June 18 – International Picnic Day

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About the Holiday

Is it a perfect day to get outside? Then why not pack up lunch, a blanket, and the kids and have a picnic?! Spending time and having fun at a park, on the beach, or even in your own backyard is what summer’s all about! Memories are made, even if things don’t always work out as planned—as you’ll see in today’s book.

Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic

By Alexandra Boiger

 

Max and Marla are waiting for a perfect day to have a picnic. Today is going to be rainy, but tomorrow promises to be warm and sunny. Max and Marla jump for joy. It’s their tradition to “celebrate the beginning of spring with a picnic extraordinaire down by the lake.” They go to the kitchen to start preparing the homemade feast they will pack along, including “Grandma’s special cake: a gugelhupf.” Marla wants to be helpful, but…oh, dear! Still, everything is ready just in the nick of time.

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Copyright Alexander Boiger, 2018, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Max peddles down the road while Marla, wearing her best hat, rides in the bike’s basket. They stop in a beautiful spot where the river and mountain meet. When they get hungry, Max begins to unpack the picnic basket. There’s just one thing missing, so Max goes to fetch it. While Marla waits—and naps—squirrels come sniffing—and nibbling—around. They can’t believe how “this day is perfect!”

Finally, Max comes back with a big bouquet of wildflowers, but they scatter to the wind when Max sees that Marla has already started eating. It doesn’t take Max long to notice the squirrels ransacking the picnic basket. “‘LOOK! There are food thieves at work!’” Max shouts. Marla and Max look at each other—but just for a moment. “Marla and Max don’t feel like staying any longer. They don’t even want to look at each other. They pack everything up and ride away. This time Marla rides in back.

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Copyright Alexander Boiger, 2018, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

At home, Max and Marla go their separate ways. “This was not a good day.” Later, when getting ready for bed, Max thinks about how much Marla loves to be read to and have her beak brushed. Marla must be tired and hungry, Max thinks. Max has an idea and creeps downstairs and out into the yard to pick the blue flowers that grow along the walk. Max goes back inside and gives them to Marla along with a hug. Then, in the light of the refrigerator, the two best friends pack up the picnic basket again and head to the living room. There, they have “the best picnic ever! it’s cozy, it’s warm, and it is heavenly scrumptious.

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Copyright Alexander Boiger, 2018, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Alexandra Boiger’s cuter-than-cute best friends navigate the ups and downs of expectations and disappointment in this tender, friendship-affirming story. Boiger’s excellent storytelling sweeps young readers into the promise of a “perfect” day, allowing them also to feel Max and Marla’s sadness when things don’t work out as planned. Honest descriptions of these two friends’ emotions and actions when returning home make their reconciliation all the more heartening.

Many twists and turns, thoughtful characters, and a cleverly included line about a perfect day for the squirrels, give readers and adults much to talk about while enjoying this second adventure with Max and Marla. With no pronouns used and gender-neutral clothing, hair, and even name, the story is universal for all children. Boiger’s warm and humorous scenes at home and sun-drenched images of the perfect picnic spot will charm young readers as they’re invited along on this memorable day.

Ages 3 – 6

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399175053

Discover more about Alexandra Boiger, her books, and her art on her website.

International Picnic Day Activity

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Picnic Basket Match-up Puzzle

 

Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Picnic Basket Match-up Puzzle?

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You can find Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 16 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month

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About the Holiday

Going to the zoo or aquarium is a great way to spend a summer day. This month is dedicated to many zoos, aquariums, and other natural animal preserves around the country that not only provide a fun experience for families but preserve and protect animals from around the world. Zoo and aquarium staff also conduct research that helps to sustain animal species and their environments in the wild. To celebrate this month, plan a family outing to a zoo or aquarium.

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids

Written by Kristen Fischer | Illustrated by Susi Schaefer

 

“Lyla is ready / to try something new. / Can she learn yoga / from friends at the zoo?” In her room Lyla dresses in comfy clothes and rolls out her red yoga mat. She remembers the bear who “grabbed onto his feet” as she does the same while lifting her legs in the air. Two slithering cobras teach Lyla their moves, and from three eagles Lyla learns to stand as if ready to fly.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

“Lions stalk and they prowl, / in this pride there are four. / Hands pressed to her knees, / Lyla bellows a roar.” Next come five camels who bend their knees back when they sit. Lyla kneels too and grabs onto her heels. She bends backwards while relaxing her neck and in no time “she’s got the knack.” But Lyla needs a bit of a rest. Six alligators lounging in the river show her it’s easy to relax on her tummy.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

After her rest, Lyla’s ready for more. She gets an assist from seven dolphins passing by as she bends at her hips and lays her forearms flat on the mat. While they swim away, “eight gorillas screech. / Lyla folds in half, / clasps hands under feet, / and lets out a laugh.” Nine lizards gathered on a rock invite Lyla to be one of them. But what will she do for a tail? With one leg outstretched and one near her hand, she can look like a lizard sunning on land.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

At the pond are ten frogs having high-jumping fun. With her legs stretched out wide and her arms as a prop, Lyla looks like those frogs as they get ready to hop. The flamingo stands steady on only one leg. It says, “Remember to breathe / use only your nose. / Inhale and exhale. / Stay calm in each pose.” With the thought to “always be present / right here and right now,” Lyla finishes her yoga with a thankful bow.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

Kristen Fischer’s charming rhymes that describe the moves for each pose are sure to entice children to try yoga. Pairing the poses with familiar animals brings comfort and fun to this popular relaxation practice. With each page, the number of animals grows, making Zoo Zen a cute counting book as well. Kids will love learning ways that they can de-stress and clear their mind after or before a busy day.

Susi Schaefer’s adorable Lyla with a frothy updo of blue and black curls invites young readers to join her and some friendly zoo animals in fun yoga poses. Each move is depicted clearly in Schaefer’s colorful, textured illustrations. The animals not only demonstrate the poses but offer a little advice on placement of hands, feet, arms, and legs. The happy zoo animals and smiling Lyla are perfect friends to help introduce young readers to the benefits of yoga.

For children interested in learning yoga, Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids is sweet and gentle and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves. Its engaging rhymes support multiple readings as kids learn the poses.

Ages 4 – 8

Sounds True, 2017 | ISBN 978-1622038916

Discover more about Kristen Fischer, her books, and her work as a freelance writer on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Susi Schaefer on her website!

National Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

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Strike a Yoga Pose Word Search

 

Many yoga poses for kids are named after animals you can see at the zoo. Find the names of twenty yoga poses in this printable Strike a Yoga Pose Word Search and then try some of them! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 13 – It’s National Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

With all the fun games to play and not-so-fun-but-necessary chores to do inside, sometimes a day, a week, or even the whole summer can go by without you ever really getting outside to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and outdoor activities that can be so invigorating. Take the opportunity National Great Outdoors offers to discover somewhere new or see a familiar place in a whole new way.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

A little girl and her mom are “back again” at the cottage—even trudging up the walk in “the same rain”—while Dad is working back at home in the city. While Mom works at her computer, the girl destroys Martians, but she says, “Actually, I was just pressing the same button over and over.” She wishes that her dad were there.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Mom turns away from her writing and watches her daughter playing her video game. “Is this going to be another day of doing nothing?” she growls. Mom takes the device and hides it—“as usual”—and the little girl finds it—“as usual.” But this time she takes it outside. As the rain pelts down from gloomy skies it looked as if everything in the “garden was hiding from the sun.”

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In the pond at the bottom of the hill she finds a line of flat stones. She hops from one to another, crushing them like the Martians in her game. While jumping, though, her game falls out of her pocket and into the pond. The water is so icy cold that she can’t grab it before it sinks out of sight. Oh no! she thinks, “Without my game, I have nothing to do.” The rain strikes her “like rocks,” and she feels “like a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane.”

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Just then she spies four giant snails slithering by. She asks them if there is anything to do around there, and they tell her yes. She gently feels one of the snail’s antennae. It is “as soft as jello” and makes her smile. She follows the snails and discovers a field filled with mushrooms. Their damp musky smell reminds her of her grandparents’ basement—her “cave of treasures.” She walks on and finds a spot in the earth where she digs her hand into the ground. She feels “thousands of seeds and pellets and kernals, grains and roots and berries touch “her fingers and hand.” When she looks up the sun is shining “through a giant strainer” and blinds her.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

Her heart starts beating fast with energy. She takes off running and runs so quickly that she tumbles down the hill. She lands on her back with a flop, and when she opens her eyes, the world is topsy-turvy new. Energized, she climbs a tree and gazes out at the horizon, breaths deeply in the fresh air, drinks raindrops as they fall from a leaf, and notices bugs she’s never seen before. She talks to a bird, splashes in a puddle, and watches the world through stones as clear as glass.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

She hurries home and takes off her raincoat. When she glances in the mirror, for a moment she thinks she “sees her dad smiling at [her].” Her mom is still writing, but now she looks different to the little girl—“like one of the creatures outside.” Her mom notices how soaked she is and takes her to the kitchen to dry her off in a big, soft towel. The little girl feels like giving her mom a big hug. For a moment she wants to tell her about all the things she saw and did, but she doesn’t.

Instead, they enjoy their hot chocolate quietly together. “That’s it,” she says. “That’s all we did. On this magical do-nothing day.”

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

While the protagonist of A Magical Do-Nothing Day may never have looked at the world outside closely, Beatrice Alemagna certainly has. Alemagna’s exquisite illustrations portray the beauty of our environment—both indoors and out—and our connections to it with novel descriptions and stunning color and perspectives. As the girl ventures outside, video game clutched tightly, her face registers sadness and wariness. The Martians from the game crawl over and surround her, even when the game is off, seeming to fill any space that might be open to exploration, and, indeed, her first forays into the wild are taken game-style, hopping from platform to platform, rock to rock.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the gaming device sinks into frigid water (as cold and impersonal as the gaming experience itself?), the child quickly comes out of her shell with the help of snails that lead her to greater discovery. The story gives readers much to ponder in the relationships between the child and parents and the child’s newfound appreciation for the natural world.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is a fantastic book to add to home and classroom libraries to spur children’s exploration—both in the natural world and within. While I used the feminine pronoun in my review, the story is told from the first person point of view and the child is drawn with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, making this a book with universal appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

Discover more about Beatrice Alemanga, her books, and her art on her website.

National Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Whose Shoes? Maze

 

There are all sorts of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, from skating to scuba diving to hiking! These kids all want to do their favorite activity. Can you help match them to the shoes they’ll need in this printable Whose Shoes? Maze?

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You can find On a Magical Do-Nothing Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 10 – National Children’s Day

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About the Holiday

On National Children’s Day, parents, grandparents, and other family members and caregivers are encouraged to spend the day with their children, celebrating each child’s unique qualities, listening to their children, and recommitting the family to core values of love and acceptance.  Spend the day doing an activity that is meaningful to your family. This can even be as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood—as in today’s book.

City Moon

Written by Rachael Cole | Illustrated by Blanca Gómez

 

A mother and child take advantage of fall’s early darkness to take a walk around their neighborhood. Cozy in pajamas and a coat, the little one is eager to leave home behind for a bit “to look for the moon.” When they get to the park, where people are out walking their dogs, they gaze into the sky, but the moon “is hiding. Where is it?”

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, they see it rising above the tall buildings. The child points and exclaims “Oh…there it is! The moon!” They watch it as people pass on their way home from work. As they continue on their way, the moon disappears. The child sees “glittery dots in the sky” and wonders if those are also moons. “‘Theyre stars,’ says Mama. Oh, stars.”

As they turn the corner around the fruit and vegetable stand, the moon appears again. But is it a different moon, the little one wonders. Mama explains that there is only one moon. “Oh, the same moon,” the child understands. At the crosswalk, the child sees the moon in a puddle. Could it have fallen in? Mama tells her curious child that it is the moon’s reflection. “Oh…a reflection.”

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They cross the street and the moon vanishes again. Here the street is busier, with people rushing home, busses and cars zooming by, and a fire engine wailing as it speeds along. They join the throng, keeping their eyes on the sky, but the moon is nowhere to be seen. Then, a little farther on, “there it is. Bright and light and round and glowing.” They “stop and look.”

The child is mesmerized by the moon, but “why doesn’t everyone look?” Mama says that they are busy. In the windows they can see people cooking dinner, reading, and playing. Others jog and stroll on the sidewalk, while still others ride bikes home after a long day. Mama bends down and whispers, “‘And it is also time for us to go to bed.’” They head home and once more see the moon, full and bright. 

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

It plays hide-and-seek peeking out from its hiding place behind a cloud just as the little one becomes too sleepy to walk along. Mama carries her child home, to their stairs and the stoop. Inside they take off their coats and shoes, and the child is tucked into bed. The full moon shines through the window. “‘Can we keep the curtain open?’” the little one asks before falling asleep in the gentle glow of the natural nightlight.

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Rachael Cole’s delightful evening stroll is the perfect antidote to a busy day. At once lyrical and perceptive, the story is told from the child’s point of view and tenderly reflects all the wonder and magic that children find in being outside at night. Young readers will revel in the precise observations and step-by-step chronicle of the mother and child’s walk. The playful game of hide-and-seek from page to page will enchant little ones. Cole’s lovely language also echoes the way children learn—by asking questions, repeating new words and ideas, and taking time to stop and see.

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Blanca Gómez infuses City Moon with exquisite illustrations that are as genuine and nuanced as life itself. The rhythms and habits of diverse city life and depicted with meticulous care in stylish vignettes rendered in a sophisticated and textured palette. A variety of perspectives bring the post-working day hustle and bustle close while hinting at the quieter comfort to come. Readers—both children and adults—will love peeking in the windows to see what people are up to.  With so much to see and experience,

A warm hug that embraces family and neighborhood, City Moon gives readers so much to see and experience during leisurely bedtime or daytime story times. The story will also inspire families to take similar evening walks. City Moon is highly recommended as a wonderful  gift and a must for any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553497076

Discover more about Rachael Cole, her books, and her work on her website.

To learn more about Blanca Gómez and her artwork, visit her website.

National Children’s Day Activity

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Gazing at the Moon Maze

 

The moon is super bright! Can you follow the sight line from the telescope to the moon to see it in this printable Gazing at the Moon Maze? Here’s the Solution.

June 5 – It’s Great Outdoors Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Paul Owen Lewis

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About the Holiday

Getting outside is one of the joys of summer! As schools close, leaving more time for leisure pursuits, it’s fun to explore the great outdoors through hiking, biking, swimming, camping, and just plain playing. Some people even give up their cold-weather vehicles and take to the open road on scooters and motorcycles. Having a variety of summer experiences gives you the opportunity to meet different people and make new friends—just like the mice in today’s book!

I received a copy of Motomice from Beyond Words Publishing to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Beyond Words in a giveaway of Motomice! Details are below.

Motomice

By Paul Owen Lewis

 

When you imagine a biker do you think of someone who wears black, looks tough, and roars through town on a loud motorcycle? Well, let’s take a ride and see what a colorful crew bikers really are! Did you know that some “bikers wear orange. They look like pilots” as they roll through the suburbs. Sometimes “their motorcycles are old.”

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

Some “bikers wear pink” like Roxie, who zooms around the track or heads out on a winding country lane on her sleek, fast motorcycle. There are even grandmas and grandpas who are bikers. They travel all over on big, sturdy motorcycles that can carry loads of stuff for camping with friends. Have you ever spied someone in silver and blue with a fancy helmet who looks a bit like an astronaut, it’s a good bet they’re a biker too! And—look!—there’s Sparky refueling her green motorcycle at the electric vehicle charging station. She “cares about the environment.” Her motorcycle is quiet. Then all gassed up and ready to go, the group is off again. But where to? It’s a Motomice Reunion Rally, where “everyone is welcome!”

So whatever road you’re on, take a good look. “Bikers are every color, every style, and every kind of person. If fact, “they are just like you and me.”

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

In his heartwarming story, Paul Owen Lewis introduces kids to the welcoming community of bikers, replacing the stereotype of the tough, leather-clad biker with the reality that bikers come from all walks of life. By using different colors, comparing the appearance of bikers and their motorcycles to other professions, and adding that even grandpas and grandmas are bikers, Lewis gives readers concrete ways to relate to bikers even if they’ve only seen bikers passing by on the street. Many kids, of course, have family members and friends who ride motorcycles. Motomice is a joyful book for them to share with their biker buddies.

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

Lewis’s stunningly realistic depictions of a variety of motorcycles will thrill detail-oriented and vehicle-loving kids. As the mice roll through beautiful vistas—adding new friends along the way—each double-page spread mirrors the sweeping feeling of the open road. A clever image occurs when the biker dressed like an astronaut hails his friends from a rocky, lunar-esque mountain side. The image of the reunion rally, where motorcycles line both sides of the street as far as the eye can see, is full of cheer and camaraderie. On the final page, the crew welcomes a baby, happy and secure with Mom in her sidecar, to the Motomice family. Young readers will feel the warm embrace as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Beyond Words Publishing, 2018 | ISBN 978-1582706603

Discover more about Paul Owen Lewis, his books, and his art on his website.

Meet Paul Owen Lewis

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Today, I’m happy to be talking with Paul Owen Lewis, who always offers a unique perspective in his work, about being a biker, Northwest Coast Native carving, and how to answer the heart’s questions in a story.

What inspired you to write Motomice?

I was inspired when I discovered there were 25 million active riders in the US and their average age was 52, which means there are millions of grandparents riding out there. But there wasn’t a single quality kid’s book on the market anywhere to share with their grandkids about their passion for motorcycles, and the true nature of the community who ride them (as opposed to the negative stereotype in the media). And being both a biker and an author I thought I had just the credibility to create it.

For a more detailed account, go to http://www.paulowenlewis.com/motomice/behindthestory.html

In Motomice, the different bikers and their motorcycles are described by color. What color biker are you and why?

I suppose I’m a little of all of them. Most true motorcycle enthusiasts would say they would like to collect and ride almost every style or genre (I would!). But the colors in Motomice are more or less arbitrary with the possible exception of Rat’s black bike. I chose black for him since it’s the go-to color of those who want to strike the bad-biker-boy image. And perhaps Roxy’s pink bike is meant to express associations with femininity (FYI, there are lots of female professional racers out there proudly sporting pink gear), but as for me, I’ve worn at least four of them in my 40 years of riding. So far I’ve had red, green, black, and orange motorcycles, café racers, cruisers, and sports bikes, and I wouldn’t rule out something blue and/or yellow in my future. What can I say? It’s an addiction.

As a fine artist, what attracted you to become a picture book author?

Right after art school, when I was doing my student teaching, Chris Van Allsburg’s books started appearing (Jumanji, The Polar Express, etc.) and I was struck by how solid, opaque, and strong his images appeared. Not at all like the usual dreamy, tentatively pencil-drawn images washed with faint tints of watercolor I was used to seeing in children’s book illustrations in my youth. And I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s what picture book art is like now? Awesome stuff. Maybe that’s what I’ll do with my artistic skills at some point; illustrate picture books in that in-your-face solid style that argues for its own believable reality.”

You have a very interesting artistic career that includes carving chests and totem poles in the Northwest Coast Native style. Can you describe how you began carving and a bit about your work? Are any of your carvings on public display?

In the early 90s I started noticing Northwest Coast Native art in and around Seattle. It seemed to be everywhere. And, being someone who is fascinated by the origins of things, I realized this was the unique art that originated from this unique region (as say, Egyptian art emerged from Egypt), and, being a “native” of the Northwest myself, felt like it was something I should know more about. Well, one thing led to another and soon I was taking carving lessons from some of the finest artists of the region. Then I thought to ask myself, “Has anyone done a picture book with this amazing cultural art?” So with the help and guidance of my artist friends and scholars, Storm Boy was soon born. After its publication in 1995 I became quite well-known among these circles and was offered many more opportunities to further my carving and cultural experiences. It’s truly been one of the great privileges of my life.

Your earlier books, including Storm Boy, Frog Girl, and Davy’s Dream, as well as your fine art (some examples can be seen on Paul’s website) seem to blur the distinction between earth and universe, wakefulness and dreams, allowing reality to be defined by the reader or viewer. Can you talk about your perspective a little and also why children are attracted to this perception?

Well, “blurring distinctions” is pretty much what a lot of art is about, or existing in a place in between realities. At least much of my art and interests are. I don’t think you have to look further than my own childhood for possible clues to its genesis. Both my parents succumbed relatively early in their lives to catastrophic illnesses. So, unlike so many of my middle class, suburban peers with stable home lives, I grew up with absolute uncertainty at home. And now that I’m no longer a child, I can see that I wasn’t unusual. I know now that lots of children, perhaps a majority of them, are struggling with similar questions and circumstances. So stories and art that reflect this circumstance, their reality of blurred distinctions, are bound to be of interest.

You’re well known for your inspirational school visits. Can you talk a little about your presentations? Do you have an anecdote from any presentation you’d like to share? Do you ever hear later from any of the kids that heard you speak?

When I speak at a school it is not merely to entertain (though they get that, too). I’m speaking to that kid who was me, that kid who finds him or herself in a confusing, complicated, even dangerous place and dreams of something better, but who has no way to express or see their way to it. So I tell them that writers write stories to answer the questions of their hearts. I steer them there and urge them to write the kind of story they would like to live, the kind of story that would answer the questions of their hearts.

I also tell them that writing is first storytelling, and every human being tells stories. It’s who we are. It’s what makes us human. So if you can tell a story you can write a story – and so, yes, you too can be a writer if you really want. For those who are intimidated by the writing process (words first, in sequence, on paper) I say don’t write first but tell; tell your story any way you can—whether that’s talking, acting, singing, or drawing—and capture the main points with notes, sketches, recordings, whatever, and then apply the beginning-middle-ending form of standard narrative sequence to it later. To illustrate I share slide images of myself working on my books onscreen, from first inspiration to sketching the main events to arranging them in order and then to writing the words. Once they see me do it, they feel confident that they can do it.

I’ve been a popular speaker at schools for 30 years. Now I meet teachers at schools who were once students who saw me years ago, and they can repeat back what I said to them verbatim. It’s unnerving!

What’s up next for you?

I’m about to have surgery to reattach the bicep on my right arm—my writing and art making arm—and will be more or less out of action for six months. I’ve been meaning to take a break. I guess this is it.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

New Years. I like the idea of new beginnings. That maybe this year things will turn around, work out, etc.

Has a holiday ever inspired your writing or art?

Yes! See my counting book, P. Bear’s New Year’s Party.

Thanks, Paul! It’s been enlightening and inspirational chatting with you. I wish you all the best with Motomice and all of your work!

You can find Motomice at these booksellers 

Amazon | Beyond Words Publishing

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Motomice Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Beyond Words Publishing in this giveaway of

  • One copy of Motomice  by Paul Owen Lewis

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 5 – 11. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on June 12.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Beyond Words Publishing.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Let’s Go! Maze

 

These four friends want to ride their scooters together. Can you help the girls find their way along the path to the boys?

Let’s Go! Maze | Let’s Go! Maze Solution

Picture Book Review

June 4 – Hug Your Cat Day

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About the Holiday

If you share a home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Hug Your Cat Day is the perfect time to show your cat or kitten  some extra love with a snuggle or quick hug if your feline friend is more independent. June is also Adopt a Cat month. If you’re considering adding a cat or kitten to your family, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Meow!

By Victoria Ying

 

A little kitten finds his mom out in the garden planting seeds. He wants to play. “Meow?” he says, holding up a ball of yellow yarn. Next he tries his dad, who’s stirring up a big pot of something delicious on the stove. “Meow?” the little tyke asks.  Everyone seems busy in this house as the kitten’s sister ignores him while she reads her book in the tall-backed, polka dotted chair.

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

“Mrreow…,” the disappointed kitten says. He begins to unwind the ball of yarn. If no one will play with him, he will show everyone how much fun they are missing (and maybe how upset he is too). Trailing yarn behind him, the kitten winds his way through the sitting room and around his sister’s chair, tangling yarn over the chandelier, around the flower in its vase, and around the little table it sits on.

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

 

He nearly trips his dad as he carries a plate of snacks across the kitchen and then weaves in and out among the rows of flowers where his mom is working. “Meow!” But when he lassos and nearly knocks over the fishbowl with a loud “MEOOOW!!” everyone comes running. Mom and dad seat their little one in the time-out chair and give him a joint talking to: “Meow!!”

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

The little guy didn’t mean to cause trouble. Are his parents really mad at him? What can he do? “meow…?” He really is sorry, “meow.” Dad and Mom understand. Dad hands his son a yellow cloth to clean up. The kitten mops up the spilled fishbowl water and begins rewinding his ball of yarn. His sister holds the tall chair as he reaches to remove the strings from the chandelier.

Mom lets her son help in the garden, and Dad shows him how to bake and decorate special mouse cookies, “meow!” Big sister scoots over and makes room for her brother in her chair and reads to him. “Meow!” Later the whole family enjoys the cookies and plays Cat’s Cradle with the yarn. After that it’s bath time and teeth-brushing time. Then with kisses and sweet dream wishes—“Meow. Meow…”—it’s bedtime. “purrrrr…”

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Nearly wordless picture books don’t come much more adorable and full of emotion than Victoria Ying’s Meow! With only one syllable and well-placed punctuation, Ying presents the rollercoaster of emotion that little ones can feel when disappointed. Ying’s gauzy, textured illustrations are bright and inviting, and the facial expressions of each character perfectly portray the meaning behind their looks and meows—from hopeful and listening to surprised and frustrated to anger, reconciliation, and resolution.

Images of the family taking time to play with the littlest one are heartwarming and demonstrate a touching solution for restoring household harmony while showing children that they are loved and important.

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Meow! is a sweet and meaningful story that even the youngest readers will understand and appreciate. A dramatic reading of the various emotions involved in each “meow” as well as a bit of discussion and an invitation for little ones to read along can promote empathy and give children a voice for those feelings that are sometimes so hard to describe. Meow! would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062440969

Discover more about Victoria Ying, her books, and her art on her website.

Hug Your Cat Day Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These playful kittens have gotten separated from their twin. Can you match them up again in this printable Match the Kitten Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

May 27 – It’s Mystery Month

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About the Holiday

The month of May is dedicated to mysteries! Established nine years ago by Booklist, part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations and more! For kids it’s a terrific time to discover this most exciting, chilling, and fun genre. So celebrate by reading all types of mysteries from gentle puzzlers for little ones to more complex fiction and biographies of great detectives – likes today’s book!

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective

Written by Marissa Moss | Illustrated by April Chu

 

As Kate read the newspaper advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency for the third time, she knew that this was the job for her. It said: “Wanted: Detective. Must be observant, determined, fearless, and willing to travel.” But in 1856 no one would hire a single woman, so Kate decided to present herself as a widow.

Kate had been raised by her father, a printer. Books had always been her companions, and she knew how to make up a story—even the story of her life. “So Kate Carter became Kate Warne…exactly the kind of person you’d want to hire as a detective.” As soon as she walked through the door, Allan Pinkerton began writing down his impressions of Kate. He thought she was a client seeking help. From her manner and appearance, he knew he would take her case—whatever it was.

But when Kate told him she was applying for a job, he told her he “had no need for a washerwoman or cook.” Kate told him she was there to apply for the detective position. Pinkerton had reservations. The dangerous work was “not at all the sort of thing a woman could do,” he said. But Kate disagreed. She told him that she would be able to go into places his male detectives could not and could be the confidant of women witnesses. Pinkerton told her he would think it over.

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Image copyright April Chu 2017, text copyright Marissa Moss, 2017. Courtesy of Creston Books.

The next day Kate was at the office as soon as it opened. “Today, you’ve made some history,” Pinkerton told her, “You’re now the first woman detective in the country.” He handed her a file marked The Adams Express Case. As she read the case, Kate felt a thrill of excitement. “The Adams Express Company transported money and valuables for businesses all over the South, by rail, steamboat, and stagecoach.” Valuables were well protected by locks that couldn’t be picked.

But $40,000 had disappeared. One suspect stood out from the rest—Nathan Maroney, the manager of the Montgomery office where the packages had come from. He had been the last person to lock up the carrying pouch before the messenger, Mr. Chase, transported it to Atlanta, where it was found to be empty. Maroney was arrested, but there was little hard evidence—only a slit in the pouch that had not been there before Maroney was accused.

Kate considered the problem then remembered the sleight of hand tricks huskers used to fool people. She figured out how Maroney had stolen the money, but they needed more evidence and a confession. While a male agent pretended to be a fellow thief named “John White” in the same jail cell as Maroney, Kate befriended Maroney’s wife, Belle, pretending to be Madame Imbert. While Belle didn’t confess to the theft, she did ask her new friend for advice on where to hide valuables. Kate told her she hid her valuables in the basement or buried them in the garden.

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Image copyright April Chu, 2017, text copyright Marissa Moss, 2017. Courtesy of Creston Books.

When Belle left town to visit her husband in jail, Kate took the opportunity to do some snooping at her house. Just as Kate found a freshly dug mound behind crates and barrels in the basement, she heard Belle returning home. She hurriedly put everything back in place and rushed upstairs. Belle was suspicious of the dust on Kate’s dress, and Kate knew she and the other agents had to act fast. She alerted another agent who crawled through the basement window while Belle slept. He tidied up the basement, and the next morning when Belle checked her hiding place, everything was in order. She could still trust her friend she thought.

The Pinkerton Agency plan was going like clockwork. Inside the jail cell, Maroney put his faith—and his money—in the detective’s hands. Maroney wrote to Belle, telling her that John White was going to help them. He instructed her to give John White all the money he had stolen. White was going to plant some of it on Mr. Chase, use some of it to bribe a judge to find Maroney not guilty at trial, and keep the rest for Maroney to collect later. At first, Belle didn’t trust John White, but one sentence from her friend “Madame Imbert” eased her mind and she went along with her husband’s plan.

As the ingenious plan was hatched and carried out, Kate made sure that all the money was secure. The money made its way to the Pinkerton agent “Mr. White” with Belle and Maroney none the wiser. As Maroney’s trial proceeded, and he heard Mr. White called as the first witness, Maroney suddenly changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” “The reputation of the Pinkerton agency was made. So was Kate Warne’s.”

Kate became one of the agency’s most valuable detectives. She was even put in charge of a women’s division and hired many more women who became “some of Pinkerton’s strongest agents.” But Kate Warne, the first woman detective in America, would always be considered the best.

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Image copyright April Chu, 2017, text copyright Marissa Moss, 2017. Courtesy of Creston Books.

An Author’s Note explaining more about the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the first woman detective follow the text.

Children who love mysteries will be enthralled with this true tale of the first woman detective in America and her explosive first assignment. Marissa Moss’s suspenseful, compelling storytelling and excellent pacing reveal the facts of the case, Kate’s insightful reasoning, and the clever ruses the agents used in outsmarting and capturing the thief. Moss infuses the story with the feeling of the time period and a sense of pride in this little-known piece of women’s history.

April Chu’s detailed period drawings take kids to the mid-1800s to follow Kate Warne as she solves her first case. Depictions of Kate’s father’s printing press, the dirt roads traversed by horse-drawn wagons and carriages, the Adams Express locked pouches and secure rail car will excite history and mystery buffs. The full cast of characters are clearly portrayed, allowing young readers to become detectives themselves as they see the action through Kate’s eyes. The dramatic finale to the case will have children on the edge of their seats whether they are hearing the story aloud or reading it themselves.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective is a thrilling picture book introduction to both biographies and mysteries for children. It offers a unique look at the contributions of strong women in history and is an excellent selection for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 13

Creston Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939547330

Visit with Marissa Moss on her website to discover more about her, her books, and loads of fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by April Chu on her website!

Mystery Month Activity

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Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review