August 18 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-cover

About the Holiday

Starting kindergarten is a huge step toward future learning and fun! This milestone can take a lot of preparation—from buying backpacks and school clothes to establishing different routines to becoming a new member of the school community. Most school years start during August and this month gives families an opportunity to talk about the changes, go shopping together, and look forward to the new experiences to come!

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Backed up by her parents and clutching her best friends, two squash named Bonnie and Baxter, Sophie peeks into her classroom on the first day of school. She sees kids running everywhere, talking and laughing. Her parents assure Sophie that she’ll make a lot of friends and have tons of fun, but Sophie is adamant: “‘I won’t,’” she says. And Sophie’s right. “The chairs were uncomfortable. The milk tasted funny. And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-classroom

Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The other kids surround her with questions about Bonnie and Baxter. “‘Are they toys? Do they bounce? Can we EAT them?’” Sophie has had enough. “‘No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.’” And then there’s Steven Green. He sits near Sophie at circle time, plays near her on the playground, and stands over her breathing down her neck during art time. Ms. Park, the teacher, tells Sophie Steven is just being nice, but Sophie isn’t interested.

Steven does not give up so easily. He returns to show Sophie his best friend—Marvin, a stuffed frog that he got when the toy was just a tadpole. “‘Then you don’t need me,’” Sophie says and decides “that’s that.” But that isn’t that. The next day Steven is back, building a block tower near Sophie, reading her book over her shoulder, and even offering facts about fruit and vegetables during Sophie’s show and tell.

When her parents hear about Steven, they encourage Sophie to make a friend, but Sophie just clings tighter to Bonnie and Baxter. “Still, Sophie knew that Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever,” so when the other kids dance, spill their milk, or tell jokes, Sophie considers joining in. On the playground Sophie plays hopscotch while the other kids play tag, jump rope, and play other games together. When Steven asks if he can join Sophie, Bonnie, and Baxter, she refuses, leaving Steve and Marvin to sit alone.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-talk-with-mom-and-dad

Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When the weekend comes Bonnie and Baxter look “too tired to hop. Or build towers. ‘It’s time,’” says Sophie’s mother. Sophie digs a hole to make “a garden bed and tucked her squash in for their winter nap. ‘Sleep tight,’” she says. “‘See you soon.’ But spring seemed very far away.” On Monday Ms. Park asks the class to tell her what makes a good friend. The kids answer that friends play with you, help you, and think you’re funny. Steven answers “‘They like what you like.’” Ms. Park sends the kids off to draw pictures of their friends.

When Steven wants to see Sophie’s drawing of Bonnie and Baxter, the two get into a scuffle over the paper and it tears in half. “‘You are NOT my friend,’” Sophie says as she walks away. On the way home from school, Sophie tells her mom what happened. “‘Sweet potato,’” her mom says. “‘That adorable boy didn’t mean to tear your picture.’” But Sophie’s not so sure.

The next morning Sophie finds Marvin and a note in her cubby. She ignores it, and by lunchtime, Marvin is gone. Later that night, though, Sophie and her dad discover Marvin and the note inside her backpack. The note contains a drawing of Bonnie and Baxter as well as a packet of seeds.  “‘Do friends really like the same things you like?’” Sophie asks her dad. When he answers “Sometimes,” Sophie begins to think. She takes Marvin outside and sits near Bonnie and Baxter to think some more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-nighttime-thinking

Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The next day Sophie runs up to Steven to tell him the great idea that Marvin had. They then tell Ms. Park. The next day, Ms. Park hands each child “a cup, some dirt and one small seed.” “‘Can we EAT them?’” a classmate asks. “‘No!’” says Sophie, and Steven adds, “‘You never eat a friend.’” The kids plant the seeds and put the pots on the windowsill. Soon tiny shoots appear in the cups and Sophie and Steven invite the kids to do a new-plant dance.

“‘See?’” Sophie tells Steven. “‘Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.’”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s sequel to her award-winning Sophie’s Squash is a heartfelt story for kids for whom the definition of friendship runs deep. Sophie’s hesitancy to join in the freewheeling play of other kids echoes the feelings of many children entering new classrooms, joining unfamiliar groups, or meeting any new challenge. The excellent pacing of the story as well as Sophie’s honest emotions allow for development of the theme that sometimes friendship takes time. Steven’s persistence sets a positive example for not passing judgement too quickly. Sophie’s transition from squash friends to human is treated sensitively and with cleverness. In the end Sophie learns how to make a friend while still staying true to herself.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-peeking-in-classroom-door

Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Anne Wilsdorf’s cartoon-inspired illustrations perfectly depict the world that Sophie reluctantly inhabits. Her classroom is boldly colorful, full of books, toys, separate spaces, and of course all sorts of kids. Sophie’s reactions to the comments and actions of her classmates are clearly registered on her face and will make kids giggle even while they recognize her feelings. Steadfast Steven is, as Sophie’s mom says, adorable, and readers will empathize with his plight in just wanting to make a friend. The nighttime scene beautifully sums up Sophie’s dilemma and provides her and readers a moment to reflect on the story’s ideas.

On so many levels, Sophie’s Squash Go to School makes a wonderful addition to children’s and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, Penguin/Random House, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509441

Discover much more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smile-for-school-word-search

Smile for School! Word Search

 

Find 20 words about school in this printable Smile for School! Word Search. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

February 21 – International Mother Language Day

CPB - The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo

About the Holiday

Established in 1999 by UNESCO, Mother Language Day celebrates cultural diversity and promotes the protection of endangered languages. Events include multicultural festivals where all voices are heard and social cohesion, cultural awareness, and tolerance are honored.

The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo

By Jonathan Allen

 

Little Rabbit sits in the farmer’s field listening to the animals talk and learning their languages. “Moo,” Little Rabbit repeats, “Moo.” A calf responds and questions Little Rabbit. It turns out that Little Rabbit knows and likes many languages. Calf joins Rabbit in the fun. “Baa,” they say together, which summons Lamb. The three friends decide to try “Oink.” With each new noise, the group expands and enthusiastically continues their linguistic experiment. Finally, after a rousing chorus of “Quack,” Duckling asks if quack is their favorite animal sound. Each animal then reveals with pride that, while they like other noises, they prefer their own. But what about Little Rabbit, who doesn’t “have a big noise?” Will Rabbit’s answer begin the game again?

The wide-eyed, smiling animals in this adorable picture book by author-illustrator Jonathan Allen perfectly captures the joyous camaraderie of good friends discovering the world together. The book is a wonderful introduction for young children to the ideas of inclusiveness and self-esteem. Kids will love the repetition as each new animal joins the group, and will have as much fun saying each sound as Little Rabbit and the other farmyard friends.

Ages 2 – 6

Boxer Books Limited, 2008  ISBN 978-1910126257

International Mother Language Day Activity

CPB - Rabbit Puppet made

Make a Rabbit Puppet

Supplies

  • Rabbit Puppet Template
  • A paper lunch bag
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Cotton Ball
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape

Directions

  1. Print the Rabbit Puppet template.
  2. Color the parts of the rabbit and cut them out.
  3. Place the flat paper bag on a table with the bottom flap facing you. Glue or tape the eyes, and the nose and whiskers to the bottom flap. Attach the ears, placing the tabs behind the top of the bottom flap. Attach the paws to the body below the bottom flap. Attach the cotton ball tail to the opposite side of the bag.  
  4. When it’s dry, use your puppet to read The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo again and play along. Let your Little Rabbit try saying “Hi” in the languages below.

Learn to Say “Hello” in Other Languages

  • Spanish: Hola (oh-la)
  • French: Bonjour (bon zhur)
  • German: Hallo (hă-lo)
  • Chinese: Nin Hao (nee hah)
  • Filipino: Kamusta (ka-muh-stah)
  • Italian: Ciao (chi-ow)
  • Japanese: Kon’nichiwa (ko-nee-chee-wah)
  • Turkish: Merhaba (mĕr-hah-bah)

 

 

February 20 – National Cherry Pie Day

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. picture book review

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate a most delicious day! It’s hard not to love pie with its flaky crust and sweet filling. Pies have been served since ancient days, originating with the Romans who, like our own English and American ancestors, discarded the crust before eating it (didn’t they know what they were missing?).

Here are a few rather surprising facts about pie

  • Early pies were mostly made of meat, poultry in particular. The legs of the bird were often left to hang over the side of the dish and used as handles (is this what’s called “getting a leg up”?).
  • Fruit pies probably originated in England in the 1500s.
  • We have the bakers for Queen Elizabeth I to thanks for the first cherry pie.
  • Pie was introduced to America by the first English settlers. It was baked in long narrow pans that the settlers called “coffyns” after pie crusts in their native country.
  • During the American Revolution the term coffyn was changed to “crust” (“Those pesky Redcoats! We don’t want our words to be like theirs!”)

To celebrate today’s holiday, enjoy a slice of cherry pie, read this book, and have fun with the puzzle!

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.

By Marjorie Priceman

 

In this clever recipe/travelogue combination, Marjorie Priceman takes children on a tour of the United States as they gather the materials to make the tools needed to bake a cherry pie. Sure, it’s easy to buy the bowls, spoons, pie pan, baking sheet, pot holders, and other items required, but where do these things really come from?

With each page kids will vicariously travel across the country with the young baker as she visits Pennsylvania and Ohio for coal to make baking sheets, Mississippi for the cotton needed to sew pot holders, New Mexico for potting clay, and Washington, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Texas, and other states in her pursuit of materials. Along the way, they will learn fun facts about the states and what makes each one special.

The girl joins people playing and working at all kinds of job as she journeys by boat, plane, car, and bus in Priceman’s vibrant and engaging illustrations. Each state is depicted with its unique characteristics, and Priceman has included so many details that kids will love lingering over each page. Curious kids may want to explore more about the subjects they discover in this creative picture book.

Ages 5 – 8

Dragonfly Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0385752930

Cherry Pie Day Activity

CPB - Cherry Pie Match

Mixed Up Cherry Pies Matching Game

You baked 8 cherry pies for the Cherry Pie Day Festival – 2 of each crust pattern. But they got mixed up! Can you connect the matching cherry pies? Print the Mixed Up Cherry Pies Matching Game Template and draw a line between the matching pies. 

February 19 – Bird Feeding Day

National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America picture book review

About the Holiday

Today we take time to remember our feathered friends who may have a difficult time finding food during the winter months. Hanging a bird feeder in your yard can bring many hours of entertainment and enjoyment as you get to know the birds in your area and see many of the same birds come back again and again—often with their little ones during the spring!

National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America

By Jonathan Alderfer

 

If you’re looking for a book to learn about the birds in your own backyard or across the country, it’s hard to beat the National Geographic Kids Bird Guide! The prominent birds from 10 habitats in North America are discussed in detail, with amazing close-up action photographs from some of the top nature photographers in the country. Major profiles of the most common birds in a region include information on basic facts, a map and the environment in which they’re found, the sounds they make, food they eat, body parts and what they are used for, nesting behavior, and fun trivia. Mini profiles highlight other birds seen in each area.

The Guide also includes instructions on many how-tos, such as making a bird feeder, making a bird bath, bird watching, building a nest, drawing birds, protecting birds and their environment, and more. There is also a glossary and a list of print and website resources for budding birders.

Ages 7 – 10

National Geographic Kids Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1426310942

Bird Feeding Day Activity

CPB - Bird Feeder I (2)

Pinecone Birdfeeder

 

Making a pinecone bird feeder is a quick, fun way to nourish your backyard friends! Here are some simple directions for making your own!

Supplies

  • Large pinecone
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or popsicle stick
  • Spoon
  • 2 Bowls

Directions

  1. Tie a length of string around one of the top layers of pinecone leaves and knot it to make a loop for hanging.
  2. Spoon about 1/3 cup of vegetable shorting into a bowl
  3. With the knife spread the shortening over the leaves of the pinecone, covering it completely.
  4. Pour birdseed into a bowl
  5. Roll the pinecone in the bowl of birdseed, patting seed into the crevices and around the sides.
  6. Hang your pinecone birdfeeder on a branch or pole and watch the birds enjoy it!

February 18 – National Battery Day

Using Batteries Picture Book review

About the Holiday

While not an official holiday, National Battery Day is a great time to think about how these small, ubiquitous power cells have changed and improved our lives, allowing us to take our gadgets and our necessities wherever we go. Batteries themselves may be relatively new, but the idea may have been around for 2,000 years. In 1936 archaeologist Wilhelm Konig unearthed a clay jar from a Parthian tomb that held an iron rod encased in copper that may have been used to electroplate gold onto silver.

It was Benjamin Franklin (of course it was!) who coined the term “battery” in 1748 to describe an array of charged glass plates. The word “volt” or a battery’s electric potential comes from Alessandro Volta, who in 1800 generated electrical current by layering silver, a material soaked in salt or acid, and zinc. William Cruickshank, an English chemist, advanced this method, and in 1802 created a battery for mass production. The first commercially available battery was introduced in 1896 by the company now known as Eveready, and we were off and charging!

It’s Electric Series: Using Batteries

By Chris Oxlade

Batteries—those things that make our our cars run, our TV remotes change channels, our little book lights glow, and so much more—are part of our lives from the very beginning, when they’re required (but not included) for our favorite toys. But how many of us really know how they work? This little book explains to children in simple and easily understood language how batteries store and use electricity to fuel many of the world’s machines and gadgets.

Large photographs accompany the text and clearly demonstrate the concepts. Children will learn about using batteries, how batteries work in circuits, the different battery shapes and sizes, battery materials, rechargeable batteries, battery safety, portable power, and more!

For kids interested in electricity – and batteries in particular – theIt’s Electric series of books is a great place to start learning!

Battery Day Activity

Connect the Battery Puzzle

CPB - Battery Day maze

Hmmm…The flashlight, watch, video game controller, and smoke detector are all broken! Can you find which battery goes into which object to make them work again? Print out the Connect the Battery puzzle here.