March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday was established in 2013 to celebrate the world’s wild animals and plants and to raise awareness of the perils they face. Since that time, World Wildlife Day has grown to be the most important global event dedicated to wildlife. Each year, the organizers adopt a theme addressing a pressing wildlife issue. This year’s theme is Sustaining All Life on Earth and encompasses raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity to the environment and to humans as well. The world relies on its biodiversity for clean air and water, food, energy, and materials of all types. But our biodiversity is in danger through unsustainable human activities. It is up to us to decide and act now for the future. Today’s book gives readers a good place to start in seeing species we’ve recently lost and how we can help. To learn more visit the World Wildlife Day website.

I received a copy of Extinct from Phaidon Press for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared

Written by Lucas Riera | Illustrated by Jack Tite

 

When most people hear the word extinct, they picture T-rex, brontosaurus, or maybe a mastodon. Images of bones long buried and museum exhibits of fossils come to mind. But Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared introduces young readers to the fact that “species become extinct all the time—in fact, it’s happening right now.” Lucas Riera and Jack Tite focus on 90 species that have been lost recently, specifically from the 20th century to today. These animals from all habitats are familiar to children and provide examples of how and why certain species are disappearing. For young conservationists, the stories and facts included offer a roadmap to future action and protective measures while honoring these beautiful animals.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Turning to the first page, readers meet six big cats that have disappeared from their homelands due to habitat destruction or hunting. The Formosan clouded leopard, a great climber native to Taiwan and named for the “distinctive shape of their spots,” succumbed to the loss of their natural habitat through logging. “The species was declared extinct in 2013. However, in 2019, two unconfirmed sightings have given hope that they may still be out there.” Also on this page, children are introduced to Tibbles—a house cat (or lighthouse cat, to be more precise) that single-pawedly wiped out the population of New Zealand’s Stephens Island wrens.

Next, children learn about the Thylacine (aka Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf). Striped like a tiger, carnivorous like a wolf, and the size of a large dog, Thylacines were actually marsupials, capable of hoping on their back legs. Their population dwindled to one by 1933 because of hunting by settlers and through their dogs, which killed the Thylacine’s prey and introduced diseases. “The last specimen was captured in 1933 and lived out its lonely life in an Australian zoo until September 7, 1936.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Speaking of marsupials, Riera highlights seven of these distinctive creatures, ranging from mouse-sized to about three feet tall, that once hopped their way across grasslands and deserts. Many fell victim to foxes, other predators, and habitat change. These include the crescent nail-tail wallaby, the yallara, and the pig-footed bandicoot, which was the size of a cat, had the streamlined face of a bird and whose front feet resembled pigs’ hooves while their back feet were more like horses’ hooves.

Twelve species of reptiles, including three types of giant tortoise, a turtle, skinks, lizards, and snakes, as well as nine species of amphibians, including toads, newts, salamanders, and frogs will fascinate kids. One of these—the gastric brooding frog—may have been one of the most unusual creatures in the forest. What made them unique? “The females swallowed their eggs during gestation. The eggs grew inside her belly! After six weeks, her developed babies would emerge from her mouth. Sadly, these wonderful weirdos have been extinct since 2002.”

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Two-page spreads are also dedicated to Amazing Athletes, Superb Swimmers, Big and Beautiful rhinos and hippo, Powerful Pack wolves, Birds, Primates, and Fantastic Foragers, including the Caucasian wisent, a bison that once thrived in the cold mountains of Eastern Europe. “In the 19th century, their population numbered in the thousands, but then humans settled in the mountains and hunting ensued. In 1927, poachers killed the last three individuals that lived in the wild.” In addition to the Thylacine, Riera highlights three other individual animals—the passenger pigeon, the great auk, and the California Grizzly.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Following the species profiles, Riera presents an extensive discussion of extinction today, including the fact that currently “the rate of extinction is estimated to be much faster than the natural rate—by as much as 1,000 times”—and that “it’s the sixth time in billions of years that levels of extinction have been extremely high.” He also reveals causes of extinction, wildlife organizations and examples of positive results, and summaries of work to protect three critically endangered animals. On the next page, Jack Tite depicts more critically endangered animals being tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Finally, concerned children and adults will find resources for getting involved on local and international levels as well as tips for being more environmentally conscious.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Lucas Riera introduces readers to this wide variety of animals through fascinating, conversational, and descriptive paragraphs that reveal tidbits about their distinctive features, where they lived, and how they became extinct. Dates of extinction are eye-opening, especially those for creatures that have disappeared within the lifetime of many young readers. Pages packed with reptiles, birds, amphibians and more, invite children to explore these animals further and present jumping off points for nature and environmental science classes for a wide age range of students.

In this stunning oversized book, Jack Tite accompanies the text with vibrant, eye-catching imagery of animals prowling, leaping, swimming, running, and otherwise on the move that gives readers an up-close view of their beautiful markings and distinguishing traits. Textured backgrounds place the animals in their natural environments from sun-drenched deserts to deep seas to tropical forests and beyond. In what may be a plea for the future, most of the animals gaze out from the page directly at readers, seeming to invite them to learn more and engage them in conservation efforts.

Full of information about environmental science, extinction, and animals that once roamed our planet, Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared is a lush and deep resource for young nature lovers and conservationists at home, in schools, and for public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Phaidon Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1838660376

To learn more about Jack Tite, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

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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 as shown on printable guide
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!

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You can find Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 30 – National Water a Flower Day

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About the Holiday

If the showers of April have dried up where you are and the May flowers are getting a bit thirsty, today’s holiday makes the perfect reminder to fill the watering can or turn on the sprinkler and give them a drink. Colorful flowers are some of the joys of summer and provide food for birds and insects all season long. If you haven’t begun your garden yet, it’s not too late! Grab a packet of seeds or visit your local nursery and see what a wonderful, wild patch you can grow!

The Curious Garden

By Peter Brown

 

“There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind.” People didn’t notice because they spent most of their time inside—working, going to school, or at home. “As you can imagine, it was a very dreary place.” There was one boy, though, who loved being outside. One rainy day Liam discovered a stairway leading to a bridge that held unused railway tracks. Of course, he was curious, and when he reached the top he discovered a scrawny patch of wildflowers. They needed water; they needed a gardener.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2009, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Liam wasn’t officially a gardener, “but he knew that he could help.” After a few false starts and a mis-snip here and there, the plants began to look better. After several weeks, “Liam began to feel like a real gardener, and the plants began to feel like a real garden.” Now that the garden was healthy, it began to be curious about what lay up and down the railway track. The weeds and mosses crept down the tracks while the “more delicate plants” plucked up their courage and followed. During the next few months, Liam and the garden explored all the nooks and crannies of the railway bridge. Liam looked out over his city with a new perspective.

When winter came, the garden lay under a blanket of snow and Liam stayed below, sledding and preparing for spring. With warmer weather, Liam gathered his new shovel, hoe, pruners, and watering can in his red wheelbarrow and went back to the railway. “Winter had taken a toll on the garden.” The grass and moss were brown, the flowers were just brittle twigs, and the little tree was dull and unkept. But Liam watered, snipped, and even sang to the plants, and soon they “awoke from their winter sleep.”

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2009, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Now the garden was even more curious about the rest of the city, and the brave weeds and mosses led the way. “They popped up farther and farther from the railway and were closely followed by the more delicate plants.” They explored “old, forgotten things,” wiggled their way into sidewalk cracks, and even poked their heads out of broken basement windows. When some plants planted themselves where they didn’t belong, Liam moved them. He also began leaving them in surprising spots around town.

This led to an even more surprising thing: new gardeners also popped up all over the city. Now there were rooftop gardens, backyard gardens, and even gardens that climbed walls. Plants created soft carpets for stairs, huge lily pad boats, an animal parade, and high-rise tree houses for neighbors to share. “Many years later, the entire city had blossomed.” But Liam still loved his patch on the railway line the best.

An Author’s Note following the text reveals the true-life inspiration for the story.

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Copyright Peter Brown, 2009, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Peter Brown’s classic story about a little boy who brings new life to a city that has shut itself off from the natural world, reminds readers of the importance of the environment and getting outside to enjoy it and participate in its survival and growth. But Brown’s story is about so much more too. As Liam’s garden begins to branch out, readers see how one person can be instrumental in spreading ideas, happiness, good news, kindness, in fact any number of life-changing events. In the title and the description of the garden, Brown taps into a dual nature of “curious.” What may seem odd or new or even forgotten sparks interest and exploration and new, often better, perspectives that can bring people together.

Brown opens the story with a two-page, aerial-view spread of the drab city dotted in only two places with a bit of color and giving readers a bit of foreshadowing of the transformation to come. The scrubby patch of greenery next to the rotted tracks includes a tiny tree, cleverly imbued with personality. As the garden spreads, kids will love hunting for the itty-bitty birds, bees, and beetles that appear among the colorful flowers. Kids will “ooh” and “ahh” over the pages that show how and where the garden has spread (a parking lot reclamation is a bright spot) and its influence on new gardeners. The final spread completes the promise held in the first and is a true showstopper.

Ages 4 – 9

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009 | ISBN 978-0316015479

To learn more about Peter Brown, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Water a Flower Day Activity

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Spoon Flowers Craft

 

Plastic spoons aren’t just for enjoying yummy treats, they make cute flowers too! With this easy and quick craft, you can give everyone you love a bouquet!

Supplies

  • Colorful plastic spoons
  • Heavy stock paper or construction paper in various colors, including green for leaves
  • Multi-surface glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Cut petals from the heavy stock paper or construction paper
  2. Glue the petals to the bowl of the spoon
  3. Cut leaves from the green paper (optional)
  4. Glue leaves to the handle of the spoon (optional)

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You can find The Curious Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 15 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! The month is only half over, so gather the kids and discover some new books to enjoy together–why not start with today’s book?!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

On a large river island in India, there lived a boy who loved the trees that provided food and shade for the people and shelter for the many native animals. But each year, the floods of the rainy season took more and more of the land. “The boy’s precious island was shrinking—eroding away with the rushing river, leaving empty sandbars behind.” Animals’ homes were destroyed and the animals died or didn’t come back. The boy was afraid this would happen to the people of the island too.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When he took his fears to the elders of his village, they gave him twenty bamboo saplings. He rowed over to one of the sandbars and began to plant the saplings. He came back every day to water the plants and then devised an easier way to water them. Under his care, the bamboo began to grow. In time they became “a healthy thicket.” But for the bamboo to spread further, the boy knew the soil needed to be richer.

He brought in “cow dung, earthworms, termites, and angry red ants that bit him on the journey to their new home.” From other villages, he got seeds of different trees and planted those too. Over the years, a forest grew, covering acres and acres of land. Animals like rhinos, elephants, birds, and monkeys began to return. But with these animals, dangerous predators also came. The villagers were afraid. To provide food for the tigers, the boy—now a man—sowed grasses to attract rabbits, mice, deer and other prey.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To keep other animals fed, the boy planted fruit trees, and when the villagers cut down trees to build homes, the man sowed more seeds. Hunters came for the animals’ “horns and fur, but the man was there to protect.” Today, the forest is thriving and is called Molai for the man who planted and preserved it. His name is Jadav “Molai” Payeng.

More information about Jadav Payeng, an Author’s Note, and a seed-planting activity follow the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2019, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If anyone questions how much one person can do, Sophia Gholz puts these doubts to rest in her inspiring biography of a child who recognized a danger to the people and wildlife of his island and solved the problem for generations to come. Children will marvel at the story of Jadav Payeng’s dedication and lifelong perseverance told through Gholz’ lyrical text. As children learn about Jadav Payeng, they also discover the components of fertile soil and how a lush environment attracts the animals and other wildlife vital to a flourishing community.

Kayla Harren’s exquisite sundrenched illustrations transport readers to the Indian island where Jadav Payeng grew up and let them see the effects of eroded shorelines, stranded animals, and the overwhelming task Jadav took on. Harren’s realistic images show Jadav’s hard work and ingenuity as he cares for his first twenty plants and expand the forest little by little. With stunning texture and depth, Harren depicts the verdant foliage and diversity of wildlife Jadav recreated. The true-to-life illustrations will thrill nature and animal lovers and have them exploring each page to capture all the details.

A gorgeous and beautifully told story about the power of one, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng will excite children to make a difference in their own way. The book is an excellent choice to add to home, classroom, and library collections for science, sustainability, and inspirational story times and discussions.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110243

Discover more about Sophia Gholz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read an interview with Sophia and Kayla about their inspirations for this book and how it came to be!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of The Boy Who Grew a Forest written by Sophia Gholz | illustrated by Kayla Harren

This giveaway is open from March 15 through March 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Just do these things to enter:

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

National Reading Month Activity

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

 

You can be an environmental crusader in your neighborhood too! Print these activity sheets and challenge yourself with the questions. Then think about what you can do to help plants and wildlife in your neighborhood or even your own backyard!

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

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You can find The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review