December 12 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

If you share a home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Meow!

By Victoria Ying

 

A little kitten finds his mom out in the garden planting seeds. He wants to play. “Meow?” he says, holding up a ball of yellow yarn. Next he tries his dad, who’s stirring up a big pot of something delicious on the stove. “Meow?” the little tyke asks.  Everyone seems busy in this house as the kitten’s sister ignores him while she reads her book in the tall-backed, polka dotted chair.

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

“Mrreow…,” the disappointed kitten says. He begins to unwind the ball of yarn. If no one will play with him, he will show everyone how much fun they are missing (and maybe how upset he is too). Trailing yarn behind him, the kitten winds his way through the sitting room and around his sister’s chair, tangling yarn over the chandelier, around the flower in its vase, and around the little table it sits on.

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He nearly trips his dad as he carries a plate of snacks across the kitchen and then weaves in and out among the rows of flowers where his mom is working. “Meow!” But when he lassos and nearly knocks over the fishbowl with a loud “MEOOOW!!” everyone comes running. Mom and dad seat their little one in the time-out chair and give him a joint talking to: “Meow!!”

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

The little guy didn’t mean to cause trouble. Are his parents really mad at him? What can he do? “meow…?” He really is sorry, “meow.” Dad and Mom understand. Dad hands his son a yellow cloth to clean up. The kitten mops up the spilled fishbowl water and begins rewinding his ball of yarn. His sister holds the tall chair as he reaches to remove the strings from the chandelier.

Mom lets her son help in the garden, and Dad shows him how to bake and decorate special mouse cookies, “meow!” Big sister scoots over and makes room for her brother in her chair and reads to him. “Meow!” Later the whole family enjoys the cookies and plays Cat’s Cradle with the yarn. After that it’s bath time and teeth-brushing time. Then with kisses and sweet dream wishes—“Meow. Meow…”—it’s bedtime. “purrrrr…”

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Nearly wordless picture books don’t come much more adorable and full of emotion than Victoria Ying’s Meow! With only one syllable and well-placed punctuation, Ying presents the rollercoaster of emotion that little ones can feel when disappointed. Ying’s gauzy, textured illustrations are bright and inviting, and the facial expressions of each character perfectly portray the meaning behind their looks and meows—from hopeful and listening to surprised and frustrated to anger, reconciliation, and resolution.

Images of the family taking time to play with the littlest one are heartwarming and demonstrate a touching solution for restoring household harmony while showing children that they are loved and important.

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Meow! is a sweet and meaningful story that even the youngest readers will understand and appreciate. A dramatic reading of the various emotions involved in each “meow” as well as a bit of discussion and an invitation for little ones to read along can promote empathy and give children a voice for those feelings that are sometimes so hard to describe. Meow! would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062440969

Discover more about Victoria Ying, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These playful kittens have gotten separated from their twin. Can you match them up again in this printable Match the Kitten Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

December 3 – It’s a Supermoon

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate not so much a holiday as an event—the Supermoon! Today’s full moon will be the only supermoon to occur during the entire year of 2017. What makes tonight’s moon special? A supermoon occurs when the full moon coincides with the day on which the moon is closest to the earth. Because of  this proximity it appears larger and reflects more light. According to National Geographic, today’s supermoon will be 16 percent brighter and 7 percent bigger than usual. For star-gazers and night-sky enthusiasts, the supermoon gives you a great (big) reason to get outside and enjoy this autumn evening.

City Moon

Written by Rachael Cole | Illustrated by Blanca Gómez

 

A mother and child take advantage of fall’s early darkness to take a walk around their neighborhood. Cozy in pajamas and a coat, the little one is eager to leave home behind for a bit “to look for the moon.” When they get to the park, where people are out walking their dogs, they gaze into the sky, but the moon “is hiding. Where is it?”

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, they see it rising above the tall buildings. The child points and exclaims “Oh…there it is! The moon!” They watch it as people pass on their way home from work. As they continue on their way, the moon disappears. The child sees “glittery dots in the sky” and wonders if those are also moons. “‘Theyre stars,’ says Mama. Oh, stars.”

As they turn the corner around the fruit and vegetable stand, the moon appears again. But is it a different moon, the little one wonders. Mama explains that there is only one moon. “Oh, the same moon,” the child understands. At the crosswalk, the child sees the moon in a puddle. Could it have fallen in? Mama tells her curious child that it is the moon’s reflection. “Oh…a reflection.”

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They cross the street and the moon vanishes again. Here the street is busier, with people rushing home, busses and cars zooming by, and a fire engine wailing as it speeds along. They join the throng, keeping their eyes on the sky, but the moon is nowhere to be seen. Then, a little farther on, “there it is. Bright and light and round and glowing.” They “stop and look.”

The child is mesmerized by the moon, but “why doesn’t everyone look?” Mama says that they are busy. In the windows they can see people cooking dinner, reading, and playing. Others jog and stroll on the sidewalk, while still others ride bikes home after a long day. Mama bends down and whispers, “‘And it is also time for us to go to bed.’” They head home and once more see the moon, full and bright. 

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

It plays hide-and-seek peeking out from its hiding place behind a cloud just as the little one becomes too sleepy to walk along. Mama carries her child home, to their stairs and the stoop. Inside they take off their coats and shoes, and the child is tucked into bed. The full moon shines through the window. “‘Can we keep the curtain open?’” the little one asks before falling asleep in the gentle glow of the natural nightlight.

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Rachael Cole’s delightful evening stroll is the perfect antidote to a busy day. At once lyrical and perceptive, the story is told from the child’s point of view and tenderly reflects all the wonder and magic that children find in being outside at night. Young readers will revel in the precise observations and step-by-step chronicle of the mother and child’s walk. The playful game of hide-and-seek from page to page will enchant little ones. Cole’s lovely language also echoes the way children learn—by asking questions, repeating new words and ideas, and taking time to stop and see.

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Blanca Gómez infuses City Moon with exquisite illustrations that are as genuine and nuanced as life itself. The rhythms and habits of diverse city life and depicted with meticulous care in stylish vignettes rendered in a sophisticated and textured palette. A variety of perspectives bring the post-working day hustle and bustle close while hinting at the quieter comfort to come. Readers—both children and adults—will love peeking in the windows to see what people are up to.  With so much to see and experience,

A warm hug that embraces family and neighborhood, City Moon gives readers so much to see and experience during leisurely bedtime or daytime story times. The story will also inspire families to take similar evening walks. City Moon is highly recommended as a wonderful  gift and a must for any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553497076

Discover more about Rachael Cole, her books, and her work on her website.

To learn more about Blanca Gómez and her artwork, visit her website.

Supermoon Day Activity

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Gazing at the Moon Maze

The moon is super bright! Can you follow the sight line from the telescope to the moon to see it in this printable Gazing at the Moon Maze? Here’s the Solution.

November 27 – Pins and Needles Day

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About the Holiday

Originally established to celebrate the pro-labor Broadway play Pins and Needles that opened in 1937 on this date, today’s holiday has come to commemorate that pins-and-needles nervous or excited feeling that certain events cause. That electric anticipation is especially experienced at this time of year and is often the lead-in to momentous achievements—as today’s book shows!

Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

 

Today was the day! Jabari was going to jump off the diving board at the local swimming pool. Sure, the board “was high and maybe a little scary,” but Jabari had taken swimming lessons and passed his test, and he was ready. “‘I’m a great jumper,’ said Jabari, ‘so I’m not scared at all.’” As he and his dad approached the pool, Jabari watched other kids springing into the air from the diving board and plunging into the water below.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-at-the-pool

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

“‘Looks easy,’ Jabari said. But when his dad squeezed his hand, Jabari squeezed back.” Jabari stopped at the base of the ladder and looked up, up, up. He let the other kids in line go ahead of him while he thought about “what kind of special jump” he was going to do. Pretty soon he was the only one left at the ladder.

Jabari climbed up rung after rung. Part way up, he realized just how tall the ladder really was. When his dad asked him if he was all right, Jabari told him he was a little tired. His dad suggested “a tiny rest.” Jabari backed down, and when he got to the ground, he decided he needed to stretch. After loosening up, he and his dad looked at the diving board again. “‘I think tomorrow might be a better day for jumping,’ Jabari said.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-stretching

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jabari’s dad knelt down and told his son that he felt scared too sometimes. When that happened, he said, he would take a deep breath and tell himself he was ready. Sometimes he realized he actually was, and it felt “‘a little like a surprise.’” That sounded good to Jabari because he liked surprises. He breathed deeply and began his climb. At the top, he walked to the end of the diving board, grabbed the edge with his toes, and looked down. Then he looked out at the horizon. “He felt like he was ready. ‘I love surprises,’ he whispered.”

He bounced into the air and as the others below waited for him, he jumped. “Jabari hit the water with a SPLASH!” He floated down and then sprang back up. “‘You did it!’” his dad celebrated. “‘I did it!’ said Jabari. ‘I’m a great jumper!’” He ran to the ladder and climbed up for his next dive: a “surprise double backflip.”

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Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Often in life taking big leaps can be scary—for adults as well as kids. Gaia Cornwall’s jubilant story of a little boy working up the courage to try the unknown of the diving board offers both support and comfort. Knowing that his son has it in him to accomplish his goal, Jabari’s dad provides not only the gentle nudge he needs but also the permission to decide on his own when the time is right. Cornwall’s straightforward telling sprinkled with good advice will resonate with children and is applicable for many new experiences.

Cornwall’s watercolor, pencil, and collage illustrations abound in the excitement of a day out with Dad. The loving relationship of the family is evident in their smiles, the way the father squeezes Jabari’s hand and bends down to offer encouragement, and the joyful celebration of both Dad and Jabari’s younger sister after Jabari’s jump. The diverse group of swimmers at the pool play, laugh, and talk together, giving readers much to enjoy on each detailed page. Cornwall’s beautiful palette of blues and greens accented by structures rendered from printed pages of text, highlights the buoyancy of the story.

Jabari Jumps is a wonderful story to add to any child’s or classroom bookshelf for those times when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763678388

Discover more about Gaia Cornwall and her work as well as activity sheets on her website

Jump into this Jabari Jumps book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

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Soothing Sand

 

When you feel nervous or on pins and needles, this easy-to-make kinetic sand can help you relax as the sand slips through your fingers.

Supplies

  • 1 cup of play sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • About ¾ cup of Water or as needed
  • Bin or larger bowl
  • Small bowl

Directions

  1. The amount of water you use will depend on the consistency of the sand
  2. In a bin or bowl, combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  3. In the small bowl combine the dish soap and water and stir until the water is bubbly
  4. Slowly pour some of the water/dish soap mixture into the sand/cornstarch mixture and mix well.
  5. Continue mixing, adding a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

November 23 – Thanksgiving Day

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About the Holiday

While holidays exist all around the world to give thanks for our many blessings, today’s celebration commemorates the traditional American Thanksgiving Day. Its roots go back to 1621 when 50 Pilgrims gathered with 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate the settlers’ surviving the first year in their adopted country. The fourth Thursday in November was not officially recognized as a national holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln, convinced by the letters and appeals by Sarah Josepha Hale (writer of the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), signed the proclamation.

During the Great Depression, president Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday in the month, hoping to jump-start the gift-buying season and thus help the struggling economy. That idea never caught on, though, and the Thanksgiving was moved back to its original calendar spot. To lean more fascinating facts about Thanksgiving, visit allParenting.

Thankful

Written by Eileen Spinelli | Illustrated by Archie Preston

 

When Thanksgiving Day dawns we contemplate the things we are thankful for. Our thoughts often go to the large, all-encompassing ideas: we’re thankful for our families, our friends, our jobs. But Eileen Spinelli points out those smaller, concrete, more personal things that make us happy or make life better in immeasurable ways. To begin, “The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes. The reporter is thankful for interesting news.”

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Gardeners are happy when their crops begin to grow, and firemen are glad when the fire goes out. “The poet is thankful for words that rhyme. The children for morning story time.” Without color and light, the artist could not paint, doctors give thanks “when their patients get well,” and travelers are thankful when they find a nice place to stay. Dancers give thanks for music that inspires them, and tailors for their sewing machines.

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Chefs are happy when diners clean their plates, the honey maker for the busy bees, and the sailor for his “sturdy boat.” “The birder is thankful to list a new bird. The pastor is thankful for God’s loving word.” Crafters? Well, they’re “thankful for glitter and glue.” And the reader, the listener? They’re “ever so thankful for you!”

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Eileen Spinelli’s endearing story of thanks for all of the objects, ideas, actions, and feelings that make every person unique and each situation just a little bit better is a heartfelt reminder of life’s joys for Thanksgiving Day and every day of the year. Her easy-flowing, rhyming verses depict a wide range of particular moments and broader experiences—each of which make the world a richer place. The final pages reveal what every little reader wants to hear and share—the mutual love between parent and child.

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Archie Preston accompanies each couplet with a humorous illustration starring two adorable siblings playing out each scenario. Preston’s colorful, detailed line drawings show all the industrious, playful, and thoughtful togetherness that makes children and adult readers thankful for every day.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2015 |ISBN 978-0310000884 (Hardcover); 978-0310761402 (Board Book, 2017)

Discover more about Eileen Spinelli and her many books on her website.

Thanksgiving Activity

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Thanksgiving Tree Activity Page

 

There are so many things to be thankful for! Fill in the leaves on this printable Thanksgiving Tree Activity Page with the things you’re thankful for then color the page!

Picture Book Review

November 17 – Homemade Bread Day

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About the Holiday

As the holiday season approaches and with Thanksgiving Day right around the corner, it’s time to think about homemade goodies. One of the most satisfying treats is homemade bread, with its dense and yeasty deliciousness. Served warm out of the oven with a bit of butter or sliced for sandwiches or toast later, homemade bread is a luxury worth making. Celebrate today’s holiday by checking out some bread recipes and spending a bit of time in the kitchen with loved ones baking bread. It may be all you knead to make this Thanksgiving and holiday season the best ever!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe box

My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe-cards

Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

Picture Book Review

November 16 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

Vacation began on Monday. So did the rain. Harry and Clare decided to go to Mars. After all it was only as far away as the family room and looked quite the same—“except for the volcanoes” that spouted lava all over the rug. Harry found traversing the alien landscape harder than Clare. He had to carry all the luggage while she carried the snacks; and while Clare ate the snacks, Harry was busy drowning in quicksand.

Tuesday dawned gray and rainy. Fortunately, Harry and Clare “could ride a Pasta Linguini racer around an indoor course in the supermarket.” The field was fierce, and Harry told Clare to turn left, but Clare didn’t listen. “‘I’m driving,’” she said. “Following a dizzying skid through the frozen food, Clare let Harry park them in the checkout line.” And while Harry was hanging on tight with both hands as Clare directed, she ate both of their granola bars.

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Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The downpour continued on Wednesday. The pool seemed the perfect respite, but just as Harry was about to transform into a dolphin doing spectacular dives, “he was captured by a pirate queen who made him walk the plank instead.” Harry’s fortunes only turned bleaker when later that day Teacher Clare caught Harry eating his snack during lessons and sent him to the principal’s office.

Unfortunately, the principal looked a lot like Clare, and she passed a stiff sentence: “‘People who eat during arithmetic are not allowed to eat at all.’” Suddenly, Harry had an idea, but the principal—who mumbled through a mouthful—told him not to speak. Harry was not to be so easily dismissed, however.

As soon as the principal released him, he grabbed a snack and headed up High Staircase Mountain. When he heard the Abdominal Snowman close at his heels, he quickly hid the cookies in his pocket. At dinner, Harry was able to sneak more provisions into his pocket and keep them safe as he performed a high-wire trapeze trampoline act on the couch and jumped through hoops for Clare the Lion Tamer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-hippo

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

On Thursday the sun finally came out, and Harry and Clare took a jungle tour. The jungle “looked a lot like the park, except for the vines and wild animals.” As they ran through the thick vegetation, Clare and Harry avoided umpire bats and leaped over sandbox hippos on their search for a “‘sunken ship guarded by a monster octopus.’” All this time Harry held on to the idea he’d had.

Then, just as they were being threatened by elephant hummingbirds, Clare realized they’d forgotten to bring snacks and said they’d have to turn their dragons around and go back. Harry, however, simply climbed off his bike dragon and pulled a baby carrot from his pocket. Clare was nonplussed. “‘Where did you get that?’” she wanted to know, but Harry just took something else from his stash and continued munching.

“‘Is that a cookie?’ Clare asked. Harry swallowed. ‘Asteroid burger,’ he said….‘I have asteroid burgers and volcano sticks.’” Clare listened to her grumbling stomach and accepted some of both. She even accepted Harry’s idea that the treasure was in a cave under a mountain as long as an octopus monster still guarded it.

Harry and Clare played for hours. Harry discovered “prehistoric park-bench dinosaur skeletons,” and Clare dispersed a group of squirrel sharks. On the way home Harry and Clare split the “last of the volcano sticks and asteroid burgers. They made a nice combination.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-playground

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In his imaginative tale of a rainy school staycation, Ted Staunton captures the sibling power structure with wit and wisdom. Readers will appreciate Harry and Clare’s daily—almost moment-to-moment—inventiveness that mirrors children’s supple imaginations. As a younger brother, Harry bears the brunt of Clare’s bossiness, but in the process begins to grasp where the real clout lies. By biding his time, he quietly advocates for himself and changes the dynamics to both of the children’s benefit. Staunton’s funny dialogue and situations ring true, as do the clever uses of everyday items and places to spur the siblings’ creativity. The final line offers a sweet future for this loveable brother and sister.

Mika Song ingeniously transcribes Harry and Clare’s imaginings into action-packed illustrations full of personality. The sibling relationship unfolds through humorous scenes and animated facial expressions. Harry sinks in bubbling lava while Clare eats snacks at a safe distance; Harry and Clare get caught behind an elderly “racecar” driver in the grocery store: Harry is pulled up short by his changing fortunes on the diving board; and Teacher Clare teeters in her mother’s shoes. Song’s fresh color palette lends an open, airy feeling to the story, and her adorable siblings make for exciting companions for readers any day.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation would be a cute addition to any child’s bookshelf for story times and to spur imaginative play. The book could also be a great jumping off point for discussions of empathy and understanding between siblings and/or friends.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

Discover more about Ted Staunton and his books on his website!

You’ll find a portfolio of artwork, comics, and books by Mika Song on her website!

Family Stories Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-printable-snakes-and-ladders-game

Snakes and Ladders Game

 

Family game night is a great place to create memories that become future stories! Here’s a printable Snakes and Ladders game for you to enjoy! Just watch out for that green snake!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the board game template
  2. Determine which player goes first by rolling the die. The player with the highest roll goes first.
  3. The first player rolls the die and moves along the game board, starting at square 1, the number of spaces indicated on the die.
  4. Other players take turns rolling the die and moving along the board.
  5. The first player to reach square 100 is the winner

Ladders: When a player lands on a space with the bottom of a ladder in it, the player moves up to the space at the top of the ladder and continues to play from there.

Snakes: When a player lands on a space with the head of a snake in it, the player slides down to the space with the snake’s tail in it and continues to play from there.

Picture Book Review

November 12 – It’s National Sleep Comfort Month

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About the Holiday

Did you sleep well last night? A good sleep makes all the difference in our quality of life. Many things affect our sleep patterns, including room temperature, light, screen time, stress, and the comfort of our mattress and pillows. If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are some things you can do. Get exercise each day, limit screen time in the hours before bedtime, set a comfortable temperature, and have a nightly routine that is soothing and invites relaxation and finally, sleep. National Sleep Comfort Month is the perfect time to make sure you’re taking care of your night life too!

Piggies in Pajamas

Written by Michelle Meadows | Illustrated by Ard Hoyt

 

It’s bedtime for the little piggies, but Papa isn’t home yet and Mama’s on the phone. So the five rambunctious kids find ways to spend the time. A peek into their room finds “Piggies in pajamas / jumping in the air / tossing up the pillows / popcorn in their hair.” The quadruple bunk beds make tall mountains to climb and perfect platforms for jumping into the ocean, but as the piggies dive onto the soft, pillow “water,” they hear Mama’s footsteps in the hall.

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Image copyright Ard Hoyt, text copyright Michelle Meadows, 2013. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The piggies “hurry to the tunnel. / Everybody, hide. / Underneath the covers, snuggle deep inside.” Soon all seems quiet, so they tiptoe from their beds to spy on Mama. They’re happy to see that she’s still occupied, leaving the tracks clear for the piggie train to toot, toot across the floor. But Mama, in her curlers, hears a suspicious sound and stomp, stomp, stomps upstairs.

Once more the five siblings rush to their beds and pull up the covers, their ears trained on any sound from downstairs. A familiar “crick, creak” tells them that Mama is now sitting down and chatting with Mrs. Cat. “Piggies in pajamas, / whirl around the room. / Cartwheels and somersaults— / Boom, Boom, Boom!” All that noise brings Mama stomp, stomp, stomping, but when she opens the piggies’ door, they’re all snuggled in and quiet as mice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-piggies-in-pajamas-parade

Image copyright Ard Hoyt, text copyright Michelle Meadows, 2013. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

One sneaky eye watches Mama as she descends the stairs on her way to the kitchen for an evening snack. In moments, the little ones are up again and searching through the trunk for toys and cars and dress-up clothes. Just then at the window they hear a “scratch, scratch, tap, tap” and although it’s only a tree branch waving in the wind, the imagined wolf or fox or bear has left them shivering.

One by one, all in a line they grab their blankets and crawl down the hall to a new cozy bed. While Mama’s washing up her face, they cuddle in and start to snooze. Soon, “Mama sees their pink ears. / Tails are sticking out. / Mama climbs into bed and / kisses every snout. / ‘Good night, piggies!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-piggies-in-pajamas-kisses

Image copyright Ard Hoyt, text copyright Michelle Meadows, 2013. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The little piggies in Michelle Meadow’s sweet story want to do the right thing, but it’s just so exciting to stay up late! Readers know how they feel and will giggle along as the piggies romp when Mama’s gone but fly into bed when they hear her stomps. Meadow’s jouncy rhyme captures the freewheeling antics of unsupervised kids, the delicious suspense of getting caught, and the endearing appeal for comfort when kids are scared or truly ready to drift into dreams.

Ard Hoyt’s energetic piggies know how to make the most of Mama’s inattention! Bouncing on the bed with their popcorn snack, climbing a rope made of sheets to the top of the bedpost “mountain,” and strutting down the hall in a piggie train, these five siblings are as cute as can be. Hoyt’s split pages show both the expressive siblings and Mama as they go about their nightly routines, acting and interacting on the sounds they hear. The soft colors, humorous details, and final spreads of the piglets in Mama’s bed, tell readers that despite all the shenanigans, this is a house full of love.

Piggies in Pajamas would quickly become a bedtime favorite and a welcome addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Simon & Schuster, 2013 | ISBN 978-1416949824

Discover more about Michelle Meadows and her books as well as teachers activities on her website!

You can learn more about Ard Hoyt and view a gallery of his books on his website!

National Sleep Comfort Month Activity

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Sweet Dreams, Teddy! Coloring Page

 

The teddy bear in this printable Sweet Dreams, Teddy! Coloring Page is fast asleep and watched over by a silvery moon. Grab some crayons and have a little fun before going off to bed!

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review