August 15 – National Relaxation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-cover

About the Holiday

In 1985, when Sean Moeller was in fourth grade, he looked around and saw everyone rushing here and there, cooking, cleaning, toiling away, and, maybe, doing piles of homework and thought, enough is enough—at least for one day. As the founder of National Relaxation Day, Moeller encouraged people to slow down and take it easy. Taking time to relax is an important component in feeling healthy and happy. Our bodies and brains need downtime to deal with the stresses of everyday life and be rejuvenated. How will you spend the day? Taking a break for tea and treats with friends is a great way to celebrate—as today’s book shows!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-kingdom

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-wizard

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-minstrel

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-kitchen

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-back-cover

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-inside-castle

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

National Relaxation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-number sequence-page

The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

The Princess likes to help people relax and have fun together! You can help her too with these four activity pages!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-cover

You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

March 20 – World Storytelling Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-not-jack-and-the-beanstalk-cover

About the Holiday

Storytelling has been around as long as people have. We seem to have a natural desire to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a factual way as well as creatively. Today’s holiday celebrates both the storytellers and their stories that enrich our lives. Sometimes, of course, there are two sides to a story—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

 

You know the drill—Once upon a time there was a poor boy named Jack…. One day this waif woke up to a moo-tivating kiss from his cow Bessie and… Wait, wait! Kids, cover your eyes! And, Jack, “put on some pants!” Phew! Disaster averted! Now where were we? Oh, right. So Jack (now well-dressed) was told that because Bessie had stopped making milk, he had to sell her. He protested, but the mysterious narrator protested right back: “I didn’t WRITE the story, Jack. I’m just telling it.”

Down at the market, Jack received five beans in exchange for Bessie. Of course, this is a fairy tale, and the beans are magic. Jack tried all the magical words he knew to get them to work, but they just sat in the bowl smiling up at him. Yeah, these beans have faces. Overcome by hunger, Jack determined to eat the beans, but there was that pesky narrator again ordering him to throw the beans out the window and then go to bed. As you can imagine—what with selling his best friend and hunger gnawing at his belly—Jack was a bit testy and complainy and countered, “Aww, but I’m not tired. This story keeps getting worse and worse.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-not-jack-and-the-beanstalk-wake-up

Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In the morning, Jack discovered that an enormous beanstalk had grown up overnight. It was so tall that Jack couldn’t even see the top. The narrator told him to start climbing. At first, Jack balked, then he tried to stall by offering to get his climbing gear, but the narrator had already determined that Jack “had no possessions.” Finally, Jack agreed to go, but only if the narrator changed the beanstalk’s size. In a classic “be careful what you wish for” maneuver, the beanstalk suddenly began to grow bigger. “Seriously?” Jack said.

Jack was actually enjoying his climb, especially when he spied Cinderella’s castle with Cindy waving from her balcony. Her voice rang across the distance, inviting Jack to a ball that very night. The narrator was not happy with this delay and urged Jack on. Finally, he reached the top, where “he found himself in front of a humongous house.” Jack pegged it right away as a giant’s abode, but he went inside anyway. As he was looking around at all the mammoth furnishings, he heard the giant’s voice: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

Heck, Jack knew about poetry and recognized immediately that “that doesn’t even rhyme” and offered an alternative: “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I can see the giant’s bum.” This bit of wordplay just enraged the giant—that, plus his fear that Jack was trying to steal all his best stuff. The giant grabbed Jack and was about to…well, listen for yourself: “Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Pretty chilling stuff, but even though Jack was facing imminent danger, he was pretty impressed with the giant’s new rhyme.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-not-jack-and-the-beanstalk-selling-bessie

Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

That made the giant happy, and Jack thought this moment of camaraderie was the perfect time to let slip to the giant that “there’s a good chance that you’re going to die at the end of this story.” The giant put on a frowny face, and his eyes began to tear up. It seemed the giant didn’t want to die, so he suddenly decided to become a vegan. Listening to this emotional roller coaster, the narrator started to get steamed because he was losing control of the story. “ENOUGH!!!” he shouted.

“GIANT!” he hollered and ordered him to chase Jack down the beanstalk. “JACK!” he yelled and told him to chop down the beanstalk. All this shouting only served to bond Jack and the Giant in an oversized friendship. They commiserated together and planned to make a taco salad from one of the giant’s recipes. After that they went to Cinderella’s party, where they told everyone about their adventure. And who’s complaining now? You got this—the narrator!

P.S. And, of course, they all lived happily ever after by splitting the giant’s fortune and opening a restaurant named Where Have You Bean? for a whole host of fairy tale customers!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-not-jack-and-the-beanstalk-beanstalk-grows

Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In Josh Funk’s newest romp, Jack takes matters into his own hands as he revamps his famous story into one that turns out “happily ever after” for all the characters. Along the way readers will laugh at Jack’s feisty repartee with the unseen narrator as he’s swept up in a larger-than-life scenario and uses his wits—and wit—to finally tell his own story in his own way. Young readers will appreciate Jack’s independent spunk, and adults will respond to his sweet nature.

Edwardian Taylor’s noodle-limbed, big-eyed Jack knows how to tug at readers’ heartstrings. Soulfully saying good-bye to Bessie, gazing at his nearly empty plate in anguish, and warily approaching the giant’s castle, Jack will quickly have readers empathizing with his plight and cheering him on as he outwits the gigantic red-bearded giant and turns him into a friend and business partner. And while the giant may be big, kids will soon see that he’s really a softy. Children will love all the big and small details on every page, from the leafy beanstalk to cute Cindy-rella to the gold-coin-laying goose. And if you’ve never seen a purple cow…here’s your chance. The final spread of a packed Where Have You Bean? restaurant gives kids an opportunity to show their knowledge of fairy-tale characters.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk makes for a spirited and funny read aloud, and would be super performed by a group in classrooms or by clubs, or even by friends or siblings.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1542045650

Enter the world of Josh Funk and discover more about him and his books as well as plenty of book-related activities on his website!

Learn more about Edwardian Taylor and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

World Storytelling Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beanstalk-craft-with-top

 

This is Not a Yardstick! Yardstick Craft

 

Need to measure something—like the height of your garden, the amount of rain that fell, or even the number of books you have? You can do it in style with your very own This is Not a Yardstick! yardstick craft.

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Small wooden leaves, 45 – 50, available at craft stores 

OR

  • Light green and dark green foam sheets 
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beanstalk-craft-closeup

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf’
  5. Write the number of the inch marked on each leaf, from 1 to 45 or higher with the black marker, alternating colors

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

Picture Book Review

March 13 – Good Samaritan Day and Interview with Margie Markarian

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-cover

About the Holiday

A Good Samaritan is someone who sees someone in need of help or kindness and generously offers assistance or a smile. Today, people are encouraged to spend a little extra time to look around and notice those moments when someone could use an extra hand and go to their aid. You never know when a small gesture can have far-reaching effects. Children are particularly good at noticing those who need help or cheering up. You can foster their natural kindness by supporting their ideas and actions for helping their community—just like the little girl’s in today’s book!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-kingdom

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-wizard

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-minstrel

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-kitchen

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-back-cover

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-inside-castle

Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

Meet Author Margie Markarian

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-margie-markarian

I was thrilled to talk with Margie Markarian about her new book, the allure of fairy tales, her amazing interactive storytimes, and so much more!

What inspired you to write The Princess and the Café on the Moat?

I wanted to spread a message about being kind, sharing talents, and building a sense of community.  I was inspired, in part, by the idea that kids need and welcome a sense of responsibility, purpose, and belonging just as much as adults. I was also inspired by the idea that children innately have ways of contributing and making a difference. The young princess in the Princess and the Café on the Moat knows this and finds a way to make a difference that ends up bringing the whole kingdom together.

Was there a certain reason you chose the classic fairy tale setting?

Well, I love fairy tales. Children love fairy tales. I felt the traditional fairy tale format would work but that I could modernize it with a café. Also, in a fairy tale, there’s usually a message being played out. I thought my message would play out more subtly and more sweetly as a fairy tale than as a story that takes place in the present day. When I introduce the book to an audience, I call it “a tale for our time from once upon a time.”

I love the can-do attitude and the kindness of the princess. Was there also a reason you chose this character?

I thought a young princess in a very busy castle would create an element of wonder for readers. After all, why would a princess who lives in a castle full of such colorful characters want to dash across a drawbridge to the other side of the moat? Kids often ask me why I called her the “young princess” versus a specific name. It’s because I want all children to be able to see themselves in her, for her to be relatable.

None of the grown-up characters have specific names either. The king and queen represent supportive, loving parents, who are proud of their daughter, even though they are “busy” at the beginning of the story. That’s just how life is sometimes. And it’s the queen who takes the king’s idea of a one-time celebration to the next level of opening a café on the moat with daily hours. It’s a hat’s off to strong women and wise mothers.

What was one of your favorite books when you were a child?

The Tall Book of Nursery Tales. It was a book I took out time and time again from the library. It stood out on the shelf because it was taller than all the other books and it had vibrant illustrations. I had a huge fascination with that fairy tale book in particular, as well as myths, fables, and folk tales from around the world.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-margie-markarian-and-class

Third-graders in classroom J24 at Jefferson Elementary School in Franklin, MA and teacher Evan Chelman enjoyed a Princess and the Café on the Moat Reader’s Theater visit with Margie Markarian.

What is the best part about being a children’s author or working in the children’s book field?

The best part is when I get to read to children. They so quickly relate to the story and offer examples or ideas on good deeds they can perform like the princess: “Oh I can read this to the kids I babysit!” or “I always read birthday cards to my grandfather.” In the classroom, I present the story Reader’s Theater style. I ask the teacher to pick seven kids to take on the parts of the characters the princess encounters. Each child has one or two lines at most. They really get into it. I distribute hats and props and they have fun getting into character—the jester juggling the balls, the minstrel plucking the mandolin, the wizard waving the magic wand, the royal baker shaking her head no. Seeing their faces light up, their enthusiasm, and their reactions is wonderful.

Kids in the audience participate, too. I tell them that fairy tales are famous for events that take place in a series of three and invite them to be on the lookout for the ones I included in the story. They’re very responsive to that. Some kids quickly connect my book to a fairy tale they already know. All of the activity and conversation makes them curious about reading, about characters, about the story. And that’s the magic and joy of being an author—sharing the book and getting kids excited and involved.

Could you talk a little about the writing workshops you held for children to produce the Boston Globe Fun Pages?  What a great opportunity that was, especially for kids who are interested in a writing career!

When my daughter was in 2nd grade, her teacher welcomed parental involvement in the classroom. At that time the Boston Globe newspaper published a weekly supplement called the Fun Pages. Children in classrooms at different schools wrote each edition. My daughter’s teacher tapped me to help a group of her students write an issue. There were about five articles in an issue, usually revolving around a theme. We picked our town’s annual 4th of July Festival as a theme and we worked on it for eight weeks.

I did another edition of the Fun Pages with my son’s 4th grade class. We had a chocolate factory in town then so our theme revolved around chocolate. We toured the factory, interviewed the owners, and researched stories about chocolate. I guided the writing and reporting, while also sharing tips on what it takes to be an editor and writer. Any time you can excite kids about the process of writing, it’s a great thing. There’s nothing better than hands-on experiential learning. When it came time to distribute one of the issues, I even dressed up as a news carrier and delivered the papers to the kids in their classroom.

Do you have an anecdote from any event at a bookstore or school that you’d like to share?

As I was signing books at a recent event, a little boy noticed me writing my name, and he asked, “How do you write so fast?” For a moment I thought he was talking about the writing of the book itself, but then I realized he was talking about when I signed my name. He was five and just learning to write. Learning to physically write your name is a big deal when you’re five! It was so sweet, and funny, and naturally inquisitive.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-margie-markarian-and-cake

If you were going to bake something for the Café on the Moat, what would it be?

Probably gingerbread boys and girls! I bake them at the holidays! Or, gingerbread people shaped like the characters in my book. They could live in the castle cake (with a moat of blue-sugar-sprinkles and jellybeans!) that my brother-in-law baked for the launch of The Princess and the Café on the Moat.

Do you have a favorite place where you like to write? Could you describe it a little?

Even though I have a home office, I enjoy working in cafés because there’s a buzz. I like being a part of the bustle as much as the princess does!  I find the sense of community invigorating. Cafés are where people come together now. A lot of The Princess and the Café on the Moat was written at the bagel café in my hometown. I’ll probably write my next book at the muffin café in the next town over. I spend a lot of time there now.

What is your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. It’s special because it’s a holiday that brings people together. No presents required. I like that it’s simply a time to reconnect with family and friends over a meal and give thanks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-cover

You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers:

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

You can connect with Margie Markarian on:

Her Website | FaceBook | Twitter

Good Samaritan Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-princess-and-the-cafe-on-the-moat-number sequence-page

The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

It’s fun spending the day with the princess in the castle and out in the community helping people! Here are four activity pages to take you there!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

 

Picture Book Review

February 26 – National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-la-princesa-and-the-pea-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we remember that fairy tales often have their origin in the oral stories, myths, and legends of long ago. In addition to entertainment, their purpose was to teach a lesson, change behavior, or warn of dangers. Over the years magical elements and mystical creatures were added to the stories. The Brothers Grimm published their collection of stories in 1812 under the title Household Tales. The plots were darker and meant for more of an adult audience. Hans Christian Andersen’s work was first published in 1829. Through him, readers were introduced to The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, and today’s story. Over the years, fairy tales have evolved to include “fractured” versions—tales told by another character or with a funny or quirky twist. To celebrate today, reread some of your and your child’s favorite fairy tales—and discover some new ones!

La Princesa and the Pea

Written by Susan Middleton Elya | Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

 

“There once was a prince who wanted a wife, / but not any niña would do in his life.” His madre demanded just the right sort of girl and said “No!” to all the princesses who wanted to catch the prince’s eye. But then along came a girl riding home to her castle who asked to stay “if it isn’t a hassle.” The girl winked at the prince and he was immediately smitten.

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Copyright Juana Martinez-Neal, 2017, courtesy of juanamartinezneal.com.

The prince invited her in, but his mother planned to test her to make sure she was “buena.” So “Mama crept away / to the royal jardín / and found a small pea / that was fit for a queen.” She went up to the guest room and called for twenty mattresses to be brought in. Then while she ate bon-bons, her workers carried the colchones in. The first mattress was soft, the second was small, the third was muy grande, and the fourth was un sueño—as comfy as a dream. Then came striped ones and dotted ones and ones that were fleece. There were red ones and blue ones and ones that were gris.

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Copyright Juana Martinez-Neal, 2017, courtesy of juanamartinezneal.com.

When the twenty mattresses were piled high on the bed, Mama showed the girl to her room. Seeing the soft bed, she said, “‘Thanks! I won’t even count sheep.’” But under the first mattress way down below sat the small pea. “Meanwhile el príncipe practiced ‘I do’s.’ / He knew that this maiden was the one he should choose.” But when he told his mama how much he liked the girl, she just said, “‘we’ll see.’”

In her room, “the girl stretched her brazos / and yawned with her boca. / But the bed felt so lumpy / like there was a roca.” That tiny pea—that little guisante—could that be the reason she just could not sleep? In the morning the maiden dragged herself down to breakfast, and when Mama asked how she’d slept, she answered, “‘Great…if you like hard and lumpy.’” But when she spied the prince, she cheered up and said, “‘it wasn’t that bad.’”

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Copyright Juana Martinez-Neal, 2017, courtesy of juanamartinezneal.com.

“‘¡Ay!’” Thought la reina. / How’d she detect it? / Is she a real princess? / I think I suspect it.” When the prince learned that the girl had passed the test, he gave her a golden anillo, and they married “that week in the royal castillo.” The wedding was huge and the girl’s dress most stylish. With “‘¡acepto!’” “‘¡acepto!’” they were quickly wed. And only the prince knows to this very day that he helped things along by adding “pitchforks and stones en la cama / to help his true love pass the test of Queen Momma.” The prince and the princess “had hijos galore. / One for each mattress and then had no more.”

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Copyright Juana Martinez-Neal, 2017, courtesy of juanamartinezneal.com.

Susan Middleton Elya’s Latin-inspired take on The Princess and the Pea story is fresh and funny and puts control of the prince’s future in his own hands. Young readers will embrace this twist that shows when they know what is right for them, they can make it happen. The use of Spanish words throughout the story, and especially to create clever rhymes, make the verses as joyful to read aloud as they are to hear.

Juana Martinez-Neal’s warm colors and beautifully patterned clothing, inspired by Peruvian textiles, infuses this favorite story with a homey and family-centered, folk-tale feeling that sets it apart. Readers will be charmed by the llamas, guinea pigs, and even the grumpy cat that inhabit the castle and will want to linger over the softly colored illustrations to see every detail. The sweet looks between the prince and princess show their true love, and among their twenty children, readers may find la reina’s favorite(?) grandchild.

La Princesa and the Pea is a terrific addition to children’’s fairy tale book collection at home and in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399251566

Discover more about Susan Middleton Elya and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juana Martinez-Neal, her books, and her art and find lots of fun story-related activities visit her website.

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day Activity

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Fairy Tale Coloring Pages

 

What’s a fairy tale without a castle and maybe a dragon or two? Have fun coloring these pages, then make up your own story!

Fairy Tale CastleHappy Dragon

Picture Book Review

December 31 – No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

Have you had enough of all the extra goings on this month? Do you just hanker after a nice long respite where you can think your own thoughts? Or do you want to get organized at home or at the office for the new year? Then today is for you! So close the door or put in your earbuds and take some quiet time for yourself!

Interrupting Chicken

By David Ezra Stein

 

It’s time for a certain little red chicken to go to sleep, and Papa is about to nestle his chick into bed when the subject of a bedtime story comes up. Papa agrees to read one of his daughter’s favorites—after being reassured that she won’t interrupt the story tonight. “‘Oh no, Papa. I’ll be good,’” she says.

So Papa opens Hansel and Gretel and begins to read. He’s related that Hansel and Gretel were very hungry, that while out in the woods they found a house made of candy, and that they had begun to nibble away on the house when the old woman who lived there invited the children in. “They were just about to follow her when—,” Papa continued. But his little chicken can’t help herself and says: “Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, ‘DON’T GO IN! SHE’S A WITCH!’ So Hansel and Gretel didn’t. THE END!”

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Image copyright David Ezra Stein, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Papa peers over the top of his story book, and he and his daughter give each other a long look. “‘Chicken.’” Papa says. “‘Yes, Papa?’” his daughter asks innocently. “‘You interrupted the story. Try not to get so involved.’” Papa tells her. “‘I’m sorry, Papa. But she really was a witch.’” Papa understands, but he also tells little chicken that she should relax and try to fall asleep. His daughter agrees to be good if he reads another story.

Papa turns the page to Little Red Riding Hood. He reads about how Little Red Riding Hood’s mother gave her a basket of goodies to take to Grandma and warns her about the dangers in the woods. “By and by she met a wolf who wished her ‘Good Morning.’ She was about to answer when—”…the little avid reader can’t help herself again! “Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, ‘DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS!’ So little Red Riding Hood didn’t. THE END!”

Papa puts the story book down and gazes into his daughter’s wide-awake eyes. She apologizes for interrupting a second time and suggests “one more little story” and promises to behave. Papa picks a most appropriate story for the third go-around: Chicken Little. He starts off with the unfortunate event when Chicken Little is hit on the head by an acorn and mistakenly thinks that the sky is falling. “She was about to run off and warn Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny, and everyone on the farm the sky was falling when—”…the little chicken loses control yet again. “Out jumped the little red chicken, and SHE said, ‘DON’T PANIC! IT WAS ONLY AN ACORN.’ So Chicken Little didn’t. THE END!”

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Image copyright David Ezra Stein, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Papa is now flat out tired and—even though his little chick hugs him and vows that with only one more story she’ll fall asleep—is out of stories. Little chicken exclaims, “‘Oh no, Papa. I can’t go to sleep without a story!’” Yawning, Papa suggests that his daughter tell him a story. She grabs her notebook and crayons and begins. “Bedtime for Papa by CHiKn Once there was a little red chicken who put her Papa to bed. She read him a hundred stories. She even gave him warm milk, but nothing worked: he stayed wide awake all—”

Suddenly, the sounds of snoring interrupt her storytelling. She looks up from her page to find her father fast asleep in her bed. She pats him on the head “‘Good night, Papa.’” she whispers before finally falling asleep herself.

David Ezra Stein’s Caldecott Honor book is a hilarious look at the nightly bedtime story scene in so many households. One story just isn’t enough, and familiar stories just beg to be finished by excited little voices. The father/daughter relationship in Interrupting Chicken is sweet and endearing, as the day-weary dad reads story after story and his daughter chimes in. Many a parent or caregiver has gazed at their little charge in just the way Papa does, and received the same knowingly innocent eyes back.

Kids will fall in love with Stein’s adorable little chicken and her patient Papa. The stories Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little are cleverly depicted in vintage black, brown, and white hues that are brilliantly interrupted by the little chicken and her well-timed warnings.  Even the characters of these classic tales react to being so “rudely interrupted” and are left with dubious expressions as our little heroine saves the day.

Animated readings (there’s no way you’ll get away with just one!) will make Interrupting Chicken one of the favorite books on your child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2010 | ISBN 978-0763641689

Don’t’ interrupt this funny book trailer!

 No Interruptions Day Activity

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Good Manners Matter! Word Search

 

No interruptions means good manners which means those around you will smile! Find the 20 manners-related word in this printable Good Manners Matter! smiley-faced-shaped puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

With so many gift-giving opportunities this month, December is the perfect time to discover new books for any age! The delight, wonder, and shared experiences of great books is one of the best presents you can give. This month visit your local bookstore and pick out a special book for the loved ones on your list. (And don’t forget to treat yourself!)

The Glassmaker’s Daughter

Written by Dianne Hofmeyr | Illustrated by Jane Ray

 

Have you heard about the wondrous city built on water? “Its palaces floated like birds in nests on the the sea and its lamplight danced like fireflies across the ripples.” In one of these beautiful buildings lived Daniela, the glassmaker’s daughter. You might think that Daniela would be happy to be surrounded by so much loveliness, but instead she spent her days staring glumly into the canal. Her father, wanting his daughter to be happy, offered a glass palace to the person who could make his daughter smile.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Right away he had his glassmakers begin construction. “They blew and pulled and pinched the molten glass into sliver-spun walls with pineapple-topped turrets and winged-dragon doors.” Soon people where coming from all over to try to make Daniela smile. First was Maestro Barbagelata, who could breathe fire, swallow swords and snakes, and do tricks on a tightrope. But his performance just made Daniela “gloomier than ever.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Next the mask maker Donna Violetta Rufina Zangara arrived with a carriage full of masks made with jewels, birds’ eggs, shells and pearls, and peacock feathers. But Daniela was not enticed by these masks; in fact, they made her “glummer than ever.” Leonardo Leonino Grandi brought his fierce lion, which instead of amazing Daniela caused Leonardo to topple from his gondola into the water. “But even this didn’t bring a smile to Daniela’s lips.”

So many tradespeople, performers, tricksters, and adventurers were sure that they could make Daniella smile, but none of them succeeded. Daniela’s father was at a loss. But down in a corner of the glassmaker’s workshop Angelo thought he knew just what to do. He “longed more than anyone to make Daniela smile.” As he removed the hot glass from the furnace and began blowing it, he whispered, “‘Flux and fire.’” As he laid the glass flat and spread slivers of silver mercury on the surface, he chanted, “‘Mercury and tin,’” As he smoothed the slivers, he said, “‘Foiled and finished. And polished thin,’” When he finished “he sang his secret song again.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The other glassmakers scoffed when Angelo told them he was making something that would make Daniela smile. But with his gift carefully wrapped, Angelo went in search of Daniela. When he found her and she saw the glass in his hand, she rejected his gift. But Angelo told her to “‘Look again, Principessa. This is no ordinary piece of glass. It’s different. Look into it.”

Daniela did as she was told, and when Angelo asked her what she saw, Daniela described “a creature with a mouth like an upside-down slice of lemon and the eyes of a cross dragon.” She thought it was the funniest face she had ever seen. And right before her eyes, the face changed. The lips turned up and the eyes began to shine. “Daniela burst out laughing.” As she laughed, the newly made glass palace began to splinter and crack until the “entire palace fell to smithereens.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Daniela’s father promised to build Angelo another palace if he would only tell him how his “magic glass” had made his daughter smile. But Angelo told him that Daniela had changed herself. “‘My glass only reflects what’s already there,’” he said. “‘Happiness is inside all of us. You only have to discover it.’” Daniela agreed, and laughed once more as she peered into the glass. The sound of her laughter set every bell in the city ringing. Men, women, and children began to laugh with her. They danced and played. Even the Grand Doge emerged from his palace to join in the celebration.

So if you hear the bells of Venice ringing, you know that Daniela is laughing, and if you “peep into a looking glass,” you will most likely see a smile on your face too.

A brief and fascinating history of glassmaking and mirror making precedes the story.

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Written in the style of classic fairy tales, Dianne Hofmeyr’s story has a very contemporary message—one that is a timely reminder and allows young readers to embrace their power to determine their own happiness. Children may smile at the various attempts to please Daniela, but they—like Angelo—will also appreciate and understand that Daniela was searching not for outward but inward happiness all along.  

Jane Ray’s lush illustrations mirror the colors and atmosphere of Venice, as the performers don carnival masks and costumes, gondolas are poled along the canals, and the dark glassmaker’s workshop glows with molten glass. The delicate and lovely glass palace depicted at the beginning of the story shatters into shimmering shards in a two-page spread which makes dazzling use of iridescent paper accents. This stunning image is a beautiful metaphor for Daniela’s warmth breaking through her seemingly cold and fragile exterior when she finally smiles and laughs.

Ages 4 – 8

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1847806765

Discover more about Dianne Hofmeyr and her books on her website

Learn more about Jane Ray, her books, and her art on her website.

Read a New Book Activity

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I Love to Read Coloring Page

 

If you love books as much as this little bookworm, you’ll like coloring this printable I Love to Read Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

September 22 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Such a terrific month—so many terrific new books! If you haven’t taken the opportunity of this month’s holiday to visit your local bookstore and buy any of the books you’ve seen here or elsewhere, you still have time! Adding new inspirational, educational, encouraging, and just plain funny books—like today’s—to a child’s home bookshelf lets them know that reading is important and a fantastic way to spend downtime each day.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

 

You know the drill—Once upon a time there was a poor boy named Jack…. One day this waif woke up to a moo-tivating kiss from his cow Bessie and… Wait, wait! Kids, cover your eyes! And, Jack, “put on some pants!” Phew! Disaster averted! Now where were we? Oh, right. So Jack (now well-dressed) was told that because Bessie had stopped making milk, he had to sell her. He protested, but the mysterious narrator protested right back: “I didn’t WRITE the story, Jack. I’m just telling it.”

Down at the market, Jack received five beans in exchange for Bessie. Of course, this is a fairy tale, and the beans are magic. Jack tried all the magical words he knew to get them to work, but they just sat in the bowl smiling up at him. Yeah, these beans have faces. Overcome by hunger, Jack determined to eat the beans, but there was that pesky narrator again ordering him to throw the beans out the window and then go to bed. As you can imagine—what with selling his best friend and hunger gnawing at his belly—Jack was a bit testy and complainy and countered, “Aww, but I’m not tired. This story keeps getting worse and worse.”

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In the morning, Jack discovered that an enormous beanstalk had grown up overnight. It was so tall that Jack couldn’t even see the top. The narrator told him to start climbing. At first, Jack balked, then he tried to stall by offering to get his climbing gear, but the narrator had already determined that Jack “had no possessions.” Finally, Jack agreed to go, but only if the narrator changed the beanstalk’s size. In a classic “be careful what you wish for” maneuver, the beanstalk suddenly began to grow bigger. “Seriously?” Jack said.

Jack was actually enjoying his climb when he spied Cinderella’s castle with Cindy waving from her balcony. Her voice rang across the distance, inviting Jack to a ball that very night. The narrator was not happy with this delay and urged Jack on. Finally, he reached the top, where “he found himself in front of a humongous house.” Jack pegged it right away as a giant’s abode, but he went inside anyway. As he was looking around at all the mammoth furnishings, he heard the giant’s voice: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

Heck, Jack knew about poetry and recognized immediately that “that doesn’t even rhyme” and offered an alternative: “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I can see the giant’s bum.” This bit of wordplay just enraged the giant—that, plus his fear that Jack was trying to steal all his best stuff. The giant grabbed Jack and was about to…well, listen for yourself: “Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Pretty chilling stuff, but even though Jack was facing imminent danger, he was pretty positive about the giant’s new rhyme.

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

That made the giant happy, and Jack thought this moment of camaraderie was the perfect time to let slip to the giant that “there’s a good chance that you’re going to die at the end of this story.” The giant put on a frowny face, and his eyes began to tear up. It seemed the giant didn’t want to die, so he suddenly decided to become a vegan. Listening to this emotional roller coaster, the narrator started to get steamed because he was losing control of the story. “ENOUGH!!!” he shouted.

“GIANT!” he hollered and ordered him to chase Jack down the beanstalk. “JACK!” he yelled and told him to chop down the beanstalk. All this shouting only served to bond Jack and the Giant in an oversized friendship. They commiserated together and planned to make a taco salad from one of the giant’s recipes. After that they went to Cinderella’s party, where they told everyone about their adventure. And who’s complaining now? You got this—the narrator!

P.S. And, of course, they all lived happily ever after by splitting the giant’s fortune and opening a restaurant named Where Have You Bean? for a whole host of fairy tale customers!

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In Josh Funk’s newest romp, Jack takes matters into his own hands as he revamps his famous story into one that turns out “happily ever after” for all the characters. Along the way readers will laugh at Jack’s feisty repartee with the unseen narrator as he’s swept up in a larger-than-life scenario and uses his wits—and wit—to finally tell his own story in his own way. Young readers will appreciate Jack’s independent spunk, and adults will respond to his sweet nature.

Edwardian Taylor’s noodle-limbed, big-eyed Jack knows how to tug at readers’ heartstrings. Soulfully saying good-bye to Bessie, gazing at his nearly empty plate in anguish, and warily approaching the giant’s castle, Jack will quickly have readers empathizing with his plight and cheering him on as he outwits the gigantic red-bearded giant and turns him into a friend and business partner. And while the giant may be big, kids will soon see that he’s really a softy. Children will love all the big and small details on every page, from the leafy beanstalk to cute Cindy-rella to the gold-coin laying goose. And if you’ve never seen a purple cow…here’s your chance. The final spread of a packed Where Have You Bean? restaurant gives kids an opportunity to show their knowledge of fairy-tale characters.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk makes for a spirited and funny read aloud, and would be super performed by a group in classrooms or by clubs, or even by friends or siblings.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1542045650

Enter the world of Josh Funk and discover more about him and his books as well as plenty of book-related activities on his website!

Learn more about Edwardian Taylor and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

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This is Not a Yardstick! Yardstick Craft

 

Need to measure something—like the height of your garden, the amount of rain or snow that fell, or even the number of books you have? You can do it in style with your very own This is Not a Yardstick! yardstick craft.

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Small wooden leaves, 45 – 50, available at craft stores 

OR

  • Light green and dark green foam sheets 
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf’
  5. Write the number of the inch marked on each leaf, from 1 to 45 or higher with the black marker, alternating colors

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

Picture Book Review