May 5 – It’s Children’s Book Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-cheetah's-shadow-cover

About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading and books, was founded in 1919 and is the longest-running literacy initiative in the United States. This year’s theme is Read. Dream. Share. While the holiday is usually celebrated by authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities across the country, this year’s events will take place online. You can follow #BookWeek2020atHome and visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.

Little Cheetah’s Shadow

By Marianne Dubuc

 

Little Cheetah had looked everywhere but he couldn’t find his shadow. He sat down on a bench under a big tree to think. Bea the firefly saw Little Cheetah looking dejected and flew down to see what the matter was. Much to Little Cheetah’s delight, Bea told him that his shadow was sitting in the tree. Little Cheetah climbed to the very top, where he found his shadow looking just as glum as he had been. He asked his shadow what was wrong.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-cheetah's-shadow-tree

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“‘You always get to go first. You always get to choose where we go,’” he said. And it seemed that Little Cheetah never held the door for shadow, whose tail invariably got caught as it closed. Little Cheetah was empathetic. “‘Oh! That doesn’t sound very nice at all,’” he agreed. And he offered to let his shadow go first from now on. The new arrangement was working out just fine.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-cheetah's-shadow-town

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Along the way, Little Cheetah got a hankering for bread from Mr. Boubou’s bakery, so they headed over and bought a nice loaf. On the way out, Little Shadow forgot about holding the door, and Little Cheetah’s tail was nipped when it closed. “‘Ouch!’” Now Little Cheetah understood Little Shadow’s complaint, and Little Shadow understood how it happened. They decided that it might be best “to walk next to each other.” When they came to a tunnel, Little Shadow stopped, afraid to go in. “‘In the dark, I disappear!’” he explained. Fortunately, Little Cheetah still had his flashlight from his earlier search. He turned it on and entered the tunnel, telling Little Shadow to stay close.  Little Shadow clung to Little Cheetah, and “together, they faced the dark.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-cheetah's-shadow-tunnel

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

They made it through, and when they got home Little Cheetah held the door for Little Shadow and let him enter first. They shared bread and jam and played cards, and when they went to bed “Little Cheetah made sure a night-light was turned on for Little Shadow” so they’d both sleep soundly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-cheetah's-shadow-home

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Marianne Dubuc is a master of the quiet, poignant tale that deepens readers’ connection with others. In Cheetah’s Little Shadow, she uses the configuration of a body in front, the shadow behind to encourage children to think about issues such as leadership, equality, being considerate, and what being a true friend really means. Little Cheetah’s immediate recognition and acknowledgment of Little Shadow’s feelings is a touching and welcome moment. When Cheetah’s tail is caught in a door a short time later, both characters have a chance to understand the problem from both sides. This kind of experience is so valuable in developing empathy, and Dubuc’s story will encourage children to be mindful of how their actions affect others.

Dubuc’s watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are lovely and invite readers to notice an intriguing detail. As Little Shadow relates his experience and, later, as he and Little Cheetah walk through town and then enjoy time at home, children will see that Little Shadow is not merely a copy of Little Cheetah, but that he is his own person too. Charming homes and shops make up the small downtown, and the double-page spreads of Little Cheetah and Little Shadow’s home are cozy.

Like Little Cheetah’s flashlight and nightlight, this book shines the way to stronger empathy and friendships. Little Cheetah’s Shadow would be a superlative addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898403

Discover more about Marianne Dubuc, her books, and her art on her website.

Children’s Book Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bookworm-bookmark

Bookworm Bookmark

 

Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

Bookworm Bookmark Template

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-cheetah's-shadow-cover

You can find Little Cheetah’s Shadow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 26 – National Tell a Story Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate the art of storytelling. Highlighting the tradition of oral storytelling, the day encourages families to get together and have fun remembering and sharing family tales. Reading together is another wonderful way to discover your own stories and those of others around the world.

My Bison

By Gaya Wisniewski

 

The first time a little girl meets the bison she was walking with her mother through a field of tall grass. “‘Look!’” her mother said. “‘He’s back!’” Every day after that the girl went out into the field to see the bison, coming a little closer each time until she was able to pet him. Once, she even thought she heard him whisper an invitation to come closer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-first-time

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The little girl began to feed him food she’d made herself. Sometimes he didn’t like it, but he always tried it and that made her happy. One day it was time for him to move on with the rest of the herd. The girl walked with him as far as she could. When she said goodbye, the bison gave her a long look and she “knew he’d be back when snow covered the ground again.” The girl was lonely without him, but when winter returned she knew he had too without even seeing him. Now, seated together near the fire, the girl told him stories about the forest and what she’d done over the year while he, silent, “listened with tenderness.” She loved everything about him and loved him with her whole heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-come-near

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The girl and the bison grew old together, winter to winter, never feeling the cold of the snow. Once, they talked all night about their mothers. The girl remembering the first time her mother had shown her the bison, how she had comforted her and taught her the lessons of nature. She missed her mother so much, she told him, and imagined he missed his mother too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-tea

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

One winter the bison didn’t return and no amount of looking could find him. The girl, now an old woman, went home. She cried with missing him. And then just as in those winters so long ago when she felt his presence without seeing him, she knew he was with her. In her heart she “heard him say, ‘I am in every spring flower, every sound in the forest, and every snowflake.’” And she knew he was with her always.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-night

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Gaya Wisniewski’s stunning and gorgeous story about a friendship between a little girl and a bison is deeply moving, it’s straightforward and metaphorical meanings blending in harmony to settle in a reader’s heart. The girl’s and bison’s relationship is one of mutual respect and trust, and they are in many ways alike. With her shaggy coat and tousled hair, the girl looks like a miniature bison, while the bison is perfectly comfortable sitting at the table near the fire sipping hot chocolate or snoozing in the cozy built-in bed  in the girl’s home. The girl loves the bison the way children love their pets, and the way she takes care of him replicates a mother’s tender affection and attention.

Here the text and images take on deeper meanings as the little girl offers the bison homemade food, holding her long-handled spoon to his mouth the way mothers the world over do for their babies. She walks with him to the edge of the clearing as he leaves in the spring, waving goodbye but with the promise of his return like a mother taking her child to the bus stop, seeing them off to college, or watching them move away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-sky

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At other times the bison seems to take on the role of the mother. In the endearing illustration of the bison and the girl talking over cups of hot chocolate, the girl relates how the bison would listen to her stories. Later, readers learn that her mother made her hot chocolate when she couldn’t sleep, letting them imagine how the little girl might have told her mother about her day, about the things keeping her awake. The china cup also holds the bison’s memory of cuddling with his mother, their fur smudged and merging with the steam rising from the hot drink. This blending of roles subtly demonstrates the cycles of life and the reciprocal nature of love.

Readers don’t know when the girl lost her mother; but a snapshot of the girl playing Ring around the Rosie with her and her teddy bear, in which only the mother’s arms are visible at the side of the page and the circle of light highlighting this scene is surrounded by darkness, hints at the loss. As the bison and the girl grow old together and there comes the winter when the bison does not return readers discover that any great love is always with them.

Wisniewski’s charcoal and ink illustrations, punctuated with blue create a mystical, dreamlike atmosphere where the forest and the mountains, the girl and the bison reach out to embrace the reader and invite them into this world of a love like no other.

A tender story to share all types of unending love with children, My Bison would be a poignant addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898861

To learn more about Gaya Wisniewski, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Tell a Story Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-a-story-maze

Tell a Story Maze

 

This puzzle may look like a regular maze, but there’s a secret to it! Within this maze is any story you’d like to make up. Why do you go left instead of right? Are you avoiding a zombie or a rain shower? Why do you go up instead of down? Is it because you can you float? What lurks in that dead end you’ve entered? There are as many cool stories as you can imagine right in those little pathways. And when you find your way to The End, you’ll have written a story with this printable puzzle!

Tell a Story Maze | Tell a Story Maze Solution 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-cover

You can find My Bison at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

April 14 – National Gardening Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-cover

About the Holiday

For many of us, spring means gardening. Today’s holiday encourages avid gardeners and those new to this rewarding activity to turn over some dirt, plant seeds, and prepare to tend the little sprouts on their way through the season. While this year may pose challenges to regular gardening routines, ordering options, creative solutions

In the Garden

By Emma Giuliani

 

In her stunningly illustrated interactive guide through the seasons, Emma Giuliani introduces Plum and her little brother, Robin, and invites readers to join them as they tend to their garden and all the plants, animals, and birds that call it home. Plum and Robin begin at winter’s end. “This morning it’s cold. It’s not yet spring, but, in the garden, Plum and her brother Robin see the first catkins appearing on the branches of the willows and hazels. The blossoming mimosa makes the gardeners impatient for spring to come.” As Robin counts the long, drooping catkins, Plum rakes a layer of compost over the ground. On the facing page, children get a close-up view of the fuzzy catkins, can peek inside a bud, burrow underground with earthworms just waking from hibernation, and view a few early bloomers. They also learn about what makes up the earth’s soil and get a recipe for compost.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-shed

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

With the arrival of spring, Plum is in her little greenhouse, planting vegetable seeds and spritzing the soil with water to keep it moist while Robin repots some plants who have spent the winter in the greenhouse. Outside, Plum aerates the garden bed with a pitchfork, careful of any tiny creatures below. Children can open the door to Plum’s well-stocked shed to see all the tools tidily stored there and lift the flaps to look inside a bulb and help a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip grow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-shed

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At last the warm weather of spring has arrived. The cherry trees are blossoming, and Plum and Robin are setting stakes and planting bean seeds. Next, they provide protection for the tender strawberry plants that are beginning to bloom. Young gardeners will enjoy opening a bean seed to learn what’s inside and then following its growing process. The bees are visiting the cherry blossoms, pollinating the flowers and making honey. What does a bee see as it hovers around the flower? Pull down the flap to see for yourself and learn all the parts of a flower. What other plants are flowering now? Open the flap to see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-spring

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Summer begins and “what a joy to be in the garden in June! The gentle breeze, the smell of cut grass, and the tangy taste of strawberries and cherries make the gardeners smile.” While Plum waters the tomato plants, “Robin looks for ripe strawberries under the leaves.” Join him! Robin is also picking cherries before the birds eat them. How do those bright red, round fruits grow? Lift the flap to learn and see how they develop from flower to fruit. Plum is getting help with the aphids on the bean plants from industrious—and hungry—ladybugs. “Dragonfly larvae are transforming into graceful flying insects….Their presence is a sign of a healthy garden.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-spring

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

It’s high summer and the garden is glorious. Bean pods hang from the vines, and Plum contemplates whether they are ready to pick. She may leave some “husks dry out on the plant before picking them.” Dried completely indoors, they can be stored and eaten during the fall and winter. Take a look inside a pod to see the seven red beans there. Flowers greet you too: an orange marigold with petals like a pinwheel, a brilliant pink and purple fuchsia, and a perky mignon dahlia. Robin took cuttings of these plants and potted them to grow some more. Learn how you can do that with your plants too!

The summer heat is waning and the days are growing shorter. Fall is here. The catkins of early spring have become hazelnuts that are ready to be harvested. Even the squirrel approves! Plum and Robin teach you how to store them—and when to pick the winter squash and keep them for months as well. Can you count the number of seeds inside the winter squash? Plum’s beautiful trellised pear tree is bearing sweet fruit. Yum! But look out—a crafty rabbit is after the last leafy vegetables in the garden. No need for a fence, though. Milk will do the trick of shooing him away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-fall

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The air is chilly again and winter is on the horizon. “Plum and Robin have donned their warmest clothes and gone out to collect the dead leaves. Some leaves will feed the compost, others will become mulch to protect plants over the winter. The hedgehogs can use the rest of the leaves in making their homes.” Do you see the pile of crunchy leaves? Lift them gently…shhh! A hedgehog is snoozing underneath. Robin and Plum have built an insect hotel to keep the bugs cozy during the winter and have filled the greenhouse again. For the colorful birds who stay awhile or all winter, Robin and Plum put out a bird feeder and fill it with locally produced seeds.

After putting all of their tools back in the shed, Plum and Robin head indoors to plan next year’s garden and “watch eagerly for the very first signs of spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-winter

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

If your family tends a garden or is thinking of starting one, Emma Guiliani’s superb book is a must. At 16 inches tall, In the Garden provides fascinating facts about plants, insects, and animals; helpful tips on when and how to plant a variety of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, information on natural ways to ward off pests; and how to recognize when fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and how to store them. Through copious flaps, children get inside views of flowers, seeds, buds, and vegetables to learn the names of each part and how they contribute to the growth of the plant. Along the way, young and adult gardeners discover how early gardening can begin, directions on how to create and use compost, when bushes can be planted, information on pollination; and how to winter over the garden for the coming spring.

Giuliani’s crisp, lush illustrations are marvels, combining intricate paper cuts that replicate the shapes of delicate bulbs and buds, flowers and seeds, smooth and serrated leaves, the long bean pod, and even Plum’s garden shed with a window in the door. Her extraordinarily beautiful color palette immerses readers in the garden experience; you can almost smell the rich earth, hear the bees buzzing at the blossoms, and feel the air changing season to season.

A brilliant resource and a joy to peruse, In the Garden is a book that adults and children—both gardeners or nature lovers—will share throughout the seasons and from year to year. The book is most highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 12

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898939

You can connect with Emma Giuliani on Instagram.

National Gardening Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-garden-game

Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

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

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

To play a printable Vegetable Garden Board Game, click here.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-cover

You can find In the Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Princeton Architectural Press

Picture Book Review

December 31 – National No Interruptions Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cover

About the Holiday

If you yearn for a nice long stretch of peace and quiet in which to work, think, or play without the barrage of sounds, images, and other interruptions that make up modern life, then today’s holiday is for you. So how do you go about celebrating? Turn off your phone, TV, and music, tell your friends and family you’re taking a “me” day, and find a spot where you can shut the door and just…ahhhh…. For those on the other side of that door who want attention or need help, the day may require a bit of patience. But they might find that they appreciate a little quiet time too—just like the little girl in today’s book.

Patience, Miyuki

Written by Roxane Marie Galliez | Illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh

 

“Blue earth, orange moon, Spring was all dressed up and ready for her first day of the year.” Up with the dawn, Miyuki was ready too. She rushed to her grandfather’s house eager to rouse him to watch the “last moonbeams of winter” and enjoy the first full day of spring. But Grandfather urged patience. He wanted to soak up the sunshine through his window. The day would still be there in an hour, he told her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-flowers

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When her grandfather joined her, the two walked through the garden, greeting each tree, flower, and blade of grass. In the middle of the garden was a little flower still asleep. Miyuki called for it to wake up, but Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, Miyuki. This little flower is not ready to open. It is precious and delicate and needs the purest and finest water…’”

Determined to wake the little flower, Miyuki hurried away to the well. But when she raised the bucket, it was filled not with water, but with a frog. She pleaded with the well to give her water, but the well answered that she must wait for it to rain again. “But Miyuki did not want to wait.” Next, she tried approaching the clouds, but the ones full of water were too far away, a perfect little cloud did not want to give up its water, and the ones that did were too slow in filling up her little porcelain bucket.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-poppies

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first day of Spring was half over and still Miyuki had not gathered water for the little flower. She walked and walked until she came to a waterfall. When Miyuki asked for its purest water, the waterfall told her she would have to wait for night, when the water lessened and she could cross over to the lake beyond. But Miyuki did not want to wait. As Miyuki walked on, she spied a house covered in flowers and a boy watering his garden. She approached and asked for some of his purest water. In exchange, he wanted to know who she was and to hear her story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-frog

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The boy filled her bucket and Miyuki ran home. On the way, though, she tripped and fell. Her bucket shattered and the water spilled out. By now it was nearly evening. Miyuki had missed almost the entire day, and she still had no water for her flower. Just then she heard the river’s song. The river asked her what she was doing so far from home at that hour. It offered to show her the way and give her some of its water. The trip lulled her to sleep, and when she reached home, Grandfather put her to bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cloud

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When she woke, it was the second day of spring. Today, Grandfather was waiting for her in the garden. When Miyuki saw that the flower had not opened, “Two of the purest tears ran down her cheeks.” But Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, my little girl. Neither flowers no anyone in the world deserves to be watered by tears. Yesterday…you missed the first day of spring. Come, sit close to me, watch, and wait for once.’” Miyuki sat next to her grandfather and watched as he smelled a fragrant flower. Then he tipped a leaf and a few pure dewdrops fell onto the little flower. Slowly, the flower’s petals opened. It greeted Miyuki and apologized for being late, explaining, “‘I’ve been dreaming of Spring.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-bird-house

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Roxane Marie Galliez’s gentle story encompasses two emotions that often spar within one mind: the desire to hurry, hurry, hurry and pack every moment with action or adventure and the longing to relax, observe, and really enjoy the peace of our own thoughts—or no thoughts at all. Miyuki wants to savor every moment of the first day of spring, but she spends the entire day rushing around to find water for the little flower who has her own time table. At last, lost and too tired to stay awake, Miyuki is put to bed by her grandfather only to wake the next morning ready to repeat her frantic pace. Only when Grandfather convinces her to sit and watch, can Miyuki appreciate the dawning sun, the fragrant flowers, and the fact that what she was searching for was right at hand all the time. In Miyuki, readers will recognize the strong feelings children often have when they want others to join in on their activities or viewpoints. Galliez reminds them that patience and paying attention to others’ needs can be a rewarding and a gift as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-bird

Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s striking illustrations combine dream-like scenes, surprising perspectives, and familiar elements of Japanese culture, including Kokeshi dolls, lucky cats, and origami, to draw readers into the story. Miyuki, smaller than a wren, tiny next to the well’s wooden bucket and the frog it catches, and able to ride in an origami swan boat, is a child of nature as is the boy who lives in a birdhouse and shares his gardening water. As Miyuki, with Grandfather’s hand on her shoulder, crouches down to wake the little flower, readers can see how small it is; that it is still new, growing, and learning. This touching image embodies the multi-layered themes of the story: the dual natures of children still new, growing, and learning with multigenerational support.

Lush and fantastical, yet rooted in mindfulness Patience, Miyuki is a visual feast that would quickly become a favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898434

Discover more about Roxane Marie Galliez and her books on her website.

To learn more about Seng Soun Ratanavanh and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

National No Interruptions Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-posterPlease Bee Quiet Poster

 

Sometimes you just need a little time to yourself. When that happens put this cute printable poster on your door and get bzzzzzzzzy on your own projects. 

Please Bee Quiet Poster

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cover

You can find Patience, Miyuki at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

December 30 – It’s the Christmas Bird Count

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

About the Holiday

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

The Atlas of Amazing Birds

By Matt Sewell

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-painted-buntings

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-woodpecker

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-riflebird

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-roadrunner

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-birds-of-paradise

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-condor

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 10

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898571

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

Christmas Bird Count Activity

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

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 17 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with Art

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-cover

About the Holiday

Today, I’m featuring another interactive book that will get young readers excited about learning more about art—or in this case—architecture. A great book can help kids find role models from the past or today that they can connect with philosophically and creatively. A book that touches on, validates, and encourages a child’s talent or dream is a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright

By Patricia Geis

 

Artists can be endlessly fascinating not only for their work but for their lives, which influence where they get their ideas, how they create each piece, and what made them an artist in the first place. In Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright, readers get an opportunity to discover the backstory, the influences, the three architectural rules, the clients, and, of course, the buildings of this master architect, whose mother predicted his profession before he was even born and “surrounded his crib with drawings of cathedrals.” This deep dive into Frank Lloyd Wright’s life is accomplished not only through text, but with little fold-outs that are themselves illustrated booklets, 3D popups, illustrated panels that extent the pages, tabs, a portfolio of postcards, and more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-getting-started

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

But let’s get started! Young readers may wonder what Frank was like as a kid. Learning that his grandfather, Richard Lloyd Jones, a Welsh milliner who made “‘black cone-shaped hats that ended in a point, worn as much by witches when they flew on their broomsticks as by other Welshmen,” will only whet their appetite to know more, and they won’t be disappointed. In addition to the text that briefly outlines Wright’s ancestry and earliest work experiences and defines what an architect is, a child asks a few questions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-getting-started-2

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first speech bubble asks, “How was he as a kid?” Readers open it up to see a photograph of Frank at age 10 accompanying a description of the books he read, the activities he and his best friend did, the newspaper he created, and even why “he called himself Aladdin” for a while. Readers next meet him at 16 in a photo of his very large extended family, and they also get to see his Uncle James’ house where he spent eight summers working on the farm. The exterior photo of the house Wright made for his family. Two other speech bubbles introduce children to the house Wright designed and built for his family and a discussion of his favorite color, complete with full-color photographs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-getting-started-3

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

No artist is created in a vacuum, so author Patricia Geis includes a discussion of Friedrich Froebel, the creator of kindergarten and designer of twenty games that engaged children in geometry, creating dimensional shapes, building, and crafts and were influential in Wright’s development as well as in that of many well-known “artists, philosophers, and architects who would invent the abstract language of modern art.” A popup on the page replicates one of Froebel’s games.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-the-unit-2

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Wright’s father was also influential in his son’s education. He taught him to love music and “see the composer as a builder. For Wright, music and architecture were constructed by means of a system of units: the notes in music and the bricks in a house.” Just as notes are written on a staff, an architectural drawing is created on a grid. A detailed popup of Unity Temple built in 1908 in Oak Park, Illinois demonstrates how the building is positioned on a grid while a fold-out panel presents images of a floor plan, a cross section, a perspective drawing, and two photographs—one of the exterior and one of the interior of this beautiful temple.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-the-unit

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Wright is well-known for setting his buildings in harmony with their surroundings. In her chapter “The Landscape,” Geis explains that Wright believed all buildings should adhere to “‘organic architecture,’” which meant they should “be in harmony with the landscape, respect the materials of construction, and respond to the need of the client.” She goes on to talk about Taliesin, the house, studio, and farm where he opened a school of architecture in 1932,, and Taliesin West in Arizona. These two landmarks are presented first with small framed photos (which cleverly mirror pictures on an art gallery wall) that open up to show how the buildings blend in with the environment and second with foldouts that include interior and exterior photographs as well as accompanying text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-the-grid

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Fallingwater, built in 1936, is one of Wright’s most famous designs, and with the pull of a tab, readers can transform the waterfall that hosts this house into the showstopper it became. More photographs and text present Wright’s philosophy about the house and land as well as the level of detail that went into building it—even to his choice to paint “the upper part the same color as the underside of a rhododendron leaf.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-the-grid-2

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“Wright believed that every house should fit its inhabitants, like a made-to-measure suit.” To see just how he accomplished creating one-of-a-kind houses, readers can flip through a portfolio of five postcards, each of which presents a color photograph of the exterior of the house on the front and a description and interior photographs on the back. Visitors to the Guggenheim Museum in New York have experienced how Wright brought “the forms of nature to the city.” Shaped with the spiral of a snail’s shell, the museum showcases the art collection of Solomon r. Guggenheim, who bought “the works of such avant-garde artists as Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, and Mondrian. Perhaps Wright’s connection with some of these artists through their common adoption of Froebel’s games early in their development is one reason the museum and the art work so well together.

A natural teacher, Wright would no doubt invite readers of this book to do some architectural exploration of their own, and so Geis has included sheets of card stock blocks, shapes, cubes to build, and other elements as well as a grid for children to play with.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-postcards

Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Patricia Geis is an engaging and compelling tour guide on this absorbing survey of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life that spanned from 1867 to 1959 taking in Reconstruction, “the Industrial Revolution, the coming of electricity, two world wars, and the invention of television.” Her clear and straightforward storytelling draws readers in with intriguing details, information about his childhood, and sprinkled-in direct appeals for them to look closer at or notice something in the photographs. Geis does an excellent job of connecting Wright’s early influences to his later work and his architectural philosophies to his finished projects. Each two-page spread creates a chapter of sorts, making it easy for kids and adults to dip into the book as they wish or to read it all in one sitting. Charming illustrations of wanna-be architects on various pages invite kids along on this beautiful and beautifully done journey of discovery.

A stunning book that any child—or adult—would cherish, Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright is highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture or any of the arts. I would also encourage readers to check out the other books in this series, including Meet the Artist! books about Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Vincent van Gogh, and Leonardo da Vinci. If you are looking for a unique gift for a teacher or someone on your list, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Ages 7 – 12 and up

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616895938

You can learn more about Patricia Geis, her books, and her art here.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-cover

You can find Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 28 – National Good Neighbor Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor

About the Holiday

National Good Neighbor Day was established in the early 1970s by Lakeside, Montana resident Becky Mattson and made an official holiday in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: to appreciate your neighbors and to make sure you’re a good neighbor too. To celebrate, say hi to your neighbors or take them a special treat!

Good Morning, Neighbor

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Maria Dek

 

A mouse had a hankering for an omelet, but he didn’t have an egg. He went to his neighbor Blackbird and said, “‘Good morning, neighbor. Do you have an egg that I could use to make an omelet?’”  The blackbird had no eggs, but she did have flour and suggested making a cake if they could find an egg. That sounded good to the mouse, so they went to visit their neighbor, Dormouse on his leafy branch. “‘Good morning, neighbor,’” they said, and asked for an egg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-omelet

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The dormouse didn’t have an egg either, but he did have butter for the cake and a suggestion to ask Mole for an egg. Down in the mole’s dark hole, the mouse, the blackbird, and the dormouse asked if Mole had an egg. “‘I’m sorry, I don’t,’” she said, “‘but I do have sugar. You’ll definitely need sugar to make a cake!’” They all went off to visit Mole’s neighbor, the hedgehog, to see about the egg. Hedgehog thought they might use his apples to make the cake if his neighbor Raccoon had that elusive egg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-mouse

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“‘Good morning, neighbor,’” the group said before asking about the egg. The raccoon was sorry to tell them that she didn’t have an egg, but then added that she did have “cinnamon to add flavor.” Who could they ask next? Raccoon thought her neighbor Lizard might have an egg, but he only had raisins to add to the recipe.

Next, they went to Lizard’s neighbor, the bat—who said, “‘Of course I have an egg!’” With all the ingredients in hand, the neighbors went to work: “The blackbird poured the flour. The bat broke the egg. The dormouse added the butter, and the mole stirred in the flour.” Then the other friends added their ingredients too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-dormouse

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

All that was left to do was to bake the cake. Everyone climbed high into Owl’s tree to see if she had an oven. “‘Good morning, neighbor,’” they all said. “‘Could we use your oven to bake a cake?’” “‘Certainly,’ said the owl.” When the cake was ready, Owl asked how many slices she should cut. They counted out: Blackbird got a slice for her flour, Dormouse for his butter, Mole for the sugar, Hedgehog for the apples, Raccoon for the cinnamon, and Lizard and Bat each got a slice for their raisins and egg. And they did not forget “a slice for the owl for the use of her oven.” Eight slices in all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-dormouse-tree

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Sadly, the mouse asked, “‘What about me?’” The dormouse answered, “‘You didn’t put in anything. So you don’t get a slice.’” Besides, he added, it was hard to cut a cake into nine slices. As the mouse walked away, the other animals reconsidered. The blackbird realized that if the mouse hadn’t asked for an egg he “‘wouldn’t have thought about giving him flour to make the cake.’” Then Dormouse, Mole, Hedgehog, Raccoon, Lizard, Bat, and Owl all decided she was right about how mouse had spurred their participation too. So they cut the cake into nine slices—“which wasn’t that hard after all—and enjoyed eating it together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-tree

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Davide Cali’s classic-style, sequential story builds gentle suspense and intrigue as the forest animals visit neighbor after neighbor looking for an egg to bake a cake. With the acquiring of each new ingredient, the group of friends grows, giving young readers plenty of chances to chime in on the repeated phrase list that precedes each “Good morning, neighbor.” As the animals each add their particular offering to the batter, observant children may notice the absence of Mouse. Dormouse’s clipped response to Mouse’s request for a piece of cake will surprise and even perhaps shock readers. Blackbird’s defense of Mouse and the other animals’ change of heart provide opportunities for thought-provoking discussions about the value of ideas, the role of different contributions, the nature of friendship, and what it means to be a good neighbor.

Maria Dek’s homey, warm-toned folk-art illustrations lend grace and charm to Cali’s story, while whimsical elements, such as Mole’s slippers and hat, and Lizard’s unique raisin delivery method, will endear the characters to readers. Tearful mouse brings a moment of sympathy and empathy that is happily resolved in a two-page spread of a twinkling light string-bedecked forest where the group of animals celebrate their friendship.

Ages 4 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1616896997

National Good Neighbor Day Activity

“Hello, friends!” Word Search

 

Sure, your neighbors are the people who live in the houses on your street, but they’re also the people in other towns, in other states, and even in other countries. And they’re not just neighbors—they’re friends! Learn how to say “hello” to all your friends in twenty-five languages with this printable word search.

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor

You can find Good Morning, Neighbor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review