March 24 – It’s National Umbrella Month


About the Holiday

The rainy season is coming—do you know where your umbrella is? March, with its unpredictable weather has been designated National Umbrella Month to commemorate those useful objects that keep us dry in the rain and shaded from the sun’s rays. Invented in China over 4,000 years ago, the umbrella underwent many changes before becoming the pocket-sized helper it is today. To celebrate this month, check on the condition of your umbrella or treat yourself to a new one!

The Big Umbrella

By Amy June Bates | Cowritten with Juniper Bates


A red umbrella sits at the front door, waiting…. “It is a big, friendly umbrella.” No matter if raindrops or sunshine or even autumn leaves are falling, the umbrella is ready to go to work. “It likes to spread its arms wide” and offer shelter to whomever needs it.

Under the umbrella there’s room for four—and more. The umbrella welcomes anyone, no matter what you look like or what you’re wearing or “how many legs you have.” And if it seems crowded, don’t worry—there’s always room for more. So come on under! You’ll be amazed at what you find!


Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2018, text copyright Amy June and Juniper Bates, 2018. Courtesy of

In Amy June and Juniper Bates’ sparing text, there’s a world of freedom and welcome. Amy June’s gorgeous watercolors of a rain-soaked day complete the story as a walk down a city street creates a microcosm of life under the umbrella.

The sweet, red umbrella smiles at every one who comes by  looking for shelter, always stretching to accommodate another. When a ballerina and a runner need protection from the pelting rain, they easily join two already under the umbrella with room to spare. The very tall webbed creature the four meet next doesn’t even fit on the page, but it does fit nicely under the umbrella. And the cute hairy guy who’s carrying a briefcase and is as tall as the bus stop sign? Sure! There’s plenty of room!


Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2018, text copyright Amy June and Juniper Bates, 2018. Courtesy of

As the group continues on its way, readers can see the legs of young and old, cowboys and roller skaters, dogs and chicks all walking together and protected by the ever widening umbrella. Children will like to predict what will happen when the umbrella passes a crowded crosswalk. In a double-page spread the sun begins to peek out from behind the clouds just in time for this diverse group to enjoy an afternoon at the park—all shaded by the red umbrella.

When readers turn from the mottled blue and green rainy-day pages where the faces of the fellow travelers are hidden onto Bates’ final light and bright two-page park scene, they can’t help but smile and feel their heart lift even more. As the individuals are revealed, the sense of inclusion is heartening and affirming. The park, dotted with daisies, bustles with kids and adults of all ethnicities, abilities, and personalities playing, talking, biking, painting, and gathering together.


Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2018, text copyright Amy June and Juniper Bates, 2018. Courtesy of

The Big Umbrella is an uplifting and inspiring story that children of all ages will respond to. The book would be an excellent choice for classroom libraries to open discussions of inclusion and a sweet addition to home bookshelves for rainy day or sunny day story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534406582

To learn more about Amy June Bates and see portfolios of her art and books, visit her website.

National Umbrella Day Activity


Find the Matching Umbrellas


These umbrellas and raincoats were mixed up in the wind! Can you find the matching pairs? Look carefully! How will you match them up?

Rainy Day Mix Up Umbrellas Matching Puzzle

Picture Book Review

March 23 – National Near Miss Day


About the Holiday

Today we remember a cosmic fly-by that occurred on March 23, 1989. On that day the 300-meter-wide asteroid 4581 Asclepius, named for the Greek god of medicine and healing, came within 430,000 miles of hitting Earth—actually passing through the exact position Earth had held only six hours earlier. This near miss wasn’t discovered until nine days later by astronomers Henry E. Holt and Norman G. Thomas. “On the cosmic scale of things, that was a close call,” Dr. Holt said at the time. To celebrate today, you can thank your lucky stars for this near miss or any others you’ve experienced recently or in your lifetime. Another stellar way to spend the day is to learn more about space and our universe!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage


There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.


Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”


Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 


Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or InstaFor speaking events and appearances visit

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for AstronautYou can download two A is for Astronaut Activity Sheets here:

A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet | A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

Meet Astronaut Clayton Anderson

Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: | Facebook | Instagram | TwitterFor speaking events and appearances visit

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

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

Near Miss Day Activity


Rocket to the Moon! Tic-Tac-Toe Game


You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 


  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker


To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

It’s an Awesome A is for Astronaut Giveaway!


I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this A is for Astronaut giveaway!

I’m giving away an awesome prize pack with:

  • A copy of A is for Astronaut signed by astronaut Clayton Anderson
  • A Sleeping Bear Press book covers tote bag

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, March 23 – 29. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win. A winner will be chosen on March 30.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.


Picture Book Review

March 22 – National Goof Off Day


About the Holiday

Just as the name sounds, today is a day to relax, let some things slide, and goof off! When the stresses and strains of everyday life get to be a little too much, letting go and having fun can put you in a better frame of mind and give you new perspectives. The holiday was established in 1976 by Monica Moeller Dufour of Davidson, Michigan. Now that you have permission to goof off and a whole twenty-four hours to do it in, plan some wacky events – or just snuggle in with a good book. There are no rules—so enjoy!

So Few of Me

By Peter H. Reynolds


Leo knew how to multitask. He could mop the floor and feed the bird at the same time (so…well… maybe the seed did miss the cage by a bit). But “no matter how hard he worked, there was always more to do.” Leo thought making a list would be a good idea. But once he started writing, the “list of things to do grew and grew.” For a moment, Leo wished there two of him. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.


Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

When Leo opened the door, he, himself, was standing on the other side. The new Leo was keen to get started on the list. Two Leos was helpful, but the new Leo noticed more things to be done, so “a third Leo joined the two.” Three was fine, but four was even better. They shopped, swept up, went to the library for more books, and made important phone calls.

If four could get so much done, just imagine how productive five would be. The Leos did imagine it, and a fifth Leo joined the group. The Leos could now wash the windows, make a birdhouse, water the flowers, do the laundry, and make some notes. Those notes became a more organized job chart when the sixth Leo appeared. “After meeting for hours, they decided they needed a seventh.”


Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. “With seven Leos, there was seven times as much work!” Leo decided they needed one more just to stay afloat. These eight Leos mopped and baked, played soccer and carted laundry, organized and took notes that led to needing another Leo. Surely, these boys could get it all done. So one typed while another played soccer and another washed the cat. The fourth Leo swept while the fifth walked the dog and the sixth practiced violin. The seventh made important phone calls and the eighth checked the list while the ninth went grocery shopping.

Things were getting done and yet there was still more to do. So one more Leo was added, and each was “busier than the next.” At last, the ten Leos stopped for a minute to take stock. They reviewed the list and the progress they were making. They discovered that there was “no time to stop, no time to rest!” The first Leo, though, “was exhausted. He slipped away to take a nap.”

When Leo opened his eyes, he saw eighteen other eyes staring back at him. “‘What were you doing/’” The nine Leos demanded. When they heard that Leo had been dreaming, “they roared, ‘Dreaming is NOT on the list!’” But Leo only smiled, and “the Leos disappeared one by one.” Leo had a new thought. He wondered what would happen if he did less, but did his best. This solution made him happy, and with the list abandoned, Leo ran and played and became “just me, just one…with time to dream.’”


Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynolds’ books for young readers celebrate the wonders of childhood—those years that are so important in the development of the adult to come. Always encouraging of the interior voice of creativity and individuality, here Reynolds adds a tribute to time—the time needed to think, dream, contemplate, devise, and become.

With his usual flair, Reynolds uses watercolor, ink, and tea to show readers—both kids and adults—what all that over-scheduled running around looks like from the outside. As the Leos proliferate, the pages go from sparse to full to packed until one page isn’t enough, and the list and the Leo’s spill over into a double spread. When Leo wakes from his nap and realizes one is enough, the white space around him provides a sense of freedom and lightness. As the pages of the list fly out of Leo’s hands and he plops down in a grassy spot, the end papers reflect Leo’s liberation. Whereas the opening endpapers of college-rule notebook pages are full of chores, meetings, and exhortations to do more, the final  notebook-page endpapers are blank, giving readers a sense of Ahhhhh!

Adding So Few of Me to home or classroom bookshelves and reading often can be a good reminder that time relaxing is time well spent.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick, 2006 | ISBN 978-0763626235

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds, his books, his art on his website

National Goof Off Day Activity


Sweep Away Your Chores! Matching Game


Match the chores to get them done. See how quickly you can pair up these chores and get them finished so you can run off to play.



  1. Print two copies of the Chore Cards for each player
  2. Cut the Chore Cards apart’
  3. Lay them face down and scramble them
  4. Turn over one card and try to find its match by turning over another card
  5. If the cards match, put them aside
  6. If the cards do not match, lay them face down again and pick another card
  7. You win when all the cards have been matched

Picture Book Review

March 21 – International Day of Forests


About the Holiday

International Day of Forests was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 to raise awareness of the importance of trees in vast woodlands or in your neighborhood or yard. Trees contribute to the quality of the air we breathe, improve the local climate, reduce noise pollution, shelter wildlife, and provide food for people and animals. This year’s theme is Forests and Sustainable Cities and aims to promote the integration of trees and vegetation within urban and surrounding areas. The benefits are many, from encouraging health lifestyles to providing fresh water to flood prevention to beautification. Clever architecture and infrastructure can create cities and towns that are healthy and happy to live in! For more information visit the UN International Day of Forests website.

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book

By Britta Teckentrup


In the midst of winter, the tree stands bare of leaves. Tucked away in a hole “Owl sits watching in his tree / No one sees as much as he.” He watches as the snow melts and young flowers, grass, and plants begin sprouting. Then bear cubs leave their hibernation and climb the tree where Owl sits.


Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2016, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Young leaves and colorful blossoms cover the tree and flutter in the breeze as a spider spins her web and more baby animals come to frolic. In the branches, “squirrels scamper here and there. / Playful fox cubs sniff the air.” Birds stop by to rest and sing, while others build nests high in the treetop. The little fox has found a friend as summertime approaches.

“Now summer’s here, the sun is high, / Bees are humming in the sky.” Butterflies flit and ladybugs crawl, and the scent of “juicy apples, ripe and sweet” fills the air. Midsummer brings its own delights. The tree welcomes baby birds and the newborn foxes that sleep below under the starlit sky.


Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2016, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The air turns cooler in early fall and “apples tumble to the ground. Grass is damp with morning dew. / Clouds drift across the skies of blue.” The green leaves turn red, orange, and yellow, and Owl watches as the animals begin gathering food for the long winter ahead. Soon, snow falls and the animals find shelter in the woods and underground.

A blanket of snow covers the earth, but in his nest Owl stays cozy. The forest is quiet, as if asleep. “The seasons have all come and gone. / Snow has fallen, sun has shone. / Owl sees the first new buds appear, / And so begins another year….”


Copyright Britta Teckentrup, 2016, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Britta Teckentrup’s Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book is an interactive triumph of design and story that begins with the cover where a little owl peeks out of his hole deep in the tree. As each season approaches, matures, and gives way to the next in Techentrup’s lovely verses, readers watch along with Owl as bear cubs, squirrels, birds, and bees also take up residence in the tree. With the turn of each page and as the seasons get warmer, die-cut holes reveal the animals, birds, and insects playing among the branches. When summer wanes and autumn and winter come, the die-cut holes decrease as each species goes off to spend the winter in their own way.

Young readers will love interacting with the holes in the sturdy pages, discovering the blossoming forest in such a tactile way. They’ll also enjoy watching the stories of the foxes, birds, and one industrious spider play out throughout the year. The jaunty rhymes are fun to read aloud and will entice children to read along as well.

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book is a delightful book for home and classroom story times as spring blossoms and throughout the year.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101932421

Discover more about Britta Teckentrup, her books, and her art on her website.

International Day of Forests Activity


Your Special Tree


Every tree is unique—just like people! With this craft you can use your imagination to make a tree that’s as special as you are.


  • Printable Tree Template
  • Two 8 ½ by 11-inch sheets of foam or heavy stock paper in whatever color you’d like your tree to be
  • Colored paper for the leaves,
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape


  1. Print and cut out 2 copies of the trunk template
  2. Make a cut half way down the middle of the first trunk from the top of the trunk
  3. Make a cut half way up the middle of the second trunk from the bottom of the trunk
  4. Fit the two pieces of the trunk together

Personalize Your Tree

  1. Cut leaves from colored paper, you can make a spring, summer, autumn or rainbow-colored tree!
  2. On the leaves you can write some of your favorite books, the names of your friends, things you’re thankful for, your goals, or any special things about yourself. Your leaves could even make a poem!
  3. Then glue or tape the leaves to your tree and display it

Picture Book Review

March 20 – World Storytelling Day


About the Holiday

Storytelling has been around as long as people have. We seem to have a natural desire to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a factual way as well as creatively. Today’s holiday celebrates both the storytellers and their stories that enrich our lives. Sometimes, of course, there are two sides to a story—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor


You know the drill—Once upon a time there was a poor boy named Jack…. One day this waif woke up to a moo-tivating kiss from his cow Bessie and… Wait, wait! Kids, cover your eyes! And, Jack, “put on some pants!” Phew! Disaster averted! Now where were we? Oh, right. So Jack (now well-dressed) was told that because Bessie had stopped making milk, he had to sell her. He protested, but the mysterious narrator protested right back: “I didn’t WRITE the story, Jack. I’m just telling it.”

Down at the market, Jack received five beans in exchange for Bessie. Of course, this is a fairy tale, and the beans are magic. Jack tried all the magical words he knew to get them to work, but they just sat in the bowl smiling up at him. Yeah, these beans have faces. Overcome by hunger, Jack determined to eat the beans, but there was that pesky narrator again ordering him to throw the beans out the window and then go to bed. As you can imagine—what with selling his best friend and hunger gnawing at his belly—Jack was a bit testy and complainy and countered, “Aww, but I’m not tired. This story keeps getting worse and worse.”


Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In the morning, Jack discovered that an enormous beanstalk had grown up overnight. It was so tall that Jack couldn’t even see the top. The narrator told him to start climbing. At first, Jack balked, then he tried to stall by offering to get his climbing gear, but the narrator had already determined that Jack “had no possessions.” Finally, Jack agreed to go, but only if the narrator changed the beanstalk’s size. In a classic “be careful what you wish for” maneuver, the beanstalk suddenly began to grow bigger. “Seriously?” Jack said.

Jack was actually enjoying his climb, especially when he spied Cinderella’s castle with Cindy waving from her balcony. Her voice rang across the distance, inviting Jack to a ball that very night. The narrator was not happy with this delay and urged Jack on. Finally, he reached the top, where “he found himself in front of a humongous house.” Jack pegged it right away as a giant’s abode, but he went inside anyway. As he was looking around at all the mammoth furnishings, he heard the giant’s voice: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

Heck, Jack knew about poetry and recognized immediately that “that doesn’t even rhyme” and offered an alternative: “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I can see the giant’s bum.” This bit of wordplay just enraged the giant—that, plus his fear that Jack was trying to steal all his best stuff. The giant grabbed Jack and was about to…well, listen for yourself: “Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Pretty chilling stuff, but even though Jack was facing imminent danger, he was pretty impressed with the giant’s new rhyme.


Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

That made the giant happy, and Jack thought this moment of camaraderie was the perfect time to let slip to the giant that “there’s a good chance that you’re going to die at the end of this story.” The giant put on a frowny face, and his eyes began to tear up. It seemed the giant didn’t want to die, so he suddenly decided to become a vegan. Listening to this emotional roller coaster, the narrator started to get steamed because he was losing control of the story. “ENOUGH!!!” he shouted.

“GIANT!” he hollered and ordered him to chase Jack down the beanstalk. “JACK!” he yelled and told him to chop down the beanstalk. All this shouting only served to bond Jack and the Giant in an oversized friendship. They commiserated together and planned to make a taco salad from one of the giant’s recipes. After that they went to Cinderella’s party, where they told everyone about their adventure. And who’s complaining now? You got this—the narrator!

P.S. And, of course, they all lived happily ever after by splitting the giant’s fortune and opening a restaurant named Where Have You Bean? for a whole host of fairy tale customers!


Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In Josh Funk’s newest romp, Jack takes matters into his own hands as he revamps his famous story into one that turns out “happily ever after” for all the characters. Along the way readers will laugh at Jack’s feisty repartee with the unseen narrator as he’s swept up in a larger-than-life scenario and uses his wits—and wit—to finally tell his own story in his own way. Young readers will appreciate Jack’s independent spunk, and adults will respond to his sweet nature.

Edwardian Taylor’s noodle-limbed, big-eyed Jack knows how to tug at readers’ heartstrings. Soulfully saying good-bye to Bessie, gazing at his nearly empty plate in anguish, and warily approaching the giant’s castle, Jack will quickly have readers empathizing with his plight and cheering him on as he outwits the gigantic red-bearded giant and turns him into a friend and business partner. And while the giant may be big, kids will soon see that he’s really a softy. Children will love all the big and small details on every page, from the leafy beanstalk to cute Cindy-rella to the gold-coin-laying goose. And if you’ve never seen a purple cow…here’s your chance. The final spread of a packed Where Have You Bean? restaurant gives kids an opportunity to show their knowledge of fairy-tale characters.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk makes for a spirited and funny read aloud, and would be super performed by a group in classrooms or by clubs, or even by friends or siblings.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1542045650

Enter the world of Josh Funk and discover more about him and his books as well as plenty of book-related activities on his website!

Learn more about Edwardian Taylor and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

World Storytelling Day Activity



This is Not a Yardstick! Yardstick Craft


Need to measure something—like the height of your garden, the amount of rain that fell, or even the number of books you have? You can do it in style with your very own This is Not a Yardstick! yardstick craft.


  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Small wooden leaves, 45 – 50, available at craft stores 


  • Light green and dark green foam sheets 
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil



  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf’
  5. Write the number of the inch marked on each leaf, from 1 to 45 or higher with the black marker, alternating colors

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

Picture Book Review

March 19 – National Let’s Laugh Day


About the Holiday

This world-wide holiday encourages laughter—that spontaneous emotion that makes things better. Humor is universally embraced, bringing together people from all walks of life to enjoy a bit of fun or craziness together. To celebrate today, think back to some times when you had a really good laugh, when something or someone surprised you with the unexpected, or to your favorite funny childhood TV show, movie, or book. Then enjoy the day with your friends, your kids, your pets… or all three with today’s book!

George the Hero Hound

By Jeffrey Ebbeler


“George was a good old hound dog” and the best kind of farm dog. Even before the rooster crowed, he was helping Farmer Fritz with his chores. Farmer Fritz needed a lot of help because there were always slop buckets to carry, the old rusty tractor was always breaking down, and the cows were always “plotting to get out and feast on the cornfield.” But it wasn’t so bad because there was always an afternoon nap on the porch waiting for him. In fact, “he had a good life for a hound dog.”


Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of

But one day Farmer Fritz packed up his belonging, put on a Hawaiian shirt and caught the bus to a retirement cabana on the beach where cows, pigs, and, sadly, even dogs weren’t allowed. But George wasn’t alone for long. Soon the Gladstone family moved in with all of their city apartment things and two kids, Owen and Olive. The Gladstones were happy to see the old hound dog. The little boy wanted to be the one to name him.

“George could tell right away that the Gladstone family would need a whole heap of help. There’d be no afternoon naps on the porch for a while.” When Mr. Gladstone tried to fix the tractor, it was George who found the missing part that made it work. When Mr. Gladstone saw that the old dog camouflaged among the rusty tractor parts, he said, “Maybe we should call you Rusty.” But before that name could take hold, the tractor took off on its own. When the tractor smashed through the cows’ fence, George went to work rounding them up and herding “those sneaky cows back into their pen, where they belonged.”


Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of

George toddled into the house for a drink of water, but Mrs. Gladstone swept him right back out again, saying, “You are the dustiest dog! I ought to call you Dusty.” George loped off to his dog house when something blue fluttering from a tree caught his attention. Owen came running. It was Olive’s blue scarf, but where was Olive? “George took a good sniff of Olive’s ribbon—he was a hound dog, after all—and off they went.” George followed the scent through the corn field, across a stream, and over a hill. There they found Olive having a tea party with a chicken.


Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of

Owen thought George was such a good tracker that they should call him Rover. Happy to have helped find Olive, George figured he’d certainly get his nap now. But they reached the farm just in time to see the tractor crash into the barn and Mrs. Gladstone, who was up a ladder, drop her can of red paint. It landed on George’s head, turning him…”Red!” It was Olive’s first word. Maybe, thought Owen, Red would be a good name for the old hound.


Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of

After that day George didn’t get too many naps. But that was okay. Turned out “that he liked herding Olive a lot more than he liked herding cows.” He also taught the Gladstones everything he knew about running the farm and dealing “with those crafty cows.” George was so clever he even devised a plan to “drum up business” on Farmer Fritz’s beach, where the retirees loved the Gladstone’s sweet corn. “Now, if only George could teach his new family one last thing…his name!”


Copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2018, courtesy of

Jeffrey Ebbeler’s sweet hound dog George will capture readers’ hearts as he manages the farm, the wily cows, and the clueless Gladstones with good humor and aplomb. With such a good nature and so many talents, it’s no surprise that George is special to each family member. Ebbeler’s vibrant illustrations are full of humor that will keep kids laughing as the cows plan their escapes, Farmer Fritz and Mr. Gladstone tinker with the tractor on the fritz, and a goggle-eyed chicken becomes Olive’s playmate. Kids will especially like hunting for all the cows hiding, showering, camping, hot-air ballooning, and getting into other shenanigans throughout the book.

A fun and funny read aloud, George the Hero Hound is a day-brightener for any story time at home or in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503941762

Discover more about Jeffrey Ebbeler, his books, and his art on his website.

National Let’s Laugh Day Activity


Silly Balloons


You can have lots of silly fun with balloons! Try some of these ideas—they’re sure to make you laugh!

Goofy Faces

Blow up a balloon and draw a funny face on it. Rub the balloon on your shirt or a blanket and stick it to the wall, your shirt, or even your mom or dad!

Crazy Hair

Rub a blown-up balloon on your shirt or a blanket (fleece works well) then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

Bend Water

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Rub a blown-up balloon on a blanket (fleece works well). Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 


This is a fun game for two or more people played like volleyball—but with balloons! All you need is a balloon and a line on the floor. Players form teams and bat the balloon back and forth over the line, keeping it in the long as possible. A team wins a point when the opposing team can’t return the balloon.

Picture Book Review

March 18 – National Sloppy Joe Day


About the Holiday

You know when a sandwich gets its own holiday that it must be pretty popular! While there are many theories on the origin of this hot sandwich, no one can dispute that it’s oh, so tasty! Whether you like to take a bit of time adding special ingredients to your sloppy joes or the ease of using a canned sauce, today’s honored meal is always delicious – and is probably a favorite of the little boy in today’s book!

Sloppy Joe

Written by Dave Keane | Illustrated by Denise Brunkus


Joe sits on the sofa, his hair tousled and a mischievous grin on his face. On the end table sits a framed photo of Joe, his hair tousled and a mischievous grin on his face. He tells you, “‘Mom says I’m the first kid in history to take a school picture with gum stuck in his hair.’” What’s the boy’s take on the situation? “‘You can barely notice.’” Joe moves to his room, scattered with toys, books, clothes, sports equipment, and who-knows-what-else. Well… Joe does. It’s just that he can’t find his “bearded dragon, a few of his crickets, and a grilled cheese sandwich” from last summer.


Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Joe is so messy that everyone is always fussing over him, trying to improve his appearance. Joe says he’d “rather be raised by alligators.” Is it hard for Joe to be so sloppy? Nah, he’s always been that way! Grandma and Grandpa know all about how messy Joe can be when he eats, so when the family visits they spread newspapers under his chair and all the way into the living room to catch any rolling meatballs.


Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Sloppiness isn’t Joe’s only talent, though. He’s also the best frog catcher in the neighborhood. Where does he keep them? Let’s just say they like to surprise Joe’s mom when she puts away the laundry. His dad is always happy to have Joe help out too, even if he did spill a little paint when fixing the fence, knock the bird bath over with hose spray, and snip the flowers off the bush while trimming it 


Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Are there downsides to being so sloppy? Maybe one or two—like when his friend’s mom won’t let him in the house even though he wiped his feet and that time when his best jokes didn’t get him out of trouble. When that happened, Sloppy Joe decided to become Neat Joe. He dressed in his best clothes, combed his hair, and cleaned up his room. He even gave the dog a bath. And he didn’t stop there. He set the table for dinner, complete with weed centerpieces and frogs holding place cards.


Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But his family hardly noticed. It turns out they all had the flu. So Joe sprang into action with cold socks for their foreheads, homemade soup, germ spray, and some new jokes that, admittedly, made them groan a little louder. With all this care taking, Joe’s clothes have become a bit disheveled and the kitchen is a little messy, but when Grammy gets there to help out, she’s sure to notice a difference. So what does his family “think of the new Neat Joe? ‘He reminds me of the old Sloppy Joe,’ Dad says. ‘And he’s a very special kid,’ Mom says.”


Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Dave Keane taps into that free-wheeling kid messiness that happens when curious kids meet dirt, animals, food, toys, chores…well, just about anything. Keane’s classic storytelling will have readers giggling at Joe’s shenanigans while appreciating that underneath all the stained clothes, muddy shoes, and tangled hair lies a heart of gold.

Drawn with Denise Brunkus’s distinctive flair, Joe is rumpled, disheveled, oblivious—and happy. With frogs in his pockets, a pair of aviator glasses on his head, and a room filled top to bottom with stuff, Joe is a whirlwind that will make kids laugh with recognition. Children and adults will want to hunker down together to point out all the funny details of both Sloppy and Neat Joe’s world.

For laugh-out-loud story times at home and in the classroom, Sloppy Joe can’t be beat.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2009 | ISBN 978-0061710209

Discover more about Dave Keane and his books on his website

National Sloppy Joe Day Activity


Recycling is Neat! Coloring Pages


Getting messy is fun, but cleaning up can be fun too! Enjoy these printable activities about recycling.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycling Coloring Page | Recycle in the Park Maze

Picture Book Review