February 9 – It’s Creative Romance Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-cover

About the Holiday

February, the month of love, is a perfect time to think up creative ways to surprise that special person in your life with a romantic gesture, exciting date night, or fun adventure that will add spice and fun to your relationship. With a little imagination you can find unique ways to show all the love that’s in your heart. 

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Bear Meets Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bear Meets Bear

By Jacob Grant

 

Bear was waiting for the teapot he and Spider had ordered to arrive. It was exciting to think of getting something new delivered. At last the doorbell rang. When Bear opened the door, he found Panda, a delivery person he’d never seen before. She asked him to sign for his package, but Bear was smitten. “His heart beat fast…. He wanted to say something clever, or funny, or anything at all,” but he couldn’t.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-delivery

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The delivery woman asked for his signature again, and finally he was able to sign the sheet. He watched Panda peddle away on her delivery bike. Spider thought Bear’s predicament was quite funny. Bear rushed to his computer and ordered another teapot. Bear waited and waited. He watched out the window, hoping to see Panda’s delivery bike roll up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-waiting

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Bear was just considering ordering another tea pot when he saw Panda coming up the walk. But when she handed him the box and asked him to sign, Bear just stood silently again. “Spider felt sorry for his friend.” Bear ordered another teapot and another and another. Never could he summon the courage to talk to Panda, even though Spider encouraged him. Standing among all of the boxes of teapots, Spider told him he should “invite her to tea” or “at least remember to breathe” when Panda came to the door.

Bear agreed. He would order one more teapot and talk to Panda when it arrived. Bear waited with anticipation. But when the doorbell rang, it wasn’t Panda standing there, but a “gruff raccoon.” “Bear’s heart hurt.” He bemoaned the missed opportunities and regretted all the teapots. Spider wanted to help. He wrote a note and headed out to find Panda. He went from door to door asking if anyone had seen her. Finally, he found her at Duck’s house.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-sad

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next day Panda was excited to see Panda on his doorstep. She thanked him for his invitation to a tea party. Bear felt himself freeze, but then he told her he would be just a minute. He cleaned up the scattered teapots and welcomed her in. Soon Bear and Panda were chatting and laughing like old friends.

After Panda said goodbye, Bear thanked Spider and said that Panda was very nice but that they would “not be meeting for tea again.” It turned out that Panda didn’t like tea! Bear was nonplussed, but thought it was “all rather funny.” The next time he and Panda met, Bear served lemonade. And what about all those teapots? Bear held a yard sale!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-tea-party

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Fans of Jacob Grant’s Bear and Spider series know that Bear is often hesitant to put himself out there, to try something new, or even, sometimes, to leave the house. It might be because his feelings are so strong or he doubts himself  – or a little of both. Fortunately, Bear has his good friend Spider who supports him and gives him a nudge when he needs it. When Bear meets Panda and is smitten, he, like many people, can’t find the exact right words among all those feelings; a simple “hello” doesn’t seem like enough. Grant understands. Enter Spider, who offers a gentle dose of honesty and provides always-polite Bear with an opportunity to shine. When Bear discovers that Panda doesn’t like tea, Grant also shows readers that conditions don’t have to be perfect to make a new friend and that a little humor goes a long way toward smoothing things over.

Grant’s tranquil color palette and simple shapes make it easy for readers to immerse themselves in Bear’s feelings, empathizing with his all-too-human predicament while enjoying the comical collection of all those tea pots. When Bear watches out the window day after day, willing Panda to return only to be filled with fear and anxiety when she does, Grant perfectly captures that “oh no, now what?” emotion as Bear’s paws fly to his face and his eyes widen. Likewise, Bear’s regrets are palpable as, surrounded by boxes, he buries his head in the chair. Throughout, Spider is there, weaving his web, strumming his banjo, and watching out for Bear. Wordless images of Bear and Panda enjoying lemonade together and Bear’s yard sale let kids know it has all turned out all right.

A charming, poignant, and reassuring addition to the Bear and Spider series, Bear Meets Bear,  a story about overcoming emotions that hold us back, is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547604241

Discover more about Jacob Grant, his books, and his art on his website.

Creative Romance Month Activity

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

Create a Mug

 

If you’re kids are looking for a gift to make for a family member or a friend for Valentine’s Day or any time, a personalized mug makes a creative way to share a little love every time it’s used. 

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-bear-meets-bear-cover

You can find Bear Meets Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 4 – National Stress Awareness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-anxiety-cover

About the Holiday

National Stress Awareness Day was established by Carole Spiers, Chair of the International Stress Management Association, which provides employers with guidance on establishing company stress reduction programs and individuals with methods for looking after their health every day. The holiday aims to help people identify the stress factors in their life and learn how to reduce them. This year, of course, stress is high. Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to assess how they and their family are handling stress and look for ways to manage it while adding positive changes to their life.

Thank you to Beaming Books for sending me copies of All About Anxiety and Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

All About Anxiety

Written by Carrie Lewis | Illustrated by Sophia Touliatou

 

As you pick up this book, the first thing you notice is its comforting, velvety-soft cover. Upon opening it, the second thing young readers will see are illustrations of kids just like them engaged in familiar situations that can cause stress and anxiety and expressing their feelings in ways kids will recognize and understand. And then comes the third, most reassuring thing of all—discussions about anxiety: the different types, how it can manifest itself, and how it can be managed, written in kid-friendly, clear, and detailed ways by an author who really knows how to communicate with children.

In five chapters, this 89-page book covers a wide range of topics that answer the questions children may have about the feelings they experience every day or only in certain situations and give them encouragement and workable solutions to try. Chapter 1 introduces a definition of anxiety, describes six of the most commonly felt types of anxiety, and, through a relatable story of two sisters grappling with different anxieties, demonstrates how a fear can grow and how it can be lessened.

Chapter 2 talks about some of the things that can cause anxiety—from memories of frightening experiences and seeing others’ reactions to certain things to parents and brain chemical imbalances to growing up in difficult circumstances. Each of these, as well as a description of how the body reacts to anxiety, is treated with detailed and easy-to-understand paragraphs that contain examples kids will appreciate.

Chapter 3 likens anxiety to the various types of animals in a zoo and the child as the zookeeper. This chapter is especially effective in directly addressing some of the most common anxiety triggers and providing practical steps that will help. These include the news; stories, TV shows, and movies; hormones; changes within the family; money worries; moving; the pressure to succeed; comparing oneself to others; the way one looks; other people; peer pressure; and social media.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-anxiety-brain

Image copyright Sophia Touliatou, 2020, text copyright Carrie Lewis. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Chapter 4, children are encouraged to answer several questions that can determine if they actually have anxiety or not. In the next step, readers learn how anxiety can affect the quality of their life and relationships with family and friends. Here Carrie Lewis presents discussions on social anxiety, family relationships, school and studying, sports and hobbies, and overall health. Speaking directly to the reader, Lewis uses specific examples of ways anxiety may affect them. Moreover, with each topic, Lewis provides bulleted suggestions for activities that can boost self-esteem, release healthy endorphins, and change their focus.

Chapter 5 is a “taking-control toolkit” where Lewis explores “different ways to make life less anxious and to keep serious anxiety away.” These include deep breathing, visualization, body relaxation exercises, talking with a trusted adult or doctor, how to talk about anxiety, using mild anxiety as a superpower, and ways to stay positive. Lewis closes her book with six resources, complete with contact information, where young readers and adults can find help and more information.

Reading through this book by Carrie Lewis is like sitting down with a sympathetic, knowledgeable friend who can put you at ease and give you the help you’re looking for. That sense of being understood is just one of the many strengths of this book. Conversational text and an unflinching look at the real-world issues that can cause anxiety will resonate with children, tweens, and even teens and put them on the road to managing their feelings.

On every page the text wraps around Sophia Touliatou’s vibrant and evocative illustrations that let kids know they’re not alone. Images mirror feelings of fear and anxiety, depict brain activity related to feelings of anxiety, and show difficult situations all children deal with at one time or another. But Touliatou also includes many images of children finding ways to manage and overcome their anxiety that offer hope and happiness. In design, the book makes excellent use of typography and other elements to make topics easy to find and appeal to the targeted audience.

A superb book for helping children and tweens with anxiety or just navigating day-to-day feelings, All About Anxiety is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 8 – 13

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506463209

You can find All About Anxiety at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafting-calm-cover

Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids

Written by Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla | Illustrated by Aruna Rangarajan

 

One way to take control of your feelings is by finding an activity that calms the mind, changes your focus, uses your talents, or helps you reach out to others. That’s what Crafting Calm is all about. Through five chapters Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla show readers how they can use various arts, movement, breathing, their senses, and their sense of self to be calmer and happier.

Each chapter focuses on a particular topic. Chapter 1: Catch Your Calm helps children gain control of their thoughts or behavior with crafts such as making a glitter jar and a Zen garden, kneading homemade bread, and doing an easy yoga exercise. A short parable demonstrates the power of perspective, and other activities give readers a variety of options. Chapter 2: Examining Emotions contains activities that allow a child to better understand their emotions and how they physically react to them. Doing a body scan, making mood art, learning to walk with confidence, and creating an emotional support plant are just a few of the activities presented.

Chapter 3: Being Here and Experiencing Now provides methods to support the important idea of staying present in every moment. Mindful walking, engaging all your senses, slowing down to fully enjoy a snack, making a terrarium, learning how to neutralize noise, are some of the activities described here. Chapter 4 is designed to help readers observe their thoughts and “gain skills to better control what goes on in your mind while still allowing space for it to wander and dream.” A “mind dump” can help you get your thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto paper without judgement. Daily affirmations can help readers to embrace their good qualities and become the person they want to be. These and the other provided activities can bring much-needed peace.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafting-calm-glitter-jar

Image copyright Aruna Rangarajan, 2020, text copyright Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Chapter 5: Capturing Joy and Growing Gratitude gives readers the tools to find “inner joy during tough times and appreciate things [they] may have taken for granted.” These emotional resources can help readers “navigate life’s ups and downs with positivity.” Origami can help turn paper into a colorful gratitude garden of flowers that each represent something you’re thankful for. If you’re feeling alone, you can use the instructions here to create a Tree of Belonging to show you how many people love and care for you. Bringing joy and sharing gratitude with others takes the focus off of yourself and gives you purpose. Here you’ll find ideas for doing both of these things.

In a casual, light, and conversational style Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla address many of the feelings and intrusive thoughts that can roil the mind and make inner peace hard to find. Readers will recognize and appreciate the straightforward examples and reassurance presented in the introduction to each chapter. Along with directions on how to complete the activities, Borgert-Spaniol and Kukla include how each activity can help bring about a more calm and positive attitude. The activities included are easy to do and don’t require special supplies, making them excellent go-tos for times when tranquility is needed.

Accompanying each activity are Aruna Rangarajan’s engaging illustrations, rendered in soothing colors, that demonstrate techniques and instructions while also adding whimsical touches that make every page inviting.

A wonderful, comprehensive guide not only to activities that can really make a difference in the life of any child, especially those disruptive feelings, but to the hows and whys inherent in them, Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids is highly recommended for family, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 8 – 12

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506465265

You can find Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

National Stress Awareness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Snowy Day Mind Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-anxiety-cover

October 2 – Name Your Car Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

About the Holiday

We love our cars! Sometimes it seems we spend more time with them than with our own family – and maybe some of us do! What do you call such a reliable partner? A friend, of course! Our friends have names, so why shouldn’t our cars? That’s the idea behind today’s whimsical holiday. To celebrate, give your car the perfect moniker. All names are open, well… 

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and Aladdin for sending me a copy of All Except Axle for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m revved up to be offering a giveaway of the book as well! See details below.

All Except Axle

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

 

At the car assembly plant, all the new cars were happily getting buffed before they rolled off the conveyor belt and raced into their slot on the lot. That is… “all except one. Axle.” From the parking lot, the cars drove up the ramps and onto the big transport trucks for the next part of their adventure. But one car lagged behind, watching from a distance – Axle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-factory

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

The transport trucks vroomed onto the highway, but…. They were one short. “Earlene, and her passengers…were waiting for Axle.” Axle idled nearby. “‘I think I’m out of alignment,'” he told Earlene. “‘I think you’re stalling,'” Earlene said. The other cars were encouraging, but Earlene got Axle moving with a loud HONNKK!

Finally zooming down the highway, the other cars loved feeling the wind and “[leaning] into the twists and turns.” But Axle felt carsick. When the reached the dealership, the other cars eagerly explored the lot and showroom. All except Axle, who “hurried back up Earlene’s ramp and pleaded with her to go back to the plant. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-afraid

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

With a Vroom they were off – but not to the plant. Soon, Earlene veered into a truck stop, where, she said, Axle could practice. Axle made right turns, left turns, and U-turns around the cement columns and followed Earlene around and around the lot. Then they left the truck stop and headed out to the flatlands, the foothills, where “the slope grew steeper and steeper,” and even into the mountains. From high on the top of a mountain, Axle stopped to enjoy the view.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-truck

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Earlene was zipping back down the curvy mountain road with Axle far behind. Then Axle smelled something burning and watches as Earlene “rockets up a runaway truck ramp.” When Earlene finally stopped, they saw the flat tire. Earlene needed a tow truck and Axle was her only hope. He turned around and climbed the mountain road again. It was a strain on his engine, but when he reached the top, Axle kept on going all the way back to the truck stop.

There he found a tow truck and led it straight back to Earlene. “‘Nice job, kid,’ the tow truck said” then offered Axle a ride back into town. But Axle replied, “‘No thanks, I can drive!'” and he zoomed ahead to lead Earlene and the tow truck back to the city. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-city

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Car, truck, and vehicle fans will love Sue Lowell Gallion’s story that boosts little ones’ self-confidence with reassurance and a sweet hero who just needs a little more practice to discover the courage under his hood. With plenty of puns to tickle readers, Gallion’s story reflects the feelings of kids hesitant to make changes or leave their comfort zone. Axle’s reactions mirror many behaviors anxious or hesitant children display, allowing adults and kids an opportunity to talk about emotions. Her well-paced story also lets readers to ride along with Axle as he tries out and improves his skills. When Earlene needs help, Axle may feel a moment of nervousness, but with his new-found belief in himself, he takes to those once-scary roads and saves the day.

Lisa Manuzak Wiley’s bold and vibrant illustrations will appeal to kids – and especially vehicle-lovers – with detailed images of cars on a factory line, loaded into transport trucks, and heading out on the open road. Her vehicles are both realistic and whimsical, and their expressive headlight eyes clearly reflect Axle’s trepidation and the other cars’ excitement for their adventure. Children will enjoy pointing out and counting the different cars from page to page.

For children who need a little encouragement on the road of life, All Except Axle is an engaging and reassuring story that’s sure to capture their imagination.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534440227

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axle-storytime-kit

You can find an All about Axle Storytime Kit with a puzzle, puppets, a coloring page, discussion questions, and a coping strategies worksheet on Sue’s website here.

To learn more about Lisa Manuzak Wiley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All Except Axle Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Blue Slip Media and Aladdin in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of All Except Axle, written by Sue Lowell Gallion | illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with a name for your car for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 2 to October 8 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 9. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Aladdin

Name Your Car Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truck-racing-game-wood

Racing for Friendship Game

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

You can find All Except Axle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten-cover

About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks go out to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for sending me a copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

Clover Kitty had just the life she liked. She was able to sit quietly by herself “knitting mittens. Nibbling kibble. Catnapping on a warm floor.” Sometimes she thought about having a friend, “but mostly, life was purrrrrfect.” One day, though, her mother reminded her that it was the first day of kittygarten. Images of mayhem and messes popped into Clover Kitty’s mind. She was not ready for that.

Before she knew it, however, “Clover found herself cowering in Ms. Snappytail’s classroom” amid loud noises, blaring colors, and the glaring sun. Then she felt a tap on the shoulder. She flinched at the touch. A kitty introduced himself as Oliver and smiled at her. Just then Ms. Snappytail flicked the lights on and off and rang a bell to get the class’s attention. Clover closed her eyes and covered her ears. She cringed at having to sit in a crowded circle to hear a story.

“At recess, Oliver came over and asked softly, ‘Do. you want to seesaw with me?'” But before she could answer, Clover was swept up in a “squealing tornado” of kitties playing tag. Her “heart sank.” Lunchtime was just as chaotic, and when Oliver offered her a box of juice, she clawed at it until it sprang a leak. All Clover wanted was a nap.

When nap time came, though, she could only smell Ms. Snappytail’s perfume, and the scratchiness of her mat kept her awake. “School felt nine lives long. Maybe ten.” When the class had to line up and parade through the hallways with costumes on, Clover finally broke down in a tantrum and ran out the door. By the time she got home, she was soaked from a passing rain shower.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Clover-Kitty-Goes-To-Kittygarten-first-day

Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Her mother dried Clover off and snuggled with her on the sofa until she fell asleep. The next day, Clover felt sick and Mama let her stay home from school. In the afternoon, Oliver stopped by to say that the class missed her. Mama assured him that Clover would be back the next day, but on Wednesday Clover said she still felt sick. 

After school, Oliver visited again, but when Mama let him in to say hi to Clover, she was nowhere to be found. When Oliver left, Clover felt relieved, but “a hollow twinge twanged in her chest.” Thursday came and Clover was feeling better, but not well enough to go back to school. She sat on the seesaw in her back yard and thought that maybe it would be fun to play with a friend.

On Friday, Clover was ready to return to kittygarten. But today she brought along some “survival gear.” For the glaring lights, she wore sunglasses; to muffle the noise, she brought earmuffs; and to enjoy circle time and nap time, she had her own rug. During the day, she took turns between playing and having alone time. At lunch she concentrated on her meal, and at nap time she slept close – but not too close – to Oliver.

While the day “wasn’t purrrrrect,” Clover came home with stories for Mama. She went to school all the next week and found that kittygarten got easier every day, especially with the help of her new friend Oliver. Kittygarten can still be like riding the seesaw, but now there are definitely more ups than downs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Clover-Kitty-Goes-To-Kittygarten-classroom

Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Linda Purdie Salas perfectly captures the emotions and fears of a sensory-sensitive child through Clover’s thoughts, actions, and experiences. Her descriptive language (that also includes kid-favorite puns) and direct vocabulary serve two important purposes. First, they allow children for whom light, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences are intensified to see themselves portrayed with understanding. Second, they give other kids a glimpse into how their sensory-sensitive friends and classmates perceive the world around them. Through Oliver, Salas models the gentle and caring behavior that makes a day easier and inclusive for sensory-sensitive kids. Salas’s depiction of Clover’s grabbing the juice box, crying during nap time, and tantrum that precipitates her flight from school provide readers with examples of the feeling of a loss of control that many sensory-sensitive or hesitant kids experience in certain situations. Clover’s return to kindergarten with gear that will help her navigate her day, gives all children an opportunity to discuss issues that may bother them as well as how they might help make their classroom or other area a welcoming and pleasant place where everyone can reap the benefits of friendship and learning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Clover-Kitty-Goes-To-Kittygarten-Clover's-room

Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Hiroe Nakata’s watercolor illustrations introduce readers to Clover’s world and how she perceives it through clear visual cues. Upon opening the cover, children are invited into Clover’s bedroom, which is rendered in pastel pinks, yellows, and blues. She is happy to be knitting with just a favorite toy for companionship. When Clover gets to her classroom, however, Nakata uses a brighter color palette and harsh tones of yellow to represent how Cover experiences sunlight and the typical colors found in elementary school classrooms. This first portrayal of Clover’s classroom also portrays tumbling blocks, a struggle between two kids over a toy, a messy art table, and even a bulletin board packed with topsy-turvy numbers. Clover sits in the center of the room, tightly curled, demonstrating her wish for calm and quiet. Subsequent pages give readers many opportunities to point out things that add to the chaos for someone who is sensory-sensitive. For example, the teacher wears a bell on her tail and kittens rush at her on the playground and in the lunch room, invading her personal space. In contrast, Clover’s room contains strings of pompoms or felt hangings instead of bells or chimes and her clothes are hung neatly in her closet. As Clover returns to school, kids will be interested to point out the glasses, mittens, and other items from home that help.

An important book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten promotes mindful consideration of the images, sounds, smells, and activities that can become overwhelming not only for sensory-sensitive people but for us all. With a charming protagonist and caring friend, the story will inspire better understanding and kindness that benefits children in the classroom and beyond.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542042468

Discover more about Laura Purdie Salas and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Hiroe Nakata and view a portfolio of her books on the MB Artists website.

Take a look at the Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten book trailer!

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, written by Laura Purdie Salas | illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

To enter:

This giveaway is open from August 6 through August 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 14.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clover-kitty-activity-sheet-image

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

 

You can find six free printable Clover Kitty Activity Sheets that are fun ways to celebrate school, friendship, and learning on Laura Purdie Salas’s website here:

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

You can order a signed and personalized copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten from Red Balloon Bookshop!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten-cover

You can find Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 2 – Kat and Juju Book Tour Stop

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-cover

About the Holiday

Today I’m happy to be participating in the Kat and Juju book tour! The months of summer vacation often provide an opportunity for growth, change, and the kind of self-discovery that comes without the constraints of a regular schedule and school assignments. This can be especially true for hesitant children or those who prefer more studied steps into new experiences. Today’s book may spark discussion and ideas for integrating internal feelings and external opportunities when they come along.

Thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing Kat and Juju with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Kat and Juju

By Kataneh Vahdani

 

Kat had her own special way of doing things. While other kids scribbled outside the lines, she preferred to stay inside them. “She found wonder in places no one else thought to look.” And her confidants were decidedly of the strong, silent, and leafy type. She was too timid to talk to the other kids, who always seemed to be laughing and talking and playing. She did feel lonely sometimes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-drawing

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Kat’s birthday was coming up, and she was looking forward to the moment when “her very best friend would arrive,” just as “had happened to all the other kids.” She wasn’t disappointed. At her door on her birthday was Juju—a huge, red, dapper bird who’d brought her a bouquet of flowers and a definitely different perspective on things. She loved him immediately. Juju was fearless and encouraged her to be brave. “Sometimes,” he said  as he hopped from foot to foot and spun on the floor, “you’ve just got to LET GO and do a HAPPY DANCE.” Kat thought it looked like fun, but she just couldn’t get herself to do it.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-drawing

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Then one day. Kat and Juju found a lost baby bird. Kat could relate to the fear in its eyes. With Juju’s help, she overcame her initial doubts about her ability to take care of it. She wrapped the birdie up, fed it, and, when it was stronger, took it on adventures—adventures that even took Kat out of her comfort zone. The birdie loved them, and pretty soon so did Kat.

It didn’t take long for the birdie to feel “brave enough to fly on its own.” Kat was so excited for her little friend that she forgot all of her inhibitions and broke out into a happy dance. The other kids suddenly saw Kat in a whole new way. Now, Kat still does things her own special way, but she has friends to do them with.

A good conversation-starter on the value of trying new things while staying true to yourself, Kat and Juju makes a fun read on the journey and would be an inspiring choice for home, school, and public library collections.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-birthday

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In her thoughtful story, Kataneh Vahdani explores the emotions of a girl who has a hard time letting go of her fears and inhibitions to reach outside of her comfort zone. When Juju—a buoyant, larger-than-life bird—enters Kat’s life, he brings spontaneity and courage closer, but it’s not until the little birdie needs her that Kat participates in Juju’s silly fun and daring adventures. Over time, Kat discovers she likes these escapades too, and when the little bird is ready to fly, so is she. It’s a truism that we will often do things for a friend or our children that we might not do for ourselves.

Kat is a sweet companion for readers on their own road to discovering the bravery inside themselves, and Vahdani’s storytelling gives adults and children a starting point for discussion. She provides metaphorical examples—coloring inside the lines, a special birthday present that gives her a new start, learning to fly—as well as honestly depicted nagging internal doubts to help readers articulate and share their feelings. Vahdani also includes an important reminder that branching out doesn’t mean losing one’s unique qualities, instead it allows them to grow.

Kataneh Vahdani’s textured gray-scale and red and blue digital illustrations, punctuated with the little yellow fluff of a birdie, puts the focus on Kat and Juju, who sport red clothing and feathers. Kat’s wide-eyed, expressive face reflects her emotions clearly and Juju is a sweetie with smiling eyes who’s always ready with a hug or a bit of encouragement or reassurance.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043281

Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also rescues fallen baby birds. Together with her students, they have raised more than thirteen fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-cover

You can find Kat and Juju at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 3 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-maloo-cover

About the Holiday

This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can instill a lifelong love of learning in your children, visit ChildrensAuthorsNetwork!

I received a copy of What’s Up, Maloo? from Tundra Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to partner with Tundra in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

What’s Up, Maloo?

By Geneviève Godbout

 

Maloo is a little kangaroo with an especially hoppy spring in his step. But one day he feels grounded. Instead of hop, hop, hopping to see his friend, he takes “One step. Two steps, Three steps.” Wombat immediately notices that something’s amiss and asks, “What’s up, Maloo?” She brings him inside her cozy den and gives him a slice of pie. While she slides another treat into the oven, Maloo sits forlornly at the table, not touching his pie.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-maloo-one-sad

Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

They go down to the river—“Four steps. Five steps. Six steps”—where Crocodile sees it too and asks Maloo what’s wrong. Perhaps a swim will cheer Maloo up, but he sits dejectedly atop his ball and floats with the current. The three go to see Koala. They all want to help Maloo feel better. They try giving him a lift with an electric fan, but the wind just knocks Maloo head over heels.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-maloo-den

Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maloo’s friends stay with him, though––“ten steps…one hundred steps…one thousand steps.” They stretch out a blanket and fling Maloo into the air, giving him encouragement. Can he hop? Maloo falls…but springs up again. “Hop!” He floats down, but this time instead of feeling dejected, he’s looking up. Back into the air he goes. He descends, but something is rising up in him. Maloo jumps with a gigantic “Hop!” He smiles. Koala climbs on Maloo’s back while Wombat and Crocodile balance on pogo sticks, and they all “hop like Maloo!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-maloo-one-hop

Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

With her powerfully emotional images and spare text, Geneviève Godbout allows readers to identify with Maloo as he experiences a time of sadness and recovers happiness with the help of his friends. In her soft, earth-toned illustrations, Godbout provides many perspectives and good examples for children and adults to discuss. Having lost his hop, Maloo seeks out one friend, who engages another friend and yet another, showing children the reassurance and help available by reaching out and having a supportive network. Maloo’s friends are also sensitive to Maloo’s mood, encouraging readers to pay attention to and acknowledge changes they may see in their friends and family. As readers count Maloo’s steps, they’ll see that sometimes the road back to feeling happy can be long, but that good friends stick with you no matter what or how long it takes. They also learn that asking for help starts with one step.

A moving and accessible resource for parents and caregivers to talk with their children about the ups and downs of life and the emotions of sadness and depression, What’s Up, Maloo? is a valuable addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735266643

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

Meet Geneviève Godbout

Born and raised in Quebec, Geneviève Godbout studied traditional animation in Montreal and at the prestigious Gobelins school in Paris. She is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including The Pink Umbrella, When Santa Was a Baby, Kindergarten Luck (Chronicle), and Joseph Fipps (Enchanted Lion). Some of her clients include The Walt Disney Company, Chronicle, HMH, Flammarion, Bayard, Les éditions Milan and La Pastèque. She also works for clothing designers like Nadinoo and Mrs. Pomeranz, creating illustrations and prints for their collections. Connect with Geneviève on her website.

Congratulations on What’s Up, Maloo, your debut picture book as both author and illustrator! Can you talk a little about the journey you’ve taken with this book?

Thank you! I never expected to be an author, but one day I woke up with the feeling I should write my own story about depression. I pictured this little kangaroo that lost his hop and told my French publisher (La Pastèque) about it. The whole creative process was natural, yet I felt incredibly insecure about my own capacities. But once published, we had such a fantastic response that I’m now working on a sequel with the little crocodile! 

What was your inspiration for this story and why this subject is important to you? What do you hope children will take away from your story?

I was inspired by my own experience of depression. I wanted to say that it’s ok to go through tough times and emphasize the importance of being surrounded without judgement. We should feel safe to confess our feelings to a friend. We don’t have to go through this alone. 

Your illustrations of Maloo feeling sad and losing the spring in his step are touching and instantly recognizable for children. How can adults use the book to talk with their children about the strong feelings of sadness and depression from multiple viewpoints, including the sufferer themselves and their friends?

I chose not to mention why Maloo lost his hop so that kids and adults can fill the gap in the text with their own experience. Maloo’s friends are sweet and full of empathy. I pictured this book as a comforter rather than a sad story. 

You’ve brought iconic characters Anne of Green Gables and Mary Poppins to books for the youngest readers. What are the challenges and joys of working with these beloved characters?
It was quite an intimidating challenge. These characters are so loved by readers (and myself!) that everyone has their own expectations of what they should look like. For instance, Mary Poppins is dramatically different in the original books by P.L. Travers from the Disney movie. But when we think about Mary Poppins, most people picture Julie Andrews, not a severe looking lady with very tall feet. With that in mind, I tried to find my own way of drawing both Mary Poppins and Anne Shirley. It was such an exciting opportunity, I reminded myself to have fun during the creative process without anticipating the public response too much. 

From characters’ round, expressive eyes, rosy cheeks, and sweet grins to animated action punctuated with humor to your gorgeous colors, your picture book illustrations are truly distinctive. How did you develop your signature style?

A style is the expression of one’s sensitivity and creativity. Mine evolved throughout the years as I gained experience and technique. And for some reason, I chose the most time-consuming medium: color pencils! I have always loved them. They’re delicate and precise. My background in traditional animation also has a huge part in the way I draw today. Everything is about movement and expressive posing. 

What do you love best about creating books for children?

I love the idea of touching people and offering them a safe bubble where they can smile and relax. There is nothing better than hearing a child or an adult say they love to curl up in bed with one of my books. 

You went to school in Paris, you’ve worked in London, and now you live in Montreal. Could you name one of your favorite places in each city and tell why you love it?

I was lucky to live in such fabulous and inspiring cities. I loved to get lost in Paris and walk by the Thames river near Hammersmith in London. Each time I go back, it feels a bit like home. As for Montreal, I think it’s the best place in terms of quality of life and I love the contrast between the seasons!

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on a couple of exciting projects including a sequel for What’s up, Maloo? and a third book in the Anne series. I’m kind of booked for the next year or so with Harper Collins, Random House, Comme des Géants, and perhaps Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say at this stage! 

Thanks, Geneviève! It was wonderful chatting with you. I’m really looking forward to seeing the sequel to What’s Up, Maloo? and all of your upcoming books!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-maloo-cover

You can find What’s Up, Maloo? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

October 29 – It’s Field Trip Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-cover

About the Holiday

As the leaves start turning red and yellow and the air becomes crisp and cool, thoughts turn to…field trips? Sure! Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy a bit of travel. For kids a field trip is a fun day away from the classroom, and for adults a little get-away can be refreshing and rejuvenating. With fall festivals, apple-picking, leaf-peeping, and other fun autumn activities, it should be easy to plan a family or group field trip.

It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus!

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Claire Messer

 

It’s a special day for Busy Bus. He’s going on his first field trip! The kids stream out of  school, smiling and waving. Once they’re all on board and have found a seat, Ben, the driver, pulls out onto the road. “Busy Bus can’t wait. He and the children are going to meet a fire truck!” On their way to the fire station, they pass a pharmacy, a bakery, and a café. There are lots of people out driving and walking along downtown.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-school

Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

When they get to the fire station, the captain greets them and introduces them to Engine 4. The huge truck rolls out of the station with a roar. “‘Engine 4 is a fire-fighting beast,’ says the captain. ‘It saves people and their things.’” Then the fire fighters show the kids all around Engine 4. They get to sit inside and even pretend to drive. They get to try on a fire fighter’s uniform and wear their special hard hats. “The children love Engine 4.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-town

Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Standing next to Engine 4 Busy Bus feels small. The captain takes the kids around the side of Engine 4 and slides open a door. Inside, there are dials and knobs, extra coats, boots, and hats, traffic cones, an axe, and the enormous hose. The captain pulls out the hose while another fire fighter lets the kids hold a hose while it sprays water—Whoosh—right at Busy Bus. Busy Bus wishes he “could put out fires.” Next, the captain and the fire fighters lift a ladder off of Engine 4. They extend the ladder up, up, up to show how they reach the highest parts of tall buildings. Busy Bus watches. “I wish I had a ladder, he thinks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-fire-station

Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The captain reminds the kids that Engine 4 needs to tell people when it’s rushing to a fire. She tells them to cover their ears as she sets the siren blaring—Wee-ooo, wee-ooo. “Busy Bus’s wipers sag.” He can’t do anything a firetruck can do. Busy Bus wonders if the kids will still like him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-engine-4

Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

But just then, Busy Bus hears the captain explaining that even though Engine 4 is “amazing…it can’t do everything.” Busy Bus perks up to listen. The captain says that Engine 4 “doesn’t have a stop arm so children can get on and off safely.” Busy Bus sticks out his stop arm proudly. Engine 4 doesn’t have seats for kids, and it can’t take them to school or on field trips, either. As the children file back on to Busy Bus, he smiles and gives a loud HONK!. “‘Hooray for Busy Bus!’ cheer the children.” Busy Bus can’t wait for their next field trip.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-sad-busy-bus

Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet Busy Bus is both an endearing companion to children just beginning to navigate school and a mirror for their new experiences and the feelings that often come with them. In Busy Bus’s latest adventure, he meets another vehicle that seems to have more “skills” and “talents” than he does. He begins to compare himself to Engine 4 and judge himself by what he doesn’t have. He wonders if the kids will still like him. When the captain points out all the features that Engine 4 doesn’t have but that Busy Bus does, he realizes that he has much to offer too. Shaffer’s multilayered story will excite little ones who love vehicles of all kinds while reassuring them that they each have their own unique talents and place in the world.

With her bold, vibrant illustrations, Claire Messer invites readers into a firehouse and up close to a fire engine to see the workings and equipment that goes into fighting fires. Little ones will be enthralled by the detailed images and the interaction of the fire fighters with the class. Messer captures the excitement of the children as well as Busy Bus’s flagging spirit as Engine 4 racks up attribute after attribute. As Busy Bus overhears the captain praising the abilities of a school bus and is cheered by the children, readers will applaud all the characteristics that make each person (and vehicle) unique.

A story rich in language and meaning, It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections. The book is an excellent follow-up to It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Ages 0 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534440814

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Claire Messer, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Field Trip Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-maze

Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These kids are ready to go on a field trip, but first they have to get in the correct car! Help them find their way in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-a-field-trip-busy-bus-cover

You can find It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review