December 31 – National No Interruptions Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cover

About the Holiday

If you yearn for a nice long stretch of peace and quiet in which to work, think, or play without the barrage of sounds, images, and other interruptions that make up modern life, then today’s holiday is for you. So how do you go about celebrating? Turn off your phone, TV, and music, tell your friends and family you’re taking a “me” day, and find a spot where you can shut the door and just…ahhhh…. For those on the other side of that door who want attention or need help, the day may require a bit of patience. But they might find that they appreciate a little quiet time too—just like the little girl in today’s book.

Patience, Miyuki

Written by Roxane Marie Galliez | Illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh

 

“Blue earth, orange moon, Spring was all dressed up and ready for her first day of the year.” Up with the dawn, Miyuki was ready too. She rushed to her grandfather’s house eager to rouse him to watch the “last moonbeams of winter” and enjoy the first full day of spring. But Grandfather urged patience. He wanted to soak up the sunshine through his window. The day would still be there in an hour, he told her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-flowers

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When her grandfather joined her, the two walked through the garden, greeting each tree, flower, and blade of grass. In the middle of the garden was a little flower still asleep. Miyuki called for it to wake up, but Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, Miyuki. This little flower is not ready to open. It is precious and delicate and needs the purest and finest water…’”

Determined to wake the little flower, Miyuki hurried away to the well. But when she raised the bucket, it was filled not with water, but with a frog. She pleaded with the well to give her water, but the well answered that she must wait for it to rain again. “But Miyuki did not want to wait.” Next, she tried approaching the clouds, but the ones full of water were too far away, a perfect little cloud did not want to give up its water, and the ones that did were too slow in filling up her little porcelain bucket.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-poppies

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first day of Spring was half over and still Miyuki had not gathered water for the little flower. She walked and walked until she came to a waterfall. When Miyuki asked for its purest water, the waterfall told her she would have to wait for night, when the water lessened and she could cross over to the lake beyond. But Miyuki did not want to wait. As Miyuki walked on, she spied a house covered in flowers and a boy watering his garden. She approached and asked for some of his purest water. In exchange, he wanted to know who she was and to hear her story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-frog

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The boy filled her bucket and Miyuki ran home. On the way, though, she tripped and fell. Her bucket shattered and the water spilled out. By now it was nearly evening. Miyuki had missed almost the entire day, and she still had no water for her flower. Just then she heard the river’s song. The river asked her what she was doing so far from home at that hour. It offered to show her the way and give her some of its water. The trip lulled her to sleep, and when she reached home, Grandfather put her to bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cloud

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When she woke, it was the second day of spring. Today, Grandfather was waiting for her in the garden. When Miyuki saw that the flower had not opened, “Two of the purest tears ran down her cheeks.” But Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, my little girl. Neither flowers no anyone in the world deserves to be watered by tears. Yesterday…you missed the first day of spring. Come, sit close to me, watch, and wait for once.’” Miyuki sat next to her grandfather and watched as he smelled a fragrant flower. Then he tipped a leaf and a few pure dewdrops fell onto the little flower. Slowly, the flower’s petals opened. It greeted Miyuki and apologized for being late, explaining, “‘I’ve been dreaming of Spring.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-bird-house

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Roxane Marie Galliez’s gentle story encompasses two emotions that often spar within one mind: the desire to hurry, hurry, hurry and pack every moment with action or adventure and the longing to relax, observe, and really enjoy the peace of our own thoughts—or no thoughts at all. Miyuki wants to savor every moment of the first day of spring, but she spends the entire day rushing around to find water for the little flower who has her own time table. At last, lost and too tired to stay awake, Miyuki is put to bed by her grandfather only to wake the next morning ready to repeat her frantic pace. Only when Grandfather convinces her to sit and watch, can Miyuki appreciate the dawning sun, the fragrant flowers, and the fact that what she was searching for was right at hand all the time. In Miyuki, readers will recognize the strong feelings children often have when they want others to join in on their activities or viewpoints. Galliez reminds them that patience and paying attention to others’ needs can be a rewarding and a gift as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-bird

Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s striking illustrations combine dream-like scenes, surprising perspectives, and familiar elements of Japanese culture, including Kokeshi dolls, lucky cats, and origami, to draw readers into the story. Miyuki, smaller than a wren, tiny next to the well’s wooden bucket and the frog it catches, and able to ride in an origami swan boat, is a child of nature as is the boy who lives in a birdhouse and shares his gardening water. As Miyuki, with Grandfather’s hand on her shoulder, crouches down to wake the little flower, readers can see how small it is; that it is still new, growing, and learning. This touching image embodies the multi-layered themes of the story: the dual natures of children still new, growing, and learning with multigenerational support.

Lush and fantastical, yet rooted in mindfulness Patience, Miyuki is a visual feast that would quickly become a favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898434

Discover more about Roxane Marie Galliez and her books on her website.

To learn more about Seng Soun Ratanavanh and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

National No Interruptions Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-posterPlease Bee Quiet Poster

 

Sometimes you just need a little time to yourself. When that happens put this cute printable poster on your door and get bzzzzzzzzy on your own projects. 

Please Bee Quiet Poster

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cover

You can find Patience, Miyuki at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

December 30 – It’s the Christmas Bird Count

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds

By Matt Sewell

 

If you have a budding ornithologist in the family, they will be awed by Matt Sewell’s gorgeous compendium of more than 150 birds from around the world. Organized by continent—Europe, North and Central America, South America, Antarctica, Oceana, Asia, and Africa—each chapter begins with a green watercolor map of the area delineated into the countries within its borders and includes a short introduction to the size, climate, surrounding oceans, and number of birds found there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-painted-buntings

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first stop on this ornithological tour is Europe, where readers discover first the European roller, a lovely species with a cyan body and rust-and-blue-mottled wings that summers in Southern Europe and the Middle East and winters in Africa. This bird’s beauty belies the less-than-attractive way they have for protecting themselves as chicks in which “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.”

The European golden-plover chick—a little fluff of green and white that blends in with its mossy surroundings—takes a different tack: By looking like “a small clump of cotton balls flecked with gold leaf, it is possibly one of the cutest chicks out there.” With its speedy wingbeats, the European golden-plover also claims another mark of distinction as the “genesis for the idea for the book of Guinness World Records.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-woodpecker

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

North America and Central America are home to more than 900 species of birds. Many are as colorful as a child’s painting, including the Montezuma oropendola, painted bunting, indigo bunting, and the resplendent quetzal, which boasts an iridescent blue tail that can reach over 2 feet long. Unique among birds is the common poorwill, a North American nightjar, which besides being nocturnal, “is possibly the only bird that hibernates.” Mottled gray and brown, the common poorwill perfectly blends into rocky crevices. “It has a low odor so it cannot be detected by predators, and it can descend into a sleepy torpor for months.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-riflebird

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

South America, with its vast expanse of land and variety of climates hosts “more than 3,400 known species of birds, more than any other continent.” With that many different types of birds, South America offers ornithologists a full range of species to study from familiar faces, such as the hyacinth macaw and the keel-billed toucan, to truly wondrous creatures, such as these: the sunbittern, which upon opening its wings presents a frightening “mask” of markings to scare away predators; the white bellbird, which has a single wattle above its beak that can be inflated to appear much like a unicorn’s horn; and the oilbird, which you cannot be faulted for mistaking for a bat as it “breeds and roosts in the totally dark interiors of caves,” uses echolocation to navigate here, and flies at night. Among the other weird and distinctive birds of this region is the hoatzin, “known as the reptile bird” because it “dates back 64 million years, which is roughly when all the big land-based dinosaurs disappeared.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-roadrunner

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Oceania, comprising Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand, provides shelter to “some of the most brilliant and flamboyant birds in the world….” These include a variety of birds-of-paradise, each of which sport colorful and intricate features that would look just as at home on ornaments and party favors. One of the most unusual birds may be the multi-talented superb lyrebird. Not only does the male possess fabulous peacock-like tail feathers that seem part quill-pen, part feather duster, it is a master mimic. “It can imitate just about any other bird it hears, as well as other sounds, such as chainsaws, telephones, barking dingoes, roaring cars, and crying babies—often repeated one after the next.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-birds-of-paradise

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Combined, Antarctica, Asia, and Africa also give homes to more than 6,000 species of some of the most adorable, beloved, brilliant, and extraordinary birds in the world. Readers will meet penguins and birds with vibrant blocks of color as sculpted as any stained-glass window—such as the Malabar trogon of India and Sri Lanka, the Himalayan monal, and Ruspoli’s turaco of southern Ethiopia.

They’ll also get to know towering birds, such as the secretarybird and the ostrich, and formidable-looking creatures, such as the marabou stork and the shoebill. To tie up this description that barely scratches the surface of all that bird-lovers will learn, I present the common tailorbird of tropical Asia—a clever and industrious little warbler that sews leaves together to create a cup of a nest that it lines with cobwebs to further confound predators.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-condor

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Matt Sewell knows just how to entice young readers with engaging, humorous, and insightful text that provides a robust and individual introduction to each bird as well as their status in the world. Every entry is accompanied by brilliant watercolors that highlight each species’ spectacular, surprising, and sometimes even seemingly Dr. Seussian plumage. Dipping in and out of the pages will inspire children and adults to learn more about birds, geography, and how they can become stewards for our feathered friends.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds is highly recommended for bird and nature lovers and would make an excellent addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898571

To learn more about Matt Sewell, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Christmas Bird Count Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-cover

About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to just take a relaxing outing with the family. What better place to go than the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park? Don’t let the cooler (or cold) weather deter you! The meandering paths, opportunities to learn about the world’s creatures, and chance to get some fresh air all add up to the perfect way to spend the day!

I Love You, Elephant!

Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros

 

If you’re looking for a joyfully uplifting story to share with your baby or toddler, you’ll find it within the magically changing pages of I Love You, Elephant. The sweet sentiments begin on the cover as a little monkey, holding a banana and surrounded by hearts, comes to visit Elephant. Open the cover and Elephant’s small smile at seeing her friend becomes a wide-open grin as Monkey tells her, “I love your long trunk! I wish I had a trunk like yours.” Not only does Elephant get this compliment, but she also receives the banana as a snack.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-lion

Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Monkey moves on and approaches Lion. “I love you, Lion,” Monkey unabashedly states as Lion glances in Monkey’s direction. Turn the page and Lion’s face lights up to hear how much Monkey loves his “shaggy mane.” The next animal to receive a visit from Monkey is Wildebeest, who looks a little skeptical while Monkey raises “thumbs up” fists to his head. But Monkey just wants to let Wildebeest know how much he admires his big horns. At this, Wildebeest gazes upward with a proud smile on his face. Zebra also gets a confidence boost that leaves her with a big grin of surprise.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-happy-lion

Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But what about Monkey? How do all the animals feel about him? It turns out they love Monkey as much as he loves them! What exactly do they love the most? Little ones will agree with Elephant, Lion, Wildebeest, and Zebra’s favorite traits about Monkey, and adults will love sharing the animals’ full assessment—“We love you just the way you are!”—with their kids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-zebra

Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Adorably rounded faces that change with the turn of a page that sets in motion a “venetian blind” effect will delight little readers. The change in each animal’s expression reinforces the esteem-building result of Monkey’s spontaneous declarations of what he loves about his friends. The sweet examples in the story are wonderful springboards for discussion and are sure to inspire kids and adults to follow in Monkey’s footsteps and reveal what they love about each family member, their pets, their friends, their toys, their home, and, especially, about each other.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-happy-zebra

Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Carles Ballesteros cleverly includes a guessing game each time Monkey approaches a new friend. Through props and hand gestures, Monkey hints at what trait he loves best about each animal. Young readers will have fun trying to name what trait Monkey likes. With vibrant, yet soothing, colors and stylized flowers, vines, and plants, Ballesteros sets his story in a welcoming jungle landscape that children will want to visit over and over again.

A sturdy board book that will become a favorite of babies and toddlers, I Love You, Elephant! makes a heartwarming addition to home, preschool classrooms, and public library shelves as well as a terrific baby shower or new baby gift—for the baby or a young sibling.

Ages Baby – 3

Harry N. Abrams, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738821

To learn more about Carles Ballesteros, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Visit the Zoo Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-cover

You can find I Love You, Elephant! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 25 – Christmas Day

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

About the Holiday

Christmas is anticipated all year round for the joy of giving, the fun of receiving, and the message of hope the holiday gives. There are as many ways to celebrate as there are families, but today’s book shows that the inspiration of the season can live in every person all year round.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit to check out. All opinions are my own.

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

 

A little girl wakes up with a smile on her face and “the spirit of the season” in her heart. As she and her mother head out into the snowy city, she hears “the spirit in the air” as carolers sing and a corner Santa rings a bell. She’s been saving her money to add to the familiar red pot and happily drops it in the slot. The choir is now singing “Deck the Halls,” and the little girl sings along with all her heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-spirit-in-air

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then it’s time for a yummy roasted treat to warm her up in the shivery air. On the ice-skating rink, the girl and her mom “swirled and twirled around the spirit” with other kids and adults enjoying some frozen fun. Afterward, a tour of the store windows decorated with lights and glitter makes her feel sparkly inside. But when they come upon a mother and her two children huddled against the wind with a “Help Please” sign, the girl says, “I felt the spirit deep down in my soul.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-skating

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In a crowded store nearby, the little girl looks wide-eyed at all the toys then whispers to a tired Santa her wish “for the spirit everywhere.” As she, her mom, Santa, and a host of other people leave the store carrying wrapped packages, they feel the spirit spread by the girl’s smile. Outside, the little girl and the other shoppers give the presents to the needy family. The little boy grins from ear to ear as his mom stands by happily and the baby rests in Santa’s arms.

The Christmas spirit is not just a thing or a place or a person, the girl understands, “The spirit is you!” Then the girl gets her own surprise when she spies her dad coming home. She runs to him and he lifts her into a hug. Here is what she wants for Christmas—“Peace for all, good tidings, and cheer—let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-coming-home

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As the sights and sounds of Christmas begin to light up towns, stores, and homes, Connie Schofield-Morrison’s story fills young readers with the joy and deeper meaning of the holiday. Little ones wanting to share their bubbly excitement for Christmas as well as their innate empathy will fall in love with the little girl who eagerly joins in on all of the city’s festivities while also embracing those in need. Her big heart and buoyant spirit will inspire kids to find the spirit of the holiday in everything they do too. Kids are invited to join in reading with exuberant alliterative words like “Ding Dong Ding, that call out to the little girl

Readers can almost hear the bells and singers, feel the soft snow, and smell the roasting nuts as he takes readers on a tour of the city decked out for the holidays. In his gorgeous, realistic paintings, the emotions and actions of the little girl cheer young readers as they see her belting out a Christmas carol, gliding on ice rink, and walking side-by-side with Santa to deliver her surprise gifts to the needy family. Images of the girl dropping money that she has saved into the Salvation Army pot and frowning sadly as she comes upon the destitute woman and her family mirror the compassion many children feel for those less fortunate.

Like its predecessor I Got the Rhythm, I Got the Christmas Spirit is an uplifting and beautiful book to add to any child’s collection—not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. A top choice for public libraries too.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681195285

To learn more about Frank Morrison and view a gallery of his art, visit his website.

Christmas Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-sack-maze-puzzle

Santa’s Sack Maze

 

Santa has one more present to put into his sack. Can you help him take the gift through the maze in this printable puzzle?

Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Puzzle | Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Solution

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

You can find I Got the Christmas Spirit at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 24 – Christmas Eve

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-cover

About the Holiday

Christmas Day is tomorrow! Are you ready—tree decorated, all gifts bought or made and wrapped, cookies baked? If not, don’t stress! Somehow, it all comes together. And on Christmas morning when you see those little eyes light up and you get to spend the day with family and/or friends, all the last-minute preparations are worth it—as you’ll see in today’s book.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Santa Bruce to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

If you know Bruce, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he “did not like the holidays.” In fact, before he had kids (and mice), he used to sleep right through them. But this year his family wanted that picture-perfect Christmas together. This meant “no migrating! No hibernating!” Whether Bruce liked it or not, “the holiday season was going to be filled with fun and cheer.”

So the geese decorated, and the mice made eggnog. And Bruce? He was not happy. He was awake and he was cold. And because he was awake and cold, he was shoveling the walk in his red long underwear. And that’s when a raccoon made an erroneous conclusion, and Bruce was the victim of “a case of mistaken identity.” Again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-red-suit

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

It didn’t matter that Bruce tried to set the record straight. The little raccoon scampered off to tell his friends. Soon, Bruce’s house was full of animals wanting to talk to Santa. Every young forest critter took their turn sitting on Santa’s…I mean Bruce’s…lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and no sooner had they all gone home then their parents showed up to “thank Bruce for his Christmas spirit. Then, before Bruce could even say “bah humbug,” Thistle announced that Santa Bruce would “deliver presents to all of your kids tonight.”

What was Bruce’s reaction? He headed for bed. When the mice protested, Bruce reminded them that he didn’t have a sleigh. The mice easily fixed that with a wagon and a sled. How about reindeer?, Bruce countered. Well, what else are geese for? Okay, Bruce conceded, but what about the presents? The mice had that covered too.

And so it was that on that magical night that Santa Bruce made the rounds to all the good little forest critters (and even to the “grown up Bunny who still lives with his parents”). As morning dawned and Santa Bruce trudged back home, happy tykes were waking up to a beautifully wrapped present. What was it? You’ll have to join the holiday feast and see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-party

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

In this new holiday favorite, Ryan T. Higgins’ woebegone Bruce is just trying to make his kids (and those mice) happy when another case of mistaken identity turns his winter topsy-turvey. Bruce’s tetchy responses as he loses control of his fate and becomes Santa Bruce as well as the silly asides and persuasive pleas from the mice will have kids in stitches. Sly references to holiday songs, Christmas clichés, and even a spring holiday add to the zany hubbub, and the little ones’ Christmas wishes will make adult readers chuckle.

Higgins’ unibrowed bear wears his signature scowl with aplomb—not even cracking the wee-est smile as a houseful of tiny, adorable hopefuls cheer and shout for “SANTA!” As usual, the mice are jubilantly unconcerned with Bruce’s feelings, giving him, in turn, thumbs up and innocent eyes as they cajole Bruce into creating their vision of the perfect holiday. The guileless geese are just happy to be along for the ride, and the forest children are sweetly excited to get their special present.

Santa Bruce has laughter, generosity, and togetherness all wrapped into one—and isn’t that what the holidays are all about? A must buy for home holiday and anytime reading.

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art on his website.

Christmas Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

IMG_7695

To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-cover

You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 22 – Hanukkah Begins

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-story-of-hanukkah-cover

About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish wintertime “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. Special prayers, oil-based foods, and gifts are also part of this looked-forward to holiday. Today’s reviewed book reveals the history and traditions of Hanukkah. If you are celebrating Hanukkah this week—many wishes for a meaningful and enjoyable holiday!

The Story of Hanukkah

Written by David A. Adler | Illustrated by Jill Weber

 

The story of Hanukkah began many centuries ago when Israel was known as Judea and the Jews living there worked as farmers and shepherds. Holidays were spent at the beautiful Temple, where the gates were covered in gold and silver. and a light—the ner tamid—always burned. While the Jews did not rule their land, they lived in peace. “Then a Greek, Antiochus IV became king. He tore down the walls of Jerusalem. Thousands were killed. Anyone who lit Sabbath candles, studied Jewish law, or refused to bow to Greek idols was put to death.”

When Antiochus’s army came to the town of Modiin, “they demanded that Mattathias, an old priest, worship one of their gods.” He refused and with his five sons and other followers ran into the hills. The soldiers chased them, but were attacked by “brave Jews hiding behind large rocks and inside caves….” When Mattathias died his son Judah became the group’s leader. He was known as the Maccabee, or “the hammer,” and the people who fought with him were called Maccabees.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-story-of-hanukkah-battle

Image copyright Jill Weber, courtesy of Holiday House Publishing

Antiochus did not give up easily. He sent his soldiers back on horses and even armored elephants. They carried swords and bows and arrows and were well-trained fighters. But despite the fact that there were 600 soldiers for every one Maccabee, the Maccabees defeated the mighty army. “Judah then led the Maccabees to Jerusalem. The Maccabees cried when they saw the Temple ruined and filled with garbage.” They went to work to restore the Temple to its former beauty.

Finally, the Temple was rebuilt and it came time to light the ner tamid. When the people looked for oil to fuel the light, however, all they found was a single jar with only enough oil to burn for one day. They lit the ner tamidm and although supplied with only a meager amount of oil, it burned for eight days—enough time for more oil to be prepared. “On the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Temple again became the ‘House of God.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-story-of-hanukkah-celebrating-restored-temple

Image copyright Jill Weber, courtesy of Holiday House Publishing

Judah told his people that “every year on that date an eight-day holiday would begin.” The holiday would be called Hanukkah, meaning “dedication.” Today, Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah. Every night they light one more candle on the menorah. They sing special songs, eat latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and exchange gifts. Children also enjoy playing a game with a four-sided top called a dreidel. On each side of the dreidel “is a different Hebrew letter—the first letters of the Hebrew sentence Nes gadol hayah sham, which means ‘A great miracle happened there.’” “Hanukkah celebrates one of the first fights for religious freedom.”

With his exceptional storytelling skills, David A. Adler reveals the history of Hanukkah to children. In simple, yet compelling sentences, Adler clearly depicts the faith of the Jews and the dangers they faced from Antiochus and his army. Children will marvel over the astounding defeat of Antiochus’s soldiers at the hands of the Maccabees and be filled with awe as the Temple is rebuilt and the small amount of oil sustains the flame in the ner tamid for eight days. Children unfamiliar with Hanukkah celebrations will discover the meanings behind the traditional foods, dreidel game, and lighting of the Menorah in clear language full of the pride and emotions Jewish families feel during the holiday.

In her bright acrylic paintings Jill Weber brings to life the story of the Jews and the Maccabees, allowing children to fully experience the environment and perils of the time period. Her patchwork fields tended by farmers and shepherds give way to the majesty of the Temple with its central altar and glowing eternal flame. Weber’s battle scenes are particularly effective in presenting the destruction, fear, and final victory experienced by the Jews. Readers will be cheered by the joy depicted in the faces of the people celebrating the restoration of the Temple and the excitement of families observing Hanukkah today.

A recipe for Latkes as well as instructions on how to play Dreidel follow the text

The Story of Hanukkah is a wonderful introduction to the holiday for children learning their own heritage or for children discovering the traditions of friends, family, and others.

Ages 5 – 8

Holiday House, 2012 | ISBN 978-0823425471 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0823440320 (Board Book)

To view more of the many, many books by David A. Adler, visit his website!

Discover a gallery of book illustration and other design work by Jill Weber on her website!

Hanukkah Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-hanukkah-word-search

Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-story-of-hanukkah-cover

You can find The Story of Hanukkah at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the chilly days of winter snuggled up with a new or favorite book. If you’re still looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find stories that will make kids (and adults) eyes light up. And if you’re a post-holiday shopper (and who isn’t?), make sure to check out those bookstores again. After all, it’s a loooong winter!

Odd Dog Out

By Rob Biddulph

 

Busy dogs all dressed in black and white make their way to work while dogs at play in identical stripes take to the soccer field. At the pool, swimmer dogs don yellow caps and yellow tubes while sailor dogs in their uniform uniforms pilot their yellow boats. In fact, “soldier…scout…. They all blend in. / No dog stands out. / But wait.” On a certain street, you’ll see “someone…is dancing to a different beat.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-busy-day

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Wrapped in a rainbow-colored scarf, “this dog flies low” when others fly high, and “when they say ‘Kick!’…this dog ways ‘Throw!’” It’s plain to see that this dog just “does not fit in.” Having tried her best to be like the others, this unique pup packs her bag and leaves town. As she walks, the seasons change from winter to spring to summer to fall. She traverses the sea and climbs mountains until she comes to Doggywood and wonders if this is the place for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-dancing

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She takes a look and her eyes light up. “‘Well, bless my bow-wow, can it be? / A hundred others just like me!’” There are dogs playing guitar and riding bikes, gliding on the wind, and playing basketball. And coming and going on the street, dogs in rainbow-colored scarves stream by. “But wait.” Are they really all alike? Do you see? “Somebody this afternoon / is whistling a different tune.”

The newcomer thinks that she can help. She approaches this dog with his black cap and sweater to commiserate and tell him she knows how he feels being the “‘Odd Dog Out.’” But it turns out that this dog is proud of being unique and standing out. And he tells her that she should feel that way too. After a bit of thought, she has to agree “‘…there’s nothing wrong with being me.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-fly-high

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then she knows just what to do. She grabs her bag and takes a flight. And when she lands in her old hometown, all those busy dogs and playing dogs turn to look. “‘They cheer! They clap! They whoop! They shout! / ‘We’ve really missed our Odd Dog Out!’” It seems that while she was away, some of these “identical” dogs did some thinking. Now what do you see? “Each one a doggy superstar… So blaze a trail. / Be who you are.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-seasons

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Through his charming rhymes and bouncy rhythm, Rob Biddulph creates a surprising tale that highlights that well-known advice: “bloom where you are planted.” When a dog who does her own thing amidst a sea of uniformity leaves home and finds a place where she fits in, readers will notice that she just replaces one homogenous place for another. The dog may feel more “at home” surrounded by other dogs who wear colorful scarves, soar on wind gliders, play guitar, and ride bikes, but is she really stretching herself and building her self-esteem? It can be difficult for kids (and people of all ages) to display their full personality, but when that happens they can’t display their full potential either. Biddulph encourages kids to be proud to let their uniqueness show while demonstrating that differences are recognized and appreciated more than they might think.

Kids will love Biddulph’s enchanting dachshunds and especially the sweet “Odd Dog Out.” His vibrant digital illustrations are superb at showing the cookie-cutter sameness of all the other dogs in humorous two-page spreads and smaller snapshots that remind one of the patterns of wrapping paper. When our colorful heroine appears among a cadre of black-suited business dogs, her satisfied smile and dancing feet stand in stark contrast to the other, serious dogs that have their feet firmly planted on the ground. Many clever spreads that readers will want to linger over bring them to the final pages where they’ll have fun pointing out and talking about the dogs who have decided to embrace their true natures.

Under the book jacket, a delightful cityscape and a “Where’s Waldo?” type of challenge awaits.

A terrific book offering lots of opportunities to talk about self-acceptance, accepting others, and the value of being different (and showing it), Odd Dog Out is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.         

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062367266

To learn more about Rob Biddulph, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-cover

You can find Odd Dog Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review