July 10 – Don’t Step on a Bee Day

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About the Holiday

The bee population is in decline around the world due to habitat disruption and destruction, pesticide use, and colony collapse disorder. Bees (and other pollinators) are crucial to the world’s food supply. Today’s holiday is a reminder to protect bees and help preserve their habitats. By planting flowers and herbs that attract bees and providing safe nesting places for them, you can be part of the solution.

Bee & Me

By Alison Jay

 

As you open the cover of Alison Jay’s glorious, wordless Bee & Me, don’t be surprised if your heart skips a little faster when you find yourself in a city that’s familiar but also magical. From a high vantage point, you look down on a main thoroughfare where a café, a music store, a hat shop, an optometrist, a barber, and a shoe shop line the busy street; stylized cars, buses, and trucks pass by; and people—tiny from this distance—walk a dog, ride a unicycle, carry bags, and try to keep up with two running children. Elevated trains traverse their arched track and helicopters and planes dot the sky.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Turn the page and you’re looking into a four-story apartment house. On the first floor a woman does battle with a fly as her husband types at his green typewriter; on the third floor a boy tries to coax a pigeon to eat out of his hand; and in the fourth-floor apartment, a woman sits at her easel, painting. And what about the second floor? That’s where the story gets started.

A bee, attracted by flowered curtains, has just flown into a little girl’s window as she’s reading a book about flowers. The little buzzy guy flies right up to her face, causing her to toss the book aside and run away in fright. She procures her weapon and raises the fly swatter into position but reconsiders when she sees the bee’s scared face and little legs waving in his own defense. The girl decides to trap him under a drinking glass, but when the bee weakens and then faints, she reads up on bee culture and offers him a spoonful of sugar water, which he slurps up eagerly. The girl goes to the window and releases the bee under the interested gaze of the little boy upstairs.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night a storm rages and the rain continues the next day. At her window, the girl finds the bee soaked through. She brings him in, feeds him another spoonful of sugar water, and then, while he sits on a playing die on her vanity, she dries him with her hairdryer and a toothbrush. Happy and fluffy, the bee decides to stay. He and the little girl become fast friends and begin doing everything together. They play checkers, dance, have tea parties, and go places with the bee riding in the girl’s doll carriage or bicycle basket. Nourished with cups of sugar water and popsicles, the bee begins to grow and grow, becoming as tall as the girl, and then taller. They play at the park on the slide and the swing, and the bee even learns how to ride the girl’s bike.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But on a stroll downtown, the bee sees a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a florist’s window. He presses his face to the glass, and the little girl, noticing, buys him a flower. At home, the bee thinks of a meadow of flowers, and his sad face tells the little girl all she needs to know. She gets out a map and shows her friend where there’s open green space. The girl climbs on the bee’s back and they soar from the window, unseen by anyone except the little boy on the third floor.

They fly out of the city, over the river, and into farmland where they find a field of flowers. Carefully, they gather seeds in their bags and on the way back home scatter them across the city. The last seeds in the girl’s bag go into her new window box. Fall has come and the bee and the girl hug and then say goodbye as the bee flies away from her window.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With winter, an invitation comes from the boy upstairs in the form of a yellow-and-brown striped scarf dangled out of his window, and the two build a snow bee outside their apartment building. In the spring, they walk together through the rain under a polka dot umbrella, and summer sees the seeds in the girl’s window box begin to sprout. In fact the whole city has begun to sprout, with colorful gardens blooming on rooftops, along the edges of sidewalks and streets, and in yards sprinkled here and there.

The purple, yellow, blue, pink, and white flowers attract butterflies and bees, and the people on the street stop now to enjoy the beauty around them. And the girl’s BeeFF? He, of course, comes back to visit and play.

A Bee Aware! Author’s Note about the importance of bees, the kinds of flower and herb plants that attract bees, and how to create and help bees find places to nest follows the story.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

While following the story, which is played out with perfect pacing, humor, and sensitivity, readers can glimpse surprising, delightful, and funny details on every page that tell them more about the people who live in the little girl’s apartment house and the buildings nearby. Alison Jay cleverly uses these snippets of life to show the passage of time and the subplot of what is happening for the little boy who lives upstairs. The girl’s kindness and attention to the needs of the bee, whom she once feared, reminds readers of the benefits of education and opening your heart.

A superb story that encompasses awareness of nature, urban sprawl, the power of friendship, and the change one person can make on another and the world at large all wrapped in stunning art that invites multiple readings, Bee & Me is perfect for cuddly story times with little ones and impactful read alouds with older kids. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 8

Old Barn Books, Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763690106

You can learn more about Alison Jay and her books, and view a portfolio of her art on Children’sIllustrators.com

Don’t Step on a Bee Day Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Bee & Me at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 27 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month

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About the Holiday

This month’s observance pays tribute to the role of zoos and aquariums and the work they do for education, conservation, and research to protect the world’s animals. As zoos and aquariums build exhibits that more closely resemble the animals’ natural habitats and offer interactive and hands-on programs, more visitors can learn about the environments and science of each amazing creature. These institutions are also reaching out with personal and online visits to schools by zoologists and other experts, increasing the interest in biology and animal science to students. Nearly 175 million people—50 million of which are children—visit zoos and aquariums each year. To celebrate today, visit your local zoo or aquarium!

Be Nice to Spiders

By Margaret Bloy Graham

 

One morning as the Zoo Keeper was about to open the gate, he noticed a matchbox with a note attached to it. The “note read: ‘Please look after Helen. I’ve had her since she was a baby, but I can’t keep her anymore. We have to move to an apartment that won’t take pets. Thanks, Billy.” When the Keeper opened the box, out jumped eight-legged Helen. She scurried into the maple tree and then “quickly spun a long silk thread and lowered herself into the ventilator of a big building” that turned out to be the Lion House. The poor lions—a father lion, a mother lion, and four cubs—were beset by flies. “The lions were annoyed, but Helen was delighted. She loved to eat flies.” Right away she wove a big, sticky web. “One by one the flies got caught…. And one by one Helen ate them.”

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

After a week, the Lion House was free of flies and the lions were comfortable. Helen moved on to the Elephant House. She set up her web, and in a week the elephants were happy too. Next, Helen went to the Zebra House and after she “had caught all the flies there, the zebras were able to eat their hay in peace.” In fact, the zoo turned into a peaceful place for all the animals. Helen was very content too.

One morning, the Keeper called all the workers together and told them that the Mayor was coming for a visit that day. He wanted them to clean up all the cages and especially “‘get rid of all those spider webs.’” Joe said that he thought spiders were beneficial, but the Keeper thought the spider webs made the zoo look a mess. With their brushes, brooms, and hoses, the workers scrubbed the cages clean. When they got to the Camel House, they found one of Helen’s webs loaded with flies. He swiped at the web, but Helen had vanished.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the Mayor arrived, he declared that he’d never seen the zoo looking “‘so neat and the animals looking so well.’ Meanwhile Helen was still in the Camel House, hiding in a crack in the ceiling.” She was afraid to come out. Days passed and Helen grew hungry. Flies returned and began to bother the camels again. One night, Helen was so hungry that she came out and spun a web. She decided to stay in the Camel House—“she didn’t dare go anywhere else.” This was good for the camels, but not good for all the other animals.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

The Keeper couldn’t understand what had happened. As he and Joe walked through the zoo, the animals and even the visitors were under clouds of flies and looking miserable. But then they went into the Camel House. Here there were no flies, and the camels were peaceful and happy. Then Joe spied one of Helen’s webs. “‘Look, Chief,’ Joe shouted. ‘Now I know what’s going on! See that spider up there? It’s eating all the flies…. Spiders are useful. That’s what I tried to tell you the other day.’”

The Keeper called all the workers together and told them about Joe’s discovery. He also had a new rule for the zoo: “‘Be nice to spiders.’ Soon the Zoo became famous for its happy, healthy animals, and Helen was treated like a queen.” One day, Helen even got her picture on the front page of the newspaper under the headline: “Local Zoo Named Best of Year; Three Cheers for Spider! Says Keeper.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

One of the people reading the newspaper was Billy’s dad. He showed the article to Billy, and the next day Billy went to visit Helen. He introduced himself to the Keeper, and then noticed something special in Helen’s web. It was an egg sac. “‘I bet there’ll be plenty of baby spiders soon,’” exclaimed Billy. And sure enough, a few days later Helen became the proud mother of lots and lots of little spiders. “From then on, Helen and her children and all the animals in the Zoo lived happily ever after.”

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Margaret Bloy Graham’s classic story has been a kid-favorite since 1967—I know it was a favorite of mine and I was happy to pull my Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club Edition copy out of my collection for this review. Billy’s sweet concern for his pet spider, Helen’s initiative in dropping into the Lion House, and the natural solution to the zoo’s fly problem all combine to make this a story that is ever-fresh and appealing to kids. Graham’s smooth and straightforward narration is sprinkled with realistic dialogue and builds to a suspenseful turn that is riveting to children. Kids with pets of their own will cheer when Billy learns that Helen is a hero. The idea of natural, environmentally safe solutions to pest control is still relevant and resonant today.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Graham’s illustrations have lost none of their charm, in fact kids will be enchanted by the vintage look and adore little Helen who, with a smile on her face, snares plenty of flies in her webs. Readers will like seeing just how a spider goes about constructing a web and will enjoy spying where Helen is on each page. You can bet there will be a chorus of “noooo!” as a zoo worker raises his broom to sweep away Helen and one of her webs and an enthusiastic “yesss!” when Joe points out just how vital she is to the zoo. The illustrations also give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about how things have changed at zoos over the intervening years.

An impactful story with lots of heart, Be Nice to Spiders will be a favorite of kids who love spiders, zoos, and the environment.

Ages 4 – 7

HarperCollins, 1967

National Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

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Splendid Spider Coloring Page

Having a spider in the house is lucky! Here’s an alert spider just waiting for some flies. Grab your crayons or pencils and feed him – or be a little silly. What else can this spider catch in his web?

Splendid Spider Coloring Page

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You can find Be Nice to Spiders at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 21 – World Giraffe Day & Interview with Author Monica Bond, Illustrator Kayla Harren, and Educator David Brown

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, celebrates the animal with the longest neck on the longest day or night of the year, depending on which hemisphere you live in. The purpose of World Giraffe Day is to honor these majestic animals while also promote awareness of the dangers and threats they face. Events supporting these gentle giants are held around the world at zoos and conservation organizations as well as by governments, institutions, and companies involved in education about and protection of the giraffe. To celebrate today, learn more about these animals, visit a zoo or wildlife refuge, or consider donating to the cause of giraffe conservation. To learn more visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation website.

Juma the Giraffe

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Juma, a baby giraffe, loved to play with his friends Upendo and Rafiki on the African safari while their mothers watched. “Upendo likes to explore new places” while “Rafiki jokes and makes everyone laugh with his silly faces. Juma is kind and generous.” With his long neck, he’s able to reach the sweet acacia leaves to share with the dik-diks. One day, though, while the giraffes were at the water hole, Juma caught a glimpse of his reflection.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Looking at himself alongside all the other giraffes, he realized that they all looked the same. “And because they all looked alike, he felt he wasn’t special.” His mama noticed Juma standing alone and sad and asked him what was wrong. He told her that he wished he “looked different from everyone else.”

Juma’s mama gazed at her child lovingly and told him how special giraffes are. “‘There is no other animal in the whole world like us,’” she said. Then she gently reminded him how his long legs and neck help him get food, how his thick tongue and lips protect him from the thorns of the acacia trees, and how his “‘swishy tail sweep away the pesky flies that like to bite us.’” Their brown spots camouflaged them from lions and hyenas.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Then Mama asked Juma to look closely at his spots and notice that “‘each spot is different from the others and every giraffe has a unique pattern of spots.’” Juma saw that Mama was right. He saw one spot “shaped like a star and another like a flower.” Mama’s spots were different too, and so were Upendo’s and Rafiki’s. Mama reassured Juma that each giraffe was unique outside and inside.

Juma was happy and continued to notice other ways that each giraffe was different, including their various personalities. Then Mama nuzzled her little one and told him that to her he was the “‘most special giraffe of all’” because he was her baby and she loved him.

Fascinating facts about the anatomy of giraffes, newborn giraffes, and where giraffes live follow the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Young readers who are at that stage where they wonder about how they are different from other kids and how they fit into their community will find loving reassurance in Monica Bond’s touching story even as they learn about a giraffe’s distinctive features. The sweet relationship between Juma and Mama, depicted through tender dialogue, will charm little ones. A welcome exchange comes when Mama points out Juma’s unique features and the little giraffe enthusiastically adds more observations of his own. Just as Juma does, young readers will see that they too are special in their own way.

As readers open the cover, Kayla Harren’s stunning panoramic view of the verdant African savanna places them close to zebras, an ostrich, a greater kudu, a grey crowned crane, a stalwart warthog, a family of mongoose, and a herd of elephants. Smiling out from the page is little Juma. As the story progresses, Mama spotlights each of Juma’s attributes, and readers see how he uses them. A shimmering two-page spread of the giraffes lined up at the watering hole and the close-up on the next page will awe kids and adults. Images of smaller animals hiding in rock crevices and big cats and monkeys resting on tree limbs will entice readers to learn more about these creatures. As Mama nuzzles Juma on the book’s final page, adults and little ones are sure to find time to cuddle too.

A sweet story that gives parents, teachers, and other caregivers a way to show the children in their life how special they are, Juma the Giraffe would be an often-asked for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2016 | ISBN 978-0989818292

Learn more about Juma the Giraffe and find videos and teachers resources here.

You can connect with Kayla Harren on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram

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Helping Brother Rhinoceros

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Brother Rhinoceros and his friend Father Oxpecker went to the waterhole to cool off on a blazing hot day. When they got there, they saw “that most of the water had dried up, leaving a big patch of gooey, sticky mud.” But Brother Rhinoceros lied down in the cool mud anyway and pronounced it “‘Perfect!’” Then Father Oxpecker nestled in behind Brother Rhinoceros’s ear, folded his wings, and the two drifted off to sleep.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros woke up hungry, but when he tried to leave the waterhole, he discovered that he was stuck in the mud. Father Oxpecker flew off to find help. First he brought back Sister Vervet Monkey, who was good at tying. “She ran around the mud patch looking for something to tie together that might help Brother Rhinoceros. But there was nothing.”

Next, Father Oxpecker brought Grandfather Giraffe, who thought his height could help, but he didn’t know exactly how. So, the bird flew off again in search of someone else. This time he came back with Grandmother Spider, who “produced a delicate thread of beautiful silk from her abdomen. It fluttered in the breeze, of no help whatsoever to Brother Rhinoceros.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Father Oxpecker left once again and returned with Mother Elephant. Although she was big and strong, she could only watch from the sidelines. Last, Father Oxpecker found Brother Weaverbird, who declared that he could “weave anything” if only there was something to weave. All of the animals sat nearby wondering what they could do. “They were all so proud of the things they could do, but none of them could help Brother Rhinoceros out of the mud.”

It was Grandmother Spider who suggested that they combine their talents and work as a team. She began by “spinning long streams of silk.” Brother Weaverbird braided “the silk into a long, strong rope.” Sister Vervet Monkey tied the rope around Brother Rhinoceros, using Grandfather Giraffe’s long neck as a bridge to reach him. Then it was Mother Elephant’s turn. She grabbed the rope, “took a deep breath and began to pull.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros helped push. “Finally, with a big squishy sound, Brother Rhinoceros lifted his body up out of the mud.” He was free! His friends cheered. Brother Rhinoceros thanked each one individually for their special skills that helped to save him. “They certainly made a great team and the best friends a muddy rhinoceros could ever have.”

Back matter reveals facts about Africa’s black and white rhinoceros. A map of Africa shows the historical range and the much smaller current range for each type of rhino.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

With the lyricism of a fable, Monica Bond weaves a story about individuality and teamwork and how every person has the ability to help others. As Father Oxpecker flies off again and again searching for just the right animal to help, readers will enjoy the suspense and learning each animal’s special ability. When Grandmother Spider suggests they all work together, kids will see that by combining their talents with friends and classmates, they can move mountains. The format of the story makes it a multi-layered choice for teaching the elements of a story, prediction, and comprehension.

Kayla Harren’s sun-drenched pages are bathed not only in the heat of a hot African day but in the warmth of friendship these animals share. Harren’s beautifully textured and realistic depictions of the animals and the surrounding savanna will inspire awe and an enthusiastic desire in kids to learn more about the animals, insects, and birds in the story.

A perfect book for social studies, science, and reading classes and for kids who love nature and animals, Helping Brother Rhinoceros makes an excellent choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Wild Nature Institute, 2018 | ISBN 978-1732323414

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Our Elephant Neighbors

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Robert and his little sister Mary live on their family’s small farm in Tanzania. There are cattle and goats, which Robert helps watch while Mary helps her mother wash clothes and cook. Sometimes they went to the waterhole to get water. “They splash each other with cool water on hot days.” One day, when it was very hot, they saw something amazing at the waterhole. A family of elephants was enjoying the cool water too. “Robert and Mary climbed up a nearby tree to watch and wait for the elephants to leave.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Soon, two elephants came to stand in the shade of the tree, right under the branch where the two children sat. “The elephants looked up and saw Robert and Mary.” They had been taught to fear people. Nervous, they backed up a few steps. Robert and Mary had been taught to fear elephants, and Mary hid behind her brother. The bigger elephant, Tomas, introduced himself and his little sister, Teresa. Robert introduced himself and Mary.

“Robert looked thoughtfully at the elephants below. ‘You are an elephant, and elephants can hurt people,’ Robert pointed out.” Tomas replied, “‘Well, you are a human, and humans can hurt elephants too.’” Even though Mary knew she should be afraid, she liked the elephants. She reached down and touched Teresa’s upturned trunk. Mary said that she could pick things up with her fingers, and Teresa showed her how she could pick things up with her trunk.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

The elephants and the children talked back and forth about all of their similarities. They were even the same ages. They talked about how all the aunties help out when a baby person and a baby elephant are born, how the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts in both human and elephant families teach the children important lessons and protect them, and how all the members of a both families feel sad when another member dies.

When they talked about the food they liked, Robert said that his “‘father gets angry when elephants eat” the vegetables in their garden.’ Then Tomas told Robert and Mary a secret.” He said that “all elephants hate chili pepper powder” and if they hung chili pepper powder on their fences, it would keep the elephants away. One reason elephants were eating from people’s gardens, Tomas said, was because their habitat was getting smaller as people planted more and more farms. Also “more and more of their family members are being hurt by people, because the elephants have fewer places to go.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Robert promised Tomas that when he grew up and had a farm of his own, he would build it where it would not disturb the elephants. He also promised to report anyone who tried to hurt the elephants. Soon it was time for Robert and Mary to get back home with the water, and Tomas and Teresa heard their mother calling for them. “They shook hands and trunks” and hoped they would see each other again. They knew “they would never forget their new friends from the waterhole.”

Interesting facts about African elephants follows the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Through Monica Bond’s charming story of a sister-brother pair and their elephant counterparts, young readers learn surprising ways in which they and elephants are alike. With similar abilities, family units, and even feelings, people and elephants should be friends, but too often they come into conflict, and the result has been a decrease in the elephant population and at times danger for humans as well. As the adorable Robert and Mary talk with Tomas and Teresa, Bond’s enchanting storytelling and realistic dialogue, draw in children, giving them even more reasons to love these popular animals. A major take-away is how people can protect and care for these gentle and intelligent animals and their habitats now and in the future.

Against gorgeous backdrops of Tanzania and its savanna, forests, and mountains, Kayla Harren depicts one family’s simple farm and a family of elephants enjoying a day at the nearby waterhole. At nine and five years old, Robert and Mary will steal readers’ hearts with their infectious smiles, sweet sibling relationship, and enthusiastic interactions with elephants Tomas and Teresa. Harren juxtaposes illustrations of the elephants’ family with those of Robert and Mary’s family in similar situations, showing readers how alike we really are. The pages are washed in soft-blue skies and glowing peach-hued sunsets, as realistic portrayals of the elephants, birds, and other animals create detailed and awe-inspiring panoramas.

Our Elephant Neighbors is an excellent addition to home, classroom, and public libraries to further understanding of elephants, conservation, and nature.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2017 | ISBN 978-1732323407

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Nature’s Giants Magazine

In this new magazine from the Wild Nature Institute, an enthusiastic dung beetle named Doug invites kids to learn about animal and plant giants of the African savanna through articles, games, crafts, and other activities that will keep them busy having fun and learning for a long time. Let’s get rolling and see what’s inside! Kids love finding stuff and right on the first pages they’re prompted to spot five differences on two identical (?) giraffes and search the pages for five beetles to see which one will would win a beetle race.

Along the way kids will enjoy:

Comics:

  • Doug engages kids in funny and interesting banter about the dung beetle’s ecological importance, including facts on their very, very long family history, three different dung beetle lifestyles, how dung beetles roll their dung balls in a straight line, and various job sites where dung beetles do their work.

Articles:

  • Ele-Fence!: About new ways farmers are protecting their crops from elephant raiders without engaging in Human-Elephant Conflict
  • Lions vs. Giraffes: About ways scientists use scars found on giraffes to study predation
  • Black Mambas: about the women rangers who patrol the Balule Nature Preserve to stop poaching of black and white rhinoceros and who teach environmental education programs in local schools. Since the group was formed “poaching of all species has decreased by 79%.”
  • Barking up the Right Tree: about the beautiful, sprawling baobab trees.
  • Infographic: on elephants, giraffes, termites and a surprising fact about biomass

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Activities:

  • Ideas for backyard or neighborhood science exploration
  • A savanna word search puzzle
  • An illustrated search-and-find animal puzzle
  • Craft instructions for making an Insect Hotel and an African Savana Scene
  • Jokes
  • A maze
  • How to draw an elephant, a giraffe, and a rhinoceros
  • A Giant Birds coloring page

Meet the Team Behind the Books and Magazine

I’m excited to have an opportunity to talk with Kayla Harren, Monica Bond, and David Brown about the work of the Wild Nature Institute, their lovely books that combine nature science with enchanting writing, and their new magazine for children.

Meet Monica Bond

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Hi, Monica! It’s nice to be chatting with you today! The love you have for Tanzania comes through in your stories so clearly and touchingly. Can you talk a little about your work and what brought you to this area?

My partner Dr. Derek Lee—quantitative ecologist and population biologist—and I chose to live and work in Tanzania because this country has some of the best wildlife experiences on Earth. As wildlife scientists, the lure of the African savanna is very strong; it is truly a wildlife paradise. In Tanzania there is incredible biological diversity combined with an extremely high density of mammals and birds, and we still have the full suite of predators and scavengers which means that the food web is intact. Tanzania also holds some of the best habitat for the last remnants of our planet’s pleistocene megafauna — elephant, rhino, and giraffe.

Derek and I are studying giraffes in Tanzania using a computer program that matches each individual’s unique spot patterns from photographs. We are monitoring thousands of giraffes in northern Tanzania, and learning where they spend their time, which other giraffes they hang out with, and how they move around the ecosystem. Our goal is to understand the things that hurt or help giraffes so we can help to preserve these magnificent animals for the future.

What is it like to live so closely to these majestic animals?

Every time I go to the bush and interact with these creatures, I am awed anew. They are so very special. Every day I feel that I am living the dream and I cannot get enough of watching them in their beautiful savanna habitat. Although we work in the bush, we often go back out to the bush on our days off!

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How did the Wild Nature Institute get its start? Can you talk a bit about the organization?

Formed in 2010, Wild Nature Institute conducts scientific research on endangered wildlife and inspires the public to protect wild nature. Next year we will celebrate a decade of work! The Institute was started as a platform for two dedicated wildlife scientists to realize our dream of doing interesting and bold science that protects the earth’s remaining bits of wild nature. The Wild Nature Institute is me and Derek at the core, but with lots of other partners and cooperators in our network (like David Brown and Kayla Harren) who are all critical to accomplishing our important work.

The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania. As we celebrate World Giraffe Day today, could you talk about the giraffe—it’s importance to its ecosystem, the threats and pressures the animal faces from human and environmental factors, and how people can help protect them?

The gentle, iconic giraffe is popular around the world, but scientists know surprisingly little about them in the wild. We chose to work with giraffes because they are amazingly beautiful and peaceful animals, but they are vulnerable to extinction because people have taken so much of their wild natural habitat for human uses like farming and houses. Poaching is also a serious problem for giraffes. They need our help.

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Tanzania in East Africa is a stronghold for giraffes, supporting more than any other country. Although the Masai giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania, populations have declined here since the 1980s—yet few people are aware of the plight of the beloved giraffe in the wild. It is our job as scientists to bring this problem to light.

How are can families and organizations around the world help in the mission?

What can you do to help save giraffes and wild nature? (1) You can donate money or time to conservation groups like Wild Nature Institute and others. People can use their skills by providing advice, services, or goods in their personal area of expertise that can help the cause. (2) You can raise awareness about the silent extinction of giraffes. Speak up within your social circles and encourage others to donate money or time to saving giraffes. You can raise awareness in your home communities by writing, speaking, and contributing to the global conversation about our planet’s climate and biodiversity crises. (3) You can plant native trees.

Giraffes, elephants, and many other species need native trees, but deforestation continues worldwide. Planting native trees helps fight the global climate crisis and helps biodiversity too! (4) You can support legal protections for wildlife. Laws like the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws make the world safer for wildlife and people. Call and write to your congressperson, senator, governor, and president telling them you support strong law enforcement to protect wildlife. (5) You can commit to not buying body parts, and if you live in Africa you can commit to not eating bushmeat.

The programs that the Institute sponsors and supports—from education in schools and communities to environmental conservation of animals and land to publishing materials for children—is extensive. How has your work been received? What successes have been achieved and what benefits do you hope to see in the future?

To save wild nature, we must know it and love it, so Wild Nature Institute and our partners developed environmental educational materials for children and teachers. The materials teach biology, geography, science, math, and language skills using focal animals and fun, beautifully illustrated stories. Our first book, The Amazing Migration of Lucky the Wildebeest, was a tri-lingual children’s book about wildebeest migration, and the ecological and economic benefits of conservation. The book was so successful that we created our “Celebrating Africa’s Giants” program to use environmental education to build community support for conservation efforts that will ensure the long-term survival of Africa’s giants giraffes, elephants, and rhinos.

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We now produce and distribute our four multi-lingual storybooks, two Swahili activity books, and seven posters, as well as learning activities to accompany the books and posters, to tens of thousands of children throughout Tanzania. These materials teach ecological and social lessons, build national pride in Tanzanian wildlife, and motivate children to read and learn about their natural world. The learning activities help Tanzanian teachers meet environmental education curricula requirements, and also meet Next Generation Science Standards for American schools.

To ensure the materials are used to their best advantage, we host workshops for teachers, led by our education consultant Lise Levy, a retired high school biology teacher with 32 years of experience in education. At the workshops, teachers have a wonderful time learning the stories and practicing the hands-on activities that they will use in the classroom to accompany the books and posters.

Can you talk a little about the impact that these books and the new Nature’s Giants Magazine have on the children and families in Tanzania?

Every year since we introduced our education program, we have expanded its reach and impact through word-of-mouth. Our books and posters are now recognized and requested by Tanzanian educators throughout Tanzania, from Ruaha and Ruvuma in the south to Serengeti in the west to Dar es Salaam in the east. We hired a Tanzanian education coordinator who regularly visits classrooms, orphanages, and community centers and brings “Giraffe in a Box,” “Elephant in a Box,” and “Rhino in a Box” with all of the materials needed to implement the activities. We made our storybooks into videobooks which are playing on Tanzanian television. We organize “fun days” at the schools to celebrate Africa’s giants where we do tree-planting, sports, drama and arts, and creative learning. 

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We are constantly dreaming up new and fun ways to spread the word about the fascinating animals of the African savanna. Our ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation to love and care for their wildlife and conserve the environment.

On your website you talk about the importance of zoos in supporting the environmental work in Tanzania. How do/can zoos help?

Zoos have an important role to play both in providing financial support for field conservation as well as promoting the conservation of giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceros through environmental education directed at visitors. Many zoos are using our Celebrating Africa’s Giants education program. Zoos also conduct their own scientific research. We couldn’t do our work without our zoo partnerships and we are really grateful for their support.

To learn more about Monica Bond and the work of the Wild Nature Institute, visit their website.

Meet Kayla Harren

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Welcome back, Kayla! I’m thrilled to be talking with you about these three beautiful books and Nature’s Giants Magazine.

How did you get involved with the Wild Nature Institute and this project? What does it mean to you to be part of it?

In 2015 my husband, Peter, who is also an artist, was asked to illustrate a picture book about a baby giraffe that was written by a friend of a friend. He wanted to pursue a different path in his illustration career, so he passed the job to me. I fell immediately in love with the story of Juma. My passions have always been art and animals. Being able to combine those two loves feels incredible.

I feel so lucky to be involved with the Wild Nature Institute because I get to help wildlife in my own way even though I am not a scientist. I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to wildlife education and hopefully spark a love for nature in other people. It feels like fate the way the first book found me through a friend of a friend of a friend and now it has turned into an amazing partnership.

Your artwork in Juma the Giraffe, Our Elephant Neighbors, and Helping Brother Rhinoceros is stunning and full of such wonderful detail and personality. What kind of research did you do to bring the characters to life? Do Juma—or any of the animals—depict real giraffes, elephants, or rhinos in the area?

Thank you! Monica was incredibly helpful with providing plenty of photographs that she and the other scientists had taken of the scenery and wildlife in Tanzania. It made my job so much easier to know that people who actually lived in Tanzania and knew the area were checking all the details of my work to make sure it was accurate. For each book I was able to look through images provided by Wild Nature Institute of people, landscapes, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and plenty of birds and animals to add in the background of each illustration. I did study the spot patterns of many giraffes, but Juma is a made-up combination of many giraffes I studied.

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Readers of your many books know what realism and sensitivity you bring to your illustrations of animals. Do you have a special affinity for animals and nature? Where did that come from?

Absolutely! Animals are my favorite. It started with my love of stuffed animals when I was very young. I had a huge collection, and I would spread them all out on my bed so none were hidden and they all got equal attention from me. I was introduced to many animal species through my toys. I remember fondly a stuffed white Bengal tiger that was bigger than me and a plump little panda bear. I loved the zoo, nature shows, and all the pet cats and dogs my family had. I feel most comfortable and relaxed in nature. I love going for walks with my dog because she stops every few steps to sniff something and that makes me pause and look around at all the beautiful shapes and textures and colors of the plants surrounding me. Nature is infinitely inspiring.

Have you ever visited Tanzania?

Not yet. Visiting Tanzania is very high on my list of things I need to do. Seeing a giraffe in the wild would be an absolute dream come true.

I’m going to let David Brown answer the next few questions about “Nature’s Giants Magazine.” David is a biologist, wildlife conservationist, and environmental educator—and he’s the co-creator and major writer of “Nature’s Giants.”

Welcome, David! As a nature lover, puzzle doer, and crafter myself, I love “Nature’s Giant’s Magazine!” There’s so much for kids to fall in love with!

“Nature’s Giants” magazine is full of fascinating articles (I learned a lot!), fun crafts, science prompts, challenging puzzles, and even a funny dung beetle named Doug. Can you talk about how the magazine came to be, what your role in the magazine is. and about how it can be used in the classroom? 

A group of conservationists and educators were meeting about how we could make Celebrating Africa’s Giants accessible and interesting to kids who love giraffes, elephants, and rhinos. We discussed how magazines like “Ranger Rick” and “National Geographic Kids” helped spark and sustain our love of nature when we were young, and we realized that there wasn’t really anything like that for even the most popular animals like giraffes and elephants. We decided to start our own nature magazine to fill that gap. We decided that our host of the magazine should be a dung beetle named Doug Beetle.  Doug Beetle helps show that there are many ways to be a giant in nature beyond physical size.

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My role is to help coordinate the creation of the magazine, develop story and activity ideas, and write the articles that bring those ideas to life. I also write the Doug Beetle comics. Megan Strauss, a wildlife biologist and illustrator, creates activities, crafts, and provides content for the magazine with her scientific expertise.  Kayla creates illustrations to accompany the articles and designs the layout of each page.

Accessible and interesting are perfect adjectives for Nature’s Giants! The magazine really promotes exploration and hands-on activities to engage kids in science learning. Can you describe some of the elements parents, teachers, and kids will find inside?

The magazine can be enjoyed casually for its art, stories, and activities. We also designed it for use in classrooms, zoo education programs, and other learning environments. In the first issue, we have a story about how scientific information can be visualized with infographics and how that helps us see the world in different ways.

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We also have a story about how a scientist makes an observation, asks questions about what she observed, and then solves a scientific mystery. Readers will learn how scientists study animals in the field, and hopefully get inspired to take part in citizen science themselves. 

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Environmental issues around the world are important to all of us. In what ways can children help from home or in their own communities?

The young people of the early 21st century are going to be the deciders of whether big animals like giraffes, elephants, and rhinos and their habitat survive this century and beyond. These animals are beloved around the world. They are the biological equivalent of the great works of art, architecture, and popular culture that are the common heritage of people around the world.

The young people in countries like Tanzania and Kenya, where these species and their habitats live, are the primary decision makers, but these animals need a global constituency of conservationists. They need people to help pay attention to them and keep their conservation needs visible in the world. Just as we pay constant attention to our favorite sports teams, celebrities, and technology products, we need to find ways to keep attention on giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and other animals.

If you love a species, then helping your local social network of family and friends be aware of the animal is a meaningful conservation action. Our goal for “Nature’s Giants” is to help connect young people with these animals and their conservation challenges and find ways to keep that connection growing.

What are the future plans for the magazine? How can teachers or other organizations order copies?

The first issue of “Nature’s Giants” is themed about African animals and plants. If the magazine finds an audience and there is an appetite for future issues, we would love to do a theme issue for each continent. We have also thought about doing an issue about the oceans. There are endless possibilities for issue themes. We would love to explore the future adventures of Doug Beetle.

To order copies of the magazine and all three storybooks, you can contact Monica Bond: monica@wildnatureinstitute.org

If you are interested in ordering Juma the Giraffe, Helping Brother Rhinoceros, and/or Our Elephant Neighbors for your classroom, organization, or yourself, contact Monica Bond monica@wildnatureinstitute.org. Individual copies of the books cost $12.00. Substantial discounts are offered when ordering multiple copies. All prices include shipping and handling.

Individuals, schools, and other organizations can also order single and/or multiple copies of “Nature’s Giants Magazine” for $4.25 each, plus shipping and handling.

You can also download printable posters with illustrations and information about giraffes, rhinos, and elephants from the Africa’s Giants website: www.africasgiants.org

To find the books with major online booksellers, see the information and links below.

Nature’s Giants Books & Magazine Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to be partnering with Wild Nature Institute in a giant giveaway! You could win this prize package that includes

  • One (1) copy of Juma the Giraffe signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Helping Brother Rhinoceros signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Our Elephant Neighbors signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of “Nature’s Giants Magazine”

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your favorite African animal for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

The giveaway will be held from June 21 to June 27.

A winner will be chosen on June 28

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

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You can find Helping Brother Rhinoceros at these booksellers

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

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You can find Our Elephant Neighbors at these booksellers

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

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You can find Juma the Giraffe at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 30 – National Water a Flower Day

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About the Holiday

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

The Curious Garden

By Peter Brown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 9

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

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

National Water a Flower Day Activity

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Spoon Flowers Craft

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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You can find The Curious Garden at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 26 – It’s National Park Week and Arbor Day

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About the Holidays

This week the country celebrates National Park Week, a collaboration between the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to honor our national treasures. During the week, people are encouraged to visit their local parks or take a trip to a new park and enjoy all it has to offer. Each day of the week has a special theme. Today’s is Friendship Friday and it commemorates all the organizations and groups who work to protect the parks. To discover national parks near you and discover their stories as well as to learn more about the week and how to help out all year round, visit the National Park Foundation website and the National Park Service website.

Today is also Arbor Day, a national celebration of trees that began as a campaign by J. Morton Sterling and his wife after they moved from Michigan to Nebraska in 1854. Morton advocated for the planting of trees not only for their beauty but as windbreaks for crops on the state’s flat farmland, to keep soil from washing away, as building materials, and for shade. In 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting day to take place on April 10. On that day nearly one million trees were planted in Nebraska. The idea was made official in 1874, and soon, other states joined in. In 1882 schools began taking part. Today, most states celebrate Arbor Day either today or on a day more suited for their growing season. To learn about events in your area, find activities to download, and more, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.

I received a copy of If I Were a Park Ranger from Albert Whitman and Company for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Albert Whitman in an amazing giveaway! See details below.

If I Were a Park Ranger

Written by Catherine Stier | Illustrated by Patrick Corrigan

 

If you love trees, animals, and all the beauty of nature, you may think about being a park ranger in one of the United States national parks. How would you get there? By studying “wildlife biology, conservation, or education” in college. Historian William Stegner called national parks “America’s ‘best idea.’” Being a park ranger means you’d be part of a proud history of people who have cared for the “country’s most beautiful, historic, and unique areas.”

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Who are some of these people? Stephen Mather and Horace Albright were the first directors of the National Park Service, Captain Charles Young was “the first African American superintendent of a national park,” and Gerard Baker “brought Native American heritage and perspectives to the parks.” There are also writers, like Marjory Stoneman Douglas ,and artists, like John Muir and Ansel Adams, who shared the grandeur of the parks.

Park rangers work in some of the most exciting places in the country—in caves, deserts, and mountains and near volcanos or the sea shore. And that’s just the beginning! Ships, homes, battlefields, and monuments are also part of the National Park System. As a park ranger, you would protect the animals, plants, and buildings, you might work with scientists, or archaeologists, and you would help visitors gain new perspectives. How would you do that?

You’d “be a great storyteller.” As part of your job, you’d “learn about the natural history, the human history, and the legends” of you park so you “could share those tales…” and maybe “a few spooky campfire stories too.” You’d also learn all about the animals and landmarks of your park so you could provide interesting tours.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Rangers are always on the lookout for fires, bad weather, or visitors who require help and alert emergency services when they’re needed. But rangers don’t spend all of their time outdoors. Sometimes they spend time inside using “computers to design exhibits, make maps, write articles, and keep track of endangered animal populations” or keep the park’s website updated. Park rangers are also invited to talk to students in schools and for organizations.

If you were a park ranger, you would make a big impact. Your park would be “cleaner and safer,” the “animals living there would be stronger and healthier,” and visitors might “experience something astonishing…a moment that could happen nowhere else in the world. A moment they’d remember forever” all because of you!

An Author’s Note reveals other riches of the National Park System, including STEM research, creative programs, artifacts and primary source materials, and more as well as a discussion on the education and various roles of rangers and a link where kids can find out about becoming a junior ranger at many parks.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Catherine Stier’s inspiring look at the role of a ranger in the National Park Service takes readers from shore to shore and shows them the exciting and diverse jobs that are part of a ranger’s day. Stier’s use of the first-person point of view empowers readers to see themselves as a ranger protecting the treasures of the park and sharing them with visitors. Her straightforward storytelling is full of details readers will love about the duties of a park ranger and the parks themselves. Her stirring ending swells the heart. It’s certain to plant the seed of interest in jobs within the National Park Service as well as in planning a vacation trip to one of these beautiful areas.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Through vibrant snapshots and two-page spreads, Patrick Corrigan transports readers to twenty-five national parks, including Redwood National Park, California; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico; Acadia National Park, Maine; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To immerse young readers in the story, the rangers are depicted as diverse children helping visitors, giving talks, protecting animals, translating petroglyphs, giving tours, calling firefighters, and even brushing dirt from an unearthed animal skull. In one image a ranger gives a flashlight tour of Mammoth Cave National Park to a girl who uses a wheelchair, and in another a ranger uses sign language to describe the beauty of her park. Children will want to linger over the pages to take in all the details and will be moved to learn more about each park.

Sure to spark expressions of “ooh,” “ahh,” and “I’d like to do that!,” If I Were a Park Ranger makes an inspiring addition to classroom geography and nature lessons and would be a terrific addition to home libraries for kids who love nature and travel and would like to explore future possibilities.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman and Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807535455

About the Author

As a child, Catherine Stier wanted to be an author or park ranger. She visited her first national park as a baby and has been a fan ever since. She is the author of If I Were President and several other award-winning picture books, and has worked as a magazine writer, newspaper columnist, writing instructor, and children’s literature researcher. She lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and volunteers with programs that connect families and children with nature and the outdoors. To learn more, and to download free activity sheets and curriculum guides, visit her website: catherinesier.com.

About the Illustrator

Patrick Corrigan was born in the north of England and grew up drawing and designing. After University, he was an art director in a design studio for nearly ten years. He now lives in London with his wife and cat, illustrating children’s books.

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If I Were a Park Ranger Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming with Albert Whitman in this amazing giveaway! To enter just click the link below and follow the directions. What can you win?

Ten lucky winners will receive

  • a copy of If I Were A Park Ranger by Catherine Stier

One Grand Prize winner will receive

  • a signed copy of the book 
  • a Park Ranger Stuffed Doll
  • a “National Park Geek” Iron-on Patch
  • National Park Animal Cookies
  • Camping Stickers
  • a Woodland Animal Mini Notebook
  • Book Cover Postcards

One entry per person, please | US addresses only | Winners will be selected at random and notified via email.

Entries are due by May 3, 2019

Follow this link to enter!

National Park Week Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

You may not be able to visit all of these parks, but you can still enjoy their beauty with these printable coloring pages!

Mesa Verde National Park | Gates of the Arctic National Park | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Biscayne National Park

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You can find If I Were a Park Ranger at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 15 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

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

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

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110243

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

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

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

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Giveaway

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

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

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

Just do these things to enter:

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

National Reading Month Activity

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

 

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

The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets

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

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

Picture Book Review

 

February 19 – It’s Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Have you been noticing more bird activity in your yard or neighborhood? Maybe you’ve been awakened by birdsong that you haven’t heard in many months. During February, as temperatures creep up, birds begin returning to their homes to nest and mate. But the effects of the long winter still make it hard for these little creatures to find enough to eat. Recognizing a need, John Porter created a Congressional resolution in 1994 recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of Americans have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive when natural resources are scarce. To celebrate this month, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one and enjoy the beauty and songs of the birds in your area. 

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

By Laurie Ellen Angus

 

All birds get hungry, but not all birds eat the same thing, of course. Did you know that a bird’s feet are important in determining what they eat? Let’s find out how different kinds of feet help birds find the right food for them. “If you had webbing between your toes, you could… Paddle like a swan to dabble for pond plants.” Long legs and toes could help you “wade like a heron to sneak up on a school of fish.”

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Birds who have long, strong legs can run and catch their dinner, and birds whose feet have sharp claws can climb tree trunks and hunt for insects in the bark. Birds with “small flexible toes” find their feet handy for perching on branches of trees and bushes to pick berries or—like towhees—to scratch in the dirt for bugs. There are also those birds that have “powerful feet with sharp talons” to snatch a meaty meal for themselves or their babies.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

There are many kinds of birds in the world, and each one has just the right kind of feet that help them move through their environment, find or catch food, and survive.

Extensive back matter that offers many opportunities to extend STEM learning in the classroom or at home includes

  • a detailed and illustrated exploration of each bird mentioned in the text, complete with a description of their feet and how they help the bird procure food. Kids will also enjoy learning the fun fact about each
  • A description of the bird that inspired the book
  • A discussion of adaptations, with a chart categorized with facts on habitat, feet, and beaks for seven birds and suggestions for a creative activity 
  • Common characteristics of birds
  • A discussion on predators
  • Bird-watching tips
  • More resources for further learning
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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In her engaging text, Laurie Ellen Angus takes kids out to the pond, desert, forest, and backyard to watch as a variety of birds catch or gather their dinner. Using evocative verbs, Angus reveals not only the action of getting a meal, but the way each bird goes about it—through stealth, quick motion, pecking, scratching, and more. Specific examples of bird/feet combinations give readers a starting point for further exploration. Each category also includes a partially hidden predator, such as a fox, bobcat, snake, and hawk, that the particular bird is warned about and which readers will want to join in pointing out.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Angus beautifully employs collage-style illustrations to give her birds and environments texture, color, and movement. Her use of various perspectives, lets readers wade into the pond with the heron, chase after the roadrunner that is trotting off the edge of page, cling to a tree trunk with a woodpecker, and come in for a landing with an owl. 

A visually stunning book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat is a science book that will attract the attention of young learners and excite them to learn more about the wonders of the natural world.

Ages 4 – 8

Dawn Publications, 2018 | | ISBN 978-1584696131 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1584696148 (Paperback) 

To learn more about Laurie Ellen Angus, her books, and her art on her website.

Wild Bird Feeding Month Activity

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When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different types of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

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You can find Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review