September 30 – National Ghost Hunting Day

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About the Holiday

On the last Saturday in September, The ScareFest in Lexington, Kentucky kicks off a coast-to-coast simultaneous ghost hunt by teams investigating paranormal phenomenon in various venues. They collecting supporting evidence with EMF meters, digital thermometers, handheld and static digital video cameras, audio recorders and computers. The hunt ushers in a month of mysteries, haunted attractions, and other autumn festivals.

Goldfish Ghost

Written by Lemony Snicket | Illustrated by Lisa Brown

 

In a big round bowl in a certain boy’s room in a seaside town, “Goldfish Ghost was born.” For a while, Goldfish Ghost just hung out looking at the ceiling, but he got lonely, “so Goldfish Ghost floated out of the bowl and drifted toward the window to find some company.” He drifted over the compact little town nestled near the ocean and watched over by a lighthouse that “everyone said was haunted.”

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Image copyright Lisa Brown, 2017, text copyright Lemony Snicket, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the pier seagulls screeched, waiting for a snack. They weren’t interested in talking to Goldfish Ghost, so he caught the breeze into town. The sidewalks and shops were busy with locals and tourists “buying sweaters and postcards and pets and groceries, but everybody there was with somebody else, so no one was looking for company.” Goldfish Ghost kept drifting and soon reached the beach. No one there noticed him either.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-beach

Image copyright Lisa Brown, 2017, text copyright Lemony Snicket, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The swimmers and sunbathers also didn’t seem to notice the “ghosts of creatures who had lived in the sea” that were now floating in the air just above the surface of the ocean. Goldfish Ghost might have joined them, but he didn’t feel comfortable among these wild fish. “It can be hard to find the company you are looking for.” Goldfish Ghost stopped for a moment, perching on top of a beach umbrella as he pondered his next move. Finally, he returned home to his bowl.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-above-the-ocean

Image copyright Lisa Brown, 2017, text copyright Lemony Snicket, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When he got there, however, he found a new goldfish swimming happily in the bowl. While she seemed okay, Goldfish Ghost thought they wouldn’t have much in common, so he continued his search for the right companion. In the still night air, he heard a voice say, “‘I’ve been looking for company.’” Goldfish Ghost followed the sound to the lighthouse, where he found the ghost of the old keeper. She was also lonely and looking for someone to talk to.

She held Goldfish Ghost gently “and placed him where the light had once shone for sailors at sea.” Then in silent happiness, the two ghosts gazed out at the world together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-lighthouse-keeper

Image copyright Lisa Brown, 2017, text copyright Lemony Snicket, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Lemony Snicket, most fortunately, interprets the world through a singular lens. In Goldfish Ghost he gives quirky, yet comforting, meaning to the sad reality of aquarium ownership while connecting Goldfish Ghost to the world’s natural lifecycle. Inherent in the story is also the idea of friendship and the idea that while some kids (and adults) may feel invisible to others at times, there is someone out there who will make a perfect companion, if you just keep looking.

Lisa Brown’s soft-hued, matte watercolor illustrations set a snug, soothing atmosphere as young readers follow Goldfish Ghost on his journey. From the little boy’s room and its seascape décor to the inviting lighthouse on the edge of the shore, Brown gives kids plenty to discover on every page. Alert readers will notice other ghosts on the pier and on the beach, see the little boy leaving the pet store holding a familiar plastic bag, and recognize the ghostly creatures floating above the ocean. When Goldfish Ghost finally finds a friend in the lighthouse keeper (whose reading runs to the same interests as the little boy’s), kids will be cheered to see that he gets new “life” in the golden glow of the Fresnel lens.

With a splash of humor and a lot of heart, Goldfish Ghost makes a tender choice for story times as well as for children who have lost a pet or are navigating the world of friendships.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626725072

You’ll discover the world of Lisa Brown, her books, comics, and illustrations, on her website!

National Ghost Hunting Day Activity 

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

Cute Ghost Coloring Page

 

If all ghosts were this adorable, who would be afraid of them? Color this printable Cute Ghost Coloring Page then let it hang around your room.

Picture Book Review

September 29 – It’s National Courtesy Month

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About the Holiday

A bit of common courtesy goes a long way. Just think of how two little words, like “I’m sorry,” “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” can make a frown turn into a smile and make a bad day suddenly feel okay.  Today’s holiday encourages people to use good manners, watch out for others, and treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. When these niceties are forgotten…. Well, today’s book shows us what can happen….

Hotel Bruce

Written by Ryan T. Higgins

 

“Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese,” but he was not happy about it. Since he was their mom, however, it meant going south with them every winter even though he would rather have taken a loooong nap. Leaving home, taking public transport, and hanging out on crowded beaches took a toll on Bruce. So one spring when Bruce returned home to discover mice had turned his home into the Woodland Hotel, he went on a grouch-fueled rampage and swept the mice out into the night.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Satisfied, he climbed the stairs to bed only to find it overrun with a moose, a porcupine, a raccoon, and a rabbit; three turtles were snoozing underneath. Let’s just say quarters were a bit snug. “The next morning Bruce woke to the sounds of birds chirping, and squirrels chattering, and possums having a pillow fight.” He found a frog in his toilet, got porcupine prickles in his posterior, was sprayed with skunk perfume right after showering…and a beaver gnawed the corner off his kitchen table. There was even a fox at the stove trying to convince the turtles to jump into a hot, veggie-filled “bath.” But when the mice tried to politely usher Bruce out of the Woodland Hotel, he’d had enough and asked to see the manager.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

While the mice argued over who was the manager, things in the kitchen were getting steamy. The fox’s turtle soup had “turned bad.” The kitchen looked as if a turtlenado had blown through—even Bruce’s best silverware was missing! “Bruce started to lose his cool.” Just then a vanload of elephants arrived for a vacation. “Finally, Bruce lost his temper. ‘THIS IS NOT A HOTEL! THIS IS MY HOUSE! EVERYBODY OUT RIGHT NOW!’”

Drooping with dejection, the “guests” tromped away. “Sheesh! I thought they’d never leave,” one mouse snarked. At that, Bruce tossed the interlopers out into the rain, where they sat sad and bedraggled. “Bruce’s house was a quiet, peaceful place once again.” At least until the geese honked sympathetic honks. Bruce sighed and opened the door….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hotel-bruce-geese-bellhop

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Ryan T. Higgins’ curmudgeonly bear is back with a fine, funny sequel that will have kids giggling at poor Bruce’s plight. Adults will appreciate the sly wink to the penchant of woodland animals to take up roost in any warm, unoccupied space and will perhaps feel more than a little sympathy with Bruce as he finally rousts his “guests” from his home. The wise-cracking mice add levity and a few well-placed honks from Bruce’s “kids” tug at his heart.

Higgin’s madcap illustrations put readers in Bruce’s big, burly paws as he endures one predicament after another. While the woodland animals run wild, their slightly guilty faces reveal that even they know all is not on the up-and-up as they watch Bruce’s unibrow rise with surprise and furrow in anger. The geese, so eager to follow and fit in, look ridiculously cute in their bellhop uniforms, and Higgin’s detailed depictions of Bruce’s home will have kids lingering over each page.

Ages 5 – 8

Disney – Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484743621

Connect with Ryan T. Higgins on his website and learn more about his books, school visits, and summer camp for kids.

National Courtesy Month Activity

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Courtesy-is-Contagious-word-scramble

Courtesy is Contagious Word Scramble

 

When you use good manners and courtesy, people notice and are inspired to do the same! Can you unscramble the twelve words or phrases in this printable Courtesy is Contagious Word Scramble. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 28 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As September winds down, there’s still time to feature one more new book for this month’s special holiday. Searching for and sharing new books—whether they are recently published or just new to you—is not only a fun way to spend a day together with kids, but an experience that pays big benefits now and in the future. Make a plan to add a few new books to your home library or visit your local library today!

Pony in the City

By Wendy Wahman

 

At the Pony Paddock, Otis met many children and he loved them all. He gobbled up the peppermints Dinah brought him, enjoyed having his mane brushed by Daniel, and “sprang to a gallop when Mel sang out, ‘Giddy-giddy-giddyup, Otis!’” While the kids got to see where Otis lived, Otis wondered about their lives. He “wanted to know… ‘do they gallop and kick? Do they nicker and neigh? Do they ever walk on all fours?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-children-ride

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The other horses in the paddock—Mosey, Whinny, and Derby—just shook their manes, stamped their hooves, and snorted when Otis started asking his questions. But Otis couldn’t stop thinking about how things were on the other side of the fence. Did kids “graze on grass and daisies?” Were their “manes brushed and braided?” And how did they sleep? Did they wear cozy blankets and stand in stalls?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-many-questions

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day, “saddled with questions,” Otis broke through his enclosure and headed into the city to find some children. He passed an apple orchard where he nibbled a snack, clip-clopped around a fountain, and said hello to some squirrels. He even walked by a group of horses dancing around and around to music. Suddenly, he saw them! The pasture was full of children! Everywhere, they were climbing and swinging and playing.

Otis hid behind trees and watched the kids “galloping and kicking. Nickering and neighing.” He even saw some “walking on all fours.” Otis followed a brother and sister home and was impressed with the sizes of the barns on the street. As he watched them eat their veggies at a table decorated with daisies, he realized they ate just like he did. Through the window of another barn, he saw a little girl having her mane brushed and braided, and a pair of baby twins standing in their stalls clutched their blankets and giggled to see Otis peeking at them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-in-the-park

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Otis was getting tired; it was time to go back to Pony Paddock. He clippity-clopped down the street and turned the corner. Then he turned another corner. All the barns looked the same. He trotted down sidewalk after sidewalk, getting hungrier and farther away from home. Cars honked at Otis, headlights blinded him, doormen chased him away, and statues of lions and warriors frightened him. Finally, Otis was so exhausted that he lay down under a blanket of newspapers and fell asleep.

In the morning Otis heard “Clippity, clippity.” Could it be Mosey? He heard “Cloppity, cloppity.” Did Derby or Whinny come looking for him? No! It was Dinah, David, and Mel in their cleats on the way to soccer. They were so surprised to find their friend in the big city. “The children led Otis home with a song: ‘Giddy-giddy-giddyup, Otis!’” When they reached Pony Paddock, the three fed him, brushed him and tucked him in. But did Mosey, Derby, and Whinny let Otis sleep? No! They had so many questions…, and Otis answered them all “one by one. And then some.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-otis-can't-sleep

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Wendy Wahman’s truly clever view of children through a pony’s eyes is sure to delight readers. As Otis thinks and wonders about the children who come to ride him, he only has his own experiences to use as reference. When he ventures out into the city, he discovers that he’s right. Wahman’s imaginative interpretation of a playground, meals, haircare, cribs, and even soccer cleats creates “Ah-ha!” moments of amusement while also spurring readers to insight about bigger issues of diversity and inclusion. With a deft wit, Wahman includes plenty of verbal and visual jokes, and puns.

Wahman’s art is always distinctive, and here her smart, sophisticated, and kid-pleasing illustrations are a treat. From the title page—where, while Otis passes a hat shop, his reflection dons a red chapeaux—to the dynamic playground scene, where all types of equestrian behavior are on display to the two-page-spread, lovey blue cityscapes that map out Otis’s route,  Wahman’s collage-style images create a vibrant world.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-lost

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of wendywahman.com

Little details enrich the story and add humor that kids will love to point out: crime scene tape crisscrosses the fence where Otis broke through, a child uses a tree for hiding at the park, just as Otis does, and the babies have horse-themed mobiles above their cribs. Readers will also enjoy following the adorable families of cats and chickens from page to page.

Pony in the City is a cute, endearing ride of a story that will enchant children. The book would make a perfect gift, especially for horse lovers, and would be a favorite on home bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454922322

You can view a portfolio of books and art by Wendy Wahman on her website!

Gallop on over to watch this Pony in the City book trailer!

Read a New Book Month Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-horseshoe-bookend-craft

Horseshoe Bookend

 

Horseshoes carry a lot of luck, and it’s always a lucky day when you discover a new book! With this craft you can make a Horseshoe Bookend to keep all of your books neat and tidy and in their stall!

Supplies

  • Wooden decorative capital letter U sans serif, about 8 inches tall, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint (I used gunmetal gray metallic craft paint from Craft Smart)
  • Black craft paint
  • Decorative objects of your choice, such as stickers, charms, buttons, twine, glitter, etc. (I used red leather lacing, stickers, and small charms available at craft stores)
  • Paint brush or foam brush
  • Glue

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-horseshoe-bookend-craft-1 (2)

Directions

  1. Paint the letter U, let dry
  2. With the black paint, paint three or four small rectangles on each arm of the U to represent nail holes, let dry
  3. Attach your decorative objects on the front of the U with glue

Picture Book Review

September 27 – World Tourism Day

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About the Holiday

Sometimes don’t you just feel like getting in the car, hopping a plane, or boarding a ship and getting away? Today’s holiday encourages you to do just that! If there’s a place near—or far—that you’ve always wanted to visit, why not take some time to check it out. Or if you’re dreaming of a vacation that takes some planning, hit the Internet for travel information or explore the maps to plot your route. This year World Tourism Day, a United Nations-sponsored commemoration, is being celebrated with the theme “Sustainable Tourism—a Tool for Development,” and urges mindful attention to all sectors of the industry in order to make tourism a beneficial experience for all those involved.

The 50 States: Fun Facts

Written by Gabrielle Balkan | Illustrated by Sol Linero

 

America is one vast country made up of 50 states that are each unique and fascinating in their own way. The history, people, topography, and even weather of each region has resulted in an incredible diversity of animal life, cuisine, transportation, leisure activities, and celebrations across the nation. The 50 States: Fun Facts offers up a patchwork of engaging and enlightening information about each state that will entice kids to learn more about their own home as well as other areas.

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

The large-format board book is divided into five two-page spreads, each dedicated to a particular topic. In 50 Animals readers discover that the first Seeing Eye dogs were trained in Nashville, Tennessee; that “the colors of Maryland’s state cat—the Calico Cat—match the state flag”; and that there are so many moose in Wyoming that there’s even a town named Moose! From state to state kids will also learn about the Chinook Dog of New Hampshire, meet white buffalo that roam North Dakota, and view the state insect of Connecticut—the praying mantis, which can turn its head 360 degrees—among many, many more.

Each state is also known for its own, particular mode of transportation. In Alaska the Tlingit Nation builds beautiful canoes, each of which, the people believe, are inhabited by its own spirit. If you’re interested in scanning the skies for alien lifeforms, you may want to head to the San Luis Valley of Colorado, which is considered to be prime UFO-spotting territory! If boats are more your thing, you might want to take a houseboat vacation in the lakes around Jamestown, Kentucky, or see a Navy Destroyer at the shipyard in Bath, Maine. Carousel lovers will want to take the road to Rhode Island, where they can catch the gold ring on the Flying Horse Carousel that has been going round and round for nearly 150 years! There are so many more Things That Go on these pages, including trains, trucks, trolleys, and a 16-story electric shovel!

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

After all that activity, readers may be a bit hungry. All they need to do is flip the page to find 50 Things to Eat—specialties from around the nation. Whether you call them blackberries or brambleberries, these sweet nuggets—Kentucky’s state fruit—are great alone or in special treats. If you love pretzels, then the pretzel festival in Germantown, Ohio is for you! Spicy foods more your style? Then you’ll want to check out Hatch, New Mexico—the chili capital of the world! After having Delaware’s chicken specialty, catfish from Mississippi, or potatoes from Idaho, you may just want to try a banana split—first served in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1904—or even nosh on a few roasted Joshua Tree flower buds that are said to taste like candy.

Ready to work off that meal? The next page provides 50 Ways to Get Moving, including archery in California, rafting in West Virginia, base jumping in Utah, snowshoeing in Minnesota, and snorkeling in Hawaii. 

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

Celebrations have been part of America since the first Thanksgiving, and each state has a entertaining—often quirky—spectacular to highlight their history or specialty. In Nebraska the old Pony Express mail system is reenacted every June; The Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Festival brings musicians and fans to West Plains, Missouri each year; and Honobia, Oklahoma’s Bigfoot Festival makes believers of us all—well, almost.

In Florida, you can learn how to wrestle an alligator with the Miccosukee tribe on American Indian Day; you can test your mettle on 98 flights of stairs during Washington’s Space Needle Base 2 Space Race for charity; and “you can cheer on bronc riders at the ‘Daddy of All Rodeos’” during Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. Perhaps  the oddest celebration is Mike the Headless Chicken Festival held every May in Fruita, Colorado that commemorates “a rooster that lived for 18 months…with no head!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-50-states-fun-facts-puzzle

Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

Each spread also offers a sidebar scavenger hunt of sorts as it asks readers to see if they can find four different categories of items among the rest. After kids have soaked up all the facts about the 50 states, they can test their knowledge of American geography by completing the included jigsaw puzzle map.

Gabrielle Balkan has collected tons of engaging facts about the United States that are sure to delight and amaze children. Each category would be a wonderful starting point for learning about any or all of the states and gives kids an idea of the variety found across America. Sol Linero’s striking category “quilts,” composed of colorful patches decorated with clear, engaging illustrations, draw readers in to discover the fascinating facts presented about each state.

Ages 4 – 10

Wide Eyes Editions, Aurum Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1847808691

Discover more about Gabrielle Balkan and her books on her website!

View a gallery of illustration work by Sol Linero on her website!

World Tourism Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-road-map-puzzle

Make a Road Map Jigsaw Puzzle

 

It’s fun and easy to make your own jigsaw puzzle from a map of your local town or a place you’d like to visit!

Supplies

  • A paper map
  • Poster board
  • Glue or spray glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-road-map-puzzle

Directions

  1. Smooth out the paper map
  2. Glue the map to the poster board
  3. Cut the poster board into interlocking or adjoining pieces (the number of pieces can depend on the child’s age)

Picture Book Review

September 26 – Love Note Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-big-wolf-demonstrating

Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-howling-together

Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kindness-cards

Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review

September 25 – World Dream Day and Interview with Author Michelle Cuevas

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About the Holiday

World Dream Day is a global participatory holiday that encourages individuals, schools, businesses, and families to focus on their dreams and make them reality. Discovering and acting on your dreams can transform not only your life, but the lives of others. Imagine how the world could change if everyone had the opportunity to live their dreams. Today, feel inspired and empowered to do or become whatever you’ve always dreamed of!

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow

Written by Michelle Cuevas | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

Smoot the Shadow was bored. Bored. Bored. For seven and a half years, he’d been doing the same things over and over. Every day, he and his boy—to whom he was firmly connected—“brushed the same teeth, frowned the same frown, and drew the same pictures—always staying perfectly inside the lines.” Smoot’s boy never jumped, ran, or even laughed, so Smoot never did either.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Excet at night. Then, while the boy slept, Smoot dreamed. He dreamed in a multitude of colors about singing, dancing, and having fun. One day, with an unexpected “pop” Smoot became free of his boy. He didn’t waste a moment, but packed a few things and headed out into the world. He jumped rope, rode a carousel and climbed a tree to say hello to a little bird. He even got to dance in a field of multicolored wildflowers just like in his dreams.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smoot-climbing-a-tree

Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Suddenly, other shadows took notice. As they watched Smoot play, they became braver too. “‘If he can follow his dreams, we can too,’” they reasoned. The first shadow to take the plunge was a dandelion. As it soared away into the sky, becoming an indistinct form, people tried to guess what it was. All this attention emboldened the shadows of a cricket and a grasshopper who had “formed a band, but were nervous about playing music in public.” Their shadows, however, picked up their instruments and played “like cool shade on a hot afternoon.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

A frog’s shadow discovered his inner prince, and a dragonfly’s shadow floated out over the city as a ferocious dragon. Even a lowly rock’s shadow had dreams of greatness, transforming into “a cathedral, and then a skyscraper, and finally a castle that reached the clouds.” Smoot began to grow afraid of the imagination he’d unleashed. What if the shadows of zoo animals escaped and roamed through town or if the sun was eclipsed by the shadow of an enormous whale? How would anyone catch them?

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

But Smoot had an idea. He made a castle from the ambitious rock and some others. The frog moved in to live like a prince, and the dragonfly guarded the gate. Then Smoot sang with the grasshopper and cricket to give them more courage, and he blew the dandelion seeds into the air. The shadows all saw that their dreams had come true, so they returned to their owners, who also felt different.

And Smoot’s boy? All the excitement had inspired him to be more like his shadow. After he and his shadow reconnected, they ran, tumbled, jumped in puddles, and played in “singing, ringing, flying, vibrant, dancing color.”

Through her rambunctious shadows, Michelle Cuevas creatively externalizes that small (or loud) voice inside many people that is yearning to be heard and acted on. For many children and adults, giving free reign to their alter ego can feel uncomfortable or even frightening. In her lyrical and uplifting book, Cuevas reveals these dreams for greatness, recognition, or freedom and encourages readers to let go and chase them. She shines a light on how they can take that first step through play, teaming up, or using their imagination and talents to make their dreams come alive.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of sydneydraws.tumblr.com.

Sydney Smith’s striking images immediately orient readers to the monotone world the boy lives in. While outside the window colors abound, inside, the boy sits on a gray sofa with a black-and-white rug and his black-and-white dog nearby. The walls are white, the floor is dull, and even the plant—standing away from the light of the window—is browning. Perhaps, however, the painting above the boy offers hope and a little foreshadowing: Black images play on a white canvas, but a swipe of blue and a red dot add lively, colorful accents. Likewise, the red-covered book the boy reads is a bright spot in this otherwise dreary room.

The boy’s shadow, however, dreams in color. When Smoot pops free of his restraints and goes on a play-filled adventure, the illustrations are full of action and vibrancy. Smoot smiles and exults in his freedom. His joy is infectious, and his antics and clever ways of ensuring that each character gets to fulfill their aspirations will inspire children to uncover their own inner world.

Smoot: a Rebellious Shadow is a heartfelt and empowering book for hesitant and more adventurous children alike. It would make an ideal book for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN  978-0525429692

Discover more about Michelle Cuevas and her books for children and tweens on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Sydney Smith on Tumbler!

World Dream Day Activity

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Live Your Dream! Shadow Blackboard

 

Shadows are fun to create and play with! Making a black board from a shadow is a great way to show your imagination while making a useful decoration for your room. Put on your inventive thinking cap and devise a unique shadow by using toys or other objects from home. You can even make a shadow of yourself! Making the blackboard may require two people.

Supplies

  • Black thick poster board, 1 or 2 pieces or a tri-fold depending on how large your blackboard will be
  • Large sheet of white or light paper
  • Objects to create the shadow
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Mounting squares or tape
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. To Make a Shadow Blackboard from an object or objects
  2. Choose two or three objects, such as toys, musical instruments, shoes, knick-knacks, etc., that will make interesting shapes or ideas. Arrange the objects in a way to create the picture you want. (In the photo above, a cactus-shaped pillow and a ukulele were used to create the shadow)
  3. Either outside in a sunny spot or inside with a light, lay the white paper on the ground
  4. As one person holds the item or items above the paper, trace the shadow.
  5. Alternately, if the objects are large enough, you can arrange them and trace them on the white paper or directly on the black poster board.
  6. Cut the shadow out of the white paper
  7. Trace the shadow on the black poster board with the chalk
  8. Cut the image out of the black poster board
  9. Attach the shadow blackboard to your wall with the mounting squares or tape
  10. Use colored chalk to write or draw your dreams and doodles on your blackboard

To Make a Shadow Blackboard of Yourself

  1. Lie down on the white paper
  2. Strike a pose
  3. Have someone else trace you
  4. Cut out your figure
  5. Trace the figure onto the black poster board
  6. Cut out the figure from the black poster board
  7. Attach to the wall with the mounting squares

Meet Author Michelle Cuevas

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I’m excited to talk with Michelle Cuevas today about Smoot, her research adventures, and her very innovative Halloween costumes!

What draws you to write quiet picture books about introspective characters?

I actually think about this question a lot! I suppose it has to do with being a bit of a lone wolf as a kid – I loved making up song lyrics, building rock gardens, writing a newspaper about the lives of neighborhood animals. I was good at creating little worlds inside my own world, (I have three brothers, so I had company, but mostly the fighting-over-monopoly kind). I also think that in everyday life, it’s not always the big-bad-villain-monster that we’re up against. Often the things we face are inside – fear, loneliness, grief. I like characters who take on that kind of struggle, who make the everyday ‘okay this is hard but I’m going to keep trying’ feel extraordinary.

What was your inspiration for Smoot?

Smoot came to me when I had a couple candles lit and the shadows made me think I should do a book about shadow puppets… or a shadow puppeteer… something in that world. As I started writing, I realized that the most interesting character by far was the shadow. What were the shadow’s innermost dreams? Thoughts? Ideas? A lot of people ask about his name also. I think it’s a combination of “smudge” and “soot,” (though a child I met suggested it could also be “small” and “foot.” Definitely possible). I have such a great time naming characters in my books, I think I would thoroughly enjoy a career at Crayola in the color-naming department.

If you were a runaway shadow, where would you go or what would you do?

If I were a runaway shadow I might like to try being other things for a while – you could go be the shadow of a galloping horse, a skyscraper, a cloud across the surface of the ocean. The possibilities are pretty endless.

One of your activities is falconry, which conjures up such wonderful images. Could you tell how you became involved in falconry and a little bit about it?

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I like to do research for my books, so falconry started as research for my second novel about a boy who is half bird and hatched from an egg. I got very interested in it, even looking into getting my own Harris Hawk, but it takes many years and several days of hunting every week. Maybe someday!

I’ve also done research by riding elephants, bird banding with ornithologists, interviewing astrophysicists, spending time with butterflies, and more. It’s a really interesting part of my job!

Your research sounds fascinating and such fun! Is there anything you’d like to try that you haven’t yet?

I like to keep trying new things as a writer, and one new adventure I’m trying is artwork. I LOVED Shel Silverstein as a kid, so I’m pretty sure he’s my inspiration. I’ve been afraid to illustrate my own picture book, so far just sticking to little line drawings in my last two novels.

Perhaps I’ll take a cue from Smoot, be brave, and give picture books a try in the near future!

In your beautiful The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, the main character collects and delivers messages sent through bottles tossed into the sea. If you were going to write such a note to your readers, what would you say?

My dedication for Uncorker read:

For the Ocean Bottle Senders and Ocean Bottle seekers:

Try. Want. Wish. Tell

Is everyone as intrigued by book dedications as I am? When I read a book, I love imagining who the people are in the dedications, why did the author choose them? I often think about themes of my books when I write a dedication to a specific person. Since Uncorker is about a man with no name, and since the messages sent in bottles are often to no one in particular, I decided my dedication should reflect both of these feelings too.

As an author of middle grade and picture books, what do you find is the best part of writing for children?

The best part of writing for children… well, from my perspective, the best part is the sense of fun. I started out during my fiction MFA writing stories for adults. I’d often turn in stories with talking plants or deer that broke into houses. These stories confused the other writers in my program. Who were they for? Not serious-thinking adults. My mom sent me care packages, often with books inside, mostly kids’ books I had loved when I was younger or new ones she thought looked cute. I read them and it was a light bulb-over-my-head moment. I started writing my first novel about a prolific painting elephant my last year of graduate school and suddenly, my writing felt like me. I was able to do all the wild, free, magical things I had wanted to do all along in my writing. I was finally having fun.

And I think the best part in the “interacting with the world” category is when a child (or adult) says they connected to a character, or that a character’s tale made them cry. We don’t know one another very well, but I know how it feels when a book makes me cry. It’s a remarkable connection, really blows me away every time.

What’s Up Next for You?

Up next for me are visiting schools to talk about my new books Smoot and The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. In April 2018 I have a new picture book out with Catia Chien called Town of Turtle. It’s about a turtle who decides to do some renovations to his shell, which of course get wildly out of hand.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I have to ask: what is your favorite holiday, and do you have any stories you’d like to share?

My favorite holiday… I’ve always loved making costumes and the idea of getting to be a character on Halloween. Even in the last few years I’ve been… a pro wrestler, a deer with branch antlers, Cindy Lou-Who, a falconer… the list goes on. Last year I was Lydia Deetz from the movie Beetlejuice. When I was Cindy Lou-Who I spent a couple days making a wire-rigged headpiece with some very architectural hair. Making the costume is half the fun. I have several glue gun burns to prove it.

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I also got my Bernese Mountain dog a backpack to hand out candy. I don’t usually let him wear clothing, but made an exception for lollipop duty.

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Thanks, Michelle, for the fun and inspiring interview—and all of the fantastic pics! I wish you all the best with Smoot and all of your other books!

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You can find Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow at these booksellers

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

You can connect with Michelle on: her website | Twitter

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

What’s so great about punctuation? Everything! Using correct punctuation allows you to express exactly what you mean. You’ve seen—and no doubt laughed at—examples of misplaced or misused punctuation: “Let’s eat John” versus “Let’s eat, John” and the random placement of quotation marks when no one’s talking or referencing another source. And while in the grand scheme of things the series comma may not make that much difference in some cases, but lawsuits have been won and lost on just this detail. Texting has changed the way punctuation is used—or not, and while a smiley face may be a substitute for the exclamation mark or a frowny face an emotive period in casual communications, knowing the rules of punctuation for school and business is still important. Today, why not pay more attention to the way punctuation is used to make formal communications as well as books clearer and more meaningful.

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesExcellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids love to write and know their punctuation! Can you find the twelve differences in this printable Excellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review