September 30 – National Teach Spanish Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its first anniversary this year, National Teach Spanish Day was established by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) to promote the profession of teaching Spanish, raise awareness of the shortage of Spanish teachers for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and to emphasize the importance of Spanish as a world language. For more information, visit the AATSP website.

Today I’m featuring a collection of Spanish/English bilingual board books that teach little ones Spanish and English words for numbers and other concepts as well as nursery rhymes. With bright colors and charming characters, these books make language learning fun. These books would make excellent gifts for baby showers, new babies, and any young learner. The series would enhance any child’s home library and is highly recommended for school and public library collections. To learn more, visit the Canticos website.

Thanks to Encantos for sending me their latest bilingual board books for little learners for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

Bilingual Firsts Series

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Feelings

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

For little ones, learning about feelings and how to recognize various facial expressions aids their social-emotional development and helps them manage their emotions and have empathy for others – skills that will benefit them in school, with family, and as they engage with the world. In this chunky board book, kids discover eleven emotions, including happy, sad, excited, brave, surprised, confused, and proud.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Each feeling is written in English and Spanish. On the facing page, adorable depictions of the feeling lifts to reveal a more exaggerated portrayal of the emotion along with a prompt for little ones to recreate the expression themselves. For example: “Can you show me a happy face?” / ¿Puedes poner una cara feliz?”

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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First 100 Words

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In vivid, two-page spreads Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross introduce kids to one hundred common words from nature/naturaleza, transportation/transporte, school/escuela, sports/deportes, music/música, the beach/playa, / the ocean/océano, a party/fiesta, home/hogar, the kitchen/cocina, and the bedroom/dormitorio.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Abigail Gross’s fun-packed and detailed illustrations that clearly show each item and its name in English and Spanish will excite little ones to learn both languages. The first book in the Bilingual First Series, this board book is one you’ll want to carry along as you go shopping, to the park, on walks, and elsewhere to refer to and enhance your child’s language learning.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635298

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Letters A to Z

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In beautiful two-page spreads, Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross teach kids one English word with its Spanish translation and one Spanish word with its English translation for each letter of the alphabet. Spanish letter combinations Ch and Ll as well as Ñ are also included.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Bold imagery allows children to clearly identify the meaning of each word, and the chicks, bunnies, elephants, and other familiar characters are, as always, enthusiastic and encouraging friends that will captivate children as they learn.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635335

 

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Numbers 1 to 100

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

From 1 sun to 100 raindrops, little learners will love counting along with the cute chicks, frogs, elephants, and bunnies as they gather in groups and present kid-favorite items, such as bubbles, presents, butterflies, and candy that young children can easily point to as they count. After numbers 1 through 10, kids count by tens from 20 to 100. All numbers and the names of the items appear in English and Spanish.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635328 (Available for preorder)

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Opposites

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

Learning opposites with the sweet characters in this Cantícos series will have little ones giggling as they discover pairs like “Loud / Ruidoso” and “Quite / Silencioso,” “Tall / Alto” and “Short / Bajo,” “Inside / Adentro” and “Outside / Afuera,” “Above / Encima” and “Below / Debajo,” plus nine more.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635519 (Available for preorder)

Nursery Rhymes

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All the Colors

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

Six colors (red/rojo; orange/naranja; yellow/amarillo; green/verde; blue/azul; purple/morado) are introduced with three jaunty verses that reveal that “It’s these colors that much like our love, fill our hearts and make everything oh so alive. / Y por eso los grandes amores, de muchos colores me gustan a mi.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

With English on the right side and Spanish on the left, little ones and adults can easily compare translations, allowing for enhanced learning. Each individual color is presented on a flap with the English word on the front and the Spanish word underneath by one of the Canticos characters that fans of the series will love sharing their educational journey with.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635366

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Little Chickies / Los pollitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

This interactive lift-the-flap book introduces little ones to three adorable chicks who have just hatched – in fact, kids can just lift the flap to help the third chick pop from his egg with a cherry “Pio, pio, pio. These little chicks love to peep “…when they get so cold, and when they want a meal. / “…cuando tienen hambre, cuando tienen frío.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

When their mother hen hears their “Pio,” she runs to the corn field then “serves them each their food and warms them head to heel. / les da la comida y les presta abrigo.” Satisfied and happy, it’s time for the family to snuggle in their nest until the next day.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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Little Elephants / Elefantitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In this sweet board book, based on the traditional Mexican counting song “Un elefante se balanceaba”, kids learn to count from one to five with a group of playful little elephants and one creative spider, whose web the elephants just can’t resist. What do they do? “One little elephant, looking oh so elegant, balanced on the web of a spider. Along came a friend, from around the bend and the elephant called to invite her.” / “Un elefante se balanceaba sobre la tela de una araña. Como veí que resistía fue a llamar a otro elefante.” These two elephants have fun dancing on the thin thread, but what happens when five elephants pile on? “Ooops!” / “¡uuupa!” Hey! “Let’s do it again.” / “Hagámoslo de nuevo.” Flaps lift to teach kids the words one through five in Spanish and English.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-0996995917 (Available for preorder)

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You can find Canticos Bilingual Firsts and Nursery Rhyme board books for preorder on

Encantos Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

August 14 – It’s National Crayon Collection Month

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About the Holiday

Kids love going to restaurants that provide a fun placemat and crayons to color with while they wait. But what happens to those crayons when the meal is over? Most times they’re thrown in the trash with the napkins and straws and other items left behind. Wouldn’t it be great if those gently used crayons could go on to be used by other kids at schools that can’t afford such supplies? They can! Begun by Crayon Collection, National Crayon Collection Month encourages restaurants, hotels, and other organizations that provide free crayons to collect the ones left behind and donate them to under-serviced schools. As school arts programs are threatened with budget cuts, these important supplies can make a big difference in the lives of students. The ability of children to express their creativity is a crucial part of their education and growth.  You can get involved too! To learn how you can make an impact, visit CrayonCollection.org. Or look into donating crayons (and other supplies) to a school in your area.

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

Written by Natascha Biebow | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Edwin Binney was an inventor who truly appreciated all the colors around him. In fact, “color made him really, really HAPPY!” Perhaps he loved color so much because all day long in the mill where he worked he was surrounded by nothing but black: “black dust, black tar, black smoke, black ink, black dye, black shoe polish. His company sold carbon black, a new kind of pigment, or colored substance, make from the soot of burning oil and natural gas.” Edwin worked with his cousin C. Harold Smith, and their company was called Binney and Smith.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

While Harold was the salesman, Edwin was the tinkerer who had made better pencils for writing on slate and a wax crayon that wrote on both paper and wood. His wife, Alice, thought he was just the person to create better crayons for kids. The existing crayons were too big and clunky, and artists’ crayons were too expensive.

Edwin gave it some thought and started experimenting with wax for substance and rocks and minerals for color. Then he and his workers fine-tuned their batches, adding only “a pinch of this pigment, a sploosh of that one, a little hotter, a little cooler…and voilà, LOTS of different shades!” Now, instead of being covered in black dust at the end of the day, “Edwin came home covered in color.”

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

At the factory, Edwin’s team worked on their top-secret formula and finally poured the mixtures into “thin, crayon-shaped molds” to make crayons that were just the right size for children. Finally, in 1903, Edwin had the product he wanted. “He’d invented a new kind of colored crayon” and wanted a new name to go with it. Alice had just the right suggestion, and Crayola crayons were born.

The first boxes contained eight colors and sold for a nickel. As they shipped out to stores, Edwin wondered if the kids would like them. Children loved their fine points, clear lines, and long-lasting color. By this time, inexpensive paper was also available, so kids didn’t have to draw or write on slate tablets anymore.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, Edwin’s Crayola crayons won a gold medal. As time went on, Edwin and his team made even more colors, many inspired by nature and even the flowers in Edwin’s own garden. Some of the colors you’ll find in a box today were given their names by children, including “macaroni and cheese” and “robin’s egg blue.” Now, kids all around the world can create just the picture they want, with lots and lots of color.

Back matter includes an illustrated description of the process of making Crayola crayons, an extended biography of Edwin Binney, and a bibliography of resources.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Natascha Biebow’s quickly paced biography of Edwin Binney and the invention of Crayola crayons is a deft portrait of the man and his times that were on the cusp of and central to so many innovations that created the modern world. Biebow’s emphasis on Binney’s willingness to listen and match his inventions to people’s needs is a lesson on collaboration and the true spirit of invention for today’s future pioneers. In her fascinating and accessible text, Biebow relates the problems with late 1800s writing and drawing mediums while also building suspense on how Binney and his team created the new crayons. Children will be awed to discover the thought, experiments, and materials that went into those first thin sticks of color. Short paragraphs that explain more factual information about topics in the story, including carbon black, the availability of paper, European crayons, and pigments are sprinkled throughout the pages.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Steven Salerno’s color-drenched pages are beautiful tributes to the man who brought a new age of color into children’s lives. In a clever page turn, Edwin Binney stands in his garden with his arms outstretched appreciating the rainbow of flowers, the deep-blue sea, the light-blue sky, and a fiery red cardinal flying by. The next page takes kids into Binney’s mill, where he stands in the same position, but now seeming to bemoan the sooty environment. Salerno brings the time period alive for kids through hair and clothing styles and school and home furnishings. Several pages give readers a field trip into Binney’s secret lab to see the mechanics of making crayons at work. The front and end papers invite kids to give the wrapper-less crayons pictured a name based on their colors and then to make a drawing of their own.

A high-interest biography of the man who changed the way kids could interpret their world, The Crayon Man is a must for young inventors, artists, and thinkers as well as for classroom story times, social studies lessons, and art classes. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328866844

Discover more about Natascha Biebow and her books on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Coloring Book Day Activity

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Cool Coloring Pages

You know what to do during Crayon Collection Month! Collect some crayons and enjoy these printable coloring pages for you to print and enjoy!

Cave kid Coloring Page | Dragon Coloring Page | Mermaid Coloring Page

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You can find The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day

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About the Holiday

St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the life of Saint Patrick and is celebrated on the date of his death around AD 493. Saint Patrick is known for spreading Christianity across Ireland and establishing the country’s first organized church. While he did not profess the Christian faith while growing up, he credited God for helping him to escape, after 6 years, from Irish pirates who kidnapped him at the age of 16 and put him to work as a shepherd. He believed he was later called to preach the gospel in a dream and spend 16 years preparing for this work. The first St. Patrick’s Day Feast took place in the early 1700s and the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the American colonies was held in New York in 1762. Today, March 17 is a day of religious significance and a day for fun. So, don’t forget to wear green, look for leprechauns, and read today’s perfectly colored book!

Green on Green

Written by Dianne White | Illustrated by Felicita Sala

 

In this gorgeous celebration of nature and the anticipation of new life, Dianne White and Felicita Sala take readers on a lyrical journey through the seasons as colors burst, meld, overlap, and give definition to our observations and activities. The story opens in springtime, where a little boy and his mom, who’s just showing a baby bump, enjoy a field of yellow and blue flowers. Red accents include a small ladybug, the boy’s shirt, and a lighthouse in the distance.

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Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2020, text copyright Dianne White, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

At home the thirsty boy reaches across a picnic table, decorated with those wildflowers, that holds “Lemonade petals. / Sunflakes between. / Lemonade, sunflakes, and yellow on green.” Spring is also soft blue skies, white birds like miniature clouds, and a pond where cattails and water lilies grow and a little splash promises the boy underwater discovery. Of course, spring also means changing weather and so the boy in his yellow rain boots runs through his yard, where “breezes and rain and yellow on green” make art from a showery day.

Summer comes with its brilliant blue ocean trimmed in white and blue seashells that dot the sand. Underneath, more colors appear. Now, “Turquoise the water. / Teal between. / Turquoise, teal, and blue on green.” Summer is also as golden as the full sun and ripe peaches enjoyed on a picnic with friends. Soon, there will be another child to join them.

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Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2020, text copyright Dianne White, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Autumn appears with its own palette of red and yellow, orange and… “Brown the squirrel. / Brown the mouse. / Brown the trees around our house.” The baby is growing bigger now and the family gathers inside for hot soup, steaming cups of tea, and homemade bread. Later, their friends will join them for Thanksgiving dinner with a full “table and candles and brown on green.”

Winter brings “White the breath. / White the snow. / White and black the cawing crow” as  the little boy and his dad chop and carry wood for their fire. They then take a walk along snowy ridges past other homes with smoking chimneys and a herd of deer foraging for food and leaving hoof prints in the pristine blanket of white.

The holidays come and go and late winter sees the birth of the family’s newest member. As Mom rocks the baby to sleep, Dad takes his son outside to see new life there too among the trees. In the glow from the windows, the violet twilight, the quiet earth, and the anticipation of spring, they know: “Peaceful the evening. / Pine between. / Evening and pine and green…on green.”

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Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2020, text copyright Dianne White, 2020. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Dianne White’s tender and serene tribute to the cyclical hues and emotional cues of life is a beautiful read aloud for quiet story times throughout the year. Her spare sentences and repeated phrasing create exquisite imagery while inviting readers to look deeper and discover in each experience a fresh “green” appreciation for its beauty and meaning. Her emphasis on family and community is as warm as a hug and offers children the comfort of belonging and the reassurance of love.

Felicita Sala’s mixed media illustrations surprise on every page with vistas that are at once sweeping and personal. Each spread is highlighted with small bursts of accent colors that draw the eye, extend the transition from season to season, and are blended—as on any artist’s palette—to create the stirring colors seen from page to page and in nature itself. Sala’s images of the family alone and with friends as they prepare for the birth of their second child quietly portray the rhythms of daily life as they enjoy the seasons in their individual ways and together. The endpapers present the portrait of a tree in spring, summer, fall, and winter.

For contemplative and family story times and to spark creative activities throughout the year, Green on Green would also make a meaning story to share with a child as they prepare to become a big brother or sister. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1481462785

Discover more about Dianne White and her books on her website.

To learn more about Felicita Sala, her books, and her art, visit her website.

St. Patrick’s Day Activity

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Green on Green Activity Kit

 

If you’re looking for fun activities that will get your kids thinking, observing, writing, and drawing, you’ve found them all in this one printable Green on Green Activity Kit available on Dianne White’s website.

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You can find Green on Green at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 6 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week and Interview with Author Sally Nicholls

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About the Holiday

If you’re a fan of children’s authors and illustrators, then this week is one you’ll want to celebrate. All week long, authors and illustrators visit bookstores, schools, and other venues to share their love of children’s literature and get kids and adults excited about reading and writing. Some of these events include storytelling, writing workshops, readings, and presentations. To find out more about the Children’s Authors Network and discover classroom resources to use throughout the year, visit the Children’s Authors Network website.

The Button Book

Written by Sally Nicholls | Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin

 

A squirrel comes across a red button on the forest floor. He nudges it with a stick and then gives it a good press just to see what will happen. Ha! The button’s lid opens and a little horn rises on a pole. “Beep!” it says. A dog and a bird appear from behind a tree and a bush to find out what the noise is all about. Now the three of them find an orange button. The squirrel gives it a push. “It’s a clapping button! Everybody clap!”

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Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

When the dog, the bird, and the squirrel find a blue button in the forest, they wonder how they’ll ever press it. This button is so big all three could stand on it and there would still be room. Luckily, an elephant is passing by. This blue button is “a singing button!” Two more animals wander by to listen to the trio sing. Down the road, the five friends find a green button that makes everyone giggle—well, almost everyone.

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Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But the yellow button is one everyone likes. “It’s a bouncing button!” Wow! Everyone’s bouncing and tumbling—right off the page. Time to settle down to some cuddles with the pink button. Ahhh. Maybe this would be a good time to stop pressing buttons. Well…there is a purple button right over there. Everyone’s a little unsure—should they press it or not?

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Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

No! Stop! “Ha ha! Hee hee! That tickles! “Please, press the pink button, quick!” Oh no! Not the green button again! “Have you learned any manners yet?” Oh, good. This is more like it––the blue button! Yay! Let’s sing and play some instruments. The red button wants a little attention again too! Hey, look! There’s a new white button on the wall. What does that one do? Wait! It’s dark now. What are we supposed to…. Oh! “Goodnight, everyone.”

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Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Sally Nicholls’ fresh take on interactive picture books will have kids in stitches as they beep and clap, sing and dance, jump and hug, and do all the moves while eagerly wanting to see which button they get to press next. Nicholls’ prompts are irresistibly enticing and become funnier and more personal with every page turn. Her cyclical storyline gives readers the chance to revisit their favorite buttons while leading to the surprising, but just-right ending (or is it really the end?). Along with all of this fun, kids are also introduced to various colors, shapes, sizes and spatial relationships. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to count and talk about different types of buttons as well.

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Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Young readers will be enchanted with Bethan Woollvin’s curious, bubbly, talented, fun-loving kids…I mean…characters as they discover button after button on pages that mirror each button’s color. As if by magic, the squirrel, dog, bird, and other friends also change color as they press and respond to every button, inviting readers to follow along. While kids will egg on the animals to press all the other buttons, when they come to the white switch on the wall, children may very well let out a plaintive Noooooo…! But Woollvin has them covered here too. A little exploration of the nighttime bedroom will reward readers with a “Wake Up!” button so they can start all over again.

If you’re looking for a lively read aloud to spark interactive story times that will be asked for again and again, you’ll want to add The Button Book to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735267152

Discover more about Sally Nicholls and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bethan Woollvin, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Sally Nicholls

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I’m thrilled to have this chance to talk to Sally Nicholls today about her adorable and fun picture book, its journey, and what she’s looking forward to in sharing it with readers.

You burst into the book world with your debut middle grade novel Ways to Live Forever, which won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and was made into a movie in 2010. Since then you’ve published many more novels, including your latest middle-grade, A Chase in Time. The Button Book is your first picture book. What inspired you to write this story?

Reading to my baby! He loved books, but until he was about eighteen months, he didn’t like any that were just story. He wanted books he could interact with. I used to go to the library and look for anything with a button or a flap or touchy-feely bits. We read a lot of picture books, and I was fascinated by which ones worked and which ones didn’t – why exactly were Fox’s Socks and Where’s Spot? so successful but other books weren’t?

I decided I’d like to have a go at writing one myself. I know paper engineering and fur and so forth is expensive for publishers, and realistically that wasn’t my area of expertise anyway. So I set myself the challenge to write a book a baby would enjoy in the same interactive way, but only using words.

I love how active and funny The Button Book is! Kids are definitely going to be giggling, up on their feet, and playing along. It also has a wonderful cyclical storyline. How did you choose what the buttons do and infuse your story with so much reader interaction?

The Button Book is basically all the things my baby loved the most. If I wanted to make him laugh, I would pretty much just blow raspberries at him or tickle him or get him to clap. So that part was very easy.

The cyclical storyline came from watching programmes like The Teletubbies which really play on repetition. And also having my own baby who liked to say “Again!” Of course, the joy of The Button Book, which I hadn’t really realised until I read it with my second child, is that the child can have as much ‘again’ as they want just by pressing the button.

Bethan Woollvin’s adorable illustrations really invite camaraderie and play. What was your reaction to seeing her illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread and if so, what do you love about it?

I love Bethan’s work. My British publisher asked if I’d like to work with her and it was an instant yes. I’m not a very visual thinker, so I didn’t really have any expectations for how the book would look when it was illustrated. It’s been so exciting to see it take shape.

I think my favourite spread is probably the cover. It looks so colourful and inviting and unusual.

How has the experience of publishing a picture book differed from publishing your novels? Was there any part of the process that surprised you?

How long it took! I was sent finished artwork about eighteen months before the book was published. Printing picture books is so expensive that publishers need to get as many co-editions as possible to reduce the cost. So there’s a very long lead time.

What’s the best part about being an author for children? What are you most looking forward to as you promote The Button Book and share it with readers?

Books matter so much to young children. I’ve seen how much they matter to my family, and one of the most joyful things about The Button Book is how much my second baby loves it. (My eldest likes it too, but he’s a bit old for it now. Also, my baby has no idea that his mum wrote the book, which makes his love even more special.) So that, and also hearing from readers who have been touched by my books in particular ways, perhaps if the storyline resonates with them, or helps them through a difficult time, or just helps them learn to read!

Do you have any anecdote from a book event that you’d like to share?

I took The Button Book in to share with my eldest son’s class, and I got the children to help me make up a story. It was Halloween, so the children said they wanted a story about a vampire who likes flowers. One little boy objected (I think because he wanted his own idea to be picked) which my son took as a misogynistic slight. “Boys can like flowers!” he told him. I felt very proud.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently finishing off a YA novel about a teen mother whose baby is being raised as her youngest brother. It’s a romance and a family story, and it’s set in a Yorkshire village in Christmas 1919, so there’s a ball, and a young man in an army greatcoat, and lots of chilblains. I don’t know if that’s going to find an American publisher though.

My next picture book is called Who Makes a Forest? It’s an ecological story about the power of small things to come together to make great changes.

What is your favorite holiday? Why is it your favorite?

This sounds weird, but I love the dead days between Christmas and New Year. All the stress of Christmas is over, everyone is off work and school, families are together, and it’s understood that your job is just to snuggle up by the fire and eat leftover turkey and Christmas cake and mince pies.

Thanks, Sally! It’s been wonderful chatting with you! I wish you all the best with The Button Book and all of your books and am looking forward to seeing Who Makes a Forest? when it’s released.

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You can find The Button Book at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 12 – National Plant a Flower Day

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About the Holiday

Spring is right around the corner and with it the beautiful blooms that color our yards, neighborhoods, and communities. In some places the flowers are already blossoming, while in others, people are eagerly waiting for the snow to melt so seeds and plants can grow again. If you’re looking forward to flower gardening—indoors or out—today’s the perfect day to start planning. Why not take a trip to your local nursery or garden supply store and stock up?

I received a copy of Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate from Millbrook Press to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Millbrook Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by Masha D’yans

 

Do you hear something? Yeah, me too. Oh! It’s the little purple prickly pear down there with all the other cacti. It seems it has something to say about plants. Okay, we’re listening.

“I want to clear up some of your crazy ideas about what the colors of our flowers mean.” You’ve got it all wrong if you think “red roses stand for love and white ones are good for weddings.” While that may be how you interpret the colors, that’s not what they’re really for.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

“We use our flowers to talk to the animals” so that we can make seeds and more plants. To do that each plant needs pollen from another plant that’s the same kind. Our flowers are like big ads that attract just the right birds, bees, or butterflies to help us out. Lots of times if they’re hungry they fly from flower to flower and bring pollen along with them.

How does each bird or butterfly or bee know which flowers to visit? That’s where our colors come in! And it’s pretty fascinating. Birds can see a color that insects can’t, and they don’t have a good sense of smell. Can you guess which flowers they’re attracted to? How about bees? Which colors do you think they like the best? I’ll give you a hint: “scientists just figured out that bees have three favorite colors.” Of course, we flowers “have known this for ages. That’s why so many of us make flowers in these colors. We like the reliable help.” This is fun, right?

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

How about moths and bats—which flowers do you think they visit? The flowers even assist them in finding their way by putting “out perfume as an extra guide.” You may not like flies buzzing around you, but these color flowers love it. They put out a smell too, but I wouldn’t call it perfume—I don’t think you would either. There’s even a certain color flower that doesn’t talk to animals or insects at all. Go on, try to guess….

Colors aren’t the only trick flowers have either. Some are just the right shape—like mine. In fact, I’ve got to get going. “I’m making a new flower” and “I’m just about done with it.” Oh—what are the answers to the game we were playing? You’ll have to read my book and see!

Back matter includes an illustrated discussion about pollination, information on how to protect pollinators, and a list of other books for further reading.

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Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2019, text copyright Sara Levine, 2019. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

With appropriate attitude, Sara Levine’s hilarious and knowledgeable prickly pear narrator engages kids in witty banter while taking them on a colorful garden tour. As the cactus explains a plant’s growing cycle and the need for pollinators, the information it imparts is eye-opening for children and adults. Why and how each flower’s color and scent attract just the right pollinator is clearly described in conversational language that kids will laugh along with and learn from. Every page contains an “ah-ha” moment that will spark discussion and an excitement to plant a garden and watch nature at work.

Like a riotous field of wildflowers, Masha D’yan’s dazzling illustrations put colors on glorious display as the flowers lure insects and animals to them. D’yan’s detailed images provide a great place for young naturalists to start researching the various plants introduced. Depictions of the prickly pear, birds, and bees match the humor of Levine’s text . Kids will love lingering over the two-page spreads to point out the various animals and insects and how they interact with the plants. They’ll also like following the growth of the prickly pear’s bud as it grows bigger and blossoms.

A superb book for teaching children about this fascinating feature of flowers and plants as well as providing a guide for gardeners interested in attracting a variety of pollinators, Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate would be an outstanding addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 11

Millbrook Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1541519282

Discover more about Sara Levine and her books on her website.

To learn more about Masha D’yans, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Plant a Flower Day Activity

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Flower Garden Stakes

 

It’s fun to start a garden from seeds, but how do you remember what you’ve planted where? With these easy to make garden stakes, you can mark your pots with style! 

Supplies

  • Wide craft sticks
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Colorful chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the stakes with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write the name of the different flowers or plants
  3. After planting your seeds, stick the stake in the pot 
  4. Wait for your seeds to grow!

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You can find Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 22 – National Color Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has a pretty simple goal—to encourage people to appreciate all the colors that make up our world and to use color to express their feelings, their personality, and their creativity. The stunning beauty of changing leaves makes fall the perfect time for celebrating color, and October is usually when this gorgeous natural phenomenon is at its peak. To have fun with today’s holiday, experiment with color—you may see the world in a whole new way!

Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

Have you ever thought, “What color is Halloween?” Sure, we all know it’s orange and black—but what about the rest of the color wheel? Tell me—what’s your favorite color? Purple? Let me look through Shivery Shades of Halloween…Yes! Halloween is purple—“Twilight, / Shadows, / Monsters lurking, / Secret potion— / Poof! It’s working! Dusky-musky, bruisy-oozy, cruelish-ghoulish / Blotch of purple.”

Hey! This is fun! Give me another one! Gray, you say? Hang on…. Yes! Halloween is Gray! “Tombstone, gargoyle, / Dungeon wall, / Rats and rubble, / Haunted hall, / Dusty-fusty, dimly-grimly, shady-fraidy / Shroud of gray.”

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Okay, now it’s my turn. I’m choosing…Red. Yep! Halloween is also Red: “Tip of fang, / Flash of cape, / Horns and tail, / A gash, a gape, Bloody-ruddy, burning-churning, blushing-gushing / Stain of red.”

Wild! And that’s just the beginning! There are also spirited, spooky rhymes about brown, yellow, blue, white, green, and, of course, orange and black.

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Mary McKenna Siddals brings joy and a love of words—their sounds and their effects—to her verses that transport kids to the throbbing heart of Halloween on the broomsticks of color. In Shivery Shades of Halloween, Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday, and any mystery, so much chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, ewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant, full-bleed illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” from a test tube as an evil scientist looks on and the walls seep with a thick green sludge. Purple zaps and sparks as the reptile is transformed into a smiling goblin with bats’ wings and five legs. This goblin then leads readers from page to page where they meet a tricky ghost, a haunted graveyard, a spell-casting wizard and crystal-ball-reading witch, a floating candlestick in a haunted house, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. Each painting incorporates touches of the other colors introduced, creating eye-catching and suspense-building pages.

Shivery Shades of Halloween is a book that kids will want to hear and you will want to read over and over. For teachers, the book makes a wonderful resource for writing lessons and to show the power of evocative words not only around Halloween, but at any time of the year. Shivery Shades of Halloween is one concept book that transcends its holiday theme and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385369992

Take a peek at Victoria scaring up some fun by reading Shivery Shades of Halloween!

To learn more about Mary McKenna Siddals and her other books, visit her website! You’ll also find lots of activities as well as activity sheets to extend your enjoyment of Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors as well as her other books.

Here’s a link to Shivery Shades of Halloween Activity Sheets.

You can also connect with Mary McKenna Siddals on her Shivery Shades of Halloween Facebook Page, where you’ll find more fun and a whole community of readers.

Discover more about Jimmy Pickering and view a gallery of his illustrations, paintings, sculpture and more on his website. 

Halloween Activity

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Halloween Hang-ups

With glue, glitter, and your imagination you can make your love of Halloween and its ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins, and more colorfully transparent to all!

Supplies

  • Printable Halloween figure templates | Template 1 | Template 2
  • Poster board or other heavy stock paper or cardboard
  • White glue
  • Glitter in a variety of colors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Popsicle or craft sticks
  • Needle
  • White thread (or any color)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Hot glue gun or regular glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-mobile-craft

Directions

  1. Print the Halloween Figures templates
  2. Cut out the figures
  3. Trace the figures onto the poster board
  4. Cut out the figures around the outside edge and also along the inside edge
  5. Lay out the figure templates on the wax paper
  6. Gently pour some white glue into the center of the figure template
  7. Smooth the glue completely to the edges of the figure template, adding glue if needed
  8. Sprinkle glitter on the glue, as much or as little as you’d like

To dry the glue

  1. Let the figures sit overnight OR:
  2. Place the figures on the wax paper in a warm oven. Turn the oven on to 200 – 250 degrees and let it come up to heat. Then turn the oven off and place the figures inside. Check after 15 minutes and check frequently until dry.

After the glue is dry

  1. Add faces to the ghosts with a permanent marker
  2. Add googly eyes with the hot glue or regular glue
  3. If desired, color the edge of the template to match the color of the glitter

To hang figures

  1. Thread a needle with the desired length of thread and gently push the needle through the glue near the top of the figure.
  2. Tie the thread around a chandelier, curtain rod, or any other place you would like to decorate

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You can find Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million Picture Book Review

August 17 – National Black Cat Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

If you want a pet who’s always surprising, loves to play, and will make you laugh, you can’t go wrong with a cat. Frisky kittens and even older, more loafing cats display such varied personalities that each day brings new fun adventures. Today, we celebrate one particular type of cat—the black cat. While black cats are just as loving and cute as tabbies or their tiger-striped friends, they are much less likely to be adopted from shelters or find forever families due to the superstitions that surround them. If you are considering adding a kitten or cat to your family, think about adopting that cute black kitten that is sure to steal your heart.

Bloomsbury Books sent me a copy of Big Box Little Box to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Big Box Little Box

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Edward Underwood

 

In a house full of boxes, there lives one very happy cat! Do you see her peeking around the “Big box?” The orange and pink striped one that’s tied neatly in red string? Maybe she wonders what is in the “little box” nearby. Wow! Look at all those boxes to hide among on the next page! There’s a “huge box,” a “tiny box, a “thin box” and a “fat box.” The kitty has even found a box to sit on. Oh, no! Now it’s a “flat box.”

The cat has found six more boxes in every color to explore. She’s even found a red one that’s just perfect to nap in. No? Oh well. Two hands pick her up and place her into her own box—a comfy “snore box.” The cat wakes up to more boxes decorated with fancy designs and even some to play dress-up in. Four little boxes for four tiny paws and a pink box perfect to be a “hat box.” But walking? Whoa! “Slippy box. Slidey box” leads to a “Run away and hidey box.”

Here’s a box with a suspicious hole in the corner. Kitty peers inside and “mouse squeaks.” The chase is on: “scurry, pounce, chase, bounce!” Cat and mouse play and sleep, happily becoming “new friends.”

If you’ve ever seen a cat explore any box they find, you’ll know how purr-fectly spot-on Caryl Hart’s Big Box Little Box is! Little ones will be charmed by the cute kitty and the jaunty rhymes that introduce kids to sizes, colors, positions, and even friendship all through (mostly) two-word phrases. Young readers will eagerly read along as they follow the curious cat from page to page and box to box. Humorous asides, including when the kitten is moved from “my box” to “your box” and she and the mouse first spy each other, will delight kids.

Edward Underwood illustrates Hart’s highly entertaining book with verve and humor and gives the cat the kind of playful personality that makes them such endearing companions. The cat’s expressive green eyes peek from and around boxes; she wears boxes as hats, shoes, and hiding places; and, of course, she flops inside a chosen few for several catnaps. The game of cat and mouse is full of action and cheery fun. Bold colors and a dynamic design will keep children riveted to the pages as they have fun learning these early childhood concepts—as well as a bit about cats!

A joy to read aloud, Big Box Little Box would be a sweet and enchanting addition to home and classroom bookshelves. The minimal text offers many opportunities to discuss a wide range of early math and literacy concepts, and the book lends itself easily to learning extensions from drawing to stacking and filling to building. The book would make a fun gift for babies and teachers.

Ages 2 – 6

Bloomsbury Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681197869

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

National Black Cat Day Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

All of these kittens have twins, but they’ve gotten separated while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this puzzle? Click the link for a printable puzzle!

Match the Kittens Puzzle

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You can find Big Box Little Box at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review