August 11 – Play in the Sand Day

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About the Holiday

Is there any better way to spend a summer day than playing on a sandy beach? That wet, compact surface is perfect for running on, digging in, and, of course, building sandcastles with. And the soft, dry areas are great for beachcombing, wiggling toes in, playing volleyball, and simply strolling along. So head out to your favorite beach and have some family fun! 

A Beach Chase: An A – Z Alphabet book

By Sarah Downie

 

Holly and Logan love playing at the beach. Today, Holly is looking “for shells to add to her collection.” She spies something “among the anemones” and rushes into the water, where she discovers an anchor. Holly also finds a conch shell and, as she’s admiring it, a girl floats by on a buoy and asks her what she’s going to do with it. But this is no ordinary girl—Holly realizes that she’s a mermaid. A mermaid who quickly grabs Holly’s new shell and takes off, diving deep into the ocean.

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Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

And so begins a wet and wild chase to recover Holly’s shell. Logan and Holly swim past various sea creatures, come to an island, and mistake “just a jumble of jellyfish” for the mermaid they’re looking for. Undeterred, they swim on until they see a kayak in the distance. “They kick, kick, kick towards” it and then paddle out to sea through a mass of kelp. On their way, they spot other creatures and seaside landmarks—even freeing an octopus from a net—before spying a tell-tail flick in a tide pool. 

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Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

Jumping in, they discover another world, one where mermaids and mermen are having a party. But where is the mermaid who took Holly’s shell? Holly and Logan swim through the party and a zig-zag-y tunnel before finally spotting her near an outcropping of rocks at the ocean floor. The mermaid shows Holly and Logan the very special reason she needed the conch shell. She didn’t want it for herself, but for a hermit crab that “was in need of a home.” 

Immediately, Holly offers to bring more shells from her collection for other hermit crabs if the mermaid will let her and Logan come again. The mermaid enthusiastically agrees and invites her new friends to stay and join the party.

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Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

Back matter includes a visual dictionary that depicts each illustration in the book and lists words for the objects or creatures corresponding to each letter found there. Kids may also spy other, unlisted letter-appropriate creatures (such as sand dollars on the “S” page) or actions (like Logan’s being nice to the octopus on the “N” and “O” spreads or the octopus peeking above the waves on the “P” page).

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Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

In her eye-catching art, Sarah Downie cleverly incorporates the letters of the alphabet while inviting readers to join Holly and Logan on their search for the mermaid. From the shallows of the seashore to the far depths of the ocean, kids will eagerly follow this quick-paced story while feeling pride and excitement in spotting all the hidden objects. Well-conceived for its target audience, the illustrations contain a range of difficulty so that little ones as well as older children will enjoy the search-and-find aspects of this book.

Downie’s engaging storytelling includes plenty of alliteration that reinforces the sound of each letter while promoting letter recognition throughout the book. She also infuses her story with themes of kindness, sharing, and care for the environment that will resonate with young readers.

A charming and clever story that transcends its alphabet roots to engage readers on many levels, A Beach Chase: An A – Z Alphabet book is playful fun that kids will want to dip into again and again. The book would make a terrific take-along on seaside or lakeside beach trips, where kids could extend the story’s search-and-find to their own experience. It could also spark creative cross-curricular lessons for teachers and homeschoolers and would be a welcome addition to any home library to enjoy throughout the year.

Ages 3 – 8

Leaning Rock Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1950323241

You can learn more about Sarah Downie, her books, and her art on her website.

Play in the Sand Day Activity

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A trip to the beach can inspire all kinds of games and puzzles! Sarah Downie has created an activity pack with 15 challenges to get you searching and having fun just like Holly and Logan. You can download it here:

A Beach Chase Activity Pack

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You can find A Beach Chase: An A – Z Alphabet book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 3 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

March 3rd is not only part of National Reading Month, but it’s World Book Day and World Wildlife Day too! How can readers celebrate all three holidays at the same time? With today’s book! Here’s a little bit about each holiday:

National Reading Month

All month long, people celebrate all the joys and benefits of reading. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is typically marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities.

World Wildlife Day 

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd to be World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. This year’s theme is “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration,” which seeks to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora and to drive discussions toward devising and implementing solutions to conserve them. To learn more, visit the World Wildlife Day website.

World Book Day

World Book Day was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be celebrated on April 23rd, 1995 in honor of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who all died on this date. Some countries, such as Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland celebrate on March 3. No matter what date you pick – or whether you choose to celebrate on both days – the holiday encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading for pleasure and promotes the availability of a wide range of books to all and in all languages. 

Thanks to Running Press Kids for sharing a copy of Battle of the Butts with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Battle of the Butts: The Science Behind Animal Behinds

Written by Jocelyn Rish | Illustrated by David Creighton-Pester

 

Get ready to RUUUMBLE! as ten of the world’s most fascinating animals put their butts on the line in Jocelyn Rish’s genius look at how certain sea creatures, mammals, insects, and reptiles eat, swim, talk, and defend themselves using their powerful posteriors. Readers don’t have to passively sit by and read, though. Rish invites kids to judge the challengers based on their own preferences and assign a rating from “Terrific Tushie” to “Boring Backside” on their way to crowning the “King of Keisters.”

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

As each challenger steps up, readers are presented with their stats, which include their “genus, length, weight, home turf, and posterior power.” Turning the page, kids are then drawn into the science of each critter’s anatomy and how they use it as Rish – in her conversational, detailed, and descriptive text – uses dynamic phrasing and familiar comparisons to help kids visualize each animal’s endgame. An “Extra Booty” paragraph and a highlighted “Butt Bonus” provide more info.

So who’s on the roster for this awesome competition? First up is the manatee, who moves through the water by holding onto or releasing farts. Lest kids begin “picturing a manatee zipping through the water like it has a jetpack on its back end,” Rish goes on to explain the mechanics of their gas-fueled swimming, how they fill up, and the enormity of their intestinal system that allows them to store their gas until they need it. 

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

Another fierce contender is the bombardier beetle, which at a max length of 1.181 inches (30 millimeters), proves that mighty things come in small packages. This mini-monster might just become the next superhero, with moves worthy of a big-budget blockbuster. Just picture this movie trailer: “A bombardier beetle strolls through the leaves, minding its own business. A bunch of hungry ants attack. Things don’t look so good for the beetle. Then . . . Pew! Pew! Pew! The bombardier beetle fires a pulsing spray of scalding chemicals from its butt, twisting its tushie in different directions to hit all the ants. The bombardier beetle escapes, while the ants regret their decision to snack on the beetle.” Phew! Pass the popcorn! How do they do this? Rish takes kids step-by-step through the bombardier beetle’s chemical processes that read like a blue-ribbon-winning science fair project, complete with boiling blasts ejected at a “speed of 22 miles per hour.” What if the beetle gets eaten anyway? Find out in the explosive Butt Bonus.

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

Not all of these challengers use their powers for defense. Parrotfish, which are found in “shallow tropical and subtropical waters around the world” use their poop to do double doody – I mean duty. You might feel a little squeamish about walking barefoot on a beautiful beach that’s near a coral reef once you learn that “a large portion of that white sand is actually parrotfish poop.” Say what?! Yep! Parrotfish “eat the algae, polyps, and bacteria that live on and in coral reefs.”

To get at it, they also end up ingesting coral and, after its well ground up by the 1,000 teeth along the fish’s beak and the “throat-teeth [that] work like a pepper grinder to crush the bits of coral into fine sand,” they deposit this non-nutritious detritus which then becomes the stuff of sandcastles, tanning beds, and sunny day seaside playgrounds. Sounds like a lot of poop, huh? The Butt Bonus tells you just how much.

These are just a few of the entrants vying for your verdict. Will any of them win the crown? Or will it be the wombat, with its armored butt; the Fitzroy river turtle, that’s a butt breather; the herring and its unusual communication style; the silver-spotted skipper caterpillar, that puts medieval warriors to shame; the beaded lacewing and its fatal farts; the Sonoran coralsnake that’s a master of confusion; or the sea cucumber, that throws everything it’s got at would-be predators? It’s up to you! Award your favorite with the trophy while rewarding yourself with a full flush of scintillating facts with which to entertain friends and dazzle your teachers!

A Glossary of words found in bold type throughout the book follows the text.

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Image copyright David Creighton-Pester, 2021, text copyright Jocelyn Rish, 2021. Courtesy of Running Kids Press.

If you’re looking for a riveting book steeped in nature and environmental science with some chemistry and lots of laughs thrown in for your child, classroom, or other group of kids, you can’t miss with Jocelyn Rish’s Battle of the Butts. Perfect for both younger kids as a read aloud and for independent readers, the book offers opportunities for exciting learning, expanded research, and even experimentation. Rish’s knowledge of her subject and talent for captivating kids jumps off the page with her smooth, alliterative, and hilarious storytelling.

Accompanying each chapter are David Creighton-Pester’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations that accentuate the humor while realistically showing kids how each creature uses their particular skills in their natural environment. Catapulted poop, shooting toots, and funny facial expressions make each page turn a blast. The book’s excellent format also makes it easy to navigate the short chapters and get the most out of all the material presented. At the end of each chapter, kids are invited to rate the creature in this mega-battle of the butts.

A superb way to engage kids in science learning, The Battle of the Butts would be a favorite on any home bookshelf and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Running Press Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0762497775

Discover more about Joycelyn Rish and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Creighton-Pester, his books, and his art, visit his website.

 National Reading Month Activity

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Wildlife Coloring Pages

 

You can have fun coloring the animals from today’s book while celebrating all three of today’s featured holidays with these printable coloring pages!

Cute Wombat Coloring Page | Parrotfish Coloring Page | Manatee Coloring Page

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You can find The Battle of the Butts at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – I AM TODAY Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for I Am Today by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa. This season of giving is the perfect time to share this gorgeous book that reflects the desire of children to give their thoughts, talents, and actions to causes that are meaningful to them. If you’d like to follow I Am Today’s blog tour, see the graphic below for further dates and blogs.

I Am Today

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

 

A child stands on the edge of the beach, letting the sea foam run over her bare toes. Below, a turtle wrapped in a strand of wire floats nearby, while in the background a factory belches smog into the air, and a pipe snakes over the dunes to the water, where it spills its industrial waste. As the child picks up the turtle and removes the wire, she states, “Grown-ups say I am the Future.” Then while releasing the freed turtle, she finishes her thought: “But I’d rather be the Now.” The child then makes her case, explaining that she’s ready to contribute in positive ways, having learned decency, fairness, and generosity from her family and other role models.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The memory of the turtle she saved stays with her—her one small act inspiring her to do more. She determines “if I see something isn’t right, / I need to take a stand! / Why wait to offer kindness? / Why wait to lend a hand?” While trying to go to sleep, the little turtle and a whole sea of fish and other creatures swim in her mind. Suddenly, she has an idea and gets out of bed. She writes note after note and folds each paper into origami turtles. She then goes to her window and releases them on the wind.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The next morning, despite the rain, a crowd of children has gathered at the child’s door—all are holding her note. They and their parents and other adults, many carrying signs urging protection for the sea animals, march down the sidewalk and past the polluting factory to the beach. Living in that moment, they think: “The past is far behind us, / the future, well beyond. / There’s never been / a better time to listen… / …learn… / …respond!”

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

At the beach the group fans out across the sand to pick up debris, and a turn of the page reveals a clean beach and a newspaper containing a front-page article on the factory’s waste pipe that has been closed. “Someday I’ll be the Future” the child says, “But right now… / …I am Today.”

Illustrated instructions on how to make an origami turtle follow the story.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

Children, having lived on our planet for only a few years, are all progress, moving forward, not looking back yet as each day they learn something new, develop another skill, break old barriers, and form unique opinions. So it’s no surprise that kids are concerned about what is happening today and how it will affect the future—their future and the world’s. In I Am Today, Matt Forrest Esenwine harnesses that power of wonder, confidence, and ambition that children possess and gives it a lyrical voice. Flowing with a rhythm as stirring as ocean swells, Esenwine’s story will resonate deeply within any child’s heart.

While Patricia Pessoa’s lovely illustrations depict a child concerned with protecting the ocean and its creatures, Esenwine’s text is universal and equally inspiring for any child and any cause. While recognizing the desire and ability of children and young people to bring about change, Esenwine also provides concrete ways that they can do so, from small gestures to larger actions, allowing all readers to feel included and important. I Am Today also presents a meaningful way for kids and adults to talk about causes that are important to them and ways that they can get involved.

With a warm, vivid color palette and fresh perspectives that allow readers to make some of their own deductions, Patricia Pessoa presents a lush landscape of a child’s family life, imagination, and ideas brought to fruition. Her images of the family’s picture wall and dinner time are full of heart and humor, and kids will enjoy lingering over the pages to catch all the action. Pessoa portrays the importance of saving the turtles and other sea creatures with clever imagery as the turtle appears in the bathroom mirror as the child brushes her teeth, swimming in the bathtub, and decorating the cup of water on her nightstand. Pessoa’s illustrations of the fish and other ocean creatures that fill the child’s mind are especially beautiful, as is the spread in which she sends her origami messengers out into the world.

I Am Today is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational book that children will want to frequently revisit and one that families, classrooms, schools, and public libraries will want to add to their collections. The book’s beauty and message makes it a wonderful gift for any child on your list.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

POW! Kids Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1576879948

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry on his website.

You can connect with Patricia Pessoa on Instagram.

Check out these upcoming dates and discover how other bloggers are celebrating I Am Today

I Am Today Blog Tour Schedule

This year many books have been delayed from their original publishing date to a later time due to shipping and supply issues. The best way to support authors and their wonderful new books is to preorder titles from your favorite bookseller. I Am Today will be available January 23, 2022.

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You can preorder I Am Today at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 8 – Cover Reveal of Monsters in the Briny

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Monsters in the Briny

Written by Lynn Becker | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

What do you do with a grumpy kraken, a sickly sea serpent, and a tearful gigantic tortoise? You sing them a tune! Following the sea shanty rhyme of “What Do You Do With . . . ,” a ship’s crew has to contend with a coterie of mythical sea creatures, all demanding comfort and attention. As each creature threatens to swamp the ship, the quick-thinking crew knows just what to do to save the day, from serving pancakes to mopping a sweaty forehead. But what happens when the sailors have had enough?

Back matter includes information about the sea creatures featured, music and lyrics, and a brief history of sea shanties.

I’m thrilled to be talking with author Lynn Becker and illustrator Scott Brundage about their rollicking sea-going adventure – a story and sea shanty that you can read or sing with your kids! 

Meet Lynn Becker

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lynn-becker-headshotLynn Becker has been a reader and creator all her life. These days, when she’s not writing picture books or children’s book reviews, she’s hiking, doing crazy-long yoga classes, and dreaming up even more picture books. After growing up in New York, Lynn spent many years in the Southern California desert with her husband, children, cats, dog, and lots and lots of chickens. She now lives in Colorado. The chickens stayed behind, but a few mythical beasties may have followed her to her new home…! You can connect with Lynn on Her Website | Facebook | Twitter .

Hi Lynn! Thanks for dropping by to talk about your first picture book. I’m so excited to be sharing the first look readers have of this fun book! I’m sure everyone is intrigued to learn how your book came to be, so let’s get started!

You grew up in New York City but have spent many years in the South California desert and Colorado. Did a longing for the sea inspire your unique story?

Kathy, thank you so much for hosting this Monsters in the Briny cover reveal!

I’ve actually been in and around both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans quite a bit, and have always done lots of swimming. But my inspiration for this book absolutely came from my love of monsters. I’m drawn to mythological beings of all kinds, and always have been, maybe because thinking about them adds a dollop of fun and magic to real life. I grew up drowning myself in fantasy and fairy tales, folklore and mythology. My favorite stories tend to feature dragons. (Although I’m a sucker for vampire stories, and who doesn’t enjoy a good, witchy cackle now and then?!)

I knew I had to feature sea monsters in a picture book because, while writing a longer work (a bestiary/poetry collection), I decided to include a sea shanty. What else could I do but spotlight a kraken? And when my critique partners all demanded that this kraken star in a story of her own, Monsters in the Briny took off from there!

The sneak peek of your book is so enticing and really promises a madcap romp to come. How much fun was it to choose the sea creatures and match them with a problem? Can you take readers on the book’s journey?

Once I had my sea shanty format and my kraken, the song practically wrote itself. I used a famous tune that everyone should be familiar with (sorry in advance for any ear worms) and reworked it with my own rollicking, monster-and-kid-friendly scenario. Originally, the story was just about the kraken experiencing a variety of moods, but I got some terrific advice to try pairing each “crisis” with a different sea beast, and I think the story is much stronger for it.

It must have been so thrilling to see your story come to life through Scott Brundage’s illustrations and especially this awesome cover. Can you share your first reaction to seeing the final cover and the interior artwork?

You can’t possibly imagine how happy I was to see this art. I was in the supermarket when I first looked at the cover on my phone, and I cried, right there by the dairy case. It was so very perfect! But I had known from the moment I saw Scott’s website that he was the right person to illustrate this book. My editor, Barb McNally, and the entire team at Sleeping Bear Press (shout out to Hailey in Publicity!) has been a dream to work with, and I couldn’t be happier with the support and know-how they’ve brought to these Monsters. And I’m grateful to my wonderful agent, Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary, for finding Kraken and Co. such a wonderful home.

You’ve previously worked in animation for films and TV, and Monsters in the Briny is your debut picture book. Do you find that your work in animation influences your writing for kids? What made you want to write for children?

For me, the best picture books are a perfect pairing of words and art. I’ve been enjoying—and studying—them for quite a while now, and for a long time I thought I might also illustrate my own work. Because I previously worked on films, my book dummies often felt like animation storyboards. However, I found that when I wrote a manuscript with no intention of illustrating it, my writing became a lot more interesting. In part because I’m not limited anymore to what I think I can draw! More importantly, without the images to rely on, the writing had to do a lot more heavy lifting. And, since this was about the time I realized I enjoyed the writing part more than the illustrating, this scenario worked out really well.

What are you most looking forward to when the book launches in March? Do you have any book events scheduled that you’d like to tell readers about?

The book launches on April 15 now and I can’t wait to share it with kids! I hope they get as big a kick out of it as I got while writing it. When it publishes, I have a number of blog posts and giveaways lined up. There will also be a book launch scheduled for around that time, and readers can check my website for information on these and other book-related events. I’ll be posting a musical track for the Monsters song, an animated book trailer, and other fun extras on my website

Meet Scott Brundage

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-first-men-who-went-to-the-moon-scott-brindage-head-shotScott Brundage is a Brooklyn-based illustrator and character designer. As a child, his parents rightly decided he was far too indoorsy for his own heath and encouraged him to try various hobbies. When T-ball’s rules confused him and judo required too much coordination, he found his love for drawing cartoons at a local art class. Scott has sketched and painted ever since, eventually attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His children’s books include Where’s My Cow? and The First Men Who Went to the Moon. His work has been recognized by American Illustration, the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, and the Society of Illustrators. You can connect with Scott on His Website | Instagram | Twitter.

Hi Scott! Welcome back to Celebrate Picture Books! As soon as I learned that you illustrated Monsters in the Briny, I knew kids and adults are in for a special treat, and this cover is just the start as it really sparks the imagination!

Can you share what you loved about Lynn’s story from an illustrator’s point of view?

Well, I was sold at “Monsters.”  The Briny part was gravy after that. I’d jump at any opportunity to take a monster and twist it to fit a children’s audience. This book is just that, a fun twist on a sea shanty about the creepy things in the ocean. I think the cover makes a nice lure to get kids’ minds thinking of what could possibly be lurking deep in the ocean, and the book’s contents shows them just that, but also reassures them that they mostly just want some snacks or a haircut.

How many different versions of the cover did you design before the final one was chosen? I love how realistic the ocean looks in this illustration! Can you share your process in creating the cover and interior images? 

We had the rough idea of what the cover could be pretty early. The bare bones of illustrated text as old, submerged lumber from a boat, interacting with giant tentacles below a tiny ship. When I originally painted the final art, I had just come off several weeks of 16-hour days working on an animated movie. I gave myself one exhausted day to get it done and, unsurprisingly, I was given notes to revise it quite a bit. Sleeping Bear Press found a couple more weeks for me to work on it, which allowed me to rest a bit and give it it’s proper care. I’m glad too, I’m super happy with the final product, even though I was a shell of myself when I started it.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

 

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

I had the interior sketches finished pretty early on, but my first pass had all the sailors as adults, since I was diving headlong into full on pirates. My art director suggested, very wisely, that they all be children, with a running musical gag involving an accordion player. Oh, right! This is for children. This is why art directors are great!

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-monsters-in-the-briny-cover-reveal-Kraken-with-kids

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

The way I normally work is to pitch a very rough idea of what the pages could be. Once that’s approved, I develop the sketches a bit more and send for approval. After any revisions or notes to the sketch, I develop a more finished drawing and print the clean drawing on watercolor paper, then paint it. Final touches in photoshop after that.

Did you need to do any kind of research before drawing the sea creatures? How or where did you do this? Did you discover anything surprising along the way?

I needed a bunch of research for the sea creatures, which was pretty easy to find. I wasn’t aiming to make anything super accurate in terms of specific types of animals, more a fun design that would work for the story. It was easy enough to grab a bunch of photos of snakes or turtles or old illustrations of hydras, then put my spin on how they could look.

The much more difficult part was researching the ship itself. I know very little about nautical anything, much less historical pirate ship shapes, types, how the rigging and sails work, etc. Luckily, another illustrator friend of mine, Gregory Manchess, had done a series of murals for National Geographic specifically about historically accurate pirates. He was kind enough to send me piles of ship reference, as well as pirate clothing reference.

So, what I discovered along the way is that those ships are waaaaaay more complex than I had previously guessed. Most of the finished pages would have been intricate webs of ropes and knots had I tried to be super accurate. So, instead… we have a ship that hopefully feels relatively similar throughout, but with a lot of liberties taken.

Did you have a favorite sea monster and/or scene to create? What made it your favorite? Can you give readers a little preview of one of the sea monsters?

I have a couple favorites, but the kraken is probably at the top. Tentacles are always fun to draw, they can feel long, elegant, and powerful in their gesture and shape, but also have those inherently upsetting but also sorta silly suction cups. And playing with the giant squid’s scale in relation to the ship adds fun aspect to designing the illustrations. The tentacles can literally hug the ship and highlight whatever I want to call attention to. There’s not much more an illustrator could ask for. Plus, it’s a ridiculous bright red, who isn’t a fan of that?

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

What would you like for kids to take away from your illustrations for Monsters in the Briny?

Well, for one, I hope the song gets stuck in their head. But that aside, I hope kids realize that giant sea monsters are fun and usually just need some music and a pancake to be your friend.

Sea monsters, an unforgettable sea shanty, and pancakes! I can’t wait to read the whole story – and I’m sure readers are hooked too! Thanks, Lynn and Scott, for stopping by to give us a preview of your treasure to come!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Monsters-in-the-Briny-cover

Monsters in the Briny will be published this coming spring. Preorder your copy now from these booksellers!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | The Wandering Jellyfish

Picture Book Review

October 8 – World Octopus Day

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About the Holiday

With fossils dating back 300 million years, the octopus is one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating creatures. It’s also one of the smartest—as it has more than 500 million neurons firing information through its brain and arms, allowing them to learn from experience and solve problems. Octopuses are adaptable and are found in all the world’s oceans. While most prefer warmer waters and living along the ocean floor, some species swim in shallower, cooler waters. Octopuses have an excellent sense of touch and sense of vision—some even see in color. They fool predators by hiding or camouflaging themselves and can escape capture by shooting an inky substance at their pursuers. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan a visit to an aquarium or other sea life center!

All I Want is an Octopus

Written by Tracy Gunaratnam | Illustrated by Valentina Fontana

 

Throughout the city, a little boy sees pets of all kinds going here and there with their humans. He knows kids with dogs and cats, hamsters and turtles, mice and even a horse. “But all he wants is an… octopus!” His dad tells him an octopus “‘belongs in the sea.’” His son’s response? “‘But DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! My octopus would wash your car. / He’d paint the house and play guitar.’” His dad thinks about it and is pretty impressed. As he sprinkles food into their fish tank, he says he’ll leave it up to Mom.

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Image copyright Tracy Gunaratnam, 2021, text copyright Valentina Fontana, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

But when the boy asks his mom, she tells him the idea is silly and to get ready for bed. Her son’s response? “‘But MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!’” Then he tells her how helpful the octopus would be, and she’s just as impressed as Dad had been. She tells him to go ask his Gran. Gran doesn’t need any convincing at all. In fact, she thinks an octopus will “‘roller skate and jump in puddles… /…Play mini golf and give wonderful cuddles.’”

The boy is star struck—even he didn’t think of these. But while his Gran thinks having an octopus would be a great bet, she’s already invited another pet. Who could it be? Ding Dong! Open the door and you will see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-I-want-is-an-octopus-swimming

Image copyright Tracy Gunaratnam, 2021, text copyright Valentina Fontana, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Silly in the best way and with dialogue kids are going to love to chime in on, Tracy Gunaratnam’s funny rhyming story is perfect for lively family, classroom, or library story times. All I Want is an Octopus would make a captivating lead-in and prompt for classroom writer’s workshops on pets and family negotiations. At home, kids would have fun imagining what other jobs around the house an octopus could do as well as talking about an unusual pet they’d like to have.

Valentina Fontana’s adorable guitar-playing, hair-styling, mini golf-playing pink octopus will have kids wanting one of their own. Her fresh, vibrant illustrations, rendered in a lovely color palette, also hold clues that kids will have fun deciphering as to why each of the various other pets are a perfect match for its owner. The book Gran is reading also hints at the surprise ending, and the final spread will bring a smile to all kids with big dreams.

A light-hearted read aloud that kids and adults will enjoy sharing at story time or bedtime, All I Want is an Octopus makes a terrific gift and sure favorite on home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867796

You can connect with Valentina Fontana on Instagram.

World Octopus Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-octopus-craft

Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Who wouldn’t like to have a cute octopus for a pet? With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little cephalopod to hang out on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, in any color
  • Polyfill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head
  8. To display, set the octopus down and arrange the legs in a circle around the head

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You can find All I Want is an Octopus at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 4 – World Habitat Day

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About the Holiday

Today we have two special holidays to share: World Habitat Day and National Ship in a Bottle Day! World Habitat Day was created by the United Nations to emphasize the right for all to have access to a home, or a habitat. It is meant to teach more about both humanitarian and environmental issues, as well as their many intersections. This year’s theme is Accelerating Urban Action for a Carbon-free World. To learn more about World Habitat Day and the various activities happening this year to honor it, check out the United Nations World Habitat Day Page.

Today also marks National Ship in a Bottle Day, a holiday founded in 2013 on the birthday of Jack Hinkley, the founder of the Ship in Bottle Association of America. This holiday is meant to celebrate the magical craft of placing a tiny model ship within a glass bottle with a narrow opening. It is a tricky feat that takes a lot of preparation, skill, and careful execution.

You are probably now wondering what book could possibly bridge these two seemingly divergent holidays. The answer is Shipwreck Reefs— a nonfiction picture book from the Imagine This! series published by Albert Whitman & Company.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Shipwreck Reefs for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Shipwreck Reefs

Written by Aimée M. Bissonette | Illustrated by Adèle Leyris

 

“Splash! Kick! Swim down into the deep.” Readers join scuba divers in learning about coral and reefs. However, not all of these reefs discussed are typical. They are sometimes born from sunken shipwrecks or other non-living, human-placed materials. The book begins with some background on coral reefs, and then readers flip the page to a sunken ship, inhabited by seagrass, algae, barnacles and colorful fish. “But is this a coral reef? Yes…and no.”

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Shipwrecks provide hard surfaces for small animals like baby corals and barnacles to attach onto and grow into colonies. Over time, sunken ships can become entire ecosystems as the corals grow, providing shelter and food for other animals. More specifically, readers will learn about silver bellied yellow jack, long spine squirrelfish, plankton, rainbow parrot fish, loggerhead sea turtles and more.

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Artificial reefs have been around for ages. “In the 1830’s, ocean fishermen in South Carolina constructed artificial reefs out of logs.” Reefs can be constructed from many different materials, from wooden plants to scrap metal, old tanks to sunken ships. “Whether a subway car or oil rig, army tank or shipwreck, artificial reefs do many jobs.” Around the world, there are many reefs that function as both art installations and tourist attractions for deep-sea divers.

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The book also discusses how human-caused climate change, pollution from a wide range of contaminates, and the burning of carbon dioxide-producing fuels has caused changes to our oceans that have harmed coral and the other marine life that relies on them. Readers also learn how artificial reefs are beneficial to the ocean habitat. The story reveals: “Artificial reefs help ease the human activity at natural reefs by offering other locations for research, fishing, and diving. Artificial reefs can give natural reefs time to heal, which helps our ocean stay healthy.”

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Aimée M. Bissonette follows the story with a page of further information on “Remarkable Resourceful Artificial Reefs,” specifically discussing the experimentation done with artificial reefs and the different creative types that exist. The storyline is interspersed with text in smaller print explaining terms such as ecosystems, scuttling, coral polyps, moray eels, and more for extra-curious readers. Bissonette’s writing is straightforward, and neatly compacts complex terms into simple explanations. The author explains climate change, CO2, and coral bleaching in comprehendible terms to teach young audiences to care about these pressing issues.

Adèle Leyris’s mesmerizing illustrations immerse readers in a deep-sea ecosystem with flashy colored fish, detailed coral, and water-colored blues. The scenes feel authentically underwater, exciting, and full of enticements for the audience to take an extra-long look. The scuba divers are depicted in darker shadows, with spots of light that radiate from the page. One page stands on its own with no text: a murky underwater subway car inhabited by a school of fish, with colorful corals wrapped around the pole. The beautiful illustrations will get readers inspired to learn more about reefs, marine life, and how they can help protect them.

Visually striking and loaded with information that will spur kids to learn more about both artificial and natural coral reefs as well as the sea creatures that rely on them, Shipwreck Reefs is a must for any budding naturalist, classroom science collection, or public library.

Ages 5 – 9 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807512876

Discover more about Aimée M. Bissonette and her books on her website.

To learn more about Adèle Leyris, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Habitat Day and National Ship in a Bottle Day Activities

 

Exploring the Coral Reef Video

 

Watch this educational video to see some real-life coral reef ecosystems! 

Scout Life Ship in a Bottle Craft

Image courtesy of Scout Life (scoutlife.com)

Make Your Own Ship in a Bottle

 

To make your own ship (or artificial reef!) in a bottle, visit Scout Life for detailed instructions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shipwreck-reefs-cover

You can find Shipwreck Reefs at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s World Beach Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate beaches and all of the beauty and recreation they offer. Whether you’re a beachcomber or a swimmer, a sandcastle builder or a sunbather, the beach provides endless ways to enjoy the environment. This month also raises awareness of the types of pollution that mar and endanger the beach as well as the ocean and all of its varied sea life. The world’s coastal areas are irreplaceable habitats and offer crucial resources. Learn what you can do to help our beaches and oceans remain healthy by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website. You can discover more ways to enjoy World Beach Month here.

Constellation of the Deep

By Benjamin Flouw

 

Fox and his cousin, Wolf, spend summer mornings walking along the coast. One day as Fox explores the unusual plants along the path, a seagull lands on a nearby boulder and asks if they have ever heard of the constellation of the deep. The Seagull goes on to tell them that “‘it’s an amazing plant: it grows on the bottom of the ocean, but no one knows exactly where.’” Then he adds that he’s “‘heard that it glows in the dark.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-seagull

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing this, Fox immediately determines to find the constellation of the deep. Wolf has all the diving equipment he’ll need. Outfitted with a wet suit, snorkel, mask, scuba tank, camera, and all the other equipment, Fox and Wolf return to the ocean. While Fox gets ready and dives into the sea, Wolf discovers a crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, scallops, sea anemones, and even a sea star living among the rocks along the shore.

Fox swims above an underwater meadow of posidonia, which he knows “are flowering plants, but they don’t glow in the dark. He leaves the scorpion fish, conger eels, and damselfish behind and dives more deeply. Here, Fox discovers a forest of algae. He recognizes the tall, slender leaves of macrocystis, the fan-shaped leaves of eisenia, the feather-shaped alaria, and many more. While exploring, Fox meets Otter, who’s hunting for sea urchins. Fox tells Otter about his quest, and Otter tells him about “‘a place full of strange plants’” that he encountered just the other day.

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Exiting the forest, Fox finds “rocks covered with strange, multicolored sculptures. These aren’t plants, but corals.” Fox is so stunned by their beauty that he gets out his camera and takes some pictures. “He marvels at the different shapes of corals.” He sees “corals that look like brains, trees, tables . . . and curled paper.” Some of the corals are enormous and some are as small as mushrooms.

Still, Fox hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He begins to ask for help. No one has seen the constellation of the deep, but Grouper agrees to help in the search. They glide into the open ocean, where they come upon a mountain jutting up from the ocean floor. Grouper knows of a hole in the mountain. As they approach, Fox sees something glowing inside. He swims closer only to find “a tiny glowworm!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox wants to take a photograph and reaches for his camera, “but oh no! His camera is gone!” Staring down into the depths of the ocean, Fox spots an unusual shape. He swims down to see what it is. It’s Whale, who has become tangled in a fishing net along with bottles, cans, trash, and even a boot. What else is snagged in the net but Fox’s camera! Whale gives Fox a ride back to the surface. Wolf waves at his friend riding on top of Whale’s back.

Even though Fox hasn’t found the glowing plant, “he has made some wonderful memories.” Back home, he hands his cousin his camera to show him his pictures. Wolf is particularly taken with one that is very beautiful. “‘Look at this one,’” he says to Fox. Fox can’t believe it. His camera had captured a picture of the constellation of the deep when it fell to the ocean floor. Happy, Fox relaxes with a glass of mushroom juice, knowing that the photo of the constellation of the deep will always remind him of “the fabulous beauty of the underwater world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-rocks

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

In his follow up to The Golden Glow, in which plant-loving Fox and readers travel to the top of a mountain to discover a fascinating rare plant and a surprising decision, Benjamin Flouw plumbs the depths of the ocean to introduce kids to the wonders found there. Just as the sea itself, Flouw’s charming and straightforward storytelling is full of mystery and discovery. As Fox swims deeper and deeper through schools of fish, meadows and forests of sea plants, past coral reefs, and finally to an underwater mountain, readers learn about specific sea life found at each level. Interspersed with the story are several glossary-type pages with illustrations and names of scuba diving gear, tidal pool sea creatures, algae, and corals. Fox’s miraculous recovery of his camera and equally astonishing discovery among his photographs is the type of magical happenstance kids love best. Flouw’s understated environmental message is eloquent and effective.

Just as in The Golden Glow, Flouw’s stylized and textured illustrations, rendered in fresh and soothing tones, will get readers excited about discovering more about the environment. Here, the sea beckons with its colorful and varied creatures and plants. Two-page spreads of the algae forest and coral-encrusted rocks are stunning and the image of Whale wrapped in netting offer educators and kids a jumping off place to further research.

Mesmerizing, educational, and conveying a compelling message, Constellation of the Deep is sure to be a favorite. The book is highly recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268968

You can find a Constellation of the Deep Activity Kit from Tundra Books here.

Discover more about Benjamin Flouw, his books, and his art on his website.

World Beach Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

You don’t have to live near the beach to enjoy playing in the sand! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-cover

You can find Constellation of the Deep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review