November 28 – It’s Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

There are many things to be thankful for this month and all throughout the year. At the top of the list would be our friends—both old and new. Celebrate your friendships during the holidays and tell the people in your life how thankful you are for them! You can show them too with little acts of kindness—like the friends in today’s book! 

I’d like to thank Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of The Best Gift for Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Best Gift for Bear

By Jennifer A. Bell

 

Hedgehog was baking gingerbread cookies for all of her friends. She carefully considered what shapes and decorations she would make for each recipient, making sure she created a replica of one of their favorite things or showed how special they were. She even made individual rabbit cookies “for each rabbit,” and “Hedgehog knows a LOT of rabbits.” But she still had to bake cookies for. Bear, and she couldn’t decide what to make.

Should she make ice skates? “Bear had taught her to twirl and glide” on the pond. Or maybe something from springtime. Bear loved watching butterflies. Or perhaps sunflowers like the ones Bear had shown her that summer. Thinking about all the fun times they had together, Hedgehog decided a batch of cookies was just not enough. “‘Bear should have a grand gift, a special gift, something wonderful . . . just like Bear,'” she thought. But what?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-skating

Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

And then as she approached home after delivering all of her cookies, she “saw her frosted roof” and had an idea. She got to work right away “and happily baked her way into the night.” Then in the morning “Hedgehog began to build her gift.” With gingerbread bricks and sweet icing, she built and decorated a house for Bear. It had butterflies and sunflowers and even Bear, wearing a coat, scarf, and ice skates. Hedgehog put it on her sled and stood back to admire it. 

Hedgehog pulled her sled over the hills and through the snow to Bear’s house. But the calm afternoon turned windy and snowy. The squalls made it hard for Hedgehog to pull or push the sled, and then, when Hedgehog was nearly at Bear’s, one huge gust sent the gingerbread house flying and scattered it into pieces. Hedgehog looked at the broken house sadly and didn’t see Bear, in pajamas and carrying a lantern, approaching. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-building-gingerbread-house

Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Bear knelt down then picked Hedgehog up and blew away the snow from her quills and coat. Hedgehog gave Bear’s cheek a big hug. “Grand, special, WONDERFUL Bear!” Bear brought Hedgehog inside, wrapped her in a soft, cozy blanket and made her a cup of tea. As they sipped their tea, they commiserated together over the gifts they had made each other—Hedgehog’s broken gift for Bear and the misshapen cookies Bear had made for Hedgehog. “‘… but I thought I’d try again tomorrow,'” Bear told her.  Hedgehog then had a wonderful idea to bake the cookies together. With Hedgehog snugged into a teacup with her blanket and Bear toasty under a warm quilt, the two friends couldn’t wait for tomorrow to spend the day together—”the best gift of all!”

Recipes for Hedgehog’s Gingerbread Cookies and Grandma’s Honey Icing are included with the story. Hedgehog’s clever designs for her gift cookies will give kids lots of ideas for decorating their own cookies too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-windy-walk

Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Jennifer A. Bell’s sweet and charming story wraps readers in the warmth of a heartfelt hug as Hedgehog puts all of her love and thoughtfulness into the gingerbread cookies she carefully bakes for each of her friends and neighbors—and especially for Bear.  Bell’s gentle humor and charming phrasing that takes readers step-by-step through Hedgehog’s memories of Bear’s kindnesses, and her days spent baking and building Bear’s gingerbread house will delight kids. The windstorm and its aftermath provides suspense and an emotional tug as Hedgehog (and readers) experience disappointment but then, a moment later, the tender and supportive friendship between Hedgehog and Bear.

Bell’s enchanting illustrations are full of cheer and delicious-looking cookies. As Hedgehog tries to decide what to make for Bear, her memories of their times spent throughout the year depict the fun they’ve had and also the adorable size difference between them. Shades of red, pink, blue, green, and gingerbread brown create a graceful and well-paced cohesion from page to page while also bestowing a palpable sense of the chilly winter outside and the cozy warmth inside. The red ribbon that flows in a connecting pattern between some pages and frames vignettes in others highlights the heart at the center of this story.

A touching story about true friendship and the most important gifts of all, The Best Gift for Bear is a book children will enjoy all through the year and is sure to inspire cookie baking and decorating. The book would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. It would make a terrific gift or read aloud for any cookie-decorating party. 

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542029223

About the Author and Illustrator

Jennifer A. Bell is the illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including the Sophie Mouse series. She studied fine art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, and her work can also be found on greeting cards and in magazines. This is the first picture book she’s written and illustrated. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about her at www.jenniferabell.com. You can connect with Jennifer on Instagram: @jbellstudio | Facebook: Jennifer A. Bell Illustration | Twitter: @JenniferABell_

Gratitude Month Activity

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Gingerbread Kids Decorations 

 

Gingerbread’s not only delicious to eat! Creatively iced gingerbread has long been used as decorations in homes and windows. With this easy craft, kids can make decorations for their rooms, to hang for the holidays, or to give to friends or family members.

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Kids Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter 
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread kids templates
  2. Trace gingerbread kids on brown foam sheets and cut out
  3. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  4. Add trim to the dress
  5. Add trim to make socks
  6. Add dots of paint for buttons
  7. Add faces
  8. Paint or add a bit of glue to the hands of each figure then sprinkle glitter on the paint to make mittens
  9. Glue heart buttons on (optional)
  10. To make a wall or gift box decoration: Attach mountable squares to back
  11. To make an ornament: With a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

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You can find The Best Gift for Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 2 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s picture books are amazing! Offering inspiration, characters that really speak to kids, moments to laugh out loud or reflect, glimpses into history, revelations in science, and much of the best art currently being produced, picture books defy their slim appearance with content that can change young lives. Reading a wide variety of books to children from birth on up is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. Make choosing the books to read a family affair! Kids love picking out their own books and sharing cozy and fun story times with you!

I’d like to thank Hippo Park and Astra Publishing House along with Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of A Bear, a Bee, and a Honey Tree with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Bear, a Bee, and a Honey Tree

Written by Daniel Bernstrom | Illustrated by Brandon James Scott

 

A bear in his den and a bee in his hive are waking up on a sunny morning. The bee is a “busy bee, a honey bee,” darting back and forth from a flower to the honey tree. The bear is “a hungry bear, a honey bear,” and he knows just where to find some breakfast. The bear’s rummaging through the branches does not go unnoticed by the bee, so the hungry bear becomes “a sneaky busy honey bear.” And when his paw breaks into the golden hive, the “fretful bee” becomes “a very angry fuzzy bee.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bear-a-bee-and-a-honey-tree-morning

Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2022, text copyright Daniel Bernstrom, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

The bear and bee face off, but what is that new rumbling sound? He should know bees never live alone, and soon the bear is on the run from “a million fuzzy buzzing bees.” The swarming bees search everywhere, but they cannot find the “hiding bear.” As the sun goes down, the bees return to their hive, while “a hungry grumbly honey bear” waits out the night in his den, already planning tomorrow morning’s breakfast run.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bear-a-bee-and-a-honey-tree-climbing

Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2022, text copyright Daniel Bernstrom, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

Like a twirling, whirling dance that starts with one measured step…and then another…and another until it bursts into a freewheeling, rollicking reel, Daniel Bernstrom’s story is an exhilarating romp. Suspense mounts page by page with wonderfully rhythmic rhymes that flow unencumbered by punctuation that would slow or stop the brilliantly escalating action. With just thirty-five words, Bernstrom has also created a story that pre-readers can chime in on as adults point to the bee, bear, tree, and other illustrations while beginning readers will find that the rhyming clues, repetition, alliteration, and sight words that carry the story give them confidence in their growing skills.

Brandon James Scott’s dynamic illustrations fling kids into the action as a happy bee makes its winding way from honey tree to flower to flower and back while a bear – tongue out, eyes glued to the prize – scrambles into the tree’s canopy to raid the hive. Who to root for will bring on plenty of giggles as the bee’s and the bear’s expressive faces tell kids all they need to know about these two rivals. The beehive glows like the gold it is to each of these characters, and the swarm is a densely packed storm cloud of protection. As the disappointed bear trudges back to his den, kids’ allegiance may shift, but his next-morning covert operations reveal he really hasn’t learned his lesson. Young readers will love ferreting out the bear among the tree branches and tall grasses and will laugh out loud as he tries to hurry away through a deep wildflower field.

A Bear, A Bee, and a Honey Tree will be all the buzz for home story times both for adults – who will have a rollicking good time reading aloud – and kids – who will want to hear it again and again. The book will be a hit for classroom reading and would make a terrific addition to public library preschool programs. A Bear, A Bee, and a Honey Tree is a must for any children’s book collection.

Ages 3 – 7

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640087

Want a laugh? Hippo Park has you covered with this cover animation!

About the Author

Daniel Bernstrom is a poet and the author of 6 picture books, including One Day in teh Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree and Big Papa and the Time Machine, a Minnesota Book Award winner. Daniel lives in Worthington, Minnesota, with his wife and 5 adorable children. You can learn more about him and his books at danielbernstrom.com.

About the Illustrator

By day Brandon is a Creative Director working in animation and by night he illustrates picture books. For over a decade Brandon has worked on a range of hit animated entertainment including his own creation, the award-winning series, Justin Time. He loves to make art that brings adventure, levity, heart, and curiosity for the fantastic and whimsical world around us and in our dreams. A born and raised Canadian, he currently lives with his family in Toronto. You can view a gallery of Brandon’s artwork, animation, books, and more on his website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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A Bear, A Bee, and A Honey Tree Activity Booklet

 

Hippo Park has designed a fantastic 4-page activity booklet that kids will have fun with while learning about letter sounds, adjectives, and nouns with a little drawing creativity thrown in. You can download it from the Hippo Park website and here:

A Bear, A Bee, and A Honey Tree Activity Booklet

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bear-a-bee-and-a-honey-tree-cover

You can find A Bear, A Bee, and a Honey Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-cover

About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-bowl

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-hello

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-sandwich

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beanstalk-craft-with-top

 

Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-cover

To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 24 – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

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About the Holiday

All this week, we celebrate Engineers and Engineering! Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPA) in 1951, Engineering Week focuses on increasing an understanding of and interest in engineering and other technical careers to ensure a diverse and well-educated engineering workforce for the future. More than seventy engineering, education, and cultural societies and more than fifty corporations and government agencies cooperate to raise public awareness of engineers’ contributions to our quality of life. Throughout the week they work to foster a recognition in parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education as well as a high level of math, science, and technology literacy. By reaching out to schools, businesses, and community organizations across the country, they hope to motivate young people to pursue engineering careers. For Introduce a Girl to Engineering, or Girl Day, educators, engineers, volunteers, and others demonstrate engineering activities, show girls how engineers change our world, and provide mentors to guide tomorrow’s engineers. To learn more about Engineering Week and today’s holiday in particular, visit the NSPA website.

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis

 

“In a tiny bungalow, / there lived a clever thinker. / Young Goldilocks invented things. She’d make and craft and tinker.” Goldilocks made lots of useful things, like machines to help you tie your shoes, to a self-zipping zipper to a hat outfitted with a flashlight, magnifying glass, and itty-bitty satellite dish to help you find the things you’ve lost. But one day, Goldilocks found that she had “inventor’s block,” so she decided to take a walk.

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

At the same time, the Bear family was out gathering nuts and berries for their pre-hibernation celebration. Baby Bear had a nifty contraption that knocked fruit and nuts into a basket with a tennis racquet. Papa Bear had an ingenious wheelbarrow with mechanical arms and hands that picked berries one by one and deposited them in the cart—but only after tossing them through a tiny basketball hoop. Swish! And Mama Bear’s handy vacuum sucked fruit right off the bushes and collected them in a tank.

Their next stop was the beehive at the top of a hill. After they’d eaten all their goodies, Baby Bear spied a little bungalow. The Bears thought it was just the place to spend the winter. When they went inside, they found “the room was full of strange devices, / widgets, tools, and more!” Looking more closely, Papa Bear found a chair that was perfect for Baby Bear. He marveled that “it feeds you and it wipes your mouth, / and reads you stories, too!” Meanwhile, Mama Bear had discovered a bowl that stirred porridge and a bed that automatically rocked you to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-workshop

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Baby Bear loved the chair but wished for one more innovation that would make it just right. Papa Bear found parts and tools and fixed the chair to Baby Bear’s specifications. Mama Bear tasted the porridge and found it lacking one ingredient, so Papa Bear created a porridge-stirrer accessory to add it drop by drop. By now it was dark, and even though Papa Bear thought it wasn’t right to stay, Baby Bear convinced him that one night would be okay.

But when they crawled into bed and turned it on, it rocked so much that it tipped the Bears right onto the floor. There was only one thing to do: “Baby fixed the engine block. / Replace the gears that burned. / Soon the bears were fast asleep… / Then Goldilocks returned.” She saw the chair, tasted the porridge, and then… “heard snoring sounds.” Wide awake now, the bears began to explain. But Goldilocks was not upset. Instead she said, “‘You’ve improved my projects here, / and made them much more fun. / Proving that four brains, by far, / are better than just one!’”

Excited to be inventing again with the bears on board to lend their smart innovations, Goldilocks sends the family off amid promises to “‘…meet up in the spring’” when they will “‘…make the next big thing!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-bed

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With her fun flip on the Goldilocks story, Sue Fleiss invites kids to indulge their inner inventor with wacky contraptions that can make getting dressed, cooking, going to bed, and chores more exciting. Fleiss’s clever takes on the well-known “just right” chair, porridge, and bed get readers thinking creatively—perhaps even about their own household appliances. While the original story ends with the interloper being chased away, Fleiss’s version shines with the benefits of cooperation, collaboration, and being open to new ideas.

With so many cool inventions to discover on every page, readers will love taking extra time to find and talk about them all. Any young maker would swoon over Petros Bouloubasis’s well-stocked workbench, and readers would have a blast drawing their own gadgets using the tools and supplies depicted. Quirky, abstract landscapes add to the kid-centric ambiance, and just like the Bear family, who drives away in a new vehicle with their full wheelbarrow in tow, readers will look forward to returning to Goldilocks’ little bungalow again and again.

Imagination, creativity, teamwork, and friendship all wrapped up in a clever fractured fairytale—what could be better?! Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is one to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807529973

Discover more about Sue Fleiss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petros Bouloubasis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

Engineers are at the core of so many things that make our homes and neighborhoods what they are. Kids will have fun building a bridge from Using items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin, kids will have fun making the bridge above and maybe even a whole town! Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports. Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar, aluminum can, or bread crumb container. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—turn the boxes inside out, tape, and add paint and details! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-cover

You can find Goldilocks and the Three Engineers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 16 – It’s National Blueberry Month

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About the Holiday

Farmers’ Markets are bursting with fresh produce during the summer months, and that is especially true for blueberries, those little round morsels of sweetness. The United States Department of Agriculture recognized July as National Blueberry Month in 2003, and it’s been delicious eating ever since! Blueberries are the perfect accompaniment to muffins, pancakes, bread, fruit salads, and of course they’re delectable just on their own! So visit a farmers’ market today and pick up a peck.

Blueberry Cake

By Sarah Dillard

 

A little bear comes into the kitchen and tugs at his mother’s apron strings. When she turns her head, her cub asks shyly, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks thoughtfully at her little one and sends him outside with a bucket. The cub dashes through the back yard and into the forest. Playfully, he wears the bucket like a hat and then does cartwheels until he comes to the edge of the woods. Peeking through the trees, the cub exclaims, “Oh!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-kitchen

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

What meets his eye is a wide-open field, a sea of blueberries. The little one sits down in the middle of a patch of delicious berries and begins filling the bucket with a concentrated, “Blueberries.” But it’s just so hard not to take a taste. Maybe just a handful. “Blueberries!” he exclaims. Then something else catches the little bear’s attention. It’s a butterfly – a monarch wanting to play chase. The cub runs after the butterfly, swinging the bucket and spilling the blueberries little by little along the way.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

The game brings the cub to another field – this one dotted with black-eyed Susans and queen Anne’s lace. They’re so pretty that the cub can’t help but pick some. Into the bucket they go. At home, the little bear holds the bucket out for Mama and asks, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks at the offering and asks, “Blueberries?” The cub offers the flowers, but Mama still wonders where the blueberries are. The little bear inspects the bucket and quietly says, “No blueberries.” Mama crosses her arms and delivers the bad news: “No blueberry cake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-picking

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

That night in bed, the cub dreams of what might have been and just as the sun begins rising over the horizon, he’s ready to try again. The cub dashes back to the blueberry field and fills the bucket until it’s brimming with delicious berries. The sun is still dawning when he gets home and puts the bucket on the kitchen counter and returns to his room. When Mama gets up, she’s surprised to find the blueberries. When the little bear comes downstairs again, he skips into the kitchen, his eyes alight, and he exclaims, “Blueberry cake!” The flowers, arranged in the bucket, decorate the middle of the table, and Mama lays out a placemat and plate for her little cub. He eagerly watches his mama cut a slice of cake and serve it. He gazes at the cake, and has just one thing to say: “Applesauce?”

A recipe for blueberry cake that’s easy enough for “little cubs and other small people” to make with some help “from a mama or papa bear” follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-butterfly

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

With just six words, a darling cub, and a loving mother, Sarah Dillard creates a story that will charm kids. Dillard’s sunny illustrations are infused with poignant moments of childhood that are fanciful, disappointing, surprising, humorous, and always full of love. An expressive reading of the simple dialogue brings out all the feeling of the gentle ups and downs of the story and can also serve as a lesson in recognizing emotions for young readers. Kids will also have a blast joining in and reading along.

Ages 3 – 8

Aladdin, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534451346

Discover more about Sarah Dillard, her books, and her art on her website.

National Blueberry Month Activity

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A Bounty of Blueberries Maze

 

Can you help pick blueberries to make some delicious treats in this printable puzzle?

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze | A Bounty of Blueberries Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-cover

You can find Blueberry Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 17 – National Week of Making

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About the Holiday

In 2016 President Barack Obama instituted June 17 – 23 as the National Week of Making to celebrate the spirit of American ingenuity and invention and ensure that future generations receive the support they need to continue this proud tradition. In his official proclamation, President Obama stated: “Since our earliest days, makers, artists, and inventors have driven our economy and transformed how we live by taking risks, collaborating, and drawing on their talents and imaginations to make our Nation more dynamic and interconnected. During National Week of Making, we recommit to sparking the creative confidence of all Americans and to giving them the skills, mentors, and resources they need to harness their passion and tackle some of our planet’s greatest challenges.” Today, makerspaces can be found across the country in studios, libraries, schools, and community venues to encourage kids and adults to explore their ideas and the feasibility of bringing their creations to market. To learn more about this week-long holiday, visit the Nation of Makers website.

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis

 

“In a tiny bungalow, / there lived a clever thinker. / Young Goldilocks invented things. She’d make and craft and tinker.” Goldilocks made lots of useful things, like machines to help you tie your shoes, to a self-zipping zipper to a hat outfitted with a flashlight, magnifying glass, and itty-bitty satellite dish to help you find the things you’ve lost. But one day, Goldilocks found that she had “inventor’s block,” so she decided to take a walk.

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

At the same time, the Bear family was out gathering nuts and berries for their pre-hibernation celebration. Baby Bear had a nifty contraption that knocked fruit and nuts into a basket with a tennis racquet. Papa Bear had an ingenious wheelbarrow with mechanical arms and hands that picked berries one by one and deposited them in the cart—but only after tossing them through a tiny basketball hoop. Swish! And Mama Bear’s handy vacuum sucked fruit right off the bushes and collected them in a tank.

Their next stop was the beehive at the top of a hill. After they’d eaten all their goodies, Baby Bear spied a little bungalow. The Bears thought it was just the place to spend the winter. When they went inside, they found “the room was full of strange devices, / widgets, tools, and more!” Looking more closely, Papa Bear found a chair that was perfect for Baby Bear. He marveled that “it feed you and it wipes your mouth, / and reads you stories, too!” Meanwhile, Mama Bear had discovered a bowl that stirred porridge and a bed that automatically rocked you to sleep.

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Baby Bear loved the chair but wished for one more innovation that would make it just right. Papa Bear found parts and tools and fixed the chair to Baby Bear’s specifications. Mama Bear tasted the porridge and found it lacking one ingredient, so Papa Bear created a porridge-stirrer accessory to add it drop by drop. By now it was dark, and even though Papa Bear thought it wasn’t right to stay, Baby Bear convinced him that one night would be okay.

But when they crawled into bed and turned it on, it rocked so much that it tipped the Bears right onto the floor. There was only one thing to do: “Baby fixed the engine block. / Replace the gears that burned. / Soon the bears were fast asleep… / Then Goldilocks returned.” She saw the chair, tasted the porridge, and then… “heard snoring sounds.” Wide awake now, the bears began to explain. But Goldilocks was not upset. Instead she said, “‘You’ve improved my projects here, / and made them much more fun. / Proving that four brains, by far, / are better than just one!’”

Excited to be inventing again with the bears on board to lend their smart innovations, Goldilocks sends the family off amid promises to “‘…meet up in the spring’” when they will “‘…make the next big thing!’”

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With her fun flip on the Goldilocks story, Sue Fleiss invites kids to indulge their inner inventor with wacky contraptions that can make getting dressed, cooking, going to bed, and chores more exciting. Fleiss’s clever takes on the well-known “just right” chair, porridge, and bed get readers thinking creatively—perhaps even about their own household appliances. While the original story ends with the interloper being chased away, Fleiss’s version shines with the benefits of cooperation, collaboration, and being open to new ideas.

With so many cool inventions to discover on every page, readers will love taking extra time to find and talk about them all. Any young maker would swoon over Petros Bouloubasis’s well-stocked workbench, and readers would have a blast drawing their own gadgets using the tools and supplies depicted. Quirky, abstract landscapes add to the kid-centric ambiance, and just like the Bear family, who drives away in a new vehicle with their full wheelbarrow in tow, readers will look forward to returning to Goldilocks’ little bungalow again and again.

Imagination, creativity, teamwork, and friendship all wrapped up in a clever fractured fairytale—what could be better?! Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is one to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807529973

Discover more about Sue Fleiss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petros Bouloubasis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Week of Making Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Inventor’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-cover

You can find Goldilocks and the Three Engineers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 4 – National Doughnut Day

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About the Holiday

National Doughnut Day may be one of the most delicious holidays of the year, but did you know that the day has a charitable history? The holiday was established in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor the women who served doughnuts and other home-cooked foods to soldiers on the front lines in France during World War I. Two hundred and fifty Salvation Army “Lassies” volunteered to provide this morale boost to the troops. Salvation Army Ensign Margaret Sheldon “wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.'”

National Doughnut Day began as a fundraiser by Chicago’s Salvation Army to help the needy during the Great Depression. The holiday continues to be a fundraiser in Chicago and other cities and is supported by national and local businesses.  Doughnut lovers can also take advantage of special offers at doughnut shops across the country.

Dozens of Doughnuts

Written by Carrie Finison | Illutrated by Brianne Farley

 

On a bright autumn morning, LouAnn is busy making a dozen doughnuts—her last treat before her long winter nap. “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Toasty, and tasty, and ALL for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Woodrow?’” At the door stands a little beaver. LouAnn invites him in and seats him at the kitchen table. They’re just about to split the doughnuts when the doorbell chimes again.

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

This time it’s Clyde, the raccoon. LouAnn welcomes him in and offers him her plate of doughnuts while she whips up another batch. These doughnuts—four for each—are frosted in blue. They’re all about to take a bite when “DING-DONG!” Tospy the possum arrives. “‘Delicious!’ cries Topsy. / She gulps down a swallow. / LouAnn’s heart feels warm, / but her belly feels hollow.” She stirs and she fries and soon has “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Some for each friend, and the rest for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Mouffette?’”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

A skunk joins the group, nibbling and toasting with three doughnuts each as LouAnn uses her last egg to make more. This is it—the last dozen doughnuts. LouAnn is ready to munch when… you know! But there’s not a friend at the door—there are two! Two little chipmunks cram their cheeks full. And LouAnn? “She’s ready to sleep through the snow, ice, and sleet. / But winter is near and there’s NOTHING to eat!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-roar

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

From deep down in her grumbling, rumbling belly there emerges a huge “ROAR!”  as all of the friends “dash for the door.” LouAnn cries it out and collapses on the floor. Then “DING-DONG!” Who could be left? Who is there now? It seems Woodrow and Clyde, Topsy and Mouffette, and even Chip and Chomp are more observant than they might have seemed. They’ve brought milk and flour, eggs and supplies. And after snugging LouAnn into her favorite chair, they go to work. Soon there are “dozens of doughnuts, / hot from the pan. / Stacked up in heaps, and they’re ALL for LouAnn!” But does she gobble them all down, or are there some left for—?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-surprise

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Carrie Finison’s bright, bouncy rhythm and perfect rhymes set up brilliant suspenseful page turns that, while disappointing for LouAnn the Bear, will have readers in gales of giggles and chiming along after the first surprising twist. LouAnn’s ready willingness to share her dozens of doughnuts is kindness at its best and also provide an invitation for kids to do a little math as each friend shares in LouAnn’s generosity. When LouAnn, getting hungrier and sleepier, finally cracks, sending her friends running, the final “DING-DONG!” ushers in another sweet surprise. Just like readers, it seems LouAnn’s friends have been paying attention to the numbers, and they want to be sure that LouAnn gets her equal share too. Finison’s storytelling provides a baker’s dozen of delight and will become a favorite read aloud for any child.

Deliciously enchanting, Brianne Farley’s illustrations introduce some of the most adorable forest animals around as they come to visit LouAnn, lured by the aroma of her doughnuts. Farley has designed for LouAnn a little stone house that’s an ingenious update on a bear’s cave and has decorated it with from a fresh color palette. Likewise, her autumn foliage makes use of creative raspberry russets and glowing yellows. LouAnn’s facial expressions clearly depict her waning enthusiasm for all the interruptions, but also her gracious personality once she opens the door. Kids will love watching the window beside the front door and trying to guess who each new guest will be.

The detailed images of doughnuts on each animal’s plate makes it easy for children and adults to talk about math concepts, including counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and sorting. When hunger and weariness finally overtake LouAnn, kids and adults will recognize her meltdown and commiserate with her. The return of LouAnn’s friends with supplies and good cheer makes this pre-hibernation party one that all children will want to attend (with their own doughnuts, of course!).

Endearing to the max, Dozens of Doughnuts is a joy to share and is sure to stir up enthusiasm for repeat readings at home, in the classroom, or for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518358

Discover more about Carrie Finison and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brianne Farley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Doughnut Day Activity

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Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut – or bagel – hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs or cut circles from cardboard or regular or thick poster board
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD or other material and let dry
  2. Add “frosting” by painting from the wavy line inward to the clear center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted. If using another material, draw and cut a center “hole” for your doughnut.
  3. When the “frosting” is dry, draw sprinkles on it with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-cover

You can find Dozens of Doughnuts at these booksellers

Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review