November 26 – Thanksgiving Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is one of the first celebrated in America and dates back to 1621, when the pilgrims commemorated a year of survival in their new homeland. Typically a day when families gather with loved ones from around the country, this year’s holiday may be smaller for many, but no less meaningful. Today’s book can help readers find things to be thankful for today and ever day.

The Thank You Book

Written by Mary Lyn Ray | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

 

Saying “thank you” is good manners, of course, but “it’s also for when something wakes a little hum—a happy little hum—inside you and you want to answer back.” Each day begins with a thank you for the sunrise and for breakfast too. Outside, there’s a whole world of wonders to be thankful for, places to play, and crafts to make.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2018, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

“Thank you is for laps and books…. It’s also for when hurt or sad or not-so-good gets better.” Thank you is for the things that keep us warm and for holidays full of surprises. We give thanks for home and family as well as “for this earth we ride on, and for the stars beyond.” We’re thankful for the simple joys of bedtime—PJs, stories, and goodnight kisses.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2018, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Thank you is for all the things we know and for those we don’t. It’s for what makes each one of us “glad that we are us.” And for everything both big and small, “we wrap a hug around each day—to say another thank you.”

Mary Lyn Ray’s tribute to the moments, things, and interactions that bring happiness to life is a thoughtful and joyful reminder of all the gifts we share with others. Her lyrical text takes a child’s view of the things both big and small that they can count on to fill a year with wonder.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2018, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Stephanie Graegin populates this world with adorable animals and enthusiastic kids going about their days together at home and with their friends, enjoying celebrations and quiet times, waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night. Each charming image holds the comfort and delight of sharing our lives with others.

The Thank You Book is a gem that highlights companionship, friendship, and the wide range of relationships and things we have to give thanks for every day. It is an enchanting book to add to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0544791367 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0358362685 (Board Book, 2020)

Discover more about Mary Lyn Ray and her books on her website.

To learn about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Thanksgiving Day Activity

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What Are You Thankful For? Poster

 

Write all of the amazing things in your life that make you happy on this colorful, printable What Are You Thankful For? Template! Then display it in your room to make you smile or remind you to thank everyone who is important to you! 

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You can find The Thank You Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

November 25 – National Play Day with Dad

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About the Holiday

Share our Style Foundation established National Play Day with Dad in 2019 to encourage fathers to spend time with their kids having fun, bonding, and building memories. Doing things with dad helps children develop a strong foundation, good self-esteem, and even a sense of daring. Fathers learn from their kids too – about school, their friends, and what they want for the world. Of course, the most important thing on today’s holiday is to have fun!

Make Me a Robot

By Mark Rogalski

 

Everyone loves robots, but dads LOVE robots, And dads and kids? They LOOOVE playing with robots together. That’s what makes today’s holiday and today’s book such an amazing matchup! In Make Me a Robot kids and adults can read rhyming verses about the robot and it’s features while unfolding flaps that, by the end of the book, have created a robot that’s fully equipped and ready for anything.

Four pages in, the robot asks readers to “make me a robot / with wings that soar high. / Do you know what I think? / I was born to fly!” Unfolding the flaps underneath the sweet face reveals two wide wings, images of two joy sticks, radar readouts, and a compass. But this robot wants to do more than just fly—it has dreams of stellar exploration. It’s up to you to provide it with rocket boosters on the next page and full fuel tanks on the next!

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Copyright Mark Rogalski, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

And what’s a day with Dad if you don’t have gadgets? Bor-ring! Robot feels the same way. That’s why it has plenty. With a few more flaps, children have an entire robot who’s excited to play with them. To thank readers, it has a little gift. It says, “You have made me a robot! / There’s so much I can do. / And for helping me out, / here’s a smile for you!” And, indeed, with one more flap the robot grins through its face shield, ready to have a blast.

Mark Rogalski’s cleverly designed board book allows little ones to transform their mild-mannered book into an awesome robot to call their own. Each sturdy page contains two flaps that fold out on either side of the book to create arms, feet, wings, and reveal all the gadgets a good robot needs. When completely open, the robot measures 18 inches wide and nearly 12 inches high. The detailed images of knobs, dials, levers and navigation tools will captivate kids, and they and adults will have fun pointing out its features and talking about all the things this robot could do. If after story time little ones aren’t ready to put their new friend away, that’s okay—this adorable, smiling robot can sit up on its own and keep them company.

An interactive book that makes kids’ eyes light up, Make Me a Robot will become a favorite for hands-on storytimes. The book will also spark their imagination for drawings and creations of their own. The book would make a wonderful gift and addition to home, school, and library collections. Kids will also love Mark Rogalski’s Make Me a Monster.

Ages 3 – 5

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1797205250

Discover more about Mark Rogalski and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Play with Dad Day Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

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You can find Make Me a Robot at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 24 – Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day

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About the Holiday

We all have unique talents and abilities. Today’s holiday was established for us to define our abilities and think about how we would like to use them for ourselves and others. Whether your talents lie in the arts; science, math, and technology; the humanities; teaching and leadership; or kindness, with courage, confidence, and practice you can accomplish amazing things. Today’s books feature two very different talents and are accompanied by videos that can teach you how to use your creativity to achieve success.

You Can Draw Comic Book Characters

By Spencer Brinkerhoff III

 

Do you have a comic book creator inside yearning to blast free? In this step-by-step guide, Spencer Brinkerhoff III shows you how to draw more than 25 original -comic book characters, draw with perspective and from different angles, and how to use simple shapes to create all of the characters running around in your imagination. To get started, Brinkerhoff introduces readers to the tools of the trade, especially one type of template that ensures that your characters are always in proportion whether they’re standing still, flying, climbing, running, or engaged in battle.

Whether you’re drawing a hero or a villain, Brinkerhoff presents illustrated steps for creating the head, complete with guidelines that tell you where to put the eyes, hair, and other facial features; how to add the body and sketch in arms and legs in active poses. Brinkerhoff then invites artists to make these prototype characters their own by showing how through hairstyles, clothing, and facial features you can add personality and individuality to your characters.

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Copyright Spencer Brinkerhoff III, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster, Jr.

But characters aren’t just created through their physical appearance—readers also want to know what makes them tick. Brinkerhoff adds specific and enlightening guidance on how to design a well-rounded character that readers will care about. He discusses general ideas on how heroes and villains come to be then gives specific examples of backstories, motivations, powers, and limitations for heroes, villains, and all the minions and sidekicks in between.

Once you’ve practiced drawing your character, it’s time to add some color, and Brinkerhoff has you covered there too with tips on choosing colors to make an effect, how to make it look as if a character is wearing a helmet with a face shield, and how to make Zaps and Zings really shine.

So, you have characters with histories—now what? They need a story to live in! Brinkerhoff reveals how to develop a strong story from beginning to end and create a script. Then he shows artists how to plan and draw panels that help tell the story, create good story flow, establish mood and location, include dialogue and sounds, and add the kind of suspense that keeps readers turning the pages. Finally, Brinkerhoff shows readers how to put it all together to make a complete comic book. He follows this up with larger templates for characters who are standing, flying, and fighting as well as a few in various action poses.

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Copyright Spencer Brinkerhoff III, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster, Jr.

Spencer Brinkerhoff presents an excellent guide for artists and would-be artists of all ages with specific help and plenty of opportunities to practice a variety of body styles, facial expressions, poses, and all accompanying accents. The diversity of examples and the emphasis on other aspects to creating successful characters and complete comics will spark children’s imagination and help them develop their talent for both drawing and writing, which are equally important in creating the kinds of comics that readers fall in love with and want to read again and again.

A superb drawing book for children, You Can Draw Comic Book Characters would make a much-appreciated gift for young artists and an often-used, go-to book as children or adults work on improving their drawing and visual storytelling abilities. The book is a must for home bookshelves for aspiring artists as well as for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 10 and up

Quarto Knows, Walter Foster Jr., 2020 | ISBN 978-1633228665

About Spencer Brinkerhoff

Spencer Brinkerhoff III started drawing and making art at an early age and has never stopped. Spencer’s professional work has included creating Star Wars art for Lucasfilm Ltd, animating an educational game for the World Health Organization, creating and starring in a video that won him Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am, and creating some of the horse sculptures for the PF Chang’s restaurants. In addition to working on these licensed projects, he has also created a glasses-less 3-D image platform called ShadowBox Comics, an in-camera special effect keychain called LightStickFX, and a drawing system called DrawingIsSimple. You can discover more about Spencer Brinkerhoff III, his art, and his work on his website.

Drawing Captain Jinx Tagget and Savage with Spencer Brinkerhoff III

In this video and two more videos from Quarto Classroom, children and adults can learn from Spencer Brinkerhoff III how to create two original characters from You Can Draw Comic Book Characters: Captain Jinx Tagget and Savage. In the first video Spencer Brinkerhoff demonstrates each step in drawing his hero Jinx, talking viewers through an easy method for creating the head and body, the whys and hows of facial-feature placement, and how to add accents to make each character distinctive. In his second video, Brinkerhoff uses a prop that gives new artists clear visual help in understanding how a face can be drawn when tilted and turned. He also demonstrates how to draw Jinx when flying.

In his third video Brinkerhoff shows kids how to draw the imposing Savage, a character that uses different proportions yet is still derived from basic shapes beginning with a circle. At the end of each twenty-five-minute session, he gives a lesson on adding color to the character. Brinkerhoff’s easy-going and encouraging delivery will instill confidence in artists and get them excited about designing their own characters.

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You can find You Can Draw Comic Book Characters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS

Written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Ginnie Hsu

 

Maria Corazon—better known as Cory—was a little girl growing up in the Philippines, a country made up of thousands of islands. At school, she learned lessons on reading and writing and math and also “how to take a step forward.” For example, when one of her classmates was not able to make a speech in front of the school, Cory volunteered to give it.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

When Cory was still a child, her parents send her to America to study. When she returned home after graduating from college, she was determined to become a lawyer. While in law school, “she became close with a student as honest and as bold as her.” His name was Benigno, but those who loved him called him Ninoy. Ninoy went on to become a politician. He wanted to help his fellow Filipinos and became an ardent critic of the country’s dishonest president. Because of his opposition to the president, he was arrested. Then Cory wrote speeches and became her husband’s voice for nearly eight years while he was in prison.

Declaring more and more unfair laws, the president became a dictator and forced Ninoy, Cory, and their family to leave the country. They moved to Boston, Massachusetts and were happy there, but after three years “Cory knew that Ninoy had to go home and try to restore democracy, giving power back to the people.” They returned to the Philippines, but the president’s men were waiting for them and Ninoy was killed.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Cory felt alone, but at Ninoy’s funeral millions of people showed that they were with her, giving “her their love and support.” Cory decided it was up to her to continue Ninoy’s work. She ran for president and won, but the defeated president “faked the results of the election” and sparked a revolution. For four days “millions of people armed with courage took to the streets and proclaimed Cory president of the Philippines. The dictatorship crumbled and Cory became the first female President of the Philippines. Through her lifelong courage and honesty, little Cory grew up to save democracy for her people and change their lives forever.

A timeline of Corazon Aquino’s life follows the text.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara’s excellent biography of Corazon Aquino for young readers introduces them to this amazing woman with well-chosen details about her life and the personality traits that made her singularly suited for her role in leading the Philippines out of the darkness of dictatorship. Vegara’s straightforward storytelling reveals her respect for the intelligence and social conscience of her readers as she relates hard facts about life in the Philippines at the time and its personal consequences for her family. Examples of Corazon’s courage, from giving a speech at school to giving voice to millions of people, will inspire readers to show bravery in their own pursuits, both big and small, and prompt them to look for ways that they can make a difference.

Through Ginnie Hsu’s captivating illustrations, readers are introduced to a brief view of the diversity of communities among the islands of the Philippines and the cities and schools that nurtured her while growing up. Children see the enthusiasm with which crowds met Cory and Ninoy on his political rise. In a clever two-page spread, a speech that Ninoy is writing spills from his typewriter, across the two pages and into Cory’s hands as she reads her husband’s words after his arrest. Images of people lining up to vote will be familiar from our own recent election and offer opportunities for adults to discuss the importance of voting. Adults may remember Corazon Aquino’s signature yellow outfits, which Hsu recreates here. Hsu’s vibrant illustrations, packed with the people that supported the Aquinos, demonstrate the change that, together, people of courage can affect.

An inspirational biography of an influential leader, Corazon Aquino is an excellent addition to the Little People, BIG DREAMS series and offers a meaningful way for adults to introduce young readers to political and social leaders and the ideas of responsibility and leadership. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711246843

About Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, born in Barcelona, Spain, is a writer and creative director in constant search of new concepts for children’s books and the author of the multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series of picture books that explore the lives of outstanding people. Working for more than fifteen years for clients in top advertising agencies, her books combine creativity with learning, aiming to establish a new and fresh relationship between children and pop culture. You can connect with Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara on Instagram.

About Ginnie Hsu

Ginnie Hsu is an illustrator, designer, and educator living in upstate New York. Her work is often inspired by everyday life, nature, human living, and well-being. Ginnie also enjoys foraging, yoga, and herbalism. To learn more about Ginnie Hsu, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS video with Ginnie Hsu

In this video from Quarto Classroom you can listen to Ginnie Hsu read Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS and learn about the importance of the color yellow throughout the story as well as how color has become associated with other revolutions around the world. Hsu also introduces viewers to the meanings behind eight colors and how using these colors adds depth and meaning to a picture book and other illustrations. For example, yellow carries with it the ideas of positivity and happiness. After learning about colors and their meanings, Hsu invites kids to gather supplies in a color of their choice and to create a project meaningful to them. In keeping with the yellow in her book, Hsu chooses to make a sunflower from felt and a digital sunflower collage. She demonstrates how she puts together her felt sunflower and then shows children the variety of ways a sunflower can be drawn.

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You can find Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day Activity

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Draw Captain Jinx Tagget

 

With this printable guide from Spencer Brinkerhoff III, you can learn to draw Captain Jinx Tagget standing and in action with detailed and specific steps from making your first circle for the head to completing her superhero suit. You’ll find another guide on how to draw Savage at Quarto Classroom

Captain Jinx Tagget Drawing Guide | Savage Drawing Guide

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November 23 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to share their stories and is celebrated this month when families typically get together for Thanksgiving. Although our Thanksgiving gatherings will be different this year, sharing stories can still be a part of the day. Oral storytelling, which has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times, is a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

 

“Farmer Earl, his wife, Marge, and too many children to mention lived in an itty-bitty house….” Their house was so small they hardly had room to turn around. Fed up, Farmer Earl decided to go see the wise woman nearby and ask her advice. The wise woman listened to the farmer’s tale of woe and told him, “Put all of your ducks in your house.”

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Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

Farmer Earl wasn’t sure how that would help, but back home, he and Marge rounded up all of their ducks and slipped them one-by-one through the window. “The ducks flapped. / The ducks quacked. / The ducks waddled. / The ducks quacked.” They sat on the mantle and in the fireplace. They laid eggs on the floor and their feathers floated everywhere. For the family, “There was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.” Farmer Earl thought it was way too crowded and went back to see the wise woman.

When she heard how the farmer’s house was still too small for his family, she looked up from her knitting and told him, “‘Put all of your horses in your house.’” This didn’t seem to help at all. There were horses showering in the bathtub and ducks bathing in the toilet; horses eating the toilet paper and ducks in the sink. One duck even started nibbling Farmer Earl’s hat. Now there really “was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.”

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Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

This time when the farmer visited the wise woman, she gave him advice he didn’t want to hear, but when he got home, he did it anyway. It “proved to be a disaster.” Clothes, socks, and even the curtains were gnawed, the beds were rumpled, and food lay scattered all over the kitchen floor. He hurried back to the wise woman and shouted, “‘I’ve had enough!’” Sipping her tea, the wise woman listened to the farmer’s complaints, and then gave one more bit of advice – to return all of the animals to their place on the farm.

“‘How is that going to help?’ wondered Farmer Earl,” but once the animals were back where they belonged and the farmer came home to “no ducks snacking… / no ducks quacking…. / no horses chomping… / no horses stomping…. / no goats licking… / no goats kicking…,” he found there really was room for all!

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Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

Based on an old Yiddish folktale, Karen Rostoker-Gerber’s story is a hilarious reminder of the importance of perspective in life. Repeated words and phrases build on each other and invite kids to join in the fun as the animals wreck havoc throughout the tiny farmhouse. Farmer Earl’s reliance on the wise woman’s suggestions sets up suspenseful scenes with delightfully funny outcomes that readers will eagerly anticipate. When the animals are all back outside and Farmer Earl realizes the house is big enough for them all, kids will appreciate the cleverness of the wise woman and may look at their own difficult situations in a new way.

Kristina Swarner’s vivid and textured folk-art style illustrations perfectly reflect the plot and humor of the story. As a rooster wakens the family and multiple faces and pets can be seen in each of the farmhouse windows, readers are enticed to count, from page to page, just how many people live in this “itty-bitty” home. Lively images of the house filling up with animals will have kids laughing out loud and wanting to take stock of all the mayhem they’re causing. Astute readers may notice that while Farmer Earl considers his house too small, his children play happily in the space they have, revealing that contentment is the secret to a happy home.

An excellent choice for a rousing story time with a philosophical message, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale would be a welcome addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807556924

Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gerber and her books on her website.

You can read an interview with Karen here.

To learn more about Kristina Swarner, her books, and her art, visit her website.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming up with Karen Rostoker-Gerber in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, written by Karen Rostoker-Gerber| illustrated by Kristina Swarner

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with your favorite farm animal for an extra entry. Each reply earns one extra entry.

This giveaway is open from November 23 to November 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 1. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. 

Family Stories Week Activity

CPB - Animal Matching Cards

Animal Match-Up Game

 

During Family Stories Month it’s fun to play games together while learning more about each other. Play this fun matching game to find pairs of animals and talk about your favorite animals, pet stories, and the animals you’d like to see up close!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two sheets of the Animal Matching Cards for each player
  2. Color the cards (optional)
  3. Cut the cards apart
  4. Scramble the cards and lay them out face-side down
  5. Choosing one card at a time, turn one face up and then another.
  6. If the two cards match leave them face up
  7. If the two cards do not match lay them face down and try again.
  8. As you find matching pairs, leave the cards face up until all the pairs have been found.
  9. If playing against other players, the first to match all their animal cards is the winner

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You can find A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 21 – National Adoption Day

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About the Holiday

National Adoption Day is a national collective initiative to raise awareness of the more than 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent families. Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network, National Adoption Day was instituted in 2000, and since then has made the wishes of nearly 75,000 children come true. To learn more, visit the National Adoption Day website.

Thanks to Two Lions for sending me a copy of A Crazy-Much Love for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one child or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea. 

National Adoption Day Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crazy-much-love-cover

You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

 

November 20 – Get Ready for Christmas

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better to get kids in the spirit of Christmas than by sharing holiday stories both old and new. Packed with all the excitement and anticipation of the season, Christmas books offer humor, tradition, inspiration, and new perspectives on this favorite holiday. Stuff your stockings with pre-Christmas reads, and don’t forget that books make the perfect present for all ages!

Thank you to Flyaway Books for sending me a copy of The Worst Christmas Ever for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

The Worst Christmas Ever

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Porfirio

 

One spring day Matthew and Lucy’s dad came home from work and announced that the family would be moving to California. Lucy was excited, but her big brother was less than enthusiastic. Their mom thought it would be an adventure. That night in bed, Matthew’s dog Jasper licked his tears away. Before they knew it, spring had turned to fall and the moving van was being loaded up. “Matthew watched his life being packed away.”

In California everything was different, from school to church to nature—where the leaves stayed green and flowers bloomed even in the winter. He missed the fun he and Jasper used to have playing in the autumn leaves. Soon, even though it didn’t feel like it, it was almost Christmas and time to get the tree. Mom thought that would get them all in the spirit of the holiday.

But “Matthew muttered, ‘No snow. Worst Christmas ever. It’ll take a miracle to make it feel like Christmas.’” Lucy wanted to know what a miracle was. Matthew told her but was sure they wouldn’t find one there. “‘Oh, yes, I will!’ said Lucy. ‘I’ll find the miracle!’” At the Christmas tree lot—which was a far cry from the tree farm Matthew loved—there were plenty of trees to choose from, but they felt “prickly and dry,” and some were colored pink, purple, or blue with fake snow. Lucy wanted a pink one, but Dad stuck with green.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-tree-shopping

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Back home, Lucy dived under her bed. She was looking for a miracle, she said. Matthew was skeptical, but “he smiled, just a little.” On the Sunday before Christmas, the pastor at church asked for a volunteer family to play the holy family in the outdoor nativity. Dad raised his hand and “Lucy jumped up and down” and offered her doll Gabriela to play baby Jesus. Matthew tried to hide behind the hymn book.

Three days before Christmas Eve, while Matthew and Jasper were at the park, Jasper chased after a squirrel and then seemed to vanish. Matthew rushed home, sobbing. Although the family searched for hours, they couldn’t find Jasper. The next day they handed out flyers and called the shelters, but no one had seen him. On Christmas Eve, Matthew couldn’t get excited about decorating the tree, and Lucy’s constant singing of “Away in a Manger” didn’t help either.

As he participated in the Christmas Eve service, Matthew’s “heart ached for Jasper, lost somewhere in that terribly silent night.” During the last song, Matthew and his family slipped out, put on their costumes and walked to the stable on the church lawn. Lucy put her doll in the manger. As the congregation sang carols in the misty night, Matthew thought he could almost feel the snow he’d left behind.

Suddenly, Lucy shouted, “‘Look!’” The pile of hay was moving! Lucy thought Gabriela had come to life. “‘It’s the Christmas miracle!’” she said. Matthew “lifted the wriggling blanket in the manger and gasped.” It was Jasper, who’d been sleeping deep in the hay. “‘It is a miracle! You found your way…home,’” Matthew exclaimed. And with that he looked around and realized that this was home and this was the “‘best Christmas ever’” because it “had come, right in the middle of Matthew’s feeling lost in the world. Just as it had come that first Christmas, long ago. Ready or not.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-singing

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s emotional Christmas story captures feelings of loss and sadness children feel when life changes or unexpected misfortunes occur. Framed by Christmas, a time of magic, good memories, and miracles, Bostrom’s story offers hope for new perspectives and rediscovered happiness. Through Matthew and his younger sister, Lucy, Bostrom creates realistic portraits of children that will resonate with readers. Her detailed storytelling, rich with dialogue and sprinkled with humor, will charm kids. Matthew’s friendship with Jasper is a highlight, and Jasper’s running off sets up suspense and the joyful ending. The story has particular resonance this year when beloved traditions may change, families may not gather as usual, and the holidays may take on a different feel. Reading the book with children can help them discuss their feelings and find new ways to share the Christmas spirit.

Guy Porfirio’s vivid illustrations shine with realistic action and are especially effective in depicting Matthew’s and Lucy’s emotions and different reactions to moving, a warm-weather Christmas, and looking for the Christmas miracle. Matthew’s close relationship with his dog is sweetly portrayed, and his sadness is evident even as he goes about the traditional Christmas Eve activities. Alert readers may notice the hint of Jasper’s black-and-white tail mixed in with the hay as the family walks across the church lawn to take their places in the stable, letting them experience the giddy excitement of Christmas Eve discovery and also rejoice with Matthew when Jasper is found.

A poignant story that inspires children to look for the promise of Christmas in surprising places and all year long, The Worst Christmas Ever would be a favorite seasonal read aloud that would be asked for throughout the year as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Flyaway Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1947888098

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

You can connect with Guy Porfirio on Twitter.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

You can find The Worst Christmas Ever at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 19 – Children’s Grief Awareness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cover

About the Holiday

Created in 2008 by the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families in Pennsylvania, Children’s Grief Awareness Day is now recognized by organizations around the world. The day seeks to raise awareness of the painful impact that the death of a loved one has on a child and the fact that receiving support can make all the difference in their life as they grieve. It also provides an opportunity to make sure that these children receive the support they need.

The statistics are sobering. Before graduating from high school, one child out of every 20 children will experience the death of a parent. That number does not include those who experience the death of a sibling, a grandparent, an aunt, uncle or cousin, or a friend.

To learn more information on the needs of grieving children and find available resources, visit the Children’s Grief Awareness Day website.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of The Boy and the Gorilla for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Candlewick in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Boy and the Gorilla

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Cindy Derby

 

The sun casts long shadows as a little boy, his father, and a few mourners walk away from the cemetery. In the background a gorilla, strong and watchful, knows he’s needed. At home, the boy and his father sit on the sofa, aware of the family and friends gathered, but separated by grief. The gorilla waits silently nearby, filling some of the empty space. Escaping into the backyard, the boy kneels in his mother’s garden to pick a tomato. Now that he is alone, the boy acknowledges the gorilla, who asks if he can help. “Okay,” the boy says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cemetery

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Here, to this friend of his heart, the boy can express his deep sadness as well as the questions he has about death. “My mom died,” he says. Gently holding one and picking up another tomato, the gorilla answers, “I know.” As some of the routines of life return, the boy and his dad are separated by their individual thoughts and the tasks that need to be done. But the boy works through his questions about whether all people die, where his mom went, and if she can “come back home” with the gorilla. To each question, the gorilla offers honest answers as well as comfort. His mom won’t come home, the gorilla explains, “But she’s always with you.”

When the boy misses the things he and his mom did together, the gorilla quietly suggests that his dad might do them too. The gorilla reassures the boy when he needs to be alone or look for his mother in out of the way places. Finally, the boy asks the question that tugs at his mind: “Why did she have to die?” The gorilla acknowledges his pain, saying “It hurts not to be able to be with someone we love.” When the boy wonders when he’ll feel better, the wise gorilla says, “When you know she’s still with you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-strawberries

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The boy is ready to see his mom in their shared activities, like baseball, baking, and gardening. Each of these are gifts from his mother that will stay with him forever, the gorilla reminds him. That day, the boy goes to find his father and tell him the feeling he’s been carrying: “I miss Mom.” His dad takes him in his arms and they share their grief. The gorilla embraces them with love and understanding. The boy and his dad sit together looking at photographs and talking about Mom. The gorilla watches them from across the room. Later, they plant new flowers together, and then as the sun sets and the gorilla ambles away across empty fields, the boy and his dad walk back to the house, hand in hand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-swings

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In her emotionally resonant story, Jackie Azúa Kramer gives adults a poignant way to talk with children—and readers of any age—about the feelings of sadness, confusion, and loss that fill their hearts and days after someone they love passes away. Beginning with general questions that children have about death, Azúa Kramer offers honest answers or acknowledgements that “no one knows” the answers.

She then leads readers to ways they can accept a loved-one’s death and find comfort in memories, discover the constancy of their love in shared activities, and reach out to others. Told entirely in dialogue between the boy and the gorilla and, later, between the boy and his father, the story feels as personal as an embrace, allowing a grieving child to identify with it without any distancing. Beautifully paced, the story ends with a sense of acceptance, hope, and renewal.

Cindy Derby’s watercolor and mixed media illustrations will stir readers’ hearts with her touching depictions of the little boy and his father, both struggling in the wake of the loss of their mother and wife. The gorilla, painted in shades of purple and gray, is a hulking, yet soft, presence, a representation of the magnitude of the boy’s sadness but his capacity to understand too. Derby incorporates fragility and strength into her images that reinforce the boy and father’s changing awareness: On the day of his mother’s funeral, the boy goes into the garden to pick tomatoes. The gentle care the gorilla takes in helping hold these tender fruit reflects his mindfulness of the boy’s vulnerability. At the park, the chains on the swing set, where the boy and gorilla come to terms with the fact that his mother will not come back, as well as the climber appear precariously brittle, yet they are both capable of holding great weight. And a single branch, no thicker than a twig, supports them as they talk about why the boy’s mother died.

Derby also evocatively portrays how the boy and his father are each processing their feelings independently as two-page spreads allow for the boy to appear on one page while his father is on the other. They gradually grow closer—appearing on the same page, but in different places or rooms. When the little boy courageously approaches his dad, their reunion is moving, and to see them sitting next to each other after the page turn is uplifting and affirming. Derby’s use of color, especially touches of red, adds metaphorical depth to the story, and children will want to watch for the little red bird that seems to watch over this family from page to page, until the boy and his father reconnect and move forward.

For any child who has suffered a loss or knows a friend who has, or for families looking for a way to discuss death and the process of grieving, The Boy and the Gorilla is a must. The book also belongs in every school and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-0763698324

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

To learn more about Cindy Derby, her books, and her art, visit her website.

The Boy and the Gorilla Giveaway

 

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Candlewick Press in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of The Boy and the Gorilla, written by Jackie Azúa Kramer| illustrated by Cindy Derby

To enter:

This giveaway is open from November 19 to November 25 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 26. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Candlewick Press

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cover

You can find The Boy and the Gorilla at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review