March 19 – The Spring Equinox

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

I received a copy of Winged Wonders from Sleeping Bear Press for review of consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Migration Mystery

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura

 

For centuries people pondered the mystery of the monarch butterflies that “swooped in for a spell, like clockwork” from who-knew-where and fluttered off to some unseen destination. People all along their route, “from southern Canada…through the middle of the United States…and all the way to central Mexico” wondered about this annual event. The mystery was finally solved in 1976. What was it that set these butterflies soaring? The newspapers called it “The Great Monarch Migration.”

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

You might wonder who the person was who “tracked these winged wonders from one end of the continent to the other” and “found their secret roosting place, a marvel of nature.” Perhaps it was Fred, a scientist from Canada, who spent thirty years studying the monarchs and tagging their wings. Or maybe it was his wife, Norah, who sought help in tagging monarchs’ wings from volunteers across the country and “logged and mapped every tidbit of information they sent in to the lab.”

Could it have been the thousands of “science teachers, backyard gardeners, and other curious souls” who answered Norah’s plea? Or you might want to consider Ken and Catalina, a couple in Mexico who spent two years “trying to track the butterflies’ twisting trail” with the help of villagers and farmers. You might even say that it was Jim, a science teacher in Minnesota, who caught and tagged a very particular one-among-millions monarch.

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

So who was it? Who made that 1976 discovery? If you say all of them, you’re right! Communities across the North American countries of Canada, America, and Mexico came together to solve the mystery of one of nature’s most astounding phenomena. But now, another question concerning monarchs looms: “How will they survive?” Since that first discovery, the monarch population has dropped from “at least a billion to millions—a handful now to each hundred then” due to pesticides, pollution, and habitat destruction. Who do you think can help solve this monarch question? “The answer is really no mystery at all.”

An extensive Author’s Note following the text offers more information about the monarch migration discovery as well as ideas and projects for helping the monarch population grow and thrive.

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mirroring the flight of the monarchs, Meeg Pincus entices readers along the route of her story with fascinating facts about the personalities and eager citizen scientists who dedicated their lives and contributed their time to catching, tagging, and tracking these beautiful butterflies. Surprising details reveal the commitment in time and effort of so many people who enthusiastically answered Norah’s call for help. Her questioning format builds this same feel of excitement and community as page-by-page more people are added for readers to learn about and consider. Pincus’s lyrical storytelling is as buoyant and lovely as her subject while providing readers with a depth of knowledge about the process and experiences of the people along the way.

Yas Imamura’s delicate butterflies flutter above multi-hued green hills, busy downtown shops, and a golden desert before congregating like autumn leaves on a solitary tree as a deer looks on. Readers then begin to meet the scientists & participants: Fred and Norah in their well-packed car awed at spotting a monarch along their route, experimenting with wing tags, and mapping monarch sightings; a diverse group of kids and adults catching, tagging, and releasing butterflies; Ken and Catalina and the people of central Mexico, who share their colorful Día de los Muertos celebrations with these winged visitors; and finally Jim and his students.

Imamura’s glorious color palette complements the orange monarchs with soft pinks, corals, yellows, and reds while dramatically highlighting them against dark green backgrounds. Show-stopping scenes of the monarchs gathered on tree trunks and branches and the final spread of a butterfly garden are awe-inspiring and will spark children’s interest in helping to protect and help these unique creatures.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery is a must for home, school, and public library collections for nature lovers, citizen scientists, and any child who is a budding environmentalist as well as for lessons on science and community engagement.

Ages 7 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110403

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Yas Imamura, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can download an Educational Guide with activities for Winged Wonders on the Sleeping Bear Press website.

Spring Equinox Activity

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Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden row with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one. 

Options:

  • Players can “plant” each of the six rows with multiple flowers of the same type
  • Each player can be assigned a single row and “plant” one each of the six types of flowers 
  1. Print number of Game Boards needed 
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how many of each flower the players want to put in each row (For example: fewer for younger children, more for older). For sturdier playing items, print on card stock.
  3. Cut the playing cards apart
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

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You can find Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

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

January 8 – COVER REVEAL! Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

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Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura

 

For hundreds of years as butterflies with orange-and-black wings as intricate as stained glass came and went in communities across North America, many people wondered “Where are they going?” In 1976, this question was finally answered—it was the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration! Each year, people discovered, millions of monarchs flew thousands of miles from Canada to a roosting place in the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery reveals the diverse community of people who worked together to track the butterflies and find their migration path. Through vibrant illustrations, readers are taken on a journey following the monarchs and meeting the people they encounter along the way.

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note explaining more about the Monarch Migration as well as information on ways that readers can help sustain the Monarch population, making Winged Wonders a stirring book to share with nature lovers, young conservationists, backyard gardeners, and students in STEM/STEAM-related lessons.

When a book is this intriguing, you just can’t wait to see it! But before I reveal the cover of this book, which KIRKUS—in their starred review—calls “riveting” and “a fascinating and inspiring STEAM-driven tale,” let’s chat with author Meeg Pincus and illustrator Yas Imamura who have brought this extraordinary story to kids.

Meet Meeg Pincus

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Meeg Pincus is a children’s author and speaker who loves telling stories about real people who have helped others, animals, and the planet. She lives in San Diego, California. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website.

 

 

 

 

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery presents such a fascinating way to look at monarch butterflies. Can you describe the story a little and talk about what inspired you to write it from this perspective?

Thank you, Kathy! Well, I got sucked into the history of the mysterious monarch migration several years ago when I took my kids to see a movie about it at our San Diego science museum’s amazing domed IMAX theatre. (I went back two more times!) I originally started researching a person on the 1970s tracking team for a picture book biography, but then a series of events led me to rethink that. I came to realize that an even more interesting approach was a collective one. It took many people to put the pieces together of this great “discovery”—from scientists to citizen scientists to everyday folks paying attention to nature—and that’s an important lesson for kids. So, using questions, my story takes kids on a journey to meet different people who each played a part, large or small, in solving the great monarch mystery. Then, it comes back around to asking kids what part they might be able to play in keeping the (now threatened) monarchs alive today.

How did you go about researching this story?

To get information on the people involved in tracking the migration, I collected every primary source I could, from articles they wrote to interviews they gave (so, words from their own mouths) and photos of them during that time. I also found secondary sources—articles about the monarchs’ roosting place “discovery” in the 1970s as well as a whole book about all the drama in the world of monarch science (who knew?!). By the way, I use the term “discovery” in quotes because it’s important to realize that there were people in Mexico who knew the whereabouts of the monarchs’ remote roosting place for generations. I also turned to the citizen science organization Monarch Watch, at the University of Kansas (descended from the original tracking team), for information as well; and we were fortunate that one of their experts agreed to serve as the book’s fact-checker.

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This is the 1976 National Geographic issue that broke the story of the Great Monarch Migration, with a story by the main scientist credited with the “discovery.”

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing Winged Wonders?

Honestly, it was that drama in the world of monarch research. There’s been competition over who gets credit for what, over the sharing (or not sharing) of information, etc. For me, this was actually all the more reason to focus my picture book not just on one person but on how it takes a lot of people working together to further scientific knowledge—and protect species.

This gorgeous cover is just a peek at Yas Imamura’s illustrations. Can you give readers a taste of what they have to look forward to? Do you have a favorite spread?

Oh, we could not have asked for more gorgeous and spot-on illustrations than what Yas created for this book! The whole team at Sleeping Bear Press has been thrilled with her vibrant images, which feel both 1970s and totally today, all at once. I like so many, it’s hard to pick just one—I love how she shows the monarchs flying through Dia de los Muertos celebrations, to them roosting in the trees of central Mexico, to the diversity of citizen scientists she created. I think readers are going to just eat up her illustrations!

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On your website, you talk about your work as a Humane Educator. Can you describe Humane Education and its goal? Does being a Humane Educator influence your writing? In what way?

Sure! Humane education teaches about making conscious choices that help people, animals, and the planet. It focuses on empathy and compassion as means to taking action for a more humane, healthy, and just world. I found humane education when my kids were very young and it just brought together all my values and studies. So, I trained with two nonprofit organizations (The Institute for Humane Education and HEART) and started going into local classrooms as a humane educator to do lessons with the kids. As part of my lessons, I decided to read the kids picture book biographies about real people who’ve made a difference for people, animals, and the planet. I fell in love with these books, and realized they also perfectly brought together my background of 20+ years writing/editing nonfiction and my work in humane education—so, I decided to dive into writing them myself as my next career step as nonfiction writer/humane educator!

You also talk about teaching children to be solutionaries. I love that term! Would you define what a solutionary is? You also say that you now write “solutionary stories.” How does Winged Wonders fit into that description and how do you hope the book will influence young readers?

I love the term, too! I got it from my training in humane education. The full definition of a solutionary is “a person who identifies inhumane and unsustainable systems, then develops healthy and just solutions for people, animals, and the environment.” I simplify it for younger kids (I like to use the idea of “solutionary super powers” that we all possess to help others!). Kids really embrace being problem-solvers for people, animals, and the planet. As in Winged Wonders, I focus my books on solutionary people, ideas, and issues—ways people are helping, or can help, create that healthy, kind, and just world for all. I hope my books help inspire kids to find whatever issue affecting people, animals, or the planet sparks their own inner fire and then use their own unique talents and ideas to make a positive impact on it.

One last thing: We’re doing a special Winged Wonders Pre-order Offer with San Diego indie bookstore, Run for Cover—a signed hardback copy with a solutionary sticker and monarch bookmark—which can be sent anywhere in the U.S.

You can connect with Meeg Pincus on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Meet Yas Imamura

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Yas Imamura is an illustrator, graphic designer, and owner of the stationary company Quill & Fox. She grew up in Manila, Philippines, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Discover more about her work on her website.

What about this story particularly resonated with you?

What I love most about the story is the community aspect to the monarch search—how every person from all walks of life came together in shared curiosity and helped get to the bottom of the monarch mystery.

Can you describe the process for creating and choosing this beautiful cover?

I started with a few sketches, focusing in different imagery. Some early concepts honed in on the monarch butterfly, some with playing on the mystery of their flight. But eventually I ended up emphasizing the people in the story as well, as they play such a huge part in tracking the monarch migration.

Many of your stationery products from your company Quill and Fox as well as your other illustration work incorporate nature themes. What is it about nature that inspires you?

What inspires me most about nature is how incredibly challenging it is for me to really capture. It can be simplistic and incredibly mercurial at the same time, which I think is the beauty of it. As an artist, I feel like I’m always trying to climb that hill.

What kind of research did you do to bring this story to life?

Researching this book was a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to be given a lot of take-off point resources that I built from. I looked up Catalina’s story a lot to gain insight on her character, her clothes, the era. The movie Flight of the Butterflies also inspired me greatly in pushing the narrative visually. There was so much color to the whole story as we trace the journey of these butterflies, and I really wanted to incorporate all that.

What feelings from the story did you most want to express in your illustrations? What do you hope readers will take away from them?

I want to evoke a sense of fascination and curiosity for these butterflies. And that perhaps learning about the incredible journey and impact of the monarch butterflies could lay the groundwork for us, as caretakers of nature, to give respect and reverence for even the smallest members of our ecosystem.

What do you love about being a picture book illustrator?

Seeing readers, young and old, pour over the pages that I’ve illustrated, especially when they’re reading it to someone else, will never, never get old. It’s the ultimate payoff for me.

You can connect with Yas Imamura on

Her website | Instagram | Instagram: Quill and Fox | Twitter

Thanks so much Meeg and Yas! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Wings of Wonder: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery as I am! We might have to wait a little bit longer until the book releases in March to read it, but we don’t have to wait any longer to see the stunning cover! 

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

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Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, written by Meeg Pincus| illustrated by Yas Imamura 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of butterfly for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).
  • This giveaway is open from January 8 through January 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 15. Prize book will be sent from Sleeping Bear Press in February.

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

To learn more about Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery and other marvelous books from Sleeping Bear Press, visit their website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-winged-wonders-cover

You can preorder Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound |Run for Cover

Picture Book Review

 

December 30 – It’s the Christmas Bird Count

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About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds

By Matt Sewell

 

If you have a budding ornithologist in the family, they will be awed by Matt Sewell’s gorgeous compendium of more than 150 birds from around the world. Organized by continent—Europe, North and Central America, South America, Antarctica, Oceana, Asia, and Africa—each chapter begins with a green watercolor map of the area delineated into the countries within its borders and includes a short introduction to the size, climate, surrounding oceans, and number of birds found there.

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first stop on this ornithological tour is Europe, where readers discover first the European roller, a lovely species with a cyan body and rust-and-blue-mottled wings that summers in Southern Europe and the Middle East and winters in Africa. This bird’s beauty belies the less-than-attractive way they have for protecting themselves as chicks in which “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.”

The European golden-plover chick—a little fluff of green and white that blends in with its mossy surroundings—takes a different tack: By looking like “a small clump of cotton balls flecked with gold leaf, it is possibly one of the cutest chicks out there.” With its speedy wingbeats, the European golden-plover also claims another mark of distinction as the “genesis for the idea for the book of Guinness World Records.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

North America and Central America are home to more than 900 species of birds. Many are as colorful as a child’s painting, including the Montezuma oropendola, painted bunting, indigo bunting, and the resplendent quetzal, which boasts an iridescent blue tail that can reach over 2 feet long. Unique among birds is the common poorwill, a North American nightjar, which besides being nocturnal, “is possibly the only bird that hibernates.” Mottled gray and brown, the common poorwill perfectly blends into rocky crevices. “It has a low odor so it cannot be detected by predators, and it can descend into a sleepy torpor for months.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

South America, with its vast expanse of land and variety of climates hosts “more than 3,400 known species of birds, more than any other continent.” With that many different types of birds, South America offers ornithologists a full range of species to study from familiar faces, such as the hyacinth macaw and the keel-billed toucan, to truly wondrous creatures, such as these: the sunbittern, which upon opening its wings presents a frightening “mask” of markings to scare away predators; the white bellbird, which has a single wattle above its beak that can be inflated to appear much like a unicorn’s horn; and the oilbird, which you cannot be faulted for mistaking for a bat as it “breeds and roosts in the totally dark interiors of caves,” uses echolocation to navigate here, and flies at night. Among the other weird and distinctive birds of this region is the hoatzin, “known as the reptile bird” because it “dates back 64 million years, which is roughly when all the big land-based dinosaurs disappeared.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Oceania, comprising Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand, provides shelter to “some of the most brilliant and flamboyant birds in the world….” These include a variety of birds-of-paradise, each of which sport colorful and intricate features that would look just as at home on ornaments and party favors. One of the most unusual birds may be the multi-talented superb lyrebird. Not only does the male possess fabulous peacock-like tail feathers that seem part quill-pen, part feather duster, it is a master mimic. “It can imitate just about any other bird it hears, as well as other sounds, such as chainsaws, telephones, barking dingoes, roaring cars, and crying babies—often repeated one after the next.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Combined, Antarctica, Asia, and Africa also give homes to more than 6,000 species of some of the most adorable, beloved, brilliant, and extraordinary birds in the world. Readers will meet penguins and birds with vibrant blocks of color as sculpted as any stained-glass window—such as the Malabar trogon of India and Sri Lanka, the Himalayan monal, and Ruspoli’s turaco of southern Ethiopia.

They’ll also get to know towering birds, such as the secretarybird and the ostrich, and formidable-looking creatures, such as the marabou stork and the shoebill. To tie up this description that barely scratches the surface of all that bird-lovers will learn, I present the common tailorbird of tropical Asia—a clever and industrious little warbler that sews leaves together to create a cup of a nest that it lines with cobwebs to further confound predators.

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Matt Sewell knows just how to entice young readers with engaging, humorous, and insightful text that provides a robust and individual introduction to each bird as well as their status in the world. Every entry is accompanied by brilliant watercolors that highlight each species’ spectacular, surprising, and sometimes even seemingly Dr. Seussian plumage. Dipping in and out of the pages will inspire children and adults to learn more about birds, geography, and how they can become stewards for our feathered friends.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds is highly recommended for bird and nature lovers and would make an excellent addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898571

To learn more about Matt Sewell, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Christmas Bird Count Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

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

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You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 29 – World Rivers Day

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About the Holiday

Following the 2005 launch of the United Nations Water for Life Decade, internationally known river advocate, Mark Angelo, proposed the establishment of World Rivers Day. The holiday celebrates the value of rivers worldwide and promotes awareness of the importance of keeping rivers pollution free. In the United States alone, 65% of drinking water comes from rivers and streams. Rivers in virtually every country face an array of threats, and only through our active involvement can we ensure their health in the years ahead. To help the cause, join a volunteer river clean-up crew, help monitor water quality, or learn more about your local river system. To learn more, visit the World Rivers Day website.

River

By Elisha Cooper

 

As a woman begins her solitary trip on a mountain lake, she turns and waves to her family. The familiar shore recedes, and she dips her oar into the blue water under gray skies and in the shadow of the tall mountains. “Three hundred miles stretch in front of her. A faraway destination, a wild plan. And the question: Can she do this?” As she enters the Hudson River, she plucks a pebble from the shallow water and places it beside her gear. Here, she must navigate the scattered rocks—and one that is not a rock at all, but a moose taking a dip.

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Ahead, she rides rapids that steal her hat and threaten to flip her. But she hangs on and makes it out on the other side. Now it’s time to set up camp for the night. Huddled in her tent, “she is alone, but not. The river stays beside her, mumbling to her and to itself all through the night.” With the dawn, she is on the river again, along with “otters, ducks, dragonflies, a kingfisher.” When she stops to pick blackberries, a bear cub ambles by to watch. The woman backs away slowly and continues down the river.

When she comes to a dam, she must carry her canoe. She trips, falls, and bloodies her knee, but on the other side of the dam, she returns to her paddling. When she comes to a waterfall, she gets in line for her turn to go through the lock. Once on her way again, she moves on to “farms with faded barns, to villages with white clapboard houses, to chimneyed factories on the outskirts of a town. Here, she pulls her canoe onto a levee where two boys are fishing. They ask her where she’s going, and she tells them. “It feels funny to talk.” As she walks into town, her legs also feel funny beneath her. She buys supplies and replaces her hat. That night is spent on a small island.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-river-rapids

Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

When she wakes, the white fog has blanketed everything. She can’t see the river, but she watches an eagle high in a tree eating its breakfast. She takes out her sketchbook and draws. The fog lifts and she continues her journey. The days and nights are marked by her hardening callouses and darkening suntan, shortening pencils and waning sketchbook pages. She paddles past “craggy hills” and “around bell-ringing buoys, next to railway tracks and a clattering freight train.”

She dodges a tugboat oblivious to her presence and makes it to another village, where she mails postcards and buys a cookie. A rain drop falls just as she climbs back into her canoe. The raindrop turns into a drizzle and then “a single sheet blowing sideways. A squall.” Her canoe capsizes, “dumping her into the raging water.” When she is able, she drags her canoe and herself onto a rocky shore. “Shivering, she takes stock. Tent, gone, Clothes, soaked. Sketchbook, safe.”

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

In the morning she starts again. As she rounds a bluff, the city spreads out in front of her. Far above her a gull watches as she makes her way past skyscrapers and boats large and small to the harbor and on to the boatyard, where “a bearded man in overalls—the builder of her canoe”—eagerly waits to hear about her trip and the sturdiness of her craft. After a cup of coffee, she launches her canoe for the last leg of her journey.

She is now in the open ocean with its wild waves. The horizon beckons, “but closer in she sees the lighthouse, and she knows it is time for her to be home.” She paddles harder and faster. “She can’t wait to be with them again. Can’t wait to tell them about moose and eagles, rapids and storms…to turn her sketches into paintings and her words into a story.” Her family is on shore waving, her dog running into the surf to greet her. She scuds into the shallows “…and brings the canoe to shore.”

An Author’s Note about the creation of River as well as a Note on the Hudson River and a list of sources and reading resources follows the text.

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Elisha Cooper’s loving and lyrical tribute to nature, courage, and self-reliance is nothing short of spectacular. His fluid storytelling plays out with the rhythm of an oar cutting and pushing a canoe along while transporting readers smoothly through this most evocative journey. With exquisite descriptions and compelling obstacles that will leave children wide-eyed and holding their breath, River is an expansive adventure story of one woman pitting herself against the power of the Hudson River and her own tenacity. The story is also one of love—respect for the environment, awe for community, and devotion to family and the support found there.

Cooper’s soft and sprawling watercolors envelop readers in the river setting, where the woman appears tiny against the rocky coastline, towering mountains, waterfalls, dams, and cityscapes. Double-page spreads swell the heart and invite wanderlust in even the most ardent homebodies. And there may be no better way to share this personal and universal journey than by gathering together and reading River in one sitting or—for younger children—breaking away at one of the many cliffhangers that will have everyone yearning to dip into the story again.

A must for school and public library collections, River is highly recommended for all home bookshelves as well for its inspiration for personal goals, it’s reflections on nature, and its encouragement that anything is possible.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338312263

To learn more about Elisha Cooper, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National River Day Activity

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World Rivers Word Search Puzzle

 

The world’s rivers provide homes for fish, animals, and birds; offer opportunities for recreation; and supply drinking water for millions. Can you find the names of twenty rivers of the world in this printable puzzle?

World Rivers Word Search | World Rivers Word Search Solution

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You can find River at these booksellers

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

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 in memory of conservationist Steve Irwin. The day promotes awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide and offers education on the number of endangered and threatened species across the globe. To honor today’s holiday, visit a local zoo, aquarium, or other nature preserve and take some time to learn about what you can do to help protect the environment.

I received a copy of Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys from Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys

Written by Mike Unwin | Illustrated by Jenni Desmond

 

In their stunning book, Mike Unwin and Jenni Desmond take readers along as twenty diverse animals complete their annual travels to safer, warmer, or more fertile feeding grounds guided by inborn instincts. With compelling and conversational storytelling, Unwin introduces each creature, divulging fascinating and endearing facts about the adults and babies that undertake these epic trips—the shortest, 60 miles; the longest, a breathtaking 60,000 miles!

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Readers will meet a humpback whale and her baby who stick together for more than 15,000 miles—“the longest swim of any animal on Earth”—as they head from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia to the Antarctic and back in search of krill. As the baby eats, it “will start building up the thick layer of blubber that it needs to keep out the cold.” When it is ten years old, this baby will be fully grown and can look forward to many migrations to come.

If you were stuck waiting at a caribou crossing, you’d want a good, long book on hand. More than 100,000 adults and their young swim across icy rivers and trek over grasslands of the frosty Arctic “inland toward the forests [where] the trees will help protect them when winter comes” and delicious moss and lichen await under snowy blankets.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Meanwhile in a warmer part of the world, a passenger cries, “Stop the car quick! There’s a red river flowing right across the road…. But look closer. It’s not water: it’s crabs. Big red ones. There are thousands of them. They pour across the road in an army of pincers, then scuttle down the bank on the other side, heading for the sea.” Where does this awesome sight take place? On Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia as millions of red crabs move from the forests to the sea, en masse.

One of the most mysterious and intricately sequenced migrations is that of the monarch butterfly. Each year it takes four generations and four stops to lay eggs and breed along the way for these stained-glass-gorgeous insects “that can weigh less than a paperclip” to complete their journey from the northern United States and Canada to Mexico.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

And which creature has the stamina for that 60,000-mile voyage? That honor goes to the appropriately named wandering albatross, who “five to ten years ago…left the small rocky island where it was born. Ever since then it has been wandering, covering more than 60,000 miles a year—over a quarter of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Never once has it touched land, though the birds often roost on the surface of the water.” In one or two years, this solitary traveler will return to land to breed and become a stay-at-home parent until its only child is ready to depart.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Other creatures presented include the emperor penguin, arctic tern, whooping crane, barn swallow, globe skimmer dragonfly, southern African pilchard, ruby-throated hummingbird, bar-headed goose, great white shark, African elephant, pacific salmon, osprey, blue wildebeest, straw-colored fruit bat, and green turtle.

A map of the world—with each animal’s migratory journey outlined—orients children to the geographic locations and distances involved as well as a few more facts on migration and how pollution and habitat destruction affect migratory patterns follows the text.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Mike Unwin’s accessible, descriptive, and sensory snapshots turn this science-based book into an enthralling page-turner. As one astounding true story leads to another, readers will be eager to see which animal comes next and continue learning about this wildlife phenomenon. Well-known for his nature books for children and adults, Unwin captures the spirit of each animal as they take on the formidable challenges of their annual migration and in the process teaches a love and respect for nature.

Accompanying Unwin’s text are Jenni Desmond’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations, made all the more impressive by the book’s large format. The textured pages dazzle with the movement and grandeur of nature, transporting readers to far-flung parts of the world and showing them the beauty of each animal up close. Icy blues and greens lend images of the Arctic a frosty feel, while vibrant greens set off the brilliant oranges of the monarch butterflies and jeweled feathers of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Wildebeest are menaced by storm clouds and elephants parade along a brown, dusty road. The book concludes with first a dusky and then a moonlit night that welcome bats and turtles to begin their travels.

An excellent choice for home, classroom, homeschool, and public library collections, Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys will be a favorite of both kids and adults for lessons and more casual reading.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1408889916

To learn more about Jenni Desmond, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wonderful-wildlife-board-game

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

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You can find Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

Here we are in the middle of the hot, hot summer. In many places the grass is turning brown and the plants are wishing for a little relief.  Are you wishing for rain to cool things off too? Well, today may be your lucky day, and if you live in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania the odds are with you! The holiday got its start back in 1874, when a local resident remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist at JT Rogers & Co drug store that it always rained on his birthday—July 29. Allison began keeping an annual record. Since that time all eyes have been on Waynesburg to see if the remarkable run—115 years out of 144—continues. The people of Waynesburg celebrate their notoriety with a festival that includes live entertainment, arts and crafts and food booths, kids’ games, and, of course, an umbrella decorating contest. So, watch the skies—and get your umbrella ready!

I Am the Rain

By John Paterson

 

“Sometimes I’m the rain cloud and sometimes I’m the rain.” So starts John Paterson’s lyrical and thoughtful tribute to the water cycle paired with beautiful illustrations that invite readers along to discover all the ways that water changes and affects our lives. From the flowing aftermath of a storm as “a roadside rapid roaring down a drain” to the creator of a rainbow “in mist or morning dew.” Water takes on various colors, shapes, and forms as the weather changes throughout the year.

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Copyright John Paterson, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Paterson’s short, yet compelling verses reflect the interconnectedness of the world’s water systems in poetic language that reveals the living, driving force of nature. In spring, water narrates: “Waiting, I’m the ocean bay that searching rivers seek.” He also recognizes the imagination that water inspires when, in summer, water rises “in rumbling thunderheads like castles in the haze.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-the-rain-pool

Copyright John Paterson, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

But water is not just an Earthly phenomenon. Turning the book vertical to peer through a narrow canyon where a glowing object soars across the night sky, readers learn that water is found “in the comet high circling the stars. / I’m also carving canyons deep on Earth and cousin Mars.” And, finally, the most personal link with water is revealed: “All of life depends on me. I’m even part of you.”

Five detailed and illustrated pages of back matter explain the water cycle; the science behind Paterson’s poetry, including explanations of the three forms of water, why water flows downhill, the science of rainbows, the color of water, and more; STEM experiments for teachers to perform with students; and how people can preserve and protect the world’s water. A list of other books on water published by Dawn Publications rounds out this educational content.

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Copyright John Paterson, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Paterson’s lovely, textured illustrations expose the power and splendor of water rushing in swirling streams, muddy slides, and roaring waterfalls; decorating the sky with colorful arcs and a spider’s web with crystal pearls; and resting in a rock pool and on a snowy bank. In a particularly atmospheric spread, low rolling fog creeps across a pumpkin patch on a frosty autumn morning.

A striking resource for classrooms, homeschoolers, and families, I Am the Rain makes a charming read aloud for story times as well as a captivating supporting text for science lessons. The book would be a welcome addition to any home, school, or library collection.

Ages 3 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2018 | ISBN 978-1584696155

Rain Day Activity

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Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

 

On a rainy day you need just the right raincoat and umbrella to stay dry! These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten separated. Can you find the matching pairs? There may be more than one way to do it. How do you match them up? 

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

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You can find I Am the Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Dawn PublicationsIndieBound

Picture Book Review