April 19 – It’s National Frog Month

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About the Holiday

With the rainy weather of April, swampy areas and wetlands swell with water, and peeps and throaty croaks begin to fill the nighttime air. April is the perfect time to learn more about the more than 4700 species of frogs as well as their importance to the ecosystem. Frogs are vital to the food system, and they eat insects that are harmful to crops and carry disease. Because they don’t drink water but absorb it through their skin, frogs are particularly susceptible to pollution. In addition, habitat destruction, climate change, and an increase in invasive species threaten the frog population, making the conservation of their environment of utmost importance. To raise awareness of the importance and threats to frogs, Save the Frogs conservation organization has established April 24 as Save the Frogs Day. You can learn more about their work and how you can participate on the Save the Frogs website. To celebrate National Frog Month, hop over to I Love Veterinary for some toad-ally awesome activities and facts about these fascinating amphibians!

Elliot the Heart-Shaped Frog

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Anna Kubaszewska

 

When Elliot was a little tadpole, he lived in the pond, making friends with the fish and sea creatures who lived there too. But Elliot had lost his tail, grown strong legs, and acquired the ability to breathe air. “Now, he was old enough to hop on land!” Elliot began looking for a new home. He wanted his home to be just right.

He spied a “blue, square-shaped stone, but it was too cold.” The next spot he tried was round and “too hard.” He found a “diamond-shaped patch of grass” and a bumpy log, but those weren’t quite right either. He tried hopping onto lots of things he found in the woods—and even into an old discarded box, but none of these places felt like home.

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Image copyright Anna Kubaszewska, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of Rainstorm Publishing.

Under the full moon, Elliot went to sleep and had a sweet dream about finding a home and making a new friend. When he woke up, there on the pond, floated a green “heart-shaped lily pad.” Elliot leaped on. It felt just right. And not far away, a little girl frog was waving at him. Elliot gathered a little bouquet of flowers and went to her pad to visit “his new heart-shaped friend.”

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Image copyright Anna Kubaszewska, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of Rainstorm Publishing.

Matt Forrest Esenwine’s enchanting story of a little frog looking for the perfect home and a new friend on land is a sweet introduction to basic shapes and colors for the youngest readers. Its familiar “Goldilocks” structure makes it easy for little ones to join in on the refrains of “too cold”, “too hard”, and the rest. Little ones will be charmed by Elliot and understand his desire to find the place where he belongs and to make new friends after his big move to dry land. Esenwine’s gentle storytelling makes this a perfect book for bedtime, naptime, or any story time.

Bright, cheery, and full of smiles, Anna  Kubaszewska’s illustrations are sure to make little ones’ smile back as they follow Elliot on his search for the perfect home. Elliot, with his heart-shaped body, heart-shaped spots, and infectious enthusiasm, is adorable, as are all of the pond-side creatures Elliot encounters. Inspired by Esenwine’s specific references to various shapes and colors, Kubaszewska invites kids to look for them and others throughout her lush illustrations.

An endearing and vibrant board book, Elliot the Heart-Shaped Frog will quickly become a favorite on any baby’s, toddler’s, or preschooler’s bookshelf at home, school, and for public libraries. In addition to its introduction of the concepts of shapes and colors, the book would make a wonderful story to share with little ones beginning daycare or preschool or learning early nature science.

Ages 2 – 5

Rainstorm Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1628858020 (Board Book)

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, poetry, and other work on his website.

To learn more about Anna Kubaszewska and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

National Frog Month Activity

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Hop Along Matching Game

 

Hop along now and help these frogs! Each of these frogs has a twin, but they’ve gotten separated. Can you spot the identical pairs in this printable game? 

Hop Along Matching Game

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You can find Elliot the Heart-Shaped Frog at these booksellers

Main Street Bookends | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 21 – Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today I’m excited to be a part of Natasha Yim and Violet Kim’s blog tour to share Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, another engaging book in the Storytelling Math series from Charlesbridge that shows children how math occurs naturally in all aspects of their life and invites them to explore and experiment. 

Thanks to Charlesbridge for sending me a digital copy of Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum (Storytelling Math)

Written by Natasha Yim | Illustrated by Violet Kim

 

For Luna’s birthday, Ma Ma and Ba Ba take Luna and her brothers to a dim sum restaurant. They join the sound of happy voices and chopsticks that go “click, clickety, clack.” Servers wheel trolleys piled with plates and “baskets of dim sum. Warm smells of dumplings, buns, and sweet desserts tickle Luna’s nose.” Ba Ba asks the kids what they would like and Luna exclaims that she wants pork buns. Her older brother calls for two baskets, and her little brother Benji agrees. When the server brings two baskets of char siu bao to the table, the kids open the tops to find three buns in each.

Two buns for each of them, Benji proclaims. They each take a bun from the first basket, but just as Luna lifts hers up, it slips from her hand and falls to the floor— “Splat!” “‘Oh no!’” She takes a bun from the second basket. “‘That’s all you get,’ says Kai, and Benji seconds that. But Luna protests that it’s her birthday and she should get another bun. Benji and Kai gaze into the basket sadly, wondering what to do. Then Kai reminds his siblings that their mom always says they should respect their elders. But Benji remembers her saying “‘older kids should take care of younger kids,’” so he should get one too. And Luna? She exclaims that she’s the “‘birthday girl!’”

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Image copyright Violet Kim, 2020, text copyright Natasha Yim, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

The three kids stare each other down. Finally, Luna suggests cutting the two buns in half, and they do. But who will get the extra half, Benji wonders. Kai and Benji both have reasons they should get it. And Luna? She exclaims that she’s the “‘birthday girl!’” Kai thinks they should divide the half in half, but Luna tells him they’d just be back to the beginning. Kai and Benji like the idea of using their animals from the lunar calendar to choose who gets the pieces, but each has a valid claim to a half. Luna has one more suggestion that makes the division fair but the pieces tiny. Then Luna looks around and sees a hungry little boy at the next table and knows just what to do with the extra half.

Backmatter includes a description of Dim Sum and the Chinese Zodiac as well as a paragraph that explores the math found in the story and four activities to get kids working with math.

Natasha Yim’s charming tale will captivate readers with her funny and realistic competition between the siblings for the remaining two pork buns after Luna drops one. Her pitch-perfect dialogue invites kids to try and figure out how to divide the buns along with Luna, Kai, and Benji. Yim’s storytelling organically incorporates important concepts of one and two while also introducing the idea of one half in a way that they can—and will want to—replicate at home. Through Kai, Luna, and Benji’s  challenges to each other, kids also learn about superlatives and comparatives “oldest and older” and “tallest and shortest” as well as “bigger” and “bravest.” Luna’s solution to their dilemma is sweet and will entice kids to enjoy dim sum themselves.

Violet Kim’s vibrant illustrations take kids into a bustling dim sum restaurant, where they can see—and almost hear—happy diners and busy servers with their carts. By changing the perspective of her images, Kim allows kids to clearly see the buns in the baskets and take part in deciding how they can be divided. Children can also count chopsticks, tea cups, and other items on the table as well as the contents of baskets stacked on carts. Kim envisions the siblings’ competitions in humorous images that also demonstrate superlatives and comparatives that provide both math and language lessons. Readers will also empathize with Luna, Kai, and Benji as they debate, their facial expressions depicting their thought processes, doubts, and frustrations.

An enchanting read that combines math with familiar family dynamics, Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum is a story that will spark mathematical experimentation and understanding both at home and in the classroom, making the book an excellent choice for family, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 6

Charlesbridge, 2021 | ISBN 978-1623541996

Discover more about Natasha Yim and her books on her website.

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To learn more about Violet Kim, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Storytelling Math Chat

You’re invited to listen to authors Natasha Yim, Sara Levine, and Ana Crespo as well as Charlesbridge editor Alyssa Mito Pusey and math expert Marlene Kliman talk about the math, diversity, and importance of storytelling in Storytelling Math..

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You can find Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

January 14 – World Logic Day

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About the Holiday

World Logic Day, sponsored by UNESCO in association with the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences aims to raise awareness and appreciation of the intellectual history, significance, and practical uses of logic to the broad community of scientists as well as the public. Celebrations of the holiday center on promoting international cooperation, supporting the development and activities of logic within universities, research facilities, and schools, and enhancing the understanding of logic and its implications for science, technology, and innovation.

Lia & Luís: Who Has More? (Storytelling Math)

Written by Ana Crespo | Illustrated by Giovana Medeiros

 

When Luís and his sister Lia were playing together, Luís worked quickly and bragged about the rickety tower he’d built. Lia didn’t really mind because she liked to take her time. Lia’s tower may have been shorter, but it stayed up longer. After playing, they ran “downstairs to their family’s store [to] pick their favorite Brazilian snacks.” Luís told his father, “I want biscoito de polvilho, Papai!” while Lia said, “Coxinhas de galinha, please!”

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Image copyright Giovana Medeiros, 2020, text copyright Ana Crespo, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Papai handed Luís a bag of little nuggets and put two pear-shaped treats in a bag for Lia. Again, Luís began bragging, showing his sister that he had more than she did. This time Lia didn’t like it. But was Luís right? His bag was bigger than Lia’s. It was four blocks high and Lia’s bag was only two blocks high. Luís’s bag was also wider and deeper than Lia’s.

But Lia noticed something else. “Can’t you count?” she says then points out that she has two croquettes while her brother has only one bag. Could she be right about having more? Luís can’t leave this challenge unanswered, so he opens his bag and spills out the contents on the table. Lia looks at all of the tiny nuggets but is still unconvinced. She picks up a biscuit and a croquette. They are definitely different sizes and weights.

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Image copyright Giovana Medeiros, 2020, text copyright Ana Crespo, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Luís begins to put a biscuit in his mouth, but Lia wants him to wait. “Para!” she tells him. Lia takes some time thinking about the problem. Finally, she has an idea. She gets the scale from the family store and puts her croquettes on one side and Luís’s biscuits on the other. The scale dips toward Lia; “she wins.” Lia doesn’t like seeing her brother so sad. She thinks again and has another idea. She breaks off a bit of a croquette and adds it to Luís’s biscuits. The scale balances! They eat up all their snacks. Will Papai give them mais?

Following the text readers will find a Glossary of Portuguese words used in the story and an Exploring the Math page, which describes the math concepts contained in the story as well as activities kids and adults can do to reinforce the math learning.

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Image copyright Giovana Medeiros, 2020, text copyright Ana Crespo, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In her charming Storytelling Math book, Ana Crespo effectively uses siblings’ natural competitive spirit to explore concepts of comparing and measurement. These include size (and the comparatives taller, wider, deeper), quantity, and weight. As the story opens, Luís has built a taller tower than his sister, the image of which is later used to compare Lia’s snack to Luís’s. Crespo combines an engaged narrator plus dialogue sprinkled with Portuguese words that are organically defined to create a lesson in math that will keep readers turning the pages to see who actually does have more. As Lia and Luís try various methods to find an answer, kids can take time too to think about how they would solve the problem and discuss the idea of “more” and how they would define it. Lia and Luís may be competitive, but they’re also cooperative, making this a sweet sibling story as well.

Giovana Medeiros’s bright, crisp illustrations of these enthusiastic twins clearly depicts the math concepts discussed while also portraying the distinct personalities of Lia and Luís, inviting readers to root for one or the other or to just wait and see who wins. Medeiros includes lots of other opportunities to interact with math through counting the twins’ blocks, items on the shelves and in the display case of the family’s store, and the biscuits poured out on the table. Images of the balance scale allows kids to see how Lia’s croquettes weigh more and how adding a bit of one gives Luís the same amount by weight that Lia has. Speech bubbles and the characters’ actions help readers translate the Portuguese words themselves.

Sure to inspire kids to explore the cabinet, fridge, or classroom and engage with the math of comparing and measuring for themselves, Lia & Luís: Who Has More? would be a fun book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections to spark observations and experimentation that lead to deeper STEM learning.

Ages 3 – 6

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541279 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1623541859 (Paperback)

Discover more about Ana Crespo and her books on her website.

To learn more about Giovana Medeiros, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Logic Day Activity

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Lia & Luís: Who Has More? Activity Kit

 

You can have fun experimenting with math using your toys, snacks, and other household items with the downloadable Activity Kit available on the Charlesbridge website!

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You can find Lia & Luís: Who Has More? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 22 – Get Ready for Winter

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About the Holiday

As the weather turns colder and activities move indoors, reading becomes a cozy way to spend time together for all ages. Whether your kids like books that are funny, poignant, suspenseful, or meant to teach about a new or favorite subject, there are books, authors, and illustrators to be discovered or to love again. So settle in for a winter of wonder – starting with today’s book!

Thanks goes to Familius for sending me a copy of Snoozapalooza for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Snoozapalooza

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Vivian Mineker

 

A snowfall has begun, ushering in a long nap for some woodland creatures. Mouse is the first to hide “in a den that’s cozy and small. / Snuggling into a wee-sized heap, / 1 begins snoring and drifts off to sleep.” Soon, little Mouse is joined by even smaller Snail. Pulled into her shell next to Mouse, “they doze and they dream, tucked out of sight, / A snoozapalooza all day and all night.”

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Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Also looking for a place to snuggle in for the winter, Mole tunnels under and right up into the cozy den and promptly finds a spot on the other side of Mouse. Next to discover this cuddly winter bed is chipmunk, and then hedgehog accidentally tumbles in head first when she “whirls by, slip-sliding on ice.” Who can pass by an enticing hole without looking in? Certainly not Rabbit! “Snuggling into a rising heap, / Now 6 are snoring—they’re all sound asleep.”

Skunk doesn’t announce herself, but tiptoes in and adds herself to the warm pile. All 7 “doze and they dream, tucked out of sight, / A snoozapalooza all day and all night.” Three more forest animals join in this seasonal sleepover and doze and dream until… there is a “Zzzz sounding ROAR…Rattling clear ‘cross the floor…Rumbling right out the door.”

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Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

As other woodland animals come out to greet the tender green buds and soft grass of spring, they quiver with fright at this horrible noise. Bravely, they go in search of its origin. When they find the den, they wonder how they can stop this “10-animal snore.” Little Wren has an idea and begins to tweet. Soon, the other animals—10 in all—join in singing “‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’” Slowly, Mouse “stretches and yawns” and is joined by his other friends. They’re happy to see spring, but their long nap was so restful that they promise to all come back next year.

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Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Kimberlee Gard’s soothing and humorous story is a dream of a counting book as one-by-one ten woodland animals pile up in a cozy den for their long winter’s sleep. Her lyrical repeating phrases are sweetly lulling while also infused with the giggly fun of a sleepover. As each new animal enters the den and promptly falls asleep, kids will love reading along with the now-familiar two last sentences, especially that word that tickles the tongue: “snoozapalooza.”

Kids will eagerly await who comes next, and Gard delights with the clever ways each animal joins in the growing heap (another tantalizing word not often heard). When spring comes, readers will enjoy counting up to ten again when birds and animals band together to wake the snoozers. The hibernator’s final vow to return next winter adds a warm theme of friendship to this original tale.

Vivian Mineker’s soft-hued illustrations are adorable, downy accompaniments to Gard’s storytelling. As each animal finds shelter in the den, Mineker plays with their sleeping positions as they all snuggle close for maximum warmth. Kids will laugh to find who’s being used as a pillow next and how all of these animals can stack up in such as small space. Each page invites children to count and count again to make sure they’re keeping up with all the new sleepers. Distinctive colors for each animal help younger readers find them all. A two-page spread lets kids see and count all the members of the wake-up crew, while the next page spread allows them to count all of the new friends made in this charming story.

A clever and enchanting book, Snoozapalooza will engage kids on many levels. Not only is it a fun and funny counting book, but it teaches the names of twenty woodland animals and would be a cuddly story to share at bedtime. Snoozapalooza would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702553

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.

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Vivian Mineker, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Winter Activity

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Everyone needs a blanket sometimes to feel cozy and warm! With this craft you can make a blanket for yourself, a stuffed animal, or even a fleecy bed for a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for a child or a stuffed animal or is large enough for a pet bed
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾-inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each piece of fleece

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

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You can find Snoozapalooza at these booksellers

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

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 5 – It’s Polar Bear Week and Interview with Paul Schmid

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About the Holiday

November means colder weather, snow, and – most importantly – ice. Ice means the fall polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba. Here, polar bears gather to wait for the sea ice to form on Hudson Bay so they can return to hunting seals. Polar Bear Week, sponsored by Polar Bears International, focuses on sea ice, the effects of climate change, and what we can do to ensure the polar bears’ survival. This year, people are encouraged to get involved from home. To learn more about the week’s activities and how you can help, visit Polar Bears International.

Thank you to Phaidon Press for sending me a copy of Little Bear Dreams for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

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I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

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This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

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Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

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There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - more sketches for Little Bear Dreams

Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

National Polar Bear Week Activity

CPB - Polar Bear scarf

CPB - Polar Bear Banner

Polar Bear Scarf or Banner

 

Polar bears aren’t cold in the winter—and neither should you be! Here are directions and printable templates for making a cute scarf to keep you warm, or—if you’d rather—a banner to warm up your room.

Supplies

  • Printable Polar Bear and Igloo Template
  • 1 Strip of blue fleece 4 ½ feet long x 7 inches wide for the scarf
  • 1 Piece of blue scrapbooking paper for a banner
  • Pieces of white, black, blue, and purple fleece or scrapbooking paper to make the polar bear, igloo, snowflakes, and ice floes.
  • String or twine for banner
  • Scissors
  • Fabric or paper glue

Directions for Scarf

To make the fringe at each end of the scarf:

  1. Make 7 cuts about 4 inches long
  2. Tie a knot at the top of each fringe section

To make the pieces for the scarf or banner:

  1. Trace the polar bear and igloo sections from the Printable Template onto white fleece and cut out
  2. Trace the two ice floes onto blue fleece and cut out
  3. Trace the door of the igloo onto blue fleece and cut out
  4. Trace the polar bear’s scarf onto purple (or any color) fleece and cut out
  5. Cut out round snowflakes
  6. Cut out a small circle from black fleece for the Polar Bear’s nose

On one end of the scarf:

  1. Glue the smaller ice floe on one end of the scarf
  2. Tie the bear’s scarf around its neck before gluing the bear to the scarf
  3. Glue the polar bear onto the scarf with its feet on the ice floe
  4. Glue on the polar bear’s nose
  5. Make a small dot for the polar bear’s eye with a marker
  6. Glue snowflakes above polar bear

On the other end of the scarf:

  1. Glue the bigger ice floe to the scarf
  2. Glue the three pieces of the large igloo to the scarf, leaving a little space between sections
  3. Glue the small white door of the igloo on top of the last two igloo sections
  4. Glue the small blue door onto the white door
  5. Glue snowflakes above the igloo

Directions for Banner

  1. Cut a point at the bottom of your banner
  2. Follow the directions above to trace the pieces of the polar bear and igloo from the printable template onto scrapbooking paper
  3. Follow the directions above to glue the pieces of the polar bear and igloo to your banner
  4. Attach string or twine to back of banner to make a hanger

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You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 3 – It’s Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s observance was established in 1994 to promote family and community involvement in teaching and supporting children to read more. Literacy really does begin at home during those cuddly moments when you and your child share a book. Reading with kids from birth helps them develop the skills to become proficient readers and instills a life-long love for books of all kinds. Even before babies can talk, they’re listening and learning, and as they grow children continue to love spending special times with parents and grandparents hearing stories and discovering the world through books. Interactive board books like the three I’m reviewing today are a great place to start!

Sharing

By Yusuke Yonezu

 

Pairs of adorable animals engage little readers in helping them with a big problem. They only have one piece of food but they’re both so hungry! How can the two kittens eat one fish? Turn the page and a cleverly placed die cut allows the one fish to be shared between the kittens. “Now we each get some,” they say with wide smiles. Two bunnies… one carrot? What to do? Kids will love turning the page so that each bunny can take half.

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Copyright Yusuke Yonezu, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Instead of squabbling over one banana or one apple, the monkeys and the piglets are happy to discover that they can “split it instead.” After all, “half is better than none.” But what if two siblings both “want Mommy?” No worries! Just flip that page! “Now we can all share a hug!”

Yusuke Yonezu’s sweet interactive board book presents a gentle message about sharing that little ones will have fun participating in. Ingeniously designed two-page spreads create a rich learning experience. Yonezu’s storytelling provides a different vocabulary to express the idea of sharing on each page spread. Being introduced to these words here invites kids to listen and understand when adults use them.

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Copyright Yusuke Yonezu, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Visually, Sharing is fun and exciting for young readers. On the left, the text appears on a vivid solid background which matches the color of the food item on the facing page. When children turn the page, each animal now has their own page and half of the food item, thanks to a specifically shaped die cut. Yonezu’s animals are adorable, and their simply drawn faces clearly express the emotions of sadness, puzzlement, and happiness, which allows adults to talk about these feelings with children. The final example addresses another common family conundrum and shows that there is always enough love to go around.

A delightful way to introduce the joy of sharing with family and friends, Sharing would make a go-to book for teaching this important skill to preschoolers in home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-1662650000

You can find Sharing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-very-hungry-wolf-cover

A Very HUNGRY Wolf

By Agnese Baruzzi

 

Looking for a way to get your little one (and maybe even older kids) to eat their fruit and vegetables? Open up Agnese Baruzzi’s story wide and watch the laughs tumble out of readers as they also begin to think that maybe those carrots, peas, bananas, plums, and—yes—even broccoli aren’t so bad. How does Baruzzi accomplish this feat? With a long-snouted, insatiably hungry wolf that eats every animal that comes near with a “CHOMP, CHOMP, down it went!”

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Copyright Agnese Baruzzi, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

When that innocent red bird hops the wolf’s way, with the lift of a flap the wolf opens his jaws, bares his sharp, white teeth and… “CHOMP, CHOMP, down it went!” Squirrel? Yep! Swallowed right down. A couple more unsuspecting meals come by, “but it wasn’t enough. The wolf still felt hungry.” Then the wolf meets a morsel that turns out not to be so tasty. The wolf turns queasy, but kids know what he should do. “Oh wolf, spit them out!” With nothing now in his belly, the wolf needs something… anything… to satisfy him. “What do you think he should eat?” Those fruits and vegetables are looking mighty delicious….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-very-hungry-wolf-spit-out

Copyright Agnese Baruzzi, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Agnese Baruzzi will make kids laugh all the way to the healthy food with her witty repetition that will have them reading along with verve and plenty of dramatic Chomp, Chomping. Vibrant colors, smiling animals, and a determined, beady-eyed wolf add up to full engagement. And when the wolf realizes he’s made a mistake, kids will giggle at his distressed expression and answer the call for help coming from the wolf’s tummy.

Definitely a book to add to your shelf at home, school, or public library, A Very HUNGRY Wolf will be an often-asked for favorite.

Ages 2 – 4

Minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342051

You can find A Very Hungry Wolf at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-masquerade-party-cover

Masquerade Party

By Giuliano Ferri

 

The fun starts on the front cover when little readers are met by Little Red Ridinghood… or is it? When they lift the flap, They discover “Oh no, it’s the wicked wolf!” Well… this wolf looks too cute to be bad. Let’s see who else is inside. Yo ho ho! There’s a pirate brandishing a sword.  “Who is this plucky pirate? / It’s a playful pig.” Watch out for the “cuddly cowboy” who’s about to lasso you with this rope. Wait! It’s just “a brilliant bunny playing dress up.

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Copyright Giuliano Ferri, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Have a wish? You need a “sly sorcerer.” Check under the turban to see who will grant your wish. Little ones will also discover who is dressed up as a handsome hero, wondrous wizard, and noble knight. Which brings us round again to a wily wolf…with a basket and red collar? Who is that really?

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Copyright Giuliano Ferri, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Giuliano Ferri infuses his lift-the-flap board book with playfulness and strong literacy-building vocabulary and alliteration that will enchant young readers and make them proud to know fun-to-say words like “plucky,” “sly,” and “wondrous.” Ferri’s soft, smudgy illustrations are cuddliness at its best. While each animal’s face is partially hidden by a fancy, well-embellished hat and mask, clues to their real identity are found in their paws or feet, noses, and face shape, and little ones will love guessing who’s playing firefighter, cowboy, and all the rest. The circular storytelling that brings kids back to Little Red Riding Hood will delight kids.

A fun book to share with kids, especially babies, Masquerade Party would make a great take-along book for outings or anywhere waiting is expected.

Ages 2 – 4

Minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342068

You can find Masquerade Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

October 29 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

For readers every month is National Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now, or new titles to give to all the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves! This month is also a perfect time to discover books that get kids excited about math and science in a whole new way – like today’s book!

Thank you to Charlesbridge for sending me a copy of  The Animals Would Not Sleep! for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

The Animals Would Not Sleep!

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns

 

All of Marco’s stuffed “animals were making a ruckus” when his mom told him it was time to get cleaned up and ready for bed. She wanted to see all the toys put away, so Marco, who thought like a scientist, got to work. He wanted to sort his animals like a scientist would, so he got out three baskets and made signs for Flying Animals, Swimming Animals, and Animals That Move on Land. Then he picked up his dancing flamingo, bird, bat, and ladybug and put them in the first basket. He placed his octopus, stingray, frog, fish, whale, and seal in the second basket, and his dinosaur, giraffe, bears, snake, pangolin, gecko, mice, and zebra in the third basket.

But the animals were still wide awake, and “they egged one another on until not one remained in its container.” Marco thought they would settle down, but when his mom called the second time, he reconsidered his strategy. This time he made signs that sorted the animals by color, but zebra started to cry. He was afraid being in such close quarters with snake and stingray, plus he missed his friend giraffe.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-animals-would-not-sleep-ruckus

Image copyright Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2020, text copyright Sara Levine, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Marco decided to try again. He took all of his animals out and made signs that read Small, Medium, and Large. Things seemed quiet and Marco began to put on his pajamas. But then he heard some kind of moaning or groaning coming from the Large basket. When he went to check, Dinosaur and Dancing Flamingo complained about being too cramped. Plus, Dancing Flamingo missed Rainbow Bear. Then he heard noises from the Small basket. Those animals weren’t happy either.

Marco’s mom gave him two minutes to get it all sorted out. Fortunately for Marco, “being a scientist, he was used to coming up with ideas and thinking outside the box.” The animals were getting tired and Yellow Bear had just burst into tears for no apparent reason. Like a good scientist, Marco cared about his animals and wanted them to be happy. He had one more sorting idea. With the large animals, medium-sized animals, and small animals all tucked in with plenty of room, friends nearby, and cozy warmth on Marco’s bed, Marco got under the covers and got a goodnight kiss from Mom. Then they all fell happily to sleep.

Back matter includes an illustrated Author’s Note about the way scientists sort, or classify, animals by characteristics and a discussion that explores the math in the story as well as Try This! tips for adults to engage children in sorting by Karen Economopoulos, co-director of the Investigations Center for Curriculum and Professional Development at TERC.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-animals-would-not-sleep-marco

Image copyright Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2020, text copyright Sara Levine, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Perfectly capturing the way young children interact with their toys, Sara Levine combines imagination and scientific thinking in her inventive story, part of the Storytelling Math series from Charlesbridge. In Marco, who’s proud of his scientific thinking, Levine shows readers that they too already have this ability. Marco’s empathy for his animals’ when they are unhappy will engage children in thinking, along with Marco, about classification and the various ways the animals can be sorted, getting them excited about how math is used every day. Levine’s use of realistic dialogue that echoes bedtime routines in many homes and gives each character—human and animal—distinct personalities will draw kids in to this charming story that is organically infused with strong math lessons. Levine gives Marco a sweet final solution to his problem that will please kids and have them wanting to think like a scientist too.

Marta Álvarez Miguéns opens the story with an enchantingly wild two-page spread of Marco standing in the middle of his room as his toys bounce on the bed, climb blocks, juggle, fly, and cause a ruckus. Turn the page and, as Mom peeks into the room, these animals now lie motionless around the room. When Marco sorts his animals into the baskets, readers can clearly see which animals go where and why. Kids will knowingly giggle when the just-sorted animals spring from their resting places to prolong bedtime. Miguéns also plainly depicts Marco’s and the animals’ facial expressions from happy and playful to sad and crying to peaceful and satisfied. These images give adults and children an opportunity to discuss emotions and how to recognize various clues in faces, a skill important for social-emotional learning. Vivid colors, adorable animals, details such as alphabet blocks that stack or are turned to spell words, and kid-appealing décor will have kids wanting to come back again and again.

A book that’s sure to become a favorite at bedtime or to enhance classroom or homeschooling curriculum, The Animals Would Not Sleep! will spark mathematical and scientific thinking and recognition in all young learners. The book offers an irresistible invitation to experiment and interact with math and science and is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541286 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1623541972 (Paperback) 

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

To learn more about Marta Álvarez Miguéns, her books, and her art, visit her website.

About Storytelling Math

Storytelling Math offers books that celebrate children using math in their daily lives as they play, build, collaborate, compromise, and discover the world around them. Each story features characters of color who are empowered to solve problems, enjoy activities, and help out using their knowledge of and experimenting with math. Free downloadable hands-on activity kits are available for each book on the Charlesbridge website. Sharing these joyful stories with your littlest ones and older kids will make them eager to explore, use, and learn more about math every day. You can learn more about Storytelling Math on the Charlesbridge website

Storytelling Math: Math, Diversity, and the Power of Story was developed with Marlene Kliman at TERC—a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education—under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Enjoy this The Animals Would Not Sleep! trailer with Author Sara Levine!

National Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-animals-would-not-sleep-activity-logo

The Animals Would Not Sleep! Activity Kit

 

You can have fun sorting and exploring math with your class or family with the Activity Kit for The Animals Would Not Sleep on the Charlesbridge website. Download it here!

The Animals Would Not Sleep Activity Kit

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-animals-would-not-sleep-cover

You can find The Animals Would Not Sleep! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review