October 10 – It’s National Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-cover

About the Holiday

During National Book Month readers give special thought to the authors and illustrators who share their creativity and insight in books for all ages. Children especially benefit from learning about all the wonders of their world, from familiar people, places, and events to those from different cultures. Being introduced to world languages, festivals, traditions, and more through books gives children a sense of belonging and community. There are so many voices to be heard! This month visit your local bookstore or library and discover some of the amazing new books on the shelves! 

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)

Written by Hannah Eliot | Illustrated. By Jorge Gutierrez

 

At the end of October, the holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, takes place, the narrator tells readers. “Día de los Muertos is an ancient tradition celebrated in Mexico and other places around the world.” It’s a time to remember family and friends who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. Preparations for the holiday include baking delicious “sweet rolls called pan de muertos, or bread of the dead.” Atole, a hot sweet and spicy drink goes with it too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-bake

Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Flor de muertos, or the flower of the dead, is picked to add to decorations and to our altares. On the altars there are also pictures of loved ones, items that they liked, and candles. “The light of the candles and the smell of the flowers help guide the spirits back to us.” There are a lot of colorful skeletons too. Some are huge while others are tiny. They’re painted and even dressed up. Then they’re posed “doing silly things, like playing the guitar or dancing or even taking a bath!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-altars

Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Not only are the altars festive, but the whole town is decorated  with cut paper designs called papel picado and calaveras, or skulls, many of which are made of sugar and icing. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” At the end of the holiday, people visit the cemetery to clean tombstones of family and friends, play music, and tell stories about their lives. At the end of the holiday all the decorations are put away, but our memories of loved ones “stay in our hearts forever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-skeletons

Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Through Hannah Eliot’s engaging story, children learn the meaning and traditions of Día de los Muertos from a child narrator who is excited to share the holiday with readers. Eliot clearly explains the various parts of the celebrations, emphasizing the uplifting remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. Descriptions of the preparations, food, decorations, and skeletons will entice kids who don’t celebrate the holiday to learn more while also helping them to understand the significance of these holiday elements when they see them in their community, at stores, and elsewhere. For children looking forward to the holiday, Día de los Muertos is a magical and warm-hearted look at this spirit-filled tradition.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-town

Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Each of Jorge Gutierrez’s vibrant illustrations is a feast for little eyes as children eagerly collect decorations and make special dishes for the holiday. Calaveras and skeletons, sporting mustaches, hats, colorful painted designs, and wide, toothy smiles dot the pages. Portraits of loved ones who have passed away hang on walls while their spirits, smiling and rimmed in a blue glow, stand nearby. Similarly, spirits hover over children as they decorate skeletons, happy to check out the likenesses the kids are creating. The fun and poignancy of this holiday are especially demonstrated on double-page spreads of a candlelit altar and a festive town center, where the whole community has come to celebrate, as well as in images of families spending time in the cemetery and finally saying goodbye to the visiting spirits as they float upward and away for another year.

Día de los Muertos is a dazzling book for youngest and older readers. An informative and enchanting introduction to a popular holiday, the book would be an excellent addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534415157

Discover more about Jorge Gutierrez, his art, and his animation on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-give-the-gift-of-story-time-giveaway-picture

Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-coloring-page-1

Día de los Muertos Coloring Pages

 

Día de los Muertos is vibrant and fun! Celebrate the holiday with these two coloring pages thanks to Topeka Día de los Muertos!

Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 1 | Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 2

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-día-de-los-muertos-cover

You can find Día de los Muertos at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cover

About the Holiday

For centuries along rocky shores, lighthouses have stood as sturdy beacons warning ships at sea of dangerous waters. In 1789, the United States Congress approved an Act for “the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers and the commission of the first Federal lighthouse, the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Cape May, Virginia Beach.” Two hundred years later, the anniversary of this historic event was celebrated with another Congressional resolution sponsored by Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, which designated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day. On this day, where possible, the country’s lighthouses are open to the public for viewing and tours. To celebrate today, visit a lighthouse if you live close by or read up on lighthouses and the work of brave lighthouse keepers throughout history.

Hello Lighthouse

By Sophie Blackhall

 

“On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.” It is sturdy and shines its greeting far out to sea, “guiding the ships on their way.” “Hello! …Hello! …Hello!” The lighthouse has just gotten a new keeper. He begins his job by polishing the lens, refilling the oil, trimming the wick, and giving the “round rooms a fresh coat of sea-green paint.” He works at night too, making sure that the clockwork is wound to keep the lamp moving and writing in the logbook.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-island

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

To have his tea, the keeper must boil his water and for lunch or dinner he fishes for cod right from the lighthouse window. He wishes for someone to talk to—the special someone he writes letters to. He puts these letter in bottles and throws them into the sea. Outside, the wind whips up the waves and they crash against the lighthouse.

One day, the keeper spies the tender ship that is bringing him “oil and flour and pork and beans…and his wife.” The next day fog descends, thick and gray. Instead of a beam of light, a bell clangs to warn the ships away. But, still, a ship founders and breaks apart on the rocks. “Not a moment to lose, the keeper rows out. He pulls three sailors from the deep, black sea. He and his wife wrap them in warm blankets and serve them hot tea. The keeper makes note of all this in his log.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-stormy-waves

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In the winter, “the sea turns into a carpet of ice.” The keeper falls ill, and his wife tends to him as well as to the light. She runs up and down the spiral stairs to feed her husband broth and “chip ice off the lantern room windows.” At last his fever breaks. With warmer weather the ice melts, giving way to icebergs that float by going south. “Whales pass by on their journey north.”

Inside the lighthouse, the keeper’s wife is about to have a baby. She walks around and around, while “her husband boils water and helps her breath in—and out.” When the baby is born, the keeper notes the time and date in the logbook. “The sky erupts in swirls of green. Hello! …Hello! …Hello!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-new-baby

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The baby is a toddler when the tender brings an unexpected letter with the coast guard seal along with its regular supplies. After reading it, the keeper tends to the light “just as he’s always done,” but he “knows it’s not for long.” Through the telescope, the keeper and his wife watch the horizon for the arrival of the coast guard. When they come, they install a new light—one that runs by machine. There is “no lamp to fill, no wick to trim. The keeper’s work is done.”

He and his wife and little girl “pack their belongings into the boat and wave farewell to the gulls.” As they sail away on the ship, they look back and say “Good-bye, Lighthouse! Good-bye! …Good-bye! …Good-bye!” From its perch on the tiny island, the lighthouse sends out its constant beam through crashing waves and enveloping fog—”Hello! …Hello! …Hello?” From across the bay, a light from a little house “beams back. Hello! …Hello! …Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!”

An expensive and fascinating Author’s Note about lighthouses, the life of a lighthouse keeper, and how Hello Lighthouse came to be follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-little-house

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As I read Hello Lighthouse, I saw myself as a child—a displaced New Englander growing up in Florida who loved everything about the craggy northern coastline and its history. I would have absolutely adored Sophie Blackall’s detailed and atmospheric book, and today’s young readers will too. The story of the light’s last keeper reveals the work and contemplations of the men and families dedicated to keeping shipping lanes safe. The weather and seasons—and ever-present logbook—are characters in their own right, just as they were for the conscientious and brave lighthouse keepers. Happy surprises—the arrival of the keeper’s wife and baby—will delight children as they add to the depth of the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cut-away-interior-image

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Blackall’s stunning illustrations will swell readers’ hearts with the same intensity as the rolling seas.  A cutaway image of the lighthouse offers a realistic view of the five levels of living space accessed by a winding staircase that ultimately leads to the lens. Thrilling portrayals of choppy seas, wind-whipped crashing waves, pea-soup-thick fog, and sailors thrown from their wrecked ship will rivet children to the story. The cyclical nature of a keeper’s work mirrors the round rooms of the lighthouse and is represented throughout the story with circular, porthole-like snapshots of the keeper at work and round accents in the home, such as rugs, tables, and the quilt pattern on the couple’s bed. The final image of the family—the baby now a little girl—communicating with their old home anchors the story in history, togetherness, and a love of the sea.

Hello Lighthouse is a gorgeous, enlightening, and cozy read-aloud for home and classroom libraries that will enthrall young readers again and again.

Ages 4 – 9

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316362382

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lighthouse Day Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lighthouse-coloring-page

Lighthouse Coloring Page

 

This lighthouse perched by the sea is a beautiful reminder of the days when a keeper lived and worked at his lighthouse. Give this printable page some color and shine!

Lighthouse Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-national-archives-lighthouse-coloring-book-2018

National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cover

You can find Hello Lighthouse at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 9 – World Doll Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-cover

About the Holiday

Dolls have been part of childhood from earlies times. Once simple cloth or wooded carved figures, dolls have evolved over the years to cry, talk, and move in almost a lifelike way.  Although dolls have changed, one thing has stayed the same: they are much-loved companions, especially for little ones. Adults are also fascinated by dolls, and collectible dolls of all types have an ardent following. Today’s holiday was established in 1986 by Margaret Seeley to spread the “universal message of happiness and love.” People are encouraged to give a doll to a child of a family member or friend or to donate a doll to a child in need. The day is also celebrated with special events and doll shows.

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-lab

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-virtual-games

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-gift

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

World Doll Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stacking-dolls-coloring-page

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

 

Russian nesting dolls are fun to play with! Open one up and see what’s inside! Then another… and another… and another…. Grab your crayons or pencils and your scissors and enjoy this coloring page!

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

May 8 – National Teacher Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-I-had-a-teacher-cover

About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, we take this week and today in particular to honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity.  Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you.

Because I Had a Teacher

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Natalie Russell

 

A little bear has lots to say about his or her teacher. It may come as no surprise that this teacher has instilled in the bear a love of learning. But it goes beyond that. The little one reveals that “because I had a teacher, I discovered that I could do much more than I thought I could.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-love-to-learn

Copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

He also realizes that if one thing is harder than the rest, that’s okay too. Because of having such a wonderful teacher, the child is ready for any challenges that come and understands that there are “lots of ways of being smart.” Mistakes are not a big deal either, since they happen when you’re trying to get things right. And those things that are the hardest? They bring the little bear the most satisfaction to achieve.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-explore

Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

“Because I had a teacher,” the little bear says, “I know how good it feels when someone is happy to see me.” Not only that, but the child knows a friend is always near and that there is always someone who can help out. The bear’s teacher has introduced vast new worlds to explore and has fostered the little learner’s imagination. In fact, the bear feels that nothing is impossible. Then the little bear gives the best compliment of all: “Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-imagine

Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Kobi Yamada’s heartwarming love letter from student to teacher is a touching tribute to one of the most important relationships in life. One of the wonderful aspects of the story is its fluidity, which allows for multiple interpretations on the student and teacher dynamic. The lyrical prose is appropriate for a traditional teacher/student pair, but the bond could also easily be between a parent and child, a grandparent and grandchild, or any caregiver and their small charge. The book could also be read the other way around with the endearing sentiments coming from an adult to a child, as children often teach adults much about life as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-mistakes

Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Natalie Russell’s softly hued illustrations masterfully do double duty as well. Quiet in their yellow background, line drawings, and adorable bears, Russell’s soy-ink drawings are also full of action and excitement. The teacher is just as engaged in the learning as the student—doing experiments, climbing trees, launching boats, and helping to paint masterpieces—making their relationship balanced and one of equal sharing. Gender neutrality is found throughout the book, making it appropriate for all children and adults.

Because I Had a Teacher would make a much-loved gift for any teacher, parent, or caregiver. It would also be a cozy read-together for bedtime or any story time.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Compendium, Inc., 2017 | ISBN  978-1943200085

To learn more about Kobi Yamada visit the Compendium, Inc. website.

View a portfolio of illustration work and sketches by Natalie Russell on her website.

World Teacher’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teacher-coloring-certificate

Thank You, Teacher! Certificate

 

If you have a favorite teacher, here’s a printable Thank You, Teacher Certificate for you to color, fill out, and give to them today or any day.

Picture Book Review

April 27 – It’s National Park Week and Interview with Jennifer Thermes

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-cover

About the Holiday

Don’t you feel it? That little nudge to leave home and enjoy the outdoors again? Spring is the perfect time to discover or rediscover the beauty all around by visiting a national park. Whether you like hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, or just the quiet pleasure of a picnic, there’s a national park near you to enjoy. This year’s theme for National Park Week, which runs from April 21 through April 29, is “Park Stars” and encompasses everything from the starry skies to those rock-star rangers and volunteers who maintain the system of parks across the country. This year, why not join them in protecting our national parks and the wildlife that call them home.

I’m thrilled to partner with Abrams Books for a giveaway of one copy of Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail. See more details below.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail

By Jennifer Thermes

 

With eleven children, a farm to tend, and chores to do, Emma Gatewood’s days were plenty busy. When she needed a bit of escape, “a long ramble through the hills behind the farm was all Emma needed to set her heart right again.” So when her children had all left home and sparked by a magazine article about the Appalachian Trail, Emma put on her walking shoes and took to “‘the longest footpath in the world.’” The article had said that no woman had ever hiked the Trail from beginning to end, and Emma determined to change that.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-kids

Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

On May 3, 1955, at the age of sixty seven, Emma left her home in Ohio and traveled to Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia to begin her hike along the 2,190-mile-long Appalachian Trail. With just a light homemade sack and canvas shoes, Emma made her way up the trail, eating berries and drinking from streams as she went. When the trail took her through small towns and mountain farms, she got a real “supper and a cozy place to sleep.”

Word traveled about the older woman hiking the trail, and “Emma soon became known as ‘Grandma Gatewood.’” In June Emma crossed into Virginia and at the beginning of July took a quick jog through Maryland. The magazine article had said that hiking the trail was easy, but Emma had a different perspective. She once said the trail always seemed to “‘lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-vista

Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Grandma Gatewood walked in all weather and saw sights that were sometimes dull, but more often stunning. During July she crossed Pennsylvania, traced an edge of New Jersey, and hopped a corner of New York State. Pennsylvania’s sharp rocks “tore the soles of Emma’s shoes, so she held them together with tape.” By this time the newspapers had heard about Emma too, and “reporters met her at almost every stop.” Pretty soon, the whole country was talking about her! When people asked her why she was doing it, she answered, “‘Just for the heck of it.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-new-hampshire-map

Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It was late summer and Emma was over halfway finished, but a bigger challenge was headed her way. A hurricane was swirling toward the East Coast. In early August, Emma hiked through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. When the hurricane hit, she was soaked by rain, threatened by falling trees, and blown by the wind. She found shelter in a hut where a group of teenage boys were also waiting out the storm. They carried her across a swollen stream, and Emma continued her journey.

She met up with boy scouts and even went to tea with someone who had pinned an invitation to a tree along the trail. On September 3, she crossed from New Hampshire into Maine. Cold weather was coming, but the last mountain was in her sights. She bundled into every bit of clothes she had, and with torn shoes, cracked glasses, and aching muscles, Emma scrambled up the mountain all the way to the top. She had accomplished what she set out to do—and two years later, she did it again!

A timeline and an extensive author’s note about Emma Gatewood and the Trail follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-night-scene

Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Inspiring from beginning to end, Jennifer Thermes’ story highlights a woman who lived life on her terms and accomplished a personal goal while, literally, blazing a trail for women and the elderly. The jaunty lilt of Thermes’ storytelling mirrors Emma’s brisk pace while giving readers an excellent sense of her personality and the twists, turns, and obstacles of the Appalachian Trail. Facts about landmarks along the trail are sprinkled throughout.

The story of Grandma Gatewood and the Appalachian Trail is a perfect match for Thermes’ superb artwork and map-making skills. Colorful and detailed two-page maps, set every three pages, keep readers apprised of the dates that Emma passed through each state on her trek north. In between, kids get to see Emma scaring off a bear, making friends with townspeople along the way, trudging up mountains, cooling her feet in rushing streams, climbing over rocks, and weathering the storm. Themes also includes some of the gorgeous vistas that have made the Appalachian Trail a must for hikers of all ages and experience.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail  would make an inspiring addition to home libraries for children who love nature, history, and the outdoors. The book would also enhance many classroom discussions and lesson plans from language arts to social studies to science.

Ages 5 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1419728396

Discover more about Jennifer Thermes, her books, and her art on her website

Meet Jennifer Thermes

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jennifer-thermes

I’m excited to talk with Jennifer Thermes today about mapmaking, her love of history, and how her own house inspired a book.

What drew you to Emma Gatewood as a subject for your latest biography? Have you ever hiked any part of the Appalachian Trail?

I was inspired by Emma’s independence and determination to do something just because she wanted to, without even thinking she might be too old. A few people had solo hiked the entire trail before her, but she did it at a time when it had fallen into disrepair, and when women’s lives were much more constricted. I was also fascinated by the idea of the Appalachian Trail– a footpath that follows so many miles of changing landscape–and wanted to weave a map of it throughout a story.

In your writing and illustrating, you seem to have an affinity for history. Do historical subjects inspire you? What is your favorite time period?

They do! A love of history has led to the non-fiction books I write and illustrate today. Really, there’s something fascinating about all eras, so I can’t say I have just one favorite. I’m very happy to see how many stories about lesser-known people and periods of history are being published today.

You started out as a map designer for magazines and newspapers. How did you get started creating maps? What kind of research goes into that work? Can you talk a little about the aesthetics of a good map?

I was a design major in art school but always wanted to draw. Maps were a good combination of design and drawing. Research involves gathering information about geography, land shapes, picture reference, and figuring out what to include or not. (To be clear, I’m not a cartographer, much as I admire the work they do!) For me, a good map tells a tale of its own, while also inspiring a reader to want to learn more about the story. Clarity is important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Poring over details can be the best part of looking at a map.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-map-sketch

Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

How did you transition from designing for magazines and newspapers into writing and illustrating for children?

My map work caught the eye of a children’s book editor who asked if I had any story ideas. (I did!) For a long time I thought of myself as more of an illustrator than a writer, but I’ve always been a big reader, so the writing part felt like a natural progression of storytelling.

I was intrigued to learn you own an 18th century farmhouse in Connecticut. I have an 1898 Connecticut farmhouse with many cool, tucked away features. What is one of your favorite things about your house? Was your first book When I Was Built inspired by your own home?

It was! Our kids were quite young when we bought our home, and we spent a lot of time fixing it up. As we uncovered clues about the house, they had questions about what life might have been like for the people who lived here over the years, which in turn inspired the book. Again, the theme circles back to a love of history.

What’s the best part of being a children’s author and illustrator?

I’m happiest when drawing, or puzzling over a new idea. The feeling of possibility is creatively fulfilling.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-night-scene-sketch

Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Do you have any anecdotes from an event with kids that you’d like to share?

“Are you as old as your house?” Kid’s questions are the best kind of unfiltered honesty.

What’s up next for you?

Not sure how much I can share yet, but I’ve recently finished black & white illustrations for a middle grade novel written by a super talented writer, coming out in early 2019. I’m very excited for that book. And currently, I’m immersed in writing and illustrating a picture book about the story of the island of Manhattan. (“Obsessed” is more like it—my history-geek self is on cloud nine!)

What’s your favorite holiday?

Darwin Day 

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog!

Thank you, Jennifer! I know we’ll all be on the lookout for that middle-grade novel, and I can’t wait to see your next picture book! I wish you all the best with Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandma-gatewood-hikes-the-appalachian-trail-cover

You can find Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail at these booksellers:

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

You can connect with Jennifer Thermes on:

Facebook | InstagramTwitter | Pinterest

Grandma Gateway Hikes the Appalachian Trail Giveaway

 

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Books for Young Readers in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Thermes

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 27 – May 4. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on May 5.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers

National Park Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-National-Parks-Map

National Park Coloring Pages and Map

 

The National Parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Enjoy these coloring pages while you learn a little bit about four of them. Then check the map and see if there’s a National Park near you!

Acadia National Park | Everglades National Park | Mesa Verde National Park | Rocky Mountains National Park | National Parks Map

Picture Book Review

April 9 – International Unicorn Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-cover

About the Holiday

If you ask a child—maybe even an adult—to name a magical creature, chances are they’ll say, “a unicorn!” Unicorns have been part of legend since ancient times, undergoing changes from an image of fierceness and power to a representation of strength and true love to today’s more glittery superstar. To celebrate, learn more about the history of these mystical animals and check out your favorite unicorns of book, TV, and toy fame!

Thelma the Unicorn

By Aaron Blabey

 

“Thelma felt a little sad. / In fact, she felt forlorn. / You see, she wished with all her heart / to be a unicorn.” Thelma was a little pony—brown and short and overlooked. Her best friend Otis told her, “‘You’re perfect as you are,’” but when Thelma compared herself to the sleek white mare on the farm, she said, “‘I’m not.’” Then she saw a carrot left over from dinner and had an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-wishing

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

She tied the carrot to her forehead and told Otis, “‘I’ll say that I’m a unicorn! / It might just work… / who knows?’” At this very moment a truck driver passing by caught sight of Thelma and careened off the side of the road. “As Thelma watched the swerving truck, / it very nearly hit her. / Would you believe that truck was filled / with nice pink paint and glitter?”

In the blink of an eye Thelma was doused in sparkles and had become what she always dreamed of. She was a unicorn and “special now!” Crowds lined up at the farm gate to see the pink unicorn. The media descended with their cameras and video recorders, and Thelma quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. Everywhere she went fans screamed her name, took pictures, waved signs, and wanted to be near her. She even got her hoofprint on the Walk of Fame.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-becomes-unicorn

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Thelma sailed to foreign ports on a ship named The Fairy Princess, attended by stewards who fulfilled her every wish. “But soon she found that so much fame / was kind of tricky, too….” Her fans mobbed her with crushing zeal; chased after her wherever she went, screamed, cried, laughed, and pointed whenever they saw her; and hounded her day and night for her autograph. “It NEVER EVER stopped.”

When Thelma asked “the screaming crowd” not to chase her anymore, they said “‘We’ll chase you all we want….We’re fans, so it’s allowed.’” Then there were  the people who “were not her fans at all. / No, some were really mean. / And some just did the meanest things / she’d really ever seen.” Some threw eggs while she roller skated for charity and others held up signs reading “I don’t like unicorns” where she was sure to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-adoring-crowds

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Back in her fancy hotel room, all alone and bedraggled, soaked in egg, and with her “horn” losing its luster, Thelma looked at a photo of Otis. “…she felt quite sad, / this famous little pony. / She said, ‘I thought that I’d feel great… / but all I feel is lonely.’” Right then, she decided to make a change. She washed off all the pink paint and sparkles and removed her horn.

She left and “walked right past the crowd. / They didn’t even notice / She thought how nice that it would be…to see her lovely Otis.” Back at the farm, Thelma happily stood underneath a tree with Otis, When he asked her about her trip, she simply said, “‘Oh, it was fun, but I’d rather be just me.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-being-chased

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey’s cautionary tale of a pony who is granted her wish to be “more” than she is, deftly reveals the pitfalls of abandoning your true nature for what appears to be the perks of celebrity with a splash of humor and some no-nonsense honesty. Through Blabey’s smoothly flowing rhymes, readers see that being special is not based on a sparkly appearance that pleases false friends. Instead, each person is remarkable for their unique personalities and talents that true friends will appreciate.

Today’s social media-savvy children will recognize Blabey’s screaming crowds and overzealous fans and will come to understand, with Thelma, that being “in the pink” can be short-lived and that glitter soon fades.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-carrot-horn

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Blabey’s distinctive illustrations portray Thelma’s transformation from “regular pony” to celebrity unicorn and back again with flair and all the bling that goes along with superstardom. The crowds are giddy, awed, obsessive, and adoring until the backlash starts, which Blabey portrays with candid examples. His final spreads in which Thelma goes unrecognized by her fans and is then lovingly welcomed back by Otis beautifully sum up the theme of the story.

Aaron Blabey’s light touch coupled with his encouragement to be true to yourself makes Thelma the Unicorn a great choice for  home and classroom libraries.

Ages  3 – 7

Scholastic Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1338158427

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Thelma the Unicorn to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Aaron Blabey, his books, and his art on his website

International Unicorn Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-unicorn-coloring-page

Magical Unicorn Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons—and your glitter—and make this printable Magical Unicorn Coloring Page sparkle!

Picture Book Review

March 18 – National Sloppy Joe Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloppy-joe-cover

About the Holiday

You know when a sandwich gets its own holiday that it must be pretty popular! While there are many theories on the origin of this hot sandwich, no one can dispute that it’s oh, so tasty! Whether you like to take a bit of time adding special ingredients to your sloppy joes or the ease of using a canned sauce, today’s honored meal is always delicious – and is probably a favorite of the little boy in today’s book!

Sloppy Joe

Written by Dave Keane | Illustrated by Denise Brunkus

 

Joe sits on the sofa, his hair tousled and a mischievous grin on his face. On the end table sits a framed photo of Joe, his hair tousled and a mischievous grin on his face. He tells you, “‘Mom says I’m the first kid in history to take a school picture with gum stuck in his hair.’” What’s the boy’s take on the situation? “‘You can barely notice.’” Joe moves to his room, scattered with toys, books, clothes, sports equipment, and who-knows-what-else. Well… Joe does. It’s just that he can’t find his “bearded dragon, a few of his crickets, and a grilled cheese sandwich” from last summer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloppy-joe-gum

Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Joe is so messy that everyone is always fussing over him, trying to improve his appearance. Joe says he’d “rather be raised by alligators.” Is it hard for Joe to be so sloppy? Nah, he’s always been that way! Grandma and Grandpa know all about how messy Joe can be when he eats, so when the family visits they spread newspapers under his chair and all the way into the living room to catch any rolling meatballs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloppy-joe-eating

Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Sloppiness isn’t Joe’s only talent, though. He’s also the best frog catcher in the neighborhood. Where does he keep them? Let’s just say they like to surprise Joe’s mom when she puts away the laundry. His dad is always happy to have Joe help out too, even if he did spill a little paint when fixing the fence, knock the bird bath over with hose spray, and snip the flowers off the bush while trimming it 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloppy-joe-messy-room

Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Are there downsides to being so sloppy? Maybe one or two—like when his friend’s mom won’t let him in the house even though he wiped his feet and that time when his best jokes didn’t get him out of trouble. When that happened, Sloppy Joe decided to become Neat Joe. He dressed in his best clothes, combed his hair, and cleaned up his room. He even gave the dog a bath. And he didn’t stop there. He set the table for dinner, complete with weed centerpieces and frogs holding place cards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloppy-joe-fussing

Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But his family hardly noticed. It turns out they all had the flu. So Joe sprang into action with cold socks for their foreheads, homemade soup, germ spray, and some new jokes that, admittedly, made them groan a little louder. With all this care taking, Joe’s clothes have become a bit disheveled and the kitchen is a little messy, but when Grammy gets there to help out, she’s sure to notice a difference. So what does his family “think of the new Neat Joe? ‘He reminds me of the old Sloppy Joe,’ Dad says. ‘And he’s a very special kid,’ Mom says.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloppy-joe-alligators

Image copyright Denise Brunkus, 2009, text copyright Dave Keane, 2009. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Dave Keane taps into that free-wheeling kid messiness that happens when curious kids meet dirt, animals, food, toys, chores…well, just about anything. Keane’s classic storytelling will have readers giggling at Joe’s shenanigans while appreciating that underneath all the stained clothes, muddy shoes, and tangled hair lies a heart of gold.

Drawn with Denise Brunkus’s distinctive flair, Joe is rumpled, disheveled, oblivious—and happy. With frogs in his pockets, a pair of aviator glasses on his head, and a room filled top to bottom with stuff, Joe is a whirlwind that will make kids laugh with recognition. Children and adults will want to hunker down together to point out all the funny details of both Sloppy and Neat Joe’s world.

For laugh-out-loud story times at home and in the classroom, Sloppy Joe can’t be beat.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2009 | ISBN 978-0061710209

Discover more about Dave Keane and his books on his website

National Sloppy Joe Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reduce-reuse-recycle-maze

Recycling is Neat! Coloring Pages

 

Getting messy is fun, but cleaning up can be fun too! Enjoy these printable activities about recycling.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycling Coloring Page | Recycle in the Park Maze

Picture Book Review