Friday, February 19, 2021

STEM in the Garden

It’s never too early to think about planting a garden. My seeds are ordered and now I’m mapping out where I want to plant things – much like Maxine and Leo in this brand-new hot-off-the-press STEAM book.

Maxine and the Greatest Garden Ever
by Ruth Spiro; illus by Holly Hatam 
40 pages; ages 4-8
Dial Books, 2021

 theme: friendship, STEAM, creativity

 Maxine and Milton made a perfect pair.

 They do everything together. And Maxine loves making things for Milton. “If I can dream it, I can build it,” she says. When their friend, Leo suggests they make a garden, Milton grins gill to gill because the new garden will have a pond. For him. (Milton is a goldfish)

What I like about this book: Maxine and Leo see the world differently from each other. When Leo plans his garden, it’s colorful drawings with notes. Maxine’s is a careful blueprint. But when veggie-munching marauders visit their garden at night, the duo work together to build a scarecrow. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t scare anyone. So they add lasers and gadgets and … that doesn’t work either. Just when their garden threatens their friendship, they figure out the perfect solution.


Beyond the Books:

What sort of animals and birds live in your neighborhood? Do any of them eat garden plants? If so, what do they like to eat?

Design a scarecrow – or other solution – that will keep those veggie-nibbling animals and birds out of your garden. Think about things you’ve got around the house or in the basement or garage. Draw a picture to show how it works.

Ruth is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. She’s the author of the Baby Loves Science series. You can find out more about her at her website.

We’ll be joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review pdf provided by the publisher.

Join me next month for a look at chapter books.

Friday, February 12, 2021

I’ve Got Birds on the Brain

This coming weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, so I’m thinking about birds. And I found these fun bird-related stories nesting in the bottom of my book basket.

theme: birds, feathers, imagination

Lali's Feather 
by Farhana Zia; illus. by Stephanie Fizer Coleman 
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishing, 2020 

Lali found a feather in the field.

But whose feather was it? Lali sets out to find feather’s home, asking various birds if the feather is theirs. One after another, Rooster, Peacock, and Blue Jay reject the feather. It is too little, too plain, too pokey – besides, what can a feather like that do?

What I like about this book: I like the creative way Lali puts the feather to use. And I like how, when she loses it, the birds try to help find it. And I especially love the ending – which is fun and surprising and I will not spoil!

Ivy Bird
By Tania McCartney; illus. by Jess Racklyeft
32 pages; ages 3-6
Blue Dot Kids, 2020

When the sun comes up, Ivy wakes to tweets and cheeps.

With a bit of seed, Ivy is up and moving. She pecks in the sunshine, warbles, sips nectar, fluffs feathers. But Ivy is not a bird. She is a girl with a huge imagination.

What I like about this book: Each spread introduces a different bird that Ivy meets during her day. Some are in the world around her, and some are in her imagination – but all are hidden somewhere in the pages of the story. Fortunately, there is Back Matter where we can learn more about these birds! (and you know I love back matter!)

Beyond the Books:

Get involved in bird Citizen Science
– Join the Bird Count this weekend. Simply watch birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once over the four days, February 12-15, 2021, and tell us what you see!

Birds have a lot of strategies for staying warm in the winter. Check them out here. My favorite is to get puffy! How do you stay warm in winter?

With no leaves, it’s easier to find bird nests tucked in shrubs and bushes. If you see one, take a good look but don’t disturb it – the bird might return in the spring. What is it made from? How big is it? How far is it from the ground? From the edge of the bush? Take a photo or draw a picture. 
Here's one I found a few weeks ago. 

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's websiteReview copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Beatrix Potter Saves the Countryside

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit 
by Linda Marshall; illus. by Ilaria Urbinati 
40 pages; ages 4-8
little bee books, 2020

theme: biography, environment, illustrator

On the third floor of a London town house, a young girl sketched pictures of her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer.

That’s not all she drew. The girl, Beatrix Potter also sketched frogs and mice, turtles and salamanders and, later, detailed drawings of mushrooms. Beatrix loved nature and art. She also wanted to “do something” with her life, in a time when most women were expected to focus on their family. Beatrix also loved writing stories and ended up penning some of my favorites: Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny… and about 20 more. She painted gentle scenes of her English countryside – and took steps to preserve it for the future.

What I like about this book: I love how Linda Marshall focuses on the broader environmental accomplishments of Beatrix Potter. And I love the illustrations by Ilaria Urbinati that are so reminiscent of Potter’s, drawing us into a time of teas and bunnies and cottages and sheep grazing in the meadow.

Beyond the Books:

Sketch an animal living in and around you
– it could be a pet, or the stray cat that hangs out by the garden, a bird or rascally squirrel raiding the feeder. After you’ve sketched it a few times, think about dressing it up in a jacket or vest. Beatrix Potter’s rabbit was her inspiration for Peter Rabbit.

Read a Beatrix Potter story and linger on the illustrations. What do you notice about her characters and her artwork?

Are there any land trusts or nature preserves in your area? If so, try to visit one. How does it contribute to your community?

If you have a backyard, ask for permission to let part of it “go wild” for the summer. Write notes and draw pictures about what you see there. 

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.