May 20 – Learn to Swim Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-splatypus-coverAbout the Holiday

Established by Swimways in 2012, today’s holiday is dedicated to educating parents, caregivers, and children about water safety and the importance of learning to swim. With summer officially beginning this weekend, kids will be soon be cooling off at beaches, lakes, rivers, and pools. Knowing how to swim and learning to recognize dangers and water hazards are crucial skills for swimmers of all ages. To learn more about education programs and fun ways to celebrate Learn to Swim Day, visit the Swimways website!

SPLATypus

Written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen | Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

 

Platypus is feeling lonely as he walks along the shore looking for someone to play with. When a couple of kangaroos hop by, Platypus is happy to see them. “‘I’ll jump too!’” he shouts. He takes off on his blue, webbed feet “skipping, hopping, dipping, dropping.” But he loses control and falls flat on his bill—“Splatypus!” Platypus waves goodbye to the kangaroos, sure that he’ll soon find his place.

Next, two dingoes chase / and run with grace. / Platypus says, ‘I’ll go race!’” But where the dogs leap easily over a fallen log, Platypus struggles and strains to pull himself on top. Then—whoa!—he wobbles and teeters and tumbles and rolls—“Splatypus!” Although trying to be as agile as a dingo didn’t work out, Playpus isn’t giving up on finding where he belongs.

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Image copyright Jackie Urbanovic, text copyright Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Courtesy of Two Lions

Up in a tree, Platypus watches a group of possums playing in the branches. He scrambles to join them, but his hands and feet slip and slide on the smooth trunk and he lands bonk on his head. Suddenly, he sees “fruit bats fly / across the sky. / Platypus says, / ‘I’ll soar high!’” He runs up a cliff to launch himself into the air, but the rocky path trips him up. When he finally reaches the edge, he leaps, flapping his arms and legs. But instead of soaring he goes “Splatypus!”

Poor Platypus! “Nothing’s easy. / Tummy’s queasy. / So discouraged, / lost his courage.” He decides to give up on flying, climbing, and jumping. The day is almost over and still Platypus hasn’t found any friends. He goes to sleep in the shade of a palm tree. The next morning, still feeling dejected, Platypus worries that the day will be no fun. As he strolls near the edge of the bay, however, he spots some swans swimming by and then two “penguins cry / a soggy ‘Hi!’”

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Image copyright Jackie Urbanovic, text copyright Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Courtesy of Two Lions

They look as if they are having so much fun that Platypus decides to try one more time to join in. He wades into the water and dives in. With a “ker-sploosh, ker-splash!” Platypus finds that he’s a natural! Now, “water wiggling, all are giggling.” As he floats and paddles with the penguins, swans, fish, and turtles, he “looks around, / at last he’s found / the perfect place for Splatypus.”

Little ones will giggle from beginning to end of this funny story that shows that sometimes you have to try a lot of different things before you find your perfect niche. Platypus’s can-do attitude and perseverance are great lessons for children beginning to navigate school, activities, and friendships. Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s rollicking rhythm and easy-to-repeat rhymes will have kids reading—and most likely moving—along with the story.

Jackie Urbanovic takes kids to the coast of Australia to meet kangaroos, dingoes, possums, fruit bats, and even a sea dragon in her sunny illustrations. Little Platypus, with his blue feet, hands, and bill, is adorable as he tries activity after activity with little success. When he finally finds some swimming buddies, kids will cheer to see the satisfied smile on his face.  The large type face will invite beginning readers to try reading for themselves—and persistent Platypus is a good role model along the journey.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503939202

Discover more about Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and her books as well as downloadable teacher’s guides on her website!

You’ll find books, a portfolio of art, coloring pages and more by Jackie Urbanovic on her website!

Learn to Swim Day Activity

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In the Swim! Maze

 

One little boy would like to join his friends in the pool. Can you help him by finding a path through this printable In the Swim maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

November 17 – Take a Hike Day

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About the Holiday

The American Hiking Society established today’s holiday to encourage families, friends, groups, and individuals to get outside and experience the fun and relaxation of discovering new paths and new places. Even if you’re only able to take a short walk during lunchtime or after work, getting out in nature gives you new perspectives and clears the mind—it’s great exercise too! So gather some friends or your family and head out the door for a short (or a long) hike today!

Harriet Can Carry It

Written by Kirk Jay Mueller | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Harriet Huff is a kangaroo who every day carries the mail in her pouch, delivering it all over town. Her job has left her “feeling quite frail,” She decides to take a day off and hike to the beach with her Joey where they can “relax and be free.” The next morning they wake up and prepare for a fun day. Harriet gathers their beach towels, Joey, and his favorite toy and tucks them gently into her pouch. She gets no further than the bottom of her porch, however, before she hears “someone yell, ‘HEY!’”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Kirk Jay Mueller. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

“It was old Wanda Wombat, so nosey and grouchy, / Asking, ‘That a beach towel hanging out of your pouchy? / Can I come to the beach? Can I come with YOU? / Will you carry my beach chair? Can I please come too?’” Harriet stammers, “W-e-l-l…” as she considers her plans to relax, but before she can properly answer, Wanda invites herself along, telling Harriet that she has room in her pouch “for tons of stuff.” “‘YOU CAN CARRY IT, HARRIET, so I can come too.’”

They walk up a hill together, Harriet sweating a bit with the effort of carrying the beach chair that has replaced Joey in her pouch. Suddenly, they hear someone shout, “‘STOP!’” It’s Wallaby Wendy who is also on her way to the beach. She asks Harriet if she will carry her swim fins.  Harriet hesitates. “‘W-e-l-l, I’m not sure…’” she says. But Wanda is there with the answer. “‘She has lots of room. She has loads of space / For tones of stuff in her big pouchy place. She is an incredibly kind kangaroo. HARRIET CAN CARRY IT, so you can come too.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harriet-can-carry-it-kenny-koala

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Kirk Jay Mueller. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

They start up again all in a row and it isn’t too long before someone says “‘WHOA!’” It was Kenny Koala, who in his own surfer-dude way asks Harriet if she can carry his board so he can come with them too. Harriet takes a moment to think—but it’s a moment Wanda has no problem filling, and so Harriet acquires Kenny’s surfboard too. “AHOY!” beckons Marcie, a marsupial mouse, “Who’d made the mistake of leaving her house / With a huge heavy kayak strapped to her back. / Her long plastic paddle poked out of its sack.” Wanda assures her, too, that Harriet can carry it, and with the kayak stowed in front, the group takes off again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harriet-can-carry-it-bill-bandicoot

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Kirk Jay Mueller. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Next they happen upon the Dingo twins who need help with their flying ring—an easy addition to Harriet’s pouch according to Wanda. A little farther down the path they encounter Bill Bandicoot who can no longer hold his beach umbrella. Wanda takes a look at Harriet and for the first time sees that she looks tired and that her pouch is nearly bursting. This time Wanda asks, “‘WILL YOU CARRY IT, HARRIET, so he can come too?”

The usual hesitant Harriet has had enough, and she answers “‘NO!’” In fact, she removes everyone’s equipment and tosses it on the sand. “‘I won’t carry your stuff,’” she says. “‘I just QUIT!’” Just then Paddy O’Possum comes along in his pickup truck and offers to take everyone and their gear to the beach. “Now Harriet felt cheerful, thankful, and calm, / And Joey was happy that she was his mom.” With her baby snuggled into her pouch, Harriet finds a perfect spot where they can unwind and “relax by the sea.”

Following the story are two pages of intriguing facts on the various Australian animals depicted in Harriet Can Carry It.

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Kirk Jay Mueller’s funny story of a too-nice kangaroo whose relaxing beach vacation is hijacked by a meddlesome neighbor will have kids laughing out loud as Harriet acquires more and bigger belongings on her hike to the shore. Mueller’s rhymed verses wonderfully escalate the plot just as Harriet’s pouch grows as the requests mushroom. As each beach-goer hails Harriet in a new way, kids will wonder what could possibly come next and will delight in the repeated phrases that invite participation on their part. The story can also lead to discussions on how to say “No” when needed and also how to resolve issues before they may cause hurt feelings.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver’s vibrant illustrations of Harriet’s neighborhood and the Australian landscape put the focus on kind-hearted Harriet and the animals she meets and enhances the story’s humor. Wanda the Wombat in her star-shaped sunglasses and flowery flip-flops marches ahead, pointing the way, oblivious to Harriet’s woes. The other animals—accurate cartoon representations of their real counterparts—are equally unaware as they hand Harriet their gear. Harriet’s pouch bulges with the beach items as Harriet finds clever ways to accommodate it all.

Harriet Can Carry It makes for a fun story time read and a perfect take-along book for beach outings or any hike.

Ages 4 – 7

Star Bright Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1595726766

To learn more about Kirk Jay Mueller, his books, and his music—plus to listen to a song about Harriet—visit his website!

You can connect with Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Take a Hike Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-bag-craft

You Can Carry It! Book Bag

 

True booklovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-bag-craft

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review

April 26 – Hug an Australian Day

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About the Holiday

Hug an Australian Day was initiated by Ruth and Thomas Roy of Wellcat.com. It’s a perfect time to celebrate all things from the land Down Under—like the people’s sunny personalities and the awesome (or should I say aussieome?) wildlife. Today, listen to your fav Australian music, watch an Australian movie, and if you have friends or relatives who are Australian, send them good wishes.

Alfie’s Lost Sharkie

By Anna Walker

 

It’s Alfie’s bedtime, but Alfie is lodged headfirst in his toy basket searching for Sharkie. He’s quite distinctive, Alfie tells his dad. with “white fins, sharp teeth, and scary eyes.” Oh, yeah, and “he’s blue.” Could he be outside? Alfie’s dad relents and lets him look while he runs water in the tub.

Outside in a tall tree Alfie hangs from a branch and asks a bug, a bird, and a cat if they’ve seen Sharkie. Come down now, his dad calls, it’s bath time. Alfie dives to the depths of the bathtub to look for Sharkie, but all he finds is a jellyfish. Pajama time, says his dad.

Like quicksand the pajama drawer sucks Alfie in. “I’m okay,” he says, struggling to the top only to see his cat wearing his pajama bottoms. Alfie looks under the chair and in his jack-in-the-box. A tear rolls down Alfie’s nose as he stares longingly out the window. It’s story time, says his dad.

While his dad reads, Alfie stands on his head contemplating the whereabouts of Sharkie. Why is his dad making him brush his teeth and pick out a toy to sleep with when he’s obviously so not tired? Reluctantly Alfie chooses a toy—in fact all his toys—and marches toward bed.  And who should he find? The armful of toys goes flying as Alfie leaps onto the covers. He’s so happy to see Sharkie!

Dad tucks Alfie and all the toys under the blankets, and Alfie closes his eyes hugging Sharkie tight. But a new thought strikes Alfie—“Where’s Bunny?”

In Alfie’s Lost Sharkie, Melbourne-based Anna Walker has created a picture book that will have kids and adults laughing at the familiar bedtime scenario. The story’s spare text echoes the rhythms of the nighttime routine with a child trying to wring just a few more minutes out of the day.

The sweetly drawn illustrations are equal parts humorous and cute as Alfie wrangles time under the curious gaze of his toys and mischievous cat. The final picture of Alfie tossing Sharkie aside will make adults nod their heads in recognition while kids will probably think, “Yeah! That’s a good point!” Funny visual details and the loving relationship between Alfie and his patient dad will make Alfie’s Lost Sharkie a book kids will want to read again and again.

Ages 3 – 7

Clarion Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544586567

Hug an Australian Day Activity

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Awesome Aussie Word Scramble

 

A cute koala invites you to unscramble the names of Animals found in Australia and discover the secret phrase!  Print your Awesome Aussie Animals Word Scramble here!