July 5 – Mechanical Pencil Day

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About the Holiday

The first pencil was created in Switzerland Inn 1565 Conrad Gesner created the first pencil when he wrapped a graphite stick in string. Later, the graphite would be encased in wood to make it easier to sharpen. Fast forward to 1822 when Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins of Britain patented the mechanical pencil that could advance the lead to keep it always sharp. Today, mechanical pencils work in one of three ways: ratchet-based, clutch-based, or screw-based. The various widths of lead now let writers, artists, designers, engineers, and others create to their specific needs. To celebrate today, why not explore how a mechanical pencil works with your child, and then have fun drawing or writing together! There’s even a printable page below to get you started!

 

Duck Gets a Job

By Sonny Ross

 

Duck needed a job. All of his friends talked about their super office jobs in the city and encouraged him to get one too. Duck scoured the want ads in the newspaper. There were lots of jobs in tech, finance, and business. He imagined himself working with spreadsheets like his friends did. The jobs “seemed boring, but he applied anyway. And he got an interview!”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Duck agonized over what he’d wear. He tried on an outfit that made him look cool, one that was very professional, and one that was his natural, casual look. He decided to go with the professional style. Next, Duck thought about how he would get to the office. “Flying would make him tired and sweaty, but public transportation is tricky for ducks.” In the end he walked… and he got lost. Once in the city, he hailed a taxi, and while he rode to the interview “he gave himself a pep talk.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Talking to the interviewer made Duck very nervous, but, still, he was offered a job. Sitting in his little cubicle with “spreadsheets full of facts and figures” in front of him, Duck realized that this job “did not interest him at all.” Duck decided to quit. Duck had always dreamed of being an artist, so he looked at job ads for the Creative Quack Magazine and found one he thought he’d like. “For his interview, he dressed in his natural look and put samples of his best work in a portfolio.”

He prepared for his trip into the city, and when he got to the office he didn’t feel at all nervous. He showed the art director his portfolio feeling confident about his work. The art director loved his work and offered him a job. Now Duck loves his job, and he’s especially glad “that he had decided to follow his dreams.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

The strength of Sonny Ross’s affirming story comes in its straightforward approach to recognizing when an action is not right for you and feeling free to change course. While Duck is looking for the perfect job, the story is appropriate for any activity that children embark on as they find their place in the world. Ross peppers his story with clues that will alert readers to Duck’s true feelings about the two jobs—internal thoughts, clothing styles, and confidence level to name a few—feelings that they too can rely on to guide them in the choices they make.

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Ross’s matte mixed-media illustrations are fresh and stylish in a palette of blues, reds, and golds. Kids experimenting with their own look will appreciate Duck’s dilemma in choosing between cool, professional, and natural clothing styles. They’ll also empathize with his previous attempts at using public transportation and his travails in getting to the first interview on time. When Duck decides that a “spreadsheet job” isn’t for him, the page backgrounds lighten, his road to the interview is smooth, and his happiness is evident. A clever contrasting juxtaposition comes in the depictions of Duck’s two very different interviews. While the businessman sits at his desk peering down on tiny Duck who can barely see over the desk and is nearly swallowed up in his chair, the art director kneels down to Duck’s level to shake his wing in congratulations on getting the job.

Both an entertaining story and a lesson for kids on trusting their gut and staying true to themselves, Duck Gets a Job is a confidence-boosting tale for any home or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763698966

Discover more about Sonny Ross, his books, and his art on his website.

Mechanical Pencil Day Activity

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Click…Click…Create! Page

 

Grab your mechanical pencil and get clicking or twisting! Then create a design, a picture, a poem, a story, or whatever you imagine on this printable page!

Click…Click…Create! Page

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Duck Gets a Job is available at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

Today, the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the original 13 colonies, which asserted that the colonies considered themselves a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire. The day is traditionally celebrated with parades, picnics, and grand fireworks in cities and towns across the country or in one of our beautiful national parks. The holiday also provides the opportunity to remember and honor all the people who have come to America’s shores and have helped to build our nation. 

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel., 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580899857 (Paperback, 2019) 

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her books on her website. You’ll also find a Teacher’s Guide for Mountain Chef.

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Independence Day Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

The national parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. You may not be able to visit all of these parks, but you can still enjoy their beauty while you learn a little about them with these printable coloring pages! Then check the map and see if there’s a park near you!

Mesa Verde National Park | Gates of the Arctic National Park | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Biscayne National Park | Acadia National Park | Everglades National Park | Rocky Mountains National Park | National Parks Map

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You can find Mountain Chef at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 3 – Apollo 11 Moon Landing Anniversary Month

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About the Holiday

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong, watched by millions of people around the world, became the first person to step foot on the moon. This month we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that monumental moment. Since then we have developed a deeper understanding of our universe, but there is still so much more to discover. Who knows how far today’s children will go in exploring the great unknowns of the cosmos.

I received a copy of Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story  (Tales of Young Americans Series) 

Written by Judy Young | Illustrated by David Miles

 

Ten-year-old Marty and his friend Tomás listened eagerly to the radio broadcast of the Apollo spacecraft liftoff from Marty’s home near NASA’s Tracking Station in Guam. The boys wished they could watch the historic flight, but there was no television reception. Marty and his family had moved to Guam a year ago when Marty’s dad took a job at the tracking station. Although Marty was excited to hear the announcer’s voice counting down to liftoff and then “‘Neil Armstrong talking from inside the spacecraft,’” he wished he could share the experience with his dad. But Marty’s father was busy at the tracking station and would be there for eight days.

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The tracking station, with its huge antenna facing skyward, fascinated Marty. “‘That,’” his dad had told him, “‘is what will pick up communication signals from the spacecraft. And inside the operations building is equipment to rely the signals back and forth between the astronauts and Mission Control in Houston, Texas.’” Marty thought it was awesome that his dad would get to hear everything the astronauts said. Marty wished he could visit the tracking station to hear them too, but he understood that his dad would be too busy and that there was “‘a lot at stake. If communications go down, the astronauts might not make it home,’” his dad had explained.

When Apollo 11 finally entered the moon’s orbit, Marty and Tomás were glued to the radio waiting for the Eagle to land. Then they got a call that the tracking station had set up a TV and was sending a bus to collect family members so they could watch the landing. Marty and Tomás rushed to board the bus. Marty, Tomás, and the rest of the families watched the Eagle touch down on the moon and Neil Armstrong descend the ladder to become the first person to set foot on the moon. They watched as the Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin “bounced around on the moon, taking photos and collecting lunar rocks.”

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The next day the Eagle connected with the Columbia and began the trip back to Earth. “On the last night of the mission,” Marty was suddenly woken up by his mother. She said that his father needed him. Something was wrong. He was driven to the tracking station and met up with his dad and other men outside the huge antenna. “‘The antenna is stuck,’ Dad told Marty,” If they couldn’t get it moving again, Mission Control would lose contact with Apollo 11. It was vital that the antenna work, and time was running out.

But why did they need him? Marty wondered. His dad explained that they thought the problem was in a bearing—”‘a ring with metal balls encased inside it…. The balls have to roll for the antenna to move, but they’re stuck.’” The men thought that if the bearing could be packed with grease, it might move again. But their arms were too big to reach into the tight space. “‘Do you think you can do it?’” Marty’s dad asked. “‘You bet!’ Marty exclaimed.”

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Marty learned what they wanted him to do and crawled into the space where the motor was. He took a glob of grease in one hand and reached in, “but even his arm was too big.” Marty knew he had to find a way to do it. The lives of the three astronauts depended on it. He thought a while and then smiled. “Quickly, Marty smeared grease all over his arm.” Although the space was still tight, his arm slipped in. Marty filled the bearing with grease. When he was finished, his dad called out to try starting the antenna again.

Slowly, it creaked back to life. “Instantly a voice called out from the building. ‘Communications with Apollo 11 intact. All systems working!’” The men cheered and congratulated Marty. Marty joined them in the operations building and listened as a voice from Houston announced, “‘Successful splashdown—task accomplished! Welcome back to Earth, Apollo 11.’” Marty’s father gave him a hug and said, “‘The world wouldn’t have heard those words if it weren’t for you, son.’”

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Judy Young, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Based on true events, Judy Young’s compelling story of a child who played a crucial role in one of history’s most astounding accomplishments will thrill young readers. As the first moon landing, the Apollo 11 mission was fraught with danger, excitement, and a level of uncertainty that had people glued to their televisions and radios for the length of the mission. Communication with the astronauts was paramount, and when the link was lost many feared for the three men. Young’s straightforward storytelling  realistically portrays the excitement and fascination of a child for a favorite subject while also demonstrating their pride in and understanding of their parents’ jobs. Through dialogue that always rings true, Young builds the strong relationship and trust Marty and his dad enjoy. Marty’s confidence and quick thinking also mirror the serious nature of the book’s target audience.

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In his realistic and atmospheric paintings, David Miles offers readers a glimpse at a unique part of the Apollo 11 mission: NASA’s tracking station in Guam. As Marty and Tomás hang on every word from the radio, the moon hangs low in the twilight sky and serves as a backdrop to the waving palm trees. Kids interested in engineering, science, and communications will want to linger over the views of the huge antenna that provided the connection between Earth and the astronauts. Period details include images of radios, cars, televisions, and even the grainy broadcast seen by millions. As Marty’s father explains the problem to his son, readers can clearly see what a bearing looked like and where in the antenna Marty had to work. As the men in the operations building celebrate a successful mission, today’s children can feel a sense of kinship with the boy who made a difference in 1969.

Part of the Tales of Young American Series from Sleeping Bear Press, Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story is an absorbing true story that has impact for young readers today. For children interested in space, science, STEM, history, biographies, news, communications, and a well-told story, Marty’s Mission makes an inspirational addition to home, school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110144

Discover more about Judy Young and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Miles, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Marty’s Mission Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of

One (1) copy of Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story written by Judy Young | illustrated by David Miles

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from July 3 through July 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner for each prize will be chosen on July 8.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

Apollo 11 Moon Landing Anniversary Activity

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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Coloring Pages

 

With these printable coloring pages you can follow some of the steps of the historic moon landing and the astronauts’ return home..

Blast Off! | Landing! | Astronauts on the Moon | Module Separates | Fiery Reentry

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You can find Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 25 – It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

The world’s oceans offer beauty, resources, and mystery. This month we celebrate these vast wonders while committing ourselves to their preservation. We also remember the communities that rely on the oceans for economic stability as well as the men and women who work to protect the oceans and their unique creatures.

Bedtime for Baby Shark: Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo

Illustrated by John John Bajet

 

Who doesn’t love Baby Shark with his big smile, bright eyes, and vivacious personality? Baby Shark could play all day—and night—long, and so could his many friends. But everyone needs a good night’s sleep! Just how do you get a little one off to bed? Fortunately, Mama Shark’s there to show him how to brush his teeth…well…tooth, and Daddy Shark helps him “take a bath, doo doo doo doo doo doo. / take a bath, doo doo doo doo doo doo. / take a bath, doo doo doo doo doo doo. / Take a bath!”

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Image copyright John John Bajet, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

When Baby Shark is all clean and wet Grandma Shark hands him his cozy jammies, and then it’s time for Grandpa Shark to “read a book doo doo doo doo doo doo. / read a book doo doo doo doo doo doo. / read a book doo doo doo doo doo doo. / Read a book!” When Grandpa closes the book, he turns out the nightlight and the family swims quietly out of his room.

But Baby Shark isn’t tired. He tosses and turns and finally swims out of bed to “run and hide.” Who shows up to stop him? It’s Great White Shark! He waggles his fin and tells Baby Shark, “No more tricks, doo doo doo doo doo doo. / No more tricks, doo doo doo doo doo doo. / No more tricks, doo doo doo doo doo doo. / No more tricks!” Obediently, Baby Shark climbs back into bed. Then with a kiss from Mama Shark, he’s “all tucked in,” and he drifts “off to sleep.”

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Image copyright John John Bajet, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Each verse of the story is accompanied by hand motions that make this book a perfect interactive story time favorite.

Little ones who can’t get enough of Baby Shark and his humorous antics will love going to bed (or delaying it a bit) with Baby Shark, his family, and even Great White Shark who shows up just in time to add a giggle or two to this extended story line of the favorite song. Illustrated in vibrant color by John John Bajet, the pages will capture young readers’ attention with up-close encounters with these beloved characters. Touches of humor highlight the action as Baby Shark brushes his one nubby tooth, Daddy Shark sports a shower cap while giving his baby a bath, and Baby Shark pretends to be asleep with one eye open. Befitting his place in the underwater world, Great White Shark spans two pages and will awe kids. As the whole family gathers to say a final goodnight to Baby Shark, little readers should be ready for sweet dreams too.

A sweet sequel to Baby Shark, Bedtime for Baby Shark: Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo is sure to spark giggle-filled fun for kids and adults be a much-asked-for addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Cartwheel Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338588989

To learn more about John John Bajet, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You can find printable activity sheets and a guide to the Baby Shark Bedtime Dance on the Scholastic website.

National Oceans Month Activity

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Baby Shark Activity Pages

 

Baby Shark loves to play! He even has two printable activity pages for kids to enjoy! Download the Baby Shark Coloring Sheet and Maze from Scholastic and have some fun!

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Baby Shark in His Jammies Coloring Page 

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 Baby Shark Bedtime Maze

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You can find Bedtime for Baby Shark: Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

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