May 23 – National Turtle Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-cover

About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends

Written by Mike Reiss | Illustrated by Ashley Spires

 

Upon beginning the story, children learn that “far, far away” two eggs shared the same pen at a zoo. Eventually, the eggs hatched: first a turtle and then a tortoise. The two babies took to each other right away, excited about all the fun they would have together. “People will call us the terrible Turtle Twins!” the little turtle says. But the tortoise is not receptive to this idea and launches into a mirror-image description about the differences between a turtle, a “horrid beast” and a tortoise who is a “handsome creature.” Following this, they go their separate ways to separate parts of the pen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-hatching

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Soon, the zookeeper, leading a school field trip, stops by and during his spiel reveals that turtles and tortoises can live 100 years. The little turtle and tortoise are surprised and impressed by this information, but they go on with their individual lives – for 14 years. The turtle finds – and eats – a worm that “looked just like Winston Churchill.” The tortoise was picked up by one eagle and returned by another. They endured nature’s worst weather and saw old years go and new years come. They could have commiserated and celebrated together, but they didn’t.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-lost-ball

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Then one day, a red ball came bouncing into their pen. Both the turtle and the tortoise rushed to catch it. “The turtle got there first…seven years later.” Once he had it, he wasn’t sure what it was or what to do with it. At last, he climbed on top of it and felt like “the king of the zoo” until he rolled off and landed on his back. Seeing an opportunity, the tortoise hurried over. Two years later he reached the ball. Passing the struggling turtle, he gave a snide laugh and claimed it for himself, with predictable results. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-ball

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Both the turtle and the tortoise spent the days and months and years on their backs, staring up at the sky and at each other. Time passed – a lot of time. Eventually, a new zookeeper guiding a new group of children related some new information that changed the whole Turtle-Tortoise dynamic. The tortoise suddenly had an idea on how they might regain their footing, and not so suddenly the turtle agreed to try it. Managing it took some time – a lot of time – but they finally found themselves face-to-face again, and, with a different attitude and appreciation for their new “fast” friendship, they wandered off to enjoy some lettuce leaves together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-on-backs

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Funny, thought-provoking, purposeful, and poignant, Mike Reiss’s story is at once an entertaining tale of two stubborn creatures wasting decades of a could-be friendship and a gentle prompting to really look at the senseless prejudice, lack of communication, and missed opportunities that keep our human race divided. A careful reading of the tortoise’s comparison of a turtle and a tortoise provides a humorous yet serious jumping off point for discussions about prejudice as well as the effect of not questioning such pronouncements. Reiss even cleverly inserts a nod to scientific advancements and other societal changes that if embraced can lead to better understanding, friendship, and community. His early introduction of a turtle’s life span likewise frames the story in human terms. As the years pass by in the blink of an eye (or three or four words), Reiss encourages readers to count up how many years it takes the tortoise and turtle to become friends and ponder how that might relate to their own lives.

How far, far away is this unnamed zoo? Taking a good look at Ashley Spire’s ingenious cityscape, kids will discover that, no matter where they live, it is closer than they might think. Spires goes on to make the turtle and the tortoise distinct individuals but with many similarities, an idea that adults may want to explore with children while reading the book together. The turtle and the tortoise are adorable, and kids will be rooting for them to put aside their misconceptions and become friends. The passage of time is charmingly represented by the clothing and demeanor of the two groups of children that visit the zoo.

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends is an enchanting and multilayered story that kids will want to hear again and again for its humor and thoughtful treatment of friendship. 

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0060740313

You can connect with Mike Reiss on Twitter.

To learn more about Ashley Spires, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Turtle Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-cover

You can find Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

About the Holiday

Making paper snowflakes is a fun wintertime activity that brings the outdoors in on snowy days or clear ones. This craft originates in the art of origami—a variation called kirigami. While both origami and kirigami involve folding paper, kirigami entails unfolding the paper and making cuts in desired places to create an effect. Cut-out snowflakes combine the two as the cuts are made while the paper is still folded. Today, get out some paper and scissors and make your own snowflakes to hang!

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-skating

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-snowflakes

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-sledding

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-igloo

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.  It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other.

In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

World Snow Day Activity

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

Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

June 29 – International Day of the Tropics

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-cover

About the Holiday

The International Day of the Tropics is a United Nations–sponsored holiday that celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the tropics while putting a spotlight on the unique challenges and opportunities the nations of the Tropics face. The Tropics are a region roughly defined as the area between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn and have in common a warm and typically unvaried seasonal temperature fluctuations and the prevalence of rain  determined by a region’s proximity to the equator. While it is projected that by 2050, the Tropics will be home to most of the world’s population and two-thirds of its children, the area faces challenges due to climate change, deforestation, logging, urbanization, and demographic shifts.  Today’s observance provides individuals, organizations, and governments an opportunity to take stock of progress across the tropics, to share stories and expertise, and to acknowledge the diversity and potential of the region. Today’s book tell the true story of one woman who is working to make a difference.

Thanks to Lee & Low Books for sending me a copy of Galápagos Girl/ Galápagueña for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. 

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Angela Dominguez | Translated by Adriana Dominguez

 

On the day when baby Valentina joined Mamá, Papá, and eleven brothers and sisters, even the sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and iguanas seemed to welcome her to the “island formed by fire.” Valentina loved growing up on the Galápagos Island of Floreana. She explored the lava rocks, where Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttled back and forth. She swam with dolphins and manta rays, and even played with penguins.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-crabscelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-crabs

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

“Valentina watched pink flamingoes wading near mangroves. Blue butterflies fluttering on the breeze. Red-and-green iguanas sneezing salt like tiny geysers.” The crashing waves, albatross, and finches created a symphony as Valentina stopped to rest on a grassy cliff overlooking the ocean. The lava lizards, blue-footed boobies, and twirling sea lions provided young Valentina with a variety of dance partners.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-iguana

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

At home, Valentina’s family shared their home with two giant tortoises—Carlitos and Isabella. One day Papá told Valentina their story as they fed the tortoises plums that had fallen from their backyard trees. Papá had gotten Carlitos and Isabella from a friend when he first moved to Floreana. Although it was nearly impossible to imagine now that the tortoises were grown, at the time they were so small that they fit into Papá’s pockets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-tortoises

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

There was also a sad note to Papá’s story. He said that while giant tortoises still lived on other Galápagos islands, pirates and whalers had wiped out the population on Floreana. Papá went on to tell Valentina that many Galápagos animals were in danger. They were “threatened by other animals that don’t belong here. Threatened by people who don’t understand how to care for our islands.” Valentina promised that she would always protect them.

When she was older, Valentina left the island to go to school. She didn’t want to leave her beautiful home, but Mamá told her that she was “ready to learn about the world beyond.” And Papá reminded her that “like our islands, you have a heart full of fire.” On school vacations, Valentina always came back to study the wildlife on the Galápagos islands. She had not forgotten her promise to keep them safe.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-going-to-school

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

After she graduated with a degree in biology, Valentina returned to the islands as a nature guide to teach visitors about the beauty and uniqueness of the Galápagos. Some visitors were even lucky enough to meet Carlitos and Isabella when the plums dropped from the trees and the two old tortoises returned from exploring Floreana to eat them. Because of Valentina’s commitment to the Galápagos, her visitors also made a promise to always remember and protect them.

Extensive backmatter includes an Author’s Note about Valentina Cruz, the tortoises Carlitos and Isabella, and the history of tortoises on Floreana. There is also information on the Galápagos as well as fun facts about all of the animals in the story. A bibliography of sources invites readers to learn more.

Each two-page spread presents the text in English and translated into Spanish by Adriana Dominguez.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-guiding-visitors

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s lyrical and buoyant passages sing with the carefree joy Valentina felt as a girl exploring her beloved Galápagos and which brought her back home as a biologist to protect them. After seeing Valentina playing and swimming with the native animals and feeding Carlitos and Isabella, readers will also feel Valentina’s sadness at the dangers they face and want to make a positive difference to the environment and the world around them. Arnold’s dialogue-rich storytelling highlights the personal nature of the subject and will draw children into Valentina’s world.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-blue-footed-booby

Saturated with glorious color, each of Angela Dominguez’s illustrations is a celebration of the splendor of the Galápagos. Playful sea lions, high-stepping blue-footed boobies, scampering crabs, and even a sneezing iguana will captivate young readers and inspire them to learn more about these creatures and the islands. Images of Valentina camping out to study the animals during school breaks will excite environmentally conscious kids, and pictures of Carlitos and Isabella happily munching on plums will generate smiles and “awwws.”

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña will excite kids to learn more not only about the Galápagos region but about their own local environment, and the call to action will spark an enthusiasm for protecting the earth’s animals. The book would make an inspiring addition to home bookshelves and an excellent way to begin classroom discussions on environmental issues and science lessons. The engaging Spanish translation will delight Spanish-speaking and bilingual families.

Ages 4 – 8

Lee & Low Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0892394135

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website. You can also download activity sheets and teachers’ guides for most of her books here as well.

To learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Welcome Marsha Diane Arnold

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-marsha-diane-arnold

In 2018, I was thrilled to talk with award-winning picture book author Marsha Diane Arnold about the backstory of Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña. Her interview, originally for National Wildlife Day, is just as timely today. Marsha was inspired to write this story after traveling to the Galápagos Islands, where she met Valentina Cruz and had the opportunity to swim with sea lions and dolphins.

Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning picture book author whose books have sold over one million copies. Her 21st book, Lights Out, was published in the fall of 2020. Arnold’s other books include Badger’s Perfect Garden, May I Come In? and Mine. Yours. Among Marsha’s honors are the Ridgeway Award for Best First Book, state Children’s Choice awards, IRA Distinguished Book, and Smithsonian Notable Book. Her bilingual book Galápagos Girl was selected as a 2019 Bank Street Best Books of the Year, a Campoy-Ada honor book, and a 2019 Green Prize in Sustainable Literature. The media has referred to her as, “a born storyteller.” Educators have called her a “true literary artist” whose books show “warmth and respect for one’s self.”  She lives with her family in Alva, Florida.

Thank you, Kathryn, for inviting me to celebrate Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña, along with conservation of wild places and animals!

As a child, would you have enjoyed swimming with sea lions? Feeding plums to giant tortoises by hand? Having warblers fly through your house? That was the life of Valentina Cruz. Galápagos Girl is based on her idyllic life on remote Floreana island in the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago west of Ecuador.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-blue-footed-booby

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-marine-iguana

My photos of actual blue-footed booby and Galápagos marine iguana.

Valentina grew up surrounded by nature, but perhaps more accurately, she grew up in nature. I think when a child grows up seeing wild wonders every day, they grow up respecting and protecting nature and wildlife. Valentina and her siblings certainly did. She grew up to be a biologist and naturalist guide. One brother, Eliecer Cruz, was director of the Galápagos National Park and, later, director of the Galápagos branch of the World Wildlife Fund. Another brother, Felipe, worked on many projects with the Charles Darwin Research Station, including studying the challenges that face the Galápagos petrel. Her sister, Marilyn, is director of Galápagos Biosecurity Agency, which helps control and prevent invasive species in the islands.

In some ways, Valentina’s childhood was similar to mine. She was surrounded by a loving family—her parents and eleven brothers and sisters. I only had one brother, but along with my parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, we gathered on many Sunday afternoons at my grandmother’s house. Valentina and I both delighted in nature, though hers was a more exotic nature—the distant Galápagos Islands, where Charles Darwin discovered those famous finches and came up with his theory of natural selection. Mine was a small farm on the Kansas plains—I didn’t see the ocean until I was an adult. Valentina had Galápagos tortoises as pets and swam with sea lions. (Of course, keeping tortoises as pets is not allowed today.) I played with my neighbor’s pet raccoon (also, not allowed today) and listened to the meadowlark’s song from the roof of my house.

Valentina loves nature, home, and family, but has the soul of an adventurer. I’m much the same. When I grew up I yearned to see as much of the world as possible. When my long-time traveling buddy, Jean Gallagher, asked me to travel with her to the Galápagos, one of my long-time dreams came true.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-blue-marsha-and-friends

The Galápagos Gang – fellow travelers to a far-off land. Jean is 3rd to right in front. I am 4th.

It was on that 2007 trip that I met Valentina, one of our naturalist guides. With her, we visited Floreana and saw the home where she grew up. I was enamored. I thought how wonderful a book about the islands and their unique wildlife, woven together with Valentina’s childhood, would be. Yet it wasn’t until April 2009 that I emailed Valentina and told her of my dream to write a picture book based on her life. Over months and years, Valentina generously shared her stories with me.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-valentina-showing-lay-of-land

Valentina showing us the lay of the land.

Valentina got her sense of adventure and love of nature from her father, Eliecer Cruz Cevallos, who first arrived in the Galápagos in 1939. He was one of only 100 people living in the Galápagos at that time!

Eliecer returned to Ecuador and married Valentina’s mother, Emma Bedon. She made him promise they would never live in the Galápagos. Who can blame her? They’d have almost no human neighbors! But in 1944, she changed her mind. Emma sailed to Floreana with Eliecer to build a life together. Valentina told me that even living in the wild, her mother taught her children “to keep all the rules of a city so we do not grow up wild.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-valentina-and-father

Valentina and her father on Floreana

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-valentina-mother-and-sister

Valentina, her mother, and her sister

Two Galápagos tortoises were a big part of Valentina’s childhood, so I had to include them in Galápagos Girl. Floreana tortoise had long been extinct (or so it was thought).  So when Eliecer moved to Floreana, his friend gave him young tortoises from other islands. Eventually, the family released the tortoises to roam free. One of the most exciting things that happened to Valentina as a child was seeing the tortoises return to their farm that first year after their release. The main reason was the tasty plums dropping from the trees. Every year after that, when the plums ripened, the family waited for the tortoises to return. They always did!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-isabella-eating-plum

An illustration of one of the family’s tortoises eating a plum treat by Angela Dominguez

The tortoise story changed several times during the writing of my book due to Valentina’s remembering more over time, checking facts with her family, and a discovery near Wolf Volcano on Isabela, another Galápagos Island. What’s in my book isn’t exactly the way things were, but it’s close to the real story. As Valentina wisely shared: “Each of us remember things in different ways. Our memory is like pictures of what impresses us in that specific moment, so everything can be true and everything can be fiction.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-galapagos-tortoise

One of eleven species of Galápagos tortoise

Regarding the exciting discovery on Wolf Volcano, scientists recently found tortoises there that carry some of the Floreana tortoise genes! There is a project now to bring these tortoises back to Floreana. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have partial Floreana tortoises wandering freely, restoring the ecology of Floreana?

You may ask, “How did Floreana tortoises get on Isabela Island?” That’s one more fascinating question about the Galápagos. If I visit your school, you can ask me and I’ll share more.

Thanks so much, Marsha, for sharing the fascinating story behind Galápagos Girl / Galápagueña!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on

Her Website | Earth’s Voices | Facebook

International Day of the Tropics Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-of-the-galapagos-match-up-puzzle

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

 

There are so many fascinating animals that live in the Galápagos! Can you match the picture of each animal to its description in this printable Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle? You can find and download the activity sheet from the Lee & Low Books website:

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-galapagos-girl-cover

You can find Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 23 – World Turtle Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-cover

About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Memoirs of a Tortoise

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

It’s April and Oliver the tortoise is in his garden with his pet, Ike. Ike has brought him “a plate of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” Oliver loves Ike and he can tell that Ike loves him too by the way he runs his hand over his shell. “This, this is life and it’s beautiful,” Oliver thinks. In May, Ike throws a stick that Oliver will never fetch, and they laugh over this old, favorite joke. Oliver thinks, “Eighty times I’ve watched spring arrive in the garden, and it’s always perfect.” He spies a bit of red on the other side of the garden and ambles off to investigate.

It’s June by the time he reaches the hibiscus grove. Oliver enjoys taking things slow—just like Ike does. July and August pass with special moments of companionship and fun. As September comes, life begins slowing down. “The days are getting shorter” and Ike is “taking lots of naps in the garden.” Oliver enjoys having Ike nearby and decides that “the next time he throws the stick, I’m going to fetch it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-april

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

October arrives, but the regular routine of the garden has been broken. Oliver hasn’t seen Ike or been fed in several days. Oliver makes due with pumpkin from the garden, but he misses Ike. By November, Oliver is “afraid Ike is gone.” The idea makes him sad. After all, he thinks, Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old.” Oliver had thought they would grow old together and wonders where Ike is. In December, Oliver decides to go talk to someone who has more experience than he does—his mother, who is 137 years old.

It takes Oliver until February to cross the ten gardens between Ike’s house and where his mother lives. When Oliver’s mother sees her son, “she smiles wide and her eyes sparkle.” Oliver tells his mother that Ike is gone. She understands his sadness and tells him how much Ike loved him. But Oliver wonders why Ike couldn’t stay with him.

Oliver’s mother explains “we only get to have pets in our lives for a little while.” Then she offers words of comfort: “And when they’re gone, we count all those beautiful days we were lucky enough to have them with us. We’re so lucky.”

Oliver has enjoyed his visit with his mother, but in March he’s on his way back home. When he arrives in his own garden, the door of the house opens. Oliver turns instinctively expecting to see Ike, but it’s Ted, Ike’s son. He brings Oliver “a tray of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” He rubs Oliver’s shell just like Ike used to do and tells Oliver he’s glad he came home. Ted tosses a stick and the two laugh. “This, for me and Ted, this is life,” Oliver thinks. And he knows his mother was right when she said they were so lucky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-july

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s Memoirs of a Tortoise has it all—humor, poignancy, and a life lesson about the precious moments we share with loved ones. Using the longevity of tortoises, Scillian flips the script on the pet and human relationship with tender and emotional effect. When Ike passes away and Oliver is confused and sad, he confidently sets out to find answers and comfort from someone he can trust—his mother. The ten gardens between their homes may not seem far to us, but to Ike and his mom it’s the equivalent of towns, states, or even countries for us.

This seamless blending of the tortoises’ experience and that of readers’ is both the charm and genius of Scillian’s story. Oliver’s straightforward comments and questions about loss echo those of children and will resonate with them. As Oliver’s mother reminds him to enjoy every day and be thankful for the time he spends with his pets and as Ted enters his life, readers will understand that her advice to embrace all the parts of life applies to them as well.

Tim Bowers’ endearing Oliver is a sweet companion on this journey through a formative experience. As Oliver spends time and enjoys inside jokes with kindly Ike, readers will recognize not only the pet and owner bond but the relationship between children and grandparents. Bowers’ lush depictions of Ike’s garden where he and Oliver play or sit quietly side by side portray the beauty of life that Oliver’s mother so wisely recognizes. Ike’s slowing down and passing away are drawn with sensitivity and through images that allow adults and children to discuss facts and feelings about death, mourning, acceptance, and the cycles of life.

Uplifting and full of wisdom, Memoirs of a Tortoise, is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110199

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, journalism, music, and more on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

We Love Memoirs Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-cover

You can find Memoirs of a Tortoise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 21 – It’s Back to School Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-cover

About the Holiday

For many children across the country August is the month for going back to school—or just starting on that journey. Some children eagerly look forward to spending the day in a classroom with other kids and learning new things from their teacher or teachers. For others the transition from home to school is a little more daunting. Finding ways to reassure hesitant students can go a long way toward happiness and success in school. Books can help! Through the experiences and feeling of all types of children and characters in picture books, chapter books, and middle grade and young adult novels, kids can share their feelings, whether they are excited or more uncertain about the school year ahead.

Truman

Written by Jean Reidy | Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

 

Truman was a little round tortoise “the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet.” He lived with “his Sarah,” who was just as quiet and thoughtful as he was, in an apartment above a busy street. One day, Sarah ate an extra-big banana, wore a new sweater, and strapped on an enormous backpack. She even gave Truman extra green beans for breakfast. Then before she left, “she kissed her finger and touched it to his shell and whispered, ‘Be brave.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-coloring

Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Truman got to thinking about all the new things he’d seen that morning. He looked out the window and saw Sarah getting on the number 11 southbound bus. She had never done that before. Truman waited and waited and waited for Sarah to return. At last, we could wait no longer and decided he would go after her, even if it meant catching the bus “amid the honking and the growling and the shrieking” of the street below. Of course, his tank might be a problem, but there was that nice rock pile….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-green-beans

Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

In a moment he was out and traversing the soft pillows and rubber boots, wooden floor and “endless rug. Without Sarah, their home seemed vast and uncharted and unsettling.” But as Truman reached the window, he realized that he couldn’t see the street at all and that he didn’t even know which way was south. Truman was beginning to lose heart. Then he heard, amid all the other sounds, the number 11 bus and Truman felt brave.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-kiss

Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

“He was just about to slip under the door” when it opened and Sarah walked in. She saw him immediately and was so full of wonder at his amazing feat. She gently put him back in his tank. Truman felt proud. Later, Sarah read him a story she’d written and he couldn’t wait for that day when Sarah would take him with her south where they would “see new sights and hear new sounds and think new thoughts…together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-bus

Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Jean Reidy’s sweet and surprising tale of a tiny tortoise with a big heart has everything you’d want in a story of friendship and new experiences. This adorable pair are two of a kind, ready to explore and meet new challenges. Truman’s trek from his tank to the front door is as daring as any grand adventure, and Sarah’s recognition of her pet’s bravery is reassuring and affirming for all those facing journeys of their own. Reidy’s gentle storytelling sparkles with evocative vocabulary and the kinds of perfect little details that draw kids in. As Sarah tells Truman to “be brave,” she could be encouraging herself as well, and their day, each successful in its own way, is something both can take pride in. Readers will relate to Reidy’s touches of humor and Truman’s indefatigable spirit.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-backpack

Lucy Ruth Cummins’ stylish illustrations, rendered in a bright yet soothing color palette have a wonderful welcoming feeling as readers are introduces to Sarah, who has a delightful affinity for tutu-like skirts, and Truman, who likes nothing better than being close to “his Sarah.” Kids will fall in love with this tiny, adorable tortoise as he nibbles green beans, contemplates the differences in the morning routine, and makes his way across the rug and past scary toys to the front door. Kids will enjoy keeping an eye on the Sarah’s little yellow flower from page to page. The moment when Sarah finds Truman at the front door shines with their mutual love for each other, and their tender story time will captivate any child.

Endearing from beginning to end, Truman will be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534416642

Discover more about Jean Reidy and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lucy Ruth Cummins, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Back to School Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truman-cover

You can find Truman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review