June 26 – National Take Your Dog to Work Day

 

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About the Holiday

In 1996 Pet Sitters International established Take Your Dog to Work Day as a time to raise awareness of the pets left home all day by themselves with no stimulation. The organization was also dedicated to promoting adoption from local and humane shelters. Over the years the idea of Take Your Dog to Work Day has grown in popularity. This year our pets have been our constant companions at work, providing their own kind of encouragement and always a bit of entertainment. To celebrate today’s holiday, give your “office mate” a little extra treat!

Dogs and their People

By Anne Lambelet

 

When the day is fine, a girl likes “to take the long way home from school” and watch people and their dogs. Some people have both babies and puppies, while others share their advanced age with their loyal hound. “Some dogs and their people look alike, and others could not be more different, but however they look, each person “seems to have found their perfect match.”

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Take Cordelia Vanderlay, the painter, and her dog Fluffernutter Vanderlay, who loves to make prints of her paws. Or Jennette and Lisette, who are twins, but very different. While Jennette likes to wear sleek black attire, her sister loves things that are frilly. And their dogs—a smooth dark greyhound and a fluffy, groomed standard poodle—are perfect mirrors of their owners. And of course there’s “Lord Banberry and his schnauzer, O’Grady,” who both sport the same impressive, well-trimmed, downturned mustachios.

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

A young hot-dog lover, accompanied by his wiener-dog dachshund, buys an after-school treat from Freddie McDarrow and his smiling pup. Yes, “watching dogs and their people is fun,” the girl says, “because I can always tell they are best friends.” But she’s always happiest to come home to her best friend…can you guess who?

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Anne Lambelet’s story charms as she introduces dog-and-owner pairs who look alike, act alike, or are polar opposites but still besties. As author and illustrator, Lambelet perfectly melds the joy of people- and pet-watching with a Victorian elegance that sets her story in an enchanting universe. Readers will get a kick out of Lambelet’s flowery names—both human and pet—that add to the ambience and seem as perfect as the friendships.

Lambelet’s unique mixed-media style of illustration, which highlights each owner and their dog—often with simple props surrounded by airy white space, but also in several two-page spreads that give kids a glimpse into the girl’s city—brings texture, interesting perspectives, and movement to the pages. Her lovely, muted color palette is as refreshing as the glow of autumn, and her fashionable city dwellers and their equally well-turned-out pooches could easily have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Lambelet’s surprise ending will delight readers and gives the other side a sweet, heart-felt nod.

A jaunty trip through the joys of pet-and-people friendships, Dogs and their People will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves and would be a fun spark for or take along on a people- and pet-watching walk.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146893

Discover more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art on her website.

National Take Your Dog to Work Day Activity

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Dogs and Their People at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 16 – Wish Fulfillment Day

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About the Holiday

Have you made a wish that you’re just waiting to have fulfilled? Today’s holiday encourages you to get the ball rolling and plan how to make whatever you’re wishing for a reality. With perseverance (and maybe a cupcake) you may get your heart’s desire—just like the sweet French bulldog in today’s book.

A Family for Louie

By Alexandra Thompson

 

Louie was quite a gourmet. “He knew every chef in town,” and every day he visited his favorite restaurants for scrumptious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners—and dessert too, of course. “Louie ended each day with a bath, a good book, and a hot cup of cocoa. It was perfect.” While Louie thought his life was as good as it could be, when he saw other dogs enjoying time with their families, he thought “maybe there was one thing missing.”

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Copyright Alexandra Thompson, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Louie decided to look for a family. At the beach, he saw a woman and her son who looked nice, but when he saw what they were eating for their picnic lunch—“green Jell-O salad and sardine sandwiches”—he just turned away. He went to his favorite sushi restaurant, he spied a man and his daughter with an empty seat at their table. When he approached, however, a very territorial cat chased him away. He tried one more time at the park when a dad and his two kids invited him for a yummy burger and a game of frisbee. But he was no match for that flying disc. Louie thought maybe he’d never find a family.

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Copyright Alexandra Thompson, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Louie walked back to town, where he saw a new bakery. A little girl was setting up a table of cupcakes on the sidewalk in front of the shop. He went over, and the girl introduced herself and offered him a cupcake. The cupcake was delicious, and Louie loved playing with Bea. Bea begged her Mom to let them keep Louie. That night a bubble bath, “a home-cooked meal, and a story with hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies told Louie he’d found his perfect family.

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Copyright Alexandra Thompson, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Alexandra Thompson’s story about an absolutely adorable canine foodie searching for a place to truly belong is full of heart and humor—and delicious-sounding foods for every taste. Thompson’s charming storytelling is accompanied by her lovely illustrations that take readers into Louie’s favorite restaurants, where he gazes lovingly at the dishes in front of him and his eyes are never bigger than his stomach, to the beach, a barbecue, and to the middle of town, where the new bakery stands like a freshly frosted cake.

Thompson’s attention to details creates scenes rich in atmosphere and emotion. Kids will love Louie’s city park home, where he bathes in a fountain and goes to sleep in a well-decorated den under the roots of a tree. When Louie finally meets Bea, kids will immediately see that they belong together, and the gentle suspense when Bea asks her mom if they can keep Louie leads into a page turn that’s full of sweet celebration of love and family. And as Louie and Bea snuggle up with a book and snacks before bedtime, readers will already be looking forward to seconds.

Fresh and delightfully enchanting, A Family for Louie serves up a delectable recipe for story times and would be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1984813213

To learn more about Alexandra Thompson, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Wish Fulfillment Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-family-for-louie-cover

You can find A Family for Louis at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 1 – National Olive Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2015 by Divina Foods to celebrate the culinary history and traditions of this ancient fruit, National Olive Day gives us the opportunity to try new and favorite recipes where this versatile food takes center stage. A staple of the meze/tapas tradition as well as a main ingredient or flavorful addition to countless dishes from bread to tacos, olives also contribute to a healthy diet through olive oil, which many people use for frying, sautéing, and grilling. The olive branch is recognized as a symbol of peace, love, and friendship – which makes it a perfect name for the sweet older dog in today’s book.

Olive & Pekoe in Four Short Walks

Written by Jacky Davis | Giselle Potter

 

For young adults and adults, reading a collection of short stories presents an experience like no other. Exploring similar themes in various ways or following characters through ups and downs, extraordinary events, and changes big and small over the course of different stories provides a unique depth of ideas and perspective. So why should youngest readers miss out? They don’t have to with Olive & Pekoe in Four Short Walks, which presents the best qualities of a short story collection for the picture book audience.

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Image copyright Giselle Potter, 2019, text copyright Jacky Davis, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

In Walk One children are introduced to Pekoe, a “bouncy puppy who loves to run” and Olive, “an old dog with very short legs,” who wishes that her friend Pekoe would “slow down and wait for her.” As these two friends explore the woods, they each experience it in ways that suit their age and personality. Pekoe loves playing with the sticks he finds, while Olive prefers enjoying the cool shade. While they may spend time separately, however, they are still mindful and appreciative of each other—and, of course, they agree on snack time!

In Walk Two Pekoe and Olive shelter together under a bush during a thunderstorm. Pekoe is “stunned at this terrible turn of events” yet still “aims one brave bark at the noisy sky.” All Olive wants is “to go home to her cozy pillow.” When their owners come to rescue them, they say goodbye with good wishes for each other.

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Image copyright Giselle Potter, 2019, text copyright Jacky Davis, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Walk Three takes Olive and Pekoe back into the woods on an autumn day. Much to Pekoe’s astonishment and delight, he sees a chipmunk “darting through the leaves.” He barks!…he runs!…he chases! For Olive, this is just one more chipmunk, and she’s happy to sit and watch. When the chipmunk disappears, Pekoe wonders: will he ever see another one? Olive knows the answer.

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Image copyright Giselle Potter, 2019, text copyright Jacky Davis, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

In Walk Four Pekoe and Olive are at a dog park. Olive finds a shady place to sit and watch. Pekoe runs and plays but doesn’t like the “rough behavior” of some of the other dogs. Olive understands that most of them are just having a good time, but when a mean dog challenges Pekoe, Olive appears by his side to “show her friend that she is there for him.” When the bully backs off, Olive leads Pekoe back to her shady spot and together they spend the day happily, “as good friends do.”

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Image copyright Giselle Potter, 2019, text copyright Jacky Davis, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Jacky Davis’s endearing stories about Olive and Pekoe will enchant both children and adults. With gentle humor and poignant observations, Davis sketches the distinct personalities of these two dogs—one a puppy just learning about the world, and the other older and wiser. Threaded throughout the stories is the heartwarming friendship between the two based on mutual respect, appreciation, and devotion. While each of the dogs may be at a different point in their life, Davis’s inclusion of the thunderstorm allows readers to see that certain events, such as ones that can be scary or sad, often elicit the same emotions from all involved and are made easier when shared with friends—or a loving parent, caregiver, or other adult.

Giselle Potter’s charming illustrations will delight kids as bigger and more active Pekoe dashes here and there while little Olive prefers to find a shady place from which to observe the action. Images of the two bonding over an offered stick, a shared shelter, and a united stand against a bully depict demonstrations of true friendship. Story-specific frames set off the text in creative and whimsical ways. The final image, in which Pekoe and Olive touch their paws together, tenderly reflects the friendship these two dogs share.

Children will take Pekoe and Olive into their hearts and want to hear about their adventures again and again. With engaging stories that offer opportunities for discussions about friendship, Olive & Pekoe in Four Short Walks would be a sweet addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062573100

To learn more about Giselle Potter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Olive Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pet-maze

Find the Pet Maze

 

Can you help the girl and her dog find their way through this printable maze so they can play with their friend? 

Find the Pet Maze Puzzle | Find the Pet Maze Solution

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You can find Olive & Pekoe in Four Short Walks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

May 26 – It’s National Bike Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month celebrates all the fun and benefits of cycling. In years past, communities around the country have celebrated with special events, tours, and safety lessons. The month also hosts Bike to School and Bike to Work days to encourage people to leave their cars at home, get fresh air and exercise, and have fun at the same time. While National Bike Month is peddling down, there’s still a whole summer in which to take part in this wonderful activity.

Two Dogs on a Trike

Written by Gabi Snyder | Illustrated by Robin Rosenthal

 

You know that when you open the cover of a book, little ones are counting on hearing something special. That’s just what awaits them with Two Dogs on a Trike. As the story opens “One dog stands alone” behind a wall. But the gate is open and he eyes with interest the tricycle that’s just about to pass out of sight. Someone else—turbaned in a towel and enjoying a steaming mug of coffee—is watching too. As the dog jumps on the back of the tricycle and joins a poodle, the watcher trades the robe, slippers, and coffee  for shorts, sneakers, and a headband and takes off after the “two dogs on a trike.”

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Along the way the dogs pick up another friend and abandon the trike in favor of a scooter as the follower dons a helmet and roller skates. With the addition of a dachshund wearing a cone and the acquisition of a tandem bicycle outfitted for four, the dogs are speeding downhill while their sunglasses-wearing tag-along sips a cool drink while balanced on a skateboard.

Going uphill, those dogs decide on a new mode of transportation. Ding, ding! Now there are “five dogs on a trolley.” And you-know-who? Yep—zipping right behind them in a sporty racecar. It’s lunchtime and there’s no better way to enjoy a slice of pizza in style then on a train with a shaggy sheepdog conductor. Surely, that follower can’t still be…following. Well, yes and no—and how was that pizza delivered on the roof? From pizza on a train to a dance party on a ferry?! These dogs know how to have fun! Do you think they know they’re being spied on from a submarine? Next they all take to the sky and then into outer space where “ten dogs…WAIT! That watcher, follower, tag-along finally catches up with them and…”THAT’S NOT A DOG!”

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Now there are “Nine fleeing dogs on a hot-air balloon!” Then “Eight dogs on a plane!” They hurry, hurry on the ferry and speed back on the train! But still that cat is after them on a Segway, on a unicycle, and on a very low, cool bike. Behind the wall and the now-locked gate, “one dog stands alone.” Next door, a towel-turbaned mouse peeks out a little door and spies someone wheeling into view. As it rolls by, the cat jumps on, and they’re followed by…guess who!

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Learning to count to ten and back should always be this much madcap fun! Gabi Snyder and Robin Rosenthal’s superbly devised and executed concept book offers jaunty rhymes and non-stop laughs to entertain kids while they engage with early math, addition, subtraction and even literacy. Along the way, they’re also introduced to different vehicles and wheels of all kinds. Snyder’s short sentences pop with rhythm, making them easy to remember, and little ones are sure to excitedly join in on subsequent readings. When readers reach the count of ten, Snyder’s clever line break, which, besides turning the story on its head and sending it zooming in reverse, invites kids to supply the missing rhyming word. In this second half, exclamation points replace periods, demanding a dramatic reading that will have kids giggling all the way to one. As the cat hops on the back of a trike with the little mouse in tow, children will eagerly want to turn to the first page again and replace those dogs for cats. Children a little older may like to keep the story going by next putting the mouse on the trike and thinking up their own new follower.

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Robin Snyder’s vibrant digital artwork is crisp and fresh and layered with details that invite giggles, prediction, and lots of engagement. As each spread includes one more (or one less) dog and introduces a new mode of transportation, children and adults will find many concepts to discuss as well as many opportunities to count—from the number of trees on a hill to the stars on a dog’s pants to the windows in a city scape and the stars in the sky. Little ones will want to linger over each page to examine the pack of dogs and see which one is added or subtracted. The dogs’ facial expressions—especially as they discover the cat in their midst—is comic gold, and the cat’s nonchalant surveillance heightens the humor and the suspense.

Sure to unleash a joy for learning and to become a favorite read aloud, Two Dogs on a Trike is a must for  at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages Baby – 5

Abrams Appleseed, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419738913

Discover more about Gabi Snyder and her books on her website.

To learn more about Robin Rosenthal, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Bike Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dog-riding-bike-coloring-page

 

Dog on a Bike Coloring Page

       

Is this dog riding in the city? In the country? Outside your house? Inside your house? Draw a background and then color this printable page.

Dog on a Bike Coloring Page

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You can find Two Dogs on a Trike at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 19 – It’s National Pet Month and Interview with Sarah Kurpiel

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat now and then. This year, our pets may be feeling stressed from stay-at-home restrictions. To help, try to keep your pet’s routines as normal as possible. Dogs may benefit from extra walks––just like Maple in today’s story!

I received a copy of Lone Wolf from Greenwillow Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Lone Wolf

By Sarah Kurpiel

 

Maple, a Siberian husky, loved living with the Parkers. He loved playing tug-of-war with Jax, reading with Avery, extra treats from Mom, and especially long walks with everyone. “But on her walks, people would say… ‘Dude, that dog looks like a wolf.’” Some little kids clung to their mom’s leg when they saw her, some older people asked if maybe she wasn’t just a little bit wolf, and even babies shouted “‘WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!’”

The Parkers tried to explain the differences between Maple and a wolf, but eventually, “even Maple had her doubts.” After all, when she compared herself to other dogs, she saw that so many had floppy ears or lots of fluff or handsome spots. She wasn’t like them at all. Plus, she was good at digging, howling, and hunting just like a wolf.

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Copyright Sarah Kurpiel, 2020, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

She began to think that she belonged in the wild, and one day when the gate was left open, she bounded out into the woods. But here the ground was hard, not soft like the Parker’s garden; squirrels were faster and harder to catch than Avery’s shoes; and sticks were pretty boring without Jax. Being a wolf was not as much fun as it seemed. As nighttime came and the sky darkened, Maple decided to head home.

On the way, she saw a flashlight and behind it familiar faces. Someone was looking for her. It was the Parkers—her pack! Now when people call Maple a wolf, she doesn’t have doubts. She knows just who she is and exactly where she belongs.

Sarah Kurpiel’s multilayered story about a husky who is often mistaken for a wolf will delight dog and pet lovers as it gently introduces the ideas of identity, self-doubt, and self-discovery. Her charming storytelling provides an excellent opportunity for adults and kids to discuss these important topics of individual growth with the backdrop of a supportive family. Children, familiar with being peppered by questions about what they’re doing and who they want to be (as opposed to who they are) as well as by comparisons to others, will relate to Maple. Maple’s exploration of what she considers her wolf-like abilities is humorous and models a positive self-analysis that is honest and non-judgmental while also embracing one’s unique qualities.

Kurpiel’s lovely color palette and rounded shapes are fresh and welcoming while her use of directional lines allows readers to dash along with Maple from one enchanting detail to another. Her use of various perspectives puts kids in Maple’s point of view while providing depth to this enthusiastic pup’s experience. Maple is adorable, and his wondering nature is clearly visible in his expressive face. Kurpiel’s images of family love begin on the copyright page with sweet framed family pictures, many of which include Maple. Avery, who is shown using a power wheelchair, is a welcome portrayal of a child with a disability. The final snapshot of the Parker family and Maple snuggling together is heartwarming and reminds readers that individual attributes are what make each person so special.

Touching and uplifting, Lone Wolf will charm children and adults anew with every reading. The book would make a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062943828

Discover more about Sarah Kurpiel and her art on her website.

You can download a Lone Wolf Activity Kit from HarperCollins here.

Meet Sarah Kurpiel

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Sarah Kurpiel is a librarian and artist inspired by nature and animals. She grew up in the Midwest with a Siberian husky named Mikayla. Consequently, most of her childhood was spent removing dog fur from her clothes. Lone Wolf is her first book. Sarah Kurpiel lives with her family (which includes her wonderfully goofy dog, Roxie) in Downers Grove, Illinois.

I was really excited to have a chance to talk with Sarah Kurpiel about her debut picture book, how it came to be, her illustration work, and more! Jack and Steve, who are also dog lovers, are back with lots of questions for Sarah too.

After reading––and loving––Lone Wolf, they wondered:

Do you have a dog?

Yes! My family has a dog named Roxie. We adopted her from a local animal shelter. We think she’s part Border Collie and part Retriever. She loves herding us around and rolling in the grass.

We have a miniature poodle. What breed of dog is your favorite?

Miniature Poodles are adorable! My favorite breed of dog is giant by comparison: the Borzoi. Borzois look a bit like extra-large, extra-furry greyhounds.

 Have you ever seen or heard a wolf?

I’ve never seen or heard a wolf in the wild, but I have seen Mexican Gray Wolves in a zoo. The Mexican Gray Wolf is one of the most endangered wolf subspecies in the world. Thankfully, there are recovery programs working to change that.

We’ve been taking our dog on lots of walks (just like the Parker family!) during this quarantine. What have you’ve been doing to keep busy?

I’ve been hanging out with my family and our pets, reading, catching up on Star Trek, and drawing lots and lots of cats for my next picture book.

Hi Sarah! Jack and Steve had so many terrific questions! Maple, the star of Lone Wolf, really connects with readers on so many levels. Through your story you introduce a wonderful way for kids and adults to talk about identity and belonging. This issue is really important, especially as children are developing their self-confidence and self-esteem. What was the spark for this story? What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The main character in Lone Wolf, Maple, is inspired by my childhood dog, Mikayla, a Siberian husky who had loads of personality. As anyone with a husky would probably attest, huskies often get compared to wolves. My dog was no exception. When translating this idea into a picture book, I asked myself, “What would a dog think about people comparing her to a wolf again and again?” I found I could relate to her feelings of self-doubt, as I think many people can. Lone Wolf is a cute, funny story, but like you mentioned, identity and belonging are at its heart. I hope readers will take away self-confidence to stay true to themselves despite assumptions others might make about them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lone-wolf-Mikayla

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lone-wolf-Mikayla

Lone Wolf is your debut picture book. Can you take readers on the book’s journey from idea to being published? Have you always wanted to illustrate and write children’s books?

When I was a kid, I loved to draw, but I don’t remember dreaming about becoming an illustrator. I don’t think I even knew it was a job! Throughout my life, drawing has always been a relaxing hobby. Years ago, I made a few comic strips about my family’s husky just for fun. Then, in 2018, while brainstorming picture book ideas, I reflected back on those comic strips. The one about wolf comparisons had potential for layers, but it wasn’t a story. So, over the course of a few weeks, I built out the idea, created a dummy, and sent it off to the agents who were considering representing me (and who later became my co-agents).

They sent me a few rounds of feedback, which pushed me to develop the story further. The point-of-view moved from first-person to third-person and the story arc evolved. I revised on and off for about three months. Then the story went out on submission, and I (very happily!) accepted Greenwillow’s publication offer. In the weeks that followed, I revised the dummy based on the editor’s helpful feedback before getting the go-ahead to start the final art. I learned a lot during this process that I expect will help me navigate future projects.

Just as you do, the little girl in this story uses a wheelchair. Can you discuss what it means to disabled children to see themselves in the books they read? Can you discuss the impact that having disabled characters in books for all ages has on society as a whole?

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I’m glad you noticed this connection! When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, and by 18, I had transitioned to a power wheelchair. The character Avery in Lone Wolf also uses a power wheelchair. She isn’t the main character. She’s just a girl who’s part of a family that has an awesome dog. Her presence is only notable because we don’t usually see kids in power wheelchairs in picture books. In fact, I can’t think of a single fiction picture book that includes a kid who uses a power wheelchair. I’m not saying there aren’t any out there, but if there are, I haven’t come across them yet. Kids who use manual wheelchairs are represented more often, but they’re still few and far between. And despite good intentions, some representations of disability are problematic. I think it’s important for kids with mobility disabilities to see themselves in happy stories where they are neither problems to solve nor sources of inspiration. For society as a whole, it helps normalize disability.

I love your illustration style that often mixes lovely rounded shapes with equally lovely lines, as a self-taught illustrator how did you develop your style?

I learned to draw when I was younger by sketching everything around me and from books I checked out from my public library. In 2016, I started drawing digitally. It opened up so many new possibilities. I started drawing every day, following illustrators on Instagram, thinking consciously about what made me like one illustrator’s work more than another, and taking part in a few fun, informal art challenges on Instagram. In 2017, one such challenge (a Harry Potter 20th Anniversary challenge, to be precise!) led me to draw a hippogriff. I tried some digital brushes I hadn’t used before and very desaturated colors. In that moment, I had never liked something I drew as much as that simple, imperfect hippogriff. It felt right. So I continued in that direction, drawing animals using digital dry media brushes, desaturated colors, flowy shapes, weathered edges, and sketchy, wobbly lines until, after a while, it was my style—and still is, at least for now!

As I looked at the portfolio of your art, I was moved by how uplifting the scenes are. In so many of them, the animals are looking into the sky or tenderly interacting with another animal or a person. Can you talk a little about the themes of your art and the colors you choose? What about nature inspires you the most?

It’s true! I love drawing animals looking up at the sky. It’s my go-to subject these days! Like many people, I’m drawn to the vastness of nature: the night sky, the ocean, mountains, wide open fields. A few years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon and was not prepared for how awe-inspiring it was. The vastness of nature stirs up all kinds of emotions and memories, and also a sense of interconnectedness. I like placing people and animals in those environments. For those drawings, I tend to use quiet, desaturated colors, which I’m naturally drawn to. But there’s this other side to me that’s enamored with cute, funny, whimsical characters. Lately, I’ve been trying to use vibrant colors when I draw them. So I feel like there’s these two separate sides to my work. I like both, so do both.

When you’re not drawing or writing, you can also be found working as a librarian. What are your favorite parts of your job? How exciting will it be to see your own book on the shelf and share it with patrons?

I’m an academic librarian focused in digital services, so what I enjoy most is simplifying processes and improving access (which might sound pretty dull!). My first library job was a cataloger, so I was weirdly excited to see Lone Wolf’s Library of Congress MARC record and my Cutter number at the end of the call number for the first time. It’ll be gratifying to see my book on library shelves one day when the pandemic subsides. I’ll probably pull out my phone and snap a picture!

What are you most looking forward to in sharing your book with readers? Although you’re just getting started, what has been the best part of becoming a published children’s author?

I’d love to show kids how to draw the main character, Maple, themselves. When I was in 2nd grade, my teacher demonstrated on the chalkboard a simple way to draw a face. I still remember exactly how she did it. After that, I became obsessed with drawing stylized faces and that never really went away for me. I’d love to spark a little creativity like my teacher did for me.

So far, the best part of becoming a published author/illustrator is feeling empowered to talk more openly about my interests. Few people outside of my immediate family knew I draw. It’s also been wonderful to make connections with people I never would have met otherwise.

What’s up next for you?

My next picture book will be about another popular pet: cats! I’m busily working on the final art right now.

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing so much about your life and work! I wish you all the best with Lone Wolf and can’t wait to see your next book.

You can connect with Sarah Kurpiel on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter

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You can find Lone Wolf at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Anderson’s Bookshop (Sarah’s local indie) | Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

May 13 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Let’s give a shout-out to our best friends! Who are they? Our pets, of course! Small (or large) and fury (or feathered or scaled or finned), our pets give us unconditional love and loads of happiness. Just watching them navigate their day is entertaining and educational. National Pet Month was established to celebrate these in-home pals and remind pet owners to ensure that their pets have everything they need to live a long and healthy life. This month take extra time to have fun with your pet!

Where’d My Jo Go?

Written by Jill Esbaum | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

Jo and Big Al traveled everywhere together in her big rig. One day, though, as Jo was checking out the equipment at the truck stop, Big Al went exploring. While Jo got in the cab to “adjust a mirror, set the map. / Pull the belt across my lap. / Let another trucker pass. / Shift the gears, give ‘er gas,” Big Al had time at the park to “dodge a herd of stompy feet. / Sneak a lick of someone’s treat. / Chase a wrapper. Dig in dirt. / Give a tree a little squirt.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2020, text copyright Jill Esbaum, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

After all that fun, Big Al knew it was time to get back to Jo and the truck, but when he reached the truck stop, his truck was nowhere to be found. He pondered: should he try to find his Jo? But decided it would be better to wait. Besides, he knew she’d be back for the “little doggie pal… / who shares her lunch, who guards the truck, / whose head she rub-rub-rubs for luck.” Big Al was sure Jo would return. “But…when?” He sat patiently at the truck stop guard rail overlooking the highway and watched the trucks come and go—but none of them were his.

Meanwhile, Jo had reached her destination. She called to Big Al to wake him up. But then she looked…and looked again. Where was Big Al?! At that moment, Al was running away from a “too-loud kid” who wanted to kiss him and take him home with her. As the day grew long and the sun began to set, the parking lot emptied, and Big Al wondered where his Jo could be. “Oh, Jo. Please, Jo, remember me. / No trucks. No people. Spooky. Late. / Chase a june bug. / Shiver. Wait.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2020, text copyright Jill Esbaum, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Just then a car pulled in and a boy, Zach, got out. He spotted Big Al and grabbed a stick. He threw it for Al, who “Can. Not. Resist.” Zach thinks Al is lost and begs his dad to let him keep him. Big Al thinks “I should not, cannot, will not go. / But ohhh, I like Zack. Hurry, Jo.” It looks as if Big Al and Zack will become a team when, just in the nick of time, a truck appears. Could it be? “Onk-onk!Onk onnnnnnnnk!” Big Al says, “Yip-yip! Bye, Zack! I have to go! / I knew she’d come! It’s her! My Jo!”

An Author’s Note reveals the real-life event that sparked Jill’s imagination and led to her story. She also invites readers to try a prompt and write their own story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where'd-my-jo-go-Zack

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2020, text copyright Jill Esbaum, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Children will fall in love with Big Al as soon as they meet him. Full of curiosity and with a personality befitting his name, Big Al is a busy pup as he gets into mischief at a park near the truck stop. But when he returns to find his Jo is gone, he patiently waits, certain that she’ll be back. Jill Esbaum’s jaunty rhymes are as playful as Big Al, and readers will be charmed to follow the story from his point of view. Kids with pets will recognize all the small, special moments that people and pets share and be as eager for Jo’s return as Big Al. Esbaum adds humor and suspense as two kids interact with Big Al, making the just-in-the-nick-of-time reunion all the sweeter and more satisfying.

With his expressive eyes and funny antics, Scott Brundage’s adorable Big Al will charm children and have them rooting for his reunion with Jo throughout the story. Snapshots of Big Al and Jo sharing fun on their trips show their special bond and will melt readers’ hearts, and they’ll commiserate with Jo when she realizes that Big Al is missing. Vehicle-loving kids will be fascinated by the realistic images of big rigs in the truck stop and traversing the crisscrossing highways. Brundage makes the story into a visual roller-coaster (in the best way), and the final spread of Jo and Big Al together again will have kids shouting, let’s do it again!

For pet lovers, vehicle lovers, and anyone who has a best friend, Where’d My Jo Go? Is must reading. It would make a heartwarming addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110441

Discover more about Jill Esbaum and her books on her website.

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Pet Month Activity

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Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

These puppies want to find a friend. Can you match the ones that go together in this printable puzzle? There may be more that one right answer!

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Where’d My Jo Go? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12, 1809. He was elected president in 1861, shortly before the beginning of the Civil War, and went on to become one of the most beloved presidents in the nation’s history. In 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in rebel states and led to the abolition of slavery across the country. Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated in various ways throughout the United States. Organizations and institutions dedicated to teaching and preserving Lincoln’s legacy often hold large-scale events. A wreath-laying ceremony and reading of the Gettysburg Address is traditionally held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Take some time today and on Presidents Day, which is observed on February 17 and commemorates the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, while remembering all those who have served as president.

I received a copy of Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln from Katherine Tegan Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with HarperCollins. 

Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln

Written by Shari Swanson | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

Young Abe Lincoln was deep in the forest when he heard the whistle that told him the corn he’d brought to the mill was ready. He knew he’d be late, but it was worth it to have saved a frog from the jaws of a snake. When Abe got back to the mill, John Hodgen, the miller, wondered what it had been this time that had kept Abe so long. “‘I just can’t move along fast like some boys, Mr. John, because I see so many little foolish things that make me stop. I can’t help it to save my life,“‘ Abe answered.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

On his way home, he heard rustling in the bushes. At the bottom of a cliff, Abe found a dog with a broken leg. Although he “was only seven years old, Abe had spent his whole life on a Kentucky farm and knew how to tend to animals.” He cut a small branch to make a splint and peeled bark from a pawpaw bush to use as a bandage. He tied it all together with rawhide from his belt. It was already dark when Abe and the dog reached home.

Even though his mother knew he was prone to lateness, she’d been worried, but Abe told her about the “‘honey of a dog’” he’d found and begged her to let him keep it. “‘He’ll do lots of good things for me,’ he told her. ‘You just watch and see.’” Abe’s mother relented and soon Honey was on the mend. Even though, once healed, Honey’s foot was curved, he was able to keep up with Abe on his adventures.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

On another day, after Abe had dropped off his grain at the mill, he grew tired of waiting and wandered into the woods, where they found the mouth of a cave. “Deep, twisting caverns traveled for hundreds of miles under Kentucky. A boy and his dog could get lost in caverns like these.” Abe and Honey made their way down into the rocky darkness. Abe was too busy looking around at the stalactites, bats, and other creatures who lurked in the shadows to notice the gap between two boulders. In a moment he was stuck tight. “Honey normally never left Abe, but this time he headed alone back into the darkening woods” to get help.

Meanwhile, everyone in town had gathered to look for Abe. Abe’s mother was at least relieved to know that Honey was with her son to protect him. As the search party began to look, Abe’s mother heard a noise in the bushes. Then she saw Honey dashing toward her. He barked and whined, but when he saw Mr. John, Honey “jumped up…and barked in his face.” Mr. John called for everyone to follow Honey.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-honey-the-dog-who-saved-lincoln-rescue

Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

Honey led them through the forest to the cave’s entrance. Mr. John blew on his whistle, and Abe answered. Mr. John crept in and found Abe. There was no room for him to swing a sledge hammer to break the rock, so he pulled him out “even though it meant leaving some of the boy’s hide behind.” Once outside, Abe’s mother rushed to hug him and Honey. Abe had been right about Honey doing great things. And for many more years, Honey and Abe enjoyed adventures together.

Back matter includes a timeline recounting Abraham Lincoln’s major life events as well as his adventures with animals throughout his life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-honey-the-dog-who-saved-lincoln-more-adventures

Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

In her enchanting story, Shari Swanson introduces young readers to the boy who would grow up to be the 16th president of the United States. Children meet this beloved man as a peer, discovering that his kindness, self-deprecation, sense of humor, and big heart were always part of his personality and guided him throughout his life, during good times and times of turmoil. Abraham Lincoln’s voice drives Swanson’s storytelling, which is charming and uplifting and gives a feel for the community that raised a president. Children may be awed by the responsibility Abe took on as a mere seven-year-old but will also recognize and appreciate his knowledge, competence, and confidence. Abe’s relationship with Honey is heartwarming, demonstrating that love and loyalty are repaid in many ways.

Chuck Groenink’s digital illustrations shine with sun-dappled Kentucky forest scenes and raise the stakes with foreboding and atmospheric images of the darkened cavern. His double-page spreads give readers close-up views of the action in the story as well as places they may not be familiar with, such as the mill and the Lincoln family’s log cabin. Images of Abe setting Honey’s broken paw, sneaking table scraps to Honey, and rescuing a variety of animals will delight kids. Torchlit scenes of the nighttime search party and dramatic rescue will have readers on the edge of their seats but knowing that Honey is watching out for Abe, they will be as certain of the triumphant ending.

A charming and compelling story for teaching young children about Abraham Lincoln and the lessons his life exhibits, Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln would be a first-rate addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062699008

Discover more about Shari Swanson and her books on her website. You’ll also find an educators’ curriculum guide and a child’s activity kit to download on her website. or here:

Educators’ Curriculum Guide | Activity Kit for Kids

To learn more about Chuck Groenink, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activity

CPB - Abe Lincoln's Top Hat chalkboard (2)

Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard

 

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

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You can find Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review