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!”

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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.”

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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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-maze

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.

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.

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.

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cd-doughnut-craft

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

May 11 – It’s Reading Is Fun Week

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About the Holiday

What’s your definition of fun? Is it going new places? Meeting new people? Laughing with friends? Getting in on the latest trend – or setting one of your own? If it’s one – or all – of these, you’ve just described reading! This week is dedicated to discovering the enjoyment that delving into a great book can bring at any age! To celebrate, stock up on books old and new – like today’s book that’s all about FUN – and have fun reading!

Thanks go to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sharing a copy of The Bruce Swap with me for review consideration. All opinions on on the book are my own.

The Bruce Swap

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

To say that Bruce doesn’t like fun may be an understatement—a big understatement. Just look at the yard surrounding his log cabin at “13 Go Away Lane” in the woods. It’s littered with signs: No Diving, No Fishing, No Skating, No Standing, No Picnicking, No Loitering, No Talking, No Running, No Bird Watching, No Hiking, No Climbing, No Whistling, No Camping, No Trespassing…and the one Bruce is just installing: No Playing. So when a letter comes for Bruce from his cousin Kevin promising a very FUN visit, you can imagine what Bruce would say. Unfortunately, Bruce never read this letter because the goose who retrieved it from the mailbox ate it all up.

Around this same time, Bruce got a little fed up with all the requests for fun his “kids” peppered him with—things like “Can we make a Roman sculpture with Greek yogurt?” and “Can we fly this hang glider made out of your sheets?” After Bruce said “No” and “No” as well as “No” to an all-sweets menu, Thistle, Rupert, and Nibbs wished for a Bruce who was “more cheerful,” “more adventurous,” and “had more pizzazz” before they went to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-wishes

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Early the next morning before anyone was up, Bruce decided to go fishing by himself. He left a note, hopped on his motorbike, and was off. The note made a delicious breakfast for one of the geese, and so no one knew that Bruce was gone…or that “Kevin was coming.” Later that morning, as everyone sat around the table hoping they were going to do something fun that day, Kevin arrived.

With just one look, the mice and the geese could see that their nighttime wishes had come true. Even though they didn’t know quite what had happened, they were ready for fun. “And Kevin was VERY fun.” There was the candy, and the order for twenty-six pizzas, and the pogo stick jumping in the living room. Kevin was loud—REALLY LOUD. He also turned the cabin into a swimming pool. The outdoor fun was no less chaotic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then “Kevin’s fun friends” arrived. This was just too much “fun Bruce” to take. Rupert, Nibbs, Thistle, and the geese sat on the lawn and cried. “They all wished for regular Bruce to come back.” And Kevin? He and his friends were still looking for more fun. Besides, there was all that mess to contend with – and Kevin and his friends thought “messes are not fun.” They clamored back into their van and drove away just as Bruce was coming back from his fishing trip.

When he got home and saw his wailing family, his heart softened and he decided that “maybe…just maybe…he should try having FUN.” But when Bruce told the mice and geese, they were shocked, they screamed, and they backed away. “Do you want to have fun or not?” Bruce asked, perplexed. “No! No! No! No! No!” his family shouted. So Bruce gathered them all up and went inside to find “what FUN had done to his house.” Bruce’s unibrow rose. Bruce’s unibrow lowered and settled into its usual grumpy position above his sad eyes and deep frown. The Bruce the mice and geese loved was back. They hugged Bruce until there was a knock on the door…. Pizza delivery!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin's-friends

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ latest “Mother Bruce” adventure answers the question the mice and geese have been asking since they met Bruce: “What’s wrong with a little fun?” Here, Higgins exposes the truth about too much fun in hilarious scenes – from the ravenous geese gobbling up letters, to the activities Thistle, Nibbs, and Rupert wish Bruce would sanction, to Kevin and his friends’ wild romp.

On the way to learning the wisdom of that old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” readers will soak up the snappy dialog, wry narration, and Bruce’s brief and surprising change of heart. There are lots of places for kids to join in on reading, especially when Kevin invites everyone to use a shouting voice, when the mice and geese are wailing, and when Bruce adds another yard sign at the beginning of the book and Kevin cleverly changes them at the end.

Higgins’ dynamic illustrations are loaded with humor and action, and lingering over the pages reveals details that expand on the rich environment Higgins has created for his beloved characters. And don’t forget to peek under the book’s jacket for a delicious surprise!

Funny, smart, and a joy to read aloud, The Bruce Swap is a must for all fans of the “Mother Bruce” series – old and new – at home and in the classroom as well as for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 20201 | ISBN 978-1368028561

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter.

Reading Is Fun Month Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient from your pizza and pass the playing die to the next player

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-cover

You can find The Bruce Swap at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 3 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year Children’s Book Week will be held twice: May 3 – 9 and November 8 – 14. Each week with host different programs under the slogan “Reading is a Superpower.” You can find resources to help your child take part in the Superpower Challenge, a list of cross-curricular activities that allow kids to explore their passions in depth, here. To learn more about this special holiday for readers visit Every Child a Reader.

About the Bear and Friends Series

In the newest addition to the Highlights Puzzle Readers – books that use an innovative approach to engage emergent and new readers in strengthening their skills and fluency – Jody Jensen Shaffer and Clair Rossiter charm the youngest readers with a sweet group of friends: Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel. Released at the same time, Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse get kids excited about learning to read on their own with a combination of a story and a search-and-find letter puzzle. A bonus matching and vocabulary puzzle follows the story and will entice children to turn to page 1 again and reread the story.

A note for parents and other caregivers tells more about this book series that has been developed in collaboration with reading experts, how the puzzle-and-story structure of the books improve learning, and the skills children learn, including shape and letter recognition, letter-sound relationships, logic, and flexible thinking, and more.

Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

On a sunny day, Bear visits his friends, Mouse and Squirrel, in the woods. They are excited to see him. “Look! Look! It is Bear,” says Mouse. Squirrel lets readers in on two important facts about Bear: “Bear is big. Bear is fun.” They can’t wait to play together. Bear takes the lead, and whatever Bear can do, Squirrel and Mouse can do too. They swing and run and jump. 

But then Bear decides he’s going to play hide-and-seek. “Where is Bear?” Mouse asks the reader. “Is Bear here?” Squirrel and Mouse check behind trees, in a cave, and behind a big rock. They’re still looking for Bear as they cross over a stream on a fallen log. Mouse and Squirrel may not spot Bear or just miss him as he moves from place to place, but young readers will love finding him on each page and trying to guess why he’s picking flowers, acorns, and apples. Suddenly, Mouse points and exclaims. “Look! Look!” Then Squirrel says, “I see Bear.” But what is Bear doing? Kids will be as delighted as Mouse and Squirrel with Bear’s special surprise.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-bear-big

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Throughout Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet story, kids will also be on the lookout for the letter B, which is cleverly hidden in the texture of a tree trunk, made from blades of grass, constructed with rock, in the folds of mushrooms, incorporated into Bear’s picnic basket, and many other places. The puzzle presents an age-appropriate challenge that will encourage kids to search for the letters again and again. Many of these hiding places reoccur, prompting children to look for and recognize patterns in the illustrations, just as the story’s words and sentences have patterns.

The introduction of a ball and a bowl on the final page gives kids an opportunity to explore the B sound further and to return to the story to find more examples of words that begin with B (like Bear, branch, and boots as well as bandana, boulder, and bite for older readers) or include the letter b (as in the umbrella Mouse carries). Shaffer’s short, inviting sentences also introduce declarative, exclamatory, and interrogative sentences as well as their punctuation. Plenty of repeated words will build confidence and enthusiasm in even the most reluctant reader. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-bear-play

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Clair Rossiter’s enchanting, upbeat illustrations masterfully combine learning and fun as she maintains a focus on what Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel are doing as well as their facial expressions to give new readers visual clues to the words and sentences they are learning. Rossiter’s vivid color palette allows kids to show their knowledge of colors, including red, blue, green, brown, white, pink, purple, and orange. The forest scenery provides even more high-interest images for kids to explore.

Loaded with personality, charm, and the kinds of learning opportunities kids love, Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse will be favorite go-to books for young readers that can grow with them as they increase their reading and other concept skills. The Bear and Friends series is highly recommended for home, classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723388 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

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

To learn more about Clair Rossiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cover

Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

As the story opens, Mouse is looking through a house magazine. “Mouse wants a house,” Bear says. Squirrel tells readers, “Mouse wants a good house.” Bear finds a house for Mouse right away in a cave in a hill. It is so big that Bear can even fit inside. “You can live here,” Bear says. But Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is too big!” Squirrel thinks a leafy nest up in a tree would make the perfect house. But once up on the branch, Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is way up.”

The friends look up, down, under, and all around – even at some houses on the water – but none of them are quite right for Mouse. Hmmm…. Mouse and Squirrel lie on one end of a log that’s balanced on a rock to think, while Bear rests his foot on the other end. “Where is a house for Mouse?” Bear wonders as he steps down hard on the log, sending Mouse and Squirrel flying. They land right in front of the perfect house – and it’s for sale! “It is a good house,” Bear declares. Mouse packs up a wagon with boxes and in no time is moved into the cozy home at the base of a tree.

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Kids will enjoy helping Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel find a new house for Mouse while they also look for the letter M hidden in some pretty creative places. Trees, furniture, fencing, home decor, and other natural homes all sport the letter M for eagle-eyed readers to find. As the friends search up, down, under, and in, children also learn these spatial relationships. They’re also introduced to the idea of “far away” and “near,” as the tree Mouse eventually moves into is seen with a “For Sale” sign from afar early in the story and increasingly close as the story goes on.

The matching puzzle at the end of the story invites kids to match mug, map, and mouse to their pictures, while enticing them to find these objects throughout the pages as well as others, such as magazine, mat, mushroom, and scuba mask.

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Just as in Where is Bear?, Jody Jensen Shaffer charms new readers with a question that will pique any child’s interest: Where will Mouse live? In this story Shaffer introduces slightly longer sentences while again incorporating a mix of statements, exclamations, and questions and repeated phrasing.

Children will look forward to spending more time with Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel in the familiar setting, enhanced with new sights that give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the variety of animal homes found in nature. Clair Rossiter uses the same appealing color palette and decks out Bear, Squirrel, and Mouse in their favorite outfits that makes sharing another reading adventure as comforting as coming home.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723425 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookmarks and Activities

 

One of the highlights of Children’s Book Week are the bookmarks created by illustrators and author/illustrators. This year’s bookmarks and attached activities were designed by Angela Dominguez, Paola Escobar, Ebony Glenn, Oliver Jeffers, and Aram Kim. To download one or all five bookmarks as well as their accompanying activity sheet, visit the Every Child a Reader website.

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You can find Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 16 – National Panda Day

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About the Holiday

National Panda Day was established to raise awareness of the dangers faced by these favorite, adorable animals. Destruction of the vast bamboo forests on which pandas rely for food, coupled with their low birth rate has resulted in their being placed on the endangered list. Conservation groups as well as zoos and other animal sanctuaries are working to breed and protect these gentle black-and-white beauties. If you’d like to get involved, consider donating to a local zoo program or other environmental group.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for sharing a digital copy of When I Draw a Panda for review. All opinions of the book are my own.

When I Draw a Panda

By Amy June Bates

 

A little girl, art box in hand, gazes at her full-wall blackboard and tells readers “I love to draw.” She tells them, though, that “when they say to draw a perfect circle, [hers] turns out a little wonky.” There are things she can draw perfectly, like a cloud or a flat bicycle tire, and to draw a panda she just keeps drawing circles until one appears. Then she gives it a personal touch and makes it hers.

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Copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

The panda also has its own style of drawing, which includes drawing a castle the left way “when someone tells him to draw a castle the right way.” The panda has his own interpretations of pictures people tell him to draw, and sometimes he gets distracted by something better, begins to daydream, and forgets what he was told to draw. The panda shows the girl how to draw a dragon from a squiggle.

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Copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

The girl says that she has her individual way of drawing too, and “when they say to draw it ‘this way,’” she asks, “‘Why?’” When she does draw a picture the way they want her to, she changes it later. Sometimes people tell the girl her drawing won’t work or remind her to stay in the lines, but the drawings turn out just fine. And when people can’t figure out what she and her panda have drawn, they let it remain a mystery. The girl and her panda can draw quietly, but there are times when their pencils like to ROAR! Then they go willy-nilly, the girl says, to “somewhere that makes us happy.”

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Copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Amy June Bates celebrates the imagination and creativity of kids who, when given paper and freedom, will draw a unique picture every time, a masterpiece. Her storytelling in which the young artist counters the instructions of all of the “theys” who tell her to draw a “perfect” circle, castle, or other shape, is reassuring and uplifting to children who are proud of the artwork they do—artwork that is just what they want it to be. The girl’s honesty will resonate with readers of all ages who engage in the creative process, whether its art, writing, music, dance, inventing, or other discipline.

Bates’ own distinctive art shines in her illustrations of a child’s room that any kid will envy. One wall is painted completely with chalkboard paint, allowing her to give full expression to her imagination. Kids will appreciate the second and third spreads in which the girl demonstrates her “wonky” circles and then reveals that these become “perfect” clouds, ice cream cones, and flat tires. As the panda emerges from a great storm of squiggles, the girl’s imagination comes to life, and readers will cheer her on as she turns “the right way,” “something pretty,” and a “perfect” character or animal on their heads with panache and humor.

The front endpapers depict a series of familiar step-by-step diagrams that show how to draw a perfect circle, panda, princess, pirate, and more. The final diagram includes a fancy frame in which “something perfect” should be drawn. In the endpapers, these same diagrams appear covered in crayon scribblings, and the final frame holds a drawing of the girl herself.

Encouraging, freeing, and a delightful celebration of the ingenuity of children, When I Draw a Panda is a book kids will ask for again and again. This one’s a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1481451482

Discover more about Amy June Bates, her books, and her art on her website.

National Panda Day Activity

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Pick a Panda! Puzzle

 

Can you match the six twin pandas in this printable puzzle?

Pick a Panda! Puzzle

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You can find When I Draw a Panda at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 9 – It’s Creative Romance Month

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About the Holiday

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

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

Bear Meets Bear

By Jacob Grant

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 3 – 6

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

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

Creative Romance Month Activity

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Create a Mug

 

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

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

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

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

You can find Bear Meets Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review