April 28 – National Superhero Day

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate superheroes—both fictional and real—who make the world a better place. While fictional superheroes have uncommon strength, endless courage, and powers that defy nature, it doesn’t take super abilities to make a difference. Especially now, nurses, doctors, first-responders, teachers, and workers at grocery stores, pharmacies, factories, and so many other places are on the front lines of the pandemic response with the commitment and dedication of superheroes. Moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, and kids all over the world are also stepping up whenever and however they’re needed. Celebrate today by thanking the superheroes in your life.

I received a copy of Superheroes Don’t Babysit for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

By Jakki Licare

Superheroes Don’t Babysit

Written by Amber Hendricks | Illustrated by Kyle Reed

 

Has this ever happened to you? “You’ll be saving the city from the evil Emperor Zog when…your dad asks for a favor.” That is what happened to the little girl in this story. All she wanted to do was to play superheroes when she was asked to watch her little brother. Of course, she doesn’t want to because she has important world-saving plans for her day. “Plans that don’t include little brothers.” And who has ever heard of a superhero babysitting anyway?

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

After receiving “the look” from her father, though, she agrees to watch her brother. Of course, immediately after her father leaves, her brother is starving! She consults “the list of Dad-approved snacks (because superheroes follow the rules)” and makes him a healthy “plate of cheese and crackers.”

But her brother has already pulled out all the ingredients for an ice cream sundae and is determined to have one. She just knows “he’ll want to measure and pour, squirt and scoop,” and he does. Resigned, the girl helps him and feels proud for assisting a fellow citizen. That is until she sees how messy the kitchen has become! Just before she begins to wipe everything down, she notices something smells awful. She investigates, looking just where you would look, you know: “the normal places—the trash can, the bathroom, your socks—before realizing the smell is coming from” her brother!

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

She gears herself up for the dangerous battle. Diapers are challenging even for superheroes, but she manages to get one on him (with the help of some extra tape). Her revelry is short-lived, though, because her brother decides to play with her action figures and breaks one! Then he cries and she feels like crying too. She might even feel like yelling “‘I wish you weren’t my brother!’”

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

But, instead, she closes her eyes and slowly counts to ten. By the time she gets to ten, her brother apologizes and hugs her. He offers her his favorite teddy bear as a replacement, and “that icky feeling inside” melts away. So when he asks her “to read him his favorite story,” she does—“six times.” He falls asleep and even drools a little on her. It doesn’t bother her, though, because “EVERY SUPERHERO NEEDS A SIDEKICK.”

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Amber Hendrick’s use of the 2nd person point of view gives this story a fresh spin and will pull young readers immediately in. Young readers will relate to the main character’s problems of making messes and having her favorite toy broken. Hendrick’s humor will make readers giggle as they watch the girl outfit herself in safety gear just to change a diaper. The fact that the girl wants to yell and rant at her brother and chooses not to is a wonderful teaching opportunity. Adults can point out how boy’s sister takes a moment and counts to ten before reacting. It’s a terrific lesson for readers of any age.

Kyle Reed’s bright primary-colored illustrations make this a superhero theme that’s out of this world. The paneled frames of the father-daughter face off and the girl’s measured count to ten are a nice nod to comic books. Throughout the story, the sister and brother’s facial expressions clearly show readers their feelings as sibling rivalry gives way to their loving bond. When the two siblings make up, the black-and-white pixelated photos that Reed adds in the background are a nice touch to show the connections of family.

For kids who love superheroes or are superhero siblings themselves, Superheroes Don’t Babysit would be a fun and thoughtful addition to family storytimes.

Ages 4 – 7

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506458762

Discover more about Amber Hendricks and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kyle Reed and see a portfolio of his work, visit his website.

National Superhero Day Activity

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Superhero Mask Craft

 

You can be a superhero too by making your own SUPERHEROES DON’T BABYSIT mask

Supplies

  • Printable Superhero Mask Template
  • Paper Plate
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Paint or Colored Pencils
  • String or elastic or ribbon

Directions

  1. Print out template.

  2. Cut out template and eye holes.

  3. Trace template onto paper plate. Don’t forget to trace the eye holes too!

  4. Cut out masks and eyeholes.

  5. Cut a slit towards the top left of the mask for string. Then, make another slit on the top right side.  

  6. Paint or Color your mask

  7. Tie string, elastic or ribbon through slits

  8. Go and save the world!

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You can find Superheroes Don’t Babysit for preorder at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 12 – National Middle Child Day

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About the Holiday

Elizabeth Walker, feeling that middle children were often overlooked, established National Middle Children’s Day in the 1980s. The holiday was initially celebrated on the second Saturday in August, but became associated with the 12th and so it stuck. The name was later shortened to National Middle Child Day. To commemorate the day, let all the middle kids you know how terrific they are.

Bunny in the Middle

Written by Anika A. Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Being right between the oldest and the youngest means that “there’s someone bigger who helps you and someone smaller who needs you.” When you’re that middle child, you learn when to stand your ground, when to relent, and “how to solve sticky situations.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

There are times when you’re the leader and times when you’re the follower. But there are also those times when you can strike out on your own—even if you are wearing hand-me-downs and just left your siblings in a room you share. But being in the middle has its perks, too. You grow up just a little more quickly, making you “not too small for the big stuff,” while you’re still little enough to enjoy “the small stuff.” 

But what’s the very best thing about being in the middle? Always being surrounded by love!

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

Anika and Christopher Denise created Bunny in the Middle as a loving tribute to their middle child, and their love glows on each page with storytelling that embraces the reader like a snuggled heart-to-heart in a comfy chair and art that is beyond adorable. Anika’s sweet insights remind middle kids of the advantages of their position and the benefits they reap from their older and younger siblings.

Christopher’s three bunnies charmingly display recognizable personalities of their birth order as the oldest takes up more than her third of the reading chair, helps her sister with her math homework, and is the head cupcake baker to her sister’s recipe-reading assistant. The middle bunny helps her tiny brother onto the swing, relents with rolled eyes to his crying entreaty to wear her chef’s hat, and gazes skeptically into the mirror at her reflection in a too-big, hand-me-down dress. Meanwhile, their little brother meditates on his toes, plays with the flour sifter on the floor, and concentrates on running his train around the track (and his younger sister).

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

Interspersed with these experiences, are images of the middle bunny displaying her confident, sensitive nature as she connects directly with the reader (probably a middle child like herself), licks a spoonful of icing, is blissfully alone to spy a butterfly at the pond and play with her toys, and is bravely the first in line to enter school. The final two spreads are as cozy as it gets as the three siblings share a book in bed before drifting off to cuddled-up sleep.

An enchantment for quiet and heartening story times at home with a middle child alone or with the whole gang as well as uplifting reassurance for preschool and kindergarten classrooms, where at any given time a student might feel like a middle kid. Bunny in the Middle would be a touching addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1250120366

Discover more about Anika Denise and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Denise, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Middle Child Day Activity

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Triple the Fishy Fun!

 

These fishy siblings have three times the fun swimming together. Grab your crayons or pencils and give them and their world some color with this printable page.

Triple the Fishy Fun Coloring Page

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You can find Bunny in the Middle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 7 -World Chocolate Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of World Chocolate Day is simple! Most likely instituted to celebrate the introduction of chocolate to Europe on July 7, 1550, the day gives people everywhere the perfect excuse to indulge in this favorite flavor sensation. You know what to do! Bake some brownies, order a double scoop of your favorite chocolate-based ice cream, make a chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting, of course), or whip up a batch of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, and enjoy!

Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family

By Elizabeth Zunon

 

It’s a little girl’s birthday, and she and her daddy are making her “family’s special celebration cake” while her mom “goes to pick up another treat.” While they bake, the girl’s father reminds her that “‘chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao.” The girl has never met her grandfather since he lives in Africa and she wonders if she is like him. Her father begins to tell her the story of his growing up on her Grandpa Cacao’s Ivory Coast farm.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they add flour to the bowl, Daddy explains how her grandfather knew just when the fruit was ripe for picking. “Just like the way I can spot the end of summer from tinges of orange at the tips of treetops,” the girl thinks. Then, her father goes on, Grandpa Cacao expertly sliced the pods without damaging any of the beans inside. “‘Did you ever help?’” the girl asks as they melt the chocolate and butter for the cake. Her daddy says that everyone in the village worked together and that when he turned seven, he was allowed to help but only after he’d finished his homework and chores.

The white beans were put into pits lined with banana leaves and stirred periodically until they became light brown. Then they were moved to a cement floor to dry in the sun. The beans had to be taken in each night, and when storms came the beans had to be covered. The girl imagines her grandpa could smell the rain coming the way she could “smell a cold day.”

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

While they crack and add the eggs, the girl’s father tells her how the beans sounded and tasted when they were ready to sell. The story is making her hungry, and she wonders what Mommy could be bringing home. When he was older, Daddy says, he helped bag the beans to sell to the cacao buyers, who would send them to factories to be made into chocolate. With the money from the cacao beans, they bought “food, school supplies, uniforms, books, and fabric to have out special occasion clothes made.”

The cake batter is ready to pour into the pan, and she carries the big bowl to her daddy. She reminds him of Grandpa Cacao carrying a big basket of cacao pods. The thought makes them both smile. Then the girl’s thoughts return to what her mother is bringing home. Perhaps it’s a new dress or the puppy she wants. Daddy dips his finger in the chocolate batter and the girls licks the spoon. It makes him think of how he and the other kids snuck tastes “of the pulp from the cacao fruits or the candy-sweet drink” they made.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Baking in the oven, the cake smells delicious. Just as the timer rings, the doorbell chimes. When the girl opens it, she sees her mommy with an older man she’s never seen before. “‘Happy Birthday!’” he says, and the girl recognizes his voice from their phone calls. He hugs her and then gives her a big orange pod. It’s her birthday present, he tells her. But being with her Grandpa Cacao is “the best birthday present ever in the world.”

An Author’s Note following the text describes Elizabeth Zunon’s childhood in Abidjan, the realities of the cacao trade and Fair Trade products and a bit about how the illustrations were created. There are also brief discussions on the science and history of chocolate as well as a page on how cacao goes from bean to treat. Bakers will also be pleased to see the recipe for the special Chocolate Celebration Cake made in the story.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Elizabeth Zunon’s celebration of family and pride in one’s heritage is a compelling read that shines with a strong father – daughter relationship, shared memories, and the joys of working together. The warmth shared by the girl and her daddy is evident as she revels in hearing the story of Grandpa Cacao and identifying with him even though he lives far away. Zunon’s smooth delivery of Grandpa Cacao and Daddy’s story imparts fascinating details of how cacao is grown, harvested, and prepared for sale. While the little girl may wish for a new dress or a puppy, she is happier with the surprise of meeting her grandfather at last.

Zunon’s mixed-media, collage style illustrations beautifully meld the world inside the family kitchen with the girl’s imagining of life in Africa on Grandpa Cacao’s farm. The opaque screen-printed images of Grandpa Cacao, the girl’s father as a child and young man, and the other villagers, are powerful reminders to readers that their family and family history is always with them and supporting them.

A unique book to share during family story time, in the classroom, or during a library program, Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. And don’t forget to include cake!

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196404

Discover more about Elizabeth Zunon, her books, and her art on her website.

World Chocolate Day Activity

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My Kids’ Favorite Brownies from Cookies & Cups, copyright Shelly Jaronsky, January 29, 2019. Courtesy of cookies&cups.com.

Cookies & Cups My Kids’ Favorite Brownies

 

If you’re looking for a scrumptious chocolatey brownie that melts in your mouth, look no further than Shelly Jaronsky’s My Kids’ Favorite Brownies recipe on Cookies & Cups. While you’re there, you’ll want to look around at all of Shelly’s delicious recipes! 

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You can find Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 23 – National Roots Day

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About the Holiday

As families gather for holidays this month, National Roots Day encourages people to talk about their collective histories, look at old photographs, and tell family stories. Sharing laughs, traditions, and those “remember when…?” stories with children helps give them a sense of connection and belonging and ensures that important events, customs, and relationships aren’t lost to time.

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez

 

Once a year, Abuelo came from Mexico to visit his family in America. “He always brought his guitar,” and he sang to his granddaughter and grandson every night. Abuelo would talk about his life, and if the children were sad, his advice was “‘Sing, don’t cry. Because singing gladdens the heart.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One of the stories Abuelo told was about a time when he was very young and his family “had to travel a long way to find a new home.” Just like his granddaughter and grandson’s family. He said that “singing made the distance seem smaller.” He also knew that when bad things happen, singing can make them better. “‘Some things may be lost forever,’” he said, “‘but maybe that makes room for new and wonderful things to be found.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When you feel alone, Abuelo said, singing can attract friends. When there are days that are hard or when people are mean, singing—“even if it is only in your soul”—can cheer you. As Abuelo strummed his guitar and sang to his precious grandchildren, he reminded them that “‘I will always be singing with you.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-uplifts

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Angela Dominguez pairs her heartwarming text with illustrations that are at once simple and complex as they hold images that span the generations while also bringing them together. As Abuelo arrives as his daughter’s house, his grandchildren greet him enthusiastically with signs and balloons. The children are excited to see Abuelo get out his guitar, and as he sings, readers see that each child is comforted in different ways by their interactions with their grandfather.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-attracts-friends

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A sepia-hued portrait on the wall of Abuelo as a young man as well as clothing choices offer color-coded clues to Abuelo’s history and reassurance for events in the lives of his grandkids. As Abuelo reveals the restorative power of singing, Dominguez portrays examples of three situations on a tri-paneled page. The top, sepia-colored image depicts a boy sick in bed as a worried mother looks on; the second image is rose-colored and shows a single teddy bear; and in the aqua-toned third, a boy sits forlornly on the sidelines of an American football game.

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

Turning the page, these three panels are more fully developed, letting young readers experience each characters’ disappointment in events that will resonate with them. Turn the page again, and children see that Abuelo’s assurance of brighter days comes true for all. Abuelo’s positive outlook is further revealed in cherished framed photographs, and the final image of the whole family gathered around Abuelo and his guitar is joyful.

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

An Author’s Note includes the lyrics from Cielito lindo that inspired the story as well as a brief biography of Angela Dominguez’s grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, that provides a deeper understanding of the story and the significance of Abuelo’s guitar.

An inspiring and uplifting story, Sing, Don’t Cry would be a welcome read for those times when encouragement is needed both at home and in a classroom setting.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627798396

Learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art on her website.

National Roots Day Activity

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I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages

 

What are some of the favorite things you love about your grandmother and grandfather? Fill out, draw your and your grandparents’ faces, and color these printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages. They even make nice gifts that your grandparents’ will appreciate!

I Love Grandma | I Love Grandpa

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You can find Sing, Don’t Cry at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

March 15 – It’s National Craft Month

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About the Holiday

Does just walking through the door of Michael’s or A.C. Moore make your heart beat faster? Do your cabinets overflow with bottles of paint, glitter, ribbon, lace, and empty bottles and boxes? If so, then March is the month for you! This month we celebrate the creative energy and unique perspectives that result in beautiful, one-of-a-kind decor or clothing, fun group projects for kids and adults, and successful home-based businesses. Homemade love is also one of the best ways to show friends or family members how you feel—as you’ll see in today’s book. There are so  many reasons and ways to indulge your love of all things crafty this month—so what are you waiting for?!  

Sister Day!

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

As Lizzie and her big sister, Jane, sit on a quilt watching the clouds, Lizzie tells how she loves that Jane has “the best imagination” and “can make up all kinds of things in her very own head.” Lizzie wants to play dress up, but Jane says, “not now.” How about telling a story? Jane can’t do that either because she’s going to her friend Emma’s house soon. “‘Maybe when you get home?’” Lizzie asks. “‘Maybe,’” says Jane.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jane is gone all day. Night falls and still Jane isn’t home. Lizzie waits in the window seat and watches and watches. Finally, Jane is home! Lizzie shows her the fort she made using all the blankets. It will be perfect for telling stories under, but now Jane has to do her homework. “‘You’re always busy.’” Lizzie says. The next day the sisters look at the calendar. It’s almost full except for one Saturday. Suddenly, Lizzie has an idea for a wonderful surprise. She takes the pink crayon and “circles, circles, circles that Saturday.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

On Monday while Jane has soccer practice, Lizzie works on a dragon referee. On Tuesday instead of copying Jane’s jumps and twirls at ballet, Lizzie puts “tutus on sugarplum fairies.” On Wednesday during Jane’s piano lesson, Lizzie tunes up her imaginary orchestra. Thursday is karate day, and while Jane does her moves, Lizzie “sneaks, sneaks, sneaks to a quiet corner to finish up [her] surprise.” On Friday Jane goes to Emma’s again after school, and Lizzie gets help from Mom baking Jane’s favorite treat.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Early Saturday morning, Lizzie grabs her sketchbook, her scissors, and some tape. It takes an hour and the whole roll of tape to make the surprise. Then Lizzie goes to Jane’s room. She knocks on the door. When there’s no answer, Lizzie opens the door. Jane’s room is empty. Lizzie runs “downstairs, yelling, ‘Mom, have you seen Jane?’” When Lizzie enters the kitchen, she finds Jane “wearing a T-shirt covered in glittery glue.” She made them at Emma’s house, Jane says as she hands one to Lizzie. 

Lizzie puts it on and pulls Jane into the living room. Pictures and decorations cover the walls, and delicious cupcakes and drinks are on the table. “‘Surprise! I wrote you a story!’” Lizzie says. “‘Happy Sister Day!’” As Jane looks around, she tells Lizzie, “‘You didn’t just draw a story, Lizzie. You made a whole lot of magic.’” Lizzie hugs her big sister. “‘It runs in the family,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-surprise

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Lisa Mantchev captures the happiness and disappointments of sibling relationships in her sweet story. In today’s busy family life, sisters—and brothers—don’t always get to spend as much time together as they might like. Mantchev reveals, however, that close bonds remain in the heart. Young readers will be enchanted by this loving sister duo and the surprise ending that shows a shared understanding and devotion between them. Sister Day! may inspire families to hold special sister and or brother days to let siblings connect and develop their unique relationship.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

In her beautiful, light illustrations, Sonia Sánchez replicates the positive, happy relationship between Lizzie and Jane. As each day brings a new activity for Jane, readers will recognize the reality of a younger sibling waiting for the older one to finish. As Lizzie uses this time to draw her story, children will see that even though Lizzie and Jane aren’t together, they are thinking of each other. Lizzie’s imagination is creatively shown through transparent fantasy creatures who keep Lizzie company during Jane’s absence. Sánchez’s lovely color palette and delicate, detailed drawings invite children to spend time with these best-friend sisters.

Sister Day! would make a wonderful gift and a charming addition to sisters’ home libraries

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481437950

Discover more about Lisa Mantchev and her books for children, young adults, and adults on her website!

National Craft Month Activity

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I Love You Jar

 

Show your friends or family members how much they mean to you with this jar full of love!

Supplies

  • Small to medium size decorative jar or a recycled jar
  • Red felt or heavy paper
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut enough small hearts from the red felt or paper to fill the jar one-half to three-fourths full
  2. Fill the jar with the hearts
  3. Give it to your friend, sister, brother, mom, dad—anyone you love—and watch them smile!

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Nothing Day

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About the Holiday

Newspaper columnist Harold Coffin established Nothing Day in 1973 to satirize the proliferation of daily holidays. His purpose was to give people a day to do absolutely nothing. Sounds good to me! Still, does celebrating this holiday constitute doing something? This may be the most baffling holiday on the calendar! Why not find something—or nothing—to do with today’s book?

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

A little girl and her mom are “back again” at the cottage—even trudging up the walk in “the same rain”—while Dad is working back at home in the city. While Mom works at her computer, the girl destroys Martians, but she says, “Actually, I was just pressing the same button over and over.” She wishes that her dad were there.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Mom turns away from her writing and watches her daughter playing her video game. “Is this going to be another day of doing nothing?” she growls. Mom takes the device and hides it—“as usual”—and the little girl finds it—“as usual.” But this time she takes it outside. As the rain pelts down from gloomy skies it looked as if everything in the “garden was hiding from the sun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-playing-video-games

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In the pond at the bottom of the hill she finds a line of flat stones. She hops from one to another, crushing them like the Martians in her game. While jumping, though, her game falls out of her pocket and into the pond. The water is so icy cold that she can’t grab it before it sinks out of sight. Oh no! she thinks, “Without my game, I have nothing to do.” The rain strikes her “like rocks,” and she feels “like a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane.”

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Just then she spies four giant snails slithering by. She asks them if there is anything to do around there, and they tell her yes. She gently feels one of the snail’s antennae. It is “as soft as jello” and makes her smile. She follows the snails and discovers a field filled with mushrooms. Their damp musky smell reminds her of her grandparents’ basement—her “cave of treasures.” She walks on and finds a spot in the earth where she digs her hand into the ground. She feels “thousands of seeds and pellets and kernals, grains and roots and berries touch “her fingers and hand.” When she looks up the sun is shining “through a giant strainer” and blinds her.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

Her heart starts beating fast with energy. She takes off running and runs so quickly that she tumbles down the hill. She lands on her back with a flop, and when she opens her eyes, the world is topsy-turvy new. Energized, she climbs a tree and gazes out at the horizon, breaths deeply in the fresh air, drinks raindrops as they fall from a leaf, and notices bugs she’s never seen before. She talks to a bird, splashes in a puddle, and watches the world through stones as clear as glass.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-tumbling

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

She hurries home and takes off her raincoat. When she glances in the mirror, for a moment she thinks she “sees her dad smiling at [her].” Her mom is still writing, but now she looks different to the little girl—“like one of the creatures outside.” Her mom notices how soaked she is and takes her to the kitchen to dry her off in a big, soft towel. The little girl feels like giving her mom a big hug. For a moment she wants to tell her about all the things she saw and did, but she doesn’t.

Instead, they enjoy their hot chocolate quietly together. “That’s it,” she says. “That’s all we did. On this magical do-nothing day.”

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

While the protagonist of A Magical Do-Nothing Day may never have looked at the world outside closely, Beatrice Alemagna certainly has. Alemagna’s exquisite illustrations portray the beauty of our environment—both indoors and out—and our connections to it with novel descriptions and stunning color and perspectives. As the girl ventures outside, video game clutched tightly, her face registers sadness and wariness. The Martians from the game crawl over and surround her, even when the game is off, seeming to fill any space that might be open to exploration, and, indeed, her first forays into the wild are taken game-style, hopping from platform to platform, rock to rock.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the gaming device sinks into frigid water (as cold and impersonal as the gaming experience itself?), the child quickly comes out of her shell with the help of snails that lead her to greater discovery. The story gives readers much to ponder in the relationships between the child and parents and the child’s newfound appreciation for the natural world.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is a fantastic book to add to home and classroom libraries to spur children’s exploration—both in the natural world and within. While I used the feminine pronoun in my review, the story is told from the first person point of view and the child is drawn with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, making this a book with universal appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

Discover more about Beatrice Alemanga, her books, and her art on her website.

Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-with-mushroom-and-cricket-coloring-pageNothing To Do Coloring Pages

 

Rainy days are perfect “do-nothing” days. The next time you have an indoor day, grab your crayons or colored pencils and enjoy these printable coloring pages

Splashing in the Rain Coloring Page | Cricket Hiding from the Rain Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

September 26 – Love Note Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kindness-cards

Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review