Friday, September 30, 2022

Beavers: Ecosystem Engineers!

 The Lodge That Beaver Built 
by Randi Sonenshine; illus. by Anne Hunter 
32 pages; ages 4-8
Candlewick Press, 2022  

theme: animals, homes, ecology

This is the crunch in the darkening wood, of teeth against bark where the willow once stood, on the shore near the lodge that beaver built.

Bit by bit, log by log we watch beaver build a dam, then a lodge, helped by her young ones. But that lodge is more than a home for beaver and her family. Goose builds a nest on top. Turtle hides below. Ducklings, herons, moose … an entire community grows up in and around the lodge that beaver built.

What I like about this book: The text is rhythmic, patterned on “The House that Jack Built” and a whole lot of fun to read. And the ink-and-colored pencil illustrations are so inviting and just welcome you into beaver’s world. 

And there is Back Matter! Now, some folks argue that back matter shouldn’t be needed if the book tells the tale completely. But here’s the thing: as a former teacher (and homeschooling parent) I always wanted to know more about whatever was in a book. So I love, love, love it when an author gives more info – in this case more about beaver architecture and engineering, their amazing tree-cutting teeth, and family life. Plus there’s a glossary and resources for curious young naturalists.

Beyond the Books:

Watch a video about how beavers build a dam. Here’s one, but you can find plenty online.

Beavers are ecosystem engineers. They can help reforest the landscape and regulate water flow. Got flooding? Erosion? Dry creek beds? There’s a Beaver for That!

Build your own beaver dam. You’ll need sticks and mud and leaves – and a plastic tray (a take-out container works well). Check out this video for some tips.

Randi visited the blog on Monday and shared a bit about the swamp where she grew up. If you didn’t catch it earlier, here’s the link

Randi is a member of #STEAMTeam2022. 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, September 28, 2022

Explore Outdoors ~ Seeds!

The dill in my garden is going to seed. That's what dill does if you leave it long enough... it produces flowers which, eventually, produce seeds. It's what tomatoes and cucumbers and pumpkins do, too - but their seeds are sheltered in a protective coating (fruit).
Dill aren't the only ones going to seed. This time of year a whole bunch of flowers are producing seeds: sunflowers, coneflowers, thistles, poppies, lupine, forgotten lettuces and broccoli...
even the spidery cleome flowers which, if I leave them alone, will drop their seeds so I'll have flowers again next year. We'll see...
  • What kind of seeds are you finding as you walk around your neighborhood and local parks?
  • Are the seeds smooth or textured?
  • Do they come in pods or on stalks?
  • Do they have wings or parachutes to fly?
  • Or do they have hooks to hitch a ride?

Monday, September 26, 2022

Notice, Wonder, and Seek ~ by Randi Sonenshine

Several years ago I wrote an artist statement – a sentence or two that described what I did as a writer. That was before my debut book was published and, subsequently, before I truly knew myself as a writer. More importantly, it was before I believed myself to be an artist (something I still question more often than I’d like!).

After giving it much thought, I landed on this statement: I write picture books and poems that take readers on nature-fueled and wonder-filled journeys. Those two phrases, nature-fueled and wonder-filled, capture my essence as a writer, which was in no small part influenced by a childhood steeped in nature.

I grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with the Chesapeake Bay just to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean just to the East, so there was no shortage of woods and watery places to explore. Wood-fringed ponds, creeks, rivers, marshes, and swamps, each with their own alluring mysteries, were all within close reach. My parents were nature-loving adventurers, so spring through fall, our family of five was off to one state park or another, our canoe-topped pop-up camper bobbing behind us with each dip in the road. 

Our trips always included nature walks and outings with the five of us (and our sixty-pound Irish setter) piled into our red Coleman canoe. My parents never missed an opportunity to educate us on the flora and fauna, though it was always in a way that taught us to notice, wonder, and seek rather than passively absorb information. 

We didn’t need to go camping to commune with nature, however; we only needed to walk out our back door, across the sloping backyard, and down the homemade log stairs into a primordial wonderland - the Swamp. Our Swamp.

Our Swamp, which fed from a pond and funneled into a Creek, was shaded by holly and bald cypress trees and ringed with cattails, sedges, jewelweed, and numerous other plant species. According to my mom, there were 37 different species of birds when we moved there in the winter of 1977.  Songbirds, ducks, geese, owls, herons, and a plethora of four-legged critters, like otters, rabbits, foxes, and white-tailed deer called the Swamp home. There were also snakes, frogs, turtles, and fish. 

My sisters and I, along with our neighborhood friends spent countless hours traipsing in the swamp and adjacent woods. Sometimes we took the canoe through the swamp all the way to the pond, maneuvering through the thick tangle of undergrowth and overgrowth. This often required getting out and carrying the canoe where it was too shallow, or some impenetrable jumble of green blocked the way. 

Though I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate it then, this time spent in nature had a profound and lasting impression on me. Today, I write with the hope that my books will inspire readers, young and old, alike, to seek out the wild, wooded, and watery places and make their own wondrous discoveries. 

Randi Sonenshine grew up exploring the magical world of forests, streams, and ponds in a pair of trusty tennis shoes and a red canoe. Her debut picture book, The Nest That Wren Built (reviewed here), is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and earned a place on many notable lists. Her newest picture book is The Lodge That Beaver Built and it releases this week!

In addition to writing for children, Randi is a literacy specialist and instructional coach in northwest Georgia, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a sock-eating poodle. Learn more about Randi and her books on her website,, on Twitter @rsonenshine, and on Instagram @randisonenshine.