December 11 – It’s Write a Friend Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

During the month of December people like to reach out to friends near and far and share the events of the past year. Write a Friend Month commemorates such communication and encourages writers to pick up a pen and paper and send a “real letter” full of intriguing details that inspire a response. Finding a letter or card in the mailbox still makes people smile. So, why not take a little time this month to write a letter to your friends?

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-castle

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-washing-kitten

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-sky-diving

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-picnic

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, which can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-flying

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

The fun dual-meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot Dear Dragon book trailer!

Write a Friend Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-front-eyes-down

Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-top-of-head

To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-bottom-snout

To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-back

Picture Book Review

December 5 – Bathtub Party Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-your-lion-needs-a-bath-cover

About the Holiday

In a rush? Just jumping in for a quick shower? Slow down, relax, and enjoy a good soak! Today’s holiday gives you permission to luxuriate a little with a nice, warm bath. So grab some bath salts or a fizzy bath bomb and start the water running. Kids will love a before-bed bath with bubbles and toys!

When Your Lion Needs a Bath

Written by Susanna Leonard Hill | Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

 

What is up with the little boy’s pet lion? He’s dirty and disheveled and…smelly. He definitely needs a bath. But getting a lion into the tub can be a little tough. After all they are cats, “and have you ever met a cat who likes water?” But, if you’re determined, there’s a certain order to things when you’re trying to bathe your lion. First, you have to get everything ready because once the lion is in the tub, “you’ll have to work fast.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-your-lion-needs-a-bath-bath-ready

Image copyright Daniel Wiseman, 2017, text copyright Susanna Leonard Hill, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Getting the lion in the tub in the first place takes stealth and cunning. You don’t want your lion to realize what’s happening. You can try getting him to chase a toy mouse, but sometimes that just results in a dizzy lion. Perhaps he’d follow “a ball with a bell inside.” Or maybe he’ll just send all your toys flying! Cats love pouncing on yarn! There he goes…! But wait! How did he get so tangled up?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-your-lion-needs-a-bath-tricks

Image copyright Daniel Wiseman, 2017, text copyright Susanna Leonard Hill, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Maybe a dog can chase him into the tub. Don’t cats run away from dogs? Hmmm…not lion cats, I guess. Well, who can resist an ice cream sundae? Build the biggest “brownie banana butterscotch berry marshmallow marmalade strawberry-smothered caramel-covered peanutty-buttered double-dip chocolate-chip triple-whipped jelly-bean sundae supreme. Too much?” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-your-lion-needs-a-bath-ball

Image copyright Daniel Wiseman, 2017, text copyright Susanna Leonard Hill, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Then why not try a simpler approach: go fishing! Just “tie a feather to your fishing line and cast!”  (Over the tub, of course!) Got ‘em! Now “quick!” Squirt and scrub and rinse! Great! Now he’s “squeaky clean.” But watch out! There he goes! “You probably should have closed the door.” He just jumped right back into the mud puddle. You too? “Looks like your lion needs another bath. And so do you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-your-lion-needs-a-bath-sundae

Image copyright Daniel Wiseman,, 2017, text copyright Susanna Leonard Hill, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Susanna Leonard Hill’s race to lure a lion into an unwanted, but much-needed, bath is madcap fun for young readers. The boy’s many attempts to chase his lion into the tub will set little ones giggling as they think of their own bath-time antics or the challenges of washing their own pets. The funny suggestions may lead kids to think of their own sneaky solutions, which would make this book a great prompt for classrooms or home reading time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-your-lion-needs-a-bath-lion

Image copyright Daniel Wiseman, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Kids will be enchanted by Daniel Wiseman’s puff-maned lion who likes to play more than preen and the sweet boy determined to tempt his pet into the tub. Wiseman’s charming illustrations enhance the humor as the lion enthusiastically pounces on each enticement but without the intended results. As the lion finally goes from “smelly” to sparkling and then takes off for the mud puddle again, kids will find the boy’s choice funny and satisfying.

When Your Lion Needs a Bath will be an often-asked-for addition to toddlers’ and young readers’ home book shelves and in daycare, preschool, and kindergarten classrooms. 

Ages 2 – 4

Simon and Schuster Little Simon Board Book, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481495028

Discover more about Susanna Leonard Hill and her books on her website.

View a gallery of art work by Daniel Wiseman on his website.

Jump into this jazzy When Your Lion Needs a Bath book trailer!

Bathtub Party Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bathtub-clings-craft

Homemade Bath Clings

 

Instead of buying bathtub clings for your kids to play with, make some yourself! It’s easy with regular foam sheets, cookie cutters or stencils, and scissors! Make it a family activity and watch the shower of creativity that results!

Supplies

  • Foam sheets in various colors
  • Cookie cutters or stencils
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Trace cookie cutter shapes or stencils onto the foam 
  2. And/Or cut squares, triangles, rectangles, circles, and other shapes from the foam in a variety of sizes
  3. Cut out the shapes
  4. Wet the backs of the shapes with water and stick them to the tub or tiled or lined wall. Shapes will also stick with a little shaving gel or cream applied

Picture Book Review

December 2 – National Mutt Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-cover

About the Holiday

Today we honor mutts—those sweet-natured, mixed-breed dogs that make wonderful pets and companions. Did you know that mixed-breed dogs tend to be healthier, are better behaved, and live longer than pure-bred dogs? Unfortunately, mutts make up the largest percentage of dogs found at shelters and are often passed over in favor of their pure-bred counterparts. Today’s holiday was established in 2005 and is also celebrated on July 31 to raise awareness of the wonderful characteristics of mixed-breed dogs and the benefits of adopting a mutt into your family. If you are considering adding a dog or puppy to your household, check out the mutts at your local shelter. You may just end up with a friend as adorable and unique as the sweetie in today’s book!

Shark Dog!

By Ged Adamson

 

When you have a dad who’s an explorer, life can be full of adventures. There are fabulous trips to far-flung places where you see “beautiful butterflies and strange plants, tortoises as big as cars, and colorful birds in huge trees.” Yes, the days can be magical, but they can be mysterious too. How? Well, listen to this amazing story…

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-submarine

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Hi! You heard about the incredible trip with the butterflies and tortoises, right? Great! But what you didn’t hear is how on that same trip “I had a strange feeling I was being followed.” I even heard a strange noise toward the back of our boat, but I was so tired I didn’t investigate. In the middle of the night, though, “something woke me from a deep, peaceful sleep. Something slobbery!” You’ll never in a million years guess what it was. Next to my bunk was the oddest creature I ever saw—a little guy that was “half dog and half shark.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-turtle

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Dad was as surprised as I was. But the best part was that he said I could keep him. As soon as we landed on shore, Shark Dog was off like a shot, checking out the surroundings…in his own special way. Let’s just say when Shark Dog dove into the fountain, all the other creatures dove out, and at the park, while other dogs retrieved sticks, Shark Dog retrieved a whole tree.

Sometimes Shark Dog seemed to get his sharkiness and his doginess a little mixed up, but at all times he “was a fun friend to have around.” As you might imagine, Shark Dog loved the beach even though there could be a lot of screaming and panicked paddling when his fin popped up among the waves. One day, the beach was extra exciting. Shark Dog spied another shark dog and was super happy—until he saw that it was just a rubber floaty.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-swim-fins

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

“For the first time, my Shark Dog was sad,” and he stayed sad. When he saw a travel poster of a far-flung ocean paradise, he even shed a tear. Dad thought we should take him home. This time we traveled by plane, and it was like the other shark dogs knew he was coming because as soon as we landed he “got the most wonderful welcome.” We spent a fantastic day with Shark Dog and his friends. The next morning, I gave Shark Dog a hug goodbye, and Dad and I started home.

But before we got too far, we saw Shark Dog following our raft. Then when we transferred aboard ship, so did Shark Dog—with one flying leap. It seemed that Shark Dog made a choice. “And that was just fine with me.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-beach-fun

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Ged Adamson’s unique and funny story will delight pet owners, pet dreamers, and dog and shark aficionados alike. The little shark-dog hybrid, with his long snout, sturdy body, and sweet expression, is everything a friend should be as he plays along no matter what the escapade. Infused with lots of heart, Adamson’s story is also a reassuring choice for kids facing a move, a new school, or other new experiences. Just like Shark Dog, young readers will see that old friends remain true, new friends can be pretty great too, and exploring outside one’s comfort zone can open up a whole world of adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-exploring

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Adamson’s artwork is loaded with personality, humor, and emotion highlighted with the vibrant palette and chalked-in details that make his illustrations so distinctive. Those familiar with Adamson’s picture books may notice winks to his other characters among the pages. Kids will love Dad, all decked out in retro gear and sporting wavy, red hair and a handlebar mustache. Both boys and girls will identify with the child narrator, who is dressed in gender-neutral clothing and tells the story from the first-person point of view without gender-specific pronouns.

Shark Dog! is a jaunty exploration of friendship that kids will love to take again and again. The book would make a fun addition to any home library.

Discover more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his artwork on his website!

This beachy Shark Dog! book trailer is fin-tastic! Take a look!

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062457134

National Mutt Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pet-maze

Adopt a New Friend Maze

 

This detective and her mutt are looking for another puppy to join the team! Can you help them find their way to a new friend in this Adopt a New Friend Maze

Picture Book Review

November 30 – It’s Sleep Comfort Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing that refreshes quite as much as a good night’s sleep. That’s why, during Sleep Comfort Month, people are encouraged to take stock of the amount of sleep they get each night. If you lie awake late into the night (or even early morning) and feel sluggish the next day, you may want to consider changing your nightly routine. Limiting light and screen time before bed, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and having a set pre-sleep activity like reading or journaling can help you fall asleep quickly and deeply. Children, especially, benefit from a nighttime routine.

The Way Home in the Night

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

A mother rabbit carries her little bunny home down familiar lamp-lit streets. As they pass the bookshop and the restaurant, they see the workers closing up for the night. The streets are quiet and deserted, adorned with a golden patchwork of light from the windows along the way. Through the windows the bunny sees and hears the neighbors. A phone rings at Mr. Goat’s, the delicious aroma of a pie wafts from Ms. Sheep’s. “A light flickers” where perhaps “someone is watching TV,” and next door “it sounds like there is a big party.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-street-scene

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny peers into one window just in time to see two mice saying goodbye. As they approach their own house, the little rabbit’s father joins them. Soon, the bunny knows, it will be time to be tucked into bed. At home Daddy Rabbit pulls up the blankets on his dozing child. Out the window, a crescent moon lights the sky. “Snug under my covers,” the bunny thinks “about the way home. Are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the person on the phone getting ready for bed?” The cook may be taking a long, hot bath, and the bookseller may be “reading on the couch.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-tucked-into-shop

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny wonders if the pie is being shared and whether all the lighted windows are now dark. The last thing the bunny hears before drifting off to sleep are soft footsteps going by and imagines the mouse is walking to the station to take the train home. Throughout town the bright checkerboard windows keep watch as the long, illuminated trains speed past. “Some nights are ordinary, and other nights are special. But every night we all go home to bed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-tucked-into-bed

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi sleepy, atmospheric bedtime story reflects all the comfort and mystery that nighttime inspires in little ones. The loving child/parent relationship is sweetly depicted in the beautiful, understated acts of the bunny’s being carried home through the softly lit streets and tucked into bed under warm covers. The glimpses into the neighbor’s windows provides a unifying sense of community as do the final pages that pan out to include the entire town and the idea of the wider world traversed by the bright trains coming and going from the station.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-carrying

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Miyakoshi’s black, gray, and sepia-toned pencil, charcoal, and gouache illustrations are set aglow with the welcoming light emanating from windows and streetlamps and accented with spots of color in clothing and homey touches. The windows frame cozy vignettes of family life, and young readers may like to imagine their own stories of what is happening in each. Gender neutral clothing and a lack of pronouns makes this a universal book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-on-the-phone

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The Way Home in the Night is a cozy, quiet book that is just right for soothing little ones to sleep while giving them the happy assurance of love, commitment, and connection to their world. An exquisite addition to bedtime books, The Way Home in the Night would make a wonderful gift and a favorite choice on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 6

Kids Can Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1771386630

To learn more about Akiko Miyakoshi, her work, and her books, visit her website.

Sleep Comfort Month Activity

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

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy
  3. Snuggle up!

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Gratitude Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-cover

About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during this season our thoughts turn to giving to others and the fun of getting a little something too, it’s good to be mindful of and grateful for the things we already have. More is not always better—as today’s book humorously demonstrates.

Pig the Elf

By Aaron Blabey

 

Trevor wrote Santa Claus a very pleasant note asking for something nice for Christmas. He even ended it with a declaration of love. His note sits on the table propped against a glass of milk next to a plate of gingerbread cookies and another of carrots in the living room decorated for Christmas Eve. Everyone’s feeling festive—especially Pig who giggles “with glee— / ‘The presents! The presents! / For ME! ME! ME! ME!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-christmas-eve

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

His list stretches on like a long country road and contains items galore, like “a motorcycle, a rocket, a drum set, a pony, a skateboard, a cotton candy maker….” After all, “Santa takes orders,” right? Pig can’t wait for Santa’s arrival. He picks up poor Trevor and shouts “‘When will he get here? / Oh, WHEN? / TELL ME WHEN?!’” But when Trevor mentions sleeping, Pig isn’t having it. “‘I’m sitting up late! / I’ll be here when he comes! / I declare by the stockings / and gingerbread crumbs!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig's-list

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

So as Trevor climbs the stairs to go to bed, Pig hides behind the tall tree. Finally, at three thirty-three he hears a sound. Pig peeks around and sees Santa with a bag full of toys. He leaves Trevor and Pig presents in tidy little stacks and then turns his attention to his snack. But as he’s drinking his milk, Pig pops out, yelling “‘HEY!’” He complains about the few packages left on the floor, reminding Santa that he asked for much more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig-peeking

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

But Santa has other presents to deliver, so he heads back up the chimney. Just as Santa’s about to disappear, Pig takes a big bite of his pants and doesn’t let go even as Santa climbs out of the chimney and runs pell-mell over the roof to his sleigh. Pig begs, “‘Don’t be a cheapskate! / I want all my stuff! / The pile that you left me / Is just not enough!’”

Santa quickly jumps in, and the reindeer take off at top speed. Pig’s grasp is no match for the zooming sleigh, and he plunges through the night sky toward the center of town. In a miraculous turn of events, though, Pig “survived that big drop, / and was saved by a tree…with an angel on top.”

The back cover endpapers display part of Pig’s list with amusing asides and a changing number of desired skateboards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-santa-running

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey knows that Pig the Pug just can’t resist the allure of presents and has written a funny, over-the-top story of what can happen when someone’s list is all get and no give. Blabey’s rollicking rhymes and free-wheeling dialog will make kids giggle at Pig’s insatiable appetite and unbridled impatience. Fairly popping out of his red hooded sleeper, Pig is a boisterous foil to the real Santa. As Pig hangs on to Santa for dear life, kids of a certain age will laugh out loud. When Pig falls directly atop the town Christmas tree, readers may be cheered to find that he can indeed be a little angel.

For fans of Pig the Pug, kids who like slapstick humor, and adult readers who enjoyed the antics of Alvin the Chipmunk, Pig the Elf is a fun holiday read.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Pig the Elf to check out. All opinions are my own.

Scholastic Press, 2017 |ISBN 978-1338221220

Discover more about Aaron Blabey and his books on his website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thank-you-card-template

Personalized Thank You Card

 

Often the best gift you can give someone is a “Thank You!” With this printable Thank You card, you can let someone know how much you appreciate them by drawing and writing a special message.

You can even get creative! Write a story, draw a picture, make a cartoon, or use a little glitter! You can also attach this to something you bake or make. Why not give the important people in your life a personalized thank you? It’s guaranteed to be appreciated!

Picture Book Review

November 28 – It’s Picture Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-cover

About the Holiday

Picture books are one of a child’s best gifts! As this month’s literary holiday draws to a close and the gift-giving season opens, consider giving books to the young children and even babies on your shopping list.  Head to your local bookstore to find plenty of exciting and inspiring titles for any child. Not quite sure what to get? Ask your bookseller for a recommendation!

My First Book of Patterns

Written by Bobby and June George | Illustrated by Boyoun Kim

 

Patterns are part of learning from day one. As babies begin navigating and becoming alert to their world, they see, hear, and react to visual and linguistic patterns that inform and form their perceptions of their surroundings and their language. Sharing and making shapes and patterns with children also help them develop an early awareness and understanding of math concepts which translates into future success in school.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-diamond-and-line

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and Jane George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

My First Book of Patterns introduces the youngest readers to nine types of shapes and patterns.. As the book progresses, the text follows its own pattern, allowing children to anticipate what words are coming and giving older listeners the opportunity to read along.

The eye-popping color and dynamic scenes will keep any child enthralled, whether you are sharing the book all at once or just dipping in for a page or two at a time. Speaking of which… let’s check it out! First up is that fundamental shape, the line! A single white line on a pink background is pretty neat, but “a lot of lines make… Stripes!” And stripes can be found all over the underwater landscape—on the turtle’s shell, marking the various rocks, decorating the jellyfish, and coloring the fish and coral.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-argyle

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and June George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

When that thin line is joined by a thick line and the pattern is repeated, they make plaid. And…Wow! A whole town made of plaid! Blue and purple plaid shirts; green, red, and yellow plaid skirts; plaid backpacks; plaid bags; plaid awnings; and even plaid buildings! This is one city that loooves plaid! Next, is a zig-zag. “A lot of zig-zags make…Chevron!” Look at all the toys decorated in chevron! Little cars, little trains, books, a jack-in-the-box, and blocks too! Hmmm…it seems there are also some lines in this toy shop. Do you think so, too?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-toys

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Ah, the square! “A lot of squares make…Checks!” Out on the ocean it’s a checkerboard extravaganza with sails, boats, and even the lighthouse all made out of checks. After the square comes the circle, and lots of circles are called polka dots. Polka dots make everything look cute—from placemats to bowls to vases to…fruit? You bet! Hey! Some of that fruit looks like an individual circle—pretty cool!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-ocean

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Now the shapes are getting a little more complex. Repeating diamond shapes make harlequin; patterns of diamonds and lines make argyle; connected hexagons form honeycomb; and topsy-turvy teardrops become paisley. And what do you get with a field of flowers? Floral, of course—which makes everything look like springtime!

Ready to go through them again? Open the gate-fold pages and find an ice-cream shop full of your favorite pattern flavor ready to enjoy again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-square

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and Jane George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Bobby and June George, Montessori educators, present a book that is both straightforward and creative—inviting all children to interact with it in whatever way most resonates with them. Boyoun Kim’s stylistic illustrations add vitality and enthusiasm to each shape and pattern as the introductory pages allow children to see the basic shape or pattern and then give way to a two-page spread where the pattern can be found on a variety of objects.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-harlequin

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and June George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Like a scavenger hunt, these scenes also let little ones find the shapes, such as squares, circles, lines, rectangles, and triangles along the way or on repeated readings. There are also plenty of opportunities for adults to point out or allow their children to find other examples of patterns within the scenes.

My First Book of Patterns is a sturdy board book that makes it a great choice for babies and very young children and also for taking along on outdoor jaunts or for waiting times.

Ages 1 – 6

Phaidon, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714872490

To learn more about Bobby George and his work, visit his website.

Read more about June George and her Montessori school on the baan dek website.

Discover more about Boyoun Kim and view a gallery of her art work on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-worm-bookmark

Book Worm Bookmark

 

If you love books print and color this Book Worm Bookmark. This avid reader will help you keep your place in your favorite books!

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins and Needles Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-cover

About the Holiday

Originally established to celebrate the pro-labor Broadway play Pins and Needles that opened in 1937 on this date, today’s holiday has come to commemorate that pins-and-needles nervous or excited feeling that certain events cause. That electric anticipation is especially experienced at this time of year and is often the lead-in to momentous achievements—as today’s book shows!

Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

 

Today was the day! Jabari was going to jump off the diving board at the local swimming pool. Sure, the board “was high and maybe a little scary,” but Jabari had taken swimming lessons and passed his test, and he was ready. “‘I’m a great jumper,’ said Jabari, ‘so I’m not scared at all.’” As he and his dad approached the pool, Jabari watched other kids springing into the air from the diving board and plunging into the water below.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-at-the-pool

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

“‘Looks easy,’ Jabari said. But when his dad squeezed his hand, Jabari squeezed back.” Jabari stopped at the base of the ladder and looked up, up, up. He let the other kids in line go ahead of him while he thought about “what kind of special jump” he was going to do. Pretty soon he was the only one left at the ladder.

Jabari climbed up rung after rung. Part way up, he realized just how tall the ladder really was. When his dad asked him if he was all right, Jabari told him he was a little tired. His dad suggested “a tiny rest.” Jabari backed down, and when he got to the ground, he decided he needed to stretch. After loosening up, he and his dad looked at the diving board again. “‘I think tomorrow might be a better day for jumping,’ Jabari said.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-stretching

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jabari’s dad knelt down and told his son that he felt scared too sometimes. When that happened, he said, he would take a deep breath and tell himself he was ready. Sometimes he realized he actually was, and it felt “‘a little like a surprise.’” That sounded good to Jabari because he liked surprises. He breathed deeply and began his climb. At the top, he walked to the end of the diving board, grabbed the edge with his toes, and looked down. Then he looked out at the horizon. “He felt like he was ready. ‘I love surprises,’ he whispered.”

He bounced into the air and as the others below waited for him, he jumped. “Jabari hit the water with a SPLASH!” He floated down and then sprang back up. “‘You did it!’” his dad celebrated. “‘I did it!’ said Jabari. ‘I’m a great jumper!’” He ran to the ladder and climbed up for his next dive: a “surprise double backflip.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-splash

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Often in life taking big leaps can be scary—for adults as well as kids. Gaia Cornwall’s jubilant story of a little boy working up the courage to try the unknown of the diving board offers both support and comfort. Knowing that his son has it in him to accomplish his goal, Jabari’s dad provides not only the gentle nudge he needs but also the permission to decide on his own when the time is right. Cornwall’s straightforward telling sprinkled with good advice will resonate with children and is applicable for many new experiences.

Cornwall’s watercolor, pencil, and collage illustrations abound in the excitement of a day out with Dad. The loving relationship of the family is evident in their smiles, the way the father squeezes Jabari’s hand and bends down to offer encouragement, and the joyful celebration of both Dad and Jabari’s younger sister after Jabari’s jump. The diverse group of swimmers at the pool play, laugh, and talk together, giving readers much to enjoy on each detailed page. Cornwall’s beautiful palette of blues and greens accented by structures rendered from printed pages of text, highlights the buoyancy of the story.

Jabari Jumps is a wonderful story to add to any child’s or classroom bookshelf for those times when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763678388

Discover more about Gaia Cornwall and her work as well as activity sheets on her website

Jump into this Jabari Jumps book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Soothing Sand

 

When you feel nervous or on pins and needles, this easy-to-make kinetic sand can help you relax as the sand slips through your fingers.

Supplies

  • 1 cup of play sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • About ¾ cup of Water or as needed
  • Bin or larger bowl
  • Small bowl

Directions

  1. The amount of water you use will depend on the consistency of the sand
  2. In a bin or bowl, combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  3. In the small bowl combine the dish soap and water and stir until the water is bubbly
  4. Slowly pour some of the water/dish soap mixture into the sand/cornstarch mixture and mix well.
  5. Continue mixing, adding a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached

Picture Book Review