January 16 – Appreciate a Dragon Day

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About the Holiday

Appreciate a Dragon Day was established in 2004 by author Danita K. Paul to celebrate the publication of her novel DragonSpell, the first book in her Dragon Keepers Chronicles series. The holiday now encourages all readers to get involved with reading through fun activities—dragon-themed, of course! Teachers, librarians, and all those who love reading can find lots of suggestions for creative ideas that encompass art, crafts, displays, drama, and many other mediums on Danita K. Paul’s website. So, round up your favorite dragon books and breathe some fire into your reading today!

The Book Dragon

Written by Kell Andrews | Illustrated by Éva Chatelain

 

In Lesser Scrump, reading was a chore. To teach the alphabet, the schoolmaster, Mr. Percival, drew on tree trunks with bits of charcoal, scratched on slate with a rock, or drew in the dirt of the schoolyard. One day, Rosehilda said that “‘reading would be more fun if the letters and words were written as stories.’” She even suggested writing them with ink on papers that could be put together. The students were shocked and “Mr. Percival sent Rosehilda home with a stern note scratched onto a leaf.”

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Rosehilda got home she asked her grandfather what all the fuss was about. He told her about the Book Dragon, who instead of hoarding gold, collected books. Rosehilda had never heard of a book, and her grandfather explained that it was “letters and words written on papers that are attached together.” He pointed out the window to Scrump Mountain and told Rosehilda that the Book Dragon lived deep inside and stole any book brought into the village.  

The next day at school, Rosehilda declared that the school needed books and that she was not afraid of the Book Dragon. Mr. Percival explained that after the dragon snatched a book, she terrorized the villagers the next night, and he sent her home again with another note etched into a candle stub. On the way home, Rosehilda met a peddler who had a book in her pile of wares. She gave it to Rosehilda in exchange for the candle stub.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

That night Rosehilda read a story about a brave knight who defeated a dragon and won its hoard of gold. “For the first time, reading wasn’t tiresome. It was amazing!” In the morning, the book was gone. Rosehilda’s grandfather told her that they and all the villagers would have to lock their windows that night. Rosehilda felt guilty. “She vowed to challenge the dragon and win her book back.”

She went to the top of Srump Mountain and peered into the dragon’s cave. The Book Dragon was lying atop an immense pile of books. She looked surprised to see Rosehilda standing there. Rosehilda summoned her courage and demanded that the dragon return her book. The Book Dragon apologized and explained that because she was too big to live in the village, books were the only friends she had.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosehilda scolded the dragon for stealing so many books. The dragon said she only meant to borrow them, but when she tried to return them, the windows were locked and people screamed when she knocked. The dragon agreed to give Rosehilda her book back, but Rosehilda had a hard time finding it among so many books.

While searching for it, Rosehilda and the Book Dragon began stacking the books “by subject and author.” At the end of the day, they had plenty of piles and more books to sort, and Rosehilda hadn’t found her book. The Book Dragon suggested she borrow a different one. She read late into the night, and the next day she went back to the dragon’s cave to help sort books. She left with another book. This went on all week.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Finally, all the books were sorted and Rosehilda found her book. She was excited that she wouldn’t have to come back, but the Book Dragon looked sad and suggested that she “borrow another book…and come back tomorrow.” That gave Rosehilda an idea. The next day at school, Mr. Percival and the other students were horrified to see the dragon outside their window, but Rosehilda explained that she was just returning their books. Now the Book Dragon oversees the “Official Village Library of Lesser Scrump,” and everyone reads as much as they want!

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kell Andrew’s clever story will delight book lovers of all scales with its mix of fantasy, mystery, courage, and friendship. Fearless Rosehilda is a plucky role model for all kids, and the Book Dragon’s desire for company will melt readers’ hearts faster than a breath of fire. Andrew’s storytelling reflects the best of fairy tale lore for a modern audience, with touches of humor, mistaken motives, and a creative resolution.

Éva Chatelain bridges the medieval and the familiar in her bright illustrations that draw on the rich yellows, reds, and greens of leather-bound books, piles of gold, fiery emotions, and woodland villages. Chatelain introduces brave Rosehilda as she challenges her teacher and buys a book,  but she also reveals the trepidation Rosehilda overcomes to confront the Book Dragon, showing readers that even the most courageous people can feel fear too. As Rosehilda reads her treasured book, kids’ suspense will quicken to see the silhouette of the dragon outside her window. The stacks of books that Rosehilda and the Book Dragon build are cunning references to library stacks, and the final images of a happy town and a happy (dragon) librarian will charm readers.

An enchanting story for book buffs, dragon devotees, and fairy tale fans, The Book Dragon would be a favorite addition to story times and home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926856

Discover more about Kell Andrews and her books on her website.

To learn more about Éva Chatelain, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Appreciate a Dragon Day Activity

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Darling Dragon Match Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Match Puzzle

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You can find The Book Dragon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

December 11 – International Mountain Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday aims to raise awareness of the crucial importance of mountains to the livelihood and even survival of the world’s population. Covering nearly one-fourth of the earth’s land mass, mountain areas are home to almost one billion people, and over half of the human population relies on mountains for clean energy, food, and water, including 60 to 80 percent of the world’s freshwater supply. Today, mountains are under threat from land degradation, over exploitation, natural disasters, and climate change. This year’s International Mountain Day theme is Mountains Matter, and scientists, activists, and others involved in protecting these unique ecosystems will be advocating for recognition and protection on social media and directly to politicians who can enact change. To celebrate, learn more about the importance of mountains and consider getting involved locally or with national organizations.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

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Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

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You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

International Mountain Day Activity

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Marvelous Mountains! Word Search

 

If you love mountains, you’ll want to find the names of the nineteen mountains in this printable word search puzzle – no climbing necessary!

Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Puzzle | Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Solution

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You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture Book Review

November 9 – It’s National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

It seems that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. It wasn’t until 1680 that actual human flight was abandoned when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon took flight, which led to more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Given this long history, it’s astounding to think that only 58 years span the time from that modest 12-second flight by the Wright Brothers to the first manned space mission by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin! To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous women in today’s book.

Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 

Jerrie Mock was only seven when her first airplane ride convinced her she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. At first she only dreamed of flying across Ohio, but later, when she followed reports of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights, she decided she too wanted to see the whole world.

In 1952, Joan Merriam was fifteen years old when she took her first airplane ride and was invited by the pilots to see the cockpit. That’s all it took for Joan to know she wanted to be a pilot too. She began flying lessons and was in the air before she even got her drivers license. By 1963, Joan was working as a professional pilot and bought a plane of her own. One of Joan’s goals was to “circle the globe following the exact route” her idol Amelia Earhart had charted.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Jerrie was thirty-seven, she had three children and ran a flight business with her husband, Russ. One night when she told Russ that she was bored, he joked, “‘Maybe you should get in your plane and fly around the world.’” Jerrie took him up on that. Both women spent months planning and charting their flights. Neither one knew that the other was getting ready for the same flight until their plans hit the media. Suddenly, what they had both thought was a solitary pursuit became a race to the finish.

Joan took off on March 17, 1964 from an airstrip in Oakland, California accompanied only by two stuffed bears. Two days later, surrounded by reporters asking if she thought she could beat Joan, Jerrie climbed into her tiny plane and took off too.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jerrie’s troubles began right away. First, her radio didn’t work then bad weather kept her grounded for six days. “Where was Joan?” she wondered. While Joan’s flight began smoothly, a gas leak brought her down to earth for a week while the tank was repaired. Back in the air, Jerrie seemed to suffer problems every day. “She battled dangerous ice buildup, burning radio wires, and bad weather. She flew into a sandstorm over the Arabian Desert and couldn’t see.” But she encouraged herself to stay calm and use her instruments. Joan was having it no easier. “Heavy rains pounded her pane. Her windshield leaked. Water puddled at her feet. When she finally made it to Brazil, she was delayed again. This time by a government revolution!”

Day by day both women battled the elements and equipment failures but kept flying. Everyone around the world seemed to be watching the race. Russ told Jerrie she had to fly faster—that Joan was winning. In Pakistan, people told Joan that Jerrie had landed there five days earlier. Finally, on April 17, twenty-nine days after she had left, Jerrie returned to Ohio to a hero’s welcome. Reporters and crowds pushed to see her. “Jerry’s heart pounded. She had done it. She had flown around the world. She had won the race.”

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Where was Joan? She “was in Lae, New Guinea—the last place Amelia Earhart was seen alive—when she heard the race was over.” Even though she knew she was behind Jerrie, “the news was still hard to take.” She sent Jerrie a congratulations telegram, and then left for Guam. There, she walked and “thought about her childhood dream. She thought about the race and she thought about losing.”  Then she thought about why she had undertaken the flight. She had done it to honor Amelia Earhart. Even though Jerrie had won the race, Joan thought that didn’t make her a loser. She “could still do what she set out to do.”

Joan landed back in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Her plane was in such bad shape that the Coast Guard had to dispatch a plane to guide her in. Joan was also welcomed by cheering crowds and reporters. Both Jerrie and Joan had accomplished incredible feats. Jerrie “became the first woman to fly around the world,” and Joan—”following Amelia’s exact route along the equator”—was the first “pilot—man or woman”—to fly that distance solo. And both women received thanks from Amelia’s sister, Muriel, for honoring Amelia—”a pilot who, like them, chose to follow her dreams.”

An Author’s Note describing the differences in Joan and Jerrie’s routes and aircraft as well as a bit more about their lives after the historic flight and a map outlining each woman’s flight pattern follow the text. Resources for further reading are also included.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s thrilling biography of two woman, two flights, and one race will keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Riveting details reveal the staggering dangers the women faced as well as their astonishing courage, dedication, and persistence. Bissonette’s fast-paced, electric storytelling puts kids in the cockpit as Joan and Jerrie cross the globe. As Jerrie wins the race and Joan reevaluates her goal, Bissonette makes important and welcome points about the nature of competition, keeping one’s eyes and heart on an original goal without getting caught up in distracting hype, and having the self-confidence to believe in oneself and recognize one’s accomplishments.

In her realistic, richly colored watercolors, Doris Ettlinger follows Jerrie and Joan as they experience their first airplane rides that determine their futures, plot their flights around the world, and take off. The obstacles each woman dealt with are dramatically portrayed as winds whip trees, blinding rain and sand storms thwart progress, and mechanical failures keep the women grounded. Children get a look at landscapes from Bermuda, the Philippines, Africa, and Pakistan as Joan and Jerrie complete their flights. Expressive depictions of Jerrie’s and Joan’s emotions show readers the determination, pressures, and ultimate joy each woman felt during these historic months of 1964.

An exhilarating biography and adventure story rolled into one, Aim for the Skies is a book that will inspire young readers to keep their eyes on their goals despite obstacles and setbacks while reassuring them that winning is accomplished by being true to yourself. Children who love history, flight, biographies, and adventure will find this a compelling book to add to their home bookshelf. Classroom, school, and public libraries will want to include Aim for the Skies in their collections for story times and lessons.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363810

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

National Aviation History Month Activity

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Flying is Fabulous! Maze

 

Can you pilot the airplane along its route to the airport in this printable Flying is Fabulous! Maze?

Flying is Fabulous! MazeFlying is Fabulous! Maze Solution

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You can find Aim for the Skies at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 3 – National Jellyfish Day

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About the Holiday

Jellyfish may be some of the most fascinating creatures in the sea, and they are certainly among the most beautiful. Often seen in groups—called swarms, blooms, or smacks—these ancient ocean invertebrates can be transparent, yellow, red, blue, and even effervescent. Jellyfish capture prey and defend themselves by emitting toxins through painful stings. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit a local aquarium or—if you live in a climate where jellyfish are present at this time of year, head to the beach to watch them in their natural habitat.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

By Jarrett J. Krosoczka

 

Peanut Butter, a little seahorse, and Jellyfish were best friends who loved to explore the ocean and all its treasures together. Unfortunately, their adventures always seemed to take them past Crabby, “who would taunt as they slipped by, ‘You guys swim like humans.’” Jellyfish and Peanut Butter tried to ignore him, pretending they didn’t hear his hurtful jibes, but “Crabby was relentless. ‘You guys smell like rotten barnacles! Pee-yew!’” He compared them unflatteringly to sea slugs and his grandmother’s “run-walk shoes,” and ended with “what a bunch of bubbleheads!”

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Jellyfish bravely stood up to Crabby, saying, “‘driftwood and sea stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us.’” Of course, Crabby had a retort to that which involved the fact that Jellyfish was an invertebrate. One day, as Peanut Butter and Jellyfish passed Crabby’s house on their way to the big reef, they steeled themselves for the insults to come. But all they heard was quiet – until the sounds of sobbing reached their ears.

They swam on and found Crabby trapped in a lobster pot that was being pulled to the surface of the water. He called out to them that he was scared. Jellyfish and Peanut Butter looked at each other. Was it their responsibility to help Crabby? Peanut Butter thought that his situation looked pretty serious. And Jellyfish agreed. He even had a plan.

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The two friends swam up to the lobster trap, and Peanut Butter wrapped his tail around a slat in the door. When he pulled it open, however, Crabby didn’t move. Peanut Butter wanted him to hurry, but Crabby had a confession to make. He couldn’t swim, and he was afraid of heights. Now, Jellyfish had an idea.

He swam to the top of the lobster trap and with all his tentacles working feverishly, he tried to untie the knot in the rope. The trap was coming closer and closer to the fisherman’s boat. Just in the nick of time, the knot loosened, but then Crabby was hurtling to the bottom of the ocean. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish raced to catch it. “They grabbed ahold and lowered it to safety.”

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Crabby felt weak as he returned to his rock, but he stuttered out a thank you to Jellyfish and Peanut Butter. Then he told them that he was sorry for all the things he had said. “Crabby may have been afraid of heights, but he was brave enough to apologize.” Crabby admitted that he may have felt jealous of all the fun Peanut Butter and Jellyfish had “exploring the open waters.” Jellyfish told Crabby that there was “plenty to explore close to the ocean floor” too. In fact, that’s where “they found their greatest treasure.”

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s seafaring friendship story for little ones uses humor and a generosity of spirit to teach kids a lesson about empathy. Readers may giggle over Crabby’s taunts, but they will also understand the hurt they cause Peanut Butter and Jellyfish. Following this, the kindness showed by Peanut Butter and Jellyfish toward Crabby when he is in trouble then comes as a powerfully surprising message on compassion. Crabby’s willingness to admit his fears, own up to his jealousy, and apologize, as well as the trio’s growing friendship, provides many thought-provoking topics for children to consider.

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Krosoczka’s illustrations of the undersea world give readers plenty of details to enjoy while adorable Peanut Butter and Jellyfish take center stage. When their sweet smiles give way to wary looks, kids will know trouble is on its way. Each scene during Crabby’s entrapment and escape provide gentle suspense while demonstrating the story’s themes of understanding and acceptance. As the three explore a chest overflowing with gold in the final spread, readers can debate what the “greatest treasure” is.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0375870361

Discover more about Jarrett J. Krosoczka, his books, and his art on his website.

World Jellyfish Day Activity

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Jellyfish Coloring Page

 

Watching a jellyfish float on the ocean current can be mesmerizing! Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons—and maybe some glitter too—and enjoy this printable Jellyfish Coloring Page!

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You can find Peanut Butter and Jellyfish at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 18 – Break the Monotony Day

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About the Holiday

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you so entrenched that you can’t imagine breaking your comfortable routine? Then maybe it’s time for a change. And that’s what today’s holiday is all about. It doesn’t take much to break the monotony—just a simple change-up will do. So today, instead of having your usual latte, order a chai. They’re delicious! Instead of following the same boring route to work or school, zip down a different road. You never know what you will see! And Instead of binge-watching that show, try a new one.  I know! But you can go back to it tomorrow. Of course, one of the best ways to break the monotony is by reading books—they’ll take you to all sorts of places, you’ll meet new, exciting people, and you’ll get involved in events you never thought possible! 

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly ever since.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-andes

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-making-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

Break the Monotony Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-is-super-maze

Reading is Super! Maze

 

One of the best ways to add excitement to life is through reading! These kids are waiting for some books to read. Can you help the super-reader bring his friends new books in this printable Reading is Super Maze?

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You can find Somewhere Else at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 12 – New Conversations Day

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About the Holiday

This brand-new holiday extols the virtues of a really good conversation. Too often our exchanges with others fall into the realm of small talk where the weather, the score of the latest game, or a cursory “how are you?” is as deep as it gets. But there are so many more interesting topics to discuss that would lead to better connections with and understanding of family, friends, and acquaintances. Take the opportunity of today’s holiday to get together with your friends and talk about the funniest thing that ever happened to you, the best meal you ever had, or your favorite work of art. Of course a perfect topic of conversation is your favorite book or character and why! You’ll find out a lot about your friends as well as about yourself!

The Blue Songbird

By Vern Kousky

 

There once was a little blue songbird who loved to listen to her sisters singing in the morning, but when she tried to join in, the notes always fell flat. Sadly, she told her mother that she thought there were no songs for her, but her mother gently told her, “‘not just any notes will do. You must go and find a special song that only you can sing.’” So the little songbird began a journey to “find her special song.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

When she was far from home, she met a great crane and asked if he knew of any song made especially for her. The crane said he couldn’t help her, but pointed her in the direction of the mountains, where a wise bird lived. When she reached the pine forest on the other side of the mountains, the songbird explained to Mr. Wise Old Bird his quest for a song. But the owl could only ask, “‘Whoooo? Whoooo?’” so the songbird went on her way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-crane

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

She stopped here and there to talk to a buzzard, a group of pigeons, and a family of penguins, but “no bird ever had the answer.” Then one snowy day the songbird saw “a bird who looked a little bit mean and more than a little hungry. Even so the songbird bravely chirped: ‘Please don’t eat me, Mr. Scary Bird. I was just wondering if you’ve ever heard of a very special thing—a song that only I can sing.’” The crow did know of such a thing and told the songbird about an island filled with enchanting music.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-penguins

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

The songbird grew weary searching for the island, and then one day he saw a glow on the horizon and knew she had found it. She could hear the faint strains of beautiful music, and she flew faster and faster to get there. When she neared the island, though, she knew this place. It was home. “The songbird’s heart fell.” After all that time and all the conversations with other birds, “her quest had failed.”

When she saw her mother, however, her mood brightened. She wanted to tell her mother all about her travels and the other birds she’d met. When she opened her beak to tell her stories, though, “what came out was not words at all…but a song!” She sang about Crane and Owl and Crow, “of cities and of stormy seas and mountains capped with snow.” She told of warm days and cold days and most of all “of the love the songbird felt for her family and her home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-crow

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

Vern Kousky gently nudges little ones out of the nest to begin exploring the world on their own, to test their wings, meet others, and discover their talents. Along the way young readers learn that they can trust their instincts, be brave, and that perseverance pays off. Kousky’s lyrical story also reassures children that home is always waiting and that no matter where they go or what they do, family will always welcome them.

Kousky’s tiny blue smudge of a bird is adorable as she cuddles with her mother to reveal her doubts and then demonstrates hopeful pluck as she talks with much larger birds on her way to self-discovery. Kousky’s settings delight with muted hues of blues, yellows, and reds and angled mountains, skyscrapers, and glaciers that point the little songbird—as well as readers—skyward. The image of the little songbird’s mother welcoming her home with outstretched wings is heartwarming, and the songbird’s elation at having found her song will fill readers with joy.

A joyful story for inspiring self-confidence, interactions with others, and personal growth, The Blue Songbird is a beautiful book for home and classroom libraries that will be asked for again and again.

Ages 4 –  8

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762460663

To learn more about Vern Kousky, his books, and his art, visit his website.

New Conversations Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-conversation-starters

Family Conversation Starters

 

Because children have such fertile imaginations, great conversations can start from just one intriguing question. Put these printable conversation starters on the dinner table and let the fun and serious talk begin!

Conversation Starters Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6

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You can find The Blue Songbird at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review