Tag Archives: nature

Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon

grand canyon coverIt’s summer, time for family vacations. One place that has been on my husband’s bucket list for some time is the Grand Canyon. I would like my daughters to be a touch older so that they can appreciate it a bit more and not balk at the walking involved, but it is definitely something that we plan to do at some point. Before we could possibly attempt that, letting our children explore Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon is an absolute must.

Grand Canyon is one of the most talked about books in the nonfiction picture book genre right now. I got a copy of the book from the library and now I can completely understand why this book has people so excited. Chin takes a fascinating look into the Grand Canyon and the book works as a wonderful research tool for any child in the upper elementary grades. Continue reading →

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Celebrating Earth Day

Earth day is this Saturday and it is such an important time to make sure that you are educating your children about the world that we live in and how to keep that world around for the future generations. This is our time to take care of our environment and to remind our kids that it is our job to heal the world.

Earth Day 2017

One great way to reduce the amount of trash going into landfills is to compost. Compost is a great way to feed our earth and take pressure off of our landfills. Not everyone has the ability to have a compost pile, but for those that do, Compost Stew, by Mary McKenna Siddals, is a great way to encourage kids to get involved. Siddals does a great job of simplifying the process in a fun A-Z manner. In her author’s note at the beginning and “chef’s note” at the end, she also gives kids some great facts and ways to get started.compost stew inside Continue reading →

Blog Tour & Giveaway – On Duck Pond

Welcome to Day #9 of the On Duck Pond Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (4/11/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane and Bob, plus 10 chances to win a set of On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond !

Seven Babies in a Row
by Jane Yolen

Seven babies in a row,
Hard to watch them, all, I know.Hard to keep them clean and neat,
Though they’ve landed on their feet.Hard to teach them wood duck ways
When they’re gone in sixty days.
©2017 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.
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Stop by Marianna Frances tomorrow for the last day of the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 10th – Word Spelunking
April 11th – Mrs. Mommy BookNerd
April 12th Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
April 13th – Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
April 14th – Mundie Kids
April 17th – Life Naturally
April 18th – Chat with Vera
April 19th – The Kids Did It
April 20th –  Books My Kids Read
April 21st – Marianna Frances
From award-winning and NY Times bestselling children’s author of more than 350 books, Jane Yolen, and award-winning illustrator, Bob Marstall, On Duck Pond is the first sequel to the acclaimed On Bird Hill, which launched the children’s picture book series written for the esteemed Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world authority on birds. 
In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog, as they stopped, looked, and noticed things along their path—ultimately discovering the miracle of the birth of a baby bird. On Duck Pond continues the journey of the boy and dog story, this time in a new place—a serene pond, filled with birds, frogs, turtles and other creatures going about their quiet business. Their intrusion stirs the pond into a cacophony of activity, reaching climactic chaos, before slowly settling back to it’s quiet equilibrium. 

This beautiful and enchanting sequel is sure to delight On Bird Hill fans and millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.

About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world.

Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Hatfield, MA. Visit her online at janeyolen.com.

About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at marstallstudio.com.
About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. birds.cornell.edu
REVIEW
(I received a copy for review purposes)
On Duck Pond is a charming book best utilized as a read aloud. In this story, a young boy and his dog are taking a walk and the world is still when suddenly the calm is broken by the cacophonous sounds of ducks. The tranquil scene is replaced by chaos as all of the animals in the pond disappear. The mood is heightened by the marvelous illustrations of Bob Marstall showing the animals making their hasty retreats. Even the boy notices that his reflection in the water is disturbed by the appearance of the ducks. But as quickly as they come, they also leave and “wild things returned, as wild things will.” The boy watches the whole thing and gains a better understanding of the natural world.
In addition to the story, there is a wonderful section at the back of the book that gives information on the ducks themselves. There are 10 types of ducks and other birds mentioned in the book and they are all described. The book encourages children to explore natural habitats near them and to learn more about birds and other animals.

Continue reading →

Ultimate Oceanpedia!

Every week I volunteer in one of our local elementary school’s libraries. It is fascinating to see what the kids check out and which books get taken over and over again. One section of the library that is in constant rotation are books about animals. Kids are absolutely fascinated by them and each child has their own particular favorites. My own daughters, who are not huge non-fiction fans, both love reading about animals. J has had a long fascination with dolphins and both girls enjoy animals that live in the water. So it isn’t surprising that National Geographic Kids has combined that pure love with a natural curiosity about oceans in their latest book – The Ultimate Oceanpedia.img_1846

This gorgeous book is broken down into seven sections – Oceans, Ocean Life, Ocean in Motion, Wild Weather, Underwater Exploration, Along the Coast, and When People and Oceans Meet. The information itself has large chunks about main topics and then fills in holes with lots of little details, so while it is an encyclopedia, it could be read like a book – which is what fascinated kids like to do.

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What is great is that this is a book that can grow with your kids. Younger kids will love looking at the pictures and maybe checking out information on their favorite animal. Older kids can get a ton of information about oceans and ocean life without turning to google.  There are amazing pages about the different ocean layers and who lives there as well as impressive explanations about waves and tides. img_1848

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As kids start to get older and have more appreciation not only for nature but for their place in it, there is a ton of information about the impact of humans on the ocean and things we can do to help it.

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I was fortunate enough to grow up on the west coast and able to explore the ocean and shore line on vacations as well as part of my education with field trips to various locations, but my kids are not quite as lucky. For the many children in this country and all over who can’t experience what a tide-pool is like, this book is a great resource.

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There are many wonderful things that I can say about this book, but the best is the knowledge that it will be used time and time again over the years as a valuable source of trusted information.

**Note – I received a copy of this from the publisher but all comments and reviews are completely my own.

Women Who Made a Difference in our Knowledge of Nature

There was a time when we had no technology and people had more time to explore the world around them. That’s when some of our most amazing scientific discoveries occurred. What is amazing is that many of these discoveries were made by women and young girls. I love the notion of encouraging our boys and girls to explore the world around them. I have watched as my younger daughter is fascinated with the natural world around her. Until they started building on the lot across the street from us, she was known to spend large chunks of time making up her own world and seeing what there was to see in her own personal forest. Much of our focus these days seems to be about encouraging children to create the next computer breakthrough, but there is still a world of nature around us for them to explore.

female-scientists

summer-birds-coverMaria Merian was one of the first naturalists to study animals that underwent metamorphoses. One that she was particularly taken with was the butterfly. In Margarita Engle’s beautiful book, Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, children can learn about the work she did to advance our knowledge of the life cycle of the butterfly. At the time that she lived (late 1600s), it was the common belief that insects like butterflies came from mud, as if by magic, and were therefore also seen as evil.summer-birds-maria-merian1 At the tender age of 13 Maria secretly studied caterpillars and butterflies. She watched as caterpillars were born from eggs laid by butterflies, that each caterpillar ate specific types of leaves, and that after creating and resting in a chrysalis they would emerge as butterflies. She documented everything that she saw and wanted to publish her findings so that people would stop calling them evil. The book is quite simple in its story, but astonishing in all that this young girl accomplished at a time when it was possible to think that butterflies were something to fear.

rachel-carson-coverAnother woman who made a huge difference in how we consider our environment was Rachel Carson. In Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World, by Laurie Lawlor, we are introduced to young Rachel and her passion for studying wildlife. Rachel Carson once wrote,”Once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of earth, you will want to learn about it.” From a very early age, she loved being exploring the outdoors and while at college preferred the local natural history museum to parties and dances. While at college she also came home to rural Pennsylvania and saw pollution impacting her once pristine landscape and wound up studying biology to learn all that she could about plants and animals. carson-inside-jpgShe had great struggles being a female scientist during the Depression, but she always found a way to persevere. Her biggest contribution to our society was in the publication of “Silent Spring,” a book that made specialists and the layperson more aware of the dangers of chemicals on our natural surroundings, and how the pervasive use of chemicals could pollute our environment. This book does an awesome job of showing how she got to the point of writing that book and encouraging kids to be aware of the world around them and protect it.

tree-lady-coverKate Sessions was also a woman who loved natural science in a time when that was highly unusual. Her story gets told in The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins. The Tree Lady tells the story of how Kate Sessions always loved getting her hands dirty, studying science, and from a very young age was completely enamored with trees. Kate was the first woman to ever graduate from the University of California (my alma mater) with a science degree in 1881. She had grown up in Northern California surrounded by trees and lush nature, but after college moved to San Diego, which was void of trees. She left her job as a teacher and became a tree hunter trying to find trees that could grow and thrive in San Diego’s dry climate. She not only discovered trees and brought them to San Diego, but she helped encourage those living in the area to plant the trees themselves. Her biggest achievement was the work that she did in the City Park. tree-lady-inside

All along, Kate Sessions believed that San Diego had the potential to become a beautiful desert oasis. She believed in herself and in her dreams and through hard work and determination, her dreams became reality. The illustrations in this book are the perfect companion to the moving story.

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I love finding new non-fiction picture books to encourage my girls to learn and grow. I find a number of them as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. I haven’t done a great job of staying on top of this challenge, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to be a part of it. Check out the posts on her site.

 

 

Awesome Ocean Themed Books

It’s Shark Week and non-fiction picture book Wednesday. My girls have never been overly excited by sharks. Dolphins? Absolutely. Sharks? Not so much. Actually, J has been completely fascinated with marine biology for years, but more as a general study. So I wanted to put together a list of ocean themed books that actually made more sense for us. There is a little bit of something for everyone here.*

ocean collage

Picture Books and Flap books for the Younger Readers

0006657_secrets_of_the_seashore_300Shine-a-light Secrets of the Seashore – The Shine-A-Light books are amazing. Each page asks the child a question and you hold a the page up to a light (or shine a flashlight) and discover the secrets hidden withing. In this book, spot the tiny shrimps hiding in the sand, see a shy crab underneath a rock and watch a jewel-like anemone open its tentacles in this beautiful book of nature’s hidden habitats. Great for ages 4-8.shine a light inside

how deep is the seaHow Deep is the Sea? – Have you ever wondered how deep the sea is? Pipkin the Penguin wants to know just that. With the help of a friendly seal, a big blue whale and a salty sea dog in a yellow submarine, Pipkin learns that the sea is very deep indeed! A VERY long poster at the back of the book shows just how deep the sea is – and how far Pipkin would have to travel to get so deep.how deep spread

0000619_under_the_sea_picture_book_300Under the Sea – Have you ever wondered what’s under the sea? Dive beneath the waves and discover bustling fish, a singing whale and twinkling creatures of the deep.

big book of sea creaturesBig Book of Sea Creatures – Open the huge fold-out pages to discover all kinds of magnificent sea creatures, from the leatherback sea turtle to the great white shark and the biggest animal on Earth – the mighty blue whale. Each page is full of stunning illustrations to pore over, showing the biggest, smallest, longest, fastest, oldest and most ferocious ocean creatures.coral reef spread

lift the flap sharksLift-the-flap Sharks – Sharks aren’t just scary fish with pointy teeth. Lift the flaps in this richly illustrated book to meet gentle giants, fierce hunters, beady-eyed baby sharks and the weird, weedy woebegone.

lift the flap under the seaLift-the-flap Under the Sea – The sea is full of surprises, so come on in and take a look. You’ll find amazing wildlife, from a fish that change its shape, to deep-sea shockers that light up in the dark. You’ll discover even more behind the seaweed and the rocks — lift the flaps to see.

Fact Based Books for the elementary aged reader

what's under the seaWhat’s Under the Sea – Shipwrecks, fish, whales and sharks, tunnels, cables and coral reefs – these are just some of the topics in this bright, colorful book. With maps and pictures, it shows the seas of the world and their wildlife, and describes how the sea provides us with fish and minerals. Diagrams and cutaway pictures show an oil rig, diving gear, submarines and other equipment for exploring the seabed, and explain how they work.

0000473_under_the_sea_ir_300Under the Sea (IR) – What lives at the bottom of the sea? What does a shark really eat? How does a sea horse swim? In this book you’ll find the answers and lots more about the fascinating things which live under the sea.  A perfect intro for ages 5-7.

0000781_see_under_the_sea_ir_300See Under the Sea – Explore the world beneath the sea, from coral reefs teeming with jewel-bright fish to the icy waters of the Arctic. Lift the flaps to peer inside shipwrecks and gaze into the dizzying depth of dark trenches at the very bottom of the ocean. Aimed at readers 7+.

0000538_sharks_ir_300Sharks (IR) – What do sharks like to eat? Which shark glows in the dark? And why do some sharks never stop swimming? You’ll find out the answers and lots more fun facts in this shark-infested book.  This book is aimed at readers 6+ but is a wonderful addition to a preschool class when read by the teacher.

0000793_sharks_il_discovery_300Sharks (Discovery) – The Discovery series takes the knowledge up a level with 64 pages of information vs 32. This vividly illustrated guide gets up-close and personal. Learn what drives sharks into “”feeding frenzies” and more.  Great for readers 8+.

Activity Books

first coloring under the seaFirst Coloring Book: Under the Sea – A fun coloring book for young children full of exciting sea creatures to color. Lively underwater scenes include sharks, dolphins, turtles and lots of different fish. With colored backgrounds allowing children to concentrate on coloring the shapes. Contains two pages of stickers to add to the pictures.

1001 spot sea1001 Things to Spot In the Sea – Brimming with things to find, count and talk about, this charming picture book provides hours of puzzle-solving fun. Readers will delight in discovering the secrets of the sea.   Great for kids 5+

shark excavationShark Excavation Kit – Inside is a complete skeleton of a Megalodon that is encased in a clay rock, and you must carefully excavate or “dig” the bones out with the tools provided.

Fiction for older Shark Enthusiasts

0003459_shark_bait_extreme_adventures_300Shark Bait -Action has a new hero – Sam Fox! With a talent for attracting danger, Sam Fox is an expert at getting himself into (and out of) the most extreme situations. When Sam and his friend are swept off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef, Sam must fight to keep them alive. As night falls over the ocean, the underwater predators start moving in?

This series has a strong appeal with a courageous young hero and exotic settings and has non-stop action and short chapters which will engage reluctant readers.

nfpb16This is my weekly contribution to Kid Lit Frenzy’s awesome non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out the link-up for tons of other super titles.

*These books can be purchased in my Usborne Books & More page. If you are interested in learning about Usborne and Kane Miller books or if you would like to host an online Facebook event to discuss how to raise readers and promote literacy in your home while earning FREE books for your own home library, please send me a note at booksmykidsread at gmail dot com.hostess wanted apply within

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On Bird Hill Blog Tour

Welcome to Day #7 of the On Bird Hill Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (5/10/16), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane, Bob, and Brian Sockin (CEO and Publisher of Cornell Lab Publishing Group), plus 10 chances to win a copy of On Bird Hill and a window bird feeder!

Five Writing Tips
by Jane Yolen

My five basic writing tips for picture books (On Bird Hill is a classic 32 page picture book) are these:

1. Sit down and write. Not being snarky here. I am approached everywhere I go by well-meaning folk who say, “I have a great idea for a book, if I could just find the time. Note: There is no such thing as “finding” time. No one has dropped it by the wayside or stashed it in a treasure chest. A writer makes time, takes time, grabs time, steals time.

2. Read a lot, and I mean a LOT of picture books, and not just the classics from your childhood. A good start is to get ahold of the Caldecott winners and honor books of the last ten years. Sit down and read them, first silently, then aloud.

3. Learn what makes a good picture book. First of all, they are almost always (if they are not board books or novelty books) 32 book pages. There has to be something illustratable on each page. Do NOT write instructions for the illustrator. Do NOT find a neighbor to do the illustrate it unless that person is already a well-known children’s book artist. That’s the editor’s job. Get a copy of Uri Shulevitz’s brilliant book Writing With Pictures. It’s really for illustrators but a writer of picture books can learn an enormous amount from it as well.

4. Join SCBWI – the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the biggest and best  organization that will help you learn everything you need to know about writing for young(ish) children, will likely have a critique group in your area, lists of agents and editors and what they are looking for, etc.

5. Sit down and write. “BIC” as I like to say: Butt in chair.  Do I repeat myself? Of course, it’s #1 on my list and #5. Writing is not an oh-I-have-a-great-idea kind of business. Its a learning, slogging, every-day job that is the greatest in the world. You can change a child’s life and do it in your jammies!!!

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Stop by Word Spelunking tomorrow for Day #8 of the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:
June 20th – The O.W.L.
June 21st — The Book Monsters
June 23rd  — MamaPapaBarn
June 24th — Rockin’ Book Reviews

June 27th — Kristi’s Book Nook

June 28th — Books My Kids Read
June 29th — Word Spelunking
June 30th — Cracking the Cover

Loosely based on the old cumulative nursery rhyme/song “The Green Grass Grew All Around,” a nursery rhyme first published as a song in 1912. But in this version, it’s a boy and his dog who find the bird in a nest on a hill in a strange valley.Following in the footsteps of Jane’s highly acclaimed Owl Moon, winner of the prestigious Caldecott Award, On Bird Hill is a beautiful picture book with an enchanting story, fancifully illustrated by renowned artist Bob Marstall. On Bird Hill is sure to attract interest from millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.

About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world.

Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Easthampton, MA. Visit her online at janeyolen.com.

About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at bobmarstall.com.
About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. birds.cornell.edu
GIVEAWAY

  • One (1) winner will receive a copy of On Bird Hill and a Window Bird Feeder ($28.99) to get up close and personal with the birds in your backyard! Great for blends, peanuts and safflower, this durable feeder attaches right to your window pane with suction cups, allowing you to see every bird detail. It’s easy to fill and easy to clean.
  • This giveaway is open to US residents only.
  • Comment below to get a free entry.
  • Comment again if you like Cornell Lab Publishing on Facebook.
  • Comment again if you follow Jane Yollen on Twitter.
  • Finally, comment again if you tweeted about this giveaway. Make sure to mention @booksmykidsread in your tweet!

Taking a Learning Adventure with National Geographic Kids

National Geographic knows that one of the best ways to capture anyone’s attention is through stunning photography. We recently received two of their newest titles and they are visually outstanding and super fun.

awesome 8 coverAwesome 8 is an outrageous collection of the “absolutely coolest, weirdest, and craziest things we could think of,” explains the title page. There is truly something for everyone in this book.

J’s favorites include items such as the toilet with a motorbike engine, the list of “Royally Amazing Castles,” which of course includes Neuschwanstein castle (Sleeping Beauty and mentioned in Land of Stories) and Alawick castle of Harry Potter fame, Ultimate Tree Houses, and crazy roller coasters.

The thing is, even though this information might seem useless, it can totally come up in conversation. Just yesterday afternoon we were talking about inventions that we would like to see happen. Of course I voted for a robot that cleans the house for me and one who folds laundry. J responded that “you know, there is a robot that plays the violin. And a robot that can find books.” Where did she learn these things? Amazing 8.

The Eight Weird Wonders reminds me of my days working at a travel magazine and the stunningly wonderful natural world that we often don’t see, especially if we don’t have access to helicopters and such. This is a great book to have around whenever you need a quick break from reality or as something to keep a child occupied. It also is a great book for car rides as it sparks all kinds of fun conversations – what do you mean there is a pink lake?!?

100 things to know 1The book 100 Things to Know Before you Grow Up also has a little bit of everything, but unlike Awesome 8, these are actually things that you can really use in your day to day life. It is “chock-full of the information that you need to be the best version of you. You know, a normal kid but with superhuman, super awesome skills for dealing with tough times.” There isn’t a method to the madness in terms of how the book is organized, but on some levels that works even better for kids because it keeps them turning the pages, waiting to see what comes next. Some of the topics include

  • How to make snow ice cream
  • How to say I’m sorry
  • How to help someone who is choking
  • How to do the laundry
  • How to say No
  • How to journal like a pro
  • How to make a tie-dyed shirt

Interspersed throughout all of these two page “how-to” guides are interviews with experts and explorers to help you discover your passion, to stand up for what you believe in, and figure out how to let your imagination run wild.

There is simply an abundance of amazing and useful information condensed into this little book. There is even a check-list and index at the back of the book for future reference! A great addition for kids to pull of the shelf from time to time.

nfpb16We really enjoyed these books and I am glad to have them as part of my collection. I’m including them as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by KidLitFrenzy. There is always an abundance of amazing picture books discussed on the blogs that link up. Go check it out!

 

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a tribute to the trees

The Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat is coming up next week. Tu B’Shevat is the New Year or birthday of the trees and historically has to do with when you could eat the fruit off of a tree. In Israel, schoolchildren take to the hills and valleys and plant trees “as a response to and celebration of the critical role trees play in our environment and for life itself.”  There are not a huge amount of great books specifically aimed at the holiday itself, but there are some really wonderful books about the trees – what they give us and how we can give back to them and the environment as a whole.

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Happy Birthday, Tree by Madelyn Rosenberg
This is a special book about appreciating nature and how it is our job to take care of the nature around us. The story is of a young girl who has a favorite climbing tree in her front yard. When Tu B’Shevat comes around, she wants to help her tree celebrate its birthday. She and her friend find lots of ways to honor the tree and realize that the best thing to do is to plant another tree so that it has a companion. The fact that they give the tree a companion shows how we need to remember that nature is alive and we need to love it just as much as the people around us. There are also notes at the end of the book on various ways for us to help the earth.

It’s Tu B’Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower
This is a great board book for younger kids to understand the holiday. One of the big themes of the holiday is to plant trees.  This book focuses on that aspect at the beginning and then highlighting all of the wonderful things that we get from trees – fruit, shade, clean air, a place to swing…This is a great book for young Jewish learners.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udrytreeisnice8
This beautiful picture book is simple and speaks in a language that children truly understand. “Trees are nice. They fill up the sky. They make everything beautiful.” We play in their leaves, we swing from their branches. We pick apples (and other fruit). They are homes to animals. They give us shade. They help keep our homes cooler in the summer and protect us from weather in the winter. A tree is nice – so go plant one. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book when we first received it years ago, but it has completely grown on me and now looking at it in comparison to other books out there, I appreciate the beauty in this book and understand the reason it won the Caldecott in 1957.

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
A very sweet book with outstanding illustrations about some of the jobs that trees do – from feeding and sheltering animals, providing oxygen and being a place for children to play. Short and poetic, but great for explaining the role of trees to a young child.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter (#nfpb2014)from Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter p 2
This is the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize. After Kenya gained their independence in the ’60s, commercial farming took root but devastated local farming. Life became incredibly difficult when women had to walk miles to get the wood necessary to cook their food and heat their homes. Wangari planted seedlings and then had village women plant the trees and take care of them. These were “seeds of hope.” Women all over Africa began to plant trees. This book is accessible for young readers and especially powerful after having the more detailed, but less accessible Planting the Trees of Kenya (a great book, but better for older kids).

The Inside Tree by Linda Smith
This is a very silly story about a man who winds up with a tree inside his house. I wouldn’t say that it is exactly “about” trees, but it is a funny look at how you can’t keep them contained.

***********************Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge*************************

I also wanted to note that Wangari’s Trees of Peace is the first of our books that we are counting towards our 50 non-fiction picture books. We are participating in the awesome challenge created by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy. Alyson has listed some awesome books coming out in January and February that I will definitely have to add to my “to read” list.

Generally, I will devote a full post to my non-fiction Wednesday selections, but I wanted to get a few in for the holiday. All of our non-fiction picture books that we read this year will be kept in a bookshelf on Goodreads. Make sure you stop over at Kid Lit Frenzy to see all the other nonfiction picture books showcased by other bloggers.

A Day with No Crayons

I am not an artist. I watch my younger daughter wield a crayon and my older daughter find fascination in mixing colors together to find new ones with awe and admiration. But just because I don’t like to draw myself doesn’t mean that I don’t have a strong appreciation for art itself. I have a love for certain painters and can’t wait until my girls are old enough to enjoy roaming art museums with me. There are lots of books out there about crayons not getting along and children painting themselves and the walls, but A Day with no Crayons shows how art exists everywhere and that we don’t even need a box of crayons to make some special art.

no crayons coverIn this lovely book by Elizabeth Rusch, little Liza loved her crayons but got in some serious trouble one day when she ran out of paper and decided to draw on a much larger canvas – her wall. Understandably she got in trouble and her mom took her crayons away. A day with no crayons for Liza would be like a day with no books for J.

Once her crayons are  taken away, her world turns grey. But as she mopes around, she unknowingly starts to make art and colors appear here and there. She smears toothpaste in the sink in an impressive recreation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Then she trudges through the puddles and stomps around the basketball courts creating her own Pollack creation. She finally sits down and realizes that there are green grass stains on her pants and thinks that it looks like a mixture of two types of green crayons. This opens her eyes to the colors all around her and her spirits begin to lift, “Liza suddenly saw color everywhere!”

Her crayons may be gone, but Liza starts to create with nature. She uses a muddy stick to draw a tree and real leaves to fill it in. An old red brick can be scraped across the sidewalk like chalk. Pebbles, flower petals and leaves suddenly come alive. Her mother lets her have her crayons back, but Liza has now discovered the world of mixed media and is already letting her art shine.

I really enjoyed this book and I think that J liked the notion that you could use other things to make art. I also liked how much nature played a role in the story. We struggle sometimes getting J to explore outside, but there is a whole world out there to explore and experiment with.