April 18 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today, enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Growing Season

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

 

El and Jo weren’t only best friends, they were the smallest kids in their class. They did everything together, even helping “each other reach the unreachable.” On picture day, Jo and El always got to be in front, and during reading time they could both fit into the comfy reading chair. “But in springtime, something BIG happened.” Jo began to grow. Their teacher, Mr. Diaz, said she was “growing like a weed.”

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She no longer needed El’s help to water the plants on the windowsill, and she had graduated to needing a bigger desk. On the last day of school, when Mr. Diaz told everyone they could take a plant home for the summer, El was overlooked and reached over as the other kids took all the colorful flowers. By the time El got to the windowsill, the only plant left was an aster, with no blooms at all.

Mr. Diaz told her that “aster means ‘star.’” El didn’t think her plant was a star, but Mr. Diaz encouraged her to wait and see. “Jo looked over at El’s sad plant, and then at her own” and offered to let El have her zinnia since she was going to be away all summer anyway. El said she’d plant them side by side, and Jo said they could be best friends.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

At home, El planted her aster and Jo’s zinnia. She cared for them and waited. They grew bigger, but while the zinnia had many colorful flowers, El’s aster still had none. All summer long, El and Jo wrote letters to each other. El sent a photograph of her zinnia to Jo and told her that waiting for aster was hard. Finally, Jo came home. It was the last day of summer, and the two girls ran to the garden. There, they saw that “something BIG had happened. Aster had finally bloomed…and so had El!”

An Author’s Note on plant life cycles describes the differences between annual, perennial, biennial, and tender perennial flowers and includes fun facts about peonies, dahlias, marigolds, and foxgloves.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her signature warmth and attention to children’s feelings, Maryann Cocca-Leffler offers a sweet story about growth and how each child’s experience is as varied as garden flowers. El and Jo, as the smallest kids in the class, are natural best friends—a relationship which, in a welcome demonstration of steadfastness, remains strong even when Jo begins to grow. As summer comes, El’s focus is not on herself but on caring for the aster and zinnia and staying in touch with Jo.

When Jo returns, readers will see that something more has happened over the summer too. As the two girls hug, excited to see each other again, children will notice that they are now the same height—a surprise that El and Jo also seem to share with smiles and sidelong glances at each other. The purple asters that greet the reunited pair, remind kids that growth in many forms follows the natural path for each individual.

Cocca-Leffler’s fresh and cheerful gouache, colored pencil, and collage illustrations present a diverse classroom and school details that will be familiar to readers, making this a highly relatable story. Mr. Diaz shows kindness and understanding as he crouches down to talk with El about the aster and offer encouragement.

A gentle, reassuring story, Growing Season would make an excellent story to pair with plant or garden lessons as well as to remind children that everyone grows and develops at their own pace for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927044

Discover more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Starting to dig out the flip-flops for warmer weather and finding they’re a little too small? Don’t get rid of them! Make them into this sandal-ightful way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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You can find Growing Season at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 17 – Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. One way families do this is by celebrating meaningful holidays together and passing on beliefs,  history, and traditions. Easter, which falls on April 21 this year, celebrates the biblical resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. The day is also one for fun family Easter egg hunts and a visit from the Easter Bunny, who brings candy and other treats. 

Today, I’m reviewing two Berenstain Bears Easter books. The first is a bit simpler for younger readers while the second contains more details of the biblical story and how secular traditions fit into the day. I received copies of both books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the night before Easter, Papa Bear gathered Sister, Brother, and Honey together to read a bedtime story. Brother wants to hear one from their storybook Bible, and Papa finds one about the very first Easter. The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come to Jerusalem and are greeted with “Hosannas” and a crowd waving palm branches. “They believed Jesus was the new king of Israel.” The officials in Jerusalem thought Jesus was stirring up trouble. “They did not understand that the kingdom of Jesus was really the kingdom of heaven.”

The day was Passover, and Jesus and his disciples gathered for a special Passover dinner. During the supper, Jesus told his followers that he loved them. They ate bread and drank wine, which Jesus said were like his body and blood. He told them that he would be leaving them soon, but they did not understand what he meant.

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Later, Jesus went to a garden to pray. The followers that went along with him soon fell asleep. Another disciple, Judas, had “decided to help the angry city leaders put Jesus in prison.” He showed the soldiers where Jesus was praying. The leaders of Jerusalem brought Jesus to their Roman ruler, Pilate. He ordered that Jesus be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.

On the day Jesus died, the sky turned black and a wind whipped across the land. People were afraid; some prayed and some hid. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and the opening was covered by a huge, heavy stone. Roman guards were placed in front of the tomb.

Three days after Jesus died, an angel appeared. The angel rolled away the stone and frightened the guards away. When three women came to visit the tomb, the angel told them that Jesus had risen. The women hurried away to tell all of Jesus’ friends. Later, Jesus visited his followers in the room where they had been fearfully staying together.

They were amazed to see him. “‘Peace be with you,’ Jesus said.” He then told them to “spread the good news about what had happened.” Forty days later, Jesus rose into heaven “to be with God, his father.” Jesus’ friends and followers “rejoiced and praised God.” As Papa closed the Bible, he saw that Brother, Sister, and Honey were asleep. “‘Good night,’ Papa whispers, ‘and God bless.’”

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Jan and Mike Berenstain’s The Very First Easter is a traditional telling of the biblical Easter story for young readers. Composed of the important events in the days surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, the story reinforces the miracle of Jesus’ rising from the dead and his directive that his followers should spread the good news. Children will enjoy learning the Easter story along with Sister, Brother, and Honey as their own parent or caregiver joins Papa Bear in sharing this highlight of the church calendar. The book makes a good companion to personal discussions about the holiday and can grow with the child as they age and learn more details of the story.

An Easter word search puzzle is included on the inside back cover.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2019 | ISBN 978-0310762188

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About the Holiday

The definition of spiritual wellness is unique to each person. When you think deep down about what gives your life purpose, meaning, and happiness, what do you find? This month encourages people to discover if their beliefs, activities, work, family relationships and friendships are all in harmony. It’s also important to take care of you, by taking time to reflect each day and to plan fun and relaxing activities. Springtime and Easter are opportunities for renewal, making March a great time to consider your spiritual wellness.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the way to Sunday school one spring morning, all Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear could think about was Easter candy. As they entered their classroom, Brother said his favorite Easter candy was chocolate bunnies, Sister said hers was marshmallow chicks, and Honey Bear cried “‘Jelly beans!’” Then Missus Ursula revealed that her favorite was black jelly beans, but also that Easter is about more than candy.

Brother and Sister said they knew that. Easter was about “‘stuff in the Bible,’” Brother told Missus Ursula. “‘Yeah,’ agreed Sister. ‘Bible stuff.’” And Honey Bear added, “‘Stuff!’” Missus Ursula thought the cubs’ understanding could use a little more rounding out, so she took them into the next classroom, where the older bear cubs were putting on a play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-candy

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

The stage was set with props of the Holy Land, and cubs were dressed in costumes. One of the performers began telling the Easter story. “‘Long ago, in the Holy Land, there was a man named Jesus. He traveled the countryside teaching about God and what God wanted for his people.’” The narrator went on to tell about Jesus’s miracles and how “‘he could do these wonderful things because he was the Son of God.’”

Government officials and others were angry. They were afraid that Jesus wanted to become the king. One day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem and crowds greeted him with shouts of “‘Hosanna!’” The leaders believed Jesus was becoming too powerful. One night while Jesus was praying in a garden, “‘soldiers were sent to arrest him.’” He was questioned by a “‘wicked judge…who wanted to show everyone that Jesus was not a king. He ordered for Jesus to be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.’” 

After Jesus died, he was put in a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. “‘On the morning of the third day after Jesus died, some women who knew Jesus came to weep at his tomb.’” They saw that the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. “‘An angel told the women…that Jesus was alive once more.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-missus-ursula

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

In the days and weeks after Jesus rose, he visited his friends. “‘Jesus told them they should spread the good news about what had happened.’” After visiting with his friends, “‘Jesus rose up to heaven to be with God, his Father.’” Following the play, the cubs understood that Easter is about more than candy. But “‘does this mean we shouldn’t eat any Easter candy?’” Brother asked.

“‘Certainly not!’ Missus Ursula laughed” and confessed that she’d miss her jelly beans too. But she reminded the cubs that they should go to church after they got their Easter baskets. “‘Hooray!’ the cubs said. ‘And Hosanna!’ added Missus Ursula. ‘He is risen!’”

A page of colorful stickers depicting images from the story are included, and discussion questions and fun activities related to the book follow the text. 

Since the early 1960s, the Berenstain Bears have been delighting readers with their shenanigans, wit, and always-close family relationships. In The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, part of the Living Lights series, these beloved characters talk about and reveal to children the deeper meaning of Easter, with a focus on Jesus’s resurrection. The dialogue-rich structure lends a personal touch to any reading, letting the adult sound as if they are telling the story themselves.

The illustrations of Bear Country are bathed in the warm glow of spring as the sun rises over the Bear’s tidy treehouse home. Brother’s, Sister’s, and Honey Bear’s dreams of candy will enchant little ones as will the familiar scene of walking into church on Easter morning. Depictions of the play are vibrant and detailed but with a homey and childlike feeling to the props and acting.

For adults looking for a traditional, Bible-centered telling of the Easter story with engaging  characters that children will respond to, The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter and The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story is a superb choice for home and church libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Zonderkidz, 2012 | ISBN 978-0310720874

To learn more about Bear Country and all of The Berenstain Bears books as well as to find fun activities visit the Berenstain Bears’ website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

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Sweet Bunny Candy Jar

 

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

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You can find The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-cover

You can find The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

 

April 16 – National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day

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About the Holiday

If you like dressing casually for work, then you’re going to love today’s holiday. Why is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day celebrated today? It follows what may be one of the most stressful days in the US calendar—April 15, or Tax Day. While it may not actually be possible to wear your comfiest clothes to the office, you and your family could make that change as soon as you get home and wear your pajamas to work on dinner, homework, house projects, or whatever you have going.

Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn

Written by Annie Cronin Romano | Illustrated by Ileana Soon

 

As dusk descends, the night train wakens, “groggy, stretching.” Coal’s loaded in while excited passengers get on board. The night train creeps up the hills, winding its way through stands of pine trees, startling small creatures with its clattering wheels. After navigating the hills, the night train crosses a wide plains, where wheat fields sway their golden greeting.”

Over the river the train chugs across a bridge passing a deer who’s come to the edge to drink and a silently watching raccoon. As a dad and his son eat and chat in the dining car, the train travels by “whitewashed barns” and races wild stallions. The train rumbles into a tunnel where the track is cloaked in darkness by the “granite passage.” But its “headlamp brightens, pathway lightens— / never-fearing, calmly steering night train.”

The train approaches its destination just as the sun begins to lighten the sky. The city is coming awake; children rising, workmen rushing. The night train’s breaks squeal as it thunders into the station, slows and stops. The “worn conductor yawns and stretches,” and the train, with its journey finished, gets to sleep.

Annie Cronin Romano’s lovely, lyrical ode to the mystery and allure of a nighttime journey by train is the perfect antidote to a busy day for sleepy children or those who just need some down time. With rhythmic phrasing, the sounds of the train as it progresses on its steady route play out, enveloping readers in a blanket of security and custom that mirrors the constant love and care of the adults in the young reader’s life.

Ileana Soon takes children on a gorgeous journey from golden sunset to velvet blue night to pastel dawn. As evening settles in, the train makes its way up dusky brown hills while small animals scurry away from the clattering wheels. Seen from above, the train puffs along tracks that are as straight as an arrow cutting through a vast wheat field. Silhouetted horses race the train, but like the little bats in the sky, they are soon left behind. When dawn breaks, the town welcomes the train and its passengers with lighted windows and a busy station.

Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn is a beautiful bedtime or quiet time story and would be a favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146572

Discover more about Annie Cronin Romano and her books on her website

To learn more about Ileana Soon and her art, visit her website.

National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day Activity

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Riding the Rails Dot to Dot

 

Taking a trip by train long distance can be fun—especially if you travel overnight in a sleeper car! Instead of counting sheep, count and follow the numbers in this printable Riding the Rails Dot to Dot.

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You can find Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 15 – National Rubber Eraser Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday marks the date in 1770 when Joseph Priestly developed a vegetable gum that could remove pencil marks. He named the substance rubber. In the same year Edward Nairne created the first marketed rubber eraser. Erasers became more durable when Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization in 1839. In 1858, Hyman Lipman received a patent for a pencil with an eraser at the end. But how did people fix their mistakes before rubber erasers? Wax was a popular material, and if you didn’t have that? Crustless bread did a good job of rubbing out mistakes—and hunger!

Eraser

Written by Anna Kang | Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

The little pink eraser sporting two side ponytails looks at the math problem Pencil has just completed. She clears her throat and motions to the 11 under the 4 + 5 line. Pencil chuckles uncomfortably and says she was just testing Eraser. By the time Pen comes around to grade the work, Eraser has cleaned up the mess and the correct answer is proudly displayed. Pencil smiles, taking all the credit for the perfect score she receives.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At the lunch table, all of Pencil’s friends—Pen, Highlighter, Marker, a couple of paint brushes, and a few crayons—congratulate him on getting an A+ on the test. Eraser overhears them and says, “Everyone thinks Pencil and her friends are the creative ones. It’s not fair.” On the other side of the lunch room, Tape and Glue are holding a jam session and everyone’s singing along. And then there’s Paper, whom everyone loves, and Scissors, who gets respect because “she’s just kind of scary.”

Eraser wonders what she brings to the table when all she does is “take things away.” Her friends think she does a good job of making everyone look good, but Eraser feels like she is more than just the clean-up crew. After lunch the teacher calls everyone to gather around for a science project meeting. When Eraser starts moving to join the group, Highlighter stops her and tells her this meeting is only for creative types only.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That night Eraser is busy rub, rub, rubbing across a sheet of paper. The next morning she presents her version of the science project—a drawing made entirely out of eraser shavings. Ruler and Pencil Sharpener love it, but when Glue comes near to check it out, he sneezes, sending the shavings everywhere.

Later, everything’s beginning to come together, but when Pencil sees Eraser trying to help, she and Highlighter joke that she can’t make anything but a mess. Everyone laughs. Eraser has had enough. She packs her bag and asks Ruler and Sharpener to launch her far away. She flies through the air and lands in the wastepaper basket.

When the crumpled papers filling the basket see her, they greet her as a hero and tell her they love her work and are big fans. She can’t believe it. They go on to explain that they’re all first drafts and without them and her “there’d be nothing to hang on the fridge door.” Suddenly, she gets it. She is creative. She “creates second chances.” “Mistakes,” they all agree, “make us great!”

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Meanwhile there are plenty of mistakes going on over on the desk. At the same time, Pencil realizes that she hasn’t checked her math homework and Pen is coming around to grade it. Pen marks a big red X at each of Pencil’s answers and gives her an F. Pencil is so upset that she scribbles all over the newly painted science fair picture.

Just in the nick of time, Eraser comes flying in on a paper airplane, followed by a fleet of planes carrying first drafts. Glue, Ruler, Sharpener, and the rest cheer and tell Eraser that they’ve missed her. Pencil approaches, apologizes for her behavior, and asks if Eraser will help her. “You bet!” Eraser answers. The next day, the Rainforest Science Project looks amazing—especially with the big A+ on it. At lunch everyone celebrates and talks proudly about their role in the project. And Pencil makes a toast to her partner Eraser.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eraser-apology

Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

In her heartfelt story, Anna Kang reminds kids that every member of a group has important contributions to make and that making mistakes is part of the creative process. Realistic dialogue and honest emotions coupled with clearly expressive characters, make this a story that readers will identify with and learn from. Sprinkled with puns—and a couple of Kumbaya moments that adults will appreciate—Eraser strikes just the right tone of humor and camaradarie that will make it a favorite for story times.

Christopher Weyant brings all the energy and enthusiasm of a classroom to the desktop on which adorable Eraser and her friends are doing homework and creating a science project. Kids will love seeing familiar antics of a typical day played out by expressive, funny, and creative writing and drawing tools.

Eraser is a sparkling story to share during writing workshops or before any creative project to reinforce the idea that mistakes and do-overs are part of the process and lead to a better finished product.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503902589

Discover more about Anna Kang and her books on her website

To learn more about Christopher Weyant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mistake to check out this Eraser book trailer!

National Rubber Eraser Day Activity

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Fun with Eraser! Coloring Pages

 

You can have fun over and over again with these printable coloring pages!

Dancing with Eraser and PencilEraser and Friends at School 

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You can find Eraser at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 12 – Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

This month is dedicated to families and their young children and aims to raise awareness of all the ways we can support and advance our children’s happiness and wellbeing. One way families do this is by celebrating meaningful holidays together and passing on beliefs,  history, and traditions. Passover, the Jewish spring festival that celebrates the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt and their freedom of a nation under Moses, begins on April 19th and is celebrated through the 27th. The holiday begins with a seder meal, for which family and friends gather to remember their history, have symbolic dishes, and celebrate the joy of freedom.

Kar-Ben Publishing sent me a copy of Paulie’s Passover Predicament to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Paulie’s Passover Predicament

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi

 

Paulie was a moos-ician who loved practicing the guitar in his basement studio, but today he had to cut it short because there was so much to do. Passover was starting that night, “and Paulie wanted his Passover seder to be perfect!” He headed to the grocery store to buy everything he needed for the meal. At the store he ran into two friends, Sally and Irving. They were excited about coming to Paulie’s house later that day.

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Image copyright Barbara Vagnozzi, 2018, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2018. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

With his cart loaded with boxes of matzah, grape juice, two moose-shaped candles, and other supplies, Paulie was ready. As soon as he got home, Paulie began cooking. Each dish was delicious. He set the table and “hummed happily as he placed the matzah cover over the matzah.” He smiled at the attractive picture of a moose printed on it. “‘Perfect!’ he thought.”

There was much excitement as Paulie’s friends arrived. They complimented Paulie on the yummy-smells from the kitchen and his decorated table. “‘The candles are very ‘you,’ Paulie, said Evelyn” while Sally commented on the unusual matzah cover. When they sat down to eat, Moe noticed the extremely large egg on the seder plate. “‘Yes,’ said Paulie, beaming. ‘An egg is a sign of new life. I used an ostrich egg to make sure everyone could see it.’” Sally pointed out that the salt water representing the tears of their ancestors looked different too. 

When Evelyn tasted the charoset that reminded them of the bricks and mortar their “ancestors used to build the pyramids,” she questioned the recipe. Paulie admitted that he liked it with apples and pinecones instead of walnuts. In place of the usual parsley, Paulie had used his “favorite green thing”: grass. This was met with some chuckles. Paulie had taken the horseradish maror rather literally and carved a horse from a radish. Hearing this, Horace couldn’t help but laugh out loud. And the lamb’s wool in place of the lamb bone set everyone else “roaring with laughter.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paulie's-passover-predicament-cooking

Image copyright Barbara Vagnozzi, 2018, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2018. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

“Big tears formed in Paulie’s eyes,” but his friends hugged him and told him that although his seder plate was a bit different, each element reminded them “‘of the meaning of Passover—in a Paulie way.’” Cheered, Paulie and his friends continued with the blessings, the Four Questions, and the telling the Passover story. They ate and recited the Ten Plagues. Then it was time for Sally to hide the afikomen.

Paulie felt better, but he really wanted to find the afikomen. He looked under the table and behind the couch then Paulie went to look in the basement. The afikomen wasn’t under his drum set or in the laundry basket. Paulie finally found it in the dryer, but when he tried to go upstairs, the door was locked! No one heard Paulie calling for help. He sat down on the stairs and considered his Passover seder. It “was not perfect at all…. And now he was stuck in the basement. ‘What a predicament!’ he thought.”

Just then he had an idea. He slipped the afikomen under the door, alerting his friends. They swung the door open, and Paulie was free! Paulie’s friends were excited to see that he had found the afikomen and would get the reward. But Paulie told them that being free like their ancestors was enough for him. Then everyone sang the song Dayeinu, happy to be together and free.

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Image copyright Barbara Vagnozzi, 2018, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2018. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

A short description of the Passover story and traditions follows the text.

Young readers will empathize with and cheer for Paulie in Jane Sutton’s sweetly emotional Passover story. In his excitement to host the perfect Passover seder, Paulie can’t help but include his favorite things instead of the traditional offerings. Even though his friends chuckle at Paulie’s missteps, they show their love for him with understanding and hugs. When he is freed from the basement, Paulie demonstrates the true spirit of Passover in his happiness to be with his friends again. Kids will giggle along at each unique seder dish while they also learn their symbolic importance.

Barbara Vagnozzi’s bright, joyful illustrations reflect the excitement children feel as they prepare for Passover—shopping, cooking, and setting the table with special foods and decorations. The camaraderie of the friends is infectious as they explain the various parts of the seder, enjoying Paulie’s unique, moose-centric spin on it. These good friends, smiling, talking, happily hunting for the afikomen, and singing together are adorable companions for this special holiday.

A fun and meaningful introduction to Passover for children and adults of all faiths, Paulie’s Passover Predicament would be a delightful addition to home and classroom bookshelves for any time of year.

Ages 3 – 8

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2018 | ISBN 978-1512420975

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website.

To learn more about Barbara Vagnozzi and view a portfolio of her books and artwork, visit her website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

Celebrate Passover! Word Search

 

Celebrating Passover means honoring history, eating special foods, and having fun! Can you find the twenty words related to Passover in this Celebrate Passover! Word Search?

Celebrate Passover! Word Search Puzzle | Celebrate Passover! Word Search Solution

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You can find Paulie’s Passover Predicament at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 11 – National Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Pets are often our best friends—they love us unconditionally, are always there for us, and make us laugh. Today we celebrate pets—whether they’re as small as a goldfish or as large as a horse. National Pet Day also raises awareness of the number of animals available for adoption and encourages people to donate to animal shelters or consider taking a dog, cat, bird, or other pet into their family. If you already have a pet, observe the day by giving them an extra pat, offering a special treat, or spending more time with them.

I received a copy of My Funny Bunny from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Abrams in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Funny Bunny

By Christine Roussey

 

A boy has been dreaming of having a dwarf rabbit as a pet “since forever.” Finally, on his sixth birthday, his uncle hands him a box with holes in it, and the boy just knows it’s the pet of his dreams—a “mini dwarf rabbit as big as a kiwi…. A rabbit that I would love with all my heart.” But when he opens the box, it is not a tiny rabbit that he sees but “a big potato with patchy, yucky fur and whiskers that looked like wires.”

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy is beyond disappointed and runs to his room to yell and cry it out. He throws a temper tantrum and tells the rabbit he ruined his birthday and that he’ll never love him. But then something unexpected happens. While the boy is crying, the bunny jumps out of the box and comes to cuddle up next to him. His soft fur and tickly whiskers make the boy feel better.

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy gives him a carrot and they share some smiles. Then the two fix the castle that was broken during the tantrum, and the boy began to have a different perspective on his rabbit: “Funny Bunny might look a lot like a potato, but he made me laugh. I was starting to like him.” The child confides in his bunny that his anger sometimes comes on like a storm. The funny bunny says nothing but having him there makes the boy happy.

The boy even wants to be friends. He apologizes “for being so mean” and thanks “him for forgiving [him].” And that’s how the little boy and the “funny bunny…became friends for life” on his sixth birthday.  

A photo of Hector, Christine Roussey’s own “funny bunny” graces the inside back cover and will delight readers.

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Christine Roussey’s honest look at disappointments and the resulting reactions some children display offers a fresh and humor-tinted way for adults and children to discuss these strong emotions. The funny-looking bunny presents not only an example of how something unexpected can turn out to be just what is needed but also the role pets—with their quiet acceptance and unconditional love—can play in soothing an upset child. Roussey’s child is self-aware, giving adults and children the words for describing the emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming and frightening.

Roussey’s stylish illustrations replicate a child’s drawings and begin with depictions of the dwarf bunny the child has been dreaming of. A turn of the page brings readers face to face with reality—one that will send into giggles. The boy’s tantrum takes the form of gray and colored squiggles that frame the page and usher from his mouth, blowing the bunny’s ears. As the tantrum plays itself out, the boy’s confession is portrayed with child-like stormy clouds, lightning, rain, and a wave that carries them away. Their bond of friendship is built as they play in the boy’s treehouse, give hugs, and spend time together.

An excellent book to share when discussing emotions and how to deal with them, My Funny Bunny would be a valuable addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736186

To learn more about Christine Roussey, her books, and her art, visit her website.

My Funny Bunny Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Abrams Books for Young Readers in a Twitter giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of My Funny Bunny by Christine Roussey

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from April 11 through April 17 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Prizing provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

National Pet Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bunny-puppet

Story Buddy Puppet

 

Hop to it! Children and adults can tell stories or talk about your hopes, dreams, and even fears with this Story Buddy Puppet!

Supplies

  • Printable Bunny Template
  • Paper sandwich bag
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print out the Bunny Template
  2. Color the Bunny Template
  3. Cut out the bunny’s features
  4. Glue the bunny’s features to the sandwich bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-funny-bunny-cover

You can find My Funny Bunny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 10 – National Hug Your Dog Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a dog owner, every day may be Hug Your Dog Day! Today was established for dog lovers to show their pets extra attention, so why not give your pup a special treat or take them for a longer than usual walk? If you’re contemplating adding a pet to your family, today may be a good day to visit your local shelter and adopt a dog to hug!

Thunder Pug

Written by Kim Norman | Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

 

Percy the pug loves doing things with his best friend Petunia the pig. They carve trails out of the tall grasses, blow on dandelions, play “twilight hide-and-seek,” and lap “puddles, cheek to cheek.” Sometimes they do separate things—like the time Petunia went off to the Arlington County Fair to compete in the best pig competition.

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Image copyright Keika Yamaguchi, 2019, text copyright Kim Norman, 2019. Courtesy of Stirling Children’s Books.

Petunia returned to the farm wearing a blue ribbon. “Percy was proud of her,” but so were all the other animals. They picked her up and rushed around the yard, cheering. Every time Percy tried to offer his congratulations, she was whisked away. Percy’s high-five went amiss, the flowers he offered were “nearly trampled,” and “the kiss he blew floated away, lost on the wind.” While Petunia is enjoying all the attention, however, Percy feels dejected and ignored.

Then one day he found an old superhero comic book about Thunder Man who was brave and strong and had a cape that was “just as special as a first-prize ribbon.” Soon, Percy was sporting a cape and coming to the rescue—even if being Thunder Pug meant being put in danger, getting wet, or being tickled by ants. And while all of that was exciting, it just didn’t feel satisfying.

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Image copyright Keika Yamaguchi, 2019, text copyright Kim Norman, 2019. Courtesy of Stirling Children’s Books.

Percy went back to his comic book to see what he was doing wrong. That’s when he saw it—Thunder Man had a sidekick! And just then who did he see coming toward him, but Petunia dressed up as Pink Lightning. Not a moment too soon, either. They raced to save a baby raccoon who was stuck in a tree. Maybe the rescue didn’t quite go as planned, but the baby Boing! Boing! Wheeeed! right into its mother’s arms.

With one heroic deed under their capes, Thunder Man and Pink Lightning took off to help, protect, find lost hedgehogs, and turn over flipped turtles. Now Percy and Petunia do some things apart and lots of things together and just like before, their friendship is “perfectly thunderful!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thunder-pug-comic-book

Image copyright Keika Yamaguchi, 2019, text copyright Kim Norman, 2019. Courtesy of Stirling Children’s Books.

Percy and Petunia’s friendship forged in Kim Norman’s Puddle Pug has hit an unexpected snag as Petunia wins a blue ribbon and Percy begins to feel left out. Percy tries to play on his own, but it’s just not the same without Petunia. But has Petunia really forgotten Percy? A careful look at the illustrations shows that even while this first-rate pig is enjoying her taste of celebrity, she still has Percy in her sights. When the two come back together to create a super duo and also find new ways to spend their days, young readers will learn gentle lessons about the true nature of friendship, how new experiences can strengthen and enrich a relationship, and even the importance of giving a friend some space. Fans of Percy and Petunia will be delighted to learn that just as Percy and Petunia’s friendship grew as they pursued different activities, their own friendships will flourish as each person supports the other.

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Percy and Petunia are back and as adorable as ever in Keika Yamaguchi’s soft-hued pen-and-ink and digitally painted illustrations. Yamaguchi perfectly captures the love between the two with twinkly eyes and satisfied smiles. So when Petunia wins the blue ribbon and starts hanging out with other friends, the dichotomy between Petunia’s bright grin and Percy’s disappointment is pronounced. Readers will also notice that along with the smiles, Petunia expresses distress of her own as she’s pulled away from Percy, and Percy, while sad, discovers happiness in helping others. The changing emotions of friendships are part of navigating childhood; Percy and Petunia give kids and adults the opportunity to discuss them and find their way through the maze of growing up.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454923589

Discover more about Kim Norman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Keika Yamaguchi, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Hug Your Dog Day Activity

Find the Pet Maze

 

This detective is looking for a dog to hug. Can you help her find her way to a puppy to love in this printable puzzle? 

Find the Pet Maze | Find the Pet Solution

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You can find Thunder Pug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review