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1. Eight Ways to a Happy Earth Day – Part 1

Earth Day helps us focus on being kind to our planet.  We often take for granted all the wonders this beautiful place we call home provides.  To honor the earth, on Earth Day, and every day, here are some things you can do:

1.  Recycle EVERYTHING you can.  Find a list at http://www.recyclingcenters.org

2.  Repurpose and find other uses for objects you  used to throw away. One example is to use empty tin cans and jars for pencils or flower vases.  Visit  http://www.creatingreallyawesomefreethings.com   to find some great “tin can crafts”.

3.  Instead of the cardboard coffee cup sleeve, check ebay.com for unique and clever cotton and knitted reusable coffee cup sleeves.

4.  Learn how to make yarn from plastic bags (plarn)  at: http://www.wikihow.com

5.  Donate your old electronics by visiting: http://www.pickupplease.org  for details.

6.  When shipping items, use old newspapers for packing instead of Styrofoam peanuts.

7.  Catch rain in buckets to water the garden.

8.  Use bar soap instead of liquid in plastic bottles.

If you’re wondering where you can go to take part in Earth Day events, visit http://www.earthday.org  to find local events in your area as well as volunteer opportunities.  Being a good steward of the earth is important, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t also be fun.  I’ll post more ways to be a friend to the earth on Monday as well as tell you how to get free seeds for plants that attract butterflies to your garden.  Stay tuned.



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2. #540 – Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart & Constance R. Bergum


Beneath the Sun

by Melissa Stewart & Constance R. Bergum, illustrator

Peachtree Publishers         4/1/2014


Age 4 to 8         32 pages


“When the sun is scorching, you put on sunscreen and run under the sprinkler to stay cool. But how do wild animals survive in the heat? Journey from your neighborhood to a field where an earthworm loops its long body into a ball underground, to a desert where a jackrabbit loses heat through its oversized ears, to a wetland where a siren salamander burrows into the mud, and to a seashore where sea stars hide in the shade of a seaweed mat—and learn of the many ways animals carry on in spite the sun’s sizzling rays.”


“On the hottest days of the year, the sun rises early. Its bright light shines down on us, hour after hour.”


Beneath the Sun explains what some of the earth’s creatures do to beat the heat when temperatures rise to unbearable levels. We humans, we get wet. Children enjoy sprinklers, swimming pools, and fire hydrants as three ways to keep cool in the heat of summer day. We also can use sunscreen to avoid burns and air conditioners to keep cool indoors.

Animals are not so lucky. They need to rely on instinctive measures and Mother Nature to survive the blast of the sun’s rays. Divided into four ecosysems, the book gives examples of animals defeating the sun’s effects in a field, on a seashore, in a wetland, and in the desert. For example, in a field, the woodchuck takes advantage of the cooler morning to munch on grass and then beats the heat of the open field’s sunrays by staying in a cool underground cave during the worst of the day’s hot weather. In the wetlands live the osprey. The male osprey stays cool by soaking his feathers in water, and then upon returning to his nest, his children soak the water from his feathers.


The herring gull, who lives on a seashore, fans its wings to protects its young from the sun and then pants like a dog to keep itself cool. Kids will love reading that, as they will the turkey vulture who must protects itself from the treacherous desert sun and harsh heat. It accomplishes this by spraying urine on its legs. The author is good at presenting—in two or three sentences—these odd heat beaters kids will enjoy learning.

The illustrations are realistic, as one would expect in a nature book such as Beneath the Sun. The images take children to each ecosystem with enough detail to be able to turn a page and know where the featured animal lives. The illustrations also frame the animals inside one complete day. Bergum did this by her watercolor end pages. The front depicts the sun rising and the back depicts the cooler end of the day. Returning to children at the end of their day completes a circle of time even the youngest can understand.

Beginning each book with the things children do when it gets too hot and sunny to play outdoors, framing the entire animal kingdom so kids can relate to the other species. The same holds true in When Rain Falls (2008) and Under the Snow (2009),the two former editions of a series comparing children’s activities to those of other species. Similar to At the Same Moment, Around the World (Perrin, Clotilde, 2014), the different environments simultaneously occur during the span of one day, an easy concept children can grasp from this well-written picture book.


BENEATH THE SUN. Text copyright © 2014 by Melissa Stewart. Illustrations © 2014 by Constance R. Bergum. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

Learn more about Beneath the Sun HERE.

Purchase Beneath the Sun at AmazonB&NPeachtree Publishersyour local bookstore.


Meet the author, Melissa Stewart, at her website:   http://www.melissa-stewart.com/

Meet the illustrator, Constance R. Bergum, at her jacketflap:   http://www.jacketflap.com/constance-rummel-bergum/30188

Find other wonderful books at the Peachtree Publishers website:   http://peachtree-online.com/


Also by Melissa Stewart & Constance R. Bergum

When Rain Falls

When Rain Falls

Under the Snow

Under the Snow







New at Peachtree Publishers

Claude at the Beach

Claude at the Beach


About Habitats: Forests

About Habitats: Forests







beneath the sun


Peachtree Publishers Book Blog Tour

Beneath the Sun

Monday 4/14

Jean Little Library 

Blue Owl

Tuesday 4/15

Geo Librarian

Wednesday 4/16

Kid Lit Reviews

Thursday 4/17

Tolivers to Texas 

Chat with Vera 

Friday 4/18

Sally’s Bookshelf



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Filed under: 5stars, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Series Tagged: blasting heat, children's book reviews, Constance R. Bergum, environments, habitats, Melissa Stewart, nature, Peachtree Publishers, relief from the sun and the heat, the burning sun

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Today’s wonderful post comes from my blogger friend Marriah K. Nissen.  Here’s Marriah:

Every night at bedtime, my daughter and husband crack open a book and wander through a story someone else has dreamed up. My daughter is more of the fairytale fanatic, enjoying journeys that take place in a realm that I read about as a child. Her most recent personal read has been the original story of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson. My husband, on the other hand, tends to be more of a realist. The middle ground they both decide on means that the book they choose has to have adventure. Lately, the type of adventure they’ve both been seeking has centered on the works of one author in particular – Gary Paulsen.

The fact that my husband enjoys Paulsen’s work comes as no surprise. I never read any of Paulsen’s books while I was growing up, and when I saw the tomes lining my shelves after I got married, I wasn’t surprised to see why I hadn’t. Paulsen has a flair for writing more from the young boy perspective, which sadly enough, I feel is lacking in MG and YA literature today. That’s not to say that works aren’t being written for boys, but the most popular ones tend to hinge on fantastical elements and far-fetched storylines, like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, both of which still hit the tops of most MG and YA lists. What’s missing in these books is real-life adventure, something a boy can go out and experience on his own.

You might be asking then why my daughter loves Paulsen’s books so much. Mainly because the stories hinge on that big “S” word we all like to find in our novels – Suspense. In Paulsen’s stories, like Dogsong, The Voyage of the Frog, and Hatchet, the main characters are boys, but these are kids around her age, kids going through real-life conflicts and hardships. They find themselves in uncertain, often times harrowing circumstances, and she’s just hoping that they survive in the end. She loves anything that will take her on a great adventure as seen through the eyes of a child around her age.

In Dogsong, young Russel Suskitt leaves the modern world with nothing more than a dog sled and a chance to find his own “song” inside himself. In The Voyage of the Frog, David Alspeth sets out to fulfill his uncle’s final wish and sets sail in the Frog.     voyage of Frog

And in Hatchet, Brian Robeson finds himself stranded in the wilderness of Canada and must somehow stay alive. In all of these stories, unknown adventures await the main characters, adventures they never knew they’d encounter. What makes these stories so wonderful to read is that the characters come out better for it on the other end:

 Russel finds his “song” and helps a young girl along the way.       Paulsen_-_Dogsong_Coverart

 David, even after being lost at sea, knows he’s fulfilled his uncle’s last request.

 Brian not only survives the wilderness, but teaches others how to as well in The River, the sequel to Hatchet.

In all, Paulsen writes stories about survival, something for which children today still hold a keen interest. Not only do they get to read a story that puts them on the edge of their seat, but they also absorb a learning experience about how to hack your way out of the wilds of Canada or survive a storm at sea in a tiny sailboat. If we are to believe as writers the old saying, “Write what you know,” much like Paulsen did, then we should also take it one step further. Add a little excitement and suspense into the mix. After running away from home at the age of 14, Gary Paulsen used his experiences in his writing when he embarked on a life filled with odd jobs, such as traveling with a carnival, being a sailor, and entering the Iditarod.                     200px-Hatchet

When he decided to write about his journeys in life, he managed to do it with a suspenseful flair. To this day he remains a mainstay in the young adult market and continues to show his “intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them.”*

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to read one of Paulsen’s many stories, then I encourage you to do so. You just might glean a little insight into your own life.

*According to: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/about.html

Marriah K. Nissen is an adult historical author and co-author of the award-winning blog The Writing Sisterhood. Her previous work has won both regional and national competitions, including the Soul-Making Keats Literary Awards, the Southwest Writers Literary Contest, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. For the third straight year, she has recently received the New Mexico Press Women’s Award for best informational blog. She has her M.A. in French language, literature and culture and is an active member of SouthWest Writers in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is currently working on her latest novel, which centers on the building of the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico.


1 Comments on GOING ON AN ADVENTURE WITH GARY PAULSEN, last added: 4/17/2014
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4. Creating Your Own Flourish List

Now that I’ve outed myself as the secret author of books by Elizabeth Ruston, I can freely talk about one of the concepts in the book Love Proof.

We writers always hear “Write what you know!” Well, I’ve known many of the things I wrote about in Love Proof, including the life of a striving law student, the beginning uncertain years of practicing law, the sometimes disgusting personalities of some of the lawyers you have to deal with, and yes, even the unexpected excitement of accidentally falling in love with your opposing counsel. Yeah, that happens.

But I’ve also known the kind of poverty Sarah Henley experiences in the book. And that was really interesting for me to write about, because I know I still have some vestiges of that poverty mentality deep inside my brain. And I have to actively make choices to move myself past that way of thinking.

One of the things Sarah does in the book to deal with her own poverty mentality is to create a Flourish List. It’s an idea that came to me a few years ago, and something I tried for myself before ever putting it into my fiction.

The name comes from both definitions of flourish: “an extraneous florid embellishment” (or as Sarah puts it, “something I want, but don’t actually need”), and “a period of thriving.”

I don’t know about you, but at times I am MUCH too stingy with myself. I call it frugality, but sometimes it’s just being harsh for no great reason. Perfect example from last night: I was down to maybe the last half-squeeze on my toothpaste tube, and I could have forced out that last little bit, but I decided to make a grand gesture of actually throwing it away–that’s right, without it being fully empty (call the frugality police, go ahead)–and treated myself to a brand new tube. I’ve had to give myself that same permission with bars of soap that have already broken into multiple parts that I have to gather together in a little pile in my palm just to work up a decent sud. Lately, out they go, fresh bar, and if I feel guilty, I know it will pass.

So where did this new radical attitude come from? A few summers ago while I was backpacking in a beautiful section of the South San Juan mountain range in Colorado, I had an afternoon to myself when I sat out in a meadow, my faithful backpacking dog at my side, while my husband took off to fish. And as Bear and I sat there looking at the small white butterflies flitting over the meadow flowers, the thought occurred to me that those butterflies were not strictly necessary. Not in their dainty, pretty form. They could have been ugly and still done the job. Or they could have left their work to the yellow and brown butterflies–why do we need the extra? But having pretty white butterflies is a form of nature’s flourish.

And that led to the companion idea that if flourish is allowed in nature, wouldn’t it be all right to have some of it in my own life?

So right then and there I pulled out pen and paper and started making my Flourish List. Spent an hour writing down all the things I’d wanted for years and years, but never allowed myself to have. I’m not talking about extravagances like a private jet or a personal chef, I’m talking about small pleasures like new, pretty sheets (even though the current ones were still in perfectly good shape); new long underwear that fit better; a new bra; high-quality lotion from one of the bath and body shops; fancy bubble bath. The most expensive item on my list was a pillow-top mattress to replace the plain old Costco mattress we’d been sleeping on for the past twenty years.

I gave myself the chance to write down everything, large or small, just to see it all on paper. And you know what? It wasn’t that much. I had maybe fifteen items. Then, still sitting out in that meadow, I did a tally of what I thought it would all cost. I knew the mattress would probably be very expensive, so I estimated high (no internet connection out there in the wilderness, otherwise I could have researched actual numbers). I think I ended up estimating about $3,000 for the whole list. And that sounded pretty expensive to me. So I just put the list away and promised myself I’d start buying some of the cheaper items when we got home.

And I did. New underwear. Vanilla lotions and bubble baths. New sheets. And finally, a few months later, a pillow-top mattress, on sale, less than $400. By the time I checked off the last item on my list last fall, I had spent less than $1,000. That might still sound like a lot, but in the greater scheme I felt like it was too small an amount to have denied myself all those little pleasures all those many years. Especially if I had bought myself one of those items every year–I know I never would have noticed the cost.

So that’s my suggestion for today: Create your own Flourish List, just like Sarah and I have, and give yourself the pleasure of writing down every small or large thing you want for yourself right now. All the little treats. Maybe they’re not so little–maybe this is the year you need a new car or some other big-ticket item. But that’s a “Need” list. This is your Flourish List–everything you want but don’t necessarily need.

And then? Treat yourself. Choose one item every week or every month, and give it to yourself. And if you feel strange about replacing something you don’t like with something you know you will, then remember to pass on that other item to someone else who might love it more than you did. I’ve done that with clothes, kitchenware, books: it feels so good to take everything you don’t want and give it to a thrift store where someone else can be happy to have found it, and found it so cheaply. Maybe there’s someone out there with a Flourish List that includes a pair of boots like the ones that have just been gathering dust in your closet. Stop hoarding them. Move them on to their new, appreciative owner.

And by doing that, you make room in your own life for things you’ll appreciate and enjoy. It’s hard to invite abundance when you’re chock full of clutter. Make some room. Make your list. And then start treating yourself the way you deserve by no longer withholding those little items that you know will make you smile.

I felt pretty great throwing out that nearly-empty tube of toothpaste last night. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. But I didn’t really realize that until I sat in a meadow and enjoyed the simple sight of some unnecessary butterflies.

0 Comments on Creating Your Own Flourish List as of 4/13/2014 2:17:00 PM
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5. Perspective

327 copy

This place is just up the street from me, so I wondered why I hadn’t gone more often. I thought I’d have to take a breather a couple of times when I was walking uphill, I’m no spring chicken. When I started I realized I’d guessed right. When I arrived I saw I didn’t remember it this way. I didn’t remember this view here too. It was much better. I’m glad I came and glad I walked this time instead of driving. I guess working to get there gave me some perspective to appreciate it more.

Tagged: About Me, Allen Capoferri, Beach, California, International, Nature, Ocean

7 Comments on Perspective, last added: 4/12/2014
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6. April Showers

Here's an image from a new book coming out Spring 2015. Thanks for taking a look!

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7. Birds & Words

Birds & Words
Author & Illustrator: Charles Harper
Publisher: AMMO Books
Genre: Art / Nature
ISBN: 978-162326016-3
Pages: 152
Price: $34.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Charley Harper liked to say, “I could never get close enough to count the feathers in the wings, so I just count the wings.” His colorful bird illustrations are shown in minimal realism that hints more than it shows in this reprint of the 1974 classic.

Long feather tendrils grace a snowy egret’s head and back. Barn swallows are long and elegant, with sharply pointed wings. The cardinal is a study in bright red with a sharply pronounced black bib. A flock of starlings is a blur of black, green and purple with white spots.

Along with these and other bird illustrations, Harper provides his own unique commentary about each species. Although this is no carefully detailed Audubon book, Birds & Words will make any bird lover smile at these lovely creations.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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8. Back in the saddle

The best way to paint is painting from life, not from computer reference images and not from photos. It is easier (at least for me) to paint or draw something that already 1dimensional because some of the flattening/simplifying of information is already done. So here you can see my magnolia watercolor painting from life in progress.


1 Comments on Back in the saddle, last added: 4/2/2014
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9. The Prairie That Nature Built

This is the rain that splatters the ground,
And quenches the fire
that blazed all around.
This is a spread from The Prairie That Nature Built, written by Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison, and published by Dawn Publishing. It comes out September 1, 2014.

A wild prairie is a lively place in this rhythmic romp with munchers and crunchers above and below the grasses so thick, and fires that flare, and rains that quench and always the prairie grows green. Back matter offers information and activities for a fuller appreciation of this marvelous, disappearing habitat.

0 Comments on The Prairie That Nature Built as of 4/2/2014 10:21:00 PM
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GALAPAGOS GEORGE is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. This incredible evolution story by renowned naturalist and Newbery Medal winner Jean Craighead George gives readers a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands, complete with back matter that features key terms, a timeline, and further resources for research.

Galapagos George

Here are some Common Core objectives that GALAPAGOS GEORGE can help meet:

Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a book to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot. Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

And you can use the following questions to help start a specific discussion about this book or a general discussion about informational texts and/or literature:

  1. How does a reader determine the genre of a particular book? What characteristics apply to GALAPAGOS GEORGE? RI.2.5, RL.2.3
  2. What elements of a book help the reader determine the main idea? What details support the main idea? RI.2.2, RL.2.2
  3. How do the illustrations contribute to the text (characters, setting, and plot)? RI.2.7, RL.2.7

GALAPAGOS GEORGE will be available next week!


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11. FISH HAWK IN THE SKY: A Tale of Two Ospreys

Now that spring is showing  us some signs that it just might stay awhile, have you ever wondered how birds know – sometimes before we do – that the weather is warming up and it’s okay to hang around? My writer, scrapbooking, and nature loving friend Shiela Fuller is back with a very interesting post about Ospreys that sheds some light on that question.
Each year since May 2012, wildlife biologists have been studying the migratory track of two adult ospreys from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, New York to their wintering site in South America. Queens is the easternmost of five New York City boroughs and the second most populated. The main goal of the project was to gain public awareness of the refuge and cultivate interest in the inhabitants that live there.

The first osprey outfitted with a transmitter was Coley. During the summer of 2012 his movements were monitored 12 hours a day. He began his winter migration and headed south on September 10th, 2012. Seventeen days and 2600 miles later, Coley arrived at his winter home, Columbia, South America.
On May 5, 2013, Coley began his round trip back to Queens, NY and he arrived in 15 days and 7 hours.

Later in the month, Coley’s transmitter was removed and placed on another male osprey, Coley 2. Scientists would now track the movements of this bird. During the summer, Coley 2 spent a lot of time perched with his mate after nest failure. Staying close to the nest assured the pair that it would still be their home the following spring.      IMG_9450
Weather can affect migration and when Coley 2 left New York on September 2, 2013, he was headed into some pretty serious thunderstorms. He only traveled 44 miles and settled in Trenton, New Jersey for the first night of his trip. Coley 2 continued onward and made remarkable time considering his damp start. He arrived at his winter home, Lake Valencia in Venezuela, South America on September 17, 2013.
While at Lake Valencia, Coley 2 will spend his time fishing, eating, and resting until his internal signal tells him it is time to return to the nesting area.

What inspires birds to migrate north or south and how do they find their way? There are only scientific speculations but some say it is hormonal changes and/or the changes in the length of day/night hours that motivate migration. Navigation is a bit trickier to understand but some say birds rely on the position of the sun, those that travel at night rely on the North Star, and some scientists say that birds use landmarks to help them find their way just as humans do. That doesn’t explain a bird’s first migration. How would they know the landmarks if they never traveled before?

Scientists had been monitoring Coley 2 at Lake Valencia and were happy to note that he must know the weather is bad in the northeastern US and stayed a little longer at his warm winter home but on Sunday, March 16, 2014, just a few days ago, Coley 2 left and was traveling at a remarkable 250 miles per day.       IMG_9705
Scientists are not monitoring Coley 1, but he and his female partner were spotted on their platform nest in Jamaica Bay on March 23, 2014. Will Coley 2 be far behind? Will his female partner arrive before he does? Follow Coley 2 on his magnificent journey and you can even predict when he might arrive at his summer home:  http://www.jamaicabayosprey.org.

For more details about the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy osprey project and to predict when Coley 2 will arrive go to: http://www.jamaicabayosprey.com http://www.nyharborparks.org

Footnotes: Another fabulous place to visit is the Cape May Bird Observatory. Their website for information is:  http://www.njaudobon.org



1 Comments on FISH HAWK IN THE SKY: A Tale of Two Ospreys, last added: 3/31/2014
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12. Go Green Part 3: Gardening With Children

I don’t know about you, but after this long and tenacious winter, I look forward to getting outdoors as soon as the weather is warmer.  Most kids love the natural world and what better way to introduce them to the wonders of nature than with a garden. Planting and watching things grow is rewarding, satisfying and good exercise. Don’t know where to begin?  There are many wonderful resources and websites with specific tips and ideas for gardening with children.  Before I list some of these sites, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Keep things simple. You don’t have to dig up your entire yard to reap the benefits of gardening. Start with a small raised bed or a large container or two.

2. Try fast growing crops such as lettuces, chives, radishes, spinach, herbs and the like.

3. Let your kids have a say in what they grow. If you’re trying to encourage them to eat more veggies, let them pick the ones they would like to try. I’ll bet they get excited about tasting them once they see them pop up in the garden.

4. Make weeding and watering part of the daily routine. That way you will keep the unwanted weeds under control and ensure that the seeds get a fair chance at sprouting. Always weed when soil is moist to avoid damaging roots of tender plants.

5. Check out the library for gardening books for beginners and children.             lettuce

Make it fun!  See whose seeds sprout first, whose veggies grow fastest, are tallest, etc. When it comes time to harvest, let the kids plan a meal using the fruits – and veggies – they grew.

Here are some great gardening sites to get you started:

Gardening with Children from Earth Easy

Ten Tips on Gardening with Kids from the American Community Gardening Association

Gardening with Children from the BBC  This site tells you how to compost, cultivate earth worms, use beneficial insects for pollination and has many child-friendly activities related to gardening and the outdoors.

 Stimulating Imagination in the Garden from Kids Gardening

My First Garden  from the University of Illinois

Happy Growing – and eating!                                tomatoes

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13. Go Green Part 2: Spring Planting

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of winter and being confined indoors.  Spring  officially begins today and what better way to celebrate than to make something grow.  You can start with a few pots of seedlings on  a sunny windowsill.  Chives, lettuce, spinach, radishes, parsley, or other herbs, all grow fairly quickly and are easy to care for.  Red Ted has some wonderful ideas for spring planting. Try their SEED BOMBS  http://www.redtedart.com/2014/02/12/how-to-make-seed-bombs-recipe/  and GRASS HEADS  http://www.redtedart.com/2012/04/04/kids-crafts-grass-heads/    and watch your kids get hooked on making things grow.  http://www.redtedart.com

As I stepped outside this morning, I was greeted by a sure sign of spring:  Daffodils. Check out this photo from one of my flower beds.              daffodilsHappy Planting and Happy Spring!

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14. Ned & Rosco, by Robin Robinson | Dedicated Review

Ned is a book-smart turtle with a very introspective way of thinking. As Rosco cartwheels onto the scene singing a song, Ned’s long awaited moment of serenity is shattered and so begins the story’s true tale of accepting differences and finding a balance between learning and living.

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15. Go Green Part 1

With St. Patrick’s Day arriving next week, why not plan a Green Day and serve green foods, wear as much green as you can and plant some seeds in a pot to get a head start on the growing season. Lettuce, parsley, and chives are all quick sprouters and don’t mind the chilly days of early spring.   While you wait for the lettuce greens to grow, try this recipe for a healthy green salad:

MIXED GREENS SALAD:  1. Wash and pat dry a mix of salad greens such as romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, or any combination you like. Now the tasty fun begins.

Add any or all of the following to make a plain salad a satisfying main dish: sliced cucumbers, olives, shredded carrots, dried cherries or cranberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or grapes. Add toasted, slivered almonds or walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and grated Parmesan cheese (or any cheese of your choice). If you’re a vegetarian, you can stop here.   salmon salad

The photo version has a packet of salmon on top. I’ve eaten it with shredded chicken or tuna as well. ANY leftover meat works well.

Sprinkle with your favorite dressing – I used a raspberry balsamic with olive oil – and serve with breadsticks or garlic toast and you will get rave reviews.

Another GREEN food treat that is fun and easy for kids to make is KALE CHIPS.  Check the recipe section of this blog for the recipe.

Stay tuned for some kid-friendly gardening tips to make things turn green in your own backyard.


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16. Curse this Dreaded Black Thumb

Spring seems to have found us here in Georgia this weekend. While it is a simple fact that God smiles on The South sooner than the northern regions, I hold no illusions that spring is here for good. But yesterday found me in shorts cleaning up the yard. We live on a couple of wooded acres and green is beginning to peek through the gloomy brown – in my neighbor’s yard. I however was cursed with a dreaded black thumb. I follow some photography blogs displaying the most beautiful flowers from tropical locations, so I thought I would give you my best effort.

imageThese are my gardenias. Are implies a current state of being, so I suppose I should say these were my gardenias. I don’t know what happened to them, they just shriveled up and turned brown like everything else I put in the ground. Our once vibrant hydrangeas look more like flaking twigs than actual plants. My grass – brown in every season unless you include moss and weeds. Every time I go to the orange store, I tell my friend Lou the dilemma and he recommends a plant that can’t be killed. I used to take them back with their return policy, but I’ve become embarrassed to do so anymore.

You know how God builds a perfect union from two dissimilar parts? One member of the marriage might be outgoing and the other shy, or one might be cognitive while the other is emotional. Then they join together like pieces of a puzzle and complete each other perfectly (sorry for the cheesy Jerry Maguire reference, but while I’m at it, enjoy…)

In a cruel twist of fate for botanists everywhere, my lovely bride has a matching black thumb. Potted plants seem to be a popular thank you gift here and she’s received a number of them over the years. All we have left is a bunch of pots filled with what I call soil of death. She kills indoor plants while I slay the jungle outside. Nothing is safe in our homestead. Thank you, God that we have a supermarket and don’t rely on subsistence farming. We’d all starve for sure.

So while my friends up north are mired in snow, we are seeing the sun in our little slice of heaven. Maybe it likes us because we don’t need it for photosynthesis. I don’t know, I just like wearing shorts again.

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Here's a polar bear from Daisylocks which just came out last month. Thanks for taking a look!

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18. Naptime - Joanne Friar

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19. Nature Recycles – How About You?

Nature Recycles -  How About You?
Author: Michelle Lord
Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Genre: Children / Nature
ISBN: 978-1-60718-6274
Pages: 32
Price: $9.95

Author’s website
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A hermit crab borrows discarded shells to make his home. A caddisfly larva gathers small rocks and pebbles as camouflage against predators at the bottom of a stream. Termites munch on old wood, creating crevices for small animals to use as shelter.

In Nature Recycles – How About You? examples are presented of how these and other animals are using things they find in nature in a new and practical way. The final scene shows kids collecting plastic bottles and aluminum cans while cleaning up their environment, and recycling old clothes by using them as rags. Additional information on the animals in this book and the importance of recycling are included in the appendix.

Recycling is a necessity in today’s world, and this book presents the concept in fun way. Seeing how even the animals recycle provides a great example for kids. I highly recommend this book for classroom use.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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20. SeaBass


Tagged: Allen Capoferri, Aquatic Life, Art, bass, Fish, Illustration, Nature, Ocean, sketchbook, sketchbook drawing, underwater life sketches

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21. Half a Chance: Cynthia Lord

Book: Half a Chance
Author: Cynthia Lord
Pages: 224
Age Range: 8-12

Cynthia Lord's Half a Chance is a book that will transport middle grade readers straight to summertime. When Lucy moves with her parents to a house on a New Hampshire lake she's a bit tired of starting over. And she is definitely over her father's extended travel - he is a well-known photographer who leaves on a long trip immediately following the move. But Lucy soon finds a friend in boy next door Nate (and a rival for Nate's attention in nearby neighbor Megan).

Through Nate's family, Lucy becomes interested in a pair of loons nesting on the lake. Then, with Nate's help, Lucy enters a photography contest for kids, for which her father is the primary judge. These threads intertwine with Lucy's involvement with Nate's grandmother, who is suffering from the early stages of dementia, and Lucy's evolving relationship with her own parents. 

I love books set in that pre-teen timeframe, when boys and girls can still be friends, but other feelings are just barely beginning to make things complicated. Lord hits this dynamic perfectly. The reasons for Megan's enmity towards Lucy may go over the heads of younger readers, but 11 and 12 year-olds will understand. 

I also liked the fact that nothing is completely tidy in the book. Lucy adores her father, and he's not a terrible parent, but it's clear to this adult reader, anyway, that he could do better. Lucy's mom gets shortchanged a bit, but she remains pretty understanding. (I might have liked to see a Lucy's relationship with her mother fleshed out a little more - but there is a lot going on in a relatively short book). Megan isn't nice to Lucy, but she's not some one-dimensional villain, either. And Nate's Grandma Lilah is delightfully complex. 

And, as always, I just like Cynthia Lord's writing. Like this:

"Whenever we move, I take a picture as soon as we arrive. It always makes me feel a little braver, knowing that on some future day I can look back at that photo, taken when it was new and scary, and think, I made it. Like creating a memory in reverse." (Page 2)

And this:

"The ground under my feet felt squishy from last night's rain, like walking on foam. My ears rang with the quiet of tiny sounds: a faraway bird cawing, the hum and buzz of insects, and occasional red squirrel pipping or moving about through the leaves. And my own breath as I climbed." (Page 64)

This latter passage takes place during a hike that reminded me of New Hampshire hikes from my own childhood. There's a timeless quality to Half a Chance, despite the inclusion of text messages and digital cameras. 

Half a Chance is likely to make kids want to become more serious about photography, and even includes some useful lessons about how to frame interesting subjects, and take pictures that tell a story. (The author's husband is, probably not coincidentally, a professional photographer.) This book may also inspire young readers to appreciate the outdoors a bit more (and loons in particular). It offers a moral conundrum or two, and some oh so gently put ideas about interacting with aging relatives. All in a lakeside summer setting so clear that the reader can smell the bug repellent, and see the light glistening off the water. 

Half a Chance would pair perfectly with Karen Day's A Million Miles from Boston, and Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. And, of course, Lord's own Touch Blue. All of these books are about growing up a little bit, while living life in small-town New England. Half a Chance is well worth a look, and will be staying with me for quite a while. Highly recommended! 

Publisher: Scholastic Press (@Scholastic
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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22. Just thinking

I would like to think that I could come up with some Geo-Terra-forming-hyper-thoughts but can only come up with the belief that I am correct to feel immortal and know that even after I go to the next eternity, that itself will end, and “I” become some horrific to these “Now ” eyes, some specimen of thing unknowable to this consciousness, yet another “thing” that feels correct to it’s nature and has no thought of being not correct, that after an eternity of these formations and resurrections and deaths I will sink into the opposite sludge of nonexistence but after a time, that is not time, will again float to the surface *POP* out and start all over again.

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23. In Memory of…

The wife of a friend of ours from high school recently lost her courageous battle with cancer. In her honor I  post this piece that I was commissioned to create for a client who’s friend also died from cancer. Thank you, Mary E. for permission to share on my site. RIP Margo McCabe.

Dragonfly Pond

Dragonfly Pond, commissioned in the memory of Shawn Oligmeuller 2009.

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24. Swamper: Letters from a Louisiana Swamp Rabbit

Author: Amy Griffin Ouchley
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Genre: Science / Nature
ISBN: 978-0-8071-5074-0
Pages: 72
Price: $22.50

Buy it at Amazon

Swamper is a swamp rabbit living in a bottomland hardwood forest in Louisiana. In twelve fictitious letters, he explains what life is like for himself and the other dwellers in his neighborhood.

In each of these letters, Swamper covers a particular element of life in the swamp. Who lives there? What kinds of foods do they eat? How do the different animals handle flooding? And what is the life cycle of the plants and animals there? These and many other questions are answered through the letters and accompanying photos. Questions for further discussion and research are also provided.

Swamp rabbits look similar to the eastern cottontail, but there are physical as well as behavioral differences between them. Children will find Swamper fascinating as they not only learn about this interesting species of rabbit, but also about the swamp itself. This book would be a wonderful addition to a library or classroom science collection.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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25. Sloth Bears and Sun Bears and Grizzlies, Oh My!

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I didn’t know it at the time but the seed for Wild About Bears was planted in my mind twelve years ago when my husband, three children, and I traveled by car from Maine to Montana. 

Friends, guides, and park rangers had all told us that the chance of a bear encounter would be next to nil. Boy, were they wrong. Minutes after passing through the gate into Glacier National Park we spotted two black bears close to the road. Later that afternoon, after hiking a well-traveled path, we spied two grizzlies meandering down that very same trail. We started to call ourselves bear magnets!

Grizzly & Discovery Center, West Yellowstone

Later that week, after seven hours in the saddle on the first day of a pack trip, we found ourselves deep in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, camping beside a beautiful mountain meadow and a clear cold stream. That afternoon my husband, blissfully fly-fishing downstream, looked up to see a large bear standing up and staring at him from thirty feet away on the opposite bank. Defying the rule “Never run from a bear,” he turned tail and sprinted, yelling and gasping for breath. At an altitude of 8,000 feet, needless to say he did not get very far. Luckily the bear did not follow . . . or so we thought.

Within the hour I spied the same bear in our camp curiously peering at us from behind a tree, almost as though he were playing hide and seek. He was much too close for comfort. Our guide and wranglers had to run him off two different times before he was gone for good.

That night our family of five settled uncomfortably in our tent. My husband, a shovel by his side as his weapon of choice, didn't sleep a wink.

The seed thushad been sown, along with great memories and a love, fascination, and respect for bears. Wild About Bears is the result.

Original artwork from Wild About Bears

Years later, my husband and I built a small home in Montana, just an hour from Yellowstone National Park. I am always on the lookout for bears. My husband prefers to watch from the car. 

Wild About Bears will be published on March 11, 2014, and I am jumping for joy at the prospect of visiting schools to share the many bear facts I have been collecting for several years. Kids will marvel at the uniqueness of each of the eight bear species as well as the commonalities they share.

I am currently working on the illustrations for The Decorated Horse,written by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (forthcoming from Charlesbridge).

Posted by Jeannie Brett, author and illustrator of Wild About Bears. Visit Jeannie's wesbite at www.jeanniebrett.com, "like" her on facebook, and follow her on twitter, @jeanniebrett. Be sure to check out the Wild About Bears facebook page too!

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