October 9 – Curious Events Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside to ponder the mysteries of life—kind of like all the X-Files rolled up into one day! It’s fun and fascinating to explore the unknown, to wonder if mythical creatures really exist, or to allow yourself (if even for just a moment) to accept strange phenomenon as true. And then there are just those weird things that happen that make you think “why me?” or “why not me?” and give you a new perspective on life. Today, be conscious of the unexplained—you know you want to believe!

Bug in a Vacuum

By Mélanie Watt

 

A bug enjoying a lazy afternoon takes advantage of an open door and flies into a house. It’s cleaning day and the bug buzzes through the bathroom, through the kitchen (taking a quick hop and skip over the cooling apple pie), across a bedroom, and stops on top of the household globe. Meanwhile someone is vacuuming, unaware of or unconcerned with what lays in the powerful machine’s path.

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

The bug is “on top of the world when it happened. Its entire life changed with the switch of a button.” Suddenly it is sucked past the little bristles and into the dusty interior of the canister. Finding itself here amid the forgotten debris, the bug goes through many stages as it ponders its plight. Stage one is Denial. Surrounded by fluffy fuzz the bug thinks to itself, “This is amazing! Doesn’t get much cozier than this…” But then the quiet and dark makes the bug suspicious. Maybe it’s a surprise party! Or perhaps it’s a dream! The bug pinches itself to wake up, but all that does is hurt.

Stage 2 follows—Bargaining. The bug calls out “Excuse me, you’ve vacuumed the wrong bug!” It even offers a different day to be so inconvenienced: “Can I be vacuumed next Monday instead? Tonight’s bowling night with the dung beetles!” Finally, it promises to turn over a new wing and writes a contract of sorts: “Dear vacuum, IF you set me free, I promise to avoid my favorite hangouts: windowsills, picnics, porta-potties. A new Bug.” When there’s no response to this plea, the bug moves on to…

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

Stage 3—Anger. The bug throws a fit: “I WANT OUT NOW!!! NO MORE MR. NICE FLY!!! It threatens, becomes paranoid, demands attention, and turns the dust bunnies into its own personal army. The sounds from inside the canister are frightening—but no one’s there to hear them.

Stage 4 strikes heavy with—Despair. When the dust, scraps of paper, broken pencil, tack, paperclip, playing card, broken Q-tips, and other waste settles, the bug takes stock. “My life’s a mess” it realizes. “How will I ever pick up the pieces?” it wonders. It decides: “I’m at the end of my rope. My dreams are crushed. The odds are against me.” The poor bug goes on: “I’ll never see the sky again. I’ll never be extraordinary. I have no future.” At last, though, the bug is ready for…

Stage 5—Acceptance. The bug surrenders itself to its fate and learns to “appreciate what I have.” It goes so far as to say, “I don’t wish to change a thing. Everything will be okay.”

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

It is at this point that the bug feels itself on the move, gliding across the carpet, waiting at the curb, and traveling away at top speed as the vacuum cleaner sits atop the Bull Dog Waste Service truck. The trip takes it up a hill to the city dump where the vacuum is unceremoniously dropped on a pile and the hose is dislodged. When the machine comes to a rest, the bug sees the most magnificent sight—a way out. The bug flies into the streaming sunlight and on to another adventure.

A sub-plot involving the family’s wiener dog who has lost his beloved stuffed toy to the overzealous vacuum adds suspense to the story, and his thoughts about retrieving his toy inject more comical elements and mirror the bug’s contemplations.

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

Mélanie Watt, with tongue firmly in cheek, takes readers on an emotional roller coaster as an unsuspecting but very lucky bug finds itself engaged in the five stages of grief after it is sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Watt’s text and full-bleed, vintage-style illustrations go hand-in-hand (or wing-in-wing) to tell the bug’s and dog’s stories.

Each stage of the bug’s turmoil is introduced with an image of a product named for the psychological phase and labeled with humorous puns and platitudes. The dated décor, colors, and objects make Bug in a Vacuum visually stunning, and the bug hero is a cutie who readers will empathize with and cheer for. Eagle-eyed readers will also love finding all the items slurped up into the cleaning machine lying on the floor of each page. The first page defining Bug as “an insect” and “an unexpected glitch” and Vacuum as “a cleaning machine” and “a void left by a loss” hints at the fun and thoughtfulness to come.

Bug in a Vacuum would make a great gift and addition to home bookshelves—a welcome pick-me-up for those days when things don’t always go so well.

Ages 4 – 9

Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770496453

You can learn about the many, many books by Mélanie Watt on her website!

To find a fun Bug in a Vacuum activity guide by Tundra Books/Penguin Random House of Canada, click here!

Get sucked in to this Bug in a Vacuum book trailer!

Curious Events Day Activity

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Hidden Word Coloring Page

 

Curious events are often steeped in mystery. The real meaning or cause of a phenomenon can be hidden from view, but that just makes it more fun! Curious about what this printable Hidden Word Puzzle says? Color it and find out!

Picture Book Review

August 27 – International Bat Night

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About the Holiday

From the time that darkness falls on August 27 until the sun rises on August 28, people in more than 30 countries organize walks, talks, and all kinds of educational and fun activities related to bats and their conservation. Why not find an event in your neck of the woods—or cave—and celebrate this most unusual and beneficial animal!

Bats in the Band

By Brian Lies

 

Huddled together a colony of bats sleeps through the winter, but as the icy weather warms they stretch their wings and take flight to find food. As they swoop through the air chasing the echoes they hear, these animals that live by echolocation sense “that something’s not right. / And then when a bugle blast shatters the night, / that one lonely note tells us just what is wrong: / We’re hungry for sound—we’ve been silent too long.”

The bats swarm to a summertime theater now quiet and dark except for a small glow that invites  them inside. They enter the building—passing hawkers of T-shirts, posters, and hats—and set up the stage and the lights. Some bats have brought their own instruments while others improvise with the leftovers of last season’s concertgoers. “Behind the stage curtain, they’re getting in tune, / making up things out of straws, out of spoons.”

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Finally, the conductor lifts his baton, and the concert begins. “We sing together as one voice. / It seems the very walls rejoice! / All together, rafters ringing… / it’s as though our souls are singing.”  Then the strings “change the mood to sweet and mellow” before a one-bat band takes over. “Next up, there’s a country song—/ some lonesome bat done someone wrong. / He’s  gone and broken someone’s heart. / Now everything has come apart.”

There’s even an entertainer for children far off in a corner where the pups can run and play. Now on stage a blues singer “cries of lonely days and empty skies” that make the bats cry. “It’s hard to figure—eyes get wetter, / …so how is it that we feel better?” There’s not much time for reflection though as a hard-rock band begins “blazing,” “pumping,” and “jumping.”

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

While everyone is dancing to the beat, the sun begins to rise signaling that it’s time for the bats to go. But in one last blast, all the musicians jam together. “The music soars. Finale’s here, the ending of the song. / It builds and builds—now here it comes! / It’s going…/ going…/ GONG!” With that last bang of the cymbal the bats, “worn out, wrung out, half asleep,” fly from the theater and out into the dawning day. In the air they discover the music in everything from “the roar of a car, or the bark of a pup—/ the sound of the rest of the world waking up.” As they fall into slumber up in their cozy rafters, the bats continue to sway unconsciously. “It’s not our intention, but you understand. / We’re dreaming of being the bats in the band.”

Brian Lies “Bat” books are well-known and well-loved. Bats in the Band continues the excellent storytelling and poetry of his other titles, this time to a rock-n’-roll beat. The idea of bats needing to hear sound after a long winter’s silence is brilliant, and these bats play almost as many different styles of music as there are species of bat. The rhyme scheme is true and musical, carrying the story well through its words and rhythm.

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Lies’ illustrations remain as clever as ever. The two-page spread of the bats choosing and tuning up their instruments is a joy. Bats make a xylophone from keys hanging on a peg board and two nails for mallets. Instead of a harp, a bat plucks the tines of a plastic comb, and a bendy straw serves as a fine wind instrument. The string section plays while hanging upside down (of course!). The pups’ entertainer will bring a smile to readers’ faces, and the blues singer performs under cool blue lights.

Kids and adults will love lingering over the detailed pages, where allusions to actual concert atmospheres abound. Look for the bats holding aloft lightning bugs in a tribute to a long-held tradition.

Bats in the Band is a rockin’ addition to Brian Lies collection and will be welcome on any child’s shelf—whether they are completing the set or just starting it!

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544105690

Visit Brian Lies‘ website to learn more about him, view his many books, and see a gallery of his artwork.

International Bat Night Activity

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Spiraling Bats Word Search

 

Find the bat related words in this printable Spiraling Bats Word Search that dips and soars like the flight of a bat! Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

August 18 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting kindergarten is a huge step toward future learning and fun! This milestone can take a lot of preparation—from buying backpacks and school clothes to establishing different routines to becoming a new member of the school community. Most school years start during August and this month gives families an opportunity to talk about the changes, go shopping together, and look forward to the new experiences to come!

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Backed up by her parents and clutching her best friends, two squash named Bonnie and Baxter, Sophie peeks into her classroom on the first day of school. She sees kids running everywhere, talking and laughing. Her parents assure Sophie that she’ll make a lot of friends and have tons of fun, but Sophie is adamant: “‘I won’t,’” she says. And Sophie’s right. “The chairs were uncomfortable. The milk tasted funny. And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.”

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The other kids surround her with questions about Bonnie and Baxter. “‘Are they toys? Do they bounce? Can we EAT them?’” Sophie has had enough. “‘No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.’” And then there’s Steven Green. He sits near Sophie at circle time, plays near her on the playground, and stands over her breathing down her neck during art time. Ms. Park, the teacher, tells Sophie Steven is just being nice, but Sophie isn’t interested.

Steven does not give up so easily. He returns to show Sophie his best friend—Marvin, a stuffed frog that he got when the toy was just a tadpole. “‘Then you don’t need me,’” Sophie says and decides “that’s that.” But that isn’t that. The next day Steven is back, building a block tower near Sophie, reading her book over her shoulder, and even offering facts about fruit and vegetables during Sophie’s show and tell.

When her parents hear about Steven, they encourage Sophie to make a friend, but Sophie just clings tighter to Bonnie and Baxter. “Still, Sophie knew that Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever,” so when the other kids dance, spill their milk, or tell jokes, Sophie considers joining in. On the playground Sophie plays hopscotch while the other kids play tag, jump rope, and play other games together. When Steven asks if he can join Sophie, Bonnie, and Baxter, she refuses, leaving Steve and Marvin to sit alone.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When the weekend comes Bonnie and Baxter look “too tired to hop. Or build towers. ‘It’s time,’” says Sophie’s mother. Sophie digs a hole to make “a garden bed and tucked her squash in for their winter nap. ‘Sleep tight,’” she says. “‘See you soon.’ But spring seemed very far away.” On Monday Ms. Park asks the class to tell her what makes a good friend. The kids answer that friends play with you, help you, and think you’re funny. Steven answers “‘They like what you like.’” Ms. Park sends the kids off to draw pictures of their friends.

When Steven wants to see Sophie’s drawing of Bonnie and Baxter, the two get into a scuffle over the paper and it tears in half. “‘You are NOT my friend,’” Sophie says as she walks away. On the way home from school, Sophie tells her mom what happened. “‘Sweet potato,’” her mom says. “‘That adorable boy didn’t mean to tear your picture.’” But Sophie’s not so sure.

The next morning Sophie finds Marvin and a note in her cubby. She ignores it, and by lunchtime, Marvin is gone. Later that night, though, Sophie and her dad discover Marvin and the note inside her backpack. The note contains a drawing of Bonnie and Baxter as well as a packet of seeds.  “‘Do friends really like the same things you like?’” Sophie asks her dad. When he answers “Sometimes,” Sophie begins to think. She takes Marvin outside and sits near Bonnie and Baxter to think some more.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The next day Sophie runs up to Steven to tell him the great idea that Marvin had. They then tell Ms. Park. The next day, Ms. Park hands each child “a cup, some dirt and one small seed.” “‘Can we EAT them?’” a classmate asks. “‘No!’” says Sophie, and Steven adds, “‘You never eat a friend.’” The kids plant the seeds and put the pots on the windowsill. Soon tiny shoots appear in the cups and Sophie and Steven invite the kids to do a new-plant dance.

“‘See?’” Sophie tells Steven. “‘Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.’”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s sequel to her award-winning Sophie’s Squash is a heartfelt story for kids for whom the definition of friendship runs deep. Sophie’s hesitancy to join in the freewheeling play of other kids echoes the feelings of many children entering new classrooms, joining unfamiliar groups, or meeting any new challenge. The excellent pacing of the story as well as Sophie’s honest emotions allow for development of the theme that sometimes friendship takes time. Steven’s persistence sets a positive example for not passing judgement too quickly. Sophie’s transition from squash friends to human is treated sensitively and with cleverness. In the end Sophie learns how to make a friend while still staying true to herself.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Anne Wilsdorf’s cartoon-inspired illustrations perfectly depict the world that Sophie reluctantly inhabits. Her classroom is boldly colorful, full of books, toys, separate spaces, and of course all sorts of kids. Sophie’s reactions to the comments and actions of her classmates are clearly registered on her face and will make kids giggle even while they recognize her feelings. Steadfast Steven is, as Sophie’s mom says, adorable, and readers will empathize with his plight in just wanting to make a friend. The nighttime scene beautifully sums up Sophie’s dilemma and provides her and readers a moment to reflect on the story’s ideas.

On so many levels, Sophie’s Squash Go to School makes a wonderful addition to children’s and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, Penguin/Random House, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509441

Discover much more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Smile for School! Word Search

 

Find 20 words about school in this printable Smile for School! Word Search. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

August 4 – Assistance Dog Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday comes during International Assistance Dog Week, a time to recognize the work and benefits of canine helpers of all types. Assistance dogs offer comfort, independence, and reassurance to people who have them as members of the family. Not only do dogs of various breeds help the vision and hearing challenged, but they are also trained to recognize the signs of medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, seizures, and epilepsy. Owners of these friends and helpers know that they have the perfect dog, just like the little girl in today’s book!

The Perfect Dog

By Keven O’Malley

 

Getting a dog is a major decision. Paramount, perhaps, is what type of dog is best, and with so many breeds, how do you break it down? When the little girl in The Perfect Dog receives permission to get a dog, she begins her list for just the right pet. “The perfect dog should be big” she says as she imagines holding a Chow Chow. Or maybe “bigger” like a German Shephard, or even “biggest” like a Saint Bernard that stands taller than she is. But a Great Dane? Maybe not that big.

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Image copyright Kevin O’Malley, courtesy of pinterest.com/booksbyomalley/kevin-omalley

 

On the other hand maybe “the perfect dog should be small”—standing around knee height—or “smaller”—mid shin height—or “smallest”—able to fit in a purse. But small enough to sit on her head? Maybe not that small. Next she considers the length of the dog’s hair. “The perfect dog should have long hair,” she believes, already assembling her grooming supplies to plump a poodle’s coif. Or the “longer” hair of a Sheep Dog might be fun to comb and cut, and the “longest” hair of an Afghan Hound would be a dream to brush. But the locks of a Komondor? Maybe not that long.

The girl knows the dog should not be too loud or too slobbery, but it should definitely be “fancy.” Speed is also a consideration. “Fast” as a Beagle? Maybe “faster,” like a Dalmatian. But “fastest,” like a Greyhound, could make walking the dog a challenge. Snuggly is nice for quiet times, but a dog so snuggly it takes over the whole chair is not what the girl has in mind. The little girl does not want a pet that is too slow or too messy either.

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Image copyright Kevin O’Malley, courtesy of pinterest.com/booksbyomalley/kevin-omalley

The day finally arrives for the girl and her family to pick out their new pet. There are so many to choose from! Looking into each face and taking each dog’s traits and qualities into consideration, the family decides that “the perfect dog should be happy…happier…happiest!” But there’s still one surprise waiting. Instead of the girl choosing the perfect dog, she reveals that “the perfect dog found me!” And it was a very happy ending!

Part concept book, part tribute to people’s “best friend,” Kevin O’Malley’s The Perfect Dog is a fun romp through different breeds and their unique qualities. If you’ve ever attended a dog show or watched one on TV, you know that there are as many types of canines as there are people. O’Malley applies the language concept of superlatives to describe big, bigger, biggest; long, longer, longest; and other shapes, sizes, and traits in a way that attracts kids’ attention and fosters understanding.

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Image copyright Kevin O’Malley, courtesy of pinterest.com/booksbyomalley/kevin-omalley

As the little girl “tries out” various dogs, O’Malley’s bold, full-bleed illustrations proceed from funny to funnier to funniest, often to the little girl’s dismay. She gets knocked down by the biggest of biggest dogs, finds herself hidden in the longest of longest hair, and flies straight out from the end of the leash attached to the fastest of fastest dogs.

O’Malley knows, too, the real secret about choosing a new pet—one that kids will delight in, just as they do in this book. For any pet lover The Perfect Dog is…perfect!

Ages 3 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, Penguin, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101934418

Be sure to visit Kevin O’Malley’s website! You can learn more about his books, watch a video of one of his school visits, and even download free books!

Assistance Dog Day Activity

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I (Heart) Dogs! Word Search

 

Assistance dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds. Find the names of more than 25 types of dogs in this printable I (Heart) Dogs! Word Search

Picture Book Review

July 8 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The cow is a moo-st amazing animal! Its importance to the world cannot be overstated. It has sustained humankind throughout history and even played an integral part in the defeat of small pox. It was discovered that most milk maids did not get small pox because they regularly contracted cow pox (a less virulent cousin of small pox) and built an immunity to the more serious disease. From this revelation, a vaccine for small pox was developed, saving thousands of lives every year.

Cows, with their gentle demeanor and soft, brown eyes, have always been beloved picture book characters. My own early favorite was the classic The Story of Ferdinand written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. The author/illustrator of today’s book carries on that cherished tradition.

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

By Gemma Merino

 

Tina is a very unique cow. Unlike her sisters who are only interested in “fresh and juicy grass,” Tina is very curious and always inventing new ideas. Her sisters proclaim her notions “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” One day while exploring the woods, Tina decides to climb a tree. Branch by branch she swings herself to the top. Up there among the owls and squirrels Tina discovers a dragon—a friendly one, and a vegetarian to boot!

“All afternoon they talked about wonderful dreams and incredible stories.” Tina is excited to tell her sisters, but when she gets home they aren’t impressed. The whole idea of cows climbing trees and dragons is “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” The next morning Tina never shows up for breakfast. Her sisters find a note that reads “Gone flying with the Dragon of the Woods.”

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Image copyright Gemma Merino, courtesy of gemmamerino.blogspot.com

Her sisters decided this nonsense has to stop, so they head out to find her. As they leave behind their familiar farmland and enter the forest, they can’t believe how beautiful it is. Suddenly a pig wearing a backpack dashes past them and shimmies up a tree. Even though they consider this “impossible,” one sister follows the pig. The others join her. From a treetop branch they three find that “the world beyond the fields was extraordinary.”

Still, Tina is nowhere to be found. The sisters look left, right, down, and up. Up! “It was impossible. It was ridiculous. It was nonsense. But it was true! Tina was flying!” She and other animals are taking flying lessons from the dragon, and while they don’t have wings, they soar just fine with a little help. From her lofty place, Tina asks her sisters to join her, and they say something she has never heard before: “Yes, why not?” They float, drift, and glide in the sunlit sky, and ever afterward find that nothing is “impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.” Now all four sisters can’t wait to see what else is possible.

Gemma Merino’s mooving tribute to people who live and dream large will inspire young children to reach for the treetops and beyond. The plucky heroine who doesn’t cower under her sisters’ reproach is a confident and likable role model, happy to include her sisters when they finally see the light. Merino’s sweet, soft-hued illustrations humorously depict the dichotomy between the sisters’ grass-focused existence and Tina’s vivid imagination. The cows’ home has sage green walls, furniture, and floors. The pictures on the walls, the flowerpot on the windowsill, and the planter are all full of various types of vegetation, and the jars in the pantry contain such ingredients as Pickled Leaves, Meadow Mix, Dried Petals, and Herbal Tea. But Tina’s imagination and the forest she loves to visit are infused with reds, ambers, blues, and teals; even the greens are more brilliant. For anyone contemplating the unknown, The Cow Who Climbed a Tree is rousing fun!

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807512982

To learn more about Gemma Merino and her books visit her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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Cud-dly Cows Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These two farms may seem identical, but if you look closely, you’ll find eleven differences that make them unique. Print your Cud-dly Cows Puzzle here!

June 26 – National Canoe Day

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About the Holiday

June is the perfect month to explore the great outdoors up close through camping. Whether you enjoy pitching a tent or renting a cabin, 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.

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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.”

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.”

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Can You Canoe? images 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!

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 Canoe Day Activity

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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!

June 18 – International Picnic Day

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About the Holiday

Somehow food always tastes better when eaten outdoors. Today’s holiday gives you a chance to test that theory, by packing a basket or cooler and heading out to a forest, beach, park, playground, or backyard picnic table near you! Whether your repast is simple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or an elegant spread, you can enjoy the company of friends and family in the great outdoors!

Picnic

By John Burningham

 

The curly-haired boy and pony-tailed girl who live in the house on the hill pack a picnic lunch and head out. At the bottom of the slope they meet three friends—Sheep, Pig, and Duck. Boy and Girl invite this dapper trio to join them, and they take off single-file to find a picnic spot. How could they have missed seeing Bull? Well, Bull sees them and begins a chase.

“Duck, Pig, Sheep, Boy, and Girl ran as fast as they could toward the woods to hide from Bull.” They successfully dodge him by hiding behind some trees. Do you see them? After Bull gives up the chase the five friends come out of the woods, hoping to begin their picnic. But the day is full of mishaps—first Sheep’s yellow hat blows away then Pig’s ball rolls down the hill. Can you help find them?

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With their possessions are safely back where they belong, the little troop continues their search for the perfect spot but is delayed again when Duck loses his scarf. At last they find a place in the field to lay their blanket. They eat and play games until it’s time to go home. Exhausted, they trudge up the hill toward home. The friends aren’t quite ready to part yet, though, and Girl and Boy invite Sheep, Duck, and Pig for a sleepover. If you’d like to join them, there might just be room for you too!

John Burningham’s classic-style story of a simple outing turned day-long odyssey will delight small children. Incorporating suspense, “oh-no!” moments, and questions eliciting interaction, Picnic invites readers to join Boy, Girl, Duck, Sheep, and Pig on their excursion. The easy-to-find objects hidden in the illustrations will give even the youngest readers a sense of inclusion, camaraderie, and accomplishment. From page to page and event to event, kids will keep giggling and following these engaging characters.

Burningham’s familiar and beloved artwork lends a lighthearted, cheerful atmosphere to the friends’ day, and the colorful, oversized format is as open and welcoming as the airy field they picnic in. Girl, Boy, Duck, Sheep, and Pig frolic in lively scenes, and the hidden objects they search for take just a perfect moment’s scan of the page for young children to find.

Picnic is sure to be a favorite story-time request.

Ages 2 – 5

Candlewick, 2014 | ISBN 978-0763669454

International Picnic Day Activity

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Match the Picnic Baskets Puzzle

 

Six friends packed three identical picnic baskets, but somehow they were mixed up! Help the kids find the picnic baskets that are the same, so they can eat lunch. Print the Match the Picnic Baskets puzzle here!