April 9 – International Unicorn Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.’”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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

February 25 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of February, family and friends are encouraged to get together and have fun baking. Making sweet treats and savory dishes that come out hot and delicious from the oven is a wonderful way to spend time together, try new recipes, and learn new skills. This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

Discover more about Liselotte Schippers and her books on her website.

Learn more about Monique van den Hout, her books, and her art on her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

February 23 – National Tile Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established just last year and celebrates that architectural accent that has given exteriors and interiors pizazz and individuality since ancient times. Made in nearly every color, pattern, and shape imaginable, tiles were once all handmade and available only to the wealthy few. Innovations during the Industrial Revolution allowed tile to be mass produced and, thus, affordable to many. Tile has become a favorite decoration in homes across the world—as any HGTV viewer knows!

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

By Jeanette Winter

 

Growing up in Iraq, Zaha Hadid sees the way rivers brake up the marshland, watches when the wind sculpts sand dunes, and visits the ruins of ancient cities. At home in Baghdad, young Zaha studies the patterns of her Persian carpet, noticing “how the shapes and colors flow into each other, like the dunes and rivers and marshes” and dreaming of designing her own cities.

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

In her room, she arranges and rearranges the furniture, creates her own clothes, and comes up with ideas. When Zaha grows up, she moves to London to study to be an architect. After graduation, she opens an office in an old school building—Studio 9. Zaha is joined by some friends and they work tirelessly on their architectural drawings.

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

“Zaha’s designs don’t look like other designs. Her buildings swoosh and zoom and flow and fly. ‘The world is not a rectangle’” she says. But Zaha cannot find anyone to build her designs; everyone says they are impossible. Finally, one of Zaha’s designs is chosen from among all the others in a competition. When it is presented to the city’s committee, however, they reject it. Another competition is held, and Zaha’s design wins again. The city rejects it again. Zaha is as strong as her name Hadid, which means iron in Arabic, and she continues to design plan after plan.

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Then one by one her plans are accepted. She “remembers the grasses in the marshes swaying” and designs tall towers “dancing like grass.” In the desert, she creates a building that allows the wind to blow over and around and through it. The sports stadium she imagines has the beauty of a cocoon. Remembering the stones in a stream, Zaha “builds an opera house like the pebbles in the water. Inside the opera house, a singer is the pearl in the oyster shell.”

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The swirling stars in far-away galaxies inspire a complex of connected buildings, and the undulating waves become the model for a bridge that seems to move with the water. From looking at the Alps, Zaha fashions a museum built “inside a mountain peak with windows to see the sky and the valleys” and a ski jump that “reaches to the sky like the mountain.” From the “jungle and ancient wood temples,” Zaha draws inspiration for “a wooden building to remember a faraway war.”

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

With every building, Zaha gets busier and busier more than four hundred architects are working in that old school building, “designing, planning, engineering, and making models of Zaha’s visions.” But Zaha’s ideas don’t stop at buildings. She believes “you should do what you like,” so she designs doll houses, shoes, chairs, sculpture, and benches. No matter what she designs, Zaha’s early memories return. She thinks of “the beauty of the landscape—where sand, water, reeds, birds, buildings, and people all somehow flow together” and never loses her belief in the impossible.

Even though the light in Zaha’s office is now dark, “her architects keep their lights on—designing, planning, engineering, and making models of her visions, keeping her flame blazing bright.”

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Following the text, readers can learn the name and location of each building, discover more information about Zaha Hadid’s life and awards, and read more of her own words about her work.

Jeanette Winter shines a light on an architect who will inspire children not only with her work but with her original ideas, self-confidence, and refusal to compromise on her beliefs. Winter combines straightforward passages of Zaha’s childhood and early professional struggles with lyrical phrasing that describes her influences in nature and her soaring buildings. Sprinkled throughout are Zaha’s own words that define her ideas and ideals.

In her dreamlike illustrations, Winter clearly depicts Zaha Hadid’s inspirations and the way in which she interpreted each natural motion, shape, or phenomenon in steel, glass, concrete, or wood. Winter’s pages swirl, shimmer, flow, and soar, and Zaha is always there, seeing, thinking, envisioning, and drawing.

An excellent biography of a strong and creative woman who has designed some of the world’s most beautiful and original buildings, The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid would be a superb addition to classroom discussions and home story times.

Ages 5 – 10

Beach Lane Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481446693

National Tile Day Activity

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I (Heart) Tiles! Coloring Page

 

With colorful tiles you can make beautiful pictures. Put your imagination to work and color this I (Heart) Tiles! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

February 18 – It’s Boost Your Self-Esteem Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate self-esteem—that inner knowledge of and appreciation for all the things that make you unique! Having a good self-image is important for living a full and happy life. Taking time now and then to evaluate your feelings, your achievements, and your goals is a worthy exercise. When you believe in yourself you can accomplish more, and like the friends in today’s book you’ll feel like a superhero!

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

By Ben Clanton

 

In A Super Start, Narwhal and Jelly are hanging out. Narwhal’s excited because after a swim and a waffle he’s “going to become a superhero!” Jelly is surprised that Narwhal thinks it would be so easy, after you need the “super outfits” (Narwhal’s got that covered with a snazzy yellow cape); the “super names” (“Super Narwhal” sounds pretty super to Narwhal): and the secret identities (let me introduce you to the dapper mustachioed and bespectacled Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire).

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Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal is also going to need a sidekick. Jelly kicks around a few names—Shark, Octopus, and Turtle—but Narwhal has someone else in mind. Jelly, of course! Jelly’s eyes widen with the possibilities. Sting or Blue Lightening might be cool monikers, but no!— “Jelly Jolt the Super Sidekick” has an electrifying ring to it. Suddenly, Jelly remembers they’ll need superpowers. Narwhal has trouble being invisible or strong, flying or breathing fire, but there’s something even more important than powers—lunch! Yum, yum! Jelly says, “I think waffles are my super weakness.”

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Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In Narwhal, You’re a Superstar, Super Narwhal has come to the rescue of Star. While Star likes the ocean she thinks that maybe she belongs in the sky. “Maybe I am a real star, but I fell to earth and hit my head or something and now I don’t remember!” she says. Narwhal’s up for helping out, but without super strength he can only toss Star back into the sea. Even with Octopus’s cannon, Narwhal is no more successful. They think about building a rocket ship, but neither is exactly a rocket scientist. Then Narwhal has a super idea. Star wishes on…herself…and “Poof!” Star is back where she belongs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-eat-lunch

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal vs Blue Jelly a.k.a. the Super Superpower finds Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire discovering a very blue (as in sad) Jelly. In a jiff Super Narwhal appears to save the day! He asks Jelly “What’s wrong? Did someone steal your mustache?” But Jelly’s too blue to join in the repartee. Then Super Narwhal wonders if Jelly’s upset because he set his hair on fire. Jelly seems a bit perturbed at that suggestion—they are underwater, after all. But maybe Super Narwhal is onto something.

Maybe, just maybe, Jelly’s down because a bubble called him “a blue-footed booby,” or because a pirate pig poked him, or because he “got stuck in a tuba!” With a “hee” and a “heehee!” and a “heeheehee!” Jelly is beginning to smile. And when Super Narwhal puts them all together, Jelly can’t help but jiggle with a laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is. But Super Narwhal is there to help—right? So he somberly asks “what is wrong?” By now, though, Jelly can’t remember.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-kapow

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Jelly gives his Super Friend a super hug. But then he does recall the problem. It seems crab was dissing his superhero outfit and calling him “Jelly Dolt.” “This is a job for Jelly Jolt and Super Narwhal!”, exclaims Narwhal. Jelly’s intrigued, but thinks they ought to leave crab alone. Guided by advice from his “great, great, great, great grandpa Nautilus,” which went something like “Do unto otters,” however, Narwhal reveals that they are off to make crab a superhero.

When they get their, though, Crab isn’t feeling it and lets off some steam, but Super Narwhal is undeterred. “Ahoy Crab! Prepare to be super-fied!” he announces. And with a KAPOW! Crab has become “The Claw! a.k.a. Super Snap!” At last, Super Narwhal has discovered his superpower—the ability to “bring out the super in others.” And with that, Super Narwhal, Jelly Jolt, and Super Snap swim off to Superfy the ocean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-superfy

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Two more short and funny stories make an appearance between the continuing saga of Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. Super Sea Creatures is loaded with facts on several types of ocean creatures, and Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick is a delectable comic written by Narwhal and Jelly that’s full danger, heroics, and puns.

Ben Clanton’s adorable Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, the second in the Narwhal and Jelly series, is a sweet, laugh-inducing romp that is a marvelous take-off on the superhero genre and a perfect way to spend free time with two worthy ocean friends. Clanton fills his comics-style story with plenty of suspense, witty repartee, good advice, and even a bit of science to satisfy any young reader. Narwhal and Jelly, with their eager, inviting smiles, enthusiasm to tackle whatever obstacles get in their way and their ready inclusiveness, are truly superheroes to applauded

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt would make a sunny addition to summer reading and a splash on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918296

Discover more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Play along with Narwhal and Jelly on their own website!

Boost Your Self-Esteem Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-me-robot-sheet

All about Me!

 

The more you know about yourself, the better you’ll be able to share your talents and friendship with others. Fill out one of these printable All about Me! sheets and hang it in your room or school locker to remind yourself how awesome you are!

All about Me! Robot Sheet | All about Me! Stars and Balloons Sheet

Picture Book Review

February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day & Interview with Author Marsha Diane Arnold

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About the Holiday

Are you a RAKtivist? You know—a Random Acts of Kindness Activist! Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It is! And all it takes to be a RAKtivist is to do nice things—kind things—for everyone and anyone. These things don’t have to be big, or hard, or expensive, either. In fact, the best kindness acts are free! If you see someone having a bad day, give them a smile. Is someone struggling with a box, a bag or keeping their stuff in their locker? Give them a hand. Does someone always eat lunch alone? Offer to sit with them and have a conversation. You’re also encouraged to give others a card to brighten their day. You’ll find some to print out at the end of this post!

There are as many ways to be a RAKtivist as there are people on the planet. Right now, there are 17,009 registered RAKtivists from ages 14 to 89 in 87 countries! You can join them and learn more about this uplifting holiday on the Random Acts of Kindness Website!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of May I Come In? to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! Learn more below!

May I Come In?

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Jennie Poh

 

Outside, the rain poured down, and “Raccoon shivered. When “thunder roared, Raccoon quivered.” And the flashes of lightening were just too scary to watch. Raccoon did not like being alone on such a stormy night, so he “grabbed his umbrella and hurried out the door.” Raccoon made his way through muddy Thistle Hollow to his old friend Possum’s tree-trunk den.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There he found Possum nice and dry under his canopy. Raccoon asked, “‘Possum old friend, may I come in?’ / ‘What bad luck,’ Possum replied. ‘My den’s too small for one your size.’” Raccoon climbed down and with a “swish, plish” walked “all the way to Quail’s brambles.” As the wind whipped Raccoon’s scarf, he asked Quail if he could come in. But Quail said her brambles were formed too tight, and Raccoon was too wide to fit inside.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Next, Raccoon swish, plished to Woodchuck’s hole. Dug into a hill near an old broken tree and lit by a small candle lamp, Woodchuck’s hole looked cozy. But when Raccoon asked his old friend if he could come in, Woodchuck said, “‘What bad luck. I’ve only room for one to hide.’” Raccoon went away sadly and “stood shaking in the rain. His umbrella blew inside out, His fur felt wet and spongy.” He really did not want to spend the night alone.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There was one more house to try. Raccoon saw a light glowing in the distance. He hurried nearer and nearer and nearer. He knocked at the door and when Rabbit answered, Raccoon could see all of her little rabbits behind her as they “hopped and bopped to the raindrops.” Raccoon hesitantly asked his question then almost immediately took it back. After all, her house was so full. But Rabbit swung the door open wider. “‘What good luck,’ said Rabbit. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for a good friend.’” Rabbit gave Raccoon a comfortable chair to sit in and brought him a cup of tea.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As the storm raged on, Raccoon hummed and smiled happily, smelling the aroma of carrot stew that filled Rabbit’s home. Soon, there was another knock on Rabbit’s door and three voices rang out: “‘being alone on a night like tonight is scary.’” When Rabbit opened the door this time, there stood Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck. The ten little rabbits just kept hopping and bobbing.

Rabbit and Raccoon gazed at each other knowingly. “‘What good luck,’ they said. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for all our friends.’”

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

From the very first page, young readers will be engrossed in Marsha Diane Arnold’s sweet story of a raccoon who’s looking for company and comfort on a stormy night. As Raccoon swish, plishes through his neighborhood, knocking on door after door only to be met by excuses for why he can’t come in, children will empathize with him and be cheered when Rabbit joyfully invites him in. Readers will understand that they are sometimes like Raccoon, needing a bit of help or support. They will also see that they can always be like Rabbit, offering kindness and inclusion. Arnold’s lyrical language and repeated phrases invite children to read along, offering another sense of camaraderie during story time.

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Jennie Poh’s Thistle Hollow is as cute as its name with cozy dens, brambles, and homes carved into hills and trees and adorable woodland neighbors. The lovely smoky blue-grays and dusky greens enhance the beautiful scenery as raindrops plink, plonk and the wind whips Raccoon’s scarf and umbrella. Alert readers may notice that a single owl watches Raccoon as he makes his way from Possum’s den to Quail’s brambles, but as he approaches Rabbit’s inviting home, a pair of birds snuggle against the wind in a hollow tree. Rabbit’s home is warm, snug, and relaxed as the ten bunnies hop and bop, enjoying some fun with their siblings and guests.

May I Come In? would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries to open discussions of kindness, inclusion, and helpfulness for children. The story could easily be adaptable to acting out for a classroom or children’s program to highlight the lesson of inclusion and make it more personal.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363940

You’re invited to download the May I Come In? Activity Pages here or from Sleeping Bear Press.

May I Come In? Coloring Page May I Come In?  | Matching PageMay I Come In? Rhyming Page

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennie Poh, her books, and her art work, visit her blog.

Random Acts of Kindness Day Activity

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Random Acts of Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 2

Meet Marsha Diane Arnold

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Marsha Diane Arnold about why the theme of kindness is important in the books children read, her real-life May I Come In? moment, and what makes life magical.

Thank you, Celebrate Picture Books for inviting me to your blog. Random Acts of Kindness Day seems a perfect time to chat about my new book May I Come In? which demonstrates kindness in such a sweet way.

What inspired you to write May I Come In??

There really was nothing specific that inspired the story. If anything did influence it, it was the wildlife that lived around my home in California. During the time I wrote May I Come In? I was working on a number of stories with woodland animal characters. With these stories, my characters led the way for me. One of the stories was Waiting for Snow with Badger and Hedgehog as characters. Another is Badger’s Seeds, which is coming out from Sleeping Bear Press in 2019. And then there’s May I Come In? with sweet Raccoon searching for a friend to spend a scary night with.

CPB - Marsha Diane Arnold Quail pic

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Here are two of the animals that shared my McGregor hill home in California. The first may have inspired my May I Come In? Quail character.

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida this fall, you experienced May I Come In? in a personal way. Can you talk about that a little?

At the last minute, Hurricane Irma decided to come almost directly over our little town of Alva! In the photo below, it looks as if I’m inviting everyone into my house, just the way Rabbit did, but this was actually taken after the hurricane, as I was celebrating our house still standing. You may notice on the left that not all our trees did as well.

Although our storm was indeed frightening, it was heart-warming to see all the people who opened their doors to friends, family, and strangers who had to be evacuated from their homes. My husband and I had fourteen people—family, acquaintances, strangers—and two dogs under our roof. We learned, like the characters in May I Come In?, that it was comforting to be with others during a frightening time and that including everyone added to the camaraderie.

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As a child you were surrounded by animals on your farm, you went on to help care for sick animals, and many of your books are written with animal characters. Do animals and their behavior inspire your writing? What animal qualities do you think resonate most with children?

Animals have always inspired and fascinated me. I could spend hours watching them, just being with them. They calm me. They make me laugh. They make me cry. Animals must inspire my writing because I write about them so often in my books, from my first book Heart of a Tiger to my newest, May I Come In?

Many animals have family groups and care for each other in similar ways to humans. Children understand and relate to this. In my two board books Baby Animals Take a Nap and Baby Animals Take a Bath my goal was to show very young children the similarities between animals and humans. We all nap. We all take baths.

When I write using animal characters, I’m really writing about children with human qualities. It’s a type of metaphor. Using animals as characters often allows children to identify more easily with certain perspectives.

What is something you love to do on a rainy day?

When I was growing up in Kansas, I actually enjoyed the lightning and the thunder!

Reading is always a lovely way to spend a rainy day. If there’s a warm fire to sit by, as in May I Come In? it’s even better.

The theme of May I Come In? revolves around the idea of inclusion and kindness. Can you speak a little bit on why it’s important for children’s books to portray these ideals? What changes have you seen over the years in children’s receptivity to these qualities?

Being inclusive is such an important quality, a foundation to living a kind and caring life. Because we humans are molded by our experiences when we are young, reading books that show inclusion and empathy are extremely important.

Even with the changes in our culture and technology, I think children are as receptive to these qualities as ever. But it’s vital we model them to children from their birth, through the first seven “magical” years, and onward. Good books with good messages are one way to do this.

One of the many things I love about May I Come In? is how each of Jennie Poh’s illustrations are so inviting, seeming to welcome the reader in.

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Your readers love meeting you at their school, in libraries, in bookstores, and even through Skype. Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?

I’ve had such fun over the years visiting schools. There are so many precious memories.

I’m quite an introvert, so I’m grateful when schools invite me to visit their students. It gets me out of my shell; meeting my readers inspires me to keep writing for them.

A wonderful memory is my being flown into a small town on the Kansas plains by the principal in his airplane! It was a long way from an airport. When I arrived at the school in the morning I was greeted by a huge tornado they’d constructed on top of their school, in honor of my book The Bravest of Us All. Inside the gymnasium was a smaller tornado, three students dressed as cows to celebrate Prancing, Dancing Lily, and so much more. A grand time.

A recent memory involves Walter Jackson Elementary School in Alabama. They’ve been celebrating The Pumpkin Runner for about five years now with their Pumpkin Run Day, which is filled with pumpkin-related activities and a one-mile run for the entire school community, in honor of my book and the surprising ultra-marathoner Cliff Young. Two years ago, I was honored to be invited to join in the festivities by their amazing librarian, Todd McDonald. I spent one day doing presentations and another day playing games and running three miles! Yes, three, as they divided the students into three class groupings. Great educators! Great school! Great fun!

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You offer students writing workshops that you call “Funshops,” in which you present images, activities, and brainstorming to spark their imaginations and stories. Could you give an example of an image or activity that you use to fire up kids’ creativity? How do the kids react?

Hmmm. Should I share my favorite? Since it’s Random Acts of Kindness Day, I will!

The Alliteration Game is always a big hit with the students. In the Alliteration game, we take someone’s name and use lots of words that start with the same sound to make a fun sentence.  First, we describe the person in a silly way.  Then we think of an action word, a verb – like hopped or jumped.  After that, depending on the age of students, we might use adverbs to describe how the person does the action – “joyfully jumped” or “happily hopped” – and choose a setting. What’s really fun is that students can then use these sentences as starting places for a funny fiction story. Here’s an example, using my name.

Marsha, the magnificent moose, munched marshmallows in a museum in Manchuria.

Your work has been called “magical” by reviewers, and you also use the word to describe your work, your home in California, and other experiences. What does “magical” mean to you? Where is magic found and what can it do?

I like this definition of “magic” from the Oxford dictionary: “Beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life.”

To me something “magical” is uplifting, something that takes us somewhere else for a moment. But magic can be found almost everywhere, if we open our eyes and ears.  It can sneak up on us and take us by surprise or it can sit beside us and spread its arms around us. I found lots of magic at my home in California where I lived for 35 years – forests, good neighbors, barn owls. Now I’m finding magic in Florida – sandhill cranes, sunsets, ponies down the road.

A journalist once called me “a magician of literary innovations.” I loved that. To me, the best stories have always been magical, taking us away from the house cleaning or the 9-5 job, for a bit of beauty and delight.  So, I took the phrase and ran with it. I used it as the name of my blog Storymagician (inactive at the moment), and I created a Storymagician chant that I share with students when I visit schools. I think all of us can create and use stories to bring a little magic into our lives.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment, I’m doing final editing on my fall 2018 book, Gálapagos Girl with Lee & Low. This is a story inspired by Valentina Cruz who grew up in the Gálapagos Islands.

Also in the fall Mine. Yours. will be out from Kids Can Press, a Canadian company. I’m so honored to be working with them as they usually only publish Canadian authors. Qin Leng is illustrating. I’ve seen some of the early sketches and am so looking forward to the final artwork. Her style is perfect for my story.

Both of these books will be 40 pages long, my first ever 40-page long picture books. As many of you know, most picture books are 32 pages long. It’s interesting to me because Gálapagos Girl is a 500-plus-word story with an author note and back matter and Mine. Yours. is only 25 words! Yet, both editors felt the stories deserved 40 pages.

Another first for me is that Gálapagos Girl is going to be a bilingual book. So much to look forward too!

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking a few questions about holidays, so…

What holiday do you enjoy most?

I can’t choose just one!

I love decorating the house for Christmas – all the lights!

I really enjoy Halloween and Easter too. We rarely had candy in our house when my children were young, so trick-or-treating was a big deal. They always made their own costumes, with whatever they could find around the house. There were some pretty interesting ones!

Easter was wondrous. When my children were small we would cut a small branch from one of the manzanita trees in our little forest and bring it into the house to decorate with Easter eggs and treasured objects. We always looked for the Easter bunny in the field behind our house, where many rabbits lived. We spotted him several times over the years.

Then there’s Valentine’s Day, the day we just celebrated. I love the red and pink! When my children were young, we always designed and made our own Valentine’s cards. It’s fitting I’m sharing about May I Come In? during Valentine’s week as both are about holding others close, including them in our hearts and our lives.

Has a holiday ever influenced your writing?

I’ve never really written a story about a holiday, but there’s a Halloween story I started over ten years ago that I never finished. Yet, it keeps tapping me on the shoulder. I plan to take another look at it next month. Writers often return to work that’s been collecting dust for years in the hope that this time new ideas will come to them and the story will be completed and ready for the world.

Where can readers find out more about you, your books, and your school visits?

My website is being updated, but you can find out about all those things at www.marshadianearnold.com. And if you want to learn how to follow your characters through a story, as I mentioned in the first question, you may check out my Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books at http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html.

Now, let’s all go out and do a random act of kindness!

Thanks, Marsha, for chatting with me today! I wish you all the best with May I Come In? and all of your books!

You can find May I Come In? at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | MacIntosh Books of Sanibel Island, FL

Marsha Diane Arnold will be reading and signing books at MacIntosh Books in March. If you live or will be near Sanibel Island, check out their event calendar for March to attend an event with Marsha Diane Arnold!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on:

Her Author Facebook | Personal Facebook (I welcome all) |Twitter | Her Website

Picture Book Review

February 2 – It’s National Women Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all the women, past and present, who have changed the world for the better with their inventions and innovations! Every day, women are working in all industries researching and creating the next products, services, medicines, machinery, games, and some things we can’t even imagine yet that will revolutionize the way we live. Who are these women? They might be your friends, neighbors, sisters, daughters—or maybe even you! To celebrate this month, read up on amazing women inventors, and, if you have a big idea, work to get it noticed and on the market!

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

Written by Julia Finley Mosca | Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

 

If you feel different and sometimes discouraged, the story of Temple Grandin may help you see that everyone has a talent and their own place in the world. Temple was born in Boston and “unique from the start, / an unusual girl, / she loved spinning in circles / and watching things twirl.” Loud sounds, big crowds, bright lights, and scratchy clothes disturbed her. And she did not like to get a “big squeezy hug.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

When she became overloaded with stress and frustration, Temple was known to “kick, holler, bang, shrieeeeek! Yet, still, by age three, not one word did she speak.” People told Temple’s parents that she’d never be normal and to send her away, but her mother would not hear of it. With a lot of work, special teachers helped Temple learn to talk. “And that thing with her brain… / it was AUTISM, see? / She was ‘different not less,’ / they all finally agreed.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

While Temple was like her peers in many ways, she interacted with words differently. “If something was mentioned, / for instance, a fly, / in her mind, she’d see dozens / of PHOTOS buzz by.” Her different view point made it hard for her at school. The other kids chased her and teased her for the way that she acted and for “…saying things / over and over. / and over… / and over… / AND over.” When she had finally had enough, “she threw a book at a kid / and was kicked out of school!” No one understood Temple and Temple couldn’t understand them.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Her mother then sent her to visit her aunt, who lived on a ranch out west. Here, among the animals, Temple felt better. Her favorites were the cows, so silent and sweet. “At a NEW school that fall, / Temple found more support / said a teacher who taught her: / ‘You’ll never fall short.” That teacher was right, and at engineering and science she felt right at home.

Her first invention—made from memory—was “a machine / like she’d seen on some farms, / an INVENTION that hugged her / with boards, and not arms.” In this device she felt snug and calm, just like the cows. As she began to succeed, Temple came to see that her attention to detail was a benefit, and she began to feel special. Then she learned about farms where the cows were not treated kindly and resolved to change that.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

She went on to college and became an expert on farms, earning three degrees. Telling people about her ideas for farming improvements was sometimes scary because they ignored her and, well…weren’t very sweet. But she didn’t give up. She learned more about cattle, like why they circle and moo. “To build better farms / was her goal—she would do it. / ‘Be KIND to our creatures. / They have FEELINGS!’ She knew it.”

It took time, but people began to see that Temple was right, and farm after farm implemented her ideas. She won awards for this work and other ideas, a movie was made about her life, and she now travels the world telling her story and teaching: “‘Each person is special– / so UNIQUE are our minds. / This world needs YOUR ideas. / It takes brains of ALL kinds!”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

A letter from Temple Grandin to young readers, extensive information about Temple and tidbits from her interview with the author, a timeline of her life, and resources follow the text.

Julia Finley Mosca’s insightful biography of Temple Grandin offers inspiration and encouragement to children at those times when life seems difficult or if they feel misunderstood. Childhood can be filled with moments—both small and large, short or long—when comfort and reassurance are needed. Mosca’s rhyming verses make Temple’s story accessible to a wide age range of readers while providing an inclusive way to show how autism creates a different way of experiencing the world. Temple’s supportive teachers are role models for all educators. Temple Grandin’s fascinating life demonstrates that there is a niche for everyone and that through understanding, perseverance, and acceptance, all children can go far.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Daniel Rieley’s cartoon-style illustrations will resonate with readers as Temple takes in everything she sees with wide-open eyes and interprets it in her own way—even before she can speak. The separation between Temple and the other students at her first school is poignantly communicated in a two-page spread in which pointing hands and a lobbed ball of paper appear from the left-hand margin and Temple reads alone on the far side of the right-hand page. Temple’s ability to think in pictures is demonstrated throughout the book with inset images. Readers see some of the farming practices Temple wanted to change, her original drawings, and the resulting equipment now used on farms to improve the conditions of the animals raised there.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a moving and motivational story for all children and is a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

The Innovation Press, 2017 | ISBN  978-1943147304

Discover more about Julia Finley Mosca and her Amazing Scientists series on the Amazing Scientists website.

Learn more about Daniel Rieley, his books, and his art on his website.

National Women Inventors Month Activity

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Historical Women in STEM Coloring Book

 

From civil engineering to chemistry and botany from radio waves to computer programming, the five women in this coloring book changed science and the world. Enjoy coloring the pages and learning about these amazing women in this printable: Historical Women in STEM Coloring Book

Picture Book Review