June 3 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

Observed during the five weeks between Mothers Day and Fathers Day, National Family Month was established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882. Leading into the school vacation season, the holiday encourages families to spend more time working, playing, talking, and just hanging out together. This year, of course, we’ve gotten to know and appreciate our families in a whole new way. This Family Month and all throughout the summer, celebrate your close bonds. You can read more about the qualities of strong families in this publication about the holiday from childwelfare.gov. During this month of Father’s Day, one wonderful way for kids to celebrate their dads is to share today’s book. 

My Dad

Written by Susan Quinn | Illustrated by Marina Ruiz

 

A little boy confides that his dad has blasted off to another galaxy, “been a secret agent, or won a Grand Prix race.” He’s not one of those jet-setting dads, either. But, the little boy boasts “my Dad is FANTASTIC!” What makes him so fantastic? Well, he’s a wonderful baker and makes “the best cookies” and cake. His dad is also likes to work outside. The boy says, “He gives me rides around the garden, / he grows vegetables all in a row. / And it’s fun to pull up carrots, / shouting, “Ready! Set! GO!'” Even grocery shopping is not “BORING” when they go together and pretend they’re in the jungle “looking for tasty food to eat.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-day-kites

Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

The boy says his dad is always there to teach him things, to cheer him on, and to cheer him up when he’s had a bad day. They go on outings together and play until they stop to quietly enjoy the sunset. On rainy fall days, they splash in puddles under a rainbow canopy, and in the winter they play in the snow. With Dad, bath time is time for adventures on the high seas.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-day-rain

Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

At bedtime Dad reads stories as they cuddle up together. “Then,” the boy says, “we count twinkling stars, before Dad says ‘night, night!'” With a final kiss, Dad tucks his son in tight, and the little boy smiles, thinking “he’s the best a dad can be. / And every day is special / when it’s just my Dad and me.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-day-bath

Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

Susan Quinn’s sweet and earnest ode to the love between a son and his father is all the more touching for the simple, conversational style of her rhyming verses. From the first page, the little boy’s pride and affection for his dad is evident as each spread describes a specific way in which Dad makes every day special or attends to his son’s needs. The unique bond fathers form with their children through working together, physical play, imagination, snuggle time, and just being there for them are all represented with heartwarming, childlike enthusiasm. As a busy day winds down, the quiet assurance of a father’s love will move readers – both children and adults. 

Marina Ruiz’s soft, textured, multi-media illustrations welcome readers into the comforting home and routine of a little boy and his dad as they spend treasured time together. From home to the soccer field to beach picnics to the grocery store transformed by imagination, Ruiz’s gorgeous color palette and collage-style images highlight what makes this father-son relationship so special. Plenty of smiles, adoring looks, and shared snuggles will charm readers.

My Dad will be a favorite choice for fathers to read to their kids and mothers or other caregivers to share when Dad’s away. The book would make a much-appreciated gift for Father’s Day or other gift-giving occasions and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7 

words & pictures, Quarto Knows, 2021 | ISBN 978-0711255340

Discover more about Susan Quinn and her books on her website.

To learn more about Marina Ruiz, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-building-blocks-craft

I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-day-cover

You can find My Dad at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 2 – National Leave the Office Early Day

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About the Holiday

Would you like to spend less time at the office and more at home with your kids or just relaxing with a good book or favorite hobby? Employee productivity expert Laura Stack thought most people would say yes, so in 2004 she established today’s holiday to raise awareness of adjustments and strategies workers and management can take to make the work day more efficient and productive so that people can leave on time. A better balance between work and home life has benefits for people’s health, happiness, relationships, and their job itself. 

Somewhere in the City

Written by J. B. Frank | Illustrated by Yu Leng

 

The sun has set and it’s growing late. “Somewhere in the city,” Lucy peers out her window hoping to hear her dad’s footsteps amid the “bustle of the street below.” A dog across the street barks, and Lucy calls out “‘Daddy’s coming home.’” Across town Lucy’s father turns off his computer, grabs his briefcase and jacket and says goodbye to his coworkers. He rushes through the office lobby and “Swish, Swish” spins through the revolving door and onto the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-Lucy

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

While she waits, Lucy watches the baker mixing dough through the plate glass window. She stirs and stirs in a big bowl. “Somewhere in the city,” Daddy hurries past a musician “playing a lullaby to the people passing by.” Some friends who are listening invite Lucy’s dad to stop and chat, but he begs off, telling them he needs to get home to tuck his little one into bed. At home, Lucy yawns and puts on her pajamas. At the bus stop, a woman also yawns after a long day. The bus finally comes, but Lucy’s dad does not get off.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-dad

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

“Somewhere in the city” Daddy’s been delayed. When the path finally clears, he runs toward home. He passes a street performer and thinks how much Lucy would love it. Meanwhile, Lucy stretches out her time getting ready for bed, but her mom finally taps her watch and tells her it’s time for bed. But how can Lucy go to sleep without “hearing that special something?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-carousel

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Finally, Daddy is on the train and although Lucy is in bed, she’s not sleeping. She dances to the music floating through her window from the radio in the grocery store below, she plays with her cat, and at last she hears the door open. Snuggled up with Daddy as he reads her a story, Lucy rests “her head on his chest…hears that special something,” and sighs with contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-waiting

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Steeped in the sights, sounds, and pop-up events of a city and enriched by the urgency of a parent-child reunion for a daily tradition, J.B Frank’s story will delight kids and adults alike. Frank’s repeated phrase “somewhere in the city” makes the story universal while playing with pacing and enhancing Lucy’s and her father’s feelings. Children will love the back-and-forth storytelling that keeps tabs on Daddy’s progress through the city and Lucy’s attempts to delay bedtime. When Daddy finally makes it home, what Lucy has been waiting for will melt readers’ hearts.

Yu Leng’s realistic portrayals of the city share space with dreamlike whimsy in clever transitions that young readers will adore. As Lucy’s father rushes through the city, he meets up with surprising performers, a humorous delay that’s just right for little readers on their way to “counting sheep,” and other fun-living city folk. Just as charming is the view from Lucy’s window of the bakery, grocery store, bus stop and the rooms of her apartment home, all washed in a sleepy blue, punctuated by the welcoming golden glow of Lucy’s bedroom light. Lucy and her father’s facial expressions clearly show their changing emotions, and the final spreads of them sharing a special moment is heartwarming.

Enchanting, smart, and touching, Somewhere in the City would make a wonderful gift for dads anytime and especially for Father’s Day or for new dads. The book  is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2021| ISBN 978-1641702607

Discover more about J. B. Frank and her books on her website.

You can connect with Yu Leng on Instagram.

National Leave the Office Early Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-briefcase-craft

Briefcase Craft and Dream Job Application

 

Kids will have fun pretending to be dad or mom going off to the office with this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application! 

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-cover

You can find Somewhere in the City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 21 – It’s Global Astronomy Month

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About the Holiday

Instituted by Astronomers Without Borders, a group who sees in our shared sky an opportunity to create “a global community that appreciates, studies, and shares the wonders of the universe, to broaden perspectives, transcend borders, and improve lives,” The group’s goals are twofold: to inspire and empower a worldwide community of astronomy enthusiasts and educators through astronomy-related programs and to cultivate a diverse, international community dedicated to sharing the Earth’s resources equitably. To try to accomplish these goals, Global Astronomy Month brings people together with arts activities, parties, and special events. To find resources, such as April sky maps in English and Spanish, and more information on how you can participate, visit the Astronomers Without Borders website.

The Little Spacecraft That Could: New Horizons’ Amazing Journey to Pluto and Arrokoth

Written by Joyce Lapin | Illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli

 

As the little spacecraft blasted away from the launch pad on January 19, 2006, she thought that her name—New Horizons—“was a brave-sounding name. And you had to be brave to fly to the edge of the solar system.” New Horizons was on her way to Pluto—the first spacecraft to do so. Zooming through space, her engines dropped away in stages. Free of these engines the little spacecraft, “no bigger than a small piano… streaked through space at more than 10 miles per second.”

While she soared, New Horizons wondered what she would find when she finally reached Pluto. She knew that everyone was counting on her to provide answers about this mysterious planet. People had a lot of questions, and New Horizons had a lot of time to ponder them. In fact, it would take her “nearly 10 years to reach Pluto.” Things were going well for New Horizons. She was on track and jogging along at 36,000 miles an hour… but then on August 24, 2006, astronomers decided Pluto wasn’t big enough to be considered a planet and demoted it to dwarf planet status.

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Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

Planetary scientists didn’t and don’t agree with this change, and New Horizons? She just wanted to complete her mission, and she had to concentrate on what came next—meeting up with Jupiter at just the right time to take advantage of this giant planet’s gravitational pull to speed up her trajectory toward Pluto. Carefully, New Horizons got into position. She sped faster and faster and was flung into space, heading toward her destination at “nearly a million miles per day.”

Now and for the next eight years, New Horizons would fly on autopilot while she took a well-deserved nap that would conserve fuel as well as her computers and instruments. Periodic wake-ups by the scientists on Earth made sure everything was going well. Finally, on December 6, 2014 it was time for New Horizons to wake up and go to work. She wouldn’t be landing on Pluto but doing a “flyby” 7,800 miles away from the surface of Pluto. At this distance the photographs she took would be clear and her other instruments for listening, smelling, feeling, and measuring other aspects of Pluto and its atmosphere would work too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-robotic

Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

New Horizons couldn’t wait to get started and began snapping pictures “from half a million miles out.” What people saw when she sent back her photos “sent the internet on fire.” It appeared that Pluto was holding a white heart—a valentine for Earth. “Everybody loved the dwarf planet with a heart!” This heart is actually a glacier made of nitrogen, which on Pluto’s cold surface forms ice instead of gas like on Earth

On July 14, 2015, New Horizons at last reached her optimal distance, and what wonders she uncovered! Towering ice mountains, valleys deeper than the Grand Canyon, “‘ice blades’ the height of New York City skyscrapers,” and “‘ice volcanoes’…that spew out icy slush instead of lava.” This was only the beginning of what scientists discovered. Measurements also showed that Pluto was larger than was thought—bumping it up “from second-largest dwarf planet to the largest.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-control-room

Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

New Horizons also took pictures and measurements of Pluto’s moons and, after snapping one last picture: Pluto “‘crowned’ with the hazy blue glow of its atmosphere” while lit from behind by the Sun, New Horizons was off for Arrokoth, an object in the Kuiper Belt that hadn’t even been discovered when she blasted off from Earth all those years ago. A billion miles later, New Horizons reached Arrokoth on January 1, 2019. New Horizons continues to send information about this fascinating body, and because she’s still so “robust…her team wants [her] to visit an even more distant Kuiper Belt world in the 2020s. No one doubts she can do it.

In addition to the story about New Horizons’ journey, each page contains illustrated insets with detailed facts and information about the New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto, our solar system, how the planets were named, and more.

Back matter includes a timeline of New Horizons’ journey, an extensive glossary, a list of books for further reading and research, and a list of internet resources where readers can see videos and learn more about New Horizons and her mission.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-pluto-heart

Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

Joyce Lapin’s thrilling true tale of New Horizons’ mission to Pluto and beyond lends pep and personality to this little spacecraft that the world watched blast off with the heart and anticipation of a parent sending their child off on their first day of school. Her engaging storytelling helps kids understand and appreciate the magnitude of New Horizons’ flight and all it has accomplished. Lapin’s clear descriptions of the various stages of the mission, scientists’ expectations, and the tricky maneuvering necessary to put New Horizons at the right place at the right time are delivered smoothly and concisely.

Scientific vocabulary and definitions are woven seamlessly throughout, enhancing the reader’s understanding without their losing any of the suspense. Kids will identify with the childlike nature of New Horizons’ confidence in herself and commiserate with her dismay when Pluto is demoted. Readers will cheer on this little spacecraft as her mission is expanded and will be excited to learn more about what New Horizons has already discovered and what she will find in the future.

Simona Ceccarelli’s illustrations are nothing short of phenomenal. Photographic in detail, Ceccarelli’s vibrant images take kids from the launchpad with the fiery rocket boosters produce clouds of smoke as the spacecraft climbs into the sky, into outer space, where they see how the engines disengaged to set New Horizons free to navigate past Mars, pick up speed from Jupiter (shown in its colorful, striped glory) and rocket past Saturn (the rocky debris of its icy rings clearly visible) to become just a dot in the black sky.

Ceccarelli also takes readers into the control room where graphs, screens, coordinates, and more line the walls and computers stand side-by-side on the desks and carefully observed by the mission’s directors. Images of the heart on Pluto include internet snapshots that will remind some readers of how the world reacted to the first images sent back by New Horizons.

The final images of Pluto, showing a landscape of ice blades, deep canyons, mountains, and swirling patterns of color and then backlit by the Sun, are breathtaking. The spacecraft itself is lightly anthropomorphized with expressive eyes and mouth and cable-thin arms. Drawn from all sides, the images of New Horizons give kids a good a look at this amazing spacecraft.

A sensational achievement in presenting the scientific and human accomplishments involved in the New Horizons mission as well as an exhilarating overview of our solar system, The Little Spacecraft That Could would be a stimulating addition to science units for elementary and high school students to spark a love for astronomy, engineering, research, and other related subjects. The book will be a favorite and is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 7 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1454937555

Discover more about Joyce Lapin and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Simona Ceccarelli, her books, and her art, visit her website

Global Astronomy Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocket-to-the-moon-tic-tac-toe-game

Out-of-This-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

 

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

SUPPLIES

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-cover

You can find The Little Spacecraft That Could at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 5 – National Day of Unplugging

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About the Holiday

National Day of Unplugging is a 24-hour respite from the ever-present technology that can rob us of seeing what’s right in front of us, of actively participating in events, or partaking in activities like playing outside or even reading a physical book. Constant digital connections can also disrupt sleep. This year we’ve been even more tied to our devices for work, school, and socializing, but taking a day to decompress and enjoy nature or just some quiet, contemplation can be refreshing and revitalizing. To celebrate today, push the off button and enjoy a more relaxing day! What you discover may be surprising – just like today’s book!

A New Green Day

By Antoinette Portis

 

Nature provides many surprises from tiny glimpses of underground industry to shocking displays of overhead power. In between are moments that often go unremarked but which enrich our days and, when we stop to think about them, provide new insights. In her lyrical riddles, Antoinette Portis invites readers to listen as animate and inanimate parts of nature describe themselves and then to guess at their identities.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-inchworm

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2020, courtesy of Neal Porter Books.

The day begins with this riddle: “‘Morning lays me on your pillow, / an invitation, square and warm. / Come out and play!’” Can you guess? Will you answer? Or will you doze a minute more? When you do rise and go outside, you may notice a “‘glistening ink’” on the sidewalk that tells you someone passed through during the night. Who might it have been?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-tadpole

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2020, courtesy of Neal Porter Books.

Each riddle, composed of poetic perceptions and whimsical metaphors, is printed in a monochrome square on the righthand pages, enticing readers to contemplate the possibilities before flipping the page. There they discover the answers in sumptuous and lovingly crafted illustrations designed with sumi ink, vine charcoal, leaf prints, and hand-stamped lettering. Each pairing gives kids reasons to head out the door or watch through the window with new perspectives. Who wouldn’t revel in an experience like this: “‘I am cool pudding / on a muggy day. / Let your toes / have a taste!’”

Dynamic, absorbing, and fun, A New Green Day is a perfect take-along for summer outings as well as a captivating addition to any story time. The book is highly recommended for home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Neal Porter Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0823444885

Discover more about Antoinette Portis, her books, and her art on her website.

National Day of Unplugging Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft-3

Dragonfly Decoration

 

After enjoying the outdoors, bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-green-day-cover

You can find A New Green Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 8 – Opera Day

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About the Holiday

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

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

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 3 and up

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

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

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

Opera Day Activity

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

Sparkly Opera Glasses by Laura Sassi

 

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

Supplies for each pair of opera glasses

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

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Directions

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

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

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 22 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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

About the Holiday

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

Tea with Oliver

By Mika Song

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062429483

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

National Hot Tea Month Activity

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

Tea Bag Buddy

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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

You can find Tea with Oliver at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 8 – National Bubble Bath Day

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About the Holiday

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

Bobby Babinski’s Bathtub

Written by Judy Young | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110328

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

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

National Bubble Bath Day Activity

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

Tugboat Bathtub Toy Craft

 

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

Supplies

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

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

Directions

To Make the Deck

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

To Make the Boat

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

To Make the Cabin

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

To Make the Steam Pipe

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

Enjoy floating your tugboat in the bathtub or pool!

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

You can find Bobby Babinski’s Bathtub at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshelf | IndieBound

Picture Book Review