December 2 – It’s Buy a New Book Month

  • celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-cover
  • celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-spanish-english-cover

Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

For children, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts and feelings. Stories that speak to their experiences, both common and new, alongside illustrations that bring the story to life let them discover the world around them. Today’s stunning nonfiction books are loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting details about science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more. This month, take a look for fiction and nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library. And be sure to check out today’s book that incorporates both!

Thanks to Star Bright Books for sharing a digital copy of Leaves to My Knees with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Leaves to My Knees

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

Daddy has a surprise for Camille and her little brother Jayden. They get dressed in their coats—big for Camille and little jacket with a stegosaurus hood for Jayden—and head into the backyard. There, Camille discovers her dad has gotten her a rake of her own. It’s not as big as Dad’s, but it’s bigger than Jayden’s little rake. It’s the perfect size for Camille.

Camille marches right off to rake a pile of leaves. But not just any pile—she has a goal. “‘I’ll rake leave all the way up to my knees!’” she tells her dad. The three get working on the yard. Camille concentrates on gathering leaves, listening to the different sounds that the various sized rakes make: “The leaves go swush when Daddy rakes. They go swish when I rake. They go sweeeee when Jayden tries to rake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-putting-on-jackets

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Lurking under the leaves are twigs and acorns that clog up Camille’s rake. She worries that she’ll never be able to rake leaves to her knees. She calls for Daddy’s help, and together they clear Camille’s rake. “‘You’re good to go now, Camille,’” Daddy tells her. Back at it, Camille rakes and rakes. Then she steps into the pile she’s accumulated to measure it. Her pile only comes up to her ankles. Camille grabs her rake harder and with determination she collects more leaves. But wait! Jayden is stealing leaves from her pile to add to his! Camille guards her pile with her rake, and sends her little brother over to Daddy’s bigger pile. Camille checks her measurements again. Her pile has grown, but only up to the top of her boots.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-raking

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille rakes ‘bunches of leaves,” and her pile gets taller, until “‘Oh no! A BIG BREEZE!!’” sends lots and lots of leaves swirling “Whoosh!” into the air and scattered to the ground. “I will never rake leaves to my knees!” Camille thinks. And when she measures again, her pile is back to her ankles. Daddy encourages her to keep going, and Camille is committed to achieving her goal. She throws off her coat, grabs her rake, and works on gathering up all the leaves she had, plus more. At last, too tired to rake anymore, Camille wonders. Has she done it? “‘Time for measuring!’ says Daddy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-pile-up-to-ankles

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille relinquishes her rake to her dad then, holding her breath, steps into her pile. “‘TA-DA!’” Camille raises her arms in victory. She steps out, positions herself a good ways away, and winds up for the run and jump. “‘GO!’ yells Daddy. ‘GO!’ Jayden yells too.” Camille flies through the air and lands, laughing, into her pile. Then Jayden jumps in. And Daddy? He gives Camille  “really big squeeze” for raking “leaves all the way up to [her] knees.”

A note for parents, teachers, and other caregivers written by Marlene Kliman, a mathematics learning expert and senior scientist at TERC, describes how the story incorporates the math of measurement and sizes and how adults can extend the lesson by pointing out elements in the book’s illustrations and while going about their day or doing common chores, such as cleaning up and sorting laundry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-jumping-in

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s Leaves to My Knees has everything that makes a story a young reader’s favorite—a spunky main character that kids will identify with, an achievable goal, successes and setbacks, suspense, humor, and a child-propelled victory. And it all revolves around an early math concept that comes naturally to children and which invites playful learning not only during the fall, but any time of the year. Shoveling snow and making snowballs in winter, yard cleanup and gardening in spring, and building sandcastles and raking grass clippings in summer as well as in-home fun with laundry piles, toys, and other objects are all ways to extend the story.

Told from Camille’s point of view, the story also engages children’s emotions as they join in to cheer Camille on as her leaf pile grows and commiserate with her when it shrinks. The close relationships among Camille and her dad and little brother ring true with dialogue-rich storytelling that is always encouraging. Strong themes of determination and persistence will also appeal to parents and teachers, who can point to how many times Camille has to start over before accomplishing her goal and her positive, resolute attitude.

Nicole Tadgell’s exuberant illustrations shine with personality, and kids will immediately become invested in each character as Dad gets working on a big job that needs doing, Jayden runs, jumps, and copies his big sister, and Camille unwaveringly works on her pile of leaves. Camille’s setbacks are clearly depicted, along with her and her father’s facial expressions that give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about disappointment, frustration, perseverance, and feelings of accomplishment. Each image also demonstrates the math component of measurement and sizes in the story with various-sized rakes, the growing and diminishing leaf pile, big and little jackets, and other objects that invite comparison.

Tadgell’s soft-hued pages are infused with the feeling of fall and hum with activity as cardinals, blue jays, chickadees gather at the bird feeder, squirrels scamper up and along the fence, and leaves continue to float to the ground. Readers will love following little Jayden’s antics and be inspired by Camille’s wide smile as she enjoys the reward of all her hard work.

Leaves to My Knees is a multilayered read aloud infused with the enthusiasm and rhythms of childhood that kids will want to hear again and again. Its mathematics base and themes of determination and perseverance rewarded will appeal to parents, teachers, and other educators as a way to engage children in active, hands-on learning. The book is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Star Bright Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1595729590 (Leaves to My Knees) | ISBN 978-1595729613 (Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Picture Book Month Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-coloring-page

 

Coloring Pages and Teaching Guides

 

You can extend the fun and learning in Leaves to My Knees with these activities, which include three fun coloring pages from the story, a hands-on play-dough art and discovery activity, and a detailed educator’s guide for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other caregivers that offers multiple ways to use Leaves to My Knees to explore math, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension through the story and beyond at home, school, and elsewhere.

Meet Ellen Mayer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ellen-mayer-reading-headshot

You can find Leaves to My Knees on Amazon

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

You can also order from Star Bright Books

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Bright Winter Night

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bright-winter-night-cover

Thank you to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Bright Winter Night for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bright Winter Night

Written by Alli Brydon | Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Something magical is happening as “the song of snow” begins, and all of the woodland animals are gathering to complete a special task. Falcon flies in “silken strings” as “Wren flutters while she chirps and jigs, determined as she lays down twigs.” Beaver’s brought more sturdy boughs, and Stag’s back and antlers provide a sturdy base as the Rabbits use the wood and ribbons to build a sleigh. Attaching the reins Mouse brings and with the Wolves “all clear,” Bear climbs aboard to provide a comfy seat. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bright-winter-night-building-sleigh

Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The Wolves take up the reins. “There’s just one goal. They must move fast— /  for soon the northern lights will pass!” The Wolves race over clearings and down hills, pulling the sleigh behind them. But the terrain is tough, and “the sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as all the rest go . . . BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” But Stag is there to dig them out of the snowy drifts, and Beaver rights the sleigh and gets it back on track.

Suddenly through the bare and silent branches, “they spy a flash, and Squirrel says, ‘WHOA— / COME ON FRIENDS, LET’S GO, GO, GO!'” They hurry through the crystal night to a clearing, where, gazing upward, they’re enveloped in the grandeur of the northern lights. “The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze— / the flashes sizzle, shock, amaze!” In this moment, huddled together—”beak and muzzle, fur and feather”—this diverse group of animals are united in their awe of nature’s beauty, and a “peacefulness so warm and bright, / settles in their hearts tonight.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bright-winter-night-sledding

Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alli Brydon’s brisk and lovely story is at once a lyrical call to appreciate and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and a poignant appeal to put aside perceived differences and embrace what connects us. As the animals work together to build a sleigh that will transport them to view the northern lights, they each bring to the project their own talents to make it sturdy and comfortable for all. When the sleigh flips, they again pull together to set things right. Brydon’s deft rhymes and rhythms build step-by-step as the animals construct the sleigh then flow as smoothly and quickly as the runners over the snowy trail. Even the sled’s momentary mishap is palpably felt with Brydon’s well-paced “BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” And when the friends finally reach the clearing, Brydon captures not only the breathtaking view but the tranquil contentment it brings.

Using lush blues and shades of grey, Ashling Lindsay draws readers into the snowy woods, where blushes of pink, purple, and auburn highlight scampering rabbits, squirrels, and beaver as well as fluttering birds and majestic stag. Stylized trees, their feathery leaves touched with pink lend a mysterious air to the silent forest. As snowflakes fall, readers watch as the animals bind the twigs and branches just so to create their sleigh. And then they’re off. A two-page spread lets kids run with the wolves as they race into the oncoming snow. Lindsay’s image of the animals all snuggled together on the sleigh, protected by Bear, is heartwarming, while their topsy-turvy tumble into the snow will make some kids say “oh no!” and others giggle with memories of their own spills. Her interpretation of the northern lights sparkles and shimmers and will have kids adding their own “OOOOH! AHHHH!” to those of the animals gazing skyward.

An inspiring story for snuggly bedtime or daytime read alouds, Bright Winter Nights swells the heart with it’s focus on the power and beauty of nature to spark friendship and peace. The book is sure to be asked for again and again and is highly recommended for home and public library collections as well as for teachers, homeschoolers, and other educators, who will find it a stirring addition to lessons on space, geography, and natural phenomenon.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542022248

About the Author

Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydon.com. You can also connect with Alli on Instagram: allibrydon and Twitter: Alli Brydon

About the Illustrator

Ashling Lindsay is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. Learn more at www.ashlinglindsay.co.uk. You’ll also find her on Instagram: ashling.lindsay

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bright-winter-night-cover

You can find Bright Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-winter-night-cover

About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re doing holiday shopping, don’t forget to add picture books to your list for the kids in your life. With so many picture books to choose from on all kinds of topics, there’s sure to be a perfect book for each child. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again, and today’s story is one kids will love to hear all through the year.

Thanks to Megan Litwin and Clarion Books for sharing a digital copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night

Written by Megan Litwin | Illustrated by Nneka Myers

 

Readers are invited along for a walk on a crystal-clear, moonlit snowy evening as a father and child discover how “nightfall sets the world aglow.” As darkness deepens overhead, and the stars twinkle over a white-blanketed field, “the sky sparkles like a chandelier.” Passing a pond where families are skating while snowflakes fall, “dusting glitter on earth’s face, / dressing trees in coats of lace,” the pair wave to a friend and then make their way into town.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-winter-night-skating

Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Here they come upon their village shimmering with magic as strings of white, gold, and colored lights outline rooftops, connect building to building, and create a glistening spectacle of snowy patches. Windows glow with candles glittering in wreaths for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, and kinaras for Kwanza. The flame of diya lamps for Diwali joins them. In the central square, a brilliant star shines forth as people gather around, enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the winter holidays. Father and child join in on this “Beaming, gleaming, lively sight— / twinkle, twinkle, winter night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-winter-night-windows

Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

On their way home and to bed, they pass a picture window where they can see a mom and her two kids hanging Christmas decorations, a fire flickers in the fireplace. In the woods, a deer and her fawn doze, curled up under a small tree, its branches covered in sparkling snow. In town, kids are tucked under covers but can’t resist going to the window for one last look, for “twinkle, twinkle, winter night. / Everywhere you look . . . / there’s light.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-winter-night-town-square

Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

You know that special glow you feel during the winter when the moon and stars seem to shine more brightly; the hearth or wood stove glimmers with extra warmth; snow and ice twinkle when caught in a beam of light; and, around the holidays, neighborhood streets wink on with glorious displays? The glow you wish could last all year long? Megan Litwin captures that feeling in her lovely Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night not only for the winter months, but all year around. Litwin’s graceful rhymes and rhythms immerse readers in winter’s quieter atmosphere and slower pace and invites them to really look at nature, at their communities, and in their own homes to find the light and magic there. Throughout the story, Litwin reintroduces her title phrase strung with glittering new adjectives, reminding readers of just how ardently we embrace the exquisite beauty of light. Her flowing storytelling is a joy to read aloud, making this a perfect book for bedtime or quiet story times.

Nneka Myers’ stunning pages seem to actually dance with the twinkling of stars, the glittery shimmer of snowflakes, and the breathtaking radiance of decorated homes, shops, and streetscapes. Images from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Diwali can be found in Myers’ illustrations of the town and its winter festival. Her rich purples, blues, and fuchsias set off the sparkling lights, patches of snow, and wide smiles of the townspeople as they mingle in the square welcoming and celebrating winter’s diverse and poignant holidays.

A book that shines with an appreciation for the beauty of light, nature, and community all around us, Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night would quickly become a favorite on home bookshelves for snuggly reading throughout the year and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Clarion Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0358572046

Discover more about Megan Litwin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nneka Myers, her books, and her art, visit her website. You can also visit her on Instagram and Twitter.

Meet Megan Litwin

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-megan-litwin-headshot

Megan Litwin holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University and is a former teacher whose lifelong work is to grow lifelong readers. Megan lives in Massachusetts with her family. 

You can connect with Megan on Her Website | Instagram | Twitter

I’m excited to be talking with Megan Litwin today about her debut picture book, her journey to publication, and how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids.

Hi, Megan! Congratulations on your beautiful book! Your writing in Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night really shimmers with so many gorgeous images of light. Was there one spark of inspiration for your story, or how did it come about?

Thank you so much for those kind words! I certainly agree that illustrator Nneka Myers has created the perfect shimmery, glimmery world for readers here! As for the story, there absolutely was an initial memorable spark. It happened on a cold, dark December drive. One of my sons was newly captivated by all the light he saw—everything from the snow to the moon to the houses decked out for the holidays. It was like the whole world was suddenly made of magic. He kept calling out things he noticed in his tiny toddler voice as we drove and repeating the words “twinkle lights” over and over. I realized I wanted to find a way to showcase this bright and beautiful time of year, with the focus not on any one particular holiday, but on the shared magic of these lights.

Can you tell readers a little about what your journey from that first idea to having Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night published was like?

LONG. That December drive was eleven years ago! I had the initial spark and a first draft poured out of me immediately. But it was not yet the story I wanted to tell. It didn’t have the magic I had seen and felt. It was too long, too wordy, overly descriptive. And so . . . I let it sit. I revisited it off and on over the years, but only around times of great inspiration . . . usually around this time every year! The idea never left me, but it wasn’t until 2016 (when I joined SCBWI) that I began working on this manuscript with the serious attitude it takes to publish. I took it to my first critique groups, I took it to conferences to get agent/editor feedback, I cut and polished and rewrote with a keener eye and ear—and 25 drafts later, it went out on submission. Even then, it was not quick! This manuscript went all the way to acquisitions with another publisher before landing, very happily, with Kate O’Sullivan at Clarion/HarperCollins (then Houghton Mifflin) in 2020.

You previously worked as a classroom teacher and reading interventionist. Can you talk about these positions? What did you love best about being a teacher?

I was a second-grade classroom teacher for nine years, and then spent time in part-time roles after my second son was born. I’ve worked as a literacy interventionist and a school library teacher, and I also helped our local school set up and run a take-home book program. I have always felt entirely at home in a school, and think I’ll always be a “teacher-at-heart.” In fact, one of the things I’m most excited about in this new phase of my book-centered career is being able to go into classrooms to do reading and writing workshops with kiddos.

How did you help kids not only learn how to read but to be excited about reading?

My years as a classroom teacher were especially magical because of the tight-knit community we built each year. In those early years of school, each classroom feels like a family. And a lot of deep connection can happen through books. We connected through our daily read alouds, huddled close together on the rainbow rug, and also through discussions about whatever we were reading, which were full of connections to our own lives and the books we had read before as a “reading family.” It was so important to me that my students saw books as magical. I wanted them to learn to read – but to love to read as well, because engaging comfortably in that process for your whole life opens so many doors. One of the best thank-you gifts I ever received was from a parent who wrote that I had inspired her daughter to be an “under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight-reader!” Nothing could make me happier.

Do you have any suggestions for how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids?

My best advice for instilling a love of reading is simple. Read together. Read often. Surround your kids with books of all kinds. Find books that bring you joy and read them alongside your kids. Modeling a love of reading and celebrating books is the first step.

And, since we’re talking about this, if anyone is interesting in more tips on growing readers, I include a section focused on that in my seasonal author newsletter that comes out just four times a year. It is called “Read, Write, Magic”—and you can sign up on my website!

What was your favorite type of book to read when you were a child? What kinds of books do you gravitate toward as an adult?

As a child, I loved books about animals and also things that had a healthy dose of magic or wonder. Some favorites were The Velveteen Rabbit, Animalia, and The Polar Express. I also loved series as I got older because I got to spend time in a world with characters I came to know and love. I was a big Sweet Valley Twins and Nancy Drew fan, and was (and still am) a Harry Potter lover. As an adult, I still enjoy ALL those same things! I would add that overall, the books I love best are ones that make me FEEL something. Or according to my husband’s observations, books that make me cry…

You’ve also published poetry in two anthologies: Friends & Anemones and An Assortment of Animals, released by the Writer’s Loft. Do the rhythms of poetry come naturally to you? What is your writing process once you have an idea?

Yes, those rhythms do come naturally, actually—even though I wouldn’t consider myself a poet! I’ve never studied poetry, and don’t know how to analyze it using all the proper terminology. For me, it is all about feel and sound. I think that is what initially drew me to picture books, way back when. Picture books have a bit of poetry and music and theater all mixed in. I like to say that I “play with words” for a living now. I pour words out onto a page for a first draft…and then I play. I cut, change, arrange, rearrange…over and over and over. I count beats, I read it aloud. My kids say it looks like I’m talking to myself!

You have such enthusiasm for meeting your readers at book events as well as spending time with kids in the classroom through your three different school workshops designed for various elementary age groups. Do you have an anecdote from any of these events you’d like to share?

I love interacting with young readers and writers at events and in schools. Kids are the best! I love the way they see the world, their honest language, and their willingness to try new things.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-megan-liwin-school-visit-basket

One of the workshops I offer schools is about poetry, and the idea that to write a poem (or most anything), you need to play with words. And at the end of the session, I always wrap up the same way I began—by asking them to finish the sentence “Poetry is (blank).” It is fun and illuminating to see how their answers differ from the beginning. One of my favorite moments was when a first grader simply said, ‘You were right. Poetry IS fun.” He looked both surprised and excited by that thought. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.

What do you like best about being a children’s author?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-megan-litwin-reading in-school

Reading aloud to kids! That was always my favorite part of the day when teaching. And now I get to do that all the time as an author—this time with words I wrote myself. It’s WILD!!

What’s up next for you?

I am thrilled to be launching the first of two books in an early reader series with Penguin Young Readers in February 2023. Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers is about two sweet boys who love to catch bugs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-megan-litwin-dirt-and-bugsy-cover

Each book features backyard adventures and lots of cool bugs—including a bit of backmatter for bug-loving readers. Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn did a fabulous job illustrating, and I can’t wait for newly budding readers to hold these books in their hands and to feel confident (and happy) while reading them. Kirkus recently gave it a great review, saying “Bugs, friendship, and fun—what more could burgeoning readers want?” Hooray!

I also have a second picture book just under contract. Stay tuned…

Thanks, Megan, for this amazing chat! It’s easy to see how much you love kids and books—and connecting kids to books! Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Nights certainly has that magical touch! I’m sure readers can’t wait to discover Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers as well! I know I can’t! I wish you all the best with Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night!

Picture Book Month Review

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-candle-coloring-page   celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diwali-coloring-page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-menorah-in-window-coloring-page  celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kwanzaa-coloring-page

Winter Lights Coloring Pages

 

Celebrate the lights of winter with these printable coloring pages!

Christmas Candle | Diwali Diya Lamp | Hanukkah Menorah | Kwanzaa Kinara

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-winter-night-cover

You can order signed or personalized copies of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night at

Word on the Street Children’s Books and Gifts

You can find Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 28 – It’s Gratitude Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-cover

About the Holiday

There are many things to be thankful for this month and all throughout the year. At the top of the list would be our friends—both old and new. Celebrate your friendships during the holidays and tell the people in your life how thankful you are for them! You can show them too with little acts of kindness—like the friends in today’s book! 

I’d like to thank Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of The Best Gift for Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Best Gift for Bear

By Jennifer A. Bell

 

Hedgehog was baking gingerbread cookies for all of her friends. She carefully considered what shapes and decorations she would make for each recipient, making sure she created a replica of one of their favorite things or showed how special they were. She even made individual rabbit cookies “for each rabbit,” and “Hedgehog knows a LOT of rabbits.” But she still had to bake cookies for. Bear, and she couldn’t decide what to make.

Should she make ice skates? “Bear had taught her to twirl and glide” on the pond. Or maybe something from springtime. Bear loved watching butterflies. Or perhaps sunflowers like the ones Bear had shown her that summer. Thinking about all the fun times they had together, Hedgehog decided a batch of cookies was just not enough. “‘Bear should have a grand gift, a special gift, something wonderful . . . just like Bear,'” she thought. But what?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-skating

Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

And then as she approached home after delivering all of her cookies, she “saw her frosted roof” and had an idea. She got to work right away “and happily baked her way into the night.” Then in the morning “Hedgehog began to build her gift.” With gingerbread bricks and sweet icing, she built and decorated a house for Bear. It had butterflies and sunflowers and even Bear, wearing a coat, scarf, and ice skates. Hedgehog put it on her sled and stood back to admire it. 

Hedgehog pulled her sled over the hills and through the snow to Bear’s house. But the calm afternoon turned windy and snowy. The squalls made it hard for Hedgehog to pull or push the sled, and then, when Hedgehog was nearly at Bear’s, one huge gust sent the gingerbread house flying and scattered it into pieces. Hedgehog looked at the broken house sadly and didn’t see Bear, in pajamas and carrying a lantern, approaching. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-building-gingerbread-house

Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Bear knelt down then picked Hedgehog up and blew away the snow from her quills and coat. Hedgehog gave Bear’s cheek a big hug. “Grand, special, WONDERFUL Bear!” Bear brought Hedgehog inside, wrapped her in a soft, cozy blanket and made her a cup of tea. As they sipped their tea, they commiserated together over the gifts they had made each other—Hedgehog’s broken gift for Bear and the misshapen cookies Bear had made for Hedgehog. “‘… but I thought I’d try again tomorrow,'” Bear told her.  Hedgehog then had a wonderful idea to bake the cookies together. With Hedgehog snugged into a teacup with her blanket and Bear toasty under a warm quilt, the two friends couldn’t wait for tomorrow to spend the day together—”the best gift of all!”

Recipes for Hedgehog’s Gingerbread Cookies and Grandma’s Honey Icing are included with the story. Hedgehog’s clever designs for her gift cookies will give kids lots of ideas for decorating their own cookies too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-windy-walk

Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Jennifer A. Bell’s sweet and charming story wraps readers in the warmth of a heartfelt hug as Hedgehog puts all of her love and thoughtfulness into the gingerbread cookies she carefully bakes for each of her friends and neighbors—and especially for Bear.  Bell’s gentle humor and charming phrasing that takes readers step-by-step through Hedgehog’s memories of Bear’s kindnesses, and her days spent baking and building Bear’s gingerbread house will delight kids. The windstorm and its aftermath provides suspense and an emotional tug as Hedgehog (and readers) experience disappointment but then, a moment later, the tender and supportive friendship between Hedgehog and Bear.

Bell’s enchanting illustrations are full of cheer and delicious-looking cookies. As Hedgehog tries to decide what to make for Bear, her memories of their times spent throughout the year depict the fun they’ve had and also the adorable size difference between them. Shades of red, pink, blue, green, and gingerbread brown create a graceful and well-paced cohesion from page to page while also bestowing a palpable sense of the chilly winter outside and the cozy warmth inside. The red ribbon that flows in a connecting pattern between some pages and frames vignettes in others highlights the heart at the center of this story.

A touching story about true friendship and the most important gifts of all, The Best Gift for Bear is a book children will enjoy all through the year and is sure to inspire cookie baking and decorating. The book would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. It would make a terrific gift or read aloud for any cookie-decorating party. 

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542029223

About the Author and Illustrator

Jennifer A. Bell is the illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including the Sophie Mouse series. She studied fine art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, and her work can also be found on greeting cards and in magazines. This is the first picture book she’s written and illustrated. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about her at www.jenniferabell.com. You can connect with Jennifer on Instagram: @jbellstudio | Facebook: Jennifer A. Bell Illustration | Twitter: @JenniferABell_

Gratitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craft

Gingerbread Kids Decorations 

 

Gingerbread’s not only delicious to eat! Creatively iced gingerbread has long been used as decorations in homes and windows. With this easy craft, kids can make decorations for their rooms, to hang for the holidays, or to give to friends or family members.

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Kids Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter 
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread kids templates
  2. Trace gingerbread kids on brown foam sheets and cut out
  3. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  4. Add trim to the dress
  5. Add trim to make socks
  6. Add dots of paint for buttons
  7. Add faces
  8. Paint or add a bit of glue to the hands of each figure then sprinkle glitter on the paint to make mittens
  9. Glue heart buttons on (optional)
  10. To make a wall or gift box decoration: Attach mountable squares to back
  11. To make an ornament: With a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-cover

You can find The Best Gift for Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s National Farm City Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farming-strong-all-year-long-cover

About the Holiday

Celebrated during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, National Farm City Week recognizes the partnership between farms and towns and cities where produce, meat, wool, and other products are prepared, marketed, retailed, and consumed. Ensuring that farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations is also an important aspect of this week-long observance because only through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long

Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker | Illustrated AG Ford

 

The warmer days of spring have arrived and “six tough trucks rise with the sun.” They’re headed for a farm in the distance, where there’s lots of work to do. Before they even get to the farm, they come upon a section of the road where dirt from a “springtime washout” blocks their way. With Bulldozer and Dump Truck’s help, the road is quickly cleared, and the trucks are on their way.

First, the fields must be plowed and Big Tractor knows just what to do. “She churns the soil, rips up weeds— / prepares the ground for planting seeds!” Then “Little Tractor plants the crop / She rolls along as big seeds drop.” But the animals need tending too, and Little Skid Steer is right there to clean up and get the pens ready for the cows and horses, the lambs, chickens, and pigs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farming-strong-all-year-long-busy-farm

Image copyright Sherri Duskey Rinker, 2022, text copyright AG Ford, 2022. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As summer comes, each truck has its job to ensure the crops grow and the animals are well taken care of. But there’s an even bigger job to do, and Excavator, Bulldozer, Skid Steer, Crane Truck, Dump Truck, Cement Mixer, and Flatbed Truck all work together to build a new barn, just in time for the cooler weather of fall.

Now it’s Combine’s turn to shine. “She rolls on hills and through the fields, / harvesting what each row yields.” But she can’t do it alone: “The Tractor pulls grain carts behind. / She rolls with Combine, all aligned.” As they drive side-by-side, Auger, collects and pours the grain into the carts. Then it’s on to the pumpkin patch to gather everyone’s favorite autumn treat.

There may be no crops to plant and pick as winter settles in, but the farm trucks are still busy clearing snow, making repairs, and making sure the animals have warm hay and plenty of food for the long, cold months. Before the “hardworking farming teams” take to their garage bays for a well-deserved sleep, they give thanks for the “friends they have and work they do” and another good year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farming-strong-all-year-long-barn-done

Image copyright Sherri Duskey Rinker, 2022, text copyright AG Ford, 2022. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Sherri Duskey Rinker’s well-known rhymes and dynamic rhythm carry this story of ten vehicles working together throughout the year to keep a farm from planting season to buttoning up for the winter. Rinker’s inclusion of extra equipment and attachments in addition to the ten vehicles will wow kids while teaching them how one machine is able to handle many types of jobs and how different types of machinery complement each other to do complex tasks. As the story ends and the vehicles give thanks for a good year, children can also join in by adding what they’re thankful for and ways their day was good. The final spread welcomes bedtime with lulling rhythms of “good night” and “sweet dreams.”

AG Ford’s lovely and vibrant illustrations brim with the beauty and always changing weather, atmosphere, and duties of a farm. Ford’s use of varying perspectives gives kids an idea of just how big a farm can be, and his saturated colors show readers the richness of the soil, a sun-drenched summer, and the mellower temperatures of spring and fall. But front and center are his realistic settings that depict how each vehicle works and all the different jobs they do. The machinery’s eager expressions as well as images of the various farm animals will charm kids, and when bedtime comes, Ford’s deep somnolent dusk blue sky and drowsy vehicles will soothe and welcome kids to sleep.

Whether your child loves cars, trucks, and big machinery; anything to do with farming; or just a story well-told, they’ll enthusiastically embrace Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long. This is a book that will enjoy “favorite” status at home and in classrooms and be in constant rotation in school and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4 

Chronicle Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1797213873

Discover more about Sherri Duskey Rinker and her books, book events, and how to order signed books on her website.

To learn more about AG Ford, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Farm City Week Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tractor-jigsaw-puzzle-3

Build a Tractor Jigsaw Puzzle

 

With this printable jigsaw puzzle, you can color and build a tractor of your own! Just print the Tractor Template, color, cut, and have fun putting it together!

Supplies

  • Printable Tractor Template
  • To print garden plot and vegetables, see links in game below.
  • Card stock paper, poster board, or cardboard (optional)
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue (optional)
  • Tape (optional)

IMG_2750

Directions

  1. Print the Tractor Template. For a sturdier puzzle, print on card stock or glue the pieces to poster board or cardboard before cutting.
  2. Color and cut out the pieces
  3. Put the tractor together

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-garden-board-game-1

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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farming-strong-all-year-long-cover

You can find Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 21 – It’s Picture Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-cover

About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!

Penguin and Penelope

By Salina Yoon

 

One day while taking a walk, Penguin saw a baby elephant stuck in the mud. “Her name was Penelope.” Penguin helped her out of the mud then gave her food, water, and a much-needed bath. Penguin noticed elephant tracks on the ground, and he and Penelope followed them, hoping to find Penelope’s herd. But when they came to a break in the tracks, they found a wide ravine through which a river flowed. “‘Oh dear,’ said Penguin. ‘We’d better find another way.'”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-following

Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

They walked for days trying to find a way around the ravine, but couldn’t find one. “The world is so big!” Penelope said when they slept under the stars, blanketed with Penelope’s long scarf. The days of searching turned into weeks, and “over time, their friendship grew and grew, and so did Penelope.” One afternoon as they were lying on a beach watching the birds in the sky, Penelope said that she wished she could fly. This gave Penguin an idea.

They went down to the river’s edge. Penguin dived in, but Penelope only waded in carefully. “Penguin asked her to trust him. And she did.” To Penelope, swimming felt like flying. When they reached the other bank, they discovered elephant footprints. They followed them a long way until, finally, they found Penelope’s herd. Penelope and Penguin hugged goodbye with promises never to forget each other, and Penguin gave Penelope his scarf to remember him by. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-watching-birds

Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Penelope’s family was so happy to see her. “‘How we’ve missed you!’ they cried.” Penelope was happy to be back with her herd, but she also missed Penguin. One day, Penelope went back to the riverbank where she and Penguin had come ashore. She found him there, and once again they “flew like the birds” together.

A panel on the back of the cover jacket holds images of Penguin and Penelope for children to cut out and play with. The front and back endpapers offer a river backdrop, where kids can play with Penguin and Penelope while engaging their imagination.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-swimming

Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Salina Yoon’s latest Penguin adventure begins with a surprise discovery that leads to a fast and forever friendship as Penguin helps Penelope find her way home. Penguin’s kindness and pluck are unwavering as the search extends over time, during which Penelope grows in size and experience while following her new friend. After being welcomed home with excitement and much love, Penelope is happy to be back with her family. Her longing to see Penguin again, however, spurs her to set out on her own adventure, one that demonstrates her growing independence while still guided by her family’s footsteps. This development as well as a beautiful fold-out page that shows Penelope’s family lovingly watching over her from a distance as she swims with Penguin will cheer and reassure young children.

Yoon’s storytelling is gentle and sprinkled with dialogue that conveys the characters’ emotions in ways that even the youngest child will appreciate and understand. Penguin is as adorable as ever, and Penelope is sweet and expressive as Penguin feeds her, makes her giggle while giving her a tickle-y bath, and discovers how big the world is. Yoon’s imagery, drawn with vibrant colors and boldly outlined dynamic shapes highlights adorable Penguin and Penelope, and little ones will laugh when Penguin—with just an “Oof!”—lifts Penelope out of the mud. Penelope’s homecoming is poignant, and the panoramic fold-out will thrill readers.

A sweet story of friendship found and never forgotten on life’s journey, Penguin and Penelope will enchant fans of the series as well as those just discovering it. The book is a must addition for school and library collections and for anyone looking for a charming and tender story their child will want to hear again and again.

Ages 3 – 6 

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681193441

Discover more about Salina Yoon, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-coloring-page

Penguin and Penelope Activity Kit

 

You can join Penguin and Penelope in some fun with the coloring page, maze, and connect-the-dots page  you’ll find on Salina Yoon’s website!

Penguin and Penelope Activity Kitcelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-and-penelope-cover

You can find Penguin and Penelope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 18 – It’s Family Stories Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandmom-cover

About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny or moving stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of My GrandMom for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My GrandMom

By Gee-eun Lee | Translated by Sophie Bowman

Gee-eun’s Grandma sits on the floor, holding her sobbing granddaughter in her lap. Breakfast is on the table and toys are strewn about. A gray cat comes to see what’s going on. “‘Dear me, your mom will have to take a boat to work to get across all these tears,'” she says. Grandma, who Gee-eun calls Halmoni in Korean, distracts her by letting her help make kalguksu. She gives Gee-eun a bit of the noodle dough, and while Halmoni rolls out the dough and slices the noodles, Gee-eun fashions little figures of her, her mom, dad, grandma, and their cat, Mari. When it comes time to make the kalguksu, Gee-eun’s dough family goes into the boiling pot along with the other ingredients. “‘…You tell them to hang on tight to the noodles so they stay afloat,'” Halmoni says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandmom-kalguksu

Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun has been waiting and waiting for Family Sports Day to arrive, but when it does, her mom has to work and can’t go along as she had promised. Gee-eun was looking forward to doing the cheer dance, the tug-of-war, and the running race with her. Now who can she go with? Halmoni tells her granddaughter that she will go. She then relates tales from her own childhood, when she was so strong at tug-of-war that she “could pull all the other kids over with only one arm,” she was such a fast racer that they called her “Speedy Horse,” and was such a good dancer that it “goes without saying.” Then she shows Gee-eun some of her moves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandmom-tug-of-war

Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At Family Sports Day, Gee-eun feels confident in her and her grandma’s chances. But things don’t pan out exactly as she’d hoped, and Halmoni even trips and falls during the race.  Gee-eun is so disappointed that her tears flow freely. Walking home, Halmoni and Gee-eun get a curry bun—and then a second one that is their secret. “No matter how you may be feeling, curry buns are always delicious, especially when shared with Grandma,” Gee-eun says.

They then buy mackerel, bean sprouts, and eggs for dinner, while Gee-eun’s grandma assures her that her father would easily beat a mackerel in a swimming race, that she once bought a bean sprout as big as Gee-eun to season just for her mom, and that a hen always misses her eggs. “‘Halmoni,'” Gee-eun then asks, “‘when will Mom get home?'” The food is on the table when her parents get home, and she runs to the door to greet them so they can eat dinner together…because “nothing beats a mean made by Grandma.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandmom-running-race

Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun Lee’s story is infused with those types of events in life, both inconsequential and significant, that are filled with emotional power that make them memorable. From Gee-eun’s meltdown at her mother’s leaving to her grandma’s quick thinking that leads to bonding over food and creativity to the bravado and disappointment of the Family Sports Day, Lee invites readers into the touching and humorous relationship between Gee-eun and her grandmother. Wily, proud, comforting, and understanding, Gee-eun’s grandmother is the heart of the family, bridging the generations with her wisdom and constant love. Lee’s storytelling draws readers in with her warm and familiar dialogue that ingeniously pivots back and forth in time, tying together moments in Gee-eun’s mother’s life, her grandmother’s life, and Gee-eun’s experiences. 

Gee-eun Lee’s soft colored pencil and paint illustrations are delightfully childlike, as if the character Gee-eun had drawn them. In that vein the expressive depictions of Gee-eun’s adult grandma fiercely besting a dozen children at tug of war, her smooth dance and nimble dance moves, and her and Gee-eun’s “set and ready” stance at the track while other mother/child pairs stretch, play, and tie laces are comical joy. The theme of bridging generations also appears cleverly in the image of Gee-eun’s dough family floating together in the soup and the portrait of Gee-eun brushing her doll’s hair while her grandmother brushes and braids Gee-eun’s, among others.

 Written with a unique voice that echoes universal truths about family relationships, My GrandMom is a humorous, poignant, and heartening read aloud that will quickly become a favorite for parents, grandparents, other caregivers, and children to share. The book is highly recommended for home and classroom libraries and a must for school and public library collections.  

Ages 3 – 7

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662508257

About the Author

Gee-eun Lee is an award-winning Korean author/illustrator. She recently won the prestigious BolognaRagazzi Award in the comics category for her book, The Story of How the Korean Shaved Ice Dessert Was Born, and is also a top winner of the Korean Young Illustrator Award. She studied design and illustration in Korea and the UK. Her first picture book, Paper Dad, was made into a children’s musical in Korea. My GrandMom is the second book she both wrote and illustrated and is based on her own grandmother.  You can connect with Gee-eun on Instagram: @studio_geeeun

About the Translator

Sophie Bowman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, studying Korean literature. She was awarded the ICF Literature Translation Fellowship at Ewha Womans University. In 2015, she won the Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award grand prize for poetry with her translations of Jin Eun-young and co-translated Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories. She recently translated the picture book Magic Candies by Heena Baek, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow her on Twitter @SophieOrbital.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandmom-cover

You can find My GrandMom at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review