that baby elephants take about a year to “figure out how to eat and drink with their strange, long noses,” and that hippos have a built-in sunscreen that protects them from the sun. At night, lions, lesser bushbabies, and pangolins come out to eat. They’ll also learn about other animals on the savannah as well as about the shrinking population of elephants—victims of poaching for their ivory tusks.

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Image copyright Hanako Clulow, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Readers next dive into the sea to explore a coral reef, which provides nutrients and a home to a wide variety of creatures—including marine sponges, which contain “chemicals that are used in medicine to treat diseases like cancer, spiny lobsters, seahorses, sharks, dolphins, and various types of sea turtles. Children learn more about these shelled favorites who have populated our oceans for 100 million years and the dangers they face, including polluted waters, fishing nets, and plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish and ingest. How can kids love a turtle? By learning more about climate change and how it is killing coral reefs.

Children return to land to discover the Arctic and Antarctica. The northern icy pole is home to polar bears, harp seals, puffins, whales, while the southern pole is home to seals and emperor penguins. Kids might think about these intrepid creatures—who can “survive in very low temperatures of -76 degrees Fahrenheit” the next time they put on a sweater or coat.

Ahhh! Kids can warm up in an evergreen forest with two cute bear cubs learning how to scratch their back against a tree trunk as a porcupine, a Steller’s jay, and a pine marten look on. There are all kinds of forests, and readers are next transported to a bamboo forest, where a giant panda and her cub chow down on lunch. Here, children learn about the threats to bamboo forests and, by extension, the panda population while meeting a few more denizens of this unique environment. An old forest growing in the shadow of snow-capped mountains gives shelter to a grizzly bear family and majestic elk. Did you know that a grizzly bear “can run as fast as a race horse?”

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Image copyright Hanako Clulow, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The northern and southern open oceans host whales, octopuses, penguins, seals, a multitude of fish species, and strange creatures we’re only beginning to learn about. Many animals of the cold Southern Ocean eat krill, but the loss of sea ice to climate change decreases the number of krill and threatens to endanger the animals that rely on it. How much does pollution affect our oceans? “Scientists estimate that the population of ocean animals has halved over the last 40 years.”

Finally, kids come to a tropical forest, where Asian elephants are busy scratching an itch and swatting away flies with sticks they use as tools. Bengal tigers, orangutans, sun bears, and hornbills are only a few of the creatures who make these lush forests their home. Tropical rainforests are being diminished by logging and their replacement by palm oil plantations. You can help by checking the ingredients of products you use—”from food to toothpaste” for palm oil and finding “better options such as sustainable palm oil or palm oil-free products.”

As the book closes, readers meet up with elephants once again. These African forest elephants share space with people and gorillas. While the elephants can wreak havoc on farms, “farmers are encouraging elephants away from their crops—with a hum and a sticky reward.” Can you figure out what it is?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-50-reasons-to-love-animals-gentoo-penguins

Image copyright Hanako Clulow, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Catherine Barr’s captivating text and fifty highlighted facts offer readers a fascinating and eye-opening trip around the world to raise awareness of the dangers animals and humans face if we don’t work together to find solutions to pollution, habitat destruction, and other threats to the environment. Today’s environmentally conscious children will eagerly want to participate in the “Show you love…” tips, which provide ideas for classroom and homeschool research and activities.

Hanako Clulow combines lifelike portrayals with the appeal of kawaii to bring the various ecosystems to vibrant life for readers. Through her textured and detailed illustrations, readers will feel transported to a grassy plain, where each blade of grass is visible; dive into warm and frigid waters for a peek at what lies below; and enjoy a warm day on a flower-speckled riverbank. Clulow’s wide vistas also give children a stunning view of each environment, allowing them to see what is in danger of being lost. While clearly depicted and easy to read, the numbered fact boxes do not intrude on the illustrations, making each two-page spread a lovely learning experience. The chapter format makes the book easy to dip into for classroom or homeschool lessons.

An excellent introduction to world environments, 50 Reasons to Love Animals would be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711252462

Discover more about Catherine Barr and her books as well as free learning activities on her website.

You can find a portfolio of work by Hanako Clulow on her website.

Wild about Wildlife Month Activity

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

Handprint Elephants

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a 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 the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

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You can find 50 Reasons to Love Animals at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review