January 7 – Old Rock Day

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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.

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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 

December 13 – National Cocoa Day

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About the Holiday

There’s no better drink to dispel the frostiness of winter than hot cocoa. Whether you make it from dark, rich cocoa powder or from an easy-open pack, drink it straight or add extra flavors like peppermint or cinnamon, enjoy it unadorned or topped with whipped cream or marshmallows, there’s no doubt that hot cocoa is a favorite for cozy snuggling. The history of cocoa being used as a drink goes back to the Aztec culture in 500 BCE (although archaeologists believe it predates that time). It took until 1828, however, for powdered chocolate to be developed (allowing for both chocolate bars and instant hot chocolate to be produced); and it wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that Charles Sanna created Swiss Miss – the first hot cocoa able to be mixed in a cup. To celebrate this rich indulgence, mix up frothy mugs of hot cocoa and cuddle up with your kids and a great book –like today’s!

Tiny Reindeer

By Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

 

As the book opens, a little girl has made her way down the hill from her rural home to the mailbox, where she slips a special letter into the slot. In the distance, a town is nestled between the rolling hills. In another part of the world, a “very, very tiny” reindeer was wondering what he could do to help “Santa get ready for the most important night of the year.” Every year it was the same, Tiny tried to help but ended up getting “tangled in the reins and harnesses,” falling into the other reindeer’s water bowls, or completely covered in tape “when he tried to wrap the presents. 

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

This year on the day before Christmas Eve, Santa suggested that Tiny visit the Mail Room to help sort the last of the children’s letters. Santa had told him there was just a little pile of letters, but when Tiny got to the Mail Room, he found himself buried in an avalanche of paper. As he wriggled his way out, one letter caught his eye. There was a picture of a reindeer drawn in the corner, and the child was asking for just one gift for Christmas: a tiny reindeer to go with the tiny wooden sleigh her granddad had made for her.

He had planned on making a little reindeer to lead it, but had not been able to. She wrote, “I know reindeers are REALLY BIIIG but I only need a very very tiny one so that we can all fly together like you Santa and your Big Big reindeers.” Then she thanked Santa and sent lots of love before signing her name. After Tiny read the letter, “he came up with a plan.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-tape

Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

On Christmas Eve morning, when Santa and the other reindeer were distracted , Tiny leapt into the fully loaded sleigh. He felt like “a secret voyager on a special mission.” While Santa made his rounds, flying high in the sky, Tiny waited for a precise moment. When it came, he “leapt from the sleigh into the freezing air as Santa and his galloping herd disappeared into the darkness.” He floated toward a particular house, carried by the parachute he’d made from the little girl’s letter. Down the chimney and into the fireplace he fell. He made his way to the staircase leading upstairs only to find that he was too small to climb it. Discouraged and unsure if he’d even found the right house, Tiny began to cry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-letters

Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Just then he heard a crash in the room he’d just left and, then, footsteps. Tiny tried to hide in the shadow of the steps, but in a moment a huge figure stood over him. It was Santa! Santa carried Tiny upstairs and placed him on a pillow next to where a little girl lay sleeping. On her nightstand was “a beautiful, tiny wooden sleigh.” Santa whispered goodbye and promised to visit next year. Tiny wondered what tomorrow would bring as he yawned and went to sleep.

When the little girl woke on Christmas morning, her eyes lit up. “‘A tiny reindeer! My tiny reindeer!’ she cried out.” Then “Tiny…knew he had finally found where he belonged – and with the most beautiful sleigh he’d ever seen, handmade to fit him perfectly.” The little girl hitched him to the sleigh, and they raced outside to fly over the snowy hills in the frosty morning sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-sleigh

Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’s sweet, warm, and breezy story is a Christmas and wintertime delight that will charm kids. Young readers eager to help with holiday preparations and to find their place among older siblings and/or adults will empathize with Tiny’s predicament. As this littlest of reindeer devises and carries out a clever and courageous plan to make a girl’s dream come true, readers will see that they too make a big difference just by being themselves. When it seems that all will be lost at the foot of the insurmountable stairs before a watchful and caring Santa appears with a helping hand, kids will feel that comforting assurance their own parents, caregivers, or teachers provide to help them achieve their goals and potential. 

Naylor-Ballesteros’s rustic illustrations glow with the magic of the season, and readers will fall in love with Tiny, who’s no bigger than one of the carrots in the other reindeer’s dinner bowl. Humorous snapshots of Tiny tangled in the reins, tape, and ribbon will make kids giggle. Kids may take note of Santa’s backward glance as Tiny leaps from the sleigh, but his appearance still comes as a happy surprise when Tiny is feeling low. For all children with big imaginations and that harbored desire to have a tiny pet or friend of their own, Naylor-Ballesteros’s uplifting ending will cheer their heart.

An enchanting Christmas tale that will become a family favorite, Tiny Reindeer would make a much-loved gift and a heartwarming addition to home bookshelves and school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735271180

Discover more about Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, his books, and his art on his website.

National Cocoa Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Cocoa Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-cover

You can find Tiny Reindeer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 16 – A Book Tour Stop for A Christmas Too Big

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About the Holiday

While it may seem a wee bit early for Christmas decorations at the mall, Christmas candy in the grocery stores, and Christmas songs on the radio 24-hours a day, it’s never too early to begin reading Christmas stories with kids! Today, I’m thrilled to be part of the book tour for A Christmas Too Big – a funny family story enriched with an endearing intergenerational friendship that will become a quick favorite for holiday story times.

Thank you to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of A Christmas Too Big for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Christmas Too Big

By Colleen Madden

 

For Kerry and her family, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when her mom, dad, and siblings go “TOTALLY BERSERK with Christmas.” Her dad gets out the strings of Christmas lights; her mom sings Christmas carols (filling in her own words where she can’t quite remember the real ones) while doing chores; her big sister bakes, bakes, bakes; and her little brother hides and rehides elves all over the house. At night, of course, they “watch every. Single. Christmas. Special. On every. Single. Christmas. Channel.”

A week before Christmas, they go to the cut-your-own Christmas tree farm and choose the biggest tree they see. The bring this behemoth inside and begin to decorate it. But there aren’t enough lights to cover it, there are squabbles over putting a star or an angel at the top, and someone finds a squirrel resting in the top. “O.M. Gingerbread,” Kerry says. She can’t take any more and heads outside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-too-big-berserk

Image copyright Colleen Madden, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

There, her neighbors houses sport enormous decorations, flashing lights, and one has even provided a target on their lawn to show Santa where to drop the presents. Kerry thinks “that everybody is having a Christmas Too Big. Then, across the street, Kerry sees Mrs. Flores struggling with her grocery cart in the snow and goes over to help. After dislodging the cart from the snowbank and picking up the dropped groceries, Kerry walks with Mrs. Flores to her house.

¿Te gustaria un poco de cacao, querida? Mrs. Flores asks Kerry. Kerry would love some cocoa and answers “Yes, please! ¡Sí, por favor!” Kerry looks around Mrs. Flores house. It’s neat and tidy, and her tabletop Christmas tree is decorated in handmade tiny paper flowers. “And that’s it. NO singing penguins or peppermint candy canes…or a zillion lights.” Next to the tree is a picture of her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who live in Mexico. Mrs. Flores says, “Los extraño mucho,” and Kerry is sure “they must miss her too.”

After they drink their cocoa, Mrs. Flores teaches Kerry how to make paper flowers and sings a song she remembers from when she was young: “En invierno, / Las flores no crecen, / esperan a que LLeguen La primavera y el sol! In winter the flowers / aren’t blooming. / They wait for the spring / and the sun! //Ellas desean besos / cálidos de mariposa, They wish for warm / butterfly kisses, Luego ellas bailan! then they dance! ¡Sí! ¡Sí! ¡Sí! / Yes! Yes! Yes! / La! La! La!” They dance and then decorate Mrs. Flores’s house with the flowers they’ve made. Finally, Mrs. Flores lights a single candle in her window for her family.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-too-big-mrs-flores

Image copyright Colleen Madden, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

Kerry helps Mrs. Flores open the gift her family sent her. It’s a tablet, but Mrs. Flores doesn’t know how to use it. Kerry shows her how and makes a call with it. Suddenly, Mrs. Flores’s son appears, then her daughter-in-law. Then she gets to see her grandson Andrew, who calls her “Na-na.”

Nighttime had fallen and it was time for Kerry to go home. Out in the snow, Kerry thinks about the day: “What a different kind of Christmas. Small and quiet, yet BIG all the same.” Back home, Kerry looks for a way to have “my own kind of Christmas in in my own crazy Christmas house.” She makes flowers—lots of flowers—and decorates the shelves, stairway, mirrors, and even their dogs.

When Kerry lights a single candle for Mrs. Flores, her mom suggests inviting her for Christmas dinner. While her family puts the finishing touches on the tree, Kerry sends Mrs. Flores an invitation to her tablet. On Christmas day, Kerry and her family and Mrs. Flores all enjoy a festive dinner with all the trimmings and a lot of cheer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-too-big-tree

Image copyright Colleen Madden, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

Whether you like to celebrate Christmas in big or small ways, Colleen Madden’s heartwarming story reflects the true spirit of the holiday as a day for family, friends, togetherness, and kindness. While Kerry’s parents and siblings believe in a bigger-is-better philosophy, when Kerry finds another way of celebrating with Mrs. Flores, she realizes that “big” doesn’t need to come with a huge tree, lots of lights, hundreds of cookies, or even a month of preparations, but can simply mean warm feelings inside their heart. Madden’s organic integration of Mrs. Flores’ conversation in Spanish is very welcome.

Madden’s straightforward, non-judgmental, inviting, and humorous storytelling welcomes kids all along the spectrum, from HUGE to tiny, to enjoy Christmas and its lead-in in the way that is most meaningful to them. The story can also spur talks within a family about the ways each member likes to celebrate and to incorporate those ideas into their yearly traditions.

Madden’s winning illustrations will keep kids riveted to the pages as Kerry’s family joyously retrieves the Christmas decorations and gets to work. Madden depicts their over-the-top love of the holiday in illustrations that are jam-packed, frenetic, and definite showstoppers that kids will love poring over—especially the title screens for seventeen comical Christmas specials, Mom’s “so close” renditions of holiday classic songs, and the cutaway of Kerry’s house, where they can search for the elves hidden in each room. The image of the Christmas tree bent in half because it’s too tall to fit in the room is particularly funny as is the two-page spread of the neighborhood where inflatable Santas, snowmen, and candy canes as well as billboard-sized lighted signs dominate each yard.

In contrast, Mrs. Flores one-story house has no outdoor decorations and the inside is sparsely furnished, allowing the focus to be on her small tree. As you turn from pages where you don’t know where to look next to these simple spreads, you can almost hear yourself sigh as the frenzy fades and a calm, quiet simplicity takes over. Back home, there’s no denying the beauty of the family’s fully decorated tree, and readers (maybe the adults even more than the kids) will appreciate the matching candy cane-striped onesie pajamas they’re wearing. The final image of Kerry’s family sharing dinner with Mrs. Flores is cheerful and festive. Spanish labels name all of the food, decorations, and other items on and around the dinner table.

Instructions on how to create the flores de Navidad that Mrs. Flores taught Kerry to make follow the story. The back endpapers name more objects, food, and clothing associated with Christmas and winter in Spanish. The English translations are found on the front endpapers.

An excellent story for sharing the fun and meaning of the Christmas season that will resonate with all kids and be asked for again and again, A Christmas Too Big would make a much-appreciated gift and a new family favorite on home bookshelves. The book is also highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542028004

Colleen Madden grew up in a crazy Christmas house and, like Kerry, she found a break by spending time with her neighbor who was from another country. She has illustrated many children’s books, including the bestselling What If Everybody? series, written by Ellen Javernick, and the picture-book adaptation of All I Want for Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey. She recently published Monkey Walk, her debut as both author and illustrator, and is currently working on her first graphic novel. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons. 

A Christmas Too Big Book Tour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-ornaments-craft

Nail Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make the perfect decorations for your tree. Make some to give to friends too!

Supplies

  • Plastic ornaments, available at craft stores
  • Nail polish in various colors
  • Plastic bowl or container, deep enough to dip the ornament into the water
  • Drying stand – I used a clear, plastic egg carton, or string for hanging ornaments to dry

Directions

Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water

  1. Using two or three colors, gently “paint” the water with the nail polish, using the brush or a toothpick in dots and swirls
  2. Slowly dip the plastic ornament into the water and turn it to pick up the nail polish floating on the top of the water
  3. To dry, place the ornament on a stand or hang with a paper plate, wax paper, or other paper to catch drips

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You can find A Christmas Too Big at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 30 – Hug a Sheep Day

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About the Holiday

Hug a Sheep Day was founded by a woman who rescued a sheep named Punkin from the Bluegrass Stockyards in 1992. When Punkin passed away 12 years later, the woman, known as “the Crazy Sheep Lady,” wanted to honor him and encourage people to appreciate the warmth and comfort these animals provide and show how much they love them. She chose Punkin’s birthday as the date of her new holiday, and over the years Hug a Sheep Day has grown to be celebrated around the world with many farms inviting visitors to open farm days and fun events where they can indeed hug a sheep. If you want to take full advantage of today’s celebration, look for a participating farm or petting zoo near you. 

Thanks go to Beaming Books for sharing a copy of Little Ewe with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of the book. You’ll find the details below.

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Tommy Doyle

 

The flock gathers at the fence, where “one shepherd opens up the gate. / ‘It’s time to eat.’ / The sheep can’t wait!” The sheep file out of the pen and up the hill in pairs, but Little Ewe is more interested in exploring than nibbling. She chases three lizards and watches four spiders, and when Shepherd calls for her to come back, she promises to do so “but not until…/ She bounces on five floating logs / and splashes with six croaking frogs.”

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Shepherd whistles for Little Ewe to return to the flock, and she starts on her way but then she spies sparrows dining on figs and decides to join this different flock for a tasty treat. Suddenly, though, as the sun sets, nine badgers discover the figs and take them away from Little Ewe. In the dark, Little Ewe lopes down the path and is frightened by the “ten spooky eyes” of the owls in the trees.

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

All alone, lost, and hungry, Little Ewe “wishes she’d listened when / Shepherd called her in the glen.” Screeching bats fly overhead, making her cry. At the same time, Shepherd is counting “his flock with love” and realizes one is missing. He jumps up and heads down the mountain path right to where Little Ewe waits, shivering and bleating. He lifts her into his arms and gives her a hug. He takes her home where the sheep “all gather round. / The shepherd’s lamb, / once lost . . . is found!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-ewe-shepherd

Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Laura Sassi’s gentle and poignant story combines counting from one to twelve with the reassurance of constant love. Like the little ones reading the story, Little Ewe is curious and adventurous, but as she strays farther away and darkness falls, she longs to be home. Of course, the shepherd won’t leave his lamb behind and, knowing just where to look, he comes to find her. Sassi’s perfect rhymes and jaunty rhythm invite young children to join in counting and reading. The nighttime scenes are not too scary while they offer assurance that when little ones feel frightened, uncertain, or alone, they are still under a watchful eye. Little Ewe can be read as a retelling of the Biblical parable of the Good Shepherd and God’s ever-present love or as a story of the enduring love of a parent or caregiver.

Tommy Doyle’s warm and adorable images will delight little ones as they count from one to twelve with Little Ewe as she explores the meadow, stream, and hillside. Kids will love pointing out these easily discovered images again and again. Doyle’s Shepherd is kind and caring, and the look of love on his face as he cradles rescued Little Ewe will be familiar comfort to young readers. The joy depicted when Little Ewe reunites with her flock shows the happiness of any family when all its members are together.

A sweet and comforting story that young readers will want to hear again and again, Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep would make a tender addition to any child’s bookshelf as well as for school, church, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506464701

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tommy Doyle, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Tommy Doyle

To enter:

This giveaway is open from October 30 to November 4 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 5. 

Prizing provided by Beaming Books

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

Hug a Sheep Day Activity

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Courtesy of Laura Sassi (laurasassitales.wordpress.com)

Make a Little Lamb Resting Box and Play a Game! 

by Laura Sassi

Read Little Ewe, then grab a little lamb toy (or make your own from felt or fleece, by painting a rock, or by knitting one using this Little Ewe Pattern). Then play a game of hide and seek with your little lamb. When you are finished playing, give your little lamb a hug (since it is Hug A Sheep Day!), then let him/her rest in this cozy resting box. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-ewe-craft-paper

To make a cozy resting box, you will need

  • a precut piece heavy paper or light card board measuring approximately 5 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches with four 1-inch deep notches cut from each corner, as shown.
  • crayons or markers 
  • clear tape

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-ewe-craft-paper-folded    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-ewe-craft-paper-colored

Directions

  1. Fold the sides of the box so your child can see what the finished shape will be.
  2. Have your child decorate the inside and outside of the box any way they want. (Ex.: I made my outside look like grass and my inside like a cozy quilt.)
  3. Finish the box by taping the four corners up using clear tape.

To Play

Take turns hiding the little lamb. Play as many rounds of hide-and-seek as desired. After playing, let the lamb take a rest in the cozy resting box you have made. Then read your lamb a sheep-themed story like … Little Ewe!  

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You can find Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 30 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both September and December have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! Today’s book bridges both months because It’s never too early to think about adding books to those upcoming holiday gift lists!

The Christmas Crumb

Written by Lou Treleaven | Illustrated by Alex Willmore

 

“Way up in the clouds, where the air is much thinner, / A giant royal family ate Christmas dinner.” The turkey and ham were simply enormous, and the bowl of potatoes so large and so deep that a child from Earth down below “could get in and hide.” But the most magnificent thing was the Yule log dessert that lay on the platter like, well, a freshly cut tree. As the giants gobbled their cake, one crumb fell to the floor. It bounced and it rolled right out the door.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-crumb-giants

Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

The giant princess apologized for losing the crumb, but her mother assured her that the crumb was so tiny no harm had been done. But the crumb had kept rolling, and it fell through the clouds then crashed through the door of a “tumbledown cottage” where “Pip sat with his mother. / They didn’t have much, but they did have each other.” Pip was ecstatic; this Christmas dessert could replace their “thin gruel.” He dug in with gusto, sending a smaller crumb flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-crumb-dessert

Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Pip was upset that he’d lost even a morsel, but his mom reassured him that it was “‘only a crumb. / So dinky, so diddy, it’s not worth the fussing. / It’s inconsequential – it really is nothing.’” By now that tinier crumb had found a new home in a mouse hole where “a dozen mice pups / Were getting quite desperate for food to turn up.” They swarmed on that crumb—their great Christmas feast that would feed them for weeks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-crumb-escape

Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

In all of the scarfing, a small crumb came loose. It rolled off the table and through a crack in the floor. A couple of bounces left it out in the snow, where a group of red ants was about to eat leaves. But they gave up the cuttings as quick as a wink when this surprising treat—“almost as big as [their] nest—fell into their midst. They hugged and they celebrated; they had food for the winter, they were “‘going to survive!’” They cheered, “‘This Christmas bonanza has just saved our lives.’” Was that it, then? All the sharing that first crumb could do? You might think what was left was too tiny, too wee, but one ant “passed his share down to an overjoyed flea.” So this Christmas (and all through the year) remember that what one person thinks small, someone else will hold dear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-crumb-tiny

Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Like the Christmas season itself, Lou Treleaven’s story of a treat that keeps on giving is full of charm, surprise, and cheer. Her set up of a royal giant family enjoying their holiday feast lends a magical plausibility to the idea of a crumb large enough to pass down and down and down again to feed multiple families—an idea that brings new delight each time a crumb escapes and finds a new home. Treleaven’s whimsical storyline soars on her jaunty rhyme scheme and her superb word choices that are humorous and heart-tugging at the same time.

Her deft messaging will appeal to children’s natural empathy as well as their awareness today of need in their communities as in each household the child apologizes for losing even a crumb. The adults’ repeated response, while providing a fun phrase for readers to join in on, can also lead to deeper discussions about the importance and rewards of giving.

Accompanying Lou Treleaven’s story are Alex Willmore’s hilarious and heartening illustrations that set the Christmas scene with fresh color tones and captivating details that show the impact the “crumb” has on each family. Spying a child hiding in the giants’ big bowl of potatoes will elicit giggles, and the characters’ facial expressions—from the princess’s delighted gasp at seeing the Yule log to the mother’s look of impending doom as the crumb barrels through her home—are priceless.

Willmore’s work with perspective is worthy of special note. Underlying Treleaven’s message that something’s worth is all in ones perspective, Willmore’s scenes employ close-up and distant views; commonly recognized items are juxtaposed to the giants, Pip and his mom, the mice, the ants, and finally the flea to show scale; and the runaway crumb becomes smaller and smaller but is always just the right size. Math-oriented kids will enjoy pointing these out, and some may like replicating scenes by physically arranging similar items. In a final spread, the princes, Pip, the mice, the ants, and even the barely perceptible flea line up with their crumbs in a meaningful demonstration of how something small to one person is big to another.

An utter delight from beginning to end, The Christmas Crumb offers a sweet message about giving and perspective that’s perfect for the holiday season and all year around. Adults and kids will love sharing this rollicking read aloud again and again. This is a book you’ll want to buy for your home, school, or public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867765

Discover more about Lou Treleaven, her books, plays, and other work on her website. You’ll also find activities to print.

To learn more about Alex Willmore, his books, and his art, visit his website

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-crumb-cover

You can find The Christmas Crumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 28 – Celebrating the Happy Cat Month Book Birthday of Miss Meow

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.

Thanks to West Margin Press for sharing a digital copy of Miss Meow with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Miss Meow

By Jane Smith

 

Miss Meow is a little girl who prefers being a cat. She has a soft head with two perky ears and a long tail. Things that make Miss Meow purr are getting scratched between the ears while reading with her mom and brother, Felix; chasing her toy mouse; napping in the sun; and lapping up water and snacks from her bowls. Things that make her hiss include taking a bath, having her snacks stolen, having her tail pulled, and having someone—like her little brother—intrude upon her territory.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cuddle

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

One stormy night Miss Meow discovers her favorite mouse toy torn open in her room. The fluff inside was scattered across the floor. “Miss Meow’s fur stands straight up. Her ears flatten against her head. She knows who did this—who always does this!” She runs to her mom and complains about Felix. Then she “stalks toward her brother, pointing her claw.” Snack crackers crunch underfoot. Not only has Felix broken her toy, he’s upset her snack bowl.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-snacks

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Miss Meow is caterwauling and stomping around when she slips in a puddle of water and falls to all fours—“Meee-ow!” But then Felix notices a “mysterious trail of wet paw prints” leading from the kitchen. Miss Meow, Felix, and Mom follow them to Miss Meow’s room, where they find . . . “a sopping wet intruder” asleep on Miss Meow’s pillow. Felix is thrilled to see the kitty, but Miss Meow is not. She chases the interloper through the house until she has him trapped in the kitchen.

But when Miss Meow sees that the stray is cold, shivering, and scared, her heart melts. “‘Here, kitty. It’s okay,’ she coos softly.” As the cat approaches, Miss Meow apologizes to her brother. The cat purrs as Miss Meow pets him between the ears then all three curl up on the pillow for a warm afternoon nap.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cat

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Young feline fanatics will purr with delight at Jane Smith’s tale of a little girl with a big imagination and an all-in love for cats. The uncanny similarity in behavior between cats and kids gives Smith full range to shine a humorous spotlight on bath time, naptime, territorial disputes, and sibling rivalry. But, as part cat, part human, Miss Meow’s natural empathy for her fellow cat and for her brother takes over when she sees how miserable the stray is and realizes that she owes Felix an apology. Smith’s use of present tense puts kids in the middle of the action, while her vivid and evocative illustrations clearly depict the characters’ emotions. Readers will love spying the first glimpse of the hidden stray, and Miss Meow’s mad-dash chase through the house leads to a sweet resolution.

Both a captivating story and an engaging way to talk to kids about their emotions and family relationships, Miss Meow is a purr-fect read aloud for all kids.

Ages 4 – 6

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513289458

You can connect with Jane Smith on Twitter and linktree.

Happy Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball, and when it’s painted it’s stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball. Paint the inner ear.
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cover

You can find Miss Meow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review