June 24 – It’s National Camping Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe?

About the Holiday

June is the perfect month to explore the great outdoors up close through camping. Whether you enjoy pitching a tent, renting a cabin, or parking an RV, all the enjoyment of hiking, fishing, swimming, and of course toasting marshmallows and singing around the campfire await! 

Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs

Written by The Okee Dokee Brothers—Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing Illustrated by Brandon Reese

 

Is it possible to sing a picture book? It is when the book is Can You Canoe?! These twelve humorous, rip-roaring tunes take readers and singers deep into the fun of what it means to spend time enjoying nature. Wild animals, tall tales, legendary characters, and all the sounds and flavors of country livin’ are represented in these catchy original songs that will have you singing and laughing along in no time.

Through the Woods introduces the line-up with an apt question: “I’m wondering if you’d go wandering with me / Through the wilderness and woods / To where the winds are blowin’ free…” But even the speaker realizes there might be doubts—“You’re wondering if I go wandering with you / what kind of trouble we’ll get ourselves into. / Would it be wrong to tag along / With a band of vagabonds?”—and assuages them in the end.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe-hiking-art

Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Brandon Reese (brandonreese.com).

Jamboree takes readers to a country store where there’s dancing every Friday night to a song called “Jamboree” that’s played with abandon and just a little off key. But all you need is to “grab you a partner / And hold on tight / ‘Cause we ain’t stoppin’ / Until we see the light.”

In Black Bear Mama a couple learns there’s no arguing with a mother bear on the lookout for food for her cubs, and Echo Echoooo reassures that nothing, not even the widest valley, can keep true love apart. Can You Canoe? is a celebration of the simple life out on the water without distractions: “Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? Can You Canoe?…I wanna float down a river with you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe-echo

Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mr. & Mrs. Sippy can take you by surprise as this isn’t a tune about straws or baby cups. Instead, this is a rambling life story that starts like this: “Mr. and Mrs. Sippy / Got married in the fall. / They left the church that very same day / For their honeymoon in St. Paul, / Singin’ M-I-double-S-double-S-I-P-P-I / M-I-double-S-double-S-I-P-P-I. The couple roams on down to St. Louis to make themselves a home, then raises children in ‘good old Memphis Town.” When they have no place left to go, “they drift down past New Orleans / To the Gulf of Mexico.” Then you’re invited to sing the chorus backwards and forwards once again!

The Legend of Tall Talkin’ Sam echoes some of the great legends of the American West, such as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Samantha Rosie-Anna, aka Sam, was “born to a pioneer woman and a Rocky Mountain mountain man” and “come out ridin’ a panther and ropin’ a twister outta the sky.” Sam’s so big that when she sleeps under a blanket of snow, she lays her “hat down in Montana and my boots in Colorado.” But even though this girl is “half horse, half mountain lion and half grizzly bear,” she admits there are things she doesn’t know—“like how some little stream / Carved out one big ol’ canyon, / Or how a fire’s angry flame / Can be your best companion.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe?

Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Brandon Reese (www.brandonreese.com)

Jackalope addresses one of the greatest American myths—that of a creature of mixed jack rabbit and antelope blood that roams the plains of the West. With tongue in cheek, the mysterious whereabouts of the Jackalope is exposed in the chorus: “Well I’ve seen ‘em in books and in taxidermy shops. / I’ve seen ‘em hangin’ on the wall. / But I ain’t never seen one in the livin’ light of day— / It’s almost like they don’t exist at all.” But the last verse reveals that perhaps this odd apparition has a purpose after all: “So when you’re searchin’ for the truth / And you’re at the end of your rope, / You might find you don’t need no proof / To believe in the thing that gives you hope— / And for me that’s the jackalope.”

These and a few other rollicking, gold-nugget songs will make any camp out—or even camp in—a knee-slappin’ good time. Can You Canoe comes with a CD so you can sing along to all your favorites—and I have no doubt each song will become a favorite in no time!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-bears

Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing have known each other all their lives and know a thing or two about adventures and how to make them more fun for friends and families. This Grammy-winning duo conjure up catchy tunes and compelling stories to make their songs unforgettable. These poems/songs have as much heart and wonder as a new frontier and invite readers and singers to explore!

Brandon Reese lends his distinctive talent to each song, creating animated scenes loaded with the kinds of details and drama kids love. Barefoot travelers with their packs on their backs and strong walking sticks in hand pad through woods populated with friendly wildlife. The country store is alive with animal musicians and dancers on the porch, on the roof, and hanging out every window while broadsides for Aunt Malady’s Snake Oil and No Itch Flea Powder hang on the walls. A cozier camping tent you’ll never find, and canoe paddlers are accompanied by a raccoon poling a crocodile boat while a rabbit floats along on the belly of a turtle. Each picture invokes the great outdoors in all its glory.

Can You Canoe is a must for any trip, whether you’re traveling far or just down the road!

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1454918035

National Camping Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-canoe-maze

Come Canoeing With Us Maze

 

These friends want to canoe together but first they must pick up little deer at the center of the lake. They need your help navigating their way in this printable Come Canoeing With Us maze! Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-can-you-canoe?

You can find Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Reviews

June 12 – It’s National Camping Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-cover

About the Holiday

For some, camping is the best way to spend a vacation. This month’s holiday celebrates that love of adventure and encourages people to explore some of the gorgeous national parks, campsites, and trails all across the country. Of course, there’s giddy excitement for kids in just setting up a tent in the backyard too. So whether you camp with an RV, pack up the car with tents and other gear, or just enjoy a different vista at home, enjoy camping this summer – and don’t forget the marshmallows!

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee

By Chris Van Dusen

 

As the sun came up Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee packed up their car and headed out on an adventure. They left their seaside home for the mountains, where they plan to camp for two nights or “possibly three.” Mr. Magee tells Dee that he’ll love camping. It’s quiet and peaceful and “aside from the wildlife, there’s no one around.” In a few hours they found the perfect spot to pitch their tent. “It was high on a hill with a beautiful view / of Mount Adams, Mount Lincoln, and Jefferson too.” But the prettiest sight of all was the stream that ended in a whooshing waterfall.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-heading-out

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee gathered pine cones and sticks and made a fire where he cooked hot dogs for the dinner. Then “as the sun set behind far distant knolls, / they sat roasting marshmallows over the coals.” When darkness fell, Mr. Magee and his little dog fell asleep in their cozy camper. As they were dreaming of the next day, a bear bumbled by, led to the spot by the sweet smell of marshmallows.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-sunset

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The bear wanted those marshmallows, but he couldn’t quite reach with the car and the camper blocking his way. “But that didn’t stop the sneaky old snitch, / he simply tried squeezing right under the hitch.” But as he wriggled and wiggled he undid the lock, and the car rolled forward while the camper rolled back. On separate paths down the hillside, the two vehicles flew. The car bounced down the road, while the camper headed straight for the stream.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-over-the-edge

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee and Dee woke in alarm when the camper splashed headlong into the roaring current. “They were caught in the rapids, but that wasn’t all. / They were headed smack dab through the big waterfall.” They were quaking with fear and the camper was swept away, but just as they were about to go over the falls, their camper was snagged by a rock on the edge.

They were worried and wondering what they could do, when the bear spied one more marshmallow to chew at the end of the camper. He jumped in the river, grabbed the hitch in his teeth, and dragged the camper back to the bank. When the bear tasted metal instead of sweetness, he moseyed away disappointed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-bear-rescue

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When the bear let go, the camper bounded away and rolled down the rocks. It came to rest right next to the car. Mr. Magee and Dee hitched up once more and drove home. They weren’t ready to give up their camping quite yet, so “when they got home with the sky turning red, / they decided to camp in the backyard instead.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-camping-at-home

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Chris Van Dusen’s classic camping adventure featuring the loveable Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee is full of humor, suspense, and cozy moments. The sweet relationship between Mr. Magee and his faithful companion, will charm young readers and make them happy to be taken along for the ride. Van Dusen’s rolling rhythm and clever rhymes are catchy and fun to read aloud.

The vintage open-top rambler and tiny, rounded camper are just as endearing as the main characters as they roll and bump along the dirt road to the campsite and then go their separate ways to create a dramatic story. The blue seaside, mountain scenery, and fiery sunset are beautiful backdrops to the action, and the aerial view down the 50-foot waterfall will make readers cringe at Mr. Magee’s predicament.

Ages 4 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2003 | ISBN 978-0811836036

Discover more about Chris Van Dusen, his books and art on his website!

National Camping Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-all-recipes-toasted-marshmallows-cupcakes

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes from allrecipes.com.

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

 

Toasted marshmallows aren’t just for S’mores anymore! With this delicious cupcake recipe from All Recipes, toasted marshmallows top off chocolate cupcakes in style! Visit All Recipes and get the recipe for Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes that makes any event as fun as a camping trip!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-cover

You can find A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Chronicle Books | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Toasted Marshmallow Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-cover

About the Holiday

Today is a day to celebrate the simple pleasures of toasting marshmallows. Whether you like your marshmallows just lightly browned or blackened to a crisp, these ooey-gooey delights are fun to make and fun to eat! Why not make a campfire, start up the fire pit or grill, or even set the oven to broil and toast up some marshmallows today?

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee

By Chris Van Dusen

 

As the sun came up Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee packed up their car and headed out on an adventure. They left their seaside home for the mountains, where they plan to camp for two nights or “possibly three.” Mr. Magee tells Dee that he’ll love camping. It’s quiet and peaceful and “aside from the wildlife, there’s no one around.” In a few hours they found the perfect spot to pitch their tent. “It was high on a hill with a beautiful view / of Mount Adams, Mount Lincoln, and Jefferson too.” But the prettiest sight of all was the stream that ended in a whooshing waterfall.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-heading-out

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee gathered pinecones and sticks and made a fire where he cooked hotdogs for the dinner. Then “as the sun set behind far distant knolls, / they sat roasting marshmallows over the coals.” When darkness fell, Mr. Magee and his little dog fell asleep in their cozy camper. As they were dreaming of the next day, a bear bumbled by, led to the spot by the sweet smell of marshmallows.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-sunset

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The bear wanted those marshmallows, but he couldn’t quite reach with the car and the camper blocking his way. “But that didn’t stop the sneaky old snitch, / he simply tried squeezing right under the hitch.” But as he wriggled and wiggled he undid the lock, and the car rolled forward while the camper rolled back. On separate paths down the hillside, the two vehicles flew. The car bounced down the road, while the camper headed straight for the stream.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-over-the-edge

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee and Dee woke in alarm when the camper splashed headlong into the roaring current. “They were caught in the rapids, but that wasn’t all. / They were headed smack dab through the big waterfall.” They were quaking with fear and the camper was swept away, but just as they were about to go over the falls, their camper was snagged by a rock on the edge.

They were worried and wondering what they could do, when the bear spied one more marshmallow to chew at the end of the camper. He jumped in the river, grabbed the hitch in his teeth, and dragged the camper back to the bank. When the bear tasted metal instead of sweetness, he moseyed away disappointed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-bear-rescue

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When the bear let go, the camper bounded away and rolled down the rocks. It came to rest right next to the car. Mr. Magee and Dee hitched up once more and drove home. They weren’t ready to give up their camping quite yet, so “when they got home with the sky turning red, / they decided to camp in the backyard instead.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-camping-at-home

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Chris Van Dusen’s classic camping adventure featuring the loveable Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee is full of humor, suspense, and cozy moments. The sweet relationship between Mr. Magee and his faithful companion, will charm young readers and make them happy to be taken along for the ride. Van Dusen’s rolling rhythm and clever rhymes are catchy and fun to read aloud.

The vintage open-top rambler and tiny, rounded camper are just as endearing as the main characters as they roll and bump along the dirt road to the campsite and then go their separate ways to create a dramatic story. The blue seaside, mountain scenery, and fiery sunset are beautiful backdrops to the action, and the aerial view down the 50-foot waterfall will make readers cringe at Mr. Magee’s predicament.

Ages 4 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2003 | ISBN 978-0811836036

Discover more about Chris Van Dusen, his books and art on his website!

Toasted Marshmallow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-all-recipes-toasted-marshmallows-cupcakes

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes from allrecipes.com.

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

 

Toasted marshmallows aren’t just for S’mores anymore! With this delicious cupcake recipe from All Recipes, toasted marshmallows top off chocolate cupcakes in style! Visit All Recipes and get the recipe for Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes that makes any event as fun as a camping trip!

Picture Book Review

June 13 – It’s National Camping Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-cover

About the Holiday

Early summer is the perfect time to plan a camping trip. There are so many beautiful out-of-the-way places to explore from a camper or a tent. Spending quality time with friends or family on a hike or around a campfire can be surprising, low-tech fun that can challenge and exhilarate. 

Rhoda’s Rock Hunt

Written by Molly Beth Griffin | Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

 

Rhoda goes camping with her Auntie June and Uncle Jonah. On a days-long hike, her shower was a “bucket of cold lake water, dinner was salami and cheese, and her bed was a skinny little pad and ratty sleeping bag.” But Rhoda puts up with it all because along the way she finds rocks—and Rhoda loves rocks.

Auntie June doesn’t mind Rhoda’s collecting rocks—as long as she carries them in her own pack. Rhoda agrees. One day while hiking through a birch forest Rhoda spies “jagged rocks and bumpy rocks and one with tiny sparkly bits that glinted in the dappled sunlight. Ooo!” Rhoda puts them all in her pack and trudges on, sweating a bit with the effort.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-crossing stream

Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

The next day while crossing a stream, Rhoda reaches into the cool, flowing water and comes up with a bunch of smooth stones. One has “a curve that fit into her palm just right. Ooo! Into the pack they all went—Yarg!” Rhoda is beginning to slump under the weight of her pack, but she continues on. After a sleepless night, Rhoda is tired, hungry, dirty, and a little bit crabby—until she sees the lake. “Waves crashed on the shore, and gulls called overhead. The water stretched out to the horizon, and the beach was covered with millions and billions of rocks!”

Rhoda lies on the “sun-warmed treasures,” studying the beauty of each stone. She finds red ones, blue ones, and stripy ones. “Then she discovered tiny banded ones that glowed the color of sunsets. Ooo!” She pours them all into her pack. When Auntie June and Uncle Jonah tell her it’s time to go, Rhoda grabs her pack, but it stays put. She pushes, pulls, and tugs, but the bag doesn’t budge. With no one to help carry her pack or any of the rocks, Rhoda has a hard decision to make. She doesn’t want to give up any of her stones, but she knows she must.

Then she has an idea. Carefully working “with the weight of each rock, with the curves and bumps and bulges of each rock,” she stacks them on a flat slab of stone near the water’s edge until they all “balanced in perfect towers.” Well, almost all. Into her pockets “went the one glinting forest rock, and the one palm-snuggling river rock, and a small handful of tiny glowing agates from the Big Lake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-making-cairns

Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

As she heads on her way she looks back at her rock cairns—her gift to others passing by—and continues on with Auntie June and Uncle Jonah to the cabin. There, on her windowsill, she builds her own cairns from her beloved treasures.

Collectors everywhere will relate to Rhoda and her enthusiastic gathering of treasures beyond price. Each one is unique and almost calls out to be taken along life’s road. As Rhoda discovers, however, the physical items can begin to weigh you down, impeding progress. Molly Beth Griffin, in her distinctive and quietly powerful book, remind readers that freedom and happiness come from sharing your talents and treasures—and yourself—with others. With evocative description of a camping trip (and well-placed expressions of “Ooo!”), Griffin captures with honesty, grace, and humor the vexations and thrills of childhood.

Jennifer A. Bell gorgeously depicts the forest with its birch stands, rushing streams, vast lake, and variety of stones in soft greens, reds, purples, and blues that blend to reflect the depth and beauty of nature. Adorable Rhoda expresses the range of emotions—from excitement in finding her beloved rocks to annoyance at the travails of camping—that readers will recognize and respond to. Detailed illustrations of the rocks Rhoda finds reveal their attraction to the young collector, and the final spread of the cairns Rhoda builds will have kids wanting to build their own.

A wonderful accompaniment to a hike or camping trip and a quietly inspirational read, Rhoda’s Rock Hunt would make a welcome addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0873519502

To see more books by Molly Beth Griffin for children and young adults, visit her website!

View Jennifer A. Bell’s illustration work for picture books, chapter books, and more on her website!

National Camping Month Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Around a campsite or on a hike you can find smooth stones that would give talented artists like yourself a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

Picture Book Review

February 26 – Personal Chef Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-chef-cover

About the Holiday

Today we honor those chefs who create delectable dinners for individual clients or for special occasions. With dedication and hard work, tasty ingredients and imagination, these artists make life better for foodies from coast to coast.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-chef-Tie-Sing

Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-elegant-table

Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-chef-mule-falls

Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-chef-bent-silverware

Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her work as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Personal Chef Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chef-kids-coloring-page

Cook Up Something Tasty Coloring Page

 

These kids are making a special treat! Enjoy this printable Cook Up Something Tasty Coloring Page while you have a little treat too!

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Day of the Horse

celebrate-picture

About the Holiday

Established in 2004, today’s observance encourages people to remember the importance of horses to American history, culture, and character. Both wild and domesticated horses need our care and compassion. To celebrate consider volunteering at a facility that cares for horses, for an organization that uses horses in therapy programs for children or adults, or donating to the protection of wild horses.

Real Cowboys

Written by Kate Hoefler | Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

 

Real cowboys wake with the dawn’s light and are careful not to make too much noise for the people still sleeping in the “little houses in the hollow, and up the mountains, and at the edge of fields in the distance.” It is natural for the cowboys to think of others. Their job is to care for the herd; to help a stranded calf and their dog who is trying to lure it to safety; to soothe the herd when thunder rumbles overhead.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-dawn

Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Real cowboys sing soft, slow songs to their cows to encourage them to continue moving when the path is narrow and dangerous and to sleep when coyotes howl in the night. Cowboys are good listeners—heeding the advice and warnings of the trail boss and other cowhands. “Sometimes they listen for trucks, and wolves, and rushing water. And sometimes they just listen to the big wide world and its grass song.” Along the way cowboys keep themselves safe with their wide-brimmed hats and leather chaps.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Because the cattle drive is long—lasting “for hours, or days, or weeks”—cowboys learn to be patient. “Even on a fast horse, they have to move with the slow rhythm of a herd….” When they need help, real cowboys don’t hesitate to ask, using hand and hat signals to alert other cowhands. “Real cowboys want peace. They don’t want stampedes, where all the cattle spook, and thunder over the earth, and scatter in dust storms.” Sometimes, however, this happens, and sometimes a few cattle and dogs are lost. Thinking of them when times are quiet, “real cowboys cry.”

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At night cowboys take turns eating and sleeping so there is always someone to watch over the herd. When they pack up camp and move on, real cowboys are mindful of the earth, and when they are far from home, inside themselves they can feel homesick, even if they look tough on the outside. “Real cowboys are as many different colors as the earth. Real cowboys are girls too.” In their hearts “real cowboys are artists,” creating stories that are bigger than the wide open prairie. “They wonder what’s past the horizon. And one day, when their work is done, real cowboys find out.”

Kate Hoefler’s moving tribute to cowboys and cowgirls demonstrates the qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and mindfulness that we want to share with our children. With lyrical language she follows cowboys on a cattle drive, where they experience the joys and sorrows that life entails for all. Hoefler’s pacing echoes the day-to-day movement of the herd as well as readers’ daily life. Delving into the responsibilities and characteristics of these men and women is a unique way to open the world to children and promote discussions about the traits of caring individuals.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jonathan Bean’s hand-stenciled illustrations printed in four Pantone colors are particularly effective in portraying the life of the cowboys and cowgirls entrusted with herds of cattle. Early morning dawns to rose skies that color even the horses and reflect in the drinking trough. Cattle, obscured by dust raised on the trail, form the backdrop to a cowboy worriedly watching his dog coax a calf from a cliff, and afternoon turns to night in a two-page spread where a cow nuzzles her calf as it sleeps. Depictions of the enormity of the herd traveling from one place to another amid sweltering days, rain storms, and blizzards are beautifully rendered, and the emotions of the cowboys are clearly discernable and touching.

Real Cowboys is stunning in both language and illustrations. For quiet story times, bedtime, or times for reflection and inspiration, this book would make an excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544148925

To view a gallery of illustration by Jonathan Bean, visit his website!

National Day of the Horse Activity

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Galloping Horse Coloring Page

 

A horse running at top speed is a beautiful sight! Enjoy this printable Galloping Horse Coloring Page—would you be riding?

Picture Book Review

December 2 – National Mutt Day

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About the Holiday

National Mutt Day, also known as Mixed Breed Dog Day, was established in 2005 by animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige to raise awareness of the plight of mixed breed dogs abandoned and in shelters around the country. Approximately 80% of dogs in shelters are mixed breeds and often lose out on finding permanent homes to purebred dogs who are adopted much more quickly. Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier, behave better, and often have sweeter temperaments than their purebred cousins, making them wonderful family pets. If you are considering adding a pet to your family, consider a mixed breed. You’ll be happy you did!

Wolf Camp

By Andrea Zuill

 

Homer is a regular dog—except when he’s feeling wolfish. He loves the lure of the hunt, and likes to pounce on stuffed Mr. Moose unawares. He thinks this is because it’s been proven by science that “all dogs have a bit of wolf in them.” When Homer takes to daydreaming, his mind wanders to the joys of living as “a real wolf,” running with the pack on the open plains. Then one day in addition to his kibble, a flier for Wolf Camp pours from the dog food bag.

The flier seems to offer everything Homer wants. “Have you ever felt like howling at the moon? Come join us!” it reads. Homer knows he has to go, so he makes sure his people see the notice—whether they are in the bathtub, in bed, relaxing, or just walking through the house. Finally his people relent, and on the designated day he boards the Wolf Camp bus and is off on an adventure.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, courtesy of andreazuill.org

Once at camp, Homer is “greeted by Fang and Grrr,” the counselors. Then he meets his fellow campers, big Rex and tiny Pixie. Fang gives a safety speech that includes staying together, refraining from chasing dangerous animals, and other rules. Their first lesson is “marking.” Could Homer help it if he was a little too close to Fang’s feet? Next comes howling. Grrr and Fang sing out a chilling “Ahh-whooooo…” Pixie pipes up with a small “Yeeiiiiiip”; Rex gives an indeterminate  “Wahwawawawa…”; and Homer offers his best “Phooooooof…”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, courtesy of andreazuill.org

When they learn to track, Rex can’t contain his excitement and shouts out “Look! A bunny!” “Shhhhhhh…,” Homer and Pixie remind him. At last the campers are shown how to hunt, even if Fang and Grrr do run ahead and with Grrrs, snarls, growls, and a cloud of dust acquire dinner by themselves. The meal has “an interesting flavor,” which prompts Homer to write a letter home: “Dear People, How are you? I am fine. The food here is yucky and has hair on it.” He asks his family to send his favorite bacon-flavored doggie snacks as well as flea medicine “because there are a lot of bugs and they are gross.” He even includes a real “smashed bug” in the corner of the paper.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, courtesy of andreazuill.org

Living and sleeping in the wild have their challenges, but day-by-day the dogs adjust, becoming experts at marking rocks, howling “Ahh-Whoooo,” and hunting. And while taking down a moose may still be daunting, chasing squirrels is easy. The end of the week comes quickly and as Homer receives his “Honorary Wolf” certificate, he feels sad to be leaving his new friends. They howl “one more time as a pack,” and then it’s time to ride the bus back home.

While it’s good to be home with his people, his soft bed and electric blanket, and his familiar toys, Homer feels different. As nighttime falls he goes to the window and sings out a chilling “Ahh-whoooo-Ahh-Ahh-Whooowhooo….”

Andrea Zuill’s funny story of a regular dog who dreams of being more by embracing his bolder heritage will delight dog owners and dog lovers alike. Endearing Homer, with his wagging tail, sweet smile, and unflagging perseverance, is an enthusiastic hero who inspires readers to never give up in the face of obstacles. Humorous dialogue and commentary by Homer, Rex, and Pixie as they perform their camp lessons are presented in speech and thought bubbles and will make kids giggle. Zuill’s nod to “people” camp makes Wolf Camp an accessible story that will resonate with any child facing a new situation, learning new skills, or being away from home for the first time.

Zuill’s vivid, cartoon-inspired illustrations are loaded with personality and expression. Kids will root for earnest Homer, shaggy Rex, and scrawny Pixie, and, while needle-nosed Fang and Grrr initially seem intimidating, they are counselors who have their camp charges’ best interests at heart.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509120

To learn more about Andrea Zuill and Wolf Camp, as well as view a portfolio of her illustrations, visit her website!

National Mutt Day Activity

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Funny Mutt Coloring Page

 

Mixed breed dogs make wonderful pets with lots of love to give. Here’s a printable Funny Mutt Picture for you to color!

Picture Book Review