December 21 – National Humbug Day

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About the Holiday

Christmas Day is getting close! Are you ready—tree decorated, all gifts bought and wrapped, cookies baked? Or are you feeling a little stressed? Today’s holiday was created to give you a chance to let off a little steam and say “Bah, humbug” if you feel like it. So, it’s okay to let out your inner Scrooge today before you get back into the holiday spirit!

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Santa Bruce to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

If you know Bruce, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he “did not like the holidays.” In fact, before he had kids (and mice), he used to sleep right through them. But this year his family wanted that picture-perfect Christmas together. This meant “no migrating! No hibernating!” Whether Bruce liked it or not, “the holiday season was going to be filled with fun and cheer.”

So the geese decorated, and the mice made eggnog. And Bruce? He was not happy. He was awake and he was cold. And because he was awake and cold, he was shoveling the walk in his red long underwear. And that’s when a raccoon made an erroneous conclusion, and Bruce was the victim of “a case of mistaken identity.” Again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-red-suit

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

It didn’t matter that Bruce tried to set the record straight. The little raccoon scampered off to tell his friends. Soon, Bruce’s house was full of animals wanting to talk to Santa. Every young forest critter took their turn sitting on Santa’s…I mean Bruce’s…lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and no sooner had they all gone home then their parents showed up to “thank Bruce for his Christmas spirit. Then, before Bruce could even say “bah humbug,” Thistle announced that Santa Bruce would “deliver presents to all of your kids tonight.”

What was Bruce’s reaction? He headed for bed. When the mice protested, Bruce reminded them that he didn’t have a sleigh. The mice easily fixed that with a wagon and a sled. How about reindeer?, Bruce countered. Well, what else are geese for? Okay, Bruce conceded, but what about the presents? The mice had that covered too.

And so it was that on that magical night that Santa Bruce made the rounds to all the good little forest critters (and even to the “grown up Bunny who still lives with his parents”). As morning dawned and Santa Bruce trudged back home, happy tykes were waking up to a beautifully wrapped present. What was it? You’ll have to join the holiday feast and see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-party

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

A new Bruce book is always a cause for celebration, so combining a celebration with a new Bruce book makes the holiday doubly exciting. Ryan T. Higgins’ woebegone Bruce is just trying to make his kids (and those mice) happy when another case of mistaken identity turns his winter topsy-turvey. Bruce’s tetchy responses as he loses control of his fate and becomes Santa Bruce as well as the silly asides and persuasive pleas from the mice will have kids in stitches. Sly references to holiday songs, Christmas clichés, and even a spring holiday add to the zany hubbub, and the little ones’ Christmas wishes will make adult readers chuckle.

Higgins’ unibrowed bear wears his signature scowl with aplomb—not even cracking the wee-est smile as a houseful of tiny, adorable hopefuls cheer and shout for “SANTA!” As usual, the mice are jubilantly unconcerned with Bruce’s feelings, giving him, in turn, thumbs up and innocent eyes as they cajole Bruce into creating their vision of the perfect holiday. The guileless geese are just happy to be along for the ride, and the forest children are sweetly excited to get their special present.

Destined to become a holiday classic, Santa Bruce has laughter, generosity, and togetherness all wrapped into one—and isn’t that what the holidays are all about? A must buy for home holiday and anytime reading.

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art on his website.

National Humbug Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

IMG_7695

To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-cover

You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 20 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Paul Schmid

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About the Holiday

Fall is giving way to winter and kids’ thoughts turn to snow days, sledding, snowmen, and all sorts of frosty things. There’s a book for that…and that…and all those things too! Kids love following the seasons through the books they read. There’s nothing better during the cold-weather months than snuggling indoors with a stack of books and a steamy mug of hot chocolate. During Picture Book Month and all through the year, introduce your children to the joys of reading!

Phaidon Press sent me a copy of Little Bear Dreams to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be partnering with Phaidon in a giveaway of the book! See details below.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-snowflakes

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-moustaches

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-hide-and-seek

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - head shot for Little Bear Dreams

I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

celebrate-picture-books-Paul-Schmid Interview-sketch-for-Little-Bear-Dreams

This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

celebrate-picture-books-Paul-Schmid Interview-sketches-for-Little-Bear-Dreams

Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

celebrate-picture-books-Paul-Schmid Interview-blue-water-for-Little-Bear-Dreams

There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - more sketches for Little Bear Dreams

Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Wow! Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

Little Bear Dreams Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Phaidon Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, November 20 – November 26. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on November 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Phaidon Press.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sensory-tin-activity-2

Opposites Sensory Tin

Little ones love touching and feeling different objects and trying to guess just what they are or how they’re the same or different than other things. Putting together a sensory tin is a quick and easy way to keep kids occupied with a fun activity while they also learn!

With a six-cup tin for youngest readers and a twelve-cup tin to try and stump older kids, you have plenty of space to add items that are soft and hard, cold and warm, crunchy and crumbly, spiky and smooth, and so many more!

To make the tin into a game, have kids close their eyes or blindfold them and let them feel the different items and guess what they are.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-cover

You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 7 – National Salami Day

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About the Holiday

If you like that spicy, dried sausage that’s so delicious in sandwiches and salads or with cheese and crackers for a tasty snack, then you’ll love today’s holiday! Established by the Salami Appreciation Society in 2006 in Henrico, Virginia, National Salami Day can best be celebrated by enjoying your favorite salami or trying a new flavor sensation. 

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Oh dear… something happened to your sandwich? Well… “it all started with the bear. You see, when the bear woke up and left his den for his morning exercises, he caught a whiff of ripe berries in the back of a pickup truck. After eating his fill, he fell asleep in the bed of the truck. He woke once again to find himself “being quickly swept along like a leaf in a great river. The forest disappeared in the distance and high cliffs rose up around him.” Soon he found himself in a city—a forest like he had never seen before.

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-morning-exercises

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

Still, he found many similarities to home. The fire escapes, clothes lines, and rooftops offered challenging places to climb, the lamp posts scratched his back just fine, and there was a new sidewalk that was just as squishy as the mud in the forest. This forest also had many intriguing smells, but each time the bear explored one he found someone else had gotten there first. He continued to follow his nose and discovered a playground full of fun things to do. He was at the top of the slide “when he saw it.”

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-eating-berries

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

“There it was. Your beautiful and delicious sandwich. All alone.” The bear was wily, though. “He waited to make sure no one saw him (not even the sandwich) before he made his move.” Feeling safe, the bear grabbed that sandwich and gobbled it all up. He was just licking his lips when he heard a “sniff, snuffle, slobber, snort behind him.” He turned around to find four canine witnesses to his misdeed.

He fled the scene, loping down the street to the nearest tall tree and escape. From the top of this telephone pole, he could see way down the river to his own forest. He stowed away on a boat and fell asleep to its gentle rocking. “When he opened his eyes, he heard the breeze in familiar branches and the birds’ and bugs’ evening song.” He was home.

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-at-the-playground

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

“So. That’s what happened to your sandwich.” Really! I was there—“I saw it all.” I even tried to save your sandwich, but all I could retrieve was this tiny piece of lettuce. I know you’re disappointed, and “I’m sorry to have to tell you about your sandwich this way, but now you know….” Would your own puppy pal lie to you?

Julia Sarcone-Roach knows how to spin a yarn. Her clever and funny confessional story will have kids’ glued to the eye-witness testimony about a bear who, according to the report, seems to be both sympathetic and a scoundrel. The surprise ending will make readers laugh—especially if they have mischievous siblings, friends, or pets. Sarcone-Roach’s vibrant, gauzy illustrations echo the fantastical imagination of the sly Scottie while giving vibrant life to the forest and city. Her depictions of the bear performing his morning exercise ritual, clambering across apartment buildings, encountering his competition for scraps, and attempting the playground equipment are endearing, and his utter astonishment at being caught is a comical joy.

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-beginning

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

Ingenious clues sprinkled throughout the pages may lead some skeptical readers to doubt the veracity of the story, but the ending is delightfully satisfying and unexpected to all—except, perhaps, for the pup’s owner.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich is a fun, charming, (mis?)adventure that kids will giggle through and ask for over and over. It would make a favorite addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Knopf Book for Young Readers, 2015 | Hardcover: ISBN 978-0375858604 | Paperback, 2018: ISBN 978-1984852090

Discover more about  Julia Sarcone-Roach and her work on her website.

National Salami Day Activity 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandwich-scramble-puzzle

Scrumptious Sandwiches Word Scramble 

 

Sandwiches are fun to build and delicious to eat! The only hard part is trying to figure out which kind to have. Maybe this list will help! Print this Scrumptious Sandwiches Puzzle and unscramble the names to pick your favorite. Here’s the Solution!

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-cover

You can find The Bear Ate Your Sandwich at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 6 – National Read a Book Day

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About the Holiday

It doesn’t get much better—or easier—than today’s holiday! Just like it says, National Read a Book Day celebrates the best way to spend our spare time—reading! If there’s a book you’ve been hankering to read, find a quiet spot during lunch or break time, turn off the TV this evening, and turn in early to snuggle in with a cup of tea and that great book. Kids will enjoy some extra reading time as well. Make it a family event! Reading together is one of the best ways to have fun and make memories!

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Santa Bruce to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

If you know Bruce, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he “did not like the holidays.” In fact, before he had kids (and mice), he used to sleep right through them. But this year his family wanted that picture-perfect Christmas together. This meant “no migrating! No hibernating!” Whether Bruce liked it or not, “the holiday season was going to be filled with fun and cheer.”

So the geese decorated, and the mice made eggnog. And Bruce? He was not happy. He was awake and he was cold. And because he was awake and cold, he was shoveling the walk in his red long underwear. And that’s when a raccoon made an erroneous conclusion, and Bruce was the victim of “a case of mistaken identity.” Again.

 

It didn’t matter that Bruce tried to set the record straight. The little raccoon scampered off to tell his friends. Soon, Bruce’s house was full of animals wanting to talk to Santa. Every young forest critter took their turn sitting on Santa’s…I mean Bruce’s…lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and no sooner had they all gone home then their parents showed up to “thank Bruce for his Christmas spirit. Then, before Bruce could even say “bah humbug,” Thistle announced that Santa Bruce would “deliver presents to all of your kids tonight.”

What was Bruce’s reaction? He headed for bed. When the mice protested, Bruce reminded them that he didn’t have a sleigh. The mice easily fixed that with a wagon and a sled. How about reindeer?, Bruce countered. Well, what else are geese for? Okay, Bruce conceded, but what about the presents? The mice had that covered too.

And so it was that on that magical night that Santa Bruce made the rounds to all the good little forest critters (and even to the “grown up Bunny who still lives with his parents”). As morning dawned and Santa Bruce trudged back home, happy tykes were waking up to a beautifully wrapped present. What was it? You’ll have to join the holiday feast and see!

A new Bruce book is always a cause for celebration, so combining a celebration with a new Bruce book makes the holiday doubly exciting. Ryan T. Higgins’ woebegone Bruce is just trying to make his kids (and those mice) happy when another case of mistaken identity turns his winter topsy-turvey. Bruce’s tetchy responses as he loses control of his fate and becomes Santa Bruce as well as the silly asides and persuasive pleas from the mice will have kids in stitches. Sly references to holiday songs, Christmas clichés, and even a spring holiday add to the zany hubbub, and the little ones’ Christmas wishes will make adult readers chuckle.

Higgins’ unibrowed bear wears his signature scowl with aplomb—not even cracking the wee-est smile as a houseful of tiny, adorable hopefuls cheer and shout for “SANTA!” As usual, the mice are jubilantly unconcerned with Bruce’s feelings, giving him, in turn, thumbs up and innocent eyes as they cajole Bruce into creating their vision of the perfect holiday. The guileless geese are just happy to be along for the ride, and the forest children are sweetly excited to get their special present.

Destined to become a holiday classic, Santa Bruce has laughter, generosity, and togetherness all wrapped into one—and isn’t that what the holidays are all about? A must buy for home holiday and anytime reading.

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art on his website.

National Read a Book Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

IMG_7695

To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

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You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 15 – National Tell a Joke Day

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About the Holiday

Is there anything better than a big belly laugh? Hearing or seeing something that tickles your funny bone can be one of the best parts of a day. Did you know that the first recorded joke dates back to 1900 BC? It seems those early Sumerians were a pretty rowdy bunch. And not only them, humor has been a part of every culture from their earliest days. And why not? Laughter makes us feel better psychologically and even has the power to heal. Celebrate today by sharing your favorite jokes!

Knock Knock

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

Bear’s eyes are droopy, and he’s all tucked in under his puffy quilt. With his teddy bear clasped in his hand, he’s just about to turn out the light when: “KNOCK KNOCK.” Dutifully, Bear rouses himself and goes to answer it. “Who’s there?” he says. The answer comes back: “Justin.” “Justin who?” Bear opens the door and Fox rushes in with an armload of firewood. “Justin the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by!”

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Fox is just piling the logs in the fireplace when there’s another “KNOCK KNOCK” at the door. Startled, Bear asks the requisite question and learns that Ken has also come calling. But as soon as the door is opened a crack, three wisecracking blue jays fly in carrying streamers. While Fox seems happy to see them, Bear is not so keen.

A moment later another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings one more visitor, who’s lugging a huge pot of stew in his two oven-mitted paws. Bear can hardly keep his eyes open, but when he hears a raucous “KNOCK KNOCK,” he can’t help but ask yet again, “Who’s there?” It’s “Olive.” “Olive who?” The door bursts open to a chorus of “Olive us!” Waiting to enter is a whole gang of friends who are carrying balloons, hot chocolate, cupcakes, and even some knitting. But there’s still room for more, and another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings a “Good grief” from Bear and a familiar face at the window with a playful take on an old wolfish ultimatum.

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

The party’s going full swing, but all Bear can do is “yawwwwnnn” from the comfort of his armchair and remind his guests that he really needs some…. “KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK.” “WHO’S THERE?” Bear roars. He swings the door wide and finds Al, who has a very special message for this very special party given just for Bear. Then the animals tuck Bear in tight, whisper sweet goodnights, and leave him to his winter slumber. And when he wakes up? Harry is ready to play! KNOCK KNOCK!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Fox

Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Tammi Sauer’s clever story told through knock-knock jokes will have young readers rolling with laughter as poor bear grows wearier and wearier but continues to answer the KNOCK KNOCK summons. Each knock-knock joke ingeniously moves the story along while introducing a crew of Bear’s friends, who, it turns out, has planned a special send-off for their pal’s hibernation. Kids will love chiming in on the famous line the big bad wolf used on the three little pigs and noticing that the little chipmunk is reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to tuck his friend in. Over- tired Bear’s tirade quickly melts into a warm embrace for all his friends when he realizes why they’ve come. The revelation of Bear’s name when springtime rolls around offers one more laugh at the end of the story and allows Bear to get in on the fun.

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With each knock on the door, Guy Francis ramps up the hilarity as Bear reacts with startled, wide-eyed surprise to each guest, who enters with a twinkle of sly acknowledgment of his or her joke. The animals seem right at home as they build a fire in the fireplace, cook on the stove, decorate the living room—and even Bear himself. Kids will laugh out loud at Bear’s flustered expressions and his cavernous yawn as the party preparations continue around him. When Bear is finally ready to put his big paw down, only to realize that all the commotion is really for him, his toothy grin says it all. The sweet looks and big hugs all around as well as a brand-new, comfy quilt float Bear off to dreamland for the winter. When spring comes, a refreshed Harry, looking not quite so grizzled comes knocking on the woodland animals’ Hobbit-style homes to repay the visit.

Knock Knock will knock kids’ socks off, and you can bet the book will go into much-loved rotation and begin a love of this funny joke form. The book would make a terrific gift and addition to home bookshelves as well as a lighthearted choice for funny classroom story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338116946

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Guy Francis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Tell a Joke Day Activity

Fox_in_Suit

Animated Animals Coloring Pages

 

These animals have heard some funny jokes, but they need a bit of color! Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils and have fun!

Happy Hedgehog | Laughing Fox | Smiling Sheep

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You can find Knock Knock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 4 – National Friendship Day

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About the Holiday

Originally founded in 1919 by the Hallmark Card company to encourage people to celebrate their friends by sending cards, the holiday has transitioned into a worldwide event commemorated in multiple ways from sending an emoji-filled text to getting together to share favorite activities. However you choose to celebrate, be sure to let your friends know how much they mean to you!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of Bear’s Scare to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of a copy of Bear’s Scare. See details below.

Bear’s Scare

By Jacob Grant

 

Bear was very tidy. Every day, he swept and dusted and took great care to make sure everything was put in its proper place. “There was one thing Bear loved to care for most of all. A small stuffed friend, named Ursa.” Bear and Ursa spent every minute of every day together, and each day they cleaned their house top to bottom.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

One day, Bear discovered a book lying on the floor. He was sure he hadn’t left it there, and when he picked it up, he found a sticky spider’s web attached to it. He was sure that the spider was making his neat house sticky and messy and that the spider was nothing like them at all. He looked the house over more carefully, and “the more he searched, the more messy webs he found. ‘Ursa, we have a spider problem,’ said Bear.”

As the spider knitted a scarf using two legs while pouring tea using two more and then painted a picture of one of Bear’s potted flowers, Bear fretted over the mess the spider was making. He was determined to find the spider. Bear and Ursa searched everywhere but did not find it. Bear even lifted up the sofa to peer underneath. When he lowered the sofa to the floor again, however, Bear did not see that Ursa’s arm became pinned under its leg.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When Bear picked up Ursa, her arm ripped off. “Bear lay there for some time,” sad about what had happened to Ursa and about the mess he’d made. Then he ran to get supplies to “help his friend.” When he got back, though, the spider had already reattached Ursa’s arm with its sturdy web. Bear hugged Ursa tight.

Then, “among the books, Bear found something he never expected.” The bookshelf the spider called home was just as neat as Bear’s house. There were books, and a broom, and even a painting of Bear. “‘I certainly do not mind sharing my home with one more friend,’” Bear said. And Bear and Ursa were content—even when one new friend turned into many.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

For those who embrace the status quo and like things just so, Jacob Grant’s sweet story demonstrates that there’s always room for one—or many—more. While Bear initially thinks the spider is not like him and Ursa, his quiet appreciation for spider’s help as well as his realization that he and the spider do share many of the same attributes models the kind of thoughtful inclusion that builds strong friendships.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-spider-painting

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Grant’s endearing illustrations show Bear’s love for Ursa as he cradles the little stuffed bear while reading to her, carries her from room to room, appolgizes for the accident, and hugs her when she is fixed. The little round spider who sports a button with a loop of thread for a hat is adorable as it goes about its artistic pursuits. The final double-page spread of the spider lounging in a web hammock attached to Bear’s reading chair while fourteen other spiders play, work, and listen to Bear read to Ursa is heartwarming. Kids will love finding the little spider on each page as well as all the ways in which the spider’s shelf is similar to Bear’s house.

A touching tribute to friendship—old and new—as well as a thoughtful contemplation on preconceived notions for young readers, Bear’s Scare is a delightful book to share at home and in the classroom.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681197203

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

Get caught up in the Bear’s Scare book trailer!

Bear’s Scare Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Bear’s Scare by Jacob Grant

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 4 – 10. 

A winner will be chosen on August 11.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Friendship Day Activity

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Friendly Storytelling Bear Craft

 

Bear loved to read stories with Ursa and the spider! Now you can tell your own stories with this Friendly Storytelling Bear Craft! Use the templates and/or make your own expressions to make up great stories! You can also play a game to collect all the parts of the bears face to win.

Supplies

  • Printable Bear Head Template
  • Printable Eyes and Noses Template
  • Printable Eyebrows  and Ears Template
  • Light brown felt or fleece (or color of your choice), 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • Dark brown felt or fleece(or color of your choice), 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • White felt or fleece, 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • Black felt or fleece, for pupils
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 1 playing die (optional)

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-cover

You can find Bear’s Scare at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 27 – National Get Gnarly Day

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About the Holiday

Hey, dude! You don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy Get Gnarly Day! Today’s holiday is less about pitting yourself against the wild seas and more about challenging yourself to toss away old ideas and try new ones. So, whether you’re hanging ten or not, don’t be afraid to get rid of those habits, thoughts, or actions that are cluttering up your life—just like Bear in today’s book!

Big Brown Bear’s Cave

By Yuval Zommer

 

One day Big Brown Bear came upon a cave that was just perfect for him, and he moved right in. Even though it was dusty and dark in just the right ways, when he stretched this way and that, “the cave just didn’t fit quite right.” So Big Brown Bear went for another walk to find another cave. What he found instead astonished him. “Humans had their own caves!” These were dark and dusty just like his, but “they were full of STUFF!”

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Copyright Yuval Zommer, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Bear decided that stuff would make his cave just right too. He collected all kinds of stuff, like stuff with wheels, stuff with handles, and stuff in boxes. He wanted to fill up his cave top to bottom with stuff. When his friends came by to see Bear and his new home, there was no room for them amidst all the stuff. In fact, there was hardly any room for Bear “to even stretch or scratch or do any of the other things that bears generally like to do.” And when he was invited to go fishing, he couldn’t go because he got stuck in the middle of all his stuff. It took lots of pulling and tugging by his friends to free Bear from his stuff trap.

Bear decided he’s had enough of stuff, so he and his friends took it all “back to the humans’ caves. Bear’s cave was empty again, but now his friends could curl up inside too, and “Bear found the perfect spot for sleeping right away” in his just-right home.

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Copyright Yuval Zommer, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Yuval Zommer’s quick romp that takes readers from the excitement of collecting all sorts of cool stuff to the realization that there really is such a thing as too much will make kids laugh as Bear enthusiastically carries home bikes and watering cans and boxes, boxes, boxes, gets stuck in the muddle, and finally pops free with a tumble. But how can Bear’s cave be so full and yet so empty at the same time? Young readers will see that it’s not the amount of stuff they have that makes a home—or a heart—feel just right, but the friends that share their space.

Zommer’s beautifully detailed and textured digital art brings the forest alive with scruffy squirrels, deep, dark caves, falling leaves, and one furry Bear. His revelation of “human caves” sets up a clever “Ah-ha” moment for both kids and adults and will no doubt have children asking if they can play in the cave after reading. Zommer’s pages invite lingering to view all of the items piled on the floor, shelves, and in Bear’s cave. Readers can make a fun game of seeing how much of Bear’s stuff they have as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696467

National Get Gnarly Day Activity

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Flip-Flop Flower Pot Holder

 

Do you have some old flip-flops taking up space in your closet? With this super easy craft you can make them into pretty gnarly plant or small item holders.

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You can find Big Brown Bear’s Cave at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review