November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

For little learners, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts about all kinds of subjects. Loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting and beautiful details, nonfiction picture books bring to life science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more of the world around us. This month, take a look for nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library.

Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations

By Sara Gillingham

 

If you have a young astronomer in the family and are looking for a book that will make their eyes twinkle like stars on a clear, dark night, Sara Gillingham’s magnificent guide to all eighty-eight internationally recognized constellations is a must. Combining information on how and where to find each constellation, the fascinating stories and/or myths surrounding them, and stylistically gorgeous illustrations, Seeing Stars offers children and adults not only a resource to use when stargazing, but a sit-down-and-explore beauty to enjoy any time.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Seeing Stars opens with brief and illuminating discussions on what constellations are, who invented them, using asterisms and brightest stars to find a constellation, which constellations are visible when and where, and the art of stargazing.  A chapter on the ancient constellations takes in the signs of the zodiac (I’m an Aquarius and learned that the famous water carrier of the sign is none other than Ganymede, who in ancient Greece was “considered the most beautiful man alive…. One day, in the middle of a quiet life tending sheep, Ganymede was snatched by an eagle and taken to Zeus” who put him to work as “the official cup-bearer to the gods.”).

In this section, readers will also find the constellations created from “well-known stories, characters, animals, and sacred objects” as well as the  heroes and gods of Greek mythology. Here, readers learn about Hydra, the water snake. Hydra, the largest constellation, covers one fourth of the sky in a “twisting line” that at one end curves inward to make a “small irregular polygon” that serves as the serpent’s head. She was “so wretched that even her breath could kill someone,” and was vanquished by Hercules in the second of his labors. Pegasus, Persius, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and Orion are just a few of the other well-known figures from the ancient world.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Next, come the modern constellations mapped by European explorers and named for exotic and even mythical creatures in the late 1500s and 1600s. One of these early astronomers was Elisabeth Hevelius, considered to be one of the first female astronomers. Colorful birds of paradise inspired these stargazers to name a small cluster of stars that “make a line with a narrow V on the end, much like the point of a beak” Apus (from the Greek word apous or “footless”), after some European navigators believed the birds had no feet.

What constellation outlines an animal with a “long neck like a camel and a body that is covered in ‘spots’”? Camelopardalis, of course! Or you may be more familiar with this animal’s more common name: giraffe. Chameleons, doves, dolphinfish, cranes, lizards, lions, and lynx also appear in our skies but there’s room, too, for the more whimsical, like Monoceros – or unicorn – and the phoenix.

Modern constellations also pay homage to invention and discovery. These include Caelum, the chisel, named for an engraver’s tool invented in the 1600s to “carve fine lines into printing plates” for book production; Circinus, the compass; Microscopium, the microscope; Telescopium, the telescope; and Pictor, the painter’s easel.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

A Resource section provides information on tools for stargazing, eight circular maps that chart the constellations seen from the northern and southern skies over three-month increments throughout the year, an illustrated guide to asterisms, resources for further reading, and an extensive glossary and index.

Each constellation is highlighted with a two-page spread. The left-hand page is attractively divided into four sections that provide an image of the constellation created from lines connecting stars in three different sizes that indicate their brightness, tell where the constellation is found and it’s proportion to other constellations, a circular map that spotlights the constellation among others nearby, and a paragraph on the story or myth surrounding the constellation. On the right, the image of the god, animal, or object that inspired the constellation floats on a midnight-blue background and contains within it the stars that make up the constellation connected to show its shape. The brightest star in the constellation is highlighted.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham’s writing style is knowledgeable and entertaining, opening up the world of astronomy to experts and novices alike with the kind of storytelling that captivates while it teaches.

Special mention must be made of the dazzling cover and dust jacket, which together recreate the depth of the night sky. The shimmering gold cover, splashed with the image of the Milky Way, shines through the tiny laser-cut “stars” on the deep blue dust jacket, making a stunning and interactive introduction to this well-crafted book. Kids will love finding and naming the constellations they see on the cover after reading about them inside.

Perfectly conceived and executed, Seeing Stars is a book the whole family can enjoy and will spark many trips outside to gaze at the stars with new interest and understanding. The book would make a much-cherished gift for astronomers, armchair stargazers, space buffs, and those who love mythology and history. It’s a terrific addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and would be just as at home on the coffee table as on the bookshelf.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

Discover more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle

 

Sometimes the constellations can seem hidden among all the other stars. Can you find the names of eighteen constellations in this printable Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle?

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Find a Rainbow Day

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About the Holiday

April brings plenty of showers and downright downpours that give rainbow lovers lots of opportunities to see this colorful phenomenon. Legend has it that at the end of every rainbow waits a pot of gold—but if you aim to find it, watch out! It’s guarded by a tricky Leprechaun. Rainbows result when light from the sun reflects and refracts through water droplets in the sky, creating a spectrum of colors. Whether people ooh and ahh over the luck, the science, or the beauty of rainbows, there’s no denying that they always attract attention and create smiles.

I’m happy to be partnering with HarperCollins in a giveaway of a copy of Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)! You’ll find the details below.

Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)

By Ged Adamson

 

After the rain was over and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, Ava was excited because she knew she’d get to see a rainbow. When she reached the perfect rainbow-viewing spot, she was amazed. Up in the sky was “the most beautiful rainbow Ava had ever seen.” She wished it could stay forever. That wish even carried over into her dreams that night, and when she woke up Ava thought she might actually still be asleep. Why? Because when she looked out the window, “the rainbow was still there!”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

It was even still glowing over the town that night. It didn’t take long for people to start coming from all over to see the famous “rainbow who had decided to stay.” The townspeople loved all the attention—and the customers. Shopkeepers held rainbow-inspired sales, rainbow souvenirs like T-shirts, snow globes, and toys flew off the shelves, rainbow science became one of the most popular lectures by university professors, and a rainbow even became the new town mascot. For weeks there were special events and festivities all centered around the rainbow.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ava loved to talk to the rainbow. “She introduced him to her friends…sang to him…and showed him all her favorite books and toys.” The rainbow even stayed throughout the winter, shivering in the cold. When spring rolled around, people seemed to have forgotten all about the rainbow. They didn’t look at him like they used to. In fact, they didn’t look at him at all.

As Ava walked around town, she saw rainbow souvenirs in the trash and graffiti covering signs advertising the rainbow. When she saw the rainbow, Ava was shocked to see him plastered with ads and sporting antennae of all kinds. The rainbow was sad. “‘How could they do this to something so special?’ Ava said in despair.” She cheered up when she saw a crowd of people with cameras rushing toward her and the rainbow, but they were only interested in a little bird in a nearby tree.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

It seemed that the bird was a Russian water sparrow and would only be there for a few hours before continuing its flight. “We’re so lucky!’” someone said. “‘Such a rare and precious sight!’” The rainbow overheard this exclamation and thought about it. The next morning when Ava went to visit the rainbow again, he was gone. Ava hoped that someday he’d return, and every time it rained she looked for him. One day he did come back, and was “a rare and precious sight indeed.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Like a rainbow itself, Ged Adamson’s story is multi-layered and reveals a spectrum of ideas about the often-fleeting moments in life—from wishes and dreams to the unusual or funny even to fads and fame. Learning how to truly appreciate these ephemeral experiences as they happen, to let go of what can’t or shouldn’t be controlled, and to stay true to your own nature goes a long way towards living a happy life. Children will be captivated by Adamson’s charming tale and his lush, whimsical art, which is always expressive of a child’s joy and empathy and which sweetly depicts the better understanding they gain as they grow through life’s experiences.

An enchanting story in itself and a wonderful way to engage children in discussions of true value and happiness, Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) would make a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062670809

Discover more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art on his website.

National Find a Rainbow Day Activity

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Mini Rainbow Magnet

 

If you’re stuck on rainbows, you can make this mini rainbow to stick on your fridge or locker!

Supplies

  • 7 mini popsicle sticks
  • Paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, Indigo, violet (ROYGBIV)
  • Adhesive magnet
  • A little bit of polyfill
  • Paint brush
  • Glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Paint one popsicle stick in each color, let dry
  2. Glue the popsicle sticks together side by side in the ROYGBIV order, let dry
  3. Roll a bit of polyfill into a cloud shape and glue to the top of the row of popsicle sticks
  4. Attach the magnet to the back of the rainbow

 

Picture Book Review

March 31 – Bunsen Burner Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of German chemist Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen who in 1854 was instrumental in developing the Bunsen burner in 1854. At the time, burners used in chemistry labs were fueled with coal gas, which did not burn hot enough, was expensive, and left the beakers sooty. Bunsen and Peter Desaga devised a cleaner and hotter burner that was also easier to use. Now, the Bunsen burner is standard equipment in labs around the world.

Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams)

Marie: My First Marie Curie Board Book

Written by Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Frau Isa

 

From the time when Marie was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. Marie was very smart. “At school, she won a gold medal for her studies, which she kept in her drawer like a treasure.” Because women were not allowed to go to college in her country, she moved to France to go to the university there. Even though French was not her first language, Marie was soon the top math and science student in Paris.

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Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One day Marie met Pierre, who loved science as much as she did. They got married and worked together in their own laboratory, where they discovered radium and polonium. “It was such a thrilling moment for science!” Marie and Pierre even won the Nobel Prize. Marie was the first woman ever to be awarded this honor. When Pierre later had an accident, Marie was left alone to continue their work.

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Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

All her research and experiments paid off when she was awarded her second Nobel Prize. When war broke out, “Marie’s discoveries were used by doctors to help injured soldiers.” Marie inspired many girls who studied science at her own institute in Paris. Besides science, Marie taught her students that there was nothing to fear, “many things to learn, and many ways to help those in need.”

A timeline and brief yet detailed biography of her life follows the story.

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Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

With thrilling recognition that even in the youngest hearts beat future writers, artists, adventurers, designers, and scientists, the Little People, Big Dreams series introduces preschoolers to inspiring women role models. In Marie Curie: Little People, Big Dreams, Isabel Sánchez Vegara reveals the life and work of Marie Curie with straightforward storytelling that illuminates while affirming the intelligence of her young audience. Uplifting, life-determining personality traits that carried Marie over obstacles and to the top of her profession—such as not taking no for an answer, treasuring your accomplishments, working hard, and helping others—are highlighted for little ones to learn from.

Frau Isa’s stylish illustrations in a striking, subdued color palette will entice the youngest readers to listen and learn. While the spotlight is always on Marie, each page also focuses on one or two main images, such as Marie and Pierre’s lab table, a wounded soldier’s X-ray, and Marie holding her Nobel Prize, that help little ones see and understand the important aspects of the story.

Encapsulating both history and the timeless persistence that drives people to achieve their full potential, Marie Curie—available in both picture book and board book editions—is a must for preschool classrooms and would be a rousing addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1847809629 (Picture Book); 978-1786032539 (Board Book)

You can check out more about Isabel Sánchez Vegara on Instagram.

Discover more about Frau Isa and her art on her website.

Bunsen Burner Day Activity

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Green Pennies Chemistry Experiment

 

You know what color pennies are! They’re those brownish coins amid all the silver. But what if you could turn those pennies green—like dollar bills? You can with this easy and way cool chemistry experiment!

Supplies

  • 10 – 12 dull pennies
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 2 small bowls
  • ¼ cup measuring cup
  • 1 teaspoon
  • Paper towels

Directions

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Experiment 1

  1. Pour ¼ cup vinegar into a bowl
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt
  3. Mix thoroughly until salt has dissolved
  4. Place a few pennies in the bowl and leave for five minutes.
  5. Take the pennies out and place them on the paper towel.
  6. Let the pennies dry and watch what happens. The reaction becomes more dramatic over time, so check on your pennies at different times throughout the day

Extra Observation:

  1. To see the chemical reaction at work, dip one penny half way into the vinegar/salt solution and wait a minute
  2. Lift the penny out of the solution and see the result

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Experiment 2

  1. Fold a paper towel to several thicknesses and place in bowl
  2. Place a few pennies on top of the paper towel
  3. Pour enough vinegar over the pennies to saturate the paper towel
  4. Wait two to three hours and see what happens
  5. You can leave the pennies in the bowl and continue to add vinegar as the paper towel dries. Flip the pennies over to create a chemical reaction on both sides

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Experiment with other acids, such as the lemon juice.

Why do the pennies turn green?

Pennies are made of copper. The vinegar and salt solution helps the copper react with oxygen in the air to form the blue-green patina of malachite on the surface of the penny. This chemical reaction is called oxidation. You can see the same green color on other things made of copper like plumbing pipes and many statues—even the Statue of Liberty!

If you’d like to record your observations of your pennies like a chemist does, download and print this lab sheet.

Picture Book Review

March 14 – Moth-er Day and Interview with Author Karlin Gray

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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. With spring right around the corner, moths will once again be emerging in woods, fields, and gardens, so today take a little time to celebrate these often overlooked insects 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.”

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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.

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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.’”

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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.”

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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.  

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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

Moth-er Day Activity

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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

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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

Meet Karlin Gray

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Today I’m excited to talk with Karlin Gray about how moths became extraordinary in her eyes, what types of characters she’s drawn to, and what might be the best holiday in the world

Did you like to write as a child? How did you get started writing books for children?

Yes, I did like to write as a child. When I was little, I would retell stories like Alice in Wonderland, changing the names and some details. Someone must have explained ‘plagiarism’ to me and, eventually, I learned to write my own stories.

I started writing picture books when my son was a toddler (about seven years ago). I joined a local writing center where I workshopped all three of my contracted books, including AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH.

Before you began working in the publishing field and writing for children, you worked for newspapers. Can you talk a little about that experience? What did you like most about it? Has it influenced your work for children?

After college, my first two jobs were graphic design positions at weekly newspapers in Northern Virginia and D.C. I loved learning about the publishing process—how words and images were selected, designed, printed, and distributed. It’s a fast-paced, exhausting business. But those jobs taught me to work on a deadline which helps me as a children’s book writer, for sure!

What inspired you to write about moths?

My son. When he was three, he announced that the moth was his favorite insect. I imagined that moth was having a bad day—comparing himself to “cooler” moths like the Luna moth or Spider moth—and then overheard my son’s statement. It’s a nice reminder that sometimes it takes just one kind comment to improve someone’s day.

What do you think makes the “ordinary” extraordinary?

Perspective. My son saw something special in a creature that I never really considered. But his interest piqued my interest, so I did some research. That led me to learning several amazing things about moths. Now, instead of shooing them away, I celebrate moths in An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth.

What was your process in writing An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth?

Once the first line popped into my head—“I’m an ordinary moth, as you can plainly see…”—the story was set in rhyme. Usually, I research then write a story. But here, I did my research as I wrote the manuscript. The first draft took a couple days and was MESSY. I workshopped the manuscript on and off for two years, tightening the story, rhyme, and meter. I eliminated a whole stanza where the ordinary moth compares itself to other moths like the poodle moth. Trust me, it wasn’t easy cutting out the poodle moth! But, like they say, sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

Do you have a favorite place to write? If so, can you describe it a little? Do you have a favorite thing on your desk or in your writing space?

In my house I have an office but I don’t do much writing there. I usually move from the dining table to the kitchen table to the outside table when it’s warm.

In an earlier interview, you mentioned that you had “stories about presidents, magicians, explorers, athletes, mermaids, monsters, scarecrows, cats, mice, and one sad moth” in your desk drawer. What types of characters—or personalities—attract your creative interest? Do you have a preference for nonfiction? If so, why?

Oh yeah, I guess I’ll have to change that since the “sad moth” is out of the drawer and on the cover of a book. I’m a sucker for characters whose “flaws” are really their strengths, and I love a good finding-your-tribe story. Both nonfiction and fiction stories appeal to me but I enjoy the challenge of taking a true story and translating it into a picture book—selecting a character and timeframe, finding dialogue and active details, setting the tone and style, and staying true to the facts as well as the heart of the story.

In your website biography you have links to “things you like.” These are amazing and range from The American Mural Project to Storyline Online to the Landfill Harmonic. Can you talk about what draws you to these types of projects? Why do you think they are important not only for those directly involved in them, but for all kids—and adults?

Those two projects have a lot of heart. I met Ellen—she is a tiny person who has a big personality and a HUGE dream. The fact that one person had a goal to make the biggest indoor art installation is worthy of a book right there! And the Landfill Harmonic group—kids making music with trash!—was made into a book, Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood. I think both of those stories appeal to kids because it shows them that there are no limitations in art.

What’s the best part about writing for kids?

So many things…but probably the best is when kids tell me that they want to be a writer when they grow up. My response is always: “If I could do it, you can do it.”

You share your books at school and bookstore events. Do you have any anecdote from an event you’d like to share?

Twice a month I volunteer at a nearby school where I read books selected by the teacher. When I read my first book NADIA to the kids, the first graders had a hard time believing that I was the author. They knew me as someone who visited every other week and read a book from their shelves. They didn’t know me as a writer so that was a fun surprise for them.

What’s up next for you?

My next picture book is a biography of Serena Williams—SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER—and will be published in early 2019.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Probably New Year’s Eve. We can see the town fireworks from our back deck so we invite a few families over for a casual get-together. It’s a nice way to end the year and the kids love staying up past midnight.

And, until your email, I didn’t know there was a Moth-er Day. (Not to be confused with Mother’s Day.) Very cool. The moth is also celebrated during National Moth Week in July: http://nationalmothweek.org

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share?

When I was 10-14 years old, I lived in Japan because my dad worked with the military. I remember feeling sorry for Japanese kids because they didn’t celebrate holidays like Christmas or Halloween. But once I discovered that they had an even better holiday—Children’s Day!!—then I just felt sorry for myself.

Thanks so much for this great chat, Karlin! I wish you all the best with An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth and all of your books!

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You can find An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth at these booksellers:

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Picture Book Review

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday was established in 2013 to celebrate the world’s wild animals and plants and to raise awareness of the perils they face. Since that time, World Wildlife Day has grown to be the most important global event dedicated to wildlife. This year’s theme is “Big cats: predators under threat.” The big cats are some of nature’s most majestic animals, and they are now being threatened by habitat destruction, declining prey populations, conflicts with people, poaching, and illegal trade. It is up to us to protect the animals that share our planet. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about the world’s creatures and consider donating to a wildlife cause. To learn more about the holiday, visit the official website of UN World Wildlife Day.

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals

Written by Gabrielle Balkan | Illustrated by Sam Brewster

 

When you think about bones, you know a lot, right? You know they’re hard and not soft, you know they form your skeleton and that they come in different sizes and various shapes, and you know that all vertebrates have them. But have you ever wondered “which animal has the biggest bone in the world? Or the smallest, Or the spikiest?” Well, you’re about to find out thanks to this big book all about bones.

So, let’s get started! About that biggest bone…would you like to take a guess who it belongs to? Here are some clues: This mandible bone “is a whopping 20 feet long. That means three motorcycles could sit in a row” on it. The animal it belongs to lives in the ocean, swims great distances, and “can live for 100 years.” Just take a look at the skeleton on the next page with one long spine, two flippers, fifteen pairs of ribs and a huge skull. Good guess! Let’s turn the page and see… Yes, it is a Blue Whale!

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Now that you know, you can learn more about the blue whale—like how its mouth is so big that you and one hundred of your friends could fit on its tongue, how it eats 700,000 krill in one gulp, and slurps down 40,000,000 krill every day! Go ahead—touch the illustration of the whale. Feel all of those bones?

Ready for another one? Okay! We did the biggest, how about the smallest bones? Here are some clues from the animal herself: “I am teeny tiny. My skull is smaller than your pinky nail….Inside my ears are the smallest bones in the world: my hammer, anvil, and stirrup bones,” which are about the size of a • . You’d find this animal on farms, in gardens and in olive groves, and even though it’s small, its bite is poisonous. But you’d have to look very closely to find it because its skeleton is “the size of a paperclip and weighs less than a single raisin. What is it? The Etruscan Shrew! You can pet it to feel its bones—this one isn’t venomous.

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Imagine if your bones were as thin as a strand of spaghetti. It might make lifting heavy boxes and throwing baseballs or running on the playground pretty hard, if not impossible. But for this next animal having such thin bones is just right. Let’s see if you can guess what it is from these clues: “I sleep upside down, snuggled with my family. I flit through cool limestone caves. I am an amazing flyer…but can’t walk very well.” You know it—it’s a bumblebee bat!

This bat is as small as its namesake, and its thin finger bones support its wings. “If your finger bones were as long and thin as [the bumblebee bat’s], your pinky would be as thin as a strand of hair and keep going past your toes!”

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

This is fun! How about another? Guess who has the spikiest bones? You’d find these bones covered with keratin on top of the animal’s head to protect its brain—and to keep it from being eaten by snakes or coyotes or other predators. This animal lives in the deserts of Arizona, eats ants, and…can shoot stinky blood from its eyes when threatened! What is it? It’s a Regal Horned Lizard! Now, feel those spiky horns and all of the rib bones that make this lizard so round.

You’re a great guesser! So try them all—there are a lot more animals to discover and fascinating facts to learn in this book! No bones about it! You’ll find out more about the Reticulated Python, Reticulated Giraffe, African Bush Elephant, Peregrine Falcon, Alaska Moose, and Hammerhead Shark. At the end, there’s also a Glossary of Bone Words for you to bone up on!

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Image copyright Sam Brewster, 2017, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Gabrielle Balkan makes learning about the ten animals Book of Bones exciting by including the kinds of facts that kids find most eye-popping and eww-inspiring described in ways that they can relate to. Comparing the size of an animal to a paperclip or the thickness of a bone to a strand of spaghetti creates an immediate visual that makes budding scientists want to learn more. Balkan’s conversational style lends a personal touch to the text—as if the reader is interacting with a wildlife expert one-on-one.

Opening the oversized Book of Bones is like walking into a natural history museum where skeleton exhibits stand side by side with natural habitat dioramas. Sam Brewster introduces each animal with accurately drawn skeletons on black backgrounds that let readers see the placement of each bone. Special features are called out in a whisper of gray, adding to the museum display feel. Turning the page allows children to see each animal in its vibrant, natural habitat. Ingenious printing lets readers feel and see the rough bones beneath the skin.

A fun, fact-filled resource for nature lovers, Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals would make a great gift and addition to classroom, school library, public library, and home bookshelves.

Ages 8 – 12

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875125

Discover more about Gabrielle Balkan and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of illustration work by Sam Brewster, visit his website.

World Wildlife Day Activity

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Lion and Lioness Coloring Pages

 

The lion is one of the most majestic of the big cats, and is—of course—the king (and queen) of the jungle. Here are two lion coloring pages for you to enjoy!

Lion Coloring Page | Lioness and Cub Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

February 28 – It’s National Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

As birds begin coming back to your area during this last bit of winter to build nests, mate, and hatch little cheepers, they still need help finding nutritious food to sustain them. Without the lush vegetation and increased insect activity that will come with warmer weather, birds often rely on backyard feeders for food. Attracting colorful birds to your home can be a rewarding and joyful hobby – one you can enjoy year-round. If you’ve been considering hanging a bird feeder to one of your trees, today is the perfect day to get started!

Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook

Written by Martin Jenkins | Illustrated by Richard Jones

 

It’s early morning and Bird is already chirping. It’s going to be a busy day! To get started she needs breakfast. Of course, “what she wants is a nice, juicy…worm.” What the worm wants, though, is to not be eaten. So while “bird pulls hard…the worm pulls back.” This is one strong worm, and it ends up winning the tug-of-war. Nearby, though, is a smaller and weaker worm that is just as delicious.

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Image copyright Richard JOnes, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Full and satisfied, Bird takes off on her next task. She needs to find twigs. “Lots of twigs.” The first one she finds is more like a branch to the little bird—and is too heavy. The next one is as long as a snake and too heavy too. But there are plenty of perfectly small twigs scattered around, so Bird gets to work. She “can carry one large twig or two medium-size twigs or three or four small twigs (although it’s hard to fit that many in her beak at once).”

What is Bird doing with all of these twigs? Building her nest, of course! It takes time to arrange the twigs she brings back to the branch of her tree. “Carefully, she pushes a twig into the side of the nest and pulls its end back out.” As if weaving a basket, Bird intertwines more and more sticks, making her nest strong. It takes hours to complete her new home. Once in a while a twig falls or she drops one, but there are plenty more to find.

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Image copyright Richard JOnes, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once the twigs are all in place, Bird searches for soft material to line it. She gathers dried grass and feathers. These are so light that it’s easy to carry a lot at one time. Back in her nest she places the grass and feathers inside and “turning around and around, pushing with her whole body, she makes a snug little cup, smooth and soft on the inside.” Now the nest is comfy and all ready for…the five little eggs that are waiting to hatch!

Bird Builds a Nest is a First Science Storybook for young readers that, while showing how birds build nests also demonstrates various scientific forces. As kids see the baby birds emerge from the nest for the first time, they can also answer a few questions in the Afterward that prompt them to think about pushing and pulling, moving light and heavy objects, and the force of gravity. An Index reveals where in the text these forces can be found.

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Image copyright Richard JOnes, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Spying a nest in a tree, eave, or other tucked-away space is like finding a secret, and is one of the joys of spring. Martin Jenkins’ delightful day out with Bird gives kids…well…a bird’s eye view of the nest-building process. Just like an artist, this sweet, industrious feathered friend gathers her materials and sets to work to make her instinctual vision come true. Jenkins’ step-by-step description is conversational and homey with words such as snug, tuck, fetching, and twigs that lend themselves to the charming alliteration that gives the story a poetic sound and feel.

Richard Jones’ mixed-media illustrations sing with beautiful folk-art inspired scenes of Bird gathering her material and creating her nest. Softly vibrant earth tones of autumn and spring accentuate Bird’s quiet and solitary endeavor. Bird is bright-eyed and cheerful as she flies back and forth carrying twigs and arranging them just so—activities that are clearly shown for budding scientists to see and understand. Readers will enjoy finding small details here and there—a mouse in a tree hole, a tiny ladybug, hearts in the swirls of the tree bark and formed by leaves, and even a bit of foreshadowing of the eggs to come. The male and female bird cuddle together in the finished nest as two ladybugs find each other under a purple heart, and the little chicks venturing out for the first time will enchant children.

Bird Builds a Nest wonderfully weaves together facts and a sweet story to introduce young readers to one particular natural phenomenon and some of the scientific forces involved. The captivating story would be a terrific addition to home libraries and classroom bookshelves for discussions about the natural world.

Ages 4 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2018 |ISBN 978-0763693466

To learn more about Richard Jones and view a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

National Bird-Feeding Month Activity

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Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle

 

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

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

Picture Book Review

February 11 – National Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday recognizes the spirit of inventors—those women and men, girls and boys who look at life just a little bit differently and not only imagine the “what if?” but make it happen. Inventors come from all backgrounds and with all different kinds of experience. Today, we celebrate those pioneers of the past, present, and future! If you have a creative mind, today’s the day to tinker around with your idea. Inventions don’t always haave to change the world. Have a better way of organizing your closets, a new game to play with your pet, or a new recipe to use the leftovers in the fridge? Go for it—and be proud of yourself!

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

By Rachel Ignotofsky

 

“Nothing says trouble like a woman in pants.” With this revealing attitude from the 1930s, Rachel Ignotofsky introduces her scintillating biographies of 50 intelligent, self-confident, persevering, and inspiring women working in engineering, math, medicine, psychology, geology, physics, astronomy, and more sciences from ancient history through today. The book begins with Hypatia who lived in Greece in the late 300s to early 400s CE and became an expert in astronomy, philosophy,and mathematics, making “contributions to geometry and number theory.” She became one of Alexandria’s first female teachers, “invented a new version of the hydrometer,” and can be found among the intellects in Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens.”

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

Zipping ahead to 1647 readers find Maria Sibylla Merian, considered one of the “greatest scientific illustrators of all time.” Her specialty was entomology. By carefully documenting the lifespan of butterflies, she taught people about the science of metamorphosis, publishing a book on the subject filled with notes and illustrations in 1679. Later she scoured the rainforests of South America, gathering information on never-before-seen insects from that region. Her book, The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname “was published in 1705 and became a hit all over Europe.” Maria was so famous, her picture appeared on German money and stamps.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

Other women in the nature sciences include Mary Anning, who as a child discovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton and went on to become a paleontologist; Mary Agnes Chase, a botanist and expert on grasses; Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, who as a conservationist helped save the Florida Everglades; and Joan Beauchamp Procter, a zoologist specializing in reptiles who discovered the Peninsula Dragon Lizard in 1923; and more.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

One of the earliest women astronomers and mathematicians was Wang Zhenyi, born in China in 1768. Creating her own eclipse model, she proved her advanced “theories about how the moon blocks our view of the sun—or the earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon—during an eclipse.” She also measured the stars and explained the rotation of the solar system. At the age of 24 she published the 5-volume Simple Principles of Calculation. Zhenyi died at the age of 29, but in her short life she published many books on math and astronomy as well as books of poetry.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

Women in Science includes many other women who have looked to the stars and mathematics for their careers. Some of these are: Ada Lovelace, the first person to write a computer program; Emmy Noether, who helped Albert Einstein develop his theory relativity, created the field of abstract algebra, and “made new connections between energy and time, and angular momentum”; Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin a quantum physicist in 1900s England who “discovered that the sun is made mostly of hydrogen and helium gas” and in 1956 became Harvard University’s first astronomy professor; Mae Jemison, who in 1992 became the first African-American woman in space and later started her own technology consulting firm as well as founding BioSentient Corporation, and a science camp for kids; plus many others.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

The book also features Engineers, such as Hertha Ayrton who improved electric lights by inventing “a new rod that made a clean and quiet bright light” and the Ayrton fan that blew away mustard gas during World War I; and Lillian Gilbreth, who used her theories of “organizational psychology” in inventing the foot pedal for garbage cans, shelving for refrigerators, and even the “work triangle” for kitchens “that determines the distance from the sink to the stove” and saves time. There are Geneticists such as Nettie Stevens who discovered the “X” and “Y” chromosomes, and Barbara McClintock—the pants wearer from the beginning of the post—and the first person “to make a complete genetic map of corn” and discover jumping genes, or “transposons.”

The field of Medicine has benefited from women such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor; Alice Ball, a chemist and the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii, who helped cure leprosy with her chemical work; and Gerty Cori who discovered how our bodies covert glucose, helping us better understand diabetes. In 1947 she became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

And this list only begins to scratch the surface of all the fascinating stories of women who overcame social, political, and personal obstacles to follow where their intelligence took them. Inspirational, entertaining, and undeniably eye-catching Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science presents expertly written, one-page biographies that hit all the high (and sometimes unfortunate low) points in these scientist’s lives. The striking layout of both the text and illustrations keep readers riveted to the page, The left-hand side contains a representational drawing of the scientist surrounded by the subjects and materials of her work as well as trivia about her and a quotation. On the right-hand page, small illustrated facts frame the woman’s life story.

Interspersed between the biographies are pages offering a timeline of women’s milestones, depicting lab tools, and graphing statistics of women in STEM. The back matter is impressive, with two more pages presenting 15 more scientists, a four-page, illustrated glossary, resources including films, websites, and books, and an index. Rachel Ignotofsky concludes her book by saying, “Let us celebrate these trailblazers so we can inspire the next generation. Together, we can pick up where they left off and continue the search for knowledge. So go out and tackle new problems, find your answers and learn everything you can to make your own discoveries!”

Ages 7 and up

Ten Speed Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-160774976

To discover more books by Rachel Ignotofsky, visit her website!

National Inventors’ Day Activity

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What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Word Search

 

Scientists like the women in today’s book make inventions for every area of life! In the future you might become a scientist and develop something new or different. If so, what kind of scientist would you like to be? Find the names of eighteen scientists in this printable puzzle! Then pick one and write why you would like to be that type of scientist!

What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Puzzle What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Puzzle Solution!  

Picture Book Review