May 24 – National Brother’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we take time to celebrate brothers! Whether you grew up with a brother (or a few) or have a friend you love like a brother, today’s holiday gives you a terrific reason to get in touch, relive some old memories, and make new ones! 

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Written by Audrey Vernick | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

 

When the weather warms and kids’ thoughts turn to sports, the afternoon air rings with the sounds of slamming doors as players race from home to the baseball diamond. Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, the same door slammed not once or twice, not three or four times, not even eight or nine! The door shut behind 12 brothers! Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie, and Louie Acerra. These 12 boys also had 4 sisters—but this is a story about baseball, and back then girls didn’t play ball.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-sliding-into-neighborhood

Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

It could be said that “baseball set the rhythm of their lives.” Neighbors couldn’t remember a time when Acerra boys weren’t throwing or hitting a ball or running the bases at the local park. And there was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for 22 years in a row!

In 1938 the nine oldest brothers formed a semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams and teams from New York and Connecticut. Their dad was their coach. The brothers all had different skills—Anthony could hit homeruns, and even hit a couple into the Atlantic Ocean from a seaside park; Charlie was a slow runner; and Jimmy had a knuckleball that was unhittable and uncatchable.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-stadium

Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

But playing had its dangers too. In one game Alfred was going to bunt, but the ball bounced badly off the bat and hit him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, but the accident caused him to lose an eye. Everyone thought he would never play again. But after he healed, his brothers helped him recover his skills and his courage.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-sliding-into-home

Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

During World War II six of the brothers joined the war effort and spent years apart. Far from home they dreamed of the days when they played together on warm afternoons. When the war ended all the Acerra boys came home to their very happy mother. The brothers got back to what they loved doing best. Now Anthony was their coach, and from 1946 to 1952 they won the Long Branch City Twilight Baseball League championship four times—much to the pleasure of the crowds that came out to watch the Acerras play.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

As time went on the Acerras got jobs, married, and had families of their own. In 1952 the brothers played their last game as a team, having made history as the longest-playing, all-brother baseball team ever. Even though the Acerras played many, years ago, people have not forgotten them. In 1997 they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The surviving seven brothers made the trip along with one sister and more than a hundred relatives. Now Jimmy Acerra’s uniform and glove are on display alongside exhibits about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. If you visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can see them too!

Interesting and personal author’s and artist’s notes follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-brothers

Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

Baseball fans will love Audrey Vernick’s exciting, true story of this most unusual team. Her focus on the close relationship of the Acerra brothers elevates the tale from merely a sports story to one that reveals deep affection and support during difficult times. The different personalities of the brothers shine through in Vernick’s easy, conversational tone, and the inclusion of the Acerra brothers’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame shows that this story lives on for all generations.

Steven Salerno’s evocative illustrations will transport readers into a past where neighborhood leagues enjoyed the same level of loyalty as the majors. Capturing the brushed style, colors, and portraiture of pictures of the period, Salerno shows kids not only what it meant to be a baseball player in the 1930s and 40s, but what it meant to be a family.

Ages 4 – 9

Clarion Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0547385570

Discover more about Audrey Vernick and her book on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Brother’s Day Activity

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Best Brother Award Certificate

 

Today is all about your brother and how great you think he is! Print and fill out this Best Brother Award Certificate and give it to your brother—or brothers!

May 22 – National Maritime Day

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About the Holiday

In 1933 The United States Congress established National Maritime Day to honor the important contributions of the maritime industry. The date of May 22 was chosen to commemorate the 1819 voyage of the steamship Savannah from the United States to England, which marked the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by steam power. Special ceremonies and celebrations are held throughout the country to recognize the day and the people involved in our maritime industry. To learn more about the history and continuing service of America’s maritime industry, visit the Maritime Administration website.

Float

By Daniel Miyares

 

On a rainy day a little boy folds a paper sailboat and sets off outside to launch his boat. He’s sailing it over the waves of his picket fence, when the sky darkens and the rain pelts down fast and hard. The boy hides his boat in his yellow raincoat until the rain becomes a gentle drizzle. He finds a large puddle and floats his little boat across the surface. He jumps into the middle, splashing and flustering the birds.

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Copyright Daniel Miyares, 2015, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Next he sets his boat in the current rushing along the gutter, and the little paper boat zooms off with the boy running after it. Suddenly, the boat plunges through the grate into the darkness underneath the street. The boy reaches to catch it, but can’t quite capture it. He runs to the stone bridge and watches to see if the boat passes underneath. He moves to a hill and stares out to see his boat deposited from a drain pipe.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-float-daniel-miyares-puddle

Copyright Daniel Miyares, 2015, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The boat is soggy and unfolded. The boy retrieves it with a stick and trudges sadly home holding the wet newspaper in his hands. His dad opens the door and enfolds his son in a big hug. He helps him get dry, pours a cup of hot chocolate, and folds another page from the newspaper. Then he sends his little boy back outside to soar in the now sunny afternoon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-float-daniel-miyares-dad

Copyright Daniel Miyares, 2015, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Daniel Miyares’ exquisite wordless picture book takes readers on a moving journey through the emotions of life, including joy, exhilaration, disappointment, loss, love, and new beginnings. Rendered in gray tones with splashes of color, Miyares illustrations beautifully use various perspectives, the play of light and dark, motion, and readily recognizable facial expressions to tell his story. The mirrored images of the boy’s neighborhood in the puddle and the ready hug of his father reassure children that while life may not always be smooth sailing, home and love are never far away.  The suspenseful chain of events will keep young readers riveted to the story until the surprising and uplifting ending.

Float is a gorgeous book for quiet story times at home and in the classroom and would be an inspirational book while teaching reading skills and creative writing.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481415248

Discover more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website.

National Maritime Day Activity

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Sunny Seas Steamer Ship Coloring Page

 

Celebrate all the ships at sea with this printable Sunny Seas Steamer Ship Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

 

May 21 – It’s National Moving Month

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About the Holiday

Summertime is a natural choice for those moving to a new city, town, or even country. If there are children in the family, the school break provides time for everyone to get to know their new neighborhood before starting school in the fall. Warm, more predictable weather also helps make a move go more smoothly. There are also a lot of online and personal services to answer your moving questions. To welcome newcomers to your neighborhood, introduce yourself and perhaps put together a basket of items to help them acclimate themselves to their new home.

Bruce’s Big Move

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Oh no! Is that a For Sale sign outside Bruce’s home? You know, the hillside abode with the yard littered with toys, games, and an old hat? What’s going on? Well, let’s turn the page and find out!

If you don’t know already, “Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese because he was their mother (just go with it and check out Mother Bruce). He also shared space with three mice “because they would not leave” (maybe, but weren’t they kind of invited? For the answer to that you’ll want to check into Hotel Bruce). Mice, it seems make themselves very much at home—in every square inch of every room. You wouldn’t believe the mess! (Or what a generous Mom Bruce is!). 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-playroom

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

As you might imagine “Bruce’s house was crowded, chaotic, and loud,” and it all made Bruce very grumpy. Bruce thought and pondered over how he could get rid of those mice. He tried plan after plan, but none of them were successful. Those crafty mice just turned everything on it’s head. For instance, when Bruce told them to get “Out,” they appreciated his concern that they “get some fresh air.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney Hyperion.

There was only one thing to do. Bruce packed up his belongings, settled his four kids in the sidecar, and moved away. “Finding a new house for a mother bear and his four geese can be difficult.” The tree-top nest was too shaky, the submerged shipwreck was too wet, and the new construction by turtle builders was too behind schedule. Eventually, Bruce found the perfect home on the edge of a lake and surrounded by meadows. It even came with plenty of friendly neighbors (well, no house is perfect-perfect).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-cabin

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The greatest thing about this house, though? No mice! Bruce felt so happy, he smiled. Yeah, really…didn’t you see it? The geese, though, were not so happy. They stood around with sad eyes and dejected postures. “Bruce tried cheering them up . . . .” He flew a kite, took them to the beach, and took them to art class. Even Bruce’s biggest smile . . . um . . . grimace?. . . no, smile—definitely a smile . . . could distract his kids from missing the mice.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney Hyperion.

But then “the moving van arrived” with some very familiar-looking movers. In fact, these little guys were ready to move in! So, the geese were happy, and the mice were happy. But Bruce? Not so much. The housewarming party was a fantastic success. All the woodland animals came, and “Bruce’s house was once again crowded, chaotic, and loud.” And even though “Bruce didn’t like it one bit,” he had to admit “it felt like home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-tea

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Ryan T. Higgins’ is the perfect dad/mom/writer/drawer for the curmudgeonly charming Bruce, nudging his creation into a new and hilarious situation in this third installment of his beloved Bruce books. As Bruce tries to gain one moment of peace, kids will giggle and laugh out loud at the antics of the pesky mice who cannonball into Bruce’s bubble bath, soak in his cup of tea, and turn his house into a shambles of stuff. When Bruce finally packs up and moves out, readers can’t really begrudge Bruce his quiet time, but they’ll cheer to see those wily mice back on the scene.

With his flair for gleeful chaos and flawlessly expressive faces. Higgin’s creates a family atmosphere any reader can relate to. Bruce may look grumpy, but as he gazes into the sweet, innocent eyes of his geese and takes full measure of those high-spirited mice, astute readers know that behind that frown lies a soft heart. Kids will love watching Bruce and the geese ride his old-fashioned motorcycle, meeting a new cast of characters, and basking in Bruce’s pearly-white smile. When the story and art come full circle in the tender ending, readers will be happy to have Bruce in their neighborhood.

Bruce’s Big Move is an enchanting and funny story on its own and a very worthy addition to the series. Whether you’re already a Bruce fan or just becoming one, the book is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1368003544

Get movin’ and watch this Bruce’s Big Move book trailer!

National Moving Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-foam-travel-suitcase

Travel Memories Portfolio

 

If you’re moving or traveling this summer, use this handy, easy-to-make portfolio to keep postcards, pictures, and other memorabilia from your traveling or sightseeing trips.

Supplies

  • 12-inch x 18-inch foam sheet in brown or your favorite color (or use a manila folder)
  • Stiff decorative scrapbook paper or single-color paper
  • Stickers, buttons, or scrapbooking decorations 
  • Foam or craft glue

Directions

To Make the Travel Bag

  1. Fold the foam sheet in half
  2. Glue along each edge, leave the top open
  3. Decorate the bag with the stickers 

To Make the Handles

  1. Cut two 1-inch x 10-inch strips from the scrapbook or other paper
  2. Three inches from the right end of the each strip, make a triangular fold
  3. Three inches from the left end of each strip, make a triangular fold
  4. Glue one handle on each side at the top of the bag

Picture Book Review

May 14 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Reading is great all the time, but this month you like to be seen actually with the book in hand laughing at a funny line, shivering over a mysterious setting, or maybe even tearing up over a plot twist. Throughout the month, authors, illustrators, actors and actresses, athletes, business people, teachers, and students all upload pictures of themselves reading to encourage others to discover the joys of reading. To learn more and find resources for teachers and librarians to download and posters to order, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Three Little Monkeys

Written by Quentin Blake | Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

 

Whenever Hilda Snibbs came home, the first thing she did was call out “‘I’m home! Where are you?’” You  might think she was talking to her kids, her dog, or her cat, but she was actually addressing her three little monkeys whose “names were Tim and Sam and Lulu.” Hilda was sure to give them healthy snacks because “they were very lively.”

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Copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

One day when Hilda went to the grocery store, the monkeys grew bored. They opened the hall closet and “threw everything into the hall.” They opened the umbrellas, tore the laces from all the shoes, and plucked all the feathers from Hilda’s favorite hat. When Hilda came home and saw the mess she had one thing to say: “‘I’m really very disappointed in such naughty little monkeys.” Tim, Sam, and Lulu just gazed at her silently.

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Image copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, text copyright Quentin Blake, 2016. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The next day Hilda went to the hat store. Before she left she told her little monkeys to be good. But as soon as she was out the door, they hurried to the living room to play. They upended the wastebasket, spilled the flower vase, tore the newspapers, and tangled Hilda’s knitting into knots. “When Hilda came home and went into the living room she found the most awful mess. There were flowers all over the place. And her poor knitting!” She admonished the little monkeys, but they just “looked at her with their big round eyes and said nothing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-three-little-monkeys-living-room

Copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Needing more wool, Hilda headed into town the next day with a reminder to her monkeys to be good while she was away. But the kitchen was so enticing, and they tossed everything out of the cupboards, scattered the powdered soap, emptied the trashcan, and tipped the soup pan onto the floor. This time when Hilda got home, she became angry. “‘Great grief! How long can I put up with these terrible little monkeys?’” But Tim, Sam, and Lulu just smiled at her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-three-little-monkeys-kitchen

Copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

The next day was market day again and once again the monkeys grew bored as soon as Hilda was gone. The bathroom was a perfect playroom with its toilet paper to unroll, toothpaste tube to squeeze, and shampoo to splash around. Hilda nearly tore her hair out when she returned to this mayhem. As she stared at her monkeys wrapped in toilet paper and sporting sudsy costumes, she cried, “‘Oh, for a peaceful life without these wicked little monkeys!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-three-little-monkeys-closet

Copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Before going out the next morning, Hilda gave Tim, Sam, and Lulu a stern talking to. It was late when she returned and as she stepped through the door something seemed amiss. The living room was in perfect order, the kitchen was spotless, and the bathroom shone. Hilda broke down in tears. Something horrible must have happened to her three little monkeys. Her handkerchief was soaked through, and when she went to the closet to get a new one, she found Tim, Sam, and Lulu waiting quietly for her.

Hilda hugged them all and “that night…went up the stairs to bed with a happy heart.” As she got under the covers, she found herself lying on all her forks, spoons, and cans of sardines. “But that is the kind of thing you have to expect if you have three little monkeys.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-three-little-monkeys-coming-home

Copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Quentin Blake’s hilarious tale of three little monkeys has all the charm and style of classic storytelling that will set young readers giggling and eagerly anticipating each of Hilda’s trips into town. Adults with “little monkeys” of their own will anticipate the tenderhearted ending, and children will be delighted with the assurance of enduring love Hilda’s tears provide. A dramatic reading of Hilda’s increasing frustration with her mischievous charges will enthrall listeners as they gaze at the reader with the same sweet expression as Tim, Sam, and Lulu.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-three-little-monkeys-gazing

Copyright Emma Chichester Clark, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Emma Chichester Clark’s sophisticated illustrations begin on the endpapers, where Hilda is leaving her elegant brownstone under the watchful gaze of her little monkeys. Tim, Sam, and Lulu are as cute as can be as they happily eat their snack and give a hint of the shenanigans to come. With each new day, the monkeys get into more and more trouble, leading to wonderful, fully detailed two-page masterpieces of the mayhem they cause. Hilda’s growing consternation is clear in her facial expressions and gestures. Kids will love Hilda’s collection of hats and matching outfits and scenes of her home. When Hilda comes home to a pristine house, the brightly colored pages turn as gray as a cloudy day. The sunny hues return with the discovery of her precious little ones, and the bedtime surprise is a delight.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062670670

Discover more about Quentin Blake, his books, and his illustration work on his website

To learn more about Emma Chichester Clark, her books, and her paintings, visit her website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Just Hanging Around! Bookmark

 

Monkeys love hanging around! Print this Just Hanging Around! Bookmark, color it and then let this little one save your page until you come back to reading! 

Picture Book Review

May 11 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

What an amazing thing the egg is! This month we celebrate its role in feeding families the world over. From ancient times people have relied on the protein and other nutrients in this compact package to stay healthy at an affordable price or from their own farm. There are so many recipes that feature the delicate flavor of eggs. This month why not crack a few eggs and try a new taste sensation, and, of course, enjoy those old favorites as well!

Egg

By Kevin Henkes

 

As this sophisticated paneled picture book opens, four eggs await their fate. One is pink, one is yellow, one is blue, and one is green. On the next page three of the eggs begin their journey with a crack, crack, crack; but the last one? The green one? It remains a smooth egg. With a “surprise!” a pink baby bird hatches from the pink egg. The yellow egg breaks open and a yellow bird chirps “surprise.” When the blue egg breaks a blue baby bird pops free with one more “surprise!” But the last egg? The green one? It remains an intact egg.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The pink bird strides away from her former home with a quick “good-bye.” The yellow bird takes to the sky with a cheery “good-bye.” And the blue bird skips off  with a joyful cheep “good-bye.” But the last egg? The green one? It still remains a silent egg. All alone now, the green egg waits. It waits and waits and waits through a full sixteen-day calendar.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Finished with her walk, the pink bird is back to check on the green egg. She hails the yellow chick, who is also returning, and calls out to the blue bird, who runs in to see what’s up. They discuss this anomalous egg and come up with a plan. They lay their ears against the shell and “listen.” Then they begin tapping away. “Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck.” This egg has one tough exterior! They peck and peck until, finally, they hear a “crack.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-kevin-henkes-alligator

Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The egg splits to reveal an eye-popping “surprise!” The last egg? The green one? It doesn’t hold a green chick, but a green crocodile! The birds fly away from the dangerous snout. Now the baby croc is “alone” and “sad.” The little birds see how “lonely” the crocodile is and slowly, one-by-one they return. They fly closer and closer until they are all sitting atop the crocodile’s back.

The crocodile takes his new friends on a ride down to the water’s edge. He wades in and follows where the pink bird directs. Then these new friends sit quietly and watch the sun set. The orange sun sinks lower and lower toward the horizon, changing shape and beginning the journey all over again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-kevin-henkes-sunset-2

Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Kevin Henkes’ adorable read-aloud is as complex as the egg itself. On the surface it is a comforting and touching tale of friendship, but crack it open and the story takes on deeper meaning. Themes of patience, working together, diversity, acceptance, and even ideas of expectations and preconceived danger are waiting to be explored during repeat readings. The graphic-novel nature of the illustrations allow readers to form bonds with the four eggs as a ready-made group, increasing kids’  curiosity and interest in that fourth egg that just won’t hatch.

Pastel colors differentiate each bird as do simple gestures that little ones will recognize as personality traits. In the final pages, the lines separating the panels disappear as the four friends gather to watch the sun go down, and their life together begins.

Ages 3 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062408723

You can meet Kevin Henkes, learn about his books, and discover resources, videos, and more on his website.

National Egg Month Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With twelve little chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-tic-tac-toe

Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-where's-the-chick

You can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

Picture Book Review

May 10 – Stay Up All Night Night and Interview with Author Jackie Azúa Kramer

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About the Holiday

Sure, everyone pulls all-nighters sometimes for work or school, and kids revel in pushing their bedtimes later and later. The founders of today’s holiday understand the lure of nighttime and present the perfect chance to stay up late and have some fun with friends and family. They also honor all of those people who work the night shift and encourage the rest of us to appreciate the sacrifices they make to keep hospitals, safety services, and other necessary businesses operating twenty-four hours a day. This worldwide celebration is sure to be a favorite with kids, so why not plan a sleepover or a family game night and enjoy the nightlife?!

If You Want to Fall Asleep

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg

 

No sooner had Mama Mouse tucked Little Mouse into bed, kissed him on the head, and closed the door then Little Mouse began jumping on the bed calling, “‘I can’t sleep.’” Mama had a little advice: “If you want to fall asleep and you’re jumping on your bed… / Read pages in a story. / Not one or two or three, / but the whole book, from cover to cover.” Imagining adventures will fill the time while you “wait for yawning.”

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Image copyright Lisa Brandenburg, 2018, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2018. Courtesy of Clavis Books.

Pretty soon, Little Mouse interrupted Mama Mouse’s sweeping. He had read his favorite book and still wasn’t tired. Mama encouraged her little one to think about the pancakes and berries he’d have in the morning, and “wait for stretching.” In a bit, Mama Mouse heard Little Mouse “rocking and rolling in his bed.” She suggested, “If you want to fall asleep and you’re tossing and turning… / Snuggle up to things that are soft” and will remind you of friends and family, pets and toys.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-want-to-fall-asleep-flying-saucers

Image copyright Lisa Brandenburg, 2018, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2018. Courtesy of Clavis Books.

But even though Little Mouse tried it, he was still wide awake. He slid down the banister right to where Mama was having tea. She had just the thing to make her child sleepy and told him to count the stars and “remember wishes: birthday wishes, secret wishes, dream wishes. And wait for dozing.” The house was quiet as Mama read her book, but then she heard her Little Mouse still awake.

Mama Mouse knew one more remedy that was sure to make Little Mouse comfy and cozy and ready for sleep. She knelt down and hugged Little Mouse and he hugged her with “a warm embrace forever.” Then, said Mama, “when your heart feels full of love, remember dreams to come: sweet dreams, good dreams, peaceful dreams.” Little Mouse didn’t have to “wait for yawning”…or stretching… or even dozing because he was fast asleep.

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Image copyright Lisa Brandenburg, 2018, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2018. Courtesy of Clavis Books.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s sweet bedtime story combines a twinkle of endearing mischief with the comfort of a lullaby to float little ones off to sleep and reassure them that they are always loved. As Little Mouse goes through the stages of sleeplessness—jumping on the bed, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, snuggling with toys, and frequent visits to mom in between—young readers will giggle with recognition. Mama Mouse’s suggestions of stories, treats, favorite loveys, and making wishes will make little ones cuddle up more closely, and her final solution of lots of hugs will spark plenty of real ones between adult and child. Kramer’s story line and realistic dialogue from Little Mouse flow nicely into the lilting rhythm of Mama’s poetic remedies. Both include repeated phrasing that children will enjoy reading along with.

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Lisa Brandenburg’s illustrations are as softly hued as a dream and include the kinds of details kids love lingering over. Little Mouse’s vivid imagination is fully evident as, from under the covers, he peeks with one eye at his toys beckoning for a little more playtime. These toys continue their nighttime capers, spilling out from Little Mouse’s room every time he gets up to join him in frolicking, hiding, and ultimately helping Mama put her sleepy one to bed. Throughout, Brandenburg includes visual humor and puns that kids and adults will enjoy. Readers will love keeping track of Little Mouse’s beloved kitty, and be ready to snooze with the whole crew (except Little Mouse?!) as they happily doze on the final page.

Rest assured, If You Want to Fall Asleep is a dreamy bedtime story that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a star on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Clavis Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1605373959

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lisa Brandenburg, her art, and her books, visit her website.

Meet Jackie Azúa Kramer

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Today, I have the pleasure of talking with author Jackie Azúa Kramer about her love of travel, little piggies, and, of course, getting kids to sleep.

What inspired you to write If You Want to Fall Asleep?

This weekend is Mother’s Day! So, I wish all the Mamas out there a very Happy Mother’s Day! When you meet Mama Mouse in my story, and her child Little Mouse, I am sharing a small window into my world as a young mom. After many sleep-deprived nights with my kids, I discovered there’s no one way, no one method, to get your over-tired, yet filled-with-imaginative-excuses, little one to bed. It seemed the moment I was high-fiving and declaring, “I got this!” was when it all changed. My kids behaved about bedtime as if sleep was a test like in The Princess and the Pea. I wanted to capture the crazy moments that make you wonder why you chose to be a mom while at the same time wish this time wasn’t so fleeting. Mama Mouse is every mother who loves her child.

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What was your favorite way to get to sleep as a child?

I don’t know why, but I needed to create the feeling of being in a burrow or cave. So, I would pull the blanket way over my head and disappear under the covers. I still do that sometimes. Blushing.

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On your website you have a picture of your writing space. Could you describe it a little and talk about your collection of piggies?

My piggies!!! Years ago, when I was in college, a friend gave me a small, blown-glass pig. I was enchanted by its delicacy and size. Like ‘Tennessee Williams’ I began collecting my own “glass menagerie.” The collection has grown and now includes pigs made of ceramic, clay, wood, pewter, silver, plastic, and even candy.

Wherever I travel, I always try and find a pig that reflects the culture. For example, I have two ceramic pigs from Italy that remind me of the farms I saw in the countryside. The best thing about the collection is that some are gifts from family and friends. Each pig has its own story loaded with good memories!

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You also have a snapshot of you and a young girl you met while volunteering. Can you talk about your volunteering efforts around the world? How did you get started? Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share? Has volunteering influenced your writing?

I’ve travelled around the world most of my life. Meeting new people, new vistas, history, and culture is my true heart’s desire. Volunteering took travel to another level. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to volunteer once in Israel and Ecuador.

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My father was born in Ecuador, and I had visited as a young girl, but I always knew I wanted to return. I can still hear the laughter of the young Quechua woman living in the remote village near a dormant volcano. Her smile came so easily and naturally, all the while knowing that the little she had (by American standards), came from very hard work, patience, and a good attitude. I’m not sure what she learned from me, if anything, but I’m certainly grateful and honored to have spent time in her beautiful country.

What’s the best part of being a children’s author?

There’s much to love! The practice and process of writing. Seeing your ideas develop into a story then become a book and go out into the universe. The generous people that I’ve met in the kidlit world and had the pleasure to work with—editors and illustrators.

The passionate librarians and teachers who invite me into their classrooms. Each time I hope it’s a reciprocal experience—that the students and I may learn something about each other’s world experience.

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Number one on the love hit-parade are the readers that share how my story touched or inspired them or made them feel or think. Perhaps my story inspired them to write or draw their own story. It’s crazy to think, but all it takes is one person, one story to make a difference in a child’s life.

What’s up next for you?

I’m so excited about my next two picture books which share the same super-cute, super-spunky, and super-fun protagonist, Prunella or Pru. The reader is introduced to Prunella in That’s for Babies (Clavis, 2018), and in Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, 2019) we meet her new baby brother, Miles. I feel names in stories are important; Prunella’s name reflects how properly silly and human she is. In addition, I’m thrilled to work again with illustrator Lisa Brandenburg.

The Boy and the 800 Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, 2020) is a story near and dear to my heart. A picture book about a boy, his father, and loss. As I mentioned earlier, one of the joys of what I do is working with illustrators. I can’t wait to discover other layers revealed in my story by illustrator, Cindy Derby. Here’s one of Cindy’s stunning illustrations (not for the book).

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What is your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving! Food, family and fun! There’s a little Martha Stewart in me. I love pulling out all my favorite recipes, buying the freshest and best ingredients and setting a beautiful table. Full and happy bellies lead to (hopefully) good times. My kitchen table before the cooking gets started!

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Thanks so much for chatting, Jackie! I wish you all the best with If You Fall Asleep and all of your books!

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You can find If You Want to Fall Asleep at these booksellers

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

You can connect with Jackie Azúa Kramer on

Her Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Stay Up All Night Night Activity

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Dream Catcher

 

Even if you can’t sleep, you can still dream! With this easy-to-make dream catcher, kids can keep their dreams until they all come true!

Supplies

  • Small wooden or plastic embroidery hoop
  • Colorful rubber bands or hair bands
  • Yarn or string
  • Three medium plastic or wooden beads
  • Three smaller plastic or wooden beads or perler beads
  • Two feathers

Directions

  1. Separate the embroidery hoop sections
  2. Stretch different colored rubber bands around the smaller hoop
  3. If the larger hoop has a screw on it, put it back on and tighten the screw
  4. Measure a length of yarn or string and slip it between the screw and hoop
  5. Making one side longer than the other, tie a knot to secure it to the screw
  6. If the embroidery hoop has no screw, lay two or three differing lengths of yarn or string between the two sections of the hoop before you put the top on
  7. String on beads and tie a knot to secure them
  8. Add feathers
  9. Tie a string or yarn to the top of the dream catcher to hang it.

Picture book review

April 26 – Kids and Pets Day

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About the Holiday

When kids and pets grow up together, the bonds they share are beneficial to both. Pets teach children about unconditional love and help them develop a nurturing personality. The day-to-day needs of a pet teach kids important life lessons about responsibility, health and happiness, and even putting others first. Visits to the veterinarian can spark an interest in animal science and a love of other animals. Today’s holiday was established to celebrate the relationship between children and pets and also to remind adults of safety issues involved when young children play with pets. If you’re considering adding a pet to your family, perhaps today is the day!

Lola Gets a Cat

Written by Anna McQuinn | illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

 

Lola loved cats, and while she had a room full of stuffed cats in all colors and sizes, she wanted a real kitten of her own. Her mother told her that “looking after a cat is a lot of work.” Lola wanted to learn more, so Mommy took her to the library to get a book about cats. Lola learned lots of interesting information about cats and how to take care of them.

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Lola decided to pretend that Dinah, one of her stuffed kitties, was real. She made a special bed for Dinah from a shoe box and blanket. She made a chart and checked off when she fed, bathed, and played with Dinah. Mommy saw what a good job Lola did with Dinah and agreed that Lola could have a cat. First, Lola and Mommy went to the computer to “find out how to adopt one.” Then they went to the animal shelter where Jeremy showed “them three perfect cats.”

Lola looked at the orange tabby, the black cat who was napping, and the playful gray ball of fluff. Even before Lola made her choice, the little gray one chose her! Jeremy gave Lola a list of all the things she’d need at home to make the little kitten feel comfortable and happy. The next day, Lola and Mommy went shopping at the pet store, and Lola and Daddy set up a special corner in the house with the cat’s toys and bed.

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Finally, everything was ready. Lola and Mommy went back to the shelter. The kitten was afraid to go into the carrier at first, but including her own blanket made her feel safe. At home, Lola watched her new kitten explore her corner and new things. Lola named her cat Makeda, “the name of an African queen.” Every day, Lola took “excellent care of Makeda.”

Lola’s friend Ty was excited to meet Makeda and even brought her a present. Makeda now feels at home—especially when she’s cuddling with Lola! At night Lola reads a story to Makeda before bedtime. She loves Makeda, and reading to her “is the best of all.”

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Anna McQuinn’s little Lola is loved by young readers for her curiosity, gentle nature, and can-do spirit. Lola’s sweet personality overflows in this story as she decides that she’d like a pet and then demonstrates to her mommy and daddy that she understands the responsibility. Through her charming storytelling, McQuinn invites little readers to be part of Lola and Makeda’s journey and share in their warm friendship. Lola’s supportive parents offer guidance but allow Lola to thoughtfully make her own decisions and show what she can accomplish.

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Throughout her colorful illustrations, Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola shows intelligence, self-confidence, and pride as she practices tending for a cat, learns about cat behavior and care, listens to the animal shelter manager, and gets everything ready for her new cat. Detailed images realistically depict the items a cat requires, a bit of the procedure of adopting a shelter cat, how to give a new pet space to assimilate into their new environment, and a good example of a pet-care chart, giving those contemplating a new pet a good primer for children. The quiet joy that infuses each page, makes Lola and Makeda  perfect companions for little readers.

Whether new to the Lola series, adding to a collection, or looking for a character and story a little one will fall in love with, you’ll find that Lola Gets a Cat is perfectly at home on family and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Charlesbridge, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580897365 (Hardcover) | Paperback available for preorder. Release date May 15; ISBN 978-1580897365

Kids and Pets Day Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

Picture Book Review