September 27 – National Family Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-cover

About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple—to fully appreciate the family one has, whether it is small or large, whether members live close together or far apart. The founders of Family Day, which is celebrated on different dates around the world, wanted people to relax their busy schedules and spend time with those they love in a meaningful and fun way. This year we may be spending more time with family than usual, which has led to some thoughtful, creative, and fun ways to pass the time. To honor today’s holiday, let your family members know how much they mean to you. 

What is a Family?

Written by Annette Griffin | Illustrated by Nichola Cowdery

 

Early in life, little ones—loved by mom and dad, two moms, or two dads and perhaps siblings; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins; and other extended family members—discover that all of these people are their family. But they may wonder: what does that word really mean? As kids play with their pets, visit zoos and aquariums, and read about animals, they may also wonder if animals have families. What is a Family? answers these questions with bouncy rhymes that introduce children to an alphabetic variety of animals and the scientific names of their groups. But first, it answers that most important question and reveals that “Families are groups / that take care of their own. / They all stick together / to help make a home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-groups

Image copyright Nichola Cowdery, 2020, text copyright Annette Griffin, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

At A,B, and C kids learn that “Ants have a colony. / Bats have a cloud. / Chickens have peeps / where they can get loud.” The names of many family groups seem perfectly fitting for the animals’ personalities or traits. Take these at M,N, and O, for instance: “Mice have their mischiefs, / and narwhals, a blessing. / Oysters have beds— / not for sleeping, I’m guessing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-ants

Image copyright Nichola Cowdery, 2020, text copyright Annette Griffin, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones will love and take pride in learning about unusual animals, like quail, umbrellabirds, and xerus as well as the clever names for their family groups in Annette Griffin’s charming verses that provide a smattering of behavioral facts about the animals along the way. Griffin ends her story with this snug reassurance: “…families are special, / though not all the same. / It’s the caring and sharing / that gives them the name” that can lead adults and children to discuss the variety of families, cultures, and traditions that make up our world.

Nichola Cowdery populates this nicely sized, soft-covered board book with adorable birds, fish, reptiles, and forest, jungle, and plains animals set in their realistic habitats. Her vibrant colors and whimsical details will captivate young readers. Little ones will also be drawn to the images of the ways in which babies and adult animals interact. There’s plenty here to set little learners giggling too, which enhances the reading experience.

Sure to be a family favorite for story time and bedtime, What is a Family? would be an endearing and educational book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 5

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702447

Discover more about Annette Griffin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nichola Cowdery, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animal-matching-cards

Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Match up animal family members in this fun printable game that tests your powers of memory!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-cover

You can find What is a Family? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 10 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-outside-in-cover

About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both September and December have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also never too early to think about adding books to those upcoming holiday gift lists!

By Jakkie Licare

Outside In

Written by Deborah Underwood | Illustrated by Cindy Derby

 

“Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us,” the narrator reminds readers.Once we walked through a forest to get somewhere else, but now? A little girl sits strapped into her family’s car as they quickly pass through the forest. She’s concentrating on the toy in her lap, too busy to enjoy the outdoors through the window. She and her mother move directly from the car to the house, unaware of the vibrant colors and wildlife close by.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-outside-in-outside

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Deborah Underwood, 2020. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Luckily, nature sends her lots of reminders. As she ties her shoe, a hummingbird hovers at the glass doors. If she’d turn from her homework, she’d see the beauty of the outdoors through her window or maybe catch a peek of the caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly. Nature also sends shadows to sneak along her walls and floors, begging for her to come out and play. Birds call out to her with their songs, while flowers perfume the air enticing her to come out. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-outside-in-car

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Deborah Underwood, 2020. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

“Outside feeds us,” the narrator says. “Sun, rain, and seeds become warm bread and berries.” She wears what was  “…once puffs of cotton” to keep warm and sits in a chair that was “once trees.” Even her pet’s fur and warmth remind her of the importance of the outdoors. The outdoors keeps time for her, reminding her when to sleep and when to wake up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-outside-in-chair

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Deborah Underwood, 2020. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

The outdoors sneaks inside her house as small bugs seek refuge and food and remind the girl to enjoy the outdoors. Even rivers rush into the house through pipes and return to their deep depths. When she considers going leaving her house, Outside holds its breath and celebrates as she joins in.

The end pages are filled with beautiful wispy images of trees and birds in green paint.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-outside-in-dog

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Deborah Underwood, 2020. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Deborah Underwood’s evocative story reminds readers that nature is always calling us to come out and play, to appreciate and relish its marvels. The idea that the sun’s shadows, birds’ calls, and even intrusive bugs are all nature’s sneaky way of trying to grab our attention is unique. Underwood’s gentle tone and lyrical writing allow the reader to contemplate their own interactions with nature and her invitation. Thoughtful and emotionally resonant, Outside In is a beautiful story of how nature wishes to be a child’s favorite playmate. 

Cindy Derby brings the outdoors inside this book with her use of thread soaked in ink, watercolors, and powder graphite. Derby plays with perspective, giving children a new view of how they fit into the world. In the beginning of the book, from a bird’s eye perspective, we see a small car driving through an immense forest. Then on the next page, we are inside the car and can only see a tiny bit of the forest through the car’s window, but even this glimpse goes unnoticed by the young passenger. The girl’s home, it seems, is made almost entirely of glass, and yet, as readers see, the girl and her mother are nearly always shown with their heads down, preoccupied with homework, the computer, baking, and just hanging out—bored.

In Derby’s lush, sun-dappled illustrations, children can also see the wild and vibrant trees, animals, birds, and insects that all keep vigil, willing and waiting for the little girl to come out. In contrast to these exquisite images, Derby paints the car and surrounding houses in dull washed-out tones; the mother too is portrayed in gray while the girl wears a bright red sweater. When the girl does finally notice the view from her window, readers will be enveloped in the same sense of freedom and wonder as the little girl as she steps outside with her head held high and her eyes on the fiery sunset that mirrors the colors in her sweater.

A stirring celebration of the wonders of nature and an exhilarating reminder of the joys that being outside brings, Outside In is a must-have for all bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1328866820

Discover more about Deborah Underwood and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cindy Derby, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature-scavenger-hunt

Nature Hike Scavenger Hike 

 

Take a nature hike and collect the items on this printable sheet. When you get home, use the item to

Nature Hike Scavenger Hike Sheet

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-outside-in-cover

You can find Outside In at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 5 – National Cheese Pizza Day

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

About the Holiday

If you’re wondering what you should have for dinner or lunch…or…heck—even breakfast!—ponder no longer. It’s National Cheese Pizza Day, which gives you carte blanche to indulge in this hot, bubbly favorite any time today. And even though the official holiday only mentions cheese, I don’t think anyone will mind if you add a few toppings!

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, 2016, 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!

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

Image and text copyright Claire Lorden, 2016, 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, 2016, 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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lorenzo-the-pizza-loving-lobster-telling-kalena

Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, 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!

To read my interview with Claire, click here!

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: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

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

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

You can find Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

 

August 31 – We Love Memoirs Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-cover

About the Holiday

In 2013, Victoria Twead and Alan Parks, who have written about their life stories themselves, established today’s holiday to foster a warm and welcoming community for readers and writers of memoirs. The idea took off and now We Love Memoirs Day brings the art and heart of this personal form of writing to people across the world. If you like to read memoirs, today’s a terrific day to visit your local bookstore or library and pick one up. If you’ve ever thought of penning the story of your own life and/or family, today’s holiday gives you the perfect opportunity to start!

Memoirs of a Tortoise

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

It’s April and Oliver the tortoise is in his garden with his pet, Ike. Ike has brought him “a plate of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” Oliver loves Ike and he can tell that Ike loves him too by the way he runs his hand over his shell. “This, this is life and it’s beautiful,” Oliver thinks. In May, Ike throws a stick that Oliver will never fetch, and they laugh over this old, favorite joke. Oliver thinks, “Eighty times I’ve watched spring arrive in the garden, and it’s always perfect.” He spies a bit of red on the other side of the garden and ambles off to investigate.

It’s June by the time he reaches the hibiscus grove. Oliver enjoys taking things slow—just like Ike does. July and August pass with special moments of companionship and fun. As September comes, life begins slowing down. “The days are getting shorter” and Ike is “taking lots of naps in the garden.” Oliver enjoys having Ike nearby and decides that “the next time he throws the stick, I’m going to fetch it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-april

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

October arrives, but the regular routine of the garden has been broken. Oliver hasn’t seen Ike or been fed in several days. Oliver makes due with pumpkin from the garden, but he misses Ike. By November, Oliver is “afraid Ike is gone.” The idea makes him sad. After all, he thinks, Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old.” Oliver had thought they would grow old together and wonders where Ike is. In December, Oliver decides to go talk to someone who has more experience than he does—his mother, who is 137 years old.

It takes Oliver until February to cross the ten gardens between Ike’s house and where his mother lives. When Oliver’s mother sees her son, “she smiles wide and her eyes sparkle.” Oliver tells his mother that Ike is gone. She understands his sadness and tells him how much Ike loved him. But Oliver wonders why Ike couldn’t stay with him.

Oliver’s mother explains “we only get to have pets in our lives for a little while.” Then she offers words of comfort: “And when they’re gone, we count all those beautiful days we were lucky enough to have them with us. We’re so lucky.”

Oliver has enjoyed his visit with his mother, but in March he’s on his way back home. When he arrives in his own garden, the door of the house opens. Oliver turns instinctively expecting to see Ike, but it’s Ted, Ike’s son. He brings Oliver “a tray of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” He rubs Oliver’s shell just like Ike used to do and tells Oliver he’s glad he came home. Ted tosses a stick and the two laugh. “This, for me and Ted, this is life,” Oliver thinks. And he knows his mother was right when she said they were so lucky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-july

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s Memoirs of a Tortoise has it all—humor, poignancy, and a life lesson about the precious moments we share with loved ones. Using the longevity of tortoises, Scillian flips the script on the pet and human relationship with tender and emotional effect. When Ike passes away and Oliver is confused and sad, he confidently sets out to find answers and comfort from someone he can trust—his mother. The ten gardens between their homes may not seem far to us, but to Ike and his mom it’s the equivalent of towns, states, or even countries for us.

This seamless blending of the tortoises’ experience and that of readers’ is both the charm and genius of Scillian’s story. Oliver’s straightforward comments and questions about loss echo those of children and will resonate with them. As Oliver’s mother reminds him to enjoy every day and be thankful for the time he spends with his pets and as Ted enters his life, readers will understand that her advice to embrace all the parts of life applies to them as well.

Tim Bowers’ endearing Oliver is a sweet companion on this journey through a formative experience. As Oliver spends time and enjoys inside jokes with kindly Ike, readers will recognize not only the pet and owner bond but the relationship between children and grandparents. Bowers’ lush depictions of Ike’s garden where he and Oliver play or sit quietly side by side portray the beauty of life that Oliver’s mother so wisely recognizes. Ike’s slowing down and passing away are drawn with sensitivity and through images that allow adults and children to discuss facts and feelings about death, mourning, acceptance, and the cycles of life.

Uplifting and full of wisdom, Memoirs of a Tortoise, is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110199

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, journalism, music, and more on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

We Love Memoirs Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-cover

You can find Memoirs of a Tortoise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 24 – National Waffle Day Short & Sweet Book Tour Stop

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-cover

About the Holiday

Today, I’m thrilled to join the Long & Savory Book Tour for Short & Sweet, the fourth book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French series. The fact that today is National Waffle Day makes it doubly sweet as Baron von Waffle has played an integral part in each story. And just how important are waffles to the world? Well, waffles and waffle irons have been around since the 14th century, and today’s holiday celebrates the day in 1869 when Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York received the first patent for a waffle iron. Fortunately for us, this favorite breakfast treat has also helped to inspire one of the most innovative kidlit series around.

I received a digital version of Short & Sweet courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Short & Sweet (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Volume 4)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

Back in the old familiar fridge, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are getting ready to host a tea party. After all the preparations, though, Pancake is achy and Toast felt quite pale. “Pancake then screamed, ‘Are we both going stale?’” One friend at the party didn’t mince words. “Baron von Waffle, their guest, said, ‘You’re gruesome. / I’ve never seen such a hideous twosome.’” But the news wasn’t all bad, he had a solution and handed them a brochure for Professor Biscotti’s Laboratory, where she promised rejuvenation with her “DE-spoiling ray.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-stale

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast hurried on over and took their seats. Biscotti aimed her laser and…poof! When the smoke cleared Pancake and Toast had become kids. “‘Explain what you did to them!’ Waffle demanded. / Professor Biscotti said, ‘Hmm. I’ll be candid. / I over de-spoiled them with my device. / I’m ever so sorry. I’ll charge you half price.’” But while the Baron was arguing with the professor, Toast and Pancake had grown alarmed.

They ran quickly away from the monster waffle. But the pair’s fear left Waffle a blubbering mess. They’d all just become friends, but now he was afraid that fun was all over. Professor Biscotti, though, said she could fix it; they just needed a plan. By this time, the two pint-sized companions had reached the city. They raced to “Limes Square” and then to “Pasta Playground,” where they joined the little noodles on the see-saw, the swings, and the slide. Until they saw the library and scampered inside. Meanwhile, Waffle was cooking up bait to capture them and “Biscotti kept working in her laboratories, / while Pancake and Toast sat enraptured by stories.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-biscotti

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

There was only one thing that could tear them away. Then they smelled that sweet scent and “they followed their noses past fjord, wall, and hill / and then kept on running and running until… / ‘The old syrup trick,’ Waffle said with a smirk. / ‘Professor, I’ve got ‘em. So now will it work?’” With hope, Biscotti put them back in the chairs and fired up her laser. But it just wouldn’t work. Waffle offered some syrup to make the gears stick, and this time when the laser went Zap! the tiny duo grew up! Pancake and Toast were glad to be back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-bran-canyon

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they learned that the Baron was the monster they’d feared, they were ashamed and apologized. Waffle was relieved, and as the three headed back to finish their tea, Pancake assured Waffle, “‘we’ll always be chums.’ / ‘Exactly,’ said Toast, ‘till we wither to crumbs.’”

Fans of the series know to expect a party at the end of the story, and this time out, they’re invited to Food Fest, where Juice Springsteen is the headline act. Kids will love picking out their favorite characters from the other three books from among the adoring—and adorable—crowd. Another perk is the fold-out poster that depicts a map of the route Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast took from Crust Boulevard and Professor Biscotti’s Lab all the way to Limes Square, the playground, and the library.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-waffle

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Like fine grape juice, Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series gets better with age. In Short & Sweet, Funk’s talent for clever rhymes and jaunty rhythms is on full frolic as Pancake and Toast’s quest to feel young again goes a little too far. His robust storytelling takes comical aim at current fads as well as something that never goes out of style—friendship. When Pancake and Toast learn they’ve mistaken Waffle for a monster and inadvertently hurt his feelings, Funk reveals that the best way to smooth things over is with heartfelt apologies and reassurances. Readers will appreciate Baron von Waffle’s sweet throwback to the book that introduced us to this most magical of refrigerators along with the hiding place of choice of these two cutie-pie protagonists, who live large in our hearts even when they’re tiny.

Opening the door to Brendan Kearney’s fridge is always a treat. Each page offers new visual puns, hilarious foodie takes on furniture, décor, and technology, and even a few clues to the concert acts that close out the fun. Adults will smile wryly at Professor Biscotti’s frosted chocolate hair and white lab coat while kids giggle at the book titles Pancake and Toast devour at the library. Biscotti’s avocado laser is an ingenious touch. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and Baron von Waffle, with their signature toppings, remain as charming as ever, and the theme of friendship is baked into every page.

Fresh, funny, and as heartwarming as reuniting with a best friend, Short & Sweet is a must addition to home, school, and public libraries. If you’re new to the series, check out  the first three books

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast | The Case of the Stinky Stench | Mission Defrostable

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454934271

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books on his website

To learn more about Brendan Kearney, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Don’t shrink away from watching the Short & Sweet book trailer!

And don’t miss the Virtual Launch Party at An Unlikely Story bookstore September 1

Short & Sweet Virtual Launch Party with An Unlikely Story bookstore

National Waffle Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-waffle-game-board

Waffle Tic-Tac-Toe

The grid of a waffle makes a perfect tic tac toe board! With this special breakfast-inspired tic tac toe set you can cook up some sweet fun! With all the choices of squares in a waffle to fill, you can play 3-by-3, 4-by-4, 5-by-5, even 6-by-6 games! 

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-waffle-game-pieces

Directions

  1. Play 3-by-3 games as you always do
  2. For the other options each player tries to build rows of 4 pieces down, across, and diagonally
  3. The player with the most 4-in-a-row rows wins!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-cover

You can find Short & Sweet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound (Shop IndieBound for exclusive Short & Sweet swag! Learn more here!)

Short & Sweet Preorder Swag

Don’t miss the rest of the Long & Savory Book Tour! Follow along here!

CPB – Short & Sweet Long & Savory Virtual Tour

DoPicture Book Review

August 23 – It’s National Fishing Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-back-roads-country-toads-cover

About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby this month!

Back Roads, Country Toads

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

Best toady friends, Hank and Buckaroo, were just hanging out in “their favorite drainpipe near Cooper’s General Store” sipping the last drops from a discarded bottle of strawberry soda when they overheard Mr. Cooper and his friends talking about going fly-fishing. Hank and Buckaroo thought FLY-fishing sounded awesome and wanted to go along. They spied the perfect place to catch a ride: the fishermen’s open lunch basket. With a KERPLOP! they jumped in.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-back-roads-country-toads-drain-pipe

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soon they were on their way to what Buckaroo said would be “‘the greatest day of their lives.’” “‘Toadally,’” agreed Hank. While they rode to the fishing stream, Hank and Buckaroo sang “When You Fish Upon a Star,” and as soon as the truck stopped they jumped out and hid in a nearby bush. But Emmitt the raccoon was already there. Hank and Buckaroo were reveling in the glory that was going to be that day’s “‘fly cafeteria’” and “‘down-home big-time fly barbecue’” when Emmitt gave them the bad news. Hank didn’t believe it. He thought “‘fishing WITH flies’” instead of “‘fishing FOR flies’” sounded ridiculous.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-back-roads-country-toads-fly-fishing

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And just then a nice juicy fly sailed by. Hank leaped and released his long tongue, but Emmitt pulled him back just before he grabbed onto the fake fly. The three watched as the fishermen caught fish after fish with the imitation flies. Hank and Buckaroo couldn’t imagine what Mr. Cooper and the rest of the fishermen would want with “‘those smelly fish.’” Emmitt disagreed—he loved smelly fish. To prove his point, he ran up and snatched one from the fishermen’s bucket.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-back-roads-country-toads-picnic-basket

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seeing the fish, Hank had a brainstorm and asked to “‘borrow’” Emmitt’s fish. He placed it on a rock in the sun and went back to their hiding place in the bushes. Emmitt and Buckaroo were confused. But “before long, a swarm of flies hovered over the fish.” When there was a large cloud of flies, “Hank croaked, ‘Let’s go fishing!’” Their tongues snapped in the air, reeling in dozens of flies. When they were filled to the brim, they gave the fish back to Emmitt and happily made plans to go fly-fishing again the next Saturday.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-back-roads-country-toads-pork-rinds

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s clever, pun-filled fish story has everything needed to hook young readers and deliver a funny story time. With the lure of all the flies they can eat, Hank and Buckaroo take action to have the best day of their lives and discover a new hobby. When they meet up with Emmitt the raccoon and learn that their initial idea was a bit off the mark, Hank shows persistence and innovative thinking to make their fishing dreams come true. Demonstrating acceptance of each other’s different tastes and some creative cooperation, the camaraderie among Hank, Buckaroo, and Emmitt serves as a good example for readers. The close bond between Hank and Buckaroo—and their hilarious dialog—will endear them to kids, leaving them wanting more from this “toadally” charming duo.

Screen Shot 2019-08-28 at 3.36.36 PM

Tim Bowers’ energetic toads, with their wide smiles, eager eyes, and spirited personalities are obvious best friends from the first page. Bowers’ vibrant, action-packed illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny as Buckaroo and Hank grow giddy at the thought of all those flies they’re going to catch, flick their loooong tongues, and hobble down the road with overstuffed bellies. Emmitt may chuckle at the toads’ misinterpretation of “fly-fishing,” but he’s a true and trusting friend to rescue Hank from a fisherman’s line and lend his filched treat to attract their lunch. In the background, images of the two fishermen and their young protégés casting their lines and reeling in bucket-loads of fish add depth, interest, and visual clues for readers.

A comical, well-developed tale that will captivate kids, Back Roads, Country Toads is a winner for group story times or one-on-one fun at home, in the classroom, or for public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-153411039

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, music, and journalism on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game

Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game-cards

Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color their set of playing cards (optional)
  4. Three spaces are left blank for kids to design their own lures, bait, and flies too (optional)
  5. Cut the cards apart
  6. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  7. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  8. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  9. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  10. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  11. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-back-roads-country-toads-cover

You can find Back Roads, Country Toads at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Pic