June 20 – It’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Jannie Ho

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About the Holiday

One of the best parts of summer is all the fresh fruit and veggies that are available at farmers markets and grocery stores. Vibrant red strawberries, watermelon, and tomatoes; deep green lettuce; and a rainbow of squash, peppers, and potatoes make cooking and eating a special treat. There’s no better way to celebrate the season than by making favorite recipes—and trying some new ones—with your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Bear and Chicken

By Jannie Ho

 

On a cold winter day, Bear was coming home from his morning walk when “he saw a chicken, frozen in the snow!” He picked her and her knapsack up and brought them inside, where a warm fire crackled in the fireplace. “How does one defrost a chicken? thought Bear.” Bear took a blanket and wrapped the chicken like a burrito and held her tight until her eyes opened. When that happened, Bear smiled and Chicken found herself staring into two rows of very sharp teeth.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear took Chicken into the kitchen, where carrots and onions sat on the counter. Bear picked up his cookbook and began to read. “‘You are just in time,’” he said to Chicken. Chicken looked on worriedly as Bear filled a huge, chicken-sized pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. When Chicken inadvertently knocked over a pot of basil, Bear decided it was a perfect addition to his recipe.

With a newly sharpened knife, Bear chopped up carrots, celery, and onions. “‘Hmmm…what else is missing?’ said Bear,” looking right at Chicken. Bear lifted Chicken up to the pot of hot, bubbling broth. She imagined what would happen next. Chicken wriggled out of Bear’s grasp and ran as fast as she could and out the door.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear chased after her, and even though Chicken “zig-zagged through the trees,” Bear caught up with her. She glanced at the big stick Bear had raised over her head, and thought it was the end for her. But Bear, his feelings hurt, was just holding out Chicken’s knapsack. “‘You forgot this,’” he said. Surprised, Chicken blurted out, ‘”You’re not going to eat me?’” Now it was Bear’s turn to be surprised, and he explained that he was making lunch for both of them.

Still wary, Chicken protested that she wasn’t hungry, but her grumbling tummy gave her away. The two laughed, and after Bear promised to help Chicken find her way home, they went inside to enjoy delicious bowls of vegetable soup.

An adorably illustrated recipe for Bear’s Vegetable Soup and a note about the diet of Black Bears follow the text.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Kids will love the suspense and humor of Jannie Ho’s mistaken purposes story. Her laugh-out-loud line about defrosting a chicken sets the action directly in the kitchen and puts young readers in the same mindset as poor Chicken when she wakes up to a very suspicious smile. As Chicken stews about her predicament, little ones will empathize with her while older readers may have fun predicting Bear’s intent. The chase through the woods provides gentle suspense while the sweet reconciliation will have readers giggling along with Chicken and Bear.

Ho brings her distinctively cute artwork to her debut as an author/illustrator with great effect as Bear and Chicken exchange meaningful looks—but is Bear serious about cooking Chicken or just serious about his cooking? Kids will fall in love with little chicken from the moment she’s found in the snow and snugged into a warm blanket. Her worried expression will further endear her to readers, and who can blame them for a bit of worry of their own when Bear’s décor includes such things as a picture of bacon and eggs and the prominently displayed Chicken Cookbook?

A cozy Cozy for the youngest mystery lovers, Bear and Chicken should be invited to stick around on any child’s bookshelf for story time or bedtime.

Ages 3 – 6

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762462667

Discover more about Jannie Ho, her books, and her artwork on her website.

Meet Jannie Ho

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Jannie Ho about how Bear and Chicken’s story began, her always eye-catching color palette, and her special relationship with her young readers. 

What inspired you to venture into writing with Bear and Chicken?

I was inspired to write Bear and Chicken when these two characters showed up in one of my illustrations. I was working on a banner header for my blog and I had drawn a Bear holding a bundled up little chicken.

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I received a lot of feedback for it and many people asked me, “What is their story?” I didn’t know yet, but I knew I had something interesting. I filed the idea away and brought it back again when I was invited to participate in a sequential art gallery show. The two pieces for that show became the first spread of Bear and Chicken.

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Your illustrations have such an active, happy sense of camaraderie and community. What would you like readers to take away from your books and other work?

Thank you! I would love to transport my readers to a different world that is filled with happiness, innocence, and humor. There are always little “Easter eggs” I like to put in my illustrations; it is like a little secret between the reader and me. A wink, so to speak.

One of the most striking aspects of your work besides its off-the-charts cuteness is your use of color. Can you talk a little about how you approach color in your illustrations?

I love color and I am constantly looking for color palettes that inspire me. I’ve always done work for very young children and so my color palette is always bright. But I’ve learned over the years to mix in some slight neutrals and unexpected colors in my palette with great results. In almost every project, I already have a color palette in mind when I start. I think the secret is not to use every color there is! A limited color palette always looks much more refined and sophisticated.

What was your favorite picture book when you were a child? Who has influenced your artistic vision.

One of my favorite picture books of all time was (and still is) Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town. I fell in love with his anthropomorphic animal world immediately and he is still my biggest influence to this day.

What’s the best part of being a writer and illustrator for children?

Getting kids to laugh! I think I have a kid’s sense of humor.

What’s up next for you?

I’ve been exploring stories that are from my culture and childhood. I feel a great calling to bring these stories to life and onto paper.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Halloween! I am from Hong Kong and we do not celebrate Halloween there. When I moved to the U.S., I was so surprised at this holiday where you can get free candy from strangers’ houses! Now as a parent, it is fun to see my kid dress up. It is also one of my favorite holidays to illustrate—I have done many Halloween titles (The Haunted Ghoul Bus by Lisa Trumbauer, If You’re Spooky, You Know it by Aly Fronis, Halloween ABC by Jannie Ho).

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday you’d like to share? OR has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Speaking of holidays I was not familiar with as an immigrant, Thanksgiving was a holiday my family had to learn about as we became Americans. I remember going to school having to lie to friends and teachers about eating turkey, cranberry sauce, and gravy. We never had the traditional Thanksgiving meal. One year, I finally asked my mom why we didn’t have turkey for Thanksgiving. She replied, “Chinese people don’t eat turkey.” Which isn’t true, of course! Throughout the years, we’ve learned the traditions and adapted it to make it our own.

Thanks, Jannie! It’s been so fun chatting with you! I wish you all the best with Bear and Chicken and all of your books!

Bear and Chicken Giveawaycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-and-chicken-limited-edition-cover

I’m thrilled to offer a very special giveaway of Bear and Chicken thanks to Jannie Ho! I’m giving away

  • One (1) copy of Bear and Chicken with a Limited Edition Cover

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

A winner will be chosen on June 27.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Jannie Ho

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  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 facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Bear and Chicken at these booksellers

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

May 11 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

What an amazing thing the egg is! This month we celebrate its role in feeding families the world over. From ancient times people have relied on the protein and other nutrients in this compact package to stay healthy at an affordable price or from their own farm. There are so many recipes that feature the delicate flavor of eggs. This month why not crack a few eggs and try a new taste sensation, and, of course, enjoy those old favorites as well!

Egg

By Kevin Henkes

 

As this sophisticated paneled picture book opens, four eggs await their fate. One is pink, one is yellow, one is blue, and one is green. On the next page three of the eggs begin their journey with a crack, crack, crack; but the last one? The green one? It remains a smooth egg. With a “surprise!” a pink baby bird hatches from the pink egg. The yellow egg breaks open and a yellow bird chirps “surprise.” When the blue egg breaks a blue baby bird pops free with one more “surprise!” But the last egg? The green one? It remains an intact egg.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The pink bird strides away from her former home with a quick “good-bye.” The yellow bird takes to the sky with a cheery “good-bye.” And the blue bird skips off  with a joyful cheep “good-bye.” But the last egg? The green one? It still remains a silent egg. All alone now, the green egg waits. It waits and waits and waits through a full sixteen-day calendar.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Finished with her walk, the pink bird is back to check on the green egg. She hails the yellow chick, who is also returning, and calls out to the blue bird, who runs in to see what’s up. They discuss this anomalous egg and come up with a plan. They lay their ears against the shell and “listen.” Then they begin tapping away. “Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck.” This egg has one tough exterior! They peck and peck until, finally, they hear a “crack.”

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The egg splits to reveal an eye-popping “surprise!” The last egg? The green one? It doesn’t hold a green chick, but a green crocodile! The birds fly away from the dangerous snout. Now the baby croc is “alone” and “sad.” The little birds see how “lonely” the crocodile is and slowly, one-by-one they return. They fly closer and closer until they are all sitting atop the crocodile’s back.

The crocodile takes his new friends on a ride down to the water’s edge. He wades in and follows where the pink bird directs. Then these new friends sit quietly and watch the sun set. The orange sun sinks lower and lower toward the horizon, changing shape and beginning the journey all over again.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Kevin Henkes’ adorable read-aloud is as complex as the egg itself. On the surface it is a comforting and touching tale of friendship, but crack it open and the story takes on deeper meaning. Themes of patience, working together, diversity, acceptance, and even ideas of expectations and preconceived danger are waiting to be explored during repeat readings. The graphic-novel nature of the illustrations allow readers to form bonds with the four eggs as a ready-made group, increasing kids’  curiosity and interest in that fourth egg that just won’t hatch.

Pastel colors differentiate each bird as do simple gestures that little ones will recognize as personality traits. In the final pages, the lines separating the panels disappear as the four friends gather to watch the sun go down, and their life together begins.

Ages 3 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062408723

You can meet Kevin Henkes, learn about his books, and discover resources, videos, and more on his website.

National Egg Month Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

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

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

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

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Where’s the Chick?

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

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

Picture Book Review

May 5 – National Astronaut Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the astronauts who with their bravery and sense of adventure inspire everyone to “reach for the stars.” The date commemorates the mission of Astronaut Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space on May 5, 1961. Aboard the Freedom 7 Space capsule, Shepard took a 15-minute suborbital flight 116 miles into the atmosphere. The stories of astronauts from other missions have—and continue to—spark dreams of adventure in all. Even, and maybe especially,  among the youngest of us!

Otter in Space

By Sam Garton

 

On Sunday Otter goes to the museum with Otter Keeper and Teddy to see the Space Exhibition. They see a Triceratops skeleton and meet a stuffed bear that must be Teddy’s cousin. On the walls are old paintings made before the invention of crayons, and ancient, interesting things are everywhere.

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Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Otter likes all these exhibits, but her favorite is the room dedicated to outer space—there are buttons to push just like a real astronaut, videos to watch, and a rock that came all the way from the moon. At last Otter gets to go to the gift shop. She loads up her arms with toys, but Otter Keeper says, “One thing only.” The spaceship travels home with them, but Otter and Teddy really want a moon rock too.

The next day while Otter Keeper is at work, Otter and Teddy play with their new spaceship, but it’s just not as fun without a moon rock. Teddy suggests going back to the museum, but no one can drive them. Otter thinks and thinks and suddenly has “the best idea ever!” She and Teddy will blast to the moon and retrieve a moon rock.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-in-space-museum-exhibits

Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Otter makes a very important list of very important things to do. After lunch she builds two space suits and starts training. Although Teddy has some trouble keeping his space suit on and with problem solving, his performance in anti-gravity training is impressive so they move on to constructing the spaceship. With ingenuity and a bunch of household items, Otter builds a rocket and takes it to the Launchpad.

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Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

With Giraffe at “mishun control” lift-off is easy, but the moon landing is a little bumpy. Otter’s suit gets torn, but she perseveres and discovers the perfect moon rock nearby. It’s huge! With a little trouble Otter and Teddy transport it back to Earth, where it makes a perfect companion, playing board games and pirates—until Otter Keeper comes home and says it has to go back where it belongs.

The discussion is carried over to dinnertime, and Otter Keeper relents when he sees how serious Otter is in her space suit. If Otter cleans the moon rock she can keep it, says Otter Keeper. But one more restriction has been added to the Otter DO NOT list: dig up moon rocks! That’s okay, though. There are other things to dig up on the moon—like a dinosaur!

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Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Sam Garton’s Otter in Space is a cute, spot-on portrayal of the fantastic ideas kids get when exposed to new concepts or places. Told from Otter’s point of view, the text hits on the serious-yet-humorous observations of kids: the gift shop as the favorite museum “exhibit,” a lingering regret for the toy left behind, and “the best ideas ever!” to correct situations.

Garton’s colorful illustrations of wily Otter and her faithful Teddy as they visit the museum, plan their space trip with the help of Giraffe and other toys, and blast off wearing a cereal box space suit are endearing. Kids will giggle at Teddy’s anti-gravity training in the washing machine. They and their parents will also appreciate Otter’s crafty discovery of the moon rock in the garden and recognize with a laugh his adoption of it as a member of the family.

Otter in Space is a book kids will want to explore again and again and would make a favorite addition to home bookshelves!

Ages 4 – 8

Balzer + Bray, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062247766

National Astronaut Day 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!

Picture Book Review

 

 

Picture book review

April 2 – National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

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About the Holiday

PB & J is a perennial favorite! These tasty sandwiches are so popular that the average American will eat more than 2,000 by the time they graduate from high school! In the early 1900s, peanut butter was a rare treat, served only in the most upscale New York City tea rooms. When, in 1896, an article in Good Housekeeping offered instructions on grinding your own peanuts, and Table Talk magazine published a recipe for making a peanut butter sandwich, peanut butter began to enter the mainstream. The first mention of combining jelly with peanut butter may have been by Julia Davis Chandler in 1901. Peanut butter became an inexpensive lunchtime favorite of children in the 1920s and was a staple of WWII ration lists for soldiers. Today, peanut butter and jelly feature prominently in both sweet and savory dishes of all kinds. To celebrate, you know what to do!

I’m thrilled to partner with Tundra Books in a giveaway of one copy of Peanut Butter and Jelly! See details below.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: A Narwhal and Jelly Book

By Ben Clanton

 

A Sweet and Salty Story!

When Narwhal comes upon Jelly eating what looks like a delicious waffle, he wants in! But it’s not a waffle, Jelly tells him; it’s a peanut butter cookie! Narwhal thinks this sounds ridiculous, and Jelly is shocked to find out that Narwhal has never heard of peanut butter. Narwhal tries to imagine what it tastes like. “Like strawberries? Pickles? Stir-fried licorice?” Jelly feels a little sick – especially when Narwhal suggests it tastes like all three combined.

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

It turns out that Narwhal only eats waffles and has pretty much missed out on all the best food groups: pizza, spaghetti, even guacamole. Jelly offers Narwhal a taste of his cookie, saying “maybe you’ll like this cookie even more than waffles!” Well, Narwhal thinks this is even more ridiculous than the cookie itself. But after Jelly offers to make him a Narwhal-sized waffle if he just takes a nibble, Narwhal relents. He takes the smallest of bites, and… his eyes fly open and he proclaims it “fintastic! He loves the sweetness, the saltiness, the yumminess…. In fact, it’s so “yumptious” that it’s… “all gone! Whoops!”

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Ahoy! Peanut Butter

Jelly just can’t get Narwhal’s attention. Why? Because he’s changed his name from Narwhal to… Peanut Butter! Jelly is incensed. He doesn’t think it’s normal to just up and change your name like that, but Narwhal assures him that it’s fine. After all, he used to be called Fred, and before that his name was Bob. Yes, he’s had a whole string of names that even includes Sir Duckworth.

Jelly is getting so confused. He’s worried that Narwhal is taking the whole peanut butter thing way too far—especially when he finds out that Narwhal hasn’t eaten anything but peanut butter since he had that cookie. And now his jar is empty! There’s only one thing for Narwhal to do—swim off to get another jar. Right, Floyd? “Floyd?” Jelly thinks. Hmmm… “Floyd…”

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick vs. PB & J, by Peanut Butter and Floyd

A monstrous pickle is on a rampage! It’s time for Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick! “But before they can take a slice out of that pickle…,” Peanut Butter Bread and Jelly Bread are on the scene. They make a pickle sandwich and vanquish him in no time, declaring that pickle “no big dill.” Just then, though, “a jealous gelatinous jam” picks up Jelly Bread and is about to munch. Now, it’s “Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick to the rescue!” They tame that glob of jam a with an even better dance jam!

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Peanut a.k.a. Mini Narwhal

Something is all kerflooey in the ocean. Narwhal is suddenly much smaller than Jelly, and he’s turned the color of peanut butter. Jelly wants to know what happened. Narwhal has a theory on why he’s suddenly so tiny. He tells Jelly, “When I woke up this morning I was the size of a peanut. I think it might have something to do with all the peanut butter I’ve been eating.” Jelly advises Narwhal to cool it on the peanut butter, and Narwhal agrees—not because he doesn’t want to eat it anymore, but because he’s eaten “all the peanut butter in the whole world wide waters!”

What’s Narwhal going to do about it, Jelly wonders. The answer is: Nothing! Narwhal’s fine with being so petite. But what about doing cannonballs, and his tutu and cape? Jelly asks. Jelly conjures up all kinds of disasters: Narwhal could get eaten or washed away on a wave or sucked into an elephant’s trunk. Narwhal tells Jelly to chillax. There’s a good side too. Regular waffles will seem gigantic and he’ll be able to eat as many as he wants.

A few of those huge waffles later Narwhal is enormous. Narwhal thinks this is just as great as being tiny because now he “can eat oodles of waffles” and “break the world record for waffle eating!” Which Jelly thinks is pretty ingenious—until he’s left to make thousands of waffles!

Narwhal and Jelly even tell kids about what some other sea creatures eat in section called Delicious Facts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-jelly-cookie

Copyright Ben Clanton, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Ben Clanton’s Narwhal—excuse me, Peanut Butter—and Jelly make the most adorable odd couple in the early readers’ sea. In this third graphic-novel adventure, the dynamic duo give kids a taste of funny repartee between friends as Narwhal discovers a new fav food and tries on a new name and two new sizes. Clanton knows how to make readers giggle and laugh out loud as Narwhal guffaws at the idea foods other than waffles, Jelly grows more and more flabbergasted at Narwhal’s antics, and a rogue pickle with mismatched goggly eyes flails its spindly arms.

Sweet, zany, supportive, and charming, the combination of Narwhal and Jelly is always a delectable and eagerly anticipated treat for kids. Peanut Butter and Jelly is a must for all fans and a terrific addition to any home or classroom library.

Ages 5 – 9

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0735262454

Discover more about Ben Clanton, his books, and lots of other fun stuff on his website.

It’s a Peanut Butter and Jelly Giveaway!

I’m excited to partner with Tundra Books in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Peanut Butter and Jelly: A Narwhal and Jelly Book!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 2 – April 8. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on April 9.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Tundra Books

National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-jelly-game

Make a PB & J Lunch! Game

 

With just a few ingredients, you can make yourself a delicious lunch! Turns out PB & J and a glass of milk also makes a pretty fun game! Play this printable game for some peanuty perfect fun!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print one playing die
  2. Print enough game cards for each player to have a set
  3. Cut out the playing die and game cards
  4. Game cards can be stacked near the players
  5. Tape the playing die together

To Play the Game

  1. Choose a player to go first
  2. The first player rolls the die
  3. The player takes a game card matching the picture on the side of the die facing up and places it on their paper plate
  4. Play passes to the left
  5. If a player rolls an item they already have, they pass the die to the player on their left without taking a new card
  6. The first player to get all six parts of the peanut butter and jelly lunch is the winner

For a More Difficult Game

To make the game a little harder, roll the die to fill your plate in this order:

  1. Plain bread
  2. Peanut Butter
  3. Jelly Jar
  4. Jelly Bread
  5. Peanut Butter Bread
  6. Milk

Picture Book Review

March 27 – National Joe Day

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About the Holiday

Are you just a regular Joe? Well, not today! Today you’re special! Today, we’re honoring all those regular Joes, cups of Joe, and people named or nicknamed Joe—or Jo. Why? Just because! So celebrate today by indulging in your favorite coffee, getting in touch with any friends or family named Joe—or Jo—or even changing your name to Joe for this particular day.

Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown

Written by Eric Litwin | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

“Groovy Joe is totally fun. / He’s a song-singing, / tail-wagging / party of one.” And how does he rock? Wow! Like this: “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!” But just as Joe is feeling the beat, there’s a knock on the door. Who is it?  One tuba-playing dog who wants to join in. Now there are two dogs and a big ol’ tuba taking up space, but does Joe mind? Not at all! He just keeps groovin’ with a “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groovy-joe-dance-party-countdown-rocking

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin, 2017. Courtesy of tomlichtenheld.com.

They’re soon interrupted by another knock at the door. Two more dogs come in, so now there are four! Four dogs mean there’s even less room for Joe. “Does Joe get upset? Goodness no!” So the four set to rockin’ ‘til there’s another knock at the door. “Who’s there?” asks Joe, and the answer is four. “Four who? Four more dogs are going to disco with you.” These dogs bring a flute, a cello, a violin, and a guitar. With eight in the room it’s getting pretty crowded, but does Joe care? Not a bit! They just “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

A pretty cool squirrel has danced onto the scene, and pretty soon he’s joined the band with his tambourine. Is eight dogs and one squirrel all the room can hold? No! Even though “This party is rocking” and “they’re packed on the floor… Groovy Joe says there’s always room for one more!” Do you know who that is? You’re about to find out because there’s a knock at the door. “Knock! Knock! / Who’s there? / Joe invited. / Joe invited who?” Just look! “Joe invited YOU to come to the party!”

So put on your dancing shoes and get your voice ready to sing because “there’s always room for more” at this “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groovy-joe-dance-party-countdown-four-more

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin, 2017. Courtesy of tomlichtenheld.com.

What little one can resist the upbeat beat of a dance party—especially one as inviting as Eric Litwin and Tom Lichtenheld’s disco bash at Groovy Joe’s? With a little math and a lot of inclusiveness, Litwin shows how adding more friends multiplies the fun. His infectious rhythm and repeated phrasing will have listeners memorizing and reading along with the knock-knock jokes and the call to party. Joe’s final invitation to kids to join in will have them up and dancing along joyfully.

Tom Lichtenheld’s shaggy Joe’s not worried about how much room he has. He’s only got smiles for the other dogs who come knocking at his door. As each new musician joins the band, readers will love watching the various dogs play their instruments and boogie to their own music. With each knock, the dogs stop their playing and turn their eager eyes to the door anticipating the fun repartee to come and the appearance of more friends. Presented addition problems, clearly drawn instruments, and a crew of recognizable dog breeds also give adults and kids lots to talk about during the party.

With playful, action-packed fun for energetic story times, Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown would be a terrific and favorite choice for preschool, kindergarten, and home libraries. The story would even be fun to act out for added learning opportunities.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545883795

Discover more about Eric Litwin, his books, music, and more plus find free downloads on his website

To learn more about Tom Lichtenheld, view a portfolio of his books, and find fun activities, visit his website.

Dance along with Joe and Eric in this Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown book trailer!

National Joe Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-build-a-band-game

Build a Band Game 

 

Play this fun game to gather all the instruments you need to create a band. The first person to collect all six instrument cards is the winner!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Paper Die Template, cut it out and assemble the cube die.
  2. Print the Musical Instruments cards, cut out cards, and separate the instruments into piles
  3. Players take turns rolling the die to collect musical instrument cards
  4. The first player to collect all 6 instrument cards is the winner

Picture Book Review

March 23 – National Near Miss Day

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About the Holiday

Today we remember a cosmic fly-by that occurred on March 23, 1989. On that day the 300-meter-wide asteroid 4581 Asclepius, named for the Greek god of medicine and healing, came within 430,000 miles of hitting Earth—actually passing through the exact position Earth had held only six hours earlier. This near miss wasn’t discovered until nine days later by astronomers Henry E. Holt and Norman G. Thomas. “On the cosmic scale of things, that was a close call,” Dr. Holt said at the time. To celebrate today, you can thank your lucky stars for this near miss or any others you’ve experienced recently or in your lifetime. Another stellar way to spend the day is to learn more about space and our universe!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-A

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-N

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-is-for-astronaut-letter-P

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or InstaFor speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for AstronautYou can download two A is for Astronaut Activity Sheets here:

A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet | A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

Meet Astronaut Clayton Anderson
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronaut-clayton-anderson-photo

Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | TwitterFor speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

Near Miss Day Activity

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

Rocket to the Moon! 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!

Picture Book Review

March 22 – National Goof Off Day

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About the Holiday

Just as the name sounds, today is a day to relax, let some things slide, and goof off! When the stresses and strains of everyday life get to be a little too much, letting go and having fun can put you in a better frame of mind and give you new perspectives. The holiday was established in 1976 by Monica Moeller Dufour of Davidson, Michigan. Now that you have permission to goof off and a whole twenty-four hours to do it in, plan some wacky events – or just snuggle in with a good book. There are no rules—so enjoy!

So Few of Me

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

Leo knew how to multitask. He could mop the floor and feed the bird at the same time (so…well… maybe the seed did miss the cage by a bit). But “no matter how hard he worked, there was always more to do.” Leo thought making a list would be a good idea. But once he started writing, the “list of things to do grew and grew.” For a moment, Leo wished there two of him. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-four-leos

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

When Leo opened the door, he, himself, was standing on the other side. The new Leo was keen to get started on the list. Two Leos was helpful, but the new Leo noticed more things to be done, so “a third Leo joined the two.” Three was fine, but four was even better. They shopped, swept up, went to the library for more books, and made important phone calls.

If four could get so much done, just imagine how productive five would be. The Leos did imagine it, and a fifth Leo joined the group. The Leos could now wash the windows, make a birdhouse, water the flowers, do the laundry, and make some notes. Those notes became a more organized job chart when the sixth Leo appeared. “After meeting for hours, they decided they needed a seventh.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-nine-leos

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. “With seven Leos, there was seven times as much work!” Leo decided they needed one more just to stay afloat. These eight Leos mopped and baked, played soccer and carted laundry, organized and took notes that led to needing another Leo. Surely, these boys could get it all done. So one typed while another played soccer and another washed the cat. The fourth Leo swept while the fifth walked the dog and the sixth practiced violin. The seventh made important phone calls and the eighth checked the list while the ninth went grocery shopping.

Things were getting done and yet there was still more to do. So one more Leo was added, and each was “busier than the next.” At last, the ten Leos stopped for a minute to take stock. They reviewed the list and the progress they were making. They discovered that there was “no time to stop, no time to rest!” The first Leo, though, “was exhausted. He slipped away to take a nap.”

When Leo opened his eyes, he saw eighteen other eyes staring back at him. “‘What were you doing/’” The nine Leos demanded. When they heard that Leo had been dreaming, “they roared, ‘Dreaming is NOT on the list!’” But Leo only smiled, and “the Leos disappeared one by one.” Leo had a new thought. He wondered what would happen if he did less, but did his best. This solution made him happy, and with the list abandoned, Leo ran and played and became “just me, just one…with time to dream.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-one-leo

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynolds’ books for young readers celebrate the wonders of childhood—those years that are so important in the development of the adult to come. Always encouraging of the interior voice of creativity and individuality, here Reynolds adds a tribute to time—the time needed to think, dream, contemplate, devise, and become.

With his usual flair, Reynolds uses watercolor, ink, and tea to show readers—both kids and adults—what all that over-scheduled running around looks like from the outside. As the Leos proliferate, the pages go from sparse to full to packed until one page isn’t enough, and the list and the Leo’s spill over into a double spread. When Leo wakes from his nap and realizes one is enough, the white space around him provides a sense of freedom and lightness. As the pages of the list fly out of Leo’s hands and he plops down in a grassy spot, the end papers reflect Leo’s liberation. Whereas the opening endpapers of college-rule notebook pages are full of chores, meetings, and exhortations to do more, the final  notebook-page endpapers are blank, giving readers a sense of Ahhhhh!

Adding So Few of Me to home or classroom bookshelves and reading often can be a good reminder that time relaxing is time well spent.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick, 2006 | ISBN 978-0763626235

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds, his books, his art on his website

National Goof Off Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chore-matching-card-game

Sweep Away Your Chores! Matching Game

 

Match the chores to get them done. See how quickly you can pair up these chores and get them finished so you can run off to play.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two copies of the Chore Cards for each player
  2. Cut the Chore Cards apart’
  3. Lay them face down and scramble them
  4. Turn over one card and try to find its match by turning over another card
  5. If the cards match, put them aside
  6. If the cards do not match, lay them face down again and pick another card
  7. You win when all the cards have been matched

Picture Book Review