February 8 – Opera Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cover

About the Holiday

Opera has been a favorite art form since its beginnings in Italy in the 1500s. Combining magnificent voices, soaring arias, grand costumes, and dramatic storylines, operas continue to thrill audiences and gain new fans. To celebrate Opera Day today or at a time in the future, enjoy a performance in your area or find one on YouTube and gather your family and friends for an opera party.

I received a copy of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

 

Fernando had many loves in his life—including chocolate, cheese, gumdrops, and popcorn—but what he loved most was “feasting on Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, / and lending a paw at the Old Opera House.” Delores loved nothing more than being in the spotlight, and now she was getting the chance to leave her place in the chorus to “take center stage and be Diva Delores.” She warmed up in her dressing room with “Me-me-me-me!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-dress

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Fernando wanted to give Delores the benefit of all of his years of experience, but she wasn’t having it. A mouse was not a suitable helper for someone as great as she, she thought. At the rehearsal the next day, Delores was a flop, hitting wrong notes, missing her entrance, and the last song? Well…. From the back Fernando called out that he could help. He wrote cues on little cards “and—presto!—Delores knew just what to do.” You’d think Delores would be thankful, but instead she complained that a mouse’s help was just not proper for a diva, and she shooed Fernando away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-fernando

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The day before her big performance, Delores found that her dress didn’t fit. Again, Fernando rushed to her rescue, but what thanks did he get? Delores grumbled and fussed. “Then grabbing a bottle / of stinky perfume, / she spritzed poor Fernando / right out of the room!” Fernando went home, wanting to quit. But as he looked at his pictures of Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, he knew that without him the show would fail and that he couldn’t quit now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-manners

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

First, he went to Delores and laid down the rules: “For starters, I’d like to hear / thank you and please / when I help fix your dress / or bring crackers and cheese.” Delores was startled and quickly said good night. At home she wondered: had she been rude? The next day, Delores was nervous. She tried calming herself with candy and tea. She even looked for Fernando, but he was nowhere to be found.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-wig

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Standing on stage in the glare of the spotlights, “as the orchestra played, / Delores felt faint. / First she swooned… / then she swayed.” When she opened her mouth, no notes, no sound, no song came out. Then inside her wig she saw Fernando, who squeaked “‘You can do it.’” And then Delores did sing “with a voice rich and sweet.” When she forgot some words to her song, Fernando reminded her by tra-la-la-ing along.

The audience loved them. They cheered for Delores; they cheered for Fernando. Later, Delores admitted she could not have done it alone. Then she apologized to Fernando and asked for a fresh start on their friendship. “Of course!” he agreed, and now they bring down the house night after night as “the Opera House team!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cheering

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laura Sassi’s clever and original story about teamwork and sharing the spotlight hits all the right notes in showing how accepting help can elevate anyone’s performance and lead to a new friendship. After playing second fiddle in the chorus, Delores finally gets her chance to shine, but her vanity exceeds her experience. When a tiny mouse offers help from his deep well of knowledge, Delores takes one look at Fernando’s diminutive size and rejects him and his advice. Through her perfect rhymes and musical rhythm, Sassi engages readers in how to graciously learn from another’s experience and encourages the Fernandos out there to keep trying, even when their initial offerings of assistance are rebuffed.

Rebecca Gerlings lends charm and humorous touches to Sassi’s tale, and the promise of the enticing cotton-candy fluff of a wig, introduced in the first pages and teased throughout the story, is comically and satisfyingly fulfilled in the end as Fernando directs Delores to a winning performance from within. Along the way, readers are treated to an octopus piano player, multiple meltdowns as Delores dispatches Fernando from her orbit, and demonstrations of persistence as the little mouse stands up for himself, good manners, and the honor of his beloved opera. 

A smart, fresh, and fun read aloud, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse has multiple applications for discussing friendship, modesty, respect, and collaboration. The book would make a delightful addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922001

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

To learn more about Rebecca Gerlings, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Opera Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laura-sassi-with-opera-glasses-craft

Sparkly Opera Glasses by Laura Sassi

 

Make a pair of these fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse.

Supplies for each pair of opera glasses

  • Two recycled toilet tissue tubes one large craft stick
  • Markers tacky glue
  • Two paper clips assorted fancy embellishments (We used feathers, sparkly gems and snippets of shimmery ribbon, but use whatever you have around the house. Be creative!)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laura-sassi's-opera-glasses-craft

Directions

  1. Decorate the tissue tubes using markers.
  2. Glue the tubes side by side, as shown. Be sure to insert the craft stick in between so your opera glasses have a handle. Slip a paper clip at each end over the sealed part for extra  pressure while drying.
  3. Use tacky glue to affix whatever fancy embellishments you choose. The more the better!
  4. When dry, elegantly hold your opera glasses up to your eyes and pretend you are watching Diva Delores and Fernando at the opera!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cover

You can find Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 22 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea, or you could even try a virtual tea party! Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Tea with Oliver

By Mika Song

 

Oliver the cat sits at his kitchen table, holding a conversation with himself. It’s something he does “a lot.” He’d like to have a cup of tea, but wonders who will join him. Philbert, the little mouse under the couch calls up that he would be happy to drink tea with Oliver, but Oliver doesn’t hear him and Philbert is “too shy to come out.” Meanwhile, Oliver is having a tea party with his teddy bear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-paper-airplane

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

“Philbert decides to write Oliver a letter. ‘Dear Oliver, Let’s have tea,’” it reads. Philbert secretly hopes they have cookies too. Now, though, Oliver is cleaning the floor, and Philbert’s letter gets swept back under the couch. While he sweeps, Oliver sings about his lonesomeness, and Philbert tries another tactic. He folds his note into an airplane and shoots it into the air. Instead of floating into Oliver’s field of view, however, it hits him in the back. “Eek! A flea!” Oliver cries. He dances around, scratching and itching and completely misses the note.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cups-break

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Philbert is just imagining what to do next when someone knocks on the door. When Oliver opens it, his wild cousin Lester leaps in playing his banjo. Oliver invites him for tea. “I’m throwing a party,” Lester says, “but I guess there could be tea.” Philbert’s ears perk up. He wants to go to this tea party. Feeling brave, Philbert decides to deliver his note to Oliver personally.

It seems Lester’s party is at Oliver’s house, and before Philbert can deliver his letter, the guests start arriving. The guests are too boisterous and bouncy to want tea, and Philbert, wanting to stay out of the way, flattens himself against the floor. “I don’t like this party one bit,” he tells himself. Oliver tries to serve tea to some other guests, but they’re dancing and too busy for tea. From far below, Philbert shouts, “Me! I want tea!” But Oliver doesn’t hear him. Then one guest bumps into Oliver, and his tray of teacups goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-lying-on-floor

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

“The party ends as quickly as it began” as Lester and the other guests depart, leaving Oliver to clean up the shards of china. Oliver lays on the floor, despairing that he’ll “never have tea with anyone now.” He rolls over to see Philbert under the couch. Philbert introduces himself and hands Oliver his letter. Mistaking it for a tissue, Oliver blows his nose in Philbert’s note.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-blowing-nose

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Philbert alerts Oliver to his error, and contritely Oliver opens the note and reads it. He’s surprised and excited to find that Philbert wants to have tea with him, but then  remembers that he has no more cups. Now it’s Philbert’s turn to be excited – and surprising.”Yes you do!” He runs away and returns pulling a soft cushion holding two of Oliver’s tea cups. “I saved these for you!” Philbert exclaims. “Hooray!” Oliver cheers. “And the new friends sat down to a nice cup of tea.” With cookies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-tea-party

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Mika Song’s sweet story will have little ones giggling as one thing after another goes just a little bit wrong. Many will empathize with Philbert’s predicament as he tries to attract Oliver’s attention and will cheer along with Oliver when he saves two of Oliver’s beloved tea cups and the day. Song’s straightforward tale offers gentle lessons on the true nature of friendship as Philbert watches out for Oliver when others don’t, and the two discover they have a lot in common despite the traditional differences between cats and mice.

Through her delicate ink and watercolor illustrations, Song brings out the adorable natures of Oliver and Philbert, the subtly humorous and slapstick events of the afternoon, the moments of disappointment, and Philbert’s happy surprise that lead to the friend’s cozy tea party. 

Tea with Oliver will charm young readers and would be a cute, often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062429483

Discover more about Mika Song and her books on her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-bag-buddy

Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cover

You can find Tea with Oliver at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 8 – National Bubble Bath Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bobby-babinski's-bathtub-cover

About the Holiday

No matter whether you’re having a cold, snowy day or a warm, sunny day, a bubble bath can be just the thing for relaxing or having a bit more playtime at the end of the day. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Mr. Bubble, founded by Mr. Harold Schafer and the God Seal Company of North Dakota. To celebrate today, plan a little luxury for yourself and some splashy, giggly fun for the kids!

Bobby Babinski’s Bathtub

Written by Judy Young | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

It was bath time for Bobby Babinski and while he didn’t mind the actual scrubbing, he really did not like climbing into their deep, webfooted tub. “So, Papa got tools, / And he made a huge slide / that went loopity-loop / and went glippety-glide.” It soared so tall from the ground that Papa had to cut a hole in the roof for Bobby to ride. He got on and then “down toward the bathtub / He zoomed with a flash. / Then Bobby Babinski slid in with a splash.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bobby-babinski's-bathtub-slide

Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2020, text copyright Judy Young, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That was lots of fun, but when he got to the tub Bobby found nothing to play with. So with a pail Papa caught “…a whale / two dolphins, three crabs, / And some tropical fish” that could have been fun if they didn’t take up every inch of the tub. So, Papa dug up the yard and made a bathtub as big as a lake.

“Now Papa unwrapped / a bar of white soap / And tossed it to Bobby, / But Bobby said, ‘Nope.’” Seems Bobby had trouble controlling the suds, so Papa came back with an eight-armed solution, and “soon Bobby Babinski / Was covered with bubbles.” With a squirt from the hose, Bobby was clean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bobby-babinski's-bathtub-whale

Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2020, text copyright Judy Young, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Papa offered a towel, but Bobby wanted to dry off in the sun. An island would do it, so Papa built him one. When Bobby was dry he was ready to go home, but the island and house were separated by water. Papa was clever and he summoned a “huge flying bird.” It deposited Bobby next to his dad who was holding up pj’s and ready to put him to bed. “But Bobby Babinski said, ‘No!’ / With a grin. / ‘I want to have bath time / All over again!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bobby-babinski's-bathtub-octopus

Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2020, text copyright Judy Young, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Whether your kids run to or from the tub at bath time, they’ll rush to join story time if Bobby Babinski’s Bathtub  is pulled from the shelf. Bubbly and imaginative, Judy Young’s rhyming storytelling will have kids laughing out loud as Bobby’s dad creates a bathtub experience kids can only dream about. Nonstop action and the best that amusement parks have to offer make for escalating fun that, like Bobby, readers will beg for again and again.

Kevin M. Barry’s dynamic and humorous illustrations will wow kids, and his impish boy is rakish and endearing as he enthusiastically enjoys each of his father’s inventive solutions only to come up with more and more objections to the bath time process. Hilarious facial expressions on both Bobby and the sea creatures that Papa finds to fulfill Bobby’s whims will have kids giggling with delight, and parents will discover some familiar looks on Papa’s face as well.

Fun from the first drip to the last splash, Bobby Babinski’s Bathtub is sure to be a quick favorite for rambunctious story times. The book would be a go-to addition for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110328

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

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

National Bubble Bath Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tug-boat-craft-front

Tugboat Bathtub Toy Craft

 

Tugboats are always there when a ship needs help or guidance—just like a parent or caregiver. With a few recycled materials, adults and children can have fun making this Tugboat Bathtub Toy that you’ll love to play with in the tub or pool.

Supplies

  • Printable Windows and Life Ring Template
  • Printable Deck Template
  • Container from a grocery store rotisserie chicken
  • One 16-ounce cream cheese container with lid (or other such container)
  • Paper towel tube
  • Cardboard (can use a cereal box)
  • Foam sheet in whatever color you would like the deck to be. (optional, see To Make the Deck options)
  • Two colors of paint in whatever colors you would like your cabin and deck (if painting it) to be
  • Paint brush
  • Glue gun
  • Tape

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tug-boat-craft-back

Directions

To Make the Deck

  1. Trace the deck template on the cardboard, cut out and trim if necessary.
  2. Trace the deck template on the foam sheet, cut out and trim if necessary. The foam sheet gives waterproofing to the cardboard deck.

To Make the Boat

  1. Wash and dry rotisserie chicken container. The curved part of the container will be the front of the boat.
  2. Set the cardboard into the rim of the rotisserie chicken container. If needed glue with hot glue gun.
  3. Set the foam sheet on top of the cardboard

To Make the Cabin

  1. Print and cut out the windows, life ring, and deck template
  2. Wash and dry cream cheese container
  3. Paint the cream cheese container in the color chosen, let dry
  4. Put the lid on the cream cheese container to make the roof of the cabin
  5. Glue or tape the windows to one curved side of the cream cheese container
  6. Glue or tape the life ring to the opposite side of the cream cheese container
  7. With the glue gun attach the bottom of the cream cheese container to the deck, a little forward of half-way

To Make the Steam Pipe

  1. Cut a 5-inch section from the paper towel tube
  2. Paint alternating stripes of the deck color and the cabin color, let dry
  3. With the glue gun, attach the steam pipe to the deck close behind, but not touching, the cabin

Enjoy floating your tugboat in the bathtub or pool!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bobby-babinski's-bathtub-cover

You can find Bobby Babinski’s Bathtub at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshelf | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 4 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea or throw a tea party? Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party

Written by Yumi Heo | Illustrated by Naoko Stoop

 

One day when the heat of the day had past, yet it wasn’t quite evening, “the moon and the sun had a tea party.” They got to talking, and Moon mentioned that moms and dads down below always got their kids ready for bed. Sun disagreed, telling Moon that they got “their children ready for school.” Moon countered that children needed to sleep. At this, Sun flared, saying they needed to go to school.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-birds

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They continued to argue over whether the streets of the world were busy or empty, whether birds flew in the sky or dozed in their nests, and even about their reflections in the river. The disagreements became so heated that Cloud heard them as he drifted along. Cloud asked what the matter was. When he heard, he told them they were both right said, “‘You must each stay up past your bedtime, and you will see.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-city

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The next morning, Moon hid behind Cloud and peered out at a busy world. She discovered that Sun had been right. She saw “Moms and dads pouring cereal and putting on coats, dogs chasing their tails, and trees standing guard in green uniforms.” That evening instead of setting, Sun hid behind Cloud and discovered that Moon had been correct. Sun watched “Moms and dads tucking in blankets and reading stories, dogs sweetly dreaming, and trees standing guard in gray pajamas.” Sun was amazed. The next day, Sun and Moon reflected on what they had seen, “and in the world below, everything shone in their light.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-night

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Yumi Heo, who passed away in 2016, created the perfect pairing of characters and theme in her clever story as nothing, many would have you believe, is so assured as the dichotomy of Day and Night. As Moon and Sun argue over what people and nature do on earth, Heo invites readers—who already know that both Sun and Moon are right—to actively participate in their perspective-changing discoveries. By presenting, first, the compelling evidence that informs Sun and Moon’s opinions of the world and, second, the revelations Cloud makes possible, Heo gives kids insight into how understanding, empathy, and an appreciation for others develops. Enlightenment, however, doesn’t come without an openness to accepting alternate viewpoints, and here is where Heo’s multi-layered story shines. After Sun and Moon allow Cloud to show them the other side, they do not reject the truth of what they see, but find common ground. Heo ends her story with hope and growth as during their respective shifts the next day, Sun and Moon continue to contemplate each other’s perspective.

In her mixed-media illustrations, beautifully textured with a plywood base, Naoko Stoop brings to light Moon and Sun’s opposing views of the world and, in their facial expressions, demonstrates how quickly arguments and stalemates can occur. Stoop’s daytime scenes depict a diverse city community in spreads that readers will love to linger over to find kids and adults engaged in activities that reflect their own lives. As Sun and Moon describe their own mutually exclusive experiences, Stoop cleverly focuses on one busy corner where a bookshop and a bakery—two bastions of diversity—sit side-by-side. Stoop’s color palette is muted and lovely, with cheery views of daytime and cozy images of nighttime, making this a distinctive book to share at bedtime or for quiet, thoughtful daytime story times.

Thoughtful, contemplative, and comforting with a timely message of awareness, acceptance, and reconciliation, Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-0385390330

To learn more about Naoko Stoop, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-bag-buddy

Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-cover

You can find Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 22 – Get Ready for Winter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-cover

About the Holiday

As the weather turns colder and activities move indoors, reading becomes a cozy way to spend time together for all ages. Whether your kids like books that are funny, poignant, suspenseful, or meant to teach about a new or favorite subject, there are books, authors, and illustrators to be discovered or to love again. So settle in for a winter of wonder – starting with today’s book!

Thanks goes to Familius for sending me a copy of Snoozapalooza for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Snoozapalooza

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Vivian Mineker

 

A snowfall has begun, ushering in a long nap for some woodland creatures. Mouse is the first to hide “in a den that’s cozy and small. / Snuggling into a wee-sized heap, / 1 begins snoring and drifts off to sleep.” Soon, little Mouse is joined by even smaller Snail. Pulled into her shell next to Mouse, “they doze and they dream, tucked out of sight, / A snoozapalooza all day and all night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-snail

Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Also looking for a place to snuggle in for the winter, Mole tunnels under and right up into the cozy den and promptly finds a spot on the other side of Mouse. Next to discover this cuddly winter bed is chipmunk, and then hedgehog accidentally tumbles in head first when she “whirls by, slip-sliding on ice.” Who can pass by an enticing hole without looking in? Certainly not Rabbit! “Snuggling into a rising heap, / Now 6 are snoring—they’re all sound asleep.”

Skunk doesn’t announce herself, but tiptoes in and adds herself to the warm pile. All 7 “doze and they dream, tucked out of sight, / A snoozapalooza all day and all night.” Three more forest animals join in this seasonal sleepover and doze and dream until… there is a “Zzzz sounding ROAR…Rattling clear ‘cross the floor…Rumbling right out the door.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-skunk

Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

As other woodland animals come out to greet the tender green buds and soft grass of spring, they quiver with fright at this horrible noise. Bravely, they go in search of its origin. When they find the den, they wonder how they can stop this “10-animal snore.” Little Wren has an idea and begins to tweet. Soon, the other animals—10 in all—join in singing “‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’” Slowly, Mouse “stretches and yawns” and is joined by his other friends. They’re happy to see spring, but their long nap was so restful that they promise to all come back next year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-hedgehog

Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Kimberlee Gard’s soothing and humorous story is a dream of a counting book as one-by-one ten woodland animals pile up in a cozy den for their long winter’s sleep. Her lyrical repeating phrases are sweetly lulling while also infused with the giggly fun of a sleepover. As each new animal enters the den and promptly falls asleep, kids will love reading along with the now-familiar two last sentences, especially that word that tickles the tongue: “snoozapalooza.”

Kids will eagerly await who comes next, and Gard delights with the clever ways each animal joins in the growing heap (another tantalizing word not often heard). When spring comes, readers will enjoy counting up to ten again when birds and animals band together to wake the snoozers. The hibernator’s final vow to return next winter adds a warm theme of friendship to this original tale.

Vivian Mineker’s soft-hued illustrations are adorable, downy accompaniments to Gard’s storytelling. As each animal finds shelter in the den, Mineker plays with their sleeping positions as they all snuggle close for maximum warmth. Kids will laugh to find who’s being used as a pillow next and how all of these animals can stack up in such as small space. Each page invites children to count and count again to make sure they’re keeping up with all the new sleepers. Distinctive colors for each animal help younger readers find them all. A two-page spread lets kids see and count all the members of the wake-up crew, while the next page spread allows them to count all of the new friends made in this charming story.

A clever and enchanting book, Snoozapalooza will engage kids on many levels. Not only is it a fun and funny counting book, but it teaches the names of twenty woodland animals and would be a cuddly story to share at bedtime. Snoozapalooza would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702553

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Vivian Mineker, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Winter Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-buddy-craft

Everyone needs a blanket sometimes to feel cozy and warm! With this craft you can make a blanket for yourself, a stuffed animal, or even a fleecy bed for a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-buddy-craft

Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for a child or a stuffed animal or is large enough for a pet bed
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾-inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each piece of fleece

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-cover

You can find Snoozapalooza at these booksellers

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

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 11 – Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the chilly days of winter snuggled up with new books. Kids love cuddling up and sharing laughs, poignant moments, fascinating facts, and the changes seasons bring through books. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Read A New Book Month, check out the new titles at your favorite bookstore and buy one, two, or a whole stockingful to wrap up for the holidays. After all, a looong winter’s ahead!

Snow Falls

Written by Kate Gardner | Illustrated by Brandon James Scott

 

Through three seasons of the year when rain falls outside our windows, we keep on working, playing, watching TV, or using our computers or phones. But add colder temperatures and those raindrops turn to snowflakes that have us up and at the windows marveling at their beauty. Little ones become especially wide-eyed and excited to get outside as “snow softens” sturdy tree branches, angled rooftops, flat ground, and even the sounds in the air.

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Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2020, text copyright Kate Gardner, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

The white-blanketed earth becomes an adventurer’s paradise as “snow tracks,” allowing wanderers to retrace their footsteps and find their way home. Of course, kids with sleds know that “snow slides,” turning every hill into a challenge that beckons and sometimes—at the bottom—becomes topsy-turvy fun where, maybe, “snow hides” a dislodged mitten, hat, or scarf.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-tricks

Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2020, text copyright Kate Gardner, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

There are days where “snow snows… and snows… and snows.” Then there’s enough white, fluffy, perfectly sticky fluff to make snowmen where “snow smiles” or soft balls so “snow flies.” But then there come the days where the sun is warm and the snow slowly slips away, revealing the world again until the next snowy day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-blows

Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2020, text copyright Kate Gardner, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

As wonder-filled and enticing as the first snow of the season, Kate Gardner’s lyrical ode to kids’ favorite winter playmate highlights the ways snow transforms the world, from the way it looks to the activities it allows even to the cozy moments it creates inside. Garner’s two-word sentences drift from page to page on alliteration, rhymes, consonance, and assonance as smoothly as a sled on a hill. Children will love reading along and talking about their own memories of snowy day fun.

Brandon James Scott’s soft, textured scenes, “painted digitally in the evenings of a snowy Canadian winter,” begin—as most snows do for kids—seen from just above the windowsill as the first flakes fall. Looking into a cozy house, readers see a little girl peeking out. On hooks hang a striped scarf, knitted hat, and dog sweater that will feature in the pages to come. As the little girl runs out into the winter wonderland, the white world is punctuated with a tiny red bird that kids will love searching for from page to page. 

Various perspectives give children different views of the snow-covered neighborhood. Scott also captures a glorious gold, pink, and violet sunset as well as the way snow swirls into the air, buffeted by icy gusts. When the girl lands head first into the snow at the bottom of the sledding hill, Scott begins a storyline for the scarf that kids will eagerly follow. Hot chocolate and cookies, a forest of snowmen, snowball fights, and the mercurial melting that forms islands, paths, and monster footprints are all chronicled too in Scott’s lovely pages, which are wrapped in a sparkling jacket that gives way to the girl and her dog making snow angels underneath.

A book adults and children will want to share again and again throughout the winter and when hot weather calls for relief, Snow Falls would make a wonderful gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1101919217

To learn more about Brandon James Scott, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Snowy Day Mindfulness Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tightly

3. Shake

As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-cover

You can find Snow Falls at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 30 – Get Ready for Hanukkah

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ninth-night-of-hanukkah-cover

About the Holiday

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is the Jewish wintertime celebration that commemorates the victory of the small Maccabean army over the much more powerful Greek/Syrian forces and the rededication of the Holy Temple during the second century BCE. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days in remembrance of the miracle of the oil lamp, which at the time only held enough oil for one day yet burned for eight days. This year Hanukkah takes place from December 10 through 18.

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah

Written by Erica S. Perl | Illustrated by Shahar Kober

 

A family has just moved into their new apartment. It’s the first night of Hanukkah, but they can’t find their Hanukkah things amidst all the boxes. So, without the menorah or delicious latkes, Mom, Dad, Rachel, and Max sit on the floor eating pizza. “It was nice…but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.” On the second night, they still hadn’t found the menorah, but Rachel and Max made one from a piece of wood, their jar of nuts and bolts, and some craft paint. It was all ready to light, when Mom discovered that they didn’t have the candles either.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ninth-night-of-hanukkah-missing-menorah

Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With the stores closed, Rachel and Max went next door to apartment 2C. They introduced themselves to Mrs. Mendez and explained their situation. She offered the only candles she had—a box of birthday candles. “Dad lit the shamash. Max and Rachel each used it to light a candle.” Then they opened presents. While it was nice, it still “didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.
On the third night, the “lucky latke pan” was nowhere to be found, but Max appeared with a steaming plate of French fries from Joe, the super, who lived downstairs.

By the fourth night of Hanukkah, Mom and Dad were beginning to think the box with their Hanukkah things had gotten lost. Max wanted to play dreidel, so while Mom called the moving company, Max and Rachel met the Watson twins, who didn’t have a dreidel, but they did have a toy that spun and spun. On the fifth night, Rachel and Max had made their own dreidel, “which meant they needed gelt.” On the fourth floor, Max and Rachel met Mr. Patel, who handed Max the only chocolate he had—a bag of chocolate chips. All of these substitutions were “nice…but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ninth-night-of-hanukkah-shamash

Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Each night of Hanukkah Max and Rachel missed a different part of their Hanukkah celebration, and each night a new neighbor did the best they could to supply it. On the morning after the eighth night of Hanukkah, a delivery person showed up at the door with Mom’s guitar. She suggested a sing-along, but Rachel reminded her that Hanukkah was over. Max, however, had another idea and pointed to the ninth candle on the menorah. This gave Rachel an idea too, and she and Max whispered and planned. Then they waited. Soon “there was a knock on the door. And another. And another.”

When all the neighbors had gathered, Max and Rachel explained their Shamash Night celebration. Like the Shamash candle “helps light all the other candles,” they said, their new neighbors had helped them celebrate Hanukkah. “‘So we wanted to say thanks—to the Shamash and to you,’” Rachel said. Just then the delivery person appeared with the long-lost box. On the ninth night in their new home, Mom and Dad, Rachel and Max ate, played, sang, and danced with all of their new friends, “and best of all, it felt exactly like Hanukkah.”

An Author’s Note following the story tells about the history and tradition of the shamash candle and the idea that sparked the writing of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. Erica S. Perl also provides a guide on how families can hold their own “Shamash Night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ninth-night-of-hanukkah-party

Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Community, resilience, and children’s creativity infuse every page of Erica S. Perl’s story that’s a wonderful Hanukkah read as well as a story families will want to share all year around. The apartment-house setting and the family’s just-moved-in situation combine to create a charming microcosm of making friends, getting to know new neighbors, and discovering the generosity of strangers. Rachel and Max, creative, close-knit, and accommodating, will captivate kids as they go along on their scavenger hunts for the makings of a homey Hanukkah celebration.

Perl’s substitutions—from birthday candles to French fries to a ukulele will appeal to readers. The repeated phrase “It was nice, but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah” applies to many make-do conditions and will resonate with children. It also provides suspense and a nice counterpoint for when the night does finally fulfill the Hanukkah feeling. Max and Rachel’s “Shamash Night” offers a message of gratitude not only for things but for friendship.

Shahar Kober’s warm-toned illustrations mirror the heartfelt story and the kindness of the diverse group of neighbors as they provide workable solutions to Max and Rachel’s requests. Images of Rachel and Max creating a homemade menorah, dreidel, and wrapping paper may inspire kids to design their own Hanukkah or other holiday decorations and traditional items. Kober’s cartoon-style characters are expressive, demonstrating their disappointment in missing their well-loved Hanukkah things but more so their cheerful acceptance of what the neighbors can provide. Kids will enjoy watching the antics of the family’s cat, who likes to be in the middle of the action, but also is happy to make do with a moving box as a new napping spot.

A heartwarming and joyful Hanukkah story with messages of kindness, generosity, acceptance and a loving sibling relationship, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454940883

Discover more about Erica S. Perl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shahar Kober, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Hanukkah Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-craft

Star of David Ornament

 

Kids can add a bit of sparkle to their Hanukkah celebrations with this Star of David ornament craft.

Supplies

  • 6 mini craft sticks
  • 2 round lids from clear plastic deli containers
  • Silver glitter
  • Blue craft paint
  • Clear-drying glue
  • Thin ribbon or string, 8 – 10 inches long

Directions

To Make the Star of David

  1. Paint the craft sticks with the blue paint, let dry
  2. Glue three of the craft sticks together to form a triangle; repeat with the other three sticks
  3. Glue the two triangles together to create a Star of David
  4. Glue a short length of ribbon to the top back of the Star of David

To Make the Case

  1. Apply a thin layer of clear-drying glue to the top, indented side of one of the lids
  2. Sprinkle the lid with the glitter, let dry
  3. When the glue is dry, center the Star of David in the lid with the ribbon trailing over the rim of the lid. The Star of David will be free hanging inside the case from the ribbon.
  4. Glue the rim of the indented side of the second lid to the rim of the first lid
  5. When dry, tie the ribbon into a loop for hanging

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ninth-night-of-hanukkah-cover

You can find The Ninth Night of Hanukkah at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound