September 4 – National Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige to promote awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide as well as to acknowledge the education and conservation work of zoos and animal sanctuaries. To honor the memory and birthday of Steve Irwin, National Wildlife Day is also celebrated on February 2. To celebrate today’s holiday, take time to learn about what you can do to help protect the environment. One action might be as easy as turning off a light – as today’s book shows.

Lights Out

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Susan Reagan

 

A little fox peeks out of her den. It’s night, but her surroundings are lit up as if it were noon. A Beetle hovers nearby taking in all the “House lights / Car lights / Truck lights / Street lights… / Blinking lights / Flashing lights / Blazing lights / Flickering lights.” There are lights in every color and on every structure. Fox and Beetle wonder where Darkness is—the dark of Night that invites coyotes to sing, owls to hunt, foxes to hunt, and beetles to become “more than beetles.” Perhaps, they think, Night is lost.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Fox and Beetle set out to find Night. They pass a wetlands, where Frog waits in vain for darkness to lend his voice to the nighttime chorus. “Across the wide, wide world, / they search… / for the Dark of Night. / But everywhere – Lights!” Up on the mountain, Bear is waiting for the signal to hibernate, but the brightness keeps him awake. Frog and Bear join in the search for Night.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-wandering

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Fox and Beetle travel through forests and fields, over deserts and dunes, and across wide prairies, but don’t find Night. When they come to the seashore, they witness baby turtles hatching. Instead of scuttling toward the ocean, they’re running toward the lights of the boardwalk shops. Frog stops the little turtles then Bear, Fox, and Frog wade out into the waves and shows them the way.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

The three friends swim “away from shore and lights” while Beetle and Songbird fly above. Out here, where the sky is dark, Beetle at last sparks and glows. At last the friends reach a far-away island that’s cloaked in darkness. Here “they can see…Everything…. / Mushrooms glowing / Fireflies / Moonlit garden / Shining eyes / Nighttime weavers / Webs of stars / Constellations / Venus, Mars….” Here, they find Night.

An Author’s Note discussing light pollution and its effect on animals and humans and including a resource where readers can learn more about light pollution and what we can do to help precedes the story.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s affecting story about how light pollution changes animal behavior and confuses the natural order of life is a poignant appeal to today’s young environmentally conscious kids, sparking an awareness of the extent of the problem while inviting them to consider ways to restore the darkness of night so important to the health of our planet. Through non-rhyming, yet lyrical language, Arnold takes readers on a journey to find Night. As the friends search place after place, children come to understand that light pollution is a worldwide issue.

Arnold’s capitalization of Night and Darkness makes them characters in the story as well, imbued with living traits and purpose that are just as crucial to wildlife as food and shelter. In one powerful combination of text and illustration, a list of light sources streams from corner to corner in a beam of white light. The number of examples builds to create a glaring realization of all the types of lights that keep the world turned on twenty-four hours a day. After reading Lights Out, children and adults will find themselves paying attention to the lights around them and even in and near their own home.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Susan Reagan’s stunning illustrations of cities, waterways, and even out-of-the-way places bathed in a permanent twilight by street lamps, headlights, lighted windows, neon signs, and more are compelling reminders of just how pervasive light pollution is. As the animals wander from place to place looking for Night, their weary and distressed expressions reflect the loss of their natural nocturnal activities. When Beetle and Fox and their friends reach the distant island, Reagan’s gorgeous spreads of a star-and-moonlit sky and vegetation, in which nocturnal animals hunt, luminescent flowers glow, and spider webs glint will have readers taking a nighttime jaunt to discover what they can see in their surroundings.

A unique and important book that raises awareness not only about light pollution but about natural cycles of sleep and wakefulness, Lights Out would be an excellent addition to lessons in science and the environment and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 8

Creative Editions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1568463407

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

To learn more about Susan Reagan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Lights Out Activity Kit

 

This extensive Activity Kit gives teachers, homeschoolers, and parents many ways to engage with Lights Out in the disciplines of science, language arts, art, and social action. Through the various activities, children will learn about light pollution and its effects as well as about the ways in which darkness benefits wildlife. You can download the kit from Marsha Diane Arnold’s website:

Lights Out Activity Kit

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-cover

You can find Lights Out at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 26 – It’s Happy Cat Month

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About the Holiday

 Even though September is winding down, it’s never too late to make sure that your cat is happy. After all, a cat should be happy all the time, right? While this month offers opportunities to make sure that your cat is getting everything they need to be healthy, it’s also a good time to consider your cat’s social interactions. Do they have a stimulating environment to keep their minds sharp? Do they get to spend quality time with you? Do they have high perches and places to hide? Do they get enough exercise? All of these things engage the social needs of cats, who like to play and with and have the attention of their owners. To celebrate this month, think about your cat’s life from their perspective to ensure your cat is a happy cat.

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Written by John Sullivan | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

On his way out the door, the night watchman “hugs his wife and children…and drives to work” as the sun is setting. As the sky darkens, he patrols the construction site once an hour. There’s a lot to do. He makes sure every door is locked, that the workshop is clear, and that no one is disturbing the vehicles or equipment.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

He rests for a moment with a hot cup of coffee under the twinkling stars and “thinks of his boy and girl, safe and asleep at home.” But the night watchman is not alone. A little gray kitten peeks out from behind a truck’s tire. The kitten approaches the night watchman and follows him as he continues his rounds through the yard, where “an excavator bows like a strange giraffe.”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The kitten knows the night watchman will share his dinner before they are off on their rounds again. They see insects hovering in the light of the lamppost and hear birds call to each other. But when the night watchman goes back to his office and waits for the kitten to follow him through the door, “the kitten isn’t there. She is nowhere to be seen.” The night watchman hears a dog bark, cars roar, and the rattle of the train passing and worries.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moth flits around the desk lamp, and the night watchman gently carries it outside. When he opens the door, the little kitten is waiting for him. He picks her up and gives her a cuddle. Then it’s time again for their rounds. While the sun breaks on the horizon, the night watchman packs up his things to go home. As he drives through the wakening city, “this time he is not alone.” He talks to the kitten and tells her, “‘I know a boy and girl who will want to give you a name.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Through his beautiful and emotionally resonant story, debut author John Sullivan lets kids follow along as a night watchman quietly makes his rounds during those midnight hours that are so mysterious and intriguing to young children. Sullivan’s lyrical phrasing, attention to nighttime creatures, and whimsical transformations of trucks, cranes, and backhoes create poetry and art from the concrete world of a construction site. The endearing relationship between the night watchman and the kitten makes the moment of suspense a tug at the heart, and its quick and loving resolution will charm young readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-driving-to-work

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Taeeun Yoo’s soft, textured illustrations envelop readers in fiery sunrises and sunsets, the lovely purple’s and blues of early evening, and the shadowy indigo of midnight. The darkness is broken here and there by the night watchman’s flashlight that throws a grainy and fading beam across the construction site, the full moon and blinking stars, lamplight, and the cozy lit windows of the watchman’s office. Standing silently silhouetted against this backdrop are the buildings and machinery of the construction site.

When the little kitten peeks from behind a truck tire, her little presence is surprising and endearing. An unseen—but heard—dog, speeding car, and rumbling train interrupt the calm night and disquiets the night watchman. Again, the kitten makes a surprising and endearing entrance. The little gray ball of fluff is another bright spot in the night—a friend to keep loneliness at bay—and as the sun rises, the promise of a sunny morning for the watchman’s children will delight readers.

Kitten and the Night Watchman is a quiet, poignant story that would be an often-read choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon and Schuster, A Paula Wiseman Book, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481461917

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

Happy Kitten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-cover

You can find Kitten and the Night Watchman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review