August 20 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

August is one of those transitional months—hot and humid, but with a touch of fall in the evening and early morning air. It’s also the month when most kids go back to school or are preparing for another year of learning. August is also a wonderful month to spend extra time with family. There are lots of things you can do with kids from planning special events at home to taking a family trip to a local or nearby park, zoo, or aquarium. This time spent together makes memories for a lifetime!

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of Fiona the Hippo to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway that’s perfect for Family Fun Month! See details below.

Fiona the Hippo

By Richard Cowdrey

 

When a baby hippopotamus was born on a winter night at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, all the other animals were excited. They were surprised that she was part of their family so soon and were eager to see her. In fact, the whole world was excited to see her as word got out on news outlets and the Internet about Fiona—the baby hippo who had “arrived earlier than expected.” As she slept in a room just for her and was cared for by the zookeepers, the other animals peeked in. They thought she was cute and tiny, and Ostrich added, “kind of slimy!”

The zookeepers fed Fiona from a bottle and pretty soon she was big enough to learn how to walk. “And when she was ready, she let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’ And wobble-wobble-plop! She tried over and over, until she did.” Little Fiona grew quickly, and soon it was time for swimming lessons. With a little practice and a little help, Fiona became confident, until one day, she said “‘I’ve got this!’” and splashed right into the pool.

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

While Fiona was growing and learning, she made the other animals proud. They couldn’t wait until she could “come out to play.” But Fiona was still busy growing and discovering new things. People who watched Fiona’s progress online sent fan mail. Soon, she had piles of letters and gifts congratulating her. They said “‘You are amazing! We love you, little baby hippo!’”

One day, Fiona looked out the window from her special enclosure and saw her mama and daddy swimming nearby. She wanted to be with them. The zookeepers agreed that Fiona was big enough and strong enough to be in the pool with her parents. As “she swam with her mama for the first time,” she “let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’”

She loved swimming with her mama and daddy, but she also wished for some friends to play with. The other zoo animals were thrilled to hear this. At last they would get their chance to have fun with Fiona too. Ostrich and turtle, elephant and otter, penguin and bear, and all the rest dove right in for “the biggest pool party the zoo had ever seen!” That night, Fiona snuggled with her mama and daddy and dreamed of all the adventures to come, telling herself, “‘I’ve got this!’”

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With enthusiasm and humor, Richard Cowdrey tells the story of Fiona, a hippo born prematurely who overcame the odds of survival to become a favorite of people everywhere. By following Fiona’s progress and telling the story from her point of view, Cowdrey reaches out and embraces young readers, reassuring them that, like Fiona, they’ve “got this!”—no matter what new skill, adventure, or activity they face. Readers will eagerly read along with Fiona’s signature expression. The attentiveness of the other zoo animals also reminds kids that they aren’t alone, but have family and friends who love them.

Children will be charmed by Cowdrey’s realistic illustrations of the adorable Fiona. Images of her swaddled in a blanket by the zookeepers, wiggling her ears and smiling confidently as she learns skill after skill, and reuniting with her parents and other zoo animals are enchanting. Humorous pictures of Fiona snugged into a life vest, swimming tube, and pool noodles will make kids giggle with recognition. Animal lovers will want to linger over each page to enjoy the beautiful depictions of a wide range of their favorites.

A photograph of the real Fiona on the back cover will make readers smile, and an Author’s Note on the back of the book jacket relates the facts of Fiona’s birth, growth, and well-deserved fame.

An inspiring tale of perseverance, self-confidence, and friendship, Fiona the Hippo is an aww-inspiring delight that will capture young readers’ hearts at home and would spark excitement for science and social learning in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310766391 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310766360 (Board Book)

Discover more about Richard Cowdrey, his books, and his art on his website.

Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Fiona-the-Hippo_Fabulous-Fiona-Prize

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in this fabulous giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Fiona the Hippo, by Richard Cowdrey
  • Plus a $50 Visa gift card to take your family out on the town.

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 20-26. 

A winner will be chosen on August 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

About Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling artist Richard Cowdrey of Bad Dog, Marley fame, tells the story of Fiona, the adorable internet sensation from the Cincinnati Zoo who captured hearts around the world with her inspiring story and plucky personality.

Born prematurely, at only 29 pounds, Fiona was not expected to live. But her spunk and determination helped her thrive and become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. With every challenge she faced, Fiona let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said “I’ve got this.” And she did! Through this whimsical and inspiring tale of perseverance and friendship, inspired by the real adventure of this heroic hippo, kids join Fiona and her lovable animal friends at the zoo as she is introduced to the world.

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About the Author

Richard Cowdrey’s favorite things to draw and paint are the common things seen everywhere in nature. He especially enjoys capturing the expressions, eyes, and gestures of both humans and animals. Drawing and painting Fiona was challenging as the hippopotamus is a very unique yet beautiful creature! Richard’s bestselling children’s books include Legend of the Candy CaneBad DogMarley, and A Very Marley Christmas.

Family Fun Month Activity

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Playful Zoo Friends! Maze

 

These baby animals want to play together! Can you help the hippo round up his friends in this printable Zoo Friends Maze?

Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Puzzle | Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Solution

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You can find Fiona the Hippo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 19 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

During National Fishing Month individuals and families are encouraged to try their hand at this fun outdoor sport. Whether you catch and release or eat what you catch, casting your line, seeing the bobber wobble, and feeling that exciting tug on the fishing pole makes for a fun day.

Skyfishing (A Grand Tale with Grandpa)

Written by Gideon Sterer | Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

 

A young girl’s grandpa sold his cabin on the lake and is coming to live with her and her family. When they pulled in to pick him up, he was ready and waiting with every fishing pole he owned in one hand and his tackle box in the other. But once he saw his granddaughter’s apartment in the middle of the city, he “realized there was nowhere to fish.”

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

All during that fall and winter, the girl tried to engage her grandpa in new activities like building models and playing chess. But nothing was the same as fishing. Then in the spring, the little girl had an idea. She took her grandpa out on the fire escape with their fishing poles, and they cast their lines over the edge. At first nothing happened. But then Grandpa got a bite. He reeled it in… “Grandpa said he’d never seen one before, but there it was…A Flying Litterfish.”

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

That green plastic bag on the end of the hook was just the beginning. After learning the rules—always return what you catch and “where there’s one fish, you can bet there will be more”—the two caught “Chimefish, and Signfish, Laundry Eels and even a Cold-air-square.” But all of those things were stationary and easy to catch. Down below, however, “the sidewalk flowed slowly”; it was a perfect place to practice trawling.

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

“Capfish were the first to bite. Then Songfish, Goldfish, and fish “from foreign shores.” As Grandpa and his granddaughter became more proficient, they reeled in “Furry Snappers” on leashes and “Hammerheads” drilling holes. Even a “Grillfish” was on the menu. Next, it was time to try their luck in the ocean of the street where larger and faster fish lived. Here, “Zoomfish, Mailfish, Glowfish, and more Yellow-stripers than [they] could count” waited.

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

There were also mammoth creatures like the “Stretchfish,” Waste-muncher,” and “Constructionfish,” but down below these—in the murky depths—lived the largest fish of all. Grandpa and his granddaughter studied just how to set their line, they lowered it slowly and were not surprised when they felt the tug of the…oh, no!…“Troublefish” with sirens blaring.

Quickly and quietly the two put their fishing poles away for another day. But summer vacation was just beginning, and it was time to join those city fish. “It was time to swim.”

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

Gideon Sterer’s debut picture book gently and creatively addresses the issue of grandparents transitioning from their own home into another living situation. As an outdoor-loving grandpa comes to live with his family in the city, his caring granddaughter discovers a way for him to continue his beloved pastime while they also form a strong bond. Sterer’s clever idea of dry-land fishing along with his witty names for the fish found in the concrete depths will enchant readers and entice them to devise species of their own. The sweet ending in which both Grandpa and Granddaughter are ready to explore the city and new experiences together is satisfying and uplifting.

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

With perfect pacing and a growing sense of wonder, Poly Bernatene leads children from Grandpa’s sparkling blue lake to his granddaughter’s city apartment to the first glimpse of their fire escape trophy. Children will be charmed by the ingenuity of the plastic-bag fish dangling on the line and, like the little girl in the story, will be hooked on what comes next. As the waters rise and the people and objects down below slowly transition to fish and other humorous sea creatures, readers will love exploring the watery world and learn to look at their own neighborhoods in a whole new way.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1419719110

To learn more about Gideon Sterer and his books, visit his website.

Discover a gallery of artwork and books by Poly Bernatene for children, young adults, and adults on his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

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Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

 

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Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color a set of playing cards
  4. Cut the cards apart
  5. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  6. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  7. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  8. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  9. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  10. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

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You can find Skyfishing (A Grand Tale with Grandpa) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 18 – Break the Monotony Day

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About the Holiday

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you so entrenched that you can’t imagine breaking your comfortable routine? Then maybe it’s time for a change. And that’s what today’s holiday is all about. It doesn’t take much to break the monotony—just a simple change-up will do. So today, instead of having your usual latte, order a chai. They’re delicious! Instead of following the same boring route to work or school, zip down a different road. You never know what you will see! And Instead of binge-watching that show, try a new one.  I know! But you can go back to it tomorrow. Of course, one of the best ways to break the monotony is by reading books—they’ll take you to all sorts of places, you’ll meet new, exciting people, and you’ll get involved in events you never thought possible! 

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly ever since.”

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

Break the Monotony Day Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

One of the best ways to add excitement to life is through reading! These kids are waiting for some books to read. Can you help the super-reader bring his friends new books in this printable Reading is Super Maze?

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You can find Somewhere Else at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 17 – National Black Cat Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

If you want a pet who’s always surprising, loves to play, and will make you laugh, you can’t go wrong with a cat. Frisky kittens and even older, more loafing cats display such varied personalities that each day brings new fun adventures. Today, we celebrate one particular type of cat—the black cat. While black cats are just as loving and cute as tabbies or their tiger-striped friends, they are much less likely to be adopted from shelters or find forever families due to the superstitions that surround them. If you are considering adding a kitten or cat to your family, think about adopting that cute black kitten that is sure to steal your heart.

Bloomsbury Books sent me a copy of Big Box Little Box to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Big Box Little Box

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Edward Underwood

 

In a house full of boxes, there lives one very happy cat! Do you see her peeking around the “Big box?” The orange and pink striped one that’s tied neatly in red string? Maybe she wonders what is in the “little box” nearby. Wow! Look at all those boxes to hide among on the next page! There’s a “huge box,” a “tiny box, a “thin box” and a “fat box.” The kitty has even found a box to sit on. Oh, no! Now it’s a “flat box.”

The cat has found six more boxes in every color to explore. She’s even found a red one that’s just perfect to nap in. No? Oh well. Two hands pick her up and place her into her own box—a comfy “snore box.” The cat wakes up to more boxes decorated with fancy designs and even some to play dress-up in. Four little boxes for four tiny paws and a pink box perfect to be a “hat box.” But walking? Whoa! “Slippy box. Slidey box” leads to a “Run away and hidey box.”

Here’s a box with a suspicious hole in the corner. Kitty peers inside and “mouse squeaks.” The chase is on: “scurry, pounce, chase, bounce!” Cat and mouse play and sleep, happily becoming “new friends.”

If you’ve ever seen a cat explore any box they find, you’ll know how purr-fectly spot-on Caryl Hart’s Big Box Little Box is! Little ones will be charmed by the cute kitty and the jaunty rhymes that introduce kids to sizes, colors, positions, and even friendship all through (mostly) two-word phrases. Young readers will eagerly read along as they follow the curious cat from page to page and box to box. Humorous asides, including when the kitten is moved from “my box” to “your box” and she and the mouse first spy each other, will delight kids.

Edward Underwood illustrates Hart’s highly entertaining book with verve and humor and gives the cat the kind of playful personality that makes them such endearing companions. The cat’s expressive green eyes peek from and around boxes; she wears boxes as hats, shoes, and hiding places; and, of course, she flops inside a chosen few for several catnaps. The game of cat and mouse is full of action and cheery fun. Bold colors and a dynamic design will keep children riveted to the pages as they have fun learning these early childhood concepts—as well as a bit about cats!

A joy to read aloud, Big Box Little Box would be a sweet and enchanting addition to home and classroom bookshelves. The minimal text offers many opportunities to discuss a wide range of early math and literacy concepts, and the book lends itself easily to learning extensions from drawing to stacking and filling to building. The book would make a fun gift for babies and teachers.

Ages 2 – 6

Bloomsbury Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681197869

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

Big Box Little Box Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Big Box Little Box by Caryl Hart | illustrated by Edward Underwood

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 17 – 23. 

A winner will be chosen on August 24.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Black Cat Day Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

All of these kittens have twins, but they’ve gotten separated while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this puzzle? Click the link for a printable puzzle!

Match the Kittens Puzzle

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You can find Big Box Little Box at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 15 – National Tell a Joke Day

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About the Holiday

Is there anything better than a big belly laugh? Hearing or seeing something that tickles your funny bone can be one of the best parts of a day. Did you know that the first recorded joke dates back to 1900 BC? It seems those early Sumerians were a pretty rowdy bunch. And not only them, humor has been a part of every culture from their earliest days. And why not? Laughter makes us feel better psychologically and even has the power to heal. Celebrate today by sharing your favorite jokes!

Knock Knock

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

Bear’s eyes are droopy, and he’s all tucked in under his puffy quilt. With his teddy bear clasped in his hand, he’s just about to turn out the light when: “KNOCK KNOCK.” Dutifully, Bear rouses himself and goes to answer it. “Who’s there?” he says. The answer comes back: “Justin.” “Justin who?” Bear opens the door and Fox rushes in with an armload of firewood. “Justin the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by!”

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Fox is just piling the logs in the fireplace when there’s another “KNOCK KNOCK” at the door. Startled, Bear asks the requisite question and learns that Ken has also come calling. But as soon as the door is opened a crack, three wisecracking blue jays fly in carrying streamers. While Fox seems happy to see them, Bear is not so keen.

A moment later another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings one more visitor, who’s lugging a huge pot of stew in his two oven-mitted paws. Bear can hardly keep his eyes open, but when he hears a raucous “KNOCK KNOCK,” he can’t help but ask yet again, “Who’s there?” It’s “Olive.” “Olive who?” The door bursts open to a chorus of “Olive us!” Waiting to enter is a whole gang of friends who are carrying balloons, hot chocolate, cupcakes, and even some knitting. But there’s still room for more, and another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings a “Good grief” from Bear and a familiar face at the window with a playful take on an old wolfish ultimatum.

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

The party’s going full swing, but all Bear can do is “yawwwwnnn” from the comfort of his armchair and remind his guests that he really needs some…. “KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK.” “WHO’S THERE?” Bear roars. He swings the door wide and finds Al, who has a very special message for this very special party given just for Bear. Then the animals tuck Bear in tight, whisper sweet goodnights, and leave him to his winter slumber. And when he wakes up? Harry is ready to play! KNOCK KNOCK!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Fox

Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Tammi Sauer’s clever story told through knock-knock jokes will have young readers rolling with laughter as poor bear grows wearier and wearier but continues to answer the KNOCK KNOCK summons. Each knock-knock joke ingeniously moves the story along while introducing a crew of Bear’s friends, who, it turns out, has planned a special send-off for their pal’s hibernation. Kids will love chiming in on the famous line the big bad wolf used on the three little pigs and noticing that the little chipmunk is reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to tuck his friend in. Over- tired Bear’s tirade quickly melts into a warm embrace for all his friends when he realizes why they’ve come. The revelation of Bear’s name when springtime rolls around offers one more laugh at the end of the story and allows Bear to get in on the fun.

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With each knock on the door, Guy Francis ramps up the hilarity as Bear reacts with startled, wide-eyed surprise to each guest, who enters with a twinkle of sly acknowledgment of his or her joke. The animals seem right at home as they build a fire in the fireplace, cook on the stove, decorate the living room—and even Bear himself. Kids will laugh out loud at Bear’s flustered expressions and his cavernous yawn as the party preparations continue around him. When Bear is finally ready to put his big paw down, only to realize that all the commotion is really for him, his toothy grin says it all. The sweet looks and big hugs all around as well as a brand-new, comfy quilt float Bear off to dreamland for the winter. When spring comes, a refreshed Harry, looking not quite so grizzled comes knocking on the woodland animals’ Hobbit-style homes to repay the visit.

Knock Knock will knock kids’ socks off, and you can bet the book will go into much-loved rotation and begin a love of this funny joke form. The book would make a terrific gift and addition to home bookshelves as well as a lighthearted choice for funny classroom story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338116946

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Guy Francis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Tell a Joke Day Activity

Fox_in_Suit

Animated Animals Coloring Pages

 

These animals have heard some funny jokes, but they need a bit of color! Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils and have fun!

Happy Hedgehog | Laughing Fox | Smiling Sheep

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You can find Knock Knock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 15 – National Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

In 1985, when Sean Moeller was in fourth grade, he looked around and saw everyone rushing here and there, cooking, cleaning, toiling away, and, maybe, doing piles of homework and thought, enough is enough—at least for one day. As the founder of National Relaxation Day, Moeller encouraged people to slow down and take it easy. Taking time to relax is an important component in feeling healthy and happy. Our bodies and brains need downtime to deal with the stresses of everyday life and be rejuvenated. How will you spend the day? Taking a break for tea and treats with friends is a great way to celebrate—as today’s book shows!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

National Relaxation Day Activity

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The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

The Princess likes to help people relax and have fun together! You can help her too with these four activity pages!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

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You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

August 14 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

So, summer vacation is winding down, but there’s still lots of time to enjoy Family Fun Month. Whether you plan a quick trip to a new destination or organize a fun stay-cation, spending time with family is what’s important. Of course, no matter if you’re away or at home don’t forget the books!

Orchard Books sent me a copy of Jack B. Ninja to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Orchard Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Jack B. Ninja

Written by Tim McCanna | Illustrated by Stephen Savage

 

We’ve all heard of nimble Jack who can jump over a candlestick, but Jack B. Ninja? Well, he’s hopping over a bamboo stick? Why? Well… “Secret mission starts tonight. / Hide in shadow, out of sight.” He creeps along high up on the roof and waits until the guards are gone. Then he dives into the garden pond, where he spies a tunnel that leads him to a bandit cave.

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Image copyright Stephen Savage, 2018, text copyright Tim McCanna, 2018. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

He “tiptoes, searching through the dark. / Makes no sound and leaves no mark.” What does he find? A treasure chest! But in his hurry to get away he doesn’t see the trip wire that “springs a trap.” How will Jack evade “the bandit crew? / Grappling hook and rope will do.” He secures his hook on the wall then—one, two, three—on each bandits’ head Jack leaps to grab ahold and escape.

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Image copyright Stephen Savage, 2018, text copyright Tim McCanna, 2018. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

He shimmies up the rope with the treasure on his back and delivers it to the Ninja Master, who thinks he “could have been a little faster.” Still, the Master thinks his son did well, but when Jack looks around, he sees the bandits ready to fight. But that’s not what they have in mind. In fact, beneath their dark disguise, Jack finds his family with a surprise.

Out of the treasure chest comes a cake. It’s time to light the candles and blow them out. “Jack B. Ninja flips and kicks. / Cartwheels over the candlesticks.” In no time at all the cake is gone, and the Ninja birthday fun is done.

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Image copyright Stephen Savage, 2018, text copyright Tim McCanna, 2018. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Young Ninja fans will jump at this take on the traditional nursery rhyme. As Jack’s family creates a very special birthday treat for their Ninja lover, readers will enjoy the twists and turns leading up to cake time. Tim McCanna’s sprightly rhythm is a joy to read aloud and offers plenty of opportunity for dramatic reading. The idea of a special, personalized event as a present to celebrate a birthday is the kind of family fun that makes memories and closer bonds.

Stephen Savage’s deep, saturated purples, blues, reds, and greens set off the shadowy Ninja figures to perfect, kid-pleasing effect as Jack follows the clues to the treasure chest and delivers it to his Ninja Master. Little Jack’s eyes express cunning, surprise, and happiness as he goes through his paces and finally holds out his arms to receive birthday hugs.

A sweet gift for Ninja-loving and adventurous kids, Jack B. Ninja would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0545917285

Discover more about Tim McCanna and his books on his website.

To learn more about Stephen Savage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Jack B. Ninja Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Orchard Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Jack B. Ninja, written by Tim McCanna | illustrated by Stephen Savage

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 14 – 20. 

A winner will be chosen on August 21.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Orchard Books

Back to School Month Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

One little Ninja has gotten separated from her group. Can you help her find her way back in this printable maze?

Stealthy Ninja Maze | Stealthy Ninja Maze Solution

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You can find Jack B. Ninja at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review