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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

April 6 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Expanded from National Garden Week in 2002, National Garden Month, encourages both avid gardeners and those new to this rewarding activity to turn over some dirt, plant seeds, and prepare to tend the little sprouts on their way through the season. A perfect activity for the whole family—even the youngest loves playing in the dirt and planting seeds!—gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about the growth cycle, pollinators, nutrition, patience, and more! If it’s warm enough to start planting where you live, engage your kids in preparing and planting your garden. If it’s still a little chilly, gather the whole family and plan this year’s garden!

In the Garden

By Emma Giuliani

 

In her stunningly illustrated interactive guide through the seasons, Emma Giuliani introduces Plum and her little brother, Robin, and invites readers to join them as they tend to their garden and all the plants, animals, and birds that call it home. Plum and Robin begin at winter’s end. “This morning it’s cold. It’s not yet spring, but, in the garden, Plum and her brother Robin see the first catkins appearing on the branches of the willows and hazels. The blossoming mimosa makes the gardeners impatient for spring to come.” As Robin counts the long, drooping catkins, Plum rakes a layer of compost over the ground. On the facing page, readers get a close-up view of the fuzzy catkins, can peek inside a bud, burrow underground with earthworms just waking from hibernation, and view a few early bloomers. They also learn about what makes up the earth’s soil and get a recipe for compost.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

With the arrival of spring, Plum is in her little greenhouse, planting vegetable seeds and spritzing the soil with water to keep it moist while Robin repots some plants who have spent the winter in the greenhouse. Outside, Plum aerates the garden bed with a pitchfork, careful of any tiny creatures below. Children can open the door to Plum’s well-stocked shed to see all the tools tidily stored there and lift the flaps to look inside a bulb and help a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip grow.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At last the warm weather of spring has arrived. The cherry trees are blossoming, and Plum and Robin are setting stakes and planting bean seeds. Next, they provide protection for the tender strawberry plants that are beginning to bloom. Young gardeners will enjoy opening a bean seed to learn what’s inside and then following its growing process. The bees are visiting the cherry blossoms, pollinating the flowers and making honey. What does a bee see as it hovers around the flower? Pull down the flap to see for yourself and learn all the parts of a flower. What other plants are flowering now? Open the flap to see!

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Summer begins and “what a joy to be in the garden in June! The gentle breeze, the smell of cut grass, and the tangy taste of strawberries and cherries make the gardeners smile.” While Plum waters the tomato plants, “Robin looks for ripe strawberries under the leaves.” Join him! Robin is also picking cherries before the birds eat them. How do those bright red, round fruits grow? Lift the flap to learn and see how they develop from flower to fruit. Plum is getting help with the aphids on the bean plants from industrious—and hungry—ladybugs. “Dragonfly larvae are transforming into graceful flying insects….Their presence is a sign of a healthy garden.”

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

It’s high summer and the garden is glorious. Bean pods hang from the vines, and Plum contemplates whether they are ready to pick. She may leave some “husks dry out on the plant before picking them.” Dried completely indoors, they can be stored and eaten during the fall and winter. Take a look inside a pod to see the seven red beans there. Flowers greet you too: an orange marigold with petals like a pinwheel, a brilliant pink and purple fuchsia, and a perky mignon dahlia. Robin took cuttings of these plants and potted them to grow some more. Learn how you can do that with your plants too!

The summer heat is waning and the days are growing shorter. Fall is here. The catkins of early spring have become hazelnuts that are ready to be harvested. Even the squirrel approves! Plum and Robin teach you how to store them—and when to pick the winter squash and keep them for months as well. Can you count the number of seeds inside the winter squash? Plum’s beautiful trellised pear tree is bearing sweet fruit. Yum! But look out—a crafty rabbit is after the last leafy vegetables in the garden. 

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The air is chilly again and winter is on the horizon. “Plum and Robin have donned their warmest clothes and gone out to collect the dead leaves. Some leaves will feed the compost, others will become mulch to protect plants over the winter. The hedgehogs can use the rest of the leaves in making their homes.” Do you see the pile of crunchy leaves? Lift them gently…shhh! A hedgehog is snoozing underneath. Robin and Plum have built an insect hotel to keep the bugs cozy during the winter and have filled the greenhouse again. For the colorful birds who stay awhile or all winter, Robin and Plum put out a bird feeder and fill it with locally produced seeds.

After putting all of their tools back in the shed, Plum and Robin head indoors to plan next year’s garden and “watch eagerly for the very first signs of spring.”

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

If your family tends a garden or is thinking of starting one, Emma Guiliani’s superb book is a must. At 16 inches tall, In the Garden provides fascinating facts about plants, insects, and animals; helpful tips on when and how to plant a variety of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, information on natural ways to ward off pests; and how to recognize when fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and how to store them. Through copious flaps, children get inside views of flowers, seeds, buds, and vegetables to learn the names of each part and how they contribute to the growth of the plant. Along the way, young and adult gardeners discover how early gardening can begin, directions on how to create and use compost, when bushes can be planted, information on pollination; and how to winter over the garden for the coming spring.

Giuliani’s crisp, lush illustrations are marvels, combining intricate paper cuts that replicate the shapes of delicate bulbs and buds, flowers and seeds, smooth and serrated leaves, the long bean pod, and even Plum’s garden shed with a window in the door. Her extraordinarily beautiful color palette immerses readers in the garden experience; you can almost smell the rich earth, hear the bees buzzing at the blossoms, and feel the air changing season to season.

A brilliant resource and a joy to peruse, In the Garden is a book that adults and children—both gardeners or nature lovers—will share throughout the seasons and from year to year. The book is most highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 12

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898939

You can connect with Emma Giuliani on Instagram.

National Garden Month Activity

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Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden rows with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.           

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

To play a printable Vegetable Garden Board Game, click here.

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You can find In the Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Princeton Architectural Press

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

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About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, today has traditionally been set aside to take a relaxing outing with the family to the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park. While that may not be possible this year, you can still visit your local zoo or see what’s going on in a zoo in another state or even another country by way of the institution’s website and webcams. Another fun idea is to make a “zoo” of picture books (both fiction and nonfiction) about the different animals you would see at the zoo. Today’s book is a perfect way to start your tour!

There’s a Giraffe in My Soup

By Ross Burach

 

It seems that in such a fine establishment ordering the Special of the Day—Sonia’s Tomato Soup—would be easy, but for one little boy it is anything but. “Excuse me, waiter?” The boy politely summons the red-tuxedoed attendant, who is polishing crystal to a diamond sheen. “There’s a giraffe in my soup!” Offended, the waiter pokes his verrrry long nose in the air and says, “That simply cannot be.” But when he comes nose to teeth with said errant ingredient, he speeds off with the giraffe on his tray through the kitchen door.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Ah, a new bowl of soup is delivered post haste! But as soon as the bowl is set on the table, a little frog pokes its bulging eyes over the rim. Only it’s not a frog, but an alligator with its chompers ready to reverse the dining experience. It’s even seasoning the poor boy with pepper! Once again the waiter comes to the rescue.

Before the waiter even lifts the cover from the next bowl of soup, a suspicious blue trunk emerges. The elephant flails in the small bowl of soup as the boy yells for help. “Save her! Save her! Please hurry!” Before the elephant drowns, the waiter is on the scene. The next bowl fares no better. “Yak! Yak! Yak!” the boy shouts. “Yuck? Yuck? Yuck?” the waiter thinks, insulted by the young food critic. But no, indeed a hairy, horned yak has invaded the soup.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Bowl after bowl is delivered and bowl after bowl the boy encounters a walrus (that balances the chair and the boy on his nose), an ostrich (with its head in the soup), a koala bear (shhh…it’s sleeping), a snake (burp…it swallowed the boy!), and a whale (well…you can imagine). The bruised and sweating waiter slumps on the table with his last offering. “Here, huff at last. Your soup, huff roaring with flavor.”  “Lying? Lying? Lying?” the waiter hears from the boy’s chair. He has had enough and loses his cool. “Sure, I made a minor gaffe with the giraffe. Maybe I overlooked a whale. But when it comes to taste, I am a professional. Do not dare accuse me of…LION!! Why didn’t you say something!”

Trying to tame the lion with his platter and a fork, the waiter runs for the kitchen. He returns bandaged and on crutches to reveal to the boy that there has been a mix up. It seems the zoo was sent the restaurant’s food and the restaurant was sent the zoo’s animals. The little boy is magnanimous and ready to let bygones be bygones. “Let’s skip the soup. Maybe dessert?” The waiter agrees.

He wheels out the dessert cart to present “one mousse…with a cherry on top!” And while the whipped cream and sprinkles look appetizing, the hooves and antlers? Not so much. “Never mind!” says the boy. “I’m eating somewhere else!” He quickly hops on his Big Wheel tricycle to follow the parade of animals on their way back to the zoo.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Just as it’s impossible not to laugh at the perennial favorite restaurant joke—“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!” / “What’s a fly doing in your soup?” / “The backstroke”—There’s a Giraffe in My Soup creates giggles on every page. Ross Burach creates a great comedy team in the little boy who only wants a bowl of soup and the snooty waiter who aims to please. Their dialogue crackles with puns, misunderstandings, and witty banter. Mixed in to the recipe are the creatures—some clueless, some dangerous, and some just out of their element—that act as the catalyst for the animated facial expressions and frenetic action that propel the story. Vivid colors, a variety of typography, and some of the cutest zoo animals ever complete the entertaining effect.

There’s a Giraffe in My Soup is sure to be asked for again and again and would be a very welcome addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062360144 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1338147896 (Paperback)

Learn more about Ross Burach and view his illustrations on his website!

There’s a There’s a Giraffe in My Soup book trailer in this post!

Visit the Zoo Day Activity

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In the Soup! Animal Card Game

 

Play this fun and easy game to fill your bowl with a variety of animals!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print out the bowl and playing card templates, one of each for every player
  2. Color the cards and bowl if you would like to
  3. Roll the die to see who goes first
  4. Each player takes turn rolling the die to collect animals to fill their bowl:
  • 1 = Elephant
  • 2 = Giraffe
  • 3 = Seal
  • 4 = Lion
  • 5 = Alligator
  • 6 = Whale

The first player to fill their bowl with all six animals is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there's-a-giraffe-in-my-soup-cover

You can find There’s a Giraffe in My Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

It’s a tradition here at Celebrate Picture Books to commemorate the holiday with the book that started it all. Originally published in 1997, The Mitten Tree has endured and continues to spark programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country. The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. So now that it’s time to get out favorite mittens or buy (or knit) a new pair, enjoy the season with today’s book!

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-cover

You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 4 – Wildlife Conservation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-rainforest-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 2012 by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Wildlife Conservation Day aims to raise awareness of the importance of preserving and protecting the natural world and its inhabitants. The day also brings attention to the disastrous effects of wildlife crime – including illegal poaching and smuggling of animals or animal parts, such as tusks or horns – on animal populations. People are also asked to support the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. In 2019 the Act was substantially weakened when President Trump reduced regulations, putting many more animals at risk. Today, Wildlife Conservation Day is celebrated around the world by organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting and preserving our natural inheritance – unique places and creatures like those explored in today’s book.

Over and Under the Rainforest

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A child narrator enters the rainforest with Tito, who is, perhaps, an older brother, an uncle, or a cousin. The sun filters in, glistening on the raindrop-jeweled leaves. Looking up into the treetops and the clear sky from where “chatters and chirps and a howling roars.” The child wants to know what’s above them, and Tito answers that there is a “whole hidden world” that they are hiking under. They hear the “gurgle” of red, black, and yellow oropendolas in their bag-like nests and the “croak” of toucans.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-rainforest-treetops

Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

They stop on the bridge that crosses a river and look down at the crocodiles napping on the banks. An emerald basilisk has no time to rest, though, and runs across the river, his feet “barely skimming the river’s surface.” The bridge takes them up, into the trees, where capuchin monkeys swing from branch to branch. While having a snack, the child and Tito watch an anteater hunt for a snack of his own below among fallen leaves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-rainforest-birds

Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The afternoon brings expected rain, which begins as a “pitter-soft drumming on the leaves up above” but “swells to a strong, rushing pour” that soaks a “soggy mother sloth and her baby” while a blue morpho butterfly “folds up her wings and tucks away on a tree trunk.” They walk deeper into the forest, where silent snakes slither and curl around branches. Spying a dark shape in a treetop, Tito, with a roar, unleashes “a thunder of howler monkeys” concealed from sight.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-rainforest-toucans

Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Dusk comes and then the curtain of night. Tito and the child head for home, spying animals and insects who are just beginning their day along the way. But suddenly a “sharp snap” in the undergrowth stops the child. Could it be a jaguar? They hurry across the last bridge and see the lights from Abuelita’s house. They know a dinner of arroz con pollo is waiting as the birds return to their homes too and another chorus begins—“a night song of darkness and water and life—over us, under us, and all around.”

Exciting back matter includes an Author’s Note about the inspiration for this book as well as illustrated paragraphs about the twenty birds, animals, and insects mentioned in the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-rainforest-bridge

Image copyright Christoper Silas Neal, 2020, text copyright Kate Messner, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Lyrical and evocative, Kate Messener’s hike through a Costa Rican rainforest envelopes readers in the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of this mysterious ecosystem. Her well-loved Over and Under series serves as a perfect guide to a place where life in all its forms teems in the lush landscape. Messner’s tranquil and graceful storytelling makes for a lovely read aloud that will captivate readers, and her first-person point of view invites each listener to imagine themselves taking this transformative walk.

Christopher Silas Neal’s soft-yet-vivid matte illustrations capture the mystery and wonder of the rainforest from the first page, where Tito and the narrator head into the forest through a dark entryway that seems to slowly reveal itself as a series of steps leading into the trees. Just as kids would be prone to do, upon entering the forest, the narrator and Tito look up into the towering treetops, focusing the readers’ eyes there too. Neal’s use of a variety of perspectives gives readers an experience similar to the book’s characters and allows them to feel the vastness of the environment. The number of unusual animals, birds, and insects they encounter in this forest will wow kids, and they’ll enjoy searching the leaves, branches, and undergrowth to find what is hidden there. This nighttime scene provides a thrill as bright eyes shine from the trees—the only evidence of the shadowy creatures lurking there.

A beautiful book for any nature lover or child fascinated by the wonders of the world, Over and Under the Rainforest is a must. The book would be a treasured addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452169408

Discover more about Kate Messner and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Silas Neal, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Wildlife Conservation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wonderful-wildlife-board-game

Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice as shown on printable guide
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-over-and-under-the-rainforest-cover

You can find Over and Under the Rainforest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

November 23 – It’s Family Stories Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crowded-farmhouse-folktale-cover

About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to share their stories and is celebrated this month when families typically get together for Thanksgiving. Although our Thanksgiving gatherings will be different this year, sharing stories can still be a part of the day. Oral storytelling, which has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times, is a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

 

“Farmer Earl, his wife, Marge, and too many children to mention lived in an itty-bitty house….” Their house was so small they hardly had room to turn around. Fed up, Farmer Earl decided to go see the wise woman nearby and ask her advice. The wise woman listened to the farmer’s tale of woe and told him, “Put all of your ducks in your house.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crowded-farmhouse-folktale-rooster

Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

Farmer Earl wasn’t sure how that would help, but back home, he and Marge rounded up all of their ducks and slipped them one-by-one through the window. “The ducks flapped. / The ducks quacked. / The ducks waddled. / The ducks quacked.” They sat on the mantle and in the fireplace. They laid eggs on the floor and their feathers floated everywhere. For the family, “There was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.” Farmer Earl thought it was way too crowded and went back to see the wise woman.

When she heard how the farmer’s house was still too small for his family, she looked up from her knitting and told him, “‘Put all of your horses in your house.’” This didn’t seem to help at all. There were horses showering in the bathtub and ducks bathing in the toilet; horses eating the toilet paper and ducks in the sink. One duck even started nibbling Farmer Earl’s hat. Now there really “was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crowded-farmhouse-folktale-family

Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

This time when the farmer visited the wise woman, she gave him advice he didn’t want to hear, but when he got home, he did it anyway. It “proved to be a disaster.” Clothes, socks, and even the curtains were gnawed, the beds were rumpled, and food lay scattered all over the kitchen floor. He hurried back to the wise woman and shouted, “‘I’ve had enough!’” Sipping her tea, the wise woman listened to the farmer’s complaints, and then gave one more bit of advice – to return all of the animals to their place on the farm.

“‘How is that going to help?’ wondered Farmer Earl,” but once the animals were back where they belonged and the farmer came home to “no ducks snacking… / no ducks quacking…. / no horses chomping… / no horses stomping…. / no goats licking… / no goats kicking…,” he found there really was room for all!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crowded-farmhouse-folktale-ducks

Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

Based on an old Yiddish folktale, Karen Rostoker-Gerber’s story is a hilarious reminder of the importance of perspective in life. Repeated words and phrases build on each other and invite kids to join in the fun as the animals wreck havoc throughout the tiny farmhouse. Farmer Earl’s reliance on the wise woman’s suggestions sets up suspenseful scenes with delightfully funny outcomes that readers will eagerly anticipate. When the animals are all back outside and Farmer Earl realizes the house is big enough for them all, kids will appreciate the cleverness of the wise woman and may look at their own difficult situations in a new way.

Kristina Swarner’s vivid and textured folk-art style illustrations perfectly reflect the plot and humor of the story. As a rooster wakens the family and multiple faces and pets can be seen in each of the farmhouse windows, readers are enticed to count, from page to page, just how many people live in this “itty-bitty” home. Lively images of the house filling up with animals will have kids laughing out loud and wanting to take stock of all the mayhem they’re causing. Astute readers may notice that while Farmer Earl considers his house too small, his children play happily in the space they have, revealing that contentment is the secret to a happy home.

An excellent choice for a rousing story time with a philosophical message, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale would be a welcome addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807556924

Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gerber and her books on her website.

You can read an interview with Karen here.

To learn more about Kristina Swarner, her books, and her art, visit her website.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming up with Karen Rostoker-Gerber in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, written by Karen Rostoker-Gerber| illustrated by Kristina Swarner

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with your favorite farm animal for an extra entry. Each reply earns one extra entry.

This giveaway is open from November 23 to November 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 1. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. 

Family Stories Week Activity

CPB - Animal Matching Cards

Animal Match-Up Game

 

During Family Stories Month it’s fun to play games together while learning more about each other. Play this fun matching game to find pairs of animals and talk about your favorite animals, pet stories, and the animals you’d like to see up close!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two sheets of the Animal Matching Cards for each player
  2. Color the cards (optional)
  3. Cut the cards apart
  4. Scramble the cards and lay them out face-side down
  5. Choosing one card at a time, turn one face up and then another.
  6. If the two cards match leave them face up
  7. If the two cards do not match lay them face down and try again.
  8. As you find matching pairs, leave the cards face up until all the pairs have been found.
  9. If playing against other players, the first to match all their animal cards is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crowded-farmhouse-folktale-cover

You can find A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 16 – National Button Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-treasure-a-collection-of-collections-cover

About the Holiday

First designed in Germany in the 13th century, buttonholes revolutionized clothing, bags, and other objects that required closing and inspired a new art form. Designers and manufacturers took buttons to heart, making them not only functional but beautiful. Created from iridescent shells, sparkling glass, bone, and other materials, these little canvases were infused with paintings, intricate carvings, astonishing color, and more eye-catching features. To celebrate the artistic merits and popularity of buttons, the National Button Society was founded in 1938 and recognized button collecting as an organized hobby – something also celebrated in today’s collection of poems.

Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections

Written by Michelle Schaub | Illustrated by Carmen Saldaña

 

A girl finds herself with a conundrum. Her teacher has given the class an assignment to bring something they collect to school. While all the other kids cheer and talk about their collections, the girl sits at her desk, wondering. In My Collection Conundrum she thinks, “It seems that everyone BUT ME / knows just the thing to share. / ‘My jar of marbles.’ / ‘Arrowheads.’ / ‘My favorite teddy bears.’” The little girl has lots of random things at home, but they just don’t add up to a collection. She’s hoping that her family and friends can help.

At home, she asks her mom about her collection, and in My Mother’s Button Box, the little girl stands by mesmerized as her mom opens the box to show her. Inside are “shiny ones / of shell and glass. / Pearly circles, / swirls of brass…. / Daisies, paisleys, / bugs, and bows. / Bunnies saved / from baby clothes.” Each is so daintily different that it’s hard for her to choose a favorite.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-treasure-a-collection-of-collections-classroom

Image copyright Carmen Saldaña, 2019, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Next, the little girl tries to find inspiration in her dad’s train collection. In My Father’s Trains, she tells how she waits eagerly as he flips the switch and “round and round the crisscrossed lanes, / engines pull my father’s trains. / Box cars, tankers in a row, / circus cars with beasts in tow, / flatcars hauling toys and cranes….” / Signals flash and whistles blow. / I love to watch the dizzy show / when Daddy runs his model trains, / round and round.” Her sister and brothers have their own special collections, and her grandparents have both amassed items that bring them joy.

In Grampa’s Good Cents, the little girl talks about how her grandpa always keeps his eyes on the ground, searching for “a glint of silver / hiding in a sidewalk crack / or / a flash of copper / dropped in the street.” When he does see a coin, he stoops to pick it up and examines it carefully “hoping to find / a buffalo nickel, / a Roosevelt dime, / or some other bright prize / to make his set complete. / Gramps always says, / ‘Keep your eyes open wide— / for the treasure you seek / could be right / at / your/ feet.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-treasure-a-collection-of-collections-auntie-kate

Image copyright Carmen Saldaña, 2019, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

The little girl searches the attic and visits her Auntie Kate, who has lived in states all across the country. She goes to see her friend Asher, who has a collection that moves, and her friend Meg, who collects animal figures of a certain color. While she appreciates their cool collections, for her these aren’t quite right either. Even her mail carrier has a collection. It’s not made up of objects he can put in a box, she relates, but things he sees daily along his route. Even when she and her family eat at Mae’s “Rise and Shine Diner,” she finds that Mae has a special collection too.

The girl does a little research and accumulates a few new vocabulary words that she’s eager to use. Then she takes a break to go outside and enjoy the warm evening, where she describes what she sees in Collecting Stars?: “sparks of starlight / dance around the yard,” playing catch us if you can. She tells readers, “I fill a mason jar / and watch the embers / flash and glow…” and then, unscrewing the lid, watches as these “specks of light” fill the sky again. In the morning, the girl sits at her desk in her classroom, happy and as enthusiastic to share the treasured collection she’s created. Can you guess what it is? 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-treasure-a-collection-of-collections-mail-carrier

Image copyright Carmen Saldaña, 2019, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Michelle Schaub’s charming poems about all kinds of collections will have kids looking at their world in a whole new way. While some readers may already have amassed a collection of their own, much of the delight of Schaub’s poetry is in realizing how many types of collectibles there are and even in what constitutes a collection. Each of Schaub’s poems—some rhymed, some free verse—hold little treasures of their own with enchanting onomatopoeia, evocative synonyms and metaphors, and even snappy dialogue. The array of family, friends, neighbors, and community members and their individual collections will keep kids coming back again and again to this special poetry collection.

Carmen Saldaña’s homey, textured illustrations give a personal touch to each page as people of all ages proudly display their passion for their chosen collectable. Kids will love lingering over the glass cases, gallery walls, and well-stocked shelves to take in all the details of each collection. Saldaña’s work also provides plenty of opportunities for math extensions in counting and sorting. Her lovely color palette shines with warmth and the joy that comes from sharing the individual and the communal pleasure of this favorite hobby.

Sure to inspire children to start a collection of their own or to learn more about the collections of others, Finding Treasure is a perfect book for home, classroom, or public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2019 | ISBN 978-1580898751

Discover more about Michelle Schaub and her books on her website.

To learn more about Carmen Saldaña and view a portfolio of her art, visit her website.

National Button Day Activity

CPB - Button Coat

Pin the Button on the Coat Game

 

Pin the Button on the Coat is a fun game you can make yourself and play anytime! It’s great for a button-themed party or on any day that you’re holed up and wanting something to do! The game is played like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and the object is to get the buttons lined up as close to the center of the coat as possible. Have fun!

Supplies

  • Fleece or felt of your choice of several favorite colors, 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” to make the coat and smaller pieces or scraps to make buttons
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker
  • Clothes hanger
  • Clothes pins

CPB - Button Coat II

Directions

  1. Cut out a coat shape from the fleece
  2. Cut out a collar from a different color fleece (optional)
  3. With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
  4. Let dry
  5. Cut circles to represent buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
  6. With the marker make dots to represent holes in the “buttons”
  7. When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins
  8. Have fun playing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-finding-treasure-a-collection-of-collections-cover

You can find Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review