Friday, April 3, 2020

Play Like an Animal!

Play Like an Animal!: Why Critters Splash, Race, Twirl, and Chase 
by Maria Gianferrari; illus. by Mia Powell
32 pages; ages 5 - 9
Millbrook Press, 2020

theme: animal behavior, play

Dash! Hide! Splash! Ride! 

Do you like to play? Animals do, too. When animals play, they might be practicing how to hunt, how to fight, or how to escape from predators. Or – they might just be having fun. From mud-splashing peccaries to a wolf pup tug-of-war, Marie Gianferrari shows thirteen different animals at play.

What I like love about this book: I love the VERBS! These animals plonk, chase, slide and glide. They dunk and punch, bound and wrestle. So much action happens on these pages that you just want to get up and move!

And I love the Back Matter! This is where we learn whether animals play by the rules and why play is so important to animals – and humans. And there are plenty of fun facts about each of the animals featured in the book.

I caught up with Maria by email to ask her One Question ~

Archimedes: Do you think it's important for grown-ups to play?

Maria: I don't play enough, but I'm about to start another jigsaw puzzle. They're so meditative! And play is the perfect stress reliever, so my motto is #playeveryday, for both kids and adults. I hope that staying at home is leading to playing at home!

Beyond the Books:

Find out more about the games animals play. You can read an article here, and watch some wolf pups playing here.

Modify your favorite games to play indoors. We played sock-hockey in the kitchen, using rolled newspapers as hockey sticks. How about balloon volleyball? Tape mazes? Duck-duck-goose or hide-and-seek? Here are some ideas for active indoor play – and here’s more.

Make up some active games to play when you are stuck inside your house for a month. And share your list with your friends.

Write a list of VERBS that describe the ways you play. Do you squirm? Chase? Tumble? Race?

Maria is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Fooling around with Acorn Caps

I am finding all sorts of things in the yard: bark bits covered with lichen, pine cones, and lots of acorn caps left behind when squirrels took off with the nuts. They may look like nature's debris to us, but did you know that acorn caps make the perfect hats for finger puppets? Or dishes for clothespin dolls?

 Acorn caps also make fantastic fairy castles. Balance one on top of the other and ~ voila!

Or make a Bug Village. Directions here.

Paint numbers on them, put in a cup, give a shake, and pour 'em out to create a game. What are the rules? Not to worry, you'll make 'em up as you go.

If you've got ends of candles, melt the wax and fill up the acorn caps - add a short wick to each - and you've got tiny candle boats.

And if things are too quiet, try making an acorn cap into a whistle. Directions here.(full disclosure: I have yet to get my acorn caps to whistle)

Friday, March 27, 2020


It's spring. Tree frogs are peeping and quacking. Soon toads will be trilling. So it's a perfect time to dive into books about frogs! I know, I started the year off with a book about amphibian science, but one can never have too many books about frogs, toads, newts...  So here's one more to add to your "Got Frogs?" reading list:

Amphibian Acrobats
by Leslie Bulion; illus by Robert Meganck
60 pages; ages 8 - 12 years
Peachtree Publishing, 2020

We’re amphibians! We breathe through our skin,
We drink the same way: we soak water in….

Leslie Bulion, who has penned poetic descriptions of leaf litter critters and birds, now turns her attention to amphibians. She introduces us to Olympic jumpers – Fiji frogs that can twist in midair and land backwards to escape predators. She shares the secrets of deep-freeze artists, salamander wrestlers, and marathon walkers that migrate to their puddle home to lay eggs every spring.

What I like about this book: Let me count the ways! First, the science – on each page Bulion introduces one or two amphibians and their amazing behavior. She accompanies each poem with science notes about the frogs, salamanders, caecilians ... and Robert Meganck teams up with scientifically accurate illustrations.

Back matter includes poetry notes. For each poem, Bulion includes notes about the poetic structure and rhymes – a terrific resource for anyone who wants to experiment with different styles of writing.

But what I really like is that she invites readers to help protect amphibians. Her final poem focuses on the importance of protecting habitat. She adds notes in the back matter with specific steps kids – and their adults – can take to help conserve our amphibian neighbors.

Animal Skins
by Mary Holland
32 pages; ages 5-9
Arbordale, 2019

I’m including Animal Skins because Mary Holland provides more information about the skins of frogs, toads, and red efts (newts). She details how frogs shed their skin and why some amphibians have poisonous skins. And she clarifies that, though toads will make some animals sick if eaten, they will not give you warts. And that’s just the amphibians. Holland also shows how feathers and scales protect creatures and provides activities at the back.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Seasonal BINGO

Exploring nature is essential to my being, whether it is my backyard or what I can see and hear from my open window. So, keeping in mind the restrictions we face these days, I offer some SPRING activities that you can download....
OR use as inspiration to create your own.

Today it's BINGO.

The Outdoor Classroom folks at the Minna Anthony Common (MAC) Nature Center in Fineview, NY have created a wonderful Bird Bingo challenge. This is great for a walk along your rural road, or sitting on a balcony in your city, or wherever you might be - though the birds are seasonal for our NY neck of the woods. You can download a Bingo Card here.

If you live elsewhere, you may have different birds. So create your own Bingo card by using a bird field guide for your region. Draw your own pictures or download photos.

If you aren't sure what birds sound like, check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird Song Hero. It's about 7 minutes long, but by the end you'll be on your way to knowing who's singing up in that tree.

Mass. Audubon provides a series of seasonal Nature Bingo games for folks exploring their sanctuaries. But you can use them for exploring your backyard, local greenspace, or even the bit of nature you can see from a window. Feel free to substitute plants, animals, or other natural things found in your area. Download Nature Bingo cards here.