January 8 – COVER REVEAL! Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-revew-Winged-Wonders-Cover-Reveal-image

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura

 

For hundreds of years as butterflies with orange-and-black wings as intricate as stained glass came and went in communities across North America, many people wondered “Where are they going?” In 1976, this question was finally answered—it was the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration! Each year, people discovered, millions of monarchs flew thousands of miles from Canada to a roosting place in the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery reveals the diverse community of people who worked together to track the butterflies and find their migration path. Through vibrant illustrations, readers are taken on a journey following the monarchs and meeting the people they encounter along the way.

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note explaining more about the Monarch Migration as well as information on ways that readers can help sustain the Monarch population, making Winged Wonders a stirring book to share with nature lovers, young conservationists, backyard gardeners, and students in STEM/STEAM-related lessons.

When a book is this intriguing, you just can’t wait to see it! But before I reveal the cover of this book, which KIRKUS—in their starred review—calls “riveting” and “a fascinating and inspiring STEAM-driven tale,” let’s chat with author Meeg Pincus and illustrator Yas Imamura who have brought this extraordinary story to kids.

Meet Meeg Pincus

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Meeg-Pincus-head-shot

Meeg Pincus is a children’s author and speaker who loves telling stories about real people who have helped others, animals, and the planet. She lives in San Diego, California. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website.

 

 

 

 

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery presents such a fascinating way to look at monarch butterflies. Can you describe the story a little and talk about what inspired you to write it from this perspective?

Thank you, Kathy! Well, I got sucked into the history of the mysterious monarch migration several years ago when I took my kids to see a movie about it at our San Diego science museum’s amazing domed IMAX theatre. (I went back two more times!) I originally started researching a person on the 1970s tracking team for a picture book biography, but then a series of events led me to rethink that. I came to realize that an even more interesting approach was a collective one. It took many people to put the pieces together of this great “discovery”—from scientists to citizen scientists to everyday folks paying attention to nature—and that’s an important lesson for kids. So, using questions, my story takes kids on a journey to meet different people who each played a part, large or small, in solving the great monarch mystery. Then, it comes back around to asking kids what part they might be able to play in keeping the (now threatened) monarchs alive today.

How did you go about researching this story?

To get information on the people involved in tracking the migration, I collected every primary source I could, from articles they wrote to interviews they gave (so, words from their own mouths) and photos of them during that time. I also found secondary sources—articles about the monarchs’ roosting place “discovery” in the 1970s as well as a whole book about all the drama in the world of monarch science (who knew?!). By the way, I use the term “discovery” in quotes because it’s important to realize that there were people in Mexico who knew the whereabouts of the monarchs’ remote roosting place for generations. I also turned to the citizen science organization Monarch Watch, at the University of Kansas (descended from the original tracking team), for information as well; and we were fortunate that one of their experts agreed to serve as the book’s fact-checker.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-winged-wonders-cover-reveal-national-geographic-cover

This is the 1976 National Geographic issue that broke the story of the Great Monarch Migration, with a story by the main scientist credited with the “discovery.”

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing Winged Wonders?

Honestly, it was that drama in the world of monarch research. There’s been competition over who gets credit for what, over the sharing (or not sharing) of information, etc. For me, this was actually all the more reason to focus my picture book not just on one person but on how it takes a lot of people working together to further scientific knowledge—and protect species.

This gorgeous cover is just a peek at Yas Imamura’s illustrations. Can you give readers a taste of what they have to look forward to? Do you have a favorite spread?

Oh, we could not have asked for more gorgeous and spot-on illustrations than what Yas created for this book! The whole team at Sleeping Bear Press has been thrilled with her vibrant images, which feel both 1970s and totally today, all at once. I like so many, it’s hard to pick just one—I love how she shows the monarchs flying through Dia de los Muertos celebrations, to them roosting in the trees of central Mexico, to the diversity of citizen scientists she created. I think readers are going to just eat up her illustrations!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-winged-wonders-Dia-de-Los-Muertos

Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On your website, you talk about your work as a Humane Educator. Can you describe Humane Education and its goal? Does being a Humane Educator influence your writing? In what way?

Sure! Humane education teaches about making conscious choices that help people, animals, and the planet. It focuses on empathy and compassion as means to taking action for a more humane, healthy, and just world. I found humane education when my kids were very young and it just brought together all my values and studies. So, I trained with two nonprofit organizations (The Institute for Humane Education and HEART) and started going into local classrooms as a humane educator to do lessons with the kids. As part of my lessons, I decided to read the kids picture book biographies about real people who’ve made a difference for people, animals, and the planet. I fell in love with these books, and realized they also perfectly brought together my background of 20+ years writing/editing nonfiction and my work in humane education—so, I decided to dive into writing them myself as my next career step as nonfiction writer/humane educator!

You also talk about teaching children to be solutionaries. I love that term! Would you define what a solutionary is? You also say that you now write “solutionary stories.” How does Winged Wonders fit into that description and how do you hope the book will influence young readers?

I love the term, too! I got it from my training in humane education. The full definition of a solutionary is “a person who identifies inhumane and unsustainable systems, then develops healthy and just solutions for people, animals, and the environment.” I simplify it for younger kids (I like to use the idea of “solutionary super powers” that we all possess to help others!). Kids really embrace being problem-solvers for people, animals, and the planet. As in Winged Wonders, I focus my books on solutionary people, ideas, and issues—ways people are helping, or can help, create that healthy, kind, and just world for all. I hope my books help inspire kids to find whatever issue affecting people, animals, or the planet sparks their own inner fire and then use their own unique talents and ideas to make a positive impact on it.

One last thing: We’re doing a special Winged Wonders Pre-order Offer with San Diego indie bookstore, Run for Cover—a signed hardback copy with a solutionary sticker and monarch bookmark—which can be sent anywhere in the U.S.

You can connect with Meeg Pincus on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Meet Yas Imamura

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yas-imamura-head-shot

Yas Imamura is an illustrator, graphic designer, and owner of the stationary company Quill & Fox. She grew up in Manila, Philippines, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Discover more about her work on her website.

What about this story particularly resonated with you?

What I love most about the story is the community aspect to the monarch search—how every person from all walks of life came together in shared curiosity and helped get to the bottom of the monarch mystery.

Can you describe the process for creating and choosing this beautiful cover?

I started with a few sketches, focusing in different imagery. Some early concepts honed in on the monarch butterfly, some with playing on the mystery of their flight. But eventually I ended up emphasizing the people in the story as well, as they play such a huge part in tracking the monarch migration.

Many of your stationery products from your company Quill and Fox as well as your other illustration work incorporate nature themes. What is it about nature that inspires you?

What inspires me most about nature is how incredibly challenging it is for me to really capture. It can be simplistic and incredibly mercurial at the same time, which I think is the beauty of it. As an artist, I feel like I’m always trying to climb that hill.

What kind of research did you do to bring this story to life?

Researching this book was a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to be given a lot of take-off point resources that I built from. I looked up Catalina’s story a lot to gain insight on her character, her clothes, the era. The movie Flight of the Butterflies also inspired me greatly in pushing the narrative visually. There was so much color to the whole story as we trace the journey of these butterflies, and I really wanted to incorporate all that.

What feelings from the story did you most want to express in your illustrations? What do you hope readers will take away from them?

I want to evoke a sense of fascination and curiosity for these butterflies. And that perhaps learning about the incredible journey and impact of the monarch butterflies could lay the groundwork for us, as caretakers of nature, to give respect and reverence for even the smallest members of our ecosystem.

What do you love about being a picture book illustrator?

Seeing readers, young and old, pour over the pages that I’ve illustrated, especially when they’re reading it to someone else, will never, never get old. It’s the ultimate payoff for me.

You can connect with Yas Imamura on

Her website | Instagram | Instagram: Quill and Fox | Twitter

Thanks so much Meeg and Yas! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Wings of Wonder: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery as I am! We might have to wait a little bit longer until the book releases in March to read it, but we don’t have to wait any longer to see the stunning cover! 

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-winged-wonders-cover

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, written by Meeg Pincus| illustrated by Yas Imamura 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of butterfly for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).
  • This giveaway is open from January 8 through January 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 15. Prize book will be sent from Sleeping Bear Press in February.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

To learn more about Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery and other marvelous books from Sleeping Bear Press, visit their website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-winged-wonders-cover

You can preorder Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound |Run for Cover

Picture Book Review

 

September 25 – National Math Storytelling Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-cover

About the Holiday

National Math Storytelling Day was established in 2009 by Maria Droujkova, founder of The Natural Math Community at Naturalmath.com, and her daughter to encourage people to share the joys of math with children through stories and games. Having fun with math is one of the best ways to get kids excited about learning and working with this most important subject. Celebrate today with math stories that involve patterns, spatial relations, quantities, logic, puzzles, and numbers. You can even sing math songs and tell math jokes! You’ll find lots of resources for Math Storytelling Day and every day on the Natural Math website.

How to Code a Rollercoaster

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Pearl and her robot Pascal are ready to enjoy a day at the amusement park. Pearl can’t wait to ride the Python Rollercoaster, and after she buys her tokens she decides to map out the perfect day at the park. With so many games and rides to line up for, Pearl thinks using code—“a set of instructions that computers understand”—will be the best way to go about it. She has ten tokens for the day, and can keep track of how many uses and has left “by using a variable,” which is like a “container…that holds information.” Pearl names her variable MyTokens, and they’re off and running. (Lucky for Pascal, robots ride for free!)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-tokens

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

When they get to the Python Rollercoaster, the line snakes far into the park, so they head for the Ferris wheel. Pearl loves Ferris wheels and thinks once around isn’t enough. Each trip around costs one token, so Pearl codes a LOOP to “subtract 1 token from MyTokens” each time they “start a new ride.” After three times around, they get off and consider checking out the line for the Python Coaster again. But what will they do if it’s still too long? Another variable can solve that problem.

This one Pearl names ShortLine. She gives it a value of true or false and uses “an if-then-else to decide what to do next.” So, “IF ShortLine is True THEN we’ll ride the Python Coaster ELSE we’ll do something fun on the map,” she explains to Pascal. When they get to the rollercoaster, ShortLine is False and the line is still long, so they ride the log flume. Pascal reminds Pearl that they have six tokens left. They check the IF-THEN-ELSE again and again and again and take a trip on the train, play a target game, and twirl in the teacups.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-map

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

After a stop at Reshma’s ice cream stand and a delicious treat, Pearl and Pascal check the Python again. Finally, ShortLine is True. But it takes two tokens to ride and Pascal tells Pearl she has only one token left. Just then Pearl sees a sign offering a way to win a free token. All they need to do is find special stars around the park and figure out a secret password. Pearl knows she can use another variable to solve the puzzle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-long-line

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

Pearl and Pascal retrace their steps and find the stars along the way. But the letters don’t spell anything. Suddenly, Pearl understands that they need to put the “letters into the correct sequence to figure out the secret password…just like how code needs to be in the proper sequence to work correctly.” Once they know the password, they’re psyched for the thrills and chills of the Python Coaster.

Back matter includes Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding, which gives more information on the terms found in the story. A foreword written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, invites readers to learn more about the organization and welcomes children to the world of coding.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-using-tokens

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

To kids’ delight Josh Funk’s Pearl and Pascal are back in another coding adventure—this time at the Gigaworld Amusement Park. They’re excited to ride the Python rollercoaster, but the super long line gives them a chance to code a day of fun in the rest of the park. Young coders and would-be coders will love joining these two best friends on favorite rides as they learn procedures that make programs run smoother and help determine various outcomes. Pascal is as literal as ever, leading to some funny moments of misunderstanding. Funk also includes some nods to his computer programmer day job for eagle-eyed readers. Pearl’s enthusiasm for using code to navigate the park is infectious and will entice kids to explore the world of coding either just for fun or as a future career.

You can almost smell the popcorn and hear the squeals of joy emanating from Sara Palacios’ pages as Pearl and Pascal run through their day at the amusement park. From the Ferris wheel to the log flume to the teacups and the midway, Palacios’ colorful and action-packed illustrations put readers in the center of the fun. Through Pascal’s display function, Palacios clearly labels the variables, values, and loops used during the day as well as the token countdown that leads to the secret code scavenger hunt. Readers will definitely want to return to the first page and read the book again to find all of the lettered stars themselves.

Pearl’s passion for coding and Pascal’s responsiveness is sure to inspire children to explore the wonders of coding and computer science. As part of the Girls Who Code program, the book is especially designed to encourage girls to get involved in computer programming and STEM. How to Code a Rollercoaster is a rousing choice for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0425292037

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find a treasure trove of resources on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Math Storytelling Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-totally-cool-mystery-phrase-puzzle

Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle

 

There’s no mystery to how fun math can be! Use the numerical clues in this printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle to discover a hidden message! Add the numbers under each line then use that number to find the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Write that letter in the space. Continue until the entire phrase is completed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-cover

You can find How to Code a Rollercoaster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-the-rain-cover

About the Holiday

Here we are in the middle of the hot, hot summer. In many places the grass is turning brown and the plants are wishing for a little relief.  Are you wishing for rain to cool things off too? Well, today may be your lucky day, and if you live in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania the odds are with you! The holiday got its start back in 1874, when a local resident remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist at JT Rogers & Co drug store that it always rained on his birthday—July 29. Allison began keeping an annual record. Since that time all eyes have been on Waynesburg to see if the remarkable run—115 years out of 144—continues. The people of Waynesburg celebrate their notoriety with a festival that includes live entertainment, arts and crafts and food booths, kids’ games, and, of course, an umbrella decorating contest. So, watch the skies—and get your umbrella ready!

I Am the Rain

By John Paterson

 

“Sometimes I’m the rain cloud and sometimes I’m the rain.” So starts John Paterson’s lyrical and thoughtful tribute to the water cycle paired with beautiful illustrations that invite readers along to discover all the ways that water changes and affects our lives. From the flowing aftermath of a storm as “a roadside rapid roaring down a drain” to the creator of a rainbow “in mist or morning dew.” Water takes on various colors, shapes, and forms as the weather changes throughout the year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-the-rain-rapid

Copyright John Paterson, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Paterson’s short, yet compelling verses reflect the interconnectedness of the world’s water systems in poetic language that reveals the living, driving force of nature. In spring, water narrates: “Waiting, I’m the ocean bay that searching rivers seek.” He also recognizes the imagination that water inspires when, in summer, water rises “in rumbling thunderheads like castles in the haze.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-the-rain-pool

Copyright John Paterson, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

But water is not just an Earthly phenomenon. Turning the book vertical to peer through a narrow canyon where a glowing object soars across the night sky, readers learn that water is found “in the comet high circling the stars. / I’m also carving canyons deep on Earth and cousin Mars.” And, finally, the most personal link with water is revealed: “All of life depends on me. I’m even part of you.”

Five detailed and illustrated pages of back matter explain the water cycle; the science behind Paterson’s poetry, including explanations of the three forms of water, why water flows downhill, the science of rainbows, the color of water, and more; STEM experiments for teachers to perform with students; and how people can preserve and protect the world’s water. A list of other books on water published by Dawn Publications rounds out this educational content.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-the-rain-waterfall

Copyright John Paterson, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Paterson’s lovely, textured illustrations expose the power and splendor of water rushing in swirling streams, muddy slides, and roaring waterfalls; decorating the sky with colorful arcs and a spider’s web with crystal pearls; and resting in a rock pool and on a snowy bank. In a particularly atmospheric spread, low rolling fog creeps across a pumpkin patch on a frosty autumn morning.

A striking resource for classrooms, homeschoolers, and families, I Am the Rain makes a charming read aloud for story times as well as a captivating supporting text for science lessons. The book would be a welcome addition to any home, school, or library collection.

Ages 3 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2018 | ISBN 978-1584696155

Rain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-match-up-puzzle

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

 

On a rainy day you need just the right raincoat and umbrella to stay dry! These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten separated. Can you find the matching pairs? There may be more than one way to do it. How do you match them up? 

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-the-rain-cover

You can find I Am the Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Dawn PublicationsIndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 4 – World Hypnotism Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-mesmerized-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2006 to honor Dr. Jack Gibson, an Irish hypnotherapist who used hypnosis extensively in his practice. Its purpose is to dispel the myths surrounding hypnosis as “mind control,” which is a popular misconception perpetuated by movies and other types of entertainment. To celebrate, learn more about hypnotism and check out local special events, including free hypnotherapy sessions.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France

Written by Mara Rockliff | Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

 

During the colonists’ war with England, the rag-tag American army needed France’s help. Who better to send than Benjamin Franklin, the charming and experienced statesman? Ben hoped to convince King Louis the Sixteenth and Queen Marie Antoinette to send money and soldiers to America, “but it turned out that they needed Ben’s help too….” At the time, Paris was enthralled by Science. This “new” discipline was introducing new materials, new inventions, and new ideas into society.

One of these notions was Ben Franklin’s own—and when the people of Paris saw him “they went absolutely gaga over the American in the peculiar fur hat. Because everyone had heard about Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment, which showed that lightning was the same as electricity.” Soon, however, even Ben couldn’t hold a candle to Dr. Mesmer—the “elegant and mysterious” man who wielded “an astonishing new force.” “Dr. Mesmer said this force streamed from the stars and flowed into his wand. When he stared into his patients’ eyes and waved the wand, things happened. Women swooned. Men sobbed. Children fell down in fits.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-mesmerized-science

Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, 2015, text copyright Mara Rockliff, 2015. Courtesy Candlewick Press

Dr. Mesmer seemed to do the impossible. He could make the same glass of water taste like strawberries or vinegar just by telling his patient what to taste. He said he could use this force to help people who were sick, and indeed, after a session with Dr. Mesmer “in a room hidden behind heavy drapes covered with signs and symbols” many people emerged saying they had been cured. Those rich enough paid 100 gold louis to learn his secrets, and everyone considered Dr. Mesmer’s force the “most remarkable thing that science had discovered yet!”

Everyone that is, except the city’s doctors, who “griped, and groused, and fussed, and fumed” because their patients only wanted to be treated by Dr. Mesmer. The doctors went to the King to complain. They even suggested that Dr. Mesmer’s force didn’t exist at all. Louis didn’t know what to think, but he did know who to consult—Ben Franklin! Ben wanted to observe this force in action for himself. As he watched, Dr. Mesmer’s helper, Charles, made a group of patients gasp, groan, twitch, and tremble. Some even fainted.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-mesmerized-ben-franklin

Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, 2015, text copyright Mara Rockliff, 2015. Courtesy Candlewick Press

When it came time for Ben Franklin’s turn, “He didn’t gasp and groan or twitch and tremble. And he didn’t faint. In fact…he didn’t feel a thing.” Dr. Mesmer said that Ben must be “special” and that’s why the force didn’t work on him. Ben hypothesized a different reason. He said that instead of the force being “in Dr. Mesmer’s wand…it was in the patient’s mind.” They acted and felt the way they did because they expected to.

To test his theory, Ben had Charles wave his fingers near a woman’s face. She screamed and “said she felt a burning flame.” Next Ben told Charles to perform the same routine, but with the woman blindfolded. This time when Charles waved his fingers near her stomach, “she said she felt the heat—IN HER EAR. When he “moved behind her back, the woman shrieked that she felt burning—IN HER LEG!” Ben brought in another patient, blindfolded him, and told him he was being mesmerized. He said he could feel it—even though “Charles was not even in the room.” When Charles came back and waved his fingers and wand, the patient felt nothing.

“Ben tested patient after patient, but it was always the same. If the patient believed something would happen, something did—even without the force! If the patient did not expect anything to happen, nothing did—even with the force!” He revealed his observations to the king, and soon all of Paris was talking—and laughing. And Dr. Mesmer? He took his wand and ran. Ben Franklin soon returned to America—with the help from France he had sought and to his scientific work.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-mesmerized-blind-test

Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, 2015, text copyright Mara Rockliff, 2015. Courtesy Candlewick Press

The world benefited greatly from the meeting between Ben Franklin and Dr. Mesmer. Ben’s blind test is still used today when new medicines are being developed, and Dr. Mesmer’s force brought to light what we call the placebo effect and also the state of hypnosis, two powerful abilities of the brain that scientists are still studying.

Throughout Mesmerized Ben Franklin studies Dr. Mesmer and his force, using the scientific method. As Franklin observes, hypothesizes, tests, and finds his theory supported, each particular step of the scientific method applied appears highlighted and explained on the page. An extensive Author’s Note about the events of the story also follows the text

Mara Rockliff’s—dare I say it?—mesmerizing true tale of a meeting between two of the most fascinating figures of the late 1770s is the type of nonfiction that can get kids excited about science and history. Intrigue, mystery, charismatic personalities, wit, and a familiar topic are blended together to reveal the uses and steps of the scientific method and to highlight one event in time that still resonates today. Rockliff’s story crackles with fabulous vocbulary—doctors gripe, grouse, fume, are peeved; the king is in a quandary; patients twitch and tremble; plain Ben Franklin is an “apple pie” while elegant Dr. Mesmer a “layered torte.” Rockliff’s story flows at an enthralling pace, keeping readers riveted to discover Dr. Mesmer’s secret.

Iacopo Bruno’s sumptuous illustrations are nothing short of astounding. If the Oscars gave out awards to books, Bruno would certainly win for best costume and set. Every page is gilded with the opulence of the French court as gold buttons, collars, candle sticks, and drawing rooms glint with a polished sheen. Period dress is depicted in the women’s full flowing gowns of red, purple, and green, and in men’s top coats, breeches, lace cuffs, and high buckle shoes. Powdered wigs curl at men’s ears and climb high above women’s heads, festooned with flowers, ribbons, and pearls while Ben’s white, wavy locks fall naturally on his shoulders. In addition to setting the historical scene, Bruno depicts the effects of Dr. Mesmer’s force and the scientific methods Franklin used to debunk it with just the right amount of humor to entice kids and allow them to fully understand and appreciate Dr. Mesmer’s impact on society.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763663513

To learn more about Mara Rockliff and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of book jacket and other illustration work by Iacopo Bruno on his blog!

World Hypnotism Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hypnosis-maze

 

You Are Getting Sleeeepy Maze

 

The roundabout pattern of this printable You’re Getting Sleeeepy Maze may make you feel as if you’re in a trance, but don’t zone out before you solve it! Quick! Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-mesmerized-cover

You can find Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 27 – National Just Because Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-cover

About the Holiday

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? A whole day devoted to doing things “just because.” As the school year starts up again and the less structured days of summer fade, it’s fun to contemplate what you can do just because you feel like it, it makes you happy, or it’s something nice you want to do for someone else. With no expectations, no directions, and no nagging deadlines, today’s holiday lets you be the captain of your actions and fate! So get out there and do that thing! You might surprise yourself and others—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash

Written by Nicholas Day | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

Sylvia Samantha Wright was awesome at finding stuff. In fact, “on Monday, she found some leaky tires. And some tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires. And some old wood that was underneath the tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires.” She brought it all home in her wagon and stored it in the garage. When her father wanted to know “‘Why?,’” she told him that she had a plan.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-garage

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Tuesday, Sylvia found a half-used pack of gum and added it to her stash. Her brother thought it was time for “‘another sister.’” On Wednesday, when Sylvia showed the Mayor the busted pipes, old motors, and empty paint cans she had collected, the Mayor was a bit skeptical about Sylvia’s project. Her next acquisition was a whole wagonload of “polka-dotted party hats from a store that was getting out of the polka-dotted party hat business.” On her way home, Sylvia ran into old Ezekiel Mather, who rarely spoke or smiled. Ezekiel appreciated the hats in Sylvia’s wagon, though, and wanted to know what she was working on.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-gum

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sylvia had to admit that she didn’t quite know. That’s when Ezekiel smiled and said, “‘That’s the best part. The part before you know.’” On Friday, Sylvia and Ezekiel found a dumpster full of half-rotten bananas. Sylvia didn’t know what she’d do with them, but they excited her nonetheless.

On Saturday everything changed. “The water tower sprung a few leaks,” and while the Mayor was setting up buckets to catch the water, she was washed downstream sitting on the playground’s tire swing. Then the main power line crashed, cutting out the security system at the zoo’s “Larger-Sized Animal House.” Out walked an Asian elephant, three hippopotamuses, a group of orangutans, and some capybaras.” On their way through town the elephant pulled up the flag pole—with the Mayor attached.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-mayor

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Sunday, Sylvia went to the Mayor with her wagons loaded with junk and offered her help. “‘I’ve got this,’” she said. And she did! She fixed the water tower, redesigned the power system, and built a new and improved playground. And what about the zoo animals? It seemed a dumpsterful of half-rotten bananas was just the thing to entice them back home. There was just one thing left in Sylvia Samantha Wright’s wagon: polka-dotted party hats. What were those for? “‘For the party, of course.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-watering-can

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Nicholas Day’s witty, sequential story is a spirited tribute to those who can see the potential in even discarded things. Sylvia’s confident answers to people’s questions of “why?” will cheer both those children and adult readers who have a secret (or not-so-secret) stash of objects waiting for just the right project. As Sylvia amasses a seemingly disparate array of junk, readers’ suspense will grow as they wonder just how she’s going to use it all. As the out-of-her-depth mayor relinquishes control to Sylvia, kids will cheer as Sylvia Samantha Wright knows all the right solutions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-finding

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tom Disbury’s charming cartoon-style line drawings instantly make Sylvia a heroine for her astute junk plucking and her plucky can-do attitude. Images of her growing piles of junk will intrigue children, and illustrations of the Mayor riding the rapids on a tire, flailing on a floating log, and clinging to the flag pole add classic slap-stick humor to the story. Those with an artistic and/or a scientific bent will be fascinated with depictions of Sylvia’s ingenious inventions and innovations.

Sure to spark an interest in creativity, experimentation, building, and inventing, Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash would be a lively addition to STEM lessons in the classroom as well as a humorous and inspiring read at home.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364008

Discover more about Nicholas Day and his writing on his website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway written by Nicholas Day | illustrated by Tom Disbury

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 27 – September 2. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 3.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Just Because Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-motivation-and-inspiration-day-craft

Recycled Crafts & Inventions

 

Look around your house or classroom. Are there boxes, cups, bottles, and other doodads that could be repurposed or reimagined? You bet! Collect as many of these items as you want and put your imagination to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can create—just because!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-cover

You can find Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 11 – Play in the Sand Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-cover

About the Holiday

Is there any better way to spend a summer day than playing on a sandy beach? That wet, compact surface is perfect for running on, digging in, and of course building sandcastles with. And the soft, dry areas? Their great for setting up chairs or blankets and wiggling toes in. Whether you head out to the ocean, a lake, or even a secluded river bank, don’t forget to pack a pail and shovel for some family fun!

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-ruined-sandcastles

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.

The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-small-problem-1

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.

There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-small-problem-3

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.

But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.

There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-finished-castle

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology. 

Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.

With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-last-day

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.

Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Play in the Sand Day Activity

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

Personalized Painted Pail

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-cover

You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 9 – World Doll Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-cover

About the Holiday

Dolls have been part of childhood from earlies times. Once simple cloth or wooded carved figures, dolls have evolved over the years to cry, talk, and move in almost a lifelike way.  Although dolls have changed, one thing has stayed the same: they are much-loved companions, especially for little ones. Adults are also fascinated by dolls, and collectible dolls of all types have an ardent following. Today’s holiday was established in 1986 by Margaret Seeley to spread the “universal message of happiness and love.” People are encouraged to give a doll to a child of a family member or friend or to donate a doll to a child in need. The day is also celebrated with special events and doll shows.

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-lab

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-virtual-games

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-gift

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

World Doll Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stacking-dolls-coloring-page

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

 

Russian nesting dolls are fun to play with! Open one up and see what’s inside! Then another… and another… and another…. Grab your crayons or pencils and your scissors and enjoy this coloring page!

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

Picture Book Review