April 18 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today, enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Growing Season

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

 

El and Jo weren’t only best friends, they were the smallest kids in their class. They did everything together, even helping “each other reach the unreachable.” On picture day, Jo and El always got to be in front, and during reading time they could both fit into the comfy reading chair. “But in springtime, something BIG happened.” Jo began to grow. Their teacher, Mr. Diaz, said she was “growing like a weed.”

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She no longer needed El’s help to water the plants on the windowsill, and she had graduated to needing a bigger desk. On the last day of school, when Mr. Diaz told everyone they could take a plant home for the summer, El was overlooked and reached over as the other kids took all the colorful flowers. By the time El got to the windowsill, the only plant left was an aster, with no blooms at all.

Mr. Diaz told her that “aster means ‘star.’” El didn’t think her plant was a star, but Mr. Diaz encouraged her to wait and see. “Jo looked over at El’s sad plant, and then at her own” and offered to let El have her zinnia since she was going to be away all summer anyway. El said she’d plant them side by side, and Jo said they could be best friends.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

At home, El planted her aster and Jo’s zinnia. She cared for them and waited. They grew bigger, but while the zinnia had many colorful flowers, El’s aster still had none. All summer long, El and Jo wrote letters to each other. El sent a photograph of her zinnia to Jo and told her that waiting for aster was hard. Finally, Jo came home. It was the last day of summer, and the two girls ran to the garden. There, they saw that “something BIG had happened. Aster had finally bloomed…and so had El!”

An Author’s Note on plant life cycles describes the differences between annual, perennial, biennial, and tender perennial flowers and includes fun facts about peonies, dahlias, marigolds, and foxgloves.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her signature warmth and attention to children’s feelings, Maryann Cocca-Leffler offers a sweet story about growth and how each child’s experience is as varied as garden flowers. El and Jo, as the smallest kids in the class, are natural best friends—a relationship which, in a welcome demonstration of steadfastness, remains strong even when Jo begins to grow. As summer comes, El’s focus is not on herself but on caring for the aster and zinnia and staying in touch with Jo.

When Jo returns, readers will see that something more has happened over the summer too. As the two girls hug, excited to see each other again, children will notice that they are now the same height—a surprise that El and Jo also seem to share with smiles and sidelong glances at each other. The purple asters that greet the reunited pair, remind kids that growth in many forms follows the natural path for each individual.

Cocca-Leffler’s fresh and cheerful gouache, colored pencil, and collage illustrations present a diverse classroom and school details that will be familiar to readers, making this a highly relatable story. Mr. Diaz shows kindness and understanding as he crouches down to talk with El about the aster and offer encouragement.

A gentle, reassuring story, Growing Season would make an excellent story to pair with plant or garden lessons as well as to remind children that everyone grows and develops at their own pace for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927044

Discover more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Starting to dig out the flip-flops for warmer weather and finding they’re a little too small? Don’t get rid of them! Make them into this sandal-ightful way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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You can find Growing Season at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 17 – Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. One way families do this is by celebrating meaningful holidays together and passing on beliefs,  history, and traditions. Easter, which falls on April 21 this year, celebrates the biblical resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. The day is also one for fun family Easter egg hunts and a visit from the Easter Bunny, who brings candy and other treats. 

Today, I’m reviewing two Berenstain Bears Easter books. The first is a bit simpler for younger readers while the second contains more details of the biblical story and how secular traditions fit into the day. I received copies of both books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the night before Easter, Papa Bear gathered Sister, Brother, and Honey together to read a bedtime story. Brother wants to hear one from their storybook Bible, and Papa finds one about the very first Easter. The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come to Jerusalem and are greeted with “Hosannas” and a crowd waving palm branches. “They believed Jesus was the new king of Israel.” The officials in Jerusalem thought Jesus was stirring up trouble. “They did not understand that the kingdom of Jesus was really the kingdom of heaven.”

The day was Passover, and Jesus and his disciples gathered for a special Passover dinner. During the supper, Jesus told his followers that he loved them. They ate bread and drank wine, which Jesus said were like his body and blood. He told them that he would be leaving them soon, but they did not understand what he meant.

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Later, Jesus went to a garden to pray. The followers that went along with him soon fell asleep. Another disciple, Judas, had “decided to help the angry city leaders put Jesus in prison.” He showed the soldiers where Jesus was praying. The leaders of Jerusalem brought Jesus to their Roman ruler, Pilate. He ordered that Jesus be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.

On the day Jesus died, the sky turned black and a wind whipped across the land. People were afraid; some prayed and some hid. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and the opening was covered by a huge, heavy stone. Roman guards were placed in front of the tomb.

Three days after Jesus died, an angel appeared. The angel rolled away the stone and frightened the guards away. When three women came to visit the tomb, the angel told them that Jesus had risen. The women hurried away to tell all of Jesus’ friends. Later, Jesus visited his followers in the room where they had been fearfully staying together.

They were amazed to see him. “‘Peace be with you,’ Jesus said.” He then told them to “spread the good news about what had happened.” Forty days later, Jesus rose into heaven “to be with God, his father.” Jesus’ friends and followers “rejoiced and praised God.” As Papa closed the Bible, he saw that Brother, Sister, and Honey were asleep. “‘Good night,’ Papa whispers, ‘and God bless.’”

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Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Jan and Mike Berenstain’s The Very First Easter is a traditional telling of the biblical Easter story for young readers. Composed of the important events in the days surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, the story reinforces the miracle of Jesus’ rising from the dead and his directive that his followers should spread the good news. Children will enjoy learning the Easter story along with Sister, Brother, and Honey as their own parent or caregiver joins Papa Bear in sharing this highlight of the church calendar. The book makes a good companion to personal discussions about the holiday and can grow with the child as they age and learn more details of the story.

An Easter word search puzzle is included on the inside back cover.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2019 | ISBN 978-0310762188

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About the Holiday

The definition of spiritual wellness is unique to each person. When you think deep down about what gives your life purpose, meaning, and happiness, what do you find? This month encourages people to discover if their beliefs, activities, work, family relationships and friendships are all in harmony. It’s also important to take care of you, by taking time to reflect each day and to plan fun and relaxing activities. Springtime and Easter are opportunities for renewal, making March a great time to consider your spiritual wellness.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the way to Sunday school one spring morning, all Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear could think about was Easter candy. As they entered their classroom, Brother said his favorite Easter candy was chocolate bunnies, Sister said hers was marshmallow chicks, and Honey Bear cried “‘Jelly beans!’” Then Missus Ursula revealed that her favorite was black jelly beans, but also that Easter is about more than candy.

Brother and Sister said they knew that. Easter was about “‘stuff in the Bible,’” Brother told Missus Ursula. “‘Yeah,’ agreed Sister. ‘Bible stuff.’” And Honey Bear added, “‘Stuff!’” Missus Ursula thought the cubs’ understanding could use a little more rounding out, so she took them into the next classroom, where the older bear cubs were putting on a play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-candy

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

The stage was set with props of the Holy Land, and cubs were dressed in costumes. One of the performers began telling the Easter story. “‘Long ago, in the Holy Land, there was a man named Jesus. He traveled the countryside teaching about God and what God wanted for his people.’” The narrator went on to tell about Jesus’s miracles and how “‘he could do these wonderful things because he was the Son of God.’”

Government officials and others were angry. They were afraid that Jesus wanted to become the king. One day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem and crowds greeted him with shouts of “‘Hosanna!’” The leaders believed Jesus was becoming too powerful. One night while Jesus was praying in a garden, “‘soldiers were sent to arrest him.’” He was questioned by a “‘wicked judge…who wanted to show everyone that Jesus was not a king. He ordered for Jesus to be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.’” 

After Jesus died, he was put in a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. “‘On the morning of the third day after Jesus died, some women who knew Jesus came to weep at his tomb.’” They saw that the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. “‘An angel told the women…that Jesus was alive once more.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-missus-ursula

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

In the days and weeks after Jesus rose, he visited his friends. “‘Jesus told them they should spread the good news about what had happened.’” After visiting with his friends, “‘Jesus rose up to heaven to be with God, his Father.’” Following the play, the cubs understood that Easter is about more than candy. But “‘does this mean we shouldn’t eat any Easter candy?’” Brother asked.

“‘Certainly not!’ Missus Ursula laughed” and confessed that she’d miss her jelly beans too. But she reminded the cubs that they should go to church after they got their Easter baskets. “‘Hooray!’ the cubs said. ‘And Hosanna!’ added Missus Ursula. ‘He is risen!’”

A page of colorful stickers depicting images from the story are included, and discussion questions and fun activities related to the book follow the text. 

Since the early 1960s, the Berenstain Bears have been delighting readers with their shenanigans, wit, and always-close family relationships. In The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, part of the Living Lights series, these beloved characters talk about and reveal to children the deeper meaning of Easter, with a focus on Jesus’s resurrection. The dialogue-rich structure lends a personal touch to any reading, letting the adult sound as if they are telling the story themselves.

The illustrations of Bear Country are bathed in the warm glow of spring as the sun rises over the Bear’s tidy treehouse home. Brother’s, Sister’s, and Honey Bear’s dreams of candy will enchant little ones as will the familiar scene of walking into church on Easter morning. Depictions of the play are vibrant and detailed but with a homey and childlike feeling to the props and acting.

For adults looking for a traditional, Bible-centered telling of the Easter story with engaging  characters that children will respond to, The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter and The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story is a superb choice for home and church libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Zonderkidz, 2012 | ISBN 978-0310720874

To learn more about Bear Country and all of The Berenstain Bears books as well as to find fun activities visit the Berenstain Bears’ website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

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Sweet Bunny Candy Jar

 

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

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You can find The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-cover

You can find The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

 

April 11 – National Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Pets are often our best friends—they love us unconditionally, are always there for us, and make us laugh. Today we celebrate pets—whether they’re as small as a goldfish or as large as a horse. National Pet Day also raises awareness of the number of animals available for adoption and encourages people to donate to animal shelters or consider taking a dog, cat, bird, or other pet into their family. If you already have a pet, observe the day by giving them an extra pat, offering a special treat, or spending more time with them.

I received a copy of My Funny Bunny from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Abrams in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Funny Bunny

By Christine Roussey

 

A boy has been dreaming of having a dwarf rabbit as a pet “since forever.” Finally, on his sixth birthday, his uncle hands him a box with holes in it, and the boy just knows it’s the pet of his dreams—a “mini dwarf rabbit as big as a kiwi…. A rabbit that I would love with all my heart.” But when he opens the box, it is not a tiny rabbit that he sees but “a big potato with patchy, yucky fur and whiskers that looked like wires.”

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy is beyond disappointed and runs to his room to yell and cry it out. He throws a temper tantrum and tells the rabbit he ruined his birthday and that he’ll never love him. But then something unexpected happens. While the boy is crying, the bunny jumps out of the box and comes to cuddle up next to him. His soft fur and tickly whiskers make the boy feel better.

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy gives him a carrot and they share some smiles. Then the two fix the castle that was broken during the tantrum, and the boy began to have a different perspective on his rabbit: “Funny Bunny might look a lot like a potato, but he made me laugh. I was starting to like him.” The child confides in his bunny that his anger sometimes comes on like a storm. The funny bunny says nothing but having him there makes the boy happy.

The boy even wants to be friends. He apologizes “for being so mean” and thanks “him for forgiving [him].” And that’s how the little boy and the “funny bunny…became friends for life” on his sixth birthday.  

A photo of Hector, Christine Roussey’s own “funny bunny” graces the inside back cover and will delight readers.

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Christine Roussey’s honest look at disappointments and the resulting reactions some children display offers a fresh and humor-tinted way for adults and children to discuss these strong emotions. The funny-looking bunny presents not only an example of how something unexpected can turn out to be just what is needed but also the role pets—with their quiet acceptance and unconditional love—can play in soothing an upset child. Roussey’s child is self-aware, giving adults and children the words for describing the emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming and frightening.

Roussey’s stylish illustrations replicate a child’s drawings and begin with depictions of the dwarf bunny the child has been dreaming of. A turn of the page brings readers face to face with reality—one that will send into giggles. The boy’s tantrum takes the form of gray and colored squiggles that frame the page and usher from his mouth, blowing the bunny’s ears. As the tantrum plays itself out, the boy’s confession is portrayed with child-like stormy clouds, lightning, rain, and a wave that carries them away. Their bond of friendship is built as they play in the boy’s treehouse, give hugs, and spend time together.

An excellent book to share when discussing emotions and how to deal with them, My Funny Bunny would be a valuable addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736186

To learn more about Christine Roussey, her books, and her art, visit her website.

My Funny Bunny Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Abrams Books for Young Readers in a Twitter giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of My Funny Bunny by Christine Roussey

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

This giveaway is open from April 11 through April 17 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Prizing provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

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

National Pet Day Activity

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Story Buddy Puppet

 

Hop to it! Children and adults can tell stories or talk about your hopes, dreams, and even fears with this Story Buddy Puppet!

Supplies

  • Printable Bunny Template
  • Paper sandwich bag
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print out the Bunny Template
  2. Color the Bunny Template
  3. Cut out the bunny’s features
  4. Glue the bunny’s features to the sandwich bag

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You can find My Funny Bunny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 21 – Absolutely Incredible Kid Day

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About the Holiday

Every kid is incredible! This special day, established by Camp Fire USA in 1997, gives adults an opportunity to tell the kids in their life how much they mean to them. Whether you write your special young person a letter or just sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk, your words of encouragement and appreciation will make a difference.

The Amazing Idea of You

Written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild | Illustrated by Mary Lundquist

 

Have you ever thought that a tiny apple seed holds “the idea of a tree?” And that if planted it “might take root / sprout / shoot up / into the blue?” Beginnings always contain the promise of a future filled with the excitement of more, the way “the caterpillar / creeping through grass / carries inside / the color and flutter / of a butterfly.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-amazing-idea-of-you-blue-bird

Image copyright Mary Lundquist, 2019, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild,, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

You began that way too. First as an idea and then, much loved and anticipated, as a promise growing and changing until you were born. “And look at you! What ideas are hidden inside of you?” Will you be musical? Love dancing or painting or adventure? Or perhaps you will create something brand new “for the whole world to share.”

You know what to do! Plant your ideas and tend them carefully as they grow and develop while you experience life with its sunny days and rainy days, warm days and cold. When you grow up, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished and the fruit your ideas have borne—for yourself and the world.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-amazing-idea-of-you-plant-seed

Image copyright Mary Lundquist, 2019, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild,, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Charlotte Sullivan Wild inspires children to find the promise that’s waiting inside each of them as they experiment with life and discover their special talents. Her cheerful, lyrical text uses examples kids will readily recognize. The lilting rhythm will mesmerize young readers as they take the message to heart. As they go out into the world, they’ll remember and reflect when they see an apple, a butterfly, a bird, and all the promise of nature.

Mary Lundquist’s tranquil and bucolic illustrations give a little girl free reign to play, strum, run, learn, and think as she grows from a curious baby and toddler to a creative and motivated teen to a mother herself who shares the abundant fruits of her labor with friends, neighbors, and others while continuing the natural cycle and her natural talents with her own children. Soft greens highlighted with vivid apple reds, rain-slicker yellows, and spring-sky blues make this a perfect book for quiet, contemplative story times.

An inspiring story that adults will love sharing with the children in their life, The Amazing Idea of You makes a wonderful gift for new babies, teachers, and anyone with a young child. The book is sure to be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681191836

Discover more about Charlotte Sullivan Wild and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Lundquist, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Absolutely Incredible Kid Day Activity

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Incredible You! Measuring Stick Craft

 

Looking for a unique way to measure your growth? This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of small and big growth spurts. You can even use it to record an idea or two as you age! 

Supplies

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

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Directions

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

How to Make the Leaves

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

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

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

How to Attach the Leaves

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

How to Store Your Yardstick

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-amazing-idea-of-you-cover

You can find The Amazing Idea of You at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 12 – National Plant a Flower Day

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About the Holiday

Spring is right around the corner and with it the beautiful blooms that color our yards, neighborhoods, and communities. In some places the flowers are already blossoming, while in others, people are eagerly waiting for the snow to melt so seeds and plants can grow again. If you’re looking forward to flower gardening—indoors or out—today’s the perfect day to start planning. Why not take a trip to your local nursery or garden supply store and stock up?

I received a copy of Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate from Millbrook Press to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Millbrook Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by Masha D’yans

 

Do you hear something? Yeah, me too. Oh! It’s the little purple prickly pear down there with all the other cacti. It seems it has something to say about plants. Okay, we’re listening.

“I want to clear up some of your crazy ideas about what the colors of our flowers mean.” You’ve got it all wrong if you think “red roses stand for love and white ones are good for weddings.” While that may be how you interpret the colors, that’s not what they’re really for.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-talk-cactu

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

“We use our flowers to talk to the animals” so that we can make seeds and more plants. To do that each plant needs pollen from another plant that’s the same kind. Our flowers are like big ads that attract just the right birds, bees, or butterflies to help us out. Lots of times if they’re hungry they fly from flower to flower and bring pollen along with them.

How does each bird or butterfly or bee know which flowers to visit? That’s where our colors come in! And it’s pretty fascinating. Birds can see a color that insects can’t, and they don’t have a good sense of smell. Can you guess which flowers they’re attracted to? How about bees? Which colors do you think they like the best? I’ll give you a hint: “scientists just figured out that bees have three favorite colors.” Of course, we flowers “have known this for ages. That’s why so many of us make flowers in these colors. We like the reliable help.” This is fun, right?

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

How about moths and bats—which flowers do you think they visit? The flowers even assist them in finding their way by putting “out perfume as an extra guide.” You may not like flies buzzing around you, but these color flowers love it. They put out a smell too, but I wouldn’t call it perfume—I don’t think you would either. There’s even a certain color flower that doesn’t talk to animals or insects at all. Go on, try to guess….

Colors aren’t the only trick flowers have either. Some are just the right shape—like mine. In fact, I’ve got to get going. “I’m making a new flower” and “I’m just about done with it.” Oh—what are the answers to the game we were playing? You’ll have to read my book and see!

Back matter includes an illustrated discussion about pollination, information on how to protect pollinators, and a list of other books for further reading.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

With appropriate attitude, Sara Levine’s hilarious and knowledgeable prickly pear narrator engages kids in witty banter while taking them on a colorful garden tour. As the cactus explains a plant’s growing cycle and the need for pollinators, the information it imparts is eye-opening for children and adults. Why and how each flower’s color and scent attract just the right pollinator is clearly described in conversational language that kids will laugh along with and learn from. Every page contains an “ah-ha” moment that will spark discussion and an excitement to plant a garden and watch nature at work.

Like a riotous field of wildflowers, Masha D’yan’s dazzling illustrations put colors on glorious display as the flowers lure insects and animals to them. D’yan’s detailed images provide a great place for young naturalists to start researching the various plants introduced. Depictions of the prickly pear, birds, and bees match the humor of Levine’s text . Kids will love lingering over the two-page spreads to point out the various animals and insects and how they interact with the plants. They’ll also like following the growth of the prickly pear’s bud as it grows bigger and blossoms.

A superb book for teaching children about this fascinating feature of flowers and plants as well as providing a guide for gardeners interested in attracting a variety of pollinators, Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate would be an outstanding addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 11

Millbrook Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1541519282

Discover more about Sara Levine and her books on her website.

To learn more about Masha D’yans, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Flower Talk Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Millbrook Press in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate written by Sara Levine | illustrated by Masha D’yans

This giveaway is open from March 12 through March 18 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 19.

Prizing provided by Millbrook Press

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

National Plant a Flower Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-pot-stake-craft

Flower Garden Stakes

 

It’s fun to start a garden from seeds, but how do you remember what you’ve planted where? With these easy to make garden stakes, you can mark your pots with style! 

Supplies

  • Wide craft sticks
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Colorful chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the stakes with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write the name of the different flowers or plants
  3. After planting your seeds, stick the stake in the pot 
  4. Wait for your seeds to grow!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-talk-cover

You can find Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 11 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

The month of March is a reading lover’s favorite! Why? Because from the 1st to the 31st, every day is dedicated to reading. Special events for adults and children take place at libraries, bookstores, community centers, and schools, bringing authors, illustrators, educators, and readers together to get them excited about this favorite past time. A love of reading is a life-long pleasure with so many benefits. 

A Little Chicken

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Dan Taylor

 

“Dot was a little chicken…who, let’s face it, was a little chicken.” There weren’t many things Dot wasn’t afraid of, including garden gnomes. Even though “Dot tried to be brave,” even the simplest things and the gentlest creatures frightened her. One day, though, while she was adding making their coop more secure, Dot knocked one of her siblings off the nest. All she could do was watch it roll away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-little-chicken-Dot

Image copyright Dan Taylor, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Or was there something else she could do? She plucked up her courage and ran after it. The egg was just within reach when it bounced away and took two hops across lily pads into the middle of the pond. Dot swung over the egg on a tall strand of grass and was just about to grab it when it was catapulted into a tall tree.

Dot climbed the tree and inched out onto a long branch. “She was this close when…” the branch broke and the egg broke away too—”into the deep…dark…woods.” She took one look and…decided “this was no time to be a little chicken.” She ran down the path in pursuit of her little brother or sister and finally caught that egg just as it began to crack. These days, while Dot is still afraid of many things, her little sister and the other chickens think she’s a hero—just “a big hero” who’s “just a little chicken.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-little-chicken-egg

Image copyright Dan Taylor, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Tammi Sauer’s upbeat story of a timid chicken who overcomes her fears in order to save her sibling is suspenseful, fast-paced, and sprinkled with humor. The story will have even the most cautious little ones cheering Dot on her quest and finding their own brave along the way. Dot’s sense of responsibility sparks the action and serves as a second gentle lesson in this well-conceived story. The ending, which embraces Dot’s wary nature while also revealing her heroic accomplishment, is a welcome message for hesitant children who are courageous in their own way.

Dan Taylor’s sweet Dot, with her oversized glasses and bright red overalls, will charm children looking for a hero who’s just their size. As Dot sets in motion her unhatched sibling and the story while installing a huge security camera and monitor in the coop, kids will alternately gasp and giggle at the suspenseful and humorous details on each page. The other chickens are delightfully supportive of Dot, which lends a sense of inclusiveness as they all rush out to cheer her heroic catch. Dot scrambles over a green meadow, hangs perilously over a lily pad covered pond, scurries up a tall tree, and flaps her way through a dark forest populated with a wolf, bears, and—most frightening of all—three garden gnomes.

A story of finding one’s courage at eggs-actly the right moment, A Little Chicken would be a heartening addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454929000

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dan Taylor, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With twelve little chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

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I’m sure you can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-little-chicken-cover

You can find A Little Chicken at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 1 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1997 by the National Education Association. Celebrated across the country, the day encourages children to discover a love of reading that will follow them throughout their life. Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and, begun early, it can be a powerful force for future success. Through reading, kids learn about the world, meet different people, laugh, cry, and are always entertained. To commemorate the day, authors, illustrators, politicians, athletes, librarians, and families hold special reading events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community centers. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. Visit your local bookstore or library and find some new books to share—or grab some favorites from your own shelf and enjoy them again!

I received a copy of Cavekid Birthday from Charlesbridge to check out. All opinions are y own. I’m excited to be partnering with Charlesbridge in a giveawy of Cavekid Birthday. See details below.

Cavekid Birthday

Written by Cathy Breisacher | Illustrated by Roland Garrigue

 

In two neighboring caves on the very same day, Caveboy and Cavegirl were born. They did everything together and grew to be best friends. “Eventually Caveboy discovered that he loved…rocks!” He showed Cavegirl his collection of shiny, spiny, smooth, and colorful rocks to Cavegirl and even taught her how “to play stone toss.” Cavegirl developed a love of tools—tools that she could dig, build, and paint with. She shared her tools with Caveboy and “taught him how to create masterpieces on cave walls.”

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

As their birthdays neared, Cavegirl tried making Caveboy a present, but her efforts failed. She decided to go to Caveman’s Collectibles to see what she could find. There, she spied a “‘Box for Caveboy’s rocks!’” Caveman was happy to make a trade. Cavegirl said, “‘Have nothing to trade except…tools!’” It took all ten of Cavegirl’s tools to get the box, but she knew Caveboy would love it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cavekid-birthday-unwrapping-caveman-cavegirl

Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Meanwhile, Caveboy was making a present for Cavegirl. He had no luck either, so he hurried down to Caveman’s Collectibles. Inside, he spied the perfect gift: “‘Box for Cavegirl’s tools,’” he told Caveman. This box cost twenty rocks—all that Caveboy had—but he knew Cavegirl would love it. When they exchanged gifts, they ripped off the wrapping and…. Without tools or rocks to keep in the boxes, they found other uses for them. They were great for playing hide-and-seek and making carts to race in, but they began to miss their old favorite things.

They went back to Caveman Collectibles and told Caveman their dilemma. “‘Make trade?’ they asked.” For their rocks and tools, Caveboy and Cavegirl gave Caveman a shiny polished and painted store. And Cavegirl and Caveboy? They had best birthday ever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cavekid-birthday-unwrapping-gifts

Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Cathy Breisacher knows how much kids love to rock their birthdays. In her original story set in a precociously prehistoric time, Breisacher chisels a funny and touching tale about the true meaning of friendship. Cavegirl and Caveboy only pause for a moment before trading their most precious belongings to get a gift for the other. Without things to put inside the boxes, Caveboy and Cavegirl—like kids of all eras—find other creative ways to use them. When they begin to miss their rocks and tools, instead of feeling regret they work together to devise an innovative way to get them back—and make Caveman happy too. Kids will be wrapped up in the suspense and enjoy hearing—and repeating—Breisacher’s cavespeak, and in the end will take the ever-timely lesson to heart.

There are plenty of hairy moments in Cavekid Birthday, and Roland Garrigue takes full advantage to create wild and wooly (mammoth) illustrations to accompany the story. Caveboy and Cavegirl play hide-and-seek among dinosaur bones, race their bear and elephant ancestor pets, and may be the world’s first collector and artist. Hilarious modern-primitive mash-ups—like furry, animal skin wrapping paper—will have kids laughing and pointing out the anachronisms.

Children would love finding Cavekid Birthday among their gifts, and adding the book to home, classroom, and library shelves will ensure a sweet and timeless story time.

Ages 4 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2019 | ISBN 978-1580898768

Discover more about Cathy Breisacher and her books on her website.

To learn more about Roland Garrigue, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Book trailer good! Watch. Fun!

Meet Cathy Breisacher

011CB

Thank you for having me!  I love your questions.  They were a lot of fun to answer.  I’m excited to have an opportunity to share a bit about myself and my books.

I love the prehistoric setting of your book. What was it about this time period and these characters that attracted you?

One day, I spotted an adorable clipart image of a cavegirl and a caveboy. That image got me thinking about how fun it would be to write a story with cavekids as the main characters. I’m glad I chose them, especially once I decided to write a story with a Gift of the Magi twist. Using the prehistoric setting for this theme seemed like a great idea since cavekids had no money, and they really wouldn’t have had many possessions. I’m sure cavekids had a few items they treasured, so thinking along these lines helped me to craft the story.

Roland Garrigue, the illustrator, shared with me that he loved the idea of kids having a Mammoth and a Cave Bear as pets. His art work is so detailed and charming. I adore the caves, the animals, and the cavekids that he drew. Cave art intrigues me and I enjoyed researching and learning about places such as the Cave of Lascaux in France.  It’s been educational for me to work on this book because I have been imagining what life would have been like a long, long time ago. And, in my libraries, it’s been fun talking to students about prehistoric life as well.

Which would you collect—rocks or tools—and why?

I would definitely collect tools. I enjoy painting, just like Cavegirl! And even though I’m not much of a gardener, I do think I’m pretty handy whenever my husband and I take on home projects. I have a makerspace in my library and I enjoy making things. My husband, on the other hand, is a rock collector. He studied Geology in college and he is always picking up rocks and bringing them home.

What were a few of your favorite books when you were a child? Do you have a special memory related to any of the books you liked?

I loved Ramona Quimby. I read all the Ramona books, and the rest of Beverly Cleary’s books, too. For picture books, I read and reread the Frances books by Russell Hoban. I also loved Madeline and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.   

Did you always like to write? What inspired you to write picture books?

I have always enjoyed writing. When I was in elementary school, I liked to draw and write, and my teachers always complimented me and encouraged me to keep at it. I was drawn to the magic of picture books when I was in graduate school studying to become an Elementary School Counselor. At the campus library, there was a room for Education majors filled with picture books. It was wonderful. I would get caught up in the stories (ones that I remembered from my childhood and new ones that I wanted to use in the classroom). I started thinking about how fun it would be to write my own books someday. But I didn’t actually pursue this idea until several years later. One day, I received a brochure in the mail about a Children’s Book Writing Conference in Chautauqua, New York put on by the Highlights Foundation. I was so intrigued.  The conference was absolutely amazing.  I left that conference feeling inspired to write picture book stories that would someday be in kids’ hands.

One of the best parts about being an elementary school librarian must be reading books with students. Do you have any memorable anecdote about story time you’d like to share? 

Story time is so special.  Kids’ reactions are the best and they say the funniest things. Recently I read Tammi Sauer’s book Knock Knock (illustrated by Guy Francis). After the story, kids eagerly began raising their hands and telling their own knock knock jokes. As soon as one student told a joke, the next kid’s hand went up, and on and on it went. Very few of their jokes made any sense, but they were cracking themselves up and it made me smile. You never know what will happen during story time.

Probably my favorite story to read during story time is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen).  Kids are so amazed at how Sam and Dave keep digging around the diamonds. The students start yelling at the characters as the story is being read. It’s fantastic. The page turns in this book work so well.  The storytelling is brilliant.

Congratulations on your second picture book—Chip and Curly: The Great Potato Race—which is being released in May! This looks like another fun and original story full of humor. Can you talk a little more about this book and how it came to be?

This book is a story about two potatoes, Chip and Curly, who compete against each other in Spud City’s Annual sack race. Chip has his heart set on winning the Golden Bushel Award, but when Curly shows up with a spring in his step, Chip is worried. He practices and gains admiration from the other taters in town, but he wonders if he will be able to get this win in the bag or if his dreams of winning will be mashed.

Chip and Curly cover

I had such a fun time coming up with a list of all of the kinds of potatoes there are, and generating a list of words and phrases associated with potatoes. There is an Annual Potato Festival close to where I live, and I enjoy going to it. That event was really the inspiration for this book. While strolling alongside the craft booths one year, I felt inspired to write a book with potatoes as the characters. After some thought, I knew I wanted the story to address competition.  Following several drafts of this story, it occurred to me that a sack race would be the perfect situation for potato characters to be in.

I wanted to have fun with this story and fill it with potato puns to make both adults and kids chuckle. I hope readers will see how enjoyable it can be to play with words and language. The illustrations by Joshua Heinsz are colorful and bright, and readers will want to keep their eyes peeled for the variety of potato characters that appear on the pages. Finally, and probably most importantly, this book touches on the themes of friendship, competition, and the idea that winning isn’t everything. I want readers to think about how good it feels when we practice good sportsmanship. This is a meaningful topic to discuss with children, especially in light of today’s climate. Chip and Curly, the Great Potato Race will release on May 15, 2019 and is published by the incredibly talented team at Sleeping Bear Press.

What are you most looking forward to about being a published author?

I am looking forward to meeting new people—young readers as well as adults: parents, authors, illustrators, bookstore owners, librarians, teachers, and folks in the publishing industry. I can’t wait to make these wonderful connections. I am also looking forward to writing new stories and sharing them with the world.

What’s up next for you?

I have two manuscripts I’m working on right now, and my agent has a couple of my other stories out on submission.  I will be traveling a bit this spring and summer to promote my two books.  I will be posting the list of events on my website at www.cathybreisacher.com.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is holiday based, I have to ask—what’s your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love being around family and celebrating the true reason for the season. There is always an extra skip in people’s step between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It’s not just a one-day celebration. The festivities last for a month and get-togethers and fun activities bring people together. It’s a time of the year when there is so much joy, love, and hope.  Interesting note: the earliest drafts of my cavekid story were called Cavekid Christmas, but after a series of revisions, it became Cavekid Birthday.

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share?

Many years ago, I had a chance to spend Thanksgiving in New York City and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person instead of watching it on TV. I watch the parade every year, but to see it in person was truly magical.

Thanks, Cathy! I’ve really enjoyed our chat and getting to know you better! I wish you all the best with Cavekid Birthday and, along with all of your readers, can’t wait to meet Chip and Curly!

You can connect with Cathy Breisacher on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Cavekid Birthday Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Charlesbridge in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Cavekid Birthday written by Cathy Breisacher | illustrated by Roland Garrigue

This giveaway is open from March 1 through March 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 8.

Prizing provided by Charlesbridge

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

Read Across America Day Activity

celebrate=picture-books-picture-book-review-shaving-cream-wrapping-paper-gifts

Homemade Shaving Cream Wrapping Paper

 

If you have birthdays coming up or plans to give a book or two for Read Across America Day, grab the kids and have fun making this wrapping paper that has a high hands-on coolness factor.

Supplies

  • 1 can of shaving cream
  • Food coloring
  • Shallow baking tray
  • Frosting spatula or regular spatula
  • Toothpicks or skewer for swirling food coloring
  • White paper, computer paper works well

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaving-cream-wrapping-paper-drying

Directions

  1. Squirt the shaving cream onto the tray in small amounts and spread into a thin layer with the spatula
  2. Squeeze a few drops of different colored food coloring onto the shaving cream
  3. With the toothpick or skewer gently swirl the colors. Alternately, gently smooth the colors around and together with the icing spatula.
  4. Lay a piece of white paper on top of the shaving cream
  5. Gently pat the paper all over. Do not submerge the paper in the shaving cream.
  6. Lift the paper up and place on the table
  7. Let sit for a few minutes
  8. Scrape the shaving cream off the paper and let the paper dry
  9. To wrap larger boxes, tape several pieces of paper together

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cavekid-birthday-cover

You can find Cavekid Birthday at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review