May 11 – It’s Reading Is Fun Week

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About the Holiday

What’s your definition of fun? Is it going new places? Meeting new people? Laughing with friends? Getting in on the latest trend – or setting one of your own? If it’s one – or all – of these, you’ve just described reading! This week is dedicated to discovering the enjoyment that delving into a great book can bring at any age! To celebrate, stock up on books old and new – like today’s book that’s all about FUN – and have fun reading!

Thanks go to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sharing a copy of The Bruce Swap with me for review consideration. All opinions on on the book are my own.

The Bruce Swap

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

To say that Bruce doesn’t like fun may be an understatement—a big understatement. Just look at the yard surrounding his log cabin at “13 Go Away Lane” in the woods. It’s littered with signs: No Diving, No Fishing, No Skating, No Standing, No Picnicking, No Loitering, No Talking, No Running, No Bird Watching, No Hiking, No Climbing, No Whistling, No Camping, No Trespassing…and the one Bruce is just installing: No Playing. So when a letter comes for Bruce from his cousin Kevin promising a very FUN visit, you can imagine what Bruce would say. Unfortunately, Bruce never read this letter because the goose who retrieved it from the mailbox ate it all up.

Around this same time, Bruce got a little fed up with all the requests for fun his “kids” peppered him with—things like “Can we make a Roman sculpture with Greek yogurt?” and “Can we fly this hang glider made out of your sheets?” After Bruce said “No” and “No” as well as “No” to an all-sweets menu, Thistle, Rupert, and Nibbs wished for a Bruce who was “more cheerful,” “more adventurous,” and “had more pizzazz” before they went to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-wishes

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Early the next morning before anyone was up, Bruce decided to go fishing by himself. He left a note, hopped on his motorbike, and was off. The note made a delicious breakfast for one of the geese, and so no one knew that Bruce was gone…or that “Kevin was coming.” Later that morning, as everyone sat around the table hoping they were going to do something fun that day, Kevin arrived.

With just one look, the mice and the geese could see that their nighttime wishes had come true. Even though they didn’t know quite what had happened, they were ready for fun. “And Kevin was VERY fun.” There was the candy, and the order for twenty-six pizzas, and the pogo stick jumping in the living room. Kevin was loud—REALLY LOUD. He also turned the cabin into a swimming pool. The outdoor fun was no less chaotic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then “Kevin’s fun friends” arrived. This was just too much “fun Bruce” to take. Rupert, Nibbs, Thistle, and the geese sat on the lawn and cried. “They all wished for regular Bruce to come back.” And Kevin? He and his friends were still looking for more fun. Besides, there was all that mess to contend with – and Kevin and his friends thought “messes are not fun.” They clamored back into their van and drove away just as Bruce was coming back from his fishing trip.

When he got home and saw his wailing family, his heart softened and he decided that “maybe…just maybe…he should try having FUN.” But when Bruce told the mice and geese, they were shocked, they screamed, and they backed away. “Do you want to have fun or not?” Bruce asked, perplexed. “No! No! No! No! No!” his family shouted. So Bruce gathered them all up and went inside to find “what FUN had done to his house.” Bruce’s unibrow rose. Bruce’s unibrow lowered and settled into its usual grumpy position above his sad eyes and deep frown. The Bruce the mice and geese loved was back. They hugged Bruce until there was a knock on the door…. Pizza delivery!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin's-friends

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ latest “Mother Bruce” adventure answers the question the mice and geese have been asking since they met Bruce: “What’s wrong with a little fun?” Here, Higgins exposes the truth about too much fun in hilarious scenes – from the ravenous geese gobbling up letters, to the activities Thistle, Nibbs, and Rupert wish Bruce would sanction, to Kevin and his friends’ wild romp.

On the way to learning the wisdom of that old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” readers will soak up the snappy dialog, wry narration, and Bruce’s brief and surprising change of heart. There are lots of places for kids to join in on reading, especially when Kevin invites everyone to use a shouting voice, when the mice and geese are wailing, and when Bruce adds another yard sign at the beginning of the book and Kevin cleverly changes them at the end.

Higgins’ dynamic illustrations are loaded with humor and action, and lingering over the pages reveals details that expand on the rich environment Higgins has created for his beloved characters. And don’t forget to peek under the book’s jacket for a delicious surprise!

Funny, smart, and a joy to read aloud, The Bruce Swap is a must for all fans of the “Mother Bruce” series – old and new – at home and in the classroom as well as for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 20201 | ISBN 978-1368028561

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter.

Reading Is Fun Month Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient from your pizza and pass the playing die to the next player

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-cover

You can find The Bruce Swap at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 25 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-cover

About the Holiday

Whether you and your family have always liked to bake together or you’ve found a new hobby in the past year, February is a great time to scour cookbooks or find recipes online and add some new taste sensations to your traditional favorites. Baking together teaches valuable cooking skills and is a creative way to engage with math. It can also bring your family closer as you talk about old memories that revolve around baking or cooking and make memories for the future. Of course the best part of baking together is eating the delicious treats afterward!

Ginger and Chrysanthemum

Written by Kristen Mai Giang | Illustrated by Shirley Chan

 

Ginger has come to visit her cousin Chrysanthemum. “They’re as close as two beans in a pod,” but they don’t always see things the same way. Today is their grandmother’s birthday, and they want to make it perfect. Chrysanthemum has made a list of things they must do. First, she says they must dress up. While Chrysanthemum puts on the tidy checked dress she brought along and slips on a matching headband and cool, white sandals, Ginger tries on everything in her closet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-visiting

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

When Ginger’s ready, Chrysanthemum consults her list again and finds it’s time to shop for decorations and a gift and then head to Grandma’s New Asian Kitchen restaurant to decorate. Ginger doesn’t want to take time to read a list, though, and pulls her cousin out the door. They hurry to the market to do their shopping. Ginger finds paper lanterns in every color and thinks it’s fun to balance a stack of them on her head. Chrysanthemum knows Grandma loves flowers and chooses ginger and chrysanthemum flowers for the party. For Grandma’s gift, they buy a jade pendant.

One thing the cousins do agree on is that they love to help out at the grandmother’s restaurant. While each girl has their own favorite job to do, today they are decorating together. Ginger is running around hanging lanterns and Chrysanthemum  is carefully placing flowers on the tables when Grandma asks which of them would like to bake the birthday cake. Ginger has visions of making “an AMAZING cake with BLAZING candles” while Chrysanthemum says, “‘I’ll make a cake light and cool as a cloud.’” Grandma suggests they work together to make her green tea cake.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-utensils

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Ginger rushes around the kitchen, banging pans and rattling bowls; Chrysanthemum makes another list and patiently lays out all of her utensils and ingredients. Ginger is mixing the flour, eggs, and sugar with such vigor that the batter splashes everywhere. “‘Ginger, you’re too messy,’” Chrysanthemum tells her. Ginger is upset with how slowly Chrysanthemum is working. “Chrysanthemum steams like a teapot.”

Both girls reach for the green tea powder at the same time, but Ginger’s faster and dumps it in the bowl. Chrysanthemum yells at her cousin that she’s not following the recipe, but Ginger grumbles that “‘a recipe is just a fancy list.’” With the cake ruined, the girls take a break and decide to make another cake. But there’s no more green tea powder. They mull over the problem then Ginger suggests using chrysanthemum tea instead of green tea, and Chrysanthemum thinks of using ginger ice cream for the frosting. Ginger cleans up the mess while Chrysanthemum measures out the ingredients. “Ginger mixes. Chrysanthemum pours.” When they lick the spoon, the batter tastes delicious.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-baking

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

At the party, Chrysanthemum and Ginger take Grandma by the arms and lead her over to show her their cake. “The cake looks a little lopsided, the color slightly strange…. Ginger and Chrysanthemum hold hands – and their breath” as Grandma takes a bite. “She loves it!” She hugs her “little soybeans.” Then Ginger and Chrysanthemum share a slice. “Warm cake, cool icing. Perfect together. Like two beans in a pod.”

An Author’s note explaining the traditional Chinese belief that foods have warming or cooling characteristics and should, ideally, create a balance follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-party

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

In her entertaining story of two cousins with opposite personalities, Kristen Mai Giang cleverly uses the Chinese concept of warm and cool foods to create impulsive Ginger and precise Chrysanthemum. As the girls dress and shop for Grandma’s party, readers will be charmed by the cousins while giggling at their differences. When mishaps while baking Grandma’s cake fray their nerves and lead to angry words, Giang introduces a gentle lesson on how to get back on track and cooperation. While taking a break, Ginger and Chrysanthemum rely on their close relationship to come up with a solution that pleases them both. Kids will appreciate the ingenuity in their new recipe that combines both of their personalities and may be inspired to try making up a cake recipe of their own.

Shirley Chan clearly sketches out Ginger and Chrysanthemum’s opposite personalities in the first pages as Ginger stands in the middle of her messy room sporting a mix-and-match outfit appropriate for a rock star while Chrysanthemum channels a runway model in her perfectly accessorized dress. Spontaneous kids will identify with Chan’s depictions of Ginger playing around at the market while careful children will admire Chrysanthemum’s thoughtfulness in choosing just the right flowers. Chan’s images of the two spirited girls in the kitchen will enchant young readers, and the party scene is vibrant and inviting.

A creative and relatable story to inspire teamwork and a celebration of individuality, Ginger and Chrysanthemum would be an engaging addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Levine Querido, 2020 | ISBN 978-1646140015

Discover more about Kristen Mai Giang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shirley Chan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bake-up-some-fun-word-search

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-cover

You can find Ginger and Chrysanthemum at these booksellers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 24 – National Cousins Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate cousins—those family members who are close in age and in our hearts. Often getting together with family means getting to play with cousins who can become best friends. As we grow up and move on to other cities for school or jobs, it’s easy to lose touch. If you live far away from family, take the opportunity today to text, email, or call a special cousin and catch up. If you live close, why not plan a get together with your cousins or for your kids and their cousins?

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

By Duncan Tonatiuh

 

Charlie runs through the house shouting with excitement. He’s gotten a letter from his cousin Carlitos who lives in Mexico. They’ve never met, but Charlie would like to. In his letter Carlitos tells Charlie that he lives on a farm where they grow maize. He has a burro, pollos, and a gallo that crows and crows. Charlie sits right down and writes a letter in return.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-biking

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

He tells Carlitos that he lives in a city. From his window he can see a bridge and skyscrapers. He writes: “Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds. At night all the lights from the city look like stars from the sky.” To get to school, Carlitos says, he rides his bicicleta. Perros bark and run after him as he passes. Charlie goes to school on the subway that is like a “long metal snake” underground.

At recess Carlitos and his friends play fútbol. Charlie would call it soccer. Carlitos likes when another player passes him the ball and he kicks it into the net for a gol. Charlie likes scoring too. He plays basketball with his friends during recess. When he gets the ball he dunks it through the net for two points.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-recess

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

After school Carlitos helps his mama cook cheese quesadillas. Charlie grabs a slice of pizza on his way home from school. When Carlitos finishes his homework, he goes outside to play. He likes to shoot canicas and watch them roll, and he’s good at spinning the trompo. But his favorite thing to do is fly his papalote and watch its tail flutter as it soars into the sky. In the afternoon, Charlie says, he plays with his friends outside on the stoop. They jump rope and play hopscotch then they go inside to play video games. Sometimes it gets so hot that Carlitos and his friends go down to the río to go swimming. Charlie and his friends cool off in the spray of the fire hydrant when the firefighters open it for them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-cooling-off

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Carlitos spends the weekends at the mercado selling the maize and prickly fruit, tunas, that his family grows on their farm. They also buy food they will need for the next week from other vendors. Weekends are market days for Charlie, too. He goes to the grocery store with his mom and checks off the items on their list as they put them in the cart.

Sometimes there are fiestas in town, Carlitos tells Charlie. The parties last for two or three days. “At night there are cohetas that light up the sky and mariachis who play and play.” Charlie replies that there are special celebrations in his city too where he watches parades with marching bands and people in costumes. Carlitos wishes Charlie could see the churros, cowboys who ride their caballos and twirl their reatas. Charlie thinks Carlitos would be amazed at the break-dancers in his neighborhood who can flip and spin on their heads.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-snack

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

In Mexico, Carlitos writes, there are so many traditions. On Dia de los Muertes families honor those who have passed away, and in December there are parties called Posados with piñatas full of sweets and fruit. Charlie writes that in America we have traditions too. Two of his favorites are Thanksgiving, when he gets to eat turkey, and Halloween, when he dresses up in a costume and goes trick-or-treating for candy.

He’d like to write more, Charlie says, but his mom is calling for him to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. It seems Carlitos ended his letter on the same note. And as each boy pulls up the covers, they have the same idea: “My primo should come visit me!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-same-idea

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Duncan Tonatiuh’s charming tribute to family and cultural similarities told through two letters written by cousins engages young readers on many levels. Filled with Spanish vocabulary, Carlitos’s letter introduces children to Spanish words for familiar things as well as to new ideas. Spanish-speaking readers find the same experience through Charlie’s letter to Carlitos. By juxtaposing similar daily and special events on each page or two-page spread, Tonatiuh emphasizes the fact that people are the same wherever they live.

Tonatiuh’s now well-known folk-art illustrations let kids travel to sites in Mexico and America as they get to know Charlie and Carlitos. Striking and vividly detailed images on each page invite kids to compare the lives of the two cousins and point out the similarities and differences.

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin is an engaging multicultural book for home and school libraries. The book is a perfect way to introduce Spanish words and Mexican culture to kids learning about their world.

Ages 5 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2010 | ISBN 978-0810938724

Discover more about Duncan Tonatiuh, his books, and his artwork on his website!

National Cousins Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cousins-connect-maze

Cousins Connect! Maze

 

Can you help the cousins get together to play in this printable Cousins Connect! Maze? Then you can color the page! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review