December 3 – National Day of Giving and a Chat with Author Carole Gerber

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About the Holiday

Since 2012 the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been designated as a day to celebrate generosity and giving to others. 92nd Street Y in New York City created the holiday for people to think about charitable giving to those less fortunate not only for one day or one month, but all year round. How you give can take many forms—from time, voice, dollars, or goods to kindness or talent. Participants can be found across the United States and in more than 100 countries. The spirit of today’s holiday will fill you with cheer every day! To learn more about how individuals or organizations can get involved in the US or globally, visit the Giving Tuesday website.

I received a copy of The Gifts of the Animals from Familius for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

After the animals in a Bethlehem stable watch Joseph help Mary dismount from their donkey’s back, they go to work to prepare a place for the soon-to-be-born baby Jesus to sleep. “The ox that stands in the drafty shed / drops straw into a manger bed.” The sheep and lambs add bits of wool to make the bed “feel soft and full.”

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Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Using downy feathers from the sparrows, chickens, and little chicks, the mice make a plump pillow for Jesus’ head. The cow finds a blanket, and with the help of the ox they lay it over the manger. “Then in this place, humble and warm, Christ, the Prince of Peace, is born.” Mary wraps Him in swaddling clothes then Joseph lays Him in the manger to sleep.

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Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

On a distant hillside, shepherds are startled by the brightening stars but listen to the angel who tells them of Jesus’ birth. Then the sky fills with a choir of angels singing “‘Peace on earth. Good will toward men. / Go now, shepherds, worship him.’” The shepherds hurry to Bethlehem to join in the joy of Mary, Joseph, and the gentle animals and to sing “‘Glory to our newborn king!’”

A condensed version of the Christmas story from the King James version of the book of Luke, chapter 2 follows the story.

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Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

The wonder of that first Christmas night glows in Carole Gerber’s beautiful story that follows the animals in the stable as they make a warm and soft bed for Jesus to sleep in. Young readers will be mesmerized by the gentle generosity of the ox, cow, sheep, birds, and mice as they all work together to provide for the baby to come. As the shepherds are visited by the angels and go to worship Jesus, Gerber uses the lyrical language and flowing cadence of the King James version of the biblical story to create a tender and glorious read aloud for the whole family. 

Yumi Shimokawara’s gorgeous, soft-hued illustrations are breathtaking in their detail and inspiration. Pride, fellowship, and diligence shine on the animals’ faces as they create a manger bed worthy of the baby Jesus. Realistic and traditional images of the stone stable, the shepherds and their flock blend poignantly with the depiction of the singing angels that could come from any diverse modern choir. The final illustration in which the animals and the shepherds gather around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in adoration reveals the promise and hope of the true meaning of Christmas.

Sure to become a favorite Christmas story to share year after year, The Gifts of the Animals would be a beloved addition to home bookshelves and a beautiful inclusion for library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701594

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website

A Chat with Carole Gerber

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Poet and author Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college news writing and factual writing at OSU.

I’m thrilled to be talking with Carole Gerber again about her newest book for Christmas.

What inspired you to write The Gifts of the Animals?

In my random travels around the Internet, I came across a site called “The Hymns and Carols of Christmas.” One post contained the words to a song called “The Friendly Beasts.” The notes said “This song originally hails from a 12th century Latin song,” which was later known in England as “The Animal Carol.” It began: “Jesus our brother kind and good/was humbly born in a stable rude/and the friendly beasts around him stood/Jesus our brother, kind and good.” Here’s one more verse: “I,” said the cow all white and red / “I gave Him my manger for His bed;/I gave him my hay to pillow his head.”/ “I,” said the cow all white and red.

The song also mentions a dove cooing Jesus to sleep, the sheep giving him a blanket. It ends: “Thus every beast by some good spell/in the stable dark was glad to tell/of the gift he gave Emmanuel/The gift he gave Emmanuel.” What I wrote sounds nothing like the original, but it gave me the idea that sparked my story. I then developed my story into a 32-page picture book by including Mary and Joseph, other animals with useful gifts, the angels announcing the birth, and the arrival of the shepherds.

“The Animal Carol” sounds lovely. Do you know if it’s still performed?

After the book went to press, I found that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had performed the exact words of the original song. There’s a YouTube video that lasts about six minutes. I had no idea that it was famous! A man named Brian Stokes Mitchell was the main singer. He and the choir actually tweet and baa, making some of the animal sounds.  

Such a feeling of peace and love flows through your book. How do you go about choosing words and phrasing and even the poetic form to create that mood?

I wrote and revised it many times, of course. But I never felt frustrated and truly did feel peaceful and loving as I wrote. The art director, David Miles, was great to work with. We brainstormed about other animals that would live in a stable and might contribute to preparing the manger. I came up with mice to carry the feathers from the birds perched on the rafters. Nothing appropriate rhymes with “manger” so I came up with “ox” to rhyme with “manger box.” A sweet result of involving more animals (besides getting enough pages to fill the book) was that they all worked cooperatively.

The Gifts of the Animals is absolutely gorgeous, from the glowing gold-embossed cover to the images of the gentle animals that are happily helping to the jubilant angels that mirror a modern choir. Can you tell me about Yumi Shimokawara and how she was chosen to illustrate your book?

David Miles met her at the Bologna Book Fair in 2017, and was absolutely blown away by her talent. She lives in Japan and had won many awards, including the grand prize at her art school. Yumi had written and illustrated several books published in Japan. My favorite title is Potsu, posu, potsu daijobu, which translates in English to Plip-plop, Plip-plop, Plip-plop, Are You All Right? The title makes me smile. Yumi is not fluent in English so she worked with a Japanese friend who helped her translate David’s emails containing art directions. She did the cover first and it is beautiful. But she had given the baby blond hair and pale skin. My comment was, “We can’t have Jesus looking Swedish!” David replied, “No worries. I will fix this with Photoshop.” He darkened the baby’s hair and skin a bit and directed Yumi as she worked on the interior pages, to make all the people more authentically Middle Eastern.

Each spread is so beautiful on its own, but do you have a favorite? What makes that illustration special to you?

I love how happy and expressive the animals are, especially in the last spread when the people and animals are gathered around the Holy Family. Jesus is not the only baby in that picture. Yumi put baby chicks in that spread, too, which makes it even more touching. I also smile at the inside cover page, which has at the bottom an adorable illustration of a small choir of mice and birds. One little mouse is clasping his paws as he sings his heart out.

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Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

At the end of your story you include a condensed version of Chapter 2 from the Biblical book of Luke in the King James Version. How did you choose which version of the story to include?

I earned a King James Bible when I was about eight years old as a reward for attending Sunday School for 10 Sundays straight. Ever since, I have loved the grandeur of the language in the King James Bible. Compare the words between the King James and The New International Version.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The New International Version of the Bible states:

“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

No guest room available? It sounds like what a desk clerk in a motel would say. Bah!

What is one of your favorite family Christmas traditions?

Every time I get a new book published, my husband makes a Christmas tree ornament of the cover. This started years ago when my daughter Jess was in middle school. She secretly used my husband’s power tools – EEEK! – to cut to size a small piece of plywood on which she glued a small photocopied cover of one of my first published books. She put a doll house size clothes hanger on the back to attach it to the tree. After that, every Christmas, the last things we put on our tree are the miniature covers of my books.

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What a sweet and supportive tradition! It’s such a nice idea to adapt with photos or drawings for any family wanting to celebrate achievements from the past year. Thanks so much for this chat, Carole! I wish you all the best with The Gifts of the Animals and a very Merry Christmas with your family.

National Day of Giving Activity

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Tell the Good News! Word Search Puzzle

Find the sixteen words about the first Christmas in this printable puzzle.

Tell the Good News! Word Search Puzzle | Tell the Good News! Word Search Solution

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You can find The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

December 2 – Get Ready for Christmas

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About the Holiday

For those who celebrate Christmas, Santa Claus’s visit is eagerly anticipated. Kids and adults alike all know about Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, his stable of magic reindeer, and his nighttime ride, but how did Santa become…well…Santa? You’ll find out in today’s book!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of When Santa was a Baby for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

When Santa Was a Baby

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout

 

When Santa was a baby his parents loved his merry dimples and his “‘little nose…like a cherry,’” and when they tickled his tiny toes, expecting a gurgle or coo, they heard a booming “‘HO, HO, HO!’” As he grew older and learned his colors, Santa developed a distinct preference for red, so the “‘dandy blue pajamas from Aunt Mable’” went back in the drawer. “‘Maybe he’ll be a firefighter,’” said his mom.

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

On his birthday, Santa had fun opening a passel of presents, including a toy firetruck from mom and dad, toys from Grandma and Uncle Ned, and “yellow pajamas from Aunt Mable.” But after he’d opened them, he wrapped them up again and gave them away to other children. On his next birthday, Santa asked for a pet that looked like a horse “that had horns and could pull a flying sled.” His parents weren’t sure about all this, so they got Santa a hamster, who soon had eight babies that loved pulling the matchbox full of little toys that Santa hitched them to. Santa’s dad though it was “‘extraordinary,’” and his mom said, “‘He’s so creative!’”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Santa was extraordinary in lots of other ways too. His curiosity for the cold blast from the refrigerator and the sooty chimney led his proud parents to think he might grow up to be a scientist. Santa had a best friend named Eldred, and together they loved to make toys and other things. As a teenager, he “knew his own mind” and even though “he didn’t always fit in with the crowd,” the other kids liked him, and, of course, “his parents thought he was wonderful.”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Now Santa is all grown up and has “followed his childhood dreams.” He has a crew of elves, led by Eldred, to make toys and he finally has the reindeer he always wanted. On Christmas Eve as he flies around the world, his parents “listen for his sleigh bells. They wave and blow kisses as Santa dips low over their house.” It’s just what they “always thought he’d do.”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Linda Bailey’s gentle, humorous tale of Santa Claus’ origins in a little boy who always knew who he was and followed his heart will delight children of all ages. With a sprinkling of descriptions about Santa that echo Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, Bailey’s storytelling fits nicely into the traditional image of Santa while revealing while answering kids’ questions about his generosity, the elves, his reindeer, and his North Pole home. Adults will appreciate the support Santa’s bemused parents show as their child grows up and their pride in the man their son is. Underlying Bailey’s story about Santa is an uplifting reminder for all kids to embrace who they are and to follow their dreams.

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Geneviève Godbout’s slightly gauzy illustrations rendered in muted browns, greens, and golds punctuated with red bridge the past and the present with rustic details and universal hair and clothing styles, adorable hamster pets, and Christmas traditions. Children will giggle at the booming “Ho, Ho, Ho!” that erupts from baby Santa and the image of him standing naked (except for one red sock) in front of the open refrigerator with a fan blowing and a popsicle waiting on the table. Little readers will be happy to see that young Santa had an elf friend, who was equally comfortable being himself while wearing green and long, pointy-toed socks. Godbout’s images of the grown Santa at the North Pole and flying in his sleigh on Christmas Eve close out the story in a cheery and satisfying way.

Charming from beginning to end, When Santa Was a Baby would be an often-asked-for addition to Christmas story times from year to year and is highly recommended for home and library collections.

Ages Preschool and Up

Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770495562 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1101919163 (Board Book)

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Geneviève Godbout, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

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Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make eye-catching decorations for your tree. Make some to give to friends too!

Supplies

  • Plastic ornaments, available at craft stores
  • Nail polish in various colors
  • Plastic bowl or container, deep enough to dip the ornament into the water
  • Drying stand – I used a clear, plastic egg carton, or string for hanging ornaments to dry

Directions

Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water

  1. Using two or three colors, gently “paint” the water with the nail polish, using the brush or a toothpick in dots and swirls
  2. Slowly dip the plastic ornament into the water and turn it to pick up the nail polish floating on the top of the water
  3. To dry, place the ornament on a stand or hang with a paper plate, wax paper, or other paper to catch drips

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You can find When Santa Was a Baby at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 29 – National Day of Listening and Santa’s Story Blog Tour

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About the Holiday

Stories are traditions! As we enter a season in which everyone has their favorite holiday stories—as shown in today’s book—we also celebrate family stories. StoryCorps chose the day after Thanksgiving for family and friends to tell and record their unique and collective stories for themselves and future generations. The mission of StoryCorps is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” StoryCorps even provides an online archive of individual and family stories that enrich our culture for anyone to listen to. Whether you share your stories with others or record them for your own family, remember that every story counts and should be heard. To learn more about StoryCorps, hear fascinating stories, or upload your own, visit StoryCorps.

I received a copy of Santa’s Story for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of Santa’s Story. See details below.

Santa’s Story

By Will Hillenbrand

 

’Twas a snowy Christmas Eve night. Santa was ready for his yearly ride, but when he went to hitch up his reindeer, he found the stalls empty. Where were the reindeer? Out on the snow-covered hills, they were each doing their own thing. In a race with some rabbits, “Dasher dashed. ‘I better hightail it!’” he exclaimed as he fell behind. Meanwhile, Dancer was dancing—twirling, high-stepping, and leaping.

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Copyright Will Hillenbrand, 2019, courtesy of Two Lions.

Prancer had gathered an audience and was strutting his stuff. And while the snow lay thick on the ground, there still wasn’t enough for Vixen who “vexed, ‘More snow!’” to the snowman who was happy to oblige with his shiny, red snow blower. Watching the snowflakes flutter down, with awe “Comet commented, ‘Soon it’ll be Christmas!’” The other reindeer were also enjoying the winter wonderland in their own way, unaware that Santa was looking for them.

Back home, with the sleigh packed with a bulging bag of toys, Santa wondered where his reindeer could have gone. He tried blowing a horn, jingling sleigh bells, and even calling out a booming “‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’” Still, no deer appeared. Then, as Santa pondered, he happened to spy Comet with a book in front of him “and remembered their Christmas Eve tradition.” He called out “Story Time!” and all the reindeer came prancing and dashing and dancing back home. They settled in around Santa and under lantern light listened to him read “‘’Twas the night before Christmas….’” Happy and satisfied, the reindeer got in line in front of Santa’s sleigh ready to take off on the merriest flight of the year.

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Copyright Will Hillenbrand, 2019, courtesy of Two Lions.

Will Hillenbrand’s sweet tribute to a favorite tradition of Christmas—the reading of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas—reveals the individual personalities of the world’s most famous reindeer while they wait for Santa to get Christmas started properly. Little ones will enjoy joining in on each reindeer’s Christmas Eve activity while learning some new words, such as hightail, vexed, and crooned, and discovering how these words relate to the action and/or the reindeer.

Hillenbrand’s lovely, softly hued illustrations add a sense of magic to this North Pole setting, where lights glow from windows, ornaments add sparkles of color to the snowy landscape, and a bunny peeks out from the snowman’s top hat (readers familiar with Hillenbrand’s Snowman’s Story will be cheered to see this pair’s cameo). Hillenbrand’s inclusion of a lighthouse—it’s beam shining brightly out into the world—is an enchanting touch to Santa’s home. Readers will have fun pointing out the searching Santa on the pages and may figure out the mystery before Santa does by carefully watching his adorable pet.

A charming lead-in to readings of A Visit from Saint Nicholas or as a new tradition on its own, Santa’s Story would be a delightful addition to Christmas story time wish lists.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043380

Will Hillenbrand has written and illustrated many beloved picture books, including Snowman’s Story, Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles, and the Bear and Mole series. He has also illustrated dozens of books, including the Big Bear series by Maureen Wright. Will lives with his wife and son in Terrace Park, Ohio. You can find out more about him at www.willhillenbrand.com.

You can connect with Will on Facebook | Instagram 

Santa’s Story Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Santa’s Story by Will Hillenbrand

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite reindeer for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 30 through December 5 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 6

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

National Day of Listening Activity

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Reindeer Teams Match-Up Puzzle

 

Match the two-member reindeer teams so they can help Santa in this printable puzzle!

Reindeer Teams Match-Up Puzzle

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You can find Santa’s Story at these booksellers

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

 

November 27 – It’s National Knit a Sweater Month

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About the Holiday

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, knitters have designed their own challenge – NaKniSweMo. At the beginning of the month, dedicated knitters got out their needles and yarn with the idea of creating a 50,000-stitch—or sweater-size—garment. As the month comes to a close, knitters are finishing up their last stitches on a new sweater that will keep them cozy this winter.

Crafty Llama

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

It was a gorgeous day and Llama knew she should concentrate on her “chores, this, that, and whatever,” but that big mound of fluff was calling to her. And because “it was such a beautiful day,” she wanted to do “something lovely.” So she took herself outside, and while she decided what to do with the day, she kept her hands busy with her knitting needles. “She felt like the answer was sitting right in front of her, but she just couldn’t see it.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2018, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Pretty soon Raccoon dropped by with a string and beads, and then Rabbit came over with her embroidery, and Pony with the quilt he was stitching. It didn’t take long for almost all of Llama’s friends to join in with their own projects. When Beaver stopped by, he only wanted to make something that was useful. He studied Llama’s long stretch of knitting and wanted to know what it was. Llama hadn’t really thought about it. “She had just been having fun making.” She asked Beaver what he would do with it, but he didn’t know. Raccoon suggested a sail, Pony thought it would make a great rocket, and Rabbit opted for a hot-air balloon basket. But Beaver wasn’t convinced.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2018, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

By now more of Llama’s friends had shown up, and they all found bits of her knitting very useful. Lion found a hairband, Elephant discovered a neat way to carry his trunk, and there was even “something for Turtle when he came out of his shell.” Llama was excited to see that “if you have fun making something, others are bound to enjoy it too.” All of Llama’s friends were sporting new, knitted somethings that were just right for them—“everyone but Beaver.”

Beaver wanted something…but what? What would be useful? He decided to do what always helped him think. He gnawed and gnawed and chewed and chewed on some trees while mulling over his options. At last, he and Llama took a break. Beaver’s break turned into a much-deserved sleep, because while Beaver was “‘thinking,’ he had made something special for everyone too.” Suddenly, Llama knew what her “crafty something” was useful for. She slipped a bit under Beaver’s head and covered him with a bit more, and Beaver continued snoozing cozily. Now when Llama and her friends get together for crafting, they love their brand new place to do it in!

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2018, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Kerr’s sweet tribute to the joys of crafting and imagination will delight little artists and makers of all kinds. Thoughtful Beaver and more free-wheeling Llama make good foils—and friends—in this story that introduces a full studio of artistic endeavors as well as different thought patterns that make each person unique. While many of Llama’s friends immediately recognize how to use the “crafty something” they choose, Beaver is more precise, wondering about logistics, practicality, and even safety. It turns out that Beaver is more like Llama than he might think as he also crafts a perfect gift for all of his friends.

Renata Liwska’s well-known adorable animals make the cutest crafting companions ever. Llama’s HGTV-worthy kitchen lets the sun shine in on her big ball of wool that’s just waiting to be spun into yarn. As one lovable friend after another joins the crafting party, young readers will be enticed to try all of their arts—from sewing to painting, stamping to terrarium making, basket weaving to needle crafts, and more. Little ones will wish they were in the midst of all the fun as Llama’s friends pick out just the right clever gift for their needs. They’ll want to linger over every page to see how each “crafty something” is used and to catch all of the details. When children spy Beaver’s beautiful pavilion, they’ll understand that giving is an art of its own.

For children enthusiastic about making things or who are looking to experiment with their own creative talent, as well as for anyone who is thoughtfully precise, Crafty Llama is an engaging story. The book would be a welcome addition to home libraries classroom bookshelves to accompany art and other creative lessons. 

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681191218

Discover more about the art and writing of Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska on their website, RandMCollective.com.

To view a portfolio of work by Renata Liwska, visit her website

National Knit a Sweater Month Activity

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Stand Out from the Flock! Coloring Page

 

You’ll always stand out from the flock in a hand-knit sweater! Give this unique sheep your own personal touch in this printable coloring page.

Stand Out from the Flock! Coloring Page
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You can find Crafty Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written by Danielle Davison | Illustrated by Anne Lambelet

 

Whenever Liam’s father came home from the sea, he told his son wonderous tales of “the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen.” Someday, Liam thought, he would join his father and have his own tales to tell, but for now he enjoyed sharing his father’s stories with others. One day, though, Liam’s father didn’t return. “Liam thought of the stories he hadn’t heard, the ones he’d never hear again, and the adventures they would never take.” He didn’t feel like telling his father’s stories any more.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Even though Liam knew his father wouldn’t return, he spent his days at the harbor in the company of the sailors there who told their stories; but none were as good as his father’s had been. One day, a very old man appeared on the dock. His name was Enzo, but the sailors called him “‘the Traveler.’” Liam had never seen anyone like him before. He talked of wonderous voyages, and as he did his beard grew and grew, “until each story he told wove from his face like a tapestry.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

People traveled from all over to see the Traveler and his beard. Many thought it was strange or odd, but Liam thought it was perfect. One day, just before the Traveler was about to set off on what he said was his last voyage, he announced that he was looking for a “worthy companion” whom he could pass his gift on to. Many people on the dock raised their hand and Liam did too, although he didn’t think the Traveler would pick him. The Traveler did choose him, though, and before he knew it, Liam was setting sail. “‘I feel like my heart might burst from my chest!’ said Liam.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The Traveler taught Liam how to truly observe and listen to the world around him. They traveled to places not on any map and saw many unusual creatures. “But after many suns had set, Enzo’s soul grew weary.” As Liam sat with him, Enzo told him he’d like to give him a gift. Enzo asked Liam to close his eyes and tell him a story. After giving it some thought, Liam talked about his father, about his friend, and about all of their adventures. “Liam’s words wove splendid pictures, the way his father’s once had.”

As he talked, the magic of storytelling came back to him, and the Traveler bestowed his gift. Liam’s hair grew and grew, unfolding like a tapestry.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Danielle Davison’s mystical ode to storytelling and life relived and revived through words unwinds with the wonder of traditional tales tinted with the curiosity and imagination of children. While Liam misses his father and the adventures he thought they would have together, he is also open to new experiences and friendships—a quality that allows him to restore the future he had for himself.

Anne Lambelet’s rich and unique illustrations, appearing as if they have been hewn from wood, convey all of the mystery and wonder of the story. Through colorful ribbons teeming with ships, pirates, unicorns, mountains, trees, castles, cities, marvelous creatures, and more, Lambelet connects the gift of storytelling that Liam’s father, the Traveler, and, finally, Liam possess. The color fades to gray as Liam learns of his father’s loss, but even here, his sadness is diffused by just the hint of sun or the glimmer of candlelight. Lambelet’s use of color and black-and-white imagery also reveals Liam’s growth.

Lambelet’s ocean and dockside illustrations are gorgeous and extend to the front and end endpapers that each tell a part of Liam’s life. Lambelet’s lush color palette adds beauty to each page, and the people and objects that appear in the stories by Liam’s father, the Traveler, and Liam will keep readers lingering over the pages to what they are, where they come from, and how they are connected.

A book for thoughtful story times that celebrates the regenerative and enlivening power of imagination and keeping one’s heart open, The Traveler’s Gift would be a distinctive addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624147654

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

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I Love My Family! Portrait

 

What is one of your favorite family stories? Use this printable heart-framed I Love My Family! Page to write or draw about that story!

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You can find The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 25 – It’s Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

National Farm City Week aims to raise awareness of America’s farmers and ranchers, who “dedicate their lives to promoting our nation’s agricultural abundance and environmental stewardship.” During this week we take the opportunity to support the crucial relationship “between farms and families and work to ensure farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations.” It is through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Farmblock

Written by Chrisopher Franceschelli | Illustrated by Peskimo

 

A rooster calls all kids to take a trip to the farm to see all that happens year ‘round in this adorably chunky board book! Little readers will have a blast following a sister and brother—and their dog—as they say good morning to the ducks in the pond, the cows outside the barn, and the chickens who are happy to share their eggs and show off a dozen newly hatched chicks.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Morning greetings give way to morning chores, and the children take buckets of compost “past the old blue tractor” to the pile, where their dog has discovered a perfect place to roll and play. Ewww! A hose and a tub of soapy water cleans him up. Then it’s time to visit the “big red barn” to “help mild the cows, brush the horses, and feed the goats. Even the “mama sow and all her piglets” get their breakfast slop.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

On this fall day, the corn and the apples are ready to be harvested. The fresh corn is just right for a picnic, and the apples will make a delicious pie for Grandpa. There are pumpkins in the field for making jack o’ lanterns, and later all the members of the family sit down around the long dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving.

As the weather turns frosty, Mama chops logs and the kids gather kindling for the woodpile. The “horses in the paddock don’t mind a little snow, but the birds in the forest appreciate the seeds the girl and boy scatter for them. Evening falls and it’s time to “head home to roast marshmallows by the fire.”

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

The family is happy when spring comes. “Bees buzz in every flower…and the lambs are born.” The animals are excited to be outside in the pasture again. It’s time to get the ground ready for planting “so the plants grow up…and up! And the plants grow down…and down!” The grass grows high in summer, but then it is cut and “rolled into bales to hoist high into the hayloft.” Berry bushes produce plump, juicy berries for jam to sell on farmers market day!

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With plenty of surprises and sprightly storytelling, Christopher Franceschelli gives little readers a tour of a farm throughout the year. His straightforward sentences are cheery and sprinkled with words such as compost, harvest, paddock, and hoist that children who are developing their vocabulary will be proud to know. Kids will be excited to see annual events that their familiar with as well as to learn about the crops and the changes for the animals that occur during each season.

Just as in the other block books in the series, Peskimo delights readers with lots of cut-out windows to peek through, gate-fold pages to open out…and out and even up and down. Behind the gate folds await sweet and humorous discoveries that will have little ones giggling and aww-ing. Each page is bright and bold, and smiles abound from the close siblings to their mom, dad and grandpa to the cute animals and their babies. Even the jack o’ lanterns have wide grins. Kids and adults will enjoy pointing out and talking about all of the details of farm life included on every page and especially the antics of the tiny mouse on each spread.

A charmer that will captivate little ones’ imagination, Farmblock is a book that children will want to read again and again. The book makes a terrific gift and addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages Baby to 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738258

You can view a portfolio of artwork by Peskimo on their website.

Farm City Week Activity

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Grow a Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Farmblock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 23 – National Adoption Day

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About the Holiday

National Adoption Day is a national collective initiative to raise awareness of the more than 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent families. Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network, National Adoption Day was instituted in 2000, and since then has made the wishes of nearly 75,000 children come true. To learn more, visit the National Adoption Day website.

I received a copy of A Crazy-Much Love from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below. 

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crazy-much-love-travel

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.

A Crazy-Much Love Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of A Crazy-Much Love written by Joy Jordan-Lake | illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with something you crazy-much love about your kid(s) for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 23 through November 29 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 30.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

National Adoption Day Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

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You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review