June 25 – It’s Pride Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of June the LGBT community celebrates diversity, cultural accomplishments and influence, and the strides that have been made politically and socially. The month also highlights that there is still far to go before the LGBT community achieves full equal rights and acceptance. Around the world, the rainbow flag, designed in 1978 by American artist, gay rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran Gilbert Baker, flies proudly over a variety of events, including parades, marches, concerts, book readings, parties, and workshops.

Julián Is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

 

Julián and his abuela are riding the subway, when three women dressed as mermaids enter their car. The women’s shimmery aqua dresses, complete with flowing tail, capture the young boy’s attention because “Julián LOVES mermaids.” As they move down the track, one of the mermaids combs through her long hair; another, her head adorned with a filmy, seaweed-red pouf decorated with jewels fixes her tail; and the third waves at Julián, who smiles back.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In Julián’s imagination the aqua dresses become a wave engulfing him in the frothy sea. He frees himself from his shorts and tank top while his tightly curled hair, loosens and floats upward. A ray with a rainbow of fish, jelly fish, eels, and an octopus following it its wake surround Julián, and when they’ve all passed by, he’s magically grown a pink tail with a golden fin. He swims, flips, and whirls in the water and then meets a fantastical fish who presents him with a shiny necklace.

The daydream vanishes as Julián hears his abuela say, “‘Vámonos, mijo. This is our stop.’” The three mermaids wave goodbye at the door of the subway car as Julián and his abuela walk down the platform. On the way home, they pass three girls playing in the spray of a fire hydrant.  “‘Abuela, did you see the mermaids?’” Julián asks. Without looking down, his abuela says, “‘I saw them, mijo.’”

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

On their doorstep, Julián tells his abuela that he too is a mermaid. The older woman takes this in without expression. Inside, as Julián’s abuela takes a bath, Julien sets off to make his imagination a reality. He frees himself from his shorts and t-shirt, harvests fronds from his abuela’s palm tree and flowers from her vase for a headdress, applies her lipstick in the vanity mirror, and ties the sheer, delicate curtain from her window around his waist for a tail.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With the costume complete, Julián is reay to swim just as his abuela steps into the room. She takes one unreadable look at Julián, says “‘Oh’” and “‘Uh-oh’” and leaves the room. Julián folds his arms, looks uncertainly at his “tail,” and checks out his face in the mirror. In a moment his abuela is back, dressed and ready to go out. She holds out her hand to Julián and presents him with a pearl necklace.

She takes Julián’s hand and leads him outside and down the sidewalk. Julián holds his abuela’s arm and walks beside her with his head held high. They meet up with a crowd of men, women, and children dressed as mermaids and other sea life. At first Julián holds back, but Abuela holds out her hand. “‘Like you, mijo. Let’s join them,’” she says. And as they join the parade—Julián revels in his freedom while he dances right behind the three aqua mermaids.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jessica Love’s joyful story will raise a lump in your throat. Perfectly constructed with a minimum of text and facial expressions that reveal so many nuances of wonder, awareness, and acceptance, Julián Is a Mermaid offers young readers and adults a rich tapestry for discussing emotions, memories, and experiences related to growing up, identity, and finding ones place. Love’s gorgeous color palette brings the beauty of the sea and the creativity of the imagination fully to life.

Julián’s abuela is a marvel of understated strength. Her seemingly strict gaze on Julián provides a bit of humor and the suspenseful turning point in the story, but as her eyes soften—just a little—when she takes Julián to the parade, readers will know that not only does she accept, but she truly understands. Julián knows this too, which is dynamically demonstrated when Abuela appears as the generous fish in his daydream. With so many people around the world striving for their voices to be heard, Julián is a Mermaid is an important gem to cherish and share.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763690458

National Pride Month Activity

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Mermaid Coloring Page

 

Everyone loves mermaids! Grab your crayons or pencils and even some glitter and enjoy this printable Mermaid Coloring Page!

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You can find Julián is a Mermaid at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 24 – It’s National Camping Month

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About the Holiday

June is the perfect month to explore the great outdoors up close through camping. Whether you enjoy pitching a tent, renting a cabin, or parking an RV, all the enjoyment of hiking, fishing, swimming, and of course toasting marshmallows and singing around the campfire await! 

Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs

Written by The Okee Dokee Brothers—Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing Illustrated by Brandon Reese

 

Is it possible to sing a picture book? It is when the book is Can You Canoe?! These twelve humorous, rip-roaring tunes take readers and singers deep into the fun of what it means to spend time enjoying nature. Wild animals, tall tales, legendary characters, and all the sounds and flavors of country livin’ are represented in these catchy original songs that will have you singing and laughing along in no time.

Through the Woods introduces the line-up with an apt question: “I’m wondering if you’d go wandering with me / Through the wilderness and woods / To where the winds are blowin’ free…” But even the speaker realizes there might be doubts—“You’re wondering if I go wandering with you / what kind of trouble we’ll get ourselves into. / Would it be wrong to tag along / With a band of vagabonds?”—and assuages them in the end.

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Brandon Reese (brandonreese.com).

Jamboree takes readers to a country store where there’s dancing every Friday night to a song called “Jamboree” that’s played with abandon and just a little off key. But all you need is to “grab you a partner / And hold on tight / ‘Cause we ain’t stoppin’ / Until we see the light.”

In Black Bear Mama a couple learns there’s no arguing with a mother bear on the lookout for food for her cubs, and Echo Echoooo reassures that nothing, not even the widest valley, can keep true love apart. Can You Canoe? is a celebration of the simple life out on the water without distractions: “Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? Can You Canoe?…I wanna float down a river with you.”

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mr. & Mrs. Sippy can take you by surprise as this isn’t a tune about straws or baby cups. Instead, this is a rambling life story that starts like this: “Mr. and Mrs. Sippy / Got married in the fall. / They left the church that very same day / For their honeymoon in St. Paul, / Singin’ M-I-double-S-double-S-I-P-P-I / M-I-double-S-double-S-I-P-P-I. The couple roams on down to St. Louis to make themselves a home, then raises children in ‘good old Memphis Town.” When they have no place left to go, “they drift down past New Orleans / To the Gulf of Mexico.” Then you’re invited to sing the chorus backwards and forwards once again!

The Legend of Tall Talkin’ Sam echoes some of the great legends of the American West, such as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Samantha Rosie-Anna, aka Sam, was “born to a pioneer woman and a Rocky Mountain mountain man” and “come out ridin’ a panther and ropin’ a twister outta the sky.” Sam’s so big that when she sleeps under a blanket of snow, she lays her “hat down in Montana and my boots in Colorado.” But even though this girl is “half horse, half mountain lion and half grizzly bear,” she admits there are things she doesn’t know—“like how some little stream / Carved out one big ol’ canyon, / Or how a fire’s angry flame / Can be your best companion.”

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Brandon Reese (www.brandonreese.com)

Jackalope addresses one of the greatest American myths—that of a creature of mixed jack rabbit and antelope blood that roams the plains of the West. With tongue in cheek, the mysterious whereabouts of the Jackalope is exposed in the chorus: “Well I’ve seen ‘em in books and in taxidermy shops. / I’ve seen ‘em hangin’ on the wall. / But I ain’t never seen one in the livin’ light of day— / It’s almost like they don’t exist at all.” But the last verse reveals that perhaps this odd apparition has a purpose after all: “So when you’re searchin’ for the truth / And you’re at the end of your rope, / You might find you don’t need no proof / To believe in the thing that gives you hope— / And for me that’s the jackalope.”

These and a few other rollicking, gold-nugget songs will make any camp out—or even camp in—a knee-slappin’ good time. Can You Canoe comes with a CD so you can sing along to all your favorites—and I have no doubt each song will become a favorite in no time!

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing have known each other all their lives and know a thing or two about adventures and how to make them more fun for friends and families. This Grammy-winning duo conjure up catchy tunes and compelling stories to make their songs unforgettable. These poems/songs have as much heart and wonder as a new frontier and invite readers and singers to explore!

Brandon Reese lends his distinctive talent to each song, creating animated scenes loaded with the kinds of details and drama kids love. Barefoot travelers with their packs on their backs and strong walking sticks in hand pad through woods populated with friendly wildlife. The country store is alive with animal musicians and dancers on the porch, on the roof, and hanging out every window while broadsides for Aunt Malady’s Snake Oil and No Itch Flea Powder hang on the walls. A cozier camping tent you’ll never find, and canoe paddlers are accompanied by a raccoon poling a crocodile boat while a rabbit floats along on the belly of a turtle. Each picture invokes the great outdoors in all its glory.

Can You Canoe is a must for any trip, whether you’re traveling far or just down the road!

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1454918035

National Camping Month Activity

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Come Canoeing With Us Maze

 

These friends want to canoe together but first they must pick up little deer at the center of the lake. They need your help navigating their way in this printable Come Canoeing With Us maze! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Reviews

June 23 – It’s National Dairy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1937 as National Milk Month to encourage people to drink more milk to stabilize the dairy industry during a time of surplus. The event grew to celebrate all the benefits provided by the dairy industry around the world. The name was changed when the National Dairy Council took over promotion of the holiday. 

A Symphony of Cowbells

Written by Heather Preusser | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

With the dawning of spring, Gimmelwald came alive with the “Da-ding, da-ding. Jingle-jangle, jingle-jangle. Clang-clong-clank, clang-clong-clank” of bells as the cows were led to the sweet, green grass in the high meadows. The cows’ milk would become “scrumptious cheese…sold by the wedge, wheel, and wagonload.” As Petra walked with her family’s herd, she led her favorite cow, Elfi, who “wore the most booming brass bell of all.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But one day Elfi’s bell was missing. Petra’s father told her they had a schedule to keep and that Elfi would have to go without her bell, but Elfi wouldn’t hear of it. She stomped her hoof and stood her ground. No amount of pushing, pulling or prodding could move Elfi from her spot. Petra ran and retrieved a tiny tin bell to hang around Elfi’s neck, but Elfi only “sniffed and snorted at the embarrassing tinkling. Tittle-tattle-tink, tittle-tattle, tink.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Without Elfi to lead them, Petra’s other cows lay down in the meadow and refused to move as well. “‘No milk? No cheese? What’ll we do?’ Petra gulped.” She begged Elfi to get up, but Elfi simply gazed at Petra with “eyes wide as milk saucers.” Petra knew she had to find Elfi’s bell. She searched the house, looked in the barn, and combed the field, but didn’t find the bell. The sun went down, and “the stubborn cows remained rooted among the bellflowers.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In the morning, Petra spied a crow with something shiny in its beak. She ran after it and discovered the bird’s huge nest high on a cliff. She was much too small to reach it, so she called her father, her mother, and a couple of neighbors. They piled on top of one another, and as Petra teetered on her mother’s shoulders, she reached into the nest and pulled out…Mr. Schmid’s pocket watch, Miss Baumann’s reading glasses, Farmer Felber’s wrench, Mother’s bracelet, Father’s keys, and…Elfi’s brass bell!

Petra skipped all the way to where Elfi and the other cows were keeping their protest, the brass bell announcing “Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG. Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG” all the way. When Elfi saw her bell, she danced with joy. Petra placed the bell over Elfi’s head and kissed her velvety nose. The other cows took notice. “On cue, they stood and moseyed up the mountainside….The symphony of cowbells was harmonious again—and LOUD. It was springtime in Gimmelwald after all.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Heather Preusser’s enchanting Swiss tale of tenderhearted but stubborn Elfi will delight readers with its musical mystery and gentle humor. Kids will love hearing and reading along with the melodic verses of jingling cowbells sprinkled throughout the text. Preusser’s lyrical phrasing is as fresh as the mountain air and will transport children to the beautiful Swiss countryside.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a perfect example of text and illustrations working together to present the story and add layered details that elevate the reading experience. Eileen Ryan Ewen’s gorgeously detailed and charming paintings take readers to the heart of Gimmelwald, with its glorious mountain backdrop, quaint village architecture, and cozy homes decorated with Alpen cuckoo clocks, dainty curtains, and window boxes overflowing with flowers.

Along the way Ewen frames a consecutive story along the bottom of most pages. Through these panels, eagle-eyed readers will notice a curious happenstance occurring in Gimmelwald which just may explain a few things…. It’s not until the end, however, that kids discover the answer to the story’s mystery.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a captivating and humorous look at country life with a little science sprinkled in. Readers may be enticed to do a little more research into the animal behaviors that influenced the story. The book would make a lovely addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369683

To learn more about Heather Preusser and her book as well as see a video about the real Gimmelwald, visit her website!

Discover more about Eileen Ryan Ewen and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Dairy Month Activity

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Ring a Bell for Reading Bookmark

 

It’s easy to make a stylish bookmark that can ring out your love of reading while marking your page!

Supplies

  • 3 shoelaces or ribbon of different designs
  • Small “sleigh” bells or other bellscelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-a-symphony-of-cowbells

Directions

  1. Hold three shoelaces together and knot them together at the top
  2. Braid the shoelaces together as long as you want your bookmark to be
  3. At the end, string three or more bells onto the ends of the shoelaces and knot the shoelaces together to hold the braid closed.
  4. Alternately, you can knot the braid at the end and tie a group of bells to the end.
  5. The end with the bells becomes the top of the bookmark.

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You can find A Symphony of Cowbells at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Millon | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 22 – National Chocolate Éclair Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that paragon of desserts, the chocolate éclair. Part pastry, part creamy filling, part chocolate goodness, and completely delicious, the éclair—and later the chocolate version—was the brain child of French chef extraordinaire Antonin Carême in the early 1800s. Abandoned by his parents during the French Revolution, Carême went to work as a kitchen boy to survive. He became an apprentice to famous pâtissier Sylvain Bailley, and he was so talented that, after his training, he was able to move from restaurant to restaurant while gaining a name for himself and his delicacies. Enjoy the day by indulging in this very special treat.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

National Chocolate Éclair Day Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

This month, as kids get out of school and families head for the beach, we celebrate the amazing diversity of life in the ocean. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the sea has to teach us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering never-before-seen (or even imagined) creatures. To join in on this month’s holiday, explore the beach, visit an aquarium, or learn more about the animals and resources of the sea. 

Barnacle is Bored

By Jonathan Fenske

 

Even before Barnacle’s story truly begins he’s just hanging around the dock sighing. The trouble is Barnacle is “Bored. Bored. Bored.” Every day is the same old routine. When the tide is high, Barnacle is “wet and cold,” and when it goes out, he’s “dry and hot.” The sun rises; the sun sets. The waves “roll under” him or give him a good dousing of the briny deep, but no matter what’s going on Barnacle is stuck in place.

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Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

If only he were like the little polka dotted fish swimming by. Barnacle imagines what exciting days he must have. “I bet he dives with the dolphins” and “soars with the sailfish,” Barnacle muses. He dreams of the fun the fish has with flounder, finbacks, plankton, and…that eel doesn’t look like it wants to play with polka dot fish. Oh, no! Barnacle can’t look.

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Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

Yikes! Barnacle grimaces as eel swims away, full and satisfied. He retreats into his shell to reconsider and decides, “I am not bored.” But polka dot fish floating around inside eel? Yeah, he’s bored.

Jonathan Fenske takes the proverbial (shell)fish story to new, minimalistic lengths in his laugh-out-loud Barnacle is Bored. Fenske’s use of repetitive phrasing and funny alliteration highlights Barnacle’s tedium as well as his conviction that the sea is greener on the other side of the dock. When reality comes calling close to home, though, Barnacle—and young readers—discover that sometimes excitement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-barnacle-is-bored-here-I-sit

Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

Fenske’s jaded Barnacle is an adorable dreamer even as he grumbles about his sticky situation. His expressive eyes and tiny tentacles that sway with the tides will make little ones giggle. With a soothing palette of ocean colors, Fenske creates fresh, crisp backdrops that emphasize both Barnacle’s feelings of monotony and his vivid imagination.

Barnacle is Bored is a perfect summertime treat that will elicit waves of requests for repeat readings. A great choice to take to the beach and on vacation, the book will not spend its time stuck on the shelf.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545865043

Discover a gallery of books and illustration by Jonathan Fenske on his website!

National Oceans Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painted-pails

Playful Plastic Pail

 

With a colorful plastic pail, some paint, and a little sealant, you can make a pail for the beach or sandbox that is as unique as you are!

Supplies

  • Plastic Pail
  • Paint that will adhere to plastic
  • Sealant for plastics
  • Paint brushes

Directions

  1. Create your design
  2. Paint your pail, let dry
  3. When the paint is dry, spray with sealant. Apply sealant in a well-ventilated place
  4. Let sealant dry
  5. Enjoy your pail!

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You can find Barnacle is Bored at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

June 20 – It’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Jannie Ho

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About the Holiday

One of the best parts of summer is all the fresh fruit and veggies that are available at farmers markets and grocery stores. Vibrant red strawberries, watermelon, and tomatoes; deep green lettuce; and a rainbow of squash, peppers, and potatoes make cooking and eating a special treat. There’s no better way to celebrate the season than by making favorite recipes—and trying some new ones—with your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Bear and Chicken

By Jannie Ho

 

On a cold winter day, Bear was coming home from his morning walk when “he saw a chicken, frozen in the snow!” He picked her and her knapsack up and brought them inside, where a warm fire crackled in the fireplace. “How does one defrost a chicken? thought Bear.” Bear took a blanket and wrapped the chicken like a burrito and held her tight until her eyes opened. When that happened, Bear smiled and Chicken found herself staring into two rows of very sharp teeth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Interview-with-Jannie-Ho-bear-finds-chicken

Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear took Chicken into the kitchen, where carrots and onions sat on the counter. Bear picked up his cookbook and began to read. “‘You are just in time,’” he said to Chicken. Chicken looked on worriedly as Bear filled a huge, chicken-sized pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. When Chicken inadvertently knocked over a pot of basil, Bear decided it was a perfect addition to his recipe.

With a newly sharpened knife, Bear chopped up carrots, celery, and onions. “‘Hmmm…what else is missing?’ said Bear,” looking right at Chicken. Bear lifted Chicken up to the pot of hot, bubbling broth. She imagined what would happen next. Chicken wriggled out of Bear’s grasp and ran as fast as she could and out the door.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-and-chicken-double-spread

Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear chased after her, and even though Chicken “zig-zagged through the trees,” Bear caught up with her. She glanced at the big stick Bear had raised over her head, and thought it was the end for her. But Bear, his feelings hurt, was just holding out Chicken’s knapsack. “‘You forgot this,’” he said. Surprised, Chicken blurted out, ‘”You’re not going to eat me?’” Now it was Bear’s turn to be surprised, and he explained that he was making lunch for both of them.

Still wary, Chicken protested that she wasn’t hungry, but her grumbling tummy gave her away. The two laughed, and after Bear promised to help Chicken find her way home, they went inside to enjoy delicious bowls of vegetable soup.

An adorably illustrated recipe for Bear’s Vegetable Soup and a note about the diet of Black Bears follow the text.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Kids will love the suspense and humor of Jannie Ho’s mistaken purposes story. Her laugh-out-loud line about defrosting a chicken sets the action directly in the kitchen and puts young readers in the same mindset as poor Chicken when she wakes up to a very suspicious smile. As Chicken stews about her predicament, little ones will empathize with her while older readers may have fun predicting Bear’s intent. The chase through the woods provides gentle suspense while the sweet reconciliation will have readers giggling along with Chicken and Bear.

Ho brings her distinctively cute artwork to her debut as an author/illustrator with great effect as Bear and Chicken exchange meaningful looks—but is Bear serious about cooking Chicken or just serious about his cooking? Kids will fall in love with little chicken from the moment she’s found in the snow and snugged into a warm blanket. Her worried expression will further endear her to readers, and who can blame them for a bit of worry of their own when Bear’s décor includes such things as a picture of bacon and eggs and the prominently displayed Chicken Cookbook?

A cozy Cozy for the youngest mystery lovers, Bear and Chicken should be invited to stick around on any child’s bookshelf for story time or bedtime.

Ages 3 – 6

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762462667

Discover more about Jannie Ho, her books, and her artwork on her website.

Meet Jannie Ho

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Jannie Ho about how Bear and Chicken’s story began, her always eye-catching color palette, and her special relationship with her young readers. 

What inspired you to venture into writing with Bear and Chicken?

I was inspired to write Bear and Chicken when these two characters showed up in one of my illustrations. I was working on a banner header for my blog and I had drawn a Bear holding a bundled up little chicken.

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I received a lot of feedback for it and many people asked me, “What is their story?” I didn’t know yet, but I knew I had something interesting. I filed the idea away and brought it back again when I was invited to participate in a sequential art gallery show. The two pieces for that show became the first spread of Bear and Chicken.

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Your illustrations have such an active, happy sense of camaraderie and community. What would you like readers to take away from your books and other work?

Thank you! I would love to transport my readers to a different world that is filled with happiness, innocence, and humor. There are always little “Easter eggs” I like to put in my illustrations; it is like a little secret between the reader and me. A wink, so to speak.

One of the most striking aspects of your work besides its off-the-charts cuteness is your use of color. Can you talk a little about how you approach color in your illustrations?

I love color and I am constantly looking for color palettes that inspire me. I’ve always done work for very young children and so my color palette is always bright. But I’ve learned over the years to mix in some slight neutrals and unexpected colors in my palette with great results. In almost every project, I already have a color palette in mind when I start. I think the secret is not to use every color there is! A limited color palette always looks much more refined and sophisticated.

What was your favorite picture book when you were a child? Who has influenced your artistic vision.

One of my favorite picture books of all time was (and still is) Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town. I fell in love with his anthropomorphic animal world immediately and he is still my biggest influence to this day.

What’s the best part of being a writer and illustrator for children?

Getting kids to laugh! I think I have a kid’s sense of humor.

What’s up next for you?

I’ve been exploring stories that are from my culture and childhood. I feel a great calling to bring these stories to life and onto paper.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Halloween! I am from Hong Kong and we do not celebrate Halloween there. When I moved to the U.S., I was so surprised at this holiday where you can get free candy from strangers’ houses! Now as a parent, it is fun to see my kid dress up. It is also one of my favorite holidays to illustrate—I have done many Halloween titles (The Haunted Ghoul Bus by Lisa Trumbauer, If You’re Spooky, You Know it by Aly Fronis, Halloween ABC by Jannie Ho).

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday you’d like to share? OR has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Speaking of holidays I was not familiar with as an immigrant, Thanksgiving was a holiday my family had to learn about as we became Americans. I remember going to school having to lie to friends and teachers about eating turkey, cranberry sauce, and gravy. We never had the traditional Thanksgiving meal. One year, I finally asked my mom why we didn’t have turkey for Thanksgiving. She replied, “Chinese people don’t eat turkey.” Which isn’t true, of course! Throughout the years, we’ve learned the traditions and adapted it to make it our own.

Thanks, Jannie! It’s been so fun chatting with you! I wish you all the best with Bear and Chicken and all of your books!

Bear and Chicken Giveawaycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-and-chicken-limited-edition-cover

I’m thrilled to offer a very special giveaway of Bear and Chicken thanks to Jannie Ho! I’m giving away

  • One (1) copy of Bear and Chicken with a Limited Edition Cover

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 20 – 26. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on June 27.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Jannie Ho

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Bear and Chicken at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

June 19 – World Sauntering Day

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About the Holiday

In 1979 as the jogging craze was sweeping the world, W.T. “Bill” Rabe decided people needed to be reminded to slow down and really notice the things around them. At the time Rabe worked at the the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which boasts the world’s longest porch at 660 feet (200 m). Since that time people are encouraged to celebrate Sauntering Day by taking a long walk and enjoying the relaxation of a slower pace.

Tiny, Perfect Things

Written by M.H. Clark | Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

 

A little girl and her grandfather head outside for a walk. “Today, we keep our eyes open for tiny, perfect things,” the girl says. The first thing they find is a yellow leaf that has fluttered down from a nearby tree. While the girl is examining the leaf, she notices an intricate “spider’s web that’s caught the light.” Then Grandpa lifts her up to see “a snail that had climbed the fence last night.” 

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Crows overhead watch the pair and guard the treasures they’ve hidden in their nest. One drops a red bottle cap for Grandpa to find. The little girl and her grandfather also see a red flower pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk and a man wearing a hat with a long, red feather. Farther on, the girl realizes their “shadows are holding hands,” waking when they walk and standing when they stand.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

They wave to a neighbor and her cat and admire a shiny apple “way up high. / Red against the blue, blue sky.” As twilight falls and bunnies, birds, and other creatures settle in, a pale moon rises. The cold night air prompts the little girl and her grandfather to start back home. Around the corner, they see their house. A welcoming light is on, and a pretty white cat waits for them at the door.

The girl runs to her mother and exclaims, “We found so many things today! / A leaf, a snail, a cat, some crows. / The world is full of wonders, / no matter where we go.” She sits on the rug and draws all the tiny, perfect things they saw, ready to go out again tomorrow.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

M.H. Clark’s gorgeously written, lyrical story shines a light on seemingly simple aspects of nature and neighborhoods. As seen through a child’s eyes, leaves, snails, the surprise meeting of familiar people and pets, and even a change in light and temperature are gems to be remembered, recorded, and sought out again and again. The gentle pace and affection between the little girl and her grandfather makes each page a joy to read, and the love and warmth of the girl’s mixed race, multigenerational family will swell the reader’s heart. Clark’s final line invites children to find “perfect things” wherever they go. It’s a call both kids and adults will want to answer.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Madeline Kloepper’s lush illustrations combine sophistication with the sensibility of a child’s drawing to beautifully reflect the child’s-eye view of Clark’s story. With deep earth tones, Kloepper depicts a neighborhood teeming with life while also showing that the little girl and her grandfather are one with the natural world. Through various perspectives, Kloepper points out that astonishing things can be found at ground level, up high, and in surprising nooks and crannies if one just takes time to look. Each page depicts the object described in the text and then offers many more “tiny, perfect things” for alert readers to discover. A final double gate fold will have kids and adults sitting on the floor or spreading out at the table together to search for all of the wondrous things hidden in plain sight.

A book that opens readers eyes while warming their heart, Tiny, Perfect Things would be a much-loved addition to any child’s home bookshelf and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Compendium, 2018 | ISBN 978-1946873064

To learn more about Madeline Kloepper, her art, and her books, visit her website.

World Sauntering Day Activity

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My Nature Journal 

 

You can remember the things you see on a walk in this Nature Journal. Just print the cover, add pages, and staple it together. Then draw the flowers, trees, birds, snails, and things you see. You can tape leaves and other small objects inside too!

My Nature Journal Cover 

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You can find Tiny, Perfect Things at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review