February 8 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

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About the Holiday

This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can instill a lifelong love of learning, visit ChildrensAuthorsNetwork!

Where Are the Words?

Written by Jodi McKay | Illustrated by Denise Holmes

 

A little purple period feels like writing a story. He goes to visit Pencil and Paper and tells them his plan. They want to help, but Pencil says, “We are at a loss for words.” So the three set off to find some. Question Mark sees Period searching here and there and asks what he’s doing. When he finds out about Period’s plan, Question Mark has, well… lots of questions and joins the hunt.

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Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

Exclamation Point is excited to learn about the story writing idea and is eager to help. “What do you know about words?” Question Mark wonders. “Lots!” Exclamation Point answers as he heads off the page. “Let me get them for you!” While Exclamation Point is gone, Question Mark and Period meet up with Quotation Marks, who have sage advice for these two. “‘Seek and ye shall find,’” they offer. Just then Exclamation Point comes back with an armload of words: Once, Upon, A, and Time. Just as he’s about to pass them over, though, he trips and the words scatter in a jumble of letters. Undeterred, Exclamation Point hurries off to get more words.

Then Parentheses meanders by. Question Mark thinks maybe they know where words hang out. “I might,” one says, raising everyone’s hopes. But then she adds, “(although I doubt it).” Period is disappointed and even a little miffed when he sees Exclamation Point rushing around waving a net. But Exclamation Point’s just trying to corral some rather active words who would rather “run, jump, skip, hop” freely. Colon offers aid as long as there are peanuts, but Period thinks the whole thing is getting out of hand.

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Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

In fact, Period decides to quit. But not so fast! Exclamation Point has something to show everyone. “Look!” Exclamation Point says, and they all gaze upward to find all the words they’ve said hanging in the air. “They were here all along,” Period says. Now Period has everything to write a story—except an idea. Exclamation Point suggests they all write the story together.

And so each one contributes a little bit to the story while Pencil writes it all down on Paper. Their own hunt for words and a little imagination inspires them to write a story that they all think is… “Wonderful?” offers Question Mark. “Incredible!” says Exclamation Point.  But Parentheses thinks something is missing. What is it? Pictures! But where will they find them? Everyone agrees when Period says, “Pencil could draw us the perfect pictures.”

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Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

Jodi McKay’s adorable set of punctuation marks take kids on a whirlwind ride to find words that Period can use to write a story. As each punctuation mark joins the search, McKay gives them personalities and conversation to match their grammatical uses. Readers will giggle at the mishaps and setbacks that beset Period’s creative process but empathize with him as his dream of writing a story seems to slip away. When the friends discover that the words they’re searching for are right at hand, children will see that they too have the words they need to express themselves creatively and even in social situations.

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Punctuation has never been so cute! With their sweet smiles and expressive stick arms and legs, Denise Holmes’s colorful, ready-to-help punctuation marks, pencil, and paper are true friends as they take on Period’s wish and make it their own. Dialogue bubbles make it easy for kids to understand how the various punctuation marks are used in a sentence, and dynamic typography sprinkled throughout the pages show action and add to the humor. Readers will also have fun guessing why Colon is so fond of peanuts in a clever running joke.

A charming way for children to engage with writing and punctuation, Where Are the Words is a grammatical mystery that would make its mark on home, classroom, and library bookshelves for fun story times and composition lessons.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman and Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807587331

Discover more about Jodi McKay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Denise Holmes, her books, and her art, visit her website

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week Activity

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Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search

 

Can you find the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle?

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

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You can find Where Are the Words? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

February 5 – Chinese New Year

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About the Holiday

Chinese New Year begins today—ushering in the Year of the Pig—and celebrations take place until February 19. Also known as the Spring Festival, the New Year is a time for festivities that include lion and dragon dances, fireworks, visiting friends and relatives, family meals, and special decorations. The New Year is the busiest travel season of the year as family members return home to spend the holiday with loved ones. The Chinese New Year celebrations end each year with the Lantern Festival. To learn more about the history of Chinese New Year, how to celebrate, and the signs of the zodiac, click here.

Ruby’s Chinese New Year

Written by Vickie Lee | Illustrated by Joey Chou

 

Every year Grandmother would come to visit Ruby for Chinese New Year. “Together they celebrated, eating special foods and making drawings for good luck.” But this year Grandmother couldn’t make the trip, so Ruby decided to visit her grandmother instead. As a gift, Ruby drew a picture of her family enjoying a special dinner. She put it into a red envelope and tucked it away in her pocket. Soon after leaving, Ruby spied Cat and Rat and asked if they would like to come along too. They did, but Cat wondered how they would “cross the meadow and the pond.” Ruby suggested that they ask Ox.

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Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they found Ox, who was bringing rice cakes and candy to the farmer for the New Year celebration. When she heard that Ruby, Cat, and Mouse were going to Grandmother’s house, she offered to let them ride on her back. Just then, Tiger and Rabbit “bounded out of the bushes, streamers flying behind them.” They also wanted to go to Grandmother’s house, so Cat rode on Tiger’s back and Rat nestled between Rabbit’s furry ears, and they all headed down the path.

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Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

They came to where Dragon and Snake “were making paper lanterns.” They were both excited to come along too. “Snake loved Grandmother and was happy to visit her,” and Dragon “was always ready for an adventure.” They packed up the lanterns they had made and the friends started off again. Horse and Goat were grazing in the nearby meadow, and they too wanted to come along. They picked flowers for Grandmother, and then the little parade was off.

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Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

When Ruby and all the rest reached the pond, they saw Monkey and Rooster fishing for their holiday dinner from an overhanging branch. Grandmother’s house was just on the other side of the pond. Ruby was so excited that “with a leap and a bound, Ruby dove into the pond. She would swim to Grandmother’s. She was so close!” But when she jumped, the red envelope flew out of her pocket and drifted into the pond. All of the other animals dove into the pond to save Ruby’s gift. Monkey snatched it with his fishing hook, and Rooster flew across the water with the card in her beak. They all met Ruby on the other side of the pond and sadly showed her the drenched card. “‘Oh no,’ Ruby cried. ‘It’s ruined. Everything is ruined!’”

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Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

“‘It’s not ruined!’ cried Rooster.” And then each animal reminded Ruby that they had fish and flowers, lanterns and streamers, rice cakes and sweets, and most especially, “‘…we have our family,’ said Cat and Rat, looking toward the house.” Suddenly, Dog and Pig bounded out and “covered Ruby’s face with kisses and tickled her until she shrieked with joy.” The happy sounds brought Grandmother to the door. She was thrilled to see Ruby. When Ruby gave her the gift she thought was “ruined,” Grandmother assured her that it would dry and that seeing Ruby and all of her friends was “the best gift of all.” Then they all sat down at the long table decorated with streamers and lanterns and celebrated the New Year with a delicious dinner—“except for Cat, who had fallen fast asleep.”

Following the story, readers will enjoy learning one legend of the Chinese zodiac and discovering the  traits for each animal. Children will also find directions for making a paper lantern, a paper fan, and good luck banners.

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Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Inspired by one legend of the Chinese Zodiac and how each animal came to be included in the calendar, Vickie Lee tells an engaging cumulative story that keeps readers excited to discover who will be the next to join Ruby on her trip to Grandmother’s house. The fate of Ruby’s special gift reveals many truths about friendship and family as the animals work together to save the card and Grandmother reassures Ruby while showing her that love is the best gift of all. Readers may also enjoy talking about which of each animal’s trait—as found in the back matter—is reflected in their role in the story. Older children may like discussing references to Chinese New Year traditions and how Lee reimagined the legend to tell her story. And why is Cat sleeping through the delicious dinner? Legend has it that….

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Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Joey Chou’s delightfully cheerful illustrations are packed with action as each animal—included into the group in the order of the Chinese zodiac—adds a special ingredient to the New Year celebration. His lovely color palette sparkles with glowing reds, cool aquas, lush blues, and shadowy violets that create a homey atmosphere for this very special holiday. Scenes of togetherness and friendship include smiles and joy at being together as well as empathy for Ruby when her card gets wet.

A beautiful book to share with children for Chinese New Year and throughout the year, Ruby’s Chinese New Year would be a charming addition to home, school, and library bookshelves for its story and included activities.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250133380

To learn more about Joey Chou, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Chinese New Year Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chinese-new-year-word-search

Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty Chinese New Year-related words in this printable puzzle?

Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzle | Chinese New Year Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-cover

You can find Ruby’s Chinese New Year at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 31 – Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating art is always a great thing! Today we champion that feeling you get inside when you create or experience art—no matter what kind is your favorite. Paintings, books, music, sculpture, quilts, photography, and other arts show you a bit of the world in a new way—a way, perhaps, you’ve never thought of before. Art can inspire, gladden, sadden, anger, teach, and compel action. It can also provide joy and inspiration when you need it most—as you’ll see in today’s book. Celebrate today’s holiday by visiting a museum, bookstore, library, concert, or gallery.

The Hiding Game

Written by Gwen Strauss | Illustrated by Herb Leonhard

 

It was October of 1940, and after moving from place to place to stay “one step ahead of the German soldiers,” Aube and her family had found a home where they could “live together until it was their turn to flee to safety. The Villa Air-Bel was rented by Varian Fry—a magician—and his assistant Danny Bénédite and served as a place to hide those looking to escape the war-torn country. On Sundays, the house was full of “thinkers, artists and writers who had to hide from the German soldiers because of their ideas of freedom and liberty” like Aube’s parents.

On those days, everyone played games, danced and made collages. One of Aube’s favorite games was Cadavre Exquis, in which a piece of paper was folded and each participant drew a design on one fold. When the whole paper was unfolded, amazing, artistic pictures emerged. These games and entertainment, Aube’s father told her, were their ways of fighting against fear. Because of the danger, many things had to be hidden at the Villa, including the radio and the cow that provided milk. Many ingredients for cooking were scarce. But even then Aube’s father used art to lighten the mood, leaving a drawing of a roast beef in the pantry where a real roast should have been.

Because the authorities were reading Varian and Danny’s mail and were listening to their phone calls, they had devised a way of hiding messages in toothpaste tubes that escaped the guard’s searches. The messages went to other people helping along the escape route to tell them who to expect next. Everyone in the house also had to have a special hiding place in case the police came. Aube chose the an old cabinet in the kitchen.

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Image copyright Herb Leonhard, 2017, text copyright Gwen Strauss, 2017. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

Whenever a new group of people were scheduled to “make the dangerous journey to a new country, they held a Sunday party and art sale to raise money.” Canvases painted by famous artists were hung among the branches of a large tree on the Villa grounds. When winter came, the Villa was so cold everyone had to wear all of their clothes to stay warm. They kept their spirits warm, too, by singing their favorite songs.

During the winter Danny visited camps where people were being held under terrible conditions. “Aube understood now that the danger was that they would be sent to the camps,” where people were dying of starvation and disease. They had little clothes and no blankets even though it was snowing. The people, Danny said, were going to freeze. Aube thought of the game freeze tag and worried about all of those “people freezing, waiting for someone to set them free.”

One day in December, the police raided the Villa. They took away all the men, including Danny, Varian, and Aube’s papa. Aube cowered in the kitchen cabinet with their dog in fear. The next week, the men were released, but they knew that the police would be back. Danny and Varian began to plan their escape. Before they all left, Aube’s father devised one more game. Each artist would paint their own version of a playing card to create a collective work of art. “The cards would remind them that they had laughed together and stayed free in their hearts even during the darkest times.”

Aube’s family were placed on a ship sailing to South America, and on February 18, 1941 they left the Villa and Danny and Varian behind and made the one-month-long journey to freedom. Several months later, Varian was “forced to leave France and return to America.” Danny went underground and “helped another 300 people escape France.” In 1943, however, Danny was “arrested by the Nazis and sentenced to death.” Just as he was facing the firing squad, soldiers fighting the Nazis burst through the gates of the camp and freed him and the other inmates.

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Image copyright Herb Leonhard, 2017, courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

Gwen Strauss includes extensive backmatter on this true-life story about her great-uncle Danny Bénédite. A detailed account of the work by Varian Fry, Danny Bénédite, and the American Rescue Committee, complete with photographs, as well as short biographies of some of the artists who visited the Villa (and a compelling list of others) plus resources for further study round out this compelling book.

Clearly written and with details from a child’s point of view that will resonate with readers, The Hiding Game is an absorbing tribute not only to two men involved in the Nazi resistance movement but to the resilience that uplifts people during the darkest times. This fascinating true story also offers a glimpse into the important role that artists and writers play in shining a light on history, interpreting it, and fighting against forces that destroy. Rich with the atmosphere of intrigue, suspense, and simple pleasures enjoyed, Strauss’s dynamic storytelling will thrill children. The Hiding Game will prompt them to learn more about this time period and will inspire in them their own acts of heroism.

Herb Leonhard’s realistic drawings of the Villa Air-Bel, the families who stopped there on their way to freedom, the moments of joy that sustained them, and the secret measures necessary for people’s safety take readers into the heart of the story and allow them to witness the danger and the creativity that swirled side-by-side within the Villa and the people living there. Largely depicted in somber tones of gray and green, the pages brighten with glowing yellows during times of laughter, games, and creativity. An illustration of the mammoth tree hung with canvases by famous artists will impress children, and the final image will leave an indelible and thought-provoking impression on young readers and adults.

An excellent book for facilitating discussions about World War II and the Holocaust with children at home and in the classroom as well as offering opportunities for cross-curricular learning in history, art, reading, and more, The Hiding Game is a superb choice to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 12

Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-1455622658

Discover more about Gwen Strauss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Herb Leonhard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Inspire Your Heart with Art Day Activity

I Love Art! Word Search Puzzle

 

Art has a language all its own! Have fun finding the twenty-five art-related words in this printable puzzle.

I Love Art! Word Search Puzzle and I Love Art! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-hiding-game-cover

You can find The Hiding Game at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all things creative! There are so many ways to be creative, from the arts to how you organize and manage your life at home and at work. Sometimes, special events, unusual problems, or particular people inspire—or necessitate—creative thinking. Today’s sweet story is one example! 

Mr. Goat’s Valentine

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

When Mr. Goat read in the newspaper that it was Valentine’s Day, he jumped up, grabbed his phone and favorite hat, and headed out, determined to show his first love how much she meant to him. On the way he stopped off at Miss Nanny Goat’s weed stall and bought a “mixed bouquet” of “crabgrass, pigweeds, and ragweed” beautifully arranged in a “nice, rusty can.” Mr. Goat knew his first love liked ragweed salad, and Miss Nanny Goat assured him that she would like the can too. Mr. Goat agreed. There was nothing like a rusty can with a pinch of salt.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The aroma from Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat’s stand enticed Mr. Goat to stop and look over his treats. The sample rotten egg looked so yummy—black and oozing on the plate—that Mr. Goat bought four. They have been “rotted for two years” and are “guaranteed foul and disgusting,” Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat boasted as he placed the four eggs carefully into a red, heart-shaped box and tied it up with a red ribbon. Not only would the eggs make the perfect dinner, the red bow would be a delicious dessert.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat walked on, passing up the fruit and vegetable stand with its fresh oranges, apples, and pears, but made time to talk to Miss Skunk when she approached him with her Eau de Skunk perfume cart. As she spritzed Mr. Goat with a sample of her special perfume, she reminded him that a Valentine’s card would be just right for his first love.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat continued on with just the faintest alluring reek and thought about what Miss Skunk had said. He didn’t have a card, but, he decided he could “‘compose a song and serenade her.’” It didn’t take long for Mr. Goat to write his ditty. He hurried on to his first love’s house. Standing at the door, he “burst into song. When I was a little kid / It didn’t matter what I did. / If I climbed too high and fell / You’d kiss the hurt and make it well. / You have loved me from the start / I love you with all my heart!”

Suddenly, the door opened, and Mr. Goat’s first love smiled at him. Mr. Goat handed her the bouquet and red box and exclaimed, “‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Mother!’”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eve Bunting’s exceptional flair for engaging children is on full display in her funny, ewww-ful tribute to Valentine’s Day. The hearts of little ones swell with love around this holiday, and Bunting taps into their enthusiasm to get just the right gift for Mom. Readers will laugh at what might seem unusual gifts while also appreciating Mr. Goat’s thoughtfulness. Young children may wonder who Mr. Goat’s “first love” is as he shops from stall to stall, but as he makes up his song, most will figure it out and be happy to be in on the twist ending.

Kevin Zimmer’s cheery digital art showcases the sweet emotions that Mr. Goat has for his first love. His eyes grow wide at the delectable weed bouquet and rotten eggs, he contemplates the perfect words for his song, and smiles adorably when his mom opens the door. The less-than-fresh take on the idea of a Farmers Market will delight kids familiar with these types of stands. The other goats out shopping on this Valentine’s Day are equally as cute as Mr. Goat and provide camaraderie among this community that likes things a little bit rotten. As the door opens in the final spread, revealing Mr. Goat’s first love, children will be happy to know that the love between parent and child continues even when a “kid” is no longer a kid.

Mr. Goat’s Valentine is a sweet, original story for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year that is perfect for humorous home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369447

Learn more about Kevin Zimmer and his art on his website.

Creativity Month Activity

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Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

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You can find Mr. Goat’s Valentine at these booksellers

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

EnPicture Book Review

January 25 – National Florida Day and Interview with Author B. J. Lee

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About the Holiday

Today, we recognize Florida—the 27th state to enter the Union. Did you know that Florida is home to the oldest established city in the country? Founded by Spanish explorers in 1565, St. Augustine remains a fascinating city that combines an intriguing history of religious settlements, pirate treasure hunters, and a tug of war over ownership among Britain, Spain, and France with the modern beauty of a thriving community. Of course, Florida is well-known as an international tourist destination for its theme parks, wide open beaches, and warm weather. The state is also home to animals, insects, and reptiles unseen in the rest of the United States—a fact that today’s book riffs on.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth

Written by B.J. Lee | Illustrated by David Opie

 

“There was an old gator who swallowed a moth. I don’t know why he swallowed the moth. It made him cough.” And with this culinary choice, readers are off on a wild jaunt full of suspense, humor, and big, sharp teeth. To catch that moth, the gator gobbled down a crab, but that scuttling bugger just filled his tummy with pain. To “nab the crab” the gator decided to “swallow an eel. / Quite an ordeal to swallow an eel!”

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Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

But the eel didn’t help, and the cough persisted. What could the old gator do? He swallowed creature after creature to resolve a cascading number of problems until “he swallowed a manatee.” It was clear “he lost his sanity to swallow a manatee!” Because now that old gator’s stomach was getting pretty cramped. There wasn’t a lot of nabbing or catching going on in there, and there was still that moth to take care of. The distressed gator then spied just the enforcer that might get the job done and gulped it down too.

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Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

After such a big meal, the gator needed a bit of a drink, and the lagoon looked so refreshing! Just then, when that old gator was fully…well…full, that pesky moth fluttered its wings and made the poor guy “cough! Cough! Cough!” And what did that one little last cough do? Well, let’s just say the story has a splashing…I mean smashing…ending!

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Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

B.J. Lee gives the favorite cumulative rhyming There Was an Old Lady story a reptilian remodeling that kids will find irresistible as the old gator guzzles down a host of Florida denizens with hilarious results. Lee, an award-winning poet, has an engaging way with words and phrasing that creates surprising rhymes and rib-tickling rhythms. Clever alliteration and action-packed verbs move the story along at a clip that mirrors an alligator’s voracious appetite and will keep young readers on the edge of their seat to see which animal becomes the gator’s next snack. Kids may even enjoy trying to come up with their own rhyming line to add to the story.

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David Opie’s illustrations of the anguished alligator and his unsuspecting “remedies” are a hoot. Opie accomplishes just the right combination of suspense and humor with his juxtaposition between realistic depictions of the coastal animals and gut-busting portrayals of these creatures crammed into the gator’s belly. As the gator grows rounder and rounder, readers will be wondering how it will all end. The final spreads of the tormented gator are sure to elicit an “Oh!” or “Ew!” or two and plenty of guffaws.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is a fun and funny choice for story time, and its comical repetition will prompt enthusiastic read-alongs. The book would be a sunny choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Pelican Publishing Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-1455624416

Discover more about B.J. Lee, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about David Opie, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Author B. J. Lee

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Thank you, Kathryn, for having me on your blog! There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is getting a lot of love and I appreciate that! I also appreciate that you asked me about my poetry since, even in my picture books, I try to incorporate some aspect of poetry, such as lyrical language, rhyme and, in the case of Gator, cumulative rhyme.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is your debut picture book. What drew you to creating a Florida-themed version of this well-known classic?

It wasn’t so much that I set out to write a Florida themed version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, it was more that I had a gator character in mind and he pretty much chose this classical structure.

Have you always loved to write? When did you publish your first poem? Can you tell readers a bit about your journey to becoming a published writer?

Yes, I have always enjoyed writing. My sixth-grade teacher encouraged me to write plays! But I didn’t really realize I was a writer until, as an adult, I started writing a novel, which I never finished because my health intervened. In 2006 I had a shoulder operation which left me with severe bicep tendinitis, and for two years I couldn’t write, couldn’t even hold a pencil. My husband said “Write something shorter. Write poetry.”  But I didn’t know how to write poetry. He had planted something in my mind, though. I started studying poetry and then began to write it. My first poem was published in the SCBWI Bulletin in 2010. And so, I became a poet quite by accident. In a way I’m almost grateful for the bicep tendinitis, because I would not have become a poet without that hiccup in my journey. And I’ve picked up the novel again, resurrecting it as a verse novel.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw that you worked as a librarian at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and play the piano since your poetry has such a musical quality to it. Did you ever consider becoming a musician or songwriter? How does your musical background influence your poetry?

Thank you for saying that my poetry has a musical quality. I have heard that before but I am unaware of trying to incorporate any musicality into my poetry. I am a pianist, jazz singer, and even enjoyed a brief stint as lead singer in a local rock ‘n’ roll band. Recently, I have written some songs for a current work in progress in which the main character is a singer-songwriter.

What is your favorite form of poetry to write and why? Do you write poetry for adults as well as children? What do you find satisfying about both?

I enjoy writing many forms of poetry but I guess I like the challenge of writing in repeating forms, such as the villanelle, the triolet, the pantoum and the roundel. I blog at Today’s Little Ditty, where I am an authority on poetic forms. 

However, I am continually challenging myself to write new forms of poetry, like free verse and performance poetry such as rap. I have written poetry for adults; however, since I am a children’s author, I try to stick with children’s poetry, including work for very young children through young adult and have over 100 poems published in anthologies and magazines.

The breadth of subjects you’ve written about—from sea glass to termites to naughty poodles and so many more—is truly inspiring! Can you talk about how and why certain subjects spark your creativity and how you follow that to a completed poem?

As far as subject matter, I’m very interested in the natural world and animals, so those subjects often show up in my work. Sometimes I write to prompts from anthologists. Once I have a subject that begs a poem, I simply try to find the best form to present it. Sometimes the poem may not work at all, and I’ll have to select a new form. Sometimes poems just start in my head and I have to be very quick to capture them.

Your poetry appears in children’s magazines, including Highlights and Spider, in publications for schools and many others, and in anthologies such as those published by National Geographic and Wordsong. Do you ever hear from young readers about your work? Do you have an anecdote from a letter or reading event that you’d like to share?

Yes, I do hear from young readers, which is very gratifying. In one case a Vietnamese teacher contacted me telling me that her phonics students are using my poem, A Garden Prayer, to learn English. That was when I realized that my poetry has gone around the world.

In another case, a woman contacted me from St. John’s, Nova Scotia, to ask me if they could use my poem, Moored, on a sculpture in Bannerman Park for a woman who died at a young age and who had always loved sailing. Of course I said yes! The proposed sculptor is Luben Boikov.

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I’ve read some of your very clever poems that have been finalists—and winners!—in the Think, Kid, Think! Madness Poetry Tournament held in April on thinkkidthink.com. Can you talk a little about the tournament and being an authlete?

Yes, the Think Kids Think March Madness poetry tournament is a wonderful event for children’s poets. I loved being an authlete and competing but it’s very difficult to write a quality poem in a short amount of time. It was like pulling college all-nighters!

Do you have any advice for aspiring poets—children or adults?

My advice for aspiring poets, both children and adults, is: find the metaphor.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently writing a verse novel as well as picture books and poetry collections.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day because: love.

Can you talk about one of your poems that incorporates a holiday theme?

I’ve written a few holiday poems including “Groundhognostication,” which appears in National Geographic’s Poetry of US.

Thanks for this wonderful chat, B.J.! I’ve loved learning more about your poetry and other work. I wish you all the best with There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth!

You can connect with B.J. Lee on:

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

National Florida Day Activity

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Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the names of twenty mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects in this printable puzzle.

Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle | Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle Solution

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You can find There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth at these booksellers

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

 

January 23 – National Reading Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated in schools across the country, National Reading Day was established to encourage students in PreK through 3rd grade to develop a love of reading, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Schools, libraries, organizations, bookstores, and parents provide activities to connect young readers with books they’ll love.

Sterling Children’s Books sent me a copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines

Written by Janet Lawler | Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

 

Mirabel had always been very shy, and as Valentine’s Day approached she was nervous about giving cards away at school. Still, “despite her nerves, the night before, she crafted works of art.” When she was finished, she signed them and drew a heart. In the morning, though, she was reluctant to go to school. Finally, though she left the house and ran to school. In her hurry, she didn’t notice that her bag was getting lighter and lighter.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mirabel rushed past a lonely lady who was checking her mailbox—and then checking it again just in case. But as Mirabel hurried down the road, the lady turned and saw a valentine lying next to her. “She smiled and thought, How nice!” As she turned a corner, “construction workers sweating / as they dug around a pole / laughed to find a sweet surprise / half-buried in the hole.”

A baby found a valentine that had floated into their stroller, and for a jogger who’d just stepped in gun, the sparkly card on the ground made her day better. Others, too, found valentines that made them smile. Suddenly, though, the neighbors all heard a cry: “‘I’ve lost my valentines!’” Mirabel had discovered a hole in her bag and that all of her cards were gone. Everyone realized what had happened. They rushed to find Mirabel and return the valentines. “‘Your cards have made us smile! / Thanks for sharing them with us, / if only for a while,’” they told her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabelle's-missing-valentines-lighter-load

Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Seeing all of their happy faces cheered Mirabel and made her feel braver. She waved goodbye to her new friends and followed the other students into school. Later, she joined in her class party and was excited to share the valentines she’d made. On the way home from school, Mirabel didn’t notice the jogger, dad, construction workers, and others slip valentines into her bag as she passed by. But when she got home, she discovered that her bag was overflowing with love.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Janet Lawler’s endearing story of a little mouse who is nervous about Valentine’s Day will resonate with little ones and adult readers as well. Sharing one’s feelings and talents—as Mirabel does with her homemade cards—can be daunting, but Lawler shows that friendship shared is often returned in kind. Little ones will find much to admire in Mirabel’s bravery to go to school even though she is apprehensive about what the day will bring. The reminder that children occupy a special place in the heart of many people, including family, friends, teachers, librarians, and others that they interact with, will cheer them and inspire them to reach out and accept the love offered on Valentine’s Day and every other day.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Olivia Chin Mueller’s Mirabel is an adorable friend for little readers. As she cowers under a blanket, contemplating going to school, kids will send her encouraging thoughts and be happy to see her change her mind and hurry along to join her classmates. As the valentines begin to fly out of Mirabel’s bag, readers will wonder who will find each card and will look forward to each page turn. The smiles on the faces of those treated to the surprise gift are heartening as readers see what a positive impact little Mirabel has on those around her. As Mirabel hands out her valentines to her classmates, hearts abound, demonstrating along with the students’ smiles and surprised expressions the warm feelings of friendship that are contained not only in each unique card but in Mirabel’s kind spirit. The final image of Mirabel clasping her bag full of valentines is endearing.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454927396

Discover more about Janet Lawler and her books on her website.

To learn more about Olivia Chin Mueller, her books, and her art on her website.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler | illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, January 23 – 29. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on January 30.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

National Reading Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the love monster gobble up all the Valentine’s Day candy snacks in this printable maze!

Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution

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You can find Mirabele’s Missing Valentines at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 19 – Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m posting a review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a literary event that takes place every January and, this year, culminates on January 25 with a huge online celebration. Throughout the month bloggers, reviewers, and individuals post reviews of children’s books that offer multicultural themes, characters, and stories to inspire young readers and introduce them to their peers around the world as well as to global celebrations, ideas, and conditions. The mission of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is twofold: to raise awareness of children’s books that celebrate diversity, and to get more of those books into classrooms and libraries. To learn more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day and discover downloadable resources for teachers and individuals as well as a list of all the books reviewed during the month, visit the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Website.

Just Like You

Written by Keosha Sath | Illustrated by Yashushi Matsuoka

 

A little wide-eyed girl has lots of questions and big plans, but first she wants to know why she has to go to school. Her mom tells her “so that you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” It’s sage advice because this young girl sees possibilities all around her. When she reads a book all by herself, her mom encourages her, and the girl thinks that maybe she’d like to be an English teacher when she grows up.

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Image copyright Yasushi Matsuoka , 2018, text copyright Keosha Sath, 2018. Courtesy of Mascot Books.

Thinking about jobs makes her wonder where her mom works. Mom explains that she works in a medical office as the chief executive and makes sure that everything runs smoothly. Her daughter decides that sounds pretty cool and says, “I want to be a chief executive officer of a medical office. I think so.” But not so fast! Her dad is the chief of police, and she thinks that maybe she’d like to do that. The little girl tells her mom that her throat hurts. After a trip to the doctor, the girl says, “I think I want to be a pediatrician. I think so.”

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Image copyright Yasushi Matsuoka , 2018, text copyright Keosha Sath, 2018. Courtesy of Mascot Books.

A trip to the veterinarian convinces this bright child that she wants to help animals stay healthy, after going to the bank, being an accountant looks like a good option, and a discussion on voting inspires her to aim at being the President. But she also loves honey and wants to know where it comes from. Her mom tells her, “It comes from bees. Bees store honey inside their hives, and beekeepers sometimes protect the bees.” Fascinated, the girl determines, “I think I want to be a lead beekeeper. I think so.”  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-just-like-you-dad

Image copyright Yasushi Matsuoka , 2018, text copyright Keosha Sath, 2018. Courtesy of Mascot Books.

Cooking, using math, going on adventures, and running also spark a desire to try being a head chef, mathematics professor, cartographer, and engineer. After all the encouragement her mom has given her, the little girl has made up her mind about just what she wants to be. She gives her mom a hug and says, “Mommy, I know what I want to be when I grow up! It isn’t an astronaut, a mathematician, or an engineer. I want to be a great mommy, just like you!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-just-like-you-medical-office

Image copyright Yasushi Matsuoka , 2018, text copyright Keosha Sath, 2018. Courtesy of Mascot Books.

Keosha Sath opens up a world of possible professions in her sweet conversation between mother and daughter. The little girl is brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity about the jobs and workers she encounters. Her strong self-confidence and interest in all types of professions will inspire readers to see themselves in positions of leadership and to use their talents to reach for the stars. The girl’s decision to be a mom like her own reinforces the importance of the job parents do while demonstrating that children do notice and appreciate all the support parents give.

Yasushi Matsuoka’s vivid illustrations portray a happy, inquisitive, curly haired young girl imagining herself as a CEO, walking the moon as an astronaut, examining a puppy as a veterinarian, removing a full honeycomb as a beekeeper, and performing other jobs that attract her. Her supportive mom and dad are nearby to nurture her natural curiosity, and the final image of a family hug is endearing.

Just Like You is a charming way to foster discussions about talents, activities, and favorite subjects as well as a fun story for family bonding at story time.

Ages 4 – 7

Mascot Books, 2018 | ISNB 978-1643070537

You can connect with Keosha Sath on  Instagram 

To learn more about Yasushi Matsuoka and his art, visit his website.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day Activity

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Fun at Work Maze

 

There are so many fun careers to explore! Can you find the names of all the different jobs in one of these printable word search puzzles?

Easy

What Will I Be? Word Search Puzzle | What Will I Be? Word Search Puzzle Solution

Hard

Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle | Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle Solution

About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

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Learn More about Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-
*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-2eN

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda PaulandBaptiste Paul, RedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board!

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms ShareColours of UsDiscovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it,  Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party ( a prize every 5 minutes!). GO HERE for more details.

FREE RESOURCES From MCBD

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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You can find Just Like You at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review