February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day & Interview with Author Marsha Diane Arnold

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About the Holiday

Are you a RAKtivist? You know—a Random Acts of Kindness Activist! Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It is! And all it takes to be a RAKtivist is to do nice things—kind things—for everyone and anyone. These things don’t have to be big, or hard, or expensive, either. In fact, the best kindness acts are free! If you see someone having a bad day, give them a smile. Is someone struggling with a box, a bag or keeping their stuff in their locker? Give them a hand. Does someone always eat lunch alone? Offer to sit with them and have a conversation. You’re also encouraged to give others a card to brighten their day. You’ll find some to print out at the end of this post!

There are as many ways to be a RAKtivist as there are people on the planet. Right now, there are 17,009 registered RAKtivists from ages 14 to 89 in 87 countries! You can join them and learn more about this uplifting holiday on the Random Acts of Kindness Website!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of May I Come In? to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! Learn more below!

May I Come In?

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Jennie Poh

 

Outside, the rain poured down, and “Raccoon shivered. When “thunder roared, Raccoon quivered.” And the flashes of lightening were just too scary to watch. Raccoon did not like being alone on such a stormy night, so he “grabbed his umbrella and hurried out the door.” Raccoon made his way through muddy Thistle Hollow to his old friend Possum’s tree-trunk den.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There he found Possum nice and dry under his canopy. Raccoon asked, “‘Possum old friend, may I come in?’ / ‘What bad luck,’ Possum replied. ‘My den’s too small for one your size.’” Raccoon climbed down and with a “swish, plish” walked “all the way to Quail’s brambles.” As the wind whipped Raccoon’s scarf, he asked Quail if he could come in. But Quail said her brambles were formed too tight, and Raccoon was too wide to fit inside.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Next, Raccoon swish, plished to Woodchuck’s hole. Dug into a hill near an old broken tree and lit by a small candle lamp, Woodchuck’s hole looked cozy. But when Raccoon asked his old friend if he could come in, Woodchuck said, “‘What bad luck. I’ve only room for one to hide.’” Raccoon went away sadly and “stood shaking in the rain. His umbrella blew inside out, His fur felt wet and spongy.” He really did not want to spend the night alone.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There was one more house to try. Raccoon saw a light glowing in the distance. He hurried nearer and nearer and nearer. He knocked at the door and when Rabbit answered, Raccoon could see all of her little rabbits behind her as they “hopped and bopped to the raindrops.” Raccoon hesitantly asked his question then almost immediately took it back. After all, her house was so full. But Rabbit swung the door open wider. “‘What good luck,’ said Rabbit. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for a good friend.’” Rabbit gave Raccoon a comfortable chair to sit in and brought him a cup of tea.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As the storm raged on, Raccoon hummed and smiled happily, smelling the aroma of carrot stew that filled Rabbit’s home. Soon, there was another knock on Rabbit’s door and three voices rang out: “‘being alone on a night like tonight is scary.’” When Rabbit opened the door this time, there stood Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck. The ten little rabbits just kept hopping and bobbing.

Rabbit and Raccoon gazed at each other knowingly. “‘What good luck,’ they said. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for all our friends.’”

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

From the very first page, young readers will be engrossed in Marsha Diane Arnold’s sweet story of a raccoon who’s looking for company and comfort on a stormy night. As Raccoon swish, plishes through his neighborhood, knocking on door after door only to be met by excuses for why he can’t come in, children will empathize with him and be cheered when Rabbit joyfully invites him in. Readers will understand that they are sometimes like Raccoon, needing a bit of help or support. They will also see that they can always be like Rabbit, offering kindness and inclusion. Arnold’s lyrical language and repeated phrases invite children to read along, offering another sense of camaraderie during story time.

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Jennie Poh’s Thistle Hollow is as cute as its name with cozy dens, brambles, and homes carved into hills and trees and adorable woodland neighbors. The lovely smoky blue-grays and dusky greens enhance the beautiful scenery as raindrops plink, plonk and the wind whips Raccoon’s scarf and umbrella. Alert readers may notice that a single owl watches Raccoon as he makes his way from Possum’s den to Quail’s brambles, but as he approaches Rabbit’s inviting home, a pair of birds snuggle against the wind in a hollow tree. Rabbit’s home is warm, snug, and relaxed as the ten bunnies hop and bop, enjoying some fun with their siblings and guests.

May I Come In? would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries to open discussions of kindness, inclusion, and helpfulness for children. The story could easily be adaptable to acting out for a classroom or children’s program to highlight the lesson of inclusion and make it more personal.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363940

You’re invited to download the May I Come In? Activity Pages here or from Sleeping Bear Press.

May I Come In? Coloring Page May I Come In?  | Matching PageMay I Come In? Rhyming Page

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennie Poh, her books, and her art work, visit her blog.

May I Come In? Giveaways

I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in these giveaways for May I Come In?!

I’m giving away two awesome prize packages:

  • Prize 1 is a copy of May I Come In? and a Sleeping Bear Press Tote Bag
  • Prize 2 is a Skype visit by author Marsha Diane Arnold for classrooms or schools

To be entered to win, just follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and retweet my giveaway tweets during this week, February 17 – 23. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on Saturday, February 24. Giveaways open to US addresses only.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Random Acts of Kindness Day Activity

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Random Acts of Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 2

Meet Marsha Diane Arnold

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Marsha Diane Arnold about why the theme of kindness is important in the books children read, her real-life May I Come In? moment, and what makes life magical.

Thank you, Celebrate Picture Books for inviting me to your blog. Random Acts of Kindness Day seems a perfect time to chat about my new book May I Come In? which demonstrates kindness in such a sweet way.

What inspired you to write May I Come In??

There really was nothing specific that inspired the story. If anything did influence it, it was the wildlife that lived around my home in California. During the time I wrote May I Come In? I was working on a number of stories with woodland animal characters. With these stories, my characters led the way for me. One of the stories was Waiting for Snow with Badger and Hedgehog as characters. Another is Badger’s Seeds, which is coming out from Sleeping Bear Press in 2019. And then there’s May I Come In? with sweet Raccoon searching for a friend to spend a scary night with.

CPB - Marsha Diane Arnold Quail pic

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Here are two of the animals that shared my McGregor hill home in California. The first may have inspired my May I Come In? Quail character.

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida this fall, you experienced May I Come In? in a personal way. Can you talk about that a little?

At the last minute, Hurricane Irma decided to come almost directly over our little town of Alva! In the photo below, it looks as if I’m inviting everyone into my house, just the way Rabbit did, but this was actually taken after the hurricane, as I was celebrating our house still standing. You may notice on the left that not all our trees did as well.

Although our storm was indeed frightening, it was heart-warming to see all the people who opened their doors to friends, family, and strangers who had to be evacuated from their homes. My husband and I had fourteen people—family, acquaintances, strangers—and two dogs under our roof. We learned, like the characters in May I Come In?, that it was comforting to be with others during a frightening time and that including everyone added to the camaraderie.

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As a child you were surrounded by animals on your farm, you went on to help care for sick animals, and many of your books are written with animal characters. Do animals and their behavior inspire your writing? What animal qualities do you think resonate most with children?

Animals have always inspired and fascinated me. I could spend hours watching them, just being with them. They calm me. They make me laugh. They make me cry. Animals must inspire my writing because I write about them so often in my books, from my first book Heart of a Tiger to my newest, May I Come In?

Many animals have family groups and care for each other in similar ways to humans. Children understand and relate to this. In my two board books Baby Animals Take a Nap and Baby Animals Take a Bath my goal was to show very young children the similarities between animals and humans. We all nap. We all take baths.

When I write using animal characters, I’m really writing about children with human qualities. It’s a type of metaphor. Using animals as characters often allows children to identify more easily with certain perspectives.

What is something you love to do on a rainy day?

When I was growing up in Kansas, I actually enjoyed the lightning and the thunder!

Reading is always a lovely way to spend a rainy day. If there’s a warm fire to sit by, as in May I Come In? it’s even better.

The theme of May I Come In? revolves around the idea of inclusion and kindness. Can you speak a little bit on why it’s important for children’s books to portray these ideals? What changes have you seen over the years in children’s receptivity to these qualities?

Being inclusive is such an important quality, a foundation to living a kind and caring life. Because we humans are molded by our experiences when we are young, reading books that show inclusion and empathy are extremely important.

Even with the changes in our culture and technology, I think children are as receptive to these qualities as ever. But it’s vital we model them to children from their birth, through the first seven “magical” years, and onward. Good books with good messages are one way to do this.

One of the many things I love about May I Come In? is how each of Jennie Poh’s illustrations are so inviting, seeming to welcome the reader in.

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Your readers love meeting you at their school, in libraries, in bookstores, and even through Skype. Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?

I’ve had such fun over the years visiting schools. There are so many precious memories.

I’m quite an introvert, so I’m grateful when schools invite me to visit their students. It gets me out of my shell; meeting my readers inspires me to keep writing for them.

A wonderful memory is my being flown into a small town on the Kansas plains by the principal in his airplane! It was a long way from an airport. When I arrived at the school in the morning I was greeted by a huge tornado they’d constructed on top of their school, in honor of my book The Bravest of Us All. Inside the gymnasium was a smaller tornado, three students dressed as cows to celebrate Prancing, Dancing Lily, and so much more. A grand time.

A recent memory involves Walter Jackson Elementary School in Alabama. They’ve been celebrating The Pumpkin Runner for about five years now with their Pumpkin Run Day, which is filled with pumpkin-related activities and a one-mile run for the entire school community, in honor of my book and the surprising ultra-marathoner Cliff Young. Two years ago, I was honored to be invited to join in the festivities by their amazing librarian, Todd McDonald. I spent one day doing presentations and another day playing games and running three miles! Yes, three, as they divided the students into three class groupings. Great educators! Great school! Great fun!

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You offer students writing workshops that you call “Funshops,” in which you present images, activities, and brainstorming to spark their imaginations and stories. Could you give an example of an image or activity that you use to fire up kids’ creativity? How do the kids react?

Hmmm. Should I share my favorite? Since it’s Random Acts of Kindness Day, I will!

The Alliteration Game is always a big hit with the students. In the Alliteration game, we take someone’s name and use lots of words that start with the same sound to make a fun sentence.  First, we describe the person in a silly way.  Then we think of an action word, a verb – like hopped or jumped.  After that, depending on the age of students, we might use adverbs to describe how the person does the action – “joyfully jumped” or “happily hopped” – and choose a setting. What’s really fun is that students can then use these sentences as starting places for a funny fiction story. Here’s an example, using my name.

Marsha, the magnificent moose, munched marshmallows in a museum in Manchuria.

Your work has been called “magical” by reviewers, and you also use the word to describe your work, your home in California, and other experiences. What does “magical” mean to you? Where is magic found and what can it do?

I like this definition of “magic” from the Oxford dictionary: “Beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life.”

To me something “magical” is uplifting, something that takes us somewhere else for a moment. But magic can be found almost everywhere, if we open our eyes and ears.  It can sneak up on us and take us by surprise or it can sit beside us and spread its arms around us. I found lots of magic at my home in California where I lived for 35 years – forests, good neighbors, barn owls. Now I’m finding magic in Florida – sandhill cranes, sunsets, ponies down the road.

A journalist once called me “a magician of literary innovations.” I loved that. To me, the best stories have always been magical, taking us away from the house cleaning or the 9-5 job, for a bit of beauty and delight.  So, I took the phrase and ran with it. I used it as the name of my blog Storymagician (inactive at the moment), and I created a Storymagician chant that I share with students when I visit schools. I think all of us can create and use stories to bring a little magic into our lives.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment, I’m doing final editing on my fall 2018 book, Gálapagos Girl with Lee & Low. This is a story inspired by Valentina Cruz who grew up in the Gálapagos Islands.

Also in the fall Mine. Yours. will be out from Kids Can Press, a Canadian company. I’m so honored to be working with them as they usually only publish Canadian authors. Qin Leng is illustrating. I’ve seen some of the early sketches and am so looking forward to the final artwork. Her style is perfect for my story.

Both of these books will be 40 pages long, my first ever 40-page long picture books. As many of you know, most picture books are 32 pages long. It’s interesting to me because Gálapagos Girl is a 500-plus-word story with an author note and back matter and Mine. Yours. is only 25 words! Yet, both editors felt the stories deserved 40 pages.

Another first for me is that Gálapagos Girl is going to be a bilingual book. So much to look forward too!

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking a few questions about holidays, so…

What holiday do you enjoy most?

I can’t choose just one!

I love decorating the house for Christmas – all the lights!

I really enjoy Halloween and Easter too. We rarely had candy in our house when my children were young, so trick-or-treating was a big deal. They always made their own costumes, with whatever they could find around the house. There were some pretty interesting ones!

Easter was wondrous. When my children were small we would cut a small branch from one of the manzanita trees in our little forest and bring it into the house to decorate with Easter eggs and treasured objects. We always looked for the Easter bunny in the field behind our house, where many rabbits lived. We spotted him several times over the years.

Then there’s Valentine’s Day, the day we just celebrated. I love the red and pink! When my children were young, we always designed and made our own Valentine’s cards. It’s fitting I’m sharing about May I Come In? during Valentine’s week as both are about holding others close, including them in our hearts and our lives.

Has a holiday ever influenced your writing?

I’ve never really written a story about a holiday, but there’s a Halloween story I started over ten years ago that I never finished. Yet, it keeps tapping me on the shoulder. I plan to take another look at it next month. Writers often return to work that’s been collecting dust for years in the hope that this time new ideas will come to them and the story will be completed and ready for the world.

Where can readers find out more about you, your books, and your school visits?

My website is being updated, but you can find out about all those things at www.marshadianearnold.com. And if you want to learn how to follow your characters through a story, as I mentioned in the first question, you may check out my Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books at http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html.

Now, let’s all go out and do a random act of kindness!

Thanks, Marsha, for chatting with me today! I wish you all the best with May I Come In? and all of your books!

You can find May I Come In? at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | MacIntosh Books of Sanibel Island, FL

Marsha Diane Arnold will be reading and signing books at MacIntosh Books in March. If you live or will be near Sanibel Island, check out their event calendar for March to attend an event with Marsha Diane Arnold!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on:

Her Author Facebook | Personal Facebook (I welcome all) |Twitter | Her Website

Picture Book Review

February 1 – World Read Aloud Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic, World Read Aloud Day encourages reading aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. To learn more about World Read Aloud Day  and to find stickers, bookmarks, posters, and a reading crown to decorate, visit LitWorld.

Read the Book, Lemmings!

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

 

On the whale ship S. S. Cliff, first mate Foxy quietly reads a book about lemmings. “‘Huh!’ he said. ‘Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.’” But even though Foxy emphasizes the word “don’t” the lemmings sitting on the railing only hear the word “jump.” “‘Jump? I’ll jump!’ said a lemming. ‘Me too!’ said a second. ‘Ditto!’ said a third.” And with a long Geronamoooooo! the three lemmings jumped overboard.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Polar Bear Captain PB, engrossed in his newspaper, had just one thing to say. “‘Huh…I guess they didn’t read the book.’” Foxy looked over the side and heard the first lemming shout out “‘Wet! Very wet!’” “‘Me too!’ called the second. ‘Ditto!’ called the third” With a sigh, Foxy took Captain PB’s bucket (with a stern warning not to let the lemmings eat his fish) and hauled the lemmings out of the sea.

On deck, Foxy gave each lemming a name and a hat “so he could scold them properly.” The first jumper was, appropriately, named Jumper; the second was called Me Too; and the third was named Ditto. Foxy held up the book about lemmings and said, “‘Read the book, lemmings!’” The lemmings seemed surprised by what they saw, and Foxy was glad they understood. But did they? Not so much. As soon as Foxy mentioned the word “jump,” it was “Geronimoooo” all over again.

Captain PB was pretty sure they hadn’t read the book. “‘Help! I need help!’ called Jumper. ‘Me too!’ called Me Too. ‘Ditto!’ called Ditto.” Captain PB handed over his bucket with the now lemming-flavored fish, and Foxy once more retrieved Jumper, Me Too, and Ditto from the ocean. He gave them a harsh talking to and was just about to say the fateful word again when he stopped himself and told them to just read the book themselves.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

“‘Ahhhhh!’” said the lemmings as they went off with the book. Captain PB was impressed. “‘Good thing you didn’t say jump,’” he told Foxy. Six ears perked up, and….” Geronimooooo!” The three lemmings were sinking fast, so Foxy did what any good first mate would. “Cannonball!” he yelled as he dove into the water. Foxy rescued the lemmings and flopped back on deck.

“‘Saved! I’m saved!’ said Jumper. ‘Me too!’ said Me Too. Ditto opened his mouth. ‘I love you!’” Foxy blinked and said “‘Thank you.’” Still, he wanted to know why the lemmings hadn’t read the book. “‘Can’t! Can’t read!’ said Jumper. ‘Me neither,’ said Me Too. ‘I can burp the alphabet,’ said Ditto.” Captain PB thought this was a good start.

For the rest of the day, Foxy practiced reading with the lemmings until they had it down: “Lemmings… don’t jump…off cliffs.” Foxy was satisfied and went back to reading his book. But the captain could not find his newspaper until…. The paper airplane zoomed by with three lemmings on board, shouting, “‘We fly!.’”

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Ame Dyckman’s laugh-out-loud story is pure genius, filled with personality and characters that make Read the Book, Lemmings! a perfect book for dramatic and spirited read-aloud story times. The sweet, reactive lemmings offer plenty of hilarity and opportunities for kids to chime in, while Foxy and Captain PB are terrific foils for the frolicking lemmings and their foibles. The nod to literacy is given a light touch that is sure to resonate with young readers, and which in the end reveals a truth worth repeating: with the ability to read, anyone can soar.

Zachariah Ohora’s little balls of fluff are as adorable as they come. Who can fault them for having so much fun following their instincts as they jump overboard with a gusty “Geronimoooo!”? Clever details, such as a whale as a fishing trawler and the life ring sporting the name S. S. Cliff, are inspired. Readers will love the graphic novel elements that make it easy to follow the dialog and the expressive characters who, as Ditto reveals, love each other.

Read the Book, Lemmings! is highly recommended and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and library shelves. The book would also make a much-appreciated gift.

Ages 5 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316343480

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

Learn more about Zachariah Ohora and his books and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Jump right into watching this Read the Book, Lemmings! book trailer

World Read Aloud Day Activity

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Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

 

There’s really only one activity that is just right for today! So, why not make some hot chocolate or a chocolate chip mug cookie and settle in for a night of reading together? Here’s a recipe for a delicious mug cookie from geniuskitchen.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk (2% works well)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 (or more) tablespoons of dark chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate, the amount used may depend on the size of the chips)

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a mug and microwave for 30 seconds or until butter melts
  2. Stir in brown sugar
  3. Stir in vanilla and salt
  4. Add flour and stir until smooth
  5. Stir in 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  6. Add more chocolate chips on top if desired
  7. Bake in microwave oven on High for about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, depending on the consistency you like
  8. Can top with ice cream, if desired.

Picture Book Review

January 25 – Opposite Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Opposite Day! If you hear that the sky’s blue, it’s probably gray, if you’re told dinner’s yucky, that’s a compliment, and if your boss says that report is due today—well, you better finish it because not everyone plays along. Kids are especially fond of today’s holiday, and why not? Challenging yourself to think differently is fun! Of course there’s one emotion that can make us act a little turned upside down and backwards every day—as you’ll see in today’s book!

When an Elephant Falls in Love

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Alice Lotti

 

“When an elephant falls in love, he does many foolish things.” He takes unusual risks and hides when he sees the apple of his eye. Instead of sloughing off in the hygiene departmet, he “takes a bath every day, and even washes behind his ears.” Even though he knows it’s better to eat nutritious foods, there’s that yummy dessert in the fridge that calls to him.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

While his appearance never seemed to concern him before, now “he dresses with care” even though deciding which tie to wear is difficult. Letters to his beloved get written and then crumpled up and tossed away. And his work is abandoned in favor of “staring at the clouds for hours and hours.”

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When he gathers his courage, the elephant in love will get close to his loved one—well, close enough to leave flowers, but not so close that he stays after ringing the bell. Sometimes that happy, in-love feeling turns into sadness when the elephant thinks, “‘If only she knew I existed!’” There comes a day, however, when it all comes together—the natty dressing, the nice, clean scent, the words in the letters, and those flowers that are discovered before the elephant has fully disappeared. What happens then? “It’s love!”

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Copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Davide Cali’s sweetly honest look at what it’s like to fall in love—for the first time or any time—will charm young readers and resonate with adults. The story is enchanting in its unapologetic presentation of the “foolish” things the elephant does—all things that are just part of growing up. Readers will see that with a few steps forward (and a few steps back), they will achieve their heart’s desire.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Alice Lotti’s little boulder of an elephant is as adorable as they come. With a tiny dot of an eye and simple lines accenting his ears, toes, and trunk, the elephant expressively goes about his days with her on his mind. Lotti’s white background highlights the elephant as he walks a tightrope holding a tiny pink umbrella, showers himself while immersed in a claw-foot bathtub, and searches the mirror for the answer between the green and orange tie. Lotti’s color palette is fresh and vibrant, and her clean lines give the illustrations a sophisticated look. The elephant’s beautifully textured, mottled hide lends a soft vulnerability to her sensitive pachyderm. Readers will have fun spotting the little yellow bird that is the elephant’s constant companion, a special cloud floating into view, and the flowers that bring the two elephants together.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452147277

Learn more about Alice Lotti and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website.

Opposite Day Activity

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Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots

 

Dot-to-Dot pictures offer a little bit for everyone—a little mystery, a little counting, a little bit to color, and a lot of fun! Since it’s Opposite Day, why not work from the last number to the first in this printable Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots.

Picture Book Review

January 8 – National Argyle Day

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About the Holiday

The argyle pattern that is so familiar today comes from the tartan of Clan Campbell, which originated in Argyll in western Scotland. The pattern was used by Clan Campbell for kilts and plaids, but has distinguished socks of various clans in Scotland since the 17th century. The argyle pattern became popular in Britain and the United States following World War I when the Duke of Windsor adopted it for his golf clothing. Today, argyle can be found on clothing, furniture, fabrics, and decorated items of all kinds.

Argyle Fox

By Marie Letourneau  

 

Argyle Fox lived in a tree in the middle of the forest. Badger, Beaver, and Groundhog lived nearby. One spring day when the wind whipped “down the mountainside and through the trees,” little Argyle told his mother that he was going out to play cards. His mother was skeptical, telling him his cards might blow away. Argyle found a spot on an old tree stump and, when the wind died down, he built a tall house of cards. Just as it had grown to be the “tallest tower in the whole world,” however, the wind came and sent it flying.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

“No fair!,” cried Argyle, and he went home to search his closet for something else to do. Way back behind the soccer ball, boat, and hats, Argyle found his old spider costume. He tried it on and discovered it still fit. He returned to the forest and between two trees wove the elaborate web of “the world’s scariest spider.” The squirrels warned Argyle that playing spider in the wind could be dangerous, but Argyle laughed and continued to play. “‘Beware!’ Argyle replied with a hiss. ‘Beware, or I will capture you in my web!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-spider-web

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

But the wind whooshed through the trees, and Argyle ended up tangled and upside down in his own web. Playing pirate by the creek sounded like a better idea anyway. Argyle planted his jolly roger on a stump spanning the river and “set sail,” but the beavers said, “‘You can’t play pirate in the wind, Argyle Fox.’” Argyle looked at the beavers. “‘Arrg,’” he said. “‘I’ll make you walk the plank.’” Just then the wind picked up his newspaper pirate hat and sailed away with it. “‘Argyle stomped off toward the meadow’” with his soccer ball.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-pirate

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

There he met Badger. “‘I’m the star of the soccer team,’” Argyle told him. “‘I will now kick the winning goal.’” Badger didn’t think this was a good idea in the wind, but Argyle replied, “‘You’d better watch out or I will tackle you!’” Argyle kicked the ball as hard as he could. The wind caught it and threw it into the branches of a tall tree.

Argyle scampered off to the hill where he built a cardboard-box castle. Brandishing his sword, Argyle cried out to Groundhog, “‘I am a brave knight, ready to fight the terrible, ferocious, fire-breathing dragon!’” Groundhog cautioned Argyle about the wind, but Argyle only challenged Groundhog to a duel. Before the duel could begin, though, the wind picked up Argyle’s castle and carried it far away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-castle

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Argyle picked up all of his things and went home. He told his mother that he would never play in the wind again. Perhaps, said Mama Fox, you will think of something you can do in the wind. Argyle doubted it, but he thought and thought. He looked at all of his toys and suddenly had an idea. “He cut, tied, knitted, painted, and taped. Finally, it was finished!” Argyle went out to the meadow and waited. “His heart pounded with excitement Would it work? Would he FINALLY be able to play in the wind?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-cutting-cards

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

At last the wind came by and Argyle let go of his creation. “Huzzah!‘ cried Argyle. ‘A kite is the most prefect thing to play in the wind.’” Argyle’s mother was proud of him for thinking up a kite all on his own. Argyle was so happy with his kite, that he made one for each of his friends, and they all flew their kites in the meadow together.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Marie Letourneau’s story of a little fox who just wants to play and is thwarted at every turn is a multi-layered tale of life’s ups and downs where big ideas sometimes get carried away on ill winds. Such times can bring disappointment or, as Argyle finds, an opportunity for discovery and accomplishment. As little Argyle tries game after game in the disruptive wind, disregarding the warnings and advice of his older neighbors, he learns through his own experience. His frustrations are vented in language appropriate to each character he plays and will make kids giggle. When Argyle goes home, listens to the gentle encouragement of his mother, and comes up with his own solution, he experiences the excitement and satisfaction of self-reliance and ingenuity.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-little-fox

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Letourneau’s delicately beautiful illustrations in soft blue, green, and orange hues will charm readers as adorable Argyle tries building a house of cards, building a web, playing pirate, kicking the soccer ball, and playing knight in lovely, detailed scenes that kids will like to explore. When Argyle goes back home, children will be intrigued to see how pieces of each of his toys become a part of his kite and may very well want to read the story again to find all the ingredients to that perfect windy-day plaything.

In addition to being a cute adventure to share with young readers at home or in the classroom, Argyle Fox is a terrific lead-in to discussions about self-reliance, self-confidence, creativity, and trial-and-error as well as the possible consequences of this important method of learning.

Ages 3 – 7

Tanglewood, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939100092

Learn more about Tanglewood Books on their website.

Discover more about Marie Letourneau, her books, and her art, and find fun activities to download on her website.

National Argyle Day Activity

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Argyle Pattern Template

 

Argyle patterns come in all colors and make whatever they decorate look festive! Design your own argyle pattern with this printable Argyle Pattern Template.

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Christmas Bird Count

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About the Holiday

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

Grumpy Bird

By Jeremy Tankard

 

Bird woke up on the wrong side of the nest. “He was too grumpy to eat” and “too grumpy to play.” In fact, he was so grumpy he couldn’t even lift himself into the air. “‘Looks like I’m walking today,’ Bird said.” His steps took him past Sheep who was grazing in a field. When Sheep found out that Bird was walking, she offered to come along.

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Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

The two soon came to where Rabbit was nibbling grass. Rabbit was curious about what Bird was doing. “‘I’m walking,’ said Bird. ‘It’s no fun.’” Even this less-than-enthusiastic response enticed Rabbit, though, and he joined in. Raccoon was just scampering down a tree truck when he spied the little parade. He called out to Bird to see what was going on. “‘I’m walking,’ snapped Bird, ‘What does it look like?’” Well, Raccoon said, “‘It looks like fun,’” and he joined the group.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-rabbit

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

Next, they came upon Beaver gathering sticks. His inquiry into Bird’s actions was met with a bit of pique: “‘Let me give you a hint,’ said Bird. ‘You do it by putting one foot in front of the other.’” Beaver caught on right away, and since he loved walking, he came too. When the animals passed Fox and the usual question was asked, Bird lost his temper. “‘WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP ASKING ME WHAT I’M DOING?’ Bird shouted. ‘I’m walking, okay?’” That sounded okay to Fox, so she bounded along too.

“Bird walked,” and so did the other animals. When Bird stopped, the animals stopped. And when “Bird stood on one leg,” so did everyone else. Bird tried jumping, and the other animals jumped too. Bird began to have a change of heart. He thought this game was pretty fun. It was so fun, in fact, that “Bird forgot all about being grumpy” and invited his friends to “fly back to [his] nest for a snack. And they did.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-fox

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

Jeremy Tankard’s adorable Bird who has the grouchies will keep kids giggling and laughing as his crankiness grows. The repeated phrasing allows enthusiastic listeners to join in, and a dramatic reading will enhance the humor. The animals’ good-natured responses to Bird’s grumpiness reminds kids that everyone has bad days, and that a little bit of silliness goes a long way toward making friends smile again. The fanciful ending, stated so simply, provides a bit of magic that suggests anything is possible—especially among good friends.

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Tankard’s illustrations are as multi-layered as his story, with sophisticated backgrounds that swirl with vibrant color, texture, bubbles, and sketched-in details. Silhouetted woods, sun-drenched fields, and riots of flowers give shape to Bird’s walking path while also highlighting the thickly outlined characters. As the appropriately blue Bird marches along on spindly legs, kids will be amused by his narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. Even his beak seems clenched. When he finally takes note of his fellow walking companions, his eyes turn questioning then attentive and finally cheerful.

Grumpy Bird would be a much-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf, especially on those days when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 3 and up

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545871822 (Board Book edition); 978-0439851473 (Hardcover edition, 2007)

Discover a portfolio of books and art by Jeremy Tankard on his website

Christmas Bird Count Activity

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Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

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

Picture Book Review

December 9 – International Day of Veterinary Medicine

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About the Holiday

Our pets are our best friends, and we show them how much we love them by making sure they’re healthy and happy. One major way to do this is to take them for regular visits to their veterinarian. Today’s holiday celebrates all of those doctors dedicated to ensuring that the furry friends in our lives have the best care possible. If you have a pet, why not send your veterinarian a quick Thank You email to tell them how much you appreciate all they do.

Biscuit Visits the Doctor

Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli | Illustrated by Pat Schories

 

It’s time for Biscuit to have a checkup. The little girl gets out Biscuit’s leash, and Biscuit happily goes along to the veterinarian’s office. There a bunny, a gerbil, and a parrot are also waiting to see Doctor Green, who “cares for many different animals” and “makes sure they are all healthy and strong.” Soon it is Biscuit’s turn to see the doctor.

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Image copyright Pat Schories, 2008, text copyright Alyssa Satin Capucilli, 2008. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Doctor Green examines Biscuit’s paws and listens to Biscuit’s heart. “Woof, woof! Woof, woof!” says Biscuit. As Biscuit sits quietly, Dr. Green peers into Biscuit’s ears, eyes, and mouth. Then the little girl tells Biscuit, “‘You must hold still when Dr. Green gives you a shot, Biscuit. She wants you to stay healthy and strong too.’” After the shot, Biscuit wants to play! “‘It’s not time to roll over now!’” the little girl says. “‘Silly puppy!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-biscuit-visits-the-doctor-at-the-office

Image copyright Pat Schories, 2008, text copyright Alyssa Satin Capucilli, 2008. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

For being such a great patient, Dr. Green has a special treat for Biscuit. “‘Woof, woof!’” says Biscuit before gobbling down the bone-shaped cookie. Then Biscuit has a “special treat for Dr. Green. It’s a big kiss!” Biscuit’s checkup is over and it’s time to go home, but Biscuit has gone exploring. What is behind the curtain in the next examining room?

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Image copyright Pat Schories, 2008, text copyright Alyssa Satin Capucilli, 2008. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

It’s a mother cat and her three kittens! Biscuit says hello with a “‘Woof, woof!’” “Mew, mew, mew,” they answer. The little girl and her mother head home as Biscuit leads the way. “‘It was fun to visit with our friend Dr. Green,’” the little girl says. “‘And meet some new friends too.’” Biscuit agrees with a “Woof!’” 

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Image copyright Pat Schories, 2008, text copyright Alyssa Satin Capucilli, 2008. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Alyssa Satin Capucilli’s beloved Biscuit series helps young readers understand exactly what will happen when they take their pets to the veterinarian. Capucilli’s straightforward storytelling, lively dialogue, and plenty of tail-wagging “woofs” from Biscuit reflect the sweet, caring relationship that little ones have with their pets. 

Pat Schorie’s bright illustrations give readers a close-up view of what a visit to a veterinarian entails. Children will see that a trip to the doctor for their dog, cat, or other furry friend is much like their own checkups, which offers a source of familiarity and comfort for children who may have questions.  Biscuit is playfully adorable, and young readers will be intrigued to see what is behind the curtain.

Biscuit Visits the Doctor is a great book to pick up before any pet’s check-up to share the experience with children.

Ages 2 – 8

Harper Festival, 2008 |ISBN 978-0061128431

Discover more about Alyssa Satin Capucilli and all of her books on her website.

Learn more about Pat Schories and view a gallery of illustration work on her website.

International Day of Veterinary Medicine Activity

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Your Pet Loves the Vet! Coloring Page

 

Veterinarians love helping your pet, and your pet loves the care and attention vets show them! Grab your colored pencils or crayons and enjoy this printable Your Pet Loves the Vet! Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Lost and Found Day

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About the Holiday

Doncha hate when you lose something? You know…you just had it and now it’s nowhere to be seen. Where is it? The last place you look, of course! But what if you never find it? Perhaps someone else found it and turned it in to a lost and found department. Oh, it’s all very disconcerting. Don’t give up hope! Today’s holiday was established just to give people an opportunity to really stop what they’re doing and look for that long-lost object. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte was the mastermind behind the idea of a Lost and Found? In 1805 he opened the world’s first Lost and Found Office in Paris and encouraged people to bring in items they found in the street. From there the idea spread! So if you’ve lost something, take a bit of time today to find it!

Hooray for Books!

By Brian Won

 

Turtle was looking everywhere for his favorite book. He took off his shell and searched it through and through. He found a pile of toys, games, hats, and puzzle pieces. There was one swim fin, a red wagon, an apple core, and even a wrapped gift box, but no book. Turtle thought hard, then remembered. “Aha! Maybe I shared it with…Zebra!” After imagining how much Zebra probably enjoyed the book, Turtle couldn’t wait to read it again himself. He dashed off to Zebra’s house, shouting, “‘Hooray for Books!’”

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

But Zebra didn’t have Turtle’s book. Instead, while munching on a carrot, Zebra offered him two others about unicorns. Turtle wanted his book, though. He thought some more and decided that maybe Zebra had shared it with…Owl! The two friends marched off to find out, cheering, “‘Hooray for Books!’” Owl was busy reading…but not Turtle’s book. Owl was paging through a book about eagles. While Turtle thought it might be interesting, it was not as interesting as his own book “‘I like my book!’” he said. “Maybe you shared it with…Giraffe!”

So Turtle and Zebra and Owl took off with their books in tow to find Giraffe. Giraffe had a stack of books, but had already passed on Turtle’s book to someone else. Giraffe did have a rollicking roller skating book, however, if Turtle was interested in that one. Turtle was having none of it, and suggested that maybe Giraffe had “shared it with…Elephant!” With Owl carrying the tall stack of books with a little help from Giraffe, and Zebra happily reading the roller skating book, Turtle led the way to Elephant’s house.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-books-turtle-finds-book

Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Elephant did not have Turtle’s book either. “‘It was a very good story,’ Elephant said. ‘Now I can share these with you.’” Elephant held up a book about juggling. Turtle was growing dejected. He wondered if Elephant could possibly have shared it with Lion. Just then Lion approached carrying a very, very tall stack of books. Turtle was so excited to see his own book at the bottom of the pile. He rushed over and pulled it out, sending the rest of the books flying.

“Turtle cheered, ‘I finally found my favorite! Hooray for Books!’” He went to a quiet spot and read his book three times. Meanwhile Owl, Zebra, Elephant, and Giraffe were sharing all of their books. Turtle heard them talking and laughing. Then he heard Lion say, “‘I bet Turtle would love this one.’” Intrigued, “Turtle came closer” and asked if everyone would like to read his book again because it was about friends. Then he asked, “‘Will you share your favorites with me?’”  

Everyone was excited and cheered, “‘Let’s read together!’” So they sat down surrounded by all of their favorite books and celebrated, “‘Hooray for Story Time!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-books-bookshelf

Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Brian Won’s sweet group of friends return in a story of togetherness and the joys of sharing favorite books. Won’s dialogue-rich text makes this a perfect read-aloud that allows little ones to join in on the repeated phrases, are full of the emotions that children will recognize. The gentle suspense that propels the story is delightfully cheerful with “Hoorays” and smiles and humor as the friends’ pile of books grows with each stop. Won’s ending is comforting and satisfying, allowing young readers to see that they can enjoy their own favorites and share in the favorites of others as friends build strong bonds.

Children will be happy to see Won’s familiar characters in another adventure. The enthusiasm of Zebra, Owl, Giraffe, Elephant, and Lion to help Turtle is infectious, and readers will giggle at the precarious pile of books that grows and grows. Kids will love predicting what will happen to that stack. As Turtle searches his home for his book, kids will recognize and be happy to point out items from Won’s Hooray for Hat! and Hooray for Today! The final two-page vertical spread is an adorable celebration of story time and friendship.

Hooray for Books! is a joyful addition to any home or classroom bookshelf and would make a fun gift for inspiring many story times to come.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544748026

Discover more about Brian Won, his books, and his art on his website.

Lost and Found Day Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Books are great to share with friends, but sometimes it’s hard to remember who you’ve lent them to or who you’ve borrowed them from. With this printable personalized I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate, you can make sure your books never get lost!

Picture Book Review