Become a Naturalist

Ah Summer! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. You can do this and still be faithful to social distancing and keeping one another safe. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone. You can track and input what birds you see on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.   http://www.birds.cornell.edu  or by downloading the eBird app. 

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

TallTreesLittleKids

Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come. footprints

Don’t Throw Away Orphan Toys. Do This Instead.

With summer winding down, we often want to welcome fall with a bit of cleaning and getting rid of some of the “stuff” that accumulated all summer long.  If your children are tired of their old toys and books or you just need to make some room, try donating the items to some of the following:

toys

http://www.stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org  delivers gently used toys to children in need. Go on the website to check for your local community chapter.       

http://www.Babybuggy.org  takes kids and baby gear along with maternity and children’s clothing that is in good condition.  They distribute it to needy families.

For books contact:  www.donationtown.org    to schedule a pick up along with others in your area.  Just enter your zip code and choose from local charities you’d like to sponsor.

Another way to re-purpose books is at: www.booksforafrica.org   You pay for shipping to the Atlanta warehouse, but it is tax-deductible.

book mess

You can also donate unwanted items to your local GOODWILL, SALVATION ARMY, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA   www.pickupplease.org    And, Habitat For Humanity will accept household items and furniture at their ReStore outlets to use in their building projects. Check out their needs at: www.habitat.org

Check to see if local nursery schools, childcare centers and homeless shelters would welcome toys. There are plenty of kids out there looking for toys and books to love.

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)

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

Easter Treats Recall Ancient Myths by Marilyn Ostermiller.

From chocolate bunnies to colored eggs, traditional Easter treats can be traced back to the 13th century.

The Easter Bunny tradition is thought to stem from the German myth of Osterhas, a rabbit said to have laid colored eggs in early spring. In anticipation of his arrival, children made nests for him, according to history.com

easter-1289267-1280

Decorated eggs date back to pagan festivities in the 13th century that also celebrated spring’s arrival. Easter is a Christian holy day marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s traditionally celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.

Recipes for festive Easter sweets abound. Easter egg bread, which involves baking dyed Easter eggs into braided loaves of sweet bread, are attention-getters.  A word of caution, guests can eat the dyed eggs if the loaves are kept refrigerated from the time they are taken out of the oven, until they are served. Otherwise, display your Easter egg bread proudly, but   treat the eggs like you would any nonedible decoration.

thumbnail_IMG_1129Chick and Egg Cupcakes are showstopper on the Easter dinner dessert cart. The recipe is available online on the Food Network app in the App Store. 

Contemporary Easter egg hunts combine the traditions of searching for the eggs left by the Easter bunny with the practice of decorating eggs.

How to produce an Easter egg hunt:

Ask your invited guests to RSVP.

Find a backup location in case of inclement weather, especially if the hunt is for real eggs. Sniffing out an elusive rotten egg weeks later is no fun.

          If you ask invitees to bring their own basket, offer a reward for the most original basket. Designate someone to anonymously judge the baskets before the egg hunt. Reward the winner. Maybe with a five second head start for the egg hunt.

           If you do provide baskets, pails, gift bags or another festive container  remember to keep the size relative to the number of eggs your hunters are likely to find. Basket is a relative term. Gift bags and pails work as well.

          Include about a dozen eggs for each participant.  Artificial grass to line the baskets is a nice touch.

          Hide the eggs strategically based on the ages of the hunters. If the age range is wide, offer two hunts.        egg in tree

DSC_2006-20160406-Easter Egg

          Some hunts rely on hard boiled eggs. Plastic eggs filled with candy, small plastic toys, or money are popular too.

          Prizes are optional.

thumbnail_img_1886Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who enjoys tracing the history of traditional holiday foods.

On Earth Day and Everyday…We Can All Do Our Part to Stop Climate Change.

A 2019 study from the Swiss Institute of Integrative Biology suggested that planting 1 trillion trees would dramatically reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and significantly help stop global climate change. Mar 10, 2020

trees

A trillion trees sounds like an impossible goal. But every time you plant a tree in your yard, on school grounds, or in your neighborhood open spaces, you reduce greenhouse gas because they are natural carbon absorbers (a mature tree can absorb up to 48lbs of carbon a year).

Every time you plant a tree, you are part of the solution for reducing and stopping the effects of global warming. For more information about planting trees visit:

https://onetreeplanted.org/pages/tree-facts

https://onetreeplanted.org/blogs/stories/flatten-curve-carbon-emissions

There are other things you can do to take care of Mother Earth as well:

We can continue to recycle properly and phase out our consumption of single-use plastics (recycling just 1 lb. of plastic #1 saves 22.9 kWh of energy and 47.4 lbs. of CO2 emissions).

Support programs like www.4ocean.com whose products are made from reclaimed ocean plastics. One pound of plastic is removed from the ocean for every item purchased.

We can commit to reducing the 1/3rd of food that is wasted globally by composting, shopping smart, and meal planning.

Switch to organic produce.The good news is that organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. … Organic systems do this by capturing and storing more carbon (CO2) in the soil (carbon sequestration). They also release fewer greenhouse gases. Apr 27, 2020

To learn more about how organically grown fruits and vegetables help the environment visit:

How Organic Agriculture Helps Mitigate Climate Change

For information on how to start a compost pile of your own visit:  https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/a23945/start-composting/

compost-1561137922

Contact local food banks or soup kitchens to see if they will accept your food donations.

We can incorporate more plant-based meals into our diets.

Every small thing we do makes a difference when each of us pitches in. Planet Earth is our home…the only home we have. We owe it to ourselves and to all the plants and animals we depend on to be good stewards of the earth. Please pass this on and share it.

#BIKEMONTH: Get Out and Ride

You may or may not know that MAY is #BikeMonth. What is a more iconic sign of spring heading into summer than taking a bike ride? During a recent post on this blog featuring the wonderful PB by Teresa Robeson TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING, I asked readers the question about their favorite memory from childhood involving a bike.

Mine involves the one and only bicycle I had as a kid – a turquoise Columbia bike with a white and turquoise vinyl seat, and wire basket in the front for carrying whatever treasures I deemed necessary for a ride. I got the bike for my twelfth birthday. Up until that time, after graduating from a tricycle at 5 or 6, I was bikeless. So, it wasn’t until the ripe old age of twelve, that I learned to ride a two-wheeler.  That’s not something you’re likely to forget. Didn’t take long to master it, and once I did, there was no going back. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere.

I only have one faded black and white photo of the bike. But here is what it looked like…at least this is what I remember it looked like from this internet photo. Pretty sweet, huh?

See the source imageSo now that we are getting back out into the world again post-virus, how about sharing some of your favorite childhood bike adventures?

Here is a share of sorts: the main character from my new MG WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY discovers his Dad’s old bike while he is visiting his grandparents house. Do these next few poems bring back any memories of your childhood biking days?

BIKE

I find a bike, a red Schwinn,
covered in cobwebs in Pops’ shed.
One flat tire and the chain needs oil.
A polish with some of Pops’ car wax
brings back the shine.

A Joe DiMaggio baseball card is clothespinned
to a spoke on the back wheel, like my bike
at home, with a picture of
Mickey Mantle in the same place.

Can I ride it, Pops?
You bet, he says.
Your dad rode that bike everyday until
he got a car.
Pops chuckles when he tells me
the bike has a name.
Flash

Todd rode like a Flash all over town.
I stare at Pops. He can’t see me
because he’s remembering,
watching Todd,
Dad,
ride Flash.

RIDE

I take Flash for a ride,
gliding through the air like
a warm knife glides
through butter. The seat
feels like my butt has been there before.

I pedal until my legs
are
on
fire.
Going everywhere
nowhere
anywhere
but here.

What would happen if I rode forever?
Would I stop thinking about Dad?
Would I stop missing our house
and the fort Dad helped me build
in the backyard?

If I rode backwards
Could I go back in time
to when everything was
boring
dumb
ordinary?
Why did I complain
when things were so good?
 
Why do I only miss something
once it’s gone?

GIRL

I streak past a bike on the side of the road,
pink and purple streamers on
the handlebars. Where’s
the girl who rides?

I stop, look around a field
filled with wildflowers.
In the middle, a girl as wild as a bird
spins
dances
jumps
through the tangle of blooms,
a fistful in one hand. She
stops
waves
shouts hello
as she runs up to me.

My name is Jill.
Jack, I say.
She giggles as she sings
that old rhyme that has our names.

When she’s done singing, she
smiles and says, Don’t
expect me to
tumble
crumble
or fumble.
I’m
not that kind of
girl.

What kind of boy or girl were you when you rode your childhood bike?

Happy #BIKEMONTH.

Teresa Robeson Presents: Two Bicycles In Beijing + a Give-away.

Today I am so excited to feature my author friend TERESA ROBESON who will tell us something about her new PB Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman & Company 2020). Here’s Teresa:

bicycles in beijing cover

 

There are times when a happy confluence of somewhat random thoughts and ideas in my brain end up creating something wonderful. Two Bicycles In Beijing was the end result of one of those circumstances.

My father took my family on a trip to China back in 2013. It was something my parents had wanted to do for a while since the last time we went was in 1987 before I was married with kids of my own. They were eager to visit our ancestral homeland again with our expanded family to share our heritage with my kids who are half-Chinese, and my white American husband who had never been.

Sadly, my mom passed away before we could take this trip, but we still had a memorable time. We toured four cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Each of those places had their own unique character and attractions. Perhaps it was because we spent the most time in Beijing, and because it’s the capital of modern China, but my mind kept going back to our time there after our vacation. So that is the first random reoccurring thought.

Great Wall

Another involves one of my favorite photos that I took in Beijing. It features a row of bicycles parked outside of a building, and flanked by colorful flowers and lanterns. I love it so much, I used it online as a header on social media for a while. 

Bicycles

At some point, I had also come across an article about all the bicycles that are in China, in particular Beijing. It really stuck with me as I think about environmental issues a lot with my husband being a climatologist who studies pollution and climate change.

With all these things flitting through my mind, it was only natural that a story involving bikes, and set in Beijing, would suggest itself. I wanted it to be a friendship story because that is a common theme in books, especially kids’ books, and I still, at the age of 55, wrestle with the concept of friendship. I think I had imagined the main characters to be human with bikes being involved, but somewhere along the way, I decided that it would be fun to have bikes take the center stage since they are so important in China.

With China being such a huge country, going from one city to another requires transportation with mechanical power. But within cities and towns, bicycles are the perfect way to travel: they don’t cost much, and you don’t need to rely on someone else’s schedule, like you would with buses or trains. Yet, despite their simple design and inexpensiveness, bikes can help you traverse distances faster and with less effort than on foot. With the addition of a basket or an attached seat, you can also carry cargo that you might not otherwise be able to on foot. It’s no wonder that bicycles are so popular and important in Beijing: what else can give you such speed and independence so inexpensively?  Passenger bike

And when you’re that reliant on your bike, you might start to see it as more than a useful tool…perhaps you might even see it as a friend? *smile*

 

Here is Darlene’s review of this unique story:

A lovely tale of friendship between two bicycles made together in a factory, side-by-side in a store until one day when they are separated. Each is bought by someone different. Will the red bicycle find her yellow friend? The story take us on a ride to the sites and sounds of the bustling city of Beijing past all the yellow that brightens the countryside. The soft and joyful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this story. Told from the point of view of Lunzi…the yellow bicycle who goes out in search of her red friend Huangche…this tale will delight anyone who’s ever loved a bicycle.

Darlene will be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite bicycle experience. If you share this post on social media, she will give you a second chance to win. The winner will be announced on this blog sometime in May.

TeresaRobeson photo

TERESA ROBESON was born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada, and now writes and creates from her mini-homestead in southern Indiana, where she lives with her scientist husband. Visit her online at:

http://www.teresarobeson.com

Baseball Opening Day: Celebrate With Baseball Themed Books.

While this virus keeps us indoors, we can still get excited about the upcoming  summer when hopefully, things will be much better.  Today is the official opening day of the 2020 baseball season. I thought I’d recognize that with a couple of my favorite baseball themed books and with a poem from my new book, WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY  (Creston April 2020).

GOODBYE, MR. SPALDING, by Jennifer Robin Barr is a thoughtful and heart-warming middle grade tale of friendship, family and baseball set in Philadelphia in the early 1930’s.

Twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola have lived next door to each other since they were babies. Their houses overlook Shibe Park which happens to be the home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. They and their families enjoy cheering on their favorite team from the rooftop bleachers of their 20th Street homes. The small admission fees charged to the folks that fill up the bleacher seats goes a long way toward making ends meet during difficult times. And, every so often an A’s player – like Jimmie Foxx – hits a right field home run right over the fence and onto their rooftop.

At the end of the 1934 season, the neighborhood gets news of a wall that is planned to be built to block their view and make the rooftop bleachers obsolete. This “spite wall” will take away a source of income for the families and erase a beloved tradition. Jimmy sets out to try and stop the wall. With Lola’s help, they try one scheme after another and only succeed in causing trouble for themselves and the community. Will Jimmy’s obsession with the wall ruin his chances of being bat boy for the A’s? Will it ruin his friendship with Lola? Will the Polinski brothers – AKA the neighborhood bullies succeed in ruining Jimmy?  Reader’s will eagerly turn pages to find out.

This delightful story is solidly grounded in the 1930’s with enough local and historical details to fix the depression-era time period. Hopeful, heart-felt and a celebration of teamwork and sportsmanship, it is sure to become a classroom favorite. It knocked me out of the park. Rule # 1934: Goodbye, Mr. Spalding is a home run!

THE EVERYTHING KIDS’ BASEBALL BOOK by Greg Jacobs has…everything.

“Everything you want in a kid’s book” (Associated Press) this informative and accessible guide to America’s favorite pastime covers everything from baseball’s history to today’s favorite players—with lots of home run fun in between.

WHO GOT GAME: BASEBALL By Derrick D. Barnes

Illustrated by John John Bajet

Who Got Game?: Baseball: Amazing but True Stories!

Celebrate the unheralded people and stories that helped shape the game of baseball!

Meet unsung pioneers, like John “Bud” Fowler, William Edward White, and brothers Moses Fleetwood Walker and Weld Walker, four African Americans who integrated white teams decades before Jackie Robinson.

Discover unforgettable moments, like the time a 17-year old girl named Jackie Mtchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Marvel at records. Did you know that Japanese superstar Sadaharu Oh has a whopping 113 more career homers than Hank Aaron?

Finally, here’s a poem from my book, WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, where Jack and his grandpa attend a baseball game together in the summer of 1964.

TEAM

A day at the ballpark with Pops
and my two favorite teams feels like
a dream you never want to wake up from.

Four rows behind home plate,
the grass is so green it hurts my eyes.
So much noise, Pops and me
have to yell at each other to be heard.

Smell of hotdogs, warm and
dripping with mustard,
tastes better than any hotdog
I ever ate. Even the seats,
sticky with spilled soda and beer
feel solid under me. Only one thing
would make this one-of-a-kind day better.

A team of three.

Where are you, Dad? Do you remember
our Little League team
that never won a game our first year?
That didn’t stop us from playing hard, so hard
that the second season we were 6-6.

Team work.
Thinking about Jill and her family team
that may not win every game, but they will be together.
Things work out better when
you work together, like we learned
in Little League.

Yankees beat the Red Sox 9-3.

back cover

So, hunker down, make some hotdogs and read about America’s favorite past time.

Just in Time For Spring…THE BOLD BRAVE BUNNY, a New PB by Beth Ferry + A Bunny Bookmark Craft and Give-away.

It’s always a joy when a new picture book comes out by New York Times bestselling author BETH FERRY.

Her Latest THE BOLD, BRAVE BUNNY is a delightful addition to her growing roster of picture books.

Here is my review of this book:

A delightful story of determination, imagination, and realization as Teetu the bunny learns what it means to belong. Clever illustrations of the “wilderness” outside Teetu’s burrow reflect his wonder and imagination as he embarks on his first solo adventure of discovery.  Reinforces the idea that no matter how far we roam, and no matter what the world has in store, it’s comforting to know that family is waiting for us when we return.

I am giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner who leaves a comment naming his or her favorite childhood bunny story. (Mine is THE RUNAWAY BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown, a book I read to my kids over and over again) Your name will be entered in the random drawing and the winner will be announced on this blog.

For the bunny loving, book loving kids in your house, here’s a nifty and EASY origami bunny bookmark they can make by watching the step-by-step directions on the Red Ted Art site.

bunny book markers

https://www.redtedart.com/easy-paper-bunny-bookmark/

You might want to check out some other great “Bunny” stories:

BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB by Annie Silvestro  Bunny's Book Club and BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB GOES TO SCHOOL

KNUFFLE BUNNY by Mo Willems   

MR. REGINALD AND THE BUNNIES by Paula Wallace

Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies

Spring Flavors Feature Earthy Delights by Marilyn Ostermiller

Spring awakens fruits and vegetables from their slumber, providing us with local produce that’s crisp, colorful and bursting with flavor. Locally grown asparagus, sweet peas, scallions and rhubarb are the seasonal treats I most anticipate when visiting farmers markets or pick-your-own farms.   asparagus

 If you’re looking forward to spring produce, check with your state Department of Agriculture for an approximate arrival date. The list New Jersey posts is an example. http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/availability.html

 Fresh radishes, strawberries or spinach is a treat, but it’s also fun to incorporate them in your cooking. I especially like to prepare a quiche for spring brunch or lunch that incorporates asparagus, green onions and mushrooms. Recipes for spring quiche abound. Basically, you prepare a pie crust, or — my personal favorite — buy it frozen. Then find a basic recipe online that incorporates a mild grated cheese, eggs and milk or cream. Chop a cup or more of spring vegetables and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of a mild shredded cheese on the bottom crust of a 9-inch pie shell, add the vegetables, pour the egg mixture over it and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until the mixture sets. Let it rest for five minutes, slice and enjoy warm. A simple salad and crostini or soup fill out your meal.  getPart

 About the time rhubarb is ripe, I start thinking about a pudding my great aunt from Denmark fed me when I was a child. This recipe comes close to the flavor and texture I remember. The Danish name for it is Rabarbergrod.

                rhubarbClean and cut 1 pound of rhubarb into small pieces and cook together with 2 1/2 cups of water 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add 2/3 cup granulated sugar when almost done cooking.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed first with a little cold water. Heat and stir until thickened and clear. Stir a few times while cooling. Makes 4 cups. Add a few drops of red food color for a brighter color. Serve chilled.

 Despite their bright colors, it isn’t always easy to convince children to try fresh vegetables. A book that some parents found helpful is Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids by Michelle Olivier. It’s a collection of recipes that offers bite-sized combinations of fruit and vegetables by season to prepare for school lunches. Published by Sonoma Press, it is available at Amazon.com

 Please consider leaving a comment about your favorite spring fruit or vegetable and how you prepare it.

Marilyn Ostermiller

 Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.