May 14 – Dance Like a Chicken Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-cover

About the Holiday

Time to get your fancy dancy pants on for National Dance Like a Chicken Day! National Dance Like a Chicken Day is just about as wacky as it sounds. Its purpose is to encourage people to dance like chicken or do the “Chicken Dance.” The Chicken Dance song was composed by a Swiss accordionist in the 1950s. When the song reached audiences in the US in the ‘70s, the dance moves were created to accompany the song. The dance continues to be a silly tradition to this day with records for World’s Largest Chicken Dance and World’s Longest—spanning 24 city blocks! To top it off, Celebrate Picture Books has the perfect, funky, dancing jive of a book to start off the joyous celebration.

Thanks go to West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Chickens on the Loose for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. We’re happy to be teaming with them on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chickens on the Loose

By Jane Kurtz | Illustrated by John Joseph

 

Oh no! The backyard gate is open and there are “chickens breaking loose. / Chickens on the lam. / Zipping from the yard, / as quickly as they can.” It’s a wild chicken chase, with humans trailing behind, trying and failing to stop the loose chickens. The chickens zoom and do not stop; they peek in windows, take items from shops. They do some yoga at a local studio, before grabbing some snacks at an outdoor food court fest. What a crazy, hilarious, chicken-filled mess!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-yoga-studio

Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

As the chickens “hitch a ride on skateboards / to rest their aching feet,” paint walls, and take a trip through the pet store (where they share their love of freedom with the penned-up animals), an ever-growing crowd of people race behind to try and stop them in their tracks. Throughout the story, each new member of the crowd yells, “STOP!” but the chickens pay no heed. When the chickens reach the local pet store, “‘STOP!’ shouts everybody. But the chickens will not stop. / ‘No way!” they say, “We will not stay.” It sounds like BOC BOC BOC.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-food-truck

Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

When the chasers and escapees finally collide with a giant “SPLAAAT!!!,” the chickens know it’s time to head back home. They take their tired legs and waddle through raindrops and puddles with heads hung low. When they are back at the coop, they close their eyes and take a rest. One bathes their feet, another dozes under a snazzy polka dot eye mask. They take a snooze until, “Oops! Yikes! That old mood strikes…” and the chickens are on the loose once more! 

Backmatter includes information on keeping urban chickens and general chicken facts. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-pet-store

Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

Author Jane Kurtz wows us again with another read-out-loud tale perfect for youngsters. Her infectious rhymes and zippy rhythm propel the story with wit as quick as those runaway chickens. Kurtz’s vivacious vocabulary adds to the fun, and her repeated phrasing will have kids vocally joining the chase. In her bio following the story, she explains that her inspiration for the book stemmed from childhood experiences raising chickens with her family while living in Ethiopia. She aims to engage readers in a fun tale while teaching that chickens can happily live in cities and urban areas too.

John Joseph’s colorful, comedic drawings feature a diverse cast of city residents of different races, religions, ethnicities, and abilities. The girl whose chickens got loose in the first place is seen throughout the pages, leading the crowd down the streets. Joseph illustrates the neighborhood with colorful storefronts, homes, bustling crowds, and the silliest of chickens. The exaggerated body language and expressiveness of the humans and chickens throughout the book tell a story in and of themselves—from happy chickens with sandwiches and pizzas in beak to people gleefully and nervously chasing after the flock, the facial expressions add a great deal of humor to the story. 

Chickens on the Loose is a perfect edition to home collections, classrooms, and libraries. One that is sure to make readers laugh out loud, and maybe even inspire a round of the Chicken Dance!

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513267241

Jane Kurtz is an award-winning children’s book author, speaker, educator, and she is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia, where Jane grew up. She also heads the creative team of Ready Set Go Books, a project of Open Hearts Big Dreams to create fun, colorful, local language books for people in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text, and What Do They Do With All That Poo?, a finalist to the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Excellence in Science Books list; it has also been named to several state reading lists, voted on by children. To learn more, you can connect with Jane on her Website | Instagram | Twitter

John Joseph is an artist, illustrator, elementary school teacher, avid gardener, and community leader. He earned a degree in visual arts from Colorado State University and a Masters from Lesley University, and has won the ACP Excellence in Publishing Award for Best Picture Book. He lives in Colorado with his wife, two sons, and a German shepherd. You can connect with John on his Website | Instagram

Chickens on the Loose Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Chickens on the Loose written by Jane Kurtz | illustrated by John Joseph

To enter:

  • Follow Dorothy Levine
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite fun escape for extra entry 

This giveaway is open from May 13 to May 19 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 20. 

Prizing provided by West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Dance Like a Chicken Day Activity

West-Margin-Press-chickens-on-the-loose-activity-kit

Chickens on the Loose Activity Kit

 

Download this story time kit to make chicken puppets, complete a chicken maze, check out some chicken yoga poses and more!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-cover

You can find Chickens on the Loose at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 12 – It’s National Family Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everyone's-sleepy-but-the-baby-cover

About the Holiday

Established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882, National Family Month is observed during the five-week period between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. It coincides with the usual end of the school year, and raises awareness of the important role mothers and fathers play as a support system for their children. To observe the holiday spend time talking with your kids about topics of importance to them and plan activities  for fun and to help them achieve their goals.

Thank you to Familius for sharing a digital copy of Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby

Written by Tracy C. Gold | Illustrated by Adèle Dafflon

 

It’s getting late and mom and dad can hardly keep their eyes open. Even the dog is dog tired. But the baby? The baby is wide awake and playing with the toys. Maybe a bath with “sleepy water, / sleepy bubbles, / sleepy bathtub” will help. But no, the baby grabs the brush for a “scrub, scrub, scrub.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everyone's-sleepy-but-the-baby-mom-and-dad

Image copyright Adèle Dafflon, 2021, text copyright Tracy C. Gold, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

The baby’s stuffed animals are ready to rest, and outside the “sleepy moon, / sleepy stars,” and “sleepy night sky” watch over the little creatures in their nests. Yes, “everyone’s sleepy but the baby, / why? why? why?” Mom’s falling asleep in the rocker, and the dog is curled up near the crib, but the baby is drinking a bottle. Everything’s quiet, everything’s still, everyone’s sleeping. Even baby? Ahhh… Shhh….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everyone's-sleepy-but-the-baby-bath

Image copyright Adèle Dafflon, 2021, text copyright Tracy C. Gold, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

We’ve all had those nights – maybe even every night for what seems forever – when Baby just won’t go to sleep. But Tracy Gold has a fix for that with her adorable rhyming story that’s as calming as a lullaby. Her gentle cadence and soothing words are relaxing for the littlest will-be-sleepers, and her easy repeated phrases give toddlers a fun way to join in the reading. Weary parents or caregivers will appreciate Gold’s empathetic humor that echoes those nightly questions about their baby’s sleep patterns: When? and Why?

In her vibrant, hilarious illustrations, Adèle Dafflon depicts that nightly struggle for adults to stay awake long enough to get their little one to sleep. While everyone else is flagging – eyes at half-mast or closed – Baby is wide awake and playing, eyes bright and shiny. Little ones will love Dafflon’s images of the baby’s toys, the sweetly smiling moon, stars, and backyard animals, and familiar scenes of home.

A bedtime board book that will be a favorite of both adults and little ones for nightly story times, Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby would make a perfect baby shower or new baby gift and is a must for families, schools, and public libraries.

Ages Baby – 3

Familius, 2021 | ISBN 978-1641704403

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

Discover more about Tracy C. Gold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Adèle Dafflon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out
  3. Stuff the body with fiber fill

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew the face to the buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everyone's-sleepy-but-the-baby-cover

To purchase Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby from Familius click here.

 

You can find Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

May 11 – It’s Reading Is Fun Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-cover

About the Holiday

What’s your definition of fun? Is it going new places? Meeting new people? Laughing with friends? Getting in on the latest trend – or setting one of your own? If it’s one – or all – of these, you’ve just described reading! This week is dedicated to discovering the enjoyment that delving into a great book can bring at any age! To celebrate, stock up on books old and new – like today’s book that’s all about FUN – and have fun reading!

Thanks go to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sharing a copy of The Bruce Swap with me for review consideration. All opinions on on the book are my own.

The Bruce Swap

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

To say that Bruce doesn’t like fun may be an understatement—a big understatement. Just look at the yard surrounding his log cabin at “13 Go Away Lane” in the woods. It’s littered with signs: No Diving, No Fishing, No Skating, No Standing, No Picnicking, No Loitering, No Talking, No Running, No Bird Watching, No Hiking, No Climbing, No Whistling, No Camping, No Trespassing…and the one Bruce is just installing: No Playing. So when a letter comes for Bruce from his cousin Kevin promising a very FUN visit, you can imagine what Bruce would say. Unfortunately, Bruce never read this letter because the goose who retrieved it from the mailbox ate it all up.

Around this same time, Bruce got a little fed up with all the requests for fun his “kids” peppered him with—things like “Can we make a Roman sculpture with Greek yogurt?” and “Can we fly this hang glider made out of your sheets?” After Bruce said “No” and “No” as well as “No” to an all-sweets menu, Thistle, Rupert, and Nibbs wished for a Bruce who was “more cheerful,” “more adventurous,” and “had more pizzazz” before they went to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-wishes

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Early the next morning before anyone was up, Bruce decided to go fishing by himself. He left a note, hopped on his motorbike, and was off. The note made a delicious breakfast for one of the geese, and so no one knew that Bruce was gone…or that “Kevin was coming.” Later that morning, as everyone sat around the table hoping they were going to do something fun that day, Kevin arrived.

With just one look, the mice and the geese could see that their nighttime wishes had come true. Even though they didn’t know quite what had happened, they were ready for fun. “And Kevin was VERY fun.” There was the candy, and the order for twenty-six pizzas, and the pogo stick jumping in the living room. Kevin was loud—REALLY LOUD. He also turned the cabin into a swimming pool. The outdoor fun was no less chaotic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then “Kevin’s fun friends” arrived. This was just too much “fun Bruce” to take. Rupert, Nibbs, Thistle, and the geese sat on the lawn and cried. “They all wished for regular Bruce to come back.” And Kevin? He and his friends were still looking for more fun. Besides, there was all that mess to contend with – and Kevin and his friends thought “messes are not fun.” They clamored back into their van and drove away just as Bruce was coming back from his fishing trip.

When he got home and saw his wailing family, his heart softened and he decided that “maybe…just maybe…he should try having FUN.” But when Bruce told the mice and geese, they were shocked, they screamed, and they backed away. “Do you want to have fun or not?” Bruce asked, perplexed. “No! No! No! No! No!” his family shouted. So Bruce gathered them all up and went inside to find “what FUN had done to his house.” Bruce’s unibrow rose. Bruce’s unibrow lowered and settled into its usual grumpy position above his sad eyes and deep frown. The Bruce the mice and geese loved was back. They hugged Bruce until there was a knock on the door…. Pizza delivery!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin's-friends

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ latest “Mother Bruce” adventure answers the question the mice and geese have been asking since they met Bruce: “What’s wrong with a little fun?” Here, Higgins exposes the truth about too much fun in hilarious scenes – from the ravenous geese gobbling up letters, to the activities Thistle, Nibbs, and Rupert wish Bruce would sanction, to Kevin and his friends’ wild romp.

On the way to learning the wisdom of that old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” readers will soak up the snappy dialog, wry narration, and Bruce’s brief and surprising change of heart. There are lots of places for kids to join in on reading, especially when Kevin invites everyone to use a shouting voice, when the mice and geese are wailing, and when Bruce adds another yard sign at the beginning of the book and Kevin cleverly changes them at the end.

Higgins’ dynamic illustrations are loaded with humor and action, and lingering over the pages reveals details that expand on the rich environment Higgins has created for his beloved characters. And don’t forget to peek under the book’s jacket for a delicious surprise!

Funny, smart, and a joy to read aloud, The Bruce Swap is a must for all fans of the “Mother Bruce” series – old and new – at home and in the classroom as well as for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 20201 | ISBN 978-1368028561

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter.

Reading Is Fun Month Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient from your pizza and pass the playing die to the next player

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-cover

You can find The Bruce Swap at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 10 – It’s Garden for Wildlife Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-garden-for-the-birds-cover

About the Holiday

As May’s warm weather and rain creates a perfect environment for growing a garden, today’s month-long holiday, established by the National Wildlife Federation, encourages people to plant a garden that will benefit birds, butterflies, bees, and other insect pollinators. This is easier than it may sound and can be accomplished in a variety of ways and sizes from a single pot or container to a dedicated “meadow” plot. Planting native flowering species makes a positive impact on your local area. To watch a video with five tips to help you garden for wildlife, find plants native to your region, and learn how to have your space recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation website and Garden for Wildlife. Sharing today’s reviewed book is another wonderful way to learn how to make their yards, front gardens, and even whole neighborhoods inviting to wildlife.

A Garden to Save the Birds

Written by Wendy McClure | Illustrated by Beatriz Mayumi

 

One day while Callum and his sister Emmy were eating breakfast, a bird hit their window. They and their mom rushed outside to check on bird. It was okay and flew away, but that’s when Callum noticed that the window glass reflected the sky, and the birds couldn’t tell the difference. Later, Callum, Emmy, and their mom read about birds and learned lots of things they didn’t know – like how there are fewer birds now and how lights at night affect their migration. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-garden-to-save-the-birds-raking

Image copyright Beatriz Mayumi, 2021, text copyright Wendy McClure. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

They decide to do things around their house to help the birds. They put out feeders and add decals to the windows. “But some of the things we do to help the birds,” Callum says, “are the things we don’t do.” In the fall, they’re mindful of where birds can find food. Even the Halloween Jack-o-lantern plays a part. And they plant bulbs to prepare for spring. It doesn’t take long before they attract a lot of different kinds of birds.

At night they take to turning off the porch lights and lowering the blinds so as not to confuse the birds. Callum looks up at the sky to see dark silhouettes flying by. “I never knew so many birds migrated at night,” he says. “I know now the moon helps them find their way.” He likes that now they and “the moon are working together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-garden-to-save-the-birds-feeders

Image copyright Beatriz Mayumi, 2021, text copyright Wendy McClure. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

During the winter, Callum and Emmy make sure the birds have shelter and fresh water. They also talk to their neighbors about the birds and some of the changes they could make to help them. At first Callum thinks their next door neighbor isn’t interested in helping, but then they notice that he’s turned off his porch light too. It turns out that everyone on the block is making positive changes.

When spring and summer roll around again and all the flowers and grasses are blooming, Callum discovers that they’re not only helping the birds, but that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are attracted to the neighborhood too. In fact, the neighborhood has made such an impact that it is recognized with a sign as a certified wildlife habitat. Callum is glad that they have all worked together to make their block a welcoming home for birds and other wildlife.

Backmatter includes a discussion on the decreasing bird population, how kids and their families can create welcoming environments around their homes, and online resources for more information.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-garden-to-save-the-birds-night

Image copyright Beatriz Mayumi, 2021, text copyright Wendy McClure. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In her charming and educational story, Wendy McClure strikes just the right tone to engage kids in learning about birds and how they can make changes around their homes to attract and help nurture birds and pollinators. Her storytelling is friendly and kid-centric, and readers will be drawn to Callum’s perspective and concern for wildlife and want to get involved in local environmental activism themselves. Adults will also find helpful and interesting tips on simple ways to make a yard or even a small area bird– and pollinator-friendly. 

Beatriz Mayumi’s lovely and detailed illustrations depict the variety of backyard birds that visit inviting landscapes as well as the beauty of garden plantings. She also clearly and realistically portrays the kinds of feeders, water bowls, nesting boxes, and natural vegetation that attract birds year round. In her images, Mayumi also reminds readers about light pollution and where it comes from in a neighborhood setting. Her beautiful illustrations of the gardens created with such care as well as her depictions of Callum and his family and the whole neighborhood working together will inspire readers to get involved in helping to save the birds.

A charming and inspirational story as well as an excellent guide to turning any area into a sanctuary for birds and pollinators, A Garden to Save the Birds is a book that families and classrooms will turn to again and again. It is highly recommended for all kids and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807527535

Discover more about Wendy McClure and her books on her website.

To learn more about Beatriz Mayumi, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Garden for Wildlife Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-garden-for-wild-life-playing-cards

Garden for Wildlife Board Game

 

Plant flowers, install a bird feeder and birdbath, build some birdhouses, and leave a layer of leaves then invite the birds, butterflies, and bees to your garden plot to win the game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print one set of playing cards and garden plot (if using) for each player
  2. Print playing die
  3. Color garden plot, paper, or paper plate (optional)
  4. Choose someone to go first.
  5. Each player gets one roll of the die per turn.
  6. Roll the die and place the face-up object in your garden plot. If the player rolls the bird, butterfly, and bee before they’ve added all the other elements, play passes to the next player 
  7. Players continue rolling the die and adding objects to their garden plots. After a player collects them all, they must roll the bird, butterfly, and bee to win.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-garden-for-the-birds-cover

You can find A Garden to Save the Birds at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 6 – It’s Teacher Appreciation Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-cover

About the Holiday

Every May as schools begin to wind down for the year, students, parents, and school systems across the country celebrate the role teachers play in providing quality education from preschool through college and beyond. Established in 1984 by the National PTA, this week-long holiday also inspires a wide range of businesses to honor teachers with freebies and discounts. As Teacher Appreciation Week comes to a close, don’t forget to thank your teacher! To learn more about Teacher Appreciation Week and how you can show your gratitude this week and all through the year, visit the PTA website.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us

Written by Paris Rosenthal | Illustrated by Holly Hatam

 

As the school year winds down, kids in schools everywhere are beginning to wonder, How do I tell my teacher how much I love them? And parents, grandparents, or other caregivers are thinking, How can I truly express my gratitude for all the care, concern, understanding, education, and inspiration my child’s or children’s teachers show every day? The answer comes in Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us, a beautiful picture book letter to school teachers, music teachers, coaches, instructors, and anyone who helps kids discover who they are and encourage them to become their best selves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-dream

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Paris Rosenthal begins each two-page spread with “Dear Teacher,” and then focuses on one action, inspiration, or lesson that teachers of all kinds use to engage their students. Some of these show appreciation for lessons that carry kids into the future, such as encouraging them to “dream big,” explore many paths, “think outside the box,” and be a team player. For this last lesson, Holly Hatam depicts a child throwing the basketball to her teammate in a wheelchair as the coach stands on the sidelines, saying “Pass the ball.” The letter reads, “Dear Teacher, You taught me to pass the ball, even when I think I have the shot.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-park

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Other letters reveal a moment that sparks concrete, at-the-moment feelings of self-confidence that can make all the difference. In one spread, a music teacher conducts a small orchestra in which all the children except one are wearing black and playing string or wind instruments. The standout is dressed in yellow and plays the triangle. The accompanying text reads, “Dear Teacher, You make me feel like I matter. no matter what.”

Other letters express their appreciation to their teacher for always “lifting me up,” “being there wherever I land,” and most especially for “sending me on my way!” The book ends with a final tribute to that steadfast teacher you’d like to thank: “You are a gift that keeps on giving and this book is my gift to you.” Inside the front cover there is an opportunity for the child to inscribe the book to their teacher: “TO ______ who I admire. FROM ______ who you inspire.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-box

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With charm, sincerity, and enthusiasm Paris Rosenthal gives children the words to express their thoughts in ways that are sweet, conversational, and sound like kids and which will touch teachers’ hearts. The various types of teachers portrayed in Holly Hatam’s illustrations make this a wonderfully universal gift for any teacher, coach or instructor in your child’s life.

Holly Hatam’s vibrant and enchanting illustrations show children engaged in a wide variety of activities in clever and meaningful ways that reflect realistic experiences inside and outside of the classroom, on the court, at the gym and the pool, and while kids are playing together and using what their teachers have taught them. Hatam’s diverse children are happy, curious, proud, creative, and ready to face the future with confidence all because of the support and help their teachers give.

Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us would make a poignant, joyful, and much-appreciated gift for any teacher. The book would also be a terrific addition to home and public library bookshelves for families to share feelings of gratitude for teachers throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0063012745

Discover more about Paris Rosenthal and her books on her website.

You can connect with Holly Hatam on Twitter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-cover

You can find Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 5 – It’s National Bike Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth-and-squirrel-in-a-pickle-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month celebrates all the fun and benefits of cycling. In years past, communities around the country have celebrated with special events, tours, and safety lessons. The month also hosts Bike to School and Bike to Work days to encourage people to leave their cars at home, get fresh air and exercise, and have fun at the same time. Getting a new bike is a major milestone in many kids’ (and adults’) lives. Sometimes it takes some pretty creative thinking to get one – as you’ll see in today’s book.

Thanks to Kids Can Press for providing a digital copy of Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Kids Can Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle

Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | Illustrated by Kelly Collier

 

Sloth was snoozing on a branch when Squirrel woke him with an exclamation. Opening one eye Sloth saw squirrel nearly salivating over a tandem bike rolling past. Squirrel wanted to go fast too and was determined to get a bike. He leaped from the tree, bound down the hill, and circled another tree three times before Sloth had even set his toes on the ground.

When they got to the bike shop, Spokes, Squirrel was disappointed to discover that bikes “‘cost a lot of money.’” But then Sloth noticed the Help Wanted sign on the wall of the pickle packing plant next to the shop. They went inside and got an interview with Mr. Peacock. Squirrel showed his self-confidence. “‘I work fast. Really fast. I can bury a million, maybe a jillion acorns in an hour,” he boasted. Mr. Peacock looked at Sloth dubiously. Squirrel said that Sloth was “‘really, really… reliable.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth-and-squirrel-in-a-pickle-bike

Image copyright Kelly Collier, 2021, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2021. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

That was good enough for Mr. Peacock. He gave them special overalls, gloves, goggles, and hairnets to wear and set them up with barrels full of pickles and jars to be packed. But the job was slipperier than they thought. Soon, pickles, jars, and even Squirrel and Sloth were flying through the air and crashing back to the floor to slip around some more. When Mr. Peacock came to check on them, only six jars were full.

Squirrel appealed to Mr. Peacock’s sympathy. “‘We just need more pickle packing practice.’” Mr. Peacock gave them a second chance. This time Squirrel took over the packing duties while “Sloth s-l-o-w-l-y stuck on sticky labels” while hanging from pipe on the ceiling. When Mr. Peacock checked on them a second time, he was pleased as punch to find towers of packed and labeled pickle jars waiting for him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth-and-squirrel-in-a-pickle-bounding

Image copyright Kelly Collier, 2021, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2021. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

But when he took a closer look, he discovered that every label was upside down. Sloth and Squirrel were tossed out on their ear with six-jars-worth of payment and more than 600 jars of pickles. Squirrel wanted to save the money for a bike, but Sloth used his half to buy them ice pops from a truck. Squirrel began licking his pop lickety-split, but “Sloth slurped s-l-o-w-l-y.” Lickety-splat.

Squirrel offered to share his with his friend, but then Sloth stuck his stick in a pickle and created… “a salty, sweet and sour sensation.” Customers lined up to try this new treat, and after they’d peddled their pickle pops, Squirrel and Sloth were peddling away on their new bike. And if you think Sloth wasn’t keen on going so fast, you’ll just have to see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth-and-squirrel-in-a-pickle-pickle-factory

Image copyright Kelly Collier, 2021, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2021. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Cathy Ballou Mealey’s tongue-twistingly funny story of odd-couple friends working to buy a bike will keep kids giggling from start to finish. Her creative story based on the literal and figurative definition of “pickle” seamlessly blends unique characters and events while hilariously incorporating the traits of squirrels, sloths, and even pickles to ramp up the suspense and humor. Plenty of clever alliteration as well as Squirrel’s rapid-fire dialogue make this a read aloud kids are going to want to hear again and again. Woven throughout Mealey’s story are messages of friendship, ingenuity, perseverance, creative-thinking, and industriousness.

In her pickle brine-hued illustrations Kelly Collier accentuates the humor of the story with comical visual elements that begin on the first page, where a bear and a bunny, near doppelgangers for Sloth and Squirrel go whizzing by on their bike. Once inside the pickle factory, kids will love pointing out all of the pickle-inspired décor, from the wallpaper to Mr. Peacock’s university degree to his old-style telephone. Collier’s slapstick images will have kids laughing out loud, and her illustrations of Sloth engaging in sloth-like behavior while attaching labels hints at the upcoming and pitch-perfect plot twist without giving it away. Pickle puns and a pack of pleased customers celebrate Sloth and Squirrel’s new venture and a little turtle’s dare leads to a surprising finish.

Quick to become an often-asked-for favorite of both kids and adults, Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle is a book to buy for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1525302381

Discover more about Cathy Ballou Mealey and her books on her website.

You can connect with Kelly Collier on Instagram | Twitter.

Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Kids Can Press in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | illustrated by Kelly Collier

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of pickle for extra entry

This giveaway is open from May 5 to May 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 12. 

Prizing provided by Kids Can Press.

Giveaway open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Bike Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pickle-maze

Pack a Peck of Pickles! Puzzle

 

The pickle jar has toppled over! Can you pick up the pickles in the maze to pack them in the jar again?

Pack a Peck of Pickles Puzzle | Pack a Peck of Pickles Puzzle Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth-and-squirrel-in-a-pickle-cover

You can find Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 4 – National Teacher Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover

About the Holiday

This school year has been like no other – for students and teachers. Switching from in-person, in-the-classroom learning to virtual learning and zoom classes to hybrid models has been a head-spinning experience for all. Yet our teachers have adapted, designing new lesson plans and devising creative ways to engage their students online. This week (National Teacher Appreciation Week) and today in particular, we honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our and our children’s lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity. Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you. You can find 51 ways to thank your teacher on Waterford.org and a Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit, complete with virtual and printable thank-you cards and certificates and other ideas to download on the National PTA website.

I Wish You Knew/Ojalá Supieras

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

 

As a little girl approaches her school building, she tells the reader, “Our school wraps around a hundred-year-old oak tree.” The students mark the passage of time by the changes in the leaves. The school has a garden with cabbages, tomatoes, and sunflowers that the girl’s father helped her class plant. “One day,” the girl says, her father told her “that because he wasn’t born here like me, he must return to his native country.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-school

Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Before he left he hugged her and said, “Te quiero mucho, Estrella…my little star.” He promises to come back one day “to see the sunflowers bloom. Until then, Estrella skips between the tall flowers and “think[s] of his smile.” In her thoughts she addresses her teacher: “I wish you knew that when I forget my homework or sit alone at lunch or cry over little things, it’s because I miss him.” And it is not only these things that have changed. Everything at home, for her mother and her brother, too, is different.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-garden

Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

As Estrella’s teacher enters the classroom one day, she says she is also proud that her school surrounds the old oak tree. Her favorite place is in her classroom, where her students are busy and curious. She also loves to watch them play on the playground. The students may not realize it, but the teacher sees when they are sad and understands when they are without their homework. She wishes they knew that “they are not alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-home

Image from Ojalá Supieras, copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

The teacher starts a new tradition, a “sharing circle called I Wish You Knew.” There the kids can tell their classmates how they are feeling, what they’re thinking about, and other “secrets” they are ready to share. Estrella’s teacher lets her students know she’s there if they need help. One student reveals that they are “hungry a lot.” Another student’s mom is in the military and another explains that he lives in a shelter.

But not all of the children’s sharing is sad. Estrella likes to talk about all the things her dad taught her and what they did together. And while she waits to be together with her father again, she and her friends plant more sunflower seeds and “wait for them to bloom.”

I Wish You Knew is also available in a Spanish Version with the title Ojalá Supieras.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-spanish-version-hungry

Image copyright Ojalá Supieras, Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

In her moving story Jackie Azúa Kramer embraces the many children affected by hardships, whose parents are absent for a variety of reasons, or who live with difficult family situations. Through Estrella, whose father has been deported, Kramer dives deep into the hearts of children grappling with strong feelings, hunger, homelessness, and otherwise disrupted home lives while still trying to succeed in school. Using “I wish you knew” from a variety of points of view, Kramer first draws children into Estrella’s confession as she directly addresses the reader. With the tenor of a confidant, Estella gives readers a tour of the favorite parts of her school. It is here, among the sunflowers that she feels comfortable talking about her father. During lunch, Estrella wishes her teacher knew what had happened at home.

The perspective then shifts to the teacher who shows her favorite parts of the school while revealing that, while she may not know the exact situation, she does recognize when something is wrong and hopes her students understand she is there to empathize and help. These two storylines merge when the teacher establishes the sharing circle and three students share their wishes straightforwardly, addressing the reader as much as their teacher and creating a poignant reading experience for all. Echoing the resilience of children, Kramer ends her story with a message of hope.

Magdalena Mora uses warm earth tones in her evocative mixed-media illustrations, mirroring the ideas of growth and renewal found in Kramer’s story. Estrella’s school building is a green-and-glass structure that looks out on the old oak tree, a symbol of steadfastness and strength for the students and teachers alike. The events and situations the children share are rendered in gray, giving them a feeling of distance from the children’s school day. Mora’s stylized sunflowers grow in profusion, framing the students and teacher on various pages and appearing in the background on others, an ever-present reminder that friendship and understanding are nearby and that better days lie ahead.

A moving story of empathy, sharing, and kindness, I Wish You Knew is a must for classrooms and is highly recommended for home and public library collections to help children and adults initiate difficult discussions about emotions and events or experiences affecting their lives.

Ages 4 – 7 

Roaring Brook Press | ISBN 978-1250226303 (I Wish You Knew) | ISBN 978-1250814784 (Ojalá Supieras)

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Magdalena Mora, her books, and her art on her website.

I Wish You Knew Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Jackie Azúa Kramer in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | illustrated by Magdalena Mora

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 4 to May 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 11. 

Prizing provided by Jackie Azúa Kramer.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover      celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ojalá-supieras-cover

You can find I Wish You Knew at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

You can find Ojalá Supieras here

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order I Wish You Knew from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Order Ojalá Supieras here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review