June 12 – It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

During National Oceans Month, we celebrate the wondrous diversity of sea life. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the oceans have to show us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering some of the most unique creatures in the world. The holiday also gives us an opportunity to pledge our help to preserving the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the world’s oceans from climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. To join in on this month’s holiday, visit a beach or aquarium, learn more about the animals and resources of the sea, and consider donating to or volunteering with an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans.

Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

A day at the beach includes a bit of animal tracking as a brother and sister and their puppy romp and play as ocean creatures go about their day. Near the ocean’s edge, they find “wading feet, / sandpiper hops, / water curls and sprays. / Crawling feet, / click-clack crab scuttles on its way.”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seagulls and pelicans looking for a snack leave webbed prints on the sandy shore while underwater “wriggling feet, / on five orange legs, sea star makes its way.” A turtle on her way to dig her nest mingles her distinctive track with familiar five-toed footprints that run back and forth from the water to a tall sand castle. But the most surprising feet are “buried feet, / children laugh, / Daddy’s toes poke through.” At last, as the sun sets, tired feet head home.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Back matter includes a short discussion about ecology and prompts children to become “ecology detectives” at home, observing the tracks of creatures who live nearby, or on a hike to the forest, beach, or park. Photographs and descriptions of the sea creatures mentioned in the text teaches children more about these animals and how they move.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Susan Wood’s short, dynamic rhyming verses are a perfect way to entice young scientists to keep their eyes on the ground and observe tracks that can tell them about the creatures that traverse their backyard, playground, beach, park, or woods. Wood’s evocative vocabulary mirrors the action of the ocean as it “curls and sprays” and the animals who hop, scuttle, and wriggle to find food and shelter. Readers will also enjoy following the family who has come to spend the day at the beach with their lively dog in tow.

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Steliyana Doneva takes kids to the seashore in her lovely illustrations in which the aqua sea froths and bubbles, inviting swimmers, and the peach-hued sand preserves footprints, turtle eggs, and a growing sand castle—all overseen by a stalwart lighthouse. Kids get an up-close look at sandpipers, crabs, seagulls, pelicans, sea stars, barnacles, a turtle, and other fish as well as ocean and dune grasses. At the end of the day as the family heads home, Doneva’s beautiful sunset offers a perfect moment of quiet cuddle time during which readers can happily match the footprints on the final spread to the animals they’ve learned about in the story.

A terrific take-along for trips to the beach or a primer for outdoor jaunts, Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? makes for a fun and educational addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-158536409

Discover more about Susan Wood and her books on her website.

National Oceans Month Activity

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

Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach isn’t complete without a pail! It’s perfect for collecting shells, seaweed and sea glass or to use when making a sand castle. 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

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You can find Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 7 – International Beaver Day

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About the Holiday

Two species of today’s honored animal are found across America, Canada, and Eurasia. Known primarily for building dams in rivers and streams, the beaver is a fascinating animal in many ways. Perhaps one of the greatest natural conservationists, beavers use all parts of the trees they fell. The buds, bark, and leaves are consumed as food, and the rest is gnawed into smaller bits to be used as building materials. The dams, themselves, are helpful in preventing droughts and floods, restoring wetlands, and keeping the water clean. The beaver population has seen a decline for several decades, and today’s holiday aims to promote awareness of this beneficial animal in order to protect it.

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

 

The time was post-World War II and families were eager to build homes and enjoy life again. In McCall, Idaho this meant that people moved to the shore of the beautiful lake, where they could fish, sail, waterski, and have fun. So roads were constructed, docks built, and land cleared. “Trouble was, that lakeside land had already been claimed. For decades—centuries, even—beavers had been the only ones doing the building there.”

Now, though, there was a turf war, of sorts. “Where the beavers once gathered wood for dams and food, now there were houses and people. And where the people tried to drive their cars, now water flooded the roads because of the dams.” Trees were also being “toppled left and right” by those busy beavers. Something needed to be done.

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

Elmo Heter had an idea. Elmo had experience with beavers from his job with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He knew that beavers needed open areas with lots of trees, rivers, and creeks—and no people. There was a place just like this many miles away. The Chamberlain Basin would be perfect for the beavers, but there was a problem—how could he move all those beavers “to a place with no roads, no railway, no airport, and no bus station?”

Elmo thought about loading them into boxes carried by horses or mules, but the rough trip would be too hard on both the beavers and the pack animals. Then Elmo remembered that there were piles of parachutes left over from the war going unused. “What if he dropped the beavers from a plane? Skydiving beavers? Well, why not?” Elmo decided.

Elmo went to work to design a crate that could hold the beavers safely. His first idea was to build a box of woven willow branches. Once the boxes hit the ground, the beavers could gnaw their way out. But then Elmo feared that those champion chewers might escape before the box touched down. Next, he came up with the idea for a box that opened automatically when it hit the ground. After he created his box, Elmo found a beaver to test it.

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

He found his daredevil and named him Geronimo. Geronimo, cozy in his box, was loaded onto a plane, and as the plane flew low over the test field the box was dropped. “The chute bloomed like a buttercup, then caught the breeze….The box fell as gently as a mountain snowflake, landing softly on the grass.” Just as it was designed to do, the box opened and Geronimo scrambled out.

Elmo wanted to make sure his invention would work every time, so he tested it again and again.  All this flying and skydiving seemed to agree with Geronimo. He soon began to treat it like a game, shuffling out of the box when the door opened and then crawling “right back in for another go.” Now that Elmo knew the plan would work, he gathered the beavers from McCall, put them in their special traveling crates, and headed for the Chamberlain Basin.

When they found the perfect spot, Elmo and his team prepared the chutes and let the beavers go. One by one the parachutes opened, and the beavers “wafted like falling leaves on the autumn wind to their new woodsy patch of paradise.” And who was the first pioneer? Why Geronimo, of course!

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about this true story. It also discusses what scientists have since learned about the benefits of beavers to the environment and how communities now work with and around them. A list of interesting facts about beavers is also included.

Susan Wood’s story of a little-known event is a thought-provoking glimpse into early conservation efforts. Her conversational tone and lyrical phrasing enhance the tale, lending it suspense and personality that will draw readers in. Wood’s detailed descriptions allow children to understand the problems for the community as well as the concern for the animals that led to this historical event. 

Gorgeous paintings by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen uncover the beauty of Idaho’s backcountry with its sparkling lakes and tree-covered mountains. Glorious sunsets fill the two-page spreads, turning the rolling hills pink and gold as beavers scurry near the shore building their dams. Readers will be intrigued by the clear and close-up views of Elmo Heter as he works on his plans to relocate the beavers. A table strewn with publications and photographs from World War II, set children in the time period, and his schematics of the box he designs as well as his workshop are plainly displayed. Kids can ride along with Geronimo as he climbs into his crate, travels by plane over wide-open vistas, and floats into the Chamberlain Basin at the end of a parachute.

The Skydiving Beavers would be a fresh addition to classroom environmental units to spur discussions on past, present, and future conservation science and will delight young readers interested in the natural sciences.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369942

Learn more about Susan Wood and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen on his website!

International Beaver Day Activity

CPB - Beaver craft picture (2)

Make a Spool Beaver

 

Do you have a gnawing need to have a beaver of your own? Make one with this Spool Beaver craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 6-inch long x ¾ inch wide craft stick
  • Small piece of foam board
  • Brown “chunky” yarn
  • Brown felt, small piece for ears and tail
  • Black felt, small piece for nose
  • Acorn top for hat (optional)
  • Brown craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Black marker
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

CPB - Beaver craft picture with tail

Directions

  1. Print the Ears and Nose template
  2. Paint the spool with the brown paint, let dry
  3. Cut the ears from the brown felt
  4. Cut the nose from the black felt
  5. Cut a piece from the end of the craft stick
  6. Paint the craft stick brown or black, let dry
  7. Cut two small pieces from the foam board, ½-inch long x 3/8 inch wide
  8. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, leaving the ears sticking up over the rim of the spool
  9. Glue one end of the yarn to the spool
  10. Holding the spool horizontally, wind the rest of the yarn around the spool back and forth from front to back. Glue the end to the body of yarn. This will be the bottom of the beaver.
  11. Glue the nose over the hole in the spool
  12. Glue the teeth below the nose
  13. Glue the flat edge of the craft stick to the back of the spool to make the tail

Picture Book Review