July 2 – World Firefly Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-light-the-sky-firefly-cover

About the Holiday

World Firefly Day was instituted by Fireflyers International Network to raise awareness of these summer night beauties and the dangers to their survival, including habitat destruction, pesticides, light pollution, and over-collection. More and more, as fields and marshlands are paved over for building and waterways open up to recreation, the fireflies that call these places home are disappearing. This year’s theme is “Let’s stay together in the challenging world” and encourages everyone to learn how to “live in harmony” with fireflies. To learn more about fireflies, how you can make your garden or lawn firefly friendly, and more, visit Firefly Conservation & Research.

Light the Sky, Firefly!

Written by Sheri Mabry Bestor | Illustrated by Jonny Lambert

 

When fireflies begin dotting the summer night sky with light, it may seem like they magically appear out of nowhere. But as Sheri Mabry Bestor eloquently reveals, these beautiful insects have been lurking and luminescing for a long time. How long? Well, as summer rains dampen the earth, a firefly lays her eggs (up to 500!) under brush or fallen leaves. “Under the leaves, the eggs lay still. For the baby fireflies inside the shells, it is time to grow. And begin to glow.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-light-the-sky-firefly-laying-eggs

Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The larvae hatch after a month, and then they begin to eat, eat, eat. Slugs and snails are on the menu, and a paragraph of scientific information about the firefly’s nighttime dining discloses that “instead of fighting their prey, the larvae bite and then inject the prey with a liquid that keeps it from moving to get away.” All through the rest of summer and fall, the baby firefly grows. During the winter, the larvae undergo many transformations, growing and outgrowing a series of casings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-light-the-sky-firefly-launch

Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It isn’t until late spring when the larvae are ready to become an adult. When they are ready, they emerge from their mud nest, and while the sun is high, they stay low to the ground. But “when the sun begins to set, they begin to climb higher. And when the sky turns black, fireflies launch!” Then “the sky is filled with flashing fireflies. They twinkle like faraway stars.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-light-the-sky-firefly-blink-blink

Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The darkness of night doesn’t protect them from predators, though, so fireflies always have to be on the alert. If they are caught, fireflies have a bitter surprise for the hungry critter. And what about those blink, blinks that we all marvel at? Those signals aren’t random. As Sheri Mabry Bestor explains, “Fireflies blink with specific rhythms called ‘flash patterns,’ and each species has its own. This helps them communicate with each other.” Not only does that luminescent chemical help fireflies, Bestor describes ways in which scientists and doctors are studying it in hopes of helping people.

“In time, the females are ready to lay their eggs. Pitter-patter, drizzle-drip. Summer rain cools the earth. Bees buzz. Birds glide. A firefly finds a place under the leaves that blanket the ground.” The eggs hide under leaves, waiting until next summer when it’s their turn to shine.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-light-the-sky-firefly-summer-again

Image copyright Jonny Lambert, 2022, text copyright Sheri Mabry Bestor, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sheri Mabry Bestor’s lovely, poetic story of the lifecycle of fireflies is a beautiful read aloud for summer nights or for whenever you and your kids are missing the simple pleasures of summer. While the story plays out from page to page in flowing and sometimes colorful text, scientific facts about these insects, their transformations, homes, anatomy, protection, and, of course, their bright and glowing communication skills are tucked in the corner waiting to be discovered and explored. Bestor’s rhythmical cadence also highlights the seasonal changes that accompany fireflies’ growth from tiny larvae to adult and the cyclical wonder of nature.

Jonny Lambert’s stunning textured collage-style illustrations portray all the beauty of these unique insects and the landscape they inhabit. Mottled greens and yellows give depth to lush leaves, opaline snail shells catch the light above as the curious snail discovers the glowing eggs below, and delicate spring flowers camouflage the mud nests where the larvae are transforming into adults. But the nighttime scenes are breathtaking with deep blue skies, a canvas for the pin pricks of light that create summer’s most spectacular show. Both realistic and dreamlike, these nighttime pages will have kids and adults scurrying outside to watch and be a part of it.

A gorgeous book to celebrate the exquisite charm of fireflies as well as to impart natural science facts, Light the Sky, Firefly is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111158

Discover more about Sheri Mabry Bestor and her books on her website.

You can connect with Jonny Lambert on Twitter.

World Firefly Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-firefly-maze

Firefly Flight Maze

 

This little firefly wants to join her friends in the forest. Can you help her through the maze to find them in this printable maze?

Firefly Flight Maze Puzzle | Firefly Flight Mage Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-light-the-sky-firefly-cover

You can find Light the Sky, Firefly! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 1 – National Dinosaur Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate dinosaurs—those beasts that, although they are of a distant past, remain ever present in our hearts. Their size, diversity, and shear awesomeness make them a favorite of kids, and ongoing discoveries continue to fascinate adults as well. To celebrate, visit a national history museum, watch your favorite dinosaur movies or TV shows, join your kids in playing with their dinos (you know you want to!), and pick up today’s book!

Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter!

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Dave Shephard

 

Growing up in Montana, Jack Horner was lulled to sleep by the “crunch, swoosh. Crunch, swoosh” of his father’s gravel business, and as soon as he was big enough to hold a shovel, he began digging. He loved being outdoors, searching for dinosaur bones. He dreamed of being a paleontologist when he grew up. His digging usually only produced rocks, sticks, and dirt, but once he “spied a peculiar rock” and when he had carefully swept the sand aside, he discovered a clamshell. His first fossil find made him look at his backyard differently – as “an ocean covering the land millions of years ago–an ocean filled with ancient beasts.” Jack wanted to find more fossils.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-clamshell

Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jack taught himself how to “search for clues among the rocks: irregular textures, colors, and shapes.” He found lots of fossilized shells, but he really wanted to find a dinosaur. He went fossil hunting “in the woods and near the mountains.” Then one day while hiking up a cliff, Jack saw “an odd rock nestled in the ground.” With his tools he brushed the sand aside and uncovered the skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-duckbill-fossil

Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

While Jack was quickly becoming an expert on fossils and the landscapes that hid them, he struggled with reading in school.  His teachers told him that if his grades didn’t improve, he’d never be able to become a paleontologist. He took to experimenting in his basement, winning awards for his science projects even as he was failing his classes. One prestigious university, however, did admit Jack on the strength of one impressive project, but just as before Jack was unable to keep up in class. He dropped out and was drafted soon after to join the Vietnam War. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-science-projects

Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Here, he decided that when he got home, he would try to work closely with paleontologists, if he couldn’t actually be one himself. He was hired by Princeton University’s natural history museum, where he “assembled and cataloged exhibit, working closely with scientists.” His colleagues recognized that Jack was an “expert at reading fossils.” He got a promotion that allowed him to work in the field. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-museum-job

Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was during one of these trips into cliffs that Jack “spied something odd. Heart thumping like the tail of an Ankylosaurus, he leapt into action.” When Jack swept the sand away, he and his team discovered a nest of fossilized dinosaur eggs – the first such find in North America. Jack went on to find more fossilized eggs, “proving dinosaurs nested in colonies;” name a new dinosaur species; and become an expert on dinosaur behavior and social structure. He even shared his special expertise when a famous movie producer filmed one of his great blockbusters. Jack had succeeded in his dream to be a “world-famous paleontologist.”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note, more about Jack Horner’s life, and a Dino Lab, that invites readers to design their own dinosaur and provides mix-and-match Greek and Latin words to help kids name their dino.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-specialist

Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Dinosaur lovers and anyone with dino-sized dreams will be instantly hooked by Sophia Gholz’s immersive biography of Jack Horner, who forged his own path to becoming one of the world’s most influential paleontologists. His self-confidence, unstoppable drive, and ultimate success will inspire all readers to define themselves by what they can do – not by what they may struggle with – and to trust their instincts on the way to achieving their goals. Gholz tells Jack’s story clearly and with the kind of repeated phrasing that builds suspense while also replicating the types of life experiences that create expertise. 

Dave Shephard’s bold illustrations will enthrall kids as they join Jack in the cliffs of Montana to brush away the sand from a duck-billed dinosaur fossil, see the underground strata where fossils lurk, and discover the nest of fossilized eggs. Shephard also depicts Jack’s struggles in school, where his undiagnosed dyslexia causes words and equations to become a jumbled stumbling block to his education. The vibrant format with clear typography will appeal to fans of graphic novels as well as to reluctant readers.

Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! is an exceptional biography of a boy and man who never gave up on finding a way to accomplish his goal. The book will captivate children on its own or as an introduction to a wide range of classroom lessons and is highly recommended for all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111196

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

To learn more about Dave Shephard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Dinosaur Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dinosaur-word-search-puzzle

Searching for Dinosaurs Puzzle

 

Hunt for 16 types of dinosaurs in this printable puzzle!

Searching for Dinosaurs Puzzle | Searching for Dinosaurs Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-cover

You can find Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 3 – Celebrating National Lumpy Rug Day with Author Sophia Gholz

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bug-on-the-rug-coverAbout the Holiday

Today’s holiday, in addition to having a humorous and whimsical bent to it, promotes some thoughtful consideration of two rug-related ideas. The onset of spring often inspires people to do some deep cleaning around the house, and that, according to the holiday, should include rugs – that cushy decor that can define a room or provide an impromptu place for pets to nap. As they age, though, rugs and carpets can develop lumps and bulges that compromise the safety and appearance of your home or office. If that’s the case at your house, a steam clean, day in the sun, or re-rolling may restore your rug to its original beauty. But National Lumpy Rug day isn’t all about outward appearance. The holiday also touches on that common practice of “brushing things under the rug” and encourages people to air any complaints, feelings, or topics that they have been avoiding. Making a full sweep of any problems underfoot is a great way to start the spring season, and sharing today’s book with your kids is a hilarious way to celebrate.

Hi Sophia! I’m thrilled to have you visit to talk about your latest book, Bug on the Rug, its endearing characters, inspirational message, and how the story changed from its initial idea. I also love your tips on how adults can use your book to foster discussion and awareness of those misunderstandings that can adversely affect friendships.

Sophia Gholz - headshot

Sophia Gholz is an award-winning children’s book author, magic seeker and avid reader. Sophia enjoys writing fiction with humor and heart. When writing nonfiction, she pulls on her love of science and her strong family background in ecology. When she’s not writing, you can find Sophia reading a book, visiting schools or exploring the great outdoors with her family.

Sophia’s debut book, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, was a NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, a Florida State Book Award Gold Medalist, Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Book and a 2020 Green Earth Honor Book. She is also the author of Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! You can connect with Sophia on her Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Bug on the Rug

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Susan Batori

 

Picture books are entire worlds and stories wrapped in a few hundred words. They share a mood, a lesson, a hug, a friend, a culture, an adventure. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now: picture books are magic. That is why I am so excited to be here at one of my favorite blogs, Celebrate Picture Books, to share my newest book, Bug on the Rug. And today is the perfect day because it also happens to be National Lumpy Rug Day! Hooray! Did I mention that Bug on the Rug features a verrrry cozy rug? So cozy, in fact, it causes quite a stir.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bug-on-the-rug-pug

Image copyright Susan Batori, 2022, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In Bug on the Rug a rug-loving Pug and a rug-stealing Bug battle over a lone rug. These two over-the-top characters both believe they’re right and their claim to the rug takes priority. That is, until Slug comes along and helps open their eyes to the truth of each of their actions. Through empathy, both Pug and Bug learn to take ownership of their mistakes and discover that, in this case, forgiveness and friendship go hand-in-hand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bug-on-the-rug-shaking

Image copyright Susan Batori, 2022, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

I began writing this book with the idea of creating a light story that everyone can have fun with. But as I wrote and these characters took on a life of their own, the story grew. At first glance, Bug on the Rug is silly and filled with word play. But truthfully, this is a friendship book that we can all relate to. Sharing is hard. Making new friends is harder. And admitting to our mistakes? Oof. That is the hardest. But we all make mistakes. It’s natural and if we allow it, we can grow from those mistakes. So, with that in mind and remembering it’s National Lumpy Rug Day, let’s take a moment today to pull out what we may have swept under the rug. Let it go. Shake it out. Smooth out those lumps and enjoy a fresh start!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bug-on-the-rug-tears

Image copyright Susan Batori, 2022, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Thanks, Sophia! I really laughed my way through Bug on the Rug and cheered at the end for these three new friends. I love your rollicking storytelling and know kids and adults will too!

For all you readers out there, Bug on the Rug is a hilarious rhyming romp with a rhythm made for dramatic readings that kids will want to hear again and again. The book will make a favorite addition to home, school, and public libraries for lively and meaningful story times. 

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111479

Susan Batori - Headshot

Susan Batori’s books include Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt and
Letters from Space. She worked in advertising before switching to
children’s book illustration. Susan lives in Budapest, Hungary. To learn more about Susan Batori, her books, and her art, you can view a portfolio of her work here and connect with her on Bēhance | Instagram | Twitter

National Lumpy Rug Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kids-on-rug-clip-art

Bug on the Rug-themed Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Activities 

 

  1. Use Bug on the Rug to start discussions on empathy and growth. Pull up a rug and ask readers to recall instances in their life when they have made a mistake or when they thought they were right when they were wrong. You can ask questions like: How did that moment make you feel? and How did you change in that instance? Readers can also discuss different instances when putting themselves in the shoes of others – empathizing with others – helped them change their point of view in some way.
  2. Ask readers to take a look at Bug and Pug and list how the characters changed from the start of the book to the end. This can be used to start a discussion about how we grow and develop emotionally through challenging experiences.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bug-on-the-rug-cover

You can find Bug on the Rug at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

November 8 – Cover Reveal of Monsters in the Briny

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Monsters-in-the-Briny-cover

Monsters in the Briny

Written by Lynn Becker | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

What do you do with a grumpy kraken, a sickly sea serpent, and a tearful gigantic tortoise? You sing them a tune! Following the sea shanty rhyme of “What Do You Do With . . . ,” a ship’s crew has to contend with a coterie of mythical sea creatures, all demanding comfort and attention. As each creature threatens to swamp the ship, the quick-thinking crew knows just what to do to save the day, from serving pancakes to mopping a sweaty forehead. But what happens when the sailors have had enough?

Back matter includes information about the sea creatures featured, music and lyrics, and a brief history of sea shanties.

I’m thrilled to be talking with author Lynn Becker and illustrator Scott Brundage about their rollicking sea-going adventure – a story and sea shanty that you can read or sing with your kids! 

Meet Lynn Becker

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lynn-becker-headshotLynn Becker has been a reader and creator all her life. These days, when she’s not writing picture books or children’s book reviews, she’s hiking, doing crazy-long yoga classes, and dreaming up even more picture books. After growing up in New York, Lynn spent many years in the Southern California desert with her husband, children, cats, dog, and lots and lots of chickens. She now lives in Colorado. The chickens stayed behind, but a few mythical beasties may have followed her to her new home…! You can connect with Lynn on Her Website | Facebook | Twitter .

Hi Lynn! Thanks for dropping by to talk about your first picture book. I’m so excited to be sharing the first look readers have of this fun book! I’m sure everyone is intrigued to learn how your book came to be, so let’s get started!

You grew up in New York City but have spent many years in the South California desert and Colorado. Did a longing for the sea inspire your unique story?

Kathy, thank you so much for hosting this Monsters in the Briny cover reveal!

I’ve actually been in and around both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans quite a bit, and have always done lots of swimming. But my inspiration for this book absolutely came from my love of monsters. I’m drawn to mythological beings of all kinds, and always have been, maybe because thinking about them adds a dollop of fun and magic to real life. I grew up drowning myself in fantasy and fairy tales, folklore and mythology. My favorite stories tend to feature dragons. (Although I’m a sucker for vampire stories, and who doesn’t enjoy a good, witchy cackle now and then?!)

I knew I had to feature sea monsters in a picture book because, while writing a longer work (a bestiary/poetry collection), I decided to include a sea shanty. What else could I do but spotlight a kraken? And when my critique partners all demanded that this kraken star in a story of her own, Monsters in the Briny took off from there!

The sneak peek of your book is so enticing and really promises a madcap romp to come. How much fun was it to choose the sea creatures and match them with a problem? Can you take readers on the book’s journey?

Once I had my sea shanty format and my kraken, the song practically wrote itself. I used a famous tune that everyone should be familiar with (sorry in advance for any ear worms) and reworked it with my own rollicking, monster-and-kid-friendly scenario. Originally, the story was just about the kraken experiencing a variety of moods, but I got some terrific advice to try pairing each “crisis” with a different sea beast, and I think the story is much stronger for it.

It must have been so thrilling to see your story come to life through Scott Brundage’s illustrations and especially this awesome cover. Can you share your first reaction to seeing the final cover and the interior artwork?

You can’t possibly imagine how happy I was to see this art. I was in the supermarket when I first looked at the cover on my phone, and I cried, right there by the dairy case. It was so very perfect! But I had known from the moment I saw Scott’s website that he was the right person to illustrate this book. My editor, Barb McNally, and the entire team at Sleeping Bear Press (shout out to Hailey in Publicity!) has been a dream to work with, and I couldn’t be happier with the support and know-how they’ve brought to these Monsters. And I’m grateful to my wonderful agent, Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary, for finding Kraken and Co. such a wonderful home.

You’ve previously worked in animation for films and TV, and Monsters in the Briny is your debut picture book. Do you find that your work in animation influences your writing for kids? What made you want to write for children?

For me, the best picture books are a perfect pairing of words and art. I’ve been enjoying—and studying—them for quite a while now, and for a long time I thought I might also illustrate my own work. Because I previously worked on films, my book dummies often felt like animation storyboards. However, I found that when I wrote a manuscript with no intention of illustrating it, my writing became a lot more interesting. In part because I’m not limited anymore to what I think I can draw! More importantly, without the images to rely on, the writing had to do a lot more heavy lifting. And, since this was about the time I realized I enjoyed the writing part more than the illustrating, this scenario worked out really well.

What are you most looking forward to when the book launches in March? Do you have any book events scheduled that you’d like to tell readers about?

The book launches on April 15 now and I can’t wait to share it with kids! I hope they get as big a kick out of it as I got while writing it. When it publishes, I have a number of blog posts and giveaways lined up. There will also be a book launch scheduled for around that time, and readers can check my website for information on these and other book-related events. I’ll be posting a musical track for the Monsters song, an animated book trailer, and other fun extras on my website

Meet Scott Brundage

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-first-men-who-went-to-the-moon-scott-brindage-head-shotScott Brundage is a Brooklyn-based illustrator and character designer. As a child, his parents rightly decided he was far too indoorsy for his own heath and encouraged him to try various hobbies. When T-ball’s rules confused him and judo required too much coordination, he found his love for drawing cartoons at a local art class. Scott has sketched and painted ever since, eventually attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His children’s books include Where’s My Cow? and The First Men Who Went to the Moon. His work has been recognized by American Illustration, the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, and the Society of Illustrators. You can connect with Scott on His Website | Instagram | Twitter.

Hi Scott! Welcome back to Celebrate Picture Books! As soon as I learned that you illustrated Monsters in the Briny, I knew kids and adults are in for a special treat, and this cover is just the start as it really sparks the imagination!

Can you share what you loved about Lynn’s story from an illustrator’s point of view?

Well, I was sold at “Monsters.”  The Briny part was gravy after that. I’d jump at any opportunity to take a monster and twist it to fit a children’s audience. This book is just that, a fun twist on a sea shanty about the creepy things in the ocean. I think the cover makes a nice lure to get kids’ minds thinking of what could possibly be lurking deep in the ocean, and the book’s contents shows them just that, but also reassures them that they mostly just want some snacks or a haircut.

How many different versions of the cover did you design before the final one was chosen? I love how realistic the ocean looks in this illustration! Can you share your process in creating the cover and interior images? 

We had the rough idea of what the cover could be pretty early. The bare bones of illustrated text as old, submerged lumber from a boat, interacting with giant tentacles below a tiny ship. When I originally painted the final art, I had just come off several weeks of 16-hour days working on an animated movie. I gave myself one exhausted day to get it done and, unsurprisingly, I was given notes to revise it quite a bit. Sleeping Bear Press found a couple more weeks for me to work on it, which allowed me to rest a bit and give it it’s proper care. I’m glad too, I’m super happy with the final product, even though I was a shell of myself when I started it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-monsters-in-the-briny-cover-reveal-early-cover-sketched

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-monsters-in-the-briny-cover-reveal-early-cover-with-ship-planks

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

I had the interior sketches finished pretty early on, but my first pass had all the sailors as adults, since I was diving headlong into full on pirates. My art director suggested, very wisely, that they all be children, with a running musical gag involving an accordion player. Oh, right! This is for children. This is why art directors are great!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-monsters-in-the-briny-cover-reveal-Kraken-with-adult-pirates

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-monsters-in-the-briny-cover-reveal-Kraken-with-kids

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

The way I normally work is to pitch a very rough idea of what the pages could be. Once that’s approved, I develop the sketches a bit more and send for approval. After any revisions or notes to the sketch, I develop a more finished drawing and print the clean drawing on watercolor paper, then paint it. Final touches in photoshop after that.

Did you need to do any kind of research before drawing the sea creatures? How or where did you do this? Did you discover anything surprising along the way?

I needed a bunch of research for the sea creatures, which was pretty easy to find. I wasn’t aiming to make anything super accurate in terms of specific types of animals, more a fun design that would work for the story. It was easy enough to grab a bunch of photos of snakes or turtles or old illustrations of hydras, then put my spin on how they could look.

The much more difficult part was researching the ship itself. I know very little about nautical anything, much less historical pirate ship shapes, types, how the rigging and sails work, etc. Luckily, another illustrator friend of mine, Gregory Manchess, had done a series of murals for National Geographic specifically about historically accurate pirates. He was kind enough to send me piles of ship reference, as well as pirate clothing reference.

So, what I discovered along the way is that those ships are waaaaaay more complex than I had previously guessed. Most of the finished pages would have been intricate webs of ropes and knots had I tried to be super accurate. So, instead… we have a ship that hopefully feels relatively similar throughout, but with a lot of liberties taken.

Did you have a favorite sea monster and/or scene to create? What made it your favorite? Can you give readers a little preview of one of the sea monsters?

I have a couple favorites, but the kraken is probably at the top. Tentacles are always fun to draw, they can feel long, elegant, and powerful in their gesture and shape, but also have those inherently upsetting but also sorta silly suction cups. And playing with the giant squid’s scale in relation to the ship adds fun aspect to designing the illustrations. The tentacles can literally hug the ship and highlight whatever I want to call attention to. There’s not much more an illustrator could ask for. Plus, it’s a ridiculous bright red, who isn’t a fan of that?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-monsters-in-the-briny-cover-reveal-kraken-with-pancakes

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2021. Courtesy of Scott Brundage and Sleeping Bear Press.

What would you like for kids to take away from your illustrations for Monsters in the Briny?

Well, for one, I hope the song gets stuck in their head. But that aside, I hope kids realize that giant sea monsters are fun and usually just need some music and a pancake to be your friend.

Sea monsters, an unforgettable sea shanty, and pancakes! I can’t wait to read the whole story – and I’m sure readers are hooked too! Thanks, Lynn and Scott, for stopping by to give us a preview of your treasure to come!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Monsters-in-the-Briny-cover

Monsters in the Briny will be published this coming spring. Preorder your copy now from these booksellers!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | The Wandering Jellyfish

Picture Book Review

October 26 – It’s National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-cover

About the Holiday

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month has been celebrated in October for more than 30 years and was made official in 1999 by then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. With its salty crunchiness and that enticing Pop Pop Pop rhythm, this snack is a favorite the world over. Its history goes back to the Aztecs and beyond. Early explorers of the 1500s wrote about native peoples roasting corn until it popped and described it as looking like a “white flower.” It was eaten and also strung for decoration.

Most people now eat popcorn with salt and butter, but can you imagine having it with milk? Way before Corn Flakes and Cheerios came on the scene, people ate popcorn as cereal! Popcorn’s popularity, well, popped during the Great Depression, when it was one of the only treats people could afford. Why not pop up a batch today! For more interesting popcorn facts and recipes visit www.popcorn.org.

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

Written by Cynthia Schumerth | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

A group of kids plants rows of seeds, which with rain and sun grow unseen until “Surprise! Like magic sprouts appear! / Green and tender, finally here.” The kids help their plants grow by pulling weeds and watching out for pests. The seeds grow and grow until they are taller—much taller—than the children. What are the kids growing? Corn, but not just any corn…. Can you guess?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-sprouts

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the ears are picked, shucked, and dried, the kernels are ready to be tossed “Plink, plunk, plink” into a pot and heated up. Do you know what kind of corn it is now, or do you need another hint? Okay… “Steam builds around each kernel’s germ, / puffs the starch called endosperm.” A bit of science brings about explosive results then “first one pop! Then pops galore!” You know now! The kids grew their own popcorn! When the pot is overflowing it’s time for “butter, salt, then give a swish. / Lick our fingers—Mmm! Delish!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-stovetop

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Fascinating back matter reveals the science behind this favorite treat. Diagrams and photographs let kids see inside a popcorn kernel and view the progression of a kernel as it is heated. They also learn about the two different shapes of popcorn and how they are used. A science activity gives readers the steps for growing their own popcorn from seed to sprout and reveals what transformations take place inside the kernel as the little plant grows. A popcorn art project fills out this STEAM lesson that’s sure to be a favorite.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-party

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There may be no more universally loved snack than popcorn, and Cynthia Schumerth makes learning about the science of growing the plants, preparing the ears for popping, and what happens when the kernels are heated lots of fun. Her bouncy rhyming storytelling will engage kids and get them excited about all the lessons these tiny kernels have to teach. Schumerth’s storytelling builds to its “kaboom” moment, mirroring the suspense popcorn lovers listening for that first Pop. Teachers and homeschoolers will love the resources following the story, which provide for a full lesson appropriate for science, nature, or cross-curricular lessons.

Mary Reaves Uhles’s action-packed illustrations will enthrall kids with their close-up perspectives and relatable details, like the little girl who’s wearing a cat’s ears headband as she digs up the ground for planting. Readers go underground to get a worm’s eye view of the kernels sprouting roots, get down in the dirt to pull weeds, and peek into the pot to make sure there’s going to be enough popcorn for the whole crowd. Images of the kernels pop, pop, popping show the process and will make kids plenty hungry. The final spread of all of the kids enjoying their harvest together is a celebration of popcorn and friendship.

An exuberant story that will spark enthusiasm for science learning and gardening, Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! will be a quick favorite and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110427

Discover more about Cynthia Schumerth and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Want to know more about Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!? You can read my interview with Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles here!

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month Activity

CPB - popcorn1

Popcorn Blast-Off Game

 

The popcorn is flying! Can you catch it? This is a fun game to celebrate this most delicious month! And if you keep the popcorn socks, it will make a great quick activity for those times when you want to get up and move but just don’t know what to do.

Supplies

  • 6 pairs of girls socks – white
  • A large bag of cotton balls
  • Towel or small blanket

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with a large handful of cotton balls (about 25)
  2. Knot the sock as you would a balloon and fold down the remaining ankle cuff
  3. Squish the sock to move the cotton balls until your sock looks like a piece of popcorn
  4. Players hold each end of the towel or side of the blanket so it sags
  5. Place popcorn in the middle of the towel or blanket
  6. On the count of 3, players pull tight on the towel or blanket
  7. Try to catch as many flying popcorn pieces in the towel or blanket as you can

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-cover

You can find Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-cover

About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Mary Sullivan

 

Afraid you’ll never find a grammar guide that’s effective, hilarious, and that kids will want to read just for the fun of it? Your search is over! The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is packed with rules on punctuation, contractions, possessives, capitalization, tricky homophones, and more all explained with laugh-out-loud example sentences and milk-snorting illustrations.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-periods

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman introduces each type of grammar with sound and clear descriptions that will help children to understand what its purpose is and to recognize it when reading and writing on their own. She follows this up with sentences full of puns and macabre situations that will tickle kids’ funny bones. Mary Sullivan then does an outstanding job of reinforcing the lesson with her community of monsters, zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and kids interacting in funny, spellbinding illustrations. Her typography calls out the particular punctuation mark or words of the lesson in red.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-exclamation-marks

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Here are two excerpts to show what I mean:

About Commas

“Commas are tricky. They have many jobs. Just like periods they can tell you when to pause, but they come in the middle of a sentence, not at the end. Commas can separate items in a list.”

Example sentences include these:

To demonstrate the series comma: A ghost standing in line at the school cafeteria complains about that day’s lunch offering: “Oh boo! Brains, guts, and blood again.”

To show the importance of correctly placed commas: “Vanessa Vampire loves cooking, her parents, and her baby sister. Uh-oh! Without commas, Vanessa’s family is in big trouble!” How big? Vanessa’s shown stirring up a boiling vat of family stew. The ingredients? “Vanessa Vampire loves cooking her parents and her baby sister.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-commas

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

About Contractions and Possessives

“Contractions are two words shortened and combined with an apostrophe to make one word. The apostrophe takes the place of a letter or two. / Possessives use apostrophes, too. But they have a different job to do. They show ownership. Where you put the apostrophe can make a big difference.”

Example sentences with accompanying illustrations include these:

A little green ghoul is sitting on his bed eating popcorn and surrounded by trash, bugs, and open bureau drawers: “Ghouls really gross bedroom. (The room belongs to just one ghoul.)” And the same room, now occupied by seven ghouls: “Ghouls really gross bedroom. (Many ghouls share this bedroom.)”

Featured contractions and possessives also show up in the discussions of tricky pairs and homophones, which include “It’s and Its,” “Who’s and Whose,” and “They’re, There, and Their” – a triple-threat that gets a two-page spread of a graveyard dance, where enthusiastic onlookers exclaim, “They’re doing the tombstone tango,” while two newcomers shout, “There they are!” and “Their tango is terrific!” The definitions of these three words read:  “They’re is a contraction meaning they are. / There means at that place. / Their is possessive, meaning it belongs to them.”

A short quiz at the end asks the reader to find the one sentence out of four that has no mistakes – a fun way for kids to show what they’ve learned.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-commas-2

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It’s hard to overstate how comprehensive, captivating, and educational The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is for its target audience, whether the reader is an avid grammarian or struggles with the rules. Leslie Kimmelman knows how kids learn and what makes them laugh, and Mary Sullivan uses her cartoon-style art to create eye-popping spreads that will get kids lingering to catch all the ghastly details while they soak up the lesson. In addition the text and illustrations on each page can easily be used by teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other educators as prompts for extended writing practice to reinforce the rules of grammar. The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110953

You can find an Activity Guide for The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar on the Sleeping Bear Press Website here.

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Punctuation-Word-Search

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-cover

You can find The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

August 25 – National Park Service Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-headstrong-hallie-cover

About the Holiday

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Willson signed what is now called the Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service. In the 105 years since that historic signing, 400 areas in each of the 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, totaling 84 million acres, have been designated as national parks. Today we honor the park rangers who conserve and preserve these natural wonders and educate visitors. This year’s theme – Park Scrapbooks – encourages park visitors to take pictures, buy postcards, and record memories for family and future generations. To discover the national parks near you and the stories behind them as well as to learn more about how you can help out all year round, visit the National Park Foundation website and the National Park Service website.

Headstrong Hallie! The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female “Fire Guard”

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by David Hohn

 

Hallie Morse Daggett loved the forest near her home. She had no fear as she “hiked among the tall trees of California’s Siskiyou Mountains, listened for the calls of familiar birds, and looked for signs of wildlife.” She fished in the Salmon River and was an excellent hunter. The only thing Hallie feared about the forest was fire, especially the summer fire season. “Hallie had seen the horrible power of fire race through the trees, leaving them scorched and leafless. She had seen the animals of the forest scatter and flee from racing flames…. And she had seen those flames come dangerously close to her family’s home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-headstrong-hallie-window

Image copyright David Hohn, 2021, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Whenever fire did come to the forest, though, Hallie and her sister Leslie were among the first to help the US Forest Service by stamping out flames and bringing them food and supplies. But Hallie wanted to do more. She vowed to word for the Forest Service when she grew up. As soon as she finished boarding school in San Francisco, Hallie wanted to get bac to the forest she loved. She began sending letters to the US Forest Service, asking for a job. But she always received “no” for an answer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-headstrong-hallie-fire

Image copyright David Hohn, 2021, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

After the devastating Great Fire of 1910, which “burned millions of acres of forest in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, Hallie was more determined than ever. But the response to her letters was always “no.” “The Forest Service didn’t hire women.” But then in 1913, when the fire lookout at the Eddy Gulch Lookout Station quit, Hallie saw her chance. She wrote a heartfelt letter and this time she got the job!

When the news spread, some of the Fire Service men thought the conditions would make her quit in a couple of days. “They didn’t know Hallie.” She loved the tiny lookout cabin and the breathtaking view. Hallie lived surrounded by wildlife—and a few animals even invited themselves in to stay. Sometimes she had visitors, and Leslie came every week to bring her supplies, letters, and newspapers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-headstrong-hallie-horse

Image copyright David Hohn, 2021, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Her days were spent searching the woods for fire or smoke through her binoculars. At night she watched for the glow of fire, “which she described as ‘red stars in the blue-black background of moonless nights.’” In her first season, Hallie’s eagle eye and quick response to forty fires kept the acres burned to less than five. In all Hallie worked for fifteen seasons—early spring to late fall—as the Eddy Gulch lookout.

In 1927, the tiny Eddy Gulch lookout cabin was replaced with a new building with wraparound windows and catwalk. But this building didn’t feel like a home to Hallie. She remained in her position for one more season and then retired, happy that she had found her place and lived her life in the way she wanted.

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about Hallie Morse Daggett and her work as a lookout, complete with photographs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-headstrong-hallie-cabin

Image copyright David Hohn, 2021, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s inspiring biography of the first woman to work as a Fire Guard for the US Forest Service emphasizes the kind of grit, self-awareness, and perseverance that empowers girls and boys to stay true to themselves while pursuing the kind of life and lifestyle that is most meaningful to them. Bissonette’s straightforward storytelling is fast-paced and focused on Hallie’s unwavering self-confidence, fearlessness, and love of her job. For children who are happiest in contemplation and working alone, Hallie’s story will come as encouragement and validation for a life lived differently.

David Hohn’s color-saturated illustrations of the forest fires Hallie lived through and helped prevent crackle with the golds, reds, and flying embers of these powerful events. Contrasting these images are illustrations of the peaceful, sun-drenched mountains and woodlands that Hallie called home. While bears, bobcats, and smaller wildlife stalk nearby, Hallie, as a young girl, is shown easily traversing the rocky hills, confident and unfearful. Readers will enjoy seeing Hallie scanning the forest with her binoculars, calling for firefighters at the first sight of flames, and relaxing in the rustic cabin she lived in during the long fire season.

A well-told story about a woman determined to make a difference while living her authentic life, Headstrong Hallie! will inspire kids and is a standout choice for nature lovers and others looking for unique opportunities to put their stamp on the world.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110618

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Hohn, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Park Service Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-I-were-a-park-ranger-mesa-verde-coloring-page

Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-headstrong-hallie-cover

You can find Headstrong Hallie! The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female “Fire Guard” at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review