April 14 – It’s National Garden Month and Q & A with Author/Illustrator Wendy Wahman

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About the Holiday

One of the wonderful activities of spring and summer is gardening. As the sun warms, farmers and gardeners till their land and plant seeds with eager anticipation of the harvest to come.  April is Gardening Month, and the second week is designated especially for vegetable gardening. Our meals would not be as tasty and nutritious without carrots, squash, peas, beans, peppers, potatoes, and all the rest of these colorful foods. Today’s container gardens give even reluctant gardeners great ways to grow their own—without the work of a large plot. Whether you enjoy gardening on a large or small scale, take the opportunity of this month to start planting the seeds of a rewarding hobby!

Rabbit Stew

By Wendy Wahman

 

“Rusty and Rojo toiled and tilled in their vegetable garden all summer long.” But now the crops have ripened, and the two foxes are ready to enjoy the bounty of their hard work—so are their neighbors, the Rabbits. As Mommy Rabbit and the bunnies nibble away in a corner of the garden, Rusty gently squeezes the tomatoes and finds them “plump, yet firm.” “Perfectly so,” Rojo agrees as he lifts Daddy Rabbit from the carrot patch. “At last,” Rusty and Rojo exclaim, “the time is ripe for our prizewinning Rabbit Stew!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

While Rojo picks “lean, green runner beans,” the Rabbits look on worriedly. Daddy tries to hide, but Rusty spies him in the wheelbarrow full of purple kale. Then, when the family dives back into their cozy “hole sweet hole,” they find that their convenient carrot snacks are being abruptly snatched away—only to be added to the pot of “splendid Rabbit Stew.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Next come raisins and celery “and roly-poly blueberries.” But what about those white and gray bits of fluff? Will they end up in the foxes’ buckets too? Of course “juicy red tomatoes, fresh sprigs of parsley, and sweet yellow peppers” are also musts for the foxes’ “finest-ever Rabbit Stew.” With the pot overflowing with colorful veggies, only one more thing is needed—“one…big…round…white…bowl…for our favorite Rabbit, Stew—and his family too!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

With her fertile imagination and a clever play on words, Wendy Wahman offers up a delightful story that will have readers guessing until the very end. Along with the mystery and the yummy descriptions of each ingredient, Wahman presents a counting game for readers. As Rusty and Rojo pick their vegetables, children can count the ten runner beans on the trellis, nine purple kale leaves in the wheelbarrow, eight carrots from the burrow, and all of the other ingredients on down to one. But do Rusty and Rojo need one big white rabbit or something else? Kids will love the twist at the end and cheer to see Daddy Stew, Mommy Strudel, and their little bunnies—Dumpling, Biscuit, and Ragu—dining on the special meal grown and created just for them.

Everyone’s garden should look as deliciously vibrant as Wahman’s riotous patch of vegetables! The vivid colors jump off the page while providing texture and nuance to the illustrations. They also give kids another concept to learn and talk about. Little details, such as the tiny caterpillar and the yellow butterfly that follow the bunnies from page to page, as well as the fancy burrow lined with photos of friends and family will enchant readers. 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy o f Wendy Wahman.

Welcome themes of friendship, diversity, and inclusiveness can also be found within the illustrations and the story.

Rabbit Stew is a bright, humorously sly story that would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library. The book also makes a perfect companion for trips to the farmers market, on picnics, or to spur interest in home gardening. The attention to the details of what rabbits can safely eat, as well as the number and color concepts provided in the illustrations, makes Rabbit Stew a great choice for school story times and spring lessons.

Ages 3 – 7

Boyds Mills Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629795836

You can download a fun Rabbit Stew Activity Sheets from Boyds Mills Press!

Discover more about Wendy Wahman, her art, and her books on her website!

You’ll dig this Rabbit Stew book trailer!

National Garden Month 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 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!

Meet Author/Illustrator Wendy Wahman

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Today, I’m really happy to be chatting with Wendy Wahman about her art, her books, her inspirations, and a really sweet school visit she had recently.

Your bio mentions that you worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until 2009. Can you describe your work there?

I worked in the art department doing maps, graphics, info-graphics and illustrations for every section of the newspaper. Ninety percent of the work was on deadline, so I learned to think and draw fast.

Our poor beloved P-I. It was 146 years old when Hearst closed it down. About 150 of us went down with the ship. Best job I ever had. I miss the variety and culture and importance — and honesty — of journalism. I miss my P-I family, very much.

How did you get started illustrating and writing books for children?

I was really just snooping around for illustration work. I had an idea for a book on dog body language I wanted to do, but imagined ‘a real writer’ should write it. I sent out some of the dog body-language art samples and heard back from four major publishers. Laura Godwin at Henry Holt called me, and was so passionate about dogs and kids—and my art. She asked to see a dummy. What dummy, right? I had no dummy, just an idea and some art samples. I took two weeks off from the P-I and put together a dummy. Laura helped me tremendously, as did my brilliant writer husband, Joe Wahman.    

Don’t Lick the Dog is a how-to primer on being safe with dogs. We followed with the companion book, A Cat Like That. We never did do my dog body-language book. It’s sitting here patient as can be. “Good dog, book.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

Your art is so varied—from humorous to infographics to striking, serious editorial work. You also work with crisp, clean lines and beautiful textures. Can you talk about your process and inspirations?

Thank you so much, Kathy. Well. I sit and think and read a lot. Mostly I just look and try to distract myself from thinking too hard. I like to thumb through my Thesaurus. When I’m stuck, I try to remember to move away. This can be physically—exercise or a walk; mentally—read or look through books; or emotionally—play with my dogs or call somebody. I say, try, because too often I sit rooted, thinking, thinking. Better to get up and move.

What was the inspiration for Rabbit Stew?

I feed my dogs a homemade stew of meat & veggies. Long ago, I was stirring up an enormous batch of dog food, when “rabbit stew” fluttered to mind. Rabbit Stew is also a counting book, counting down veggies from ten to one. It’s also a color book. It was a challenge to find ingredients safe for rabbits, in different colors and not give it away. Like, rabbits love dandelions and they’re very good for them, but I only know a couple of people who would knowingly toss dandelions into the pot. No potatoes; they are toxic to bunnies, and cabbage isn’t good for them either. 

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A happy fan enjoys reading “Rabbit Stew” with lunch! Photo courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

You give presentations at schools and libraries. Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share?

I did a school visit recently in southern California and got to take my mom to a presentation for 4th graders. I introduced her to the students, and they gave her a loud round of applause! Even more tender, when I was signing books (and the other stuff kids want signed), they asked if my mother would also give them an autograph. Is that the sweetest or what? Children can be so inspiring, healing, and wise. 

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Wendy reads “Don’t Lick the Dog” to enthusiastic kindergarteners in Kennewick, WA. Photograph courtesy of Wendy Wahman

You also teach bookmaking to kids. That sounds fun and fascinating! Can you tell me a little bit about these classes?

I’m so glad you asked about these little books, Kathy. I love making them and sharing the process. Anyone can make one. I’ve taught them to kindergarteners through seniors. I call them “Insight Books,” because what comes out can be surprising, revealing, and often cathartic. Random lines inspire images and ideas. Some people write, others write and draw. Sometimes we collage. Even if you do nothing at all put look, the lines may stimulate ideas. These book are fun to make with a partner too. 

What’s up next for you?

I’m very excited about my next book, Pony in the City (Sterling Publishers). Kevan Atteberry’s book, Swamp Gas, releases the same day, Sept. 9th, and we’re talking about having a co- launch party.

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman. Proofs of “Pony in the City” (Sterling, releasing Sept. 9 this year) courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

I’m working on Nanny Paws (Two Lions), a book inspired by my little white poodle, LaRoo, and the children next door. Here’s a picture of LaRoo and my other dog Jody with my friend Vikki Kaufman‘s poodles. Vikki is a breeder of beautiful silver and blue standard poodles. Vikki took the picture, can you tell?  Her dogs are staring straight at her. Poor LaRoo. She is a shy girl and just wants to get away from the masses.

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Wendy with LeRoo and Jody and Vikki’s TinTin, Nickel and Eureka.

I’m also working on a dummy for a beautiful story written by Joe, “One Bird” (www.joewahman.com). I’m doing the art for both Nanny Paws and Joe’s story in a new/old style for me: pencil and watercolor.

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Image from “One Bird,” written by Joe Wahman, illustrated by Wendy Wahman. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman

 Do you have a favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving.

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday you would like to share

If you come over for Thanksgiving, prepare yourself for a vegetarian feast. We don’t eat animals here — but we do make them big, round, splendid bowls of stew.

Thanks so much, Wendy! It’s been a lot of fun! I wish you all the best with all of your books!

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You can find Wendy’s books at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Boyds Mills Press

You can connect with Wendy on:

BēhanceFacebook | LinkedIn | PinterestTwitter

Visit Wendy’s shops:

Cafe Press: http://www.cafepress.com/profile/109591016

RedBubble:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/wendywahman/portfolio

Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/wendoodles/products

Wendoodles coloring book: http://www.amazon.ca/Wendoodles-Wendy-E-Wahman/dp/1517403456

Picture Book Review

April 12 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

Perhaps these days we should consider making every month Humor Month, but until that happens, enjoy as many laughs as you can during April. No matter what you find funny or how you express your sense of humor, this month’s holiday allows you to indulge the more ridiculous aspects of life!

Meet the McKaws

By Ged Adamson

 

Captain Stan and Tiny McKaw, Stan’s parrot first mate, love everything about being pirates—“Sailing the seven seas, fighting battles, and searching for treasure! What could be better? Yes, life is pretty perfect for Stan and Tiny” until…Tiny’s parents come to visit. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw aren’t on board 5 minutes before the squawking begins. Mrs. McKaw takes exception to Stan: “‘He doesn’t’ look like much of a captain to me. He’s just a boy!’” And while Mr. McKaw is trying to apologize for his wife’s behavior, he lets out “a huge, disgusting BURP!”

Tiny’s mom is appalled at the state of the ship, calling it “a messy old wreck,” and Tiny’s dad starts in with a long, meandering story of his days as a pirate, complete with a treasure map, a deserted island, the Kraken, sword fights, canon fire, a treasure chest, and even a commendation. I think you get the picture. Problem is…Mr. McKaw never was a pirate.

Maybe a nice sit-down dinner will clear the air and get things started off on the right pegleg again. With a big grin the cook presents the special meal he has prepared in the McKaw’s honor, but after “just one mouthful, both the McKaws were violently sick. ‘Horrible! Horrible!’” cries Mrs. McKaw. The poor cook bursts into tears and runs back to the galley. Perhaps nighttime will bring a little relief. But no, Mr. McKaw snores and Mrs. McKaw nags in her sleep.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

The next morning Captain Stan wakes up to the worst insult of all—guano dots his royal blue pirate coat. Even this offense, though, pales in comparison to what Stan sees next. Perched between his parents sits Tiny in a crisp white shirt and tie with his feathers slicked back. This is the last straw. “GET OFF MY SHIP!!” yells Captain Stan. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw waste no time in flying the coop, but there’s no respite for Captain Stan and Tiny for dead ahead is a colossal storm.

The ship is no match for the lightning, crashing waves, and fierce winds. The cook, the cabin boy, Captain Stan, and the remains of the broken brigand are washed into the roiling sea. “Just when all seems lost, however, Tiny gives a great SQUAWK! ‘It’s Mr. and Mrs. McKaw!’” cries Stan. “‘And my aunts, uncles, cousins…everyone!’” says Tiny. The parrots rescue everyone and fly them safely to nearby Blue Feather Island, which just happens to be Tiny’s home.

All the members of the parrot family help Stan build a new ship, and in the process he gains a new perspective on Mrs. and Mr. McKaw’s personalities. “Mrs. McKaw’s bossiness turned out to be very useful” as she delegates jobs, and Mr. McKaw keeps the crew entertained while they work “just by being Mr. McKaw.” The two are even hungry enough to eat up everything the cook prepares, much to his delight.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

With a new ship finally complete, it’s time for the McKaws to take wing. Stan thanks them for all their help and apologizes for throwing them off his ship. On her part, Mrs. McKaw apologizes for being rude and thanks Stan for taking care of Tiny. And what about the new ship? It might be even better than the original with a bold parrot-emblazoned sail and a parrot figurehead pointing the way. As the crew sets sail, Captain Stan acknowledges, “‘You know, Tiny, I’m really glad I met the McKaws.’”

With the dash of a swashbuckler and the true aim of a compass, Ged Adamson depicts the high and low tides of family life in this high seas adventure. His humorous portrayals of personality traits that can drive family members crazy will resonate with kids and adults alike as they laugh through the travails Captain Stan and Tiny suffer during a visit by Tiny’s parents. In a sweet turn of events, though, Adamson reminds us that when storms come—in whatever form—the momentary squalls are forgotten, the anchor of family relationships is dropped, and everyone battens the hatches together.

Adamson’s vivid illustrations of Captain Stan in his sharp pirate garb, colorful (in more ways than one) Mr. and Mrs. McKaw, and the well-fitted wooden ship will delight pirate fans of all ages. Mr. McKaw’s imaginary stories are cleverly portrayed as chalk drawings on a black background, and the sea swirls with cool hues of blue and turquoise. Like Captain Stan, readers will be glad they have a chance to Meet the McKaws and will want them to visit again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1629146188

Discover more of Ged Adamson’s work on his website!

Meet Ged Adamson and learn about his inspirations, his writing life, and his other books in this funny and insightful Q & A!

National Humor Month Activity

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Original Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game design by Conor Carroll copyright 2016

Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game

 

Playing board games together can lead to some pretty funny times. Enjoy this printable Avast! Pirate Treasure Board Game! It’s Arrgh-uably the best game on the seven seas!   

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages (Options: print on white paper, parchment-colored paper, or on card stock. To make white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. See directions for tea wash below)
  2. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. (Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy.) 
  3. Print the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  5. Print the Avast! Game Cards
  6. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If Game Cards run out before the end of the game, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

Picture Book Review

April 10 – National Siblings Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-coverAbout the Holiday

National Siblings Day gives people a chance to honor the special bond they have with their brothers and/or sisters. Whether you come from a big family or small, are the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between, your siblings have had a big influence on your life. Today, take a little time to text or call if you live far apart or get together if the miles aren’t so many.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

Vacation began on Monday. So did the rain. Harry and Clare decided to go to Mars. After all it was only as far away as the family room and looked quite the same—“except for the volcanoes” that spouted lava all over the rug. Harry found traversing the alien landscape harder than Clare. He had to carry all the luggage while she carried the snacks; and while Clare ate the snacks, Harry was busy drowning in quicksand.

Tuesday dawned gray and rainy. Fortunately, Harry and Clare “could ride a Pasta Linguini racer around an indoor course in the supermarket.” The field was fierce, and Harry told Clare to turn left, but Clare didn’t listen. “‘I’m driving,’” she said. “Following a dizzying skid through the frozen food, Clare let Harry park them in the checkout line.” And while Harry was hanging on tight with both hands as Clare directed, she ate both of their granola bars.

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Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The downpour continued on Wednesday. The pool seemed the perfect respite, but just as Harry was about to transform into a dolphin doing spectacular dives, “he was captured by a pirate queen who made him walk the plank instead.” Harry’s fortunes only turned bleaker when later that day Teacher Clare caught Harry eating his snack during lessons and sent him to the principal’s office.

Unfortunately, the principal looked a lot like Clare, and she passed a stiff sentence: “‘People who eat during arithmetic are not allowed to eat at all.’” Suddenly, Harry had an idea, but the principal—who mumbled through a mouthful—told him not to speak. Harry was not to be so easily dismissed, however.

As soon as the principal released him, he grabbed a snack and headed up High Staircase Mountain. When he heard the Abdominal Snowman close at his heels, he quickly hid the cookies in his pocket. At dinner, Harry was able to sneak more provisions into his pocket and keep them safe as he performed a high-wire trapeze trampoline act on the couch and jumped through hoops for Clare the Lion Tamer.  

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Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

 On Thursday the sun finally came out, and Harry and Clare took a jungle tour. The jungle “looked a lot like the park, except for the vines and wild animals.” As they ran through the thick vegetation, Clare and Harry avoided umpire bats and leaped over sandbox hippos on their search for a “‘sunken ship guarded by a monster octopus.’” All this time Harry held on to the idea he’d had.

Then, just as they were being threatened by elephant hummingbirds, Clare realized they’d forgotten to bring snacks and said they’d have to turn their dragons around and go back. Harry, however, simply climbed off his bike dragon and pulled a baby carrot from his pocket. Clare was nonplussed. “‘Where did you get that?’” she wanted to know, but Harry just took a something else from his stash and continued munching.

“‘Is that a cookie?’ Clare asked. Harry swallowed. ‘Asteroid burger,’ he said….‘I have asteroid burgers and volcano sticks.’” Clare listened to her grumbling stomach and accepted some of both. She even accepted Harry’s idea that the treasure was in a cave under a mountain as long as an octopus monster still guarded it.

Harry and Clare played for hours. Harry discovered “prehistoric park-bench dinosaur skeletons,” and Clare dispersed a group of squirrel sharks. On the way home Harry and Clare split the “last of the volcano sticks and asteroid burgers. They made a nice combination.”

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Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In his imaginative tale of a rainy school staycation, Ted Staunton captures the sibling power structure with wit and wisdom. Readers will appreciate Harry and Clare’s daily—almost moment-to-moment—inventiveness that mirrors children’s supple imaginations. As a younger brother, Harry bears the brunt of Clare’s bossiness, but in the process begins to grasp where the real clout lies. By biding his time, he quietly advocates for himself and changes the dynamics to both of the children’s benefit. Staunton’s funny dialogue and situations ring true, as do the clever uses of everyday items and places to spur the siblings’ creativity. The final line offers a sweet future for this loveable brother and sister.

Mika Song ingeniously transcribes Harry and Clare’s imaginings into action-packed illustrations full of personality. The sibling relationship unfolds through humorous scenes and animated facial expressions. Harry sinks in bubbling lava while Clare eats snacks at a safe distance; Harry and Clare get caught behind an elderly “racecar” driver in the grocery store: Harry is pulled up short by his changing fortunes on the diving board; and Teacher Clare teeters in her mother’s shoes. Song’s fresh color palette lends an open, airy feeling to the story, and her adorable siblings make for exciting companions for readers any day.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation would be a cute addition to any child’s bookshelf for story times and to spur imaginative play. The book could also be a great jumping off point for discussions of empathy and understanding between siblings and/or friends.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

Discover more about Ted Staunton and his books on his website!

You’ll find a portfolio of artwork, comics, and books by Mika Song on her website!

National Siblings Day Activity

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Snakes and Ladders Game

 

It can be fun to play a board game with your sibling! Here’s a printable Snakes and Ladders game for you to enjoy! Just watch out for that green snake!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the board game template
  2. Determine which player goes first by rolling the die. The player with the highest roll goes first.
  3. The first player rolls the die and moves along the game board, starting at square 1, the number of spaces indicated on the die.
  4. Other players take turns rolling the die and moving along the board.
  5. The first player to reach square 100 is the winner

Ladders: When a player lands on a space with the bottom of a ladder in it, the player moves up to the space at the top of the ladder and continues to play from there.

Snakes: When a player lands on a space with the head of a snake in it, the player slides down to the space with the snake’s tail in it and continues to play from there.

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Tweed Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of those holidays that is up to interpretation. While April 3, 1823 was the birthday of notoriously corrupt politician William M. (“Boss”) Tweed, it’s not clear why commemorating that date would be desirable—expect perhaps as a timely cautionary tale. Instead most like to celebrate the natty, multi-hewed fabric embraced by professors and other fashionable folk world-wide. Tweed originated as a hand-woven fabric in Scotland. The earthy tones mirrored the Scottish landscape, and, like tartans, could distinguish a particular estate or family based on the sheep providing the wool and the pattern.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

By Simms Taback

 

Joseph’s coat was old and worn with patches overlapping patches all along the bottom. It was time to do something about it, so Joseph, “made a jacket out of it and went to the fair.” Time went by and that sporty jacket also “got old and worn.” The hem was frayed, the cuffs were torn, and patches overlapped patches all up and down the sleeves, so Joseph “made a vest out of it and danced at his nephew’s wedding.”

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Image and text copyright, Simms Tayback, courtesy of simmstaback.com

Years past, and that little vest suffered the same fate as the coat and the jacket. But Joseph was clever. The vest became a scarf that he wore to sing in the men’s chorus. Wicked weather took its toll, and eventually the scarf  had more holes than material. With careful cutting, the scarf made a jaunty tie to wear when visiting his sister.

You know how it goes with ties. The edges grew threadbare and stains marred the pattern. Joseph’s animals considered it a goner, but Joseph had another idea. He made a handkerchief to accessorize his favorite shirt and enjoyed a “glass of hot tea with lemon.” That same handkerchief also helped Joseph whenever he had a cold, and in time it “got old and worn.”

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Image and text copyright, Simms Tayback, courtesy of simmstaback.com

Joseph had one more idea. “He made a button out of it and used it to fasten his suspenders.” One day, Joseph lost his button, and even though he searched everywhere, he couldn’t find it. “Now he had nothing. So Joseph made a book about it. Which shows…you can always make something out of nothing.”

Classic tweed calls for a classic book, and Simms Taback’s tale of a master recycler will have kids in stitches. Not only is the story clever, but ingeniously hidden die-cut holes in the pages let readers guess—and then follow—each iteration as the original coat gets smaller and smaller. The bold, multimedia illustrations are full of humor, history, and tradition and give kids and adults lots to look at and talk about. Children will love helping Joseph look for his button under the watchful gaze of Sigmund Freud, whose wide-eyed portrait seems to be taking in all the action. The final “moral to the story” is inspired and inspiring.

Originally published in 1999, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat remains fresh and innovative for today’s young readers. The book was a favorite of my own kids, and would be a much-asked-for addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 1999 (hardcover) | ISBN 978-0670878550

Scholastic, 2003 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0439217316

National Tweed Day Activity

CPB - Button Coat

Pin the Button on the Coat Game

 

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

Supplies

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

CPB - Button Coat II

Directions

  1. Cut out the body of the coat, sleeves, and collar
  2. With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
  3. Let dry
  4. Cut circles for buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
  5. With the marker make dots to represent holes in the buttons
  6. When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins

Picture Book Review

March 25 – Earth Hour Day

picture-book-review-green-city-allan-drummond

About the Holiday

Earth Hour was organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature as a way to engage people in the discussion on climate change. First enacted in Australia in 2007, the observance has grown to include cities, businesses, corporations, and individuals world wide. For one hour – from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time – participants will turn off all unnecessary lights in a show of solidarity and commitment to protecting our earth. Among the places going dark this year are the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Sydney Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower.

Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future

By Allan Drummond

 

On May 4, 2007 a devastating tornado hit Greensburg, Kansas, destroying the town in 9 minutes. When the residents of the town climbed from their shelters, they emerged into a world completely changed. There were no more homes, no school, no hospital, no grocery store or other shops. No banks, theater, churches, or water tower. Even the trees had been shredded. Only three buildings remained.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-after-tornado

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The citizens were urged to move away. Rebuilding would be impossible, some said, and what was the point anyway when the wind could destroy it all again? But others saw opportunity to construct a different kind of town. With the help of volunteers and donations from around the world, Greensburg began the Herculean task of designing and building a new town.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-rebuilding-starts

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After clearing away 388,000 tons of debris and moving into a community of trailer homes, the people began to envision a unique, green town. Individuals designed sustainable houses of different shapes and materials that would work with the environment. Businesses, too, incorporated sustainability into their offices, retail centers, and hotels as did the hospital and the water tower. A wind farm large enough to provide energy for the entire town was built on the edge of this innovative city.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-one-house

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A new school was central to the town’s survival, and for three years the teachers held class in small trailers. Along with their regular studies, the kids became experts in environmental science. After several years Greenburg became a thriving city—a testament to conservation and sustainability that remains an example for global communities now and in the future.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-city-Greensburg-now

Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Allan Drummond tells this fascinating story of a community that would not give up in an honest and sensitive way that highlights the courage and pride of a town amid devastating loss. Told from a child’s point of view, the story has extra impact for readers who are growing up amid an era of environmental awareness and activism. The sustainable construction of homes and other buildings is effectively explained and clearly depicted in Drummond’s colorful illustrations.

The images also demonstrate the process of negotiation and cooperation among townspeople that went into designing and building a new Greensburg. The final two-page spread of the town’s layout will interest kids as well as adults who have followed this story in the news.

Ages 5 – 9

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016 | ISBN 978-0374379995

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his illustration work and his books on his website!

Earth Hour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-clip-art

Flashlight On, Flashlight Off Game

 

It’s fun to play games in the dark! During Earth Hour flip off your lamps and overhead lights and play this game that challenges your memory while you think about our planet! This game can be played with two or more players.

Supplies

  • Flashlight 
  • 6 – 12 small objects (the number of objects can be adjusted depending on the ages of the players)
  • A table or floor area large enough to lay out the objects

Directions

With the Flashlight On:

  1. Lay out the objects on a table or on the floor
  2. Give all the players time to look at the objects and try to memorize them
  3. Choose one player to remove one of the objects

With the Flashlight Off

  1. Turn off the flashlight
  2. While the room is dark, the designated player removes one object from the rest
  3. Turn the flashlight back on

With the Flashlight Back On

  1. The other players try to figure out which object is missing

Variations

  • In addition to removing one object, the other objects can be moved around to different positions
  • Remove more than one object at a time
  • Add an object instead of removing one

Picture Book Review

 

February 23 – It’s National Hot Breakfast Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle

About the Holiday

Sitting down to a nice, hot breakfast is a luxury most of us may not indulge in very often. February, with its cooler temperatures, beckons to us, though, to take the time and enjoy the comfort and camaraderie of a leisurely morning meal of eggs and bacon, pancakes, French toast, or—as a certain woodpecker prefers—waffles. So pick a day and gather all the ingredients for a yummy hot breakfast or visit your favorite breakfast restaurant!

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle

By Steve Breen

 

One morning Benny the woodpecker wakes to a most “tummy-rumbling smell” so he follows the yummy aroma to Moe’s Diner. Through the window Benny takes in the delicious scene and decides that he too must have waffles. He taps on the door, but it must be a “no woodpeckers” kind of place because the waitress gives him an unceremonious boot. He tries to sneak in, but the waitress is ready for him with her broom. He even tries wearing different disguises to gain entry, but that only gets him tossed out like trash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-flies-to-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

Back in the woods the animals laugh when they hear Benny is wishing for waffles, and one by one they offer an alliterative feast of reasons why Benny’s desire is so ridiculous. “Raccoons don’t eat ravioli,” Raccoon yells from the back of the crowd. “Turtles don’t eat turnovers,” Turtle explains. “Chipmunks don’t eat cheeseburgers,” Chipmunk adds to the chorus. “And woodpeckers don’t eat waffles!” Bunny exclaims.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-sneaks-into-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

“‘Well, why not?’” Benny counters. The animals are stumped! They ponder and ruminate, ruminate and ponder until finally Bunny says, “‘Because I said so!’” Benny feels he’s just wasting time listening to all this nonsense—time that can be better used devising a new plan to get waffles. In no time he’s back with a sure-fire scheme that involves being shot from a canon, the moon walk, a comedy act, and fireworks along with a few other entertaining bits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle

Image copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

As the speechless animals turn away Benny hears snickering, but he sprightly invites them back the next morning to watch his spectacle. In the morning the animals gather in a field across from the diner, but where’s Benny? The animals wait patiently, while inside the diner the waitress and customers notice something too. They all go outside to look at the animals. And while the animals are staring at the people and the people are staring at the animals, Benny makes his move through that forbidden door. “‘Sweet’” says Benny.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-flies-to-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Breen’s tale of Benny, the unconventional woodpecker, follows in the best traditions of comic storytelling. Breen’s setup, from Benny’s first glimpse of his obsession to the development of his clever ruse to his ultimately outwitting his opponent, will keep kids rooting for Benny from page to page. Benny’s confidence in the face of the friendly needling of the forest animals demonstrates that if you stick up for yourself and keep plugging, you can achieve your desires. 

Benny’s high, spiky featherdo will endear him to kids as will his perseverance in the face of mistreatment at the hands and feet of the waitress. Breen’s softly colored illustrations are full of comical details, and kids will love Benny’s contraption-style master plan that spans two pages with arrows to point out the trajectory.

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle is a wonderful choice for fun, funny story times and, like the best jokes, will want to be heard again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 |ISBN 978-0062342577

National Hot Breakfast Month 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 completed rows wins!

Picture Book Review

February 6 – It’s Hot Breakfast Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

About the Holiday

Hot Breakfast Month was established to encourage people to have a hot, healthy breakfast before they go off to work or school. A good breakfast can keep your brain and your body working longer and better, which will result in a good day and more happiness in your life! Isn’t that worth cracking a few eggs in a pan, toasting some bread, or—as Paul Bunyan preferred—mixing up a batch of pancakes?!

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

By Matt Luckhurst

 

Everyone knows that Paul Bunyan and his best friend Babe the Blue Ox were “the greatest lumberjacks to every work the forests.” But not many people know just how that came to be. It all started because Paul was a very big boy in a very small town. He found it hard to concentrate on school because he was always thinking about his mom’s pancakes. “‘Math,” Paul said, “is just not very tasty.’”

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-and-the-great-pancake-adventure-babe-and-paul

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Now, Paul and Babe were lucky enough to live in an area where lots of fresh fruit and vegetables were grown, but they only wanted pancakes. In fact when their mom tried to feed them broccoli, they spit it right out! So Paul’s mom made stacks and stacks of pancakes until she was out of breath—but she still had fields to tend to. Paul and Babe tried to free up time for Mom to keep cooking by working in the fields, “but their big feet just squished and squashed everything in sight.”

Finally, there were just not enough pancakes at home, so Paul hugged his mom and set off into the deep dark forest to find his “pancake fortune” with Babe at his heels. With their heads in the clouds and their bellies empty, they happened upon a lumberman with a huge problem. The Syrup River was dammed up with pancakes and the logs couldn’t get through. It was just the job for Paul and Babe!

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-and-the-great-pancake-adventure-babe-smiling

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Paul and Babe ate every last pancake until the river was clear. The lumberman was so impressed he offered them a job on the spot! And the best part was that they would be paid in pancakes! The trio tromped from Wisconsin to California, logging the land and making their mark. In Minnesota it was “so cold that all of Paul’s words froze before they could make a sound. They say you can still hear his voice in the forests there today as they thaw out.” Further west Paul and Babe had a little something to do with creating the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon would still be a flat plateau if it weren’t for Babe’s voracious appetite.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-and-the-great-pancake-adventure-paul's-words-freeze

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

But one day Babe fell ill, and Paul was feeling a little under the weather himself. The doctor gave them a grave diagnosis. “‘You seem to have been eating too many pancakes!’” he announced. Paul was flabbergasted—how could there be such a thing as too many pancakes?! But the doctor explained that a balanced diet was best. Paul pondered where he could find good food. Then it hit him! Paul and Babe said goodbye and headed back home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Mom was thrilled to see them and cooked plenty of nutritious meals to make them healthy. They stayed in town and grew “Bunyan sized veggies,” helped the townspeople, and always listened to Mom. And they never ate another pancake ever again! Well….

As Matt Luckhurst so adroitly knows, there is no more fascinating figure of North American folklore than Paul Bunyan and no greater meal than a pancake breakfast! Combining the two is sweet genius and rollicking fun to boot! Tall tales capture the imagination, and Luckhurst has included plenty of fantastic events to keep kids enthralled from page to page. Luckhurst’s larger-than-life illustrations burst with color and dynamic 3-D typography that enhance the humor and heart of Paul and Babe’s predicament. The juxtaposition of sizes and folk-art influences create unique, eye-catching pages, and Paul and Babe’s endearing innocence make them loveable characters.

Perfect for folktale lovers, pancake aficionados, kids who follow a singular vision, and anyone who loves a good yarn, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure is great fun and would be an often-read addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012 | ISBN 978-1419704208

You’ll enjoy getting to know more about Matt Luckhurst and viewing a portfolio of his work on his website!

Take a peek at this awesome trailer for Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure!

Copyright Matt Luckhurst

Hot Breakfast Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game

Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious that each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates and cut them out
  2. Glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review