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There's good news, good news, and even better news today!

First Good News:

Last year was a big year for me because I had a children's picture book manuscript accepted by Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner™Publishing Group. All sorts of things have to come together before the book is published, so it will 2020 or beyond before it is actually a physical book. But in the meanwhile...

Second Good News:

I am so grateful to you, my readers and friends, for your support of this blog and feedback over the years that helped me reach this point. To share my gratitude, I have a treat. This week I'm giving away two wonderful picture books from Millbrook Press, Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus by Irene Latham and illustrated by Thea Baker AND Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch and illustrated by Mia Posada (reviewed at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil).

Don't they look amazing? Before you jump down to the Rafflecopter form below to enter the giveaway, however, there's still more.

 Even Better News:

Now, the best news of all. Irene Latham, the author of the lovely and imaginative picture book Love, Agnes has stopped by to help us celebrate and to tell us all about it. Welcome Irene!

~~~~~~

On the surface, LOVE, AGNES: POSTCARDS FROM AN OCTOPUS, my first narrative picture book, looks like it's about the life cycle of a giant Pacific octopus. It does, in fact, offer reader lots of factual information, like how these clever creatures are boneless shapeshifters with three hearts. How they have host of amazing defense mechanisms, and how their lives come to an end shortly after mating (for the male), or once the eggs are hatched (for the female).

The book is also a complete fantasy – one that's firmly rooted in my psyche. Consider the things Agnes and I have in common:

Agnes sends – and receives – postcards. So do I! Each year during National Poetry Month, I send out hundreds of “Live Your Poem” artsy postcards... because I want to. (Want to receive a postcard from me? Sign up here: http://goo.gl/forms/JmNeFvo7j4)

Agnes loves being a mother. Me, too! I have three sons I nurtured from before they were born through all the crazy-busy years, and have since watched float away on a current. I couldn't be prouder or more in love with my guys!

Agnes believe the best way to handle death is to live a good life. YES. When I was writing this book, my father was in the final stages of colon cancer. He remarked to me that it was a strange situation, and frustrating, because some visitors would talk to him like he was already dead. So I researched what the dying need to hear/say, and somewhere – I wish I could remember where! - I found this gem: the dying need to hear/say 4 things: thank you, I love you, forgive me, I forgive you.

Fortunately I was able to say those things to my father, and hear him say those things to me. And I was able to give those words to an octopus named Agnes, too.

Ultimately, Agnes is grateful for her life and forgiving of her predators and competitors. She even gives her primary prey (crabs) a break at the end. Agnes is me, and she's my father, and she leaves this world the way I hope to – with joy and wonder and gratitude.

Side-note: Agnes is also funny. She's a cheeky octopus. And guess what: I'm a little bit cheeky, too – even though you may not know it from my previous books. It takes me a while to warm up, but when I do – well, there's a reason my husband calls me “the fun girl in the house.” (Yes, I am also the ONLY girl in the house!) No matter. I am certain Agnes – and my father – would agree.

~~~~~~

I'm getting tears, Irene. Thank you so much for sharing your moving story with us.

If you'd like to try to win a copy of Irene's book plus Plants Can't Sit Still, leave an entry in the Rafflecopter form below before January 15, 2019. If you have any difficulties entering, please let me know in the comments below. The giveaway has now ended. Congratulations to the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today is a special day. Not only is it the first Day of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the last day of our week celebrating children's books about birds for the Year of the Bird, but we have a real treat:  a visit by author Anna Levine with her new picture book about bird migration and some bird-themed activities!

All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine and illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto

In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it's time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel's Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Be sure to visit our sister blog Wrapped in Foil for a more in-depth review and links to upcoming stops on the blog tour.

Bird Migration

All Eyes on Alexandra is a fictional account of a real event, the twice annual migration of millions over birds to and from all the neighboring continents.

The following video shows footage from a proposed documentary about the migration, set to music. What a sight!

Imagine trying to count birds there. What a challenge it would be! On the other hand, it would be easy to fill your Big Year lists with new species.

About Anna

Anna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds. Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You don’t have to wing it!  Three bird-themed activities by Anna Levine.

Honk! Bellow! Whoop! Take part in the action.

When Alexandra Crane and her flock arrive at the resting and refueling spot in the Hula Valley they meet storks, falcons, wagtails and pelican and other bird families that honk, bellow and whoop. Now you can join the commotion, just by stepping out into your own backyard.

1. Take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count on February 16-19th. You don’t have to be an expert to join. Step outside for as long as 15 minutes or less and count as many birds as you can.

2. Awaken your senses. Experience birds through sound. Have your child listen and try to note the sounds of different birds. Record the bird song and then see if you can identify which birds they are. The Cornell Lab has a wonderful site (All About Birds Academy) where you can learn about birds and their different calls.

3. Bird beak experiment. Why do some birds have beaks that are long and sharp while others are shaped like a straw? You should have most of these tools around the house for this experiment, scissors, tweezers, chopsticks, a straw, and pliers. Gather the following foods, juice, string cheese, gummy snakes, rice, and pistachios. The idea is to try and match up the best tool for eating the different foods.

You might find that:

  • A hummingbird’s straw-like beak is perfect for drinking juice (or nectar from a flower).
  • The eagle’s scissor-like beak can rip up string cheese like an eagle tears meat.
  • A robin’s beak is perfect for digging out worms from the ground, as precise as picking up gummi worms with chopsticks.
  • A woodpecker’s beak is as sharp as a chisel and used also like a crowbar to pick out insects from dead trees, just like tweezers picking up a grain of rice.
  • And for opening seeds, a cardinal’s beak, just like pliers, is great for cracking open pistachios or seeds.

What about the beak of a curved-bill thrasher?

You can see even more fun ideas from Anna Levine to celebrate birds at Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee. blog.

Thank you to Anna Levine for stopping by and sharing the wonderful book and activities.

You can find Anna Levine online at --

 

Age Range: 3 - 8 years
Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub (August 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512444391
ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

Don't forget our growing list of books about bird migration at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided electronically for review. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 

Thank you for visiting us this week. That concludes our celebration of The Year of the Bird.

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2018 was designated as the Year of the Bird (official website). As their final event event of the year, the organizers are calling on people to share their love of birds. To participate, we're going to explore a variety of exciting new children's books about birds this week.

When I heard that this book combined the fantastic photography the crew of National Geographic with the gorgeous words of Jane Yolen and daughter Heidi Stemple, I knew it would be amazing.

Fly With Me: A Celebration of Birds through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is a family affair that reveals their remarkable creative abilities and passion for birds. It will take your breath away.

Let's start with the end papers as you open the book. In among the delicate blue silhouettes of a flock of birds trail wisps of words, which are common sayings about birds. Delightful.

Next you encounter the "Contents." They run two pages of small print. You see that you are going to find out what a bird is, the history of birds, state birds, their songs, birds migration, bird records... Don't take too long reading it all because there is much to explore. Delve in.

Each section combines gorgeous photographs with information about birds, either in chunks or as cute circle-shaped sidebars which remind you of nests or eggs. Poems accompany some sections. For example, in the section about feathers:

For keeping warm
and in the air,
for camouflage
or flashy flair...

~ Heidi E. Y. Stemple

I would keep going with the review, but I just want to keep reading and looking at the book. Oh, here's a section about the Audubon Christmas Bird Count that I mentioned on Monday. Now I found out that the American Woodcock is the slowest flying bird. There's Harry Potter's owl Hedwig and a list of movies featuring birds. Oh my, I can't wait to show this to my kid.

You get the idea. Fly With Me is a must have for ornithologists young and old. It would work equally well as a resource in the classroom or as a treasured gift to a friend who loves nature. Enjoy a copy today!

Activity Suggestion

Make your own personal scrapbook to celebrate birds. Either collect or make bird illustrations, take or find bird photographs, write bird poems, gather bird stories, and research bird facts. Paste or tape them into a notebook or make a scrapbook. Update it regularly.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years  All ages!
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (October 16, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426331819
ISBN-13: 978-1426331817

Don't forget our growing list of books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representative for review. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.