December 2 – It’s Buy a New Book Month

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Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

For children, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts and feelings. Stories that speak to their experiences, both common and new, alongside illustrations that bring the story to life let them discover the world around them. Today’s stunning nonfiction books are loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting details about science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more. This month, take a look for fiction and nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library. And be sure to check out today’s book that incorporates both!

Thanks to Star Bright Books for sharing a digital copy of Leaves to My Knees with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Leaves to My Knees

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

Daddy has a surprise for Camille and her little brother Jayden. They get dressed in their coats—big for Camille and little jacket with a stegosaurus hood for Jayden—and head into the backyard. There, Camille discovers her dad has gotten her a rake of her own. It’s not as big as Dad’s, but it’s bigger than Jayden’s little rake. It’s the perfect size for Camille.

Camille marches right off to rake a pile of leaves. But not just any pile—she has a goal. “‘I’ll rake leave all the way up to my knees!’” she tells her dad. The three get working on the yard. Camille concentrates on gathering leaves, listening to the different sounds that the various sized rakes make: “The leaves go swush when Daddy rakes. They go swish when I rake. They go sweeeee when Jayden tries to rake.”

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Lurking under the leaves are twigs and acorns that clog up Camille’s rake. She worries that she’ll never be able to rake leaves to her knees. She calls for Daddy’s help, and together they clear Camille’s rake. “‘You’re good to go now, Camille,’” Daddy tells her. Back at it, Camille rakes and rakes. Then she steps into the pile she’s accumulated to measure it. Her pile only comes up to her ankles. Camille grabs her rake harder and with determination she collects more leaves. But wait! Jayden is stealing leaves from her pile to add to his! Camille guards her pile with her rake, and sends her little brother over to Daddy’s bigger pile. Camille checks her measurements again. Her pile has grown, but only up to the top of her boots.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille rakes ‘bunches of leaves,” and her pile gets taller, until “‘Oh no! A BIG BREEZE!!’” sends lots and lots of leaves swirling “Whoosh!” into the air and scattered to the ground. “I will never rake leaves to my knees!” Camille thinks. And when she measures again, her pile is back to her ankles. Daddy encourages her to keep going, and Camille is committed to achieving her goal. She throws off her coat, grabs her rake, and works on gathering up all the leaves she had, plus more. At last, too tired to rake anymore, Camille wonders. Has she done it? “‘Time for measuring!’ says Daddy.”

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille relinquishes her rake to her dad then, holding her breath, steps into her pile. “‘TA-DA!’” Camille raises her arms in victory. She steps out, positions herself a good ways away, and winds up for the run and jump. “‘GO!’ yells Daddy. ‘GO!’ Jayden yells too.” Camille flies through the air and lands, laughing, into her pile. Then Jayden jumps in. And Daddy? He gives Camille  “really big squeeze” for raking “leaves all the way up to [her] knees.”

A note for parents, teachers, and other caregivers written by Marlene Kliman, a mathematics learning expert and senior scientist at TERC, describes how the story incorporates the math of measurement and sizes and how adults can extend the lesson by pointing out elements in the book’s illustrations and while going about their day or doing common chores, such as cleaning up and sorting laundry.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s Leaves to My Knees has everything that makes a story a young reader’s favorite—a spunky main character that kids will identify with, an achievable goal, successes and setbacks, suspense, humor, and a child-propelled victory. And it all revolves around an early math concept that comes naturally to children and which invites playful learning not only during the fall, but any time of the year. Shoveling snow and making snowballs in winter, yard cleanup and gardening in spring, and building sandcastles and raking grass clippings in summer as well as in-home fun with laundry piles, toys, and other objects are all ways to extend the story.

Told from Camille’s point of view, the story also engages children’s emotions as they join in to cheer Camille on as her leaf pile grows and commiserate with her when it shrinks. The close relationships among Camille and her dad and little brother ring true with dialogue-rich storytelling that is always encouraging. Strong themes of determination and persistence will also appeal to parents and teachers, who can point to how many times Camille has to start over before accomplishing her goal and her positive, resolute attitude.

Nicole Tadgell’s exuberant illustrations shine with personality, and kids will immediately become invested in each character as Dad gets working on a big job that needs doing, Jayden runs, jumps, and copies his big sister, and Camille unwaveringly works on her pile of leaves. Camille’s setbacks are clearly depicted, along with her and her father’s facial expressions that give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about disappointment, frustration, perseverance, and feelings of accomplishment. Each image also demonstrates the math component of measurement and sizes in the story with various-sized rakes, the growing and diminishing leaf pile, big and little jackets, and other objects that invite comparison.

Tadgell’s soft-hued pages are infused with the feeling of fall and hum with activity as cardinals, blue jays, chickadees gather at the bird feeder, squirrels scamper up and along the fence, and leaves continue to float to the ground. Readers will love following little Jayden’s antics and be inspired by Camille’s wide smile as she enjoys the reward of all her hard work.

Leaves to My Knees is a multilayered read aloud infused with the enthusiasm and rhythms of childhood that kids will want to hear again and again. Its mathematics base and themes of determination and perseverance rewarded will appeal to parents, teachers, and other educators as a way to engage children in active, hands-on learning. The book is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Star Bright Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1595729590 (Leaves to My Knees) | ISBN 978-1595729613 (Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Picture Book Month Activities

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Coloring Pages and Teaching Guides

 

You can extend the fun and learning in Leaves to My Knees with these activities, which include three fun coloring pages from the story, a hands-on play-dough art and discovery activity, and a detailed educator’s guide for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other caregivers that offers multiple ways to use Leaves to My Knees to explore math, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension through the story and beyond at home, school, and elsewhere.

Meet Ellen Mayer

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You can find Leaves to My Knees on Amazon

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

You can also order from Star Bright Books

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

Picture Book Review

July 11 – National Swimming Pool Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is as simple—and refreshing—as it sounds! On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than diving into the cool waters of an enticing pool. Whether you have a pool or enjoy going to a community pool, why not invite some friends to take the leap with you today?

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Too Many Pigs in the Pool for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Too Many Pigs in the Pool

Written by Wendy Hinote Lanier | Illustrated by Iris Amaya

 

On sunny days, Mr. Jenkins had his own pool routine: reading a book on the deck, taking a swim, then napping “in his floating lounge chair.” But these were solitary pursuits, and sometimes Mr. Jenkins wished he had someone to play pool games with. “One Sunday, Mr. Jenkins invited his neighbor, Ms. Peal, over for a swim.” She brought a snack and “her pet pig, Percy.” They had a fun day eating and swimming together.

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Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Monday, though, when Mr. Jenkins went outside to enjoy his pool, he found two pigs already there, floating on rafts: Percy and his friend Wanda. Mr. Jenkins let them stay. On Tuesday, Mr. Jenkins discovered four pigs in his pool—just enough to play Marco Polo, as he’d always wished he could. By Thursday, there were so many pigs in the pool that there was no room for Mr. Jenkins. But he was happy to sit poolside and watch the water volleyball game that was in full swing. 

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Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The number of pigs in the pool kept doubling every day, and on Saturday Mr. Jenkins, home from his morning garage-sale shopping, found sixty-three pigs bobbing in the water and one about to join this wall-to-wall pigfest. Mr. Jenkins tried to stop him. Mr. Jenkins tried to warn them. But it was too late. With a cannonball leap, the sixty-fourth pig landed in the pool. 

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Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“The pool gave a shudder and a low groan. Then there was a loud pop.” In a moment the pigs all found themselves washed downhill in a huge, rushing wave. But all was not lost. The pigs found their way home, and Mr. Jenkins rebuilt his pool. This time, though, he added a sturdy fence around it and attached a sign banning all pigs except a welcome two. Now, Mr. Jenkins is enjoying the summer with Ms. Peal and Percy and Wanda—the perfect number of friends to play water volleyball and Marco Polo.

After reading, kids will enjoy jumping into the included activities that reinforce the math found in the story.

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Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Wendy Hinote Lanier’s engaging and hilarious story will enchant readers as it cleverly incorporates math concepts into a rollicking story about friendship and watching what you wish for. What starts out as a simple desire by Mr. Jenkins to have company for pool games quickly explodes as the number of pigs at the pool doubles every day. Lanier’s easy-going storytelling adds depth and charm to her tale as she develops Mr. Jenkins’ personality and weekly routines, prompting kids to root for him as the week goes on. His ultimate success in finding just the right number of friends to enjoy the summer with adds up to lively story readers will enjoy all the year through.

Iris Amaya’s spirited illustrations will have kids laughing out loud at her depictions of the pigs—each of which sport unique swimsuits (some even reveal suntan marks) and gear for easy identification. Their silly antics, from belly flopping to exercising to that fateful cannonball, will have kids lingering over the pages and pointing out their favorites. Each of Amaya’s vibrant pages invites readers to count the pigs, an activity that’s sure to impress them on how quickly numbers add up when doubled in sequence. In addition to the pigs themselves, Amaya adds other details worthy of counting and/or sorting, such as the number of pigs wearing life vests and the number using floating rings; those wearing sunglasses or goggles; and those wearing a certain color swimsuit.

The number of pigs in the pool on each day is highlighted in the text with colorful type, and the addition involved in each doubling (for example: 1 + 1 = 2, 8 + 8 = 16, etc.) is portrayed at the bottom of the appropriate page spread.

Sure to make a splash with kids, Too Many Pigs in the Pool makes an exciting springboard for addition and multiplication math lessons for teachers or homeschoolers. The book will also be a favorite for giggly story times at home, school, and public libraries. A fun addition to any picture book collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534110601

Discover more about Wendy Hinote Lanier and her books on her website.

You can connect with Iris Amaya on Instagram.

National Swimming Pool Day Activity

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Courtesy of Coloring Only

Swimming Pool Coloring Page

 

You can keep the fun at the pool going even after you’ve dried off with this printable coloring page. And don’t forget to add your friends! To color this image online, visit Coloring Only.

Swimming Pool Coloring Page

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You can find Too Many Pigs in the Pool at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 27 – National Black Cat Day

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About the Holiday

Sure, there’s that superstition about having bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, and it’s fun to indulge it and feel a little scared around Halloween, but, really, black cats are just like other cats. They’re beautiful, sleek, stealthy, and have lots of love to give—or not (they are cats, after all). If you are thinking of adopting a cat into your home, consider choosing a black cat. Because of the superstition, they are less likely to be adopted from shelters, leaving many precious kitties without families.

Black Cat, White Cat

By Silvia Borando

 

“Ever since he was a kitten, Black Cat has been entirely black….from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail.” White cat is entirely white “from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail.” Black Cat likes to roam during the day and watch the black swallows swoop through the sky. White Cat prefers nighttime when the twinkling stars gleam.

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Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Black cat becomes curious about the night, though, and asks his friend Blackbird what he could see in the darkened sky. Blackbird doesn’t know because he is asleep in his nest during the night. Blackbird suggests that Black Cat go out when the sun goes down and “see what you can see.” At the same time White Cat wonders what the daytime holds. She asks her friend Snowy Owl, but Snowy Owl doesn’t know because she is always asleep by the time the sun comes up. Snowy Owl suggests White Cat go out during the day and “see what she can see.”

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

With good wishes from their friends, both Black Cat and White Cat head off on their new adventures, and somewhere between day and night, Black Cat meets White Cat. They tell each other where they are going and invite the other along with them. They agree, and so “White Cat takes Black Cat to discover the night.” Then Black Cat introduces White Cat to the day.

“The night is full of wonder. ‘Purr, purrrr, look at those glittery, fluttery fireflies,’” Black Cat says. “And the day is full of surprise. ‘Meow, look at those busy, buzzy bumblebees,’”  White Cat exclaims. Black Cat shows White Cat all of his favorite daytime things, such as “daisies, doves, and butterflies…” while White Cat dishes up the most delicious nighttime goodies—“snakes, bats, and mice.”

From then on Black Cat and White Cat are inseparable whether it’s daytime or nighttime. “So inseparable, in fact, that they have one, two, three, four, five, SIX… KITTENS! And can you guess what color they are? Orange!”

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Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

In her adorable book that proves opposites really do attract, Silvia Borando presents two cute cats that live in only half the world until their curiosity and friendship broaden their horizons. Borando’s gentle, lyrical language elevates this concept book to include the ideas that treasures can be found outside one’s comfort zone and that mutual sharing of one’s life and favorite things leads to strong relationships–even magic and sometimes the seemingly impossible! The soft curves of the figures and stark white-on-black and black-on-white pages make for striking illustrations that will delight even the youngest child.  The final spread of the six orange kittens will delight little readers.

Wonderful for story time or bedtime, Black Cat, White Cat is a sweet addition to home libraries for young readers.

Ages birth – 5

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763681067 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1536216035 (Board Book, 2020)

Whether it’s day or night, watch this Black Cat, White Cat book trailer!

National Black Cat Day Activity

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Black Cat Match-Up

 

You won’t mind if these cute kitties cross your path! They’re just looking for their twin. Can you help match them up in this printable puzzle?

Black Cat Match-Up Puzzle

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You can find Black Cat, White Cat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 15 – Celebrate Fall

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About the Holiday

With the onset of autumn, people love to get outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather, the colorful trees, empty beaches, and the wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables available at farmers markets. From corn mazes to arts-and-crafts shows, agricultural fairs to pick-your-own orchards, museums to favorite shops and cafes, there’s so much to do! With today’s books you and your little ones can enjoy exploring with the ABCs—why not turn your next outing into a game with these fun take-along board books?!

Thank you to Familius for sharing a copy of C Is for City and F Is for Farm with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

C Is for City: A City ABC Primer

Written by Ashley Mireles | Illustrated by Volha Kaliaha

 

A walk through any city is full of new or favorite sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. Ashley Mireles has collected twenty-six of these to keep little ones looking and learning as they explore whether at home or while visiting. If you’re sharing this book with your little one, they’re probably well acquainted with the entry at B! For all book lovers “B is for bookstore,” of course! Kids fascinated with big trucks will want to take a drive or walk to find the building that represents F—the Fire Station. Everybody hungry? Offer kids a trip to G or I and see which they pick. Do they figure out that “G is for grocery store” and “I is for ice cream shop?” Some of the most charming architecture in a city come in small packages. That’s why “K is for kiosk.” Why not stop by and see what’s for sale?

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Image copyright Volha Kaliaha, 2021, text copyright Ashley Mireles, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

With all the exhibits, hands-on displays, and maybe even a dino or two, no child (or adult) wants to pass up a trip to M! That’s right! When you open the doors to the museum, you open your child’s imagination to all that’s possible! Perhaps, you just have to run some errands. Those are perfect for seeking out the alphabet too! Need to go to mail a package, get your car fixed, or get a haircut?  You’ll be visiting the places at P, R, and S! Ready for some more fun after all of those? You know where to head—the last page, because “Z is for Zoo.”

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Image copyright Volha Kaliaha, 2021, text copyright Ashley Mireles, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Ashley Mireles has chosen a wide range of familiar city landmarks, shops, and buildings that little ones will have fun pointing out as they walk, drive, or speed past on the subway. Each letter is represented with a simple sentence that invites adults and kids to examine Volha Kaliaha’s illustrations or use their memory to talk about other things the letter may stand for or other items, workers, or experiences associated with each place. The repeated phrasing makes this an excellent “read along” or primer for new readers.

Volha Kaliaha represents each letter with charming, colorful images that will get kids talking and searching their neighborhood and their home for examples of each alphabetic letter. Her clean lines and winsome details give adults plenty of opportunities to prompt children to find items that begin with letters other than the featured one, making this nicely sized board book perfect for growing vocabularies and language awareness.

Bright, engaging, and just right for little hands, C Is for City offers lots to love for young learners and is sure to become a favorite on home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 3

Familus, 2021 | ISBN 978-1641704533

You can connect with Volha Kaliaha on Instagram.

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You can buy C Is for City on the Familius website.

 

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F Is for Farm: A Farming ABC Primer

Written by Ashley Mireles | Illustrated by Volha Kaliaha

 

Yeehaw! Little ones are off to the farm in this alphabetic collection of animals, buildings, food, and equipment they’d find out in the country. Ask any child to name a farm animal or two, and they’re sure to shout out the favorites at C (cow), D (ducks), and R (rooster). And how about the delicious foods that farmers provide? Well, “J is for jam,” “M is for milk,” and “X is for ximenia.”

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Image copyright Volha Kaliaha, 2021, text copyright Ashley Mireles, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Big rig-loving kids will be looking for the plow and tractor, and they’re here too, as well as some modern farming methods that keep crops and farmers organized and environmentally savvy. Little ones with a thirst for knowledge will be proud to learn the “big words” scattered among the pages, such as “A is for agriculture” and “I is for Irrigation.”

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Image copyright Volha Kaliaha, 2021, text copyright Ashley Mireles, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Ashley Mireles brings the farm inside with her enchanting picks from the country that will please little ones. Her simple four-word sentences invite youngest readers to chime in on the repeated “is for” while emerging readers will gain confidence in recognizing these sight words and other familiar words and letter sounds.

Volha Kaliaha packs her delightful illustrations with lots of realistic images from a farm as well as sweet details that will make kids smile. Not only does each page introduce the alphabet and a crop of words, the vegetables growing in rows, apples on the trees, pumpkins in the cart, and more welcome kids who love to count. Little ones will be excited to find plenty of items to name, colors to point out, and new foods to try within Kaliaha’s pages.

Ages Baby – 3

Familius, 2021 | ISBN 978-1641704526

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

You can connect with Volha Kaliaha on Instagram.

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You can buy F Is for Farm on the Familius website.

 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review

September 23 – It’s National Dog Week

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About the Holiday

National Dog Week was instituted by Captain William Lewis Judy, founder of Dog World magazine, In 1928. Captain Judy wanted to celebrate the joy and companionship we get from our pups while also reminding people of what it takes to be a responsible dog owner. As members of the family, puppies and older dogs deserve as much love, care, and respect as their humans. To celebrate this week, take your dog for an extra walk or two, get (or make) them a new toy, and don’t forget to give them an extra treat. 

Thanks to Red Comet Press and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites

By Tullio Corda

 

How do you make the ups and downs of learning opposites more exciting for both little ones and their grown-ups? What could be more fun than spending a little time with two natural “opposites”—like a cat and a dog? In his madcap romp, Tullio Corda lets you do just that with a couple of adorable pets. As the story opens, an “awake” cat seems to consider the dog who’s “asleep” on his mat. Could this be Cat’s opportunity to be “brave?” She decides yes. Cat leaps and grabs Dog, who, startled awake, is “afraid.”

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Copyright Tullio Corda, 2021, courtesy of Red Comet Press.

The chase is on! Cat jumps on a shelf and peeks out from behind a flower pot while Dog searches for her. Oops! Now Dog is wearing the flower pot. Does Cat care? Not so much. Dog gets to go “outside” while Cat can only envy him from her perch “inside” on the windowsill. Cat goes to the “closed” door and waits. With Mom’s help, it’s soon “open.”

There are so many birds for Dog and Cat to run after together. Look! There’s one “up high” on a branch. But Cat and Dog are “down low.” Cat knows just what to do. She climbs up and up and onto the branch. She creeps closer . . . and . . . closer . . .. Oops! That branch can’t hold Cat! “Phew!” thinks Bird.

Fortunately, Dog is there to give Cat a “soft” landing. But part of the branch follows and falls on Cat’s “hard” head. Dog is having fun with the stick, but Cat is feeling down. They tussle in the leaves on the ground. Are they “enemies?” or “friends?”

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Copyright Tullio Corda, 2021, courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Preschoolers and kindergarteners will be charmed by this dynamic duo who like to get up to shenanigans both inside and outside. While Dog and Cat chase and play in the yard, little ones learn common opposite words as well as a few pairs that will stretch their vocabulary. Tullio Cardo’s lively illustrations include plenty of spatial and emotional visual clues to help new learners guess at and understand the concepts.

Cardo also uses a variety of perspectives to introduce kids to a variety of special relationships. For children just learning to read, the bold typography facilitates sight reading and will inspire a sense of confidence in their skills and achievements. Cordo’s slapstick humor is sure to prompt lots of giggles along the way, and the sweet ending highlights the idea that opposites often make the best friends.

An engaging and entertaining story that transcends its concept book roots, Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites will grow with kids as they transition from adult read alouds to reading on their own. The book is a top choice for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550022

Discover more about Tullio Corda, his books, and his art on his website. You can learn about how Tullio Cardo brought Cat and Dog to life in this interview in which he talks about and demonstrates his art process.

National Dog Week Activity

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Paw Print Magnet

 

Whether you have a dog or a cat, a print of your pet’s paw makes a cute magnet for your fridge or locker to give you a paw . . . I mean hand . . . holding those important messages and pictures. Here’s how to do this easy craft with your pet.

Supplies

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Cookie cutter (optional)
  • Bowl
  • Wax paper
  • Strong multi-surface glue or hot glue gun
  • Strong magnet, available at craft stores
  • Paint (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix the flour and salt in the bowl
  2. Slowly add the water and mix the dough, kneading it until it is smooth and soft. Add more water if necessary.
  3. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick
  4. Place the dough on the wax paper
  5. Carefully press your pet’s paw into the dough. 
  6. Place the cookie cutter over the print and cut out or shape the dough by hand
  7. Bake the paw print at 250 degrees for 1 to 2 hours depending on thickness of dough
  8. If desired, paint the print, the background, or both
  9. Attach the magnet with the glue

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You can find Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 16 – Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the time snuggled up with a new book. Kids love cuddling and sharing laughs, poignant moments, fascinating facts, and the changes life brings through books. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Read A New Book Month, check out today’s sweet and surprising book for the youngest readers.

Pablo

By Rascal | Translated by Antony Shugaar

Do you see Pablo? No? He’s in the egg, and he’s sleeping. “Ssshhhhh! (This is the last night he’ll be in his shell.)” In the morning Pablo gathers his strength with a “small croissant and a hot chocolate.” Pablo is a little nervous to meet the world, so at first he pecks out only a tiny eyehole. Then a second one! He looks all around him at what awaits.

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Copyright Rascal, 2021, translation copyright Antony Shugaar, 2021. Courtesy of Gecko Press.

He wants to learn more so he pecks two ear holes, first on one side and then on the other. He hears bees, birds, and the wind. These things make him think he’d like to smell the world too. He “pecks a fifth tiny hole for his beak. He discovers the smell of the soil and the perfume of the flowers.”

Pablo thinks “he’d like to wander around.” First one leg and then the other pop out. Pablo can’t wait to discover the world “on his own two feet.” But he doesn’t have to rely only on his feet. He pecks two more holes—his eighth and ninth—for his wings. Pablo is all set to conquer the world. Except, he’s still in his shell. He cracks it open and discards it. Well, the bottom half at least. The top, Pablo thinks, will make a perfect umbrella “for a rainy day.”

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Copyright Rascal, 2021, translation copyright Antony Shugaar, 2021. Courtesy of Gecko Press.

Charming from the first peck to the last, Rascal’s sweet story, translated in a voice that fully retains the surprise, wonder, and inclusive narration of the original, offers enchanting opportunities for little ones to interact with the book by guessing what comes next, counting the holes Pablo makes, and even adding their own ideas about what Pablo sees, hears, smells, and discovers with each new experience of the world around him. The thought of Pablo having breakfast in his shell before he makes his appearance instantly endears him to readers—who are also just making their entrance into the world of school or activities—and will spark giggles.

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Copyright Rascal, 2021, translation copyright Antony Shugaar, 2021. Courtesy of Gecko Press.

The striking black-and-white illustrations of Pablo sitting in place as the sun, birds, and dotted clouds pass by will captivate both babies and young readers. A second look at those ingenious clouds reveals that the sky above Pablo is home to various shapes and creatures—just as it is for them. Kids will love turning the book sideways and upside down to use their imaginations and discover what’s there. When adorable Pablo finally emerges from his shell, the pop of yellow is sure to bring “Awww!”s and requests to read the book again.

A smart, clever, and immersive story for little ones that adults will enjoy reading over and over, Pablo is highly recommended for home, preschool, school, and public library collections. The book would make a much-loved gift for baby showers, new babies, and any gift-giving occasion.

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Chick single

Hatch a Chick! Craft

Chicks are so cute and fluffy—you just wish you could have one of your very own! Now you can! Hatch your own chick with this craft.

Supplies

  • Cotton balls, or use large pom-poms
  • Yellow chalk
  • Orange paper
  • Black paper
  • Egg shell
  • Paper grass
  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Cheese grater
  • Green paint, marker, or crayon
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To make the shell

  1. Crack an egg and save the two halves
  2. Soak the eggshells in soapy water or wash gently with soap
  3. Dry eggshell

To make the chick

  1. Use the cheese grater to grate the chalk into a bowl
  2. Roll the cotton balls in the chalk dust until they are covered
  3. Make the beak from the orange paper by folding the paper and cutting a small triangle
  4. Cut two small eyes from the black paper
  5. Glue the beak and eyes to one of the cotton balls
  6. Glue the head to the second cotton ball
  7. Set the chick into one of the eggshells, glue if desired

To make the stand

  1. Cut a 3-inch by 3-inch square from the cardboard or poster board
  2. If you wish, paint or color the square green
  3. Glue green paper grass to the square
  4. Glue the eggshell to the stand.

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You can find Pablo at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Celebrating Family Fun Month with Ellen Mayer

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Ellen Mayer is a writer with a background in early childhood and parent education. She has worked as a researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, studying family engagement in children’s learning. She has also worked as an early literacy home visitor with a diverse community of families, supporting young children in early language development through book sharing and play. Ellen held a writing fellowship for Math Picture Book Authors, from the Heising-Simons Foundation, and is a visiting author with the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative of the Somerville, MA Public Schools. Her books include picture books Rosa’s Very Big Job and Cake Day as well as her Small Talk Books series, which includes A Fish to Feed, Red Socks, Clean Up, Up, Up, Banana for Two, and Twinkle, Twinkle Diaper You. Ellen writes her children’s books to entertain and educate both children and the adults who read to them. She holds an M.Phil. in Sociology from Columbia University.

You can discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as activities for kids to accompany all of her books on her website. You can also connect with Ellen on Facebook and Twitter.

Hi Ellen! It’s so great to have you join in on my summer interviews, especially because this is a really exciting time for you! Your books for the youngest readers consistently make “Best of” lists and win awards. Your work before becoming an author centered around families and literacy and your books really show the kinds of caring connections that build strong bonds and learning skills. The two careers seem perfect for you, who I know as someone who is a wonderful friend and loves to bring people together. As summer winds down, I wonder if you’d share a special childhood memory with readers.

One of my favorite memories is pulling a wagon with real human cargo the length of a long dirt driveway through the deep woods, wearing no shoes, during a hot New Hampshire summer. That was one of the most gratifying summer things this seven-year-old did!

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Each summer my family and another spent our vacation in New Hampshire in two houses on the same road. We were brought together because our mothers were friends from high school and our fathers were friends from college. Between our families there were five children ranging in age from one to seven, and I was the oldest. Halfway down the road, the woods broke to a clearing where my father grew sunflowers. I was in charge of managing and operating round-trip wagon rides to “Sunflower Stop.” When we reached Sun Flower Stop, my passengers invariably alighted to stop and look up in awe at the sunflowers, and I got a much-needed rest.

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When it was time for my family to return home to New York City and our friends to Boston after three long summer vacation months, I pulled my wagon into the back of the garage until the next summer. I don’t remember whether I got to take this sunflower back with me, but I like to think that I did.

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What a fun and fantastic story! Those must have been amazing summers. Thanks so much for sharing that special memory with us!

I’m excited to get to your books because your latest board book, Twinkle, Twinkle Diaper You!, recently received a national award from the Carnegie Library, which named it one of the Best Books for Babies for 2021! Carnegie Library chose the books on their list because the librarians “believe they offer something special to babies and their grown-ups and will delight and engage babies age birth through 18 months and the adults who care for them.” This is a great description of your Small Talk Books®, which always offer ways for adults and kids to play and learn together while looking forward to a bright future.

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Ellen Mayer’s newest addition to her Small Talk Books® series is a charming story that little ones will eagerly respond to and which can help parents turn diaper time into a joyful experience full of opportunities for language and literacy development. Mayer’s clever take on the kid-favorite Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, is infectious and fun for adults to sing while reading with their baby and while diapering. Sweet endearments, playful words, and even a tummy kiss realistically reflect the loving relationship parents and caregivers share with their little ones.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Children love and respond positively to routine, and the frequency of diaper changing makes this one of babies’ first familiar experiences. Adding parental conversation, songs, smiles, and mirroring of the child’s sounds, expressions, and motions to the dedicated time diapering takes creates a rich educational environment for baby to listen to caregivers and begin the basic foundations of language learning.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s bright illustrations, sprinkled with silver stars that glitter on the page, will delight little readers. Her clean lines and soothing color palette create a pleasing backdrop to familiar details that give adults plenty to point out and name while reading. The centerpiece of each page is the relationship between mother and child and reflects actions, such as making eye and physical contact, that enhance a child’s learning and self-confidence. Hu’s adorable baby giggles and belly laughs as Mama smiles and talks lovingly while changing and then cuddling her little one. The appearance of the baby’s big sister (perhaps still using diapers herself, or recently transitioned to underwear), makes this a book that will appeal to a wide range of ages. The final spread of the baby’s family reading and cuddling together is heartwarming.

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In ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! the story is charmingly translated into Spanish by Eida Del Risco. Spanish verses share two-page spreads with the English translation, providing a rich reading experience for native Spanish speakers, bilingual families, and those parents interested in teaching their children Spanish.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A Note for Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers by Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on language and literacy development in young children, is also included in each book. The note reveals the important connection between talking, singing, and playing with babies and their language learning. Bardige goes on to provide tips for interacting with your child and following their cues as well as for how to share this book with little ones.

Ages Birth – 3

Star Bright Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1595728937 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595728944 (Spanish/English bilingual edition)

Read my full review of Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! here.

You can find Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-MillionBookshop | IndieBound

You can find ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! here

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

Storytelling Math Board Books

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Clean Up, Up, Up! 

¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

In Clean Up Up Up!, the concept of spatial relations is organically introduced to toddlers through the motions and words used while putting items in their proper place, stepping up on a stool to use something out of the child’s reach, and even when eating. Research shows that talking with children at all ages about math concepts such as positions and locations improves their understanding and leads to better success in school and beyond.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

The loving relationship between father and child in Mayer’s early language development book A Fish to Feed, is expanded on here as the same interracial family enjoys clean-up and dinner time. The engaging dialogue between Daddy, Mommy, and their toddler will captivate young readers and inspire adults to continue the story in their own daily lives.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clean-up-up-up-dinner

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s adorable toddler giggles and plays while soaking up the rich language of positions and locations that the father clearly points to while cleaning up. Little readers will be charmed by the enthusiastic child and the little puppy that follows along. Images of books, toys, washing up, and dinnertime all demonstrate the positions and locations referred to in the story, while other details provide an opportunity for adults and children to expand on the text (the fish from A Fish to Feed swims inside its bowl and balls sit inside a bin, for example). Hu’s vivid colors as well as the smiles and enthusiasm with which Daddy, Mommy, and their child interact make Clean Up, Up, Up! a feel-great educational read.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers from childhood education expert Susan C. Levine on how they can find opportunities to talk about spatial relations during everyday activities is included.  Gender neutral clothing and hairstyle as well as an absence of pronouns makes this a universal story.

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Clean Up, Up, Up! is also available in a bilingual Spanish/English edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! translated byAudrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos

Ages 1 – 3

Star Bright Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1595728012 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595727589 (Spanish/English edition)

Read my full review of Clean Up, Up, Up! here.

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Sing Along!

Adults will have fun sharing “Wash Up, Up, Up!,” a song inspired by the story, with little ones as they wash their hands! The lyrics are also available for download and printing. Listen and sing along here:

“Wash Up, Up, Up!” 

You can find Clean Up, Up, Up! at these booksellers

AmazonBooks-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

You can find ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! here

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-cover

A Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Dad plans a fun trip into town with his young child to buy a pet fish. He says, we will get “‘a fish to swim in our bowl. A fish we can look at and feed.’” The pair are excited to go together and have time to “‘walk…and talk.’” The two head out and soon pass a store. In the window the child sees a T-shirt with the picture of a fish on it and points. “‘Look—fish! Fish! Fish!’” Dad reinforces the observation using complete sentences that model conversation and increase his child’s vocabulary—“‘Yes, I see the fish on the T-shirt too.’” He further explains: “‘That’s a fish to wear, not a fish to swim in our bowl.’”

As Dad and his toddler visit other stores, the child finds more fish on a backpack, toys, and other items. When they get to the pet store, the child is excited to find a fish that swims. They take the goldfish home, where it swims happily in their bowl. They’ve found a pet they “‘can love and feed.’”

 
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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s story of a dad and his child out for an afternoon together as they look for a pet to love offers adults and children a sweet way to spend time with one another. The story, set in the familiar environments of home and stores and revolving around a close parent-child relationship, will engage even the youngest readers. The back-and-forth conversation between Dad and his child as they shop models ways in which adults can follow a child’s lead while providing language and literacy development. 

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations are vibrant and joyful. When Dad bends down to be at eye-level with his toddler as they talk, the close bond between them is obvious in their smiling and laughing faces. The shops are full of colorful toys, clothes, backpacks, and other items that will capture kids’ attention. Spending time looking at each page allows adults and children to point at the various items, name them, and talk about them.

A Fish to Feed contains die-cut holes in the pages that kids will love peering through as they shop along on this adventure to find a special pet.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727077 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595727589 (Spanish/English edition)

Read my full review of A Fish to Feed here.

You can find A Fish to Feed at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-spanish-edition-cover

You can find Un pez para alimentar/A Fish to Feed at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

A Sneak Peek at the next  Small Talk Books® Storytelling Math Board Book, Yellow, Red, Green – GO!

 The third book in the Small Talk Books® series (joining Banana for Two and Clean Up, Up, Up!) to focus on math talk, Yellow, Red, Green – GO!  is based upon work supported in part by TERC under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation for the Storytelling Math project.

Yellow, Red, Green – GO! features the math of patterns for children ages 1-3 and welcomes back the interracial family from A Fish to Feed and Clean Up, Up, Up! In the story Mommy and her child bicycle through their neighborhood to Grandma’s house and, along the way, discover lots of patterns – from the traffic lights that each change from yellow, to red, and then to green – to the windows, lights, and doors on each of the row houses on Grandma’s block.

Yellow, Red, Green – GO!, illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu, releases in Spring, 2022 in English as well as in a bilingual Spanish/English edition.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-cover You can read a review of Cake Day and find a delicious recipe to make here

 

 

 

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Find my review of Rosa’s Very Big Job and paper dolls of the characters plus clothes and accessories to download and print here.

 

 

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Read my full review of Banana for Two and find a fun shopping game to play with little ones here.

 

 

 

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You’ll find my full review of Red Socks and a fun matching puzzle to do with little ones here.

Family Fun Month Activity

CPB - Playhouse craft

Come Inside! Playhouse

 

Kids love pretending with their toys in playhouses. With this craft you and your child can make a playhouse with recycled items and lots of imagination. While making the house, talk with your child about the building process using spatial relation words and ask for their ideas on what it should look like.

Once finished, you and your child can make up stories using words that use spatial relations as characters come in the house, go out of the house, peek in or out of a window, sit on the roof, wait under the window, sit next to a friend while having tea, and so much more!

Supplies

  • Cardboard box
  • Craft paint
  • Markers
  • Glue

Plus Recycled items, such as:

  • Bottle caps for door knobs,
  • Small boxes for a chimney
  • Use the cardboard cut from the windows to make shutters
  • Scraps of cloth for curtains