September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-cover

About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-teddy-bear

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-bowl

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-hello

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-sandwich

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beanstalk-craft-with-top

 

Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beanstalk-craft-closeup

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-cover

To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 27 – It’s National Inventors Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-cover

About the Holiday

While dates for this holiday may vary – some say May while others celebrate in August, National Inventors Month was established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine. This month-long holiday recognizes the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently to create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. Today, I’m sharing a book that highlights those who reach for the sky, dive under the sea, and look for opportunities to better help and connect people through the structures we use and live in. If you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas!

How Was that Built?

Written by Roma Agrawal | Illustrated by Katie Hickey

 

They seem to have sprung from the ground, they soar into the clouds, they cross vast waterways—over and under the ripples and waves, and they come in all shapes and sizes. What are they? Buildings! For lovers of architecture, engineering, and just the marvels that people can construct, Roma Agrawal’s compendium of some of the world’s most incredible buildings will leave them enthralled—and much more knowledgeable on how these structures came to be.

In fifteen chapters, Agrawal reveals all the nuts and bolts about how buildings are secured on difficult sites (such as on sinking ground, in the sea, underground, and on ice); constructed to be tall, long, or able to move; and made to serve civic purposes. In addition to detailed explanations of the conditions architects and engineers must take into consideration when designing and constructing a building, bridge, or other structure, Agrawal clearly describes the materials used, how they are made, and why each is chosen for a particular job.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-emily-warren

Image copyright Katie Hickey, 2022, text copyright Roma Agrawal, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Rounding out each chapter, Agrawal goes in depth on one world building that demonstrates her topic. For example, In the first chapter she introduces readers to the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, which was built on top of an old Aztec pyramid in the middle of a filled-in lake. When it began sinking and tilting, engineers in the 1990s devised an intriguing way to save it. If you’re a fan of skyscrapers and wonder just how they’re built, a chapter on The Shard in London, which “is over 1,000 feet tall…and has 11,000 glass panels” (and for which Roma Agrawal worked as an engineer) reveals the secrets of a strong core and the incredible machinery that allows workers to keep going up and up.

Readers who love bridges will find two chapters on these beautiful and intricate structures. One reveals the fascinating story of how the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge overcame many challenges under the direction of Emily Warren, a woman who broke barrios for women in the engineering field. Another describes six different types of bridges as well as where they are used and why.

Readers also learn about concrete and how arches and domes work. They then explore the Pantheon and discover how it has stood for nearly 2,000 years. Other concrete structures from around the world are also discussed. You may not think too much about sewers, but imagine living without them! You’ll get a good (and stinky) idea about the conditions in London hundreds of years ago before Joseph Bazalgette designed and built the first sewer system. How did he do it? Agrawal breaks it down and then talks about today’s modern sewers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-the-shard

Image copyright Katie Hickey, 2022, text copyright Roma Agrawal, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

You’ll also find chapters on dams, tunnels, and buildings with moveable parts—or buildings like the Halley VI research station in Antarctica that can be moved easily in their entirety to avoid snow or ice that may crack beneath them. Then there are the challenges of building under the sea and in outer space. While astronauts now rely on the International Space Station, “some engineers and scientists are studying how to build structures on the Moon! Then researchers could live there for a long time to carry out their experiments and learn more about outer space.” What considerations must engineers take into account and what materials will they use? Agrawal fills readers in. She then closes her book with a look toward the future and talks about new materials and methods of building that may transform our world.

Sprinkled throughout the book are “Try It At Home” prompts for experiments that readers can easily do at home to visually interact with the concepts Agrawal lays out, such as using malted milk balls and raisins to understand “how carbon atoms make steel stronger” and making a pneumatic caisson with just a few household items.

Back matter includes a glossary of terms found in the book and brief biographies of ten influential engineers from the past and present.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-outer-space

Image copyright Katie Hickey, 2022, text copyright Roma Agrawal, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers of all ages will be engrossed by Roma Agrawal’s guide through the architecture and engineering that go into housing, moving, connecting, and supporting the world’s population. Every page contains fascinating details and interesting tidbits culled from Agrawal’s extensive experience as an engineer. These go far beyond an introduction to landmark buildings to show readers exactly how each type of building works. Relayed in a simple-to-understand, conversational style, her text is also broken up into short paragraphs that are easily digestible and invite further research, making this a superb resource for schools, homeschooling, and enthusiasts of all things engineering and architectural. Agrawal’s inclusion of structures from the past reveal the ingenuity of our ancestors and how they still influence today’s engineers and architects. Kids who love geography, archaeology, astronomy, and learning about all the intricate workings of the world will be enthralled with this book.

Katie Hickey gives readers an insider’s view of these phenomenal buildings with her stylish and incredibly detailed illustrations. Cityscapes allow children to understand the scale of skyscrapers from around the world and the beauty and breadth of New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge. Hickey whisks readers off to London to see The Shard; to New Zealand to view Te matau ā pohe, a bascule bridge whose shape was inspired by a fish hook; to Japan, where the Sapporo Dome accommodates soccer and baseball games with a moveable field of natural turf; and to Africa to stand on the edge of the Katse Dam and look 600 feet down into its reservoir. Along with this world tour, Hickey helps readers visualize the intricate working parts of certain buildings and bridges with interior views and small insets that demonstrate the physics of each design. Images of various types of cranes, pulleys, and other machinery also reveal the science behind building each structure.

A rich and comprehensive resource on the intricate engineering that goes into designing and building complex structures while also sharing the stories behind them, How Was that Built? will captivate readers of all ages. The book is a must for any STEM, science, art, or archaeology lover and belongs in all school and public library collections. 

Ages 6 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547609291

Roma Agrawal is a structural engineer who builds big. From footbridges and sculptures, to train stations and skyscrapers – including The Shard – she has left an indelible mark on London’s landscape. She is a tireless promoter of engineering and technical careers to young people, particularly under-represented groups such as women. She has advised policymakers and governments on science education, and has given talks to thousands around the world at universities, schools and organizations, including two for TEDx. Roma has been awarded international awards for her technical prowess and success in promoting the profession, including the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering’s Rooke Award. 

Discover more about Roma Agrawal and her work on her website, and connect with her on Instagram | Twitter. You can read an interview with Roma Agrawal in Publishers Weekly here.

To view a portfolio of work by Katie Hickey, visit Pickled Ink. You can connect with Katie Hickey on Instagram | Twitter 

National Inventors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports.

Build a Whole Town

Want to give your bridge a town with a river to span – or maybe two towns to connect? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make great skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar, oatmeal container, or aluminum can. Cut a meandering river for your bridge to span from paper or cardboard. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add some paint and details! So look around at the raw materials around you, use your imagination, and get creative!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-cover

You can find How Was that Built? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 11 – Play in the Sand Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-cover

About the Holiday

Is there any better way to spend a summer day than playing on a sandy beach? That wet, compact surface is perfect for running on, digging in, and, of course, building sandcastles with. And the soft, dry areas are great for beachcombing, wiggling toes in, playing volleyball, and simply strolling along. So head out to your favorite beach and have some family fun! 

A Beach Chase: An A – Z Alphabet book

By Sarah Downie

 

Holly and Logan love playing at the beach. Today, Holly is looking “for shells to add to her collection.” She spies something “among the anemones” and rushes into the water, where she discovers an anchor. Holly also finds a conch shell and, as she’s admiring it, a girl floats by on a buoy and asks her what she’s going to do with it. But this is no ordinary girl—Holly realizes that she’s a mermaid. A mermaid who quickly grabs Holly’s new shell and takes off, diving deep into the ocean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-letter-wading

Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

And so begins a wet and wild chase to recover Holly’s shell. Logan and Holly swim past various sea creatures, come to an island, and mistake “just a jumble of jellyfish” for the mermaid they’re looking for. Undeterred, they swim on until they see a kayak in the distance. “They kick, kick, kick towards” it and then paddle out to sea through a mass of kelp. On their way, they spot other creatures and seaside landmarks—even freeing an octopus from a net—before spying a tell-tail flick in a tide pool. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-letter-e

Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

Jumping in, they discover another world, one where mermaids and mermen are having a party. But where is the mermaid who took Holly’s shell? Holly and Logan swim through the party and a zig-zag-y tunnel before finally spotting her near an outcropping of rocks at the ocean floor. The mermaid shows Holly and Logan the very special reason she needed the conch shell. She didn’t want it for herself, but for a hermit crab that “was in need of a home.” 

Immediately, Holly offers to bring more shells from her collection for other hermit crabs if the mermaid will let her and Logan come again. The mermaid enthusiastically agrees and invites her new friends to stay and join the party.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-letter-h

Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

Back matter includes a visual dictionary that depicts each illustration in the book and lists words for the objects or creatures corresponding to each letter found there. Kids may also spy other, unlisted letter-appropriate creatures (such as sand dollars on the “S” page) or actions (like Logan’s being nice to the octopus on the “N” and “O” spreads or the octopus peeking above the waves on the “P” page).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-letter-t

Image copyright Sarah Downie, 2020, courtesy of Leaning Rock Press.

In her eye-catching art, Sarah Downie cleverly incorporates the letters of the alphabet while inviting readers to join Holly and Logan on their search for the mermaid. From the shallows of the seashore to the far depths of the ocean, kids will eagerly follow this quick-paced story while feeling pride and excitement in spotting all the hidden objects. Well-conceived for its target audience, the illustrations contain a range of difficulty so that little ones as well as older children will enjoy the search-and-find aspects of this book.

Downie’s engaging storytelling includes plenty of alliteration that reinforces the sound of each letter while promoting letter recognition throughout the book. She also infuses her story with themes of kindness, sharing, and care for the environment that will resonate with young readers.

A charming and clever story that transcends its alphabet roots to engage readers on many levels, A Beach Chase: An A – Z Alphabet book is playful fun that kids will want to dip into again and again. The book would make a terrific take-along on seaside or lakeside beach trips, where kids could extend the story’s search-and-find to their own experience. It could also spark creative cross-curricular lessons for teachers and homeschoolers and would be a welcome addition to any home library to enjoy throughout the year.

Ages 3 – 8

Leaning Rock Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1950323241

You can learn more about Sarah Downie, her books, and her art on her website.

Play in the Sand Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-activity

A trip to the beach can inspire all kinds of games and puzzles! Sarah Downie has created an activity pack with 15 challenges to get you searching and having fun just like Holly and Logan. You can download it here:

A Beach Chase Activity Pack

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-beach-chase-cover

You can find A Beach Chase: An A – Z Alphabet book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-cover

About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks to Harry N. Abrams for sending me a copy of Puppy Bus for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Puppy Bus

By Drew Brockington

 

As a boy’s parents unload the moving truck, he heads up the steps of the school bus with an anxious backward glance. once on the bus, his nerves take over and his mind races with all the new things he will encounter: “The teachers will be different. I’ll have to make new friends. I won’t even know where the bathroom is.” But in a minute, he gets a friendly lick of reassurance. Wait, what? That’s right, a big, slobbery lick of friendship. His seatmate even offers the boy his paw to shake. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-first-day

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It’s just about this moment that the boy realizes he’s made a mistake. “I’m on the wrong bus!” he shouts with an attendant “AUGHHH!!!” Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now. The boy gets off at Leroy’s Puppy School with all the other students and decides to find an adult to talk to. He finds the principal’s office only to find that the principal is also a dog. “Woof! Woof! Bark! Bark!” The principal does his best to help, but there’s a definite communication problem.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-school

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The boy’s just wondering what he’s going to do now, when one of his fellow classmates gets a chomp on his shirt and drags him toward a doggie door leading to a classroom. Once everyone’s inside, the lessons begin. As the collie leads the class in learning how to roll over, the boy thinks, “Everything about this school is strange and different.” Math class doesn’t really add up. The bowlfuls of dry food are gross. And remember how the boy was worried about wondering where the bathroom was? Well, that’s not the worst of it! In the stall, he finds a fire hydrant next to the toilet paper roll. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-classroom

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all makes the boy miss his old school and friends even more. But then his puppy seatmate from the bus comes over to give him a cuddle, and the pup that sits next to him in math joins in, along with a couple of other “soft and fuzzy” students. Just then the recess bell rings, and they’re all off to have fun playing catch, digging in the dirt, running around and jumping, and just general piling on. The day ends with a song and a story, and by the time the boy gets on the bus home, he’s even speaking a little dog: “Arf! Arf!”

He gets home enthusiastic about his new school and the friends he’s made. He’s even excited to go back tomorrow. His parents are thrilled with his change of heart and send him off the next morning with big smiles and waves. There’s just one thing… could he be on the wrong bus again?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-recess

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Funny and relatable, Drew Brockington’s Puppy Bus is sure to reassure and delight all kids, whether they’re starting a new school or just a new grade. Being nervous about making new friends, meeting a new teacher, and navigating a school building is a universal emotion, even though it can often feel singularly personal. Brockington exposes the doubts kids have in a way that will make them laugh while discovering that friendships made and extended can make all the difference. His comical twist ending reminds kids that change is part of life and adapting is a valuable skill to have.

Brockington’s hilarious cartoon illustrations—well-known to his CatSronauts fans—depict the boy’s full range of emotions from panicky to uncertain to grossed out to perplexed. When he’s at his lowest point of the day, a group of canine classmates take notice and do what they do best—become enthusiastic and comforting best friends. As the boy and his new friends romp on the playground, kids get the message that reaching out to someone new or hesitant (or, conversely, accepting an invitation to join in) has benefits for all.

A terrific story to share as school starts up again or for any time a child is beginning a new activity or encountering change, Puppy Bus will be a favorite on home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419751912

To learn more about Drew Brockington, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-bus-craft

Small Box School Bus 

 

With a small tea box, some paint, and the printable template, kids can have fun making a model school bus (or Puppy Bus!) to play with or display. Make your bus as detailed or simple as you’d like!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 copies of the School Bus Template
  2. Carefully take the tea box apart at the seams, invert it, and glue or tape it back together

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-bus-craft

To Make the Passenger Side of the Bus

  1. Cut the Door from the template
  2. Glue the door to the box near the front
  3. Cut out and trim the row of windows from the template
  4. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  5. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  6. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  7. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box

To Make the Front of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the windshield in the lower corner of the template and glue it in place
  5. Cut and trim grill and glue it beneath the windshield
  6. Cut and glue white circles for headlights on either side of the grill
  7. Cut, trim, and glue the wide black strip to the bottom as the bumper.

To Make the Driver’s Side of the Bus

  1. Cut and trim the row of windows from the template
  2. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  3. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  4. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  5. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box
  6. Cut out and glue the Stop sign over the two stripes near the front of the bus

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-bus-craft

To Make the Back of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the two small rounded corner windows
  5. Glue them underneath the lights close to the edge of the box
  6. Cut out and glue the bigger rounded corner window between the smaller windows
  7. Cut out and glue the yellow, red, and white lights underneath the small windows with the yellow light on the outside
  8. Cut out and glue the black rounded corner window centered beneath the lights
  9. Cut and trim the wide black stripe and glue it near the bottom of the box for the bumper

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-cover

You can find Puppy Bus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 23 – National Turtle Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-cover

About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends

Written by Mike Reiss | Illustrated by Ashley Spires

 

Upon beginning the story, children learn that “far, far away” two eggs shared the same pen at a zoo. Eventually, the eggs hatched: first a turtle and then a tortoise. The two babies took to each other right away, excited about all the fun they would have together. “People will call us the terrible Turtle Twins!” the little turtle says. But the tortoise is not receptive to this idea and launches into a mirror-image description about the differences between a turtle, a “horrid beast” and a tortoise who is a “handsome creature.” Following this, they go their separate ways to separate parts of the pen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-hatching

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Soon, the zookeeper, leading a school field trip, stops by and during his spiel reveals that turtles and tortoises can live 100 years. The little turtle and tortoise are surprised and impressed by this information, but they go on with their individual lives – for 14 years. The turtle finds – and eats – a worm that “looked just like Winston Churchill.” The tortoise was picked up by one eagle and returned by another. They endured nature’s worst weather and saw old years go and new years come. They could have commiserated and celebrated together, but they didn’t.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-lost-ball

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Then one day, a red ball came bouncing into their pen. Both the turtle and the tortoise rushed to catch it. “The turtle got there first…seven years later.” Once he had it, he wasn’t sure what it was or what to do with it. At last, he climbed on top of it and felt like “the king of the zoo” until he rolled off and landed on his back. Seeing an opportunity, the tortoise hurried over. Two years later he reached the ball. Passing the struggling turtle, he gave a snide laugh and claimed it for himself, with predictable results. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-ball

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Both the turtle and the tortoise spent the days and months and years on their backs, staring up at the sky and at each other. Time passed – a lot of time. Eventually, a new zookeeper guiding a new group of children related some new information that changed the whole Turtle-Tortoise dynamic. The tortoise suddenly had an idea on how they might regain their footing, and not so suddenly the turtle agreed to try it. Managing it took some time – a lot of time – but they finally found themselves face-to-face again, and, with a different attitude and appreciation for their new “fast” friendship, they wandered off to enjoy some lettuce leaves together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-on-backs

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Funny, thought-provoking, purposeful, and poignant, Mike Reiss’s story is at once an entertaining tale of two stubborn creatures wasting decades of a could-be friendship and a gentle prompting to really look at the senseless prejudice, lack of communication, and missed opportunities that keep our human race divided. A careful reading of the tortoise’s comparison of a turtle and a tortoise provides a humorous yet serious jumping off point for discussions about prejudice as well as the effect of not questioning such pronouncements. Reiss even cleverly inserts a nod to scientific advancements and other societal changes that if embraced can lead to better understanding, friendship, and community. His early introduction of a turtle’s life span likewise frames the story in human terms. As the years pass by in the blink of an eye (or three or four words), Reiss encourages readers to count up how many years it takes the tortoise and turtle to become friends and ponder how that might relate to their own lives.

How far, far away is this unnamed zoo? Taking a good look at Ashley Spire’s ingenious cityscape, kids will discover that, no matter where they live, it is closer than they might think. Spires goes on to make the turtle and the tortoise distinct individuals but with many similarities, an idea that adults may want to explore with children while reading the book together. The turtle and the tortoise are adorable, and kids will be rooting for them to put aside their misconceptions and become friends. The passage of time is charmingly represented by the clothing and demeanor of the two groups of children that visit the zoo.

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends is an enchanting and multilayered story that kids will want to hear again and again for its humor and thoughtful treatment of friendship. 

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0060740313

You can connect with Mike Reiss on Twitter.

To learn more about Ashley Spires, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Turtle Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-cover

You can find Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Old Rock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-cover

About the Holiday

Do you love rocks—the history they tell, their versatility, intricate patterns, and glorious colors? Today’s holiday celebrates these wonders of nature and encourages geologists—both professionals and amateurs—to indulge their passion. You can learn a bit more about the history of the study of rocks, the first use of the term “geology,” and on to more modern times at NationalToday. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your backyard or neighborhood, pick up a few rocks, and research a little more about them. Then have fun with today’s craft.

Thank you to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for sharing a copy of Old Rock (is not boring) with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Old Rock (is not boring)

By Deb Pilutti

 

It seemed that Old Rock had been sitting in the same spot forever. Tall Pine and Spotted Beetle thought being a rock must be pretty boring. Hummingbird wondered, “‘Don’t you ever want to go anywhere?’” She knew she would be if she couldn’t fly all over the world and taste exotic nectars. But Old Rock had flown once, and he began to tell his story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-hummingbird

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

It was during the time when he was surrounded by darkness, but then the volcano erupted and Old Rock “‘soared through a fiery sky into the bright light of a new world.’” Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird weren’t very impressed. They still thought Old Rock must be bored. Spotted Beetle told him how much he might see if he climbed to Tall Pine’s very highest branch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-volcano

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Old Rock countered that he had seen a lot. He’d watched dinosaurs pass by and had even hidden a spinosaurus from a hungry T. rex. He’d traveled in a glacier and been left teetering on a ridge overlooking a vast desert, where he “could see the place where the sky touches the earth.” Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird were intrigued, but Tall Pine dismissed these experiences as “ages ago.” He wanted to know about now. Didn’t Old Rock feel like moving? Tall Pine showed Old Rock how his limbs could dance in the wind.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-dinosaurs

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

While Old Rock couldn’t dance, he did recall how he’d turned somersaults off the ridge, landing in a prairie where mastodons grazed near a lake. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird were mesmerized by Old Rock’s story and wanted to know what had happened next. Out of the prairie, sprang a pine forest, Old Rock revealed. And from one of the pine trees a pinecone fell and a seed was released. That seed grew “to be the tall pine who dances in the wind and keeps me company.” Sometimes, he continued, a spotted beetle and a hummingbird meander by. Old Rock was very pleased with his spot, and the others had to agree that it was “very nice” and “not boring at all.”

An illustrated timeline of Old Rock’s life from 18 billion years ago to the present day follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-time-line

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

So much clever thought went into Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock as she reveals to kids what a fascinating and active life the rocks and boulders we see every day have had. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird’s skepticism keeps the suspense building as Old Rock rolls out stories of his various travels and talents. Once he has them hooked, they—like young readers—want to hear more, leading to the just-right ending that sweetly encompasses shared history, happiness with one’s place in life, and friendship. The trio’s questions to Old Rock and their related experiences also engage children to think about issues and opinions from a variety of perspectives.

Pilutti’s mixed-media illustrations are nicely textured to bring out Old Rock’s grainy surface while highlighting nature’s vivid colors. Her vignettes from the dinosaur eras, the ice age (where the skeletons of dinosaurs are also swept up and away in the same glacier as Old Rock), and beyond impress upon readers the long time-frame involved, how the earth has changed, and even the fascinating science of the fossil record.

A multi-layered story, perfect for general story times or as a lead in to science lessons and to promote discussion and research in the classroom, Old Rock (is not boring) would be an original and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518181

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Old Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on a light-weight stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

CPB - rock painting craft

To make a paper weight or kindness stone

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone, let dry
  2. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place or find a spot around town to leave your rock for someone to find and enjoy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-cover

You can find Old Rock (is not boring) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 27 – Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

About the Holiday

Making paper snowflakes is a fun wintertime activity that brings the outdoors in on snowy days or clear ones. This craft originates in the art of origami—a variation called kirigami. While both origami and kirigami involve folding paper, kirigami entails unfolding the paper and making cuts in desired places to create an effect. Cut-out snowflakes combine the two as the cuts are made while the paper is still folded. Today, get out some paper and scissors and make your own snowflakes to hang!

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-skating

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-snowflakes

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-sledding

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-igloo

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.  It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other.

In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

World Snow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-snowman-craft

Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review