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12 Spectacular Kid’s Books That Encapsulate the Beauty of BigPicture Natural World Photography Winners

The winners and finalists of the fourth annual BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, put on by the California Academy of Sciences, were recently announced. Entrants were invited to contribute their photographic work that “celebrated and illustrated the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspired action to protect and conserve it through the power of imagery.” Out of 6,100 entries, a handful of glorious photos made the final cut. From adorable pink-faced Japanese macaques who huddle together to keep warm to a firehose of lava gushing from the base of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano into the Pacific Ocean, the glory and astonishment of the natural world were photographed like never before.

Here are 12 spectacular kid’s book that accompany and capture the diversity and inspiration of these prized shots:

A Small Blue Whale

by Beth Ferry

Capturing the Wonder of Human/Nature Finalist: “Synchronized Sleepers”

“Synchronized Sleepers” caught sperm whales falling into a vertical slumber. These massive marine creatures spend seven percent of their time taking short naps, drifting non-responsive just below the water’s surface. The book “A Small Blue Whale” from New York Times bestselling author Beth Ferry also captures the wonder and magic of these aquatic beasts. A small blue whale drifts alone at sea, dreaming about finding a friend. Will his wish come true? Or is he destined to a life of solitude? Tidbits of a whale’s characteristics and size are immersed among breathtaking illustrations.

Mad About Monkeys

by Owen Davey

Representing the Monkey Business of Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist: “The More the Merrier”

There are 21 species of macaques, a genus of Old World monkeys. Their bright pink faces and inquisitive eyes scream “look at me,” and they’re equally fascinating in temperament and behavior. The Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist “The More the Merrier” shows Japanese macaques huddling together for warmth, forming what’s known as a saru dango, or “monkey dumpling.” Owen Davey’s “Mad About Monkeys” also reveals some of their quirky tendencies, exploring diverse types of monkeys. The bold, striking illustrations keeps things lively for young children.

An Island Grows

by Lola M. Schaefer

Depicting the Magic of Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora Winner: “Kamokuna Lava Firehose 25”

A steady stream of lava, called a firehose, suddenly gushed from an underground lava tube at the base of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano and spilled into the Pacific Ocean. The epic shot entitled “Kamokuna Lava Firehose 25” won the coveted Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora category. The excitement of this natural wonder is highlighted from start to island in “An Island Grows”. Children can learn how a volcano forms and how lava contributes to the birth of an island. Bold collage illustrations are a perfect complement to the text and tribute to the winner.

Little Snow Goose

by Emily Hawkins

Portraying the Beauty of Winged Life Winner: “Snow Globe”

North American populations of snow geese have skyrocketed since the ’60s. In Canada, they’re considered overabundant, often forming avian snowflakes in the sky. The Winged Life winner “Snow Globe” shows the brilliance of their flocks. “Little Snow Goose” talks more about this winged beauty, in a story about the unlikely friendship between a mischievous fox cub and a lovable little goose. School Library Journal says, “the illustrations are attractive, with soft colors and slight embossing to add texture.”

If You Were a Panda Bear

by Florence Minor

Replicating the Behavior of Human/Nature Winner: “Pandas Gone Wild”

At a conservation center in China, pandas are bred in captivity with the goal of one day being released into the wild. To prevent them from attaching to their human caregivers, the staff wears costumes that mimic the look and colors of this amazing bear – detailed in the winning image “Pandas Gone Wild”. The educational picture book “If You Were a Panda Bear” introduces various kinds of bears to children, including the beloved panda. Skillfully detailed paintings show the diversity between the species.

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

by Eric Carle

Showing the Radiance of Terrestrial Wildlife Winner: “Ecosystem”

Click beetle larvae elicit a characteristic green glow much like fireflies, which was captured in the shot “Ecosystem”. Eric Carle, creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, brings to life the radiance of the click beetle in the delightful tale about a very clumsy one who can’t seem to stay on his feet. This is a nice little introduction, complete with collage art, that introduces kids to a very unique insect.

Somewhere in the Ocean

by Jennifer Ward

Highlighting the Aquatic Mysteries of Art of Nature Winner: “Sea Jewels”

There are many natural mysteries in the ocean. One was photographed in the winning image “Sea Jewels”. What looks like an organism under a microscope is actually a bucket full of by-the-wind sailors (Velella velella), relatives of the jellyfish. Kids can discover even more ocean treasure in the book “Somewhere in the Ocean”, set to the tune of “Over in the Meadow”. Colorful gouache paintings illustrate each marine creature.


by Holling C. Holling

Revealing the Appetizing Side of Aquatic Life Finalist: “Roundup at Revillagigedo”

A marine ecosystem near the remote Revillagigedo Islands off the west coast of Mexico was memorialized in the shot “Roundup at Revillagigedo”. This image shows the appetizing side of aquatic life, where top predators feed on chub and other fish. The intricacy of a tide pool, including the bountiful circle of life, is also presented in text and pictures through the story of Pagoo.

Eat Like a Bear

by April Pulley Sayre

Illustrating the Bear Necessities of Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist: “The Salmon Catchers”

An up close and personal view of a mother grizzly bear and her cub was captured while they were fishing for salmon in Canada’s Yukon River watershed. “The Salmon Catchers” ways are also illustrated in the book “Eat Like a Bear”.


by Rebecca Heller

Supporting the Conservation Efforts of Grand Prize Winner: “Confiscated”

Despite bans that prohibit the sale of items made from endangered species, the trade continues. Inside of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife repository near Denver, Colorado, 1.3 million confiscated wildlife products are on display, including these elephant feet-turned-footstools – a photo that won top dibs in the contest this year. The practice of poaching elephants has reduced their populations by eight percent each year over the last decade. Rebecca Heller has stepped to the conservation plate with her new book “Elephants”. The story follows a baby elephant through his day and a portion of the proceeds benefit Amboseli Trust for Elephants, a non-profit organization that aims to ensure the long-term conservation and welfare of Africa’s elephants.

The Secret Bay

by Kimberly Ridley

Celebrating the Maternal Instincts of Aquatic Life Winner: “Mantis Mom”

Aquatic Life Winner “Mantis Mom” celebrates the maternal instincts of all creatures including the peacock mantis shrimp which stands guard over her fertilized eggs. “The Secret Bay” reveals the hidden world of estuaries, places where rivers meet the sea and fresh water mixes with salt. Here, tidal backwaters serve as nursery areas for oceangoing fish and other marine critters. Kid-friendly illustrations quickly draw young readers into the ripples of this remarkable story.


by Sneed B. Collard III

Exemplifying the Many Feathers of Winged Life Finalist: “Fearless in the Flames”

In West Bengal, farmers often burn their fields after they harvest their wheat and rice. The practice, while illegal and dangerous, creates a flurry among black drongos. “Fearless in the Flames” shows these winged warriors swooping into the flames to snatch the insects fleeing the burning inferno. In “Beaks” children can explore countless avian species and learn what makes them unique.

Which photo was your favorite? Share in the comments!

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Rachel McAdams didn't talk publicly about her pregnancy or her birth story. There are some things this working mama wants to keep to herself, but the fact that she needs to pump at work isn't one of them.

McAdams was recently doing a photo shoot with photographer Claire Rothstein of Girls Girls Girls magazine when she needed to take a pump break. Wearing Versace and a neck full of diamonds McAdmans did what mamas all over the world do every day, and Rothstein snapped a pic that is now going viral.

In an Instagram post, Rothstein explains that she and McAdams had a "mutual appreciation disagreement about who's idea it was to take this picture," but the photographer says she remembers it being McAdams' idea, "which makes me love her even more."

In her caption of the amazing photograph, Rothstein writes: "Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can't for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of."

The photographer added that she wanted to put the image out there to change perceptions about breastfeeding, pumping, and working motherhood.

McAdams decision to normalize pumping through this glamorous image is especially cool when you consider that she's not really a social media person, and spends a lot of days in much less glam attire.

She recently arrived for her first interview since welcoming her son in the spring wearing a grey shirt, baggy pants and sneakers, reportedly telling the interviewer (Helena de Bertodano for The Sunday Times U.K.), "I don't even know what I'm wearing today. The shoes are held together with glue. Isn't that sad? I need to get a life."

"I have clothes on and that's a good thing," McAdams told Bertodano during that chat. Her attire for that newspaper interview was a world away from the clothes she wore for the Girls Girls Girls shoot.

During her Sunday Times interview McAdams declined to discuss her son's name or birthdate.

"I want to keep his life private, even if mine isn't," she explained. "But I'm having more fun being a mum than I've ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there's something delightful about them."

Most of us will never look the way McAdams does in this photo while we're pumping, but we can totally understand that sometimes, motherhood means you're wearing sweats and sometimes it means you're pumping in your work clothes (even if for most of us, that doesn't mean Versace).

McAdams may be keeping some parts of her motherhood experience private, but by showing the world this part of her day, she's normalizing something that desperately needs normalizing.

Some mamas pump, and the world needs to know (and accommodate) that.

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To my children,

It's the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.

I regret, so deeply, the hurt I delivered through harsh words or sideways glances, for steely eyes you didn't deserve and sarcastic replies you didn't understand. I'm sorry for being upset when I should have been more understanding, for resorting to frustration when I should have found more patience, for pulling away when I should have drawn near.

There were the times when you needed more from me, when you asked for more, and I simply couldn't provide. There were the moments when you wanted less of me, needed less from me, and I couldn't—or perhaps I just wouldn't—back away.

I start every day with a hope, a hope that I will be better than the day before.

Sometimes I succeed, but many times, I fail. Every so often, I fail in spectacular fashion. I think about all the times when I wasn't gentle enough or kind enough or attentive enough to you, about all the moments when I was too quick to anger and not quick enough to forgive.

You don't need me to tell you that I'm not perfect. Lord knows, you know far too well.

But I will say it to you, because I think it helps to hear me say it: I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am human. I have flaws and cracks and blemishes; they are a part of me, just as they are a part of you.

Sometimes, my dear ones, my mistakes are small—like forgetting to pack your lunch or mixing up the dates for Tot Shabbat, or picking you up an hour late from a play date or accidentally switching your piano primer with your brother's, or sending a snack I know you dislike because I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and have no other food in the refrigerator. But sometimes, they aren't so minor.

Sometimes, my mistakes have to do with the way I've behaved, and the words I have said, and the way I have said them. For those times, and for all the times I failed to support you the way I should, or help you in the way you deserve, and love you in the best way I can, I am sorry.

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but when it comes to parenting, there's still so much I haven't mastered. Even after almost a decade of doing this day in and day out, I still feel like a novice in so many regards and as green as I did on day one.

Precious ones, I've come to realize, no matter how hard I try, that I just can't get it right all of the time. I hope you can forgive my failings.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is a jumble of hits and misses. As many times as we try and succeed, we also try and fail. As much as we hope to do right, we often end up doing wrong. It is the story of the human condition—this mix of losses and gains, triumphs and defeats. It's all very messy (think sloppy joes and pancakes dripping with syrup kind of messy), and yet, it's all we know.

My darling ones, I want nothing more than to do right by you and be the best mother I can be for you. I want to love you unconditionally, support you unreservedly, and be present unambiguously.

In the New Year, I resolve to do better for you, to be better with you, and to act as if God is watching. You mean the world to me. You are everything to me. I love you, always and forever.

All my love,


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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

A new study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

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We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47


2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95


3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99


4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00


5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99


6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99


7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97


8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99


9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99


10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95


11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39


12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00


13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99


14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00


15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work.We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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