nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy June! The lazy days of summer are just about upon us. How will you while away the hours — relaxing on a quiet beach, sharing ice cream with friends, or indulging in some midsummer magic with your favorite critters?

Michigan artist and illustrator Gretchen Ellen Powers helps us envision the possibilities in her beautiful pictures. In fact, her debut picture book, Summer’s Call (written by Amber Lynn Hellewell) captures the feeling of a “Michigan summer,” something she’s known well since childhood.

The nostalgic feel and soft, muted palette of Gretchen’s art is reminiscent of Tasha Tudor. I also see a touch of Amy June Bates in how she draws her characters. I like the old fashioned throwback to classics such as Anne of Green Gables and Little Women in some of her pictures — a comforting nod to simpler times. And one of her favorites is Beatrix Potter. 🙂

Prior to Summer’s Call, she created 30 interior illustrations for the 75th Anniversary Edition of the Boxcar Children. She’s also done label and greeting card design and editorial work for such clients as The Telegraph (Stella Magazine), Mollie Makes, Lionheart Magazine, and Creature Comforts.

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[review] Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals by Linda Ashman and Aparna Varma

When it comes to the animal kingdom, just who is the tops?

Who’s the fastest flyer, the smallest mammal, the best long-distance runner?

Readers of all ages will have fun guessing the best of the best in Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals (Kids Can Press, 2023). In Linda Ashman’s lively, cleverly crafted mask (persona) poems, 19 animal contestants compete for the top prize by hinting at their identities, proudly citing what makes them amazing in some way.


No dreary cave,
No teensy cup,
No rocky shore will do.

I want the best:
A spacious nest
And dazzling penthouse view.

Each poem appears on a righthand page with an illustration showing only part of its body (a tail, a wing, a neck, a trunk). Readers then flip to the next page for a full view of the animal, its claim to fame, and a paragraph of fascinating facts, including how the animal’s superlative features were measured.

Poems are playful, engaging, and brim with personality. Who can resist such a fun guessing game while learning about creatures from the land, sea, and air? There’s a nice mix of familiar animals (skunk, crocodile, giraffe) with less familiar ones (Pronghorn, Eurasian Hoopoe, Etruscan Shrew). I was especially happy to see two of my favorite animals included: elephants and sloths (that sloths are the slowest of mammals makes me love them even more; besides, we both really like just hanging around). 🙂

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[review] Tierra, Tierrita/Earth, Little Earth/Tal, Talchin by Jorge Argueta and Felipe Ugalde Alcántara

She is the oldest and most beautiful mother of all the elders. At once gentle and powerful, she is mountain, seed, cornfield, flower. Mother Earth. She is all and everything; she is life itself.

In Tierra, Tierrita/Earth, Little Earth (Piñata Books, 2023), Mother Earth introduces herself, detailing her expanse, majesty, and ongoing evolution. The fourth title in Argueta and Alcántara’s award-winning trilingual Madre Tierra/Mother Earth series about the natural world, it follows Agua, Agüita/Water, Little Water; Fuego/Fueguito/Fire, Little Fire; and Viento, Vientito/Wind, Little Wind. All four books illustrate the interconnectedness of all living things and express a deep reverence for our precious planet.

Mi nombre es Tierra
pero todos me conocen por Tierrita.

Yo soy la Madre Tierra
Ilena de todos los colores
y de todos los sabores.


My name is Earth
but people call me Little Earth.

I am Mother Earth
full of all the colors
and all the flavors.

Encompassing north, south, east and west, she is the Mother of Water, Fire, and Wind. Though others may call her “planet,” “nature,” or “creation,” she most likes “Mother Earth, Little Earth.” Spinning around the sun since time immemorial, she sings of flora and fauna, and is “the tiniest insect, the juiciest fruit, the most delicious greens you’ve ever tasted.”

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[review] Today I Am a River by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen

If you could choose to be any animal, plant, or aspect of nature, what would it be?

In Today I Am a River (Sounds True, 2023), Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen invite readers to immerse themselves in the natural world by engaging in imaginative play. What could be more fun than pretending to be a spider, a tree, a cloud, or even the wind? In so doing, children gain new insight into Mother Nature’s beauty, power and magic.

This companion book to Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems, contains fourteen meditative, winsomely illustrated free verse poems that are life affirming and self empowering, reminding children that the imagination knows no bounds. The more we learn about the world around us, the more we realize there is simply no end to the wonder. This is how the collection begins:

I can be anything --
reaching high,
curling small,
leaping, whirling,
stopping to see --

I can be anything,

Kate’s beautifully crafted lyrical verses sing with spontaneity and gorgeous imagery. Children can’t help but respond to the unique first person voices and personalities in the poems, and will enjoy considering perspectives other than their own. As in “The River,” phrasing, movement, and rhythm have been polished to perfection.


Today I am a river.
Here I come!

I ride down a mountainside,
flow boldly
across a wide valley,
explore a canyon
written in cursive --

I reach rocks and stones,
stumble and rumble,
leap and bound,
tumble around.

But still I flow.
Fast or slow, I find my way.

Inside I know
where I want to go.

I head for the sea. The be of me.
The big blue heart and soul of me.

Today I am a river.
Here I come!
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[book birthday+ giveaway] Chatting with Charles Ghigna about The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry

We’re excited and honored that beloved Alabama poet, author, and intrepid tree house dweller Charles Ghigna is here to tell us all about The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry (Schiffer Kids, 2023), which is officially out today!!!

This 101-poem anthology is a thing of inimitable beauty, magic and wonder. Poems are presented in seven sections: Home, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, Animals, and Poetry. All are graced with Sara Brezzi’s evocative, sometimes whimsical mixed media illustrations – a perfect complement to Ghigna’s lovingly crafted verses.

The treasury has a classic feel and belongs on all library, classroom, and home shelves to be savored and shared again and again. It showcases Ghigna’s love of the natural world, his astute powers of observation, and his uncanny ability to capture small fleeting moments that might otherwise be missed.

Kids will delight in the stunning images, wide range of emotions, effortless lyricism and gentle humor. We’re reminded of fresh ways to see the world through a child’s eyes, even learning how chickens really feel about chicken soup, and whether pigs resent barbecue. Irresistible, right?

Let’s find out more from Father Goose himself. Honk!


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