November 11 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly, who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year’s theme is “How Do You Book?” The thought-provoking theme encourages readers to think about what they read, where they read, and how they read. To learn more about this literary holiday, visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.

Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash

Written by Carmen Oliver | Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

 

As a child, Favio Chávez looked to music as an important touchstone. When he grew up, he was still involved with music, but his profession was as an environmental engineer. He was given a job in “Cateura, Paraguay—a small village built on a landfill—to try to help the families who lived and worked amid the hills of trash.” When trucks came and dumped load after load of trash, recyclers, called gancheros, filled bags of items they could resell. The air was choked with the stench of garbage, and anywhere the gancheros walked “they waded through filth.” It made Favio sad to think of people living this way.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

As Favio supervised the gancheros, he “became friends with them and their children. He worried about what kind of lives they would live when they grew up. Besides his job at the landfill, “Favio conducted a youth orchestra in a nearby village.” One day, the people he worked with came to listen. They wondered if their kids could also learn to play instruments. Favio was excited by the prospect. 

He even brought his own guitars and violins for the children to play, but soon he had more kids in class than he had instruments. But there was another problem too. The instruments were valuable and could attract thieves to the homes of his students. He needed another idea, and while watching Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, a talented carpenter, picking through the trash, he thought of something that might work. 

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Colá began searching through the piles for anything that he could use to make instruments. He collected cans and pipes, crates and buttons, even X-ray film and eating utensils. As he looked at his materials, Colá envisioned how he could create a violin. Finally with violins and other instruments for each child, Favio began teaching them how to play and how to read music. They practiced and practiced until they were ready to perform for their parents.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

At a local church, with the audience packed and excited, the notes of the children’s first song ‘”New York, New York’ floated out the windows and into the warm night air.” The adults were overcome with happiness. While their lives had been only about survival, they now “had hope in their hearts and dreams for a better tomorrow.”

Back matter includes further information about Favio Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura from 1975, when Favio was born in Argentina to 2006, when he arrived to work at the Cateura landfill to today, when the Orchestra supports more children and families with building projects, food, computers for school, scholarships, and many more humanitarian efforts. A selected bibliography is also included.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

From its earliest days the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura has inspired musicians, authors, movie makers, and listeners from around the world. In Building an Orchestra of Hope, Carmen Oliver tells the story through the lens of a hope fulfilled. As Favio Chávez begins his new job at the landfill educating the gancheros on how to work more efficiently, his initial thought is for the future of the children of the village. Oliver shows how Chávez not only supervised the workers but became their friend, honored to be included. While relating Chávez’s eagerness to share his love of music with the children, Oliver hints at what’s to come with lyrical descriptions of the sounds the glass, metal, and plastic makes as the gancheros rake through the piles of trash. She also includes pertinent facts that allow readers to understand the challenges the community faced and what a monumental undertaking the idea was.

While this story revolves around Favio Chávez, his idea could never have been brought to fruition without the talents of Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, who could envision the instruments and even hear their sound as he pored through the trash for materials. Oliver provides a satisfyingly detailed list of the types of items Colá repurposed and later reveals which items were used to create violins, drums, violas, flutes, saxophones, and trumpets, pages that are sure to pique young crafters’ interest. The emotional ending to this true story will swell the hearts of readers—those who already know about the orchestra and those being introduced to it for the first time.

Louisa Uribe’s soft-hued illustrations realistically depict the village of Cateura and the landfill it is built upon. They meet Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez and witness the idea of creating instruments from trash come to life. Uribe’s close up of a violin lets kids see how disparate items are used creatively to replicate each part of the instrument. As instruments are made, the number of children filling the courtyard grows until their hard work and practice is rewarded on a real stage, a microcosm of the growth and impact of one man’s caring and creativity.

Special Note: The inspirational back matter, worthy of its own picture book, will astound readers with just how far-reaching one idea when explored in collaboration with others can be. Themes of the vital importance and life-changing impact of the arts, persistence, determination, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and odds, and the power of hope are what this true story is built on, and this factual back matter is sure to affect readers and get them thinking about how they can make a difference to a cause they believe in.

Powerful, accessible, and impactful, Building an Orchestra of Hope is a must for all home, school, and library collections, not only to tell this compelling, ongoing story but to remind them that their actions, too—from a single kind word or smile to large community effort—can change lives. 

Ages 4 – 9 

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0802854674

You can learn more about Luisa Uribe, her books, and her art on her website.

You can connect with Carmen Oliver on Twitter.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

Bookworm Bookmark Template

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You can find Building an Orchestra of Hope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s a Book Birthday Party for Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m celebrating the book birthday of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with two holidays – Read a New Book Month and Friendship Month. I also have amazing interviews with author Jamie Michalak and illustrator Sabine Timm that really dive into the creation of this unique book. So, come on in!

Thanks go to Hippo Park and Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Sabine Timm

 

Kids first meet the sweet lemon (yes, an adorably sweet lemon) at the center of this story peeking out from a cutout in the cover. The narrator, having revealed that “there’ a party in this book,” now invites Lemon to find it: “Come on, Lemon! Let’s go look.” So, a little uncertainly, Lemon knocks at a red door with a mouse door knocker. Once inside, Lemon, readers, and the narrator meet a jaunty cast of characters—suspender shorts atop three pillows, a paint-tube mouse on a bed, a curious sock on the top of a bunkbed, and a little pink-and-green house on more pillows.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The scene sets Lemon and crew wondering… “Is this a mouse party? A pants, sock, and house party?” And the answer? “No! This is a game where we can’t touch the floor.” Ah! So the narrator says, “Lemon, keep looking. Try the next door.” Lemon tries another house, but there’s no party there either—just some fashionable cats and fruit.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Hmmm… Lemon is getting a little discouraged. But the narrator gives Lemon a nudge, saying “This book is not done.” Although Lemon meets a group of friends at the beach, they’re not partying, just hanging out together. Lemon meets some pigeons and enters a kitchen, where a bear, a bunny, and a little toast dog made of bread are baking up treats. But there’s no party! Finally, “…Lemon’s back home. Does the book end right here, with her sad and alone?”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

But then Lemon has an idea! An idea that needs readers’ help to succeed! Lemon (and readers) are going to host the party for everyone they’ve met! There’s going to be cake and candy, decorations and games. “This is a big and a small, / have a ball party. / Hooray for new friends at the / come one and all party!” And what about readers? Everyone shouts, “Come on in!”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Kids can’t help but get excited about joining Lemon in searching for the party promised on the cover. Jamie Michalak’s enthusiastic, inclusive storytelling speaks directly to them from the very first words as she exclaims “What?! There’s a party in this book?” As Lemon goes from door to door and page to page, readers follow, carried along on Michalak’s buoyant rhythm and rhymes that surprise—coming at the ends of lines but also sometimes in the middle, which keeps each page fresh and fun. 

When Lemon returns home after not finding the party and hits upon the idea of being the one to host it, the promise that “there’s a party inside” is fulfilled in an unexpected way. An interactive page gets readers involved in the party preparations and will make them feel both included and empowered to invite others to their own party—or just to make new friends. 

Sabine Timm’s illustrations, created with found objects, burst with childlike imagination and endearing personalities. Each page is a showstopper that kids and adults will want to explore together to soak up all the details. And you don’t have to stop there! Each character—from Lemon to the yarn cat and clothespin rabbit to the paintbrush dog and soccer-loving log boy (see Sabine’s answer to question 2 in her interview below)—offers up an opportunity for readers to have fun creating their backstories, imagining what they’re doing when Lemon first encounters them, and guessing what their favorite part of the party is. But wait! The party isn’t over yet! The front and back endpapers, full of tiny objects from the story, give families a super search-and-find game to do together.

Full of humor, whimsy, imagination, and the joys of inclusive friendship. Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! will quickly become a family favorite to read again and again. The book would make a terrific gift and one you’ll want in your home, school, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640001

Meet Jamie Michalak

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Jamie Michalak is a children’s book writer, who loves toast, dogs, and toast shaped like dogs. She is the author of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! illustrated by Sabine Timm. Jamie’s other titles include the multiple starred reviewed Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Kato-Jones; Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; the Frank and Bean early reader series, illustrated by Bob Kolar, and the Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. She lives with her family in Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie Michalak on her website | Instagram | Twitter

This story feels so fresh—whimsical, comical, and surprising.  I’d love to have you talk about how your story came to be and your writing process for it.

Thank you! Long ago, I jotted down the title and idea for this story—an interactive picture book with a different party on every page that the reader was invited to join. But I never wrote it. Several years later, my agent, Victoria Wells Arms, told me that editor Jill Davis was looking for a manuscript for artist Sabine Timm. So I checked out Sabine’s irresistible art on Instagram.

I instantly fell in love with her characters and wanted to write a story that included as many of them as possible. That’s when my old idea for COME ON IN; THERE’S A PARTY IN THIS BOOK! came to mind. I wrote the story and threw a party for Sabine’s characters—cats wearing boots and fruits dressed in suits, pigeons named Fred, and dogs made of bread. As it turns out, this party was just waiting for the right guests to get it started!

The idea of anthropomorphizing everyday objects is so interesting, especially as it’s a practice universal to adults and kids. As a storyteller, do you think this is just part of human nature or do we learn it in childhood?

That’s a fascinating question! I’m not sure. But I do love how children and children book creators are always turning inanimate objects into characters. A hot dog and baked bean can be new friends who form a band called The Chili Dogs. Or the salt and pepper shakers might face off in a talent competition before dinner arrives. Life is more interesting when you use your imagination.

The story lends itself so well to the “search and find” fun of Sabine’s illustrations. Was this also part of your intention as you crafted the story?

It wasn’t, but you’re right! I discovered all of the seek-and-find elements, just like readers will, when I first saw Sabine’s illustrations. There are so many whimsical details that I spot new ones with every read.

Every page is so creatively put together, but do you have a favorite spread in the book?

The cats wearing boots spread is one of my favorites from any picture book ever. How did Sabine create a cat from a small ball of yarn and sassy plastic doll boots? I mean … the BEST!

What would you like kids to take away from the story?

Everyone is invited to this book’s party—and that’s what makes the last spreads, starring all of the characters, the most joyful of all. I hope that readers take away that parties are more fun when no one is left out.

Do you have any special events or other marketing planned that you’d like to tell readers about?

Here’s a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio” that introduces readers to Sabine Timm and Lemon. Then Sabine gives a tutorial on how they can make a character of their own. a link to a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio – the illustrator of COME ON IN.”

And here’s a short bit of animation showing closeups of the objects that make up the book cover.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited about several books coming out next year. The first is a picture book about a tiny treasure hunt set in a Parisian bookshop: DAKOTA CRUMB AND THE SECRET BOOKSHOP illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press). It’s the follow-up to DAKOTA CRUMB: TINY TREASURE HUNTER about an Indiana Jones-ish mouse. The third Frank and Bean early reader, FRANK AND BEAN: THE STINKY FEET MONSTER, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick Press), is a hilarious take on Bigfoot. And two Chicken Soup for the Soul for Kids books—THE SUNSHINE GARDEN, illustrated by Jenna Nahyun Chung, and PLAYDATE (WITH BEAR TOO?), illustrated by Katie Mazeika—will be released from Charlesbridge.

Thanks, Jamie, for taking time to chat with me todat! Finding new book of yours is always a reason to celebrate! 

Meet Sabine Timm

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Sabine Timm calls herself an artist, creator, beach-trash collector, flea-market lover, and photographer. She draws, paints, assembles and shares her work nonstop on Instagram. She lives in Dusseldorf Germany, but has fans from around the globe.

You can connect with Sabine Timm on Facebook | Instagram

Hi Sabine! I’m so thrilled to have a chance to talk with you about your incredible illustrations! As your 168K Instagram followers would, I’m sure, agree, your adorable creations are not only awe-inspiring but always bring a smile. Can you tell readers how you got started doing this kind of art?

It’s hard to say when I started making art like this. I always had a big interest in playing with found objects. When I was a child, I collected various things from nature. Shreds, sticks, seeds, buttons I’ve found on the streets etc.

I always loved the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and I was very much inspired by the hidden life of things in his stories. Many years later when I became a mother myself we had holidays at the sea and me and my son made a beach walk. We found a lot of funny things…a broken flip-flop, a red-checked French-fries bag, sandblasted wood sticks, small rope pieces, bottle caps, shells, feathers, and stuff like this.

Together we started playing, and we made characters from this found trash. We transformed trash to treasures…through our eyes and visions the things got a second life. I was deeply fascinated by these experiences, and I continued in arranging and photographing characters like this.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

When you look at an object, do you immediately see its potential to become something else? I’m thinking of the sofa you made from crackers that appeared on your Instagram page recently.

When I work with found or everyday objects there two options. Sometimes the objects themselves are attractive (colour, shape, size) and while looking at these things I get an inspiration. For example, the Swedish bread that became an upholstered sofa.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

The other option is that I have the plan of creating a special character and I go around in my home or in my studio and look around for something that works.

I always try to look at the things around me with the eyes of a child. Forgetting about function and use, I enjoy playing and arranging.

For example the little tree trunk character from the book….I found the miniature soccer shoes at the flea market and I came back to my studio where I had a box with collected objects from nature. I immediately had the idea of a little tree trunk boy who loves playing soccer!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Come On In! is your debut picture book. What were your first impressions when you read Jamie’s manuscript?

I was totally thrilled!!! All my characters united in such a wonderful story! When I read the lovely text for the first time I could hardly believe that Jamie has never been in my studio.

She pictured everything so detailed and gripping. Jamie wrote a charming story of cohesion and team spirit. I love the rhymes and the imaginative language.

I’m so happy to have in Jamie an author who empathizes so much with my characters. Come on In! invites everyone to have a great time together, and I was inspired from the first moment! 

Your scenes in Come On In! are beyond adorable. Can you share a little bit about your process in creating them?

So let’s go into my studio . . .

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Here I will show you something about my working process. In the very first beginnings of this book, I started with sketches and scribbles to get an idea of the story and the characters.

When I want to build and arrange a scene, I usually start with the characters! When they “come to life“ I start playing and letting them interact with each other. I take a lot of test photos to see how it works.

Next step is building the background or finding the location. In the case of a cardboard background I recycle used boxes and cut them into the right size. I cut out windows and build doors and in the end I paint. 

When I just have to find a nice location, I pack all my utensils and my camera. I never go out before checking the weather forecast (no rain and wind, please)!

For example, the scenery with the pigeons is arranged on my studio rooftop even though I had built a nice cardboard roof, but it didn’t work as I imagined. I changed my plans and placed all the pigeons on the real rooftop…this was an authentic and perfect place for a crazy party with sunflower seed snacks and drinks and music! Adding these kind of items is like the icing on the cake!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Did you have a favorite part of the story to create an assemblage for? What made it stand out for you?

It’s hard to make a decision…each assemblage is unique and special.

Creating the characters of fruits and bread was a great fun. Working with edible materials is particularly appealing to me—it is easy to get and you can eat it up when the work is done. (I have to say…sometimes I can’t eat them when they are looking at me so sweetly.)

For the kitchen scene, I was so happy that I could use my lovely vintage furnishings I’d collected for my photo arrangements years before.

I found the perfect buns and cakes to assemble the characters—Mr. Bear looked like a fantastic pastry chef and little bunny girl in her crunchy dress was so photogenic! Very same with the fruits-in-suits scene—in the beginning there is just a bag with fruits and vegetables, and after a few hours you have a gallery of fruity friends!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

What are you hoping to inspire in readers with your illustrations?

I hope I can inspire the readers to realise that the best thing in life is coming together, having a good time, respecting each other, and celebrating the uniqueness of each being.

Lemon takes the initiative, and I hope she will empower the readers to do the same.

What would you like for children to take away from your illustrations in this book?

Children are so creative, and I would like for my illustrations to encourage them to play with anything they find around at home, in nature. or wherever. They don’t need to buy new and expensive Playmobil or Lego figures…just a lemon can become a friend.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Thanks, Sabine, for sharing so much of your creative process and all of these images! I’m sure readers are excited to read the book—and to stretch their creativity! I wish you all the best with Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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You can find Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, this month-long holiday is called Read a New Book Month, but what if you’re just itching to draw in a book? Sometimes those empty margins and chapter-opening pages seem to call out for embellishment. That’s where today’s book comes in! Every page (yes, every page!) invites kids to get out their colored pencils, markers, and crayons to add their own creative flair to make it truly their own.

Thanks to Cicada Books for sharing a digital copy of Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination

By Jurg Lindenberger

 

A child’s imagination is boundless – and so is their desire to find lots of different ways to express it. In Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination, Jurg Lindenberger gives kids a ticket to travel to wacky worlds where they get to do all sorts of things, like stock the shelves of silly stores, wind their way through the maze that is Megaburb, design cozy outfits for staying warm while skiing in Frostonika, and create delicious drinks to sip while lounging on the beach of LazyIsle.

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

All along the way, from packing a suitcase and navigating Catwick Airport to getting onboard the pencil plane and touching down in Vectoland, Fruitnveg Megaburb, Frostonika, LazyIsle, Olde-Forest, and Crystal Castles, whimsical friends greet readers with enthusiastic smiles and humorous comments.

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

A friendly narrator also keeps up a running conversation with kids that prompts them to add people, things, and even themselves to the pages. There are mazes, search-and-find and find-the-differences puzzles, a color-by-number scene, and many other ways for kids to stretch their creativity while being entertained to boot. 

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

Jurg Lindenberger knows what will get kids giggling and drawing, and his easy comical flair makes every page fun (with even a little geometry thrown in). Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination is a perfect stowaway for trips by train, plane, or automobile to make those miles fly by as well as an engaging way to keep kids busy on rainy days or at the kitchen table and family room during relaxing time. 

Ages 4 – 11

Cicada Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1800660106

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Head in the Clouds Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wowee-zowee-cover

You can find Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – 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 to sports to how you express yourself. Kids 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. Encouraging them to use their particular talents, helps them build confidence and find their place in the world. Reading today’s book with them is a great way to start! To celebrate today, take time to share your talents with others. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks go to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Annette Feels Free with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid

Written by Katie Mazeika

 

It was early 1900 and teenage Annette Kellerman was making a splash at Australia’s Melbourne Aquarium. She “was a real-life mermaid swimming and dancing with the fish…” to entertain visitors. The newspapers wrote about her, and people flocked to watch. Annette had always loved the freedom she felt while dancing, but when she was six, her legs became too weak for her to dance or to run or even to walk without braces. Sitting at home, Annette was no longer the happy little girl she had been.

Then one day, her father took Annette to swim in Lavender Bay. “She laughed and danced in the waves, kicking her legs. Splash, splash!” Annette swam so much that “she became the strongest swimmer in New South Wales” and no longer needed her leg braces. In addition to performing, Annette raced and soon she had broken all of Australia’s long-distance swimming records. She then moved to London and thrilled audiences there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-aquarium

Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette and her father then traveled throughout Europe and America, where Annette performed her water dancing and raced against other swimmers—men included—and won. But there was one thing that was holding her back from even greater success—her swim costume. “Because she was a woman, she still had to perform and compete in a full skirt and pantaloons.” Why, she thought, did she have to wear something different and so cumbersome?

Annette decided to sew her own swim costume. Her new one-piece suit with short legs was so liberating. She felt as she had as a girl first learning to swim and dance in Lavender Bay. But not everyone saw her swimsuit in the same light. When she wore it to the beach in Boston, the crowd was shocked, and she was even arrested for “not wearing enough clothing!” Arguing her case in front of a judge, Annette showed the court the difference in men’s and women’s swimwear and stated that she should have the same freedom as men. The judge agreed, but with a caveat: she had to remain covered up all the way to the water’s edge. Her new swimwear became a hit with other women, who even called it the Annette Kellerman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-dancing

Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette’s career continued to take her all over the world and even made her a movie star! She trained other women in “ornamental swimming”, which later became known as “synchronized swimming.” Now called “artistic swimming”, Annette Kellerman’s revolutionary style is a recognized sport at the Summer Olympics.

Back Matter includes an expanded biography of Annette Kellerman, complete with photographs, and an Author’s Note about Katie Mazeika’s own experiences with a physical disability and how these life-changing occurrences shape who someone is and the careers they pursue.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-diving

Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

A comprehensive and compelling biography of a woman who broke barriers while advocating for women and changing fashion mores forever, Annette Feels Free is historical storytelling at its best. Katie Mazeika clearly links Annette’s early disability, her perseverance, and her recovery to her recognition of her unique talent. Mazeika’s conversational narrative draws readers into Annette’s emotions and passion for swimming. Historical points of interest—women’s swim costumes, hot cocoa sipped mid-swim across the English Channel, Annette’s success in court, and her continued influence on swimming, for example—will amaze children and spark a desire to investigate more about Annette Kellerman and her times.

Mazeika’s full-bleed illustrations in this slightly oversized book lend grandeur to the pages, bringing readers into the aquarium’s fish tank to watch spectators’ reactions as Annette becomes “the original mermaid”; depicting her early love of dancing and distress at her braced legs; and falling with her as she thrills London audiences with graceful dives. Children will be particularly fascinated by images of Annette swimming, diving, and dancing in the proscribed swimming costume for women that included a cap and dress trimmed in lace, pantaloons, tights, and ballet-flat type shoes tied to her ankles. Her self-confidence and indomitable spirit grace each spread and are sure to inspire readers. 

For young readers, Annette Kellerman’s long, prolific, and creative career has the power to inspire their own creative endeavors. Annette Feels Free offers multilevel opportunities for lessons in history, the arts, and even math and science (how much did that swim costume weigh, anyway?). The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665903431

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-curriculum-guide-cover

To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at katiemazeika.com. You can connect with Katie on Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration | Instagram: @kdmazart | Twitter: @kdmaz

Live Creative Day Activity

 

Video of Annette Kellerman’s “Ornamental Swimming”

 

Watch Annette Kellerman swim her water ballet in this rare footage from MermaidFX.

Million Dollar Mermaid Movie Scene

 

Now watch a thrilling scene from the movie Million Dollar Mermaid, the 1952 biopic about Annette Kellerman’s life starring Esther Williams, whose career was inspired by Kellerman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-cover

You can find Annette Feels Free at these booksellers at

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 24 – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

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About the Holiday

All this week, we celebrate Engineers and Engineering! Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPA) in 1951, Engineering Week focuses on increasing an understanding of and interest in engineering and other technical careers to ensure a diverse and well-educated engineering workforce for the future. More than seventy engineering, education, and cultural societies and more than fifty corporations and government agencies cooperate to raise public awareness of engineers’ contributions to our quality of life. Throughout the week they work to foster a recognition in parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education as well as a high level of math, science, and technology literacy. By reaching out to schools, businesses, and community organizations across the country, they hope to motivate young people to pursue engineering careers. For Introduce a Girl to Engineering, or Girl Day, educators, engineers, volunteers, and others demonstrate engineering activities, show girls how engineers change our world, and provide mentors to guide tomorrow’s engineers. To learn more about Engineering Week and today’s holiday in particular, visit the NSPA website.

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis

 

“In a tiny bungalow, / there lived a clever thinker. / Young Goldilocks invented things. She’d make and craft and tinker.” Goldilocks made lots of useful things, like machines to help you tie your shoes, to a self-zipping zipper to a hat outfitted with a flashlight, magnifying glass, and itty-bitty satellite dish to help you find the things you’ve lost. But one day, Goldilocks found that she had “inventor’s block,” so she decided to take a walk.

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

At the same time, the Bear family was out gathering nuts and berries for their pre-hibernation celebration. Baby Bear had a nifty contraption that knocked fruit and nuts into a basket with a tennis racquet. Papa Bear had an ingenious wheelbarrow with mechanical arms and hands that picked berries one by one and deposited them in the cart—but only after tossing them through a tiny basketball hoop. Swish! And Mama Bear’s handy vacuum sucked fruit right off the bushes and collected them in a tank.

Their next stop was the beehive at the top of a hill. After they’d eaten all their goodies, Baby Bear spied a little bungalow. The Bears thought it was just the place to spend the winter. When they went inside, they found “the room was full of strange devices, / widgets, tools, and more!” Looking more closely, Papa Bear found a chair that was perfect for Baby Bear. He marveled that “it feeds you and it wipes your mouth, / and reads you stories, too!” Meanwhile, Mama Bear had discovered a bowl that stirred porridge and a bed that automatically rocked you to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-workshop

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Baby Bear loved the chair but wished for one more innovation that would make it just right. Papa Bear found parts and tools and fixed the chair to Baby Bear’s specifications. Mama Bear tasted the porridge and found it lacking one ingredient, so Papa Bear created a porridge-stirrer accessory to add it drop by drop. By now it was dark, and even though Papa Bear thought it wasn’t right to stay, Baby Bear convinced him that one night would be okay.

But when they crawled into bed and turned it on, it rocked so much that it tipped the Bears right onto the floor. There was only one thing to do: “Baby fixed the engine block. / Replace the gears that burned. / Soon the bears were fast asleep… / Then Goldilocks returned.” She saw the chair, tasted the porridge, and then… “heard snoring sounds.” Wide awake now, the bears began to explain. But Goldilocks was not upset. Instead she said, “‘You’ve improved my projects here, / and made them much more fun. / Proving that four brains, by far, / are better than just one!’”

Excited to be inventing again with the bears on board to lend their smart innovations, Goldilocks sends the family off amid promises to “‘…meet up in the spring’” when they will “‘…make the next big thing!’”

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With her fun flip on the Goldilocks story, Sue Fleiss invites kids to indulge their inner inventor with wacky contraptions that can make getting dressed, cooking, going to bed, and chores more exciting. Fleiss’s clever takes on the well-known “just right” chair, porridge, and bed get readers thinking creatively—perhaps even about their own household appliances. While the original story ends with the interloper being chased away, Fleiss’s version shines with the benefits of cooperation, collaboration, and being open to new ideas.

With so many cool inventions to discover on every page, readers will love taking extra time to find and talk about them all. Any young maker would swoon over Petros Bouloubasis’s well-stocked workbench, and readers would have a blast drawing their own gadgets using the tools and supplies depicted. Quirky, abstract landscapes add to the kid-centric ambiance, and just like the Bear family, who drives away in a new vehicle with their full wheelbarrow in tow, readers will look forward to returning to Goldilocks’ little bungalow again and again.

Imagination, creativity, teamwork, and friendship all wrapped up in a clever fractured fairytale—what could be better?! Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is one to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807529973

Discover more about Sue Fleiss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petros Bouloubasis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

Engineers are at the core of so many things that make our homes and neighborhoods what they are. Kids will have fun building a bridge from Using items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin, kids will have fun making the bridge above and maybe even a whole town! Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports. Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar, aluminum can, or bread crumb container. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—turn the boxes inside out, tape, and add paint and details! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

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You can find Goldilocks and the Three Engineers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 18 – World Day of the Snowman

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate snowmen, those winter sculptures that roll to a stop on front lawns, welcome customers to friendly business, and enjoy a day or two (or more if the weather cooperates) in parks and town greens wherever snow falls. Why today? Because the clever founder of the holiday looked at the 18 and decided it looked enough like the rounded body of a snowman and requisite handle of a broomstick to honor our winter friends. Speaking of friends, did you know that tomorrow is one of the three times during the year that we celebrate New Friends Day? The other two dates are October 19 and July 19! If you’re looking for a story to share for both World Day of the Snowman and New Friends Day, you’ll want to pick up today’s book!

Making a Friend

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Alison Friend

 

“Beaver was good at making lots of things.” He could build, he could knit, and he knew a bit about engineering. But he was not so good at making friends. He tried hard to do nice things, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, one day, the snowflakes falling from the sky gave Beaver an idea. “Hmm! Maybe this is what I need to make a friend,” he thought.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He began rolling a huge snowball. While he was working, Raccoon came by to watch. When Beaver told him that he was making a friend, Raccoon said that it “takes two to make a friend.” Beaver was a bit disappointed until Raccoon did some math and showed him that Raccoon plus Beaver made two.

Working together Beaver and Raccoon made a cute snow friend. They added eyes, a nose, a smile, and two stick arms. But something was still missing. Raccoon said that thing was “pizzazz.” So they added a hat, a boa, some socks, and even a swim mask until their friend looked just right. But their friend just stared back at them. “This friend was not much of a friend at all. In fact, he seemed rather cold.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-water-snow

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then Beaver and Raccoon looked at each other. They talked about what fun they’d had building the snow friend together. And they realized that they had become friends. Now they make lots of things to share, but they agree—“the best thing they made was a friend.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins

Tammi Sauer unlocks the secret to friendship in her clever story in which making a friend leads to making a true friend. While Beaver tries to extend the hand of friendship and do nice things for others in the forest, his efforts miss the mark. But when he meets Raccoon, their personalities, talents, and ideas of fun click and they build a real friendship. Young readers will understand Beaver’s feelings of disappointment and confusion when his overtures of friendship are not reciprocated and see that collaborating with someone—either in play or toward a common goal—often brings friends together naturally.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Little readers will fall in love with Alison Friend’s adorable Beaver who’s so good at creating a playhouse complete with water slide but has trouble making friends. Cheerful and enthusiastic, Beaver is a sweetheart as he begins rolling the snow into a ball. When Raccoon comes by, Beaver quickly shares the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing and learn from the images of companionship and give-and-take as Beaver learns a little math and a new word from Raccoon and Raccoon discovers that he likes the raisons Beaver offers him on their way to creating their snowman.  Full of color, smiles, and endearing moments, Friend’s pages are sure to delight kids.

Making a Friend is a charming read aloud, a celebration of creativity, and a gentle lesson on friendship all rolled into one. To share with children learning to navigate new friendships and those who love doing everything with their best buddy, the book makes a sweet addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062278937

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

You can connect with Alison Friend on Instagram.

World Day of the Snowman Activity

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Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-cover

You can find Making a Friend at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you’re still looking for a gift to give, looking forward to the upcoming break from school, or wondering how to spend the long winter days with your kids in an exciting new way, the books in today’s lineup will get hearts and imaginations racing and families and friends creating and playing together. You won’t believe what you can make with simple supplies you’ll find in your own home or nearby until you check out the three books below. Working on these projects together with your kids will make lasting memories while setting them free to tinker on their own pays big rewards in self-confidence, pride, and imagination building. 

Thank you to Page Street Kids for sharing Cardboard Creations for Kids, The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations, and Play & Learn Activities for Babies with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

Cardboard Creations for Kids: 50 Fun and Inventive Crafts Using Recycled Materials

By Kathryn Ho

 

You will never look at a cardboard box the same way again after exploring the pages of Kathryn Ho’s wildly inventive guide to turning boxes, tubes, egg cartons, lids, wooden skewers, and other bits and bobs you have around the house into nearly anything your child can imagine. Like what, you ask? Well, for the homebody, there’s the charming cottage, complete with shingled roof and flowers (or maybe lollipops) in the window boxes. For kids who prefer adventures far from home, the rocket, retro van, or the submarine will take them as far as their imagination can take them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-cottage

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Other big-box beauties include an ice-cream cart with a jaunty umbrella, a play oven with knobs that turn, a puppet theater, a castle with a working drawbridge, a tent for camping under the stars (or ceiling festooned with star stickers), and a room-dividing screen that’s great for playtime or drawing on.

But what if you don’t have a big box? Kathryn Ho has you covered with dozens of ideas that will put a gleam in your child’s eyes and have you shaking your head in admiration for her clever crafting. The next chapter is all about creating things that really move, from a train to a school bus to a mini monster truck, complete with a big “personality with headlight eyes and a monster grin.” Other vehicles include a jet plane, a race car to rival any wooden toy, and a sailboat.

Kids who love construction vehicles will really dig the bulldozer with working shovel and the crane that can actually pick up the blocks you’ll make or any other small item from home. And if your kids have been asking for a puppy, the adorable hound will steal their heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-rocket

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Next, Kathryn moves on to creations that can enhance any playtime experience. “Adding just a few simple props to their pretend play can spark so many opportunities for discovery and delight,” she says at the beginning of the fourth chapter, which includes ideas that will delight kids whether they’re playing indoors or out. Got a young builder in the family? Make a tool belt, complete with a screw driver, hammer, wrench, and T-square. Fairy or gnome lovers will want to make their wee friends toadstool homes or maybe a triple-decker treehouse. Machine lovers will want to pretend with the cardboard laptop, and playing grocery store will be even more fun with the clever cash register. There are plenty of other ideas to spark pretend play here too.

Of course, boxes often are best-loved for what’s on the inside, and Kathryn offers up ten amazing designs for games like monster mini golf, tabletop soccer, and an intricate labyrinth that make use of a box’s inside space. There are also instructions on how to make a camera, space helmet, and shadow puppet theater as well as a swing and a cradle for a doll or teddy bear. And did I mention the car wash – with rotating brushes? So clever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-puppets

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Designs for simple playthings, room decorations, stamps, and even a flower press make up the final chapter of the book and provide ideas for those rainy or snowy afternoons when a quick craft is just the thing to keep kids busy and happy.

Introductory chapters reveal everything you need to know about the different kinds of cardboard and what they’re best used for, the basic tools for creating with cardboard as well as cutting tips and how to prepare the cardboard. Kathryn Ho also discusses where to source boxes and cardboard if you don’t have what you need at home. Kathryn even makes it easy to create many of the designs by including templates for fourteen of the crafts in the back of the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-puppet-theater

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Cardboard Creations for Kids is a book I would have LOVED to have when my kids were young. This is a must addition to any home as a go-to resource for school projects, art classes, scout projects, pretend play, party ideas, and so much more. Not only will you want to make all of these creations, they’ll spark your and your child’s imagination and desire to try your own hand at designing. The book is also a must-buy for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 10

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645674627

You can connect with Kathryn Ho on her Instagram, Cardboard Folk.

You can find Cardboard Creations for Kids 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-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-cover

The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have

By Sarah Dees

 

Are your kids LEGO fanatics eager for every new kit that comes out? Do little tiles occupy buckets and boxes and more buckets in your toy boxes and closets? Then this is the book for you! Open the cover and you’ll discover more than seventy-five creatures, vehicles, games, and dioramas perfect for imaginative play all described with illustrated, step-by-step instructions that make it easy for kids to put them together themselves (but adults will find it hard to resist digging into the stash and building some of these too!).

Sarah Dees begins with eight awesome vehicles, including a retro race car, hot rods, a tank and Humvee, an ATV for off roading, and a sports coupe and tiny car for impressing the inhabitants of any LEGO city. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Chapter Two gets kids excited about building their own town that even boasts a trampoline park where people can challenge themselves on the climbing wall, play basketball, pit themselves against arcade games, have a picnic, and, of course, jump on the trampoline. Perhaps your child is more into playing music than playing games. If so, they can put together their own “rockin’ garage band to “take the stage at the city park.” A keyboard player, piano player, drummer, and a couple of guitar players will have everyone cheering.

Every resident of a LEGO village needs to stay in shape, and they can do that at the gym, using the free weights, bench press, pull-up bars, floor mats, or treadmills. After this full day of activity, LEGO kids can relax in their cozy bedroom, where bunkbeds; a desk complete with bookshelves, lamp, and accessories; a toy table; and a dresser await.

But what about that forest on the edge of town? That magical place is populated with fairytale characters from favorite stories. Take a dragon (after you build it, of course!) to the Three Little Pigs Bake Shop. Bake shop? You bet! Sarah reveals that “after the unfortunate incident with the house of bricks and the Big Bad Wolf coming down the chimney, the Three Little Pigs decided to put their brick house up for sale and make a fresh start in a different part of Fairytale Forest.” After buying a “lovely gingerbread house…and watching some inspiring baking shows, they decided to open their very own bake shop!” And this little cottage does look good enough to eat…I mean eat in!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, lives here too in a tidy home with a little garden. Jack can climb that stalk all the way to the Castle in the Clouds, where he finds the goose that lays golden eggs. No magical forest is complete without a few Terrible Trolls to outsmart, and kids will have a blast building the ones in this book and making up their own.

And what would any Fairytale Forest be without unicorns, a “scheming and conniving witch” who lives in a treehouse lair, complete with potions and a crackling fire in the fireplace and “might be stealing a baby dragon or helping herself to some of the treats at the Three Little Pigs Bakery.” Kids will love coming up with stories of brave knights rescuing the dragon from its cage. Perhaps they’d like to make the wise “Wizard of Marshy Bog” and his pet raven to cast a spell and vanquish that witch! Instructions for making a griffin and a host of small forest creatures finish up the chapter.

If the world of spies is more your child’s thing, building the TEK Agent Headquarters will be an assignment they can’t refuse. This secret, impenetrable room even has a working “secure sliding door that opens when you turn a knob.” And what does all this security protect? The “TEK Agent Headquarters is the place for agents to invent gadgets, fix equipment and monitor villain activity with powerful cameras and computers” that kids construct from scratch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

If the agents need to get a bird’s eye view of nefarious activity, the Drone Launch Station is the perfect addition to the agents’ equipment and contains all the high-tech gear kids can make—a surveillance trailer, equipped with listening devices, recorders, computers, and more; speedy hover craft; jet packs; and a Hero Bot—to defeat the Villain Bot. Sarah Dees even gives kids ideas for disaster scenes that will spark plenty of storylines.

After all that action, a Vacation by the Sea is in order. Young builders can create a relaxing beach scene and a surf shop at the edge of the shore. A super-clever idea even allows kids to make waves worthy of any pro surfer. But what’s this on the horizon? A pirate ship! And under the sea? A colorful diorama of fish, sea plants, and sea creatures that any scuba diver would love to explore.

Kids ready to make their own city or town? Sarah finishes up her book with Awesome Mini Builds that will help kids enhance any landscape with vehicles of all types, animals from around the world, candy machines, robots, cameras and lab equipment, tiny houses, and more. Play and Display shows kids how to build a city skyline, working miniature golf fields, a solitaire game, treasure boxes, and even mosaics and self portraits worthy of hanging on the wall.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Sarah Dees, author of four other books in the LEGO project book series, continues to amaze with the diversity of kid-pleasing projects made from those little colorful blocks. The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have is a must for all LEGO lovers and is sure to turn newbies into diehard fans. The book also makes a perfect gift for any occasion and one to definitely add to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 12 and up

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645673507

To learn more about Sarah Dees and her books, visit her at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.

You can find The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have 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-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-cover

Play & Learn Activities for Babies: 65 Simple Ways to Promote Growth & Development from Birth to Two Years Old

By Hannah Fathi

 

If you have a baby or young toddler at home or in your family, you know how active they are and that they’re learning all the time. “How can you develop their language and motor skills, emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving abilities and occupy them all day?” Hannah Fathi has the answers to this question with her 65 easy-to-make and inexpensive ideas that will delight kids and adults alike.

Hannah begins each of her chapters with a discussion about how the projects will promote development—such as strength, investigation, dexterity and coordination, sensory awareness, visual awareness, and imagination—and how this development is important to the growth of your child long-term. The first chapter is entitled “Strengthening and Active Play” and presents ideas for making tummy time, which is “an important time for baby to strengthen their neck, back, and shoulders and prevent flat spots on their head,” engaging. A cardboard stand, complete with plastic pockets that can hold bold black-and-white images or photographs to entertain babies, will “encourage them to lift their head and push up on their arms.” You can also help your baby become more aware of their body and movement with the clever Rattle Socks that will make a sound each time baby kicks or moves their feet. This is a toy that can grow with your child as they learn to walk too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-rattle-socks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Babies who are able to sit on their own or with support will be mesmerized by the Spider Web Toy Grab that uses a laundry basket, string, and small toys to create a framework that encourages problem-solving skills and investigation while developing small motor skills. Older babies and toddlers will enjoy the hands-on learning of Transforming Disks that teach nature science and the Box Car that promotes imaginative play.

Get your child crawling across the floor in chase of the Vibrant Straw Roller, a clear plastic bottle filled with colorful bits of straws and/or beads. Other creative ideas include a play mat to use with little cars, a magnetic fishing pole and fish, the Pound-a-Ball box that will encourage your child to stand and squat to push balls through the holes in the top, a color-matching game, and a felt board for teaching shapes.

 
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-straw-bottle

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hands-on investigation takes center stage in the next chapter with a lift-the-flap book of family photographs that promotes important social-emotional learning while teaching kids about their family and encouraging fine-motor skills. A cardboard box Ball Run will keep babies busy, and the Egg Carton Color Sort activity promotes multiple development skills. You don’t need to buy expensive stacking rings, either, if you follow the directions for making this popular toy with plastic jar lids. Hannah includes many more ideas for keeping your little one busy all day long.

Developing dexterity and coordination has never been as fun as when you make the easy crafts in the next chapter. Each activity is designed to encourage little ones to grab or pick up small objects; spin a wheel; and pull, push, pinch, or bat at objects depending on their age and abilities.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-transformation-disks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-transforming-disks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The projects in the chapter on Sensory Play “primarily focus on hearing, touch and sight to capture your child’s interest and create lasting neural connections.” Taste-Safe Sponge Painting lets babies and toddlers paint and make stamps with more ease than using paint brushes, and the flour-based paint is safe for little tasters. Babies in a crib or enjoying some floor time will enjoy the sights and sounds of cardboard tube shakers. A crinkle square made from felt and parchment paper as well as a water mat created from a freezer bag filled with water and colorful buttons are ingenious! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-box-car

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Projects for Visual Exploration will thrill little ones with surprises, opportunities for hands-on play, matching games, mobiles, and even an I-Spy bottle to excite them again and again. As kids become more independent, imaginative play “promotes problem-solving, empathy, curiosity, and creativity…while providing opportunities to develop language and social skills.” Squishy sock bunnies, a cardboard hutch, and clever carrots; a pretend mailbox and letters; finger puppets made from tiny socks; a milk-jug fish; and a parking garage for little cars made from cardboard tubes, along with other fun crafts will get kids making up stories in no time. Even toilet training will be easier with Hannah’s ideas.

Rounding out her book, Hannah includes templates for many of the crafts as well as a chart that depicts the type of skill each project provides—a valuable resource as children grow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-finger-puppets

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hannah Fathi’s Play & Learn Activities for Babies is a superb collection of ideas that parents, daycare and preschool providers, and other caregivers will find themselves consulting and creating from again and again. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections and also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for baby showers, for new babies, or for anyone with a young child.

Ages Baby – 2 years

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645673989

You can learn more about Hannah Fathi and her book by visiting her at Baby Play Hacks

You can find Play & Learn Activities for Babies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review