The Tree Lady — Arbor Day, April 25

The Tree Lady9781442414020_p0_v4_s260x420The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

H. Joseph Hopkins, Author

Jill McElmurry, Illustrator

Beach Lane Books, Biography, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Kate Olivia Sessions, Horticulturists, Trees, San Diego, Nature

Opening: “Katherine Olivia Sessions grew up in the woods of Northern California. She gathered leaves from oaks and elms. She collected needles from pines and redwoods. And she braided them together with flowers to make necklaces and bracelets.”

Book Synopsis: Trees were Kate Sessions’ best friends.  She spent a lot of time in the woods in the 1860s. Her passion for the natural world led her to study science in college at the University of California.  She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in 1881. Her first teaching job took her to San Diego in 1883. You can imagine her shock when she arrived in this desert town. Most San Diegans didn’t think trees could grow, but Kate did.  She left her teaching job and began to research trees that could grow in a hot and dry desert. This young woman began to collect seeds of trees that would grow in San Diego from all over the world.  She began to garden and plant trees. Soon people began to buy trees from Kate’s nursery and planted them in their yards and around the city. In 1909 the city leaders announced that a great fair was coming to San Diego’s Balboa Park in 1915. The entire town volunteered to plant trees — millions to be exact. Kate became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.

Why I like this book:  This is a perfect book Arbor Day book.  H. Joseph Hopkins has written a story that portrays Kate as gutsy and passionate conservationist who literally transformed a desert town into the beautiful, lush green city it is today. More importantly his story teaches kids that if you have vision, determination, perseverance, you can make a difference in the world. That’s what Kate did. This is a wonderful classroom book and can be used in many different ways.  Jill McElmurry’s beautiful illustrations match the era and will certainly appeal to children.

Resources: There is a more detailed Author’s Note at the end of the book that gives the reader a lot more information about Kate Session and the celebrated work she did during her lifetime.  With Arbor Day and Earth Day close together, it is a great time to plant trees in areas in need of greenery.  This is a great project for kids to do through school, scouting programs and with families. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation for ways to get involved at home and in your community.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/83442-little-bird-lost-a-rhyming-picture-story  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at http://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?program=giveaway&sort=enddate which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.

Pa Dug & Rosie in the Garden Series

Rosie Wellingtonsbookcoverwith writingRosie Wears Her Wellingtons

Dr. Niamh Clune, Author

Marta Pelrine-Bacon, Illustrator

Plum Tree Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 3 and Up

Themes: Everything in the garden serves a purpose, Wellingtons, Rhyme

Opening “Rosie loved the garden/Going out to play/Today, it was raining/What would mummy say?”

Synopsis:  Rosie wants to play in the garden and help Pa Dug.  Mummy says its okay as long as she wears her Wellingtons.   Rosie pulls on her bright red boots and runs outside to splash, kick puddles, stamp in the mud, and have the time of her life, while her feet stay safe and dry.  She helps Pa Dug dig the soil to plant flower and vegetable seeds in the early spring garden.   No matter what the weather brings, Rosie can have all the fun she wants in the garden as long as long as she wears her Wellies.

cover wollee webWollee the Worm

Dr. Niamh Clune, Author

Marta Pelrine-Bacon, Illustrator

Opening:  “Rosie was helping her Pa Dug/To make the garden trim and snug./Watering, weeding, making bed/For new Spring flower seed to spread.”

Synopsis:  While Rosie is using her spade in the garden, she digs up a little worm and names him Wollee.  Pa Dug cautions her to be careful as she works with the worms living in the garden because “the worms bring food to me and you.”   Shaking her head, Rosie takes a stand and tells Pa Dug that it isn’t the worm that bring food to the table, it’s Mummy.  He explains to Rosie how worms dig the garden by building tunnels underground and help aerate an fertilize the soil.  Rosie discovers how important worms can be in bringing food to the table.

Why I like this series:  Dr. Niamh Clune, founder of Plum Tree Books, has created a delightful series for inquisitive children who are fascinated by nature.   The books are beautifully written in rhyme, are simple and show how everything in the garden serves a purpose, including the mud on Rosie’s bright red Wellingtons.  The are pocket-size and easy for a child to carry.  Marte Pelrine-Bacon’s unique black and white silhouette-like illustrations have one splash of color on each page.  They are beautiful and perfect for this series.  There is a third book in the series, Biddle the Bee, that will be out soon.

Dr. Niamh Clune is a gifted author, poet and psychotherapist, who specializes in The Imaginal Mind She worked in Africa for Oxfam and UNICEF as a psychotherapist.  I hope you enjoy her thoughts (below) about how rhyme helps children develop freedom with language, and stimulates an enjoyment of words.  Children love onomatopoeia. 

What is the inspiration behind Everything in the Garden Serves a Purpose?

[N] These little books were inspired by my granddaughter Siolfor-Rose (old English spelling for Silver).  She is inquisitive, funny, spirited, intelligent and mischievous.  Siolfor-Rose was two when I began this project.  She is three now and has grown with the books as they have evolved to keep pace with her!  As I entered nana land, I was amazed at how delighted I was to be led and guided by my beautiful grand-daughter.  I ventured back into the world of faeries, magic and the pure delight of minute-by-minute discovery.   I write about the magic of very ordinary things — wellies, worms, bees, sunshine, rain, emotion!  The books are all written in rhyme because I find that teaching something is always more effective if it is a light and happy experience.

I decided on two series in particular.  The first is the Rosie series – how everything in the garden serves a purpose.  I think it important for children to be aware of nature. My Siolfor-Rose love going into the garden with her Papa Doug.  Doug is Canadian and loves everything to do with nature.  His background is in agriculture, so he knows soil science.  I decided this would be a great combination: rhyme, story-telling about the magic of the ordinary, coupled with beautiful art and basic garden science.

Is there a reason you chose to publish the books in black and white?

[N] I was working with artist and author Marta Pelrine-Bacon and asked her if she would do the drawings in her inimitable black and white style.  I wanted only one element on the page to have a colour.  I felt this would help stimulate a child’s memory.  Children remember a red bow or a yellow watering can or pink or red wellies.  In fact, these details seem very important to a small child — the beginnings of how s/he constructs a psychological sense of personhood:  “I like this, I don’t like that or that.  I choose this, I don’t choose that!”

biddle the bee cover webComing Soon.

The Pa Dug & Rosie in the Garden series can be bought directly from the Plum Tree Books website.  They are not yet available on Amazon.

The Three Sunflowers

Three Sunflowerscropped-tts-cover-for-website-headerThe Three Sunflowers

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Publishing by the Seas, Fiction, November 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes:  Sunflowers, Life Cycles, Nature, Courage,  Faith, Harmony, Peace, Patience, Wisdom

Opening:  “Dawn awoke early one morning washing the summer sky in fresh new shades of pink, orange and lavender.” 

Synopsis:  Life in the garden was alive with activity.   Gloria, a tall and wise sunflower, sprung up earlier in the season near a pepper tree.  She was once a black and white seed in one of the bird feeders.  She was dropped by a bird to the ground where she planted herself and grew.  Two smaller sunflowers, Sunny and Solita, grew beside Gloria.  Their day was peaceful until a hawk swooped down to the feeders and disturbed the tranquility in the garden.  The birds flew off.  Solita and Sunny  were frightened and shouted at the hawk.  But, Gloria reminded them “We are sunflowers, golden and radiant.”  “Our job is to be loving and peaceful wherever we stand.”   Peace returned to the garden, but later that afternoon a thunderstorm darkened the skies and threatened the strength and stability of the sunflowers.   Once again Sunny and Solita held on by their roots afraid they might tumble.  Gloria reached for their stalks and pulled them close.  Their resiliency was tested in the face of a big storm.

Why I like this book:  Janet Lucy has created an inspiring book for children with many gentle life lessons about staying centered when turbulence is swirling around you, being who you are supposed to be, living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful.   These are all concepts children will grasp.  There is so much depth to this story and I had to be careful not to give it away.  With spring around the corner, it is also a story about life cycles, death, and transformation.  Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s watercolor illustrations are exquisite and perfect for the story.

Resources:   Sunflowers are an international symbol of Peace.  Lucy urges children to plant seeds of peace in their gardens.  You only need to visit The Three Sunflowers website to find wonderful resources, activities and a teaching guide to share with children.   I was intrigued with how many virtues are included in this story, all great topics for discussion.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Mama Grizzly Bear

Mama Grizzly Bear9781616333041_p0_v1_s260x420Mama Grizzly Bear

Margot Finke, Author

Gloria Gaulke Swan, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., October 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6-12 yrs.

Themes: Grizzly Bears, Conservation,Nature, Threats, Protection

Opening/Synopsis“The great grizzly mama is awesome and wild/She’ll tear you to bits if you threaten her child/With her shaggy coat flying, she hunts down a meal/Her sharp teeth and claws make it look like a steal.”  Follow Mama Grizzly bear through the year as she hunts for food, prepares for winter hibernation and gives birth to her cubs.   By spring the cubs are ready to play and explore their new world.  But, Mama will spend the spring and summer teaching them lessons in survival, foraging for food and fishing.

Why I like this book:  Margot Finke is known for her beautiful rhyming picture books.  She has written a charming and informative book for children about Grizzly bears.  It is a great classroom book to teach children about the North American Grizzly bears.  Finke’s goal is to inspire a new generation of children to feel compassion towards animals that are threatened or endangered.  She hopes that some day they will want to take an active role in protecting them from their fiercest enemy – man — who cuts down their habitat.  The illustrations by the late GLoria Gaulke Swan, are rich and warm in color, and the detail is inviting.

Resources:  Margot Finke has created a fun section For Cool Kids at the end of the book where children can find resources on conservation for Grizzly Bears, free Grizzly Screensavers, and Grizzly Bear eCards.  The last page of the book is a Word Puzzle.  She also has a fun place on her website called Wild US Critters, where children can learn about grizzlies and other US animals.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Boy Who Harnessed Wind9780803735118_p0_v1_s260x420The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Authors

Elizabeth Zunon, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Biography, 2012

Suitable for: Ages 6-9

Themes:  William Kamkwamba, Science, Windmills, Irrigation, Children Making a Difference

Opening/Synopsis“In an a small village in Malawi, where people had no money for lights, nightfall came quickly and hurried poor farmers to bed.  But for William, the darkness was best for dreaming.”   William Kamkwamba, is a 14-year-old boy who lives in a drought-stricken area of Malawi in Africa.  He’s a curious boy interested in trying to figure out how car engines run and radios transmit music.  He loves to study science and mechanics.  When a drought hits his village and many people starve and die, William wants to help.  He goes to a nearby library donated by Americans where he learns that windmills can produce electricity and pump water.   He envisions a  windmill outside his home pulling electricity from the breeze and bringing light to the dark valley.  He sets to work to build electric wind to bring light to his village and water to soak the ground and grow crops to feed the village.  The villagers think he’s crazy.

Why I like this book:  This is a powerful and true story about how a boy’s dreams, imagination and mechanical talents save his village.   I love this book because it encourages and empowers children to imagine and dream big.  They too can make a difference like William.   It also introduces children to the Malawi culture which is unlike their own.  The book is written by the now grown William Kamkwamba, who is a student a Dartmouth College.  The book has a lyrical feel to it and Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations are simple, bold and stunning.

Resources:  There are back pages of information about William Kamkwamba.  Also Alliant Energy Kids  teaches kids about alternative energies and powering toys with wind power.  Visit Kids and Energy for more activities and resources about alternative power sources.

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Friday, December 14, is the anniversary of the date in 1954 that the UN General Assembly recommended there should be a Universal Children’s Day.  All of those participating in author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, are doing out part to raise awareness of the plight of children around the globe and to promote the welfare of children in the world by posting books which focus on multicultural/multiracial issues, human rights, and/or children who have helped to change the world in some way.

Fish Had a Wish

Fish Had a Wish155976275Fish Had a Wish

Michael Garland, author illustrator

Holiday House, 2012, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages – 4-6 years “I Like to Read”

Themes:  Fishes, Contentment, Self-Acceptance, Wishes

Opening/SynopsisFish had a wish.  “I wish I were a bird!” said Fish.  “I could fly high up in the sky.”   Fish looks longingly around at the other animals — a turtle napping, a skunk making a big stink, a butterfly with pretty wings — and wishes it could be something different.  Then a bug comes along and fish gulps it in one bite.   Perhaps being a fish isn’t so bad.

Why I like this book:  This is a great summer book so simply written that children will want to read it again and again.   I like the word repetition and sounds.   Garland has written and illustrated a breathtaking book that is a feast for the eyes.  He has used a “digi-wood technique,”  which draws from Asian and classical European wildlife art.  Each double-page spread has a wood grain  background and is full of rich texture.  Children will have fun studying each illustration for the detail.  The book will certainly captivate a child’s imagination.  Check out all Michael Garland’s books on his website.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Joyce Sidman, Author

Beth Krommes, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Company, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for: Ages 6 and up

Themes: Meadows, Science, Nature, Poetry

Opening/Synopsis:  “On calm, clear summer nights, the meadow cools down quickly.  Grasses, flowers, leaves, and even insects become cooler than the warm air around them. Just as it does on a cold can of soda pop, water vapor in the air condenses on those cool surfaces, forming dew.  Then, as dawn comes and the sun touches them, the dew drops evaporate back into the air.”  Written in both verse and prose, this is story of a living and breathing meadow that is dependent and connected to life, and is constantly changing.  There are beautiful poems about the awakening meadow, the animal life, birds and insects, the flowering plants and grasses that offer a feeding frenzy for all, and trees that provide shade.   Children are taken on a journey into the meadow from sunrise to sunset.  Each poem brings science to life.  The poems vary from mysterious and captivating, to silly and magical.

What I like about this book:  Both author and illustrator fell in love with meadows as young children and found them enchanting. Joyce Sidman has written such a magical book, alternating between double spreads of verse and prose that add interesting  science details about how life coexists in the meadow.  Children will find that each poem is a riddle to solve about butterflies, snakes, rabbits, fox and deer.  The text that follows provides the answers and interesting facts.  Krommes illustrations are a feast for the eyes.  Each illustration is made by a scratchboard technique that is rich and colorful.  Children will enjoy studying every detail on the page.  With Earth Day April 22, and Poetry Month in April, I found this book a lovely celebration of both.  The author and illustrator have also released a book in 2011, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature.

Activities:  Since this is Earth Day weekend, it would be a nice time for a spring outing with your child.   Visit a meadow in your area.   Many local Park and Recreation Divisions, and Nature Preserves provide guided tours and  programs.   Let you child hunt for treasures that they can take home and make a collage of their own meadow as an earth day contribution.  For Earth Day resources, click on this Earth Day link .

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

The Mangrove Tree – Perfect Picture Book

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families

Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, Authors

Susan L. Roth, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books Inc., Non-fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Grades 1-6

Themes:  Mangrove Forests, Ecological Transformation, Food Production

Opening/SynopsisBy the Red Sea, in the African country of Eritrea, lies a little village called Hargigo.  The children play in the dust between houses made of cloth, tin cans, and flattened iron.  The families used to be hungry too.  But then things began to change…all because of a tree.   A Japanese scientist, Dr. Gordon Sato, came up with an idea to plant mangrove trees by the shores of the salty Red Sea because their roots and leaves help them live in salty water.  He enlisted the support of the women to plant the mangrove seedlings, and in return they earned money.  They planted over 200,000 trees which became a leafy forest four miles long.  The trees provided fat leafy food for the goats, sheep and cows, which in turn fed hungry families.  The mangrove trees helped the fishing industry in Hargigo.  The people use every part of the mangrove tree.  Dry branches are used for fires that cook food for families. There is more meat to eat and nourishing milk to drink.  There is shade from the heat.

Roth and Trumbore have written a captivating picture book, that alternates with verse on the left side of the story for younger children and straightforward text on the right for older kids.  Roth’s  illustrations are a unique mixed-media collage of a variety of natural textures that represent many of the items that would be found in the village.   A part of the proceeds from the book go to The Manzanar Project to support the mangrove tree planting project.

What I like about this book:  This is a remarkable story about how one man made a difference by coming up with a simple solution to feed the poorest people living in the desert.   He ultimately transformed this poor village into a self-sufficient community.  They feel pride and ownership for their hard work.  Dr. Sato continues to dream of planting mangrove forests in many parts of the world, including Peru, Mexico,  Somalia, and in desert areas like the Sahara in Africa and Atacama Desert in South America.  Dr. Sato is a great role model for kids to learn that they too can make a difference.  This is an important book for elementary and middle grade students.

Activity:   This beautiful book teaches kids about ecology and finding solutions to feed a hungry world.  There is a lengthy Afterword in the back of the book with photos of the  work performed by the villagers.  It  is just as interesting as the book.   There is a glossary and interesting web sites.  Teachers can use this wonderful resource to encourage kids to discuss and brainstorm how they may individually or as a group make a difference in their school, community or world.  It may be as simple as contributing to a food bank, visiting veterans, picking up the trash on the school property, or planting trees around their school and community areas.  The possibilities are endless.  Everyone can make a difference.  Other resource links: Ecology Kids -Ecology Global Network.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Mama Miti, and We Planted a Tree

The two books I am reviewing in this post are related to the Green Belt Movement to plant trees in Kenya.  They carry beautiful messages for the  world, and I believe children will find them engaging.  A wonderful way to introduce children to the Green Belt Movement and reforestation.  I also had the opportunity to hear these wonderful authors speak at the 2011 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in August.

Mama Miti, is a picture book written by Donna Jo Napoli, about Dr. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Peace Prize recipient, who changed her country by planting trees.  The book is illustrated by Kadir Nelson, who combines oils with a collage of fabrics that vibrantly honor the spirit of Kenya and its people.  This book is simply stunning with an important message for the children of the world.

Wangari grew up listening to the stories of her elders about how the droughts came and dried up the land.  All life suffered.  But the men of her village held ceremonies under the sacred fig tree and the skies blessed them with rain.  It was because of these stories she developed a love and respect of trees and the earth.  When she grew up she planted trees in her backyard.  Over the years women came from far distances to ask the wise Wangari for advice when they were starving,  had sick cows, had dirty water, needed fire wood to cook, or lumber to build strong homes.   Wangari gave the women special tree seedlings which they planted.    Those trees grew, and the women passed along the seeds to their neighbors in their villages.   Word passed from woman to woman throughout Kenya.   Trees that had  once disappeared flourished over time.   Wangari had started a very large movement by planting one tree at a time.   Now, she is teaching the world.    She is known as Mama Miti — the mother of trees.   Her message is one of peace and living in harmony with nature.  Another outstanding book for the classroom.

Note:  Dr. Maathai, a long time activist for reforestation, passed away on Sept. 25, 2011, at age 71.   Napoli’s book is such a beautiful tribute to Dr. Maathai’s life work. 

We Planted a Tree, is written by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Bob Staake for pres-school to fourth grade.  Written in simple lyrical language, Muldrow’s text  adds to the beauty of the story:  “Fat little buds appeared on the branches…The sunshine went into the buds… And soon they burst open…Everywhere it was pink, and we were dizzy with springtime.”   Award-winning illustrator Staake’s pictures are colorful and inviting.  Again, Muldrow celebrates Kenya’s successful Green Belt Movement with this lovely book.

Two families from different parts of the world plant a tree.  A family in Brooklyn plants a tree in a small backyard while a family in Kenya plants a tree.  As the trees take root and grow, they begin to have an impact on the world.  They anchor the soil,  keep rainwater in the soil so that gardens can be planted, provide shade, help clean the air, provide food for families and animals, and sap for syrup.  The book offers hope to a world faced ecological issues.  An excellent book for the classroom.

 

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved