September 30 – It’s National Mushroom Month

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-mushroom-rain-cover

About the Holiday

Whether you say “Yes, please!” to mushrooms on pizza, in salads, and in soups, stews, and other dishes or just like to stop and admire them in your yard or on a walk, National Mushroom Month is for you! The holiday was first created by the U.S. Mushroom Council as part of the Mushroom Promotion, Research & Consumer Information Act of 1990 that was instituted to raise awareness and an appreciation for mushrooms, both non-edible and nutritious edible varieties. President George H.W. Bush signed the Act into law on November 28, 1990, and the holiday was first celebrated in 1993. Celebrate your love of mushrooms today and all through the year with your favorite mushroom dish—and today’s book!

Mushroom Rain

Written by Laura K. Zimmermann | Illustrated by Jamie Green

 

You know how it is with mushrooms—they appear suddenly on the path you take every day, on trees, in the middle of lawns, and each with their own shape and color. Mushrooms are surprising, beautiful, and mysterious. In her evocative, lyrical text, Laura K. Zimmermann takes readers into the forests, meadows, and even up into sky to learn about these plants that can oftentimes seem otherworldly. 

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-mushroom-rain-bizarre-blooms

Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Under a starlit sky, Zimmermann gives children a peek into a darkened woods where “delicate umbrellas open, red octopus arms rise from the ground, cupped nests with eggs appear,” and another cluster of mushrooms glow “a spooky green.” These fungi don’t just look unusual, they are “bizarre blooms with strange scents,” and Zimmermann describes them—”some like bubble gum, coconut, maple syrup…”— so readers can imagine the aromas that mix in the night air. Can you smell them?

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-mushroom-rain-animals-eating

Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

You’ve seen mushrooms with notches and nibbles, scratches and scars, and even meandering trails on their stems and tops. “Many are tattered and torn by hungry visitors chomping, scraping, gnawing, and burrowing” into the soft flesh. And while some are consumed where they grow, others are taken away by a variety of mushroom hunters—”harvested and stored” for another day.

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-mushroom-rain-mushroom-hunter

Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Then, just as suddenly as they appeared, mushrooms disappear. But are they gone completely? Zimmermann leads children underground to explore the vast network of roots beneath a forest floor. She floats them on breezes that send spores far and wide. And she sweeps them into the sky to soar with other spores into the clouds, where they’ll discover that an astonishing phenomenon occurs to begin mushrooms growing once again.

Following the text, extensive illustrated back matter reveals more about mushrooms: where they live, who eats them, how spores grow into mushrooms, how they help seed rainclouds, and how they are different from plants. Zimmermann also defines each part of a mushroom, describes the biggest mushroom-producing fungus and the largest living organism in the world, and shows kids how to use a mushroom to make a spore print.

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-mushroom-rain-disappeared

Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

While Laura K. Zimmermann is taking children on a verbal sensory tour through the darkened world where mushrooms thrive, Jamie Green provides a feast for the eyes with her glorious illustrations of these odd colorful fungi jutting from the ground, posing, and  jockeying for position. Some stand close together, as endearing as a parent and child, or like a large family at a photo shoot while others reach upwards like roaring campfires. Turn the page and readers find themselves in the midst of a glowing alien landscape staring up into the dark night sky along mushrooms frilled and gilled while also aware of the small creatures on the forest floor having dinner or a snack. Green then takes kids underground and into the air, to show how spores find ingenious ways to grow and break the soil once again.

Arresting in both its beauty and enlightening facts that will excite readers’ curiosity, Mushroom Rain is a glowing invitation into the mysterious world of mushrooms and will spur readers to learn more about these delights of nature. The book, along with its extensive back matter and the materials found on Laura K. Zimmermann’s website (link below), would make a superb addition to any lessons on nature, the environment, and ecosystems for schools and homeschoolers, and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111509

Discover more about Laura K. Zimmermann, her book, and her other writing for children on her website. You’ll also find lots of mushroom-related activities, crafts, posters, puzzles, and more to enjoy with Mushroom Rain. There’s also a Teacher’s Guide for educators.

To learn more about Jamie Green, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-mushroom-rain-cover

You can find Mushroom Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – Cow Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-cover

About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers toward eating chicken, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle. They have sustained humankind throughout history and even played an integral part in the defeat of small pox. Cows, with their gentle demeanor and soft, brown eyes, also appear as beloved characters in picture books, poems, and songs, making them one of children’s favorites. Today’s book continues that tradition in witty fashion.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a copy of Where’s My Cow? with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Where’s My Cow?

Written by Susan Blackaby | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

In a seaside pasture, a flock of egrets and a herd of cows lived in perfect symbiosis. When the sun rose each morning, the birds would fly off toward the ocean. All but one little egret who preferred his perch atop his cow. “So much hubbub made him woozy. And the beach seemed so far.” As the cow went about her day, she and the little egret talked about all the places the cow had been and all that she had seen. She’d heard ukulele music and watched kites in the sky. She’d even tasted a toasted marshmallow. At night, the egret dreamed of the ocean while “snuggled into the cow’s neck.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-morning

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One morning, the little egret announced that he “‘might try flying.'” His cow was encouraging, reminding his trepidatious friend that she would be right there when he got back (which, the egret promised would be very soon). The egret took off and was soaring along, exhilarated by the view when he caught sight of the cows moving down below. Suddenly anxious, he wondered, “‘Where’s my cow?'” The egret swooned, then “spluttered”, then fell with a thud in front of his cow.

The egret confessed he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find his cow if he left, but the cow suggested he just look for her ears. With such assurance, the egret took off again, and this time he made it to the beach, where he picked up a shell. When he got back to the herd, though, all of the cows’ ears looked the same. Feeling panicky, he flew back and forth thinking “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” At last egret found her and explained the situation. Next time, the cow said, she’d flick her tail.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-stick

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The next morning, egret made the trip to the beach again and found a ribbon from the tail of a kite. Upon returning, though, all the cows were flicking their tail, and he was filled with the same dread: “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” By the time he found her, “the egret felt wobbly and weepy.” They agreed that the next day, the egret would shout and his cow would shout back. Then the egret showed his cow the ribbon he’d found. She thought it was lovely.

After the next day’s adventure, the egret found a gnarled stick, but when he shouted for his cow to look, all the cows answered back. Some trial and error later, the egret and the cow reunited and agreed that they needed a better system. The the egret had an idea. From the shell and the ribbon and the stick, he fashioned a flag that couldn’t be missed. Now, the little egret never has to worry “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” because she’s always right there, next to the flag and all the egret’s gifts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-ribbon

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Highly original and filled with heart, Susan Blackaby’s funny and reassuring story gently reminds young readers that their parents, grandparents, caregivers, and whoever they rely on are always there to guide them home. Blackaby perfectly captures the emotions of both children and adults navigating separation or new experiences—from the little egret’s initial fear of flying out with the flock to his growing confidence to his ingenious solution to their problem. The cow’s enthusiastic encouragement and continued support of the egret’s ideas shows kids that leaving their comfort zone can be a positive and exciting adventure. Blackaby’s storytelling shines with lovely imagery and humorous, realistic dialogue, and her clever frame, revealing one of nature’s most complimentary relationships, will charm readers of all ages.

Sweet, supportive, and trusting, Scott Brundage’s egret and cow are enchanting hosts for Blackaby’s story. From the first spread, where little egret perches on cow’s neck as the rest of the flock flies towards the rising sun, readers see that these two have a special relationship. Turn the page, and egret has decided that he will try flying. His courage and fear are clearly evident, as is the cow’s steadfast encouragement and reassurance. As the young egret discovers the fun of flying and is excited to bring back souvenirs from his travels, his eager posture and happy expressions show kids the benefits of independence and self-confidence.

Sure to be a reassuring story and discussion-starter for kids experiencing separation anxiety or venturing into new experiences as well as an often-asked-for read-aloud for story time, Where’s My Cow? is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111073

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft

Moo Cow Mug

 

Milk, hot chocolate, or tea will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft-back

Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-cover

You can find Where’s My Cow? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 11 – National Swimming Pool Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is as simple—and refreshing—as it sounds! On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than diving into the cool waters of an enticing pool. Whether you have a pool or enjoy going to a community pool, why not invite some friends to take the leap with you today?

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Too Many Pigs in the Pool for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Too Many Pigs in the Pool

Written by Wendy Hinote Lanier | Illustrated by Iris Amaya

 

On sunny days, Mr. Jenkins had his own pool routine: reading a book on the deck, taking a swim, then napping “in his floating lounge chair.” But these were solitary pursuits, and sometimes Mr. Jenkins wished he had someone to play pool games with. “One Sunday, Mr. Jenkins invited his neighbor, Ms. Peal, over for a swim.” She brought a snack and “her pet pig, Percy.” They had a fun day eating and swimming together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-eight

Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Monday, though, when Mr. Jenkins went outside to enjoy his pool, he found two pigs already there, floating on rafts: Percy and his friend Wanda. Mr. Jenkins let them stay. On Tuesday, Mr. Jenkins discovered four pigs in his pool—just enough to play Marco Polo, as he’d always wished he could. By Thursday, there were so many pigs in the pool that there was no room for Mr. Jenkins. But he was happy to sit poolside and watch the water volleyball game that was in full swing. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-sixteen

Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The number of pigs in the pool kept doubling every day, and on Saturday Mr. Jenkins, home from his morning garage-sale shopping, found sixty-three pigs bobbing in the water and one about to join this wall-to-wall pigfest. Mr. Jenkins tried to stop him. Mr. Jenkins tried to warn them. But it was too late. With a cannonball leap, the sixty-fourth pig landed in the pool. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-thirty-two

Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“The pool gave a shudder and a low groan. Then there was a loud pop.” In a moment the pigs all found themselves washed downhill in a huge, rushing wave. But all was not lost. The pigs found their way home, and Mr. Jenkins rebuilt his pool. This time, though, he added a sturdy fence around it and attached a sign banning all pigs except a welcome two. Now, Mr. Jenkins is enjoying the summer with Ms. Peal and Percy and Wanda—the perfect number of friends to play water volleyball and Marco Polo.

After reading, kids will enjoy jumping into the included activities that reinforce the math found in the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-cannon-ball

Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Wendy Hinote Lanier’s engaging and hilarious story will enchant readers as it cleverly incorporates math concepts into a rollicking story about friendship and watching what you wish for. What starts out as a simple desire by Mr. Jenkins to have company for pool games quickly explodes as the number of pigs at the pool doubles every day. Lanier’s easy-going storytelling adds depth and charm to her tale as she develops Mr. Jenkins’ personality and weekly routines, prompting kids to root for him as the week goes on. His ultimate success in finding just the right number of friends to enjoy the summer with adds up to lively story readers will enjoy all the year through.

Iris Amaya’s spirited illustrations will have kids laughing out loud at her depictions of the pigs—each of which sport unique swimsuits (some even reveal suntan marks) and gear for easy identification. Their silly antics, from belly flopping to exercising to that fateful cannonball, will have kids lingering over the pages and pointing out their favorites. Each of Amaya’s vibrant pages invites readers to count the pigs, an activity that’s sure to impress them on how quickly numbers add up when doubled in sequence. In addition to the pigs themselves, Amaya adds other details worthy of counting and/or sorting, such as the number of pigs wearing life vests and the number using floating rings; those wearing sunglasses or goggles; and those wearing a certain color swimsuit.

The number of pigs in the pool on each day is highlighted in the text with colorful type, and the addition involved in each doubling (for example: 1 + 1 = 2, 8 + 8 = 16, etc.) is portrayed at the bottom of the appropriate page spread.

Sure to make a splash with kids, Too Many Pigs in the Pool makes an exciting springboard for addition and multiplication math lessons for teachers or homeschoolers. The book will also be a favorite for giggly story times at home, school, and public libraries. A fun addition to any picture book collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534110601

Discover more about Wendy Hinote Lanier and her books on her website.

You can connect with Iris Amaya on Instagram.

National Swimming Pool Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-swimming-pool-coloring-page

Courtesy of Coloring Only

Swimming Pool Coloring Page

 

You can keep the fun at the pool going even after you’ve dried off with this printable coloring page. And don’t forget to add your friends! To color this image online, visit Coloring Only.

Swimming Pool Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-cover

You can find Too Many Pigs in the Pool at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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’ve magically appeared 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, would you believe a full year? 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, as a paragraph of scientific information about the firefly’s nighttime dining discloses, “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 fireflies grow. 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. Then, 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.

Still, the darkness of night doesn’t protect them from predators, 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, 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 vibrant 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 a fireflies’ growth 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. 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