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.

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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!”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

May 6 – Join Hands Day

Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted to foster better communication between the older and younger generations and to recognize the ways that all people, no matter what their age, can help each other. Many communities use this day to begin a dialogue between their elderly and their youth, getting young people involved in visiting care centers and older adults helping out at schools and other youth programs. Another great way to celebrate is for grandparents and grandkids to spend the day together!

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids—his granddaughter and two grandsons. The kids are excited to be visiting their grandpa where they can play outside all day long. On this particular day, however, rain spatters the windows, and the kids are disappointed: “Whimper, sigh, / cloudy sky, / is it too wet to play? / We don’t want to stay inside / because of rain today.” But their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he suggests.

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Out to the garden they run in their raincoats and hats. “Splish, splash, / puddle dash, / We bounce right out the door. / We’re off to find some red and green, / some yellow, orange, and more. / Grandpa shows us how to move / Between each garden row. / Lifting up the drippy leaves, /  we see what colors grow.” They collect green spinach, kale, and zucchini; yellow peppers, purple cabbage and eggplant, red radishes and tomatoes; brown potatoes; and orange carrots. After some muddy fun among the plants, the kids go inside, get dried off, and begin to prepare their colorful stew.

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Image copyright Catherine Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Peel, slice / chop and dice, / colors fill the pot. / Stir in herbs and water / and then wait till it gets hot.” While the pot simmers on the stove, Grandpa and the kids snuggle on the couch with favorite books, reading together until the stew has simmered to perfection. The family then sits down to a homemade, colorful, delicious lunch of Rainbow Stew. 

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels, offering opportunities for learning as well as playing. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store. The rhyming verses each begin with an energetic couplet that kids will enjoy repeating or acting out. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables, and young readers may enjoy matching the vegetables to items in the kitchen, living room, and more. 

Children will identify with the disappointment of the three siblings when they learn it’s too wet to spend the day outside as well as their glee at squishing in the mud. The close bond between the kids and their grandfather as they cook and read together is a strong anchor for this story and promotes early literacy.

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Reading Rainbow Stew, preparing the delicious dish, and doing the puzzle below makes for a fun rainy – or sunny – day!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476

Learn more about Cathryn Falwell and her books and art on her website!

To discover more about Rainbow Stew as well as activities to accompany the book, head over to rainbowstewbook.com!

Join Hands Day Activity

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Give Me Your Hand Interchangeable Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

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