January 13 – Skeptics Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re attuned to holidays like I am, you may be thinking, “Wasn’t Skeptics Day October 13?”, or even, “I thought Skeptics Day is celebrated on November 4.” And it seems from my research that you’d be right—on both counts, which might lead you to be, well… skeptical about the validity of today’s holiday. But perhaps that was the point the founder or founders of this holiday were trying to make. Instead of simply accepting what you’re told, a skeptic questions what they hear or read and looks for facts to back it up. Kids are born skeptics, always asking “Why?” “When?” “Where?” “Who?” and “How?” To celebrate today, why not spend some time with your kids learning more about a subject you’re interested in.

There Must Be More Than That!

By Shinsuke Yoshitake

 

A little girl stands at the sliding glass doors looking out at the pouring rain. She’s disappointed because her father had said the day would be sunny. She thinks to herself, “…you can’t always trust grown-ups.” Then her big brother comes along and tells her all about the apocalyptic events that may possibly doom the earth and their futures. Things like running out of food, wars, even alien invasions. He heard it from a friend, who heard it from an adult. His sister is shocked and afraid.

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Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

With a heavy heart, she goes to her grandma’s room and reveals what her brother has told her. “Ah, I see…,” Grandma responds. She reassures her granddaughter that no one really knows what will happen and that along with the bad, good things happen too. “Grown-ups act like they can predict the future… but they’re not always right,” she says. And when there’s a choice to be made, they often provide only two things to pick from, when there are actually many more and it’s okay to choose from those.

The little girl realizes that more choices means more possible futures, and she tells her brother so. She already has lots of ideas about the cool things the future might bring—like “a future where it’s okay to spend the day in pajamas…. A future where someone always catches the strawberry you drop…. A future where your room has a zero-gravity switch.” Her brother thinks the strawberry idea sounds great.

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Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The little girl is jazzed to think about other futures. She thinks about alternatives to throwing away old shoes, hiding uneaten carrots, and even keeping her mom from getting mad if she gets paint on her clothes. “I’m a slow runner,” she confesses, “but does that mean I’ll never come in first place? No! I might be ‘first place’ in a funny-face contest!”

Her thoughts begin to branch out, and she decides that between polar opposites like “‘love it or hate it,’” “‘good or bad,’” “‘friend or enemy,’” there may be many more emotions to choose from. In fact, the little girl is so excited by her new perspective that she tells her grandma that she wants to make a career out of “thinking up different futures.” Her grandma thinks that’s marvelous, but gently tells her that she probably won’t be around to see them. But the little girl is determined and imagines several scenarios that mean a brighter and longer life for her grandmother. Grandma laughs and agrees that “there must be more for me than that!”

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Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Cheered, the little girl goes to the kitchen to find out what’s for dinner. Although they’re just having leftovers, Mom offers to make her an egg. “Boiled or fried?” she asks. Exasperated, the girl tells her mom about all the other ways an egg can be cooked, used, and played with. They can be scrambled or rolled, painted or stickered, and put in a shoe, a book, or a belly button. They can even be stacked on top of each other or used to make a tall tower. Her mother gets the idea and says she can have her egg made any way she wants. “Hmmm,” the little girl ponders. What do you think she chooses?

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Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Shinsuke Yoshitake’s profound observations, expressed in kid-friendly, sometimes even silly examples, emboldens children to look beyond the choices they’re given by others and create the present and future they desire. Yoshitake touches on serious subjects that children hear discussed by adults, on the news, and in school that can lead to a frightening sense of no control but flips the narrative to show kids that they do have the power to influence events and change them for the better. The choices Yoshitake poses—love or hate, good or bad, friend or enemy—will get kids thinking about other such pairs they’re presented with every day and the nuanced scales between them that more correctly represent their feelings. After showing the little girl giving her grandma a pep talk and convincing her mom that there are a myriad things to do with eggs, Yoshitake ends the story on a comic note so attuned to kids’ enthusiasm for new ideas.

Yoshitake accompanies his story with laugh-out-loud illustrations of a little girl who cycles through emotions from anger to doomed to thoughtful to determined and finally to joyful after her brother reveals bad news about the future. Kids will be fully onboard for the fantastical future the girl envisions and the whimsical ways Yoshitake depicts the multitude of options that are available with just a little more thought. A two-page spread with twenty-three different types of eggs will set kids giggling and no doubt wanting to try them all. Likewise, the book’s cover hints at what’s inside with a display of many things a simple piece of cloth can become.

There Must Be More Than That! is a smart, sophisticated, and lighthearted way to shift a child’s perspective and empower them to shed the burdens of the world and create the life they want—on both a small and large scale. The book is sure to be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452183220

Skeptics Day Activity

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Find the Differences Puzzles

 

Are you someone who looks at things skeptically? Do you want to learn the facts before you believe what you see or hear? If so, you’ll enjoy these printable puzzles and see for yourself whether they are the same or different.

Kids Reading Puzzle (easier) | Kid’s Bedroom Puzzle and Solution | Girl Selling Flowers Puzzle and Solution

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You can find There Must Be More Than That! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. This year, if you’re working from home, your sphere of inspiration is nearly limitless. Whether your thoughts on what you see and hear tend toward poignancy, inspiration, or humor, take a moment to jot them down. Then share your poem or poems with your family or friends!  

This Poem is a Nest

Written by Irene Latham | Illustrated by Johanna Wright

 

In the introduction to her astonishing poems, Irene Latham explains the concept of “nestling poems,” which provides the structure to her collection. Similar to “found” poems, that can use the words from any source text to create other poems, nestling poems use words discovered within another poem. In the case of This Poem is a Nest, Latham first penned four poems about a single nest surviving through a year of season and then found 161 other poems inside them. These other poems—some small, even tiny snippets—pack a powerful ability to wow, just like a single candy in a large assorted box.

First, readers are introduced to the nest in Spring, where “safe in its crook, it’s a cradle that sways across day and dark.” There are “fragile eggs,” but soon “the happy nest overflows with flap-flapping and endless feast.” In Summer after the robins have flown away, the “empty nest becomes nothing more than a morning house of light.” Below, the tree hosts other creatures who call it home or use it as a resting place.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Autumn, readers are invited to climb the “branches like a ladder— / up and up—where the crispcool world turns both smaller and bigger.” From here one can see “distant woodsmoke” and quiet creatures going about their day. Winter brings a new resident to the nest, a tiny mouse who “makes needed repairs” and lays in stores of food for the snowy days ahead.

After reading these four three-stanza poems, readers enter Part II, where Latham’s nestling poems are divided into seven categories. The first explores the idea of time, and Latham begins by marking the passing of a day. With Dawn, “day rustles open / overflows / morning boat” while at Dusk “sky weaves / gold-dust / world / turns.” But Latham knows there are those other hours, the hours when a profound Middle-of-the-Night Question may come: “wing away, / or take / the stage?” Latham next reveals truths about the months of the year, the seasons, and—in clever “Before & After Poems”—the emotions that lead up to and follow an announcement, a storm, and a game (one that is won and one that is lost).

The next chapter titled “Color My World” gives physical shape to nature’s hues from Red (“autumn leaves / puddle / beneath roof / of sky”) to Black (“dark splash / whispers / ancient glimmersong”). In the following chapter—”Animals Among Us”—Latham describes a menagerie of animals, including the beauty of a Papa Emperor Penguin with Egg: “feet stitched / together, / both anchor / and dream.” She also shares lessons that wildlife can teach us about meeting life’s challenges, such as how to hang in there and how to combat boredom, how to find the power in imagination, and what to do if something is wrong or you’re feeling down.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Chapter Four—”Only Human”—Latham looks at our emotions with observations that are weighty, thrilling, hopeful, and joyous. Of course, we are not alone in life, and Latham finds poems within her nest to describe relationships with friends, parents, and teachers and others. As a poet Latham knows a thing or two about a Love of Words, and in a short chapter she has fun creating poems that will surprise and delight.

From their nest, birds look out on a vast landscape. Likewise Latham presents readers with poetic “Views and Vistas.” Children can roam from the Desert to a Meadow; and explore a Cave, a Fox Den, and an Iceberg. Expanding out into the world, kids visit the African Serengeti, the Australian Outback, Tahiti, and the Amazon River, among other spots. Pan out even farther and readers contemplate space, the sun, the constellations, and all of the planets—including Pluto, despite its demotion.

At last, Latham includes a few final verses about poems and poets themselves and leaves readers with My Wish for You: blue adventure / in seaglass morning— / green buzz, / gold thrumming— / life / a poem” Backmatter consists of detailed tips on how poets or would-be-poets can write their own nestling poems.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

Lovely, deep, and awe-inspiring, Irene Latham’s poems allow readers to discover the world with microscopic precision and a broad view from as far away as outer space. As you read the poems, it’s intriguing to go back to the first four poems and find the individual words in their original context. As meaningful is to let the small verses float in your mind and take root in your heart. Many will make you look at and consider objects, places, time periods, and emotions in ways that bring new insight and understanding, hope, joy and peace.

Johanna Wright’s lovely black-and-white line drawings, shaded with a gray scale offer whimsical interpretations of Latham’s poems and introduce each chapter with thoughtful, creative, and happy children interacting with each other and their world. A few sweet, individual drawings include a mother and child snuggling under a warm quilt for December; a snail whose shell contains true contentment in All You Need, According to a Snail; two children painting the sky with stars in Painting; and a little girl sleeping in the crook of a crescent moon while her dreams become poems in While You Sleep.

For any poetry lover—whether adult or child—or anyone looking to experience the world afresh, This Poem is a Nest is a must. Original, creative, and beautiful, the book would enhance any home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 7 – 14 and up

Wordsong, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684373635

Discover more about Irene Latham, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Johanna Wright, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Poetry at Work Day Activity

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Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find This Poem is a Nest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 24 – Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day

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About the Holiday

We all have unique talents and abilities. Today’s holiday was established for us to define our abilities and think about how we would like to use them for ourselves and others. Whether your talents lie in the arts; science, math, and technology; the humanities; teaching and leadership; or kindness, with courage, confidence, and practice you can accomplish amazing things. Today’s books feature two very different talents and are accompanied by videos that can teach you how to use your creativity to achieve success.

You Can Draw Comic Book Characters

By Spencer Brinkerhoff III

 

Do you have a comic book creator inside yearning to blast free? In this step-by-step guide, Spencer Brinkerhoff III shows you how to draw more than 25 original -comic book characters, draw with perspective and from different angles, and how to use simple shapes to create all of the characters running around in your imagination. To get started, Brinkerhoff introduces readers to the tools of the trade, especially one type of template that ensures that your characters are always in proportion whether they’re standing still, flying, climbing, running, or engaged in battle.

Whether you’re drawing a hero or a villain, Brinkerhoff presents illustrated steps for creating the head, complete with guidelines that tell you where to put the eyes, hair, and other facial features; how to add the body and sketch in arms and legs in active poses. Brinkerhoff then invites artists to make these prototype characters their own by showing how through hairstyles, clothing, and facial features you can add personality and individuality to your characters.

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Copyright Spencer Brinkerhoff III, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster, Jr.

But characters aren’t just created through their physical appearance—readers also want to know what makes them tick. Brinkerhoff adds specific and enlightening guidance on how to design a well-rounded character that readers will care about. He discusses general ideas on how heroes and villains come to be then gives specific examples of backstories, motivations, powers, and limitations for heroes, villains, and all the minions and sidekicks in between.

Once you’ve practiced drawing your character, it’s time to add some color, and Brinkerhoff has you covered there too with tips on choosing colors to make an effect, how to make it look as if a character is wearing a helmet with a face shield, and how to make Zaps and Zings really shine.

So, you have characters with histories—now what? They need a story to live in! Brinkerhoff reveals how to develop a strong story from beginning to end and create a script. Then he shows artists how to plan and draw panels that help tell the story, create good story flow, establish mood and location, include dialogue and sounds, and add the kind of suspense that keeps readers turning the pages. Finally, Brinkerhoff shows readers how to put it all together to make a complete comic book. He follows this up with larger templates for characters who are standing, flying, and fighting as well as a few in various action poses.

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Copyright Spencer Brinkerhoff III, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster, Jr.

Spencer Brinkerhoff presents an excellent guide for artists and would-be artists of all ages with specific help and plenty of opportunities to practice a variety of body styles, facial expressions, poses, and all accompanying accents. The diversity of examples and the emphasis on other aspects to creating successful characters and complete comics will spark children’s imagination and help them develop their talent for both drawing and writing, which are equally important in creating the kinds of comics that readers fall in love with and want to read again and again.

A superb drawing book for children, You Can Draw Comic Book Characters would make a much-appreciated gift for young artists and an often-used, go-to book as children or adults work on improving their drawing and visual storytelling abilities. The book is a must for home bookshelves for aspiring artists as well as for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 10 and up

Quarto Knows, Walter Foster Jr., 2020 | ISBN 978-1633228665

About Spencer Brinkerhoff

Spencer Brinkerhoff III started drawing and making art at an early age and has never stopped. Spencer’s professional work has included creating Star Wars art for Lucasfilm Ltd, animating an educational game for the World Health Organization, creating and starring in a video that won him Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am, and creating some of the horse sculptures for the PF Chang’s restaurants. In addition to working on these licensed projects, he has also created a glasses-less 3-D image platform called ShadowBox Comics, an in-camera special effect keychain called LightStickFX, and a drawing system called DrawingIsSimple. You can discover more about Spencer Brinkerhoff III, his art, and his work on his website.

Drawing Captain Jinx Tagget and Savage with Spencer Brinkerhoff III

In this video and two more videos from Quarto Classroom, children and adults can learn from Spencer Brinkerhoff III how to create two original characters from You Can Draw Comic Book Characters: Captain Jinx Tagget and Savage. In the first video Spencer Brinkerhoff demonstrates each step in drawing his hero Jinx, talking viewers through an easy method for creating the head and body, the whys and hows of facial-feature placement, and how to add accents to make each character distinctive. In his second video, Brinkerhoff uses a prop that gives new artists clear visual help in understanding how a face can be drawn when tilted and turned. He also demonstrates how to draw Jinx when flying.

In his third video Brinkerhoff shows kids how to draw the imposing Savage, a character that uses different proportions yet is still derived from basic shapes beginning with a circle. At the end of each twenty-five-minute session, he gives a lesson on adding color to the character. Brinkerhoff’s easy-going and encouraging delivery will instill confidence in artists and get them excited about designing their own characters.

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You can find You Can Draw Comic Book Characters 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-corazon-aquino-little-people-big-dreams-cover

Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS

Written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Ginnie Hsu

 

Maria Corazon—better known as Cory—was a little girl growing up in the Philippines, a country made up of thousands of islands. At school, she learned lessons on reading and writing and math and also “how to take a step forward.” For example, when one of her classmates was not able to make a speech in front of the school, Cory volunteered to give it.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

When Cory was still a child, her parents send her to America to study. When she returned home after graduating from college, she was determined to become a lawyer. While in law school, “she became close with a student as honest and as bold as her.” His name was Benigno, but those who loved him called him Ninoy. Ninoy went on to become a politician. He wanted to help his fellow Filipinos and became an ardent critic of the country’s dishonest president. Because of his opposition to the president, he was arrested. Then Cory wrote speeches and became her husband’s voice for nearly eight years while he was in prison.

Declaring more and more unfair laws, the president became a dictator and forced Ninoy, Cory, and their family to leave the country. They moved to Boston, Massachusetts and were happy there, but after three years “Cory knew that Ninoy had to go home and try to restore democracy, giving power back to the people.” They returned to the Philippines, but the president’s men were waiting for them and Ninoy was killed.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Cory felt alone, but at Ninoy’s funeral millions of people showed that they were with her, giving “her their love and support.” Cory decided it was up to her to continue Ninoy’s work. She ran for president and won, but the defeated president “faked the results of the election” and sparked a revolution. For four days “millions of people armed with courage took to the streets and proclaimed Cory president of the Philippines. The dictatorship crumbled and Cory became the first female President of the Philippines. Through her lifelong courage and honesty, little Cory grew up to save democracy for her people and change their lives forever.

A timeline of Corazon Aquino’s life follows the text.

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Image copyright Ginnie Hsu, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara’s excellent biography of Corazon Aquino for young readers introduces them to this amazing woman with well-chosen details about her life and the personality traits that made her singularly suited for her role in leading the Philippines out of the darkness of dictatorship. Vegara’s straightforward storytelling reveals her respect for the intelligence and social conscience of her readers as she relates hard facts about life in the Philippines at the time and its personal consequences for her family. Examples of Corazon’s courage, from giving a speech at school to giving voice to millions of people, will inspire readers to show bravery in their own pursuits, both big and small, and prompt them to look for ways that they can make a difference.

Through Ginnie Hsu’s captivating illustrations, readers are introduced to a brief view of the diversity of communities among the islands of the Philippines and the cities and schools that nurtured her while growing up. Children see the enthusiasm with which crowds met Cory and Ninoy on his political rise. In a clever two-page spread, a speech that Ninoy is writing spills from his typewriter, across the two pages and into Cory’s hands as she reads her husband’s words after his arrest. Images of people lining up to vote will be familiar from our own recent election and offer opportunities for adults to discuss the importance of voting. Adults may remember Corazon Aquino’s signature yellow outfits, which Hsu recreates here. Hsu’s vibrant illustrations, packed with the people that supported the Aquinos, demonstrate the change that, together, people of courage can affect.

An inspirational biography of an influential leader, Corazon Aquino is an excellent addition to the Little People, BIG DREAMS series and offers a meaningful way for adults to introduce young readers to political and social leaders and the ideas of responsibility and leadership. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711246843

About Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, born in Barcelona, Spain, is a writer and creative director in constant search of new concepts for children’s books and the author of the multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series of picture books that explore the lives of outstanding people. Working for more than fifteen years for clients in top advertising agencies, her books combine creativity with learning, aiming to establish a new and fresh relationship between children and pop culture. You can connect with Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara on Instagram.

About Ginnie Hsu

Ginnie Hsu is an illustrator, designer, and educator living in upstate New York. Her work is often inspired by everyday life, nature, human living, and well-being. Ginnie also enjoys foraging, yoga, and herbalism. To learn more about Ginnie Hsu, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS video with Ginnie Hsu

In this video from Quarto Classroom you can listen to Ginnie Hsu read Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS and learn about the importance of the color yellow throughout the story as well as how color has become associated with other revolutions around the world. Hsu also introduces viewers to the meanings behind eight colors and how using these colors adds depth and meaning to a picture book and other illustrations. For example, yellow carries with it the ideas of positivity and happiness. After learning about colors and their meanings, Hsu invites kids to gather supplies in a color of their choice and to create a project meaningful to them. In keeping with the yellow in her book, Hsu chooses to make a sunflower from felt and a digital sunflower collage. She demonstrates how she puts together her felt sunflower and then shows children the variety of ways a sunflower can be drawn.

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You can find Corazon Aquino: Little People, BIG DREAMS at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day Activity

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Draw Captain Jinx Tagget

 

With this printable guide from Spencer Brinkerhoff III, you can learn to draw Captain Jinx Tagget standing and in action with detailed and specific steps from making your first circle for the head to completing her superhero suit. You’ll find another guide on how to draw Savage at Quarto Classroom

Captain Jinx Tagget Drawing Guide | Savage Drawing Guide

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November 4 – National Stress Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

National Stress Awareness Day was established by Carole Spiers, Chair of the International Stress Management Association, which provides employers with guidance on establishing company stress reduction programs and individuals with methods for looking after their health every day. The holiday aims to help people identify the stress factors in their life and learn how to reduce them. This year, of course, stress is high. Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to assess how they and their family are handling stress and look for ways to manage it while adding positive changes to their life.

Thank you to Beaming Books for sending me copies of All About Anxiety and Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

All About Anxiety

Written by Carrie Lewis | Illustrated by Sophia Touliatou

 

As you pick up this book, the first thing you notice is its comforting, velvety-soft cover. Upon opening it, the second thing young readers will see are illustrations of kids just like them engaged in familiar situations that can cause stress and anxiety and expressing their feelings in ways kids will recognize and understand. And then comes the third, most reassuring thing of all—discussions about anxiety: the different types, how it can manifest itself, and how it can be managed, written in kid-friendly, clear, and detailed ways by an author who really knows how to communicate with children.

In five chapters, this 89-page book covers a wide range of topics that answer the questions children may have about the feelings they experience every day or only in certain situations and give them encouragement and workable solutions to try. Chapter 1 introduces a definition of anxiety, describes six of the most commonly felt types of anxiety, and, through a relatable story of two sisters grappling with different anxieties, demonstrates how a fear can grow and how it can be lessened.

Chapter 2 talks about some of the things that can cause anxiety—from memories of frightening experiences and seeing others’ reactions to certain things to parents and brain chemical imbalances to growing up in difficult circumstances. Each of these, as well as a description of how the body reacts to anxiety, is treated with detailed and easy-to-understand paragraphs that contain examples kids will appreciate.

Chapter 3 likens anxiety to the various types of animals in a zoo and the child as the zookeeper. This chapter is especially effective in directly addressing some of the most common anxiety triggers and providing practical steps that will help. These include the news; stories, TV shows, and movies; hormones; changes within the family; money worries; moving; the pressure to succeed; comparing oneself to others; the way one looks; other people; peer pressure; and social media.

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Image copyright Sophia Touliatou, 2020, text copyright Carrie Lewis. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Chapter 4, children are encouraged to answer several questions that can determine if they actually have anxiety or not. In the next step, readers learn how anxiety can affect the quality of their life and relationships with family and friends. Here Carrie Lewis presents discussions on social anxiety, family relationships, school and studying, sports and hobbies, and overall health. Speaking directly to the reader, Lewis uses specific examples of ways anxiety may affect them. Moreover, with each topic, Lewis provides bulleted suggestions for activities that can boost self-esteem, release healthy endorphins, and change their focus.

Chapter 5 is a “taking-control toolkit” where Lewis explores “different ways to make life less anxious and to keep serious anxiety away.” These include deep breathing, visualization, body relaxation exercises, talking with a trusted adult or doctor, how to talk about anxiety, using mild anxiety as a superpower, and ways to stay positive. Lewis closes her book with six resources, complete with contact information, where young readers and adults can find help and more information.

Reading through this book by Carrie Lewis is like sitting down with a sympathetic, knowledgeable friend who can put you at ease and give you the help you’re looking for. That sense of being understood is just one of the many strengths of this book. Conversational text and an unflinching look at the real-world issues that can cause anxiety will resonate with children, tweens, and even teens and put them on the road to managing their feelings.

On every page the text wraps around Sophia Touliatou’s vibrant and evocative illustrations that let kids know they’re not alone. Images mirror feelings of fear and anxiety, depict brain activity related to feelings of anxiety, and show difficult situations all children deal with at one time or another. But Touliatou also includes many images of children finding ways to manage and overcome their anxiety that offer hope and happiness. In design, the book makes excellent use of typography and other elements to make topics easy to find and appeal to the targeted audience.

A superb book for helping children and tweens with anxiety or just navigating day-to-day feelings, All About Anxiety is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 8 – 13

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506463209

You can find All About Anxiety 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-crafting-calm-cover

Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids

Written by Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla | Illustrated by Aruna Rangarajan

 

One way to take control of your feelings is by finding an activity that calms the mind, changes your focus, uses your talents, or helps you reach out to others. That’s what Crafting Calm is all about. Through five chapters Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla show readers how they can use various arts, movement, breathing, their senses, and their sense of self to be calmer and happier.

Each chapter focuses on a particular topic. Chapter 1: Catch Your Calm helps children gain control of their thoughts or behavior with crafts such as making a glitter jar and a Zen garden, kneading homemade bread, and doing an easy yoga exercise. A short parable demonstrates the power of perspective, and other activities give readers a variety of options. Chapter 2: Examining Emotions contains activities that allow a child to better understand their emotions and how they physically react to them. Doing a body scan, making mood art, learning to walk with confidence, and creating an emotional support plant are just a few of the activities presented.

Chapter 3: Being Here and Experiencing Now provides methods to support the important idea of staying present in every moment. Mindful walking, engaging all your senses, slowing down to fully enjoy a snack, making a terrarium, learning how to neutralize noise, are some of the activities described here. Chapter 4 is designed to help readers observe their thoughts and “gain skills to better control what goes on in your mind while still allowing space for it to wander and dream.” A “mind dump” can help you get your thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto paper without judgement. Daily affirmations can help readers to embrace their good qualities and become the person they want to be. These and the other provided activities can bring much-needed peace.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafting-calm-glitter-jar

Image copyright Aruna Rangarajan, 2020, text copyright Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Chapter 5: Capturing Joy and Growing Gratitude gives readers the tools to find “inner joy during tough times and appreciate things [they] may have taken for granted.” These emotional resources can help readers “navigate life’s ups and downs with positivity.” Origami can help turn paper into a colorful gratitude garden of flowers that each represent something you’re thankful for. If you’re feeling alone, you can use the instructions here to create a Tree of Belonging to show you how many people love and care for you. Bringing joy and sharing gratitude with others takes the focus off of yourself and gives you purpose. Here you’ll find ideas for doing both of these things.

In a casual, light, and conversational style Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla address many of the feelings and intrusive thoughts that can roil the mind and make inner peace hard to find. Readers will recognize and appreciate the straightforward examples and reassurance presented in the introduction to each chapter. Along with directions on how to complete the activities, Borgert-Spaniol and Kukla include how each activity can help bring about a more calm and positive attitude. The activities included are easy to do and don’t require special supplies, making them excellent go-tos for times when tranquility is needed.

Accompanying each activity are Aruna Rangarajan’s engaging illustrations, rendered in soothing colors, that demonstrate techniques and instructions while also adding whimsical touches that make every page inviting.

A wonderful, comprehensive guide not only to activities that can really make a difference in the life of any child, especially those disruptive feelings, but to the hows and whys inherent in them, Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids is highly recommended for family, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 8 – 12

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506465265

You can find Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

National Stress Awareness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Snowy Day Mind Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-anxiety-cover

October 21 – It’s Squirrel Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Squirrels elicit emotions on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand you can’t help but say “Awww!” when you see their tiny little paws and crafty antics. On the other hand their voracious appetites at bird feeders and penchant for darting into traffic is more likely to make you say “Arrgghhh!” This month is set aside, however, for enjoying the squirrels in your yard, park, or city. And really, don’t they make life just a little more fun?

Girl Versus Squirrel

Written by Hayley Barrett | Illustrated by Renée Andriani

 

Pearl built three birdhouses and put them in and near the tree in her backyard. One was shaped like a house, one was a tube, and the other was a tea cup atop a tall stand. After filling the house with suet, the tube with seeds, and the teacup with peanuts, Pearl settled in with her binoculars to wait. Soon cardinals, flickers, finches, and chickadees swooped in. But none of them wet for the peanuts.

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Image copyright Renée Andriani, 2020, text copyright Hayley Barrett, 2020. Courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House.

Happily sitting next to the teacup was a squirrel with a peanut in its paws. Pearl scared the squirrel away and then went to work to win this contest of wits. She used her hockey stick to raise the teacup’s stand higher and “watched, breathless with anticipated success, but was soon disappointed” as the squirrel easily climbed to the top. Pearl added a mop to make the pole even higher.

But still the squirrel had no trouble getting to the top. “The squirrel stared at Pearl and seized an especially plump peanut.” Just then the “pole began to teeter and totter until…It toppled to the ground,” breaking the handle off the teacup. As the squirrel dashed up a nearby oak tree, Pearl shouted, “‘You’re a bird-feeder-crashing, teacup-smashing, peanut-poaching pest!’” A pest Pearl was not about to lose out to.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-girl-versus-squirrel-bird-garage

Image copyright Renée Andriani, 2020, text copyright Hayley Barrett, 2020. Courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House.

While Pearl fixed her teacup, she devised a plan. She gathered supplies and started creating. Soon, a “network of obstacles emerged, each more squirrel-challenging than the last.” The squirrel may have been fast and determined, but the course ensured that “teacup triumph will require nerves of squirrely steel,” Pearl fixed her binoculars on the squirrel and waited.

It didn’t take long before the squirrel was headed in the right direction. He scampered over the rope, spun around the big spool, leaped to the swing, and scrambled through the rest of the course. Until… “CRUNCH!” Pearl was astounded. Then she saw the squirrel head for a nest in the oak tree with three baby kits in it. That’s when Pearl realized the squirrel was a mother. “‘I proclaim your victory,’ cheered Pearl, ‘ and I salute you, fearless, fluffy sister!’” Immediately, Pearl wanted to help this family grow and learn. Now her backyard is a birds’… and squirrels’… and contraption-lovers’ paradise.

“Some Squirrely Facts” about our favorite nature nemesis follows the story.

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Image copyright Renée Andriani, 2020, text copyright Hayley Barrett, 2020. Courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House.

For anyone who has done battle with a squirrel at their birdfeeder, Hayley Barrett’s story is a delight. Her nimble alliterative phrasing and fun-to-read action verbs will make any story time a joy. Add in Pearl’s can-do attitude and the squirrel’s unstoppable energy and you have the makings of an epic battle—one that readers are sure to want to replicate in their own yards. Barrett nails the experimental nature of children’s building projects, a detail that kids will appreciate and that will endear Pearl to them.  Barrett’s nod to girl power provides a strong, uplifting ending. Factual information about birds, bird food and squirrel behavior is interwoven organically throughout the story. That and the fascinating back matter make this a terrific book to pair with classroom lessons.

Renée Andriani’s vibrant, action-packed illustrations will wow kids and have them on the edge of their seats for each page turn. Realistic depictions of the cardinals, finches, chickadees, and flickers that swarm Pearl’s bird feeders will entice readers to learn more about these birds. When Pearl raises her teacup feeder higher and higher, Andriani presents clear images of how Pearl tapes the stand, stick, and mop together as well as the crashing result when the squirrel hops on. As Pearl gathers items from her garage and begins building her obstacle course, readers will be in suspense, waiting to see the final result.

Presented in a wild, two-page spread, Andriani’s portrayal of Pearl’s obstacle course rewards readers with bold, expressive typography and images of the squirrel making her way from station to station with style. The final two-page spread of Pearl’s backyard, is a riot of color as feeders, birds, and mama and baby squirrels nosh to their hearts’ content. Kids will want to linger to catch every detail.

Imaginative, humorous, and educational, Girl Versus Squirrel will become a favorite and will inspire kids to create their own obstacle course. The book would also be a high-interest accompaniment to STEM lessons in the classroom and at home. It would make a terrific addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House, 2020 | ISBN 978-0823442515

Discover more about Hayley Barrett and her books on her website.

To learn more about Renée Andriani, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Squirrel Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squirrel-community-coloring-page

Squirrely Activity Pages

 

You can join a girl who’s watching squirrels, find a whole squirrel community to color, see a squirrel enjoying a snack, and follow the numbers to discover… with these printable Squirrely Activity Pages

Girl Watching Squirrel Coloring Page | Squirrel Community Coloring PageDot-to-Dot Coloring Page | Squirrel with Nut Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-girl-versus-squirrel-cover

You can find Girl Versus Squirrel at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 15 – International Dot Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-cover

About the 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. Internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama, who became famous for her dot paintings and is the subject of today’s book – continues to live this philosophy every day.

Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry

By Fausto Gilberti

 

Yayoi Kusama, with her big, round curious eyes and dotted top gazes out at the reader as she introduces herself. She’d like to tell them her story, she says. She begins with her birth in “Matsumoto, a historic city in Japan with a beautiful castle.” Even as a child, she reveals, she loved to draw and would escape into the meadow to capture in her sketchbook the things she saw around her, the things “that other people didn’t.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-mirrored-rooms

Copyright Fausto Gilberti, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon.

When she grew up, she moved to New York with dreams of becoming a famous artist. When her money ran out, she gathered scraps of food that had been thrown away at the market and used them to make soup. At home in her apartment, Yayoi painted “hundreds and hundreds of dots onto large canvases.” Often the canvases couldn’t contain all the dots and they ran onto her walls and even her clothes. “But I wasn’t sorry,” she explains. “Each dot was part of thousands of others—they made me feel like I was a single dot that was part of our infinite universe.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-clothes

Copyright Fausto Gilberti, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon.

Even though, Yayoi created lots of paintings, she was still poor. One day Georgia O’Keefe, answering a letter from Yayoi asking for help in selling her paintings, came to visit. She introduced Yayoi “to her art dealer, who immediately bought one of my paintings.” After that, Yayoi painted more pictures and had a successful solo exhibition in New York. More exhibitions followed, and Yayoi’s work expanded. She began making soft cushioned shapes that she used to cover…well…almost everything.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-snow

Copyright Fausto Gilberti, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon.

Yayoi even experimented with pasta, lighted balls, and mirrored rooms. And then she did something daring: She held “‘happenings,’” where she turned people’s bodies into canvases for her art. This brought her more recognition, and she decided that she wanted to “change the world for the better.” With her unique vision, she protested against the Vietnam war and was arrested. Following her release, she began experimenting even more, with clothing styles that brought people together—one dress fit twenty-five people at once!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-japan

Copyright Fausto Gilberti, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon.

Then Yayoi became sick. She stopped creating and moved back to Japan to recover. But much had changed in the years she had been away. Development and pollution had destroyed the nature she once loved. A snowy day, however, restored her desire to do art, and she began writing. When she was better, Yayoi decided to stay in Japan. “I still work nonstop, making paintings, writing books, and designing clothes and other objects” like pumpkins covered in dots, she says. Her artwork can be found in galleries and museums around the world—her dream from so long ago came true.

More about Yayoi Kusama’s life as well as a stirring photograph of one of her art installations—All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins—follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-pumpkins

Copyright Fausto Gilberti, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon.

Fausto Gilbert’s captivating biography of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama will enchant young readers and creators of all kinds. Writing from Yayoi’s perspective, Gilberti hits a perfect tone, allowing children to hear Yayoi’s confidence in herself and her work while also discovering the lean times she experienced and how she reached out for help. Gilberti illuminates the timelessness of Yayoi’s singular creative vision, and its meaning will be embraced by today’s aware and activist children. Her final whimsical revelation about her pumpkin artwork will resonate with imaginative kids, exciting them to believe their own dreams of success are within reach.

Gilberti’s quirky black and white illustrations, later punctuated with Yayoi’s signature red hair, will charm kids and are particularly affective in drawing a portrait of this unique artist. Readers will marvel anew with every page and will especially love the twenty-five-person dress and the idea of Yayoi’s “happenings,” which could prompt a fun bath-time art activity for at-home learning. The book will also motivate kids to learn more about Yayoi Kusama’s work online and to create their own art with abandon.

Inspiring and liberating, Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry is a must for creative kids at home, in the classroom, and at public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 

Phaidon, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660802

To learn more about Fausto Gilberti, his books, and his art.

International Dot Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dots-coloring-page

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yayoi-kusama-covered-everything-cover

You can find Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Little ones seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Reading today’s book with them is a great place to start! To celebrate today, take time to look at things in a different way. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks to Quarto Publishing for sending me a copy of ABC What Can I Be? For review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

ABC What Can I Be?: You Can Be Anything You Want to Be, from A to Z

By Sugar Snap Studio

 

A whole world of possibilities is open to kids as they grow and learn. Introducing them to a wide range of careers is as easy as ABC in this bright, oversized board book that demonstrates the joy of working at something you love. Each profession is described with one compelling sentence that presents the substance of the occupation through rich vocabulary. Bold typography displays the letter of the alphabet along with its namesake career while charming and high-interest illustrations depict a person actively engaged in working and the equipment they use.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abc-what-can-i-be-A

Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

These vivid images give little learners many opportunities to ask questions, recognize similar objects in their own homes, at school, or when out with parents or caregivers, and make connections with professionals they meet when going to the doctor, the dentist, farmers markets, zoos, and museums.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abc-what-can-i-be-G

Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

A highlight of this book is the inclusion of lesser-known careers that will pique kids’ interest as well as the emphasis—told through the illustrations—that anyone of any gender can pursue the work that speaks to them and uses their talents. A peek inside finds Landscape Architect at L: “I design gardens, parks, and open spaces for people to enjoy.” If your little one loves the water, they may want to dive into O for Oceanographer. This scientist says, “I study life in the ocean and take samples back to my lab.”

What career begins with Q? Quantitative Analyst—who uses “mathematics to look for patterns and [studies] data.” Children who love collaborating with other kids may be interested in being a Youth Director, who says that they “care for children and tach them important life skills.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abc-what-can-i-be-E

Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

An exciting and world-broadening way to learn the alphabet, ABC What Can I Be? will be a favorite on family bookshelves and would be an excellent addition to classroom and public library collections. The book also makes a welcome gift for baby showers, babies, and young children.

Ages 3 – 6

Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1600588822

To learn more about Sugar Snap Studio, visit their website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnetic-can-craft (2)Creativity is Magnetic! Fun Can-tainer

 

A can with a lid can make a creative kit if you fill it with magnetic pieces that can be used to make scenes, faces, or even poems. Make the magnets yourself and you can create a kit that is uniquely yours! Make a kit to put in the car too!

Supplies

  1. Can with a lid, available at craft stores or with various types of tea
  2. Small craft magnets and/or magnetic strips
  3. A variety of small items such as:
  • Foam or felt shapes
  • Scrap booking stickers 
  • Googly eyes in various sizes
  • Felt or heavy paper
  • Small charms
  • Small toys

Directions

To Make Scenes

  1. Attach magnets to shapes, stickers, or small items
  2. Arrange them into a scene or design on the side of the can

To Make Faces

  1. Attach magnets to googly eyes
  2. Make noses and mouths out of the felt or heavy paper
  3. Attach magnets to facial features

To Make Poems 

  1. Use Magnetic Sheets, leaving the white paper on
  2. Write words on the white paper
  3. Cut out words
  4. Arrange them into a poem on the side of the can

Store your magnetic pieces inside the can

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abc-what-can-i-be-cover

You can find ABC What Can I Be? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review