November 14 – Anniversary of The Race Around the World

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About the Holiday

On this date 130 years ago, an incredible race began between investigative reporter Nellie Bly and Cosmopolitan magazine writer Elizabeth Bisland to beat the fictional voyage of Phileas Fogg, a character in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. I’m excited to be reviewing Caroline Starr Rose and Alexandra Bye’s book on the anniversary of this historic feat.

A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland

Written by Caroline Starr Rose | Illustrated by Alexandra Bye

 

In 1889 the world was changing in incredible ways through inventions such as the telegraph, electricity, the telephone, and express trains and fast steamships. People thrilled to the idea of circumnavigating the globe faster and faster. Previous attempts had seen a voyage by a travel writer that took a year and a half and a trip by a baseball team that took six months. But the goal that was so enticing came in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. “A reporter named Nellie Bly believed she could be even faster.”

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Image copyright Alexandra Bye, 2019, text copyright Caroline Starr Rose, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Nellie Bly studied steamer and train schedules and thought she could make the trip in seventy-five days. “Her boss at the New York World said only a man could manage such a trip.” With only three days to prepare, Nellie boarded the Augusta Victoria in New Jersey on November 14, 1889. Meanwhile, in New York, Elizabeth Bisland was called to her office at Cosmopolitan magazine. Her publisher wanted her to leave immediately to begin her own journey around the world to beat Nellie Bly. In five hours she was boarding a train. As Elizabeth made her way across country, Nellie was on a steamer, fighting seasickness, unaware “that her one-woman dash was now a contest of two.”

When Nellie docked in England, she learned that Jules Verne wanted to meet her. Their meeting meant a mad dash to France and back before she boarded a ship for the next leg of her trip. In San Francisco Elizabeth was excited to be leaving the United States for the first time. Nellie arrived in Ceylon two days ahead of schedule, but her advantage faded as her ship was delayed. While Nellie stewed, in Japan Elizabeth “marveled at sloping hills and mist-filled valleys. She wandered temples and tombs as elegant as poetry.”

Nellie stopped in Singapore, while Elizabeth laid over in Hong Kong; Nellie’s ship was rocked by a monsoon, while Elizabeth’s ship suffered a broken propeller. “During the third week of December, in the South China Sea, two steamers passed. One carried Nellie. One Elizabeth. Who was winning the race? No one knew.

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Image copyright Alexandra Bye, 2019, text copyright Caroline Starr Rose, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When Nellie arrived in Hong Kong, she learned that she was in a race that the whole world was watching—and that she was probably losing. Nellie and Elizabeth made their way on the last legs of their respective trips in fits and starts; weather and timing slowing them down, beautiful scenery and their own strength keeping them going. As Nellie skirted blizzard conditions affecting the Central Pacific Railroad by taking a southern train, Elizabeth was crossing the Atlantic on “one of the slowest ships in the fleet.”

When Nellie stepped from the train car onto the platform on January 25, 1890, she was met with three official timekeepers, a ten-cannon salute, and adoring crowds. What’s more, she had bested herself by nearly three days. A disappointed Elizabeth sailed into New York Harbor on January 30 and was met by a small gathering. As the winner of the race, Nellie Bly was famous, her name known around the world. For Elizabeth the experience was just the beginning of a lifetime of travel and writing. But “both took on the world and triumphed, each on her own terms.”

An Author’s Note relating more about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland and how their story affected the author follows the text. The endpapers contain a map with Nellie’s and Elizabeth’s routes depicted.

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Image copyright Alexandra Bye, 2019, text copyright Caroline Starr Rose, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In her compelling and lyrical recounting of this historic contest, Caroline Starr Rose brings to life the magnitude of two women’s achievement in conquering the elements, technical setbacks, and the prevailing misconceptions about women’s abilities. Like any great travelogue, Rose’s story is peppered with scintillating details of narrow escapes, late and missed connections, and the sights, sounds, and tastes of the countries Nellie and Elizabeth traversed. Used to information that is relayed around the world in the blink of an eye and transportation that takes mere hours to travel across the globe, Children will be awed by this competition set in motion by the forerunners of these technologies and the precociousness of a fictional character. In Rose’s final pages, readers will find universal truths about the personal dynamics of winning and losing, the benefits of leaving their comfort zone, and meeting challenges on their own terms.

Alexandra Bye’s rich illustrations take readers from Nellie Bly’s newsroom and Elizabeth’s apartment to ship staterooms, luxury train compartments, and exotic locales. Along the way they see sweeping vistas, experience roiling storms, and even meet a monkey that Nellie bought. Bye’s intricate images depict the time period with a fresh sensibility that conveys the universality of the emotions and drive involved in daring adventures of all kinds and for all times.

An excellent book for children interested in history and travel as well as an inspiring spark for cross-curricular lessons, A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland would make a stirring addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807500101

Discover more about Caroline Starr Rose and her books on her website.

To learn more about Alexandra Bye, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Anniversary of the Race Around the World Activity

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Nellie Bly Coloring Page

 

Nellie Bly was an amazing woman! Not only did she set a record for fastest trip around the world but she was one of the first women journalists in the country and pioneered investigative reporting. She was also an inventor and industrialist.

Nellie Bly Coloring Page

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You can find A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Thanksgiving in the Woods

Written by Phyllis Alsdurf | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

 

A little boy watches for the signs—fall winds, leaves falling, and when “jack-o-lanterns lose their smiles”—that tell him its time for Thanksgiving in the Woods. As he counts the days he gathers all the supplies he’ll need, including his stuffed puppy Brownie and puts them in a pile. At last the day comes to get ready for Thanksgiving in the Woods. His mama wakes him early. The boy stuffs “all of [his] treasures into a backpack. Mama gathers boots and winter coats” while Daddy brings his guitar and the boy’s recorder.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

They drive until they meet up with Grandpa waiting next to his truck on a gravel road. The boy jumps in and rides with Grandpa “over rutted fields, then down a slope to a clearing under trees that reach to the clouds.” He sees that his cousins are already there, building a fort next to a stream. From Grandpa’s pickup truck come boards to make tables and bales of straw to sit on. His uncle is busy building a bonfire while neighbors sling a tarp overhead and string lights through the branches.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

At Grandma and Grandpa’s house the next morning, the little boy is up early. After breakfast, while the adults talk, the kids get dressed in their warmest clothes. When they get to the site, some people are already there. Soon, a tractor pulling a wagon appears with Mama, Grandma, and others bringing “…turkeys and dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, and corn. Oh, now it’s starting to smell like Thanksgiving in the Woods!”

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

It’s not long before family, friends, and people the little boy doesn’t even know “cross the field to the hollow under the hemlocks,” carrying all kinds of food to share. When Grandma rings a bell, everyone gathers to sing and talk about being thankful. Then it’s time to eat. “Lines of people snake around the tables” as they fill their plates. The kids take their plates to the fort to have their own Thanksgiving in the Woods.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

As night falls, “grown-ups are playing fiddles, banjos, and drums and singing songs that everyone knows. Soon Daddy joins in on his guitar,” and the boy plays a tune on his recorder. Later, Grandma passes out marshmallows to toast in the bonfire. It’s one of the boy’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving in the Woods. When all the food has been eaten and the singing, music, and dancing are done, people pack up and return to the farmyard along a candle-lit path. As the boy rides on his daddy’s shoulders, he hears “a banjo and someone singing: ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, / “Tis the gift to come down / where we ought to be.” As Grandma says, it’s “‘a perfect ending to Thanksgiving in the Woods.’”

The book opens with a photograph and description of the actual Thanksgiving in the Woods held in upstate New York that inspired the story. The music and words to the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts follows the text.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

Phyllis Alsdurf’s heartwarming recounting of this true-life Thanksgiving tradition wraps readers in the feelings of thankfulness, camaraderie, family, and friendship that the holiday embraces. Told from a little boy’s point of view, the story builds on his excitement for the preparations and the day’s celebration. Children will be enchanted by the fort where the boy and his cousins enjoy their Thanksgiving meal and may want to try it out at home. The quiet, leisurely simplicity of the gathering is a welcome respite from the commercialized day the holiday has become.

Jenny Løvlie’s illustrations glow with the warmth of autumn colors, twinkling lights, and roaring bonfires. Her double-page spreads of the woods and the clearing under the trees that hosts the annual feast are gorgeous, beautifully depicting the work that goes into creating this beloved tradition as well as the enthusiasm of the participants. The image of the group singing around the fire puts kids in the center of the celebration. As the day winds down and the families head home, readers will be happy they don’t have to wait a whole year to revisit Thanksgiving in the Woods.

Ages 4 – 7

Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1506425085

Discover more about Phyllis Alsdurf and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jenny Løvlie, her books, and her art, visit her website

World Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards to Share

 

It’s fun to surprise someone with an unexpected compliment! It makes the other person and you feel happier! Here are some printable Kindness Cards that you can give to anyone you meet today—or any day. If you’d like to write your own, here is a set of Blank Cards. You can give one to your teacher, librarian, favorite store clerk, your postal worker, your neighbors and friends, the person next to you on the bus or train. Or why not brighten someone’s day by leaving a note where they might find it—in a book at the library or bookstore, in a friend’s lunchbox, in your mailbox, on a store shelf, or anywhere you go!

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You can find Thanksgiving in the Woods at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 12 – It’s Dear Santa Letter Week

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About the Holiday

For kids who celebrate Christmas, writing a letter to Santa Claus is an exciting and hopeful activity. Their lists of things they’d like for themselves and often for family and friends too can include the practical, the impossible, and the poignant. The holiday featured today reminds children that to make sure their letter reaches Santa at the North Pole in time, it’s best to send it this week. Parents who would like for their child to receive a “personalized” letter back from Santa, can visit the USPS website to learn about the program and Santa’s helpers in Anchorage, Alaska.

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold

Written by Maureen Fergus | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

 

One snowy night close to Christmas, Mrs. Claus was doing the mending while Santa was moping. Even though Mrs. Claus asked Santa what was wrong, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her. Finally, he ventured, “‘Well, you know Harold?’” Mrs. Claus smiled and launched into a detailed description of the little boy, but Santa stopped her mid-sentence and choked out, “‘You don’t need to keep pretending on my account because…because…I don’t believe in Harold anymore.’” Mrs. Claus couldn’t believe her ears.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Santa explained that while he still liked “the idea of Harold”—after all he’d always been part of his Christmas—some things just didn’t make sense any more. For instance, Santa thought Harold’s mom wrote his letters, that his dad set out the snack, and that the Harold who’d sat on his lap last year didn’t look like the Harold from past years. For Santa, it all added up to a trick by Harold’s parents. Mrs. Claus thought her husband should accept Harold “as one of the best, most magical parts of Christmas.” But Santa just couldn’t do it.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, the elves had heard that Santa didn’t believe in children. Not all children, Santa countered and then added that his friends didn’t believe in Harold either. The elves weren’t convinced. Santa decided to take his case to the reindeer. After he’d laid out the evidence, the reindeer told Santa he needed proof. “‘And we think we know just how you can get it,’” Donner said.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

While all this was going on in the North Pole, down south Harold was “telling his parents and his friends and his turtle that he didn’t think Santa was real.” What Harold needed was proof, and he knew just how to get it. That night—Christmas Eve—Harold did all the usual things. But when his parents went to bed, he hid behind the armchair and, with a good view of the fireplace, settled in to wait. Soon, Santa landed on his very last roof—Harold’s house. Santa had a plan. He hid behind the sofa ready to see if Harold really did run downstairs in the morning.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Before Santa knew it, it was Christmas morning and Harold’s parents were standing by the tree. “‘Too bad we don’t know any little boys who’d like to open some presents from Santa,’” Harold’s mom said to tempt her son out from his spot behind the chair. Santa thought he had his proof. Then, just as Santa realized he’d never put out the presents, Harold stood up and said he didn’t care about the presents; he only wanted to know if Santa was real.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing Harold’s voice, Santa jumped up and shouted “‘You’re real!’” Seeing Santa, Harold shouted “‘You’re real!’” They ran toward each other and hugged. Then they played with the toys Santa had brought until the reindeer reminded Santa it was time to go home. Santa and Harold said their happy goodbyes until next year, and in a moment, Santa was up the chimney and out of sight.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maureen Fergus’s clever flip on believing in Santa proves that the magic of Christmas doesn’t lie in the presents we get but in that feeling of wonder that lives in hearts young and old. When Santa makes his confession to Mrs. Claus and justifies it to the elves and reindeer, there will be giggles all around as adults and older children appreciate the wry twist and younger “still believers” react to such ridiculous notions. Making inspired and humorous use of the waiting-up-to-see-Santa trope, Fergus creates suspense while setting up the climactic scene and the ingeniously worded line that one moment gives Santa his “proof” and the next dispels both Santa’s and Harold’s doubts. A relatable Santa, an elf with a twinkle of good-natured attitude,” skeptical reindeer, and a lovable child make this holiday reading at its best.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cale Atkinson’s Santa, as rotund as a Christmas Tree ornament is sympathetic and funny as he gnaws anxiously on a finger before blurting out his worries to Mrs. Claus, argues his points with waving arms, and sulks like a petulant child. These early views make Santa’s glee at the end all the more emotional. While Santa stews, a dubious Harold is shown reading “Santa Enquirer,” and his wall sports the results of his investigation. Retro touches, humorous details, and plenty of red and green add to the holiday fun, while the jolly ending fulfills all dreams.

A fresh Christmas classic kids will ask for over and over, The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is a must for adding to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498242

Discover more about Maureen Fergus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cale Atkinson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Dear Santa Letter Week Activity

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Santa Letter Template

It’s time to write a letter to Santa! Have fun coloring this printable template then use it for your letter or your Christmas wish list!

Santa Letter Template

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You can find The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 11 – Veterans Day

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About the Holiday

Veterans Day is observed each year on this date to honor and thank all members of the military who are currently serving or have served in the United States Armed Forces. The official ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery and then continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and comments by dignitaries. While an official government holiday, some schools remain in session, holding special ceremonies of their own and inviting veterans to relate their experiences.

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War

Written by Mireille Messier | Illustrated by Kass Reich

 

When a train full of soldiers stopped in a small town, they met a girl named Daisy and her goat, Billy. “The soldiers were going to war and they thought Billy would bring them luck.” Although Daisy loved her pet, she said they could take Billy with them if they promised to bring him back. During the bus ride to training camp for the Fifth Battalion, Billy endeared himself to the men with his antics, and they began calling him Private Billy. “And that’s how Billy joined the army.”

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Image copyright Kass Feich, 2019, text copyright Marielle Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Billy trained with the soldiers and encouraged them with a push when they fell behind. When the soldiers were sent to England, they snuck Billy on board the ship. “And that’s how Private Billy crossed the ocean.” As time went on, the Fifth Battalion was sent to France. “Mascots were strictly forbidden at the front,” but the men hid Billy in an empty orange crate and “that’s how Private Billy went to the front lines.” Billy seemed to be the perfect solider. He didn’t mind the adverse conditions, the “foul food” or “even the rats.”

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Image copyright Kass Feich, 2019, text copyright Marielle Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Billy celebrated victories and comforted soldiers during defeats and loneliness. The soldiers even wrote home about their beloved mascot. Even though food rations were short, Billy was happy with socks, napkins, or once even secret documents. For that misdeed, the colonel “placed the goat under arrest. And that’s how Private Billy went to jail for being a spy.” While Billy was locked up, the soldiers became bored, discontented, argumentative, and unhappy. So Billy received a pardon and was returned to the troops.

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Image copyright Kass Feich, 2019, text copyright Marielle Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

After many brave deeds, such as capturing an enemy guardsman and saving some “soldiers’ lives by head-butting them into a trench seconds before a shell exploded right where they had been standing,” private Billy was promoted to Sergeant Billy. Billy knew he could always count on the soldiers, and the soldiers knew they could always count on Billy. For his “exceptional bravery,” Billy was awarded the Mons Star. The war raged for years, but, finally, peace was declared. The soldiers—and Billy—were ready to return home. They traveled over land and across the ocean and brought Billy back to Daisy, just as they had promised.

An Author’s Note explains more about animal mascots and the way animals were used during WWI. Readers can see photographs of Billy, Daisy, and the soldiers he served with as well.

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Image copyright Kass Feich, 2019, text copyright Marielle Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Mireille Messier’s charming storytelling brings to life the extraordinary World War I experience of a goat and the soldiers who loved him. Her easy-to-follow timeline, containing humorous incidents, clever ploys to move Billy from place to place, and harrowing exploits, will capture readers’ attention and hearts. Along the way, children learn about conditions and events of war. Messier’s repeated phrasing “And that’s how Billy…” moves the story forward while contributing to the cumulative effect of Billy’s positive influence on the troops and his role in battle.

Kass Reich’s captivating illustrations immerse readers in the wartime atmosphere while focusing on Billy and his endearing personality. Seeing Billy giving a tired soldier a nudge with his horns, being smuggled from place to place, comforting a soldier, and nibbling on secret documents allows children not only to visualize these events but to understand how important Billy was to the morale of the men, whose emotions are honestly depicted. Images of Billy happily wallowing in mud, playing with rats, and gobbling down anything he finds will have kids giggling while those of Billy saving lives and getting medals will wow them. His safe passage back home to Daisy is a delightful and satisfying ending.

A superbly told story, Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War, is highly recommended. The book would make an excellent addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for general story times and especially those around Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and other patriotic holidays.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735264427

Discover more about Mireille Messier and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kass Reich, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Watch the Sergeant Billy book trailer!

Veterans Day Activity

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Happy Veterans Day! Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty-one Veterans Day related words in this printable puzzle?

Happy Veterans Day! Word Search Puzzle | Happy Veterans Day! Word Search Solution

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You can find Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 9 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

November has been designated as a time for reflecting on our lives and being grateful for our family, friends, opportunities, and the things we have. To celebrate Gratitude Month, take time to count your blessings and thank those who are important in your life.

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo Give Thanks from Two Lions to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

As Hippo raked leaves, he was “dreaming of a good, old-fashioned Thanksgiving,” but his reveries were interrupted by Duck, who landed with a plop right in the middle of Hippo’s leaf pile. When Hippo asked his friend what he was doing, Duck answered that she was having fun and invited Hippo to join her, but with a huff he said, “‘I’m trying to make the pile all nice and tidy!’” Just then, Hippo was bonked on the head by a falling apple. He handed it to Duck as a snack, who said, “‘Thanks, Hippo!’”

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That reminded Hippo that tomorrow was Thanksgiving and he asked Duck to celebrate with him. Duck suggested they invite all of their friends. They went to the grocery store to buy supplies. The shopping went quickly as Hippo whooshed down the aisles with Duck in the cart grabbing food as they went. When Hippo wanted a ride in the cart, though, he got stuck. Elephant rushed over and got him out. To thank him, Duck and Hippo invited him to their Thanksgiving feast.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At the bakery, Turtle let them skip ahead of him in line, so he was invited too. For lunch, Duck and Hippo went to Pig’s Pizza. To thank her for the delicious slices, Duck invited her to their dinner the next day. “‘Yummy!’ cried Pig. ‘I can’t wait!’” Back home, they began preparations. They helped each other gather leaves, pumpkins, squash, and apples then decorated the table together. Duck even “did a dance on the tabletop and sang, ‘TA-DA!’” before going home with the promise of seeing Hippo tomorrow.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

While Hippo was dreaming of his big old-fashioned Thanksgiving, Duck had called together Elephant, Pig, and Turtle. “‘Let’s make something special for Hippo!’” he told them. Thanksgiving morning Hippo was up early. He baked apple and pumpkin pie, acorn squash, and other goodies. Then he sat down to wait for his friends. He waited and waited. The sun went down and the moon rose. Still, Hippo’s friends hadn’t arrived. Finally, they burst through the door with a surprise for Hippo. Hippo eagerly wondered what it was.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

One by one, they showed what they had brought. Turtle held a tray of Chinese egg rolls, Elephant had made sea-cucumber sushi, Pig had created one of her famous pizza napoletanas, and Duck offered a plate of peanut-butter-and-jelly tacos. “‘SURPRISE!’” they all cheered. Hippo frowned. This was not the Thanksgiving feast he had imagined.

But then he saw how happy all of his friends looked. “He spread his arms wide and said, ‘WELCOME!’ And thank you for being who you are!’” They all sat around the table, held hands, and gave thanks for “being together, and for sharing natures bounty.” Then they gobbled up the best Thanksgiving feast ever. And when they were done? They went outside and dove into the leaves!

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

In his warmhearted Thanksgiving story, Jonathan London presents gentle conflicts which are resolved with generosity, friendship, and understanding as Duck, Hippo, and their friends prepare what each considers the perfect Thanksgiving feast. The spirit of the story lies in Hippo’s quick realization that a “good old-fashioned Thanksgiving” doesn’t lie solely in one type of meal, but in including friends, new traditions, and togetherness. Other examples of acceptance, of thoughtfulness, and of shaking off trivial accidents and minor complaints between the characters show young readers that happiness can be achieved when one fully considers a situation from both sides.

Andrew Joyner’s bright, action-packed illustrations clearly show the fond friendship between Duck and Hippo as they plan Thanksgiving dinner together. Duck’s carefree personality contrasts and complement’s Hippo’s more fastidious nature. Through the wide smiles, playfulness, and generous acts of the supporting characters young readers will understand that instead of ruining Hippo’s feast, they are excited to participate and contribute to it. Clear facial expressions and highlighted text also spotlight the strong bonds among these friends.

A feel-good story with humor and a positive message about the true meaning of Thanksgiving, Duck and Hippo Give Thanks—the latest in the Duck and Hippo series, which includes Duck and Hippo in the Rain and Duck and Hippo Lost and Found—is a wonderful addition to the series for fans and a terrific holiday book for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900806

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You’re invited to watch the Duck and Hippo Give Thanks book trailer!

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game

 

Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!

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You can find Duck and Hippo Give Thanks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 8 – National STEM/STEAM Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2015, National STEM/STEAM Day aims to encourage kids to explore the fields of science technology, engineering, art, and math. These subjects are the backbone of innovation and discovery. Children who are introduced early on to the workings of math and science do better as they advance through school and are more likely to choose science-based careers. Solving many of the problems that the world now faces relies on having a workforce who can think creatively and inventively to design a better future for us all. To learn more about STEM and STEAM and to find activities to get kids excited about these subjects, visit the TERC website.

The Brain Is Kind of a Big Deal

By Nick Seluk

 

Are you a fan of The Brainiacs? You know, that group led by the Brain that keeps you humming along all day, every day? Yeah, they’re at the top of the (medical) charts, and it’s the Brain that keeps them there. Want to know more about how their body of work all comes together? Then settle in with Nick Seluk’s hip, informative, and clever introduction to the brain and all that it does from its command center “inside of your head, behind your eyes, and under your hair.” From there the brain works continuously, collecting and remembering “information about everything you experience.”

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Copyright Nick Seluk, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Ready to turn the page? You can’t do it without your brain telling your arm, your hand, and your fingers what to do—and in what seems like no time at all. As you turn the pages you’ll learn how the brain sends these messages to the muscles and organs through synapses, which is a little bit like passing notes in class, and along a “highway” of nerves. Turn a few more pages and you’ll learn about involuntary and voluntary functions, how you know when to eat and when you’re full, and how when you sleep and dream, your brain gets ready for the next day.” Even when “…it dreams about weird stuff.”

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Copyright Nick Seluk, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

But the Brain isn’t a solo act. He collaborates with the senses, which work through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and nervous system, to collect data that helps you remember what things look, sound, smell, and feel like. The brain is great at doing stuff, but it’s also an awesome thinker. With your own incredible brain “you can imagine things and solve problems just by thinking about them.” Ideas aren’t the only things that come from the brain; feelings to too. And the interesting thing about this is that while “you feel happy, sad, angry, or scared without ever having to learn how, you can control how you react when you feel something….” So, what does all of this brain power add up to? Everything that makes you YOU!”

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Copyright Nick Seluk, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Back matter includes a glossary of terms found in the book, wild facts about animal brains (did you know “a cockroach can live for weeks without its head and brain?”), and a round up The Brainiacs bandmates’ social media posts. The reverse side of the book jacket contains a The Brainiacs concert poster. The front end papers’ riffs on album covers can make for fun adult/child nostalgia bonding,

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Copyright Nick Seluk, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Fascinating facts about the brain and how it works are accompanied by Nick Seluk’s charming cartoon-style illustrations of anthropomorphized organs, muscles, neurons, and of course the star of the book, the brain—a spectacle-wearing pink orb. These characters are full of personality and puns while taking orders from upstairs. The heart is “pumped” watching messages speed along the nervous system; eyes cry when they receiving the command after an “ouch!” is sent from a nerve to the brain; and the lungs are astonished to learn they must gasp and huff “forever.” Seluk’s writing is clear and engaging, translating the communications from the brain to the rest of the body into steps and purposes that children can understand. Seluk’s sly humor, sprinkled throughout the book, is always in service of the text and allows kids to relate to the concept at hand.

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As the brain recalls information it’s learned, it huddles in a command center where the computer identifies a tree by these attributes. “Sight: Green and Brown; Sound: Rustling; Touch: Rough; Taste: Gross.” When the brain sees a hand hovering over a stove burner, it goes to work. The ring is “bright red, stove says ‘On,’ Mom said ‘No,’ smells hot.” The brain sends out its urgent warning: “Abort! Don’t touch that! Remember last time?! The brain sure does, as the picture of it with bandaged hands on the computer screen shows. Full-bleed, vibrant backgrounds set off the comic-strip panels, funny interactions between Brain and Nose, Ears, Tongue, and other body parts, and Smart Stuff sidebars full of interesting tidbits. Kids will gain valuable knowledge about the body as they giggle through the text in Seluk’s sharp presentation that deftly navigates the dual hemispheres of fun and learning to spotlight the brain for the rock star it is.

You can’t go wrong by adding The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal to your home, classroom, or public library. It is—as they say—a no brainer!

Ages 6 – 8

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338167009

Discover more about Nick Seluk, his books, his art, and so much more on his website.

National STEM/STEAM Day Activity

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Be a Scientist!

 

If you love STEAM subjects at school, you could grow up to be one of the scientists in this printable word search puzzle. Which would you choose?

What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Puzzle and Solution

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You can find The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

I received a copy of Iced Out from Cicada Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Cicada Books on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Iced Out

Written by CK Smouha | Illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

 

At Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals, Wilfred, a walrus, and Neville, a narwhal, stood out among the rest of the class of seals—but not in the way they wanted to. With his pointy horn that deflated every ball he caught, Neville “never got picked for the football team.” And Wilfred’s overly aromatic lunch meant he always sat by himself. Even parties were perilous, “so they didn’t get invited very often.” You might think that Neville and Wilfred would be friends, but they weren’t—not really.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Wilfred and Neville disliked mornings, and thinking about the week ahead made Sundays tough too. But one Monday something amazing happened. A new student joined the class—Betty Beluga. “Everyone wanted to play with her. But Betty wasn’t interested.” She sat alone at lunch, didn’t join the football team even though she was an awesome scorer, and declined the invitations she got for parties. “Wilfred and Neville were smitten.” In fact, now they couldn’t wait to go to school as they daydreamed about Betty.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Neville decided he had to prove himself to Betty, and he practiced catching a ball without impaling it on his horn. Finally, he had the knack. The next day, though, just as he was showing Betty, Wilfred “accidentally” bumped into him and Neville’s trick went splat. Wilfred swam off with Neville in pursuit. Wilfred was good at hiding and Neville couldn’t find him anywhere. Betty thought they were playing hide-and-seek—her favorite game—and she joined the search. When she found Wilfred, it was her turn to hide. The three played all afternoon.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Even though they were getting along, there was still a rivalry between Wilfred and Neville for Betty’s affections. “Who would you like to rescue you from dragons,” they wondered. But Betty set them straight. “I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much,” she told them. After that was understood, they became best friends. They ate lunch together, did classwork together, sometimes went to parties, and were just fine with not being like everyone else.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

CK Smouha’s story about a narwhal and a walrus who are ostracized by their classmates but find friendship with a new student is a complex tale that touches on group dynamics, self-esteem, independence, jealousy, finding your niche, and other topics that children deal with every day. There is a difference between totally fitting in and being accepted that frames the story and gives it its emotional punch. The pages in which Wilfred cowers under his covers, not wanting to go to school and Neville spends Sundays replaying the bullying he’s endured are heart-wrenching and important in that they reveal to readers that what happens in school colors life out of school. These pages also give children for whom these feelings are a reality a opening for discussing them. When Betty Beluga joins the class, she becomes a role model for Neville and Wilfred as well as for readers. While she has all the prerequisites to fit in with the seals, she charts her own course, maintaining her individuality.

As Neville and Wilfred become smitten with their new classmate, their hearts swell with romantic love, depicted with humorous snapshots of the two listening to love songs, writing adoring messages, playing cupid, and imagining themselves as rescuing heroes. Betty’s welcome reaction shuts this down, showing her burgeoning independent self-image while opening the door to true friendship. Accepted by Betty, Neville and Wilfred discover that where and how they fit in is just right for them.

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Isabella Bunnell’s matte illustrations, rendered in hues of blue, gold, red and black give a distinctive look to this multilayered story. Bunnell uses subtle shifts in the characters’ faces and body positions to portray their full range of emotions, giving readers much to think and talk about. With the exception of the hide-and-seek scenes, Bunnell chooses to depict the setting without an ocean background. Her pages thus orient readers in school, home, and sports-field environments that are familiar to them, reinforcing the universal theme of the story.

A unique and thoughtful look at the dynamics of groups, defining oneself, and friendship, Iced Out would be a discussion-starting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for all children.

Ages 3 – 8

Cicada Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1908714626

To view a portfolio of artwork by Isabella Bunnell, visit her tumblr.

Iced Out Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Cicada Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Iced Out written by CK Smouha | illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite sea creature for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 7 through November 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 14.

Prizing provided by Cicada Books

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

Picture Book Month Activity

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Sea Animal Friends Coloring Pages

 

These cute sea animals like playing together. Grab your crayons and give their world some color!

Beluga | Narwhal | Seal | Walrus 

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You can find Iced Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review