July 11 – All American Pet Photo Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday probably needs no special promotion since sharing pictures of our singular pets with our friends, coworkers, and family is something all many of us pet owners do every day, whether it’s on social media or just scrolling through pics of our pet’s latest antics on our phone. Our pets are just so cute and funny and clever that it’s hard not to show everyone. To celebrate today, capture your pet doing something extraordinary—or ordinary, it doesn’t really matter—and share them for your family, friends, and the world to see!

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Tails from the Animal Shelter for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Tails from the Animal Shelter

Written by Stephanie Shaw | Illustrated by Liza Woodruff

 

Welcome to the Humane Society Animal Shelter! The animals are waiting to meet you, and the staff are happy to introduce you to the wonderful animals who are available for adoption. While most animals who arrive at shelters across the country are dogs or cats, there are lots of other pets looking for a new home. Why do some animals come to live in a shelter? The book reveals many reasons. Among them are that “some of the animals are strays; some are rescued from natural disasters” and “some have been given up for adoption because their owners can no longer care for them.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-shelter

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Are you ready to find a new friend? If it’s a puppy you’re looking for, you’ll love Tinkle, who’s so excited to see you that he “cannot help but piddle.” But it’s okay. “Happy puppies always dribble….As time passes and pups grow, / This little guy won’t pee ‘hello.’” If you don’t know what type of dog is best for your family, the staff at the shelter can help match you to the perfect one.

Cats also make wonderful pets for many reasons. Whether you like long-haired or short-haired, large or small cats, you’ll find just the right fit for your family at the shelter. Not ready for a long-term commitment? You can look into fostering a newborn kitten to get them ready for adoption. What kinds of kittens will you find? All sorts, like Ariel, who says: “I’m an acrobat cat! / I can climb anywhere! / I’ll roll in a ball and then / leap to a chair!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-skunks

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These dogs and puppies, cats and kittens are only a few of the animals that turn up needing a new home. Take Pooter, for example. Pooter is black and white and, despite the recognizable stripe down its back, does not stink. Skunks that make their way to shelters “have never lived in the wild” and have had surgery so they cannot make their “smelly spray.”

Veterinary advances have improved the lives of injured animals or animals with health problems. Animals with special needs can now be fitted with “rear-support leashes or wheelchairs” and “can live happily for many years.” If you can adopt “an animal with special needs [you] will bring a grateful and loyal pet into your family.” A popular pet that has some surprising talents, a rabbit can also be a top choice for people who live in a smaller home. Trained to use a litter box, rabbits “can live indoors just like cats do.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-special-needs-pets

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If you live on a farm or have a lot of land in an area that allows for farm animals, you may be interested in Hamlet, who tells readers, “I am a sweet potbellied pig. / I started small but I grew BIG….I know some tricks. I’m neat and clean. / I’m many things. I’m just not… / lean.” Around the nation there are many “pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens [that] need new homes. There are over two hundred thousand horses alone rescued or surrendered to shelter care every year.” 

Along with detailed descriptions of the birds, reptiles, and senior animals that also make loving pets, the book is packed with information about how and why certain animals come to shelters and programs that sponsor a variety of animals and help get them ready for adoption. Back matter reveals how animal shelters were established, gives extensive tips on and issues to consider when adopting a shelter animal, lists ways people can help shelter animals even if they can’t adopt, and provides online resources for learning more and finding shelters in your area.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-rabbits

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her fascinating and accessible text, Stephanie Shaw combines poetry with facts and interesting tidbits about each type of animal to discuss why they make excellent pets for the right person or living condition. Her humorous, whimsical verses that accompany each category and introduce a particular animal will charm kids with a snapshot of the animal’s personality. Kids will also enjoy talking about how each name fits the animal.

Liza Woodruff’s cheery illustrations will enchant animal lovers with adorable images of funny, loving, and endearing animals happy to find a forever home. The joy that pets bring to a family is evident as kids hug, play with, and react to their pets.

An excellent introduction to shelter animals and pet ownership, Tails from the Animal Shelter is highly recommended for any family thinking about adopting a pet as well as for young animal lovers and kids interested in veterinary medicine or volunteering to help animals. The book would also make a favorite addition to school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110489

Discover more about Stephanie Shaw and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liza Woodruff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All American Pet Photo Day Activity

CPB - Pig Day pigs

Roly Poly Spool Potbellied Pig and Piglets

 

Get ready to have fun making this cute and easy craft! Ham it up with your own pig and piglets who can keep you company on your desk, near your bed or anywhere it’s fun to play!

Supplies

  • Printable Pigs Ears Template
  • 2 ½-inch wooden spoon, available from craft stores
  • 1-inch wooden spool, available from craft stores
  • Pink yarn, I used a wide-strand yarn
  • Pink fleece or felt
  • Pink craft paint
  • Pink 5/8-inch or 1-inch flat button with two holes
  • Pink 3/8-inch flat button with two holes
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker

CPB - Pig Day with spools (2)

Directions

  1. Print Pigs Ears Template
  2. Trace the ears onto the fleece or felt and cut them out.
  3. Paint the spool with the pink paint
  4. Let spool dry
  5. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, letting the ears stick up over the rim of the spool.
  6. Wrap yarn in straight layers around spool until the body of the pig is a little bigger than the end of the spool, which will be the face
  7. Cut yarn off skein and glue the end to the body
  8. To make the nose, glue the button over the hole in the middle of the spool
  9. Mark the eyes and mouth with a marker
  10. To make the tail for the large pig, cut a 4-inch long piece of yarn. Tie a triple knot in the yarn (or a knot big enough to fill the hole in the spool). Then tie a single knot near the other end of the yarn. Insert the large knot into the spool’s hole at the back of the pig. Trim the yarn in front of the second knot as needed.
  11. To make the tail for the piglets, tie a single knot in the yarn and another single knot below the first. Insert one of the single knots into the hole. Trim yarn as needed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-cover

You can find Tails from the Animal Shelter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 2 – It’s National Chili Month

Armadilly Chili picture book review

About the Holiday

What could be more satisfying during a cool autumn month than a spicy bowl of chili?  Whether made with meat or veggies, combined with macaroni, or served in potato skins, the simmered flavors make for a scrumptious meal. Although the origins of chili are lost to history, it’s believed that the dish is a southwestern, specifically Texan, concoction. It began to attract attention in the early 1800s, and by the 1880s”Chili Queens” were selling “bowls o’red” at chili stands throughout San Antonio. In 1893 the San Antonio Chili Stand made an appearance at the Chicago World’s Fair. It’s popularity took off across Texas and throughout the west by the 1920s. When the Great Depression hit, chili became one of the only affordable meals for the hungry population. Today chili is a favorite dish of people all over the world. To celebrate this month’s observation why not whip up a batch of your favorite chili or discover some new recipes!

Armadilly Chili

Written by Helen Ketteman | Illustrated by Will Terry

What a hoot! The knee-slappin’, root-a-tootin’ phrasing in Hellen Ketteman’s Armadilly Chili is shor ‘nuf gonna make this a favorite on any child’s bookshelf. While the plot may be familiar, the southwest setting and Miss Billie Armadilly put a fresh, funny twist on it.

“Miss Billie Armadilly skit-skat-skittered down the lane. A blue-norther’s a-blowin’ and my old, cold bones are rattling for a pot of hot armadilly chili,” she says. She’s gathering ingredients when her friend Tex, a many eyed tarantula, tip taps by. Hey, Tex, she calls, how about tapping your toes this way and helping me gather a boxful of beetles?” But Tex just “wiggles his long jiggly legs and says, ‘Shucks, Miss Billie, I’m going dancing today.’” Miss Billie harrumphs and collects the beetles herself.

Next Miss Billie is picking peppers, and when Mackie the bluebird flies in she thinks she has an assistant. “‘How ‘bout whistlin’ up a tune and helping me pick a peck o’ peppers for my armadilly chili?’” Once again, though, she’s left on her own since Mackie says he is “‘shakin’ my tail feathers to the movies.’” When Miss Billie “scurries to the prickly pear cactus and begins chippity-chop-chopin,’” her friend Taffy, the horned toad, complains about the noise and then begs off from helping, saying she’s got plans to go skating.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-armadilly-chili

Image copyright Will Terry, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

At home, Miss Billie stirs her chili to a scrumptious bubble. The aroma entices first Tex, then Mackie, and finally Taffy to come a’knockin’ at her door looking for a bowlful, but Billie has something to say about that—specifically, “no workin’ with Billie, no sharin’ the chili!”

Billie’s friends hurry away sorry that she feels that way, and Billie sits down to her feast. But after all that work, the chili tastes as “flat as a Texas prairie.” What’s wrong? She realizes what the missing ingredient is just as the doorbell rings. She opens the door to find her friends standing there with bags in their hands. What’s in those sacks? Apologies! As well as hot apple cider, jalapeno biscuits, and homemade chocolate fudge. Now that the friends are all together, the chili tastes just right, and “they talked and laughed into the cold, blustery night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-armadilly-chili-mackie-visits

Image copyright Will Terry, text copyright Helen Ketteman, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

What a hoot! Helen Ketteman’s fast-paced Armadilly Chili is a spicy take on the little red hen story  and what it means to be a good friend. Miss Billie is a sassy, no-nonsense heroine who values her work and talents and makes sure others do too. When anger and frustration bubble over, however, the four friends find a way to apologize and make up. The lesson, humorously conveyed as well as Ketteman’s knee-slappin’, root-a-tootin’ phrasing is shor ‘nuf gonna make this a favorite on any child’s bookshelf. 

Will Terry’s vivid illustrations washed with a palette of deep reds, oranges, greens, and yellows bring the Southwest setting to life. Miss Billie and her friends are enchanting versions of their natural counterparts, and kids will love the environmental and homey details on each page, where even the cacti display personalities. Billie’s facial expressions as each of her friends abandon her to her chores are priceless, and their final camaraderie is highly satisfying.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, Illinois, 2008 | ISBN 978-0807504581

Discover more about Helen Kellerman and her books plus fun accompanying activities on her website!

View a portfolio of Will Terry‘s books and artwork on his website!

While I take a few personal days, I am reposting earlier reviews updated with new links and interior art.

National Chili Month Activity

CPB - Chili Pepper Game

Hot, Hot, Hot! Chili Pepper Chili Game

Chili just isn’t chili without a little heat! But can you take 15 chili peppers in your bowl? If you want to win the Hot, Hot, Hot! Chili Pepper Chili Game you’ll have to!

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to collect 15 chili peppers in your bowl before any other player.

Supplies

Rules

  1. Any number of players can play at one time. Print 1 Chili Bowl game board and 1 set of 15 Chili Pepper cards for each player
  2. Give 1 Chili Bowl Game Board to each player
  3. Place the Chili Pepper Cards in a pile or in a bowl
  4. Roll the die to see who goes first. The person with the highest roll goes first
  5. To begin play, the first player must roll a 1, 2, or 3. They should roll until they get one of these numbers.
  6. Players roll the die and collect or lose chili pepper cards by the number of dots on the die. If you roll a:
  • 1 – Pick up 1 chili pepper card and place it on your chili bowl game board
  • 2 – Pick up 2 chili pepper cards and place them on your chili bowl game board
  • 3 – Pick up 3 chili pepper cards and place them on your chili bowl game board
  • 4 – Get a chili pepper card from the player on your left
  • 5 – Give a chili pepper card to the player on your left
  • 6 – Lose a turn

     7. If a player does not have chili pepper cards to give to another player or if the player on           their left has no cards to give, the player rolls again.

    8. Continue play until one player has filled their Chili Bowl with chili peppers!

Picture Book Review

October 1 – International Coffee Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-cover

About the Holiday

Is there anything better than sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee for a little break during the day? Today’s holiday lets people all over the world do just that. Whether you like your coffee strong and hot, with lots of milk, or flavored with tastes of the season, there are versions of this delicious drink just for you. With an ancient and storied history, coffee is one food that unites us all. To celebrate why not grab a cup of joe for yourself, stir up a foamy hot chocolate for your kids, and sit down with a good book – like today’s brain teaser!

Undercover: One of These Things Is Almost Like the Others

By Bastien Contraire

 

Undercover agents complete successful missions by blending in with their surroundings and the people they encounter, but’s impossible for them to actually become the people they are investigating. In the same vein Undercover: One of These Things Is Almost Like the Others cleverly inserts a closely shaped item onto a two page spread that contains a family of objects (for instance a soccer ball among fruit).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-beetles

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

The pink, green, and brown stenciled illustrations boldly placed on a white background offer stimulating visuals while also making the task of discovering the interloper surprisingly tricky as out perceptions and even preconceived notions are tested. Many of the match-ups provide not only a challenge but sly humor as well, riffing on the shapes, purpose, relationship, and even history of the items on the page. 

Picking out the imposter is only the beginning of the fun readers can have with Undercover. Each page can start a discussion of how the odd item is different and how it is similar to the others; the similar objects can be categorized into smaller sets; industrious kids may like to design their own pages giving the “almost” image some companions; and wordsmiths may want to invent stories involving the groupings and how they came to be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-ice-cream

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

Fans of “I Spy” types of books and games will love testing their knowledge and observational skills against the pod of whales, city modes of transportation, insects and fish, sea-worthy craft, various types of food, office equipment, and a host of birds and animals in this 64-page wordless picture book. Perfect for classrooms and home bookshelves, Undercover: One of These Things is Almost Like the Others is sure to be asked for again and again on any day when fun, quiet entertainment is just what’s called for.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-dogs

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

Bastien Contraire’s stylized stencil-print illustrations of long-antennae beetles; flat and spiny fish; friendly dinos; ice cream treats; farm, forest and antlered animals; musical instruments; and more will delight kids and spur them to discover the names of each. The rounded edges, sleek lines, and delineated details of the images may even inspire budding artists to try their own hand at stenciling.

Ages 4 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872506

International Coffee Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Mug Masterpiece

 

Somehow drinks taste better in a mug you’ve decorated yourself! With this easy craft you can design a mug for your hot chocolate, tea, juice, or any favorite drink!

Supplies

  • Ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Paint included with mug decorating kit
  • OR
  • Bakeable ceramic markers
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Design and decorate your mug
  2. Follow the directions on the mug kit to bake on the paint OR
  3. Follow the directions of the ceramic markers to finish your mug

 

 

September 8 – International Literacy Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-cover

About the Holiday

In 1966 UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) established International Literacy Day on this date to “actively mobilize the international community to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.” Marking its 50th anniversary, International Literacy Day is this year celebrating the theme “Reading the Past, Writing the Future” to commemorate five decades of efforts to increase in literacy rates around the world and the progress made. “It also looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.” With a focus on innovation, International Literacy Prizes are also awarded to people with outstanding solutions that can drive literacy towards achieving future goals.

The World Literacy Foundation also celebrates today’s holiday with the 2016 campaign “The Sky’s the Limit,” which aims to eliminate the digital divide for students in the developing world.

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had their own ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-ball

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, “Nick pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-food-flash-cards

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-library

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

 

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-grumpy-stevenson

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read using cats, with their variety of personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange striped Verne and smoky gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

International Literacy Day Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark

 

This want-to-be literary lion feels fine about reading! Let it hold your page while you’re away! Print your Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark and color it!

Picture Book Review

September 1 – World Letter Writing Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

Remember the thrill of receiving a letter—a real letter full of exciting news, lovey-dovey stuff, photos, or a highly anticipated answer to some inquiry or application? The footsteps of the postal carrier on the stoop, the creak and small bang of the mailbox lid opening and closing, and the view of a long envelope sticking out the top could all set the heart racing. Or perhaps you were the letter writer, pouring your experiences, heart, and hopes onto a piece of paper that might have been colored or even scented. World Letter Writing Day celebrates those missives that allow for the development of higher vocabulary and story-telling skills and provided physical souvenirs of a life well lived.

Dear Dragon

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-bengal-kitten

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy, Viking Books for Young Readers

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain while in January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, and that can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon is released September 6 and is certain to be a book children treasure. The fun dual meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot book trailer!

World Letter Writing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-front-eyes-down

Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-top-of-head

To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-bottom-snout

To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-back

Picture Book Review

August 29 – Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-cover

About the Holiday

Children of kindergarten age are looking forward to starting school like “the big kids,” and teachers all over the country are preparing to welcome their new students on the first day. All the desks or tables have the same supplies laid out, the same chairs pushed in, and the same promise of learning. Are all the kids the same? Yes…and no. Yes: They are all about the same age, wonder what the future holds, and want to make friends. No: they all come with different personalities, different histories, and different talents and abilities. And it is these differences that give each child their unique perspective on the world and will determine their unique contribution to it. Today celebrate each child’s distinct skills and gifts.

Be Quiet, Marina!

Written by Kirsten DeBear | Illustrated by Laura Dwight

 

Marina and Moira are four years old and in the same class at school. Marina was born with cerebral palsy; Moira has Down’s Syndrome. They like many of the same things. Both girls like to dance, play ball, dress up, and play with dolls. But when it comes to noises or rushing around, Marina and Moira are different. Marina likes loud noises. She often screams and shouts, and when she and Moira play together, Marina likes to tell Moira what to do.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-girl's-similarities

Photography by Laura Dwight, courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

Moira, on the other hand, likes to sit quietly, and she can often be found taking a break in her cubby. She also likes to play alone with the little people figures. While both girls like to take walks outside, Moira stays with the teachers and the other students while Marina runs ahead. One of Moira and Marina’s favorite activities is when the teachers swing the kids in a big blanket. Then each student has to wait their turn. Moira can wait patiently, but for Marina waiting is hard; she gets angry and screams or cries. When Moira hears Marina scream, she feels scared. She covers her ears and leaves the room.

While Moira and Marina like to build towers and castles with blocks together, they have different feelings about cleaning up afterward. Marina doesn’t want to help and shows it by yelling. Moira runs from the room with her hands over her ears. “One day on the playground Moira was on the see-saw. Marina wanted to get on too, but she couldn’t…So she started to scream. She screamed so loudly that Moira covered her ears and walked away. Now Marina could get on the see-saw, but it was no fun alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-playing-with-blocks

Photography by Laura Dwight, courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

Another day Marina started to get upset while the girls were playing with the telephone. This time Moira didn’t run away. Instead she looked at Marina and said, “Please don’t scream!” Marina listened. She became quiet and the two continued to play together. Later in the week when Marina asked Moira to play, Moira told her she would, but only if Marina didn’t scream. Marina said, “Okay, I won’t.”

The two girls came to an understanding. Instead of being afraid of Marina, Moira now knows she is trying to be friends, and Marina realizes that if she wants Moira to play with her, she can’t scream. And they both know that if they need help they can ask their teachers. Now Marina and Moira are best friends, which means they can have fun playing dolls and building with blocks, dancing and dressing up and even going up and down on the see-saw. And when Marina screams, “‘It’s fun!’” Moira makes a little noise herself and shouts “Be Quiet, Marina!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-girl's-differences

Photography by Laura Dwight, courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

With simple, straightforward language, Kirsten DeBear reveals the story of how two little girls with what might be considered opposing personalities overcame their differences to become friends. While drawn to each other, these differently abled girls had trouble playing together. Through perseverance and communication, however, they came to understand each other. DeBear brings honesty and humor to this true story that applies to all children who need to accommodate other’s preferences while staying true to themselves when playing or working in a group. The happy resolution shows that there is room for all in our friendships and our hearts.

Laura Dwight’s black and white photos take a storyteller’s approach to chronicling the evolving friendship between Marina and Moira as they participated in schoolroom activities. The smiling girls are shown dancing, dressing in fancy hats, playing with dolls and a ball, building with blocks, and doing other fun things together. The photographs also depict moments of friction between the girls when Maura becomes upset and screams and Moira covers her ears and runs away. At the end of the book Dwight’s lens captures the experiences that led to better understanding between the two girls and their strengthening friendship.

Readers may recognize themselves as a “Maura” who likes loud noise and exploring on her own ahead of the group, or a “Moira” who prefers quiet and staying close to the group. Through the story of these two very smart little girls, all kids may learn to understand and appreciate themselves and alternate viewpoints.

Ages 4 – 7

Star Bright Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1595726650

Visit Star Bright Books for a vast array of inclusive titles for children that embrace diverse ethnicities and abilities, promote literacy, and are widely available in 24 languages.

View a gallery of photography work by Laura Dwight on her website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-threads-of-friendship-photo-holder

Threads of Friendship Photograph Holder

 

In the same way that thread holds clothes, blankets, and other material goods together, friendship holds people together. Make this easy Threads of Friendship Photograph Holder to keep pictures of your friends close by!

Supplies

  • Wooden Spool of twine, available at craft stores and some discount retailers
  • Thin-gauge wire, no heavier than 18 gauge
  • Small gauge nail
  • Hammer
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Pencil
  • Photographs

Directions

To make the photograph holders:

  1. Holding one end of a wire with the needle-nose pliers, wrap it around the pencil four or five times
  2. Remove the wire from the pencil
  3. Squeeze the coils of wire together with the needle-nose pliers
  4. Cut the wires to different lengths so the pictures stand at various heights

To make the stand:

  1. Make two or three holes in the center of the wooden spool of twine with the nail and hammer, holes should be about ½-inch deep to steady wire.
  2. Place the coiled wires in the holes
  3. Put photos in the coils

Note:

Even young children can help hammer the nail, place the wire in the holes, and choose photographs. Adults should coil the wire, cut the wire, and help with hammering.

Picture Book Review

August 24 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-cover

About the Holiday

One of the rights of passage for children going to school for the first time (or starting the next grade) is shopping for new clothes and supplies. These include pencils, paper, folders, three-ring binders, lunchboxes, and the backpacks to store it all in as well as a few new shirts, a couple pairs of pants, and maybe a jacket to take kids into the cooler weather. And of course a trip to the shoe store is paramount for those fast-growing feet! If only shopping could be as exciting as it is for the little boy in today’s book. With a little imagination it can be!

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

Written by Tim Wynne-Jones | Illustrated by Brian Won

 

S.A.M. has an important missions to complete. He is “digging for the Lost City of Raisins…tracking down the treacherous green spitting bug…balancing on high places…and stealing home”—all while K is hanging out the laundry. K looks at S.A.M sitting on the ground with his box of raisins and says, “‘You need new shoes.’” And it’s true. S.A.M.’s red shoes are tattered and scuffed, and his toes are even poking out of the sole.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-shoe-store-man

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

On the way downtown, S.A.M tells K that he can’t decide between rocket shoes and vanishing shoes as he reads a document titled Plans for World Domination. At the store they are met by a clerk carrying a tall stack of boxes. He assures the pair that he’ll help them in a minute, but with his eagle eyes S.A.M. thinks the “Shoe Store Man looks shifty and orders his agents to “‘frisk him.’” The Shoe Store Man turns out to be okay, and S.A.M. tries on lots of shoes. He finally settles on a pair with tiger stripes, and K gets the same for herself.

Time for lunch? “‘ROAR,’” answers S.A.M. All the shoe buying and secret agent prowling has made S.A.M. hungry. “He orders the double buffalo burger with a side of snakes and an electron float. “‘We are matching tigers,’” he says to K. K pokes her fork into a snake fry. “‘ROAR,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-taking-a-nap

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

The bus ride home is fraught with danger as S.A.M. foils an attempt by a spy in a stroller to steal the Plans for World Domination. “‘Phew! That was close,’” K says. The stairs to the front door seem unusually steep and tiring, and S.A.M is feeling “whoozy.” There’s only one explanation, he decides: his electron float must have been spiked. S.A.M drifts off into a short nap where he dreams of “beautiful poisonous butterflies and dangerous inflatable frogs.”

Later he has a secret meeting with Agent Coyote, Agent Ted, and Agent Pig. Their mission is to decode the Plans for World Domination by three o’clock. S.A.M. then goes looking for K. He can’t find her anywhere—not in the Chamber of Silence (the closet), not in the Holding Cell of Dispair (the bathroom), not in the Torture Chamber (the piano room), and not in the Rocket Silo (the utility closet). She’s not even in the Darkest Valley of Doom (the basement). Just then S.A.M. hears thunder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-in-the-basement

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

S.A.M. grabs his new orange and black striped shoes, ties up the laces and races to the rescue with the speed of a tiger. K is outside “bringing in the clouds.” Some are being torn away by the wind, and S.A.M. makes a flying leap to save them. As the storm rages outside, S.A.M. and K relax inside with “steaming mugs of lava topped with dollops of candied gardenia and pearls” while discussing S.A.M.’s latest mission. It’s lucky, he says that his “Team of Expert Spies warned him about the storm.”

K recognizes the group “‘T.O.E.S.,’” she says. S.A.M. concurs. “‘We’re ready for anything.’” And indeed they are—in fact S.A.M. has even learned to ties his own tiger shoes. “‘ROAR!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-tiger-sneakers

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Tim Wynne-Jones channels every kid’s dream of being a spy in this funny send up of an ordinary day of shopping and doing laundry. Using clever acronyms and a full dose of imagination, Wynne-Jones turns raisins into gemstones, French fries into snakes, fluffy laundry into clouds, and a boy into a secret agent man with tiger shoes and abilities. K is a supportive sidekick, encouraging S.A.M’s ingenuity and quick thinking and playing along with his day-brightening shenanigans. S.A.M.’s names for the various rooms in the house will make kids laugh, and they will also love his sweet little boy alter-ego.

Brian Won deftly and humorously shifts between S.A.M.’s secret missions and his reality, depicting S.A.M.’s imaginary world in blue, black, and white and his real world in vivid color. Crafty juxtapositions include an image of the Shoe Store Man, his arms loaded with boxes and his face peeping between them on the left-hand page while on the right-hand page, S.A.M. in his spy gear shuffles along a wall of shoe-display shelves where two illuminated eyes search the darkness. Another occurs when S.A.M and K are having lunch. The top two-thirds of the two-page spread is cloaked in darkness, snakey French fries, an exploding drink, and cool costumes while the lower third shows their regular clothes and new matching tiger sneakers. The tiger unleashed by the new shoes is a vibrant flash in this book that moves as smoothly between life and fancy as a wild cat on the chase.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763671198

Check out Tim Wynne-Jones’ website for a vast array of books and other fun stuff!

A gallery of work by Brian Won is awaiting you on his website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shoe-lace-craft

Coolee-o-lee Shoe Laces

 

It’s fun and easy to design your own shoe laces for your favorite sneakers or boots or even for tying up hair styles, decorating your room, or you name it!

Supplies

  • White or colorful shoe laces, wide
  • Fabric paint or markers

Directions

  1. Draw or paint special designs or figures on the shoe laces
  2. Let dry
  3. Wear with pride!

Picture Book Review