August 18 – Break the Monotony Day

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About the Holiday

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you so entrenched that you can’t imagine breaking your comfortable routine? Then maybe it’s time for a change. And that’s what today’s holiday is all about. It doesn’t take much to break the monotony—just a simple change-up will do. So today, instead of having your usual latte, order a chai. They’re delicious! Instead of following the same boring route to work or school, zip down a different road. You never know what you will see! And Instead of binge-watching that show, try a new one.  I know! But you can go back to it tomorrow. Of course, one of the best ways to break the monotony is by reading books—they’ll take you to all sorts of places, you’ll meet new, exciting people, and you’ll get involved in events you never thought possible! 

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly ever since.”

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

Break the Monotony Day Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

One of the best ways to add excitement to life is through reading! These kids are waiting for some books to read. Can you help the super-reader bring his friends new books in this printable Reading is Super Maze?

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You can find Somewhere Else at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 21 – It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

This month, as kids get out of school and families head for the beach, we celebrate the amazing diversity of life in the ocean. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the sea has to teach us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering never-before-seen (or even imagined) creatures. To join in on this month’s holiday, explore the beach, visit an aquarium, or learn more about the animals and resources of the sea. 

Barnacle is Bored

By Jonathan Fenske

 

Even before Barnacle’s story truly begins he’s just hanging around the dock sighing. The trouble is Barnacle is “Bored. Bored. Bored.” Every day is the same old routine. When the tide is high, Barnacle is “wet and cold,” and when it goes out, he’s “dry and hot.” The sun rises; the sun sets. The waves “roll under” him or give him a good dousing of the briny deep, but no matter what’s going on Barnacle is stuck in place.

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Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

If only he were like the little polka dotted fish swimming by. Barnacle imagines what exciting days he must have. “I bet he dives with the dolphins” and “soars with the sailfish,” Barnacle muses. He dreams of the fun the fish has with flounder, finbacks, plankton, and…that eel doesn’t look like it wants to play with polka dot fish. Oh, no! Barnacle can’t look.

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Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

Yikes! Barnacle grimaces as eel swims away, full and satisfied. He retreats into his shell to reconsider and decides, “I am not bored.” But polka dot fish floating around inside eel? Yeah, he’s bored.

Jonathan Fenske takes the proverbial (shell)fish story to new, minimalistic lengths in his laugh-out-loud Barnacle is Bored. Fenske’s use of repetitive phrasing and funny alliteration highlights Barnacle’s tedium as well as his conviction that the sea is greener on the other side of the dock. When reality comes calling close to home, though, Barnacle—and young readers—discover that sometimes excitement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

Fenske’s jaded Barnacle is an adorable dreamer even as he grumbles about his sticky situation. His expressive eyes and tiny tentacles that sway with the tides will make little ones giggle. With a soothing palette of ocean colors, Fenske creates fresh, crisp backdrops that emphasize both Barnacle’s feelings of monotony and his vivid imagination.

Barnacle is Bored is a perfect summertime treat that will elicit waves of requests for repeat readings. A great choice to take to the beach and on vacation, the book will not spend its time stuck on the shelf.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545865043

Discover a gallery of books and illustration by Jonathan Fenske on his website!

National Oceans Month Activity

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Playful Plastic Pail

 

With a colorful plastic pail, some paint, and a little sealant, you can make a pail for the beach or sandbox that is as unique as you are!

Supplies

  • Plastic Pail
  • Paint that will adhere to plastic
  • Sealant for plastics
  • Paint brushes

Directions

  1. Create your design
  2. Paint your pail, let dry
  3. When the paint is dry, spray with sealant. Apply sealant in a well-ventilated place
  4. Let sealant dry
  5. Enjoy your pail!

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You can find Barnacle is Bored at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

June 13 – It’s National Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

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

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

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

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

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

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

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

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

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

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

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

National Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Whose Shoes? Maze

 

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

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

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

Picture Book Review

May 13 – National Frog Jumping Day

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About the Holiday

Once upon a time there was a writer named Samuel Clemens who published his first short story titled Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog. He later published the story under the title The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which even later became The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The title of this story wasn’t the only name change in Clemen’s life. He is best known as Mark Twain, one of the best known and most read American authors. The story of this fabled jumping frog and the California Calaveras County’s actual annual Frog Jumping Contest, begun in 1849, are the origins of today’s holiday. The present day frog-jumping record was set by Rosie the Ribeter, who in 1986 jumped 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches.

There’s Nothing to Do!

Written by Dev Petty | Illustrated by Mike Boldt

 

So… Frog has accepted that he’s a frog, and he knows it’s okay to get bigger, but now he can’t think of anything worth doing. His dad finds it hard to believe there’s nothing to do. He suggests swimming, but Frog says it’s “too wet”; playing, but none of the toys surrounding Frog inspire him, and even joining Pig in doing crafts, but Frog is so bored he has to rest up against Pig’s popsicle-stick Eiffel Tower.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

What’s left? Cleaning his room. This choice gets Frog hopping to see if his “friends have any better ideas.” Rabbit’s idea of a good time alternates between jumping and staring. Cat shows Frog how to lick between his toes, and Owl advises napping all day. Perhaps  Pig can come up with the perfect activity after all. Pig is happy to unfurl his “Fantastic List,” and he and Frog take a look.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Frog’s not too keen on most of the to-dos and lies flat on his back in disgruntlement. Just then another frog comes by wondering what’s the matter. Frog complains that the whole day is almost over and he hasn’t done anything. Well, the frog says, when there’s nothing to do, do nothing. “Sometimes the best ideas come when you stop looking for them.” Then this amphibious guru shows Frog how to sit still, empty his mind, and wait.

Suddenly, the world glows with beauty and promise. Frog has never seen life in just this way. Later, when Dad asks Frog what he did all day, Frog is enthusiastic about the Nothing he did. In fact, he wants to do it all over again tomorrow. So what if there’s school the next day—Frog has a long To-Do List of his own now. What’s on it? Nothing!

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Dev Petty’s Frog is any child’s sure (web)-footed guide to the big issues of growing up. This time he’s looking for help in overcoming his boredom, but he learns that what’s good for the goose (or the Pig, Rabbit, Cat, and Owl) isn’t necessarily good for the gander. When he discovers that inner voice that leads him to his own kind of fun, Frog finds that his lily pad is loaded with possibilities. As in I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and I Don’t Want to Be Big, Frog’s impish questions and opinions will have kids giggling and hoppy to come to the same realizations about life as Frog does.

Mike Boldt’s Frog is sly and endearing as he jumps from friend to friend and activity to activity in search of the perfect day. Kids will love laughing at Rabbit’s goofy stare, ewwing along with Frog at Cat’s bathing ritual, and cheer Pig’s enthusiasm and do-anything attitude. Frog’s glowing revelation lets readers discover their own vistas, and Dad’s proud and satisfied look at the end shows kids that dreaming up their own fun leads to a day well-spent.

There’s Nothing to Do! is a terrific addition to the series, and it’s witty banter will make it an often-asked-for read on any child’s bookshelf. A ribeting choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399558030

Discover more about Dev Petty and her books and find fun activities on her website

To learn more about Mike Boldt, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Got nothing to do? Hop on over and watch this There’s Nothing to Do! book trailer!

National Frog Jumping Day Activity

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Frog Dot-to-Dot Activity Sheet

 

Can you hop from number to number and help the frog appear in this printable Frog Dot-to-Dot Activity Sheet? Then give him a lily pad or other place to live and color it all in!

Picture Book Review