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1. For the love of trees

I used to climb trees when I was young (and I still, on occasion, do). As a boy in Iraq I had a favoured loquat tree, with branches that bore leathery, serrated leaves, shiny on the upper surface, and densely matted with fine hairs underneath. It seemed so big, though I now reflect it was probably rather small. I would haul myself up and over the lowest branch, making whatever use of the twists and folds of the trunk as provided purchase to my small feet.

The post For the love of trees appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. If You Love Honey, Nature's Connections

After turning in artwork for If You Love Honey, Nature's Connections I got a look at Patty Arnold's design and layout for the book. I'm posting a few spreads here to give you a sneak peek. This is my second book illustrated by Martha Sullivan and third book for Dawn Publishing. It comes out this fall. After doing a lot of research for the illustrations I'm now a true honey bee fanatic, not to mention a Martha Sullivan fan!

 And I wanted to say "Thanks!" to William Porter at the Denver Post for including me in his Mother's Day article. It's always great to give a shout out to our moms, especially our moms who spent a lot of time reading to us.

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3. Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

Today’s book recommendation has a multiplicity of diversity in it – the book is bilingual and has a non-gender specific protagonist. Title: Call Me Tree – Llámame árbol Written and illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez Published by: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee … Continue reading

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4. Hoot says the owl

Over On The Farm
Here's one more image representing WINGS. I wanted to post this before April turns to May. This is for an upcoming picture books written by Marianne Berkes and will be out Spring of 2016. It will be a counting book for very young kids. Can you count the owls? I have a few more images from this book on my Studio With A View Blog. Thanks for taking a look.

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5. Do You Like To Climb Trees ? Just Like Me Climbing a Tree: Exploring Tress Around the World

Just Like Me Climbing a Tree: Exploring Tress Around the World

In Just Like Me Climbing a Tree: Exploring Tress Around the World, award-winning author/illustrator Durga Yael Bernhard travels around the globe visiting 12 beautiful and favorite trees.

Exploration and inquiry are the keys to unlocking the secrets and treasures of the trees. Each page asks a question:

What if we swung from a tree branch as monkeys do ? What type of tree would we be swinging form?

What type of tree would we choose if we were a bat and needed to hang upside down?

Each question takes us to a new tree in a new land.

Just Like Me Climbing a Tree is perfect for ages 5 and above. It is beautifully illustrated with full color drawings, bringing this tree adventure to life. Each double page spread hosts the lyrical poetry of  tree, a question, and the classification of the tree and where it is found on our planet.

just like me1

In the back of the book there is an entire section called “About the Trees in this Book” which is devoted to describing and classifying each tree in great detail.

This hands on multicultural read is sure to delight you and your family time and again. Just Like Me Climbing a Tree brought to mind all of the trees we as a family have called “friend” throughout the years. In our garden we have a huge Rose Cypress tree that has seen many hours of play underneath its branches. If you ask my children, they will tell you that it is a magical tree where fairies live.

In the country of Lebanon where my in-laws live, there is a gigantic banyan tree. It is a favorite friend where we have picnic lunches and the kids climb for hours. This old and ancient tree is a place of pilgrimage for all of us. We can not set foot in Beirut more than 24 hours without going to see what’s happening with our friend known as “the tree.”





Something To Do

How Old Is A Tree ?

Our beautiful old monkey tale pine tree had to be cut down a couple of weeks ago due to it being severely damaged by an ice storm. After cutting it down, we are left with the stump but it’s the stump which will tell us a lot about the life of this beautiful magnificent tree.


Tree Rings

As a tree grows, it produces new layers of wood around the trunk, just under the bark. If a tree is cut down, the layers are visible in a cross-section. The layers appear as a set of concentric circles known as tree rings.

In general, one layer of wood grows each year. Each layer consists of two colors of wood: light-colored “earlywood” that grows in the spring and summer plus darker, denser “latewood” from the fall and winter.


Tree rings—also known as annual growth rings—vary in size each year depending upon the environmental conditions that the tree experiences. For most locations, tree rings will be wider during years of abundant rainfall and narrower during times of drought.

By counting back from the year a living tree was cut, it is possible to determine how old the tree is. Find a tree stump and start counting the tree rings from the outside and move to the center of the tree trunk.

Climate Records

Some species of trees can live for thousands of years. Because the widths of a tree’s rings reflect yearly precipitation patterns, the rings can be analyzed to reconstruct a record of past climate conditions.


Tree rings also record the occurrence of forest fires. New layers of wood added around the exterior of tree trunks are vulnerable to damage by fire. If a fire damages a tree’s bark and exterior, but does not kill the tree, a new layer of wood can grow over the scarred layer the next year, preserving the scar as a record of the fire.

Spend some time outside near a tree stump and see what history it’s telling you. How old is it ? Was there years of excessive rainfall ? Was there years of drought ? Were there any forest fires ?

More Things To Do…….

Sing the Just Like Me Song

There’s a song to go along with this wonderful book. Not only will you be climbing trees but you’ll be singing while you do. Story Laurie aka Laurie McIntosh has written the Just Like Me Song. It’s really fun and wonderful. Have a look at the book as you sing along !!! 

The post Do You Like To Climb Trees ? Just Like Me Climbing a Tree: Exploring Tress Around the World appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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6. Earth Day 2015

In honor of our beautiful planet...

Northern Lights

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7. Reading for the Earth: Ultimate Earth Day Resource Roundup

Earth Day, April 22nd is right around the corner, and we at Lee & Low are some pretty big fans of this blue planet we live on. So, whether you choose to plant a tree or pledge to better uphold the 3 R’s -reduce, reuse, recycle- we are celebrating and promoting awareness the best way we know how- with books!

Here are 5 environmentally friendly collections to bring nature READING FOR 1 yellowindoors & encourage “thinking green”:

Save the Planet: Environmental Action Earth Day Collection: Be inspired to be an advocate for planet Earth through the true stories of threatened ecosystems, environmental recovery efforts and restorations plans, and heroic actions. Like the individuals and communities explored in these stories, children everywhere will realize the difference they can make in protecting our planet and preserving its natural resources.

Earth Day Poetry Collection: Through rhythm and verse, float down the cool river, reach as high as the tallest tree, and search for all of the vibrant colors of the rainbow in the natural world. This collection of poetry books are inspired by the joy and wonder of being outdoors and brings the sight and sounds of nature and all of its wildlife to life.

Seasonal Poems Earth Day Collection: Travel through winter, spring, summer, & fall through a series of bilingual seasonal poems by renowned poet and educator, Francisco Alarcón.  Learn about family, community, and caring for each other and the natural environment we live in.

Adventures Around the World Collection: Explore Africa while traversing Botswana’s lush grasslands and Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest, celebrate the deep-seeded respect for wildlife in India, Mongolia and on an island off the coast of Iceland, and journey to Australia to explore animals found nowhere else on Earth.

Vanishing Cultures Collection: The 7-book series introduces readers to the Yanomama of the Amazon Basin, Aborigines of Australia, Sami of the European Arctic, Inuit of the North American Arctic, Tibetans and Sherpas from the Himalaya, Mongolians of Asia, and Tuareg of the Sahara.

Lesson Plans & Ideas:

What fun is Earth Day if you don’t get your hands a little dirty? Bring some of the outdoors into your classroom-or vice versa- by engaging students in various hands-on and project-based Earth Day lessons and activities:

Earth Day Curriculum Resources, Grades K-5 from The National Earth Day BooksEducation Council. Features lesson plans, units, useful websites, games & activities, printables, and video.

Environmental Education Activities & Resources from The National Education Council. Features lesson plans, activities, projects, games, and professional development ideas.

Celebrate Earth Day! from ReadWriteThink. Features a classroom activity, 6 lesson plans for grades K-2, 6-8, and 7-9 & other Earth Day resources for kids.

Nature Works Everywhere from the Nature Conservancy. Features lessons, video, and tools to help students learn about and understand nature in various environments and ecosystems across the globe.

Check out the research-based read aloud and paired text lessons for The Mangrove Tree created by the staff at the award-winning, non-profit ReadWorks.org

Explore the educator activities for The Mangrove Tree and Buffalo Song, titles featured in RIF’s Multicultural Book Collections. To find other free activities that inspire young readers as well as learn more about Reading Is Fundamental, visit RIF.org

Activities, Projects, & Video:

Greening STEM Educator Toolkits from National Environmental Education Week. Features toolkits for activities based on water, climate, energy, and engineering a sustainable world through project-based service learning.

NOVA Earth System Science Collection from PBS LearningMedia. Standards-based video collection that explores important Earth processes and “ the intricate web of forces that sustain life on Earth.”

22 Interactive Lessons to Bring Earth Day to Life from Mind/Shift. Features informational videos, images, and other forms of multi-media highlighting research on biodegradation, climate change, waste, energy sources, and sustainable practices.

I Want to Be Recycled from Keep America Beautiful. Find out how different kinds of materials are recycled, transforming trash into new things. Students can play a super sorter game and start a recycling movement in their community.

Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration & Seasonal Change from Learner.org. Track various migratory species with classrooms across the world.

The Global Water Sampling Project from the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE). Students from all over the world collaborate to compare the water quality of various fresh water sources.

Tools to Reduce Waste in Schools from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Learn how to begin a waste reduction program in your school or community with helpful guides and resource tool kits.

Wildlife Watch from the National Wildlife Federation. Learn about and monitor the wildlife where you live, helping track the health and behavior of wildlife and plant species across the nation.

What’s Your DOT (Do One Thing)? from the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Pledge your DOT (Do One Thing) to take action and inspire others to make a difference.

Plant a Poem, Plant a Flower from the blog Sturdy for Common Things. Since April celebrates both National Poetry Month & Earth Day, why not plant a little poetry in nature?

And finally… some Earth Day treats!

Earth Day Cookies from Tammilee Tips
Earth Day Cookies from Tammilee Tips at tammileetips.com


Earth Day Cookies

Earth Day Dirt Cup

Earth Day Cupcakes






Veronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

1 Comments on Reading for the Earth: Ultimate Earth Day Resource Roundup, last added: 4/20/2015
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8. Secret Garden Wednesday: Wildflowers

secret garden wednesday

Hello and welcome to our Secret Garden! Every Wednesday you can drop by here and find new and special happenings in the Secret Garden. There will be crafts, great food, fun and laughter. So please be sure to come by and see us in our Secret Garden created just for you.

We took a little adventure a couple of days ago and discovered a Secret Garden right in the middle of the forest. We were hiking in the Smoky Mountains, everyone around here knows that the wildflowers bloom over a few weeks and many of us get out to see the forest and mountain sides bloom out in color.

We took a side path and walked ourselves into an ancient moss covered forest. Surrounded completely by mountains we walked deep into the enclosed valley to discover the most enchanted vision I’ve ever seen in nature.

wildflowers 5

The forest floor was completely covered in blooming phlox, may apples and another little tiny white flower I don’t know the name of. Moss one inch thick covered fallen trees and branches as well as the trunks of living trees.

wildflowers 2

We were all alone here in this ancient wood. The only sounds were that of a water fall off in the distance, the cacophony of birds and the buzzing of bees.

wildflowers 4

One of the most important things missing from these photos is the smell. I’ve never smelled anything as this blooming forest. It made us heady with delight. We spent over an hour in this forest soaking it all in. Soon other wildflower enthusiasts joined us and it was nice to meet people who shared in this moment of Secret Garden bliss.

wildflowers 3

I learned a big lesson on this hike, that a Secret Garden doesn’t have to be behind a wall locked away with a key but can be found in our daily wanderings.

This week I challenge you to find a secret garden near you. It might be behind a wall, it might be under a big tree, it might be in the forest near your home, or behind a log that’s drifted in from the ocean. Wherever it is, go and find it! Cherish those hidden moments in nature’s Secret Gardens!

wildflower 1

Have you missed the last few Secret Garden Wednesdays? These are too much fun not to read!

Want to enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden? A Year in the Secret Garden is over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Learn more, or grab your copy HERE.

A Year in the Secret garden

The post Secret Garden Wednesday: Wildflowers appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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9. The Winged Variety

Here's an assortment of winged creatures I've illustrated for some books...

Watercolor Illustrations by
Steven James Petruccio

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10. Cheep, cheep, baaaaaa

Here's a couple of new images from an upcoming picture book for the littlest readers. It's a counting book about baby farm animals and I'll have more to report as I go along.You're sure to see some oinks, moos and squeaks soon.

Otherwise I appreciate you taking a look and Happy Easter!

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11. WINGS for April!

If You Love Honey by Martha Sullivan, illustrated by Cathy Morrison
April's theme word is WINGS, so here's some blue jays to welcome spring. This is a spread from If You Love Honey, by Martha Sullivan, published by Dawn Publications and illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison. It's the second book I've illustrated for Martha and I'm a huge fan of her writing. It seems like kids like her as well.

This is set to come out September 2015. Thanks for taking a look!

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12. New Kids Book Shows How Awesome Nature Can Be

PIPSIE and Alfred solve the mysteries of nature, and show kids how to solve them, too.

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13. Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar, written by Rick DeDonato and illustrated by Tracy Bishop. Giveaway begins March 30, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 29, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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14. All things wild and wonderful….

Something About a Bear

By Jackie Morris


Jackie Morris and bears; it seems from the jacket flap of this title, that they have wandered through her artistry for many years. Her overarching goal in her picture books appears to be giving young readers a renewed respect for all things wild and wonderful. And bears are both.

Eight interesting bear types are her topic here. Be they the Asian Moon bear, the fierce and huge-clawed Sun bear, the jungle Spectacled bear, the rare, white Black Bear the Chinese Giant Panda or three others, Jackie’s gorgeous paintings brings each bruin to a beautiful intensity of interest.

Each bear is unique in its habitat and habits and your young reader will enjoy poring or shall I say “pawing”, through this great picture book find.

Any of her other titles including “I am Cat”, “The Snowy Leopard” or “Song of the Golden Hare” have given nature’s inhabitants a very distinctive plug for these wild things and where they abide.

She has also written a book called “The Cat and the Fiddle – A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes” that I am anxious to have a look  at.

If your child has an interest in nature or just loves bears, as most kids do, this is a not-to-be-missed read.

She even includes conservation web sites at the conclusion of the book, along with additional information on the habits and habitats of each bear – plus their favorite chow. The Sloth Bear, for instance, nibbles on his snack; a tasty tidbit called termites! Yum! Kids will love the yuck factor here as the bear sucks them down through a gap in his front teeth. Cool!

And I love her closer:



“Of all the bears in the wide wild

world, the very best bear of all

is…your bear.”



Still have mine!



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15. Books to encourage family adventures outdoors

Ever wanted to be a little more adventurous with your family? To take on the role of intrepid outdoor explorers? To feel inspired to leave the cosy comforts and instantly gratifying screens indoors for the wind in your hair and the sun on your face?

100 Family Adventures by Tim, Kerry, Amy and Ella Meek and Wild Adventures by Mick Manning and Brita Granström might be just the books to encourage you -and crucially your children – to wrap up warm and head for the great outdoors.


Both books offer up a banquet of ideas for family activities and explorations outdoors ranging from building dens with branches and leaves to sleeping outdoors without a tent, from fishing for your supper to foraging for food from hedgerows, from flying kites to learning to kayak.

The Meek Family have taken a year off from their regular jobs and schools to spend 12 months adventuring around the UK in a camper van (you can follow their journey on their blog). 100 Family Adventures is their first book and draws upon their experience of making a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors as a family. As well as 100 activities, there are jokes, tips and facts contributed by the entire family, including the children.

In Wild Adventures, Mick Manning and Brita Granström also draw upon the outdoor play and activities they enjoy with their four children, and whilst there is some overlap in the projects suggested in the two books, the approach taken in each is quite different.

Making and sleeping in a homemade shelter: 100 Family Adventures

Making and sleeping in a homemade shelter: 100 Family Adventures

Shelters: Wild Adventures

Shelters: Wild Adventures

100 Family Adventures is full of photos of the Meek family and their friends doing the activities suggested, whilst Wild Adventures is richly hand illustrated in pencil and watercolour, giving it a hand-made feel rather than something rather sleek and glossy. Whilst photos are “evidence” that the activities suggested can genuinely be done by children and families, Granström’s illustrations show a different truth; that the great outdoors can be enjoyed by any child, not just white able-bodied children.

Sometimes when I read activity or craft books my reading is aspirational; it’s about daydreaming a life in different circumstances. Sometimes, however, I want something with the messiness that is more familiar from my family life. For me, 100 Family Adventures falls into the former category. The adventures they suggest are all amazing, but quite a lot of them require expensive equipment, relatively long distance travel and some serious planning (for example skiing, sailing, kayaking and even some of the camping adventures they suggest e.g. winter camping). Wild Adventures, on the other hand, is much more “domestic” in scale. Although the projects are designed for engaging with a wilder outdoors than that simply found in your back garden, they are not about extreme adventuring. Having said that, 100 Family Adventures is partly about going out of your comfort zone and extending yourself and your family and so it’s not surprising that some of the ideas require more money, time and preparation.

Tracking and casting animal footprints: 100 Family Adventures

Tracking and casting animal footprints: 100 Family Adventures

Making plaster casts of animal tracks: Wild Adventures

Making plaster casts of animal tracks: Wild Adventures

Whilst Wild Adventures is perhaps the book I would choose for my own family, I really like the physical properties of 100 Family Adventures. It has been produced in a chunky format with a flexi-hardcover, making it easy to bung in a rucksack and take on adventures outdoors. Manning and Granström’s lovely book on the other hand is currently only available in hardback with a dust jacket, making it more suitable for reading indoors.

Having listened with interest to what translator and editor Daniel Hahn had to say recently about the value of opinion alongside fact in a day an age of easily found information, I’ve been thinking a lot in the past few days about my reviews and the balance between fact and opinion. These two books, both from the same publisher, on essentially the same topic have reminded me that different styles of books suit different people and that I should remain aware of this when reviewing books. Something I read may be just the sort of thing my family will love, but I shouldn’t forget that other families may like different things. So whilst Wild Adventures is my book of choice today, do look out both and see which suits you and your family… and then let me know which of the two YOU prefer!

Inspired by Wild Adventures we took to the seaside last month and made faces out of objects we found along the shoreline.




There really is nothing like having your own family adventure outdoors.


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16. Mould breaking non-fiction: Nature’s Day

Natures_Day_CVR-360x359Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods and it’s putting a big smile on my face! The afternoons and weekends where we just want to be outside have begun, and we’ve a sumptuous book to inspire us to look with new season’s eyes at the growth and activity all around us in the garden, parks and streets nearby; Nature’s Day written by Kay Maguire, illustrated by Danielle Kroll.

This chocolate-box of a book takes 8 different outdoor locations and follows them from Spring through to Winter (in the Northern hemisphere), watching changes in nature as plants and wildlife go through their seasonal cycles. Like a spotter’s guide, pages are packed with incredibly pretty illustrations, with short text dotted all around introducing readers to different sights and sounds relating to the highlighted flora and fauna.

As the very first sentence of this charming book reminds us, nature is indeed everywhere – not just in remote countryside; the locations chosen tend to be those created by humans, such as the vegetable patch, the farm, the orchard and the street. These are settings which many children may have access to nearby (as opposed to looking at nature in wild landscapes relatively untouched by human activity), making this book accessible and meaningful to families even in urban settings.


You can enjoy the book chronologically, comparing each location at the same time of year or you can dip in and out, enjoying each section as a stand-alone. The stylized handwriting font used in places may make it a little more of a challenge to new readers to enjoy on their own, but it adds to the “hand made” feeling this book has, from its cloth cover to its design reminiscent of a flower press, full of individually chosen treasures.


One of a new breed of children’s non-fiction books which are not only informative but also utterly gorgeous to look at, making them appeal to readers who might otherwise claim to be less interested in “fact books”, Nature’s Day breaks the mould and seduces its readers.


Inspired by the book’s design and focus on the changing seasons I designed a card for my girls to make, using pressed flowers and a rotating wheel.


Using the template above (you can download the two pieces here and here, ready to print onto A4), I cut out a window and side slot in a piece of folded A4 card. For each card I also cut out one wheel. The kids then glued pressed flowers onto the outside of the card (a collage with pictures of flowers/plants cut from magazines or catalogues would also work well).



Whilst the glue dried, the girls drew a picture for each season on the quarters of the wheel, and when that was completed, I used a split pin (paper fastener) to attach the wheel to the inside of the card, so that it could rotate round the whole year.


I don’t often make product specific recommendations, but my girls are using these pencils which they’ve recently discovered and really, really love. They have coloured rubbers and a place to write your name on each pencil, as well as being really bright colours which easily leave good strong marks.


I don’t know about you, but I think this card design could make a great mother’s/father’s day card – perhaps with some inscription like “I love you all year round” inside :-)

Whilst making our cards we listened to:

  • Springtime: It’s My Favorite by Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
  • Summer Song by Joe McDermott
  • Falling by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights
  • Another Good Year by Lori Henriques
  • Other activities which would go well with reading Nature’s Day include:

  • Collecting twigs to use in a “trees through the season” painting activity, as inspired by this idea from KCEdventures.
  • Using pinecones and wool to create your own wood through the seasons, using this idea from Project Kid.
  • Going on a nature treasure hunt, with sticky sandwich boards to collect your finds on, just as we did here.
  • What are you going to do today to get out into nature? :-) Which books will you be taking with you as you go outside and explore?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher

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    17. Home is where the heart is...

    Houses don't come in one shape or size. The mole lives underground, the seal lives in the ocean and the  deer and fox live in the meadow. 

    These are illustrations from Pitter and Patter written by Martha Sullivan, published by Dawn Publishing and illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison. It's one of their new spring releases. 

    Welcome Home and Happy Spring!

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    18. Buzzing about Valentines

    "If You Love Honey, Nature's Connections" written by Martha Sullivan and illustrated by Cathy Morrison
    OK, let me explain… This month's theme is Valentine and this image has nothing to do with Valentine. But this is an illustration for If You Love Honey, Nature's Connections. So I'm connecting Valentine with Love and that's why I'm posting this image.

    And I just posted new images from this book on my own blog if you'd like to see more.

    Happy Valentine's Day!!

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    19. Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen

    Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen is a stunning book. Before I could even read a word (and believe me, ever since I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was in high school, in which Holden Caulfield discusses the fate of the fish in the lagoon near Central Park South when it freezes over, I have been intrigued by how certain animals survive winter, and was

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    20. Druids and nature

    What was the relationship between the Druids and nature? The excerpt below from Druids: A Very Short Introduction looks at seasonal cycles, the winter solstice, and how the Druids charted the movement of the sun, moon, and stars:

    How far back in time European communities began to recognize and chart the movements of the sun, moon, and stars it is impossible to say, but for the mobile hunting bands of the Palaeolithic period, following large herds through the forests of Europe and returning to base camps when the hunt was over, the ability to navigate using the stars would have been vital to existence. Similarly, indicators of the changing seasons would have signalled the time to begin specific tasks in the annual cycle of activity. For communities living by the sea, the tides provided a finer rhythm while tidal amplitude could be related to lunar cycles, offering a precise system for estimating the passage of time. The evening disappearance of the sun below the horizon must have been a source of wonder and speculation. Living close to nature, with one’s very existence depending upon seasonal cycles of rebirth and death, inevitably focused the mind on the celestial bodies as indicators of the driving force of time. Once the inevitability of the seasonal cycles was fully recognized, it would have been a short step to believing that the movements of the sun and the moon had a controlling power over the natural world.

    The spread of food-producing regimes into western Europe in the middle of the 6th millennium led to a more sedentary lifestyle and brought communities closer to the seasonal cycle, which governed the planting of crops and the management of flocks and herds. A proper adherence to the rhythm of time, and the propitiation of the deities who governed it, ensured fertility and productivity.

    The sophistication of these early Neolithic communities in measuring time is vividly demonstrated by the alignments of the megalithic tombs and other monuments built in the 4th and 3rd millennia. The great passage tomb of New Grange in the Boyne Valley in Ireland was carefully aligned so that at dawn on the day of the midwinter solstice the rays of the rising sun would shine through a slot in the roof and along the passage to light up a triple spiral carved on an orthostat set at the back of the central chamber. The contemporary passage grave at Maes Howe on Orkney was equally carefully placed so that the light of the setting sun on the midwinter solstice would flow down the side of the passage before filling the central chamber at the end. The passage grave of Knowth, in the same group as New Grange, offers further refinements.

    Stonehenge, by .aditya. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
    Stonehenge, by .aditya. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

    Here there are two separate passages exactly aligned east to west: the west-facing passage captures the setting sun on the spring and autumn equinoxes (21 March and 21 September), while the east-facing passage is lit up by the rising sun on the same days. The nearby passage grave of Dowth appears to respect other solar alignments and, although it has not been properly tested, there is a strong possibility that the west-south-west orientation of its main passage was designed to capture the setting sun on the winter cross-quarter days (November and February) half way between the equinox and the solstice.

    Other monuments, most notably stone circles, have also been claimed to have been laid out in relation to significant celestial events. The most famous is Stonehenge, the alignment of which was deliberately set to respect the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

    From the evidence before us there can be little doubt that by about 3000 BC the communities of Atlantic Europe had developed a deep understanding of the solar and lunar calendars – an understanding that could only have come from close observation and careful recording over periods of years. That understanding was monumentalized in the architectural arrangement of certain of the megalithic tombs and stone circles. What was the motivation for this we can only guess – to pay homage to the gods who controlled the heavens?; to gain from the power released on these special days?; to be able to chart the passing of the year? – these are all distinct possibilities. But perhaps there was another motive. By building these precisely planned structures, the communities were demonstrating their knowledge of, and their ability to ‘contain’, the phenomenon: they were entering into an agreement with the deities – a partnership – which guaranteed a level of order in the chaos and uncertainty of the natural world.

    The people who made the observations and recorded them, and later coerced the community into the coordinated activity that created the remarkable array of monumental structures, were individuals of rare ability – the keepers of knowledge and the mediators between common humanity and the gods. They were essential to the wellbeing of society, and we can only suppose that society revered them.

    The post Druids and nature appeared first on OUPblog.

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    Johnny Appleseed
    Steven James Petruccio
    Opening spread from Johnny Appleseed for Scholastic, Inc.
    Watercolor on Arches Paper

    Lake at Night
    Steven James Petruccio
    Natural Science book for  Parachute Press
    Watercolor on Arches Hot Press Paper

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    22. Pitter and Patter

    I have a lot of books that fit under the theme "landscape" so here's some more artwork. This is from Pitter and Patter, written by Martha Sullivan, published by Dawn Publications, and illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison. It comes out this spring and is about the water cycle.

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    23. Poetry Friday -- Surprises


    The sun -- a low-hanging smudge.
    The pond -- a layer of ice over mud.

    A movement under the ice -- a darker oval.
    A late afternoon surprise -- a winter turtle.

    ©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

    Last Friday, we had the surprise of discovering a new metro part that's right inside the city, just south of downtown -- Scioto Audubon Metro Park. We were also surprised by this turtle sighting. I'm sure s/he is buried deep in the mud this week!

    Friday kind of snuck up and surprised me this week, too. It's been an odd first week back, with school every other day M, W, F. Hard to get routines reestablished (in the classroom OR in my personal life)! Having four day weeks next week (PD day) and the next (MLKing Day) won't help either. Oh, well. Gotta do the best with what you've got, right?

    Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup at The Opposite of Indifference today.

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    24. Nest, by Esther Ehrlich | Book Review

    Esther Ehrlich’s debut novel, Nest, is an arresting story of an eleven-year-old girl named Chirp Orenstein, whose life becomes acutely sharp and complicated as her mother’s illness overtakes the family

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    25. The Spring of Ideas - Liz Kessler

    A while ago, I wrote a blog about the Seasons of Writing. It was an idea that my good friend Jen Alexander shared with me, and I’ve loved it and referred to it on countless occasions ever since. The idea is that the process of writing a book is very much like the calendar of seasons in a year.

    Well, if that’s the case, it is definitely spring right now.

    I’m at the very start of working on a new book. It’s an idea that has been patiently waiting underground for quite a few years, and its time has now come. Just as I’m beginning to see snowdrops appearing in the countryside, and tiny shoots starting to come through the ground in my own garden, my new story is beginning to show its head. Little tiny shoots coming up, one by one, all pretty and fresh and exciting.

    For over a decade, writing has been my job, and there are times when I’m very aware of that. I make myself sit at my desk for a certain length of time; I set targets that involve writing a set number of words; I organize events, I attend book festivals, I do publicity, I write emails, blogs, articles; I reply to lovely letters from readers. All of these things are wonderful, and all make me feel glad that this is how I make my living. But a lot of the time, my job doesn’t feel especially creative.

    But it does now.

    A couple of months ago, I attended a writers’ retreat that I run with my author buddy Elen Caldecott. Four days where eighteen children’s authors come together to share thoughts, ideas, inspiration and workshops all about writing and creativity, set in beautiful countryside.

    (I made a kind of slideshow of my photos while I was there. You can watch it here if you want to see why it’s such a lovely place.)

    This was the fourth time we’ve run this retreat, and I have to say I think it was the best yet – especially in terms of creativity. But the point of this blog is to share what was, for me, the best thing to come out of this year’s retreat. And that was that my new book started to open up – yes, like a beautiful new crocus slowly unfurling its petals.

    Part of the way that this happened was to do with my surroundings. Each morning of the retreat, I got up early and went out for a walk with my camera. The mornings were so quiet and the light was so soft, as a mist gradually lifted from the fields and trees. Something about the mornings felt right for my book, and started leading me towards the background mood and setting.

    Then one evening, another writer buddy, Kelly McCain, and I had an amazing couple of hours sharing music and downloading each other’s favourite songs. So on the final morning when I went out for my walk, I took my headphones and listened to these new songs at the same time – and the most amazing thing happened. As I walked, and watched the mist and the dew, and listened to the songs, I started almost seeing my book begin to take shape in front of me. I almost heard my characters singing lines from the songs as I listened to them. Almost felt their moods and their emotions, as I felt the mist rising on a storyline that was starting to take shape after five years of waiting in the shadows.

    And it’s carried on like that for the months following the retreat. I’ve added more tunes and now have a playlist of about thirty songs. I play them when I walk the dog, trudging along a muddy coast path and hearing the characters singing the words. I play them in my study, writing away in my lovely new notebook, as I try to capture the feelings, the moods, the words and the moments in the same way as I saw them out on the cliff path.

    I have written about fifteen books, and I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything quite like the process that is taking place with this book. It feels so creative, and such a journey of exploration. It’s intense, emotional, exciting and kind of magical. It reminds me that, after all, this isn’t just my job. It is my passion; it is one of the things that is at the heart of who I am, how I see the world and how I live my life.

    The book is due to be delivered in September this year. I have two books coming out before then and a busy year ahead – but for now, I’m enjoying taking the time to nurture these seedlings of ideas that are popping up every day. 

    So yes, this is work, and yes, sometimes it’s hard. But right here, right now, it feels like a privilege that I get to do such a magical, wonderful, creative thing and get to call it my day job. I hope that over the coming months, I can do my characters justice. I look forward to the rest of the spring, and am hoping for a summer filled with bright colours, delightful scents and a beautiful, blossoming story.

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