June 27 – It’s Effective Communications Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, body language can say a lot, but effectively expressing yourself in words and writing helps decrease misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hurt feelings, and conflict. Learning to handle important relationships and work obligations with thoughtful care, consideration, and empathy can take patience and practice. This month people are invited to work on their communications skills to enhance their life with family, friends, co-workers, and others.

The Bear Who Stared

By Duncan Beedie

 

Bear loves to stare…and stare…and stare. One morning he emerges from his den to find a family of ladybugs having a picnic breakfast. He can’t help but gaze at them intently. “‘What are you staring at?’” the daddy ladybug demands before he and his family pack up to find a more private leaf. Bear continues on his way. In a bit he climbs a tree and stares at a bird feeding her chicks. “‘Can I help you?’” the mother bird asks, but Bear remains silent. The chicks don’t like Bear interfering with their meal, so the mother bird angrily tells him to “‘sshhhooooo!’”

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Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At the bottom of the tree Bear spies a badger hole and sticks his head inside. The badger, particularly irritated at Bear’s badgering stare while he is shaving, bites poor bear on the nose. Sore and dejected, Bear wanders through the forest to a large pond. He sits down on a log to ponder his situation. He doesn’t mean to be annoying, he’s “just curious but too shy to say anything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-ladybugs-yelling

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

A little frog floating on a lily pad in the middle of the pond pipes up, “‘I’ve seen that look before.’” Bear stares at the frog and the frog stares back. “‘Not much fun being stared at, is it?’” he says. Bear confesses that he just doesn’t know what to say to anyone. Just then Bear catches a glimpse of another bear staring back at him from the mossy water of the pond. This bear looks exactly like Bear, except that he is green and wavy. Suddenly, the green bear smiles. “‘You see?’” says the frog. “‘Sometimes a smile is all you need.’” The frog dives off his lily pad into the pond, and the green bear disappears too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-staring

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The next day Bear leaves his den and discovers the ladybug family breakfasting again. As soon as they spot Bear, they begin to gather their things. “‘Hello!’” Bear says with a big smile on his face. The ladybugs are surprised and happy. “‘Oh, hello!’” replies the dad, smiling back. With renewed confidence Bear wanders into the forest. He smiles at the birds and smiles at the badger, and they smile at him in return. Bear makes a lot of new friends that day. And there’s even that friend down at the pond who likes to stare as much as he does!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-frog

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Duncan Beedie highlights the awkward feeling many kids—and even adults—often feel in social situations. Nothing pops immediately to mind to say and yet there’s a desire for connection. As Bear discovers, staring is not the answer—so what is? In The Bear Who Stared, Beedie offers a simple, but universal solution through an engaging and humorous story. Bear, sporting a bemused expression that aptly depicts his predicament, is such an endearing character that readers will wish they could give him a hug as he suffers slights from the woodland creatures.

The full-bleed, oversized pages put readers at eye level with bear and his subjects, and the very up-close look into Bear’s staring eyes will make kids laugh. The green, rust, and blue palette on matte paper is bold, but muted, giving the pages an organic, environmental feel that is perfect to carry the story.

The Bear Who Stared is a funny story time read with a heart that kids will ask for again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802856

Check out more of Duncan Beedie’s illustration and animation work on his website!

Take a good looong look at this The Bear Who Stared book trailer!

Effective Communications Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-craft

Expressive Bear Craft

 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or how to express your emotions and thoughts. With this easy-to-make felt (or paper) set, you can give the bear different emotions and talk about them, make up stories to go with each facial expression, or play a fun game. Below, you’ll find a couple of ideas!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

Picture Book Review

June 11 – National Corn on the Cob Day

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About the Holiday

One of the culinary delights of summer is corn on the cob. Whether your favorite kernels are yellow, butter and sugar, or white, corn on the cob is sweet hand-held comfort food that goes with dinner, picnics, barbeques, and any summertime party. By now, most places have piles of corn to pick from. Shucks! Today might be the perfect time to cook some up and enjoy!

Bob & Rob & Corn on the Cob

By Todd McQueen

 

Bob is a fedora- and glasses-wearing squirrel who has his eyes on a lonely piece of corn on the cob. Rob is a party hat-wearing squirrel who’s got his little paws secured around corn on the cob handles and is about to take a bite. You can tell that “these two squirrels love corn on the cob.” A dapper duck and a mannerly, bib-wearing dog does too. (Hey! Who’s that little silver guy looking for Mama?) But rabbit Ella Mae Dobbs, who’s “a bit of a snob” does not like corn on the cob.

A chicken in her stocking cap and a piggy with a curl on top also love corn. (Wait! That adorable silver machine with the claw-like fingers is back looking for Mama.) “Ella Mae Dobbs loves pan-seared tofu. With carrots cut curly and hot cheese fondue.” This pronouncement sounds odd to the rest of the crew, so “the duck looked at Rob. The pig looked at Bob. But they just kept on crunching their corn on the cob.” (While our little silver friend—who sports a thin antenna and a fine set of teeth—is looking straight off the page. Could you be his Mama?)

While the robot wants Mama, and Ella Mae wants a kabob, Bob whispers to Rob that he’d like “to see Ella eat corn on the cob.” They offer a deal—Bob will try carrots and Rob will try tofu, but only if Ella tries corn on the cob. But Ella says, “Oh boo.” Bob’s already taken a bit of a carrot, and Rob’s nibbled tofu from a fork. And Ella Mae? She’s contemplating the corn on her plate as the robot peers over the table.

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Image copyright Todd McQueen, 2104, courtesy of Sky Pony Press.

With his long robot arm, the little guy reaches and grabs onto one handle as Ella decides that maybe, just maybe, with some seasoning the corn could be…. But suddenly, like a weightlifter, the Robot lifts the corn over his head! He slices! He dices! He adds tomato, zucchini, broccoli, and eggplant in a spectacular kabob! Then with a flame that shoots from his hand, he grills it all up until…Pop! Pop! Pop!…this culinary masterpiece lands on Ella’s plate. She declares it “interesting!”

So it’s true—“Bob and Rob love corn on the cob. They even love tofu.” (Well, that last part’s a little fib.) But they all agree on one thing: “that nothing’s quite as fun as POPPED! corn on the cob.”

And what about our little robot buddy? He finally found his Mama—a shiny corn cutter and popper all in one!

Todd McQueen’s tribute to corn on the cob is a funny read-aloud that—of course!—stars two squirrels eager to chomp into their favorite sweet delicacy. Their wish to share their snack with stubborn Ella Mae sets up a bounding duel of wits that is sure to make kids laugh. The addition of the little robot who’s lost his mama adds a bit of mystery, and when he suddenly whips up a whopper of a kabob, a surprised “Whoa!” is sure to pop from wide-eyed young readers. The story is a delicious reminder that even if friend’s tastes differ, they can usually find something to agree on.

McQueen’s dry wit shines through in his illustrations of various famous corn-eaters trying to attract a very chic and sophisticated rabbit to join in the fun of simple corn on the cob. The shiny robot is a cutie, who kids will love to follow from page to page. The duck and Rob’s obvious dislike of tofu should make little ones giggle, and kids who like counting will be happy with all of the corn cobs waiting to be pointed out.

A perfect book to read while munching on popcorn or to take along to a barbeque or picnic, Bob & Rob & Corn on the Cob is just right for free-and-easy summertime reading.

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1628735918

Corn on the Cob Day Activity

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Crazy about Corn! Maze

 

A group of friends are having a barbeque, but they need some corn on the cob. Can you find your way through this printable Crazy about Corn! Maze to deliver it to them? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 8 – Upsy-Daisy Day

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About the Holiday

Do you wake up before the alarm or do you hit the snooze button a couple of times? Do you bound out of bed or do you pull the covers up tighter? Do you greet your family with a cheery “Good Morning” or do you mumble an incoherent “gmmmphngg?” If you’re more the latter type of person, then today’s holiday encourages you to be a happy “upsy-daisy” who starts the day with enthusiasm and an optimistic outlook. Beginning the day fresh as a daisy helps the whole day go better!

A Crow of His Own

Written by Megan Dowd Lambert | Illustrated by David Hyde Costello

 

When fame and fortune came calling for Larry, the charismatic rooster of Sunrise Farm, the daily routine turned upside down. “The animals overslept and no one knew what to do.” But while the cow, horse, sheep, chickens, and goose fretted, Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin had a plan. One day they gathered all the animals and introduced Clyde, the new rooster. Looking at the “scrawny little guy” as he stammered his hello, the cow, horse, and sheep expressed doubt in his abilities, already comparing him to their beloved Larry.

Roberta, the goose, stepped forward, however, and reassured him that “they just miss Larry.” When Clyde asked who Larry was, the animals gasped. “Only the best rooster ever,” claimed the sheep. “Take it straight from my mouth: he was more than that,” said the horse. “He was a genius,” the cow chimed in.” And the chickens? In the dirt they scratched a heart with Larry and XOX in the center.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-clyde-joins-the-farm

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was worried—how could he ever live up to Larry? Roberta tried to soothe him. “‘Larry wasn’t a genius…he just made quite a show of it.” Emboldened and with an inkling of what he needed to do, Clyde thanked Roberta and dashed off. “Clyde spent the whole day gathering props, designing his costume, and choreographing a sublime two-step.” As Clyde gave himself one last look in the mirror in his top hat and cloak, he had misgivings. “Could he put on a show of a crow?” He went to bed, but hardly slept at all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sleeping

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

In the morning…well…Clyde overslept. The animals were not happy. “Who ever heard of a rooster sleeping in?” baaad mouthed the sheep. “What a worthless chicken,” complained the horse. And the cow had issues of her own. Once again Roberta came to Clyde’s defense. With a wagon full of new props and material, Clyde rushed away to prepare for the next day. Up bright and early and balanced on a unicycle atop the coop while surrounded by promotional signs, Clyde “opened his beak, and…promptly fell to the ground with an undignified croak.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-skating-ramp

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Poor Clyde! Humiliated and hurt he once again had to endure the slights of the farmyard animals, but their comments only spurred him on. Vowing to go bigger and better, Clyde built himself a ramp, ordered roller skates for birds and a parachute, and designed a colorful Western-themed set. “‘Oh, my!’” remarked Farmer Jay as he walked by. “‘Try, try again,’ encouraged Farmer Kevin.” But in the morning Clyde’s spectacular trick left him hanging upside down from the chicken coop, and the animals more “disgruntled and dismayed” than before.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-ramp

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was distraught. “‘Forget about Larry.’” Roberta said. “‘Just crow your own crow.’” Clyde considered her advice. The next morning as the sky turned pink and orange with the rising sun, Clyde stood tall atop the chicken coop. He quietly cleared his throat and then—“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!” The newly awakened animals came running. Even Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin came to see this new Clyde. The horse summed up their collective feeling: “It’s not so much like crowing, but crooning.” Roberta agreed. “‘Enough to give you goose bumps!’” she exclaimed. As an encore, “Clyde took a deep breath, gave a shake of his comb, and called out another crow of his own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

These days it’s nearly impossible for kids not to compare themselves or be compared to others—even those they’ve never met. All they need to do is jump on the Internet and discover that so-and-so has double, triple, or more friends and/or followers than they do; go to class and get their grade on that assignment they worked so hard on; or simply stand by their locker, go to lunch, or head out to gym and overhear the comments of other students. Avoidance isn’t the answer, but a good base of self-confidence and personal identity is. In A Crow of His Own Megan Dowd Lambert offers readers such a base in her entertaining and meaningful tribute to self-acceptance and love that hits all the right notes.

As soon as scrawny Clyde walks out of his crate to the scorn of his farm mates, kids will root for this underchicken. With a light touch and plenty of wordplay, Dowd deftly presents honest portrayals of the opposition Clyde is up against as well as Clyde’s distressed reactions. Clyde’s three attempts to act like Larry humorously demonstrate the difficulties of trying to be someone you’re not. When Clyde finally musters the courage to “crow his own crow” and is met with praise, readers will see that their own unique talents will find an appreciative audience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise-farm

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

David Hyde Costello knows how to put on a show! His Sunrise Farm is a gentle, bucolic spread still under the thrall of Larry. Humorous details, such as the valentines to Larry the chickens draw in the dirt, the movie house-style posters on the side of the barn, and the surprised and exasperated expressions of the animals, testify to Larry’s enduring legacy. But careful observers will notice that while Larry is a rather bland white rooster with some black tail feathers, Clyde is distinctively colorful from his comb to his feet. Kids will giggle at Clyde’s increasingly complex morning shenanigans even as they sympathize with his plight. When Clyde finally reveals his magnificent crow, readers will cheer.

A Crow of His Own is a winner on so many levels. It offers parents and children a way to discuss and begin building the strong sense of self so important to a happy and successful life. The book also presents a positive visual representation of diversity, and in Roberta and Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin it shows that finding support helps. And it does all of this in a story that stands on its own as a funny, laugh-inducing romp. Because kids will want to hear this story over and over, A Crow of His Own would be a wonderful addition to libraries and home book collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2015 | ISBN 978-1580894470

To learn more about Megan Dowd Lambert, her picture books, her Whole Book Approach to Reading, and more visit her website!

On David Hyde Costellos website you’ll find a gallery of artwork, a portfolio of picture books, videos, and more!

Upsy-Daisy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

A Chicken to Wake Up To

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt, 2 inches by 2 inches
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  2. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  3. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

Picture Book Review

June 7 – Global Running Day

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About the Holiday

Global Running Day is all about living a healthy lifestyle! There are so many reasons to take up running, from keeping in shape to clearing one’s mind to competing against other runners. So far 839,167 people from 171 countries have pledged to run short distances and longer routes in their quest for personal health. Nearly 300,000 kids have also pledge to join the Million Kid Run that gets young people thinking about their own health while having fun.

Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow

By David Biedrzycki

 

Phil Groundhog was a pretty quick little dude. In fact, the only thing that could keep up with him was his shadow. You might say that Phil’s shadow was his best friend. It was always there following his every move, and “even when Phil felt small…his shadow could make him feel bigger.” But then Phil grew up. While Phil went off to work the way adult groundhogs were supposed to do, his “shadow had other plans.”

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Copyright David Biedrzycki, courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing

Phil liked to go to the local beach on vacation; “Shadow dreamed of visiting faraway places.” While Phil enjoyed scary movies, Shadow was…well…scared. Phil was perfectly happy with a diet of “dandelions, clover, and tree bark,” but Shadow was more a taco kinda guy. Phil was always watching his watch; Shadow was always stopping to smell the roses.

At first Phil thought Shadow was funny, and his friends likes Shadow’s wild side (except for the burping). But then Shadow began doing things Phil would never do and his behavior soon “got annoying…and then downright embarrassing.” Finally, Phil was fed up and said, “Why can’t you be like other shadows? I wish you would just go away!” At first Shadow was hurt and angry. But then he remembered his dream of traveling, so he packed his suitcase and booked passage on the USS Punxsutawney. He sailed through New York Harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty. He took a train through Paris and viewed the Eiffel Tower, and the week after that he was gazing at the pyramids in Egypt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groundhog's-runaway-shadow-shadow-leaves

Copyright David Biedrzycki, courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing

Back home, though, Phil was missing his shadow. He looked everywhere for it. He posted Lost Shadow posters on telephone poles and put notices in the newspaper. Then Phil saw something shocking. He opened the newspaper one day to see an article about Shadow. And not just one story—dozens! Shadow had met the Queen of England, played guitar at the White House, gotten a role in a movie….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groundhog's-runaway-shadow-shadow-leaves

Copyright David Biedrzycki, courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing

“Suddenly Phil’s life seemed pretty dull. He longed to be exploring with Shadow.” Just as Phil was making this realization, Shadow discovered something too. He missed sharing his adventures with Phil. That night, Phil couldn’t sleep. “The thought of searching for Shadow scared Phil silly.” It would mean traveling the globe, but the next morning he began. He took a plane, a boat, a train, and even a gondola. He stood atop a skyscraper, on the edge of a cliff, and next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but never glimpsed Shadow.

Finally, Phil had an idea. He opened his suitcase and took out his accordion. As he played “he heard someone gently accompanying him…on the trumpet. He had found Shadow and Shadow had found him. “The two friends played together, this time in perfect harmony….and forever after, that’s exactly what they did.” Except sometimes…

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groundhog's-runaway-shadow-lonely

Copyright David Biedrzycki, courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing

David Biedrzycki’s ingenious tale of friendship, duel (and sometimes dueling) personalities, loss, recovery, and bravery is presented in a hilarious pairing of text and illustration that kids will immediately respond to. As in many friendships, Phil and Shadow develop different ideas that seem insurmountable. When Phil realizes that Shadow has gone off without him and that he misses his companion, however, young readers will empathize with his courage in overcoming his fears to reunite with his best friend. The idea that love spurs great action and can best all obstacles is a reassuring truism that will cheer young readers.

Part traditional picture book, part graphic novel, Biedrzycki’s bold and vibrant illustrations will captivate kids. Readers will laugh at Shadow’s shenanigans and enjoy pointing him out on the world stage. The final page which offers a tribute to that most famous of groundhogs and presents a scavenger hunt will have kids begging to read the book again.

Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow is an original tale that kids will want to hear over and over. For fun story times or for when friendships are a little harder to negotiate, the book would make a fine addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897341

Discover more about David Biedrzycki and his books on his website!

Global Running Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shoe-laces

One-of-Your-Kind Shoe Laces

 

You can travel a few feet or a few miles in style with these easy-to-make shoe laces in your running shoes.

Supplies

  • White or colored shoe laces
  • Fabric markers or fabric paint
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Create a pattern or design for your shoe laces
  2. With the fabric markers or paint decorate your shoe laces
  3. Let dry
  4. Lace up and run!

Picture Book Review

June 5 – Sausage Roll Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that party-platter and food-on-the-go favorite—the sausage roll, aka Pigs in a Blanket. Whether you make these with homemade sausage, full-size hot dogs, or tiny hot dogs, the flaky, buttery “blanket” makes it a little culinary luxury.  Why not bake up a batch for lunch or dinner tonight and serve them with your favorite sides? 

Pigs and a Blanket

By James Burks

 

A cute piglet loves her blanket sooo much; her brother loves his blanket sooooo much more! Henrietta loves the way her blanket smells. Henry loves the way his blanket feels. Henrietta reads with her blanket, while Henry draws under his.

Henry also creates hills in his blanket to zoom his monster trucks over while his sister uses hers as a backdrop for the fierce dinosaur movie she’s filming. The movie-making gives way to dancing because Henrietta loves to pirouette with her blanket. But wait a minute! The trucks have just gone off-blanket!! What’s happening?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pigs-and-a-blanket-playing-with-blanket

Copyright James Burks, 2016, courtesy of jamesburks.com

And—“Hey!”—mid-twirl, that familiar green cloth suddenly becomes a cape catching the wind behind Henry’s superhero personae. One blanket between two kids? Henrietta tugs on one end: “Stop pulling on my blanket!” Henry yanks on the other end: “Stop pulling on MY blanket!!” The tug-of-war rages until “RRRIIIPPPPP!”

Henry retreats to one corner and half-heartedly pushes around his monster trucks on his part of the blanket while glancing over to the other corner where Henrietta has unenthusiastically resumed her movie making on her half. Maybe drawing and reading will be better. But no, not really. That separated blanket isn’t nearly as cozy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pigs-and-a-blanket-playing-with-toys

Copyright James Burks, 2016, courtesy of jamesburks.com

The siblings move a little closer and shyly smile at each other. Maybe they can make up. “I missed you,” Henrietta confesses. “I missed you more,” Henry answers, placing a red checker on the board she’s brought over. The day is brightening in their playroom scattered with toys and art supplies. And as night falls, the two have cleverly reunited just in time for sleeping.

James Burks’ charming Pigs and a Blanket captures perfectly the vacillating relationship of siblings. Kids will recognize and appreciate the sentiments in this simple, honest story. While this sister and brother have separate interests and quarrel over a shared blanket, the truth is they love being together, and when the blanket no longer binds them, they soon realize life is much less rich.

Burks’ illustrations of the piglet siblings are adorable and expressive, registering the fortunes and misfortunes of an afternoon of play with joy, consternation, regret, sadness, and reconciliation. The book’s design makes excellent use of the two-page spreads. The sister plays with her blanket on the left-hand page, while her brother plays with his on the right. The blanket ingeniously disappears into the center of the pages, creating a smart, Ah-ha moment when Henrietta twirls it away from Henry. Likewise, after the blanket is torn apart, the once full-page illustrations are replaced with mostly white space as the two kids play alone and disconnected. As they move to restore their friendship, the white space lessens until it is again filled with love.

Pigs and a Blanket would be a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf to be reread at those times when getting along with siblings—or friends—seems hard.

Ages 2 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484725238

Discover more about James Burks, his books, and his art on his website!

Sausage Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crescent-rolls-recipe-pillsbury

Crescent Dogs Recipe courtesy of pillsbury.com

Pigs-in-a-Blanket Recipe

These snack, lunch, or dinner goodies are easy-peasy—and tasty too! They’re also great for getting kids involved in the kitchen. The simple steps are just right for little hands. This recipe from Pillsbury can be used with full-sized hot dogs or with mini hot dogs.  

Remember: always supervise young children when eating hot dogs. Babies and toddlers without their back molars should avoid hot dogs. For children under 4 years old, hot dogs should be sliced into quarters lengthwise and then cut into small pieces. For Guidelines on serving hot dogs to young children visit Our Everyday Life.

Ingredients

  • 8 hot dogs
  • 4 slices (3/4 oz each) American cheese, each cut into 6 strips
  • 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Slit hot dogs to within 1/2 inch of ends; insert 3 strips of cheese into each slit.
  2. Separate dough into triangles. Wrap dough triangle around each hot dog. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, cheese side up.
  3. Bake at 375°F. for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Picture Book Review

May 29 – It’s National Smile Month

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About the Holiday

Today we honor that happiest of expressions—the smile! Celebrating its 41st anniversary this year, National Smile Month was established as a weekly event in 1977 by the British Dental Health Foundation (now known as the Oral Health Foundation) to focus on good dental health practices. Over the years the initiative has grown in length and now includes countries worldwide. With the introduction of the Smiley—a bright smile on a stick—and the Smiley Photo campaign on social media in 2012, everyone now has an opportunity to join in the fun, spread the message, and become the face of National Smile Month. National Smile Month runs from May 15 to June 15. If you’d like to participate, visit nationalsmilemonth.org.

Tooth By Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth

 

“Open wide!” a little girl with a good set of teeth herself encourages readers on the first page of this fun nonfiction book. “Look at all the chompers in there.” Mirror in hand she proceeds to reveal that human teeth are unusual because we are mammals, and mammal teeth come in different shapes and sizes. In fact there are three distinct types. A little boy takes over to describe them. Incisors are the four flat teeth in a person’s mouth—two on the top and two on the bottom right in front.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Books

The four pointy teeth next to the incisors are canines, and the rest of the teeth are molars. Other mammals also have these teeth, and you can tell what an animal eats by which type is largest. For example, say your incisors were bigger than all your other teeth and they were so big they stuck out of your mouth even when it was closed, then you would be a beaver…or a squirrel…or a rabbit. These animals are herbivores and their oversized incisors help them break into nuts and scrape bark from trees.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, courtesy of Lerner Books

From here on Tooth by Tooth offers up amusing illustrations and “what kind of animal would you be if…” questions to spark kids’ powers of recognition. How about if your canines were so long they poked out of your mouth? Well, then you could be a “seal or a cat or a dog or a bear!” All these animals eat meat and need the sharp teeth to do it.

What if you had really tall molars? Then you’d be a “horse or a cow or a giraffe!” These guys use their molars to grind up grass. And if all your teeth were the same height? Come on…you know! You’d be you! Because humans eat plants and meat, we “need teeth that do many different jobs.”

But there are a lot more wacky teeth out there waiting for us to brush up on. So let’s get started. What if “two of your top incisors were so long that they grew out of your mouth and pointed to the sky? What if they were so long you could use them to carry your school bag?” You’ve probably guessed this one—you’d be an elephant. While an elephant’s tusks aren’t used for eating, they are used to procure the bark, roots, and other plant material that make up the elephant’s diet.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Books

What if you could almost trip over your canine teeth? Yep, you’d be a walrus, and you would use those sharp bad boys to poke holes in the ice to grab your favorite oysters and clams. But after eating they’re not done using their teeth. “After diving down for a meal, walruses can use their tusks to pull themselves back up onto the ice for a nap. Imagine if “your top and bottom canine teeth curled up out of your mouth so you had two pairs of tusks?” Or if your one upper canine grew through your upper lip and kept on growing?  Or if you had no teeth at all? Yikes! The remarkable answers are just a read away!

Fish, amphibians, and reptiles also have teeth of a sort, but because they are all the same shape and size, they don’t get special names—that doesn’t mean you can ignore them, though, because sharks are among this group, and you know what they can do!

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Books

More information about mammals, mammal teeth, a glossary, and a list of online and print references follow the text.

There’s nothing like the Wow! factor to capture kids’ attention, and Sara Levine uses it to humorous and fascinating effect in Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers. After giving a solid description of each kind of tooth and what it is used for in language that kids use and will relate to, Levine begins her guessing game that leads to even more discovery. We’ve all seen elephants and walruses with their mighty tusks, but how many know what they are really used for? And what about warthogs and narwhals? It’s all here in this creative nonfiction title.

T. S. Spookytooth took a big bite out of the “how to make kids laugh” manual in illustrating each question and type of tooth. Pictures of girls and boys with enormous teeth jutting this way and that will make readers glad to be human. And while the animals that belong to each molar, incisor, or canine sport the scarf, bow, or head band of its human counterpart, they are clearly and scientifically drawn to provide full understanding. Animal skulls also demonstrate the placement of teeth. The cover, with its close-enough-to-eat-you view of a very scary mouth is a show stopper and will attract kids as soon as they see it.

Ages 5 – 9

Millbrook Press, Lerner Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1467752152

Check out Sara Levine’s website for more books, stuff for kids, teachers’ resources, and more!

View a gallery of T. S. Spookytooth’s art and read his biography (?!) on his website!

National Smile Month Activity

 

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Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze

 

These kids are practicing good dental heath! Can you bring them the toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss they need in this printable Brush Up On Your Smile! Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 28 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

If I Had a Gryphon

Written by Vikki VanSickle | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

 

Sam gazes at her first pet—a hamster—as he slumbers on his bed of shavings. She’s a little disappointed because mostly all he does is eat, sleep, and hide. She snuggles into her reading chair with a cup of tea and a book of mythical creatures and thinks: “If only I could have a pet / With strange, exotic powers, / I know that I’d find lots to do / To while away the hours.” She considers having a unicorn whose mane she could braid and who she could ride through fields of posies, then remembers that “Unicorns are pretty, / but they’re also very shy. / On second thought, I’d like to give a hippogriff a try.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam plans to take her hippogriff to the dog park to “run and jump and fetch” and “to give his wings a stretch.” Considering it again, though, she realizes that the dogs may find a hippogriff scary and that “when it comes to playing ball, / Well, things could get quite hairy.” Instead, she decides to get a sasquatch “with burly, curly fur,” but then she remembers all the time she’d spend brushing out the tangles. A gryphon with “flashing feathers” sounds better until she thinks how she’d have to fly it every day “regardless of the weather.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

A kraken would be an unique pet, but to survive the cold, wet depths while playing with it she’d need a scuba suit. A warmer companion might be a dragon, although she thinks with its “temperamental snout / I’d need a fire extinguisher / to put her sneezes out.” A kirin could be a possibility, although it “needs a field of grass / At least an ocean wide” to keep it happy; and a jackalope, while cute, is much, much, much too hoppy.

A phoenix might be an enduring pet, but it “needs a chimney nest / That’s smoke and fire proof” while a “Manticore needs special floss / For EACH and EVERY tooth.” There are oh so many creatures to contemplate—from harpies and chupacabras to fairies and kelpies to basilisks and sprites—but each is problematic in its own way.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam takes another look at the adorable hamster in its cage and reconsiders: “He may not be a gryphon, / Or a creature from the sea, / But I am his and he is mine / And that’s enough for me.”

Vikki VanSickle’s entertaining rhymes frolic, gallop, and prance through her encyclopedic array of fantastic beasts. Her young readers will be delighted that the fun of an imaginary menagerie is not just for the older set and will eagerly await each newly considered pet. VanSickle includes all the favorite mystical creatures, plus fascinating new ones that will spark kids’ imaginations and have them scrambling to find out more about them. The juxtaposition of attractive and less so traits of each possible pet adds a nip of humor to the verses that will make kids giggle. Sam’s ultimate realization that her hamster is the perfect companion is a sweet ending that reaffirms readers’ own relationship with their pets.

Cale Atkinson’s Sam is already a dreamer when she acquires her hamster. Her mug of tea sports a picture of a narwhal, her bookmark is a paper-thin dragon, and the book of Mythological Creatures that she consults is already well-thumbed. As the little girl with the square-rimmed glasses contemplates each creature as pet, Atkinson presents an illustration that is both humorous and beautiful. The hippogriff with its bird legs in front and horse legs in back is a gorgeous hue of blue, but it’s expressive reaction to seeing the dogs at the park as well as its enthusiasm to play along also causes the dogs to hide behind a tree. The sasquatch is a cutie, but he also snarls Sam’s bike and bed, trees, road signs, and a dog in its thick brown hair. And a turquoise dragon may shimmer with lovely scales, but it also chars walls and furniture. Despite its apparent sloth, Sam’s hamster actually is the perfect pet—besides, he might have a secret identity of his own!

If I Had a Griffin is a fun romp through a mystical realm of pets that kids will love to hear again and again. The book would be a welcome addition to kids’ bookshelves, especially if they have older siblings enjoying that other series that features magical creatures!

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498099

To learn more about Vikki VanSickle and her books as well as to download an If I Had a Gryphon Activity Guide and coloring page, visit her website!

National Pet Month Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Treats

 

Pets love it when you do something special for them! Here’s a recipe for homemade dog biscuits that will taste even better than store-bought because they’re made with love! Making dog biscuits is a fun way to spend time together and benefit furry friends. These biscuits make tasty treats for your own pet, or consider making a batch to donate to your local animal shelter. This recipe is easy and proven to be a favorite.

Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, 1 Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits