December 24 – Christmas Eve

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About the Holiday

While traditions may vary, children around the world look forward to Christmas Eve night with its sense of wonder and magic. Anything, it seems, is possible on this special night—just as today’s book shows.

The Little Reindeer

By Nicola Killen

 

Ollie, dressed in her reindeer pajamas, had just drifted off to sleep when she heard a faint “jingle, jingle, jingle.” She woke and “rushed to the window, but all she could see was a blanket of fresh snow!” She picked up her sled and headed outside. Just as Ollie caught a falling snowflake, “she heard the magical sound again. Jingle, jingle, jingle.” She flopped on her sled and zipped down a hill, following the sound as it became clearer and clearer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-bells-jingle

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

When Ollie came to the edge of the woods, she could hear the bells jangling louder and louder. “She took a deep breath and, feeling very brave, she ran into the darkness.” There, she saw a red collar “circled with silver bells.” She wondered whose it was. Suddenly, “a reindeer stepped through the crisp snow toward Ollie.” The reindeer knelt down as Ollie attached his collar. Then he bent lower to allow Ollie to climb on his back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-on-sled

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

While Ollie thought that they might ride through the forest, she found herself soaring “up into the night sky, leaving the trees far below!”  They flew over the town and the bay, over fields and forests through the snowy night. The reindeer brought Ollie home, landing softly in the snow right outside her door. Ollie didn’t want to leave her new friend, but she knew “there was someone very special who needed the reindeer’s help that night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-into-forest

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ollie quietly climbed the stairs to her room and quickly fell asleep, “dreaming of her magical journey.” She didn’t hear the jingle of the bells as her reindeer once more streaked across the sky. In the morning, Ollie unwrapped a very special gift that would  remind her of her new friend until they met again next year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-finds-collar

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Nicola Killen’s tale of imagination and the magic that children can find in Christmas will charm young readers. Adorable Ollie dreams of reindeer not only at night but all the time, as children can see in Ollie’s room that is filled with reminders of her favorite animal, including a book about reindeer, a reindeer bookend, reindeer sheets, reindeer wallpaper, a reindeer plush, and plenty of reindeer drawings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-meets-reindeer

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Killen’s story has a dreamy feeling, prompting readers to wonder: is this nighttime jaunt real or not? A clue may lie in the fact that the reindeer wears a blanket of the same pattern as Ollie’s bedspread. Killen’s gray-scale illustrations are beautifully accented with touches of red and sprinkled with silver that glints from the sleigh bells, snow-topped trees, and in the magical swoop of the reindeer’s flight. Several die-cuts invite readers to follow Ollie into the night and through the woods and offers a peek out Ollie’s window to see her reindeer pass by as she sleeps.

A sweet story for little dreamers, The Little Reindeer is a classic tale that will enchant children around the holidays and beyond and would be a favorite addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481486866

Discover more about Nicola Killen, her books, and her art on her website

Christmas Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fireplace-and-stockings

Hanging Stockings Coloring Page

 

Hanging stockings by the fireplace is a fun Christmas Eve tradition! Get your crayons, colored pencils, or markers and enjoy this printable Hanging Stockings Coloring Page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-cover

You can find The Little Reindeer at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 15 – International Tea Day

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About the Holiday

International Tea Day was created in 2005 in New Deli, India to raise awareness within the governments of tea-growing countries of tea workers, their conditions, and their economic contributions. Today, the holiday is commemorated widely in tea-growing nations. Some issues include wages, medical care, and education for women tea workers. Of course, winter is a perfect time to enjoy steaming cups of tea – maybe with a cookie or two!

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

Because snow had fallen overnight Kikko’s father was off to her grandmother’s house to shovel the walk. After he left, Kikko noticed that he had forgotten to take the pie her mother had made for Grandma. “‘I can still catch up to him,’” said Kikko. Carefully, carrying the boxed pie, Kikko followed “her father’s tracks in the fresh snow. The woods were very still. And so quiet. Kikko’s footsteps were the only sound.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-kikko-peers-in-window

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Spying a coated figure in the distance, Kikko began to run, but she fell in the deep snow, crushing the pie. Still, she picked up the box and hurried on. She watched as her father entered a strange house. “Has it always been here? Kikko wondered. She couldn’t remember having seen it before.” Kikko crept to the window and peered inside, just as her father took off his hat and coat. But—he wasn’t her father at all!” He was a bear!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-lamb-meets-kikko

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

A little lamb approaching the house found Kikko looking through the window and asked if she were there for the tea party. Taking Kikko’s hand, the lamb led her into the house. When Kikko saw all of the animals gathered there, she couldn’t believe it. The animals cheered and welcomed Kikko enthusiastically. “‘We’re about to serve the tea,’ said the rabbit. ‘You’re just in time.’” After the animals seated themselves around a long table, a doe stood, thanked everyone for coming, and asked Kikko to introduce herself.

She told then her name and why she was in the forest. The animals thought she was very brave, and Kikko began to feel braver herself. When the animals learned that Kikko’s pie had been ruined, they all contributed a piece of their own pie from the party. “Slice by slice they assembled a new pie on a pretty plate. Each piece had a different filling of seeds and nuts and fruit and other delicious things gathered from the woods.” They found a new box, placed the plate inside, and tied it with a red ribbon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-animals-meet-kikko

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Kikko was so excited to bring her Grandma this gift that she wanted to leave right away. The animals said they would come too. The woods rang with music, talking, laughing, and singing as the group “paraded to Grandma’s house.” When they reached Grandma’s house, the animals encouraged Kikko to go to the door. Grandma and Kikko’s father were surprised to see her. “‘My dear, did you come all this way on your own?’ asked Grandma, stepping inside.” Kikko could not see the animals anywhere. “‘You’re never alone in the woods,’” Kikko answered, smiling. She was sure her new friends were listening.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-parade-in-the-woods

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi’s reassuring story about a little girl venturing out into strange territory on her own for the first time is a delight. The straightforward narrative offers just the right amount of familiarity for young readers to allow them to be fully charmed by the magical elements that provide surprise and suspense. Little ones will be entranced by the warm welcome Kikko receives at the splendid and well-attended tea party. They will also find comfort in realizing that even when travels become hard, they can still discover wondrous things and that friends and help are always available – sometimes where they least expect it.  

Miyakoshi’s stunning black-and-white drawings, done in charcoal and pencil, are gorgeous in their portrayal of the woodland animals and their tea party. The long table they crowd around is laden with pies, bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, and of course teapots and teacups. At first Kikko offers the only color on the pages with her red cap and skirt and yellow hair. Later, however, when the animals suggest sharing their pie, the plate dazzles with mouthwatering brilliance, and hints of red and yellow brighten the next page. As the parade marches through the woods, the animals’ red and yellow clothes and musical instruments make a festive party. But as Kikko goes on to her Grandma’s house alone, the color fades from the animals, highlighting her achievement.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-177138107

Discover more about Akiko Miyakoshi and a portfolio of her work on her website!

International Tea Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Decorate Your Own Mug

 

It’s fun to drink tea (or hot chocolate—shhh!) from a mug you’ve designed yourself. Personalized mugs also make fantastic presents for friends and family.

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

  1. Design and color your mug
  2. Follow directions on the markers or paint to properly bake on your decoration and make it permanent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-cover

You can find The Tea Party in the Woods at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 9 – National Llama Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the llama, that South American long-necked animal in the camel family that has long served as a pack animal and provides both wool and meat. Because of its personality and high placement on the cuteness scale, the llama has enjoyed a spurt of popularity lately, appearing in artwork, decorating all types of clothing from t-shirts to Toms shoes, splashed across sheets and comforters, and even fashioned into salt and pepper shakers and cookie jars. To celebrate today, visit a zoo, petting zoo, or llama farm and read a llama-inspired book – like today’s!

A Couch for Llama

By Leah Gilbert

 

The Lagos had a couch they loved. They loved it for “…snuggling and reading, card playing, fort building, and hiding and seeking!” But now their beloved couch needed replacing. So the three little Lagos and their parents piled into the car and drove off down the winding road past a farm and fields and a lone llama to find another.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-couch-for-llama-jumping

Copyright Leah Gilbert, 2018, courtesy of leah-gilbert.com.

At the furniture store, they tried a brown couch that was too big, an old-fashioned sofa that was too small, and finally a red couch that was just right. They tied it to the roof of their car and headed back home. But just as they were passing that lone llama again, the ties came undone, and the couch flew off into the field of golden wheat.

Llama was surprised. He gave it a sniff and “brayed ‘Hello!’ to the couch. But the couch didn’t say anything.” Llama tried giving it a few sheaves of wheat, but the couch did not seem hungry. So Llama took a big bite out of the couch instead. He found “it tasted worse than a dry, dusty tumbleweed.” Worse, the couch was very boring. Llama wanted it out of his field, but it wouldn’t move.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-couch-for-llama-napping

Copyright Leah Gilbert, 2018, courtesy of leah-gilbert.com.

At the same time that the Lagos realized the couch was gone, Llama realized the couch made a very good trampoline. He “bouncey-bouncey-bounced, whirled and twirled, bumped and jumped.” Finally, Llama came to rest on the soft cushions and discovered that he “completely loved the couch.” Llama was taking a nap on the couch when the Lagos found it.

Llama didn’t want to give up the couch, but the Lagos strapped it once more to the roof of their car and drove away with a promise that they’d come back. And they did—with their old “couch just for llama!” Now, the Lagos are happy and Llama is “the happiest of all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-couch-for-llama-won't-move

Copyright Leah Gilbert, 2018, courtesy of leah-gilbert.com.

Leah Gilbert knows there may be no more beloved piece of furniture than the family sofa, and she’s turned what can be a sad event—the replacement of this almost-family member—into a humorous and joyful story of paying it forward in a most unusual way. Gilbert’s lively illustrations show the playful parents partaking in games and chases with their kids and loyal dog all centered on and around the couch until it’s rumpled and worn.

When the llama first makes his appearance, readers will be just as curious about him as he is about the passing car and later about the red couch that suddenly appears in his field. Llama’s expressions as he tries to interact with this interloper are hilarious, and kids will laugh (and probably do some bouncing of their own) when Llama discovers the thrill of jumping on the couch. The Lago’s solution to their dilemma is endearing and proves that there’s always plenty of life left in any old sofa. Readers will also enjoy following the geese as they fly this way and that and make a funny front-of-the-page appearance.

For silly story times and also for when a change in the house carries a tug at the heart, A Couch for Llama will be a much-asked-for addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454925118

Discover more about Leah Gilbert, her books, and her art on her website.

Come have a seat for this A Couch for Llama book trailer!

National Llama Day Activity

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Lovable Llama Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons or pencils and give the lovable llama in this printable page a colorful personality!

Lovable Llama Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-couch-for-llama-cover

You can find A Couch for Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 8 – Parents as Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

The idea for Parents as Teachers goes back to the 1970s when Missouri educators noticed that not all kindergarteners were beginning school with the same skill set. Research demonstrated the benefits of parental involvement in reading, writing, and math before children began school as well as early detection and intervention for children with delayed development and health issues. Support services and parental education aided an awareness of the importance of children’s earliest years. Parents as Teachers Day was officially instituted in 2001 by the Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Community events and outreach to parents mark the day’s activities.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes | Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

 

You may not remember, but when you were little your parents, grandparents, and others carried you – a lot! But what do animals do with their babies? “There are no baby backpacks, / no wraps or straps or slings, / no seats to buckle kids in, / or many other things.” Let’s take a look at some very different animals and see how they take care of their young.

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

A sea otter pup rides on her mother’s belly as she floats along on her back. But what does the mother sea otter do when she needs to hunt for food? She “wraps her baby in long strands of kelp seaweed to keep her pup from floating away.” Hanging upside down high in a tree seems pretty dangerous for a baby, but a little sloth clings on tight to his mother’s fur and stays there “for almost a year.”

While mother animals do much of the rearing of their little ones, both moms and dads in common loon families are involved. They both give their chicks rides on their backs to keep them “safe from fish and turtle predators.” No person wants to get close to an alligator’s sharp teeth, but inside her wide jaws is just where baby alligators feel safest. When they want to leave their nest, the hatchlings call to their mother, who returns and “gently lifts them out, a few at a time, and carries them to the water for safety.”

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Do you see the baby anteater? She’s cleverly concealed! “Blending in with mama’s fur, you hardly see this pup. It rides upon her hairy back while she digs insects up.” What about kangaroos, opossums, manatees, chimpanzees, wolf spiders, emperor penguins, and lions? How do they carry their babies and protect them while they grow? You’ll find out all about what these animals do. Then it’s time for you to learn “how did someone carry you?”

Backmatter presents an illustrated matching game for kids as well as extensive resources, including more information about each animal, language arts, math, science, engineering, and movement lesson extentions, and suggestions for further reading for teachers and parents.

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Marianne Berkes engages young readers in learning about twelve familiar and more unusual animals in two ways. First, a sweet rhyming couplet—which can be used as a fun guessing game—introduces each animal. Berkes then expands on the information with a brief and fascinating fact or two about how the animal’s method of holding her or his young protects them, feeds them, or moves them from place to place.

Little environmentalist in the making will be awed by Cathy Morrison’s realistic illustrations of each adult animal and baby in their natural habitat. Morrison’s images are so lifelike that readers can count individual hairs on the mother sloth’s arms and marvel at the sharpness of her claws as they wrap around a tree branch and almost feel the softness of the baby otter’s curly fur as she and her mother float in a bed of kelp. The animal’s facial expressions are likewise realistic while showing concern on the part of the adult and complete trust on the part of the babies.

There will be plenty of ewwws and ahhhs for the wolf spider and alligator, and as they watch the lion cup nearly bound off the page, kids will want to start all over and see these majestic wonders again. Morrison’s detailed backgrounds are no less fascinating as they contain clear images of the landscapes each animal calls home, complete with plants, trees, insects, waterways, and more.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young provides nature and animal lovers much to learn and talk about. The extra resources also make this a valuable book to add to classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 6

Dawn Publications, 2017 | ISBN 978-1584695936

Discover more about Marianne Berkes and her books on her website. 

To learn more about Cathy Morrison, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Parents as Teachers Day Activity

cute animal coloring pages Best of rhino and her baby free animal coloring pages kleurplaat

Animal Family Coloring Pages

 

Here are three animal families for you to enjoy coloring. Grab your crayons or pencils and have fun!

Lion and Baby | Zebra and Baby | Hippo and Baby

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You can find Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 5 – Job Action Day

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About the Holiday

Job Action Day was created in 2008 as a day for job seekers and employees to assess their career goals and take action to make them a reality. Today, experts across the web and in participating companies offer special seminars and training sessions to provide the latest in career advice. Today’s holiday, which is sponsored by LiveCareer, gives people a chance to reflect on what is most important in their life. Are you doing the job you’re passionate about? Are you bringing your passions to the job you are doing? If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your position, take another look at your job and where it leads. It’s possible that new opportunities lie within your current job—you never know where a particular job will lead you until you put all your creativity, knowledge, and—most importantly—unique personality—into it. If your current job doesn’t offer these kinds of opportunities, today is a good day to polish that resume and begin a search for a better fit.

Business Pig

By Andrea Zuill

 

When Jelly Bean gave birth to five piglets at the Sunshine Sanctuary for Farm Animals, one was a standout. Dressed in a pinstripe suit and tie and drinking from a mug, he smiled at the farmer and two volunteers. “What kind of pig is that?” one volunteer asked. “Well, I believe what we have here is a gen-u-wine Business Pig,” the farmer answered. The little girl volunteer named him Jasper.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-business-pig-born

Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Right from the start, Jasper didn’t like playing in the mud, and instead of rooting for grubs with his snout, he used a shovel. “Everyone at the sanctuary loved little Jasper. But that didn’t keep him from feeling out of place.” So the volunteers made him an office in the corner of the barn with a hay bale desk, a comfortable chair, and a computer. They gave him a job helping with the bookkeeping. When Jasper held a meeting, everyone came “to show their support.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-business-pig-no-mud

Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But when it came right down to it, some of the animals didn’t understand him. The chickens ignored his flow charts, “and the goat ate his business card.” And no one seemed to want him as a pet. Jasper decided to be proactive. He wrote articles for the newspaper touting the benefits of pigs as pets, he hung out billboards, and he tacked signs with pull-off tabs onto electrical posts. Then he waited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-business-pig-charts

Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Soon a little girl carrying a briefcase visited the sanctuary. She studied Jasper’s flow charts, “wanted to exchange business cards with him,” and carefully read his résumé. Jasper was pleased with the interview, “but upper management had to be consulted.” Fortunately, the little girl’s mother was also impressed, and Jasper went home with his “perfect fit.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-business-pig-resume

Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Andrea Zuill’s Jasper will make you swoon. Adorable doesn’t go far enough to describe the absolute perfect expressions on this piglet’s face as he meets the volunteers, sees his office for the first time, reacts to having his business card devoured, and with hope hands out his résumé. Jasper’s gestures are equally as endearing and will make readers’—kids and adults—hearts swell. Zuill’s story is humorous in its use of business jargon (Jasper is “smart, outgoing, proactive,” and enlists the help of his contacts), uplifting in the way the sanctuary’s volunteers and animals support the little pig, and emotionally resonant when this diminutive businessman is passed over for adoption. Kids will feel good all over when the piglet finally meets his perfect match and gets the “job” he’s been searching for.

With both laugh-out-loud and heartwarming moments, Business Pig would make a much-loved gift and addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves that will be asked for again and again. 

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926849

Discover more about Andrea Zuill, her books, and her art on her website.

Job Action Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-briefcase-craft

Briefcase Craft

 

Every business kid needs a briefcase! With this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application, young talents will be taking the world by storm in no time!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-business-pig-cover

You can find Business Pig at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 28 – National Good Neighbor Day

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About the Holiday

National Good Neighbor Day was established in the early 1970s by Lakeside, Montana resident Becky Mattson and made an official holiday in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: to appreciate your neighbors and to make sure you’re a good neighbor too. To celebrate, say hi to your neighbors or take them a special treat!

Good Morning, Neighbor

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Maria Dek

 

A mouse had a hankering for an omelet, but he didn’t have an egg. He went to his neighbor Blackbird and said, “‘Good morning, neighbor. Do you have an egg that I could use to make an omelet?’”  The blackbird had no eggs, but she did have flour and suggested making a cake if they could find an egg. That sounded good to the mouse, so they went to visit their neighbor, Dormouse on his leafy branch. “‘Good morning, neighbor,’” they said, and asked for an egg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-omelet

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The dormouse didn’t have an egg either, but he did have butter for the cake and a suggestion to ask Mole for an egg. Down in the mole’s dark hole, the mouse, the blackbird, and the dormouse asked if Mole had an egg. “‘I’m sorry, I don’t,’” she said, “‘but I do have sugar. You’ll definitely need sugar to make a cake!’” They all went off to visit Mole’s neighbor, the hedgehog, to see about the egg. Hedgehog thought they might use his apples to make the cake if his neighbor Raccoon had that elusive egg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-mouse

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“‘Good morning, neighbor,’” the group said before asking about the egg. The raccoon was sorry to tell them that she didn’t have an egg, but then added that she did have “cinnamon to add flavor.” Who could they ask next? Raccoon thought her neighbor Lizard might have an egg, but he only had raisins to add to the recipe.

Next, they went to Lizard’s neighbor, the bat—who said, “‘Of course I have an egg!’” With all the ingredients in hand, the neighbors went to work: “The blackbird poured the flour. The bat broke the egg. The dormouse added the butter, and the mole stirred in the flour.” Then the other friends added their ingredients too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-dormouse

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

All that was left to do was to bake the cake. Everyone climbed high into Owl’s tree to see if she had an oven. “‘Good morning, neighbor,’” they all said. “‘Could we use your oven to bake a cake?’” “‘Certainly,’ said the owl.” When the cake was ready, Owl asked how many slices she should cut. They counted out: Blackbird got a slice for her flour, Dormouse for his butter, Mole for the sugar, Hedgehog for the apples, Raccoon for the cinnamon, and Lizard and Bat each got a slice for their raisins and egg. And they did not forget “a slice for the owl for the use of her oven.” Eight slices in all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-dormouse-tree

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Sadly, the mouse asked, “‘What about me?’” The dormouse answered, “‘You didn’t put in anything. So you don’t get a slice.’” Besides, he added, it was hard to cut a cake into nine slices. As the mouse walked away, the other animals reconsidered. The blackbird realized that if the mouse hadn’t asked for an egg he “‘wouldn’t have thought about giving him flour to make the cake.’” Then Dormouse, Mole, Hedgehog, Raccoon, Lizard, Bat, and Owl all decided she was right about how mouse had spurred their participation too. So they cut the cake into nine slices—“which wasn’t that hard after all—and enjoyed eating it together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-morning-neighbor-tree

Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Davide Cali’s classic-style, sequential story builds gentle suspense and intrigue as the forest animals visit neighbor after neighbor looking for an egg to bake a cake. With the acquiring of each new ingredient, the group of friends grows, giving young readers plenty of chances to chime in on the repeated phrase list that precedes each “Good morning, neighbor.” As the animals each add their particular offering to the batter, observant children may notice the absence of Mouse. Dormouse’s clipped response to Mouse’s request for a piece of cake will surprise and even perhaps shock readers. Blackbird’s defense of Mouse and the other animals’ change of heart provide opportunities for thought-provoking discussions about the value of ideas, the role of different contributions, the nature of friendship, and what it means to be a good neighbor.

Maria Dek’s homey, warm-toned folk-art illustrations lend grace and charm to Cali’s story, while whimsical elements, such as Mole’s slippers and hat, and Lizard’s unique raisin delivery method, will endear the characters to readers. Tearful mouse brings a moment of sympathy and empathy that is happily resolved in a two-page spread of a twinkling light string-bedecked forest where the group of animals celebrate their friendship.

Ages 4 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1616896997

National Good Neighbor Day Activity

“Hello, friends!” Word Search

 

Sure, your neighbors are the people who live in the houses on your street, but they’re also the people in other towns, in other states, and even in other countries. And they’re not just neighbors—they’re friends! Learn how to say “hello” to all your friends in twenty-five languages with this printable word search.

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

 

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You can find Good Morning, Neighbor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 22 – National Elephant Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

While today’s holiday was established in 1996 by Mission Media and its owner Wayne Hepburn because of Hepburn’s love for elephants, the day has garnered official recognition and deserves wide acknowledgement. These gentile, giant animals need our protection from environmental and human dangers. To celebrate today’s holiday visit a zoo or animal preserve, watch a documentary on elephants, or consider donating to their cause.

Strictly No Elephants

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little boy, his adorable pet elephant by his side, kneels on his bed and gazes out the window at the brownstones across the street. There he sees other kids with their—more conventional—pets: a bird, a cat, a fish, and dogs. “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” the boy reveals. Every day the boy takes his elephant for a walk, but even in this common pet-owner activity, the boy and the elephant show their special relationship. The elephant is thoughtful—protecting the boy with an umbrella on rainy days—and the boy is considerate—carrying his elephant over cracks in the sidewalk that frighten it. Why? Because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On this particular day the boy winds a red scarf around his elephant’s neck and joins the parade of kids on their way to Number 17 where the Pet Club meets. The elephant is reluctant, but the boy is reassuring, even carrying his pet on his back the last few feet. “‘It’ll be fine,’” he says. But when they reach the apartment, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Strictly No Elephants.” There’s even a picture of a crossed out elephant on the sign.

The elephant understands all too well and leads the boy back onto the sidewalk, now ignoring the cracks. “‘That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you,’” the boy says. The day has suddenly become rainy, and they are caught on the sidewalk without an umbrella. Taking shelter under an awning, the two find a little girl holding her pet skunk. “‘Did you try to go to the Pet Club meeting too?’” she asks. “‘Yes,’” the boy says, “‘But they don’t allow elephants.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

While the sign may not explicitly forbid skunks, the little girl says that the other members didn’t want to play with her and her skunk either. Wisely, the boy tells her “‘They don’t know any better.’” The elephant reaches out its trunk toward the skunk with the girl’s reassurance that he doesn’t stink. The two new friends decide to start their own pet club and head down the sidewalk to find a venue. The boy makes sure that his elephant follows because friends “‘never leave anyone behind.’”

On the way the boy, girl, elephant, and skunk encounter a whole crowd of kids with unusual pets—a tiny giraffe, a mini narwhal, an armadillo, a bat, a hedgehog, and a penguin. They come to a park, complete with tree house, that is perfect for their club. The kids and pets eagerly adopt their new play space—swinging on the tire swing, waddling around the balcony, exploring the roof, playing tag, reading, and more. The boy quickly does the most important thing of all: he paints a new sign for the clubhouse door. “Strictly No Strangers, No Spoilsports ALL ARE WELCOME” it reads. And if you need directions to the club, the boy’s tiny elephant will give them to you “‘because that’s what friends do.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Lisa Mantchev has written a story addressing the types of isolation and rejection that kids (and adults) can face—sometimes because of a single perceived difference—in an uplifting and productive way. With gentle honesty and thoughtfulness, Mantchev invites kids to consider their actions, attitudes, and responses to others. As Mantchev reveals, more inclusiveness leads to more understanding and better relationships. Her lyrical language and sweet reminders of “what friends do” elevate this tribute to camaraderie and companionship and make it a story kids will want to hear again and again.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Taeeun Yoo’s adorable illustrations of the boy, his tiny pet elephant, and the other animal-and-owner pairs are irresistible. Any reader would want a pet as cute and adaptable as these, which leads to a good opportunity for adults and children to discuss the ideas of and attitudes behind exclusion in this story and in real life. As the boy and his elephant are turned away from the Pet Club door, the day turns dark and stormy. The two-page spread is rendered in somber shades, except for the little boy with his yellow-striped shirt and red scarf, the elephant sporting a matching red scarf, and the soon-to-be-met brown-skinned girl who wears a red and yellow-striped dress, emphasizing the connections between these two children. The final pages in which the new friends meet and play together are joyful, inviting all readers to “join the club.”

Strictly No Elephants gives readers so much to see, think about, and discuss. The book is a must for school and classroom libraries and would be a very welcome addition to children’s home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481416474

Discover Lisa Mantchev’s books for children, young adults, and adults on her website.

See a gallery of books by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Elephant Appreciation Day Activity

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Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

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You can find Strictly No Elephants at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review