November 1 – National Author’s Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-cover

About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, promoted the holiday after Nellie’s death in 1968. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Who is the Mystery Writer? (Unlimited Squirrels)

By Mo Willems

 

Mo Willems passel of fifteen squirrels—and one winged squirrel-wanna-be—is back in this beginning-reader series that offers lots of laughs along with enthusiastic encouragement for new readers. The table of contents (introduced by a punny joke) reveals that there are plenty of stories and jokes to come before the Tale End, where kids get to celebrate their detective skills.

First up is The BIG Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? Zoom Squirrel, Zap Squirrel, Zip Squirrel, Flink Squirrel, and Wink Squirrel are walking along when they come to a STOP sign. Zoom Squirrel pulls up quick and stops the crew—not because of the sign, exactly, but because he can’t read it. Zap, Zip, and Flink are in a bit of a tizzy about how to discover what the sign says, while Wink Squirrel excuses himself and walks off the page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-stop-sign

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the wink of an eye, a masked squirrel appears to suggest the squirrels read the sign. The other squirrels are mesmerized by their hero, and as he passes out his card, all Zoom Squirrel can say is “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.” After the squirrels reveal their predicament, the Mystery Reader springs into action. He begins by sounding out the letters, but Zoom Squirrel shouts “STOP!” He doesn’t see how this is helping.

After a bit of explanation, Zoom is ready to try sounding out the letters for himself—and… he’s got it! While congratulations are being passed around, the Mystery Reader excuses himself and walks off the page. When Wink Squirrel returns, his friends tell him what he’s missed. Thus, begins the search for who the Mystery Reader really is. Zoom has turned into quite a reader, but his interpretation of the Mystery Reader’s card leads to his mistaken impression that he is the Mystery Reader. He’s just beginning his thank-you speech, when the real Mystery Reader is back (with a wink).

Zoom feels a bit deflated until the Mystery Reader gives him his own “New Mystery Reader” mask and underpants. Zap, Zip, and Flink think it’s too bad that Zoom missed meeting this new mystery reader. The Mystery Reader ends the story with a wry “Well… We learned something today.” To which Zoom responds, “Squirrels do not know much about costumes! Up next is an “Acorn-y Joke” that is guaranteed to be “100% corny!”—much to the delight of readers!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-acorny-joke

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the following segment, Wonder Squirrel is doing some deep thinking about the origins of writing. Now, everyone wants to know. This is a job for… The Book of Wonders! Inside The Book of Wonders! readers learn about cuneiform, hieroglyphs (and how they influenced our alphabet), the Inca’s use of knotted ropes, and the invention of paper. Kids also learn that there are mysteries about writing still to be solved.

Another Acorn-y Joke will have kids giggling, and then it’s time for readers to learn how Mo Squirrel makes a book—from idea to agent and editor, to writing, rewriting and redrawing, to re-rewriting and re-redrawing, and finally to printing. The Tale End poses a conundrum of sorts. Zap, Zip, and Flink are shocked to discover that they never learned who the Mystery Readers are. Readers at home, will feel empowered to be in on the joke as Zoom Squirrel and Wink Squirrel wink at each other knowingly.

A page preceding the stories introduces emote-acorns—small acorn faces that display nine emotions, such as surprised, sad, confused, and proud. These small graphics are found throughout the stories in the bottom corner whenever “the squirrels have big feelings” allowing children to practice not only their print-reading skills but their skills in reading facial expressions as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-making-a-book

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Mo Willems’ zany squirrels will keep kids laughing and shouting out the answers to their questions in this rollicking beginning reader. The text of each story is presented solely in dialog bubbles that are clearly attributed to the speaker. The short phrasing and repeated words will give new readers confidence in their abilities and encourage them to try longer sentences. The non-fiction pages include photographs of the various types of writing discussed, and the facts presented are detailed and written so the target age can easily understand. Readers who would like to learn more are pointed toward the Unlimited Squirrels website.

Willems’ distinctive illustration style is always a delight, and his emotive squirrels are no exception. The graphic novel format gives readers clear, bold and vivid imagery to mirror the text and make reading a visual treat of putting words and actions together. Each squirrel has different colors and markings. Getting to know and recognize the five squirrels in The Big Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? before beginning to read will help kids follow the action and be one step ahead of the mystery for maximum enjoyment and inclusion in the jokes.

A funny and fun addition to the Unlimited Squirrels series, Who is the Mystery Reader? will get kids excited about becoming readers and would be an often-chosen book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368046862

To learn more about Mo Willems and his books, visit his website.

Have fun with more Unlimited Squirrels on their website.

National Author’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-bug-book-plate

Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-cover

You can find Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 15 – It’s Back to School Month and Interview with Authors Ann Ingalls & Sue Lowell Gallion

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-cover

About the Holiday

It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the “stuff” of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.

I received a copy of Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway prize package. See details below.

Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak

Written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

It’s the first day of school and Tucker is up and at ‘em as soon as the bell rings, but “the bell scares Tip. He hides” in his little red igloo. As the kids enter the classroom, they immediately notice Tip and Tucker’s cage and come over to take a peek. Their teacher, Mr. Lopez, introduces adventurous Tucker and shy Tip. He even reveals a funny fact about Tucker: he snores!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-new-friends

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Lopez asks Pim to read the five rules pertaining to their classroom hamsters. As he does, Tucker and Tip both listen along. “‘I like the treats rule,’ says Tucker” as he imagines all the apples, carrots, and seeds that await them. “‘I like the quiet rule,’ says Tip.” The last rule is to always make sure the cage door is closed by listening for the click. Mr. Lopez gives Pim a cardboard tube to add to the cage. Then it’s time for music class. As the kids line up, Mr. Lopez gives the hamsters a carrot and closes the door, but there is “no click.”

“‘Hasta luego, chicos,’ says Mr. Lopez” to Tip and Tucker. While everyone is gone, Tucker and Tip talk about school. Tip thinks it’s too noisy, but Tucker likes noise—and naps. He falls asleep on the carrot and begins to snore. Tip goes to the door of the cage. “Tip peeks out. The door opens. PLOP!” The cage is so high up now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-lost

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tip calls for Tucker to help him. Just then Mr. Finch, comes in to change a lightbulb, and Tip runs out the door. Meanwhile, Tucker wakes up. He can’t find Tip. He “zips to the igloo. No Tip there. No Tip anywhere! ‘Where are you, Tip?’” he calls. Tip has zipped down the hall and into the supply closet. It’s quiet and dark, but there’s no Tucker.

Tucker is determined to find his friend. He leaps from the cage and runs down the hall and into a bathroom. One girl thinks he’s a rat, so “Tucker zips down the hall” until he bumps into Mr. Finch. Mr. Finch picks Tucker up and puts him in his shirt pocket. Tucker worries that he’ll never find Tip. In the closet, Tip has gotten hungry and tried chomping on the strings of the mop, but it crashes to the ground. “‘SQUEAK!’” says Tip. Tucker hears him. “‘SQUEAK!’” he answers. Mr. Finch also hears and opens the closet door. He lowers his hand down to Tip. “The hand smells like Tucker.” Tip climbs in and is plopped into Mr. Finch’s shirt pocket with Tucker.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-supply-closet

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Back in the classroom, Mr. Lopez and the kids are worried and searching for Tip and Tucker. Then “Mr. Finch peeks in.” The kids are happy to see Tip and Tucker. With their pets safely back in their cage, the class circles up on the rug. One child asks how they escaped. “‘Lo siento. I’m sorry,’” Mr. Lopez says and explains how he forgot to listen for the click and will be more careful next time. Tip and Tucker are happy to be back home with extra seeds to munch. In fact, Tip has decided that he “‘might like school…. This is a good home after all,’” he says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-apology

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tip and Tucker are back with their second adventure, following Tip and Tucker, Road Trip in which Mr. Lopez chose them from a pet store and brought them to their new home. As Mr. Lopez’s students are introduced to their classroom pets, new readers get to know this darling duo too. With repeated words and phrases, onomatopoeia, gentle suspense, and humor, Ingalls and Gallion weave a story that will captivate kids while boosting their confidence in their reading ability. When Mr. Lopez discovers that he left the cage door unlocked, he gathers his students and apologizes, demonstrating a good lesson in accepting responsibility and the idea that everyone makes mistakes. Through his unexpected adventure, Tip learns with pride that he has untapped bravery, providing another good example for kids who may be more hesitant or wary of new experiences.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-home

André Ceolin’s bright and welcoming illustrations invite kids to school, where Mr. Lopez’s diverse class is excited about their new pets and people watch out for each other—and their tiny charges. Ceolin’s pages are packed with action and detailed scenes that help emerging and new readers connect the text to what they see. Tip and Tucker are as cute as can be as they settle into their classroom home. During their separation they display emotions of happiness, wariness, trust, and finally joy in being reunited. 

A delightful entry in this series for early, developing, and newly independent readers, Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak will enchant fans, who will eagerly look forward to these friends’ next adventure. The book is a charming addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110083 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534110090 (Paperback) 

Discover more about Ann Ingalls and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by André Ceolin and learn more about him and his work, visit his website.

Interview with Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ann-ingalls-and-sue-gallion

Today, I’m thrilled to be talking with Ann and Sue about their writing partnership, their inspirations for their Tip and Tucker series, and what it’s like living in the same city but two different states.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ann-ingalls-headshot

Meet Ann Ingalls

 

How did you and Sue team up to write the Tip and Tucker series of early readers?

Lucky for me, I met Sue at a local writers’ group. We hit it off right away and realized that we have the same sort of sensibility about writing for children. We write to engage children, to entertain them, and to teach them. With this group of emergent readers for Sleeping Bear, our aim is to teach them to read.

What inspired you to adopt hamsters as the main characters for the series? Are any real incidents from your years as a teacher reflected in the stories?

I had many, many classroom pets—mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, canaries, finches, turtles, fire-bellied toads, loads of fish, salamanders, and the list goes on. My students especially loved having hamsters. Salamanders were the stinkiest. We kept them in a small wading pool and returned them to the ponds they came from after a period of time, usually about 2 weeks.

Your list of countries visited is quite extensive—Australia, the West Indies, Germany, China, Hungary, Peru, Belgium, Guatemala, and so many more! How did you become such a globe-trotter? Can you share any anecdote from one or more of your trips?

I have always loved to travel, beginning with family trips to northern Michigan as a child and a trip to Mexico as an exchange student in college.

One time during a visit to Denmark, I visited an elementary school. I loved seeing that each classroom had its own fruit bowl, and that children go outside for recess even when it rains because they need the exercise and their clothes will dry in the classroom anyway. That same school was attached to a senior care center and the children and adults ate together, read together, and went to recess together.

I’m intrigued by some of your nonfiction titles—Fairy Floss about the invention of cotton candy, J is for Jazz, an alphabetic romp about jazz, and Trails to California about some of the state’s founders. What sparked your interest in these topics, and what do you like best about writing nonfiction?

I am a research nutcase. So often my own curiosity about a particular topic and the reading I do to satisfy that leads me to write a book. That is so very true about the jazz books, a book on piranhas, and even the 8 books on manners I wrote. I now know that if you are walking down the street during a rainstorm with an umbrella and someone else is coming from the opposite direction with an umbrella, the person with the taller or higher umbrella holds it above the lower umbrella as the people pass one another. Who would have thunk it?

The variety of your school presentations sound fantastic! What’s your favorite part of school or other events? Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?

I know what I like best is reading to the children in the group. I like watching their expressions and answering any questions they might have. I also love to play silent Hokey Pokey with them. I came up with the idea for that during a time my students had to wait in long lines to have their pictures taken. It’s still a pretty big hit.

One time during a presentation at a local school, a child in the front row was so attentive. I thought he was really interested in my presentation. When it came time for questions, he asked me if I knew that I had hair in my nose. I thought his teacher would die of embarrassment. We all had a good laugh about it, and I told him that he had hair in his nose, too.

What’s up next for you?

I have a few new manuscripts that are out on submission. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed but have no expectations. If they sell, I’ll celebrate. If they don’t, I’ll keep on writing and revising.

You can connect with Ann Ingalls on

Her website | Twitter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sue-lowell-gallion-headshot

Meet Sue Lowell Gallion

 

It must have been fun collaborating with a friend on this series. What was your process for working together with Ann and crafting the story? Where did Tip and Tucker’s adorable names come from?

Ann and I became critique partners and friends a long time ago. One day, having coffee at a local bagel shop, we started brainstorming characters and story ideas to try writing something together. Einstein Bros. Bagels became our Tip and Tucker headquarters. We do get some funny looks from other customers!

We came up with the personalities of the characters first. Tip’s name emerged early on as we pictured a hamster hiding with just the tip of its tail showing. Ann is very fond of my beloved black lab mix, Tucker, and she suggested that we name our adventurous hamster after my curious pup. I’m not sure how the real Tucker feels about that.

As far as process, we work on a draft together, then head home and start emailing revisions back and forth. I tend to be a procrastinator and Ann’s energetic and prolific. She speeds me up and I slow her down.  All I can say is that it works, thanks to Barb McNally, our wonderful editor at Sleeping Bear Press, and the team there. André Ceolin, who illustrates the series, is the one who brings these two characters and their stories to life. We are enchanted with his work and feel so lucky to be part of this series.

Besides telling a great story, early reader books encourage kids to fall in love with reading while also introducing new vocabulary and sentence structure and giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end. That’s a lot to think about while writing! Where do you start and how do you draft the structure needed?

It’s a challenging form. It’s difficult to work with such a limited vocabulary, plus just a few high-interest words in each book. We also want kids to relate to the animal and human characters and their feelings and experiences. At the same time, we want a lively story arc with humor and great illustration possibilities. The art helps the students in decoding the words. We draft the story first, and then go back and edit, edit, edit. Ann’s deep education background is a huge resource for me. I’ve learned a lot working on these.

Can you talk a little about the Lead to Read program that you’re involved in? What kind of mentoring do you do with students? What kinds of changes and successes do you see in the kids that you mentor?

I’m such a fan of this program. Lead to Read KC organizes community volunteers to read for 30 minutes one-on-one with kids in first, second, and third grade classrooms every week. The goal is to improve third-grade literacy.

I go to my school on Tuesdays at lunchtime along with other volunteers. You work with the same child all year, so you get the opportunity to get to know that student. I love bringing picture books and early readers that might interest them or make them laugh. The student picks out some books from the classroom or from my book bag, and the fun begins.

It’s an absolute thrill to see a student who is struggling with reading experience success. Kudos to all the teachers and librarians who do this critical work every day!

I’d love to see the Lead to Read model replicated all over. There are more than 1,100 volunteers reading every week in Kansas City now. Check it out at leadtoreadkc.org.

You seem to have been born into the writing and publishing business! Can you talk a little about your family’s business, a favorite memory from your childhood, and how it influenced your becoming a writer?

My family had a commercial printing business, so I grew up playing at the plant on Saturday mornings with my sister. We loved to roam around the skids of paper and create things with scraps and rubber cement. We went to work in the bindery and as proofreaders there in the summers when we were teenagers. My sister ended up a writer, too.

Readers know you for your adorable and critically acclaimed Pug Meets Pig and Pug and Pig: Trick or Treat, illustrated by Joyce Wan. Can you share where the idea for this cuddly cute pair came from and the inspiration behind the characters? Can readers look forward to more from Pug and Pig?

Thank you! Joyce Wan is a fabulous book partner along with the whole Beach Lane Books team. The idea for Pug and Pig came from a story a friend told me in a water aerobics class about a family with a pet pug that adopted a pig. I loved the way the words “pug” and “pig” sounded together, and the illustration potential of two round, curly-tailed creatures. I can’t share any details yet, but yes, there’s more to come from Pug and Pig!

What’s up next for you?

Ann and I are at work on book 3 of the Tip and Tucker series, which will come out in 2020. I’ve got several projects in the works that haven’t been announced yet that will come out in the next few years. And I’m looking forward to some solid writing time in the months ahead, as well as lots of school visits in the upcoming year.

And one last question for the two of you!

Ann and Sue share a pretty cool fact! They both live in Kansas City, but the city is divided between Missouri and Kansas. Ann lives on the Missouri side and Sue lives on the Kansas side. In a bit of friendly rivalry, can you each tell me your favorite place in Kansas City and your favorite thing about your state?

ANN: Maybe my favorite place in Kansas City is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I have been there so many times with so many different people. I loved taking my children there when they were small and everything and every space looked large and amazing. They still love to go there. We actually went there to study how to make my son, Kevin’s, Halloween costume as a knight.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nelson-atkins-art-museum

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

SUE: State Line Road actually is just a few blocks from my house. One of my favorite things about Kansas City on both sides of the state line is all of our parks and fountains. Visitors often are surprised that there are so many trees and gardens. We do have hills also!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-children's-fountain

Kansas City, Kansas Children’s Fountain

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carl-j-dicappo-fountain-kansas-city

Carl J Dicapo Fountain in Kansas City, Kansas.

ANN AND SUE: For our friendly rivalry, anyone from Kansas City has a favorite barbecue place. Ann loves Q39 on the Missouri side. My favorite is Brobeck’s on the Kansas side!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Q39-BBQ-kansas-city

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Brobecks-BBQ-kansas-city

Thanks, Ann and Sue for this fun chat! You’ve definitely made me want to visit Kansas City! I wish you both all the best with all of your books and your upcoming projects!

You can connect with Sue Lowell Gallion on

Her website | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter

Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-cover        celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-hamster-toy-for-giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak, written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion | illustrated by André Ceolin 
  • One Hamster Plush

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s classroom pet or your favorite animal for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry)

This giveaway is open from August 15 through August 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 22.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Back to School Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fill-your-backpack-game-cards

Fill Your Backpack Game

 

Make sure you’re ready for school with this fun, printable board game! As players take turns rolling the die to acquire supplies for their backpack, they get closer and closer to being prepared. The first player to fill their backpack with all six supplies is the winner!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print one game board and set of playing pieces for each player
  2. Print one playing die
  3. Players can color their backpack game board if they’d like
  4. Cut out individual game cards and give a set to each player
  5. Cut out and assemble playing die
  6. Players roll the die to place items on their backpack
  7. The first player to get all six items is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-cover

You can find Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 28 – It’s Great Outdoor Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-cover

About the Holiday

The warmer weather begs to be enjoyed—whether you’re playing, working, or just lounging around. Established in 1998 as Great Outdoors Week, the holiday expanded to a month-long celebration in 2004. There’s so much to see and do outside as the wonders of nature are always changing and challenging you in new and surprising ways.

The Nocturnals Series

The Nocturnals series of books—early readers and middle grade novels—brings together a trio of friends for adventures and learning. The three main characters are Dawn, a gentle, kind, and wise red fox; Tobin, a shy, hesitant, and loyal pangolin; and Bismark, a chatty, romantic, impetuous sugar glider. Their distinct personalities serve them well as they meet up with various other woodland animals in mysterious, dangerous, and surprising ways. No matter what challenges they face, however, Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin support each other as best friends should.

Whether children meet the Nocturnal Brigade as an beginning reader or as an established reader, they will love following the friends’ adventures and be charmed by their close relationship, even when squabbles arise. As with any favorite series, kids will look forward to catching up with what this unique group of nighttime animals are doing next.

Grow & Read Early Reader Level 2 Books

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-moonlight-meeting-cover

The Moonlight Meeting

Written by Tracey Hecht and Rumur Dowling | Illustrated by Waymond Singleton

 

As the twinkling stars began to appear in the sky, a sweet pangolin by the name of Tobin woke up. “‘Oh my, Tobin said. ‘I smell something delicious!’” He yawned and stretched and went in search of that wonderful smell. It didn’t take long before he bumped into a pomelo—the perfect thing for breakfast. But before he could dig in, he heard a screech from the tree above. “‘Thief!’ it cried.” Tobin was so frightened that he “let out a stinky poof!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-moonlight-meeting-tobin

Image copyright Waymond Singleton, 2017, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2017. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

The small creature in the tree covered his nose. “‘That stench! That odor! That tang!’” he exclaimed. “‘This calls for the flaps!’” In a moment the animal leaped out of the tree and glided to the ground. Although a little scared, Tobin was curious. He wondered if perhaps this creature could become a friend. But it didn’t seem he was interested in anything but the pomelo. As he grabbed the green fruit, he introduced himself. “‘I am Bismark! Sugar glider spec-tac-u-lar! And the owner of this pomelo.’” But before Tobin could reply, a red fox emerged from the bushes.

She had smelled Tobin’s spray of fear and wondered if help was needed. The fox had “kind eyes” and “a warm smile.” Bismark spoke up and told the fox about Tobin and the pomelo and the thievery. The fox asked if all of this was true. “Tobin was shy, but the fox made him feel brave.” He answered that he was not stealing the fruit, but Bismark said he had seen it first.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-moonlight-meeting-pomelo

Image copyright Waymond Singleton, 2017, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2017. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

The fox thought over the problem and…sliced the pomelo into three pieces. She gave a piece to Tobin and Bismark and kept one for herself. “‘Mmm,’ Tobin said. The pomelo was sweet! ‘Burp,’ Bismark belched. The pomelo was juicy. ‘Perfect,’ the fox declared. The pomelo was delicious!” It seemed the little sugar glider liked more than just the pomelo. After smoothing his hair and giving a deep bow, he introduced Tobin and himself. The fox smiled and told them her name was Dawn. Tobin was smitten.

Suddenly, they all realized that each of them slept during the day and were awake at night. Bismark exclaimed that they would be “a moonlight trio… a nocturnal brigade”… a…. Dawn broke in. “‘We will be friends,’” she said. Tobin and Bismark were happy. They were friends.

Facts about the nocturnal animals in the book and their favorite food, the pomelo, follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-moonlight-meeting-bismark

Image copyright Waymond Singleton, 2017, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2017. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Tracey Hecht introduces her unique band of friends in this story that brings a diverse group of animals together over the disputed ownership of a pomelo. The strong personalities of the characters lend humor and intrigue to their quarrel over this favorite fruit, and as Dawn raises her sharp claws to decide the issue, readers may join Tobin and Bismark in a moment of wide-eyed suspense. The fox’s solution, however, is one of inclusion and sharing and sets the tone for the rest of the series. Hecht’s short sentences are composed of active, high-interest vocabulary, and the story moves along at a quick pace, carried by realistic and funny dialogue.

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 7.56.43 PM

 

Kids will love meeting Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin through the illustrations on each page that convey their personalities and the storyline clearly. Tiny Bismark, with his big eyes, dramatic expressions, and energetic attitude is always ready for action. Tobin, the scaly pangolin with long claws, an anxious demeanor, and an inherent sweetness, is devoted and trustworthy. And Dawn, with her sleek red coat and gentle eyes, is caring, intelligent, and the glue that holds the three together. As readers get to know each character better, they’ll look forward to each one’s individual reactions to whatever adventure they encounter.

Ages 5 – 7 

Fabled Films Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1944020149

You can find The Moonlight Meeting at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-slithery-shakedown-cover

The Slithery Shakedown

Written by Tracey Hecht | Illustrated by Josie Yee

 

Although nighttime had come, Bismark was still waiting for his friends to arrive. “Bismark tapped his foot. Bismark put his fists to his hips. Bismark scrunched his tiny pink nose. This sugar glider was peeved!” Still, he was more relieved than angry when Tobin, the pangolin, came through the reeds. It wasn’t long before Dawn, a red fox, joined them. Bismark jumped on top of a rock and declared that he was going to take them on an adventure. After all he was “‘Bismark the Brave.’” Tobin and Dawn giggled at their tiny friend.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-slithery-shakedown-late

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Before they could get started, though, Dawn noticed something lurking in the bushes. It was a snake—a snake who seemed to have designs on eating Bismark for breakfast. “The snake slithered closer. ‘Sss-scrumptious!’ the snake said. ‘A sss-scrawny, little sss-sugar glider.’” Bismark ran and hit behind Dawn’s legs. Dawn stepped forward and confronted the snake. “Tobin summoned his courage” and joined her.

The snake prepared to attack. “Dawn snarled…. Tobin raised a sharp, taloned claw.” The snake took a look at the stalwart friends and decided it was time to “‘sss-skedaddle.’” Biskmark was trembling as he watched the snake slither away, but he would not admit that he had been scared. Dawn and Tobin reassured him that “‘You can be scared and brave, too.’” In fact, they told him, they had also been afraid of the snake.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-slithery-shakedown-peeved

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Just then something blue and shiny in the bushes caught Bismark’s eye. He went closer. The thing was long and thin, but it did not slither. “‘By the moon!’ Bismark said. ‘Look here! That snake slithered right out of its skin.’” He picked it up and tore it into three pieces. He gave a piece to Tobin and Dawn. They each tied the piece of snakeskin around their neck like a cape and admired themselves. Dawn thought it was the perfect symbol for their brigade. “‘The Nocturnal Brigade!’ Tobin cheered, and Bismark added, “‘Bold in adventure. And best of all, brave!’”

Information about the nocturnal animals in the book and their favorite food, the pomelo, follows the story.

When the three are threatened by a snake, will they be brave enough to send him packing? Even though Bismark considers himself the bravest of the brave, he turns out to be the one most frightened by the slithery bully. With his new friends behind him, Biskmark learns that fear and bravery often go hand in hand. Here, the three solidify their friendship with a physical symbol of the brigade, and their blue snakeskin capes become a regular feature of the series. Using lots of alliteration, dialogue and some sss-snakey onomatopoeia, Tracey Hecht weaves a fast-moving story that shows that sticking together and standing up for others is the best way to defeat a bully.

Josie Yee further develops her characters in this story that sees the usually uber-confident Bismark experience fear that he can’t hide. Tobin demonstrates another level of self-assurance by swallowing his usual shyness to confront the snake, and Dawn, true to her nature, serves as strong example to her friends and readers.

Ages 5 – 7 

Fabled Films Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1944020170

You can find The Slithery Shakedown at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-peculiar-possum-cover

The Peculiar Possum

Written by Tracey Hecht | Illustrated by Josie Yee

 

It was a bright, beautiful night when Dawn, a fox; Bismark, a sugar glider, and Tobin, a pangolin met under the pomelo tree. Bismark was dismayed because while the tree was usually full of fruit, tonight he could only find one. Just then they heard a strange “cluck cluck clatter! Chit chit chatter!” Bismark was sure it was a prowler who’d come for his pomelos. “Suddenly, the wind blew. The shadows shifted. A strange smell filled the air.”

Dawn looked up into the tree and saw “two shiny, brown eyes. And a paw, holding a pomelo! ‘Popping peepers!’ Bismark bellowed. ‘There is a prowler! And it has one of my precious pomelos!’” Quickly, the eyes disappeared and the pomelo came soaring out of the swaying branches. With a few more clucks and clatter, chits and chatter, the prowler plunked down in front of them. The three friends recognized the interloper as a possum. They gathered around it, but it lay motionless on the ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-peculiar-possum-brigade

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Dawn prodded it with her paw. “‘Perhaps this possum is feeling a bit peaky,’” she said. But the possum opened one eye and told them it was just playing possum. The possum got up and introduced herself as Penny. “‘Pleased to meet you,’” she said, sticking out her paw. But Bismark was not pleased to meet her. He did not like that she “prowls and pillages.” As evidence he pointed to the wayward pomelo.

Dawn gazed at her friend and said, “‘Bismark, these pomelos belong to everyone.’” Well, what about the way Penny chits and chatters? Bismark asked. He thought her way of speaking was strange. Dawn reminded him that he too had a unique way of speaking. Then Bismark pointed out the unusual hairless patch on Penny’s tail. “Dawn smiled gently. She looked down at Bismark’s bald spot. ‘Bismark, Penny is not the only one with a hairless patch.’” Still, Bismark wasn’t keen on Penny’s smell or the way she played possum.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-peculiar-possum-bismark

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Tobin hurried to Penny’s side to defend her. “‘Penny, I spray a terrible odor when I get scared,’” he reassured her, reaching for her paws. Dawn told Bismark that no one is exactly like someone else. That everyone is unique. Then Penny told Bismark that she was proud of who she is. Bismark looked at Penny, and even though it was hard to admit he’d been wrong, he apologized to her and proclaimed, “‘You are your own possum. And that makes you perfect.’” Then Bismark split the pomelo into four sections and they all had a pomelo picnic.

Fun facts about pangolins, red foxes, sugar gliders, brushtail possums, and pomelos follow the text. Back matter also includes a Language Glossary showing forms of five words in the story as well as the translations of these words into Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, French, and Arabic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-peculiar-possum-tobin

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

When Bismark encounters Penny, a possum and an animal he’s never seen before, his adverse reaction to her disappoints Dawn and Tobin, who show him the errors in his thinking. Through her story, Tracey Hecht demonstrates that everyone has more similarities than differences and that what makes one person distinctive should be celebrated. Along the way, readers learn how to welcome a new friend.

Ages 5 – 7 

Fabled Films Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1944020194

You can find The Peculiar Possum at these booksellers

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

Grow & Read Early Reader Level 3 Book

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-cover

The Chestnut Challenge

Written by Tracey Hecht | Illustrated by Josie Yee

 

After sundown, while other animals slept, Dawn, a red fox; Bismark, a sugar glider; and Tobin, a pangolin “were playing a game of chestnut checkers.” Bismark thought Tobin was taking too long to move his chestnut. He snapped his fingers, tapped his foot, and finally said, “‘Hurry up!’” But Dawn chided Bismark and said Tobin should take the time he needed. At last Tobin moved his piece. Bismark was delighted. Tobin, it seemed, had set him up to win. Bismark moved one of his chestnuts. Now it was Tobin’s turn to be delighted. “Tobin jumped a chestnut across the board—and captured all of Bismark’s chestnuts.” Bismark was crushed. Tobin chuckled and said that it was only a game.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-playing

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2019, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2019. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Suddenly, a voice called out and Chandler, a chinchilla, popped out from a nearby bush. He said that he was “‘the real chestnut champion.’” Bismark warned his friends against playing chestnuts with Chandler. He seemed to boastful to the little sugar glider, but Dawn wanted to give him a chance. Chandler chose Tobin to play first. Tobin didn’t like playing competitively; he just liked to have fun.

Bismark was all for Tobin taking up Chandler’s challenge, while Dawn said it was up to him to play or not. Chandler wanted an answer. Tobin decided to play—but just for fun. “Chandler and Tobin started to play. Chandler’s brow wrinkled. Tobin’s jaw tightened. No one seemed to be having fun.” Just then, Chandler shouted and pointed to the bushes. Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn all turned to look. “That’s when Chandler reached forward—and moved one of Tobin’s chestnuts!” When the three friends turned back, Chandler took his turn and Tobin’s chestnut that he had moved.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-bismark

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2019, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2019. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Dawn thought something looked suspicious. Bismark begged Tobin to win against the “cheeky challenger.” Tobin was nervous. Suddenly, Chandler sneezed right in their faces. While their eyes were closed, he moved two chestnuts. He laughed when he saw that no one had seen him. Chandler only grew bolder. When Tobin closed his eyes for a moment, the chinchilla stole one of his pieces. This time Bismark caught him. He called on Dawn and Tobin, but Chandler denied it. Dawn, however, had also seen him steal the piece. She looked directly into his eyes and asked if he had stolen Tobin’s chestnut.

Now it was Chandler’s turn to be nervous. His cheeks reddened, his teeth chattered, “and then from Chandler’s paw, out dropped the chestnut.” With tears in his eyes, he admitted that he was a cheater. Dawn told him that champions don’t use tricks, and Tobin told him no one wins all the time and practice helps. Then they offered Chandler a second chance. So with Tobin cheering him along and Bismark keeping an eye on the board, “the four friends settled into a cheerful game of chestnut checkers.”

Fun facts about pangolins, red foxes, sugar gliders, chinchillas, and chestnuts follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-game

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2019, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2019. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

As the three friends meet a chinchilla with competitive streak, Tracey Hecht shows readers that cheating to win deprives all participants—even the champion—of the fun and pleasure of playing a game. In today’s super-charged world of competition at all levels, Hecht’s reminder that good sportsmanship wins out is welcome, and Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn, with their various personalities and generous offer to give him Chandler a second chance, make good companions as developing readers increase their skills while learning to play fair and for fun.

Josie Yee’s nighttime illustrations, rendered in dark blues, plums, and deep greens, take kids to the heart of a heated chestnut checkers match where they watch as Chandler concocts false alarms to cheat his way to victory. When Chandler is caught red-handed, readers see the positive effect his confession and the brigade’s offer of another chance have on him.

Ages 6 – 8 

Fabled Films Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1944020231

You can find The Chestnut Challenge at these booksellers

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

You can learn more about The Nocturnals series; watch videos of games, face painting, and other activities; find educational language arts and science guides; download activity kits; and even join the Brigade by visiting The Nocturnals website.

You can find information about the Grow & Read program, Educator’s Guides, and The Nocturnals Book Club Kits with printable coloring pages and masks at Grow & Read.

Picture Book Review

May 10 – National Hamster Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-cover

About the Holiday

Cute, furry, friendly, and small, the hamster may be one of the best pets around! These inquisitive little ones love to explore, and the way they wash their tiny noses is adorable. Easy to care for and a fun to play with, either maneuvering a maze, rolling around in a plastic ball, or running on a concave disk roll, a hamster makes a great addition to a family or classroom. This month we also celebrate National Pet Month. If you’re considering getting a pet, check out the hamsters at your local pet shop or animal shelter.

I received a copy of Tip and Tucker: Road Trip for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip

Written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

When Mr. Lopez walks into the pet store, Tucker scampers up his ramp and stands on tiptoe among the wood shavings to get a better look. As Mr. Lopez said hi to Rosa, the store owner, Tucker runs down again to find his friend. “‘Tip!’ says Tucker. ‘Come and see!’” Tip shyly comes out of his igloo and peers through the glass. “He sees a big nose. / Big brown eyes. / Big black glasses. / Blink. Blink.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-mr-lopez

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Startled, Tip races back to the safely of the igloo. But Tucker and Tip have already charmed Mr. Lopez, and he tells Rosa he will take them home. He buys a cage and food and learns their names. Their new home will be noisy, he says, but fun. Tip worries. “Tip does not like noisy things.” At the pet shop there are “Noisy parrots. Bawk. Bawk. / Noisy puppies. Bark! Bark!” Tucker, on the other hand, “likes new things.”

“‘¡Vamos!’ Mr. Lopez says. ‘Let’s go!’” The cage bumps and jumps as he carries it to his car. Inside, Tucker and Tip sniff new smells—coffee and fries. They like the smells, but Tip is scared and hides in the igloo. “Just the tip of his tail shows.” The car zips and zags, and the cage jumps along. Finally, the car stops and Mr. Lopez carries the cage to a building. He goes inside and “click. Click. Click. / Mr. Lopez walks down a hall. / Creak. He opens a new door. / Clunk! The cage bumps.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-rosa

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tucker climbs to the top of the cage and looks all around. He sniffs the air. He sees blocks, jump ropes, balls, and books. Tucker likes his new home and calls for Tip to come out. Before he leaves, Mr. Lopez picks up Tip and Tucker and smiles. “‘Hasta mañana,’ says Mr. Lopez. ‘See you tomorrow. Your first day of school!’”

Mr. Lopez turns out the lights, but Tip and Tucker aren’t ready to go to sleep yet. Inside the igloo, Tip wonders what school is. Tucker doesn’t know, but he’s excited for them to find out—together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-pets

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion’s vivacious language and sweet furry friends draw kids into this early reader that gives them confidence in their abilities while introducing them to two hamsters with different personalities. Ingalls and Gallion’s engaging story of a teacher looking for a classroom pet allows them to present words, vowel sounds, and familiar (or soon-to-be familiar) sight words in clever ways that while repeated never seem repetitious. Short sentences are filled with verve and a mix of dialogue and description. Onomatopoeic words sprinkled throughout add action and are fun to read out loud. In two places, the teacher, Mr. Lopez, speaks in Spanish, which is immediately followed by the translation. The two hamsters—Tip, a more hesitant hamster who does not like noise, and Tucker, who likes new things—reflect personalities that will resonate with readers. As Tip and Tucker set out on their new adventure together, children will be happy to join them in their own discovery of reading.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-pet-shop

André Ceolin’s cute-as-a-button Tip and Tucker will have kids smiling and exclaiming “Awww!” as they meet the little pair at Rosa’s pet shop and read on to discover where Mr. Lopez is taking them. Ceolin’s colorful illustrations organically help young readers decipher the text. For instance, as Mr. Lopez is described, he is shown from Tip’s perspective as he gazes into the hamsters’ tank, his big eyes and big black glasses clearly portrayed. Kids will appreciate familiar sights, such as the paper coffee cup and bag of French fries in Mr. Lopez’s car and empathize with little Tip as he hides in his igloo with only the tip of his tail showing.

Just the kinds of friends kids would want on a journey—both a road trip and a reading adventure—Tip and Tucker: Road Trip is an excellent choice for getting children excited about reading on their own.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110069

Discover more about Ann Ingalls and her books on her website.

Learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by André Ceolin and learn about his books, visit his website.

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Tip and Tucker: Road Trip, written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion | illustrated by André Ceolin

This giveaway is open from May 10 through May 16 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Here’s how to enter:

  • Like the Giveaway Post
  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Bonus: comment with your child’s classroom pet or your favorite animal for an extra entry (each tag gives you one more entry)

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Hamster Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-activity-sheet

Tip and Tucker Activity Sheet

 

Tip and Tucker are eager to get to their new home! Can you help them find their way in this printable activity sheet?

Tip and Tucker Activity Sheet

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-cover

You can find Tip and Tucker: Road Trip at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review