October 11 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

All this month people are reading and celebrating their favorite books—both old and new. It’s also a terrific time to honor independent bookstores that serve their community with carefully chosen titles for all ages of readers. Some indies focus on one genre or age of reader, offering a vast array of familiar and surprising books for customers to explore. Others are known for a particular ambience—mysterious, scholarly, fun! But all give readers a sense of community and a feeling of awe and wonder at all of the stories to discover. This month make a stop into your local bookstore a family event and pick up a new book (or several) for everyone!

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Hello Knights! (A Hello Book)

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Chris Dickason

 

A knight checks out her shining reflection in the mirror before starting a day full of important jobs. In the castle, “knights run up. Knights run down. Take the queen her royal crown.” And what does the king need? Well! “Knights march here. Knights march there” all to “take the king his underwear.”

Besides these duties, knights have to protect the castle from dragons, but oh, no! Here they come! Purple, green, orange and pink, they’re flying in from every direction! The dragons are huge – much bigger than the knights. How can they defeat those fire-breathing beasts? The knights shout from the castle wall, warning the dragons to go away. But the dragons say they’re “coming in! “Will a battle now begin?”

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

On the turret the knights hold their swords, ready to fight. But one clever knight has a different solution. What’s that she says? “Wave the…underwear?” This flag is raised, and “all the dragons stop and stare.” What do they think? What do they do? In just a minute they’re “Huff-puff laughing dragon-style.” With belly laughs and music and dancing, a “party starts. Battle ends.” Now “knights and dragons” are “making friends.”

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Little royalty will giggle and gasp as colorful dragons menace the castle only to be stopped by a silly display of the king’s underwear. Joan Holub’s fast-paced, dialogue rich storytelling will keep the youngest readers riveted to her gently suspenseful story that ends in laughs and a big bash, where the knights and dragons show off their musical talents, while a dragon and horse dance, the queen meets a newly hatched dragon, and the king roasts marshmallows by dragon fire. Holub’s short sentences invite kids to read along on second, third, fourth… readings.

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Chris Dickason’s kingdom is as shiny as polished silver and as busy as a beehive, with knights running here and there to serve the king and queen and thwart the dragons. The queen with her smiling eyes and fluffy white kitten sits elegantly as the knights set her golden and jeweled crown atop her turquoise hair. The tattooed king readies himself to put his undies on as a knight looks away and a shocked dragon peers through the window. Little knights in the making will love the double-spread view of the dragons soaring through the clouds and the ensuing battle preparations. The showstopper is the double gatefold that reveals the castle courtyard complete with two die-cut walls that enclose a wild and royal jammin’ party with new friends.

Hello Knights is jousting good fun that little ones will want to hear again and again. The book is a treasure for gift-giving, home, library, and preschool classroom bookshelves.

Ages 1 – 4

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534418684

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website.

To learn more about Chris Dickason, his books, and his art on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Knight’s Tunic

 

Being a knight is exciting and fun! It’s even better with a knights tunic to wear! With this easy-to-make tunic, a t-shirt can be recycled into some cool royal wear!

Supplies

  • Tee shirt with the sleeves cut off
  • Thin cardboard (a cereal or other food box works well)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers 
  • Play jewels (optional)
  • Fabric glue
  • Rope, twine, or shoelace for a belt
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Cut the sleeves off of the T-shirt
  2. Use the cardboard to create a crest shape
  3. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil
  4. Tape the aluminum foil in back if necessary
  5. Children may enjoy decorating the crest for their tunic with markers and/or play jewels by themselves or with a bit of adult help
  6. Attach the finished crest to the tunic with fabric glue
  7. Use rope, twine, or a shoelace for a belt

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You can find Hello Knights at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 10 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers to the chicken side of things, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle to the world as a food source and source of material from earliest times. Cows have also long been beloved characters in children’s books, inspiring laughs, empathy, and imagination – as in today’s book!

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

By Gemma Merino

 

Tina is a very unique cow. Unlike her sisters who are only interested in “fresh and juicy grass,” Tina is very curious and always inventing new ideas. Her sisters proclaim her notions “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” One day while exploring the woods, Tina decides to climb a tree. Branch by branch she swings herself to the top. Up there among the owls and squirrels Tina discovers a dragon—a friendly one, and a vegetarian to boot!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree-tina

Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“All afternoon they talked about wonderful dreams and incredible stories.” Tina is excited to tell her sisters, but when she gets home they aren’t impressed. The whole idea of cows climbing trees and dragons is “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” The next morning Tina never shows up for breakfast. Her sisters find a note that reads “Gone flying with the Dragon of the Woods.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree-dragon

Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Her sisters decided this nonsense has to stop, so they head out to find her. As they leave behind their familiar farmland and enter the forest, they can’t believe how beautiful it is. Suddenly a pig wearing a backpack dashes past them and shimmies up a tree. Even though they consider this “impossible,” one sister follows the pig. The others join her. From a treetop branch the three find that “the world beyond the fields was extraordinary.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree-something-strange

Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Still, Tina is nowhere to be found. The sisters look left, right, down, and up. Up! “It was impossible. It was ridiculous. It was nonsense. But it was true! Tina was flying!” She and other animals are taking flying lessons from the dragon, and while they don’t have wings, they soar just fine with a little help. From her lofty place, Tina asks her sisters to join her, and they say something she has never heard before: “Yes, why not?” They float, drift, and glide in the sunlit sky, and ever afterward find that nothing is “impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.” Now all four sisters can’t wait to see what else is possible.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree-interior-art-telescope

Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Gemma Merino’s mooving tribute to people who live and dream large will inspire young children to reach for the treetops and beyond. The plucky heroine who doesn’t cower under her sisters’ reproach is a confident and likable role model, happy to include her sisters when they finally see the light. Merino’s sweet, soft-hued illustrations humorously depict the dichotomy between the sisters’ grass-focused existence and Tina’s vivid imagination. The cows’ home has sage green walls, furniture, and floors.

The pictures on the walls, the flowerpot on the windowsill, and the planter are all full of various types of vegetation, and the jars in the pantry contain such ingredients as Pickled Leaves, Meadow Mix, Dried Petals, and Herbal Tea. But Tina’s imagination and the forest she loves to visit are infused with reds, ambers, blues, and teals; even the greens are more brilliant. For anyone contemplating the unknown, The Cow Who Climbed a Tree is rousing fun!

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807512982

To learn more about Gemma Merino and her books visit her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft

Moo Cow Mug

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft-back

Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree

You can find The Cow Who Climbed a Tree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 23 – National Handwriting Day & Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

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About the Holiday

Established in 1977, National Handwriting Day commemorates the act of putting thoughts to paper with a pen or pencil. In this age of computer writing programs, email, and texting, the art and joy of penmanship is waning. Handwriting, though, is unique to each individual and should be celebrated and encouraged! One of the best ways for kids to develop handwriting skills is by writing letters to friends and family. Finding a pen pal either close to home or from another country is another fantastic way to make new friends that can bring joy, broaden horizons, build empathy and respect for others, and promote a lifetime love of learning about our world—just as today’s book that celebrates the ideals of Multicultural Children’s Book Day shows!

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

Teachers know that when their students get to know other kids from nearby or far away, they gain an understanding of different traditions and cultures and develop the kinds of caring, empathy, and kindness that make the world a better place for all. Add in some poetry and the fun of sending—and receiving—letters, and you’ve got…Dear Dragon: A Pen Pale Tale—a clever tribute to creative communication and friendship.

As the story opens, George and his classmates are learning about their new project. Elsewhere, Dragomir and his classmates are getting the details on their new project. And what is this new assignment? This year in each classroom the poetry and pen pal projects are being combined, so all correspondence must be written in rhyme.

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

On each student’s desk is an envelope with the name of the pen pal they’ve been given. George Slair opens his envelope to discover that he’s been matched with Blaise Dragomir, and Blaise pulls George’s name from his envelope. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first letter, George begins with honesty and a bit about himself: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-castle

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

 

As Blaise reads the letter he pictures George’s fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing instead of the cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella that it actually was. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir.”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-washing-kitten

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Reading December’s letter, Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines the table-top volcano science project George writes about as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing, but the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that George’s mom and dad are teachers and that a pen-pal picnic is planned for June.

When Blaise writes back in March, he reveals that his dad’s into learning too: “…every night we read a book / or pick a game to play.” Then he tells George about a special outing he’s looking forward to with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

On April 11th George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then George asks a question that shows this project’s worth: “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….” Signing off, George abandons the formal “Sincerely, George” for “Your friend.” 

Blaise is all in for continuing this friendship. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-sky-diving

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the children approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot and see the friends they’ve been writing to all year, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees to see the friends they’ve been writing to all year, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide.

“‘Blaise?’” a surprised George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” an astonished Blaise guesses, while nervously holding his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’” says George. “‘My pen pal is a human?’” echoes Blaise.

For a moment the celebration stops, but with the turn of the page, huge grins burst out on both George and Blaise as they exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid-and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And what do the teachers have to say? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-picnic

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

In his inventive story that celebrates friendship, diversity, and the joy of discovering different viewpoints, Josh Funk shows the power of writing and communication to unite people of all backgrounds. Through the alternating letters from George and Blaise, Funk deftly demonstrates that many experiences are universal—like pets, school, hobbies, and parents—while others are just waiting to be shared.  Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem St George and the Dragon by Alfred Noyes. This shout out to this well-known poem of the past further highlights the importance of reading all types of literature for both children and adults in connecting us as global citizens.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-flying

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message—along with the reality—in his illustrations that are, as George exclaims, “as awesome as it gets.” There is a special delight in seeing how sweet, earnest, and happily supportive of each other’s lifestyle Blaise and George are as they react to every letter. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement, humor, and ingenious details. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is cheerfully satisfying.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, in each painting Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness in both words and pictures beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale is a fantastic read-aloud with multiple applications for fun and discussion at home and during classroom and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find plenty of fun activities to enjoy on his website.

Learn more about Rodolfo Montalvo and his artwork on his website

National Handwriting Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-mcbd-word-search

 

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle

 

Friends say and write “hello” to each other all over the world. You can learn how to say “hello” in twenty-five languages as you look for them in this printable Hello, Friends Word Search Puzzle!

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

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About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12 5-book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Social Media

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Be sure and look for and use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Picture Book Review

 

December 11 – It’s Write a Friend Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of December people like to reach out to friends near and far and share the events of the past year. Write a Friend Month commemorates such communication and encourages writers to pick up a pen and paper and send a “real letter” full of intriguing details that inspire a response. Finding a letter or card in the mailbox still makes people smile. So, why not take a little time this month to write a letter to your friends?

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-castle

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-washing-kitten

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-sky-diving

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-picnic

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, which can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-flying

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

The fun dual-meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot Dear Dragon book trailer!

Write a Friend Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-front-eyes-down

Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-top-of-head

To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-bottom-snout

To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-back

Picture Book Review

September 1 – World Letter Writing Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

Remember the thrill of receiving a letter—a real letter full of exciting news, lovey-dovey stuff, photos, or a highly anticipated answer to some inquiry or application? The footsteps of the postal carrier on the stoop, the creak and small bang of the mailbox lid opening and closing, and the view of a long envelope sticking out the top could all set the heart racing. Or perhaps you were the letter writer, pouring your experiences, heart, and hopes onto a piece of paper that might have been colored or even scented. World Letter Writing Day celebrates those missives that allow for the development of higher vocabulary and story-telling skills and provided physical souvenirs of a life well lived.

Dear Dragon

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-bengal-kitten

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy, Viking Books for Young Readers

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain while in January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, and that can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon is released September 6 and is certain to be a book children treasure. The fun dual meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot book trailer!

World Letter Writing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-front-eyes-down

Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-top-of-head

To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-bottom-snout

To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-back

Picture Book Review