July 25 – It’s National Moth Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-cover

About the Holiday

Did you know that some moths are even more beautiful than butterflies? It’s true! Adorned in vibrant oranges, greens, blues, and reds and with patterns more intricate than the finest fabrics, moths are some of nature’s loveliest creatures. There are even moths that mimic hummingbirds—right down to the fast-beating wings and a looong proboscis that looks like a beak. During the summer, moths love visiting fragrant flower gardens. This month take a little time to really look at the moths in your yard and learn more about them and their habitats.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth to check out. All opinions are my own. 

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

As a grayish-brown moth flits among the leaves framed by the full moon, he says, “I’m an ordinary moth, / as you can plainly see. / A dusty, grayish, dull insect— / nothing-special me.”  He compares himself to the Luna Moth “who floats in graceful green” and to the Spider Moth who’s “so cool at Halloween!” He’s nothing like the Hummingbird Moth who mimics its namesake bird, and he can’t hide like the Wood Nymph Moth that looks like “birdy dung.” He’s much smaller than the Atlas Moth and not as pretty as a butterfly. While all of these are special—extraordinary even—this little guy thinks he is just “a dusty, grayish moth— / very ordinary.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-luna

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then a little boy runs through the yard shouting “‘A moth! A moth!’” The moth freezes against a wall, afraid and unsure and hoping to hide. But when the moth sees the excitement in the boy’s eyes, he moves “toward his joyful light.” He lands in the boy’s hands, uncertain still if he’ll be shooed away. And sure enough, the boy’s sister screams, “‘Ew, a bug!’” When she knocks her brother’s hand away, the moth flies off.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-hiding

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The moth hears the boy tell his sister, “‘Hey, it’s an insect—not a bug— / and my favorite kind!’” then he sees the boy trailing him “all through the yard. / with her two steps behind.” She thinks the moth is nothing special, but her brother disagrees. And as the moth alights on his finger, he shows her why. What looks like dust are really “‘scales that keep him warm at night. / And they flake off in a web so he escapes all right.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-web

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The little girl’s a bit more interested but thinks his color is “kind of blah.” The boy explains that the moth is the color of tree bark and can camouflage himself during the day while he sleeps. Then at night he’s ready to fly, guided by moonlight and the scents he smells through his antennae. Now the little girl thinks the moth is pretty cool. She calls their mom to come and see, and when Mom wants to know what bug they found, “the girl says, ‘Mom—a moth’s an insect, / and out favorite kind!’”

Hearing that, the moth soars in the moonlight with a new self image—“So how ‘bout THAT?! / I’m someone’s FAVORITE! / Little grayish me— / proof of how / EXTRAORDINARY / ordinary can be.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-mom

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ten Extraordinary Facts about Moths, as well as an activity for constructing a moth observation box follow the text.

Through her vivacious rhymes, Karlin Gray elevates the “ordinary” back-porch moth to star status with fascinating facts that will lure kids to discover more. The conversational verses echo a sweet sibling relationship while the moth, overhearing them, begins to appreciate himself. The bookending of the children’s story with the moth’s thoughts—first comparing himself to other moths and later realizing his own merits—will encourage readers to think about the nature of nature and about the importance of positive interactions with others. Told from the moth’s point of view, the story also has a deeper meaning, reminding readers that, like this moth, people also have special talents  that make them exceptional. Taking extra time to really learn about another’s unique qualities and to get to know them is exciting and has benefits for all.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-moonlight

Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Steliyana Doneva’s gorgeous illustrations of moths and butterflies will dazzle insect-loving kids and convert the more squeamish. Doneva captures each delicate marking and texture of the little grayish moth as it flits in the light and camouflages itself on the wall and tree. The moth is also well spotlighted against Doneva’s vibrant backyard oasis where the little boy and his sister discover him. Nighttime scenes sparkle with starlight, and the full moon brings out the rich blues of an evening sky. The boy’s enthusiasm for moths and nature is infectious and will captivate young readers, enticing them to look closer at the world around them.

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth is a beautiful, eye-opening book that would spur further discovery for nature and science lovers at home and in science or STEM classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-372-8

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of work by Steliyana Doneva and learn more about her on her website.

Download and have fun with these An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Activity Sheets!

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Matching | An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Fill in the Blank

National Moth Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-branch-with-white-cocoons

Beautiful Moths Game

 

Moths go through many stages of metamorphosis—from egg to caterpillar to cocoon— before they finally emerge as a moth. In this game, help six moths emerge from their cocoons to win!

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-cards

Directions

  1. Print a Tree Branch Game Board and set of Moth Cards for each player
  2. Print one Moth Playing Die
  3. Choose a player to go first
  4. The first player rolls the die and places the matching moth card on one of the cocoons on the Tree Branch Game Board
  5. Play then moves to the player on the left
  6. Players continue to roll the die and place moths on each cocoon
  7. If a player rolls a moth that they already have placed on their game board, they pass the die to the next player and wait for their next turn.
  8. The player who fills their Tree Branch with moths first is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-an-extraordinary-ordinary-moth-cover

You can find An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth at these booksellers

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

July 7 – National Father Daughter Takes a Walk Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to promote the bonding of dads and daughters through the simple act of taking a walk together and sharing observations and conversation. By getting away from the distractions of work, chores, and electronics, fathers and their daughters can learn more about each other and make memories that last a lifetime. To celebrate today, plan a walk with your daughter or granddaughter!

Ask Me

Written by Bernard Waber | Illustrated by Suzy Lee

 

Even before Dad has finished tying his shoes, his daughter has leaped from the front steps, eager to walk. As the pair stroll through the park, the little girl twirls in front of her dad and says, “Ask me what I like.” Dad obliges, and his daughter presents him with a list that includes dogs, cats, turtles, and geese. “Geese in the sky or geese in the water?” Dad asks as they pass a pond that’s alive with a smattering of both. The girl decisively answers “Geese in the sky.” But then she has a change of heart for those floating peacefully in the pond, and finally settles on “both.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-dragonflies

Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

The little girl likes this game and asks for more. She reveals she likes frogs and bugs and flowers. She also likes horses… well, “riding horses.” Her dad is surprised to learn that she’s ridden a horse. “You remember,” she says, reminding him of the horse she rode on the merry-go-round. “I remember,” her dad says. As they pass an ice cream truck, the little girl tells her dad to ask if she likes ice cream cones, and when he does, she says “No. I love love love ice cream cones.” With strawberry ice cream cones in hand and the little girl riding on her father’s shoulders, they keep walking and talking.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-fountain

Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

It turns out the girl loves digging in the sand, collecting sea shells, and starfish. As they enter a forest of maple trees decked out for autumn and with a red balloon in tow, the little girl answers “some more likes.” She likes the color red, “splishing, splashing, and splooshing” in the rain, and making up words. Next, she wants to hear a “how come” as in “How come birds build nests?” But the little girl doesn’t want to answer this one, she wants to hear her dad’s explanation even though she already knows what he’s going to say. She just likes hearing him tell it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-woods

Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Back on their front steps, the little girl tells her dad to ask one more “I like.” She likes next Thursday, she says at last and prompts her dad, “Do you know why I like next Thursday?” Her dad plays along, pretending not to know. Next Thursday, she happily reminds him, is her birthday—and she likes balloons, hats, and a cake. Dad assures his daughter he won’t forget. Then it’s time for the little girl to go to sleep. With her favorite stuffed toys and one more “I like”—a second kiss goodnight, the girl drifts off to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-lying-in-leaves

Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Bernard Waber perfectly captures the rapid-fire banter of children while making this father-daughter outing joyfully unhurried and carefree. The father’s simple responses and gentle prompts that echo his daughter’s tone and enthusiasm demonstrate the strong trust and understanding between the two and offer a terrific model for adult readers. Children will love hearing the back-and-forth conversation between father and daughter that affirms their own curiosity and favorites. The sweet final request and answer are heartwarming and reassuring.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-father-and-daughter

Suzy Lee’s vibrant settings spotlight the line-drawn figures, giving the story a wonderful mixture of whimsy and reality with a lighthearted sense of movement. Just looking at the pages, readers can imagine the sounds of conversation, geese honking, bugs humming, the ice cream truck chiming, and the rustle of leaves as the little girl and her dad slush through the woods. Each image also, however, draws readers in with a peaceful, comforting feeling where all intrusions fall away and the focus is on the love between adult and child.

Ask Me is a heartfelt book for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to share with the children in their life. The book would make an often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves for sweet and fun story times (that may lead to outside excursions) and a terrific classroom book to jumpstart short writing or drawing prompts, outdoor jaunts, or conversations.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0547733944

Discover more about Bernard Waber, his books, and his art on his website

To learn more about Suzy Lee, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Father Daughter Take a Walk Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-foot-print-page

I Like Walking Journal Page

 

Print this I Like Walking Journal Page, find a walking buddy, and head out! When you see something you like or that makes you excited, add it to your list!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ask-me-cover

You can find Ask Me at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s National Optimism Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy-in-the-spring-cover

About the Holiday

With its longer days, warmer weather, and blossoming flowers and trees, springtime puts us in a brighter frame of mind. There’s inherent optimism in seeing birds build nests and hearing the cheeps of baby birds, in shedding the coats and boots that weigh us down, and even in looking forward to summer vacation. Little ones love exploring during spring, just like Sammy in today’s book!

Sammy in the Spring

By Anita Bijsterbosch

 

Sammy watches out his window as the birds sing and feed their babies. Sammy wants to play outside and asks his stuffed horse Hobs to come with him. He puts on his socks and shoes then grabs his bike and puts Hobs in the basket. “Sammy likes riding on his bicycle. The flowers smell so good! He can see yellow, white, and pink flowers.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy-in-the-spring-bike

Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, 2018, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl.

After his bike ride, Sammy jumps on his scooter and fits Hobs into the basket on the front. They tow a little car behind them. Squirrels scamper in the trees, a family of bunnies peeks through the grass, and butterflies flutter in the air. One even lands on Hobs’ nose! Behind a bush, Sammy spies some sleeping hedgehogs. But the time for hibernating is over. “‘Hey, hedgehogs, wake up! Spring has come,’ Sammy whispers.”

When the hedgehogs wake up, they keep Hobs company while Sammy plays with his car. Then it’s time to drive the tractor and tend the garden. They meet three woolly lambs. “How sweet they are! ‘Baaa, baaa,’ the little lambs bleat.” Next Sammy digs holes in the ground and plants carrot, strawberry, radish, and cucumber seedlings. After all that playing and hard work, Sammy and Hobs go back inside to wash up and have a nice dinner together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy-in-the-spring-lambs

Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, 2018, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl.

Little ones will be happy to spend time with Sammy and Hobs as they enjoy a spring day together in Anita Bijsterbosch’s adorably inviting story. The imaginative relationship that toddlers and young children have with their favorite toys is charmingly reflected here as Sammy includes Hobs on his bike, scooter, and tractor rides, shows him the lambs and hedgehogs, and gives him his own apple to eat at dinnertime. Bijsterbosch’s language is bright and cheery and paced with the same eager excitement of children playing and exploring.

Bijsterbosch’s bold images and brilliant colors are beautifully displayed in this large board book that cleverly uses full and half pages to show transitions in the action. Smiles abound as Sammy and Hobs meet birds, hedgehogs, lambs, bunnies, and even a tiny pink worm. Young readers are sure to smile too.

A joyful book that little ones will want to hear again and again, Sammy in the Spring would make a great take-along for picnics and other outdoor activities and a sweet addition to home and preschool libraries.

Learn more about Anita Bisterbosch, her books, and her art on her website.

Ages 2 – 5

Clavis, 2018 | ISBN 978-1605373676

National Optimism Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny-daisy-paper-plate-craft

Sunny Daisy Craft

 

This cheery springtime flower is easy for little ones to make with some adult help and can brighten any room!

Supplies

  • Small paper plate
  • Green straw
  • Yellow paint
  • Green paper
  • Tape
  • Small flower pot (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint a circle in the center of the plate, let dry.
  2. Make petals by cutting around the plate about every 1 ½ inches angled toward the center
  3. Fold some petals forward and some back to give the flower dimension
  4. Cut leaves from the green paper
  5. Tape the straw to the back of the plate
  6. Display your flower!

Picture Book Review

November 1 – National Author’s Day & Interview with Author Linda Booth Sweeney

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-cover

About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. To kick off all of this literary love today, we remember and honor American authors past and present. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, has promoted the holiday since her Nellie’s death in 1968 and encourages people to spend a bit of the day writing a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

When the Snow Falls

Written by Linda Booth Sweeney | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

A little curly-haired girl and her younger brother wake up from a sleepover with Grandma to a magical sight. As they gaze out the big picture window in the little girl’s room, they’re dazzled to see “When the snow falls…Frost paints. / Skies gray. / Windows sparkle/ Snow? Yay!” There’s no school today, so Mommy and Daddy and Grandma bundle up and get the kids ready to head outdoors to take care of the farm animals.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-kitchen

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

Soft flakes flutter down, piling into deep drifts and providing a little extra after-breakfast treat as “Boot sink. / Lashes flick. / Tongues tickle. / We lick.” In the barn the horses, puppies, and chickens are just as excited about the snowy day. Riding an old chair sled, Grandma and her grandchildren glide down the hill, following tracks left by lively rabbits and now-dozing foxes.

Deep in the forest the three take in the beauty: “Woods hush. / Fields glisten. / Wren sings. / We listen.” On the other side of the woods, people continue their daily routine but at a slower pace as “plows push” and “mountains grow.” Grandma and the kids slide into town, where people are hard at work keeping up with the storm: “Wheels crunch. / Shovels scoop. / Ice cracks! / Awnings droop.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-barn

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The trio has reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They all grab shovels and help clear the walk. Now it’s Grandpa’s turn to have some fun. He takes his granddaughter by the hand, seats her little brother on a sled, and walk to the park. There, kids are making snowmen, building snow forts, and zipping down hills on their snow saucers. At the bottom of the hill everyone plops into the fluff and make snow angels.

It’s been an exhilarating, adventurous day, but twilight is on the horizon and now “toes tingle. / Lips quiver. / Cheeks glow. / We shiver.” As grandma calls from her front porch, the little girl and Grandpa, carrying his grandson, race toward home amid the swirling snowflakes. Inside, the light, warmth, and cozy comforts of warm soup, popcorn, and a crackling fire await. Later, the two kids enjoy quiet time with Grandma and Grandpa when “Cocoa warms. / Mittens puddle. / Day dawdles. / We cuddle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-fox

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

With her brilliantly expressive staccato sentences—each only two words long—Linda Booth Sweeney evokes the sights, sounds, and joy of a care-free, snowy day. Each four-line, rhyming verse abounds with melodic verbs that spark readers’ imaginations and concrete nouns that in many places form delightful alliterative pairs that softly trip off the tongue. Readers will love the story line that takes them from a rustic farmhouse to Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy home through woods, over hills, past the highway, and into downtown all with the help of an old-style sled. Several verses full of snow day fun play out like a long afternoon spent with friends, leading naturally into the slower pace and loving comfort of the night spent with Grandma and Grandpa.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding-with-grandma

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

In glorious two-page spreads, the wind-swept snow swirls, spatters, and blankets the world in downy white fluff. Jana Christy takes children into the family’s large farmhouse kitchen where a blackboard announces Grandma’s Sunday sleepover as well as Monday’s snow day in place of the crossed-out piano lesson. The family steps out into the sparkling countryside where purple mountains form a backdrop for the barn and sheep pen. As Grandma and the kids start their journey, the forest, a quiet enclave of teal and greens, welcomes them. By the time they reach town, cars are stuck in snowdrifts, snow shovels scrape against the sidewalk, and kids are heading to the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The thrill of playing in the snow is palpable as saucers zoom down hills, hats fly off, and hair blows in the wind. The final spreads of Grandma and Grandpa’s tidy home glow with love and laughter as the kids pull off their snow gear, their dog shakes off the snow, and they settle on the couch for cocoa and cuddles. The busy townspeople, happy playmates, and close-knit mixed-race family make When the Snow Falls a cheerful celebration of diversity.

When the Snow Falls is a joyous book to add to winter collections and would be often asked for during home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399547201

Discover more about Linda Booth Sweeney, her books and her systems work, visit her website.

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

National Author’s Day Activity

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

Snow Buddies

Even when there’s no snow, you can make yourself a snow buddy with this fun and easy craft!

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

Interview with Linda Booth Sweeney

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-linda-booth-sweeney

As the weather turns cooler, I’m happy to talk with Linda Booth Sweeney about the event that inspired her first book for children, a favorite wintertime activity, and how we can learn to see and benefit from systems.

How did you get started writing for children?

It seems like I’ve always been writing though it has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. During our last move, I discovered an old cardboard box from my parents’ attic.  After moving it literally for years, I finally opened it this summer. Inside there must have been 15 diaries and journals. When I looked at the dates, I realized that I started writing in those when I was about twelve and I really haven’t stopped. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-wind-blows

I actually remember the exact day I began writing for children! Jack, my oldest son (now 19), was three. I was pushing him around Cambridge in one of those $20 pop-up strollers. We were a good fifteen minutes from home when a gale force wind blew in. The little canopy on this stroller snapped off and I remember feeling like the stroller lifted up off the ground. This was before cell phones so there was no calling for a ride. I put my head down and ran for home. Well, Jack loved that, and the wind blowing! He was bouncing up and down, pointing to everything he saw: signs rattling, balls rolling, hats flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-wind-blows-city

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

During his nap that afternoon, I flopped down at my desk, grateful we made it home in one piece. Jack’s excitement was contagious and his words were swimming around my head so I wrote them down. That was the beginning of my first children’s book, When the Wind Blows.

Using short, two-word phrases, your picture books are so evocative of actions outdoors and indoors as well as internal emotions. Can you describe your writing process?

I was mimicking the voice of a three-year old so the two words. Balls roll. Object and action. Noun and verb. It just made sense. In my other books like the one I’m working on now about the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial, I am writing for older readers (ages 7-12). My sentences are longer. The book is inspired by big themes like being true to oneself, equality, social justice, and love for country so I find myself writing punchy sentences in the scenes and more lyrically the bridges, or the transitions, between scenes.

Do you remember your favorite picture book when you were a child?

As a little kid, I always loved Dr. Seuss books. My imagination was going full tilt as a kid. Dr. Seuss made me feel like the other worlds I created were not just okay but to be celebrated! As a nine-year-old, I devoured Encyclopedia Brown and anything by James Herriot.

Your first book for children, When the Wind Blows, takes readers on a jaunt through town on a blustery day. When the Snow Falls is a joyful romp through a winter day. What is it about weather that inspires you and your writing?

It’s the immediacy that weather brings. When the rain is pouring down or the snow is falling, that grabs my attention. Of course my attention is also on how to keep my fingers warm or my feet dry. But I can’t think of much else. I love that. I have to be in the moment. My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, captures this idea well in her “Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

If you’re outside stomping in puddles or making snow angels, who needs to be on a phone? There’s a lot of research coming out that equates nature to a “vitamin” we all need. Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, says it well: “Just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-linda-booth-sweeney

You mentioned in one of your blog posts that When the Snow Falls first took shape during “found time” during the winter of 2015 with its four nearly back-to-back snow storms. Do you have any advice for recognizing and taking advantage of found time not only for writers, but for anyone?

I think the biggest opportunity to enjoy found time comes when we’re willing to put down technology. Sure the photos we can take on our iPhone may be lovely but what if sometimes we are just there, fully present, open and even willing to be a little bored.  Maybe then we can be dazzled by the red Cardinal that lands on the white snowman or the hush that creeps in when no can one drive.

What is your favorite wintertime activity?

I love looking for snow art and especially love seeing it through the eyes of little ones. I’m always amazed by the “art” that forms during snow storms – polka-dotted fields, top hats on fence caps, intricate patterns on round porch tables, delicate animal tracks that look like instructions for some kind of dance move. 

And then of course there is cross country skiing with my family and my crazy friends.

Your other work involves Systems Thinking. Can you describe systems thinking and talk about your systems thinking work with children and schools?

Sure. Like a spider’s web, what happens on one part of the web affects every other part. The same is true of living systems. A pond, our family, our school, a city, the climate—these are all systems. They have two or more parts that interact over time. What’s really interesting is that these different kinds of systems share some similarities, and they can act in surprisingly similar ways. (You can learn more about my systems work here).

How does considering systems thinking and living systems benefit children and their education?

Systems thinking, or “Thinking about systems,” means paying attention to the interrelationships and patterns that surround us. My experience, and that of systems educators around the globe, shows that children are naturally attuned to this. They can read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and then recognize that same closed loop of cause and effect in their everyday lives.  

A few years back I wrote When a Butterfly SneezesA Guide for Helping Kids Explore Connections in our World as a resource for anyone who wants to help children think about interconnections in our world. Each chapter focuses on a favorite children’s picture book—like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss—and shows how to use the story to engage children in systems thinking. I just finished updating that book and the new version should be up and ready by next week!

To answer your question about how systems thinking benefits children, learning about systems, and about living systems in particular, can help children to make better decisions and avoid unintended consequences. It can also help them to develop a more compassionate and sustainable sensibility about what is beautiful and what is essential.

I always come back to the Joseph Campbell quote—“People who don’t have a concept of the whole, can do very unfortunate things.…”—and flip it: People—and especially children—who have a concept of the whole can do very fortunate things. If we encourage young people to look for the “whole” and not just focus on the parts, they will be geared toward seeing connections and will not see things in isolation. So much in our culture forces us into compartments. But just as we teach kids not to be victims of advertising, we can teach them to see beyond the obvious, to see the systems all around us.  

What’s up next for you? 

My next children’s book is a richly illustrated biography about Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial.  I am thrilled to be working with Shawn Fields a representational artist on this book.  The working title of the book is Monument Man, and that subject is very much a part of our public conversation at this point in our history. 

Thanks, Linda! Your books inspire us to look closure and pay attention to the moment, and I wish you all the best with them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-cover

You can connect with Linda Booth Sweeney on:

Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Linked in

You can find When the Snow Falls with these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

Picture Book Review

May 8 – No Socks Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beach-socks-cover

About the Holiday

With spring and summer’s warm weather comes a sense of freedom, and there’s no better feeling that kicking off your shoes, pulling off your socks and walking barefoot on soft grass or squishy sand. Besides the relaxation that today’s holiday affords, it also helps the environment. Fewer dirty socks means less laundry—which saves water and electricity and is another kind of freedom all on its own! So go footloose and fancy free and read today’s sweet book!

Beach Socks

Written by Michael J. Daley | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy is visiting the beach with his mom. He’s plunked down in the sand, has removed his shoes and is peeling off his stretchy socks. He happily greets his ten little toes and excitedly tells them, “let’s go!” Holding onto his mommy’s fingers, he toddles over the “dry sand, hot sand” and thinks, “Go fast toes!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beach-socks-socks-off

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Micheal J. Daley. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ahhh! The wet sand is cool and offers some relief. Here, near the water’s edge, the little boy can slow down and enjoy his walk. Soon he finds a spot to dig with his shovel and pail. A friendly seagull perches nearby, attracted to the mussel shells and the child’s bright yellow sun hat. The little one welcomes him with a cheery, “Hello, Seagull! Nice toes.”

In a bit, the boy and his mommy explore the beach. They wind around rocks where “stringy seaweed tangles toes” and carefully tiptoe past a scuttling crab and through a patch of scattered seashells to meet a wave crashing onto shore. As the wave recedes it leaves “foam and bubbles” and runny sand that tickles toes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beach-socks-crab

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Micheal J. Daley. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Waves come in and go out, and “toes sink deeper” until sandy socks cover little toes and feet and legs. Suddenly, a big wave splashes to shore, washing the beach socks away. As the day wanes, the little boy rides on Mommy’s shoulders. They watch the golden sun dip into the watery horizon while the boy waves goodbye to the ocean and to the sand, and—with “socks on. Shoes on”—to his toes as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beach-socks-bubbles

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Micheal J. Daley. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Michael J. Daley’s endearing day at the beach with a toddler who is discovering the joys of walking barefoot in the sand, meeting friendly sea creatures, and playing in the waves is a perfect summertime read for little ones. Daley’s minimal text engages young readers and will make them giggle as the sweet baby carefully watches his toes during his day-long romp.

With charming details, such as swirled seashells, crinkled seaweed, frothy waves, and curious creatures, Estelle Corke’s illustrations are so wonderfully evocative of a sunny, golden seashore that readers will almost be able to smell the salty air and feel the soft sand beneath their own toes. Images of the adorable toddler also mirror the excitement and determination of little ones out for a fun day. Readers will love pictures of the child navigating the beach with just the support of his mother’s fingertips, warning off the inquisitive crab, wiggling his toes in the wave’s shower, and clinging to his mom’s windblown hair as he gets a piggyback ride up the beach.

A perfect take along on any beach trip as well as a lovely mini-vacation for the smallest armchair travelers, Beach Socks would make an often-asked-for addition to any home library.

Ages Birth – 4

Star Bright Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1595726377

Discover more about Estelle Corke and her books and view a portfolio of her work on her website!

No Socks Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bringing-the-outside-in-painted-pails-craft

Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

Picture Book Review

May 2 – Baby Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-cover-clavisAbout the Holiday

Today we celebrate babies in all their cuteness, curiosity, and cuddliness.  If you have a baby or young child, spend the day doing something special with them! The years go by so quickly—enjoy showing your little ones the world around them! Of course, kids love babies of all kinds—and as today’s book shows Moms of all kinds love their kids!

How Many Baby Animals

By Guido van Genechten

 

It’s springtime and the farm animals are about to welcome lots of little ones to their families! How many? Little readers are about to find out! Mama Sheep is happily waiting for her babies to be born, and with a turn of the page, kids discover “Baa, baa, baa! / Three little lambs playing / in the meadow! / She gives them each / a kiss on the head, oh!” Mama Cat smiles at the thought of her new kittens to come. Just lift the flap and see—she has five: “Max, Mary, Mo, Molly, and Mittens!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-cat-clavis

Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-kittens-clavis

Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

“Mama Chicken sits on her eggs / for more than a week. / Then the eggs begin to wobble / and start to speak!” Her new little peepers are keeping her busy—they’re such “brave little chicks!” What do they look like? Well, “they’re yellow and fluffy and there’s a freckle on number six.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-sheep-clavis

Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Wow! Mama Pig’s belly nearly touches the ground! How many babies will she welcome? Just flip the flap to count eight little piglets snuggling close. Mama Mouse is preparing for her little brood with tasty cheese and nuts, but how much should she store away? Enough for “eleven wee mice! They love sleeping together. Isn’t that nice?” And Mama Fish is the last to give birth. She swims through the water and hides in the plants with her large, happy family of…thirty three?!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-lambs-clavis

Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Children who love animals and/or have pets will be enchanted with this unique counting book that also teaches a little bit about the nature of…nature. Sweet, smiling animal moms welcome their babies and cuddle up close, while Guido van Genechten’s funny rhymes lead readers to count increasing numbers of babies. The bold, vibrant pages allow kids to see each baby clearly, making counting easier. They also include one or two details about each animal’s farm habitat that can spur discussions of how and where each animal lives. The half-flap pages provide opportunities for interaction and fine-motor-skill practice, and the paper is heavy enough to stand up to much flipping back and forth.

Ages 2 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373249

Baby Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-photo-album

Baby’s Own Family Photo Book

 

Babies love seeing pictures of their family! Take the opportunity of Baby Day to put together a photo album for your baby or young child to look through. An album with pages of individual photographs makes it easier for babies to focus on one picture at a time, and close-up shots of family members smiling will make kids smile too. When you share the photo book with little ones, talk about the person in the picture and tell a family story. Doing this will help kids learn about their family and develop closer bonds!

Picture Book Review