September 9 – It’s Family Meals Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday got its start in 2015 and was designed as a way to support families in enjoying more meals made with fresh ingredients together. Over the years National Family Meals Month™ has gained recognition and grown into a social movement that promotes family bonding and education. Studies show that children who eat meals as a family are happier, less likely to get into trouble, and do better in school. To learn more about the Family Meals Movement and how you can celebrate this month and all year around, visit the Family Meals Movement website.

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore | Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

 

A little girl stands at the stove watching her Nanni stir a big metal pot. She asks her Nanni what’s in the pot and learns that there are seeds inside. How can that be? She wonders. They are the “‘seeds that grew up to vegetables,’” Nanni tells her and then reveals that “‘there are also gardeners in the pot.’” That seems impossible the girl thinks. How can that be? So her grandmother tells her about the gardeners that raised the vegetables, the soil and rain, and the sun, the moon, and the stars that are also in the pot.

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

The little girl is catching on. She sees them all too and can hear the buzz of the bees that “pollinate the flowers, that grow up to be vegetables, planted by the gardeners, with their gentle hands.” She stands on tiptoe to see what else is in the pot. It swirls with the farm workers who “make footprints in the rich soil, carrying boxes full of vegetables to the, delivery trucks, boats, and trains.”

You might think that’s all the pot can hold, but there’s more. There are the merchants who “work in teams to bring the baskets of farm vegetables to the market” and the onlookers, “‘curious to see what they bought.’” The little girl thinks that must be everything, but Nanni takes another look and discovers a bus inside the pot. “‘A BUS, Nan! How can there be a bus inside the pot?’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

This is the bus Nanni took to the market. And what’s more, the bus driver, all the passengers, and everything they passed in all the neighborhoods they drove through on their way to the market are inside the pot too. “‘Wow, Nan!’” the girl exclaims. Could there be anything else? Nanni thinks and then a beaming smile crosses her face. Her granddaughter catches her excitement and asks “‘What, Nanni? What else did you see inside the pot?’”

“‘Love,’” Nan answers. The love of all the grandmothers and mothers who passed the recipe down through the generations just so she could make the soup for her own granddaughter. The little girl wants to learn the recipe too. But Nan tells her she must be able to remember everything that goes into the pot. I do know, the girl assures her. “‘The whole world.’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

Little ones will listen wide-eyed to Hunter Liguore’s whimsical tale that gently educates while building page upon page to a tender climax with plenty of humor along the way. The sweet and playful relationship between the girl and her Nanni will charm children and the idea of how the world is connected will resonate with kids beyond the soup pot and inform their view of the world. Liguore’s dialogue-rich text that reflects the cadences of real conversations with kids makes the story a perfect read aloud.

Juxtaposing illustrations with a retro vibe next to lovely fanciful drawings, Vikki Zhang mirrors the intergenerational theme of the story while more than satisfying readers curiosity about all of the quirky ingredients in Nanni’s soup. Kids are first invited into Nanni’s kitchen, a wonder that combines both old world and modern touches. In three clever illustrations, Zhang imagines the gardeners and a café inhabiting stylized cooking pots, and other “ingredients,” such as farm workers, modes of transportation, and nearby neighborhoods are presented in intricately detailed fantastical watercolors that kids and adults will want to linger over. A final image of Nan and the little girl’s heritage told through photographs, fine china, and jewelry is a loving look at all of the Nan’s, mothers, and daughters who have left a lasting legacy in their recipe.

A beautiful and fun book for adults—and especially grandparents—to share with children, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup would make a meaningful gift and a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Yeehoo Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1953458063

Discover more about Hunter Liguore and her books on her website. You can find a Teaching Guide and Lesson Plan Activity Kit for teachers, homeschoolers, or just to enjoy at home on Hunter’s site here.

To learn more about Vikki Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Meals Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable puzzle?

Souper Maze Puzzle  | Souper Maze Solution!

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You can find The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 8 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? Is there someone new at work or school who could use a friend to show them the ropes or grab lunch with? If so, this month’s holiday gives you the opportunity to reach out and say hi. Instituted a decade ago by the Oddfellows organization in the UK, Friendship Month is a super time to show kindness to those you know and those you don’t—yet!  

All We Need

Written by Kathy Wolff | Illustrated by Margaux Meganck

 

In All We Need, Kathy Wolff and Margaux Meganck work in perfect harmony to show children that happiness resides in simple basics that satisfy our needs while nurturing us and bringing us together. Wolff’s lilting lyrical verses give Meganck a strong framework for her lovely illustrations that follow a group of children and their families from a park to a potluck community dinner. Each of Wolff’s verses are presented on two double-page spreads that invite readers to guess what necessity is being described before they turn the page. These poignant page turns also provide a short beat between around the answer that allows children to think a moment about its importance to them and others.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The book begins in a park with Maganck’s a mother, her toddler, and her daughter who is sitting against a tree and holding a dandelion in the foreground. The long view takes in a fountain splashpad. Wolff reveals, “All we need / is what’s found in the breeze, / in the stillness of nothing, in the rustle of trees, / when we take a deep breath, what’s not seen—but is there . . . / All we need . . ..” Turn the page and a close-up of the girl blowing the dandelion while her brother tries to capture the flying fluff reveals “. . . is air.”

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next page spread takes readers into the splashpad, where children cavort and a little girl is taking a drink break. An Asian mother watches her son enjoying the spray of the fountain. Turn the page and you can almost feel the cooling droplets as the kids revel in their fun. A couple of pages later, it’s time to leave and two families make their way down a city block towards home. Snapshots of the three main families cooking food will pique kids’ curiosity as to what they’re making and where they are going as following pages show them securing the meals for travel.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers discover that they are all going to the same place, and they greet each other with smiles and hugs. The kids help their parents decorate tables with flowers and set up the serving table with plates, bowls, and cups. Maganck’s illustration of the crowd that gathers to enjoy the food and camaraderie as well as Wolff’s appeal “to share” offers a welcome opportunity for readers and adults to talk about what kind of gathering it might be, when they have attended similar events, and what community events mean to them.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A heartening tribute to our universal bonds, All We Need is an eloquent invitation to appreciate life’s simple gifts and build community around them. The book would be a stirring addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1619638747

Discover more about Kathy Wolff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Margaux Meganck, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Friendship Month Activity

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Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures

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You can find All We Need at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 6 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month on Middle Grade Monday

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About the Holiday

For young readers there may be nothing more exciting than discovering a new series to fall in love with. Add in magic, danger, laugh-out-loud humor, and unique characters kids can really care about and the potion is complete. Today’s book is just such a wonder – enchanting for reading on one’s own or for exciting family story times.

Review by Jakki Licare

The Hatmakers

By Tamzin Merchant | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Synopsis

 

On a stormy night, Cordelia Hatmaker is woken up to learn that the family boat, the Jolly Bonnet, has sunk and none of the crew – not even her hearty father, Captain Prospero Hatmaker– has survived. Knowing her father has survived worse at sea, Cordelia doesn’t believe her father is really gone and is determined to find him. Despite the family’s tragedy, the Hatmakers must present the Concentration Hat to King George to help him focus on signing France’s peace treaty. When they arrive at the palace, they find King George standing on the throne baaing like a sheep. A doctor dismisses the Concentration Hat and declares the king unwell. King George is sent away to the seaside to recover. Cordelia asks the Princess if she’d spare a ship to search for her father, but Lord Witloof, the royal family’s advisor, claims they can’t spare any ships since France threatens to go to war. The Princess commissions the Hatmakers to Make a Peace Hat and it must be ready in three days for her meeting with the King of France.

After learning that the Jolly Bonnet’s cabin boy has been found alive, Cordelia sneaks out to meet him. He hands her her father’s telescope before passing out. Rolled up inside the telescope, Cordelia finds a piece of paper that has had its ink washed away.

Cordelia’s family is summoned to the Guildhall, a place where all the Makers used to Make and create outfits together. All the Makers have had their Peace Clothes stolen except for the Watchmakers. The Makers accuse each other of stealing, even Cordelia’s best friend, Goose Bootmaker, accuses her of stealing their Peace Boots since he found Cordelia’s handkerchief in his family’s workshop.

Cordelia is determined to clear her name. She stakes out the Watchmaker’s house and discovers her neighborhood’s friendly newspaper boy sneaking in. She catches up with him and he confesses that he has been blackmailed by a mysterious man. The newspaper boy hides Cordelia when the mysterious man arrives. Cordelia notices that the blackmailer has WW embellishments on his shoes. The mysterious man takes the Peace Watch from the newspaper boy and then locks him in a trunk. After the blackmailer leaves, Cordelia frees the newspaper boy and they sneak out together.

When Cordelia gets home, she finds her whole family being arrested. Cordelia reunites and makes up with Goose and together with her family’s cook and the newspaper boy, they Make a Peace Hat. But when Cordelia presents the Peace Hat to the Princess, Lord Witloof accuses Cordelia of making an attempt to assassinate the Princess. That’s when Cordelia notices Lord Witloof’s shoes also have WW on them. Cordelia convinces the Princess that Lord Witloof is a traitor, but Lord Witloof puts a Hideous Crown on the Princess’s head which stops the Princess in her tracks. 

Cordelia is able to escape and the newspaper boy makes Cordelia exchange clothes with him. When he gives Cordelia his hat, all of “his” long hair comes spilling out of it. The newspaper girl then pretends to be Cordelia and allows herself to get captured by the police while Cordelia hides.

Cordelia, Goose, and some other friends sneak into the Peace talks. Lord Witloof puts Rage Clothes on the Princess, and she starts insulting the King of France. After a struggle, Cordelia pulls off all the Rage Clothes from the Princess and the Princess apologizes to the French King. He accepts and they both decide to sign the peace treaty. Lord Witloof tries to fire a cannon at the King of France because he wants to start a war so he can sell cannons, but Cordelia knocks him overboard.

The Princess declares all the Makers who were imprisoned free and King George, who Lord Witloof had imprisoned, is set free as well. Cordelia realizes that the King is wearing dangerous magical shoes that make him act crazy and she pulls them off. The King is relieved to be back to normal and throws a party for the Makers at the Guildhall. After receiving a medal, Cordelia announces that she thinks The Makers should all work together. That night Cordelia discovers her father drew her a map in magical ink that can only be seen in starlight. Her father may still be alive after all….

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2021, text copyright Tamzin Merchant, 2021. Courtesy of W. W. Norton.

Review

 

Tamzin Merchant’s fantastical London showcases her whimsical and elegant storytelling style. Steeped in adventure, humor, and friendship The Hatmakers is a magical read for all lovers of fantasy. This story follows some real historical events, including King George III and his issues with France, but also weaves in fantastical plot points, such as King George III “going mad” from wearing addleskin snake boots. 

Merchant’s characters really pop off the page with their variety of personalities. Cordelia’s tenacity and feistiness carry through the narration and bring home the fact that she will follow her heart no matter what. Even though her family hates the Bootmaker family, Cordelia never allows their prejudice to ruin her friendship with Goose Bootmaker. And even when no one believes her father is alive, Cordelia never stops searching for him. Merchant’s side characters are just as delightful as her main character from anxious-but-loyal Goose Bootmaker to charismatic Sir Gushforth to stalwart Great Aunt Petronella. Each character adds to the tension of the story while sprinkling humor along their way. 

The magic system is woven through the plot and setting so seamlessly that, like Cordelia, you’ll be begging to go into the Hatmaker workshop too. The Hatmakers Make each hat magical by adding special ingredients. To Make the Peace Hat they use lullwool felt, pax pearl shells, cordial blossoms, and sage ribbons. They then stitch on a rune symbol for peace. But another important aspect of the magic is that it must be balanced. If there is one magical item that is too powerful, it can overwhelm someone and harm them. Cordelia learns this lesson when she Makes a hat for Sir Hugo Gushforth to help him with his stage fright and embellishes his hat with a tail of an upstart crow and a Loquacious Lily. The unbalanced hat causes the actor to jump into scenes he doesn’t belong in and shout monologues to unsuspecting pedestrians.

Middle grade readers will love traipsing around Merchant’s whimsical London from the secret palace passages to the abandoned guildhall filled with its dusty mannequins and stone Maker with a crumbling hat. The Hatmakers workshop alone is a world onto itself with ticklish floorboards, invisible cabinets, and grouchy, toe-tripping hearthrug. The workshop is filled with fascinating ingredients like Dwam Threads, Moonwing Feathers, and Sooth Crystals. And let’s not forget the alchemy parlor where great-aunt Petronella reigns over multicolored fires, crystal lights, and telescopes propped out the windows. I can definitely sympathize with Cordelia who can’t wait for her lessons to end so she can spend the rest of her day in the workshop.        

Parental Considerations: This story contains mild violence. Cordelia also recounts the death of her mother. Additionally, child homelessness is touched upon in this book.

The Hatmakers is a fast-paced, playful read that will make a great addition to your fantasy collection.  If your kids enjoy Jessica Towsend’s Nevermoor and Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic then The Hatmakers is a must read. 

To Learn more about The Hatmakers and its sequel The Mapmakers click here.

Ages 9 – 12

Norton Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1324016038

You can connect with Tamzin Merchant on Twitter.

You can connect with Paola Escobar on Instagram and Twitter.

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You can find The Hatmakers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 1 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

The beginning of a new school year is a terrific time to celebrate Read a New Book Month. Whether the books are recently published or just new to you, there are stories and nonfiction books to fit any subject, to inspire learning, to laugh or cry with, and to share with friends. This month visit your local bookstore and library and stock up on books for everyone in the family! 

Dylan’s Dragon

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse

 

When Dylan was little, he liked to while away his days “playing, doodling, drawing, daydreaming.” He drew spaceships and race cars, dragons and robots. But as he got older, Dylan found there were many more things to do, like karate, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming. And of course there was lots of homework. There wasn’t a moment when Dylan wasn’t doing something. Then one day Dragon showed up at his door wanting to play. But Dylan was just on his way to school. All day long Dylan thought about Dragon. He seemed vaguely familiar, but Dylan couldn’t remember. Dylan planned on playing with Dragon after school, and when he got home they did fly a few circles around the yard, but then it was time for his piano lesson. 

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, after he gave Dylan a ride to the kitchen, Dylan asked if Dragon would like to play after school. “Dragon stuck out his tongue and slurped oatmeal off Dylan’s cheek, which felt kind of slimy but seemed like a yes.” But they only had a few short minutes before Dylan had to study and then go to science club. Dylan thought Dragon might be able to help with his homework, but Dragon’s flames singed his test review papers.

On the rest of the days that week, Dylan tried to include Dragon, but it just didn’t work out. Finally, the weekend came and Dylan thought they would be able to play then. Dragon “swatted Dylan with his tail, which felt cold and scaly but had to mean yes.” Saturday morning, Dylan jumped out of bed ready to play with Dragon, but his parents reminded him of his baseball game, piano recital, and Aunt Edith’s 90th birthday party. But “when do I get to play?” Dylan asked.

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When Sunday morning rolled around, Dylan woke up and asked his mom, “‘What do we have to do now?'” Surprisingly, Dylan had nothing planned. “‘Just go out and play,'” his mom told him. Dylan cheered and called for Dragon, but he didn’t come. In fact, he was nowhere to be found. “It seemed like Dragon was draGONE.” Dylan looked everywhere, but no dragon. Dylan began to cry. 

When his mom asked him what was wrong, Dylan told her about Dragon and wanting to play and never having enough time. “‘Sounds like we need to cut back,'” his mom said. Then she told him she’d help look for Dragon. As Dylan was drawing a picture of Dragon to show his mom, when he remembered where he’d seen Dragon before – in his old drawings from when he was little.

As he carried his drawing downstairs to show his mom, it began to steam. “It smoked… then POOF popped Dragon, right into the living room. This time when Dylan asked if he wanted to play, Dragon wrapped a wing around him in a hug that “was most definitely a yes!”

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Annie Silvestro’s creative storytelling is both whimsical and realistic as she reminds readers about the importance of balance between activities, school, and free time in children’s schedules. When the dragon, a favorite drawing from Dylan’s preschool or kindergarten days, appears to rescue him and his harried family, many kids (and adults) may identify with Dylan’s desire for a more relaxed lifestyle. Silvestro’s dialogue rings true as Dylan’s parents call him from snatched moments of play and Dylan pleads for just ten more minutes. Dylan’s mom’s recognition of the need to cut back on some of her son’s activities sets a good example, and Silvestro’s message that imagination and creativity make beneficial playmates is reassuring.

Ben Whitehouse’s vivid illustrations cleverly depict the dichotomy between Dylan’s desire for playtime and his over-scheduled routine as images of Dylan riding and playing with his Dragon are juxtaposed with his mom and dad indicating that it’s time to go to one activity after another. Well-marked calendars, a tablet, watches and clocks, lots of sticky note reminders, and equipment for various extracurricular activities at the ready crowd the family’s home – fitting images for the dizzying swirl of appointments that must also crowd Dylan and his parents’ minds. While Dylan’s room is decorated with his many interests, Whitehouse shows that it is his long-lost love of drawing and imagination that truly makes him happy.

A clever and engaging story about recapturing the simple pleasures of free time and playtime, Dylan’s Dragon can also spark conversations between adults and kids about how much is too much and finding that happy medium. A perfect book to share at home, especially as the new school year begins, Dylan’s Dragon would be an excellent addition to home bookshelves as well as school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807517420

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ben Whitehouse, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

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You can find Dylan’s Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Celebrating Family Fun Month with Ellen Mayer

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Ellen Mayer is a writer with a background in early childhood and parent education. She has worked as a researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, studying family engagement in children’s learning. She has also worked as an early literacy home visitor with a diverse community of families, supporting young children in early language development through book sharing and play. Ellen held a writing fellowship for Math Picture Book Authors, from the Heising-Simons Foundation, and is a visiting author with the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative of the Somerville, MA Public Schools. Her books include picture books Rosa’s Very Big Job and Cake Day as well as her Small Talk Books series, which includes A Fish to Feed, Red Socks, Clean Up, Up, Up, Banana for Two, and Twinkle, Twinkle Diaper You. Ellen writes her children’s books to entertain and educate both children and the adults who read to them. She holds an M.Phil. in Sociology from Columbia University.

You can discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as activities for kids to accompany all of her books on her website. You can also connect with Ellen on Facebook and Twitter.

Hi Ellen! It’s so great to have you join in on my summer interviews, especially because this is a really exciting time for you! Your books for the youngest readers consistently make “Best of” lists and win awards. Your work before becoming an author centered around families and literacy and your books really show the kinds of caring connections that build strong bonds and learning skills. The two careers seem perfect for you, who I know as someone who is a wonderful friend and loves to bring people together. As summer winds down, I wonder if you’d share a special childhood memory with readers.

One of my favorite memories is pulling a wagon with real human cargo the length of a long dirt driveway through the deep woods, wearing no shoes, during a hot New Hampshire summer. That was one of the most gratifying summer things this seven-year-old did!

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Each summer my family and another spent our vacation in New Hampshire in two houses on the same road. We were brought together because our mothers were friends from high school and our fathers were friends from college. Between our families there were five children ranging in age from one to seven, and I was the oldest. Halfway down the road, the woods broke to a clearing where my father grew sunflowers. I was in charge of managing and operating round-trip wagon rides to “Sunflower Stop.” When we reached Sun Flower Stop, my passengers invariably alighted to stop and look up in awe at the sunflowers, and I got a much-needed rest.

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When it was time for my family to return home to New York City and our friends to Boston after three long summer vacation months, I pulled my wagon into the back of the garage until the next summer. I don’t remember whether I got to take this sunflower back with me, but I like to think that I did.

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What a fun and fantastic story! Those must have been amazing summers. Thanks so much for sharing that special memory with us!

I’m excited to get to your books because your latest board book, Twinkle, Twinkle Diaper You!, recently received a national award from the Carnegie Library, which named it one of the Best Books for Babies for 2021! Carnegie Library chose the books on their list because the librarians “believe they offer something special to babies and their grown-ups and will delight and engage babies age birth through 18 months and the adults who care for them.” This is a great description of your Small Talk Books®, which always offer ways for adults and kids to play and learn together while looking forward to a bright future.

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Ellen Mayer’s newest addition to her Small Talk Books® series is a charming story that little ones will eagerly respond to and which can help parents turn diaper time into a joyful experience full of opportunities for language and literacy development. Mayer’s clever take on the kid-favorite Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, is infectious and fun for adults to sing while reading with their baby and while diapering. Sweet endearments, playful words, and even a tummy kiss realistically reflect the loving relationship parents and caregivers share with their little ones.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Children love and respond positively to routine, and the frequency of diaper changing makes this one of babies’ first familiar experiences. Adding parental conversation, songs, smiles, and mirroring of the child’s sounds, expressions, and motions to the dedicated time diapering takes creates a rich educational environment for baby to listen to caregivers and begin the basic foundations of language learning.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s bright illustrations, sprinkled with silver stars that glitter on the page, will delight little readers. Her clean lines and soothing color palette create a pleasing backdrop to familiar details that give adults plenty to point out and name while reading. The centerpiece of each page is the relationship between mother and child and reflects actions, such as making eye and physical contact, that enhance a child’s learning and self-confidence. Hu’s adorable baby giggles and belly laughs as Mama smiles and talks lovingly while changing and then cuddling her little one. The appearance of the baby’s big sister (perhaps still using diapers herself, or recently transitioned to underwear), makes this a book that will appeal to a wide range of ages. The final spread of the baby’s family reading and cuddling together is heartwarming.

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In ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! the story is charmingly translated into Spanish by Eida Del Risco. Spanish verses share two-page spreads with the English translation, providing a rich reading experience for native Spanish speakers, bilingual families, and those parents interested in teaching their children Spanish.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A Note for Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers by Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on language and literacy development in young children, is also included in each book. The note reveals the important connection between talking, singing, and playing with babies and their language learning. Bardige goes on to provide tips for interacting with your child and following their cues as well as for how to share this book with little ones.

Ages Birth – 3

Star Bright Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1595728937 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595728944 (Spanish/English bilingual edition)

Read my full review of Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! here.

You can find Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-MillionBookshop | IndieBound

You can find ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! here

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

Storytelling Math Board Books

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Clean Up, Up, Up! 

¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

In Clean Up Up Up!, the concept of spatial relations is organically introduced to toddlers through the motions and words used while putting items in their proper place, stepping up on a stool to use something out of the child’s reach, and even when eating. Research shows that talking with children at all ages about math concepts such as positions and locations improves their understanding and leads to better success in school and beyond.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

The loving relationship between father and child in Mayer’s early language development book A Fish to Feed, is expanded on here as the same interracial family enjoys clean-up and dinner time. The engaging dialogue between Daddy, Mommy, and their toddler will captivate young readers and inspire adults to continue the story in their own daily lives.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s adorable toddler giggles and plays while soaking up the rich language of positions and locations that the father clearly points to while cleaning up. Little readers will be charmed by the enthusiastic child and the little puppy that follows along. Images of books, toys, washing up, and dinnertime all demonstrate the positions and locations referred to in the story, while other details provide an opportunity for adults and children to expand on the text (the fish from A Fish to Feed swims inside its bowl and balls sit inside a bin, for example). Hu’s vivid colors as well as the smiles and enthusiasm with which Daddy, Mommy, and their child interact make Clean Up, Up, Up! a feel-great educational read.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers from childhood education expert Susan C. Levine on how they can find opportunities to talk about spatial relations during everyday activities is included.  Gender neutral clothing and hairstyle as well as an absence of pronouns makes this a universal story.

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Clean Up, Up, Up! is also available in a bilingual Spanish/English edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! translated byAudrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos

Ages 1 – 3

Star Bright Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1595728012 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595727589 (Spanish/English edition)

Read my full review of Clean Up, Up, Up! here.

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Sing Along!

Adults will have fun sharing “Wash Up, Up, Up!,” a song inspired by the story, with little ones as they wash their hands! The lyrics are also available for download and printing. Listen and sing along here:

“Wash Up, Up, Up!” 

You can find Clean Up, Up, Up! at these booksellers

AmazonBooks-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

You can find ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! here

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

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A Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Dad plans a fun trip into town with his young child to buy a pet fish. He says, we will get “‘a fish to swim in our bowl. A fish we can look at and feed.’” The pair are excited to go together and have time to “‘walk…and talk.’” The two head out and soon pass a store. In the window the child sees a T-shirt with the picture of a fish on it and points. “‘Look—fish! Fish! Fish!’” Dad reinforces the observation using complete sentences that model conversation and increase his child’s vocabulary—“‘Yes, I see the fish on the T-shirt too.’” He further explains: “‘That’s a fish to wear, not a fish to swim in our bowl.’”

As Dad and his toddler visit other stores, the child finds more fish on a backpack, toys, and other items. When they get to the pet store, the child is excited to find a fish that swims. They take the goldfish home, where it swims happily in their bowl. They’ve found a pet they “‘can love and feed.’”

 
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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s story of a dad and his child out for an afternoon together as they look for a pet to love offers adults and children a sweet way to spend time with one another. The story, set in the familiar environments of home and stores and revolving around a close parent-child relationship, will engage even the youngest readers. The back-and-forth conversation between Dad and his child as they shop models ways in which adults can follow a child’s lead while providing language and literacy development. 

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations are vibrant and joyful. When Dad bends down to be at eye-level with his toddler as they talk, the close bond between them is obvious in their smiling and laughing faces. The shops are full of colorful toys, clothes, backpacks, and other items that will capture kids’ attention. Spending time looking at each page allows adults and children to point at the various items, name them, and talk about them.

A Fish to Feed contains die-cut holes in the pages that kids will love peering through as they shop along on this adventure to find a special pet.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727077 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595727589 (Spanish/English edition)

Read my full review of A Fish to Feed here.

You can find A Fish to Feed at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

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You can find Un pez para alimentar/A Fish to Feed at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

A Sneak Peek at the next  Small Talk Books® Storytelling Math Board Book, Yellow, Red, Green – GO!

 The third book in the Small Talk Books® series (joining Banana for Two and Clean Up, Up, Up!) to focus on math talk, Yellow, Red, Green – GO!  is based upon work supported in part by TERC under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation for the Storytelling Math project.

Yellow, Red, Green – GO! features the math of patterns for children ages 1-3 and welcomes back the interracial family from A Fish to Feed and Clean Up, Up, Up! In the story Mommy and her child bicycle through their neighborhood to Grandma’s house and, along the way, discover lots of patterns – from the traffic lights that each change from yellow, to red, and then to green – to the windows, lights, and doors on each of the row houses on Grandma’s block.

Yellow, Red, Green – GO!, illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu, releases in Spring, 2022 in English as well as in a bilingual Spanish/English edition.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-cover You can read a review of Cake Day and find a delicious recipe to make here

 

 

 

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Find my review of Rosa’s Very Big Job and paper dolls of the characters plus clothes and accessories to download and print here.

 

 

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Read my full review of Banana for Two and find a fun shopping game to play with little ones here.

 

 

 

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You’ll find my full review of Red Socks and a fun matching puzzle to do with little ones here.

Family Fun Month Activity

CPB - Playhouse craft

Come Inside! Playhouse

 

Kids love pretending with their toys in playhouses. With this craft you and your child can make a playhouse with recycled items and lots of imagination. While making the house, talk with your child about the building process using spatial relation words and ask for their ideas on what it should look like.

Once finished, you and your child can make up stories using words that use spatial relations as characters come in the house, go out of the house, peek in or out of a window, sit on the roof, wait under the window, sit next to a friend while having tea, and so much more!

Supplies

  • Cardboard box
  • Craft paint
  • Markers
  • Glue

Plus Recycled items, such as:

  • Bottle caps for door knobs,
  • Small boxes for a chimney
  • Use the cardboard cut from the windows to make shutters
  • Scraps of cloth for curtains

 

August 24 – Celebrating Family Fun Month with Tara Knudson

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Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. Christmas Cookie Day, Easter Egg Day, and Valentine’s Day Treats are all part of Tara’s collected works celebrating a childlike approach to beloved holiday celebrations.

You can connect with Tara Knudson on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, Tara! I’m happy to be celebrating Family Fun Month with you since your books always invite kids and their families to enjoy the seasons together at home, with friends, and on special outings. You always include some kind of hands-on element to your books – either recipes, tips, or touch-and-feel pages – to get kids and adults spending extra time together. It makes me wonder if your previous job or jobs have influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write?

One of my favorite books when I was a child was Richard Scarry’s BEST WORD BOOK EVER. I remember sitting in a big chair and reading as many words as I could. I loved to learn and play school when I was younger, so it’s no surprise that later I became a teacher. I was a teacher for many years before becoming an author. I taught Spanish to K-12 students and math to elementary students in Chicago. I also taught English to middle school students in Barcelona, Spain where I lived as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar for a year.

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Given my experience in education, I think my books will always have some teachable moments in them. From making Christmas cookies, to dyeing Easter eggs, or creating a heart-shaped cake from a round cake and a square cake, I like to incorporate fun lessons in my books that early childhood teachers can incorporate into their classroom lessons. 

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In my board books for the youngest readers, little ones can experience the unique sights and sounds of a fall day or a lively parade and learn new words along the way!

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I am excited to be able to do in-person author events once again as schools safely welcome back students and teachers again. What a joy it is to teach with my own books! 

Your experiences in the classroom have certainly inspired wonderful books for little ones! Congratulations on your upcoming book Parade Day Fun, which is releasing from Zonderkidz in March 2022! I’m sure little ones will be lining up to bring the excitement of a parade home!

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Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

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

Holiday Books

Kids enjoy getting ready for the holidays with these sweet books by Tara Knudson and Pauline Siewert.

You can find printable coloring pages for each book on Tara’s website.

To connect with Pauline Siewert, visit her on Instagram.

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Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” 

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

You can find Christmas Cookie Day! at these booksellers

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

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Tara Knudson captures the enthusiasm little ones have for expressing their love in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. Of course, Valentines are to share, and readers will be eager to see who gets the little raccoon’s special treats.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

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

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Easter Egg Day

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Little ones love the magic of dyeing Easter eggs, and Tara Knudson’s bright, bouncy rhymes perfectly convey the giggly excitement kids feel during this once-a-year tradition. Readers will eagerly anticipate each step and page turn along the way as the bunnies turn their carton of white eggs into a basket full of creative, colorful treasures. Of course, Easter eggs are made for hiding and finding, and Knudson invites kids to join the bunnies and little moles and mice as they scamper through the yard on this most joyful of all hunts.

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Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With sunny yellows, tender-grass greens, and vibrant oranges, purples, and reds, Pauline Siewert drops kids as gently as an egg into dye into spring and the enchantment of Easter egg fun. White eggs marked with creative crayon designs will give readers a few ideas for their own eggs while the sweet smiles and enthusiasm of the bunny siblings and their parents mirror their own feelings. As the bunnies and their friends dash off to find the eggs, little ones will be just as excited for their own Easter egg traditions.

Adorable and endearing, Easter Egg Day will be a favorite spring read for adults and kids to share before Easter and to remember family fun.

Ages 2 – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310767527

You can find Easter Egg Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 14 – National Garage Sale Day

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About the Holiday

Garage Sale Day was created in 2001 by C. Daniel Rhodes of Alabama, who noticed that his neighbors were holding separate garage sales on different weekends. He decided that it might be convenient and lucrative for sales to be coordinated on the same weekend instead. If you have extra stuff filling up your attic, garage, basement, or cabinets, why not take today’s inspiration to hold or plan a garage or yard sale of your own. If you just feel like getting out or have a shelf, nook, or need that could be filled with a new-to-you item, check out the garage sales in your area and make a day of it!

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

From the first words—“Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard”—readers realize that this is no ordinary yard sale. A little girl sits on the front porch of her tidy house gazing out sadly at the family’s furniture, toys, books, and knick-knacks that are all for sale. The family is moving to a small apartment: “‘Small but nice,’ my mom told me.” The apartment has a secret bed that opens down from the wall “right in the living room.”

When the yard sale opens people stop by to look, “picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.” Even though the items are priced low, people haggle over how much they want to pay. A woman complains that ten dollars is too much for the little girl’s bed because the headboard has crayon marks on it. Watching, Callie now wishes she hadn’t made the marks to show how often she had read Goodnight Moon. Her mother settles for five dollars for the bed.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo,  text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, Callie sees a man loading her bike into a truck and runs to grab it. The man is confused, sorry for taking it, but tells her he has just bought it. Callie’s dad runs over and explains again that the apartment has no place for the bike or sidewalks nearby to ride it on. Callie looks at her dad who seems to have tears in his eyes. “But probably not,” she decides. “My dad doesn’t cry.” She relinquishes the bike, but asks the man, “‘Will you give it back to me when we get our house back?’”

Callie’s best friend, Sara, is waiting for her. The two friends hug and talk about why Callie has to move. “‘I wish you didn’t have to go,’” Sara mutters. “‘Why do you, anyway?’” Callie shrugs. “‘I don’t know. It’s something to do with money.’” They don’t understand what has happened, and Sara offers, “‘I could ask my parents if you could stay with us.’” But Callie’s heart tells her where she belongs. “‘My parents would be lonely,’” she says. “‘…I’d miss my mom and dad.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

The sale continues and people drive away with tables, chairs, and clothing. For a moment, Callie feels important when a man asks her if their large potted geranium is for sale and she directs him to her dad. By the end of the day almost everything is gone. Callie’s mom “looks droopy” and her dad is comforting her. Callie sits dejectedly watching the final things being carried away and thinking that she will give Sara her red heart necklace and invite her to visit their new apartment.

At that moment a woman comes up to Callie and says, “‘Aren’t you just the cutest thing? Are you for sale?’” Callie has a visceral reaction: “A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head.” She runs to her parents, crying. “‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’” Her parents drop what they are doing to hug and reassure Callie that they would “‘not ever ever, ever’” sell her. “‘Not for a million, trillion dollars.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

With everything gone, Callie and her parents go back inside their “almost empty house.” It’s okay, Callie thinks. None of the stuff is important, and it wouldn’t fit in their new place anyway. “But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us.”

For so many children frequent relocations or sudden moves from a home they know is a reality. Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale treats this subject with sensitivity and honest emotion through the eyes of a little girl for whom the change is confusing but ultimately reassuring. Bunting does not stint on either the setting of the yard sale itself, where people quibble over a couple of dollars, or the toll the day takes on the family. Her dialogue always rings true, and her straightforward delivery allows for understanding and for the moments of humor to shine through.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Lauren Castillo’s ink-and-watercolor paintings anchor this emotional story in a homey, loving environment even as they realistically portray the atmosphere of the yard sale. The full range of feelings are apparent in the characters’ faces from sadness and doubt to kindness and acceptance. Children will respond to Callie with her earnest attempts to understand and feel the comfort and encouragement Callie receives as her parents bend down to talk to her, hold her hand, and give her hugs.

Yard Sale is a poignant story that offers assurance and insight both for children who are facing a move and the friends and classmates who will miss them. The book’s theme is applicable to other daunting circumstances and would be a welcome addition to classroom and local libraries as well as for individuals encountering change.

Ages 4 – 9

Candlewick Press, 2017 (paperback); ISBN 978-0763693053 | 2015 (hardcover); ISBN 978-0763665425

To view more books and artwork by Lauren Castillo, visit her website!

National Garage Sale Day Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

A garage sale is a bit like a treasure hunt. Can you find your way through this printable Garage Sale Maze from the roadside sign to the items for sale? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Yard Sale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review