January 25 – National Florida Day and Interview with Author B. J. Lee

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About the Holiday

Today, we recognize Florida—the 27th state to enter the Union. Did you know that Florida is home to the oldest established city in the country? Founded by Spanish explorers in 1565, St. Augustine remains a fascinating city that combines an intriguing history of religious settlements, pirate treasure hunters, and a tug of war over ownership among Britain, Spain, and France with the modern beauty of a thriving community. Of course, Florida is well-known as an international tourist destination for its theme parks, wide open beaches, and warm weather. The state is also home to animals, insects, and reptiles unseen in the rest of the United States—a fact that today’s book riffs on.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth

Written by B.J. Lee | Illustrated by David Opie

 

“There was an old gator who swallowed a moth. I don’t know why he swallowed the moth. It made him cough.” And with this culinary choice, readers are off on a wild jaunt full of suspense, humor, and big, sharp teeth. To catch that moth, the gator gobbled down a crab, but that scuttling bugger just filled his tummy with pain. To “nab the crab” the gator decided to “swallow an eel. / Quite an ordeal to swallow an eel!”

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Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

But the eel didn’t help, and the cough persisted. What could the old gator do? He swallowed creature after creature to resolve a cascading number of problems until “he swallowed a manatee.” It was clear “he lost his sanity to swallow a manatee!” Because now that old gator’s stomach was getting pretty cramped. There wasn’t a lot of nabbing or catching going on in there, and there was still that moth to take care of. The distressed gator then spied just the enforcer that might get the job done and gulped it down too.

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Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

After such a big meal, the gator needed a bit of a drink, and the lagoon looked so refreshing! Just then, when that old gator was fully…well…full, that pesky moth fluttered its wings and made the poor guy “cough! Cough! Cough!” And what did that one little last cough do? Well, let’s just say the story has a splashing…I mean smashing…ending!

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Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

B.J. Lee gives the favorite cumulative rhyming There Was an Old Lady story a reptilian remodeling that kids will find irresistible as the old gator guzzles down a host of Florida denizens with hilarious results. Lee, an award-winning poet, has an engaging way with words and phrasing that creates surprising rhymes and rib-tickling rhythms. Clever alliteration and action-packed verbs move the story along at a clip that mirrors an alligator’s voracious appetite and will keep young readers on the edge of their seat to see which animal becomes the gator’s next snack. Kids may even enjoy trying to come up with their own rhyming line to add to the story.

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David Opie’s illustrations of the anguished alligator and his unsuspecting “remedies” are a hoot. Opie accomplishes just the right combination of suspense and humor with his juxtaposition between realistic depictions of the coastal animals and gut-busting portrayals of these creatures crammed into the gator’s belly. As the gator grows rounder and rounder, readers will be wondering how it will all end. The final spreads of the tormented gator are sure to elicit an “Oh!” or “Ew!” or two and plenty of guffaws.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is a fun and funny choice for story time, and its comical repetition will prompt enthusiastic read-alongs. The book would be a sunny choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Pelican Publishing Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-1455624416

Discover more about B.J. Lee, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about David Opie, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Author B. J. Lee

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Thank you, Kathryn, for having me on your blog! There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is getting a lot of love and I appreciate that! I also appreciate that you asked me about my poetry since, even in my picture books, I try to incorporate some aspect of poetry, such as lyrical language, rhyme and, in the case of Gator, cumulative rhyme.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is your debut picture book. What drew you to creating a Florida-themed version of this well-known classic?

It wasn’t so much that I set out to write a Florida themed version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, it was more that I had a gator character in mind and he pretty much chose this classical structure.

Have you always loved to write? When did you publish your first poem? Can you tell readers a bit about your journey to becoming a published writer?

Yes, I have always enjoyed writing. My sixth-grade teacher encouraged me to write plays! But I didn’t really realize I was a writer until, as an adult, I started writing a novel, which I never finished because my health intervened. In 2006 I had a shoulder operation which left me with severe bicep tendinitis, and for two years I couldn’t write, couldn’t even hold a pencil. My husband said “Write something shorter. Write poetry.”  But I didn’t know how to write poetry. He had planted something in my mind, though. I started studying poetry and then began to write it. My first poem was published in the SCBWI Bulletin in 2010. And so, I became a poet quite by accident. In a way I’m almost grateful for the bicep tendinitis, because I would not have become a poet without that hiccup in my journey. And I’ve picked up the novel again, resurrecting it as a verse novel.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw that you worked as a librarian at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and play the piano since your poetry has such a musical quality to it. Did you ever consider becoming a musician or songwriter? How does your musical background influence your poetry?

Thank you for saying that my poetry has a musical quality. I have heard that before but I am unaware of trying to incorporate any musicality into my poetry. I am a pianist, jazz singer, and even enjoyed a brief stint as lead singer in a local rock ‘n’ roll band. Recently, I have written some songs for a current work in progress in which the main character is a singer-songwriter.

What is your favorite form of poetry to write and why? Do you write poetry for adults as well as children? What do you find satisfying about both?

I enjoy writing many forms of poetry but I guess I like the challenge of writing in repeating forms, such as the villanelle, the triolet, the pantoum and the roundel. I blog at Today’s Little Ditty, where I am an authority on poetic forms. 

However, I am continually challenging myself to write new forms of poetry, like free verse and performance poetry such as rap. I have written poetry for adults; however, since I am a children’s author, I try to stick with children’s poetry, including work for very young children through young adult and have over 100 poems published in anthologies and magazines.

The breadth of subjects you’ve written about—from sea glass to termites to naughty poodles and so many more—is truly inspiring! Can you talk about how and why certain subjects spark your creativity and how you follow that to a completed poem?

As far as subject matter, I’m very interested in the natural world and animals, so those subjects often show up in my work. Sometimes I write to prompts from anthologists. Once I have a subject that begs a poem, I simply try to find the best form to present it. Sometimes the poem may not work at all, and I’ll have to select a new form. Sometimes poems just start in my head and I have to be very quick to capture them.

Your poetry appears in children’s magazines, including Highlights and Spider, in publications for schools and many others, and in anthologies such as those published by National Geographic and Wordsong. Do you ever hear from young readers about your work? Do you have an anecdote from a letter or reading event that you’d like to share?

Yes, I do hear from young readers, which is very gratifying. In one case a Vietnamese teacher contacted me telling me that her phonics students are using my poem, A Garden Prayer, to learn English. That was when I realized that my poetry has gone around the world.

In another case, a woman contacted me from St. John’s, Nova Scotia, to ask me if they could use my poem, Moored, on a sculpture in Bannerman Park for a woman who died at a young age and who had always loved sailing. Of course I said yes! The proposed sculptor is Luben Boikov.

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I’ve read some of your very clever poems that have been finalists—and winners!—in the Think, Kid, Think! Madness Poetry Tournament held in April on thinkkidthink.com. Can you talk a little about the tournament and being an authlete?

Yes, the Think Kids Think March Madness poetry tournament is a wonderful event for children’s poets. I loved being an authlete and competing but it’s very difficult to write a quality poem in a short amount of time. It was like pulling college all-nighters!

Do you have any advice for aspiring poets—children or adults?

My advice for aspiring poets, both children and adults, is: find the metaphor.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently writing a verse novel as well as picture books and poetry collections.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day because: love.

Can you talk about one of your poems that incorporates a holiday theme?

I’ve written a few holiday poems including “Groundhognostication,” which appears in National Geographic’s Poetry of US.

Thanks for this wonderful chat, B.J.! I’ve loved learning more about your poetry and other work. I wish you all the best with There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth!

You can connect with B.J. Lee on:

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

National Florida Day Activity

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Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the names of twenty mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects in this printable puzzle.

Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle | Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle Solution

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You can find There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth at these booksellers

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

 

December 15 – International Tea Day

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About the Holiday

International Tea Day was created in 2005 in New Deli, India to raise awareness within the governments of tea-growing countries of tea workers, their conditions, and their economic contributions. Today, the holiday is commemorated widely in tea-growing nations. Some issues include wages, medical care, and education for women tea workers. Of course, winter is a perfect time to enjoy steaming cups of tea – maybe with a cookie or two!

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

Because snow had fallen overnight Kikko’s father was off to her grandmother’s house to shovel the walk. After he left, Kikko noticed that he had forgotten to take the pie her mother had made for Grandma. “‘I can still catch up to him,’” said Kikko. Carefully, carrying the boxed pie, Kikko followed “her father’s tracks in the fresh snow. The woods were very still. And so quiet. Kikko’s footsteps were the only sound.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Spying a coated figure in the distance, Kikko began to run, but she fell in the deep snow, crushing the pie. Still, she picked up the box and hurried on. She watched as her father entered a strange house. “Has it always been here? Kikko wondered. She couldn’t remember having seen it before.” Kikko crept to the window and peered inside, just as her father took off his hat and coat. But—he wasn’t her father at all!” He was a bear!

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

A little lamb approaching the house found Kikko looking through the window and asked if she were there for the tea party. Taking Kikko’s hand, the lamb led her into the house. When Kikko saw all of the animals gathered there, she couldn’t believe it. The animals cheered and welcomed Kikko enthusiastically. “‘We’re about to serve the tea,’ said the rabbit. ‘You’re just in time.’” After the animals seated themselves around a long table, a doe stood, thanked everyone for coming, and asked Kikko to introduce herself.

She told then her name and why she was in the forest. The animals thought she was very brave, and Kikko began to feel braver herself. When the animals learned that Kikko’s pie had been ruined, they all contributed a piece of their own pie from the party. “Slice by slice they assembled a new pie on a pretty plate. Each piece had a different filling of seeds and nuts and fruit and other delicious things gathered from the woods.” They found a new box, placed the plate inside, and tied it with a red ribbon.

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Kikko was so excited to bring her Grandma this gift that she wanted to leave right away. The animals said they would come too. The woods rang with music, talking, laughing, and singing as the group “paraded to Grandma’s house.” When they reached Grandma’s house, the animals encouraged Kikko to go to the door. Grandma and Kikko’s father were surprised to see her. “‘My dear, did you come all this way on your own?’ asked Grandma, stepping inside.” Kikko could not see the animals anywhere. “‘You’re never alone in the woods,’” Kikko answered, smiling. She was sure her new friends were listening.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi’s reassuring story about a little girl venturing out into strange territory on her own for the first time is a delight. The straightforward narrative offers just the right amount of familiarity for young readers to allow them to be fully charmed by the magical elements that provide surprise and suspense. Little ones will be entranced by the warm welcome Kikko receives at the splendid and well-attended tea party. They will also find comfort in realizing that even when travels become hard, they can still discover wondrous things and that friends and help are always available – sometimes where they least expect it.  

Miyakoshi’s stunning black-and-white drawings, done in charcoal and pencil, are gorgeous in their portrayal of the woodland animals and their tea party. The long table they crowd around is laden with pies, bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, and of course teapots and teacups. At first Kikko offers the only color on the pages with her red cap and skirt and yellow hair. Later, however, when the animals suggest sharing their pie, the plate dazzles with mouthwatering brilliance, and hints of red and yellow brighten the next page. As the parade marches through the woods, the animals’ red and yellow clothes and musical instruments make a festive party. But as Kikko goes on to her Grandma’s house alone, the color fades from the animals, highlighting her achievement.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-177138107

Discover more about Akiko Miyakoshi and a portfolio of her work on her website!

International Tea Day Activity

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Decorate Your Own Mug

 

It’s fun to drink tea (or hot chocolate—shhh!) from a mug you’ve designed yourself. Personalized mugs also make fantastic presents for friends and family.

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

  1. Design and color your mug
  2. Follow directions on the markers or paint to properly bake on your decoration and make it permanent.

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You can find The Tea Party in the Woods at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 23 – It’s National Goat Cheese Month

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About the Holiday

Launched in 1998 by the American Cheese Society, National Goat Cheese Month promotes the delicious variety of cheeses made from goat’s milk. With less fat, cholesterol, and calories than cheese made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk cheese—or Chevre—offers delectable options for all types of recipes and cooking. Goat cheese has been enjoyed since around 5000 BC, when the Greeks first domesticated the goat. Since then, goat’s milk cheese has been embraced by people around the world. To celebrate, add your favorite type of goat’s milk cheese to your meals. If you’ve never tried goat’s milk cheese, now’s the time!

El Chupacabras

Written by Adam Rubin | Illustrated by Crash McCreery

 

“This all happened a long time ago, en una granja de cabras. / Todo esto ocurrió hace mucho tiempo, on a goat farm.” There, a young girl named Carla lived with her father, Hector. While Hector tended to the goats, Carla tended to her bicicleta. Every day, they were up early—con el sol—to feed and milk the goats. Hector even sang to the goats. One night, while they were sleeping, Hector and Carla heard a strange sound that sounded like “THHHBBBBTTZFFFFF!.”

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

“A la mañana siguiente, one of the goats había desaparecido. / The following morning, una de las cabras had disappeared.” Carla took off on her bicycle to find it. What she discovered was “a goat pancake”—“una tortita de cabra.” As soon as Hector saw the goat, he knew El Chupacabras, the goat sucker, had struck. While legend had it that el chupacabras was a frightening monster, the reality was that he was “a tiny gentleman”—“un caballero diminuto.” Mostly he enjoyed churros dipped in a mug of chocolate, but sometimes he just had a hankering to suck a goat.

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

As she was strolling her cart of flowers past the farm, the flower lady heard Hector’s fury. She offered him a bag of magic dust that could protect his goats. “Try a little,” she said. Hector doused the goats with the magic powder. When he gave the empty bag back to the flower lady, she gasped. “I said un poquito!” Just then the goats began to grow…and grow…and grow. With each step they destroyed more and more of the farm.

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Carla jumped on her bicycle and rode through the forest calling “¡Chupacabras! ¡Socorro!”—“Goat Sucker! Help!” The dapper little creature suddenly appeared, asking what had happened. Carla told him about the gigantic goats, and el chupacabras was happy to help. They reached the town just in the nick of time. One by one, el chupacabras sucked each goat down to size. And the goat sucker? He was fat and happy.

In the end, everything turned out well. Hector and the flower lady fixed the damage in the town, and “Carla spent many happy years on the farm with her father and his new friend. / Carla pasó muchos años felices en la granja con su padre y su nueva amiga.”

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

I picked up this book with joy in my heart after reading just the first blended language line. Adam Rubin’s mix of English and Spanish/Spanish and English sentences immediately immerses readers in this bilingual story in a way that they can clearly understand the meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases. Part mystery, part melodrama, and complete laugh-out-loud pandemonium, Rubin’s retelling of the legend of El Chupacabras will have kids begging to hear or read the story again and again. Phrases like “goat pancake” and “goat sucker” will illicit extended giggles as will the description of the diminutive creature at the center of the action.

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Accompanying Rubin’s storytelling to maximum effect are Crash McCreery’s mix of realistic and humorous illustrations. While Hector and Carla tend to their neat, quiet goat farm, the wide-eyed goats warily look around, hide out in a leafless tree, and suffer the indignities of a blast of magic powder and, of course, the necessary goat sucking that returns them to normal size. The first glimpse of the goat pancake is a showstopper, and the portrayal of Hector carrying home the poor goat draped in his arms like a folded blanket is hilarious. The fact that the goat still has the wherewithal to eat Hector’s handkerchief is comic gold. But this is the story of el chupacabras, and the hairy, scaly, and monocled “tiny gentleman” is a rib-tickling delight.

Brilliant bilingual writing and sublime silliness make El Chupacabras an exceptional addition to home and classroom libraries. The blended sentences will spark enthusiasm for language learning during fun and funny story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399539299

Discover more about Adam Rubin and his books on his website.

National Goat Cheese Month Activity

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Hungry Goat Coloring Page

 

Goats are famous for their appetites! The goat in this printable coloring page is happy to be munching on flowers. Can you give the scene a little color?

Hungry Goat Coloring Page

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You can find El Chupacabras at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 1 – It’s National Grilling Month

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About the Holiday

With its long, warm days, summer is the perfect time to cook outdoors. Grilling up some delectable treats like burgers, hot dogs, steak, ribs, shrimp, and corn on the cob will satisfy a family or a crowd! And of course you can never go wrong by adding a few smoky spices to the recipe!

Jack and the Giant Barbecue

Written by Eric A. Kimmel | Illustrated by John Manders

 

“Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who loved barbecue.” He loved it so much, in fact, that he would saddle up his pony and ride across the mountains of West Texas for spicy ribs or sausage. He couldn’t enjoy barbecue at home because his mother wept every time she smelled that distinctive smoky aroma. It reminded her of Jack’s daddy, and she said, “I can’t eat barbecue with my whole plate full of tears.”

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Image copyright John Manders, 2012, text copyright Eric A. Kimmel. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Jack wanted to know the whole story, so his mother told him. Jack’s daddy had been the most famous barbecue chef in West Texas until a giant stole his cookbook and took all of his secret recipes with it. Jack’s daddy was so heartbroken that “he just keeled over and died.” After that, Jack’s mother could never eat barbecue again. At that moment, Jack promised to track down that giant and retrieve his daddy’s recipe book.

Taking his faithful pony, Jack rode out to Mount Pecos, which he knew could take him into the sky where the giants lived. He climbed up, up, up into the clouds. From there he walked until “he began smelling something smoky and sweet, with just the right hint of vinegar and spices. Barbecue!” Jack followed his nose to an old, broken-down shack as big as a football field and as tall as a ten-story building.” 

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Image copyright John Manders, 2012, text copyright Eric A. Kimmel. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Inside, Jack found a greasy mess and a floor strewn with rib bones the size of skis. The place seemed deserted, except for the jukebox in the corner. The jukebox had grievances of her own against the giant, who had broken some pretty big promises. She told Jack just where he could find his daddy’s recipe book—hidden among her 45s “between Your Cheatin’ Heart and Pancho and Lefty.’’’ Jack climbed inside and was making his way to slot D-9 when he heard the giant come home.

The minute the giant stomped inside, he sniffed the air and bellowed, “Fee-fi-fo-fum! / A Texas boy this way has come. / I’ll dip him in salsa and pico de gallo, / and swallow him down for Cinco de Mayo.” The jukebox quickly covered for Jack, and the giant turned his attention to the “two sides of beef, ten racks of ribs, and fifty feet of sausage” in the smoker. After that little snack, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Jack was having trouble reaching the book inside the enormous jukebox, and time was wasting. Jack should not still be there when the giant woke up, the jukebox warned. With the jukebox directing, Jack tipped her over onto some rib bones, and since the floor was slick with grease, it was no problem to simply slide her out the door. Just as they got outside, though, the giant awoke wanting more barbecue—which meant he needed his recipe book. He noticed the empty space where the jukebox had been and the tracks leading out. The giant jumped in his pickup truck and “went tearing across the clouds after Jack.”

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Image copyright John Manders, 2012, text copyright Eric A. Kimmel. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Jack was too quick for him, though. He slipped through the clouds, down Mount Pecos, and all the way home. The giant wasn’t quite as lucky. He was going too fast to stop and mowed down every mountain in his way. “Since then West Texas has been flat as a skillet all the way to New Mexico.” And what happened to Jack and his ma? Well, with the recipe book back where it belonged, Jack opened his own restaurant. The jukebox provides just the right atmosphere. Ma works there and so does the giant—after all, where else can he get the barbecue he loves?

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Image copyright John Manders, 2012, text copyright Eric A. Kimmel. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Eric A. Kimmel’s spicy tall tale is a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll and whole lotta fun. Kids who love barbecue, a wild adventure, and the twang of western humor will gobble up this re-imagined Jack and the Beanstalk story. The jilted jukebox makes for a colorful sidekick, and Kimmel’s clever escape ploy will delight kids.

John Manders has conjured up one hairy scary giant with a taste for barbecue and a nose for interlopers, and his greasy spoon, with its wagon wheel lighting fixtures and bull’s horn décor, would feel right at home in Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible line-up. The antique jukebox is ingeniously conceived, with an expressive eye created by the row of vinyl 45s. Manders’ giant imagination ramps up the humor in this smokin’ hot story.

Ages 6 – 8

Two Lions, 2012 | ISBN 978-0761461289

If you’d like to learn more about Eric A. Kimmel and his books as well as hear him read some of his books aloud, visit his website!

You can step right inside John Manders’ studio and take a look around by visiting his website!

National Grilling Month Activity

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Grill Up Some Fun! Maze

 

The kids in the pool are ready to eat! Can you help them find their way to the yummy barbecue?

Grill Up Some Fun! Maze | Grill Up Some Fun! Maze Solution

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You can find Jack and the Giant Barbecue at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 24 – National Day of Listening

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About the Holiday

The day after Thanksgiving was chosen by StoryCorps for family and friends to tell and record their unique and collective stories for themselves and future generations. The mission of StoryCorps is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” StoryCorps even provides an online archive of individual and family stories that enrich our culture for anyone to listen to. Whether you share your stories with others or record them for your own family, remember that every story counts and should be heard. To learn more about StoryCorps, hear fascinating stories, or upload your own, visit StoryCorps.

Wee Sister Strange

Written by Holly Grant | Illustrated by K. G. Campbell

 

“They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods / In a crooked old house / With no garden but gloom.” Because she has no parents or even a name of her own, the townspeople “call her Wee Sister Strange.” During daylight she stays to herself, but as evening approaches she climbs out of the window and goes into the dangerous woods. She delights in the darkness, and “drinks up the moon / like a cat drinking cream.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She talks with the owls and rides a “fierce bear” through “groves golden-leafed.” But when the wild wolves catch her scent, she climbs into high branches as they “prowl down below.” From her high perch she scans the wide world and “peels back the clouds… / As through keyholes one peeks.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She’s searching for something she just cannot find, so she “dives into the bog. Here, way down below, she continues to look amid the odd creatures, and she checks “every snail / As a mermaid counts pearls.” But even here she does not see what she’s looking for. She climbs out on the bank into thorny, twisting vines and in the distance sees a bright light.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She tiptoes closer and finds a little stone house “with one window aglow.” She peeks in through the pane and sees “you in your bed / With this book ‘neath your nose.” She listens where the window is open a crack and hears a murmur: “‘They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods…’” The girl’s eyes light up bright; her search is now ended. She’s found what she sought: “A wee bedtime story!”

“Her ears gobble the rhymes! / They sop up the poem-crumbs!” Sister grows sleepy and next to the house, she blankets herself with golden leaves as her eyes close and she starts to dream.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wee-sister-strange-sleeping

Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holly Grant’s Wee Sister Strange is a magical story of such mystery and beauty that it opens a world of unbounded imagination as the plot plays out. Combining just the right balance of realism and fantasy, Grant’s wonder-full tale allows each reader the freedom to interpret her poem in their own way.  When Sister at last finds the house and hears her own story echoed back to her, her restless yearning is satisfied, suggesting that our life stories are what make us knowable to ourselves and others. As the little girl of color and her mother share the bedtime story of the girl in the woods, Sister’s given name helps us understand that we are all sisters (or brothers) through our collective stories. Grant’s gorgeous language and original metaphors are further causes for celebrating this glowing, dreamy modern fable.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wee-sister-strange-house

Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

In K. G. Campbell’s luminescent watercolor-and-colored-pencil illustrations, Wee Sister Strange is as delicate and glowing as the autumn leaves, as buoyant as the bog creatures, and as human as the little girl in the house. On her nightly hunts, she traverses landscapes that are recognizable yet are also the terrain of dreams. Children will find much to discuss in the similarities and differences in the two girls’ homes as well as the identity of  Wee Sister Strange. Campbell’s paintings beautifully convey the cyclical nature of this tale that offers the comfort of knowing that our stories unite us while keeping the wolves at bay.

Embodying the mystical elements that children love best in a bedtime story, Wee Sister Strange is an inventive marvel that should find a home on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553508796

To learn more about K. G. Campbell, his books, and his art, visit his website

National Day of Listening Activity

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Tell Your Story Page

 

Everyone has their own story to tell! Use this printable Tell Your Story Page to write an original story or a story from your life. Then tell your story at bedtime!

Picture Book Review

October 26 – Howl at the Moon Day

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About the Holiday

Wolves, with their gleaming eyes, sharp teeth, and eerie resonating howl, evoke strong emotions in many people. Playing the role of both hero and villain in mythological tales, feared by farmers and ranchers, and well known as “big and bad” to children everywhere, wolves are part of our lives whether we’ve ever seen or heard one or not. While many people may have a negative view of wolves, the founders of today’s holiday want to change that. They want people to see the beauty, power, and environmental benefits of these majestic animals. Wolves don’t actually howl at the moon; they howl to communicate with the rest of their pack, but the inspirational nature of an image of the full moon framing the upturned head of a wolf cannot be denied. To celebrate today? Sure! Go out and howl your loudest at the moon!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

Early one morning a mouse came face to face with a wolf, “and he was quickly gobbled up.” The mouse was very elegant in his speech and proclaimed, “‘Oh woe!’… ‘Oh me! Here I am, caught in the belly of the beast. I fear this is the end.’” Imagine his surprise when he heard a not-so-elegant voice tell him to “‘Be quiet!’” because the mouse was disturbing his sleep. The mouse demanded to know who was there.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suddenly, the wolf’s belly was illuminated by the flame of a candle, and the mouse saw a duck sitting up in bed. “‘Oh,’” he said. The duck was a bit perturbed by the mouse’s low-key response, especially since he had been wakened in the middle of the night. Now, though, it was the duck’s turn to be surprised as the mouse told him that it was not the  middle of the night outside, buy only morning. The duck admitted that he wished “this belly had a window or two,” and then graciously offered to make breakfast.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-breakfast

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The mouse declared the breakfast “‘delicious,’” and inquired where the duck found jam and a tablecloth. He may also have been curious about the dishware, the bread, and even the table, chairs, and framed picture, but he was satisfied with the duck’s answer that “‘you’d be surprised what you find inside of a wolf.’” As the duck continued to talk about his home, the mouse was astonished to learn that the duck lived there. “‘I live well!’” the duck said and went on to explain, “‘I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.’”

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-lunch

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Making lunch was a joint effort, and when the mouse asked if the duck missed living outside, he emphatically stated, “‘I do not!’” It seemed that when he was outside, the duck was full of the fear of being eaten. Inside, he was free of that worry. The mouse considered the wisdom of this notion and asked if he could live there too. The duck agreed and then played a record and danced a celebratory jig.

All this commotion was making the wolf feel sick. He attributed his aches and pains to something he ate. The duck was no doctor, but he was clever. He shouted up from the depths of the wolf’s belly and gave him “the cure.” According to the duck, ingesting “‘a hunk of good cheese…a flagon of wind…and some beeswax candles’” would do the trick and make him better.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night the mouse and the duck ate like kings and toasted the wolf’s good health. But the wolf was not feeling robust. In fact, he felt worse. A passing hunter heard the wolf groaning. He raised his gun and pulled the trigger, but missed. Realizing what the blast meant, the duck yelled for the wolf to “‘run for our lives!’” In trying to escape, however, the wolf got tangled in the roots of an old tree.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-dinner

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The duck and the mouse determined that that very night they would “‘ride to defend [their] home.’” When they were ready, the wolf opened his mouth, and the mouse and duck—armed with a hockey stick, protected with sauce pan and colander helmets, and yelling “‘Charge!’”—flew out and chased the hunter. “‘Oh woe!’” he cried. “‘Oh death! These woods are full of evil and wraiths!’” He ran and ran until he left the forest, and he never returned.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-hunter

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The wolf was humbled by the sacrifice the mouse and the duck had made for him and offered to grant any request. “You can guess what they asked for.” And while they dance the never-ending night away, “the wolf howls at the moon. ‘Oh woe! Oh woe!’ Every night he howls at the moon.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-charge

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Remember when the Big Bad Wolf gobbled up Granny and Little Red Riding Hood and they survived in his belly until the huntsman cut them out? How was that possible? Mac Barnett reveals the inner workings of this conundrum in this laugh-out-loud fable. The archaic, melodramatic dialog will have readers giggling and participating aloud, as they have to agree with the ingenious duck’s “when life gives you lemons…” philosophy. It’s a good attitude to adopt as we all “get swallowed up” at some point. The trick is learning how to turn misfortune into fortune—or at least a fortunate happenstance. The suitably silly, non-sentimental circumstances will delight kids who relish a bit of the macabre—and, really, who doesn’t?

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-hunter-runs

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jon Klassen brings his signature deadpan style to this funny story, enhancing the humor with his matter-of-fact drawings that let the scenes speak eloquently and humorously for themselves. As the recently gobbled-up mouse sits gazing forlornly into the wolf’s cavernous belly, readers will experience a tickle of suspense imagining what else lies within. When kids see the stash of good stuff the duck has amassed, their little eyes will grow wide with delight. This amusingly dark tale is fittingly lit with candlelight, the errant blast of the hunter’s gun, and the full moon that hears the wolf’s lament. 

Put the The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse on your bookshelf and it won’t stay idle long. For quirky, comical home, classroom, and library story times this book can’t be eat…I mean beat.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763677541

Discover more about Mac Barnett and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration work by Jon Klassen on tumblr.

You know you want to gobble up this The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse book trailer! 

Howl at the Moon Day Activity

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Who is Howling? Dot-to-Dot Puzzle

 

How’ll you know who’s howling? Complete this printable Who is Howling? Dot-to-Dot Puzzle to find out! Then add your own sky and landscape!

Picture Book Review

February 6 – It’s Hot Breakfast Month

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About the Holiday

Hot Breakfast Month was established to encourage people to have a hot, healthy breakfast before they go off to work or school. A good breakfast can keep your brain and your body working longer and better, which will result in a good day and more happiness in your life! Isn’t that worth cracking a few eggs in a pan, toasting some bread, or—as Paul Bunyan preferred—mixing up a batch of pancakes?!

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

By Matt Luckhurst

 

Everyone knows that Paul Bunyan and his best friend Babe the Blue Ox were “the greatest lumberjacks to every work the forests.” But not many people know just how that came to be. It all started because Paul was a very big boy in a very small town. He found it hard to concentrate on school because he was always thinking about his mom’s pancakes. “‘Math,” Paul said, “is just not very tasty.’”

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Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Now, Paul and Babe were lucky enough to live in an area where lots of fresh fruit and vegetables were grown, but they only wanted pancakes. In fact when their mom tried to feed them broccoli, they spit it right out! So Paul’s mom made stacks and stacks of pancakes until she was out of breath—but she still had fields to tend to. Paul and Babe tried to free up time for Mom to keep cooking by working in the fields, “but their big feet just squished and squashed everything in sight.”

Finally, there were just not enough pancakes at home, so Paul hugged his mom and set off into the deep dark forest to find his “pancake fortune” with Babe at his heels. With their heads in the clouds and their bellies empty, they happened upon a lumberman with a huge problem. The Syrup River was dammed up with pancakes and the logs couldn’t get through. It was just the job for Paul and Babe!

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Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Paul and Babe ate every last pancake until the river was clear. The lumberman was so impressed he offered them a job on the spot! And the best part was that they would be paid in pancakes! The trio tromped from Wisconsin to California, logging the land and making their mark. In Minnesota it was “so cold that all of Paul’s words froze before they could make a sound. They say you can still hear his voice in the forests there today as they thaw out.” Further west Paul and Babe had a little something to do with creating the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon would still be a flat plateau if it weren’t for Babe’s voracious appetite.

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Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

But one day Babe fell ill, and Paul was feeling a little under the weather himself. The doctor gave them a grave diagnosis. “‘You seem to have been eating too many pancakes!’” he announced. Paul was flabbergasted—how could there be such a thing as too many pancakes?! But the doctor explained that a balanced diet was best. Paul pondered where he could find good food. Then it hit him! Paul and Babe said goodbye and headed back home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Mom was thrilled to see them and cooked plenty of nutritious meals to make them healthy. They stayed in town and grew “Bunyan sized veggies,” helped the townspeople, and always listened to Mom. And they never ate another pancake ever again! Well….

As Matt Luckhurst so adroitly knows, there is no more fascinating figure of North American folklore than Paul Bunyan and no greater meal than a pancake breakfast! Combining the two is sweet genius and rollicking fun to boot! Tall tales capture the imagination, and Luckhurst has included plenty of fantastic events to keep kids enthralled from page to page. Luckhurst’s larger-than-life illustrations burst with color and dynamic 3-D typography that enhance the humor and heart of Paul and Babe’s predicament. The juxtaposition of sizes and folk-art influences create unique, eye-catching pages, and Paul and Babe’s endearing innocence make them loveable characters.

Perfect for folktale lovers, pancake aficionados, kids who follow a singular vision, and anyone who loves a good yarn, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure is great fun and would be an often-read addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012 | ISBN 978-1419704208

You’ll enjoy getting to know more about Matt Luckhurst and viewing a portfolio of his work on his website!

Take a peek at this awesome trailer for Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure!

Copyright Matt Luckhurst

Hot Breakfast Month Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious that each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates and cut them out
  2. Glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review