October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

While there’s lots of magic going on today as little witches and wizards roam neighborhoods across the country casting spells and charming people to give them candy as part of Halloween, National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day.

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my o own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

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It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

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You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

October 30 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

It’s been a terrific month of celebrating the joys of reading at home, in the classroom, and at the library! Every book read to and with a child enriches their life and helps to foster a life-long love of learning. Whether your child likes books that are fiction or nonfiction, stories or poetry, funny or poignant, there are a vast array of new and old books to teach them about the world and get them excited about being part of it. There really is a book for every child—as you’ll see in today’s review!

I received a copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book from Imprint to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Macmillan Publishing in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Claire Almon

 

You are quite lucky, the narrator greets you, to be holding the world’s most favorite book. What makes it everybody’s favorite? Well, “lots of great books have cool heroes.” But these are heroes with just one talent—“like spacemen! Or ninjas! Or cowgirls!” In this book, though, the hero multitasks! What is he? “A space ninja cow!” and “his name is Bob.”

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Of course, a hero needs a villain to vanquish, and Bob is lucky because instead of a one-dimensional bad guy, he gets to pit himself against a fierce mash up of a robot, a dragon, and a pirate. What’s this horrible marauder’s name?. Are you ready? It’s Corky! So Bob and Corky fight. It’s thrilling…it’s dangerous…it’s stopped? Ah, the narrator sees now— “everybody doesn’t like violent books” and since this is Everybody’s Favorite Book, the story needs to be a bit more… Well, let’s see if Princess Glittersprinkles can help!

Yes! A tea party would be splendid. Bob and Corky and the princess sit down to a lovely spread with the adorable but really, really, really, really BIG guinea pig, Snuggy. But, wait! We’re forgetting about babies. Baby’s love books too, right? Now might be a good time to offer a bit of ABC fun. “A is for Apple. B is for Bob.” By the way…where is Bob? Is that a suspicious bulge in Snuggy’s cheeks? 

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Finding Bob’s going to require spies, especially cool ones. Now, while they’re out spying, let’s give it up for those teachers and librarians who love big, educational words like “Gallimaufry, Codswallop, and Frippery.” Sure, the narrator knows the definitions, but the book will be more fun and educational if you read them for yourself. Oh, dear! Are those words too educational? Then maybe a poop jok…wait a minute! Do you see a suspicious bump in Snuggy’s belly? No, me either.

If this really is Everybody’s Favorite Book, it seems that “we are still missing so many things that everybody likes. Things like wizards! And a fairy tale!” And so many other characters and things to do…. Hey! Why is everyone fighting? There’s plenty of room for everybody, but right now “this is nobody’s favorite book.” What’s needed is a hero. “Oh wait! There’s Bob,” launching from Snuggy’s HUGE burp just in time! “Maybe he has an idea.” Bob suggests a “sweet ending.” This is more like it! All the hugs and smiles and cooperation is so sweet. Sweet, Snuggy. Not sweets! Oh dear….

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Mike Allegra will have kids laughing out loud with every page turn in his riotously clever genre mash-up. Allegra’s well-meaning narrator offers up droll juxtapositions of characters and situations while riffing on favorite books and movies, fads and fantasies with some crafts, coloring, and craziness to boot. The fast pace, abrupt interruptions, and zigzagging storyline keep kids guessing and eager to find out what comes next. As the action devolves into a free-for-all, the promise of a book for everybody is fulfilled with inclusive hugs and teamwork.

Claire Almon’s cartoon-inspired illustrations are bold, dynamic, and full of action with plenty of humor thrown in. Ingenious details, comically used tropes, and familiar styles of graphics from kids favorite TV shows and movies give young readers a feeling of shared experiences and culture that underline the theme of friendship. Readers will love following Bob’s journey to escape from Snuggy’s belly, and cutaways and character involvement from page to page keeps everybody reacting to the narrator’s directions until the big finale.

For book lovers of all stripes, Everybody’s Favorite Book will be a much-asked for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. The book makes a terrific gift for all those readers on your list.

Ages 3 – 7 

Imprint, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250132765

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and other projects on his website.

To learn more about Claire Almon, her books, and her art, visit her tumblr.

Meet Mike Allegra

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I’m excited to be chatting with Mike Allegra today about his inspiration for his most original book, what kind of mash-up character he’d be, and his role in a family holiday tradition.

What was the inspiration or spark for Everybody’s Favorite Book?

The idea came to me while wandering around the children’s book section of Barnes & Noble. In the picture book area, I stumbled upon a huuuuge display dedicated to ninjas. Everything you could imagine was ninja-related: ninja pigs, ninja school, ninja camp, ninja grandma, ninja notary public… It was crazy. So I thought, “Hmm…I wonder if I can write a book about a ninja? Then I saw another display dedicated to astronauts and a third display dedicated to cowboys—and thought, “Hmm…I wonder if I can put ninjas and spacemen and cowboys into a single book?” That thought soon evolved into, “I wonder if I can cram a spaceman and ninja and cowboy into a single character?”

And Bob the Space Ninja Cow was born.

Then the creative floodgates opened wide. I giddily zipped around the children’s section looking for characters and genres and themes I could shoehorn into a single picture book. It was a blast!

If you were a mashup hero like Bob or even a mashup villain like Corky, what would you be? What would your name be?

I would want to be a mastodon-sized guinea pig like Snuggy. And I’d want to fly. And solve mysteries.

And they would call me Wondersnug, The Flying Pigamajig.

You’ve done a bit of everything in the writing field—plays, journalism, essay-writing, communications, editing—what do you like about writing for children?

Writing for children is like giving yourself permission to let your creative spirit soar. The possibilities are almost endless. I can write about a Space Ninja Cow! Or a dragon who knits! Or a boy who turns into a Kafka-esque giant bug! My mind can move in the wildest, weirdest directions. It’s wonderful.

You wrote so much as a child that a teacher predicted you’d become a writer. Was your work always funny?

No, but I always tried to make it funny, which is not the same thing.

My sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Snelback, was the first person outside of my own family to say that I could write “funny.” And Mrs. Snelback was not one of those teachers who spouted compliments. Quite the opposite, really. She was pretty miserly, compliment-wise.

So when she told my parents that I should pursue a career as a writer, it really meant something. Mrs. Snelback didn’t say anything unless she absolutely, positively, 100% believed it. That’s why Mrs. Snelback will always be my favorite teacher. She shoved me onto the writing path and it has been an amazing journey.  

How do you tap into the humor and rhythms that really make kids laugh?

I’d love to say something profound here—like: “I try to see the world through the wondrous eyes of a child”—but the truth is a lot simpler: I like writing silly things and kids like reading silly things. So it works out for both of us!

I love hearing about how holidays inspire picture books. Can you talk a little about your first published children’s picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday?

Ah, the great Sarah Josepha Hale. She is so awesome. She was a celebrated and prolific writer. She edited the most widely read magazine in America. She founded charities, led patriotic fundraising drives, championed college educations for women, and used her magazine to influence public opinion on a wide spectrum of topics—the most famous of which was a nationalized Thanksgiving, which at that time was rarely celebrated outside of New England.

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And she did all these things in the early- to mid-1800s, when women were widely seen as second-class citizens. And she also did all of these things while raising five children by herself! 

See what I mean? Awesome!

Once I learned about Sarah, I just had to write about her. 

This summer two books in your Prince Not-So-Charming series were released. Can you introduce readers to this prince with other dreams and the very capable princess he encounters?

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Prince Carlos Charles Charming is the young prince of the happy and peaceful land of Faraway Kingdom and the sole heir to the kingdom’s throne. But Carlos would much rather be a jester, so he’s forced to live a double life of sorts, performing dangerous princely duties to satisfy his mom and dad (the queen and king) while also searching out venues to perform his juggling routine and road-test his impressive collection of fart jokes.

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Princess Pinky, from the neighboring kingdom of Ever After Land, is in a similar situation; she would happily give up her crown to be an artist.

So Carlos and Pinky become fast friends who pursue their passions while going on princely and princessly adventures. (Oh, and Carlos has a pet dragon named Smudge who likes to knit. So there’s that, too.)

Any sneak peek into the prince’s future?

Carlos is going to be very busy. In future books he’ll joust, get turned into a frog, lead a search-and-rescue expedition, and attempt to stop a war.

What’s up next for you?

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Well, I have another picture book coming out in March titled Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, which I’m excited about. I just recorded the audiobook for it—which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you think of my voice.

I’m also writing a middle grade murder mystery novel.

What’s your favorite holiday?

I love Christmas, but as I get older, I find myself gravitating toward holidays that contain a lot less hoopla. Thanksgiving is the holiday for me. I get to eat my favorite food on a crisp fall day. (Oh, how I love the fall with its pumpkin-spiced everything!) Also, I was born on November 25th, so I can celebrate my birthday on Thanksgiving, too! Thanksgiving is pretty much perfect.

In other words, Sarah Josepha Hale was a very wise woman.

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share?

Sure! When I was a kid, every Christmas the entire family would assemble at my grandparents’ house to open presents and eat dinner.

One year—I think I was about seven—I noticed that every time a present was opened, half the room would say, “Ooh,” the other half would say, “Ahh,” and my grandmother would say, “Isn’t that nice!”

No joke; this happened every single time for every single present.

The problem, as I saw it, was that it these responses were too disorganized; everyone was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over everyone else. It was a big ol’ mess of noise. So I stood up and asked if I could conduct my family’s reactions like Leopold Stokowski. They happily agreed.

So whenever a present was opened, I would wave my arms to cue the “Ooh-ers,” the “Ahh-ers,” and Grandma’s “Isn’t that nice!” I never felt more powerful in my life. More importantly, almost everyone in the room was practically peeing their pants laughing. And, from that point forward, an Allegra Christmas tradition was born.

Everybody’s Favorite Book Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Macmillan Publishing in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra  | illustrated by Claire Almon

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 30 – November 5. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. Quote your Retweet with your favorite kind of book for an extra entry.

A winner will be chosen on November 6.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Macmillan Publishing.

National Book Day Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite along with twenty favorite genres in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find Everybody’s Favorite Book at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 29 – National Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cat lovers get it! The mercurial personalities of felines keep us laughing, shaking our heads, and, of course, loving these singular pets. Cats are the stars of social media, they inspire fashion statements, decorate mugs and dish ware, and are cuter than cute. But there are many cats and kittens that don’t have a forever home. National Cat Day was established in 2005 by pet and family lifestyle expert and animal welfare advocate, Colleen Paige. Her goal was to raise awareness of the number of rescue cats that need permanent homes while also celebrating the unique relationship between cats and those who love them. Today’s book is simply purr-fect for those who love cats and books!

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P.I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P.I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 

Coming in paperback in May, 2019. Available for preorder | ISBN 978-1580892735

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

National Cat Day Activity

Purr-fect Friends Maze

 

One little kitten wants to play with her friends. Help her find her way in this printable maze!

Purr-fect Friends Maze Puzzle |  Purr-fect Friends Maze Solution

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You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

Can it be that National Book Month is almost over? No worries, though! We’re about to start Picture Book Month, so gather as many books as you can from your local bookstore and library and enjoy the best activity there is!

Mirror Play

By Monte Shin

 

There’s no denying that mirrors are beguiling. Looking into one shows you just what you look like—or does it? Well, left is right and right is left, but a mirror gives you a pretty good idea whether your hair looks good, your outfit matches, and if you’re ready to face the world. Little ones, especially, are mesmerized by mirrors that give them the first glimpse of themselves and their smiles, frowns, and giggles.

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Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

The magic of mirrors to reflect an image is used to remarkable effect in Monte Shin’s cool and clever Mirror Play. The book’s ingenious design includes twelve thick pages in the middle of which is set a colorful, and sometimes complex, shape that rotates a full circle. A shiny surface that creates a perfectly clear reflection is incorporated into a fold-out attached to the back cover. Together, these two elements can keep children (and adults) riveted to the many figures that can be made simply by setting the mirror at a 90-degree angle in the middle of the page and turning the shape this way and that.

One stop along the shape’s trajectory creates an image that is instantly recognized and which answers the question on the next page. For example, the first page contains a blue cone with a wing attached to its left side floating on a red background marked with chalk-outlined clouds. Set the mirror at the provided notches and turn the cone slightly, and an airplane appears! Turn the cone more and more and you find what might be a butterfly, a jet, a tent, a clothespin, a kite, a gavel, and an arrowhead.

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Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

Turning the book to the right, to the left, and upside down also provides new perspectives on the shapes and images that appear. On a page splotched deep red, a curious shape might become a water beetle, an alien, a fish, a badge or an acorn, a heart, a rabbit, two birds beak to beak, a fly, and a mosquito. 

Backdrops of a lily pad, a block of cheddar-cheese yellow, polka dots, leaves, and a mountain peak, among others, give young explorers hints as to what the asked-for figure might be. Finding the answers to these questions is fun, but it’s only the beginning to discovering a world of geometric shapes, abstract designs, and imaginary creatures.

 

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Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

Mirror Play is an excellent choice as a gift for toddlers and preschool children. It would be a go-to book for interactive story times as well as for taking along on outings or whenever waiting will be part of the day. Older kids may also enjoy the challenge of discovering the various shapes and designs they can make with this “magic” mirror.

Ages 3 – 5

Minedition, 2018 | ISBN 978-9888341535

National Book Month Activity

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Shape Sticks Game

 

With some popsicle sticks and markers, you can make a colorful matching game for little ones!

Supplies

  • Popsicle sticks – long or short
  • Markers

Directions

  1. Choose a marker and on the ends of three popsicle stick draw a different shape, for example: popsicle stick 1: square and circle; popsicle stick 2: square and triangle; popsicle stick 3: triangle and circle
  2. Repeat with other colors of markers
  3. On a table or the floor, children can lay the sticks down to match the same shape or color until all the sticks have been used. Sticks can be laid down end-to-end or end-to-side.

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In Addition

You can also make a set of popsicle sticks drawn with all the same shape in different colors to have a larger color-matching game

Older children may enjoy making their own sets of Shape Sticks and experimenting with a larger number of sticks and different patterns and colors.

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You can find Mirror Play at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 27 – National Make a Difference Day

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About the Holiday

Make a Difference Day was instituted in 1992 by USA Weekend, a newspaper magazine to encourage individuals and groups to find a way to help others. The idea took off and has become one of the largest single-day celebration of service nationwide. Thousands of people across the country use this day for projects big and small that change the world for the better. To celebrate today consider how you might make a positive change. As today’s book shows, just being a caring friend can go a long way in making someone’s life better.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of May I Come In? to check out. All opinions are my . own. 

May I Come In?

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Jennie Poh

 

Outside, the rain poured down, and “Raccoon shivered. When “thunder roared, Raccoon quivered.” And the flashes of lightening were just too scary to watch. Raccoon did not like being alone on such a stormy night, so he “grabbed his umbrella and hurried out the door.” Raccoon made his way through muddy Thistle Hollow to his old friend Possum’s tree-trunk den.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There he found Possum nice and dry under his canopy. Raccoon asked, “‘Possum old friend, may I come in?’ / ‘What bad luck,’ Possum replied. ‘My den’s too small for one your size.’” Raccoon climbed down and with a “swish, plish” walked “all the way to Quail’s brambles.” As the wind whipped Raccoon’s scarf, he asked Quail if he could come in. But Quail said her brambles were formed too tight, and Raccoon was too wide to fit inside.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Next, Raccoon swish, plished to Woodchuck’s hole. Dug into a hill near an old broken tree and lit by a small candle lamp, Woodchuck’s hole looked cozy. But when Raccoon asked his old friend if he could come in, Woodchuck said, “‘What bad luck. I’ve only room for one to hide.’” Raccoon went away sadly and “stood shaking in the rain. His umbrella blew inside out, His fur felt wet and spongy.” He really did not want to spend the night alone.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There was one more house to try. Raccoon saw a light glowing in the distance. He hurried nearer and nearer and nearer. He knocked at the door and when Rabbit answered, Raccoon could see all of her little rabbits behind her as they “hopped and bopped to the raindrops.” Raccoon hesitantly asked his question then almost immediately took it back. After all, her house was so full. But Rabbit swung the door open wider. “‘What good luck,’ said Rabbit. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for a good friend.’” Rabbit gave Raccoon a comfortable chair to sit in and brought him a cup of tea.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As the storm raged on, Raccoon hummed and smiled happily, smelling the aroma of carrot stew that filled Rabbit’s home. Soon, there was another knock on Rabbit’s door and three voices rang out: “‘being alone on a night like tonight is scary.’” When Rabbit opened the door this time, there stood Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck. The ten little rabbits just kept hopping and bobbing.

Rabbit and Raccoon gazed at each other knowingly. “‘What good luck,’ they said. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for all our friends.’”

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

From the very first page, young readers will be engrossed in Marsha Diane Arnold’s sweet story of a raccoon who’s looking for company and comfort on a stormy night. As Raccoon swish, plishes through his neighborhood, knocking on door after door only to be met by excuses for why he can’t come in, children will empathize with him and be cheered when Rabbit joyfully invites him in. Readers will understand that they are sometimes like Raccoon, needing a bit of help or support. They will also see that they can always be like Rabbit, offering kindness and inclusion. Arnold’s lyrical language and repeated phrases invite children to read along, offering another sense of camaraderie during story time.

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Jennie Poh’s Thistle Hollow is as cute as its name with cozy dens, brambles, and homes carved into hills and trees and adorable woodland neighbors. The lovely smoky blue-grays and dusky greens enhance the beautiful scenery as raindrops plink, plonk and the wind whips Raccoon’s scarf and umbrella. Alert readers may notice that a single owl watches Raccoon as he makes his way from Possum’s den to Quail’s brambles, but as he approaches Rabbit’s inviting home, a pair of birds snuggle against the wind in a hollow tree. Rabbit’s home is warm, snug, and relaxed as the ten bunnies hop and bop, enjoying some fun with their siblings and guests.

May I Come In? would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries to open discussions of kindness, inclusion, and helpfulness for children. The story could easily be adaptable to acting out for a classroom or children’s program to highlight the lesson of inclusion and make it more personal.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363940

You’re invited to download the May I Come In? Activity Pages here or from Sleeping Bear Press.

May I Come In? Coloring Page May I Come In? Matching Page | May I Come In? Rhyming Page

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennie Poh, her books, and her art work, visit her blog.

National Make a Difference Day Activity

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Random Acts of Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 2

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You can find May I Come In? at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | MacIntosh Books of Sanibel Island, FL

 

Picture Book Review

October 26 – National Pumpkin Day

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About the Holiday

There may be no vegetable/holiday match quite like pumpkins and Halloween. While pumpkins make delicious pie for Thanksgiving, bread and muffins for a fall breakfast or snack, and even flavor lattes and smoothies, it’s their use as jack-o-lanterns that really make pumpkins seasonal stars. There’s something a bit magical about a fluttering candle lighting up a scary or funny orange face on a front porch or door step, and if you’re a fan of painted pumpkins, they have a style all their own too! To celebrate today, head out to your local farm market or pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkins for making jack-o-lanterns and your favorite treats!

Five Little Pumpkins

Illustrated by Ben Mantle

 

As the sun set, painting the sky purple and indigo, there were “five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.” When the full moon smiled down, “The first one said, ‘My, it’s getting late!’” They watched the witches take to their brooms, the spiders come out to play, and the ghosts rise and float through the forest. The five little pumpkins wanted to run and play too.

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Image copyright Ben Mantle, 2010, courtesy of Tiger Tales Books.

They bound down the hill as the wind howled and the ghosts danced with the swirling leaves. The ghosts spin around and around the laughing pumpkins until… “out went the light…,” And in the total darkness, “the five little pumpkins…rolled out of sight!”

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Image copyright Ben Mantle, 2010, courtesy of Tiger Tales Books.

Ben Mantle’s adorable take on the Halloween classic nursery rhyme for babies and toddlers offers cozy shivers, sweet smiles, and cute wide-eyed wonder for little ones dazzled by this spooky fun holiday. Saturated blues, purples, and greens set off the brilliant orange of the playful pumpkins as they abandon their post on the gate to have a midnight romp. The wide grins on all of the holiday haunters—witches, whose brooms paint starlight across the sky, tiny pink monster bats, hopping toads, a bounding cat, hairy-legged spiders, and gauzy ghosts—will make young readers giggle with delight as they roll into bed while the five little pumpkins return home.

Five Little Pumpkins, with its soft padded cover and sturdy pages, is an enchanting book to add to home bookshelves for the fall season, Halloween, and beyond.

Ages 2 – 4

Tiger Tales, 2010 | ISBN 978-1589258563

To learn more about Ben Mantle, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Pumpkin Day Activity

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Acorn Pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns

 

With acorns falling tap, tap, tap in bushels on the ground and other delicious nuts readily available in grocery stores and farmers markets, autumn is the perfect time for this craft that turns nuts into pumpkins!

Supplies

  • Acorns or walnuts
  • Orange multi-surface acrylic craft paint or spray paint  
  • Paint brush
  • Black, fine tip marker

Directions

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For Acorns

  1. Remove the caps
  2. If using acorns for crafts that will be kept long-term, follow these Directions for Drying Acorns
  3. Hold the acorn with the flat side down. The little tip will serve as the pumpkin’s stem.
  4. Paint the acorn, leaving the just the tip brown, let dry
  5. With the flat side down, draw a face on your “pumpkin.” Let dry
  6. Use your little pumpkin in decorations around your house or make a tiny pumpkin patch in a box or jar lid with paper, sticks, leaves or other material

For Walnuts

  1. If you live in an area where there are no oak trees, you can use walnuts or other nuts available in grocery stores. These do not need to be baked before using.
  2. Paint and decorate according to the directions: For Acorns

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You can find Five Little Pumpkins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 25 – International Artists Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2004 by Canadian Romantic Realism artist Chris MacClure, today’s holiday celebrates artists working in all mediums from painting to sculpture, photography to music, writing to dance, and many more. Creative expression is a universal language, and society benefits when art and artists of all types are embraced and celebrated. The goal of International Artists Day is to celebrate the contributions of artists and to raise their stature and visibility around the world. A love of the arts can start at the youngest ages by exposing children—and even babies—to a variety of creative mediums and allowing them to explore their talents. For more information about International Artists Day, visit the IAD  website.

My Art Book of Love

Written by Shana Gozansky

 

Don’t be surprised if you feel a flutter of the heart upon opening the cover of My Art Book of Love. Page after page of gloriously reproduced paintings from thirty-four artists from the past and working today demonstrate love in all of its actions, forms, colors, and meanings. Divided into six sections, the paintings touch on what love is, how love feels, what love looks like, and other qualities of this tender emotion.

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Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

Accompanying each painting is a lyrical phrase that describes its feeling or subject and combines with the others in the section to create a moving verse that will warm the hearts of  little ones—and even older children. To begin, “Love is… soft snuggles…” represented by a detail from Gustav Klimt’s The Three Ages of Woman, in which a mother and child sleep cuddled together with the mother resting her head on her child’s soft curls. Love is also “tender nuzzles,” and any animal lover or child with a pet will recognize the shared affection as a little girl strokes her pet in Pierre Bonnard’s Little Girl with Cat.

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Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

The comfort an older sister provides for her younger sibling tugs at the heart in Paul Gauguin’s Piti Teina (Two Sisters), and Alan Katz demonstrates that growing up with a bunch of sisters can be an adventure in The Ryan Sisters, in which four girls walk down the road barefoot with their arms around each other. As an African-American boy wears his dad’s fedora while getting a big hug in Emory Douglas’s Father and Son, “Love feels… Safe.” A father’s encouragement can make a little one feel “brave” as in Vincent Van Gogh’s First Steps, after Millet, where a father spreads his arms to welcome a baby toddling his way.

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Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

In all the ways it is expressed, “Love is Beautiful.” Salvador Dali captured the joy a father feels for his child in Fiesta at the Hermitage, a fragment of which spotlights a father playfully lifting his infant above his head. Henry Moore’s sculpture Family Group lets children visually experience the solidarity of the family unit as a mother, father, and two children are connected through touch. Two vibrant and familiar artworks close out this poignant tribute and remind readers that “Love is for everyone!” as the linked figures dancing around a red heart in Keith Haring’s untitled painting and the bold and boxed letters L-O-V-E in Robert Indiana’s Philadelphia Love beautifully demonstrate.

Back matter presents thumbnail images of each art piece along with information on the artist, the work, and which museum it can be found in.

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Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

Exquisitely curated to offer a range of artistic styles, cultural touchstones, and emotional responses, My Art Book of Love is a sophisticated board book that is part museum, part love letter and a completely original and moving way to share and talk about love with babies, toddlers and older kids during quiet, cuddly story times. The book can also be used in classrooms to accompany reading, writing, and art lessons. The book makes an inspired choice as a gift or to add to any home, classroom, and public library.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877181

International Artists Day Activity

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I Love Blocks

 

Bare wooden blocks can provide lots of artistic fun for both young and older kids. Painted with craft paint or chalk board paint, they can be written on or drawn on with chalk. They can be stacked to make sentences or towers or sculptures.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-blocks-craft-2Connected with glue or adhesive Velcro tape, blocks can become a robot or a giraffe, laid end-to-end they can be a train or a snake. Supply some cloth, play jewels, googly eyes, foam shapes, glitter, or other items and let kids play with their imagination and creativity!

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You can find My Art Book of Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review