Go on an Adventure with Little River Otter

Linda Stanek and Shennen Bersani are back! This year, they visit the zoo with a little river otter who finds her identity through pretending to be other animals. You can pretend right along with the little river otter with your ticket to our at-home zoo!

About the Book

When a young river otter sneaks into a zoo, she wonders if she should be more like some of the other animals she meets. She wants a trunk like the elephant or be loud like the gorilla… By imitating and comparing herself to these other animals she learns to appreciate herself. Educational components are woven throughout this fun, read-aloud story and sidebar information complements and extends the learning, making it a perfect book for a wide variety of ages.

As an early and middle childhood educator, Linda Stanek wants to inspire young learners, including children with written language disabilities, to write about things that excite them. Her own passion for teaching children about the importance of each link in the natural world provided the inspiration for River Otter’s Adventure. Linda has also written Cheetah Dreams, Night Creepers, and Once Upon an Elephant (CBC Children’s Choice Book Award) for Arbordale. Linda has two grown sons and lives in Ohio with her husband and feline family members. Visit her website at www. lindastanek.com.

Shennen Bersani is an award-winning illustrator with 2 million copies of her books cherished and read by children, parents, and teachers throughout the world. Her art delivers heartfelt emotion, the wonders of nature and science, and creates a unique joy for learning. Some of Shennen’s other illustrated works include Night Creepers; Cheetah Dreams; Animal Partners; Astro: The Steller Sea Lion; Home in the Cave; The Glaciers are Melting!; Once Upon an Elephant (CBC Children’s Choice Book Award); Salamander Season; Sea Slime: It’s Eeuwy, Gooey and Under the Sea; The Shape Family Babies; and Shark Baby for Arbordale. She is also the author and illustrator of Achoo! Why Pollen Counts. Shennen lives with her family near Boston. Visit her website at www. shennenbersani.com.

Have Fun at the Zoo

When you can’t get to the zoo, you can create your own. Learn about each animal in your stuffed collection. Download the guide here!  You can also order River Otter’s Adventure and find other educational activities at arbordalepublishing.com.

Announcing new Fall Titles

Fall is Coming

The fall books have just arrived, and we are ready to share the shiny new covers with you! This week, we will highlight each of the titles and its creators individually, but get an overview today!

Teeth come in all shapes and sizes, just like their animal hosts. Some teeth are sharp to grab prey and tear apart the meat. Other teeth are flat to chew plants and some animals have both kinds to eat plants and animals. And That’s the Tooth delivers unique and fun facts about animal and human teeth through engaging riddles. With hints to help solve each riddle, children will be actively involved as they giggle, guess, and learn.

Just like humans, animals use their homes for shelter and to raise their young. Animal homes might be easy to see, or they may be hidden (camouflaged) for protection. Some animals are great builders and other animals borrow homes that other animals have made. Different animals might just use natural places like caves or holes in trees to make a home. And some animals might even carry their home on their back! Sticks, mud, leaves, cotton, and grass are all things that animals might use to build a home. Whether by digging, spinning, building or borrowing, animal homes are as varied as the animals themselves. This is a perfect sequel to Mary Holland’s Animal Anatomy and Adaptations series.

When a young river otter sneaks into a zoo, she wonders if she should be more like some of the other animals she meets. She wants a trunk like the elephant or be loud like the gorilla… By imitating and comparing herself to these other animals she learns to appreciate herself. Educational components are woven throughout this fun, read-aloud story and sidebar information complements and extends the learning, making it a perfect book for a wide variety of ages.

Weather changes daily. Sometimes it can even change from one moment to another—like a sudden storm. Weather affects our daily lives from what we wear to what outdoor activities (or lack thereof) we can do. Learning about weather and how to dress and prepare for it is an important skill to learn. Maybe even more important is the skill of observation. By asking simple questions, children become engaged and can start to observe and make correlations about the weather around them so they will understand how the weather impacts their lives.

You can learn more about each book and download the educational extras on the book homepages, and join us tomorrow for an interview with Terri Fields on writing And That’s the Tooth!

It’s a Birthday Party!

Artboard 1

Happy Book Birthday to Jennifer Keats Curtis, Veronica Jones, Linda Stanek, Shennen Bersani, Kevin Kurtz, Sherry Neidigh, Brian Rock, and Carolyn Le their books are on sale at your favorite bookseller!

Get to know our new titles!


BabyBearWhen two young kids learn about their father’s job, they get a surprise experience not many of us could imagine. Braden and Finley quickly learn to snowshoe so that they can head out with their Dad and his team of wildlife biologists. Dad and his team are part of a program in Michigan that tag, track and eventually hope to unite orphaned baby bears with new mama bears. The kids keep the cubs warm as the team does their work and then places the cubs back with mom in the den for their long winter hibernation. The kids wait until spring when Dad gets a call that they have an orphaned baby bear that needs a new family and the kids once again tag along to watch the team strategically join the baby with a new mom.


CheetahDreamsMany know that cheetahs are fast, but many don’t know how challenging it is to be a big cat on the African savanna. A poetic text introduces the many trials and tribulations of hunting, raising young cheetahs, and other dangers. This book urges readers to feel empathy toward the cats while learning more about their life. The lyrical text is paired with more informative tidbits about habitat and adaptations. The realistic artwork gives readers an up-close look at these majestic cats.


DayForestWetSpend a day and a night with the animals that call a forested wetland home. Some of these neighbors bask in the sunlight through the trees; others prefer to lurk in the waters. But when the sun goes down, a whole new group of animals thrives under the cover of darkness. Throughout the book, we learn fascinating facts about these animals and the unique habitat they call home in short rhyming stanzas. The text paired with the amazing detail in the illustrations, readers are sure to ask to visit a wetland after reading this book!


King Lion draws a line in the sand of his dusty empire, and the racers wait for the start. WhichAnimalThe race is quick, and the cheetah is crowned the winner of the world’s fastest animal! But wait, the other animals cry that the race is unfair and make their case for a new competition. Birds are much quicker through the air, and over a long distance the husky would surely beat the cheetah, and the marlin is the speediest in the sea. Others show off their own special skills until King Lion had heard enough and then ponders the problem. The solution is simple King Lion will hold an Olympics with categories for all types of animals.

Download teaching activities, take quizzes or print the “For Creative Minds” section from the Arbordale website. You can also order your own copy in hardcover, paperback, or dual-language ebook in our store!

Book Launch: Once Upon an Elephant


On the African savanna Elephants are gentle giants that have an incredible impact on the ecosystem. Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek debuts this week, and the amazing facts about elephants are sure to make any child want to know more about how they can help this important animal.

Learn how this book came to life from the author Linda Stanek:

lindastanekIt’s funny how researching one thing can lead to something else. While working on a book for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium about their baby elephant, Beco, elephant expert Harry Peachey mentioned the words “keystone animal” to me. Keystone animal? I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what that was. When he explained that these are animals so critical to maintaining their ecosystems that without them, other species would die, I was shocked. This was important stuff! How did I not know about it? If didn’t know about this, then who else didn’t know as well? And what an important concept to share those who would inherit this fragile Earth—our children.

That was the beginning of Once Upon an Elephant. What if, I thought, elephants were only “Once Upon a Time?” It was a heartbreaking thought. And if they did, indeed, become extinct, what else might become once upon a time as well?

After writing this manuscript, I shared it with my friend, Harry and got his thumbs-up. Then, I sent it to a handful of publishers. Within two weeks (which is quicker than lightning, in publishing-time) Arbordale made me an offer. And even more quickly, I accepted.

Two days later, I got an offer for Once Upon an Elephant from another publisher. “Drat!” my sister said. “You could have an auction!”

But I was satisfied. I knew that Arbordale produces beautiful books. And, I onceelephant_pic3appreciate that they place their books not only in bookstores, but in museum, aquarium, and zoo gift shops as well—where interested readers are likely to be found. When they signed Shennen Bersani to illustrate it, I was even happier. She crafted the amazing images to make this book complete, allowing me to share with children the concept of the keystone animal, and my love of elephants.

Learn more! Teaching activities, quizzes and other printable activities are available on the book’s homepage, check it out!

Enter to win your own copy of Once Upon an Elephant on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek

Once Upon an Elephant

by Linda Stanek

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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All About Artist Shennen Bersani

Shennen Bersani has two million copies of her books cherished and read by families throughout the world, including Astro: The Steller Sea Lion and The Glaciers are Melting! for Sylvan Dell Publishing.  She has been a freelance illustrator since 1989, and her art delivers a unique blend of realism, heartfelt emotion, and life lessons for all ages.


How does art impact other areas of your life?

The art of illustration is somewhat unique, but it has similarities to artists working in other forms of art, e.g., ballet, music, photography, and painting. People who are successful in these areas and want to stay on top of their game, must work at it for long hours every day and have little time for much else.

Since my art is somewhat less typical in that it provides more emotion, near-realism, and detail throughout, it takes longer and more hours to create. I also spend time and doing up front research and referencing, many times traveling to far away places. This provides better accuracy and allows me to create the level of detail normally found in my books.  

Based on these needs, the time required per week is very demanding.  However, the time spent while working is very enjoyable to me.  It does get challenging though, when you have children with many types of needs, you want some time with your friends, and you have a day-to-day home to operate. Somehow though, it miraculously works. Mostly, because all the people in my life are supportive of me and my work, and they understand what drives me.       

What is the most difficult thing about illustration/being an illustrator?

I find the most challenging aspect of my career trying to juggle doing my work and making time for my loved ones.  As noted in the previous answer, my illustrations take far more hours than typical. When a need arises during the day and pulls me away from my work, I will typically work throughout most of the night to keep from falling behind.     

Do you think that the digitization of so many areas of book publishing-especially picture books-is a good thing or bad thing?

I do not believe it is a good or bad thing.  I do believe it’s inevitable. 

Certainly computers have impacted my illustrations for the better. Instead of having my finished art sent out to be photographed or drum scanned, obviously I do all that now in-house quickly and conveniently.   I see the biggest impact on time management, especially with using colored pencils.  Once upon a time I used colored pencils exclusively.  It isn’t a very forgiving medium.  It’s challenging erasing and making corrections.  Actually, rather frustrating if you make a mistake.   Now, with Photoshop, I feel free to experiment and make mistakes, for I can easily change them – on my illustrations.  A much different world if I am creating fine art to be exhibited.  Every stroke needs to be thought out in my head.  There’s no ‘history’ window with a rubber eraser.  

The world of data, text, print, photos, video, and film have always been in a considerable state of transition.  The speed at which it transitions will continue to increase more and more over time.  The reason publishing seems like such a big change, is because the sources of information the general public uses every day are changing much more rapidly than in the publishing business.  It becomes expensive for everyone to keep up with the current technology.

Digital books are great in the fact that a person can download them quickly and easily.  I have many of them myself.  But personally, I dislike being a slave to a power cord.  I’d rather hold a book in my hands, touch the art, turn the pages.  I don’t feel sitting in front of a computer for any length of time is a healthy activity for a young child.  Nor would I want to give an expensive iPad to a toddler to drop onto the floor.  I’m hoping the world always has a place for a physical book.

How do you think it has impacted your art?

The Cintiq I use allows me to create art directly on it’s screen.  This provides better clarity, detail, and better results with repetitive strokes. 

Another effect is in the layout of the art.  Most art is not adequately designed for use on eReaders.  Borders, text size, design layout, and text contrast to background are all areas that need to be adjusted.  I now need to make more room for digital text than I had for printed books.


What is your favorite technique or medium for illustrations?

I like to use my colored pencils.  I used a mix of colored pencils paint and some crayons, before adding some elements using my Cintiq.  I find the Cintiq very effective for drawing in whiskers and fur on my animals.  

How do you create the life-like quality seen in Astro and The Glaciers are Melting?

First, I research my subjects extensively and become very familiar with what I am illustrating.  I’ve graduated from planting gardens in my yard for reference to traveling around the country, seeking out the best reference material possible.  This will include bringing home actual items, on-site field sketches, and taking photos.

I create my finished illustrations larger than they will be printed…  it is amazing how loose and sloppy they can look blown up as compared to when they are shrunk down.  I also use many layers of color, one on top of another.  I feel this gives my art depth.

Do you try and do all your research before starting on a project, or add details as you go?

I become immersed in a project right at the beginning!  With Astro The Steller Sea Lion my research brought me from Boston, MA, to Mystic, CT, San Francisco, CA, Sausalito, CA, Corte Madera, CA, and Santa Cruz, CA.  All before I ever picked up a pencil to do preliminary sketches.  The on-site research allows me to provide more accuracy and detail, which show up as more realistic too.  


As someone who is such a long-standing and successful illustrator, what advice do you have for anyone interested in working with children’s picture books?

I get so wrapped up in creating my illustrations I find very little time to do anything else.  I admit I am very poor at answering emails, phone calls, mowing my lawn, and dusting.  Not that I desire to neglect these other areas of my life, it’s just that everything eventually takes a back seat to my work.  Creating art is my obsession.

I’d suggest an artist get wrapped up in their work and make it their obsession.  Go to the library, hang out in bookstores.  Read and reread as many picture books as you can.  Get a feel for characters.  Sketch often.  Bring your sketchbook with you everywhere you go.  Take classes.  Take more classes.  Join the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators.  Network with fellow illustrators.  Go to art exhibits, visit museums.  Observe, observe, observe.  And most of all, believe in your self and follow your dream! 

To learn more about Shennen visit her website at http://www.shennenbersani.com/ or see her at www.sylvandellpublishing.com.