December 14 – It’s Cat Lover’s Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re a cat lover, then you know how these little balls of fluff can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Vincent Comes Home

By Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley

 

“Vincent lived on a cargo ship. His paws had never touched land.” He liked living onboard the ship—there was plenty of fish to eat, seagulls to chase, and freedom to roam. At night he loved to gaze at the twinkling stars. His home, the Domus sailed to ports all over the world picking up and delivering goods. The ship was “always coming and going. Never staying.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-ship

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Although Vincent loved seeing all of the new and exciting places, he could only experience them from afar. He also enjoyed looking at all of the souvenirs in the captain’s cabin. “They seemed to have visited every place imaginable. Every place except one.” Vincent heard the crew talking about a place called Home. It sounded amazing, and the little cat wanted to go there some day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-galley

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When the ship docked the next day, “Vincent heard the first mate shout, ‘We’re HOME!!!’” Vincent couldn’t wait to see this exciting place. When he looked over the ship’s rail, though, this city looked like many others. He couldn’t see why it was so special. Vincent decided to follow one of the crew to find out. As soon as the “crewman opened the door, a bunch of people yelled ‘WELCOME HOME!’” Everyone inside hugged and kissed the crewman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-crewman's-home

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Vincent looked in other windows and saw the same things there. He decided that Home wasn’t really a place but where the people who loved you lived. “I guess I don’t have a Home,” he thought. He wandered around town and gazed at the familiar stars. Just then he heard a voice he knew. It was the captain. “‘I’ve been looking all over for you!’” he said. He picked Vincent up and scratched his chin and belly. “‘Let’s go home,’” he told Vincent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-captain-finds-vincent

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jessixa and Aaron Bagley’s endearing story about the meaning of Home will charm young readers who are beginning to navigate their own way in the world, leaving home for school and activities. Their lyrical storytelling offers tender comfort and heartwarming reassurance that Home is rich with those who love you and is always there waiting for your return. 

Beautiful watercolors bring to life the unique cargo ship setting, with its vibrant containers and world port-to-port schedule as well as the homey galley, staterooms, and common areas that make Domus a well-chosen name. Seen from afar, the European city, tropical island, and arctic vista—as well as the captain’s cabin filled with posters and souvenirs from the Domus’s trips—will entice young readers to do a bit of armchair traveling themselves. But, like Vincent, they will embrace their own home as the most wonderful place in the world.

A thoughtful book for children just entering school or other new situations or to share the warmth of home, Vincent Comes Home would be a welcome addition to personal or classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626727809

Discover more about Jessixa Bagley, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Aaron Bagley, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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

A Little Ball of Love Craft

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cover

You can find Vincent Comes Home at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Hot Cocoa Day

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

About the Holiday

There may be no hot drink that dispels the frostiness of winter like hot cocoa. Whether you make it from cocoa powder or from a pack, add extra flavors like peppermint or cinnamon or enjoy it straight, top it with whipped cream or marshmallows, hot chocolate is a favorite for cozy snuggling. And if you think that hot cocoa is too indulgent, you’ll be happy to know that it actually has health benefits. Used medicinally up until the 19th century, this warm drink contains antioxidants that protect against cancer, flavonoids that help with arterial health, and elements that aid in digestion. So sit down with a good book and enjoy a cup – or two!

When the Snow Falls

Written by Linda Booth Sweeney | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

A little curly-haired girl and her younger brother wake up from a sleepover with Grandma to a magical sight. As they gaze out the big picture window in the little girl’s room, they’re dazzled to see “When the snow falls…Frost paints. / Skies gray. / Windows sparkle/ Snow? Yay!” There’s no school today, so Mommy and Daddy and Grandma bundle up and get the kids ready to head outdoors to take care of the farm animals.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-kitchen

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

Soft flakes flutter down, piling into deep drifts and providing a little extra after-breakfast treat as “Boot sink. / Lashes flick. / Tongues tickle. / We lick.” In the barn the horses, puppies, and chickens are just as excited about the snowy day. Riding an old chair sled, Grandma and her grandchildren glide down the hill, following tracks left by lively rabbits and now-dozing foxes.

Deep in the forest the three take in the beauty: “Woods hush. / Fields glisten. / Wren sings. / We listen.” On the other side of the woods, people continue their daily routine but at a slower pace as “plows push” and “mountains grow.” Grandma and the kids slide into town, where people are hard at work keeping up with the storm: “Wheels crunch. / Shovels scoop. / Ice cracks! / Awnings droop.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-barn

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The trio has reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They all grab shovels and help clear the walk. Now it’s Grandpa’s turn to have some fun. He takes his granddaughter by the hand, seats her little brother on a sled, and walk to the park. There, kids are making snowmen, building snow forts, and zipping down hills on their snow saucers. At the bottom of the hill everyone plops into the fluff and make snow angels.

It’s been an exhilarating, adventurous day, but twilight is on the horizon and now “toes tingle. / Lips quiver. / Cheeks glow. / We shiver.” As grandma calls from her front porch, the little girl and Grandpa, carrying his grandson, race toward home amid the swirling snowflakes. Inside, the light, warmth, and cozy comforts of warm soup, popcorn, and a crackling fire await. Later, the two kids enjoy quiet time with Grandma and Grandpa when “Cocoa warms. / Mittens puddle. / Day dawdles. / We cuddle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-fox

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

With her brilliantly expressive staccato sentences—each only two words long—Linda Booth Sweeney evokes the sights, sounds, and joy of a care-free, snowy day. Each four-line, rhyming verse abounds with melodic verbs that spark readers’ imaginations and concrete nouns that in many places form delightful alliterative pairs that softly trip off the tongue. Readers will love the story line that takes them from a rustic farmhouse to Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy home through woods, over hills, past the highway, and into downtown all with the help of an old-style sled. Several verses full of snow day fun play out like a long afternoon spent with friends, leading naturally into the slower pace and loving comfort of the night spent with Grandma and Grandpa.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding-with-grandma

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

In glorious two-page spreads, the wind-swept snow swirls, spatters, and blankets the world in downy white fluff. Jana Christy takes children into the family’s large farmhouse kitchen where a blackboard announces Grandma’s Sunday sleepover as well as Monday’s snow day in place of the crossed-out piano lesson. The family steps out into the sparkling countryside where purple mountains form a backdrop for the barn and sheep pen. As Grandma and the kids start their journey, the forest, a quiet enclave of teal and greens, welcomes them. By the time they reach town, cars are stuck in snowdrifts, snow shovels scrape against the sidewalk, and kids are heading to the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The thrill of playing in the snow is palpable as saucers zoom down hills, hats fly off, and hair blows in the wind. The final spreads of Grandma and Grandpa’s tidy home glow with love and laughter as the kids pull off their snow gear, their dog shakes off the snow, and they settle on the couch for cocoa and cuddles. The busy townspeople, happy playmates, and close-knit mixed-race family make When the Snow Falls a cheerful celebration of diversity.

When the Snow Falls is a joyous book to add to winter collections and would be often asked for during home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399547201

Discover more about Linda Booth Sweeney, her books and her systems work, visit her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her art, and her books, visit her website.

Hot Cocoa Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

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

Supplies

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

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Directions for Filling the Jar

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

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

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

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

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

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

You can find When the Snow Falls with these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

December 3 – Make a Gift Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-cover

About the Holiday

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade gift. But what if you’re not crafty and baking’s not really your thing either? A gift doesn’t have to be something you unwrap. There are plenty of ways to share your talents with those you love to show them they’re important to you. Are you handy around the house? Find a project that needs doing and go to work! Are you a dancer? Why not teach a young family member some steps or a short routine? If you sing or play and instrument, invite friends and family to your holiday concert or perform for them during a holiday get together. Whatever your talent is, others will be excited and happy to receive your “homemade” gift!

A Tuba Christmas

Written by Helen L. Wilbur | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

Ava came from a musical family, and the time had come for her to choose an instrument to learn. If she started practicing now, she’d be ready for the family’s holiday concert. Her father suggested the piano like her mother played. Her mom suggested the flute or maybe the violin like her dad played. But Ava wasn’t interested in these—or in following in her bothers’ steps with the cello or clarinet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-family

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ava knew what instrument she wanted to play and proudly announced, “‘I want to play the tuba.’” Her family was surprised but signed her up for lessons. Her teacher, Rodney, played the tuba in the high school marching band. Since a full-sized tuba was much too big for Ava, “Rodney found a tuba that fit nicely in her lap and made her only a little lopsided when she carried it.” Ava loved everything about her tuba, but there was one problem. While Ava could make noise on her tuba, she couldn’t make music.

Ava practiced every day. At dinner, her parents always asked how her tuba playing was going while her brothers laughed and told her she would ruin their concert. Even the kids at school made fun of her choice of instruments, but Rodney told her, “‘Forget about them. The tuba is a noble instrument.’” But when she tripped over her tuba and fell in the cafeteria in front of all the laughing kids, she told Rodney she was quitting.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-choose

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Rodney told her that was too bad because she’d miss being in the holiday concert—a first of its kind in the area. Ava perked up on hearing about the concert and vowed to keep practicing. As the days went on, “The notes came a little easier and sounded just a bit better every night.” Her tuba even seemed lighter to carry. When the posters went up announcing a surprise concert, everyone wanted to know what it was about, but Ava just told them they’d have to wait and see.

Ava’s brothers couldn’t believe she could be in a concert. They told her she’d “hit the wrong notes.” Rodney reassured her though that playing in an ensemble was a “great chance to learn.” He told her “if someone misses a note, other players will hit the right one and no one will know.” Ava felt better and on the day of the concert she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she joined all of the other tuba players in decorating her tuba and donning an elf hat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-rodney

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the audience saw that the orchestra consisted only of tubas, they looked around skeptically. Rodney explained that the tubas would play each song twice: once alone and then for everyone to join in singing. Everyone smiled when they recognized the first song, Jingle Bells. On the second go-round, the whole audience was soon singing. The tubas played lots of familiar songs. “the concert was loud and it was fun. At the end everyone cheered and cheered.” Even Ava’s brothers were proud to point her out and claim her as their sister. And just as her parents had promised, her father presented Ava with her very own tuba and a welcome to “the new musician in our family.”

An Author’s Note following the story reveals the origins of Tuba Christmas concerts, which take place all around the world. A description of the tuba, how it works, and other instruments in the tuba family is also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-gets-tuba

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen L. Weber’s original holiday story will delight any child who sees life a little differently from their friends and family. Ava’s perseverance in playing the tuba despite the teasing and from her brothers and friends and a bit of skepticism on the part of her parents, will embolden readers who are met with similar reactions to their desired pursuits. Ava’s teacher, Rodney, gives sage and reassuring advice that provides positive perspective and will encourage kids to continue working on their skills despite setbacks or nervousness. Through her characters’ honest, realistic dialogue and emotions, Wilbur reveals the ups and downs of beginning any new activity, hobby, or vocation and offers children support and inspiration on their journey.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 5.17.38 PM

Mary Reaves Uhles captures all of the heart of this one-of-a-kind story in her vivid and action-filled illustrations that reveal Ava’s enthusiasm for her shiny, coiled instrument. Images of Ava practicing while the cat covers its ears and the neighbor’s dog howls as the notes go awry add humor, but also reinforce Ava’s determination to learn the tuba. Ava’s interactions with Rodney are uplifting and will boost young readers’ confidence in their own abilities. The cheerful double-page spread of the tuba orchestra decked out for the holiday concert will have kids wanting to attend a Tuba Christmas concert—or take up the tuba themselves!

A heartening story for any child who marches to a different…tuba, A Tuba Christmas is a book that cheer and reassure kids at any time of the year.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363841

Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.

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

Make a Gift Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

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

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Supplies

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

Directions for Filling the Jar

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

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

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

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-cover

You can find A Tuba Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Day of Giving

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

About the Holiday

Following the shopping “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been designated as a day to celebrate generosity and giving to others. 92nd Street Y in New York City created the holiday for people to think about charitable giving to those less fortunate not only for one day or one month, but all year round. The spirit of today’s holiday will fill you with cheer every day—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

 

A little girl wakes up with a smile on her face and “the spirit of the season” in her heart. As she and her mother head out into the snowy city, she hears “the spirit in the air” as carolers sing and a corner Santa rings a bell. She’s been saving her money to add to the familiar red pot and happily drops it in the slot. The choir is now singing “Deck the Halls,” and the little girl sings along with all her heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-spirit-in-air

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then it’s time for a yummy roasted treat to warm her up in the shivery air. On the ice-skating rink, the girl and her mom “swirled and twirled around the spirit” with other kids and adults enjoying some frozen fun. Afterward, a tour of the store windows decorated with lights and glitter makes her feel sparkly inside. But when they come upon a mother and her two children huddled against the wind with a “Help Please” sign, the girl says, “I felt the spirit deep down in my soul.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-skating

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In a crowded store nearby, the little girl looks wide-eyed at all the toys then whispers to a tired Santa her wish “for the spirit everywhere.” As she, her mom, Santa, and a host of other people leave the store carrying wrapped packages, they feel the spirit spread by the girl’s smile. Outside, the little girl and the other shoppers give the presents to the needy family. The little boy grins from ear to ear as his mom stands by happily and the baby rests in Santa’s arms.

The Christmas spirit is not just a thing or a place or a person, the girl understands, “The spirit is you!” Then the girl gets her own surprise when she spies her dad coming home. She runs to him and he lifts her into a hug. Here is what she wants for Christmas—“Peace for all, good tidings, and cheer—let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-coming-home

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As the sights and sounds of Christmas begin to light up towns, stores, and homes, Connie Schofield-Morrison’s story fills young readers with the joy and deeper meaning of the holiday. Little ones wanting to share their bubbly excitement for Christmas as well as their innate empathy will fall in love with the little girl who eagerly joins in on all of the city’s festivities while also embracing those in need. Her big heart and buoyant spirit will inspire kids to find the spirit of the holiday in everything they do too. Kids are invited to join in reading with exuberant alliterative words like “Ding Dong Ding, that call out to the little girl

Readers can almost hear the bells and singers, feel the soft snow, and smell the roasting nuts as he takes readers on a tour of the city decked out for the holidays. In his gorgeous, realistic paintings, the emotions and actions of the little girl cheer young readers as they see her belting out a Christmas carol, gliding on ice rink, and walking side-by-side with Santa to deliver her surprise gifts to the needy family. Images of the girl dropping money that she has saved into the Salvation Army pot and frowning sadly as she comes upon the destitute woman and her family mirror the compassion many children feel for those less fortunate.

Like its predecessor I Got the Rhythm, I Got the Christmas Spirit is an uplifting and beautiful book to add to any child’s collection—not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. A top choice for public libraries too.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681195285

To learn more about Frank Morrison and view a gallery of his art, visit his website.

I Got the Christmas Spirit Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | illustrated by Frank Morrison

This giveaway is open from November 27 through December 2 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 3

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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

Day of Giving Activity

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

Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water

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

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

You can find I Got the Christmas Spirit at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 20 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Paul Schmid

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-cover

About the Holiday

Fall is giving way to winter and kids’ thoughts turn to snow days, sledding, snowmen, and all sorts of frosty things. There’s a book for that…and that…and all those things too! Kids love following the seasons through the books they read. There’s nothing better during the cold-weather months than snuggling indoors with a stack of books and a steamy mug of hot chocolate. During Picture Book Month and all through the year, introduce your children to the joys of reading!

Phaidon Press sent me a copy of Little Bear Dreams to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be partnering with Phaidon in a giveaway of the book! See details below.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

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I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

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This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

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Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

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There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - more sketches for Little Bear Dreams

Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Wow! Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

Little Bear Dreams Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Phaidon Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, November 20 – November 26. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on November 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Phaidon Press.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Opposites Sensory Tin

Little ones love touching and feeling different objects and trying to guess just what they are or how they’re the same or different than other things. Putting together a sensory tin is a quick and easy way to keep kids occupied with a fun activity while they also learn!

With a six-cup tin for youngest readers and a twelve-cup tin to try and stump older kids, you have plenty of space to add items that are soft and hard, cold and warm, crunchy and crumbly, spiky and smooth, and so many more!

To make the tin into a game, have kids close their eyes or blindfold them and let them feel the different items and guess what they are.

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You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 18 – It’s Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

National Family Literacy Month was designed to encourage parents and other adults to read together with the children in their life. Studies show that children who are read to are better prepared to read on their own and do better in school. Cuddling together before bedtime or during special story times with favorite books instills a love of reading that can last a lifetime. To celebrate, plan some special reading-related activities: take a trip to a local bookstore and let your child pick a book; if your child is old enough, visit the library to sign up for a library card; and schedule extra reading time, especially with grandparents or other family members who may be visiting for the holidays. 

This Little Turkey

Written by Aly Fronis | Illustrated by Migy Blanco

 

Perhaps you know about “this little piggy” and his cohorts and the way they spend a day, but have you heard of “this little turkey” and his friends and their shenanigans on Thanksgiving Day? Well, let me tell you! “This little turkey went to market”… Wait? Isn’t that what the first little piggie did? Do you think they might have met there? What do you think they bought? Oh, right, I’m getting off track. What about the second little turkey?

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Image copyright Migy Blanco, 2016, text copyright Aly Fronis, 2016. Courtesy of little bee books

“This little turkey swept the floor.” And did it need it! Wow! So much dust! And the sneezing! Maybe it’s best to see what the third little turkey’s up to. Awww!—“This little turkey drew some pictures” while a little snacking turkey “wanted more.” Elsewhere, a creative turkey is preparing for cold weather, and a sneaky turkey is up to a little mischief!

At home the dinner table is being set in a most entertaining way, but will there be enough plates left for all the little turkeys? You’ll have to read on to see…. Finally, a little turkey calls, “‘Let’s eat!’” and all the turkeys come running to say, “we…we…we…wish you a happy Thanksgiving!’”

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Image copyright Migy Blanco, 2016, text copyright Aly Fronis, 2016. Courtesy of little bee books

Little ones love the excitement of a holiday! Special planning and traditions mingle with delicious, sometimes once-a-year aromas, and relatives and friends gather to have fun and swap stories. Aly Fronis’s sweet take on the familiar “This Little Piggie” rhyme invites the youngest children to take part in the preparations and enjoyment of Thanksgiving with phrases that are joyful to read and easy to memorize for read alongs. Young readers will giggle at the foibles and tricks of these little turkeys and recognize common activities they partake in themselves during the holiday weekend.

Migy Blanco’s vibrant pages, populated with an array of cute turkeys and their squirrel and bird friends, are whimsically eye-catching, perfect for the book’s young audience. Depicting the traditions of the holiday—from cleaning and cooking by older family members to drawing and table setting by younger members—each scene is both cozy and playful. Kids will love the small details, such as family portraits hinting at the family’s history, and the tiny plates for the bird and squirrel on the festive dinner table.

Young children will love repeating the holiday-themed verse in This Little Turkey. Drawing turkey faces on children’s fingertips could also turn this book into a fun game that kids will gobble up!

Ages 2 – 5

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499803020

Discover more books and illustration for children as well as for adults by Migy Blanco on her website!

National Family Literacy Month Activity

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Gobble! Gobble! Turkey Craft

 

Every Thanksgiving needs a little turkey—to invite to your party, of course! With this easy craft, little ones can make a decoration or even centerpiece for the family dinner.

Supplies

  • Full-size paper plate
  • Toilet paper or paper towel tube
  • Paint in yellow, orange, red, and brown (or whatever colors your child likes)
  • Small buttons or googly eyes
  • Construction paper for the beak in yellow, red, or orange
  • Sponge

Directions

  1. Place the tube on the plate so that the top of the tube meets the ring around the edge and mark the bottom for cutting
  2. Cut the bottom of the plate off at the mark to make the turkey’s feathers
  3. Cut cubes to paint with from the sponge. Tip: If the sponge is hard, soften with a little water before painting
  4. Kids paint the feathers by dipping each sponge cubes into a different color of paint and dotting the paint onto the plate. Tip: After dipping the sponge into the paint, dab lightly on newspaper or paper towel to remove a bit of the paint. This helps create the mottled look of the feathers. 
  5. Let Dry
  6. Make the beak by cutting a small triangle from the construction paper
  7. If using small buttons for the eyes, the child can color the center black with a marker if desired
  8. Glue the tube to the center of the plate
  9. Glue the eyes and beak onto the tube
  10. Display!

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You can find This Little Turkey at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

November 12 – It’s World Kindness Week

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About the Holiday

Today begins a week-long awareness of acts of kindness and how gestures of praise and encouragement of others can make life better for all. These days, when negativity seems all pervasive, take some time to look around and really see the goodness that is being done. Take a vow to join in and help make the world a better place for you and especially for your children. Just a smile, a single nice word or a helpful action can make a tremendous difference. To celebrate this week’s holiday, seek out opportunities to say something nice to your family members, friends, coworkers, and those you meet along the way.

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jen Hill

 

At school during snack time when Tanisha spilled grape juice on her new dress, the class burst out laughing. One student remembered that their mom always taught them to be kind and tried to make Tanisha feel better by saying, “Purple is my favorite color.” The student thought Tanisha would smile, but she just ran away. All during art class, Tanisha’s classmate thought about what they should have done instead, wondering, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

They think, “Maybe it’s giving.” Like baking treats for someone who lives alone, or giving away old clothes to someone who can use them. Helping out might also show kindness. For instance, “putting dirty dishes in the sink” or taking care of a pet. Paying attention to others could be another way to show you care. Like noticing someone’s new shoes, offering to be the new girl’s partner in class, or even just listening to someone’s stories—even if you’ve heard them before. Sometimes being kind is easy, but there are other times when it can be challenging or even scary—“like sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The child decides that maybe all they can do for Tanisha is to sit near her and paint her a picture of purple and green—of pretty violets. They hope that small acts like these will join with other people’s and that they will expand, fanning out from school into the community, across the country, around the world, and back. “So we can be kind. Again. And again. And again.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Miller’s tender prose is perfect for planting the seeds of kindness and opening discussions about what it means to be caring and compassionate. With more and more children speaking up and creating change, Miller’s gentle and affirming story shows readers that it’s often the little things that count the most. Some of the examples she gives are acts that many children may do already, confirming their innate sensitivity, while others may spark new ideas and expand readers’ definition of kindness.

Jen Hill’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully depict the emotional tug at the heart that Tanisha’s spilled grape juice sets in motion for the protagonist and young readers. As one caring child wonders what kindness really is, Hill clearly portrays diverse children helping out at home, at school, and in their community locally and—as the kindness spreads—around the world. Hill draws the caring student with gender neutral clothing and hair, allowing all children to relate to the story’s main character. 

Be Kind is a lovely perceptive and sensitive book that would be an asset to any home or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626723214

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jen Hill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Kindness Week Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Be Kind at these booksellers

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

 

Picture book review