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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-fly-high

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.

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You can find Odd Dog Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-cover

About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988. You can learn more about today’s holiday, find classroom and other resources, and discover fun facts on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

 

In 1921 Pura Theresa Belpré left her home in San Juan to visit Nueva York and celebrate her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Pura’s visit lengthened, becoming a new start in a new land. At first, she got a job in a garment factory, but then Pura saw that the library needed a bilingual assistant. Pura spoke Spanish, English, and French. She thought she was perfect for the job, and the library did too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-children's-visits-new-york

Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But while she shelved books, she noticed that there were no books of folktales from Puerto Rico in the collection. “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow.” In the children’s room she sits with the kids around her and tells the story of a beautiful cockroach and a galant rat who loves her: “la cucarachita Martina and el ratoncito Pérez.

After sharing the story with the children at the library, Pura hopes to “plant her story seeds throughout the land.” Pura makes puppets and performs her folktales for families who come to listen “en inglés y español.” But Pura wants children to be able to readPérez y Martina and other cuentos de Puerto Rico.” She types up her story and sends it to the publisher Frederick Warne. He agrees to publish her book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-children's-room

Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Now Pura travels from library to library and to schools, “churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and mind of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.” She spends her time writing, traveling, and speaking until she meets and marries Clarence Cameron White. Pura decides to take a year off from working at the library to be a wife. But one year becomes many as she and Clarence travel, playing music and telling stories. They spend many happy years together. When Clarence dies, “Pura’s story must begin again.”

“It is 1961,” and Pura returns to the library. Now other storytellers share Pura’s stories with the children and “the seeds she has planted…have become a lush landscape into which she steps as though she has never left.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-published

Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

An Author’s note reveals more about the life and work of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City and the author of the first mainstream Latinx storybooks published in America. Back matter also includes selected bibliographies, archival resources, titles of articles and films, a list of books for further reading, and more information on the four folktales mentioned in the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-library

Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lovely and lyrical tribute to the trailblazing and prolific Pura Belpré is a fast-paced introduction to the influence this librarian, storyteller, and writer had on children and the community as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York and the first published Latinx children’s author in America. By blending Spanish words and phrases and English into her evocative sentences, Denise reflects the immigrant experience while also embracing Belpré’s and her Latinx reader’s love for and pride in their culture. As children learn how Belpré brought Spanish-language programs and books to children and families in New York and beyond, they will be inspired to look for ways that they, too, can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

Mirroring the lush landscape of language that Pura Belpré tended, Paola Escobar infuses her illustrations with rich hues and enveloping details. Belpré’s love for San Juan and her heritage is shown through the sprinkling of flowers, rendered in the bright pastels of her native country, that float around her whenever she tells her stories. The whimsical images of Martina and Pérez, characters from her first published folktale, also follow her from page to page throughout the story. Spectacular images of the city and inside the New York Public Library will have readers lingering over the pages.

A gorgeous read-aloud about a woman all children should know, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a must for all school and public libraries and would make an inspiring choice for home collections as well.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062748683 | Spanish-language edition ISBN 978-1400212644

Discover more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Paola Escobar, visit her on tumblr.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped We Are All Family Word Search! Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-cover

You can find Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré at these booksellers

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

Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

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Picture Book Review

Pk Review

 

September 9 – It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-cover

About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. To celebrate, learn more about Hispanic Americans who have influenced our culture, attend a special event, and enjoy great books by Hispanic authors like today’s book! You can learn more about the holiday at the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Written by Margarita Engle | Illustrated by Rafael López

 

Growing up in Venezuela, Teresa listened to her mother’s lullabies and learned how to play the piano from her father. It wasn’t always easy “to make the stubborn music behave as she practiced gentle songs that sounded like colorful birds…and powerful songs that roared like prowling jaguars, beside towering waterfalls in a mysterious green jungle.” But by the time she was six, she was composing her own songs and at seven, she played in the cathedral.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

When Teresa was eight, however, her world was rocked by war, and she and her family escaped by ship to America. In New York, she felt lost among all of the strangers, who didn’t speak Spanish and gawked at her and her family as if they “belonged in a museum of oddities.” Even here, they had not escaped conflict as the Civil War waged, pitting the North against the South and family against family.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-jungle

Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Teresa found refuge in her new piano and began to make friends with musicians who came to her home to listen and play along. Teresa practiced all types of music, “her strong hands accepting the challenge of life’s many dark and light moods.” She became well known as “the Piano Girl” and performed with big orchestras and in theaters. She became so famous that she was even invited to play for President Abraham Lincoln and his family at the White House.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-cathedral

Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

At the time Washington DC was awash in suffering, torn by war and weariness. President Lincoln’s young son had recently become sick and died. How, Teresa wondered, “could music soothe so much trouble?” Holding tightly to Papá’s hand, she entered the White House and was ushered into a room “as red as a storm or a sunrise.” As she sat at the piano, Teresa recalled past challenges and her discover that life was a “mixture of all sorts of feelings, happy and sad.”

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

She began to play, but the piano was out of tune, “making her music sound ugly.” She stopped, but then President Lincoln requested she play his “favorite song, ‘Listen to the Mockingbird.’” This was a song Teresa could play on this imperfect piano. “Her fingers leaped across all the dark and light keys, improvising the way mockingbirds do, the melody changing as she went along.” Lincoln closed his eyes and was taken away on the soaring notes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-new-york

Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

When the song ended, the President rose and applauded. He smiled at Teresa and she smiled back, understanding that “her music had brought comfort to a grieving family, at least for one brief, wonderful evening of dancing hands.” Teresa continued to share her gift with the world, always bringing “beautiful dark and light moments of hope” to her listeners.

A Historical Note about the life of Teresa Carreño follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-war

Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Margarita Engle’s soaring biography introduces readers to an astounding woman who, even as a child, had not only a prodigious talent for the piano but a gift for understanding life as well. Engle, the 2017 -2019 national Young People’s Poet Laureate, infuses her story with beautiful lyricism and stirring metaphors that evoke the power of music in Teresa’s heart and hands. On these pages, music becomes a living thing, capable of forming friendships, soothing grief, providing escape, and offering hope. Engle’s focus on the meeting between Teresa Carreño and Abraham Lincoln is significant and offers inspiration to young readers. Like Teresa, who, concerned with playing just right, was presented with an imperfect piano but encouraged by Lincoln’s kindness, they too can learn that with a steady and courageous heart, anyone can use their talents to overcome challenges.

In Rafael López’s crisp, stylish illustrations, Teresa Carreño’s love of music and its emotional power serves as a counter point to the distress of war and anguish of grief. Using vibrant greens, pinks, oranges, and blues, Lopez surrounds Teresa with lush vegetation, dazzling birds, and the security of home. Muted variations of  these colors depict the bleakness of war. A moving image, washed completely in gray except for an approaching vivid bird and a tinge of soft rose dawn shows a mourning Abraham Lincoln alone in his office but soon to be comforted by Teresa’s music.

A beautiful and uplifting biography for kids of all talents, Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln would be an inspiring addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481487405

Discover more about Margarita Engle, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Rafael López, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

CPB - Tortilla chips (2)

Homemade Baked Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

 

It’s easy to make these yummy tortilla chips at home! Why not invite your friends over and bake up a batch or two to enjoy while playing or reading together?

Ingredients

  • 2 10-inch flour tortillas
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine the cinnamon and the sugar in a bowl
  3. Butter the tortillas
  4. Sprinkle the tortillas with the cinnamon sugar mixture
  5. Cut the tortillas into 8 pieces
  6. Place pieces on a baking sheet
  7. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes
  8. Chips will become crispier as they cool.

Makes 16 chips

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You can find Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 22 – National Tooth Fairy Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tallulah-the-tooth-fairy-ceo-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the mythical (shhhh!) fun of the Tooth Fairy. When a child loses a tooth, they put it under their pillow and that night the Tooth Fairy comes, takes the tooth, and leaves money. What the sprite does with the teeth is a mystery and many theories abound. The mystery of how the whole thing got started is explained here! I had never heard this story, so was excited to find it in my research!

In 1927 Esther Watkins Arnold wrote an eight-page play called The Tooth Fairy. In the same year none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claimed that fairies and gnomes were real and by proof published pictures of two girls surrounded by “verified” fairies. In 1928 schools began performing Esther Arnold’s play, and kids took it to heart, leaving their teeth under their pillows. The rest of the story is, as Sherlock Holmes would say, “Elementary!”

Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO

Written by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli | Illustrated by Federico Fabiani

 

Tallulah the tooth fairy loves her work so much that she was inspired to start her own company—Teeth Titans Incorporated, which is “the largest tooth-collection organization on the planet.” As the company’s CEO, Tallulah feels many demands on her time, but she handles them by reminding herself of what she calls “the three Ps: her passion, her purpose, and what pays.” Her week is divided into time for herself (coffee or tea and a workout on Mondays, therapy on Wednesdays, “yoga, Pilates, and errands” on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and museum visits on Fridays) and work-related tasks like training new tooth fairies for all of those world-wide collection duties.

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Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

She tells her story on late-night talk shows and scouts for talent at glitzy recruitment events. In addition to all of this, she completes her nightly rounds. “Sure, she could afford to sit around counting teeth and money, but nothing gives Tallulah quite the same thrill as sliding a shiny tooth out from under a child’s pillow and inserting something gleaming and jingly or crisp and easily folded in exchange.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tallulah-the-tooth-fairy-CEO-museum

Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Usually, things go as planned, but one night, at Tallulah’s last stop, instead of a tooth under young Ballard Burchell’s pillow, she pulled out a note. She was a bit disappointed to find the typical picture of a tooth fairy drawn at the bottom, but she continued reading and learned that Ballard had well and truly lost his tooth and had nothing to give her. He hoped she would understand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tallulah-the-tooth-fairy-CEO-board

Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

This conundrum was a first for Tallulah. She consulted “her Teeth Titans Incorporated Employee Manual for reference,” but found no help there. “Though she’d written the manual herself, Tallulah hadn’t made provisions for such a rare occurrence.” There was only one thing to do. Tallulah quickly met with the seven members of her board of directors and asked for advice. Two members thought Ballard should learn a lesson in responsibility and get nothing. One thought partial payment was in order. Two more thought it was polite of Ballard to leave a note and to give the kid a break since everyone loses things now and again. And Tom, as the only male board member, wanted to talk about diversity on the board.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tallulah-the-tooth-fairy-CEO-ballard

Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Later that night, with her decision made, Tallulah returned to Ballard’s room “to leave him a note of her own—and a little something extra.” In the morning Ballard discovered the note letting him off the hook this time for misplacing his tooth plus a “patented Teeth Titans Incorporated tooth compartment lanyard,” which usually “retails for $9.95” and is available on the company website, but is his as a gift. The note is even signed by The Tooth Fairy herself.

Ballard couldn’t believe it. He ran to show his mom, and then when he opened the little tooth box on the end of the lanyard, he discovered “one more surprise from Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO: the shiniest gold coin you ever did see.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tallulah-the-tooth-fairy-CEO-rappelling

Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan,com.

Dr. Tamara Pizzoli gives the tooth fairy a fresh, funny, and sophisticated update for today’s savvy kids. With wry, snappy descriptions of Tallulah’s life in and out of the office, Pizzoli riffs on the topics of self-care, home décor, the media, corporate culture, product placement, and even Mrs. Santa Clause (who finally gets a name—Charlene). Along the way, she shines a spotlight on stereotypes, celebrity, diversity, and kindness. Kids will love this take-charge tooth fairy who’s also not adverse to asking for help and taking advice. And who needs wings when there is rappelling gear and night goggles?

Federico Fabiani’s Tallulah, with her stunning purple-tinged afro, round glasses, and tooth-inspired fashions, is a confident, trend-setting leader with a single focus on excellence. Fabiani’s jazzy color palette lends eye-popping excitement to the illustrations that are stylishly modern with a retro feel. Kids will love finding all the clever references to teeth in Tallulah’s clothing, jewelry, and office and household items. Adults will appreciate with a laugh the nods to today’s culture from veganism to security details to media and social media.

A smart, funny book that goes far beyond its tooth fairy roots to offer opportunities to discuss diversity, social movements, and even empathy, Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public libraries to share when teeth wiggle out or anytime. 

Ages 4 – 8 

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0374309190

You can discover more about Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, her books, and her publishing house on The English Schoolhouse website.

To learn more about Federico Fabiani and see a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

National Tooth Fairy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Smile-for-the-tooth-fairy-mazeSmile for the Tooth Fairy! Maze

 

The Tooth Fairy is trying to collect a lost tooth! Can you help her find her way in this printable maze?

Smile for the Tooth Fairy! Maze | Smile for the Tooth Fairy! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tallulah-the-tooth-fairy-ceo-cover

You can find Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO at these booksellers

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