August 1 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Summer vacation is winding down (already?!), but there’s still plenty of time to get the family together for some fun. Whether you take a trip to a faraway place or stay closer to home, there are parks, movies, attractions, sports, and, of course, libraries and bookstores to explore. Today’s book also gives you a good idea for an activity that adults and kids can do together.

Lucky to Live in Connecticut

By Kate B. Jerome

 

This “Read Together—Do Together” book, just one in the 41-book series that focuses on different states in America, is part picture book, part scrapbook, and wholly fun! It begins with an upbeat rhyme that makes kids feel great about the place where they live: “Connecticut is home—and I think quite a lot / that I’m lucky to live in this wonderful spot. / Why is it special? That’s easy to see. / It’s the place that begins the whole story of me!”

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Copyright Kate R. Jerome, 2017. Courtesy of Arcadia Publishing.

On the next page a dapper fox invites kids to draw a picture of themselves on the blank, white page and add their name and age. This personal travelogue of the state of Connecticut begins close to home with a little blue house just waiting for an address and a note about a favorite spot nearby. While kids are filling these in, they also learn that “Connecticut is in the northeastern part of the United States.”

Since Connecticut is well-known for its hospitality, two praying mantises—the Connecticut state insect—are pouring out tea for the reader and a friend, whose name gets added to the page. Turning the page, kids find more spots to add friends’ names as well as the name of a favorite activity.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lucky-to-live-in-connecticut-map

Copyright Kate B. Jerome, 2017. Courtesy of Arcadia Publishing.

Feeling hungry? Well, you’ve come to the right place! “Connecticut cooks are so skilled they can please any guest. / (No surprise that they think homemade food is the best.)” And what foods do locals and guests enjoy? Lobster rolls, apple cider, and apple cider donuts. But what do the readers like? They can write their favorites in the puffy chef’s hat the little fox provides!

There’s so much to see and do in Connecticut! Just a few of the fun attractions you can visit are: Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, the Connecticut Science Center, and the New England Air Museum. Add the places you like to visit best right alongside these. Everyone supports a certain team—whether professional or local. “Go ahead! Color the T-shirt in your team colors!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lucky-to-live-in-connecticut-insect

Copyright Kate B. Jerome, 2017. Courtesy of Arcadia Publishing.

With its ocean shoreline, lakes, hills, rivers, farms, fields, and lots and lots of trees, Connecticut is also home to a wide variety of animals, birds, and fish. Which ones do you like best? Write their names or draw their pictures on the page provided. Many famous people come from Connecticut. A few are: Barbara McClintock, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist; Noah Webster, the author of the first English dictionary; and Annie Leibovitz, a photographer. Who is your hero? Write their name and say why.

Good music can be found in all parts of Connecticut, from local bands to famous orchestras. Remind your future self of your favorite songs on the little spiral notebook page. There are plenty of inventors in Connecticut too! What are you good at making? “In this state celebrations are always great fun. / People laughing and sharing is just how it’s done.” Doesn’t the three-layer cake on the next page look scrumptious? Two layers are just waiting for you to write in your fav celebrations.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lucky-to-live-in-connecticut-house

Copyright Kate B. Jerome, 2017. Courtesy of Arcadia Publishing.

By now the scrapbook is getting full, so let’s add just a couple more things. It’s always fun to look back on what you wanted to do when you grew up. A musician, a construction worker, and a doctor all are excited to see what you will say. Two final pages let you create a family tree and trace your hand. As you close your book you will always know:

“As my own story grows I will never forget / all the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. / Yes the memories I have of this wonderful place / are the ones that will always bring smiles to my face.”

Directions on how to build a time capsule with children follow the text.

Kate B. Jerome’s clever story and scrapbook makes for a fun family activity. Every child is proud of their state and town, and this book lets them add their personal touches to the things they see and do. Peppered with trivia and local shout-outs, the book will delight kids who will respond to hearing familiar names and seeing other favorites. The pages provided for drawing and writing give young children plenty of space for their creations. The illustrations are vibrant, friendly, and welcoming, inviting kids to spend time to make memories they’ll look back on fondly.

Ages 4 – 7

Arcadia Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-0738527963

Discover more about Kate B. Jerome, her books and her illustration work on her website!

National Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-lights-on-lights-off (2)

Lights On-Lights Off Game

 

This easy memory game is fun to play with the whole family, and you can be sure that when the lights go out there will be plenty of giggling from little ones.

Supplies

  • Five to twelve (or more) small items
  • A table or floor space

Directions

  1. Lay out a certain number of items on a table or the floor. For younger children use fewer items. Older kids will enjoy the challenge of more items
  2. Give players a certain time to look at the items and memorize them. Young children may need more time than older children.
  3. Turn the lights off and have one person remove one or two items.
  4. Turn the lights back on and let kids figure out which items are missing
  5. Rearrange the items and play again, giving each player a chance to remove an item.

Picture Book Review

July 15 – National Give Something Away Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the joy of giving. Whether you donate items from home to charity, volunteer your time in your community,or bring a friend a homemade treat, generosity will make both recipient and you feel good!

Hooray for Hat!

By Brian Won

 

Elephant wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. He’s hardly had a chance to fully shake off sleep when the doorbell rings. He clomps down the stairs yelling, “‘Go away! I’m grumpy!’” But there’s no one at the door. Instead Elephant finds a prettily wrapped present on his doorstep. Unwrapping it, Elephant finds the grandest hat he’s ever seen. It has everything – A pompom, a star, a feather, a mortar board with a tassel, a crown, a coo-coo clock bird, and even a cup holder! Elephant puts it on. How can he be grumpy with such a hat on his head? He can’t! “‘Hooray for Hat!’” he cheers and goes off to show Zebra.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-gift-for-elephant

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Elephant finds Zebra sitting alone on a tree stump. She doesn’t even turn around when her friend approaches. “‘Go away! I’m grumpy!’” she states. Elephant removes the top hat from his own new chapeau—a party hat with the pompom—and gently places it on Zebra’s head. Zebra can’t help but smile. “‘Hooray for Hat!’” they both cheer and head out for Turtle’s house.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Oh, but Turtle is so grumpy that they won’t even come out of their shell. Elephant lifts down the cowboy hat with the star and feather from his own towering hat and gives it to his pal. Out pops Turtle who proudly joins the parade. “‘Hooray for Hat!’” they all cheer and march off to show Owl. “But Owl did not want to see them or their hats. ‘Go Away! I’m grumpy!’” she hoots from her tree trunk hole.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-hat-for-turtle

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Elephant is as wise as Owl, however, and thinks the striped mortar board is just the thing to change her mood. “‘Hoo-Hoo-Hooray for Hat!’” Owl says, leading the way to find Lion. Lion’s frowning face peers out at them from his den, and he shoos the group away with the familiar “‘Go Away! I’m Grumpy!’” Down comes the golden crown from Elephant’s hat and while Lion loves it, he’s more concerned with their friend Giraffe who isn’t feeling well. “‘What can we do?’” Lion asks the group.

They all know exactly what to do. They pack up the very special hat and take it to Giraffe, who is standing with her head hidden in a treetop. “Do Not Disturb” reads the sign hanging on the trunk. As soon as Giraffe dons that hat, though, a toothy smile breaks out, and the six best buddies cheer, “‘Hooray for Friends!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-hat-for-owl

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Brian Won’s joyful celebration of the power of surprise, friendship, and a great hat is a day brightener for anyone, whether they wake up grumpy or feeling fine. His adorable animal friends don’t mind a little grumpiness—they’ve experienced it themselves—but only want to make each other happier. The repeated phrasing throughout the story invites kids to read along, and the absence of pronouns offers open interpretation and inclusiveness. The confetti-colored hats will make kids smile, and the tribute to friendship will have them cheering along with this fun picture book.

A cheer-ful book, Hooray for Hat! would make a happy addition to children’s home libraries for those days when they need a little more encouragement or inspiration. Kids will want to get together with Elephant, Zebra, Turtle, Owl, Lion, and Giraffe again and again and will no doubt love to create a magnificent hat of their own!

Ages 3 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544159037

Visit the world of Brian Won on his website

Hooray for this book trailer!

 National Give Something Away Day Activity

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Hats Off to You! Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs. Can you find the two that match before you give them away?

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 pages of the Hats Off to You! game cards (or more to make the game harder)
  2. Cut the cards apart
  3. Shuffle the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table
  5. By turning one card over at a time, find all the matching pairs

Picture Book Review

June 27 – It’s Effective Communications Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, body language can say a lot, but effectively expressing yourself in words and writing helps decrease misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hurt feelings, and conflict. Learning to handle important relationships and work obligations with thoughtful care, consideration, and empathy can take patience and practice. This month people are invited to work on their communications skills to enhance their life with family, friends, co-workers, and others.

The Bear Who Stared

By Duncan Beedie

 

Bear loves to stare…and stare…and stare. One morning he emerges from his den to find a family of ladybugs having a picnic breakfast. He can’t help but gaze at them intently. “‘What are you staring at?’” the daddy ladybug demands before he and his family pack up to find a more private leaf. Bear continues on his way. In a bit he climbs a tree and stares at a bird feeding her chicks. “‘Can I help you?’” the mother bird asks, but Bear remains silent. The chicks don’t like Bear interfering with their meal, so the mother bird angrily tells him to “‘sshhhooooo!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-ladybugs

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At the bottom of the tree Bear spies a badger hole and sticks his head inside. The badger, particularly irritated at Bear’s badgering stare while he is shaving, bites poor bear on the nose. Sore and dejected, Bear wanders through the forest to a large pond. He sits down on a log to ponder his situation. He doesn’t mean to be annoying, he’s “just curious but too shy to say anything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-ladybugs-yelling

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

A little frog floating on a lily pad in the middle of the pond pipes up, “‘I’ve seen that look before.’” Bear stares at the frog and the frog stares back. “‘Not much fun being stared at, is it?’” he says. Bear confesses that he just doesn’t know what to say to anyone. Just then Bear catches a glimpse of another bear staring back at him from the mossy water of the pond. This bear looks exactly like Bear, except that he is green and wavy. Suddenly, the green bear smiles. “‘You see?’” says the frog. “‘Sometimes a smile is all you need.’” The frog dives off his lily pad into the pond, and the green bear disappears too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-staring

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The next day Bear leaves his den and discovers the ladybug family breakfasting again. As soon as they spot Bear, they begin to gather their things. “‘Hello!’” Bear says with a big smile on his face. The ladybugs are surprised and happy. “‘Oh, hello!’” replies the dad, smiling back. With renewed confidence Bear wanders into the forest. He smiles at the birds and smiles at the badger, and they smile at him in return. Bear makes a lot of new friends that day. And there’s even that friend down at the pond who likes to stare as much as he does!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-frog

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Duncan Beedie highlights the awkward feeling many kids—and even adults—often feel in social situations. Nothing pops immediately to mind to say and yet there’s a desire for connection. As Bear discovers, staring is not the answer—so what is? In The Bear Who Stared, Beedie offers a simple, but universal solution through an engaging and humorous story. Bear, sporting a bemused expression that aptly depicts his predicament, is such an endearing character that readers will wish they could give him a hug as he suffers slights from the woodland creatures.

The full-bleed, oversized pages put readers at eye level with bear and his subjects, and the very up-close look into Bear’s staring eyes will make kids laugh. The green, rust, and blue palette on matte paper is bold, but muted, giving the pages an organic, environmental feel that is perfect to carry the story.

The Bear Who Stared is a funny story time read with a heart that kids will ask for again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802856

Check out more of Duncan Beedie’s illustration and animation work on his website!

Take a good looong look at this The Bear Who Stared book trailer!

Effective Communications Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-craft

Expressive Bear Craft

 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or how to express your emotions and thoughts. With this easy-to-make felt (or paper) set, you can give the bear different emotions and talk about them, make up stories to go with each facial expression, or play a fun game. Below, you’ll find a couple of ideas!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

Picture Book Review

June 9 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

The weeks between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June have been designated as National Family Month. This time gives us the opportunity to honor everything that makes a group of people a family. Shared experiences and memories—and especially love—create that unique feeling in the heart that defines family. To celebrate, get the family together for some fun!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…. Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree truck lodged around your leg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! This little guy is super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and parts of their backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a perfect book for young readers to share with their own dads and would be an often-read addition to children’s home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

National Family Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

June 6 – Garden Exercise Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that gardening is good exercise? Well, all that tilling and digging and bending and carrying adds up to quite a strenuous workout! Today’s holiday encourages couch potatoes (eye just couldn’t help myself) to get up and get out! In addition to exercise, gardening provides other health benefits, such as nutritious food, stress relief, and a sunny dose of vitamin D. So grab a planter or patch, some dirt, and some seeds and plot out (so sorry…) your garden!

Lola Plants a Garden

Written by Anna McQuinn |Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

 

Lola has a book of garden poems that she absolutely loves. Her favorite poem is: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, / How does your garden grow? / With silver bells / and cockleshells / and pretty maids all in a row.” She likes that poem so much, in fact, that it has inspired her to plant her own garden. Lola’s “mommy says there is room near the vegetables.”

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Lola checks out a stack of books about flowers from the library and with Mommy’s help makes a list of her favorites. “They go to the garden store to buy seeds.” At home Lola and Mommy dig in the dirt and drop in the seeds. Lola uses the “seed packets to mark where the flowers are planted.” Then Lola waits. While waiting she uses the time to create her own book about flowers. She cuts paper petals, stems and leaves and even adds a butterfly. “Mommy types the Mary Mary poem, and Lola glues it in.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-plants-a-garden-store

Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

After that, Lola threads some silver bells onto a string. She places several shells on her shelf and adds some beads as well. With wood, cloth, and yarn, Lola “even makes a little Mary Mary.” At last, Lola sees green shoots popping out of the ground. She carefully pulls up weeds around her plants. Day by day, her flowers grow taller and “open up to the sun.”

When the garden is in full bloom, Lola’s daddy helps her hang the string of bells above it. Mary Mary is given her own special spot too. When her little plot looks perfect, Lola invites her friends to see her garden. She and Mommy make cupcakes, and Lola wears a flowered shirt, flowers in her hair, and a beaded bracelet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-plants-a-garden-watching-shoots

Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Lola’s friends love the garden. “They share the crunchy peas and sweet strawberries that Mommy grew.” While the four friends enjoy the cupcakes and juice, Lola entertains them with a story starring her Mary Mary doll. Already Lola is thinking about what garden she will plant next.

Little ones will be excited to meet Lola, whose love of flowers and the “Mary Mary” poem spurs her creativity in so many directions—from gardening to crafting to cooking to pretending. Anna McQuinn’s engaging story shows how reading can inspire action, and puts Lola in charge of making her vision come true. With simple yet lovely storytelling, McQuinn taps into children’s desires to reenact what they see and read and to share their successes with others. Through her work, Lola becomes the subject of her own “Lola Lola” poem, which closes the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-plants-a-garden-weeding

Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola is an adorable and determined girl with an ever-present smile. Young readers will love being invited into Lola’s home, going along to the garden store, watching her flowers bloom into glorious colors, and joining her picnic with friends. Seeing the progression of all of Lola’s projects may motivate readers to copy her—which would make for a fun summer activity!

Lola Plants a Garden will captivate fans of Lola’s other adventures and make new readers want to discover them all. The book would make a great addition to home libraries as Lola will quickly become a friend children will want to visit with again and again. Lola Plants a Garden has recently been published in paperback in English and Spanish editions

Ages 2 – 5

Charlesbridge Publishing, 2017 (Paperback)| ISBN 978-1580896955 (English); 978-1580897860 (Spanish)

Discover more about Anna McQuinn, her books, and her work with children on her website!

Visit Rosalind Beardshaw’s website to learn more about her books and artwork!

Garden Exercise Day Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game, copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

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 rolled 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 determined number of rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

Picture Book Review

May 19 – National Pizza Party Day

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About the Holiday

Pizza, with a multitude of flavor combinations, is a perfect party food for any occasion! Today’s holiday gives you a great reason to invite your friends and family over, order your favorite kinds of pizza, and have some fun! 

Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster

By Claire Lordon

 

Lorenzo is one adventurous lobster! Not only does he like exploring new places, he loves getting his claws on new foods. One day while at the beach, Lorenzo meets a seagull who has found a tasty slice of pizza to nosh on. “‘What’s that?’” Lorenzo asks, “‘It smells amazing!’” The seagull tells him and invites him to try it. Lorenzo takes a nibble…and then a bigger bite. He loves this pizza thing so much that he eats it all up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lorenzo-the-pizza-loving-lobster-riding-introduced-to-pizza

Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On his way home to tell his friends about his discovery, Lorenzo runs into Kalena, his turtle friend, and tells her all about the triangular food that is “‘crispy and chewy at the same time; salty, tangy, and full of flavor, too!’” Kalena is intrigued and suggests they try to make one themselves. At Lorenzo’s house they begin gathering the ingredients, but when Kalena asks what was in the pizza, Lorenzo can’t remember. Kalena looks in the cupboard and pulls out seaweed cake and kelp paste. “‘Perfect!’” agrees Lorenzo. For the “stringy” part, Kalena suggests eelgrass, which also has the benefit of being extra salty. And the “round things on top”? Sand dollars sound delicious!

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Image and text copyright Claire Lorden, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

So the pair bake up their green concoction, and when the timer rings they dig in only to find that it “‘isn’t quite right.’” Not one to give up, Kalena offers a new set of ingredients: “‘kelp dough, squid ink, algae, and coral rings.’” This pizza isn’t right either—in fact, Kalena says, “‘This tastes icky! And the algae is stuck in my teeth!’” Suddenly, Lorenzo has a brainstorm. He remembers that the pizza was made of “‘sponge patties, jellyfish jelly, seaweed noodles, and seashells.’”

Listening to that recipe, Kalena isn’t so sure, but they make it anyway. When this creation comes out of the oven, one small nip convinces Kalena that this one is “‘gross.’” Poor Lorenzo—he so badly wanted to make a delicious pizza with his friend. Kalena leaves Lorenzo’s house with the distinct impression that pizza is terrible. But as she heads up the beach toward home, she smells a delicious aroma. Coming closer she spies a “round food,” and buys one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lorenzo-the-pizza-loving-lobster-making-pizza

Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With one bite, she’s smitten! This round food is “‘so chewy, and salty, and…wait a minute.’” It dawns on Kalena that this might be the very pizza Lorenzo was talking about. There’s just one thing—why is it a circle? Even though Kalena wants to devour the whole thing, she thinks about how sad Lorenzo was and hurries back to his house with the steaming box. Sure enough, Lorenzo is moping about the afternoon’s debacle.

“‘Hey Lorenzo, look what I found!’” Kalena calls. “‘Holy anchovy!’” Lorenzo exclaims when he tastes it, “‘This is exactly like the pizza I had earlier, but this time it’s big and round!’” They are excited to dig into their treat, but they carefully study the pizza’s ingredients before eating it all up. One pizza just isn’t enough, so Lorenzo and Kalena make another…and another…and another—and share them with all their friends at a huge pizza party.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Who knew pizza and the ocean had so much in common—the same salty tang, the same appealing aromas, the same recognizable shapes? Claire Lordon, that’s who! In her funny culinary adventure, Lordon captures the enthusiasm children have to share and replicate a new discovery  but also presents the moments of disappointment when reality and memory don’t match. Kids will “ewww…ohhh…yuck…and yuck it up at the alternative pizza ingredients Lorenzo and Kalena combine in their attempts at a “normal” pizza. These two friends are sweetly supportive of each other through kelp paste and pepperoni and know how to share life’s ups and downs.

Lordon’s adorable sea creatures populate vibrant underwater and beach environments that will be as familiar to kids as their own homes and playgrounds, but with an oceanic twist. Images of the alternate ingredients are clever adaptations of the elements of a normal pizza as Lorenzo remembers the shapes but not the names of the fixings.

Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster is a delicious ingredient to add to any child’s bookshelf, and kids will no doubt want to build their own pizzas just like Lorenzo—a crustacean who really knows his crust!

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802283

Learn more about Claire Lordon and her work on her website!

Cheese Pizza Day Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: add sauce (red x)

2: add cheese

3: add green peppers (green squares)

4: add garlic (white half moons)

5: add pepperoni

6: remove one ingredient and pass the playing die to the next player

Picture Book Review

May 15 – Straw Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Straw hats are found in nearly every culture in the world and have been used since ancient times. Made from local materials, some are unique to and even iconic of the country in which they’re made. Woven loosely, straw hats can protect a person from the hot sun while also keeping their head cool. In rainy climates, tightly woven hats are good for staying dry. Of course, straw hats are a staple of women’s fashion and can be found in nearly every color and decorated with ribbon, flowers, feathers, beads, and more.

Miss Fannie’s Hat

Written by Jan Karon | Illustrated by Toni Goffe

 

“Miss Fannie has lots of hats. And each one is her favorite.” Miss Fannie is ninety-nine years old and has a closet full of hats that she has worn on special occasions throughout her life. When she tries on her “red felt with the big feather, she looks in the mirror and says ‘I just love this hat!’” It’s the same with her green velour hat that’s decorated with a fancy pin. She’s not the only one who loves her hats. When she wears them to church, people always tell her, “‘Miss Fannie, I sure do love that hat!’” But Miss Fannie has a favorite among her many hats: the pink straw with silk roses. Everyone else loves this hat too.

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Miss Fannie is a tiny woman who now lives with her daughter, Wanda. Wanda takes good care of her mother. She makes her big breakfasts, and even though Miss Fannie always says its “way too much,” she always clears her plate. Every Saturday, Wanda helps her mother wash her hair in the bathroom sink. Miss Fannie is so small that she has to stand on a stool to reach. Afterward, Wanda rolls her mother’s hair in curlers, and on Sunday morning she “combs out her mama’s hair, which is all nice and soft and gray, like the feathers of a dove.”

Then Miss Fannie puts on make-up, dresses in her best clothes, and chooses a hat. Choosing can be difficult because “Miss Fannie has three black hats, two red hats, one green hat, two white hats, two navy hats, three beige hats, one brown hat, and the famous pink straw with roses. Because she never wears the same one twice in a row, some people think she has a whole closet full of hats. Which, of course, she does.”

One Sunday, Miss Fannie’s preacher comes to her with an earnest request. He asks her to donate one of her hats to the auction that will raise money to fix up the church for Easter. Miss Fannie wants to help, but how can she choose among her beautiful hats? When they get home, Miss Wanda helps her mother lay out all of her hats on the bed and dresser. Alone in her room, Miss Fannie looks over all her hats. As she holds each in her hand she remembers her past. “The green velour with the fancy pin was very, very old, and still very beautiful.” She had worn it during the great flood of 1916 when she “crossed the swollen river on a ferry to visit her mother and father. As she stood at the rail…a house had floated by, almost close enough to touch.”

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Next, she considers the red, wide-brimmed felt. The feather on this hat came from a hawk Miss Fannie had caught trying to nab one of her chickens. Then she picks up the brown velvet hat that “always reminded her of Flower, her grandmother’s cow.” She had begun milking Flower when she was seven years old and had learned to churn butter that was better than any found in a store. “Finally, Miss Fannie came to her most favorite hat of all: the pick straw with silk roses.” She had worn it every Easter for thirty-five years and it never failed to make her feel brand new. It was a tradition everyone else enjoyed too, “just as they looked for the tulips and daffodils to bloom in the spring.”

She puts the pink straw hat on, looks in the mirror, and sighs. “In her heart she did not want to giver her hat away. Not at all.” But as she places it back in its box and ties the ribbon, she discovers “she was very, very excited” about all the things it might be able to do. The old pipe organ needed fixing, there was a crack in the church bell, and the roof really needed to be replaced.

At the auction, when the preacher holds up Miss Fannie’s pink straw hat with the silk roses, “the bidding took off lickety-split.” With the bang of the gavel, the hat goes to a woman in the front row. The check she gives the preacher is “enough to really get things fixed,” Miss Fannie knows. She also knows “that she would not miss her favorite hat one bit.”

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

On Easter morning Miss Fannie rises and fixes her hair. She looks at her hats—none of which seemed right. As she meets Wanda at the front door in her best dress, her best jewelry, her best gloves, and a white corsage, “Miss Wanda couldn’t believe her eyes. Her mama was going out the door without wearing any hat at all!” When they arrive at the freshly painted church, Miss Fannie and Miss Wanda are surprised and delighted to see pink roses planted everywhere around the building. “‘Oh, Mama!’ said Miss Wanda. ‘It looks just like your pink hat!’”

With tears in her eyes, Miss Fannie learns that they were able to fix the organ and the bell as well as planting all the roses. As the congregation looks on “they didn’t see an old woman at all. What they saw was a young girl with hair as soft as the feathers of a dove.” And now when people pass the church, they don’t see gardens of roses. Instead, they see Miss Fannie’s hat. “And it will always be her favorite.”

Jan Karon’s story of selfless love was a favorite in our house when my daughter was young. Not only is the well-paced narrative full of evocative sensory details, bits of history, and realistic dialogue, it centers around a unique plot involving the types of soul-searching decisions that are hard to make. No matter how many times we read the book, Miss Fannie’s choice to auction her favorite hat to benefit her church seemed to come as a surprise that both inspired and heartened. While the tale is primarily Miss Fannie’s, it is Wanda’s story of benevolence too as Karon affectionately describes the ways in which Wanda lovingly attends to her mother’s physical and emotional needs. Throughout Miss Fannie’s Hat, Karon demonstrates that a life well-lived is one abounding in joyous giving.

Toni Goffe takes readers into Miss Wanda’s home—and Miss Fannie’s memory—with his bright, delicate illustrations that fully satisfy little one’s love of realistic detail. My daughter enjoyed the textured feel to the images, where steam rises from a cup of tea and from the bathroom sink, Miss Wanda brushes out her mother’s soft hair, and the hats—made of velvet, velour, and straw and sporting feathers, flowers, nets, and ribbon—beg to be touched. In fact, with the first page and its tantalizing peek into Miss Fannie’s closet, readers will find themselves riveted to her hats and life story. Vignettes from Miss Fannie’s younger years as well as scenes of her now demonstrate her enduring courage and strength of character.

For kids who like to count, sort, and compare, a one-page illustration and a glorious two-page spread allow them to match the list of hats in the text with the contents of Miss Fannie’s closet. They are also invited to choose their favorite from among Miss Fannie’s hats.

Miss Fannie’s Hats is a wonderful story to share with young readers for its ideas of giving, multigenerational relationships, and friendship.

Ages 3 – 6

Puffin Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0140568127

Discover more about Jan Karon and her books for children and adults on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Toni Goffe on his website!

Straw Hat Day Activity

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Hat Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs—or maybe even triplets—but somehow they’ve been mixed up! Can you find all the matching sets? Just put on your thinking caps and play this printable game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two or more sets of cards
  2. Cut the hat cards apart
  3. Mix them up and lay them face down on the floor or table
  4. Choosing one card at a time, turn them over to try and find a match
  5. If the cards do not match, replace them face down and try again
  6. Continue play until all the hats have been matched

Picture Book Review