Give Your Backyard Critters, and the Earth’s Creatures Some TLC.

We are ALL interconnected and part of the chain that feeds and sustains life on earth. Wondering how you can help protect the most vulnerable critters on our planet? There are FIVE simple things all of us can do to help make a difference for the creatures who share the earth with us. 

1. Bee populations are disappearing, which effects food crops around the world. Help LOCAL HIVES by adding a “bee bath” to your backyard. Fill a shallow dish or birdbath with water and pebbles or marbles to welcome these pollinators into your garden.

bee

2. You can help protect CORAL REEFS by replacing your regular sunscreen for one that does not contain OXYBENZONE. This ingredient damages the delicate reefs.

3. I’ve mentioned this one on numerous posts: FEED MONARCH BUTTERFLIES by planting MILKWEED in your garden. This is the only plant these endangered creatures lay their eggs on and the caterpillars eat. You can get get milkweed seeds in your local National Wildlife Federation office.  http://www.nationalwildlifefederation.org

milkweed

Milkweed from my garden. Bonus: it also attracts bees.

4. Eat seafood that is sustainably caught and protect whales and dolphins from getting trapped in fishing nets. Download the Seafood Watch app to identify businesses that serve and sell sustainably sourced seafood.

5. Help the endangered Sumatran tiger from losing its habitat to coffee growers. Make sure your brew is Rainforest Alliance certified. This means the beans are grown  and harvested in a sustainable, animal-friendly way.

GUEST POST: Sparking Conversations with BUNNY FINDS EASTER (and a Book Walk Activity) by Laura Sassi

Bunny Finds Easter by Laura Sassi, Board Book | Barnes ...

Thank you, Darlene, for having me as your guest today. You asked me to share how I came to tell this story in such a simple way and wonderful (thank you!) way. Here’s the scoop:

As a young child I was confused about what we were celebrating at Easter. I loved getting dressed up and hunting for colorful eggs, but it wasn’t until I was a tween that I made the connection that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’s resurrection.

Later, as a parent with young children, I tried to be intentional about connecting the wonderful traditions of Easter to the real meaning of the holiday. My favorite strategy was making simple, concrete connections. For example, while nibbling jelly beans with my little ones, we’d ponder how they were good, just like God, who in His goodness, sent us Jesus. Or, while oohing over ducklings at the park, we’d marvel at our new life in Christ.

Hoping others might appreciate a book like this, I set about writing BUNNY FINDS EASTER.  And after many, many rounds of revision, it was acquired by Zonderkidz. It’s my fourth book with them.

Here’s the link to the book trailer for this story:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ltaGEWoeyk

Now, in the hopes that BUNNY FINDS EASTER will be used as part of Easter celebrations this year, here are instructions for creating a Book Walk with BUNNY FINDS EASTER at your church or faith-based preschool. (And special thanks to my publisher for creating this beautiful pdf with the instructions.)

BunnyFindsEaster_BookWalk_2022_2

Happy Easter season!

Laura has agreed to do a giveaway of this delightful book to one winner age 18+ with a US street mailing address (Not a P.O. Box). Please leave a comment to be entered in the random drawing. If you share this post on social media, you will be entered twice.

thumbnail_Laura Sassi with SunflowersLaura Sassi

Children’s book author and poet

GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, Spring ’18)

LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Zondervan, Fall ’19)

LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP (Beaming Books,  Spring ’21)

BUNNY FINDS EASTER (Zonderkidz, Spring ’22)

https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

twitter.com/laurasassitales

https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

Amalia Hoffman Presents a New PB: MASHA MUNCHING + A Chance to Win a Copy

Today it is my delight and pleasure to host Author/Illustrator AMALIA HOFFMAN during the launch of her new PB MASHA MUNCHING.  This story, about a goat with an unusual appetite is a delight to read and a visual treat as well thanks to Amalia’s colorful and lively illustrations.

Amalia has agreed to give away a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. If you’d like to be considered, please leave a comment at the end of the post. If you share this post on social media, let me know and I will give you a second chance to win.

Here’s Amalia to tell us more about how MASHA MUNCHING came about:

thumbnail_with book & puppet sitting

  1. What inspired the story?

One of the most vivid memories that I have from raising two boys is when we were asked to leave a restaurant after my son threw the food on the floor while sitting in the high chair. I thought that many parents would relate to that.

Growing up in Israel, we spent our summers in a small village where farmers raised cows, chickens and goats. We used to laugh as the goats tried to nibble on our cloths and shoes.  I have another book, The Klezmer Bunch, with a goat character, also named Masha so that means that I have a soft spot for goats.  One day, I just came up with this alliteration; Masha Munching and that kind of sat in my brain for a while till I came up with the idea of a goat that longs for great food.

I am always interested in writing stories that have a message but are not preachy. In Masha Munching, I had the opportunity to say that what is most important is that we share pleasures with good friends and the quality of the meal is less satisfying than the friends we share it with. Also, Masha thinks of her friends all the time during her trip and when she gets back, she uses what she learned to open a restaurant for the farm animals.

The scenes in the restaurant are really delightful. I love the thought you put into creating them.

thumbnail_PastedGraphic-1

2. Kids will be laughing at the silly food choices Masha makes in the restaurant. How did you arrive at this plot element?

In my first drafts, I only had 2 characters: Masha & the penguin waiter. I also had the idea that Masha will eat all the “wrong” things. Then, when I started working with Yeehoo Publishing editor, Brian Saliba, we brainstormed for a while about introducing other animals. I wanted Masha to go for funny foods but also foods that are connected to what she eats in the farm. I started thinking what Masha could find at the Bistro that can remind her of what she’s used to because that would make the story even sillier.  I picked the baguette basket because it’s made from material similar to the straw she chews and chomps with her friends, the pigs. Eating the tasty table could be mistaken by a goat to eating the wood she gobbles and gnaw with the other goats. Drinking bubbly water is a step fancier than slurping sploshy water with the ducks.

thumbnail_PastedGraphic-3

3. The illustrations look textured and three-dimensional. How were you able to achieve this effect?

I wanted to convey the feeling that things are in motion so I used paper cut technique. I cut and color the elements by hand. I cover the board surface with Liquitex modeling paste and add textures by scraping the surface while it’s wet with a comb or other tools. When dry, I paint and sponge the background on the board. Then I glue all the cut-up elements and arrange their movement and expressions by curving the legs or arms or opening the beak wide. When satisfied, I photograph the image. Sometimes, I add more textures, details, and color in Photoshop.

Thanks for sharing your technique and the origin of this story Amalia.

Here’s my review of this book:

“Masha the goat gets bored eating the same old farm food and sets out to expand her palate at a fancy restaurant. She never gets to the entrees, because the fancy table and decorations look yummy enough to eat. Young readers will delight at Masha’s silly food choices in this delightful and funny picture book. The lively, three-dimensional illustrations add another layer of fun as they seem to jump off the page in excitement and enthusiasm. A 5 star winner.”

Here’s a link to a teacher’s guide, coloring pages & fun facts about goats

http://www.yeehoopress.com/wp-content/uploads/Masha-Munching-Lesson-Plan.pdf

Here’s youtube section of Amalia presenting the book with puppet

1, 2, 3, 5, 8…It’s Fibonacci Day! Here are Some Books to Help Celebrate.

Have you heard of the Fibonacci Sequence? It’s a number sequence that is based on adding the number that appears before it to get the next number in the sequence. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…You probably already knew that. Did you know that there are  numerous examples of this sequence in nature? Today is Fibonacci Day and here are some kid-friendly books that honor the boy who discovered this sequence: Leonardo Fibonacci

BLOCKHEAD by Joseph D’Agnese

blockhead fibonacci cover

As a young boy in medieval Italy, Leonardo Fibonacci thought about numbers day and night. He was such a daydreamer that people called him a blockhead.

When Leonardo grew up and traveled the world, he was inspired by the numbers used in different countries. Then he realized that many things in nature, from the number of petals on a flower to the spiral of a nautilus shell, seem to follow a certain pattern. 

The boy who was once teased for being a blockhead had discovered what came to be known as the Fibonacci Sequence!
Blockhead is a 2011 Bank Street College — Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Blockhead has been translated into Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Catalan.  

 WILD FIBONACCI: Nature’s Secret Code Revealed: by Joy N Hulme illustrated by Carol Schwartz

wild Fibonacci cover

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. . Look carefully. Do you see the pattern? Each number above is the sum of the two numbers before it. Though most of us are unfamiliar with it, this numerical series, called the Fibonacci sequence, is part of a code that can be found everywhere in nature. Count the petals on a flower or the peas in a peapod. The numbers are all part of the Fibonacci sequence.

In Wild Fibonacci, readers will discover this mysterious code in a special shape called an equiangular spiral. Why so special? It mysteriously appears in the natural world: a sundial shell curves to fit the spiral. So does a parrot’s beak. . . a hawk’s talon. . . a ram’s horn. . . even our own human teeth! Joy Hulme provides a clear and accessible introduction to the Fibonacci sequence and its presence in the animal world.

GROWING PATTERNS  by Sarah C Campbell (Author) Richard P Campbell (photographer)

patterns cover

An ALSC Notable Children’s Book

A wonderful introduction to one of the most beautiful connections between mathematics and the natural world–the Fibonacci sequence–through a series of stunning nature photographs.

Discover the biggest mathematical mystery in nature—Fibonacci numbers! Named after a famous mathematician, the number pattern is simple and starts with: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. Each number in the sequence comes from adding the two numbers before it. What’s the mystery? The pattern crops up in the most unexpected places. You’ll find it in the disk of a sunflower, the skin of a pineapple, and the spiral of a nautilus shell.

This book brings math alive, celebrates science, and will inspire kids to see nature through new eyes.

You and your kids can also celebrate the day by sorting coins, buttons, cheerios, macaroni, or other small objects into piles using the sequence. How far can you go?

Tour U.S. Museums Virtually With the Kids by Marilyn Ostermiller

(Second in a two-part series on how to accompany the children in your life on virtual visits to a variety of museums.)

With the advent of virtual visits to many museums across America, families can time travel throughout history without leaving home. Access is free so it won’t put a dent the budget. But, it’s important to set the stage and manage expectations for the kids before the visit begins. Preparations could begin by reading museum-related books such as these:

The Met: Lost in the Museum” is a seek-and-find adventure that takes place in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. met photo

The story follows a young girl as she moves through the museum’s galleries of Greek and Roman art, Ancient Egypt and Modern Art searching for specific treasures. Reading age: 7-9 years. It was written by Will Mabbit and illustrated by Aaron Cushley.

Seek & Find — Art Through the Ages” written by Frederic Furon and illustrated by Fabien Laurent. Youngsters will learn of a search for a medieval illuminator at a cathedral under construction and visit Impressionists as they paint by the seaside.

art museum book

Among the museums in the United States with virtual visiting options and a focus on what interests kids:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

http://www.metmuseum.org

MetKids provides an online experience that features a time machine to uncover objects and artwork from the museum’s rooms. Virtual visitors can explore inventions, fashion and battles through videos and an interactive museum map. van gogh

For example, kids discuss famous paintings, including Washington Crossing the Delaware, with one of the museum’s curators.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/exhibits

Virtual visitors glide through the museum led by a guide from one exhibit to another. Subject range from natural history, the ocean, and human origins. An ongoing series of live webcasts for families demonstrate topics such as how the museum’s technicians remove fossils from rock, repair broken bones, and reconstruct missing pieces to create the dinosaur skeletons on display in the museum. elephant for ostermiller post

National Children’s Museum, Washington D.C.

http://www.nationalchildrensmuseum.org

This kid-friendly museum features more than 75 STEAMwork video programs, including a detailed demonstration of how to build a zip line for toys in the house. There are monthly podcasts where children interview STEAM innovators from across the country and virtual field trips that usher them into the museum for free field trips.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, Calif.

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

Live web cams and prerecorded videos of penguins at feeding time, are accompanied by a chat about what they eat, how they eat it and why. Other sea creatures introduced in their natural habitat include jelly fish, leopard sharks, and sea otters.

fish for ostrrmiller blog 2one of the online exhibits at the aquarium.

thumbnail_img_1886

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who seeks out family-friendly activities.

Author Annette Whipple Presents: SCURRY! THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy.

Today it is my pleasure to feature Author Annette Whipple with the third STEM book in her Truth About series: SCURRY! THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS (Reycraft Books).  Annette is here to tell you about her research and some fascinating facts about these amazing creatures. And she will be GIVING AWAY A SIGNED COPY OF THE BOOK TO ONE WINNER CHOSEN AT RANDOM FROM THOSE WHO LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST. Now, here’s Annette:

Thanks so much for featuring Scurry! The Truth About Spiders on your blog! Since Scurry is the third book in the series, I finally had a few things figured out. Researching it was a ton of fun. I knew it would be a question- and-answer book and that I wouldn’t be able to include all the cool information I learned. Scurry cover

After some very basic spider research (no note-taking, just wanting to better understand spiders in general), I began brainstorming. I used the bubble method and explained how I did it for the topic of spiders and specifically for Scurry! The Truth About Spiders in this blog post about nonfiction brainstorming. https://www.annettewhipple.com/2021/07/how-to-brainstorm-nonfiction-writing.html

Spider brainstorming

After brainstorming, I categorized similar topics together and decided (loosely) what questions I wanted to include in this Q&A book. That narrowed my research quite a bit. I took notes in a spiral notebook and printed out and saved bunches and bunches of research, too. (Keep an eye out for a blog post about my research notebooks. It’s on my to-do list.)

Once I began researching, I used books focusing on spiders (even a field guide), as well as websites like https://arachnology.org/ and published papers. I consulted with an expert who had over 60 years of experience studying spiders. He answered my questions and reviewed my manuscript (with small suggestions and clarifications). I also worked with another spider expert…and met hundreds of tarantulas! I even held one! And I might have brought a spider exoskeleton home with me. Edna’s been a huge hit during author visits. (I always warn people before I remove her from her box.)

annette with spider

I knew spiders were cool, but through my research, I found out they are truly fascinating! I’ll share 3 spider-ific facts!

1. I was surprised to learn that 99.9% of spiders are not dangerous to people. Insects—very dangerous. People—very rarely! Honestly, I thought that was an exaggerated statistic. But it’s true!

2. If a spider is in danger, they can self-amputate. So if a bird grabs onto a spider’s leg, the spider can just pop off that leg—and grow a new one! Or at least it will grow a new leg if it has another molt left.

3. We use our tongue to taste, ears to hear, and nose to smell…but spiders use the hairs on their bodies to sense their world! (Most spiders have very poor vision. Jumping spiders are the exception to that.)

I love to include activities in my books, especially activities that get kids focused on STEM. A web-building challenge is included in the back of the book!

Scurry 14-15 cover

Even if you don’t love spiders, I hope you’ll give Scurry! The Truth About Spiders a try! Just request it at your local library or bookstore. Oh, one more fun fact…the hardcover editions of

The Truth About books include a full-size poster! I think that’s pretty cool and am so thankful that Reycraft Books puts so much thought into creating beautiful books for readers.

Other titles in this wonderful and informative series are: Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, and Woof! The Truth About Dogs. Next year the series will continue with a book about frogs and another about cats!

 To be entered in the giveaway of a signed copy of SCURRY! THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS, leave a comment. If you share this post on social media, let me know and I will give you a second chance to win. US residents only, please.

 About MeAnnette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press), The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press), and Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (Reycraft Books). The Truth About series also includes books about dogs, spiders, frogs, and cats. When Annette’s not reading or writing, you might find her baking for her family in Pennsylvania. Get to know her and explore her resources for teachers and writers at http://www.AnnetteWhipple.com.

Ever Hopeful…Monarch Butterfly Update.

After the horror of losing so many Monarch Butterflies in the chrysalis stage last year due to a fungus that attacked it, I was hopeful that this year we’d have a better outcome. We had 40+ milkweed plants in our garden beds. Butterflies came and laid eggs on many of them. I watched with joyful and cautious breath as caterpillars chomped on the leaves.

monarch caterpillar And then one morning I watched as a butterfly emerged from a chrysalis and landed on a flower, pumping it’s wings as it dried off.  butter

 

Hooray! It felt so good to see the process working.

 

Fast forward to two days later when we woke up to see this outside the window, in the same garden bed where the Monarch hatched:

A beautiful spider doing a not-so-beautiful-to-watch thing.

Sigh…nature does what nature does, but it sure is discouraging.

spider butterfly

But, the butterflies are still laying eggs and I just saw another caterpillar this morning.

So…I remain ever hopeful in the quest to help the Monarchs.

PB Review: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS by Annette Whipple.

I always look forward to a new non-fiction picture book by author Annette Whipple. Her books are not only informative, but entertaining and never fail to teach me something. In this second book in her THE TRUTH ABOUT series (Whooo Knew: The Truth About Owls), Annette tells us some amazing things about dogs.

WOOF:THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS (Reycraft Books 2021) by Annette Whipple, is a fascinating and close up look at people’s best friend. Interesting facts are told in a question and answer format that will give kids all  they need to know about this popular pet.

Back matter shows readers how to help dogs, how to greet an unknown dog, how to make a dog TUG TOY and more. This is a perfect book for anyone who loves dogs and wants to know more about them. It will make a great addition to a home or classroom library.

 

To learn more about Annette and her books visit:

Annette Whipple
Scurry! The Truth About Spiders (Reycraft Books, Fall 2021) 
Woof! The Truth About Dogs (Reycraft Books, June 2021)
Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (Reycraft Books, 2020)
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press, 2020) 
The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press, 2020)

Got Frogs? How Far Can They Jump?

Today begins the annual Frog Jumping Festival in Angel Camp, CA. (May 13-16, 2021) https://www.fairsandfestivals.net/events/details/2021-calaveras-county-fair-and-jumping-frog-jubilee

This annual event brings people…and their frogs…from all over the country to compete for the title of Best Frog Jumper. Here’s a video that explains the festival:

It all started with a short story from Mark Twain. Now the Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee brings in thousands of people each year to Angel Camp, CA to see which frog can jump the furthest. Want to know the current record? Keep reading…

http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/fair_2019/article_bc10bf22-62db-11e9-bbcb-83a5a278bb1a.html   For an historical account of how it all began with Mark Twain’s short story titled: The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County. In a country weary from the horrific years of   Civil War, Twain’s story published in the November 18, 1865 issue of the Saturday Press (CA), provided much appreciated relief. It was quickly reprinted in newspapers across the country, turning an unknown author into an overnight sensation.

Sponsored image

 

https://marktwainhouse.org/robotics  A robotic version of the frog jumping contest held at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT

Sponsored image

So, how far did the winning frog jump in 2019? 13 year-old Logan Busch won with his frog jumping 18′ 6″. His twin sister Madison got second place with her frog jumping 18′ 3 1/4″

Here’s the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCmSnSRBkTc

How far can your frog jump? 

Cathy Ballou Mealy Presents: SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE…a new PB of an unlikely friendship + plus a give-away.

Today It is my pleasure to feature author CATHY BALLOU MEALY with her new PB SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE.

How did you decide to have such an unlikely pairing of a squirrel and sloth as friends?

An article about animal ambassadors in the Wall Street Journal entitled Sloths Hot, Armadillos Not: Zoos Seek Affection for Overlooked Species got me interested in learning more about sloths. When I discovered that sloths spend 95% of their lives in the treetop canopy, I knew my character should have an active tree-dweller as a buddy. Since opposites attract, I chose a zippy, chippy squirrel to set the stage for a funny friendship adventure.

What inspired the story and the whimsical approach you took to tell it?

Thank you for appreciating the whimsy! I think there is always a need for lighthearted, humorous picture books, especially as read alouds. I was seeking a story line for sloth and squirrel when I saw a billboard for “Brooklyn Pickle Packers.” I loved the crisp, funny alliteration. Coincidentally, I had just read Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks in which he praised both the ‘k’ sound and the word pickle for innate humor.

What message do you want readers to take away from the tale?

Laughter and a love of silly books! And possibly the idea that whether you are packing pickles, selling popsicles, or riding a bike, everything is more fun with a friend.

What are you working on now?

Sloth and Squirrel will be going on more adventures in a new as-yet-untitled tale. And my agent is submitting another humorous food-centric story about a raccoon struggling to make tasty s’mores in the moonlight.

Anything else we should know?

Kelly Colliers’s brilliant illustrations add so much humor, expression and personality to the characters and story line! I especially adore her interpretation of grouchy Mr. Peacock, the pickle plant manager. From his bushy, black eyebrows to his button-down vest and shiny name tag, he is the perfect unforgiving bird boss!

Readers are welcome to connect with me online! Tell me if you have seen a sloth in real life, or if you have ever joined a friend on an adventure gone awry. Kids Can Press has graciously agreed to send a copy of Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle to one lucky reader in Canada or the USA if you leave a comment on this post! One winner’s name will be drawn at random and contacted.

Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey Illustrated by Kelly Collier Kids Can Press Fiction, ages 3-7  

Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a sloth to appear. Her favorite pickle is a crunchy bread-and-butter chip and her favorite popsicle is red raspberry.

Her new book, SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE, is a rollicking read-aloud that celebrates teamwork and ingenuity between two loveable but unlikely friends who get jobs packing slippery pickles so they can buy a bicycle.

Website: https://cathyballoumealey.wordpress.com/about/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatBallouMealey

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catballoumealey/