December 21 – National Flashlight Day

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About the Holiday

The founders of Flashlight Day chose the Winter Solstice to shine a little more light on today’s celebrated object. As today is the winter solstice and the shortest of the year, you may find that a flashlight comes in handy during that extra bit of darkness. If you’re wondering about the history of the flashlight, it all goes back to the invention of the dry-cell battery in 1887. These portable power sources inspired new products, such as the flashlight or torch (as it’s called outside of North America), which was invented in 1899. So indispensable is the flashlight, that it is even incorporated into our phones! To celebrate today’s holiday, why not turn off the lights tonight and tell stories, play games, or go exploring illuminated only by your flashlight!

Flashlight Night

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Fred Koehler

 

Three brave explorers—a boy, a girl, and a little brother—set out from their tree house at night armed only with their flashlight. In the golden beam, the picket fence turns dilapidated and overgrown as it weaves in and out among the gnarled trunks of a dense forest. The children follow “past old post and rail / along a long-forgotten trail / into woods no others dare, / for fear of what is waiting there.” Soon, they find a crawlspace under the deck of their house and venture in. They can hear the sound of rushing water and the yowl of a big cat. Before joining his friend and her little brother, the boy shines his flashlight around the yard, illuminating a wild waterfall and a tiger on the prowl where a tabby had dozed just minutes ago.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

The three friends crawl deep into the dusty crevices of the tunnel, where the flashlight shows them bones and lost treasures of ancient Egypt “as inky shadows rise and fall, / dancing… / to no sound at all.” They come to “a peculiar door that opens to… / a foreign shore.” From the pool stairs they step into a rubber boat and sail across the sea to the pirate ship dead ahead in the circle of light. A parrot swoops low and a kraken reaches its writhing tentacles from the roiling waves just as the treasure chest is found.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

With the ship engulfed and sinking, the stream of light from the “shows a stealthy way to flee—….” The three kids run across the sandy beach and around the umbrella palm then scramble up a steep slope. But the angry pirate, brandishing his sword, is looking for his treasure; the kraken has scaled the wall and nabbed the girl; and the tiger approaches with a hungry look in its eyes.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Quickly, the older boy swings himself onto the ramparts of an old stone castle and reaches for the outstretched hand of his friend as she dangles upside down in the kraken’s arm. Her brother distracts the beast with his teddy bear, which transforms into a mighty grizzly that scares off the tiger, the pirate, and the astonished kraken. The littlest explorer is hailed as a hero as he is lifted through the window to safety.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Happily back in the tree house, the three snuggle under a blanket, reading 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while flanked by stacks of the classics, including Around the World in 80 Days, Treasure Island, and Mysteries of Egypt. And even though “weary eyes fight off the sleep, / adventure lingers, stirs about— / “until a voice says, ‘Shhh…lights out.’”

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Flashlight Night is that perfect combination of text and illustrations that creates a reading experience that immerses a reader in an alternate world. Matt Forrest Esenwine’s rhyming story entrances with an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue created with language that sets the imagination racing—inky shadows, time-forgotten tomb, slyly sneak, and craggy mountainside is just the beginning.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Accompanying this beguiling narration are Fred Koehler’s masterful, dual-duty illustrations. Outside of the flashlight’s beam, charcoal-colored images depict the reality of the children’s yard and treehouse. Inside the beam, the children’s imaginary game is fully illuminated. At the sharp edges between the two, reality and imagination blend together as seamlessly as children traverses both worlds. Under the deck, a forgotten baseball meshes with the rounded body of Egyptian pottery, the wall of the deck morphs into a rocky cliff, the stern of the rubber raft gives way to a wooden dinghy, and the top of the treehouse stretches to become the ledge on a castle.

The classic stories the children read in their tree house inform the friends’ nighttime jaunt and come to life in Koehler’s engrossing illustrations that are themselves scavenger hunts for small details, foreshadowing clues, bits of humor, and literary allusions.

Flashlight Night is a beautiful tribute to adventure classics. It is a fantastic book to cuddle up with for cozy bedtime reading (flashlight highly recommended), to take along for campfire storytelling, or to spark imaginary play. Flashlight Night would be a great gift and welcome addition to any child’s home bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 4 – 8

Boyds Mill’s Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629794938

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine and his books on his website.

To learn more about Fred Koehler, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Flashlight Day Activity

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Flashlight Fun Maze

 

Three friends want to do a little nighttime reading. Can you help the glow of the flashlight reach them so they can enjoy their favorite book in this printable Flashlight Fun Maze? Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Flashlight Night at these booksellers

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

YouPicture Book Review

November 30 – Tedd Tuesday

About the Holiday

There is no better time to feature Tedd Arnold than during Picture Book Month! Tedd Arnold has published over 50 books as both writer and illustrator! His themes range from houses crashing down, to little girls turning into frogs, to his beloved character Fly Guy. No matter which book you choose you can rest assured that you will be pulled into a world full of action, adventure, and things flying through the air! And No Jumping on the Bed! has become such a classic that the book got an illustrative update for it’s 25th anniversary. Whether you love new look or are a fan of the original, No Jumping on the Bed! makes for a perfect bedtime story time.

Review by Amanda Leemis

No Jumping on the Bed!

Written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold

 

Meet Walter. He loves jumping on his bed. Walter’s father has told him a million times not to jump on the bed. As Walter closes his eyes in his darkened bedroom, he can hear a “thump, thump, thump” from the apartment upstairs. Suddenly, he just can’t resist! “If Delbert can jump on his bed, so can I!” declares Walter. This is when something very unexpected happens. Walter’s feet firmly hit the bed and the entire floor cracks beneath him. Walter, his stuffed puppy dog, and all of his things crash right through the floor.

Copyright Tedd Arnold, 1987, courtesy of Pearson Early Learning Group. | Copyright Tedd Arnold, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books.

You may think the story ends here as Walter crashes into the apartment beneath and lands in Miss Hattie’s spaghetti, but the apartment building is large and Walter lives in a floor way up high. So, instead of apologizing to Miss Hattie for landing her her spaghetti dinner, they both crash through the next floor and pick up Mr. Matty and his TV. Mr. Matty is shocked as ever to see two people crash through his ceiling and soon he becomes a crasher too, crashing into Aunt Batty’s apartment. Walter tumbles through a box of stamps and into the next apartment along with everyone else where he destroys a beautiful block castle.

Copyright Tedd Arnold, 1987, courtesy of Pearson Early Learning Group. | Copyright Tedd Arnold, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books.

Walter picks up a fluffy cat named Fatty Cat along the way and his tumbling continues down through a painter’s apartment where everyone is splattered by buckets of paint! Down, down, down, they fall covered in green, yellow, and blue paint! “Walter, Miss Hattie, Mr. Matty, Aunt Batty, Patty, and Natty, Mr. Hanratty, Fatty Cat, seventeen cans of paint, the stamps, the TV, the spaghetti, the bed, and all.”

The final apartment is that of Maestro Ferlingatti and his musicians. Spaghetti and paint flies onto the musicians’ heads! His practice room floor is also the basement ceiling and Walter squeezes his eyes shut as he tumbles through the darkness back onto a soft mound of blankets.

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Copyright Tedd Arnold, 1987, courtesy of Pearson Early Learning Group.

Walter opens his eyes and finds himself safe and sound in his bed. Now, reader, you must be thinking that this was all just a dream, but that’s when Walter hears a creak. He looks up, and Delbert comes crashing though Walter’s ceiling, bed and all.

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Copyright Tedd Arnold, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books.

Tedd Arnold’s illustrations, full of vibrant colors, energy, and movement, will make you want to hold on tightly to the edges of your own bed for fear you may be the next crasher! The repetition may temp your little ones to read along and name all of the people and things that are tumbling through the building. This story is great for bedtime and provides an interesting thought to ponder as you drift off to sleep – was Walter dreaming, or is there really a structural problem with the building? Which apartment would you like to crash through next?

Ages 4-6

Dial Books for Young Readers, 1987, ISBN | 0-8037-0038-5

About Amanda Leemis

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Amanda Leemis is a model, artist, and creator of The Hollydog Blog! She is passionate about encouraging our littlest humans to read! With two books published in the “My Hollydog” series, she loves illustration and uses her skills to create printable worksheets for ages 2-5. Creating resources that build fine motor skills and boost creativity is her passion.

Amanda Leemis is the illustrator of My Hollydog and My Hollydog Rides in the Car. Her mother Charise Leemis is the author! The “My Hollydog” series is written specifically for ages 2-3. With one sentence per page, little ones will stay engaged and keep focused on the vibrant illustrations. Come along with Hollydog on an adventure! Whether it’s hanging her head out the window or jumping into a pile of leaves, Hollydog loves her humans more than anything in the world!

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Tedd Tuesday Activity

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No Jumping on the Bed Word Search

 

Print your No Jumping on the Bed! Word Search to find all 10 hidden words! All the words are names of things that went crashing right through the floor!

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You can find No Jumping on the Bed! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million (Hardcover, 2012 | Paperback, 1987)

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop (Hardcover, 2012 | Paperback, 1987) | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 10 – Celebrating Inventors Month with Laurie Wallmark

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Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. (Photo credit Jeanne Balsam)

You can connect with Laurie Wallmark on her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much, Laurie, for stopping by to celebrate Inventors Month with me! Since this holiday recognizes innovators of the past and present, it seems a  perfect fit for your books that teach kids about amazing women whose inventions or inventive ways of thinking have changed our understanding of math, computers, communications, and even secret codes. 

Your love for these subjects and depth of research lead to compelling biographies. Reading them, I’ve often wondered whether a previous job has influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write. 

For many years I was a software engineer and, after that, a computer science professor. Not surprisingly, my first two women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) picture book biographies were about computer scientists, Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.  

The same love of math and science that led me to these careers also led me to want to encourage children’s interest in these fields. And what better way to do this than through books? I now have three more picture book biographies of women mathematicians and scientists out, the latest being Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, with two more on the way.  

But it’s important not to fall into a rut in your writing, so my next title, coming out in October, is Dino Pajama Party. Because of my interest in STEM, people have asked me if it’s nonfiction. Um, no. But who knows? Maybe reading a fun, rhyming picture book about dinosaurs will encourage a child to grow up to be paleontologist. 

I’m sure readers are as thrilled as I am to hear that you have two more STEM-related books coming out! I’m really looking forward to seeing who they’re about! And what could be better than dinosaurs partying in pajamas?! What a terrific way to send little one’s off to bed.

The Latest Books from Laurie Wallmark

 

I’m excited to share a little bit about Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars and Dino Pajama Party.

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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Brooke Smart

 

In Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, readers open the cover to an intriguing question: “Could it be? Had enemy spies sneaked into the United States?” World War II was raging, but the United States had not yet joined the effort. And yet the “FBI had intercepted hundreds of coded messages from a secret base in New York.” The problem was no one could read them. Who did the FBI turn to? Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who broke the codes, discovered a cadre of Nazi spies, and provided the evidence “to send thirty-three German spies to prison.”

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Image copyright Brooke Smart, 2021, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Elizabeth’s career in code breaking began in an unusual way: through her love of Shakespeare. In 1916, she met the eccentric George Fabyan, who was trying to prove that Francis Bacon was the true writer of Shakespeare’s plays. He hired Elizebeth to “find secret messages Bacon had supposedly hidden in the plays. But the more she explored the plays, the more convinced she became that there were no hidden messages.” In 1917, with the US involved in World War I, Fabyan asked Elizebeth and her now-husband William Friedman, who was also an expert at secret codes, to establish “the country’s first code-breaking unit, the Riverbank Department of Cyphers….”

In 1921, they helped soldiers send sensitive intelligence from the field by devising a complex code that would use only pencil and paper instead of the Army’s cumbersome machine. During Prohibition, they helped stop smugglers and Elizabeth created the Coast Guard’s first code-breaking unit. With America’s entry into World War II, it was Elizabeth who figured out how to defeat the Germans’ powerful code-making machine, Enigma, which “saved thousands of lives and shortened the war by many years.”

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Image copyright Brooke Smart, 2021, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Compelling and wonderfully detailed, Laurie Wallmark’s biography of Elizebeth Friedman immerses children in the world of war-time spies, where cracking codes equaled saved lives and battles won. Wallmark’s storytelling reads like a thriller and is sprinkled throughout with quotes from Elizebeth that give kids a sense of her personality and the demands of her career. By including several cases Elizebeth was instrumental in solving, Wallmark provides readers with historical context on the broad range of nefarious activity that relied on secret codes. This informs children’s knowledge of today’s uses of encryption as well as of international spy networks. Each page is a celebration of Elizebeth’s talent, intelligence, and accomplishments, and her incredible story will enthrall readers.

Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache illustrations offer enticing glimpses into the past while following Elizebeth as she meets George Fabyon who shows her around his museum-like house while carrying a small monkey on his shoulder, establishes the United States’ first code-breaking unit, testifies in court, and thwarts the Nazis’ war plans. Interspersed with Smart’s realistic depictions of Elizebeth’s life are images in which lines of coded messages snake across the page, giving readers a look at the kinds of unreadable text Elizebeth and her teams cracked. 

Ages 7 – 11

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419739637

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brooke Smart, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Inventor’s Day Activity

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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter Activity Kit

 

Secret fun is at your fingertips with the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter Activity Kit, which is full of codes kids will love learning, using, and sending! It’s available for download from the Abrams Books website here:

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter Activity Kit

You can find Code Breaker, Spy Hunter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Dino Pajama Party

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Michael Robinson

 

Jazzy dinos have a fun day singing, dancing, and making music, boogying to a funky beat. But once the sun goes down, bedtime calls! Perfect for story time or bedtime, this playful read aloud goes from rollicking to restful. 

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Image copyright Michael Robertson, 2021, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2021. Courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Laurie Wallmark’s infectious rhymes will have kids stomping, jiving, and roaring along with Michael Robinson’s colorful, pajama-clad dinosaurs that shake their claws, strum guitars and toot horns, and show their pointy white teeth through big grins. As nighttime falls and the dinos trudge home, tired and yawning, readers will find themselves yawning and ready for bed too. 

Ages 4 – 8

Running Press Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0762497751

To learn more about Michael Robertson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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Dino Pajama Party Activity Kit

 

Have dino-sized fun with the Dino Pajama Party Activity Kit available for download from Laurie Wallmark’s website here:

 Dino Pajama Party Activity Kit 

You can preorder Dino Pajama Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, preorder from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Check out these other books by Laurie Wallmark!

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Picture Book Review

June 2 – National Leave the Office Early Day

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About the Holiday

Would you like to spend less time at the office and more at home with your kids or just relaxing with a good book or favorite hobby? Employee productivity expert Laura Stack thought most people would say yes, so in 2004 she established today’s holiday to raise awareness of adjustments and strategies workers and management can take to make the work day more efficient and productive so that people can leave on time. A better balance between work and home life has benefits for people’s health, happiness, relationships, and their job itself. 

Somewhere in the City

Written by J. B. Frank | Illustrated by Yu Leng

 

The sun has set and it’s growing late. “Somewhere in the city,” Lucy peers out her window hoping to hear her dad’s footsteps amid the “bustle of the street below.” A dog across the street barks, and Lucy calls out “‘Daddy’s coming home.’” Across town Lucy’s father turns off his computer, grabs his briefcase and jacket and says goodbye to his coworkers. He rushes through the office lobby and “Swish, Swish” spins through the revolving door and onto the street.

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

While she waits, Lucy watches the baker mixing dough through the plate glass window. She stirs and stirs in a big bowl. “Somewhere in the city,” Daddy hurries past a musician “playing a lullaby to the people passing by.” Some friends who are listening invite Lucy’s dad to stop and chat, but he begs off, telling them he needs to get home to tuck his little one into bed. At home, Lucy yawns and puts on her pajamas. At the bus stop, a woman also yawns after a long day. The bus finally comes, but Lucy’s dad does not get off.

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

“Somewhere in the city” Daddy’s been delayed. When the path finally clears, he runs toward home. He passes a street performer and thinks how much Lucy would love it. Meanwhile, Lucy stretches out her time getting ready for bed, but her mom finally taps her watch and tells her it’s time for bed. But how can Lucy go to sleep without “hearing that special something?”

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Finally, Daddy is on the train and although Lucy is in bed, she’s not sleeping. She dances to the music floating through her window from the radio in the grocery store below, she plays with her cat, and at last she hears the door open. Snuggled up with Daddy as he reads her a story, Lucy rests “her head on his chest…hears that special something,” and sighs with contentment.

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Steeped in the sights, sounds, and pop-up events of a city and enriched by the urgency of a parent-child reunion for a daily tradition, J.B Frank’s story will delight kids and adults alike. Frank’s repeated phrase “somewhere in the city” makes the story universal while playing with pacing and enhancing Lucy’s and her father’s feelings. Children will love the back-and-forth storytelling that keeps tabs on Daddy’s progress through the city and Lucy’s attempts to delay bedtime. When Daddy finally makes it home, what Lucy has been waiting for will melt readers’ hearts.

Yu Leng’s realistic portrayals of the city share space with dreamlike whimsy in clever transitions that young readers will adore. As Lucy’s father rushes through the city, he meets up with surprising performers, a humorous delay that’s just right for little readers on their way to “counting sheep,” and other fun-living city folk. Just as charming is the view from Lucy’s window of the bakery, grocery store, bus stop and the rooms of her apartment home, all washed in a sleepy blue, punctuated by the welcoming golden glow of Lucy’s bedroom light. Lucy and her father’s facial expressions clearly show their changing emotions, and the final spreads of them sharing a special moment is heartwarming.

Enchanting, smart, and touching, Somewhere in the City would make a wonderful gift for dads anytime and especially for Father’s Day or for new dads. The book  is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2021| ISBN 978-1641702607

Discover more about J. B. Frank and her books on her website.

You can connect with Yu Leng on Instagram.

National Leave the Office Early Day Activity

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Briefcase Craft and Dream Job Application

 

Kids will have fun pretending to be dad or mom going off to the office with this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application! 

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Somewhere in the City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 23 – World Book Day and World Book Night

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About the Holidays

Sponsored by UNESCO, World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day and International Day of the Book, encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading and promotes the availability of a wide range of books to all and in all languages. April 23 was chosen to celebrate books in honor of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who all died on this date. The holiday offers an opportunity to highlight the power of books and to promote the United Nations’ vision of societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, and open and participatory for all citizens. Each year publishers, booksellers, and libraries choose a World Book Capitol for a one-year period to acknowledge the city’s commitment to promoting books and fostering reading. The World Book Capitol for 2021 is Tbilisi, Georgia. This year’s theme is “Share a Story.” For more information on World Book Day and to find a communication toolkit as well as other resources, visit the UNESCO website and The World Book Day website.

First established in the United Kingdom and Ireland but now a global event, World Book Night is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While World Book Day focuses on promoting reading for and with children, World Book Night encourages adults to set aside time to read for pleasure as well. Reading for pleasure can have a enormous impact on one’s life, from learning new information to feeling more connected to the world to just relaxing and taking a healthy break from daily responsibilities. World Book Night was also conceived as a way to get more books into more hands, and as such is actively involved in giving away designated books to care homes, youth centers, colleges, prisons, public libraries, mental health groups and other charity partners who match books with new readers to reach those who may not have access to or the resources to buy books. To learn more about this initiative, visit the World Book Night website.

You can get involved too! Why not start today? With so many amazing books to discover, reading daily is a luxury worth indulging. For kids, there may be no cozier routine than snuggling up next to mom or dad or cuddling under the covers and getting lost in a wonderful story before falling asleep. And adults? You never really lose that comforting feeling of ending the day with a good book.

Thanks go to Lerner Books for sharing a copy of Where is the Dragon? for review consideration, all opinions on the book are my own.

Where is the Dragon?

By Leo Timmers

 

The king was having nightmares about a dragon he was sure was on the prowl, so he sent “his knights: One, Two and Three. ‘Save the realm! But mainly me,'” he ordered. The knights bravely went out into the dark forest armed only with…well…their armor and a candle, but they had a problem. It turned out that none of them had every seen a dragon before. But they each had assurances from the king as to how a dragon behaved and what it looked like. Knight Two knew (from the king) that forest animals ran away from a dragon. 

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Just as they came upon a suspicious-looking shape cloaked in the darkness, “Knight One [said], ‘Well, the king confided / their spikes are thick and double-sided.'” The mound in front of them appeared to have a head, a well-spiked body, and a pointy tale. Without trepidation, however, the smallest knight approached and held up his candle to find… a wagon overflowing with carrots and long-eared rabbits taking a snooze.

The three moved on, out of the forest and into an area of lush undergrowth. As they came to a truly frightening silhouette that looked ready to gobble them up, Knight Two alerted his friends that the king had warned him about a dragon’s teeth. While Knight One and Knight Two were fumbling in the dark on their way to slay this dragon, Knight Three stepped forward. “‘Ha ha, ho ho,'” he laughed. Their “dragon” wasn’t scary at all. 

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

In a moment, the knights had gotten themselves into an awful fix when they began crossing a fallen tree that led right to a dragon’s nest. How did they know this was a real dragon? Knight One told them, “‘Well, the king declared / their necks are long, their nostrils flared.'” And, indeed, in front of them awaited the shadow of just such a beast. But as Knight Two took another bumbling trip, the intrepid Knight Three discovered in his dwindling candle’s light a rather peaceful, sleepy scene.

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Farther on another scare in the deep, dark night turned out to be just another snore. By this time the candle was burning low when they happened upon a rocky mound. There were no spikes, no sharp teeth, no neck or even head, and there was absolutely none of that “‘… scalding sizzling smelly breath'” the king had told them about. Knight Two had had enough. “‘Dragons? No such thing,'” he said. “‘Let’s all go home and tell the king.'” But just to make sure, Knight Three held up his sputtering candle. There was nothing there to frighten him, and he decided “‘the dragon’s just in the king’s head.'” But did he really get a good look?

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Leo Timmers puts a medieval spin on “things that go bump in the night” with his laugh-out-loud tale of three knights on a mission to rid the kingdom of a dragon that’s vexing the king. As they set out on a dark, but starry night, the knights have only the descriptions the king has provided to guide them. Accompanying each two-page spread in which the knights encounter ominous silhouettes are Timmers’ short and cunning rhyming couplets that lead the knights – and readers – to conclude that indeed a dragon lies ahead. 

But in the glow of the candle (just as when the bedroom light flips on) the dragon disappears, and in its place is a harmless – and hilarious – bedtime scene. Meanwhile, as Knight Three is uncovering the sleepers of the realm on the righthand page, on the left page bumbling Knight Two is engaged in slapstick trips, falls, and mishaps all to the detriment of Knight One. These increasingly  will keep kids laughing and waiting to see what happens next. Timmons’ pitch-perfect ending will enchant kids and anyone just looking for a good night’s sleep. 

Part Monty Python, part bedtime story, and entirely ingenious, Where is the Dragon? will become a quick favorite for fun, madcap and imagination-filled daytime or nighttime story times at home, in the classroom, and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Gecko Press / Lerner Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1776573110

To learn more about Leo Timmers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

World Book Day and World Book Night Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find Where is the Dragon? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | Indiebound

Picture Book Review

April 16 – Global Astronomy Month COVER REVEAL of The Universe and You

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The Universe and You

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

 

As the sun goes down and the stars come out, a little girl is tucked into bed in the midst of a beautiful celestial dance. Although Earth seems solid and still while she sleeps, it’s actually spinning on its axis and circling the sun. Joining Earth in this orbit around the sun are the other seven planets in our solar system, along with dozens of moons and millions of comets and asteroids. Containing our solar system is the wondrous Milky Way galaxy, with its billions of stars, just like our own sun, swirling and whirling around. And on from there are billions of galaxies with their own stars swirling, whirling into the ever-expanding space called our universe. When the sun rises, the little girl awakens on a brand-new day as the “moving, circling, and swirling” dance continues.

Through lyrical text, award-winning science writer Suzanne Slade takes young readers on an exploration of Earth, our solar system, the galaxies beyond, and finally the universe as a whole. Illustrated back matter includes scientific facts about our solar system.

Meet Suzanne Slade

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Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of more than 100 books, including June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus. She lives in Libertyville, Illinois. Learn more about Suzanne at suzanneslade.com. You can connect with Suzanne on Twitter.

Welcome, Suzanne! I’m really excited to be talking with you about this inspirational book for little dreamers! What inspired you to write The Universe and You?

I’ve done a lot of research about space exploration in the last decade for various book projects, so space seems to be on my mind. (Plus, I’m a mechanical engineer who has worked on rockets.) In more recent years I’ve been working on a book about a woman astronomer, so was reading about stars/galaxies and visited an observatory. Then one morning I woke with the idea of a simple, lyrical bedtime book which starts with Earth, moves out to our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe.

The cover to The Universe and You is stunning! What was your first reaction when you saw it?

The illustrator, Stephanie Fizer Coleman, initially created 3 rough cover sketches to gather opinions. The sketch I liked best ended up as the cover design, so when I later saw it in full, glorious color I was blown away. Stephanie knocked this cover out of the park (and universe!).

In what ways did Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s illustrations surprise you or go beyond what you had imagined?

I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to what the child’s dreams might entail (though I knew they’d have to do with space). I love Stephanie’s creative and colorful depictions of the girl dreaming about soaring through space in a rocket and walking on the moon. I also adore the wonderful space items in the girl’s bedroom and the fantastic planets in the solar system! 

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

In college you studied engineering and actually worked on Delta and Titan Rockets. What is one of the coolest things you learned while working as an engineer on these rockets?

How a rocket works. It was fascinating to learn about the rocket “stages” needed to launch it from Earth, how a rocket soars through space, and much more.

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

You’ve written so many wonderful books about so many diverse people and subjects, including June Almeida, Virus Detective!, which was just released in March. What is your favorite part about writing STEAM books for kids?

My favorite part is introducing young readers to a fascinating STEM topic or person who has made a big impact in a STEM field. The challenging aspect of creating a picture book is to find an engaging way to present the story so it draws readers in and makes them want to find out more.

What would you like for kids to take away from this story?

I hope it inspires children to dream BIG dreams and boldly pursue those dreams!

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Books.

Meet Stephanie Fizer Coleman

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Stephanie Fizer Coleman has illustrated numerous children’s books, including You Are Mine, Porcupine. She lives in Scott Depot, West Virginia. Learn more about Stephanie atstephfc.com. You can connect with Stephanie on Instagram.

Hi, Stephanie! I’m thrilled for readers to get their first look at the breathtaking cover you designed for The Universe and You! What inspired this image? Can you describe your process of designing and finalizing this cover illustration?

Well, I can’t take all the credit, because Felicia, the art director on this book, had a clear idea of what would go on the cover. I knew the cover would feature some beautiful universe bits and of course, our smart and sweet main character too.

I worked up three cover options to start with, including one with the rocket ship, which is my favorite bit from the book. In the end, the image of the girl sitting on the moon with the Milky Way swirling behind her was chosen. We did a few more versions of the sketch, changing some little things like having her sitting on the Earth instead of the moon, and then it was off to final cover art!

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Image copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Did you have a passion for outer space prior to reading this story?

You know, I’ve always been more of a history buff, but my husband is a space nerd, so over the years a fascination with space has grown in me as well.  I could look at Hubble photos for hours!

Do you have a favorite spread in the book? If so, which one and why?

Both dream spreads, with the rocket ship, are my favorites! It was fun to think up what this girl would be dreaming about and to tie that in with the outer space theme.

One of my initial sketches for this was the girl as a little artist who loved painting planetary bodies and I was a little sad when it got cut, so instead I hinted at her creative energy by imagining the kind of rocket ships her dream self would create.

In the end, I’m so happy that both dream spreads involve the adorable rocket ship and our adventuring astronaut pair.

If you were going to visit outer space, where would you like to go?

This is tough because I’m obsessed with the Crab Nebula! How magical is the Crab Nebula? I mean, seriously. But also Jupiter is my favorite planet and I think I could orbit Jupiter for many years, totally engrossed in watching the rolling storms on its surface.

You have an affinity for flight of another kind too—birds! Several years ago you embarked on a project to paint a bird a day for one hundred days. Readers can see the original charming and beautiful 100 + 1 birds on your website as well as follow along with your current bird drawings on Instagram. What inspired you to do this project? Do you have a favorite bird?

I started the 100 Day project as a way to explore my style using a subject matter I already loved: birds! The simple shapes and vibrant colors lend themselves to creative exploration while feeling easy and approachable as a subject matter. My favorite bird is the chickadee and I try to sneak them into as many children’s books as I possibly can.

What do you like best about illustrating children’s books?

I love getting to illustrate the books that I would have loved as a child! There’s something special about making something that will show children how beautiful the world is and how magical nature is.

Thanks so much, Suzanne and Stephanie, for sharing the story behind The Universe and You! I’m sure readers can’t wait to see your book when it blasts into bookstores on August 15th!

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You can preorder The Universe and You from these booksellers

Anderson’s Bookshops | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, preorder from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 18 – It’s National Sleep Awareness Week

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About the Holiday

Are you feeling sleepy? Studies show that most people do not get the sleep they need to stay healthy and function as well as they could. This might be due to work hours, insomnia, or other sleep disturbances. To raise awareness of this common problem and encourage people to think about their sleep patterns and habits, the National Sleep Foundation established National Sleep Awareness Week in 1998. Coinciding with the Daylight Saving Time change, this year Sleep Awareness Week runs from March 14 to March 20. The theme for 2021 is “Celebrate Sleep Health. For more information, visit the National Sleep Foundation website.

Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy

Written by Drew Daywalt | Illustrated by Scott Campbell

 

Roderick was a master at stalling bedtime. He knew all the tricks, from asking for a second, third, or even fourth story to asking for more water. “Sometimes he would ask for a pony…just to hear all the reasons why he couldn’t have a pony.” His parents had many, like: “Ponies watch the TV too loud, Ponies never do dishes, and Ponies borrow books and never return them.” At last Roderick’s parents got him “a goodnight buddy to help him sleep.” His name was Sleepy.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

That night as Roderick lay in bed, Sleepy stared at him with his big, unblinking eyes. Roderick tried moving him around his room, but he could always “FEEL Sleepy looking at him.” Finally, Roderick threw him in the closet, but Sleepy didn’t stay there. He peeked out and told Roderick that he was scared. That’s right Sleepy was alive and could talk. And that’s when things got a little freaky—as in Roderick wanted to know why Sleepy hadn’t talked earlier, and Sleepy said he was too afraid of the freaky way Roderick stared at him. “That’s because you freak me out! I was only staring at you all freaky looking because you were staring at me all freaky looking,” Roderick explained. Freaky, huh?

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

Well, it turned out that Sleepy didn’t realize he was supposed to help Roderick get to sleep, and now he needed a little help in the form of a glass of water, a trip to the bathroom (accompanied), another trip to the bathroom to brush his teeth (accompanied), a story, another story, a closet check for witches (of a very particular kind), a snack, another teeth brushing (accompanied), the light off, the light on, and reassurance that Roderick wasn’t mad about…well, about all of the above.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

Through gritted teeth, Roderick said, “I’m not mad.” With wary eyes, Sleepy said, “You sound mad. That sounds like you’re mad.” And it went back and forth: “I’m not mad…just a little tired. Okay, I’m a little mad, but mostly I’m tired.” “Well, I can’t sleep even if you’re a little mad.”“THEN I’M NOT MAD!” “I dunno. That still sounds mad.” Ai! Ai! Ai!

Sleepy then needed a blankie, a softer pillow, and an existential conversation. That’s when poor, exhausted Roderick lost it. “SLEEPY!!! It’s time for bed! Now go to sleep!” He ranted and vented until… “Roderick? Hey, Roderick?” “Zzzzzzzzzzzz.” Sleepy smiled. “Good night, buddy.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

Drew Daywalt’s hysterical turn-about-is-fair-play bedtime romp is the perfect antidote to all those delaying tactics adults know so well. As the story transitions into Roderick and Sleepy’s comical conversation, readers (both kids and adults) will laugh as the stakes escalate from a simple glass of water to a flood of frustration. Along the way, readers are treated to an eerily familiar litany of requests and retorts that will make them eager to turn the page to see what’s coming next.

Scott Campbell’s Roderick is a happy camper as he lounges comfortably with a glass of water well past bedtime while his parents rain down reasons he can’t have a pony. But his satisfied smile turns to skepticism when Sleepy arrives. Campbell hilariously captures the slightly unnerving gaze of stuffed animals before Sleepy “comes alive” and the “who me?” innocence of children afterward. Sleepy’s cheery obliviousness is a perfect foil for Roderick’s vexed, knowing look. The yin and yang of Roderick’s growing weariness and Sleepy’s antics will delight children and adults, and it’s safe to say that a happier sleep for both will ensue.

For a laugh-out-loud bedtime or story time read, don’t delay—add Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy to your bookshelf!

Ages 4 – 8 

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484789698

Discover more about Drew Daywalt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Scott Campbell, his books, and his art visit his website.

National Sleep Awareness Week Activity

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Sleep Buddy Blanket

 

Even little buddies need a blanket sometimes to feel cozy and warm! With this craft you can make a blanket for a stuffed animal or fleecy bed for a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for the stuffed animal or is large enough for your pet to lie on
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾ – inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each side

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

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You can find Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review