March 5 – National Day of Unplugging

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About the Holiday

National Day of Unplugging is a 24-hour respite from the ever-present technology that can rob us of seeing what’s right in front of us, of actively participating in events, or partaking in activities like playing outside or even reading a physical book. Constant digital connections can also disrupt sleep. This year we’ve been even more tied to our devices for work, school, and socializing, but taking a day to decompress and enjoy nature or just some quiet, contemplation can be refreshing and revitalizing. To celebrate today, push the off button and enjoy a more relaxing day! What you discover may be surprising – just like today’s book!

A New Green Day

By Antoinette Portis

 

Nature provides many surprises from tiny glimpses of underground industry to shocking displays of overhead power. In between are moments that often go unremarked but which enrich our days and, when we stop to think about them, provide new insights. In her lyrical riddles, Antoinette Portis invites readers to listen as animate and inanimate parts of nature describe themselves and then to guess at their identities.

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2020, courtesy of Neal Porter Books.

The day begins with this riddle: “‘Morning lays me on your pillow, / an invitation, square and warm. / Come out and play!’” Can you guess? Will you answer? Or will you doze a minute more? When you do rise and go outside, you may notice a “‘glistening ink’” on the sidewalk that tells you someone passed through during the night. Who might it have been?

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2020, courtesy of Neal Porter Books.

Each riddle, composed of poetic perceptions and whimsical metaphors, is printed in a monochrome square on the righthand pages, enticing readers to contemplate the possibilities before flipping the page. There they discover the answers in sumptuous and lovingly crafted illustrations designed with sumi ink, vine charcoal, leaf prints, and hand-stamped lettering. Each pairing gives kids reasons to head out the door or watch through the window with new perspectives. Who wouldn’t revel in an experience like this: “‘I am cool pudding / on a muggy day. / Let your toes / have a taste!’”

Dynamic, absorbing, and fun, A New Green Day is a perfect take-along for summer outings as well as a captivating addition to any story time. The book is highly recommended for home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Neal Porter Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0823444885

Discover more about Antoinette Portis, her books, and her art on her website.

National Day of Unplugging Activity

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Dragonfly Decoration

 

After enjoying the outdoors, bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

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Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

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You can find A New Green Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 4 – National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

The month of March is dedicated to reading! Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates 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 future 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 that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. This year, you can find virtual story times,  resources, and activity ideas on the National Education Association website

Thank you to Beaming Books for sharing a digital copy of Once Upon Another Time for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Once Upon Another Time

Written by Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal

 

In their contemplative story, Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine entreat readers to look at the world in a way that’s new yet also as old as time itself. Beginning with the wistfulness of a fairytale, the hypnotic verses take children back to a “land of long ago”… where “wonder waited in the hush / of every new sunrise.” Back to when mountains rose into clean skies and rivers ran though lush valleys. Back to when “there were no cities made of steel, / no buildings, no concrete, / no highways, byways, / billboard signs, / no traffic in the street.”

For kids it may seem impossible that there was ever a time that gazing upward offered no chance of seeing a plane or drone and that all “the webs were spider-spun.” It’s hard to imagine a world with no machines, no mining for gold or oil, no farming, and even no human footprints in the soil. But “before one human step was taken… Earth and moon and stars awakened.”

This world’s still waiting to be found by stepping out, taking along no distractions. Then once outside, really look at the smallest things, “feel the wind,” and “taste the rain.” Listen closely, breathe in smells, and climb a tree. In the dark, “watch the moon. / Listen to the cricket’s tune.” And soon the dawning “sun will climb… / just as it did another time.”

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Image copyright Andrés F. Landazábal, 2021, text copyright Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

The collaboration between Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine has created a rhyming story that doesn’t just celebrate nature but invites children to rediscover its awesome power to inspire, nurture, and excite. Ghigna and Esenwine’s story structure takes children backward in steps, reflected in page turns, from noisy cities and cluttered skies to the introduction of dams and factories to simple mining practices to the first humans and finally to the birth of our solar system. The impression these pages forge exposes that well-known duality of time: it moves so quickly; it moves so slowly. And so it is with childhood—that time when one can embrace nature—and life—with innocence and wonder. Esenwine and Ghigna ask kids to leave behind the phones, computers, and games to experience sights, sounds, smells, and feelings for real as well as to imagine the past and all the ways we are connected to it.

Andrés F. Landazábal’s lovely illustrations portray the grandeur of nature as well as its simple surprises that are no less breathtaking. A pink, turquoise and golden sunset over desert plateaus contrasts with a twilit wildflower field where a tiny sparrow watches a flock of birds fly away under the eye of a pale crescent moon. Landazábal’s images of nature are soft and mottled while his depictions of modern society show stark lines and the impenetrable nature of concrete, glass, and metal. As the story invites kids to discover the world unhindered, one page spread that will be a particular favorite of readers shows two children walking into their backyard underneath which a fossilized dinosaur sprawls. In his final pages, Landazábal assures readers that no matter where they live—country, suburbs, or city—there are places where they can experience the wonders of nature.

A unique, beautifully poetic invitation for children to explore nature and their place in it, Once Upon Another Time is a story readers will love to hear again and again. The book can also provide a spark for environmental, science, writing, and history lessons. Once Upon Another Time is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506460543

Discover more about Charles Ghigna, his books, and his poetry on his website.

To learn more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry, visit his website.

You can learn more about Andrés F. Landazábal and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Once Upon Another Time Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Beaming Books in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Once Upon Another Time written by Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine | illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal

This giveaway is open from March 5 through March 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 12.

To Enter:

  • Follow my fabulous intern Dorothy Levine @DorothyJLevine
  • Retweet
  • Reply with favorite part of nature for extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

Prizing provided by Beaming Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Book Day Activity

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Book-Loving Shark Maze

 

If you’re like this shark, you love devouring books – the more the better! Can you help this shark find its way to the stack of books in this printable puzzle?

Book-Loving Shark Maze | Book-Loving Shark Maze Solution

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You can find Once Upon Another Time at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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

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About the Holiday

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

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

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

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

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371778

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

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

Meet Heather Lang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on next?

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

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

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

World Wildlife Day Activity

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

Rainforest Coloring Page

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

You can find The Leaf Detective at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the National Education Association in 1997, encourages children all across the country to celebrate reading and all of its joys and benefits. The NEA strives to create a nation of diverse readers and to provide teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion. In NEA’s digital Read Across America calendar, the theme for March is “Cultivate Compassion.” This year teachers and parents can connect with authors, discover ideas for virtually celebrating Read Across America, and find lots of resources for a full year of reading. A love of reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a powerful force for future success. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. There are fabulous worlds and stories waiting to be discovered. Just take a look into today’s book1 For more information on Read Across America, visit the NEA website.

If You Come to Earth

By Sophie Blackall

 

In Sophie Blackall’s beautifully—and often whimsically—illustrated If You Come to Earth, a child named Quinn who wears a red elfin hat writes a letter about Earth to any visitor from Outer Space who may venture to our planet. Quinn starts out with a map of sorts to guide the visitor through the cosmos to our “greeny-blue” home and, closer still, to the cities, towns, and villages where we congregate. A patchwork image shows the visitor the variety of houses people live in—from huts to trailers, castles to houseboats, cabins to treehouses to a familiar lighthouse. One space is also dedicated to those who have lost their homes “in a fire. In a flood. In a war.”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Turn the page to a sunny-day picnic and Quinn reveals that in those homes live “all kinds of families.” Sometimes people are quiet, but Quinn tells the visitor, “inside our heads, we are usually thinking. You can’t see our thoughts, but sometimes we show our feelings on our faces.” What kinds of feelings? Blackall’s portraits show sadness and glee, confusion and surprise, frustration and calm. The child mentions clothing, weather, and transportation. “I’m a kid,” Quinn says, “and kids go to school to learn stuff, so we’ll know what to do when we’re grown up.” Quinn’s class is seen drawing space aliens while they talk together and share colored pencils. One boy is making a face and another is sleeping on his blank piece of paper.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What will these kids grow up to be? Forty snapshots of adults—including a beekeeper, potter, astronaut, tennis player, barber, chef, dancer, chess player, construction worker, veterinarian, doctor, singer, and scientist—will give the visitor an idea of the vast array of jobs people do “to make the world work.” There are ideas for leisure time too. And as a large group sits around table laden with all kinds of food, Quinn says that we “eat when we are hungry” and that “some of us have more food than others,” but that “we all need food and water to survive.”

From this introduction, the visitor learns about the ocean, which appears empty but “actually it’s full.” A stunning montage of sea creatures depicts what the child means. Likewise, the land hosts animals, which bound, creep, and lope across the pages, and the sky is home to birds of all colors and sizes.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Quinn talks about the music in the world, made by animals and people, about deaf people who talk with their hands, and about blind people who read with their hands and includes images of the sign language and braille alphabets. He tells about things created by nature and those made by people; things that are big and things that are small and even things that are invisible but make a big impact. One of these is germs, which “can make you sick” just like “eating a woolly milkcap toadstool or breathing in smoke or getting spat on by a slow loris.”

Quinn reveals different ways people interact and how they grow up from babies to older people. He admits that “there are lots of things we don’t know…. But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.” Quinn ends his letter with some questions for the possible visitor from Outer Space and an invitation to stay in his room if, indeed, they come to Earth.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Every page of Sophie Blackall’s mesmerizing and welcoming look at life on our planet invites readers to explore her detailed illustrations and imagine what their own additions would be to each topic. Blackall’s straightforward text is sprinkled with humor and poignancy and each line opens up a world of possibilities and the gifts of our rich diversity, both natural and human. The subjects Blackall chooses flow from each other like a long strand of yarn teased from a sweater with an intricate design and are sure to lead to fun, fascinating, and thoughtful discussions. Blackall’s ending will inspire as much as it makes you smile.

Accompanying Blackall’s text are her exquisite illustrations that are fresh and fun and, in many cases, will take your breath away. Both kids and adults will want to spend time carefully studying and talking about each page, as there is so much to see, so many connections to make, and so many secrets tucked away in each of them. Readers will notice allusions to other books and will want to point out all of the things that are “just like me!” Pages dedicated to transportation, birds, animals, sea creatures, and jobs will enthrall kids with these particular interests. Artists, collectors, and philosophers will also find pages to excite them too.

A book kids and adults will want to dip into again and again as well as an excellent read to spark writing workshops, nature studies, and social studies classes for schools and homeschoolers, If You Come to Earth is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452137797

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-come-to-earth-cover

You can find If You Come to Earth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 25 – It’s National Bird Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Spring comes early for our feathered friends. You may have noticed more bird activity in the past few weeks as birds get ready to build nests and mate. February can be a tough month for these little creatures, though. In some places snow still covers the ground, and the spring blooms that offer nutrition haven’t sprouted yet. To remedy this situation, in 1994 John Porter read a resolution into the United States’ Congressional record recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of the American population have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive. To celebrate, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one. Enjoying the beauty and songs of birds is a day brightener!

How to Find a Bird

Written by Jennifer Ward | Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

 

If you have or know of a child who is fascinated by birds, then How to Find a Bird will pique their interest and entice them to get outside to look for birds—those obvious as they fly by and those who take a bit of detective work to spot. As Jennifer Ward assures young birders: “There are a lot of ways to find a bird. That’s the wonderful thing about birds.” She then reveals helpful tips for spying on birds without scaring them away. Being “quiet is good.” How quiet? “So quiet you can hear your heartbeat.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2020, text copyright Jennifer Ward, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

But where can birds be found? Sure, we all know birds fly, but Ward reminds readers to “look down, low to the ground, where some birds forage” for food on land and in the water. And Ward reveals other reasons besides grabbing a meal that birds may be found at feet level instead of overhead. Between down below and up in the sky, there’s eye level. But to find a bird here, “you will have to have a sharp eye” as it may be cleverly camouflaged. “Of course, you can always look up to find a bird too!” But even here you may find surprises.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2020, text copyright Jennifer Ward, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

If you make your home and yard welcoming, Ward says, you won’t have to search for them, the birds will come to you. They may talk to you or warn other birds about you. “And if you feed them, they will come. Then all you need is a window to find a bird.” But there is one sure way to find a bird that doesn’t involve looking at all. So closer your eyes… and listen: “‘Honk! Honk!’ ‘Cheerily cheerily cheerily.’ ‘Who cooks for you who cooks for you?’ That’s the wonderful thing about birds.”

Backmatter includes a discussion about birdwatching, a list of tools and tips, where to find distinguishing marks on birds, how to create a life list, and resources for becoming a citizen scientist.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2020, text copyright Jennifer Ward, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jennifer Ward’s joyful, lyrical storytelling invites kids to engage in the rewarding activity of birdwatching. Whether readers would like to make it a hobby or just become more observant to their surroundings, How to Find a Bird shows kids easy ways to enjoy watching birds and discovering their behaviors without disturbing them or their habitats. By reminding children to take a broad approach to finding birds, Ward reveals the wide variety of birds that populate our planet, their behaviors, and their defenses. Ward’s direct address makes readers feel they’re already part of this exciting activity that can become a lifelong love.

Diana Sudyka’s charming, realistic illustrations of more than fifty species of birds take kids to marshlands and rocky deserts, lakeshores and beaches, a bright blue sky and a flower-filled backyard. Along the way kids get a look at families of California quails and tundra swans; a northern flicker gobbling ants; an anhinga tossing a minnow; burrowing owls underground; and a long-eared owl, an eastern whip-poor-will, and a brown creeper hiding in plain sight among many others. Readers will also see some birds who have become extinct and several matched with their song. Sudyka’s vibrant images show birds in motion and at rest. A careful study of the pages will reward kids with enchanting details and a couple of surprising hidden birds.

For nature buffs, bird lovers, and school or homeschooling environmental lessons, How to Find a Bird is an enchanting introduction to birds and birdwatching and would be a terrific take-along on outdoor outings. The book would be a quick favorite on home bookshelves and an excellent reference for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Land Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1481467056

Discover more about Jennifer Ward and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Sudyka, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bird Feeding Month Activity

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Bird Coloring Pages

 

The birds you usually see in your area may not be back from their winter vacation yet, but you can still enjoy some beautiful birds with these coloring pages.

Owl in the Forest | Bird on a Reed | Bird on a Branch

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You can find How to Find a Bird at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 4 – Wildlife Conservation Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012 by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Wildlife Conservation Day aims to raise awareness of the importance of preserving and protecting the natural world and its inhabitants. The day also brings attention to the disastrous effects of wildlife crime – including illegal poaching and smuggling of animals or animal parts, such as tusks or horns – on animal populations. People are also asked to support the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. In 2019 the Act was substantially weakened when President Trump reduced regulations, putting many more animals at risk. Today, Wildlife Conservation Day is celebrated around the world by organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting and preserving our natural inheritance – unique places and creatures like those explored in today’s book.

Over and Under the Rainforest

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A child narrator enters the rainforest with Tito, who is, perhaps, an older brother, an uncle, or a cousin. The sun filters in, glistening on the raindrop-jeweled leaves. Looking up into the treetops and the clear sky from where “chatters and chirps and a howling roars.” The child wants to know what’s above them, and Tito answers that there is a “whole hidden world” that they are hiking under. They hear the “gurgle” of red, black, and yellow oropendolas in their bag-like nests and the “croak” of toucans.

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Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

They stop on the bridge that crosses a river and look down at the crocodiles napping on the banks. An emerald basilisk has no time to rest, though, and runs across the river, his feet “barely skimming the river’s surface.” The bridge takes them up, into the trees, where capuchin monkeys swing from branch to branch. While having a snack, the child and Tito watch an anteater hunt for a snack of his own below among fallen leaves.

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Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The afternoon brings expected rain, which begins as a “pitter-soft drumming on the leaves up above” but “swells to a strong, rushing pour” that soaks a “soggy mother sloth and her baby” while a blue morpho butterfly “folds up her wings and tucks away on a tree trunk.” They walk deeper into the forest, where silent snakes slither and curl around branches. Spying a dark shape in a treetop, Tito, with a roar, unleashes “a thunder of howler monkeys” concealed from sight.

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Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Dusk comes and then the curtain of night. Tito and the child head for home, spying animals and insects who are just beginning their day along the way. But suddenly a “sharp snap” in the undergrowth stops the child. Could it be a jaguar? They hurry across the last bridge and see the lights from Abuelita’s house. They know a dinner of arroz con pollo is waiting as the birds return to their homes too and another chorus begins—“a night song of darkness and water and life—over us, under us, and all around.”

Exciting back matter includes an Author’s Note about the inspiration for this book as well as illustrated paragraphs about the twenty birds, animals, and insects mentioned in the story.

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Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Lyrical and evocative, Kate Messener’s hike through a Costa Rican rainforest envelopes readers in the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of this mysterious ecosystem. Her well-loved Over and Under series serves as a perfect guide to a place where life in all its forms teems in the lush landscape. Messner’s tranquil and graceful storytelling makes for a lovely read aloud that will captivate readers, and her first-person point of view invites each listener to imagine themselves taking this transformative walk.

Christopher Silas Neal’s soft-yet-vivid matte illustrations capture the mystery and wonder of the rainforest from the first page, where Tito and the narrator head into the forest through a dark entryway that seems to slowly reveal itself as a series of steps leading into the trees. Just as kids would be prone to do, upon entering the forest, the narrator and Tito look up into the towering treetops, focusing the readers’ eyes there too. Neal’s use of a variety of perspectives gives readers an experience similar to the book’s characters and allows them to feel the vastness of the environment. The number of unusual animals, birds, and insects they encounter in this forest will wow kids, and they’ll enjoy searching the leaves, branches, and undergrowth to find what is hidden there. This nighttime scene provides a thrill as bright eyes shine from the trees—the only evidence of the shadowy creatures lurking there.

A beautiful book for any nature lover or child fascinated by the wonders of the world, Over and Under the Rainforest is a must. The book would be a treasured addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452169408

Discover more about Kate Messner and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Silas Neal, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Wildlife Conservation 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 Over and Under the Rainforest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

October 12 – National Farmers Day

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About the Holiday

National Farmers Day events have taken place across the country since the 1800s, and these days events are held on different dates in different towns throughout the fall. The holiday celebrates the hardworking farmers who grow and raise the food that fills our grocery stores, farm markets, and tables. Beyond food, farmers contribute to our economy across industries.

Thanks to Quarto Knows for sending me a copy of The Farm That Feeds Us for review consideration. I used a digital copy of The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids for my review. All opinions on the books are my own.

Introducing Quarto Classroom

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New this year, Quarto Classroom is a free video library on YouTube of expert authors using their books to teach everything from math to arts & crafts to social emotional learning. There are videos and activity sheets for every age, which can be used as supplements to your normal school curriculum—plus, you to get to know some pretty cool authors! Perfect to enhance virtual schooling and homeschooling, the videos and materials are exciting ways to engage your kids in hands-on learning. Today, I’m reviewing two books that approach science in different ways. The first covers the science of organic farming, and the second gets kids involved in chemistry experiments in their own kitchen. You can find all the available videos on various topics at Quarto Classroom.

The Farm That Feeds Us: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm

Written by Nancy Castaldo | Illustrated by Ginnie Hsu

 

This encyclopedic beauty takes readers to an organic family farm, where they spend a year learning about various types of farms and then get a close-up look at the activities and transformations that take place from season to season. In Spring, the farmer is up before the birds to feed the animals and mild the cows and goats. The chicken coop is busy as the kids feed the chickens and rooster and collect eggs. Some chickens are “broody” today—sitting on their eggs until they hatch. What kind of chickens are there? This coop is home to Hamburg, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, Brahma, Plymouth Rock, and Leghorn, which can lay “around 280–300 eggs per year.”

Out in the orchard among the apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees, the bee hives are being checked. In the fields, the farmer is tilling the soil to plant lettuce, carrots, beans, radishes, beets, and peas. You can see many kinds of equipment and machinery farmers use here. Some crops love the cool weather of early spring, so workers are already harvesting the peas, lettuces and greens, asparagus, and radishes. Then it’s off to the farm market to sell the food to eager customers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-farm-that-feeds-us-chicken-coop

Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Nancy Castaldo, 2020. Courtesy of Words & Pictures, Quarto Knows.

With temperatures getting warmer, it’s time to sheer the sheep. Lambs are born now too. You can see and learn about six breeds of sheep that are found around the world. Summer brings thousands of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries in the farm’s pick-your-own fields. Summer also means corn, which comes in many colors and is used for different purposes, from feeding people and livestock to making fuel. “Some varieties of corn have hears filled with kernels that look like multi-colored gems. Come take a look!

Twice a day the cows are milked. “On some industrial farms, cows are kept in pens and are bred to produce unnaturally high volumes of milk. On this organic, family farm, the cows are free to roam around” pesticide-free fields. Without antibiotics or hormones to increase milk production, their milk is “healthier for people to drink.” You can learn about five distinct breeds of cows here too.

It’s been an exciting time for the farmers! This weekend was the county fair, where “farmers come from all over the county to show off their produce and livestock.” Come take a look at all the exhibits! Then a local chef visits, eager to learn about the fresh produce and heirloom varieties available. “Squash blossoms, tomatoes, and radishes are picked and packed for the chef to take back to the kitchen for tonight’s menu.” You can also learn about food distribution and why eating local is healthier and more delicious.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Nancy Castaldo, 2020. Courtesy of Words & Pictures, Quarto Knows.

While large farms often use manmade pesticides to thwart insects and other pests, “organic farms use many different methods, including crop rotation, crop isolation, and growing other plants nearby that ward off pests.” Take a look at how these methods work.

Autumn brings pumpkins—in so many varieties! Orange, white, and green; warty, smooth, and tiny, each pumpkin has its own use and flavor. In the farmhouse kitchen, freshly picked fruit and vegetables are becoming jams, pies, sauces, and chutneys. In preparation for winter, the fields must be “put to sleep to keep the soil healthy for the spring plantings. Discover how important cover crops, mowing, and even fall grazing by the animals is to the farm’s health.

While no crops are growing during the winter, that doesn’t mean things slow down on the farm. Now is the time when repairs and cleaning are done, the apple trees are pruned, and logs are split for the woodstove. The bee hives are also wrapped to keep them warm. As the snow falls, the family feeds the animals in the barn and then gathers around and chooses the seeds they want to plant in the spring.

A bread recipe, a discussion on how we can make a difference to ensure a variety of healthy food remains available, and a glossary of words used in the book close out the text.

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Nancy Castaldo’s gorgeous and informative book, written in a lyrical, conversational style and full of fascinating details about the life of a farm and its crops and animals will entice readers to learn more about their local farms, the food grown there, and shopping at farmers markets.

Ginnie Hsu’s bright and homey illustrations will enchant readers of all ages as they discover realistic depictions of farm equipment, planting methods, crops, animals, and the beauty and intricacies of a small farm. Two-page spreads allow for detailed and panoramic views of the always-changing scenery and activities that make a farm such an exciting and intriguing place.

Whether you’re a teacher, homeschooler, or gardener; love farms; or are a proponent of an organic lifestyle, The Farm That Feeds Us would be an excellent accompaniment to science, social studies, and environmental lessons. The book offers untold opportunities to spark further research into the topics presented and ideas for classroom or home gardens. It is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 11

Words & Pictures, Quarto Knows, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711242531

Discover more about Nancy Castaldo and her books on her website

To learn more about Ginnie Hsu and view a portfolio of her art, visit her website.

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You can find The Farm That Feeds Us at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

The Farm That Feeds Us Quarto Classroom Video

You can visit with Nancy Castaldo as she reads from her book and talks about food from her local farms as well as about food you may find in your own pantry, clothing hanging in your closet, and other items in your house and the farms where they came from. Nancy invites kids to go on a scavenger hunt in their classroom or home to discover how many things we eat and use come from farms. You can find her video and download a teachers’ guide on the Quarto Classroom website under Science.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chemistry-for-kids-coverThe Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids 

By Liz Lee Heinecke | Illustrated by Kelly Anne Dalton | Photography by Amber Procaccini Photography

 

Replicating the experiments of twenty-five of the world’s most influential scientists from 1200 BCE to 1975 will give children and young people an appreciation for the long history and vast influence of chemistry since the beginning of time. Along with each experiment, readers learn about the scientists, background on their work, and “where you can still find it used or reflected in today’s world.”

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Image copyright Kelly Anne Dalton, 2020, text copyright Liz Lee Heinecke, 2020. Courtesy of Quarry Books, Quarto Knows.

First up is Tapputi-Belatikallim—a woman and the first recorded chemist, who lived in ancient Mesopotamia over 3200 years ago. Her position within the royal household was that of fragrance preparer, an important role as scents were “believed to transcend the physical world to reach their gods, who would be pleased by their sacrifice.” Her recipe “includes the first description of a distillation apparatus ever recorded and a number of her methods are still used today….” With a slow cooker or pot, fresh or dried lemon, herbs, or flowers, and other common kitchen tools, readers can create their own fragrance. Clear photographs show budding chemists the steps to success.

What would carbonated-drink fans do without their sparkling bubbles? Fortunately, because of Joseph Priestley’s work in 1767, they’ll never need to know. With baking soda and vinegar, young scientists can go beyond the volcano and create their own carbonated water. They’ll also learn more about this man who was ahead of his time in many ways. Don’t put the vinegar away too soon! With the next experiment, kids can turn a pad of steel wool into a powdery rust with oxidation—just like Antoine Lavoisier.

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Photographs copyright Amber Procaccini, copyright 2020, text copyright Liz Lee Heinecke, 2020. Courtesy of Quarry Books, Quarto Knows.

Can’t quite get your head around the periodic table? With this experiment you can make your own and really see what’s up with all of those protons and neutrons! Who came up with the periodic table? That would be Dmitri Mendeleev, who legend has it dreamed up the format in…well…a dream. Can washing dishes ever be more than a chore? For Agnes Pockels, born in 1862, it led to a revelation about surface tension and how various soaps and other materials could disturb it. Get out a plate, some water, milk, food coloring, oil, and other ingredients and get to work!

How do you smell? I mean…how well can you smell? In 1991 Dr. Linda Buck discovered “a group of genes that no one had ever seen before. These genes coded for a group of 350 smell receptors that work in combination to detect thousands of different odors. “In 2004 Linda and her colleague Richard Axel won the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of odorant receptors….” With the experiment here, you and your family can discover how sensitive your nose is by blind-testing a variety of objects.

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Image copyright Kelly Anne Dalton, 2020, text copyright Liz Lee Heinecke, 2020. Courtesy of Quarry Books, Quarto Knows.

The next time your teacher, mom, or dad sees you using your phone in class, it might be because you’re doing Raychelle Burks’ colorimetric sensors experiment. With an app you can turn your phone into a spectrometer to test RGB ratings for a series of diluted liquids. Burks’ current research is focused on designing “sensing systems that can identify chemical clues tied to crime.” Who knows—you may find yourself working as a CSI after getting hooked by the science behind this fascinating experiment.

Along the way, young scientists can make soap, create chemical batteries, work with synthetic dyes, make lava lamps to test temperature and chemical reactions, do elemental extraction, discover the pH scale, learn about chromatography, extract organic oils, make crystals, extract medicinal compounds from aloe, and take part in many more educational and fun experiments. A glossary, the periodic table, and a list of resources and references follows the text.

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Photographs copyright Amber Procaccini, copyright 2020, text copyright Liz Lee Heinecke, 2020. Courtesy of Quarry Books, Quarto Knows.

Prior to each experiment, readers learn about each chemist through Kitchen Pantry Scientist Liz Lee Heinecke’s lively biographies that spotlight stories from the scientist’s childhood, family life, education, early work, and influence on the world at large.

Kelly Anne Dalton’s engaging and vivid illustrated portraits of each chemist introduce each experiment and set the scientist in her or his time period.

A superb reference and resource for schools, homeschooling, today’s virtual schooling as well as for kids who just like to tinker (like many of the scientists highlighted), Chemistry for Kids would be a favorite go-to book for science lessons and free time and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections. The book would also make an excellent gift.

Ages 7 – 12

Quarry Books/QuartoKnows, 2020 | ISBN 978-1631598302

To learn more about Liz Lee Heinecke, her books, and her work, visit her website The Kitchen Pantry Scientist.

Discover more about Kelly Anne Dalton, her books, and her art on her website.

Chemistry for Kids Quarto Classroom Video

Liz Lee Heinecke invites you into her kitchen to talk about her book and hear the story of Agnus Pockles. Following the reading she takes kids step-by-step through Agnus’s experiment on surface tension, using milk and food coloring to explain how this phenomenon works. She then shows how detergents break surface tension with dramatic results. You can find Liz’s video and download a teachers’ guide at the Quarto Classroom website under Science.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chemistry-for-kids-cover

You can find Chemistry for Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review