June 30 – Meteor Watch Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-cover

About the Holiday

When space debris, such as pieces of rock as small as a pebble or as large as an apple, fall through Earth’s atmosphere they glow with the heat of friction and streak through the night sky creating a beautiful spectacle. These shooting stars can occur individually or in meteor showers. The early Greeks believed that meteors were stars that escaped the heavens when the gods peeked through to see what the humans were up to. People felt that the gods may be more disposed to grant them wishes during these times, and so the tradition of wishing on a star began. According to the American Meteor Society the average hourly rates for meteors during this week should be nine meteors per hour in the mid-northern latitudes (45N) and about 12 per hour in the tropical southern locations (25S). Dark, cloudless skies are optimal for viewing. Tonight gather friends and/or family and have a stargazing party!

Oh No, Astro!

Written by Matt Roeser | Illustrated by Brad Woodard

 

Astro was not a typical asteroid. Instead of zooming around crashing into obstacles, he believed in “personal outer space” and had for millions of years. When Astro spies an approaching satellite he greets him cordially and lays down the rules: “please keep your distance” and “stay in your orbit.” But the satellite ignores him and comes closer and closer until…

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-interior-art-satellite

Image copyright Brad Woodard, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

 

“‘Good gravity! You’ve struck me!” Astro exclaims. He’s just about to “point out to the satellite that it had done considerable damage to one of his favorite craters” when he discovers that he is spinning out of his orbit and out of control. How humiliating! The usually unflappable space rock suddenly finds himself hurtling past Mars at the same time that young astronomer, Nova, is “enjoying a quiet night of stargazing” through her telescope. She catches sight of Astro as he zips past an astronaut, rushes past the Moon, and finds himself on an inevitable crash course with Earth.

As he enters Earth’s atmosphere he begins to break apart, shedding bits of the past, as the universe watches. He lands on Earth with a SMASH! Reeling from the impact Astro slowly opens one eye and then the other; he’s smaller but in one piece. Nova is waiting to welcome him to his new home. “‘My stars,’” he mutters. “‘Dare I say that was…FUN?!’”

And as Astro gazes at the night sky from a fresh perspective with Nova by his side, he asks, “‘What on Earth shall we do next?!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-hurtling

Image copyright Brad Woodard, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

 

For anyone stuck in the rut of their own orbit, Matt Roeser’s story of the unwitting space traveler is a humorous invitation to explore the universe around them. Roeser’s language—from calling asteroids “rambunctious” and the satellite a “celestial wanderer” to exclamations of “good gravity!” and “Pluto’s revenge!”—is an inspired treat. Kids and adults will laugh at Astro’s attempts to handle his undesirable predicament with dignity. Complacent Astro with his dry-as-space-dust wit and sparkling puns makes a stellar guide on this journey to more self-discovery and life enjoyment.

In the hands of Brad Woodard deep space is a very cute and cool place! Rendered in flat tones of black, aqua, yellow, red, and white, Woodard’s illustrations give Oh No, Astro! a retro feel for a space-savvy audience. The oblivious satellite floats through Astro’s orbit with wide eyes and a sweet grin, while angular Astro with his stick arms, expressive face, and boldly displayed “No loitering” banner would be a welcome alien intruder in any back yard. And Nova in her ponytails and Saturn-patterned dress is the perfect companion to greet him! The night sky abounds with constellations, but Astro is the real star!

In the final pages, Astro leads readers in a “A Selection of Space Facts” from the  very Manual of the Cosmos, 2nd edition that he used to sort things out. A short list of suggested reading is also included.

Kids would love to find Oh No, Astro! on their bookshelf for story times of cosmic fun!

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481439763

Visit Matt Roeser’s Website to discover his gallery of book jacket designs!

You can learn more about design and illustration work by Brad Woodard at Brave the Woods!

Meteor Watch Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaceship-coloring-page

 

Shooting Star and Spaceship Coloring Pages

 

With these coloring pages you can make a universe that’s all your own!

June 29 – Waffle Iron Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle

About the Holiday

It’s hard to love waffles without giving some credit to the machine that makes them possible! Today we do just that by remembering the long and varied history of the waffle iron. Dating back to the Middle Ages in the area of Belgium and the Netherlands, the waffle iron began as two hinged plates set on a long pole to be used over a fire. The devices were improved during the 17th and 18th centuries. The first modern electric waffle iron was developed by General Electric and introduced to the public in 1918. The waffle iron has also inspired innovations such as the waffle ice-cream cone and Nike’s 1972 “Moon Shoe” and 1974 “Waffle Trainer.” Today—you know what to do!

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle

By Steve Breen

 

One morning Benny the woodpecker wakes to a most “tummy-rumbling smell” so he follows the yummy aroma to Moe’s Diner. Through the window Benny takes in the delicious scene and decides that he too must have waffles. He taps on the door, but it must be a “no woodpeckers” kind of place because the waitress gives him an unceremonious boot. He tries to sneak in, but the waitress is ready for him with her broom. He even tries wearing different disguises to gain entry, but that only gets him tossed out like trash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-flies-to-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

 

Back in the woods the animals laugh when they hear Benny is wishing for waffles, and one by one they offer an alliterative feast of reasons why Benny’s desire is so ridiculous. “Raccoons don’t eat ravioli,” Raccoon yells from the back of the crowd. “Turtles don’t eat turnovers,” Turtle explains. “Chipmunks don’t eat cheeseburgers,” Chipmunk adds to the chorus. “And woodpeckers don’t eat waffles!” Bunny exclaims.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-sneaks-into-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

“‘Well, why not?’” Benny counters. The animals are stumped! They ponder and ruminate, ruminate and ponder until finally Bunny says, “‘Because I said so!’” Benny feels he’s just wasting time listening to all this nonsense—time that can be better used devising a new plan to get waffles. In no time he’s back with a sure-fire scheme that involves being shot from a canon, the moon walk, a comedy act, and fireworks along with a few other entertaining bits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle

Image copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

As the speechless animals turn away Benny hears snickering, but he sprightly invites them back the next morning to watch his spectacle. In the morning the animals gather in a field across from the diner, but where’s Benny? The animals wait patiently, while inside the diner the waitress and customers notice something too. They all go outside to look at the animals. And while the animals are staring at the people and the people are staring at the animals, Benny makes his move through that forbidden door. “‘Sweet’” says Benny.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-flies-to-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Breen’s tale of Benny, the unconventional woodpecker, follows in the best traditions of comic storytelling. Breen’s pacing from Benny’s first glimpse of his obsession to the development of his clever ruse to his ultimately outwitting his opponent will keep kids rooting for him from page to page. Benny’s confidence in the face of the friendly needling of the forest animals adds a deeper sense of satisfaction in the story’s conclusion for both Benny and readers.

Benny’s high, spiky featherdo will endear him to kids as will his treatment at the hands and feet of the waitress. Breen’s softly colored illustrations are full of comical details—as when Benny tries to sneak into Moe’s diner by blending in with a customer’s dress pattern. Kids will also love the contraption-style setup of Benny’s master plan that spans two pages with arrows to point out the trajectory.

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle is a wonderful choice for fun, funny story times and, like the best jokes, will want to be heard again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 |ISBN 978-0062342577

Waffle Iron Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-waffle-game-board

 

Waffle Tic Tac Toe

 

The grid of a waffle makes a perfect tic tac toe board! With this special breakfast-inspired tic tac toe set you can cook up some sweet fun! With all the choices of squares in a waffle to fill, you can play 3-by-3, 4-by-4, 5-by-5, even 6-by-6 games! 

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-waffle-game-pieces

 

Directions

  1. Play 3-by-3 games as you always do
  2. For the other options each player tries to build rows of 4 pieces down, across, and diagonally
  3. The player with the most 4-in-a-row rows wins!

Picture Book Review

June 28 – Paul Bunyan Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

About the Holiday

The tales of Paul Bunyan, a logger of superhuman size and strength, and his companion Babe the Blue Ox belong to some of the most popular folklore of early North America. Many think his name stemmed from the Quebec bon yenne!, which expresses surprise or astonishment. The phrase would be fitting as Paul Bunyan is said to have accomplished many feats, including creating the Grand Canyon when he walked through the area dragging his ax and forming the Great Lakes as a watering hole for Babe. In 1916 freelance writer and adman William B. Laughead took the figure of Paul Bunyan for an advertising campaign for the Red River Lumber Company, and the stories received new burnishing and popularity.

To celebrate today’s holiday research folklore about Paul Bunyan and Babe, take a walk in the woods Bunyan loved so well, and read today’s book!

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

By Matt Luckhurst

Everyone knows that Paul Bunyan and his best friend Babe the Blue Ox were “the greatest lumberjacks to every work the forests.” But not many people know just how that came to be. It all started because Paul was a very big boy in a very small town. He found it hard to concentrate on school because he was always thinking about his mom’s pancakes. “‘Math,” Paul said, “is just not very tasty.’”

Now, Paul and Babe were lucky enough to live in an area where lots of fresh fruit and vegetables were grown, but they only wanted pancakes. In fact when their mom tried to feed them broccoli, they spit it right out! So Paul’s mom baked stacks and stacks of pancakes until she was out of breath—plus she had fields to tend to. Paul and Babe tried to free up time for Mom by working in the fields, “but their big feet just squished and squashed everything in sight.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

Finally there were just not enough pancakes at home, so Paul hugged his mom and set off into the deep dark forest to find his “pancake fortune” with Babe at his heels. With their heads in the clouds and their bellies empty, they happened upon a lumberman with a huge problem. The Syrup River was dammed up with pancakes and the logs couldn’t get through. It was just the job for Paul and Babe!!

Paul and Babe ate every last pancake until the river was clear. The lumberman was so impressed he offered them a job on the spot! And the best part was that they would be paid in pancakes! The trio tromped from Wisconsin to California logging the land and making their mark. In Minnesota it was “so cold that al Paul’s words froze before they could make a sound. They say you can still hear his voice in the forests there today as they thaw out.” Further west Paul and Babe had a little something to do with creating the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon would still be a flat plateau if it weren’t for Babe’s voracious appetite.

But one day Babe fell ill, and Paul was feeling a little under the weather himself. The doctor gave them a grave diagnosis. “‘You seem to have been eating too many pancakes!’” he announced. Paul was flabbergasted—how could there be such a thing as too many pancakes?! But the doctor explained that a balanced diet was best. Paul pondered where he could find good food. Then it hit him! Paul and Babe said goodbye and headed back home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

All images courtesy of Matt Luckhurst (mattluckhurst.com)

Mom was thrilled to see them and cooked plenty of nutritious meals to make them healthy. They stayed in town and grew “Bunyan sized veggies,” helped the townspeople and always listened to Mom. And they never ate another pancake ever again! Well….

As Matt Luckhurst so adroitly knows, there is no more fascinating figure of North American folklore than Paul Bunyan and no greater meal than a pancake breakfast! Combining the two is sweet genius and rollicking fun to boot! Tall tales capture the imagination, and Luckhurst has included plenty of fantastic events to keep kids enthralled from page to page. Luckhurst’s larger-than-life illustrations burst with color and dynamic 3-D typography that enhance the humor and heart of Paul and Babe’s predicament. The juxtaposition of sizes and folk-art influences create unique, eye-catching pages, and Paul and Babe’s endearing innocence make them loveable characters.

Perfect for folktale lovers, pancake aficionados, kids who follow a singular vision, and anyone who loves a good yarn, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure is great fun and would be an often-read addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012 | ISBN 978-1419704208

Take a peek at this awesome trailer for Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure!

Copyright Matt Luckhurst

Paul Bunyan Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game

Pancake Flip-Out

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates and cut them out
  2. Glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review

June 27 – National Sunglasses Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chu's-day-at-the-beach

About the Holiday

Tinted glasses have been around since judges in ancient China used them to disguise their emotions. Modern sunglasses were first sold in 1929 by Sam Foster on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Bausch and Lomb was commissioned in the 1930s by the Army Air Corps to create glasses to ease the high-altitude glare pilots faced. In 1936 Polaroid filters were first used to protect eyes from  damaging UV rays in Ray Ban sunglasses.Since the 1970s movies have helped escalate the popularity of many styles of sunglasses as fans strive to look like their favorite actors and actresses. Today, grab your sunglasses or shop for new ones because—you know why…sing it with me… “The future’s so bright, I gotta have shades!”

Chu’s Day at the Beach

Written by Neil Gaiman | Illustrated by Adam Rex

 

As readers of this series know, “when Chu sneezed, big things happened.” With this tantalizing and slightly-ominous-in-a-way-kids-love statement, Chu’s latest adventure begins. Turning the page kids discover that Chu and his family have headed out to the beach. Chu is having a great time: the octopus selling ice-cream gives him an extra scoop of vanilla, and Chu meets a crab in a rock pool; even Chu’s mom is enjoying a book under the umbrella and his dad is wading in the ocean.

Chu takes his sunglasses off to better enjoy the bright, sunny day, but suddenly Chu’s nose tickles. The tickle grows until it fills his whole head and he can’t hold it in anymore—“AAH- AAAAH- AAAAAH- CHOoOoOoOO!” Chu looks out to sea. “‘Uh-oh,’” he says. Everyone on the beach comes down to the water’s edge to look at the huge suspended wave Chu has sneezed up.

Like standing in front of an aquarium exhibit, the beachgoers find themselves eye-to-eye with sea creatures who are suddenly encased in the wall of water. The fish, turtles, whales, and merpandas are sad—“‘With the sea broken, I cannot go home,’” one whale explains. The ice-cream vender tells Chu to sneeze again and put the sea “‘back the way it was.’” But try as he might, Chu can’t sneeze. A seagull tickles Chu’s nose with a wing feather and the octopus offers Chu a fizzy drink with bubbles that go up his nose, but nothing elicits a sneeze.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chu's-day-at-the-beach-merpandas

Interior illustration by Adam Rex, courtesy of Neil Gaiman’s Journal Archives, April 2015 (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/)

All seems lost until Tiny the snail reveals that sometimes he sneezes when he looks at the sun. Chu removes his sunglasses and gazes into the light. “AAAAACHOOOOO!” “‘There, said Chu. Everything is back just as it was before.’” The sea creatures are happy that they get to return to their homes, the ice-cream seller is so pleased that she scoops up another cone for Chu, and Chu? He declares that it was the best day at the beach ever.

With his singular style Neil Gaiman conjures up a story for kids that combines just the right amount of sweetness and absurdity to keep the giggles going from the first page to the last. We all experience those uncontrollable mishaps and “oh no!” moments where a little help and empathy is appreciated. And what child wouldn’t love to stop the ocean, even if only for a moment? Gaiman’s repeated sneezes will have kids “Aah-chooing” along, and an animated reading of the chorus “AAH. AAAAH. AAAAAH. NO.” is sure to bring laughs and requests for “Again! Again!”

If only the beach was as full of interesting creatures as Adam Rex portrays in his vivacious illustrations! Crossing the dunes Chu and his family encounter an intriguing array of animals stretched out on towels—from a tiny cricket to a pangolin to a hunky frog with his clever insect-snack-strip-adorned umbrella and more. Ice-cream vendors no doubt wish they had the eight arms of Rex’s frozen-treat seller, and there’s even an ostrich with his head in the sand. Chu’s tidal wave teems with surprised sea creatures, some stuck mid-way between their ocean world and the dry outside. Chu remains as cute as ever, inviting kids to join him on his latest adventure.

Chu’s well-loved character and repeat readability make Chu’s Day at the Beach a sunny addition to young children’s bookshelves.

Ages Birth – 7

HarperCollins, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062223999 ♦ HarperFestival Boardbook, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062381248

National Sunglasses Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunglasses-matching-puzzle

Perfect Sunglasses Matching Puzzle

 

The summer sun is so bright that these friends need sunglasses before they go out to play! Can you follow the paths to match each child with the perfect pair? Get the printable Perfect Sunglasses Matching Puzzle and have fun!

June 26 – National Canoe Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe?

About the Holiday

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

Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs

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

 

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe?

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe?

Can You Canoe? images courtesy of Brandon Reese (www.brandonreese.com)

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 and up

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

National Canoe Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-canoe-maze

Come Canoeing With Us Maze

 

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

June 25 – National Catfish Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale

About the Holiday

National Catfish Day dates back to 1987 when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed this holiday to promote the importance of the catfish farming industry and the nutritional benefits of catfish. This delicious fish is found mostly in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana and is one of the most sustainable species of fish. Fried or blackened with spicy Cajun or other spices, catfish makes for a scrumptious meal! Try some today!

A Catfish Tale: A Bayou Story of the Fisherman and His Wife

Written by Whitney Stewart | Illustrated by Gerald Guerlais

 

Down in the bayou, so the story goes, there lived two young sweethearts named Jacques and Jolie. Jacques liked to “pole his skiff through cypress knees to his favorite fishing hole,” and Jolie cooked up peppery hot gumbo and sang “so true even the cicadas hushed up to listen.” One day Jacques hooked a big one, and when he pulled up his line a catfish sprang from the water. But this was no ordinary catfish. The wily fellow explained that he was a magic catfish and not at all a catch for supper. Jacques was so frightened that he freed the “jabbering critter” and took off for home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale-crocodile

Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

When Jolie learned Jacques had given up their chance for a wish that could replace their shack with “a proper house where she could sing for a crowd,” she was steamed. Jacques thought everything was all right the way things were, but he hightailed it back to the swamp and asked that catfish for a house. The catfish was obliging and with a grin said, “‘Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.’”

In her big, beautiful house, Jolie entertained loads of friends and decided to take her show to all the cities down the river. All she needed, she said, was a paddle wheel boat. The catfish smiled when he heard Jacques’ request and said, “‘Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.’” Singing from the bow of her grand paddle wheeler, Jolie’s fans called her the Queen of the Mississippi, and she ate it up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale-catfish

Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

Jacques was miserable stuck in his stateroom with a pounding headache and no fishing pole, so he returned to the bayou to find his catfish friend. Meanwhile, Jolie took the New Orleans nightclubs by storm. With Mardi Gras approaching, Jolie had one more little favor to ask of the catfish, and with a “tooloulou” Jolie became Queen of Mardi Gras. She wore a diamond crown and a white satin gown. Even though things were a little rocky—the cheering crowds couldn’t hear her sing, and the Mardi Gras beads she tossed to her fans got tangled in her crown—she loved being queen.

Jolie wrote to Jacques and asked to become Queen of the Bayou. The catfish said his magic words and in no time Jolie was crowned Queen amid blaring musicians and applauding fans. Jolie smiled and began to sing. Suddenly, a fierce hurricane blew up, “snakes, alligators, and swamp creatures slithered up the riverbank. Ghosts, and goblins flew from the cemeteries and pirate skeletons escaped watery graves to dance in the streets.” And Jolie? She was swept up and unceremoniously dropped in a tree. From among the branches she called to a passing pelican, “‘Tell my husband to ask that catfish for one more little thing!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale-riverboat

Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

Jacques “paddled faster than an alligator could swish its tale” and asked that catfish for one last wish…, and what do you think he said? Well, he just slipped back beneath the water ‘cause he knew “Jolie didn’t need nothin’ more.”

A Catfish Tale includes a Bayou Glossary as well as a recipe for Seafood Gumbo by New Orleans native Hans Andersson.

Whitney Stewart’s tall tale of a magic catfish, the woman who learns enough is often enough, and the man who loves her will capture kids’ fancy. Jolie’s overreaching ambition and the catfish’s ready spell give children plenty of opportunity to join in with repeated phrases, and the well-paced suspense will keep kids engrossed in the action. The unique bayou setting and colloquial lilt sets A Catfish Tale apart as a rollicking story time romp with a bit of Cajun caution and a whole lot of magic.

Gerald Guerlais brings the mystery and flavor of the deep south to A Catfish Tale with moss greens and shadowy blues that well depict the bayou’s natural environment. Twisty Cypress trees dip their roots in still, lily pad-filled waters, shimmering lights glow in the nighttime swamp, and spooky critters teem in the stormy sky. The magic catfish wears an ever-present, easy-going grin, and a crusty, good-ol’-boy alligator spins the tall tale just the way he’s heard it. Children will love the scenes of the paddle wheeler and the festive atmosphere of Mardi Gras.

Whitney Stewart’s  A Catfish Tale, a deft retelling of  Grimm’s A Fisherman and His Wife, is a fantastic introduction to the distinctive qualities of the southern Mississippi region, one which kids may want to explore further!

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2014 | ISBN 978-0807510988

To learn more about Whitney Stewart and her work as well as discover activities for children and teachers, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustrations by Gerald Guerlais on his website!

National Catfish Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bayou-coloring-page

Catfish Coloring Page

 

The catfish is a most unusual creature! Add your own swamp or river setting to this Printable Catfish Coloring Page!

June 24 – Take Your Dog to Work Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you-need-glasses

About the Holiday

In 1996 Pet Sitters International established Take Your Dog to Work Day as a time to raise awareness of the pets left home all day by themselves with no stimulation. The organization was also dedicated to promoting adoption from local and humane shelters. Over the years the idea of Take Your Dog to Work Day has grown in popularity. To celebrate talk to the people in your office or business about bringing in pets and find time during the day to spend more time with your faithful companion. Both you and your dog will enjoy it!

Douglas, You Need Glasses!

By Ged Adamson

 

Something may be amiss with Douglas. When Nancy and her playful pooch go out to chase squirrels, Douglas takes after a falling leaf while the squirrel escapes up a tree. It’s not the first time this has happened. You see, Douglas is a bit nearsighted. Sometimes he mistakes the stair post for Nancy, and his difficulty gets in the way of things (well, mostly Douglas gets in the way of things). He misses important signs—like the one that would have prevented him from tracking wet cement all over the skate park, where there are NO DOGS allowed—and he’s always causing something of a ruckus. Sometimes he even enters the wrong house! But when a game of fetch nearly creates a buuzzzz of disaster, Nancy decides something must be done.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you-need-glasses-skate-park-art

She takes Douglas to the eye doctor where he reads a most dog-friendly eye chart and discovers that he needs glasses. He peruses the shelves of Dog Glasses and puts some on. Each one makes him feel different. In one pair he’s a rock star; in another a scholar; and in yet another a hippy. He tries them all until he finds the perfect pair!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you-need-glasses-interior-art

All images courtesy of Ged Adamson

 

On the way home he sees the world in a whole new way. “‘Wow! Everything looks amazing!’” Douglas says. And it is!

Ged Adamson’s funny look at a dog with an all-too-human malady will make kids laugh from the first page to the last. Earnest Douglas, going about his doggy days under a bit of a skewed perspective, is so endearing that readers will immediately take him to heart even as they giggle at his exploits. Adamson’s vibrant multi-hued trees, colorfully clothed kids, and vivid backgrounds with stylish, sketched-in details give the book a fresh, jaunty appeal for a lively, fun story time. Kids facing the prospect of wearing glasses will also find much to give them reassurance and confidence in this book. Douglas, You Need Glasses! is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf!

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553522433

Visit Ged Adamson’s Website to see what other books and projects he’s working on!

Take Your Dog to Work Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spool-puppy-craft

Spool Puppy

 

No matter where you go and whether you have a real dog or not, you can take this little guy along with you. And just as you would pick out your favorite from an animal shelter, you can make this puppy look any way you’d like!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch round wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 skein of yarn in the color you choose. Yardage needed will depend on the thickness of the yarn.
  • Felt
  • Thin gauge wire
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Fabric or strong glue
  • Dowel or pencil to wrap wire around to make glasses

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spool-puppy-craft

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel the color you want your dog to be, let dry
  2. Trace the ears on the felt and cut out (or draw your own ears)
  3. Trace the nose on the felt and cut out
  4. When the spool is dry glue the ears to the body of the spool, allowing the ears to stick up from the top of the spool
  5. Wind the yarn around the spool back and forth until the dog’s body is the size you’d like
  6. Glue the yarn in place with fabric or strong glue

To make the face

  1. Glue the nose over the hole on one end of the spool
  2. Draw the mouth and tongue under the nose with a marker
  3. You will draw the eyes on after the glasses are in place

To make the glasses

  1. Wind the wire around a ½-inch dowel, thick pencil, or rounded handle to make two circles.
  2. Leave about two inches on either side of the circles for the ear pieces of the glasses.
  3. Adjust the size of the circles to fit the spool as glasses.
  4. Put the glasses on the face of the spool, tucking the ear pieces into the yarn on each side
  5. Draw eyes in the center of the glasses

To make the tail

  1. Cut a small square of felt and stuff the edges into the hole on the other end of the spool
  2. You can make the tail as long as you like

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spool-puppy-craft

Picture Book Review