February 5 – Chinese New Year

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-cover

About the Holiday

Chinese New Year begins today—ushering in the Year of the Pig—and celebrations take place until February 19. Also known as the Spring Festival, the New Year is a time for festivities that include lion and dragon dances, fireworks, visiting friends and relatives, family meals, and special decorations. The New Year is the busiest travel season of the year as family members return home to spend the holiday with loved ones. The Chinese New Year celebrations end each year with the Lantern Festival. To learn more about the history of Chinese New Year, how to celebrate, and the signs of the zodiac, click here.

Ruby’s Chinese New Year

Written by Vickie Lee | Illustrated by Joey Chou

 

Every year Grandmother would come to visit Ruby for Chinese New Year. “Together they celebrated, eating special foods and making drawings for good luck.” But this year Grandmother couldn’t make the trip, so Ruby decided to visit her grandmother instead. As a gift, Ruby drew a picture of her family enjoying a special dinner. She put it into a red envelope and tucked it away in her pocket. Soon after leaving, Ruby spied Cat and Rat and asked if they would like to come along too. They did, but Cat wondered how they would “cross the meadow and the pond.” Ruby suggested that they ask Ox.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-drawing

Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they found Ox, who was bringing rice cakes and candy to the farmer for the New Year celebration. When she heard that Ruby, Cat, and Mouse were going to Grandmother’s house, she offered to let them ride on her back. Just then, Tiger and Rabbit “bounded out of the bushes, streamers flying behind them.” They also wanted to go to Grandmother’s house, so Cat rode on Tiger’s back and Rat nestled between Rabbit’s furry ears, and they all headed down the path.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-rat

Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

They came to where Dragon and Snake “were making paper lanterns.” They were both excited to come along too. “Snake loved Grandmother and was happy to visit her,” and Dragon “was always ready for an adventure.” They packed up the lanterns they had made and the friends started off again. Horse and Goat were grazing in the nearby meadow, and they too wanted to come along. They picked flowers for Grandmother, and then the little parade was off.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-ox

Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

When Ruby and all the rest reached the pond, they saw Monkey and Rooster fishing for their holiday dinner from an overhanging branch. Grandmother’s house was just on the other side of the pond. Ruby was so excited that “with a leap and a bound, Ruby dove into the pond. She would swim to Grandmother’s. She was so close!” But when she jumped, the red envelope flew out of her pocket and drifted into the pond. All of the other animals dove into the pond to save Ruby’s gift. Monkey snatched it with his fishing hook, and Rooster flew across the water with the card in her beak. They all met Ruby on the other side of the pond and sadly showed her the drenched card. “‘Oh no,’ Ruby cried. ‘It’s ruined. Everything is ruined!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-streamers

Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

“‘It’s not ruined!’ cried Rooster.” And then each animal reminded Ruby that they had fish and flowers, lanterns and streamers, rice cakes and sweets, and most especially, “‘…we have our family,’ said Cat and Rat, looking toward the house.” Suddenly, Dog and Pig bounded out and “covered Ruby’s face with kisses and tickled her until she shrieked with joy.” The happy sounds brought Grandmother to the door. She was thrilled to see Ruby. When Ruby gave her the gift she thought was “ruined,” Grandmother assured her that it would dry and that seeing Ruby and all of her friends was “the best gift of all.” Then they all sat down at the long table decorated with streamers and lanterns and celebrated the New Year with a delicious dinner—“except for Cat, who had fallen fast asleep.”

Following the story, readers will enjoy learning one legend of the Chinese zodiac and discovering the  traits for each animal. Children will also find directions for making a paper lantern, a paper fan, and good luck banners.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-pond

Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Inspired by one legend of the Chinese Zodiac and how each animal came to be included in the calendar, Vickie Lee tells an engaging cumulative story that keeps readers excited to discover who will be the next to join Ruby on her trip to Grandmother’s house. The fate of Ruby’s special gift reveals many truths about friendship and family as the animals work together to save the card and Grandmother reassures Ruby while showing her that love is the best gift of all. Readers may also enjoy talking about which of each animal’s trait—as found in the back matter—is reflected in their role in the story. Older children may like discussing references to Chinese New Year traditions and how Lee reimagined the legend to tell her story. And why is Cat sleeping through the delicious dinner? Legend has it that….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-legend

Image copyright Joey Chou, 2018, text copyright Vickie Lee, 2018. Courtesy of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Joey Chou’s delightfully cheerful illustrations are packed with action as each animal—included into the group in the order of the Chinese zodiac—adds a special ingredient to the New Year celebration. His lovely color palette sparkles with glowing reds, cool aquas, lush blues, and shadowy violets that create a homey atmosphere for this very special holiday. Scenes of togetherness and friendship include smiles and joy at being together as well as empathy for Ruby when her card gets wet.

A beautiful book to share with children for Chinese New Year and throughout the year, Ruby’s Chinese New Year would be a charming addition to home, school, and library bookshelves for its story and included activities.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250133380

To learn more about Joey Chou, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Chinese New Year Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chinese-new-year-word-search

Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty Chinese New Year-related words in this printable puzzle?

Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzle | Chinese New Year Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby's-chinese-new-year-cover

You can find Ruby’s Chinese New Year at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goat's-valentine-cover

About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all things creative! There are so many ways to be creative, from the arts to how you organize and manage your life at home and at work. Sometimes, special events, unusual problems, or particular people inspire—or necessitate—creative thinking. Today’s sweet story is one example! 

Mr. Goat’s Valentine

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

When Mr. Goat read in the newspaper that it was Valentine’s Day, he jumped up, grabbed his phone and favorite hat, and headed out, determined to show his first love how much she meant to him. On the way he stopped off at Miss Nanny Goat’s weed stall and bought a “mixed bouquet” of “crabgrass, pigweeds, and ragweed” beautifully arranged in a “nice, rusty can.” Mr. Goat knew his first love liked ragweed salad, and Miss Nanny Goat assured him that she would like the can too. Mr. Goat agreed. There was nothing like a rusty can with a pinch of salt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goats-valentine-newspaper

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The aroma from Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat’s stand enticed Mr. Goat to stop and look over his treats. The sample rotten egg looked so yummy—black and oozing on the plate—that Mr. Goat bought four. They have been “rotted for two years” and are “guaranteed foul and disgusting,” Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat boasted as he placed the four eggs carefully into a red, heart-shaped box and tied it up with a red ribbon. Not only would the eggs make the perfect dinner, the red bow would be a delicious dessert.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goat's-valentine-head's-out

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat walked on, passing up the fruit and vegetable stand with its fresh oranges, apples, and pears, but made time to talk to Miss Skunk when she approached him with her Eau de Skunk perfume cart. As she spritzed Mr. Goat with a sample of her special perfume, she reminded him that a Valentine’s card would be just right for his first love.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goats-valentine-bouquet

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat continued on with just the faintest alluring reek and thought about what Miss Skunk had said. He didn’t have a card, but, he decided he could “‘compose a song and serenade her.’” It didn’t take long for Mr. Goat to write his ditty. He hurried on to his first love’s house. Standing at the door, he “burst into song. When I was a little kid / It didn’t matter what I did. / If I climbed too high and fell / You’d kiss the hurt and make it well. / You have loved me from the start / I love you with all my heart!”

Suddenly, the door opened, and Mr. Goat’s first love smiled at him. Mr. Goat handed her the bouquet and red box and exclaimed, “‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Mother!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goats-valentine-eggs

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eve Bunting’s exceptional flair for engaging children is on full display in her funny, ewww-ful tribute to Valentine’s Day. The hearts of little ones swell with love around this holiday, and Bunting taps into their enthusiasm to get just the right gift for Mom. Readers will laugh at what might seem unusual gifts while also appreciating Mr. Goat’s thoughtfulness. Young children may wonder who Mr. Goat’s “first love” is as he shops from stall to stall, but as he makes up his song, most will figure it out and be happy to be in on the twist ending.

Kevin Zimmer’s cheery digital art showcases the sweet emotions that Mr. Goat has for his first love. His eyes grow wide at the delectable weed bouquet and rotten eggs, he contemplates the perfect words for his song, and smiles adorably when his mom opens the door. The less-than-fresh take on the idea of a Farmers Market will delight kids familiar with these types of stands. The other goats out shopping on this Valentine’s Day are equally as cute as Mr. Goat and provide camaraderie among this community that likes things a little bit rotten. As the door opens in the final spread, revealing Mr. Goat’s first love, children will be happy to know that the love between parent and child continues even when a “kid” is no longer a kid.

Mr. Goat’s Valentine is a sweet, original story for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year that is perfect for humorous home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369447

Learn more about Kevin Zimmer and his art on his website.

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-entangled-hearts-matching-puzzle

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goat's-valentine-cover

You can find Mr. Goat’s Valentine at these booksellers

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

EnPicture Book Review

January 11 – Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-cover

About the Holiday

Melting snow or winter rains can cause plenty of opportunities to take part in today’s holiday! Jumping in puddles isn’t just for kids, either. Come on! You know you want to! So pull on those boots, find a puddle, and…jump!

Puddle

By Hyewon Yum

 

A little boy stands in the middle of the room with his arms folded firmly in front of him. “I hate rainy days!” he says. He flops onto a chair—half on, half off—and bemoans the weather. He “can’t go to the playground,” “can’t play soccer,” can’t ride his bike. His mom invites her grumpy boy to draw with her, but he’s so grumpy that he tells her he’s “never going to draw!” That’s okay, Mom says. She can draw without him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-grumpy-cat

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In a moment Mom sings out, “Ta-da! It’s an umbrella.” Intrigued just a little, the boy comes over to the desk and takes a peek. He recognizes his own blue umbrella. The little boy thinks something is missing, though, and asks if his mom can draw him holding it. Mom obliges and draws a yellow-slickered little boy holding the blue umbrella over his head.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-drawing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But there’s still something missing. The boy doesn’t want to stand there all alone. Where’s his mom? Where’s Billy? The boy’s mom isn’t so sure she can draw a dog, but Billy comes out just fine with a feathery tail and shaggy ears. Mom looks very stylish in her checkered raincoat and boots too. There’s just one problem—there’s no rain.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-dialoge

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little boy picks up the crayon and draws blue slanting lines all around. “I’m really good at this,” he says. More and more rain fills the page, and Mom and her son hold their umbrellas in front of them as they trudge on. Pretty soon, Mom points to something in the path ahead. “It’s a puddle!” the boy exclaims. Before Mom can stop him, he’s ditched the umbrella and is running for the puddle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-what's-that

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

With one leap, he’s in the middle of it, stomping and splashing. Waves of water splatter everywhere, spraying Mom and Billy. “I told you not to go in there,” Mom says. “Now you’re all wet and I am too.” But her son reassures her that it’s okay; after all, it’s just a picture. Billy wants in on the fun and jumps in, bounding and shaking and showering water everywhere. Now it’s the little boy’s turn to be perturbed. “It’s just a picture,” his mom reminds him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-blue-umbrella

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The drawing makes the boy want to have some real fun. “Why not?” agrees his mom. So they put on their raincoats and rain boots and grab their umbrellas and head out. Even Billy has his own orange cape. What do they see on the sidewalk not far ahead? A puddle—with room for all!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-splashing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Hyewon Yum’s clever story-within-a-story intrigues on many levels. With ingenuity, the mom pulls her son out of his gray-weather funk by offering an understated yet creative lure that can’t fail to reel him in. Once invested in the drawing, the boy sees the possibilities for real play and turns the once “nothing to do” day into an afternoon of fun. The dialog between mother and son that carries the story is natural and honest, propelling the plot from drawing to outside exploration.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-chair

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Yum’s engaging illustrations likewise hook readers as the more realistic images of the mom and son, living room, desk with drawing pad, and even the artist’s hand disappear from the pages as rain pelts the sketched mom, boy and Billy. Children will become so fully engrossed in the made-up story that it seems as if the trio are already out in the rain. When life then imitates art, readers will be wishing for their own puddles to jump in.

Puddle proves that the power of art and storytelling can change perceptions, create new realities, and make for a whole lot of fun! The book would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and classrooms for story times, creative moments, and—of course—rainy days.

Ages 4 – 7

Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2017 | ISBN  978-0374316952

Discover more about Hyewon Yum, her books, and her art on her website.

Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-umbrella-matching-puzzle

Rainy Day Mix Up

 

These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten mixed up. Can you pair them up again to have fun in the rain in this printable Rainy Day Mix Up Puzzle? How will you match them?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-cover

You can find Puddle at these booksellers 

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

Picture Book Review

January 3 – Festival of Sleep Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-cover

About the Holiday

Are you still revved up from the holidays? Having trouble getting back into your usual sleep routine? Feeling a bit discombobulated, grumpy, or just plain tired? Without enough sleep our wellbeing suffers. We’re more susceptible to illness, our work drags, we’re not as alert when driving, and our mood can be a little…well…see above. If you’re not getting enough sleep, today’s holiday encourages you to rethink your routines or get back to them. Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and that your bedroom is not too hot or too cold. Putting a priority on sleep will make you feel better all day!

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

Written by Eugenie Doyle | Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

 

As the winter days become shorter, a family readies their farm for bed. With most of the crops harvested—“strawberries, raspberries, vegetables, honey, and hay—now is the time to prepare for deep front, the coming wind and snow.” The berry plants are blanketed with straw that will keep them warm until June when “they’ll give fruit so red and juicy we’ll make jam and freeze berries to eat till summer comes again.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-kitchen

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, beets, and potatoes are cut and dug and placed in storage in the barn to “await winter markets and our own winter meals!” With everything put away, the family calls, “Good night, fields, peaceful and still.” Then it’s time to cut and stack wood that will heat the farmhouse during the cold months and fire up the sugarhouse for making maple syrup in early spring.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-hoop-house

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The hoophouse, home to the “baby greens…with mouth-filling names—spinach, mizuna, tatsoi, arugula—” that “will nap till stronger sun can wake them” is secured to the ground to keep it in place through winter’s howling winds. Out in the chicken coop, a timer is set to “give the hens the light they need to lay eggs all winter.” Fresh grain and hay and a water heater keeps the chickens well fed and comfortable. “Good night, chickens, snug in your coop.” A wall of hay bales creates a wind break for the bee hives and the entrances are narrowed to keep field mice out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-coop

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the harvest stocks the farm stand with “fresh eggs, greens and roots, onions and garlic braids, decorative corn, honey and maple syrup.” Finally, the farm vehicles are driven into the equipment shed. Back in the farmhouse, the wood stove glows, and colored lights rim the roof and windows. Beeswax candles on the sills “soften the longest night.” As white flakes softly fall, “the farm is ready for down quilts of snow, the shh-shh of the wind…. Good night, farmers, sleep tight. Sleep tight, farm.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-fields

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Eugenie Doyle’s quiet memories of a busy year as a family buttons up their farm, remembering the crops of luscious fruit and hardy vegetables, hot days of summer, and fall’s sweet honey offer a dreamy beginning to winter. With lyrical phrasing, she shows young readers the work that goes into preparing a farm for winter so that the plants and animals are well taken care of as they wait for warmer weather. Doyle’s straightforward storytelling, sprinkled with evocative verbs and adjectives, will enchant children, who may see similarities between the snug farm and the changes in their own routines during a cold, but cozy winter.

Becca Stadtlander’s folk-art inspired paintings are rich in color as they take readers from the warm farmhouse kitchen out to the fields, where green rows of berry plants, still dotted with red fruit become golden as hay is strewn over them, the wood pile behind the house grows, a sheath of white cloth is gently unfurled, and the beehives are secured from weather and interlopers. Children accustomed to visiting farmers markets will recognize many of the fruits and vegetables depicted and will long for the reopening of their local store when spring arrives again.

A beautiful book to share during cold-weather story times, Sleep Tight Farm will be a favorite of young gardeners and foodies and of any child who loves farms, nature, and family togetherness.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452129013

To learn more about Becca Stadtlander, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Festival of Sleep Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-fun-maze

Flashlight Fun Maze

 

It may be time for bed, but there’s always time for a little flashlight fun! Can you follow the beam of the flashlight to find the kids sneaking one last story in this printable maze?

Flashlight Fun Maze | Flashlight Fun Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-cover

You can find Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-cover

About the Holiday

The idea of Barbara Condron, the Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for the hour between 11:30 p.m. December 31 and 12:30 January 1 and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

 

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-broken-arm

Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-stew

Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-under-tree

Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-tent

Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Peace-Coloring-Page-balloons

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

 

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-cover

You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 23 – National Roots Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-cover

About the Holiday

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

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-abuelo-arrives

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-playing-guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-young-abuela

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-family

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

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

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

National Roots Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-fill-in-sheet

I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages

 

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

I Love Grandma | I Love Grandpa

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-cover

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

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

 

Picture Book Review

December 22 – It’s Cat Lover’s Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-a-cat-cover

About the Holiday

You’re a cat lover, right? You just can’t help watching cute kitten videos or smiling at those sweet cats on Twitter or frisky kitties on Instagram. Maybe you even have a cat at home that makes you laugh with their antics or cuddles up for some snuggle time. If you are a cat lover, this month was created just for you. So indulge in all things feline – and if your home and heart are yearning for a ball of fluff, consider adopting a new friend from your local shelter.

I Am a Cat

By Galia Bernstein

 

Simon, a little gray tabby, proudly introduces himself, saying, “I am a cat. Just like you!” You might think this sweet greeting would be met warmly, but instead, the kitten’s audience stares at him wide-eyed and then…bursts out laughing. The tiger, lion, cheetah, puma, and panther think this is the funnies thing they’ve ever heard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-a-cat-laughing

Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The lion protests that the little ball of fluff can’t be a cat because “cats have a mane and a tuft at the end of their tails” and a fierce roar because “they are the king of all beasts.” The cheetah didn’t think the gray cat had the legs or speed to be a cat. The puma had never seen such a small and weak cat living in the mountains like he did, and the panther knew cats were black and lived in the jungle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-a-cat-lion

Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The tiger may have been the most skeptical of all. He thought that the gray creature in front of him might be a rat, but a cat that wasn’t orange? Ha! Simon looked at each cat with their individual traits and wondered aloud how they could all consider each other cats, but not him. Well, replied Lion, it’s “‘because we also have many things in common. We all have small, perky ears and flat noses…long whiskers and long tails.’” They also all showed Simon their teeth and claws and eyes that could see in the dark.

“‘I have all those things,’” Simon said. “‘Only smaller.’” The lion, tiger, puma, cheetah, panther, and tiger took a second look. They couldn’t deny it: Simon was a cat. They even admitted that he was one of the family. Then they played and pounced and prowled, “like cats of all sizes do.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-a-cat-family

Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Galia Bernstein’s ingeniously uses a variety of “big cats” to expose the kinds of smug, narrow-minded thinking that leads to prejudice based on color, abilities, social standing, and size. Simon’s polite push-back to the rebuffs he gets from the other cats echos the kind of honest, probing questions that little ones often ask. To their credit, the other cats recognize and admit to their blind spots and welcome Simon into the family. Bernstein’s straightforward storytelling provides a perfect setup for the satisfying and enriching ending.

Bernstein’s bold images of each big cat interacting with adorable and earnest Simon cleverly demonstrates the differences as well as the similarities between them. The lion and Simon lie side by side, their paws crossed and their tails intertwined. The puma and Simon sit next to each other leaning slightly to the left. And the panther and Simon both lounge in a tree batting at the same butterfly. The final spread of all the cats frolicking together is joyful and will make children smile knowingly.

I Am a Cat is a story that’s as fun as it is meaningful and deserves a place on any child or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Harry N. Abrams, 2018 | ISBN 978-1419726439

Discover more about Galia Bernstein, her book, and her art on her website.

You’ll love watching this I Am a Cat book trailer!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-purrfect-friends-maze

Purr-fect Friends Maze

 

One little kitten wants to play with her friends, Can you help her find her way in this printable puzzle?

Purr-fect Friends Maze | Purr-fect Friends Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-a-cat-cover

You can find I Am a Cat at these booksellers

Abrams BooksAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million|IndieBound

Picture Book Review