June 10 – It’s National Home Ownership Month

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About the Holiday

Owning a home is a major goal for many people, and while home ownership provides security for individuals and families, it’s also good for cities and towns, offering stability, economic benefits, and community cohesion. To that end, today’s holiday was established in 2002 to help people negotiate the sometimes confusing elements of finding and purchasing a home. A home is so much more than just a building, and each person has their own idea about what makes a home perfect. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it—it’s just a feeling. And if—as in today’s book—you’re lucky enough to share your home with an unseen guest, that makes it all the better!

Sir Simon: Super Scarer

By Cale Atkinson

 

Be careful as you open the book because if you’ve never seen a ghost, you’re about to—“Boo!” It’s ok if you were scared, the ghost says as he displays his business card, which reads “Sir Simon / Super Scarer / Ghostest with the mostest.” This professional scarer has “haunted and scared all sorts of things” from a whole forest and an unimpressed bear to a boat and a bus stop to a pizza, a ukulele, and a potato.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Finally, though, Sir Simon is “being transferred to a house.” While Simon is happy about having a haunted house all to himself, he’s not so thrilled about all the Ghost chores a house requires. What kinds of chores? Well, all of those eerie sounds and creepy circumstances don’t happen by themselves. They’re all Simon “stomping in the attic” with an old shoe on each hand, “flushing the toilet” in the middle of the night, “hiding and moving stuff around,” and “standing creepy in the window wearing old-timey clothes.” And it’s only after these chores and more that Simon can do what he really likes to do.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

It seems in his afterlife Simon likes to dabble in the arts, learn French, and even write a thriller. Once Simon is ensconced in his new digs, he hears that grandparents are going to be moving in. He’s happy with this news because on “the pyramid of haunting,” old people are at the top since they sleep a lot, require fewer chores, and are oblivious to ghostly presences. But just as Simon is welcoming his new family home, he discovers that it includes a kid. A kid who sees him right away. A kid who has a lot of questions and a lot of comments. A kid who wants to be a Ghost too.

Simon is more than a bit miffed at this turn of events. It means more chores and less free time. Unless… Simon suddenly thinks Chester “would make a top-notch Ghost.” He takes Chester up to the attic, where he just can’t help looking through all of Simon’s stuff—much to Simon’s consternation. Simon gets Chester all suited up in the appropriate Ghost garb, gives him a list of “activities,” and sends him on his way. First up is making scary animal noises.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

As Simon happily types away on his novel, he hears Chester’s “Moo. Mooooooo. MOOOOOOOOO!” Incensed, Simon finds Chester at the heating vent and lets him know that “spooky and cow do not go together.” In fact, Chester does not seem to have a scary gene in his body. After trying and failing at every chore on the list, Chester is so exhausted he falls asleep with a thud.

Simon puts Chester to bed and then looks around his room. He sees that he and Chester actually have a lot in common—from the ukulele to drawing and writing to moving a lot. But does Simon feel bad for tricking Chester into doing his chores? No! Well… yes. The next morning Simon comes to offer his help with Chester’s chores, but they’re not as easy as they look. Simon has to admit that while “Chester isn’t the best at being a Ghost,” he’s “not so hot at being a human.” But there is something that they are both good at and that’s being friends.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cale Atkinson’s unique take on the ghostly life—or afterlife—is laugh-out-loud funny as Sir Simon Spookington goes about his spectral chores with pride tinged with exasperation at the time they take away from his preferred creative pursuits. When he discovers that a kid has moved into his house—and, what’s more, wants to be a ghost too—Atkinson’s apparition with attitude turns prickly with the disruption Chester causes and perfectionist when Chester’s haunting doesn’t live up to his standards. Simon’s strict chore schedule, his haunting pyramid, and his wisecracking responses to Chester are droll and hilarious, and Chester’s attempts at ghosting are silliness at their best.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Readers will fall in love with Simon from the moment they open the cover to find twenty-four snapshots of the little ghost doing his chores. Atkinson’s free-wheeling creativity makes each page a showstopper as this haunted house is packed full of clever details and allusions to favorite scary and adventure movies and books in every nook and cranny. Atkinson also uses juxtaposition to great effect in images of  Simon floating through his chores with a frown and furrowed brow followed by those of a happy and relaxed Simon as he paints, writes, and does cross-stitch as well as in two cutaways of the house—one at night while Chester does Simon’s chores and one during the day as Simon attempts to do Chester’s. The final spread of Simon and Chester hanging out as friends is endearing and heartwarming.

Sir Simon: Super Scarer is a must for fans of ghost stories, funny stories, and friendship stories and will be enjoyed by adults as much as by kids. This book will be asked for again and again, making it a spooktacular addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 

Tundra, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919095

To learn more about Cale Atkinson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Home Ownership Month Activity

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Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

You can own your own home with this printable Pop Up Play Set thanks to Education.com. It has a house for you and one for a friend! Give your houses some color, plant the trees and move in! Print on heavy paper to make the figures sturdier.

Pop Up Houses Play Set

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You can find Sir Simon Super Scarer at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 3 – It’s National Rose Month

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About the Holiday

Pop quiz! Do you know what the national flower is? If you took a clue from today’s holiday and said the rose, you’re right! The first National Rose Month was observed in 1959, but the rose was not named the national flower until 1986. Five states—Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, and Oklahoma—claim the rose as their state flower, although four of the more than 150 species are represented among them. To celebrate this month, visit a local botanical garden to enjoy the beautiful blossoms and aroma or add a rose bush to your landscaping. And of course, a gift of roses is always appreciated.

Rose’s Garden

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

Rose was no ordinary adventurer. “She explored the world in her fantastic teapot,” and took home seeds from each place as souvenirs. When the teapot was overflowing with seeds, Rose knew it was time to plant her garden. Floating along in her teapot, Rose noticed a city on the horizon. When she got close the harbormaster told her about a lovely spot upriver, but Rose wanted to explore the city first.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2009, courtesy of Candlewick.

Rose wandered through the city and, in the midst of the busiest part, “she spotted a dusty, forgotten stretch of earth. Hmmm, Rose pondered. This little patch needs some color.” Rose cleaned it up and raked the soil, thinking of how wonderful this little spot could be. When she went back to her teapot to get her seeds, however, she discovered that a flock of birds had eaten them all.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2009, courtesy of Candlewick.

There were only a few seeds remaining in the bottom of the teapot. Rose placed them in her pocket, returned to her patch, and planted them. She watched over them and waited…and waited. “But nothing seemed to happen.” The soil was either too wet or too dry. Then cold weather came too soon. Rose “waited through the snowy winter.”

When spring came, Rose was still there waiting. “Word spread of Rose’s faith in her garden.” One day, a girl stopped by with a gift for Rose. “It was a paper flower” that she had made for Rose’s garden. The next day, a boy came by with a paper flower he had made. Rose happily accepted it. “‘This well be in good company when my own flowers bloom!’” she told him.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2009, courtesy of Candlewick.

Every day, it seemed, children came with paper flowers they’d made for Rose’s garden. Each one told Rose a story about how they had come to live in the city, journeying “from all over the world, like seeds carried on a breeze.” Soon, Rose’s garden was filled edge to edge with colorful paper flowers. As Rose “waded among them, she heard a sound. A buzzing.” In front of her a bee landed on a flower—but this was no paper flower. Then Rose gazed across her garden and noticed real flowers all around her.

Rose’s “faith had gathered a garden—and the stories of a city.” Rose realized that this little patch was home. Her amazing teapot now sits in the middle, and everyone is invited to enjoy the quiet, colorful garden.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2009, courtesy of Candlewick.

With his well-known touch for turning the commonplace into magic, Peter Reynolds takes a teapot, seeds, and a forgotten city lot and creates a metaphorical microcosm of a more-perfect inclusive world. What could more welcoming than a cup of tea or more universal than a seed? As child after child offers Rose a flower of their own making and their stories, Reynolds reveals the openness of children to transform their world with hope, belief, and action. The blending of the paper flowers and the real ones (and perhaps they are the same?) show that roots develop in all sorts of ways and that we should not just find a home, but nurture one as well.

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As Rose sails the world alone in her teapot, Reynolds washes the world with a soft mottled brown, suggesting that Rose lives in a perpetual autumn in which seeds are plentiful but the colors of spring and summer are past. It’s only when her teapot is full that Rose decides to plant her garden. As often happens with stored-up, unused potential, the seeds are lost to more mundane purposes when the seabirds eat them, leaving only a trace to fulfill Rose’s dreams. The strength of those dreams—and the help available to make them reality—however, is beautifully depicted as one bright flower and then another and another is planted, soon multiplying into a vibrant field of color.

Rose’s Garden makes a touching read aloud for story times about inclusiveness, belief in oneself and one’s convictions, hope, and the meaning of home. Pair it with a packet of wildflowers for a thought-provoking book extension.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick, 2009 | ISBN 978-0763646417

Discover more about Peter H. Reynolds, his books, and his art on his website.

National Rose Month Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flower Bouquet

 

Just like the children in Rose’s Garden, your kids can make these paper flowers that will brighten anyone’s day. With all of the beautiful colors of tissue paper, they can create a whole bouquet or garden of flowers to share with friends or family. 

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

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You can find Rose’s Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Blue Bunny BooksBooks-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 24 – National Escargot Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a fan of French cuisine—and who isn’t?—today is a day to celebrate! Escargot, or an edible snail, is a dish that has been enjoyed since at least Roman times. In fact, the oldest known cookbook, which dates from the first century B.C. to the second century A.D., contains a recipe for snails. To commemorate the day, you could head out to your favorite French restaurant or enjoy the sweet culinary caper in today’s book!

Escargot

Written by Dashka Slater | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

Escargot is a beautiful French snail. Of course, he says, you can see that for yourself. But, he wonders, what part of him do you think is the most beautiful part? His shell, his neck, or his antennae? Escargot will give you time to think about it, but he acknowledges that it is a very tough choice. “That is because all of Escargot is magnifique!” And if you want to kiss him, that’s ok too.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Escargot is on a mission to reach the beautiful salad “with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette” at the end of the picnic table (and the book). You are lucky enough to be invited along. As you accompany Escargot, he asks you a question. It seems simple enough: “What is your favorite animal?” Perhaps you’ve already started considering all the possibilities. But wait. Escargot has a sad story for you. A story, he says, that is “so sad I might cry.” He asks you to stroke his shell as he reveals “the very sad thing: Nobody ever says their favorite animal is the snail.”

Could it be they think Escargot is too slimy? He counters that the trails he leaves are not slime, but “shimmery stuff.” Could it be that snails are too shy? Escargot demonstrates the fierce face he uses to scare away “a lion or a wild boar or a carrot that sneaks into my salad.” And just then he comes upon such a carrot and asks you to make a fierce face and roar at it too. Yikes! You’ve scared Escargot into his shell. Escargot knows that you want him to come out again. All you have to do is ask him…and offer him a kiss. Don’t forget now, and he will “kiss you back: Mwah!” Now is the snail your favorite animal?

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Don’t say that snails are too slow to be your favorite animal. Escargot just likes to relax “before enjoying salad with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette” like any French snail. He “could run faster than the cheetah” if he wanted.

Don’t believe it? Escargot will race you to the salad—and whoever wins will be your favorite animal. Escargot takes off like the wind. Just a minute—he needs a rest, and if you could just blow on him to cool him off…. Now he’s ready “for the final sprint.” Ah ha! Escargot’s antenna is the first to touch the salad bowl. Wait…you’re there too? Escargot is generous and willing to share the victory with you. Now it’s time to celebrate by eating the salad “with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette.” Escargot climbs atop a crouton and surveys the greenery.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gasp! Among the croutons and the light vinaigrette lurk carrots! Escargot makes his fierce face, but the carrot does not run. Then Escargot remembers you; perhaps you would like to try the carrot. In fact, Escargot will try it with you. Just an itty-bitty nibble. Oh dear! The carrot turned out to be delicious, and Escargot forgot to leave you any. Now you’ll never choose him as your favorite animal.

“But that is okay. C’est la vie.”  In fact, Escargot thinks YOU are beautiful and magnifique. You are his favorite animal and he happily gives you a kiss. “Mwah!

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Dashka Slater’s instant classic features the sly stylings of a cunning French snail who wants nothing more than a lot of love and a little salad. Escargot’s wily ways include a pinch of boasting, a stir of the heartstrings, a dash of hyperbole, and a whole cupful of charm. Adults with little ones in their life will recognize all of them, and young readers will certainly identify with this sweet snail. Slater even sprinkles French phrases throughout the story to set just the right tone. Escargot’s gentle humor and wide-eyed entreaties to play along by pushing him, commenting on his most beautiful feature, stroking his shell, making a fierce face, kissing him, racing him, cooling him off, and trying a carrot will enchant kids and have them eagerly participating in reading. Escargot’s turn-about and Mwah! kiss at the end will also be familiar to adults as it presents the perfect ending for a perfectly beautiful story time.

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Escargot certainly has one thing right: he is beautiful. Sydney Hanson’s adorable French snail with his striped T, red neckerchief, teeny-tiny beret, and needle-thin antennae will steal readers’ hearts and will, of course, become their favorite animal. Escargot’s picnic-table race track, rendered in fresh, soft hues, is appropriately laden with French delicacies that serve as well-conceived and clever props for highlighting this one-of-a-kind snail. Hanson captures the big, innocent eyes, winsome looks, and generous kisses that little ones often use to beguiling effect to make Escargot absolutely oh là là magnifique

A perfect pairing of story and art, Escargot is a charmer for any story time, and would be a fun take-along for picnics and other outings. The book would be a smile-inducing, feel-good addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374302818

Discover more about Dashka Slater and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Sydney Hanson, visit her tumblr.

National Escargot Day Activity

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Happy Snail Coloring Page

 

This little snail will slither right into your heart! Have fun decorating this printable Happy Snail Coloring Page! You may even want to add a dash of glitter!

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You can find Escargot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 26 – It’s National Park Week and Arbor Day

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About the Holidays

This week the country celebrates National Park Week, a collaboration between the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to honor our national treasures. During the week, people are encouraged to visit their local parks or take a trip to a new park and enjoy all it has to offer. Each day of the week has a special theme. Today’s is Friendship Friday and it commemorates all the organizations and groups who work to protect the parks. To discover national parks near you and discover their stories as well as to learn more about the week and how to help out all year round, visit the National Park Foundation website and the National Park Service website.

Today is also Arbor Day, a national celebration of trees that began as a campaign by J. Morton Sterling and his wife after they moved from Michigan to Nebraska in 1854. Morton advocated for the planting of trees not only for their beauty but as windbreaks for crops on the state’s flat farmland, to keep soil from washing away, as building materials, and for shade. In 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting day to take place on April 10. On that day nearly one million trees were planted in Nebraska. The idea was made official in 1874, and soon, other states joined in. In 1882 schools began taking part. Today, most states celebrate Arbor Day either today or on a day more suited for their growing season. To learn about events in your area, find activities to download, and more, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.

I received a copy of If I Were a Park Ranger from Albert Whitman and Company for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Albert Whitman in an amazing giveaway! See details below.

If I Were a Park Ranger

Written by Catherine Stier | Illustrated by Patrick Corrigan

 

If you love trees, animals, and all the beauty of nature, you may think about being a park ranger in one of the United States national parks. How would you get there? By studying “wildlife biology, conservation, or education” in college. Historian William Stegner called national parks “America’s ‘best idea.’” Being a park ranger means you’d be part of a proud history of people who have cared for the “country’s most beautiful, historic, and unique areas.”

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Who are some of these people? Stephen Mather and Horace Albright were the first directors of the National Park Service, Captain Charles Young was “the first African American superintendent of a national park,” and Gerard Baker “brought Native American heritage and perspectives to the parks.” There are also writers, like Marjory Stoneman Douglas ,and artists, like John Muir and Ansel Adams, who shared the grandeur of the parks.

Park rangers work in some of the most exciting places in the country—in caves, deserts, and mountains and near volcanos or the sea shore. And that’s just the beginning! Ships, homes, battlefields, and monuments are also part of the National Park System. As a park ranger, you would protect the animals, plants, and buildings, you might work with scientists, or archaeologists, and you would help visitors gain new perspectives. How would you do that?

You’d “be a great storyteller.” As part of your job, you’d “learn about the natural history, the human history, and the legends” of you park so you “could share those tales…” and maybe “a few spooky campfire stories too.” You’d also learn all about the animals and landmarks of your park so you could provide interesting tours.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Rangers are always on the lookout for fires, bad weather, or visitors who require help and alert emergency services when they’re needed. But rangers don’t spend all of their time outdoors. Sometimes they spend time inside using “computers to design exhibits, make maps, write articles, and keep track of endangered animal populations” or keep the park’s website updated. Park rangers are also invited to talk to students in schools and for organizations.

If you were a park ranger, you would make a big impact. Your park would be “cleaner and safer,” the “animals living there would be stronger and healthier,” and visitors might “experience something astonishing…a moment that could happen nowhere else in the world. A moment they’d remember forever” all because of you!

An Author’s Note reveals other riches of the National Park System, including STEM research, creative programs, artifacts and primary source materials, and more as well as a discussion on the education and various roles of rangers and a link where kids can find out about becoming a junior ranger at many parks.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Catherine Stier’s inspiring look at the role of a ranger in the National Park Service takes readers from shore to shore and shows them the exciting and diverse jobs that are part of a ranger’s day. Stier’s use of the first-person point of view empowers readers to see themselves as a ranger protecting the treasures of the park and sharing them with visitors. Her straightforward storytelling is full of details readers will love about the duties of a park ranger and the parks themselves. Her stirring ending swells the heart. It’s certain to plant the seed of interest in jobs within the National Park Service as well as in planning a vacation trip to one of these beautiful areas.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Through vibrant snapshots and two-page spreads, Patrick Corrigan transports readers to twenty-five national parks, including Redwood National Park, California; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico; Acadia National Park, Maine; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To immerse young readers in the story, the rangers are depicted as diverse children helping visitors, giving talks, protecting animals, translating petroglyphs, giving tours, calling firefighters, and even brushing dirt from an unearthed animal skull. In one image a ranger gives a flashlight tour of Mammoth Cave National Park to a girl who uses a wheelchair, and in another a ranger uses sign language to describe the beauty of her park. Children will want to linger over the pages to take in all the details and will be moved to learn more about each park.

Sure to spark expressions of “ooh,” “ahh,” and “I’d like to do that!,” If I Were a Park Ranger makes an inspiring addition to classroom geography and nature lessons and would be a terrific addition to home libraries for kids who love nature and travel and would like to explore future possibilities.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman and Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807535455

About the Author

As a child, Catherine Stier wanted to be an author or park ranger. She visited her first national park as a baby and has been a fan ever since. She is the author of If I Were President and several other award-winning picture books, and has worked as a magazine writer, newspaper columnist, writing instructor, and children’s literature researcher. She lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and volunteers with programs that connect families and children with nature and the outdoors. To learn more, and to download free activity sheets and curriculum guides, visit her website: catherinesier.com.

About the Illustrator

Patrick Corrigan was born in the north of England and grew up drawing and designing. After University, he was an art director in a design studio for nearly ten years. He now lives in London with his wife and cat, illustrating children’s books.

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If I Were a Park Ranger Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming with Albert Whitman in this amazing giveaway! To enter just click the link below and follow the directions. What can you win?

Ten lucky winners will receive

  • a copy of If I Were A Park Ranger by Catherine Stier

One Grand Prize winner will receive

  • a signed copy of the book 
  • a Park Ranger Stuffed Doll
  • a “National Park Geek” Iron-on Patch
  • National Park Animal Cookies
  • Camping Stickers
  • a Woodland Animal Mini Notebook
  • Book Cover Postcards

One entry per person, please | US addresses only | Winners will be selected at random and notified via email.

Entries are due by May 3, 2019

Follow this link to enter!

National Park Week Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

You may not be able to visit all of these parks, but you can still enjoy their beauty with these printable coloring pages!

Mesa Verde National Park | Gates of the Arctic National Park | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Biscayne National Park

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You can find If I Were a Park Ranger at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 15 – National Rubber Eraser Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday marks the date in 1770 when Joseph Priestly developed a vegetable gum that could remove pencil marks. He named the substance rubber. In the same year Edward Nairne created the first marketed rubber eraser. Erasers became more durable when Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization in 1839. In 1858, Hyman Lipman received a patent for a pencil with an eraser at the end. But how did people fix their mistakes before rubber erasers? Wax was a popular material, and if you didn’t have that? Crustless bread did a good job of rubbing out mistakes—and hunger!

Eraser

Written by Anna Kang | Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

The little pink eraser sporting two side ponytails looks at the math problem Pencil has just completed. She clears her throat and motions to the 11 under the 4 + 5 line. Pencil chuckles uncomfortably and says she was just testing Eraser. By the time Pen comes around to grade the work, Eraser has cleaned up the mess and the correct answer is proudly displayed. Pencil smiles, taking all the credit for the perfect score she receives.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At the lunch table, all of Pencil’s friends—Pen, Highlighter, Marker, a couple of paint brushes, and a few crayons—congratulate him on getting an A+ on the test. Eraser overhears them and says, “Everyone thinks Pencil and her friends are the creative ones. It’s not fair.” On the other side of the lunch room, Tape and Glue are holding a jam session and everyone’s singing along. And then there’s Paper, whom everyone loves, and Scissors, who gets respect because “she’s just kind of scary.”

Eraser wonders what she brings to the table when all she does is “take things away.” Her friends think she does a good job of making everyone look good, but Eraser feels like she is more than just the clean-up crew. After lunch the teacher calls everyone to gather around for a science project meeting. When Eraser starts moving to join the group, Highlighter stops her and tells her this meeting is only for creative types only.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That night Eraser is busy rub, rub, rubbing across a sheet of paper. The next morning she presents her version of the science project—a drawing made entirely out of eraser shavings. Ruler and Pencil Sharpener love it, but when Glue comes near to check it out, he sneezes, sending the shavings everywhere.

Later, everything’s beginning to come together, but when Pencil sees Eraser trying to help, she and Highlighter joke that she can’t make anything but a mess. Everyone laughs. Eraser has had enough. She packs her bag and asks Ruler and Sharpener to launch her far away. She flies through the air and lands in the wastepaper basket.

When the crumpled papers filling the basket see her, they greet her as a hero and tell her they love her work and are big fans. She can’t believe it. They go on to explain that they’re all first drafts and without them and her “there’d be nothing to hang on the fridge door.” Suddenly, she gets it. She is creative. She “creates second chances.” “Mistakes,” they all agree, “make us great!”

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Meanwhile there are plenty of mistakes going on over on the desk. At the same time, Pencil realizes that she hasn’t checked her math homework and Pen is coming around to grade it. Pen marks a big red X at each of Pencil’s answers and gives her an F. Pencil is so upset that she scribbles all over the newly painted science fair picture.

Just in the nick of time, Eraser comes flying in on a paper airplane, followed by a fleet of planes carrying first drafts. Glue, Ruler, Sharpener, and the rest cheer and tell Eraser that they’ve missed her. Pencil approaches, apologizes for her behavior, and asks if Eraser will help her. “You bet!” Eraser answers. The next day, the Rainforest Science Project looks amazing—especially with the big A+ on it. At lunch everyone celebrates and talks proudly about their role in the project. And Pencil makes a toast to her partner Eraser.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

In her heartfelt story, Anna Kang reminds kids that every member of a group has important contributions to make and that making mistakes is part of the creative process. Realistic dialogue and honest emotions coupled with clearly expressive characters, make this a story that readers will identify with and learn from. Sprinkled with puns—and a couple of Kumbaya moments that adults will appreciate—Eraser strikes just the right tone of humor and camaradarie that will make it a favorite for story times.

Christopher Weyant brings all the energy and enthusiasm of a classroom to the desktop on which adorable Eraser and her friends are doing homework and creating a science project. Kids will love seeing familiar antics of a typical day played out by expressive, funny, and creative writing and drawing tools.

Eraser is a sparkling story to share during writing workshops or before any creative project to reinforce the idea that mistakes and do-overs are part of the process and lead to a better finished product.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503902589

Discover more about Anna Kang and her books on her website

To learn more about Christopher Weyant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mistake to check out this Eraser book trailer!

National Rubber Eraser Day Activity

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Fun with Eraser! Coloring Pages

 

You can have fun over and over again with these printable coloring pages!

Dancing with Eraser and PencilEraser and Friends at School 

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You can find Eraser at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 5 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

In 1987 National Garden Week sprouted on the calendar to celebrate the beginning of spring and the growing season. But a week just isn’t enough to enjoy all the fun and excitement (and delicious food and glorious flowers) of gardening. In 2002, the National Gardening Association extended the holiday to encompass the full month of April. A perfect activity for the whole family—even the youngest loves playing in the dirt and planting seeds!—gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about the growth cycle, pollinators, nutrition, patience, and more! If it’s warm enough to start planting where you live, engage your kids in preparing and planting your garden. If it’s still a little chilly, gather the whole family and plan this year’s garden!

Little Yellow Truck

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

At his lumberyard, Riley had four trucks: “a red dump truck, a green flatbed truck, a blue concrete mixer, and a little yellow pickup truck.” One day he announced that together he and his trucks were going to turn a plot of land he’d bought into a children’s park. Little Yellow was excited to be included. Riley and his helpers drove all the trucks to the area. First, they cleaned up all the trash and put the bags in Big Red. “Little Yellow watched.”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When Big Red drove away, Big Blue rolled up, and as his bowl turned he “pumped out concrete” to make a sidewalk that meandered through the land and over the hills, a floor for a picnic shelter and a spot for a fountain: “Squish Squash Slurp Burp.” Next, Big Green drove up with his load of lumber, and Riley and his helpers built the picnic shelter and a fence: “Bang Clang Smack Whack!” Riley thought it was “‘Fabulous!’”

As Big Green sped away with Riley, Little Yellow wondered…and waited. “He flicked his lights on and off.” He didn’t want to be forgotten. He wanted to do an important job. Then Big Green and Riley were back. Throughout the day, Big Green transported the swings, slides, merry-go-round, tables, and benches. Little Yellow stayed silent. “The important job was finished and he had done nothing.” Riley proclaimed it “‘Fabulous!’” But the park wasn’t finished yet, he said.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Riley walked over to Little Yellow and took the wheel. As they drove down the road, Little Yellow recognized they were going the way back to the lumberyard. Maybe he wasn’t going to be part of the job after all. But then they stopped at Ray’s Garden Shop and the workers began loading Little Yellow up with “plants and shrubs and flowers. There were bags of soil and grass seed and fertilizer.”

As they drove through town, people smiled and waved. One girl even said, “‘Look! It’s a garden in a truck!” Back at the park, Riley and his helpers scattered the grass seed and planted the bushes and flowers. Birds, butterflies, and bees flew over to check them out. There was even a little shower burst to water them. When at last everything was just right, Big Red, Big Green, Big Blue, and Little Yellow all hooted and honked their horns, and kids came running from all over. Little Yellow “even gave an extra-long Toot Toot Tootle Toot” because “the children’s park was open for business. And he was part of it!”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

For every little one who feels like they stand on the sidelines while all the “important jobs” are done, Eve Bunting’s sweet story shows that they play a big role in what happens at home, at school, and elsewhere. As Little Yellow watches while all the bigger trucks get to help out, his doubts will be familiar to readers. The suspense grows as job after job is completed without Little Yellow’s input, and young readers will cheer when his patience is rewarded. Little truck lovers will enjoy seeing their favorites at work and chiming in on the alliterative and rhyming words that accompany each action.

Kevin Zimmer’s happy-to-help trucks will thrill kids who love vehicles of all kinds with their realistic details and anthropomorphic personalities. Zimmer’s vivid colors are as cheery as a day at the park, and little ones will love pointing out and talking about the different jobs and what they entail as well as their favorite playground equipment. A diverse group of children, including a boy in a wheelchair, run and play in the new park.

An engaging story to reassure kids that they make a big difference even if they are small, Little Yellow Truck makes a fun read aloud for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364077

To learn more about Kevin Zimmer, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Colorful Garden Coloring Pages

 

Your plants and flowers may not have bloomed—or even sprouted—yet, but you can still enjoy a colorful garden with these printable pages!

Planting the Garden | Colorful Flowers

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You can find Little Yellow Truck at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 27 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is winding down, but that doesn’t mean you need to slow down on your reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed lots of new and old favorites this month and are inspired to keep discovering new books every day – like today’s book!

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town: Based on the History of the African American Pioneer Settlement

Written by A. LaFaye | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

In Dede Patton’s dreams she could see the wide-open prairie where she and her family could build a better life. To pay off their sharecropping debt, “Dede’s mama sewed dresses so fine, they practically got up and danced.” Her father made furniture after a long day in the fields, and Dede shined shoes at the train station on a box she had made herself. Even though they worked “from sun-climb to sun-slide,” they knew it would take years to make enough money if ever.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Then one day Dede noticed a sign “offering land for colored folks in Kansas.” In Kansas they could own a farm in a few years. A new town, Nicodemus, was going to be built only a short ways away. Learning about this opportunity Dede’s family worked harder than ever and their money grew. One day, Dede found that one of her customers had dropped his wallet. She ran after the train and handed it up to him through the window.

Soon after Dede received a letter from the man with ten dollars inside. This, along with the money Dede’s mama and papa had made, was enough to pay off their debt. “Dede’s shoe shine money would buy the seeds for planting.” They took the train to Kansas and then traveled to Nicodemus with other new settlers. Along the bank of the Solomon River, they dug a house they could call their own. Dede and Papa staked off their land. With winter coming, they made plans for the years ahead.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

For supper, Dede hunted prairie dogs with her slingshot until they grew scarce. Looking for food, Dede and her papa went far out into the fields and met Shanka Sabe, a member of the Children of the Middle Waters tribe. “The white folks call them the Osage, but they say they’re the Ni-U-Kan-Ska.” He had noticed that the smoke coming from the Patton’s chimney had grown wispy and thought their food was growing thin too. He was bringing them rabbits.

When Spring came, Dede and Papa sowed seeds, and she and Mama began a garden. Spring also brought more people to Nicodemus. On Sundays, the Pattons rode into town, and Mama got orders for dresses from the other women. Once when Dede took the mail into town, she Mr. Zachary say his hotel was full. She mustered her courage and asked if any of his customers would like their shoes shined. From then she had “a job shining shoes at the St. Francis Hotel” that she went to after a day of helping Papa on the farm and Mama with the sewing.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In a few years the Patton’s farm was thriving and “they could prove their land claim.” Dede paid for the deed with her own shoe shine money. She made a frame for it from prairie grass, and the deed hung prominently in their home. On Sunday they held a party, and all the folks of Nicodemus as well as Shanka Sabe and his family turned out to enjoy the festivities and Mama’s pies. And that night they celebrated having a “home where they could tell stories, use the stars to guide them, and make plans for the things to come.”

An Author’s Note explaining more about the founding of Nicodemus, the Exodusters who settled the land in Kansas and other Midwestern states, and information on Nicodemus today follows the text.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A. LaFaye tells this fact-based story of resilience, hope, and freedom with charm and heart, following a girl and her family from the constraints of a sharecropper’s life to owning a home and farm of their own. Descriptions of the close-knit Patton family shine as LaFaye demonstrates the importance of each member’s contributions. Children will be especially fascinated by Dede’s role in helping secure the family’s future. LaFaye captures the dreams and community spirit of this important, yet little-known history of the African-American and Midwest experience through lyrical storytelling peppered with period words and phrases.

Through Nicole Tadgell’s softly washed illustrations of Dede and her family, readers see the hard work and perseverance that Dede, Mama, and Papa put into every day as they work to make money to pay off their debt. When they dance and cheer at receiving the last ten dollars they need to make the move, their joy radiates to readers. Details and dreamy pastel images of the vast, empty prairie, the nascent town, and the Patton’s home transports readers to the 1870s.

An excellent story about a transformative period in American history, Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town is an enriching choice for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807525357

Discover more about A. LaFaye and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nicole Tadgell, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Kansas State Bird Coloring Page

 

Enjoy the beauty of the Kansas prairie as you color this printable page of the Western Meadowlark, the state bird of Kansas, which was selected by children in 1925.

Kansas State Bird Coloring Page

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You can find Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review