October 30 – Hug a Sheep Day

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About the Holiday

Hug a Sheep Day was founded by a woman who rescued a sheep named Punkin from the Bluegrass Stockyards in 1992. When Punkin passed away 12 years later, the woman, known as “the Crazy Sheep Lady,” wanted to honor him and encourage people to appreciate the warmth and comfort these animals provide and show how much they love them. She chose Punkin’s birthday as the date of her new holiday, and over the years Hug a Sheep Day has grown to be celebrated around the world with many farms inviting visitors to open farm days and fun events where they can indeed hug a sheep. If you want to take full advantage of today’s celebration, look for a participating farm or petting zoo near you. 

Thanks go to Beaming Books for sharing a copy of Little Ewe with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of the book. You’ll find the details below.

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Tommy Doyle

 

The flock gathers at the fence, where “one shepherd opens up the gate. / ‘It’s time to eat.’ / The sheep can’t wait!” The sheep file out of the pen and up the hill in pairs, but Little Ewe is more interested in exploring than nibbling. She chases three lizards and watches four spiders, and when Shepherd calls for her to come back, she promises to do so “but not until…/ She bounces on five floating logs / and splashes with six croaking frogs.”

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Shepherd whistles for Little Ewe to return to the flock, and she starts on her way but then she spies sparrows dining on figs and decides to join this different flock for a tasty treat. Suddenly, though, as the sun sets, nine badgers discover the figs and take them away from Little Ewe. In the dark, Little Ewe lopes down the path and is frightened by the “ten spooky eyes” of the owls in the trees.

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

All alone, lost, and hungry, Little Ewe “wishes she’d listened when / Shepherd called her in the glen.” Screeching bats fly overhead, making her cry. At the same time, Shepherd is counting “his flock with love” and realizes one is missing. He jumps up and heads down the mountain path right to where Little Ewe waits, shivering and bleating. He lifts her into his arms and gives her a hug. He takes her home where the sheep “all gather round. / The shepherd’s lamb, / once lost . . . is found!”

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Laura Sassi’s gentle and poignant story combines counting from one to twelve with the reassurance of constant love. Like the little ones reading the story, Little Ewe is curious and adventurous, but as she strays farther away and darkness falls, she longs to be home. Of course, the shepherd won’t leave his lamb behind and, knowing just where to look, he comes to find her. Sassi’s perfect rhymes and jaunty rhythm invite young children to join in counting and reading. The nighttime scenes are not too scary while they offer assurance that when little ones feel frightened, uncertain, or alone, they are still under a watchful eye. Little Ewe can be read as a retelling of the Biblical parable of the Good Shepherd and God’s ever-present love or as a story of the enduring love of a parent or caregiver.

Tommy Doyle’s warm and adorable images will delight little ones as they count from one to twelve with Little Ewe as she explores the meadow, stream, and hillside. Kids will love pointing out these easily discovered images again and again. Doyle’s Shepherd is kind and caring, and the look of love on his face as he cradles rescued Little Ewe will be familiar comfort to young readers. The joy depicted when Little Ewe reunites with her flock shows the happiness of any family when all its members are together.

A sweet and comforting story that young readers will want to hear again and again, Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep would make a tender addition to any child’s bookshelf as well as for school, church, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506464701

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tommy Doyle, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Tommy Doyle

To enter:

This giveaway is open from October 30 to November 4 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 5. 

Prizing provided by Beaming Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only | No Giveaway Accounts 

Hug a Sheep Day Activity

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Courtesy of Laura Sassi (laurasassitales.wordpress.com)

Make a Little Lamb Resting Box and Play a Game! 

by Laura Sassi

Read Little Ewe, then grab a little lamb toy (or make your own from felt or fleece, by painting a rock, or by knitting one using this Little Ewe Pattern). Then play a game of hide and seek with your little lamb. When you are finished playing, give your little lamb a hug (since it is Hug A Sheep Day!), then let him/her rest in this cozy resting box. 

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To make a cozy resting box, you will need

  • a precut piece heavy paper or light card board measuring approximately 5 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches with four 1-inch deep notches cut from each corner, as shown.
  • crayons or markers 
  • clear tape

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Directions

  1. Fold the sides of the box so your child can see what the finished shape will be.
  2. Have your child decorate the inside and outside of the box any way they want. (Ex.: I made my outside look like grass and my inside like a cozy quilt.)
  3. Finish the box by taping the four corners up using clear tape.

To Play

Take turns hiding the little lamb. Play as many rounds of hide-and-seek as desired. After playing, let the lamb take a rest in the cozy resting box you have made. Then read your lamb a sheep-themed story like … Little Ewe!  

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You can find Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 3 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

Observed during the five weeks between Mothers Day and Fathers Day, National Family Month was established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882. Leading into the school vacation season, the holiday encourages families to spend more time working, playing, talking, and just hanging out together. This year, of course, we’ve gotten to know and appreciate our families in a whole new way. This Family Month and all throughout the summer, celebrate your close bonds. You can read more about the qualities of strong families in this publication about the holiday from childwelfare.gov. During this month of Father’s Day, one wonderful way for kids to celebrate their dads is to share today’s book. 

My Dad

Written by Susan Quinn | Illustrated by Marina Ruiz

 

A little boy confides that his dad has blasted off to another galaxy, “been a secret agent, or won a Grand Prix race.” He’s not one of those jet-setting dads, either. But, the little boy boasts “my Dad is FANTASTIC!” What makes him so fantastic? Well, he’s a wonderful baker and makes “the best cookies” and cake. His dad is also likes to work outside. The boy says, “He gives me rides around the garden, / he grows vegetables all in a row. / And it’s fun to pull up carrots, / shouting, “Ready! Set! GO!'” Even grocery shopping is not “BORING” when they go together and pretend they’re in the jungle “looking for tasty food to eat.”

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

The boy says his dad is always there to teach him things, to cheer him on, and to cheer him up when he’s had a bad day. They go on outings together and play until they stop to quietly enjoy the sunset. On rainy fall days, they splash in puddles under a rainbow canopy, and in the winter they play in the snow. With Dad, bath time is time for adventures on the high seas.

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

At bedtime Dad reads stories as they cuddle up together. “Then,” the boy says, “we count twinkling stars, before Dad says ‘night, night!'” With a final kiss, Dad tucks his son in tight, and the little boy smiles, thinking “he’s the best a dad can be. / And every day is special / when it’s just my Dad and me.”

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

Susan Quinn’s sweet and earnest ode to the love between a son and his father is all the more touching for the simple, conversational style of her rhyming verses. From the first page, the little boy’s pride and affection for his dad is evident as each spread describes a specific way in which Dad makes every day special or attends to his son’s needs. The unique bond fathers form with their children through working together, physical play, imagination, snuggle time, and just being there for them are all represented with heartwarming, childlike enthusiasm. As a busy day winds down, the quiet assurance of a father’s love will move readers – both children and adults. 

Marina Ruiz’s soft, textured, multi-media illustrations welcome readers into the comforting home and routine of a little boy and his dad as they spend treasured time together. From home to the soccer field to beach picnics to the grocery store transformed by imagination, Ruiz’s gorgeous color palette and collage-style images highlight what makes this father-son relationship so special. Plenty of smiles, adoring looks, and shared snuggles will charm readers.

My Dad will be a favorite choice for fathers to read to their kids and mothers or other caregivers to share when Dad’s away. The book would make a much-appreciated gift for Father’s Day or other gift-giving occasions and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7 

words & pictures, Quarto Knows, 2021 | ISBN 978-0711255340

Discover more about Susan Quinn and her books on her website.

To learn more about Marina Ruiz, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Month Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

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You can find My Dad at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 11 – Heritage Treasures Day

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About the Holiday

Heritage Treasures Day is an initiative established in the United Kingdom by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1994 to preserve important parts of human history. Since that time nearly eight billion pounds raised through the national lottery have been dispersed to support more than 40,000 projects. Multiple funds have been created to support various types of programs. For example, “Sharing Heritage” provides money for local heritage sites ranging from personal memories to the conservation of an area’s wildlife, while “Our Heritage” is used to preserve archaeological sites, endangered wildlife, and museum collections. Heritage Grants are given to large projects such as the preservation and restoration of Stonehenge. Today’s holiday celebrates these efforts and raises global awareness of the importance of protecting and passing on our shared history. To celebrate on a smaller scale, take an opportunity to talk about your family’s stories, history, and legacy with your kids.

Maud and Grand-Maud

Written by Sara O’Leary | Illustrated by Kenard Pak

 

On certain Saturdays Maud gets to sleep over at Grand-Maud’s house. She sleeps in a special nightgown that Grand-Maud made for her. “The nightgown goes all the way to the floor, and is made out of plaid flannel, and is softer than anything.” Grand-Maud even made herself one to match. Once dressed, they have breakfast for dinner eaten on trays in front of the TV, where they watch old black and white movies. Maud thinks everything was black and white when Grand-Maud was a child.

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Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

At bedtime, Maud snuggles into the extra twin bed in Grand-Maud’s room. In this bed Maud always has good dreams, and under the bed hides a wooden chest in which “there is always something new for Maud placed inside, even when Grand-Maud doesn’t know she will be visiting.” Sometimes the thing is something bought new for Maud to use or play with. Other times Grand-Maud has made something for Maud, like “…a pair of mittens, or some cookies to take home so the time between visits is sweeter.”

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Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

But the best times are when the chest holds “something from when Grand-Maud was a little girl herself.” Once Maud found a heart-shaped stone that Grand-Maud had carried in her pocket for a whole year. Now Maud carries it in hers. This time, Maud pulls out a book of fairy tales that Grand-Maud had written her name in. Maud was happy to see her own name in it.

That night, with the lights dimmed, Grand-Maud and Maud talked about the future. Maud said she wants to be a writer and have at least seven children. She imagines living in “‘…a very tall house so that the children can have bunk beds that go up and up and up.’” Grand-Maud says that later Maud will have her own granddaughter. The thought makes Maud smile. In her dream she lives in an apartment just like Grand-Maud’s and is standing at the doorstep to welcome Maud for a special visit.

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Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

Sara O’Leary’s story about the connection between a grandmother and her granddaughter who share the same name is sweet and endearing. With homey details—a homemade nightgown, breakfast for dinner, and especially the wooden chest that always holds a surprise, O’Leary perfectly captures the comforting love and sense of adventure children feel when spending time with their grandparents. The old movies Maud and Grand-Maud watch together, the treasures Grand-Maud passes down to Maud, and the interest Grand-Maud shows in her granddaughter’s future all demonstrate simple but meaningful ways for older and younger generations to share their experiences and build understanding and strong bonds. O’Leary’s straightforward and lovely storytelling, highlighted with realistic dialogue, makes for rich and cuddly story times that can lead to discussions between kids and adults about their own family heritage. Her moving ending charms with a look toward a future of continued family ties.

Kenard Pak’s soft illustrations in warm browns, reds, and blues will enchant readers as they are invited into Grand-Maud’s cozy brownstone apartment to share a sleepover with Maud. Pak alternates between images of the close-knit grandmother and granddaughter, happy to be sitting side by side while sharing meals, memories, and talks of the future, with pages that give children a closer look at their breakfast supper, the enticing wooden chest and past items it has contained, and Maud’s imaginings, including the stories she’ll write, her future children’s bunkbeds, and that childlike idea that the world in the era of black-and-white movies was also black and white.

As snug and as full of love as a hug, Maud and Grand-Maud is a tender book for grandparents and grandkids to read together or for parents and children to cuddle up with whenever they’re missing Grandma. The book would make a favorite read to spark conversations about family history and family stories. Maud and Grand-Maud is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Random House / Penguin Random House Canada, 2020 | ISBN 978-0399554582

Discover more about Sara O’Leary and her books on her website

To learn more about Kenard Pak, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Heritage Treasures Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Family Story Exhibit

 

Every item has a story. A fun and educational way for kids to learn family stories and interact with their own history is for family members to each create an exhibit of favorite or meaningful objects in your home. Tags can tell how each item was obtained, any funny or interesting story that is attached to it, and what it means to the owner. Displaying and talking about the exhibits can be a fun way to spend time together while seeing common objects in a whole new light.

Supplies

  • A number of household 
  • Paper or index cards
  • Marker, pen, or pencil
  • A table, shelf, or other area for display

Directions

  1. To get started help children gather a number of items from around the house to be the subjects of their exhibit. An exhibit can have a theme, such as Travel Souvenirs, or it can contain random items of your child’s choice, like toys, plants, tools, or artwork.
  2. Using the paper or cards, children can create labels for their exhibit items. Older children can write the labels themselves; younger children may need adult help.
  3. Spend a little time relating the story behind each object: where it came from, how long you’ve had it, and when and how it was used in the past. Include any funny or touching memories attached to the item. Or let your child’s imagination run free, and let them create histories for the objects.
  4. When the labels are finished, arrange the items on a table, shelf, or in a room, and let your child lead family members on a tour. You can even share the exhibit with family and friends on FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or other app.

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You can find Maud and Grand-Maud at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Get Ready for New Year’s Eve

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say we’re all happy to be saying goodbye to 2020 and looking forward to 2021 with hope and resolve. A new year offers opportunities for reflection and growth as well as sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong no matter what challenges we face. Today’s book celebrates all three of these parts of life at the New Year or any time.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Año Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

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New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

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You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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