January 6 – Blog Tour Stop for My Grandma’s Photos

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My Grandma’s Photos

Written by Özge Bahar Sunar | Illustrated by Senta Urgan | Translated by Amy Marie Spangler

 

Ali and his mother are visiting his grandmother, who cannot see or hear very well anymore and often does not recognize Ali or his sister. Today, they have brought old black-and-white photographs to share, but Grandma doesn’t look at them, instead falling asleep as she holds them. Overcome with emotion, Ali’s mother leaves the room, but Ali stays. When Grandma awakens, she notices the photos in her hand and asks if they are of one of Ali’s friends.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At first Ali doesn’t recognize the person in the picture, but then he notices a beauty mark on the person’s cheek and realizes that it’s a photo of his grandma when she was a young girl. When he tells her, his grandma suddenly remembers the day it was taken and the garden in which it was taken. She begins to look at the other photographs and recognizes a family picnic and her wedding day. Suddenly, Ali’s grandma becomes very animated and invites him to see her world.

“At that moment I felt as if I were being pulled into the photo,” Ali says. “Together with Grandma, I traveled into the past.” Ali sees his grandma as a child his own age, climbing a tree and leaping from branch to branch. When Ali joins her, his grandma whispers to him, ‘”It can’t really be taught with words. You have to find yourself a tree and climb it every day.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Grandma jumps down and runs into another photo with Ali right behind her. Here, Grandma is a teenager riding a ferry, feeding seagulls, and dreaming of her future. Another photo takes them to the shop where she worked as a master seamstress. “A young woman tried on the skit Grandma had made for her. She twirled and laughed, and said she loved it. Grandma’s face beamed proudly, and mine did too,” Ali says.

The last photograph takes them to Grandma’s wedding. ‘”Let me show you how much you look like your grandpa,'” Ali’s grandma tells him. Grandma is wearing a “gorgeous wedding gown she’d made herself” and Grandpa looked so handsome as they dance together. At last, Ali’s grandma tells him it’s time for him to go home. When Ali asks if she’s coming too, she replies that she’s happy there. “‘I’m going to dance with y our grandpa a little longer. … Your grandpa and I have been apart for such a long time, you know.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Ali protests and says he wants to stay there with her, but Grandma tells him that he must go “‘to collect memories and photos of your own.'” She reminds him that if he misses her, she will always be there in the photos and that she “‘won’t forget anyone or anything ever again.'” Tears spring to Ali’s eyes. He hugs and kisses his grandma one last time. When he opened his eyes, Ali was back in the present. Now his family has hung most of Grandma’s photographs on the walls of Ali’s room. “Whenever I miss her,” he says, “I look at her photos. I’m sure she’s still there, at peace, dancing away….”

Note: While the male pronoun is used on the book’s jacket flap and in this review, the story contains no pronouns associated with Ali and the illustrations depict a child with short hair and wearing overalls.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Özge Bahar Sunar’s beautiful tribute to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, first published in Turkey, offers an emotional bond between generations as Ali joins his grandma in formative moments during her life and discovers that they share many of the same experiences and dreams. Readers will be captivated by Sunar’s conversational storytelling and empathize with Ali’s gentle acceptance of his grandma’s failing memory.

As Ali’s recognition of his grandmother as a young girl in one of the photos and her recollection of the picnic it portrays leads to a magical trip back in time, readers will likewise become interested in learning more about their own grandparents and other relatives. For Ali and readers, his grandma’s passing takes place in the world of the photographs as Grandma chooses to remain dancing with her husband. Ali’s sweet and comforting hugs and final kiss for his grandmother before returning to the present reassures children that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren continue endlessly through time.

Senta Urgan’s wispy pastel pencil illustrations, sprinkled with collage fabrics and sewing items, flowers, coins, and other elements as well as photographs of the author’s and illustrator’s families combine to create a moving, dreamlike feel that immerses readers in the story’s enchanting travel through time. As Ali’s grandma tells him that he must go while she stays behind, she is shown in a loving embrace with her husband on their wedding day, reinforcing the idea that for her, death is a comforting coming home to a place where she will be forever young. Flowers, vines, and trees that surround and support the characters create a motif that death is a natural part of life and that one’s love for another nurtures and grows.

A beautiful and tender way to talk about the life and death of a grandparent, family member, or beloved friend, My Grandma’s Photos is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542031158

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. You can find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. You can connect with her Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. You can connect with Amy on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Thank you to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of My Grandma’s Photos with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My Grandma’s Photos Blog Tour Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. If using your own twine or yarn: wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness and glue the end down to keep it from unraveling
  3. With the needle-nose pliers, roll one end of each wire to create a small coil
  4. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  5. Fit wires into the center hole on the top of the spool and push them into the clay until they are secure
  6. Clip photographs into the coils

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You can find My Grandma’s Photos at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 15 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Established in 1989 by the Center for the Book and Pizza Hut as a way to celebrate reading and invite kids and adults to discover the fun and benefits of reading, Young Readers Week is a favorite on any book-lovers’ calendar. Bringing together businesses, schools, families, and libraries, the Book It! program offers encouragement and resources to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find activities, printables, reading trackers, and other resources for schools and families, visit the Book It! program website.

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sending me a copy of Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.)

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Norman was a porcupine whose best friend, Mildred, was a tree. During the day, Norman loved playing baseball with Mildred (even though she always struck out—and, if truth be told, never even swung at the ball), bird-watching, “playing ‘tree’ together, and even playing chess (even if Norman had to play both black and white). At night, Norman settled himself in Mildred’s branches and read to Mildred (who always asked for “one more chapter.” Sometimes Norman just liked being with Mildred, holding hands with a low-growing branch.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then one day an interloper popped from the ground complete with some leafy appendages. “And WHO is THAT?!” Norman asked Mildred. Of course, “it was another tree”—a tree that did not belong with Norman and Mildred. At first Norman just stewed, but soon he began to worry about whether Mildred might prefer this other tree to him. And, in fact, as the other tree grew taller, it seemed that Mildred didn’t need Norman to play baseball, birdwatch or play “‘tree’” anymore. “Life wasn’t the same.”

On the day that Mildred and the other tree actually touched leaves, Norman decided that was “the last straw. Even though, in this case, there were no straws. Just branches.” He decided to take action and devised the perfect plan. One night, Norman dug up the other tree, plopped it into a wheelbarrow, “and took it far away. Very far away.” So “very, very far away” that he needed a rowboat to get there.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

And on a tiny island, Norman replanted the other tree and rowed back to shore. After that things were back to normal—sort of. But Mildred was suspicious; she had questions. Norman did his best to offer possibilities after first explaining that he hadn’t done anything with the other tree. “Maybe it went on vacation,” he said. “Maybe it moved. How should I know?” And then he reassured Mildred that she still had him.

But there a niggling disquiet came to Norman. He began to fear that someone had seen him and that maybe “digging up your friend’s friend…was NOT the right thing to do.” His guilt ate at him until, under Mildred’s accusing gaze, he tripped and fell into the other tree’s empty hole. “Norman had hit rock bottom. ‘I have hit rock bottom!’” he announced. He knew what he had to do.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

He took the wheelbarrow and the rowboat and hurried to the tiny island. Back home, he replanted the other tree right where it had been before. “Norman knew life was going to be different.” Maybe it would even be better, he contemplated from the comfort of his hammock. “Just the three of them”—until the other tree’s best friend appeared from its nest, saw Norman, and demanded to know “And WHO is THAT?!”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ superbly well-conceived story of personal relationships tested by newcomers paints the wide swath of emotions that friendships, sibling bonds, and other connections spark in the human heart with his well-known and ameliorating humor. Higgins’ honest look at the progression of contentment, jealousy, resentment, fear, and sadness leading up to a desperate act followed by short-lived satisfaction, denials, guilt, dread, introspection, and finally acceptance not only makes for a dramatic and suspenseful read, but offers kids and adults a compelling way to talk about the delicacy and resilience of strong relationships.

Higgins’ plump and rakish Norman garners immediate affection with his adorable expressions and enthusiastic friendship with the steadfast Mildred so that when “the other tree” comes into the picture, readers will feel a deep empathy with his predicament. Depictions of how Norman sees interactions between Mildred and the other tree as usurping his role are clever and meaningful conversation starters. The aftermath of Norman’s replanting of the other tree also provides insight into whose life Norman really uprooted. In his pitch-perfect ending, Higgins reminds kids that no one lives in isolation and that their own experience may be mirrored in someone else’s.

An outstanding story that charms as a favorite read-aloud for humorous story times as well as one that makes a poignant impact on social-emotional growth, Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2021 | ISBN 978-1368026239

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter. 

To find more books by Ryan T. Higgins and an Activity Kit/Educator’s Guide for teachers and families, visit Ryan’s page on the Disney Books website.

Young Reader’s Week Activity

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We Love to Read! Maze

 

Help the kids pick up books and find their way through the library in this printable maze.

We Love to Read! Maze Puzzle | We Love to Read! Maze Solution

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You can find Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s picture books are amazing! Offering inspiration, characters that really speak to kids, moments to laugh out loud or reflect, glimpses into history, revelations in science, and much of the best art currently being produced, picture books defy their slim appearance with content that can change young lives. Reading a wide variety of books to children from birth on up is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. Make choosing the books to read a family affair! Kids love picking out their own books and sharing cozy and fun story times with you!

Thanks to Beaming Books for sharing a digital copy of The Girl with Big, Big Questions for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Girl with Big, Big Questions

Written by Britney Winn Lee | Illustrated by Jacob Souva

 

There once was a girl who was always asking questions about everything she saw and heard and thought. “Her days were filled with adventures galore,/ since her mind was so full of wonder. / ‘How long can a turtle stay in its shell? / Why does lightning come before thunder?’” From morning to bedtime she questioned her mom, her neighbors, her classmates, her teachers. “‘Could I fly if I got a good running start? / The nearest volcano is . . .where? / Are monsters real? What’s Spanish for blue? / Is it okay to cut my own hair?’”

At first everyone tried to answer all the girl’s questions, but as they piled up, people began to just roll their eyes and, finally, her friends at school told her “‘Please stop! Just quit it!’” The girl felt embarrassed. She “tried to quiet her thoughts” and not ask so many questions. But then one day she saw a bird making a nest in a broken fence close to the ground.

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Image copyright Jacob Souva, 2021, text copyright Britney Winn Lee, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

She wondered why the bird didn’t choose a tree for its nest, so she went to the library and did some research. Outside, she made observations and came up with an answer. Then she made a report to her class: “‘There are not enough trees in our town!’” Now her friends were asking questions about what they could do to help and devised a plan to plant “more trees in their parks.” And the girl understands that asking big questions is good and can lead to important actions and changes; “Asking questions is how we all grow!”

In her enchanting story about a girl who’s part super-observer, part philosopher, and completely engaged with her world, Britney Winn Lee invites readers to also look outward and inward and discover the questions that inform their particular world view and call to action. With humor and an intriguing list of questions to get kids thinking, Lee’s bouncy rhymes will pique their curiosity and instill a desire to learn not only about the big stuff, but about all the tiny Who? What? Why? When? and Hows? that make life interesting and always new.

Jacob Souva’s charming and lovely illustrations will delight kids as the adorable wide-eyed girl is surrounded by speech bubbles and clouds full of images representing her questions. Readers can almost hear the girl’s questions as the bubbles bump up against each other, overlap, and expand to fill two-page spreads, adding a vivacious energy to the story. Souva depicts the classmates’ admonition and the girl’s searching for her own answers with clever metaphorical imagery.

When the girl’s classmates tell her to quit asking so many questions, the day turns rainy and the previously vivid colors of her thoughts and questions become the muted panels of her enveloping umbrella. The vibrant colors return in the library’s shelves of books as the girl finds answers to the one question about the bird’s nest that occupies her mind. The girl’s influence on her classmates is clearly shown in the final spreads as each child is paired with a questioning bubble of their own.

An engaging way to encourage curiosity, a questioning mind, and a love of learning and doing, The Girl with Big, Big, Questions would make an inspiring addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

You’ll also want to check out Britney Winn Lee and Jacob Souva’s The Boy with Big, Big Feelings, a story for all children who are sensitive to their own emotions, empathize with the cares of other people and the world, and are looking to make friends and make a difference.

Ages 5 – 8

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506473789

Discover more about Britney Winn Lee and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Jacob Souva, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Let’s Read! Coloring and Find the Differences Pages

 

Print out a few copies of this coloring page and find the differences page then invite your friends over for some fun and, of course, reading!

Let’s Read! Coloring Page | Find the Differences Page

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You can find The Girl with Big, Big Questions at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 20 – It’s the Spooky Season

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About the Holiday

The month of October is a spooky season. There are monsters lurking in closets, witches stirring up brews, and evil screams in the night. But, not all spooky things turn out to be scary. Sometimes, it just takes a closer look to see that what once spooked you was actually a helper in disguise, perhaps even a friendly ghost. After all, ghosts like to have friends too.

Today, I’m happy to welcome writer and artist Amanda Leemis, who also loves sharing books and creating worksheets and crafts for young readers. Just in time for Halloween, Amanda’s stopped by with a review of a book that’s perfect for the holiday and all year around. You can read more about Amanda and find some of her fun activities for kids at the end of this post.

Review by Amanda Leemis

Gustavo The Shy Ghost

By Flavia Z. Drago

 

When it comes to making friends, it can be hard, especially if you’re a paranormal being who blends into the background. Gustavo is a very shy ghost who loves to play the violin more than anything in the world. He is so shy that he can never get the courage to talk to any of the monsters, so he tries to get close to them in other ways. Being a ghost has its perks, and Gustavo is able to morph his shape into any situation. He rounds up his sides into a balloon and hangs out for a celebration, but none of the monsters notice him. He tries everything from curling up into sports equipment to becoming a lampshade, he even becomes a blank canvas in the art classroom, but none of the monsters take any notice.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Gustavo’s sadness turns to determination as he sends out invitations to his very own violin concert. This is his chance to really be seen, face his fears, and make some new friends. He pushes his nervous thoughts – “What if no one shows up? What if they don’t like my music?” – away and invites all the monsters in the land! As the big night arrives, Gustavo’s worst fears come to life, not a soul had come to his party. Sitting all alone and mending his crushed heart, he picks up his violin and his music fills the air. Soon, he is glowing brightly with the music that fills his spirit!

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

A voice calls “Gustavo!” from behind the bushes, and soon all kinds of monsters begin to emerge from the darkness. The monsters got lost on the way to the party, but found their way back by following the music in the air and spotting Gustavo’s luminous glow! After the brilliant violin performance, Gustavo’s life changes forever. Now, he has all kinds of monster friends in his neighborhood! His quiet nature is now filled with friendship, and he has lots of friends to spook and surprise. Instead of trying to blend into situations, he gets to stand out! Whether it’s becoming an umbrella to shield his friends from the rain or creating an amazing shadow show on the wall, Gustavo isn’t alone.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Flavia Z. Drago’s message of perseverance and courage will remind your little ones that it’s ok if making friends is hard. Drago reassures kids that the best way to introduce yourself to new people is to simply be yourself, just like Gustavo. While the October season can be a spooky time, this book is great chance to bring more fun and less unease about what’s lurking in the night. Not all spooks are scary, and in fact, some just want a friend.

Drago’s illustrations will have you captivated from the first moment you see Gustavo floating a teapot across the page. The vibrant, warm colors throw you into a new world full of monsters and spooks, and gets you in the mood to hear a tale of the lesser-known paranormal beings. The illustrative details – like Gustavo’s family portrait, his handcrafted invitations, and his kitty cat peeking around the door – give the reader so much to explore within each and every page!

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2020, | ISBN 978-1536211146

Discover more about Flavia Z. Drago, her books, and her art on her website.

The Spooky Season Activities

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Gustavo the Ghost Puzzles and Craft

 

The fun with Gustavo doesn’t have to end! Be sure to print out an activity to accompany the story! Gustavo Shape Sorting” is great for little ones in preschool. Sort Gustavo’s shape into his same column. “‘Gustavo The Shy Ghost’ Word Search” is great for ages 5-7. Highlight all of the spooky words hidden in the mishmash of letters! And hey, while you’re at it, get creative with a fantastic make-your-own ghost water bottle craft!

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About Amanda Leemis

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Amanda Leemis is a model, artist, and creator of The Hollydog Blog! She is passionate about encouraging our littlest humans to read! With two books published in the “My Hollydog” series, she loves illustration and uses her skills to create printable worksheets for ages 2-5. Creating resources that build fine motor skills and boost creativity is her passion.

Amanda Leemis is the illustrator of My Hollydog and My Hollydog Rides in the Car. Her mother Charise Leemis is the author! The “My Hollydog” series is written specifically for ages 2-3. With one sentence per page, little ones will stay engaged and keep focused on the vibrant illustrations. Come along with Hollydog on an adventure! Whether it’s hanging her head out the window or jumping into a pile of leaves, Hollydog loves her humans more than anything in the world!

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You’ll find Gustavo the Shy Ghost at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 5 – National Do Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Similar to Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Do Something Nice Day encourages people to think of others and do nice things for them. These don’t have to be big or expensive; in fact, small gestures or thoughtful actions can make all the difference in the way a friend, family member, or stranger feels. These acts of kindness will make you feel good too! To celebrate today, keep an eye out for ways you can lend a hand, times you can share a smile or a conversation, or ways you can make a new friend. Kids may enjoy sharing the encouraging cards found below with friends, siblings, and teachers or by leaving them at school, the library, shops or anywhere that someone may find them.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice

Written by Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrated by Kelly O’Neill

 

It seems like being nice should be easy, but there are so many emotions that often surround that one little word that sometimes doing the considerate thing is really hard. How hard? Like smiling and saying “that’s okay” when “your mom says you have to share” your favorite toy with a friend, sibling, or cousin and they break it. Like sitting through your brother or sister’s boring performance, game, or recital when you’d rather be somewhere else—anywhere else. Or like eating your least favorite food and thanking the cook for the meal because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In fact, “sometimes being nice takes practice” like when a little brother or sister destroys your stuff and you yell at them, but then later you realize they didn’t really understand what they were doing. Or like when visiting someone you love in a nursing home or new place is scary and you hang back, not wanting to see them but then decide you won’t be scared next time you visit. And then there are times like these on the playground “when you have been waiting in line for the big slide, and a kid jumps in front of you because he didn’t see you standing there. And your mom says that the polite thing to do is to let him go first. But it’s your turn so you go anyway. Somehow it isn’t as fun. Next time you’ll let him go first.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So what does all that practice lead to? The good feeling you get when you are nice. Like when you let your baby brother sit with you as you play a video game, “and he claps for you the whole time.” There’s also the great feeling you get when you’ve cleaned up after playing and your parents really appreciate it, or “when you’re late for soccer practice and your mom can’t find her keys, so you help her look for them . . . and find them in the doorknob! And your mom says she doesn’t know what she would do without you!”

While these examples may be hard because you feel slighted or tired or rushed or scared, there are times when being nice takes all your courage—like when you befriend the new kid or the kid everyone picks on and find out you have lots in common. Or when the bullies come around and you stand up for your new friend even though it’s scary and you end up in the principal’s office. So why would you want to be nice? Because “it’s worth it.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Maggie C. Rudd’s excellent primer to the emotions and circumstances around being nice presents children with realistic scenarios involving family members and friends, favorite toys and activities, and common situations at school that often require extra effort to respond to in a positive way. Rudd’s conversational writing style directly engages the reader, and while every example may not be an exact match to the reader’s experience, many will be spot on and the others easily recognized and adaptable.

Rudd’s four-step progression acknowledges that showing kindness or even just good manners can be difficult, but that it can become easier—especially when a situation seems unfair or is disappointing—with practice and perspective. Rudd’s examples of when being nice feels good are sprinkled with humor and warm family feelings that will bring smiles that support her point. A thread involving a favorite Galactic Star Crusher action figure ties several of the vignettes together, adding a sense of relationship and connectedness among the characters.

Kelly O’Neill illustrates each example for readers with clearly depicted scenes involving kids like them playing video games, visiting with grandparents, playing on the playground, helping their parents, and standing up for another child. In every instance, the children’s emotions are easily understood, which opens up many opportunities for adults and kids to discuss the feelings and issues surrounding how one treats others from both a child’s and adult’s perspective and experience. O’Neill’s bright colors, familiar settings, and uncluttered, well-conceived pages put the focus on her engaging children and elegantly complement Rudd’s important message.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice is a superb read aloud for honestly addressing the complexities and rewards of showing kindness and being nice. It is a book that families, teachers, and caregivers will find themselves turning to again and again in helping children navigate and learn this important social skill. The book is a must addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company | ISBN 978-0807575734

Discover more about Maggie C. Rudd and her books as well as an Activity Kit for educators and parents on her website.

To learn more about Kelly O’Neill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Do Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 28 – Celebrating the Happy Cat Month Book Birthday of Miss Meow

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.

Thanks to West Margin Press for sharing a digital copy of Miss Meow with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Miss Meow

By Jane Smith

 

Miss Meow is a little girl who prefers being a cat. She has a soft head with two perky ears and a long tail. Things that make Miss Meow purr are getting scratched between the ears while reading with her mom and brother, Felix; chasing her toy mouse; napping in the sun; and lapping up water and snacks from her bowls. Things that make her hiss include taking a bath, having her snacks stolen, having her tail pulled, and having someone—like her little brother—intrude upon her territory.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

One stormy night Miss Meow discovers her favorite mouse toy torn open in her room. The fluff inside was scattered across the floor. “Miss Meow’s fur stands straight up. Her ears flatten against her head. She knows who did this—who always does this!” She runs to her mom and complains about Felix. Then she “stalks toward her brother, pointing her claw.” Snack crackers crunch underfoot. Not only has Felix broken her toy, he’s upset her snack bowl.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-snacks

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Miss Meow is caterwauling and stomping around when she slips in a puddle of water and falls to all fours—“Meee-ow!” But then Felix notices a “mysterious trail of wet paw prints” leading from the kitchen. Miss Meow, Felix, and Mom follow them to Miss Meow’s room, where they find . . . “a sopping wet intruder” asleep on Miss Meow’s pillow. Felix is thrilled to see the kitty, but Miss Meow is not. She chases the interloper through the house until she has him trapped in the kitchen.

But when Miss Meow sees that the stray is cold, shivering, and scared, her heart melts. “‘Here, kitty. It’s okay,’ she coos softly.” As the cat approaches, Miss Meow apologizes to her brother. The cat purrs as Miss Meow pets him between the ears then all three curl up on the pillow for a warm afternoon nap.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Young feline fanatics will purr with delight at Jane Smith’s tale of a little girl with a big imagination and an all-in love for cats. The uncanny similarity in behavior between cats and kids gives Smith full range to shine a humorous spotlight on bath time, naptime, territorial disputes, and sibling rivalry. But, as part cat, part human, Miss Meow’s natural empathy for her fellow cat and for her brother takes over when she sees how miserable the stray is and realizes that she owes Felix an apology. Smith’s use of present tense puts kids in the middle of the action, while her vivid and evocative illustrations clearly depict the characters’ emotions. Readers will love spying the first glimpse of the hidden stray, and Miss Meow’s mad-dash chase through the house leads to a sweet resolution.

Both a captivating story and an engaging way to talk to kids about their emotions and family relationships, Miss Meow is a purr-fect read aloud for all kids.

Ages 4 – 6

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513289458

You can connect with Jane Smith on Twitter and linktree.

Happy Cat Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball, and when it’s painted it’s stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball. Paint the inner ear.
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cover

You can find Miss Meow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 22 – It’s the Autumn Equinox

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About the Holiday

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, fall has arrived! If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, welcome to spring! Today, daytime and nighttime will be equal, ushering in a changing of the seasons. For some that means cooler weather, shorter days, and a slowing down in nature which leads to our being able to see the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges in the leaves of certain trees. The phenomenon featured in today’s book. For others nature is just awakening, with all the beauty warm weather and new growth bring. Wherever you live, enjoy the activities and events the change in season brings!

Before We Sleep

Written by Giorgio Volpe | Illustrated by Paolo Proietti

 

“As the season turned, the forest was dressed in new colors of rich amber, burned orange, and chestnut brown.” Little Red, the fox couldn’t wait to play hide-and-seek with his friend Hazel the dormouse because he would be so much harder to find. Little Red and Hazel also enjoyed jumping in the crisp, rustling leaves. “‘The leaves are laughing with us,’ said Hazel joyfully.” But there was one thing about autumn that Little Red did not like. He knew that soon winter would come and he would be lonely.

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Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Hazel was already getting ready to hibernate in her warm burrow. Little Red thought maybe this year Hazel would take a shorter sleep, but Hazel reminded her friend that, although she would like to keep him company, she couldn’t. Little Red thought of ways the earth could stay warm and nurturing, but his ideas, he knew, were just wishes. In fact, Hazel was already growing tired. She promised Little Red that come spring she would be back to play with him again.

Little Red wanted just a few more minutes with his friend and asked if he could tell her a story. Little Red curled up next to her cozy burrow, and Hazel nestled into his soft tail to listen. “But before a word of the story was spoken . . . the two friends had fallen fast asleep, together.”

Note: Only first-person pronouns are used in this story, making the characters gender-neutral.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-asleep

Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Tranquil and soothing, Giorgio Volpe’s autumn friendship story floats on beautiful, evocative language that stirs memories of the fun fall offers while also reassuring readers that no matter what changes take place, love between friends always remains. Volpe’s story also touches on how friendships are built despite—or because of—individual differences. The sweet and comforting ending makes Before We Sleep not only a perfect fall read but a cozy bedtime story as well.

Paolo Proietti’s lush illustrations of a woodland dressed for autumn fuse realistic images of nature with delightful whimsy that mirrors the wistful tone of Volpe’s story and will charm readers. Proietti’s rich illustrations of fiery Little Red, adorable Hazel, and the plants, berries, nuts, and wildlife of the forest are set against lovely muted gray, blue, and sage backgrounds and invite readers to visit again and again.

A quiet and enchanting story for cozy fall days and dozy nights, Before We Sleep is highly recommended as a gift for family or friends and as an addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550046

To download a Before We Sleep Activity Kit and find video resources, visit Red Comet Press.

You can connect with Giorgio Volpe on Facebook.

You can connect with Paolo Proietti on Instagram.

Autumn Equinox Activity

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-fall-leaves-matching-puzzle

Falling for Fall Matching Puzzle

 

These kids are having fun in the leaves. Can you find the matching leaves in this printable puzzle?

Falling for Fall Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-cover

You can find Before We Sleep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review