March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the National Education Association in 1997, encourages children all across the country to celebrate reading and all of its joys and benefits. The NEA strives to create a nation of diverse readers and to provide teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion. In NEA’s digital Read Across America calendar, the theme for March is “Cultivate Compassion.” This year teachers and parents can connect with authors, discover ideas for virtually celebrating Read Across America, and find lots of resources for a full year of reading. A love of reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a powerful force for future success. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. There are fabulous worlds and stories waiting to be discovered. Just take a look into today’s book1 For more information on Read Across America, visit the NEA website.

If You Come to Earth

By Sophie Blackall

 

In Sophie Blackall’s beautifully—and often whimsically—illustrated If You Come to Earth, a child named Quinn who wears a red elfin hat writes a letter about Earth to any visitor from Outer Space who may venture to our planet. Quinn starts out with a map of sorts to guide the visitor through the cosmos to our “greeny-blue” home and, closer still, to the cities, towns, and villages where we congregate. A patchwork image shows the visitor the variety of houses people live in—from huts to trailers, castles to houseboats, cabins to treehouses to a familiar lighthouse. One space is also dedicated to those who have lost their homes “in a fire. In a flood. In a war.”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Turn the page to a sunny-day picnic and Quinn reveals that in those homes live “all kinds of families.” Sometimes people are quiet, but Quinn tells the visitor, “inside our heads, we are usually thinking. You can’t see our thoughts, but sometimes we show our feelings on our faces.” What kinds of feelings? Blackall’s portraits show sadness and glee, confusion and surprise, frustration and calm. The child mentions clothing, weather, and transportation. “I’m a kid,” Quinn says, “and kids go to school to learn stuff, so we’ll know what to do when we’re grown up.” Quinn’s class is seen drawing space aliens while they talk together and share colored pencils. One boy is making a face and another is sleeping on his blank piece of paper.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What will these kids grow up to be? Forty snapshots of adults—including a beekeeper, potter, astronaut, tennis player, barber, chef, dancer, chess player, construction worker, veterinarian, doctor, singer, and scientist—will give the visitor an idea of the vast array of jobs people do “to make the world work.” There are ideas for leisure time too. And as a large group sits around table laden with all kinds of food, Quinn says that we “eat when we are hungry” and that “some of us have more food than others,” but that “we all need food and water to survive.”

From this introduction, the visitor learns about the ocean, which appears empty but “actually it’s full.” A stunning montage of sea creatures depicts what the child means. Likewise, the land hosts animals, which bound, creep, and lope across the pages, and the sky is home to birds of all colors and sizes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-come-to-earth-jobs

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Quinn talks about the music in the world, made by animals and people, about deaf people who talk with their hands, and about blind people who read with their hands and includes images of the sign language and braille alphabets. He tells about things created by nature and those made by people; things that are big and things that are small and even things that are invisible but make a big impact. One of these is germs, which “can make you sick” just like “eating a woolly milkcap toadstool or breathing in smoke or getting spat on by a slow loris.”

Quinn reveals different ways people interact and how they grow up from babies to older people. He admits that “there are lots of things we don’t know…. But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.” Quinn ends his letter with some questions for the possible visitor from Outer Space and an invitation to stay in his room if, indeed, they come to Earth.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Every page of Sophie Blackall’s mesmerizing and welcoming look at life on our planet invites readers to explore her detailed illustrations and imagine what their own additions would be to each topic. Blackall’s straightforward text is sprinkled with humor and poignancy and each line opens up a world of possibilities and the gifts of our rich diversity, both natural and human. The subjects Blackall chooses flow from each other like a long strand of yarn teased from a sweater with an intricate design and are sure to lead to fun, fascinating, and thoughtful discussions. Blackall’s ending will inspire as much as it makes you smile.

Accompanying Blackall’s text are her exquisite illustrations that are fresh and fun and, in many cases, will take your breath away. Both kids and adults will want to spend time carefully studying and talking about each page, as there is so much to see, so many connections to make, and so many secrets tucked away in each of them. Readers will notice allusions to other books and will want to point out all of the things that are “just like me!” Pages dedicated to transportation, birds, animals, sea creatures, and jobs will enthrall kids with these particular interests. Artists, collectors, and philosophers will also find pages to excite them too.

A book kids and adults will want to dip into again and again as well as an excellent read to spark writing workshops, nature studies, and social studies classes for schools and homeschoolers, If You Come to Earth is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452137797

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-come-to-earth-cover

You can find If You Come to Earth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 10 – It’s Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month

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About the Holiday

Ideas and dreams lead to accomplishments and accomplishments can lead to greatness! And when does this all begin? In childhood as kids develop knowledge, skills, and confidence. Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month was established to help people remove barriers to their success and make changes to better their lives. To celebrate with your kids, talk to them about what they would like to achieve and what kind of support they need to make their dreams come true. Today’s book can help girls understand that they should always celebrate their talents and emotions and never feel second-best or accept impediments to their success. So, get started this month on planting – and nurturing – all the seeds of your greatness in your family or classroom.  

 

A Girl’s Bill of Rights

Written by Amy B. Mucha | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

In her super book that affirms a girl’s right to her own likes, dislikes, and feelings, Amy B. Mucha presents her story in the first person, allowing readers to internalize the affirming text and identify with her examples. The book opens with a Black girl talking about her skateboard and skateboarding for show and tell. The narrator states, I have the right to like what I like and love what I love.” In the front row of desks, Addy Rivera Sonda includes three more girls, including one who uses a wheelchair, ready to talk about their favorites: pets, soccer, and dance.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sonda, 2021, text copyright Amy B Mucha. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

As the girl’s vote for class president, readers are told that they have the right to think for themselves, make their own choices, and for their “Yes” to mean yes and their “No” to mean no. And if they feel disappointed or frustrated or happy, they can show their feelings without being chastised or made to feel it’s not appropriate.

Girls are reminded that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that when it comes to making friends, they can choose their own as well as how they express their affection. Girl’s also learn that “if someone is hurting or disrespecting me, I have the right to say ‘STOP!’ and even the right to SCREAM it!’ Because it is NOT OK to hurt me. Or anyone. Not ever.” And every girl is reassured that she has the right to decide who she is now and what she will choose to do in the future; she’s reassured that she has the right to be herself.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sonda, 2021, text copyright Amy B Mucha. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In her straightforward , empowering text, Amy B. Mucha shows girls just how valuable they are. Through the examples I highlighted and many other common issues on which girls are criticized, ignored, or second guess themselves, Mucha delivers a strong message that their opinions, feelings, and preferences are valuable and should be heard. Periodic rhymes give the text a lyricism that flows easily from page to page. The number and range of rights that Mucha presents gives children and adults many opportunities to discuss these important and commonly faced experiences as well as their immediate and long-term effects on girls.

In her vibrant and expressive illustrations populated with a group of diverse girls, Addy Rivera Sonda shares clear images of girls doing what they love, adopting a look that reflects their personality, making choices, expressing their emotions, sticking up for themselves, and being proud of their accomplishments. From school to the soccer field to the stage to a party, Sonda presents uplifting examples of how this close-knit group supports each other. For girls, these images will resonate deep in their hearts. Boys reading or listening to the book—and this is a book every boy should know—will see how and why girls express a variety of emotions as well as behaviors on the part of others that are destructive to a girl’s self-esteem and autonomy. The final illustration showing all six girls happy to live as their true selves is a poignant and heartening vision for children to take away from this book.

A dynamic read to empower and celebrate girls, A Girl’s Bill of Rights is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506464527

Discover more about Amy B. Mucha and her books on her website.

You can connect with Addy Rivera Sonda on Instagram.

A Girl’s Bill of Rights Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Beaming Books in this giveaway! Three lucky winners will take home

  • One (1) copy of A Girl’s Bill of Rights written by Amy B. Mucha | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

This giveaway is open from February 10 through February 16 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on February 17.

To Enter:

Prizing provided by Beaming Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month Activity

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I Love Me! Initial Bookend

 

You can show your pride in your name (or play with changing it) with this easy craft that will keep all your books tidy on their shelf! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-girl's-bill-of-rights-cover

You can find A Girl’s Bill of Rights at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s Eat Better, Eat Together Month

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About the Holiday

National Eat Better, Eat Together Month encourages families to gather for at least one meal a day. When families gather for a meal, they tend to make more balanced food choices. Uninterrupted time together also allows each member of the family share stories about their day and lets everyone laugh, commiserate, and build strong bonds. Spending more time together this year provides families the opportunity to get everyone involved in everything from choosing recipes and shopping to preparing and cooking the food to cleaning up. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics he benefits of eating together are wide ranging and can include better grades, better health, and fewer behavioral problems. To celebrate this holiday, make your own plans for family meals and discover how families from around the world enjoy their meals with today’s book!

Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World

Written by Lynne Marie | Illustrated by Parwinder Singh

 

If you’re raising a culinary conscious and curious kid satisfies that gnawing hunger for more information on world cuisine. Visiting families around the globe at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, Lynne Marie offers up tidbits about what kids eat plus other interesting food facts. The first stop is China, where Yu Yan is enjoying a bowl of congee—or rice porridge—before heading out to school. This morning, the congee includes squid that her father has caught. Yu Yan “slurps loudly to show how much she likes it.”

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

High in the mountains of Peru, Luz is bundled up in the early morning air as she gets ready to help out with her grandfather’s llamas. First, she warms up with chuño cola—a soup made from freeze-dried potatoes. For Luz, breakfast usually consists of leftovers from dinner the night before. Hospitality is so important to people in the Philippines that one of the most common greetings is “‘Kumain ka na?’ meaning ‘Have you eaten yet?’” If not, you may be invited to join in a breakfast of spamsilog—a dish of fried SPAM, fried eggs, and garlic rice.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Jamaica, Zhade and her mother make savory pastries filled with spicy ground beef. These can be eaten on their own or wrapped in coco bread—a soft, sweet bread—to make sandwiches. For Camille, living in France, lunch is a four-course meal served at school. Today, Camille and her friends are having “a cucumber and tomato salad, then a main course of roast beef with cooked broccoli. Next, a small plate of cheese, finished with apple tart for dessert.” It must not be Wednesday, though. In France, there’s no school on Wednesday afternoons. “Instead, many attend on Saturday mornings.”

It’s dinnertime for Priya, who lives in India. She and her family are at their favorite restaurant, where Priya has ordered Tandoori chicken. “Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices then roasted in a tandoor, a round clay oven.” After dinner, she and her family go home to watch cricket on TV.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-eat-mealtime-around-the-world-jamaica

Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

For many families in Sweden, Thursday dinners follow a tradition that goes back to the fifteenth century. Tonight, Hugo is having “pea soup and pancakes with lingonberry jam. Perfect for keeping warm on a cold winter night.” Lingonberry jam isn’t just for pancakes. It can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

At last! It’s time for dessert! In Egypt, Mandisa and her brother are enjoying basbousa—a coconut cake. They especially like it with a topping of rose-blossom or orange-blossom syrup that makes it taste extra sweet. In Nigeria, Chetachi can’t wait to dig into the bowl of tropical fruit sprinkled with coconut. It looks like his sister would like some too! All over the world, people sit down to meals with foods they love. Learning more about these dishes and trying them is a great way to feel a sense of community with other kids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-eat-mealtime-around-the-world-egypt

Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In her conversational tour around the world, Lynne Marie invites readers to sit down with their peers and enjoy a variety of meals and snacks while also learning a little about the history, culture, environment, and animals of each area. A question prompting readers to think about their own connection to food accompanies each two-page spread and offers an opportunity for classroom or home discussion and exploration.

Parwinder Singh populates his illustrations with enthusiastic kids dipping into soups, dishing up a plateful around the family dining table, helping out in the kitchen, and licking their fingers to enjoy every drop of a delicious treat. Singh’s colorful backdrops give kids a glimpse into the homes that nourish each child and the landscape that often influences the ingredients that make up their favorite foods.

Sure to spark children’s interest in tasting foods from around the world and learning more about the cultures of the thirteen countries represented here, Let’s Eat! Mealtime around the World makes for a deletable lead-in for social studies and geography lessons, events highlighting international foods, and multicultural explorations at home.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1506451947

Discover more about Lynne Marie and her books on her website.

You can view a portfolio of artwork by Parwinder Singh on ArtStation.

Eat Better, Eat Together Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game-four (2)

Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

A favorite family breakfast is pancakes! If you can’t get enough of pancakes at breakfast (or that other treat: breakfast for dinner), you can play this Pancake Flip-Out Game to fill your plate.

Supplies

You can play this game several ways:

  1. Print and cut out the pancakes and plate (or use your own paper plate or other dish) and glue them to the heavy paper, poster board, or foam sheet
  2. Place the plate on the floor
  3. Draw 3 concentric circles around the plate about 12 inches apart.  For younger children make the circles closer together.
  4. Give each player the same number of pancakes and choose someone to go first
  5. Each player takes turns tossing or flipping their pancakes, trying to get them onto the plate
  6. When a player has used all of their pancakes add up their score:
  • Hitting the target can earn you 20 points
  • Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point
  • Hitting the second circle is worth 10 points
  • Pancakes landing in the third circle are worth 5 points

Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!

Try this Option:

Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try flipping them with a spatula!

Or: Make up your own rules—and have fun!

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You can find Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 15 – Triple Treat Halloween Two Lions Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today I’m celebrating three books for the Halloween holiday and beyond that are rollicking reads with excitement and heart. These books from favorite authors and illustrators offer distinctly different stories that bring the magic, wonder, and fun of Halloween and lovable ghouls to life. They include a new adventure for a favorite Little Monster, a spooky neighborhood that’s getting a surprising new neighbor, and a construction crew that builds haunted houses at night. 

Thanks go to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions Publishing for sending me the books for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Blue Slip Media and Two Lions in a giveaway of all three books. See details below.

It’s Halloween, Little Monster

Written by Helen Ketteman | Illustrated by Bonnie Leick

 

It’s Little Monster’s first Halloween and time to for him to put on his costume to go trick-or-treating. He looks out the window with a bit of trepidation at all of the other creatures on his block—a bunny, a bee, a unicorn, a witch, a tiger, and a penguin. Papa puts the finishing touches on Little Monster’s Martian costume and they head outside. Little Monster grabs Papa’s hand and he reassures his little one: “All set to go! / You see things that are scary? / A pirate, a witch, a creature that’s hairy? // Don’t fret, Little Monster. / See there in the street? / That’s not really a ghost— / it’s a kid in a sheet!”

Little Monster and Papa make the rounds of neighbor’s houses as kids howl into the dark night. Papa tells Little Monster there’s nothing to fear, but is there just the tiniest bit of wariness in his own eyes? At one house a witch is “offering cups / of warm, bubbly worm juice!” Papa says, “Yum! Drink it up!” They pass a vampire and get in the middle of a group of “zombies in chains,” but Papa has a plan to fool them and make their escape.

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Image copyright Bonnie Leick, 2020, text copyright Helen Ketteman, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

On one porch four ghosts are floating around, but Little Monster doesn’t seem scared. Papa asks, “No shivers and shakes? / Oh, I see why you’re brave— / spider cupcakes!” Trick-or-treat is almost done, but there’s one final house—the scariest one of all. Papa points out: “The yard’s full of graves. / This could be tough. / Shall we trick-or-treat here? / Will you be brave enough?” But Papa’s gung-ho and he marches right through the graveyard where fanged creatures lurk. Then “Boooooooooo!!!” a skeleton jumps with a shout. Who screams? Who laughs? Read and find out!

Helen Ketteman’s third book in the Little Monster series shines with bouncy rhymes that are full of spooky prowling and highlight the excitement of Halloween while reassuring kids that all the frights are just for fun. Little readers will find all of their favorite monsters here enjoying treats and only a few tricks, which will bring giggles instead of shivers. Ketteman’s perfect rhythm creates a story that’s perfect for dramatic read alouds, and the sweet relationship between Little Monster and Papa will have kids asking to hear the story again and again.

Kids will love spending Halloween with Little Monster and Bonnie Leick’s enchanting, not-too-scary illustrations where—among the witches, vampires, and ghosts—bunnies, chickens, fairies, and other cute-as-a-button characters trick-or-treat under a full moon. Little Monster’s street and the neighbor’s houses are cleverly decorated for the holiday, and readers will want to linger over each page to see all the fun. The spooky graveyard, especially, invites a careful look, as the inscriptions on the stones show that those who lie beneath were more monstrously kind than monstrous.

A sure hit for fans of Little Monster and any child looking forward to their first Halloween or who already know what this holiday is all about, it’s Halloween, Little Monster would be a lively addition to home and public library collections.

Discover more about Helen Ketteman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bonnie Leick, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542092081

You can find It’s Halloween Little Monster 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-that-monster-on-the-block-cover

That Monster on the Block

Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | Illustrated by Luke Flowers

 

Someone was finally moving into Vampire’s old house. Monster, who lived next door wondered who it might be. He hoped it might be an ogre who would invite him “to swim in his mucky, murky swamp.” Or maybe it would be a “greedy goblin with piles of gold to jump into.” Perhaps it would be a dastardly dragon who would throw greasy barbecues. As Monster practiced how he would say hello to his new neighbor, he watched the movers carrying a trampoline, a unicycle, and lots of trunks.

At last his new neighbor emerged. He was wearing “big floppy shoes” and had “wild orange hair” and “a round, red nose. It was…a clown?” Monster couldn’t believe it. He immediately called the neighbors. “‘Unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh,’” said Zombie when he heard the news. Mummy shrieked, and Yeti roared. They all agreed that the neighborhood would never be the same again. None of the neighbors welcomed Clown to their block, so he went around to each house to introduce himself. But no one answered the door. Clown left notes and surprises at each house and went back home. When monster found his gift gummy worms, he threw them in the trash. Clown, meanwhile, sat on his porch “and waited. And waited and sat. No one came around.”

But Clown was naturally happy, so he perked up his dreary house, played a happy tune,  and erected a tent. “Monster called a neighborhood meeting. ‘This is out of control!’” he shouted. But Zombie was busy delighting some neighbors with the brain cake Clown had left him, and Mummy was having fun scaring up laughs with the mummy in the box she’d gotten. Yeti was enjoying tricking others into smelling her trick flowers and then spritzing them with water.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-Interior

Image copyright Luke Flowers, 2020, text copyright Sue Ganz-Schmitt, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

No one was listening to Monster, so he decided to do something about the interloper himself. At midnight, he rattled chains and banged on a garbage can lid. But Clown didn’t hear it. He was out doing good deeds to help his new neighbors. In the morning Monster was awakened by circus music. He immediately picked up the phone, but no one answered his calls. “‘It’s time for me to have a word with that bozo!’” he said. He stomped over, but on the way he couldn’t help but find the music catchy, the smell of popcorn enticing, and Clown’s invitation to cartwheeling class at his circus school at least a little intriguing.

Inside the tent, he discovered all of his friends having doing circus tricks. When he learned that Clown was “zero percent creepy” and lots of fun, he decided to him a chance. He enjoyed the day so much that Monster even invited him to tea on Sunday. As Monster poured out the tea and passed around sludgeberry swirl scones, a moving van rolled up the block. Out popped a…well, you’ll have to welcome them yourself, just like all the other neighbors!

Sue Ganz-Schmitt turns somersaults with the usual tropes involving diversity in her story as it honestly portrays truisms about prejudice and how both injustice on one hand and understanding on the other spreads through a community. While Monster’s reaction to immediately alert the neighbors and hold a meeting seems to get a big response, readers will see that by the time the meeting takes place, most of the neighbors welcome the newcomer and the positive changes he’s brought. Ganz-Schmitt’s well-paced and superb storytelling is loaded with personality, puns, and the perfect light touch that will have readers taking her story and lesson into their hearts.

Luke Flowers does wonders with larger-than-life characters, and his depictions of Monster, Clown, and all the neighbors are pitch-perfect. Flowers sets up his visual delights early with the image of Vampire’s old house, which is gray and foreboding with detailing that subtly turns the stone structure into a bat. Later Clown converts these same details into clown faces that will charm kids. Just as in the circus, Clown makes a surprise entrance, one that little readers will guess at with glee. Snapshots of Monster calling up his neighbors appear to show that Mummy, Zombie, and Yeti are on board with his dismay, but Ganz-Schmitt’s monster-sound reactions are cleverly noncommittal. Add in the neighbors’ obvious delight with the gifts Clown leaves (a full-page jack-in-the-box image will bring shrieks of laughter), and readers will happily be in on the vibe at the meeting-turned-party.

Contrasting illustrations of Monster trying to bully Clown into leaving and Clown helping out around the neighborhood give kids and adults opportunities to talk about important issues that arise at school and in the news. While images of Monster having fun at circus school show his changing attitude toward Clown, when his displeasure seems to rise again with the entry of another unexpected neighbor, readers will see that this time he has a different and more welcoming reaction. (Added note: Make sure to inspect each page carefully for added visual humor.)

A clever story that delivers important messages about preconceptions, discrimination and acceptance with humor and respect for the intelligence and awareness of children, That Monster on the Block is a must for home, school, and public library story times all through the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005333

Discover more about Sue Ganz-Schmitt and her books and find That Monster on the Block coloring pages on her website.

To learn more about Luke Flowers, his books, and his art on his website.

Scare up some fun with this book trailer!

You can find That Monster on the Block 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-how-to-build-a-haunted-house-cover

How to Build a Haunted House

Written by Frank Tupta | Illustrated by Kyle Beckett

 

Ghost town is getting a new family, and they need a house built lickety split. There’s just one catch—the house must be built before the sun comes up. The neighbors are game to get it done. The lot is cleared by “werewolf loggers on the prowl.” First, the foundation must be made, but how will it get done? “Over the hill, / a handy rig! / Frankenstein’s / here to dig.” Cyclops and witches help out to prepare the ground. Once it’s ready, Frankenstein’s bride pours concrete. When the concrete’s hard, the skeleton crew is called in to build the frame. Soon the “frame’s up— / it’s a brand-new house. / They’re almost done, but… / Eek! A mouse! The mouse chases round and round. “Hammer falls, nails splash. Bones crunch, toes smash.” The skeletons are scattered here and there—good thing the mummy doctor is on his way.

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Image copyright Kyle Beckett, 2020, text copyright Frank Tupta, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The sun is peeking over the hill, but the house is not quite done. With a lightning strike, the power’s on, and the witches bring their magic spells to bring the house alive just in time for the vampire family to move in. The vampires love their spacious house “‘complete with dungeon!’ / ‘And trapdoors, too!’ / ‘The scariest place!’ / ‘With the spookiest view!’” The monsters are proud of the job they’ve done. Their “big trucks rumble off the site…and sleepy monsters say Good Night.”

Frank Tupta’s energetic story about building a haunted house for a very particular family will have kids in suspense as all their favorite monsters race the sun to construct the house in one night. Clever monster-talent match-ups, puns sprinkled throughout, and a mischievous mouse will have kids laughing as the monsters work together to build the house with all the trappings of a true haunted house.

With a palette of purples, greens, and golds, Kyle Beckett creates a ghost town where enthusiastic monsters get to work clearing and smoothing a graveyard by the light of a very large full moon. Kids will love the monster trucks these eager neighbors use to fell trees, dig the basement, and stir concrete. As Frankenstein digs a hole with the help of an enormous hand, the ground is appropriately filled with arms and legs and a few errant bones. While the mummy can’t put the skeletons back together, the witches chime in with a fiery bubbling brew that saves the night just in the nick of time. With a group hug, the monsters celebrate their success before driving their machines out of Vampire Valley and getting some much-needed sleep.

Kids who love construction, big machinery, and helpful monsters will be charmed by the jaunty rhymes of the exuberant How to Build a Haunted House that’s perfect for Halloween or any gently spooky story time.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005432

Discover more about Frank Tupta and his books on his website.

To learn more about Kyle Beckett, his books, and his art on his website.

You can find How to Build a Haunted House at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Triple Treat Halloween Books Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of It’s Halloween, Little Monster, written by Sue Helen Kelleman | illustrated by Bonnie Leick
  • One (1) copy of That Monster on the Block, written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | illustrated by Luke Flowers
  • One (1) copy of How to Build a Haunted House, written by Frank Tupta | illustrated by Kyle Beckett

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite monster for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 16 to October 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 24. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Triple Treat Halloween Book Tour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box

Vampire Goodie Box

 

Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!

Supplies

  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black paper, heavy stock or construction paper
  • Fabric glue
  • Regular glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box-side-view (2)

Directions

  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose darker silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece of red felt so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt. Use craft glue on paper. Let dry
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom portion of the collar to the box near the front edge with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Two Lions

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Picture Book Review

September 7 – National Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2010 to promote an appreciation for physical paperback and hardbound books. Whether you’re cracking open a brand-new release or gently turning the pages in a well-worn volume, holding an actual book in your hands makes an unforgettable connection between you, the author, and another world—real or imaginary. To celebrate, drop into your local bookstore and peruse the shelves, call up and order, or order online to buy great reads for everyone in the family. An don’t forget to add today’s reviewed book to the list!

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Sophie and her dad, Leonard, have been invited to Olive’s birthday party on the tenth floor of their apartment building. She and her dad bake their favorite cookies to bring—”molasses with jam in the middle. It’s my grandma’s recipe,” Sophie says. Sophie and her dad live on the first floor, so just before 2:00, they head for the elevator, where Sophie pushes the button to go up.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The elevator stops at the second floor, and when the door opens, “the Santucci brothers, Andrew and Pippo”—two biker dudes—get on. “‘Hey, Little Bit!’” Pippo says to Sophie. On the third floor, a couple and their dog, Norman, get on, along with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. On the fourth floor, Mr. and Mrs. Habib and their grandkids, Yasmin and Jamal, are waiting with a “big bowl of gulab jamun” which they made especially for Sophie and her dad.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Things are getting pretty tight in the elevator by the time it reaches the fifth floor, so Leonard puts Sophie on his shoulders and Sophie holds the cookies on her head like a hat. The elevator door opens at the eighth floor to find Grace and Arnie standing there with a bass and a clarinet. Can they fit too? With a squeeze or two, they juuust make it. One more floor to go…. Will anyone else fit?

At last, the elevator reaches the tenth floor, and with a DING everyone runs, cartwheels, dances, and tumbles out—all to wish Olive a Happy Birthday. And who is Olive? Take the elevator up to see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-going-up-first-floor

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Sherry J. Lee’s warm and welcoming story of a group of diverse neighbors getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of their favorite tenants will delight kids. With the thrill of riding a real elevator, readers will eagerly await the door’s opening on every floor, where they’re introduced to a new family or individual. Told from Sophie’s point of view and rich in dialogue, the story shines with inclusiveness as the neighbors greet each other enthusiastically. Humor and suspense builds as the elevator stops on each floor and more and more people bringing food, instruments, pets, and housewarming gifts squeeze into the tiny space. The elevator provides a natural setting for fun math and observational engagement, and kids will love flipping back through the pages to count, add, talk about spatial relationships, and notice hints about the favorite talents and activities of each neighbor.

With her colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, Charlene Chua creates a vibrant apartment building community that works in perfect synchronicity with Lee’s story. Images of the diverse neighbors—from Black Sophie and Leonard to two supposed tough guys (who sport cat tattoos and carry the tiniest of kittens) to a same-sex couple and a South Asian family to Oliver’s owner, who uses a wheelchair—reflect readers’ urban, suburban, and rural experiences. On the journey from the first floor to the tenth, Chua includes a cornucopia of humorous, sweet, and “oh no!” clues that define personalities, add to the suspense, and hint at the identity of the birthday girl. The pull-out page as everyone tumbles out of the elevator is a showstopper that will have readers of all ages pointing, giggling, and appreciating all the residents of this special home. Opportunities to visualize and discuss math concepts occur with each push of the button or turn of the page. After taking this trip, kids will eagerly look for and welcome the diversity and individuality in their own neighborhoods.

Clever, sweet, and organically inclusive, Going Up! is a book kids will want to read again and again. As a charming story on its own and with so many applications for discussion and cross-curricular activities, the book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1525301131

Discover more about Sherry J. Lee and her books as well as a fun Going Up! Activity Kit on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Buy a Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i've-got-the-reading-bug-books-to-read-list

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-going-up-cover

You can find Going Up! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 7 – National Tourism Day

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About the Holiday

With warmer weather and schools letting out, this is usually a time when people and families plan summer trips to places nearby and far away. While this year we may be taking staycations instead, we can still discover the wonders of other cities and countries through books for all ages. Even the youngest would-be tourists can learn about the world through today’s books. These are just two of the exciting Tiny Travelers series.

Tiny Travelers: Puerto Rico Treasure Quest

By Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo

 

¡Hola! Welcome to Puerto Rico, a US territory in the Atlantic Ocean with a population of 3 million and where Spanish and English are the main languages. Are you ready to discover this incredible island? Let’s go! Join in the parade and kick up your heels. “In San Juan there’s always a reason to dance. / People come out to celebrate at every chance.” If you’re feeling like a snack, look for the piragua stand, where you can buy this favorite shaved treat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-travelers-puerto-rico-san-juan

Copyright Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, 2020. Courtesy of Encantos.

For sand and sun, head to Playa Flamenco on the island of Culebra. You can “go swimming or snorkeling—there’s so much to do. / And be on the lookout for a crab or two.” For more ocean fun and a brilliant sight, take a nighttime canoe adventure in Vieques, where bioluminescent jellyfish and other sea life lights up the water with “tiny points of light” like the stars in the sky. Do you see a leatherback turtle swimming by?

If you prefer exploring on land, visit the El Yunque rainforest, where lush flowers invite butterflies to land and unique animals, such as the Puerto Rican tody bird and loud coqui frogs, who fill “up the air with their whistling sound.” Wondering what sports kids like you enjoy in Puerto Rico? Well, “boxing is king. / Entire families gather round to see who’s in the ring.” Baseball is another favorite, and Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente is a beloved star.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-travelers-puerto-rico-food

Copyright Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, 2020. Courtesy of Encantos.

Other fun places to explore are the Arecibo observatory, where you’ll find the “largest radio telescope ever made,” and the Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, a castle where families come to fly kites (chiringas), have picnics, and enjoy the view. Feeling hungry after all that sightseeing? Come on, the table is loaded with good things to eat: pernil, arroz con gandules, bacalaítos, pasteles, and more!

While the quest may come to an end, readers can engage in two search-and-find games within the story and they are invited to visit the Tiny Travelers website, where they can order free stickers to commemorate their trip. Adults will also find a treasure trove of lessons with downloadable content for studying the continents, countries, creatures of the world and so much more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-travelers-puerto-rico-bioluminescence

Copyright Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, 2020. Courtesy of Encantos.

A captivating book for sparking a love of learning about countries and cultures around the world, the Tiny Travelers series is a terrific accompaniment to online learning and would be a beneficial addition to home, school, and public libraries. Puerto Rico Treasure Quest is a great place to start your journey.

Ages 4 – 7

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635304

To learn more about the Tiny Travelers series and the resources available, visit the Tiny Travelers website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-travelers-puerto-rico-cover

You can find Tiny Travelers: Puerto Rico Treasure Quest at these booksellers

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

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Tiny Travelers: India Treasure Quest

By Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo

 

Namaste! Welcome to India! First stop is a monumental landmark. “The Red Fort in Delhi is a site of great pride, / built for the royals to reside inside.” If you like movies, you’ve come to the right place. “India produces the most movies in the world!” In Mumbai you can watch as a Bollywood movie, that combines dancing, singing, and costumes is filmed. The excitement doesn’t end there! Next, take a safari through the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. “Drive through the ruins but riders beware; / tigers are on the prowl everywhere!” You’ll also want to keep your eyes—and camera—out for monkeys, elephants, and peacocks.

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Copyright Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, 2020. Courtesy of Encantos.

If you’re in Rajasthan during at the beginning of spring, take part in the Holi festival. Accompanied by the sound of Dhol drums, “powder is thrown in the air with great joy, / as bright colors cover every girl and boy.” People traditionally wear white so that the colors show up more vibrantly. Now it’s time to take in some cricket. Watch the batters hit and run between wickets. Traveling on to Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, the mountains rise high above you. “From the Himalayan mountains the Ganges river rolls. / It’s special and sacred to so many souls.” Along the shore of the river, people perform yoga to bring peace of mind.

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Copyright Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, 2020. Courtesy of Encantos.

One of the most beautiful holidays, “Diwali is the start of the Indian New Year. / The festival of lights fills locals with cheer.” Candlelit Rangoli decorations on the ground inspire “strength, generosity, and luck all around.” Of course, no trip to India would be complete without seeing the Taj Mahal, which was designed by an emperor to remember his wife. “It took approximately 20 years and nearly 20,000 workers to complete the Taj Mahal.” It was finished in 1653.

Before this trip is completely over, readers are reminded to make sure they played the two search-and-find games within the story. They’re then invited to visit the Tiny Travelers website, where they can order free stickers to remember their trip by. Adults will also find a treasure trove of lessons with downloadable content for studying the continents, countries, creatures of the world and so much more for children within the age range for the books and beyond.

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Copyright Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, 2020. Courtesy of Encantos.

In each book of the Tiny Travelers series, the informative rhyming text, enriched with native vocabulary, engages kids in learning facts about cities, towns, landmarks, sports, food, and other aspects of each country. A highlighted “did you know?” ticket on each page adds to the discovery. Lush, vibrant illustrations take kids to natural wonders, lively festivals, homes, castles, feasts, and more. Accompanied with a map on which readers can pinpoint each locale, Puerto Rico Treasure Quest and India Treasure Quest, gives kids an exciting way to explore our world while developing empathy, understanding, and an appreciation for its diversity. 

A captivating book for sparking a love of learning about countries and cultures around the world, the Tiny Travelers series is a terrific accompaniment to online learning and would be a beneficial addition to home, school, and public libraries. India Treasure Quest will be a favorite destination to explore.

Ages 4 – 7

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635236

To learn more about the Tiny Travelers series and the resources available, visit the Tiny Travelers website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-travelers-india-cover

You can find Tiny Travelers: India at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the chilly days of winter snuggled up with a new or favorite book. If you’re still looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find stories that will make kids (and adults) eyes light up. And if you’re a post-holiday shopper (and who isn’t?), make sure to check out those bookstores again. After all, it’s a loooong winter!

Odd Dog Out

By Rob Biddulph

 

Busy dogs all dressed in black and white make their way to work while dogs at play in identical stripes take to the soccer field. At the pool, swimmer dogs don yellow caps and yellow tubes while sailor dogs in their uniform uniforms pilot their yellow boats. In fact, “soldier…scout…. They all blend in. / No dog stands out. / But wait.” On a certain street, you’ll see “someone…is dancing to a different beat.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-busy-day

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Wrapped in a rainbow-colored scarf, “this dog flies low” when others fly high, and “when they say ‘Kick!’…this dog ways ‘Throw!’” It’s plain to see that this dog just “does not fit in.” Having tried her best to be like the others, this unique pup packs her bag and leaves town. As she walks, the seasons change from winter to spring to summer to fall. She traverses the sea and climbs mountains until she comes to Doggywood and wonders if this is the place for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-dancing

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She takes a look and her eyes light up. “‘Well, bless my bow-wow, can it be? / A hundred others just like me!’” There are dogs playing guitar and riding bikes, gliding on the wind, and playing basketball. And coming and going on the street, dogs in rainbow-colored scarves stream by. “But wait.” Are they really all alike? Do you see? “Somebody this afternoon / is whistling a different tune.”

The newcomer thinks that she can help. She approaches this dog with his black cap and sweater to commiserate and tell him she knows how he feels being the “‘Odd Dog Out.’” But it turns out that this dog is proud of being unique and standing out. And he tells her that she should feel that way too. After a bit of thought, she has to agree “‘…there’s nothing wrong with being me.’”

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then she knows just what to do. She grabs her bag and takes a flight. And when she lands in her old hometown, all those busy dogs and playing dogs turn to look. “‘They cheer! They clap! They whoop! They shout! / ‘We’ve really missed our Odd Dog Out!’” It seems that while she was away, some of these “identical” dogs did some thinking. Now what do you see? “Each one a doggy superstar… So blaze a trail. / Be who you are.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-seasons

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Through his charming rhymes and bouncy rhythm, Rob Biddulph creates a surprising tale that highlights that well-known advice: “bloom where you are planted.” When a dog who does her own thing amidst a sea of uniformity leaves home and finds a place where she fits in, readers will notice that she just replaces one homogenous place for another. The dog may feel more “at home” surrounded by other dogs who wear colorful scarves, soar on wind gliders, play guitar, and ride bikes, but is she really stretching herself and building her self-esteem? It can be difficult for kids (and people of all ages) to display their full personality, but when that happens they can’t display their full potential either. Biddulph encourages kids to be proud to let their uniqueness show while demonstrating that differences are recognized and appreciated more than they might think.

Kids will love Biddulph’s enchanting dachshunds and especially the sweet “Odd Dog Out.” His vibrant digital illustrations are superb at showing the cookie-cutter sameness of all the other dogs in humorous two-page spreads and smaller snapshots that remind one of the patterns of wrapping paper. When our colorful heroine appears among a cadre of black-suited business dogs, her satisfied smile and dancing feet stand in stark contrast to the other, serious dogs that have their feet firmly planted on the ground. Many clever spreads that readers will want to linger over bring them to the final pages where they’ll have fun pointing out and talking about the dogs who have decided to embrace their true natures.

Under the book jacket, a delightful cityscape and a “Where’s Waldo?” type of challenge awaits.

A terrific book offering lots of opportunities to talk about self-acceptance, accepting others, and the value of being different (and showing it), Odd Dog Out is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.         

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062367266

To learn more about Rob Biddulph, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-cover

You can find Odd Dog Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review