April 1 – Reading is Funny Day and Interview with Author Lori Degman

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About the Holiday

Nothing’s better than hearing the giggles of a child reading a funny book! And thanks to today’s holiday, that sound can echo through your home all day long. It’s easy to celebrate too. Just grab your favorite funny books or find read alouds by your favorite authors and illustrators and settle in for a day of laughs. Or do a bit of both! And if you’re looking for a new book to add to your shelf, check into ordering today’s book for a fun trip around the country!

Travel Guide for Monsters

Written by Lori Degman | Illustrated by Dave Szalay

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to travel with monsters from coast to coast across America, then pack your bags and let’s get started! First stop is San Fransisco, California, where we hop a trolley for sightseeing. But maybe before we go on you should know: “While riding on a cable car, / Your monster should be cautious. / The ups and downs of Frisco hills / can make a monster nauseuous!” After taking in all the grandeur of the Bay Area, head down to Hollywood, where you and your monster can do some stargazing.

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Image copyright Dave Szalay, 2020, text copyright Lori Degman, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Traveling east, you can visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona and  take a tour of Wyoming. While there… “You’re likely to get thirsty when you / hike up in the mountains. / Make sure to warn your monster / that those geysers are not fountains.” South Dakota and Mount Rushmore are next on the itinerary then it’s on to Chicago for some “face time” at the ballpark. In Nashville, Tennessee, your monster will love to kick up his (cowboy booted) heels to some down-home fiddle music.

A swing through the south just isn’t complete without enjoying Florida’s amusement parks or a wild adventure: “Down south among the everglades, / your monster should wear waders / when playing ‘Marco Polo’ / with the crocodiles and gators.” If your monster likes swimming, he’ll love the beaches in Massachusetts—just watch his choice of snacks!

While on the East Coast, don’t forget to visit our nation’s capital in Washington DC and New York State, where your monster can get a bird’s eye view from the crown of Lady Liberty and make a splash at Niagara Falls. And when you finally get back home, you may have just one lingering question about your trip: “How will you explain your monster’s crazy souvenirs?”

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Image copyright Dave Szalay, 2020, text copyright Lori Degman, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Clever and funny, Lori Degman’s rhymed verses follow a high-interest itinerary across the country and will delight kids, who will very much wish they could join in the ultra-fun, little-bit-risky, and larger-than-life activities in each of the landmarks visited. These snapshots of America take in transportation, celebrity, grandeur, sports, music, and history and will spark an interest in learning more about each city and attraction.

Accompanying Degman’s story are Dave Szalay’s vivid depictions of each landmark, where some of the cutest—I mean most fearsome—monsters sightsee their way to hilarious result. Each image is framed with site-appropriate wallpaper, sporting a shield with the state’s name, a compass showing the state’s direction, and a little mode of transportation—from retro cars to trains to buses to airplanes. Szalay’s realistic portraits of each landmark will entice kids to look up the actual destination, and they’ll love picking out their favorite from among their whimsical travel buddies.

A laugh-out-loud and captivating travelogue for monster fans and monster fans of travel alike, Travel Guide for Monsters would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110373

Discover more about Lori Degman on her website.

To learn more about Dave Szalay, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Lori Degman

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Today, I’m monstrously exited to be talking with Lori Degman about her book, traveling, and her special musical talent! My blog partner Jakki’s two sons also get in on the fun with a few questions of their own!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kathy!

Jack would like to know: How did you get the idea for travel guide for monsters? 

Hi Jack! I actually got the original idea from another Jack – Colin Jack, the illustrator of my first book, 1 Zany Zoo. About eight years ago, Colin asked me if I could write a picture book about teaching monsters manners when traveling on public transportation. I tried, but I just couldn’t come up with anything I liked. About a year later I tried again and, instead of focusing on the type of transportation, I focused on location. I wrote the first stanza, “When traveling with monsters on a trip across the nation/this guide will give you tips to have a marvelous vacation”, then followed the same rhyme scheme and wrote couplets about different locations around the country.                                                 

Steve asks: Did you travel to places in your book? 

Hi Steve! I didn’t travel to any of the places to research them, but I’ve been to most of them on vacations in the past. I would love to go to each of them and talk to kids about the book at each place – maybe one of these days!                            

Steve and Jack were wondering: We really like the monsters. Do you know how Dave Szalay came up with them? Do you have a favorite monster?

I love the monsters too! I don’t know how Dave came up with them, so I went straight to the source and here is Dave’s answer: “I looked at the word history of monsters, mythology, legends, and folktales.  I read about the characteristics of monsters throughout history and then invented each monster based on what I learned.” 

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Dave Szalay chats about his monsters with Jack and Steve from his studio.

Me again – It’s really hard to pick a favorite monster because they’re all so great!  But, probably the monster in the Everglades is my favorite.  I especially love his waders. 

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Image copyright Dave Szalay, 2020, text copyright Lori Degman, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Hi Lori! Jack and Steve had some awesome questions, and I love your and Dave’s (thanks, Dave!) answers. I really enjoyed your clever rhymes and the monsters’ experiences. Could you take readers through a little bit of your process of writing this book?

Thanks so much, Kathy!  Once I established the rhyme scheme I was going to use and my plan to include different travel locations (as mentioned in question #1), I started listing places I’d been, like Mt. Rushmore, Statue of Liberty, Washington DC, and some places I’ve never been but want to visit in the future, like Niagara Falls and Cape Cod. Then I came up with ideas of some fun and silly things you’d tell your monster to do – or not to do – at these locations. Some of the locations went through several revisions with different tourist attractions. I think my hometown of Chicago had the most changes. First, I wrote about the elevated trains, then about the museums, and finally I wrote about Wrigley field – home of the Chicago Cubs. After writing the thirteen couplets, it was just a matter of getting the meter and rhyme just right.

You grew up and still live in Chicago. If you were going to take a trip, would you head north, south, east, or west? Why?

Within the United States, I’d like to take a road trip to all the states in the northeast. I’ve only spent time in New York City, Boston, and Washington DC, so I’d love to see all the other states up there. I’d probably go in the fall to see the changing leaves!

In your bio, you say that you love to write song parodies. How did you start doing them? Do you get to share these anywhere? Can you give readers a verse or two?

I wrote song parodies now and then, just for fun. But I started doing it a lot when I decided to write a musical for my long-time college friends and me. I wrote The Sound of MacMurray (our college) using the songs from The Sound of Music. Then I wrote a Christmas songbook for us, rewriting popular Christmas carols. When my friends and I turned 50, I wrote a song for each of them – and they wrote one for me. There are a lot of inside jokes in those songs, so I don’t think they’d be very funny to you. I did write a short song when my friend was diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis. It wasn’t serious or life threatening, otherwise I wouldn’t joke about it. But, when she told me the name of it, I knew I had to write a song about it! The song, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins fit perfectly. Here’s the song:                                                                                      “Hashimoto Thyroiditis, that’s her diagnosis / just a goiter on her neck so it’s a good prognosis / if she takes her medicine, that’s all the risk it poses / Hashimoto Thyroiditis, that’s her diagnosis.”

Just from reading your extensive 2020 event schedule, it looks like you love to meet with your readers. What do you like best about meeting with fans of your books?

As I’m writing this, I’m in my house for the 10th day in a row because of the Coronavirus! Because of that, my bookstore and school visits will most likely be canceled, which makes me really sad. I’m going to try to reschedule them for next school year. I was a teacher for 32 years and I’ve always loved children, so school visits are so much fun for me! I love motivating kids to read and write and use their imaginations.                                                                                               

Did your family take trips when you were a child? Do you remember one that made a special impression? Would you like to share a memory from a trip with your own kids?

Growing up, I had two sisters and one brother and my mom raised us by herself. She had to work a lot and we didn’t have much money, so we didn’t go on many trips. Sometimes we’d drive to our aunt and uncle’s cottage on a lake or to the Wisconsin Dells. The one big trip we took, when I was 9, was a driving trip to Washington DC and then down to Nashville to visit our cousins. That was before they had seat belts, so my three siblings and I squeezed into the back seat of our car the whole way. That was before cars had air-conditioning too, which made it a really long, hot drive.

The most exciting trip we took with my own kids was to London, England. Luckily for me, I won a trip for two there, including airfare and hotel, so we only had to buy the airplane tickets for our kids! Speaking of winning trips – I’ve also won trips to San Francisco and Hawaii! I’m pretty lucky I guess.

Traveling is always fun, but staycations are fun too. What’s one of your favorite tourist attractions in Chicago? What’s a favorite not-so-well-known spot?

I love the Art Institute of Chicago! It’s so huge, there’s always something new to see when you go there.  Plus, they have special exhibits all the time. All of the Chicago museums are really cool!

A fun not-so-well-known thing to do in Chicago is take an architectural boat tour. There are a couple of companies that will take you down the Chicago River and a guide will tell the history of the different buildings and their architects. It’s fun – but make sure to do it on a warm day!

What’s up next for you?

I don’t have any picture books under contract right now but I have several manuscripts out on submission, so hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying writing, doing school visits (once they’re open again) and spending time with family and friends!

Thanks, Lori! It’s been so fun chatting with you! Kids will have a blast traveling vicariously with your and Dave’s monsters!

You can connect with Lori on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Reading is Funny Day Activity

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Pack Your Bags for Fun! Board Game

 

If you love to travel, you know the first thing you have to do is pack your suitcase. With this printable game you can stuff your bag full of everything you’ll need for an awesome trip!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print one game board and set of playing cards for each player
  2. Print one playing die
  3. Players can color their suitcase game board if they’d like
  4. Cut out individual game cards and give a set to each player
  5. Cut out and assemble playing die, taping edges together
  6. Choose a player to go first. Play continues to the right.
  7. Players roll the die to place items on their backpack
  8. The first player to get all six items is the winner

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You can find Travel Guide for Monsters at these booksellers

Anderson’s Bookshop | Barbara’s Bookstore | Between the Lynes | Booked | The Book Stall | Amazon | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

 

March 19 – The Spring Equinox

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

I received a copy of Winged Wonders from Sleeping Bear Press for review of consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Migration Mystery

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura

 

For centuries people pondered the mystery of the monarch butterflies that “swooped in for a spell, like clockwork” from who-knew-where and fluttered off to some unseen destination. People all along their route, “from southern Canada…through the middle of the United States…and all the way to central Mexico” wondered about this annual event. The mystery was finally solved in 1976. What was it that set these butterflies soaring? The newspapers called it “The Great Monarch Migration.”

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

You might wonder who the person was who “tracked these winged wonders from one end of the continent to the other” and “found their secret roosting place, a marvel of nature.” Perhaps it was Fred, a scientist from Canada, who spent thirty years studying the monarchs and tagging their wings. Or maybe it was his wife, Norah, who sought help in tagging monarchs’ wings from volunteers across the country and “logged and mapped every tidbit of information they sent in to the lab.”

Could it have been the thousands of “science teachers, backyard gardeners, and other curious souls” who answered Norah’s plea? Or you might want to consider Ken and Catalina, a couple in Mexico who spent two years “trying to track the butterflies’ twisting trail” with the help of villagers and farmers. You might even say that it was Jim, a science teacher in Minnesota, who caught and tagged a very particular one-among-millions monarch.

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

So who was it? Who made that 1976 discovery? If you say all of them, you’re right! Communities across the North American countries of Canada, America, and Mexico came together to solve the mystery of one of nature’s most astounding phenomena. But now, another question concerning monarchs looms: “How will they survive?” Since that first discovery, the monarch population has dropped from “at least a billion to millions—a handful now to each hundred then” due to pesticides, pollution, and habitat destruction. Who do you think can help solve this monarch question? “The answer is really no mystery at all.”

An extensive Author’s Note following the text offers more information about the monarch migration discovery as well as ideas and projects for helping the monarch population grow and thrive.

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mirroring the flight of the monarchs, Meeg Pincus entices readers along the route of her story with fascinating facts about the personalities and eager citizen scientists who dedicated their lives and contributed their time to catching, tagging, and tracking these beautiful butterflies. Surprising details reveal the commitment in time and effort of so many people who enthusiastically answered Norah’s call for help. Her questioning format builds this same feel of excitement and community as page-by-page more people are added for readers to learn about and consider. Pincus’s lyrical storytelling is as buoyant and lovely as her subject while providing readers with a depth of knowledge about the process and experiences of the people along the way.

Yas Imamura’s delicate butterflies flutter above multi-hued green hills, busy downtown shops, and a golden desert before congregating like autumn leaves on a solitary tree as a deer looks on. Readers then begin to meet the scientists & participants: Fred and Norah in their well-packed car awed at spotting a monarch along their route, experimenting with wing tags, and mapping monarch sightings; a diverse group of kids and adults catching, tagging, and releasing butterflies; Ken and Catalina and the people of central Mexico, who share their colorful Día de los Muertos celebrations with these winged visitors; and finally Jim and his students.

Imamura’s glorious color palette complements the orange monarchs with soft pinks, corals, yellows, and reds while dramatically highlighting them against dark green backgrounds. Show-stopping scenes of the monarchs gathered on tree trunks and branches and the final spread of a butterfly garden are awe-inspiring and will spark children’s interest in helping to protect and help these unique creatures.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery is a must for home, school, and public library collections for nature lovers, citizen scientists, and any child who is a budding environmentalist as well as for lessons on science and community engagement.

Ages 7 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110403

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Yas Imamura, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can download an Educational Guide with activities for Winged Wonders on the Sleeping Bear Press website.

Spring Equinox Activity

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Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden row with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one. 

Options:

  • Players can “plant” each of the six rows with multiple flowers of the same type
  • Each player can be assigned a single row and “plant” one each of the six types of flowers 
  1. Print number of Game Boards needed 
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how many of each flower the players want to put in each row (For example: fewer for younger children, more for older). For sturdier playing items, print on card stock.
  3. Cut the playing cards apart
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

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You can find Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday was established in 2013 to celebrate the world’s wild animals and plants and to raise awareness of the perils they face. Since that time, World Wildlife Day has grown to be the most important global event dedicated to wildlife. Each year, the organizers adopt a theme addressing a pressing wildlife issue. This year’s theme is Sustaining All Life on Earth and encompasses raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity to the environment and to humans as well. The world relies on its biodiversity for clean air and water, food, energy, and materials of all types. But our biodiversity is in danger through unsustainable human activities. It is up to us to decide and act now for the future. Today’s book gives readers a good place to start in seeing species we’ve recently lost and how we can help. To learn more visit the World Wildlife Day website.

I received a copy of Extinct from Phaidon Press for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared

Written by Lucas Riera | Illustrated by Jack Tite

 

When most people hear the word extinct, they picture T-rex, brontosaurus, or maybe a mastodon. Images of bones long buried and museum exhibits of fossils come to mind. But Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared introduces young readers to the fact that “species become extinct all the time—in fact, it’s happening right now.” Lucas Riera and Jack Tite focus on 90 species that have been lost recently, specifically from the 20th century to today. These animals from all habitats are familiar to children and provide examples of how and why certain species are disappearing. For young conservationists, the stories and facts included offer a roadmap to future action and protective measures while honoring these beautiful animals.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Turning to the first page, readers meet six big cats that have disappeared from their homelands due to habitat destruction or hunting. The Formosan clouded leopard, a great climber native to Taiwan and named for the “distinctive shape of their spots,” succumbed to the loss of their natural habitat through logging. “The species was declared extinct in 2013. However, in 2019, two unconfirmed sightings have given hope that they may still be out there.” Also on this page, children are introduced to Tibbles—a house cat (or lighthouse cat, to be more precise) that single-pawedly wiped out the population of New Zealand’s Stephens Island wrens.

Next, children learn about the Thylacine (aka Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf). Striped like a tiger, carnivorous like a wolf, and the size of a large dog, Thylacines were actually marsupials, capable of hoping on their back legs. Their population dwindled to one by 1933 because of hunting by settlers and through their dogs, which killed the Thylacine’s prey and introduced diseases. “The last specimen was captured in 1933 and lived out its lonely life in an Australian zoo until September 7, 1936.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Speaking of marsupials, Riera highlights seven of these distinctive creatures, ranging from mouse-sized to about three feet tall, that once hopped their way across grasslands and deserts. Many fell victim to foxes, other predators, and habitat change. These include the crescent nail-tail wallaby, the yallara, and the pig-footed bandicoot, which was the size of a cat, had the streamlined face of a bird and whose front feet resembled pigs’ hooves while their back feet were more like horses’ hooves.

Twelve species of reptiles, including three types of giant tortoise, a turtle, skinks, lizards, and snakes, as well as nine species of amphibians, including toads, newts, salamanders, and frogs will fascinate kids. One of these—the gastric brooding frog—may have been one of the most unusual creatures in the forest. What made them unique? “The females swallowed their eggs during gestation. The eggs grew inside her belly! After six weeks, her developed babies would emerge from her mouth. Sadly, these wonderful weirdos have been extinct since 2002.”

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Two-page spreads are also dedicated to Amazing Athletes, Superb Swimmers, Big and Beautiful rhinos and hippo, Powerful Pack wolves, Birds, Primates, and Fantastic Foragers, including the Caucasian wisent, a bison that once thrived in the cold mountains of Eastern Europe. “In the 19th century, their population numbered in the thousands, but then humans settled in the mountains and hunting ensued. In 1927, poachers killed the last three individuals that lived in the wild.” In addition to the Thylacine, Riera highlights three other individual animals—the passenger pigeon, the great auk, and the California Grizzly.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Following the species profiles, Riera presents an extensive discussion of extinction today, including the fact that currently “the rate of extinction is estimated to be much faster than the natural rate—by as much as 1,000 times”—and that “it’s the sixth time in billions of years that levels of extinction have been extremely high.” He also reveals causes of extinction, wildlife organizations and examples of positive results, and summaries of work to protect three critically endangered animals. On the next page, Jack Tite depicts more critically endangered animals being tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Finally, concerned children and adults will find resources for getting involved on local and international levels as well as tips for being more environmentally conscious.

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Image copyright Jack Tite, 2019, text copyright Lucas Riera, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Lucas Riera introduces readers to this wide variety of animals through fascinating, conversational, and descriptive paragraphs that reveal tidbits about their distinctive features, where they lived, and how they became extinct. Dates of extinction are eye-opening, especially those for creatures that have disappeared within the lifetime of many young readers. Pages packed with reptiles, birds, amphibians and more, invite children to explore these animals further and present jumping off points for nature and environmental science classes for a wide age range of students.

In this stunning oversized book, Jack Tite accompanies the text with vibrant, eye-catching imagery of animals prowling, leaping, swimming, running, and otherwise on the move that gives readers an up-close view of their beautiful markings and distinguishing traits. Textured backgrounds place the animals in their natural environments from sun-drenched deserts to deep seas to tropical forests and beyond. In what may be a plea for the future, most of the animals gaze out from the page directly at readers, seeming to invite them to learn more and engage them in conservation efforts.

Full of information about environmental science, extinction, and animals that once roamed our planet, Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared is a lush and deep resource for young nature lovers and conservationists at home, in schools, and for public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Phaidon Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1838660376

To learn more about Jack Tite, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

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Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice as shown on printable guide
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!

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You can find Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 21 – It’s Hot Breakfast Month

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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! And during this cold month, it feels good to get the day started off with a warm, satisfying meal. So scramble up a few eggs, make a bowl of yummy oatmeal, or whip up a batch of pancakes or waffles. And if you’re following a more plant-based diet, there are lots of grains and greens that will give you a nourishing sendoff.

Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World

Written by Lynne Marie | Illustrated by Parwinder Singh

 

If you’re raising a culinary conscious and curious kid satisfies that gnawing hunger for more information on world cuisine. Visiting families around the globe at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, Lynne Marie offers up tidbits about what kids eat plus other interesting food facts. The first stop is China, where Yu Yan is enjoying a bowl of congee—or rice porridge—before heading out to school. This morning, the congee includes squid that her father has caught. Yu Yan “slurps loudly to show how much she likes it.”

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

High in the mountains of Peru, Luz is bundled up in the early morning air as she gets ready to help out with her grandfather’s llamas. First, she warms up with chuño cola—a soup made from freeze-dried potatoes. For Luz, breakfast usually consists of leftovers from dinner the night before. Hospitality is so important to people in the Philippines that one of the most common greetings is “‘Kumain ka na?’ meaning ‘Have you eaten yet?’” If not, you may be invited to join in a breakfast of spamsilog—a dish of fried SPAM, fried eggs, and garlic rice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-eat-mealtime-around-the-world-philippines

Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Jamaica, Zhade and her mother make savory pastries filled with spicy ground beef. These can be eaten on their own or wrapped in coco bread—a soft, sweet bread—to make sandwiches. For Camille, living in France, lunch is a four-course meal served at school. Today, Camille and her friends are having “a cucumber and tomato salad, then a main course of roast beef with cooked broccoli. Next, a small plate of cheese, finished with apple tart for dessert.” It must not be Wednesday, though. In France, there’s no school on Wednesday afternoons. “Instead, many attend on Saturday mornings.”

It’s dinnertime for Priya, who lives in India. She and her family are at their favorite restaurant, where Priya has ordered Tandoori chicken. “Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices then roasted in a tandoor, a round clay oven.” After dinner, she and her family go home to watch cricket on TV.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

For many families in Sweden, Thursday dinners follow a tradition that goes back to the fifteenth century. Tonight, Hugo is having “pea soup and pancakes with lingonberry jam. Perfect for keeping warm on a cold winter night.” Lingonberry jam isn’t just for pancakes. It can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

Finally! It’s time for dessert! In Egypt, Mandisa and her brother are enjoying basbousa—a coconut cake. They especially like it with a topping of rose-blossom or orange-blossom syrup that makes it taste extra sweet. In Nigeria, Chetachi can’t wait to dig into the bowl of tropical fruit sprinkled with coconut. It looks like his sister would like some too! All over the world, people sit down to meals with foods they love. Learning more about these dishes and trying them is a great way to feel a sense of community with other kids.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In her conversational tour around the world, Lynne Marie invites readers to sit down with their peers and enjoy a variety of meals and snacks while also learning a little about the history, culture, environment, and animals of each area. A question prompting readers to think about their own connection to food accompanies each two-page spread and offers an opportunity for classroom or home discussion and exploration.

Parwinder Singh populates his illustrations with enthusiastic kids dipping into soups, dishing up a plateful around the family dining table, helping out in the kitchen, and licking their fingers to enjoy every drop of a delicious treat. Singh’s colorful backdrops give kids a glimpse into the homes that nourish each child and the landscape that often influences the ingredients that make up their favorite foods.

Sure to spark children’s interest in tasting foods from around the world and learning more about the cultures of the thirteen countries represented here, Let’s Eat! Mealtime around the World makes for a deletable lead-in for social studies and geography lessons, events highlighting international foods, and multicultural explorations at home.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1506451947

Discover more about Lynne Marie and her books on her website.

Hot Breakfast Month Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious that each one doesn’t last long! In this game see how many pancakes you can flip onto the plate!

Supplies

  • Printable Pancakes Template
  • Printable Breakfast Plate Template (optional – you can use your own paper plate or other dish)
  • Heavy stock paper, poster board, cardboard, or foam sheet
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Spatula (optional)

You can play this game several ways:

  1. Print and cut out the pancakes and plate (or use your own paper plate or other dish) and glue them to the heavy paper, poster board, or foam sheet
  2. Place the plate on the floor
  3. Draw 3 concentric circles around the plate about 12 inches apart.  For younger children make the circles closer together.
  4. Give each player the same number of pancakes and choose someone to go first
  5. Each player takes turns tossing or flipping their pancakes, trying to get them onto the plate
  6. When a player has used all of their pancakes add up their score:
  • Hitting the target can earn you 20 points
  • Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point
  • Hitting the second circle is worth 10 points
  • Pancakes landing in the third circle are 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!

Try this Option:

Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try flipping them with a spatula!

Or: Make up your own rules—and have fun!

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You can find Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 2 – It’s National Sunday Supper Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-wee-about-me-coverAbout the Holiday

Isabelle Lessing began the Sunday Supper Movement in 2012 after her oldest child left home to attend college and she realized that the time spent around the family table would be something she missed most. Isabelle reached out to other food bloggers to share their experiences and recipes, and the Sunday Supper Movement was born. If you’d like to revive this tradition, which was once a staple of family life, you’ll find recipes and ideas on the Sunday Supper website.

Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure

Written by Kim Chaffee | Illustrated by Laura Bobbiesi

 

It was time for Sunday Supper at Grandma’s again. Liesel ran past her brother and up the front walk into Grandma’s kitchen, where she began to search through the spoons, spatulas, and other baking utensils. Grandma held the large soup ladle aloft and asked, “‘Looking for this?’” When Liesel cheered, Grandma said, “‘Dear Liesel, you’re just like me when I was a wee girl.’” But Liesel let her know that there was nothing wee about her.

Grandma warned Liesel that the old ladle didn’t work quite as well as it used to and made her promise to “be back in time for Sunday soup.’” Liesel raised the ladle above her head and made a wish. Immediately, she was in a little submarine, her ladle-scope trained on an island where a rumbling volcano threatened the pretty castle and the villagers. Liesel hurried toward the island to warn its inhabitants.

When she landed on shore, she was met by a lion pirate who took in her wee size and sneered while informing her that the island belonged to him. In turn, she informed him that the volcano was about to blow and—in her loudest voice—that “‘THERE’S NOTHING WEE ABOUT ME!’” Then she brandished her “ladle-hook” hand at him and sent him running. Then she rushed through the town announcing the danger through her ladle-megaphone.

She came to the castle and knocked loudly on the door. But then she spied, crouched over the tallest tower and with its wings outstretched, a fire-breathing dragon who was keeping the prince prisoner. The dragon was not afraid of such a “wee girl,” but Liesel swung her “ladle-sword” at the dragon and ordered it to let the prince go. Surprised by Liesel’s bravery, the dragon relented.

But were they too late to get to the rescue boat? Lava was already streaming from the volcano as the earth shook. Once more, Liesel raised the ladle and made a wish. Immediately, Liesel found herself holding a stick with a marshmallow attached. She told the ladle that the volcano was “‘not a campfire’” and that this was “‘no time for s’mores.’” The prince, thought a snack sounded good, though.

Liesel made another wish and found herself holding a plunger; another wish presented her with a golf club. Liesel had to admit that Grandma had been right about the ladle being broken, but she tried one more time. When she opened her eyes, she was holding a fishing pole. The prince couldn’t see how that would help, but Liesel knew just what to do. She sent her line flying, “hooked the largest coconut she could find,” and…saved the day.

While Liesel wished she and the prince could stay on the island, she knew Grandma was waiting. At dinner, Liesel slurped up her whole bowl of soup and asked for another. As Grandma ladled up another serving of Sunday soup, she remarked that she’d never seen Liesel eat so much. “‘That must have been some adventure today!’” she said and then worried that perhaps it had been too dangerous. But Liesel reassured her grandma that there was “‘Nothing this WEE girl couldn’t handle.’”

Kim Chaffee’s enchanting and action-packed story is a celebration of imagination and the way that simple toys or objects can spark children to discover their own creativity. With evocative verbs, suspenseful encounters, rich dialog, and a sprinkling of humor, Chaffee creates a charming page-turner that’s sure to thrill readers. Kid-power, girl-power, and themes of family and tradition as well as a sweet and loving intergenerational relationship between the children and their grandmother make this a multi-layered story that kids will love. Liesel’s mantra “There’s nothing wee about me” is sure to become a rallying cry for readers.

Laura Bobbiesi’s watercolor and ink illustrations are filled with captivating details that revel in the joys of simpler times and hint at some of the adventures to come. As Liesel and her brother run to meet Grandma, Liesel wears a paper hat while her brother sports the gold crown and red cape of a prince, and the seagull that greets their little dinghy wears an eyepatch. The plump submarine, golden-maned pirate, and rainbow-scaled dragon are whimsical while highlighting the ingenuity of young minds at play. Subtle hints incorporated in the text and accompanying images may spur some readers to join in on the adventure and guess how Liesel will solve the problem of the volcano.

An inventive story with lots of heart, Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure would make a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for story times that stir children’s imaginations.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146923

Discover more about Kim Chaffee and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Bobbiesi and see a portfolio of her work visit her website.

National Sunday Supper Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

Soup makes a souper meal for Sunday Suppers, but you can’t eat it without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable maze?

Souper Maze Puzzle | Souper Maze Solution

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You can find Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

It’s a tradition here at Celebrate Picture Books to commemorate the holiday with the book that started it all. Originally published in 1997, The Mitten Tree has endured and continues to spark programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country. The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. So now that it’s time to get out favorite mittens or buy (or knit) a new pair, enjoy the season with today’s book!

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-blue-sprce

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-basket

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

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You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

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

Celebrate Picture Books

November 25 – It’s Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

National Farm City Week aims to raise awareness of America’s farmers and ranchers, who “dedicate their lives to promoting our nation’s agricultural abundance and environmental stewardship.” During this week we take the opportunity to support the crucial relationship “between farms and families and work to ensure farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations.” It is through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Farmblock

Written by Chrisopher Franceschelli | Illustrated by Peskimo

 

A rooster calls all kids to take a trip to the farm to see all that happens year ‘round in this adorably chunky board book! Little readers will have a blast following a sister and brother—and their dog—as they say good morning to the ducks in the pond, the cows outside the barn, and the chickens who are happy to share their eggs and show off a dozen newly hatched chicks.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Morning greetings give way to morning chores, and the children take buckets of compost “past the old blue tractor” to the pile, where their dog has discovered a perfect place to roll and play. Ewww! A hose and a tub of soapy water cleans him up. Then it’s time to visit the “big red barn” to “help mild the cows, brush the horses, and feed the goats. Even the “mama sow and all her piglets” get their breakfast slop.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

On this fall day, the corn and the apples are ready to be harvested. The fresh corn is just right for a picnic, and the apples will make a delicious pie for Grandpa. There are pumpkins in the field for making jack o’ lanterns, and later all the members of the family sit down around the long dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving.

As the weather turns frosty, Mama chops logs and the kids gather kindling for the woodpile. The “horses in the paddock don’t mind a little snow, but the birds in the forest appreciate the seeds the girl and boy scatter for them. Evening falls and it’s time to “head home to roast marshmallows by the fire.”

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

The family is happy when spring comes. “Bees buzz in every flower…and the lambs are born.” The animals are excited to be outside in the pasture again. It’s time to get the ground ready for planting “so the plants grow up…and up! And the plants grow down…and down!” The grass grows high in summer, but then it is cut and “rolled into bales to hoist high into the hayloft.” Berry bushes produce plump, juicy berries for jam to sell on farmers market day!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-farm-block-barn

Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With plenty of surprises and sprightly storytelling, Christopher Franceschelli gives little readers a tour of a farm throughout the year. His straightforward sentences are cheery and sprinkled with words such as compost, harvest, paddock, and hoist that children who are developing their vocabulary will be proud to know. Kids will be excited to see annual events that their familiar with as well as to learn about the crops and the changes for the animals that occur during each season.

Just as in the other block books in the series, Peskimo delights readers with lots of cut-out windows to peek through, gate-fold pages to open out…and out and even up and down. Behind the gate folds await sweet and humorous discoveries that will have little ones giggling and aww-ing. Each page is bright and bold, and smiles abound from the close siblings to their mom, dad and grandpa to the cute animals and their babies. Even the jack o’ lanterns have wide grins. Kids and adults will enjoy pointing out and talking about all of the details of farm life included on every page and especially the antics of the tiny mouse on each spread.

A charmer that will captivate little ones’ imagination, Farmblock is a book that children will want to read again and again. The book makes a terrific gift and addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages Baby to 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738258

You can view a portfolio of artwork by Peskimo on their website.

Farm City Week Activity

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Grow a Garden Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

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

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

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You can find Farmblock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review