October 14 – It’s Black Cat Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

If you look at an annual calendar of pet holidays, you’ll see that cats reign supreme. This month, though, we celebrate one particular kind of feline: the black cat. While black cats are just as cuddly and sweet as any other cat, the superstition that they bring bad luck make them the least adopted of all cats. If you’re considering adopting a cat or kitten, think about giving a black cat a forever home.

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P. I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P. I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580892735 (Paperback)

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

Black Cat Awareness Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

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You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 9 – It’s National Cookie Month

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About the Holiday

In a month that celebrates treats of all kinds, it’s not surprising to find that we also honor the cookie. This hand-held scrumptious goodie comes in as many flavors and flavor combinations as you can think of. Baking cookies together is a fun way to spend an afternoon and eating them together is even better—as you’ll see in today’s book! To celebrate this month-long holiday, get out the bowls, the mixer, and the baking trays plus all of those yummy ingredients and whip up some favorites as well as some new recipes. Then—eat!

I received a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! from Bloomsbury for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! and Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever! See details below.

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.

It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other. In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first Croc & Turtle tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! Two-Book Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of these two books by Mike Wohnoutka:

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  • One (1) copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!  

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  • One (1) copy of Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!

 

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with favorite winter activity to receive an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 9 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Cookie Day Activity

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Catch the Cookie! Maze

 

Sometimes you just need a cookie! Help the little girl find her way to her favorite cookies with this printable Catch the Cookie! Maze and Solution.

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You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988. You can learn more about today’s holiday, find classroom and other resources, and discover fun facts on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

 

In 1921 Pura Theresa Belpré left her home in San Juan to visit Nueva York and celebrate her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Pura’s visit lengthened, becoming a new start in a new land. At first, she got a job in a garment factory, but then Pura saw that the library needed a bilingual assistant. Pura spoke Spanish, English, and French. She thought she was perfect for the job, and the library did too.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But while she shelved books, she noticed that there were no books of folktales from Puerto Rico in the collection. “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow.” In the children’s room she sits with the kids around her and tells the story of a beautiful cockroach and a galant rat who loves her: “la cucarachita Martina and el ratoncito Pérez.

After sharing the story with the children at the library, Pura hopes to “plant her story seeds throughout the land.” Pura makes puppets and performs her folktales for families who come to listen “en inglés y español.” But Pura wants children to be able to readPérez y Martina and other cuentos de Puerto Rico.” She types up her story and sends it to the publisher Frederick Warne. He agrees to publish her book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Now Pura travels from library to library and to schools, “churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and mind of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.” She spends her time writing, traveling, and speaking until she meets and marries Clarence Cameron White. Pura decides to take a year off from working at the library to be a wife. But one year becomes many as she and Clarence travel, playing music and telling stories. They spend many happy years together. When Clarence dies, “Pura’s story must begin again.”

“It is 1961,” and Pura returns to the library. Now other storytellers share Pura’s stories with the children and “the seeds she has planted…have become a lush landscape into which she steps as though she has never left.”

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

An Author’s note reveals more about the life and work of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City and the author of the first mainstream Latinx storybooks published in America. Back matter also includes selected bibliographies, archival resources, titles of articles and films, a list of books for further reading, and more information on the four folktales mentioned in the book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lovely and lyrical tribute to the trailblazing and prolific Pura Belpré is a fast-paced introduction to the influence this librarian, storyteller, and writer had on children and the community as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York and the first published Latinx children’s author in America. By blending Spanish words and phrases and English into her evocative sentences, Denise reflects the immigrant experience while also embracing Belpré’s and her Latinx reader’s love for and pride in their culture. As children learn how Belpré brought Spanish-language programs and books to children and families in New York and beyond, they will be inspired to look for ways that they, too, can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

Mirroring the lush landscape of language that Pura Belpré tended, Paola Escobar infuses her illustrations with rich hues and enveloping details. Belpré’s love for San Juan and her heritage is shown through the sprinkling of flowers, rendered in the bright pastels of her native country, that float around her whenever she tells her stories. The whimsical images of Martina and Pérez, characters from her first published folktale, also follow her from page to page throughout the story. Spectacular images of the city and inside the New York Public Library will have readers lingering over the pages.

A gorgeous read-aloud about a woman all children should know, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a must for all school and public libraries and would make an inspiring choice for home collections as well.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062748683 | Spanish-language edition ISBN 978-1400212644

Discover more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Paola Escobar, visit her on tumblr.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

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We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped We Are All Family Word Search! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré at these booksellers

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

Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

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

Picture Book Review

Pk Review

 

October 1 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday was established to get families excited about reading. As the weather turns cooler and activities turn indoors, reading together is a wonderful way to spend time having fun and making memories. Small children love being read to—and so do older kids! Sharing board books, picture books and chapter books that can be read at one sitting is always fun. Taking the journey of a novel together with tweens and teens can provide inspiring, emotional, funny, and bonding moments that last a lifetime. And to think, it all starts with putting a few letters together…

Can U Save the Day?

Written by Shannon Stocker | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

The letter A was chatting with a frog, a duck, and a dog when the letter B ambled by with a boastful claim: “‘There are 5 vowels in your group / but 21 in our grand troop. / I’m a more important letter. / Consonants are so…much…better!’” As B continued to brag, A countered with “‘…You’ll regret / when all the vowels are gone, I bet!’” Then just like that A vanished, and the dog? He could only “‘brk.’” The duck said “‘quck,’” and the frog could only “‘crok.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The horse was not very sympathetic since his neigh didn’t need an A. But then the E decided to go, and the horse said “‘nigh’” the “birds sang ‘twt,’ and the sheep could only “‘blt,’” “‘blt,’” “‘blt.’” The consonants thought this was lots of laughs. “Insulted, young I spun her dot / and soared off like an astronaut.” The pig was stuck as was the horse, but the cow and bunny joined the laughter until O rolled away. Then the cow, the pigeons, and the rooster struggled too.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The consonants were laughing still when B and U saw the tractor plowing toward them in its sleep. B tried to scream and shout but could only burble. He bounced into the tractor’s seat and “pushed the horn! The horn went…hnk.” He tried to make U understand, but without the vowels his words made no sense. But clever U had watched it all and she knew just what to do. “She bent her arms above her head / and turned into an O instead.”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In that moment the tractor’s horn went Honk! The runaway tractor woke up and stopped just in the nick of time. Then off U went to bring back A, E, I, and O. When they returned, the animals resumed their talk, the consonants and vowels hugged it out, and B, who had started it all, now realized that “‘the alphabet’s a family.’” Then Y—that sometimes this and sometimes that letter—decided this was a good time to speak up and help them all “‘say goodbye.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Shannon Stocker gives kids just learning the alphabet, discovering how to read, and picking up some of the finer points of grammar a reason to celebrate in her funny story about the day the vowels flew the coop. Her peppy rhythm and brainy rhymes will keep readers riveted and laughing as one by one the animals’ talk turns into garbled goosh. When the sleeping tractor barrels toward the letters unaware because of his measly “hnk,” kids will be on the edge of their seats. When wily U uses her ingenuity and semi-circular shape to save the day, they’ll cheer. The sweet ending teaches gentle lessons about reconciliation, apologies, inclusion, and teamwork, and Y’s admission offers one more grammar-related giggle.

Tom Disbury’s cartoon characters will have kids in stitches as the animals gaze at each other with gritted teeth, furrowed brows, or tongues sticking out when their vowel-less utterances are less than robust. With their smiling eyes and winsome smiles, the colorful letters are oblivious to the mayhem that losing just four of their family members can cause. The shortened words sprinkled throughout the text as well as spreads of contented consonants will give readers plenty of opportunities to play word games and talk about letter combinations, letter sounds, and spelling.

A funny and entertaining way to talk about the alphabet and grammar, creative problem solving, and teamwork, as well as a fun story to share any time, Can U Save the Day? would be an entertaining addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364046

Discover more about Shannon Stocker and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Book Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

This super reader wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

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You can find Can U Save the Day? at these booksellers

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

September 29 – World Rivers Day

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About the Holiday

Following the 2005 launch of the United Nations Water for Life Decade, internationally known river advocate, Mark Angelo, proposed the establishment of World Rivers Day. The holiday celebrates the value of rivers worldwide and promotes awareness of the importance of keeping rivers pollution free. In the United States alone, 65% of drinking water comes from rivers and streams. Rivers in virtually every country face an array of threats, and only through our active involvement can we ensure their health in the years ahead. To help the cause, join a volunteer river clean-up crew, help monitor water quality, or learn more about your local river system. To learn more, visit the World Rivers Day website.

River

By Elisha Cooper

 

As a woman begins her solitary trip on a mountain lake, she turns and waves to her family. The familiar shore recedes, and she dips her oar into the blue water under gray skies and in the shadow of the tall mountains. “Three hundred miles stretch in front of her. A faraway destination, a wild plan. And the question: Can she do this?” As she enters the Hudson River, she plucks a pebble from the shallow water and places it beside her gear. Here, she must navigate the scattered rocks—and one that is not a rock at all, but a moose taking a dip.

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Ahead, she rides rapids that steal her hat and threaten to flip her. But she hangs on and makes it out on the other side. Now it’s time to set up camp for the night. Huddled in her tent, “she is alone, but not. The river stays beside her, mumbling to her and to itself all through the night.” With the dawn, she is on the river again, along with “otters, ducks, dragonflies, a kingfisher.” When she stops to pick blackberries, a bear cub ambles by to watch. The woman backs away slowly and continues down the river.

When she comes to a dam, she must carry her canoe. She trips, falls, and bloodies her knee, but on the other side of the dam, she returns to her paddling. When she comes to a waterfall, she gets in line for her turn to go through the lock. Once on her way again, she moves on to “farms with faded barns, to villages with white clapboard houses, to chimneyed factories on the outskirts of a town. Here, she pulls her canoe onto a levee where two boys are fishing. They ask her where she’s going, and she tells them. “It feels funny to talk.” As she walks into town, her legs also feel funny beneath her. She buys supplies and replaces her hat. That night is spent on a small island.

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

When she wakes, the white fog has blanketed everything. She can’t see the river, but she watches an eagle high in a tree eating its breakfast. She takes out her sketchbook and draws. The fog lifts and she continues her journey. The days and nights are marked by her hardening callouses and darkening suntan, shortening pencils and waning sketchbook pages. She paddles past “craggy hills” and “around bell-ringing buoys, next to railway tracks and a clattering freight train.”

She dodges a tugboat oblivious to her presence and makes it to another village, where she mails postcards and buys a cookie. A rain drop falls just as she climbs back into her canoe. The raindrop turns into a drizzle and then “a single sheet blowing sideways. A squall.” Her canoe capsizes, “dumping her into the raging water.” When she is able, she drags her canoe and herself onto a rocky shore. “Shivering, she takes stock. Tent, gone, Clothes, soaked. Sketchbook, safe.”

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

In the morning she starts again. As she rounds a bluff, the city spreads out in front of her. Far above her a gull watches as she makes her way past skyscrapers and boats large and small to the harbor and on to the boatyard, where “a bearded man in overalls—the builder of her canoe”—eagerly waits to hear about her trip and the sturdiness of her craft. After a cup of coffee, she launches her canoe for the last leg of her journey.

She is now in the open ocean with its wild waves. The horizon beckons, “but closer in she sees the lighthouse, and she knows it is time for her to be home.” She paddles harder and faster. “She can’t wait to be with them again. Can’t wait to tell them about moose and eagles, rapids and storms…to turn her sketches into paintings and her words into a story.” Her family is on shore waving, her dog running into the surf to greet her. She scuds into the shallows “…and brings the canoe to shore.”

An Author’s Note about the creation of River as well as a Note on the Hudson River and a list of sources and reading resources follows the text.

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Copyright Elisha Cooper, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc.

Elisha Cooper’s loving and lyrical tribute to nature, courage, and self-reliance is nothing short of spectacular. His fluid storytelling plays out with the rhythm of an oar cutting and pushing a canoe along while transporting readers smoothly through this most evocative journey. With exquisite descriptions and compelling obstacles that will leave children wide-eyed and holding their breath, River is an expansive adventure story of one woman pitting herself against the power of the Hudson River and her own tenacity. The story is also one of love—respect for the environment, awe for community, and devotion to family and the support found there.

Cooper’s soft and sprawling watercolors envelop readers in the river setting, where the woman appears tiny against the rocky coastline, towering mountains, waterfalls, dams, and cityscapes. Double-page spreads swell the heart and invite wanderlust in even the most ardent homebodies. And there may be no better way to share this personal and universal journey than by gathering together and reading River in one sitting or—for younger children—breaking away at one of the many cliffhangers that will have everyone yearning to dip into the story again.

A must for school and public library collections, River is highly recommended for all home bookshelves as well for its inspiration for personal goals, it’s reflections on nature, and its encouragement that anything is possible.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338312263

To learn more about Elisha Cooper, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National River Day Activity

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World Rivers Word Search Puzzle

 

The world’s rivers provide homes for fish, animals, and birds; offer opportunities for recreation; and supply drinking water for millions. Can you find the names of twenty rivers of the world in this printable puzzle?

World Rivers Word Search | World Rivers Word Search Solution

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You can find River at these booksellers

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

September 25 – National Math Storytelling Day

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About the Holiday

National Math Storytelling Day was established in 2009 by Maria Droujkova, founder of The Natural Math Community at Naturalmath.com, and her daughter to encourage people to share the joys of math with children through stories and games. Having fun with math is one of the best ways to get kids excited about learning and working with this most important subject. Celebrate today with math stories that involve patterns, spatial relations, quantities, logic, puzzles, and numbers. You can even sing math songs and tell math jokes! You’ll find lots of resources for Math Storytelling Day and every day on the Natural Math website.

How to Code a Rollercoaster

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Pearl and her robot Pascal are ready to enjoy a day at the amusement park. Pearl can’t wait to ride the Python Rollercoaster, and after she buys her tokens she decides to map out the perfect day at the park. With so many games and rides to line up for, Pearl thinks using code—“a set of instructions that computers understand”—will be the best way to go about it. She has ten tokens for the day, and can keep track of how many uses and has left “by using a variable,” which is like a “container…that holds information.” Pearl names her variable MyTokens, and they’re off and running. (Lucky for Pascal, robots ride for free!)

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

When they get to the Python Rollercoaster, the line snakes far into the park, so they head for the Ferris wheel. Pearl loves Ferris wheels and thinks once around isn’t enough. Each trip around costs one token, so Pearl codes a LOOP to “subtract 1 token from MyTokens” each time they “start a new ride.” After three times around, they get off and consider checking out the line for the Python Coaster again. But what will they do if it’s still too long? Another variable can solve that problem.

This one Pearl names ShortLine. She gives it a value of true or false and uses “an if-then-else to decide what to do next.” So, “IF ShortLine is True THEN we’ll ride the Python Coaster ELSE we’ll do something fun on the map,” she explains to Pascal. When they get to the rollercoaster, ShortLine is False and the line is still long, so they ride the log flume. Pascal reminds Pearl that they have six tokens left. They check the IF-THEN-ELSE again and again and again and take a trip on the train, play a target game, and twirl in the teacups.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

After a stop at Reshma’s ice cream stand and a delicious treat, Pearl and Pascal check the Python again. Finally, ShortLine is True. But it takes two tokens to ride and Pascal tells Pearl she has only one token left. Just then Pearl sees a sign offering a way to win a free token. All they need to do is find special stars around the park and figure out a secret password. Pearl knows she can use another variable to solve the puzzle.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

Pearl and Pascal retrace their steps and find the stars along the way. But the letters don’t spell anything. Suddenly, Pearl understands that they need to put the “letters into the correct sequence to figure out the secret password…just like how code needs to be in the proper sequence to work correctly.” Once they know the password, they’re psyched for the thrills and chills of the Python Coaster.

Back matter includes Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding, which gives more information on the terms found in the story. A foreword written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, invites readers to learn more about the organization and welcomes children to the world of coding.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

To kids’ delight Josh Funk’s Pearl and Pascal are back in another coding adventure—this time at the Gigaworld Amusement Park. They’re excited to ride the Python rollercoaster, but the super long line gives them a chance to code a day of fun in the rest of the park. Young coders and would-be coders will love joining these two best friends on favorite rides as they learn procedures that make programs run smoother and help determine various outcomes. Pascal is as literal as ever, leading to some funny moments of misunderstanding. Funk also includes some nods to his computer programmer day job for eagle-eyed readers. Pearl’s enthusiasm for using code to navigate the park is infectious and will entice kids to explore the world of coding either just for fun or as a future career.

You can almost smell the popcorn and hear the squeals of joy emanating from Sara Palacios’ pages as Pearl and Pascal run through their day at the amusement park. From the Ferris wheel to the log flume to the teacups and the midway, Palacios’ colorful and action-packed illustrations put readers in the center of the fun. Through Pascal’s display function, Palacios clearly labels the variables, values, and loops used during the day as well as the token countdown that leads to the secret code scavenger hunt. Readers will definitely want to return to the first page and read the book again to find all of the lettered stars themselves.

Pearl’s passion for coding and Pascal’s responsiveness is sure to inspire children to explore the wonders of coding and computer science. As part of the Girls Who Code program, the book is especially designed to encourage girls to get involved in computer programming and STEM. How to Code a Rollercoaster is a rousing choice for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0425292037

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find a treasure trove of resources on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Math Storytelling Day Activity

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Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle

 

There’s no mystery to how fun math can be! Use the numerical clues in this printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle to discover a hidden message! Add the numbers under each line then use that number to find the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Write that letter in the space. Continue until the entire phrase is completed.

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You can find How to Code a Rollercoaster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

The Day Punctuation Came to Town

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

 

The Punctuations had just moved to Alphabet City and the kids—Exclamation Point, Question Mark, Period, and Comma—were excited about their first day of school. Exclamation Point was in a rush to get there. “‘We are going to have so much fun!’” he said. He “was always excited about something.” Question Mark was a little more subdued. She wondered if the other kids would be nice and even pondered whether they were walking in the right direction. “Comma kept pausing,” and Period said she would let her siblings know when to stop.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When they got to school and introduced themselves, the student letters were confused. They’d never seen anyone like the Punctuations before. As the letters practiced forming words, Exclamation Point joined W, O, and W; Question Mark helped out W, H, and O; and “Period brought each sentence to a tidy end.” For Comma, though, it wasn’t so easy. As he tried to squeeze in between letters, he began to feel as if he was just a bother. Undetected, he tiptoed away.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Meanwhile in the classroom, Exclamation Point had all the letters scrambling to make more and more exciting words. There was a lot of cheering and booming, ducking, and running. Question Mark asked if maybe they shouldn’t all quiet down a bit, but no one was listening. Even Period couldn’t get them to stop. Pretty soon, there was a huge word pileup. In the next moment it came crashing down and all the letters “tumbled through the door, spilling into the hall.” There, they found Comma, who just stared in disbelief. His siblings wondered why he was in the hall instead of in the classroom. Comma told them how he felt. But, “‘Comma, without you, things become a disaster!’” Exclamation Point said. Period and Question Mark agreed.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Then his siblings gently reminded little Comma about how each member of their family has a certain purpose. They told him, “‘we all work together to help letters and the words they make.’” Once everyone had gone back into the classroom, the letters continued making words. But now Comma took his place between them. When the letters looked confused, he explained that it was his job to keep order and that words and punctuation needed each other to make good and clear sentences.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

For children just learning about sentence structure and how punctuation and words fit together to create meaning, Kimberlee Gard’s lively story helps them visualize and understand the different roles of each punctuation mark. Coming at the end of a sentence and accompanied by vocal clues, exclamation points, question marks, and periods are more familiar to kids. But what about that comma, which seems to float around here and there? Gard demonstrates that without the break commas provide, words run amok, becoming jumbled, unwieldy, and confusing. Readers will respond to the classroom setting, where the letters work and play together during lessons, and they will be eager to make friends with the Punctuation family themselves.

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If any readers think learning about punctuation is dry and dull, Sandie Sonke’s vibrant colors and cartoon characters will change their mind. The Punctuations (and their butterfly friend Apostrophy) are sweet and earnest, wanting to fit into the class and make a difference. As the letters form words, the purple Punctuations are easy for kids to pick out, allowing for discussion of their distinct roles. The tangled piles of letters invite kids to make words from the muddle. After Comma realizes his own importance and the letters embrace him, the story ends with a familiar and funny example of just how a well-placed comma can change the meaning of a sentence.

An entertaining and joyful accompaniment to grammar lessons to get kids excited about learning, The Day Punctuation Came to Town would be a rousing addition to classroom, homeschool, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701457

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sandie Sonke, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

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Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

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You can find The Day Punctuation Came to Town at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review