June 7 – Celebrating Our First Middle Grade Monday

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to welcome back Jakki Licare, who took time away from the blog to help her boys with virtual schooling. Jakki and I are also excited to tell you that on the first Monday of every month, Celebrate Picture Books will become Celebrate Middle Grade Books, with Jakki’s reviews of fantastic books for older kids. What does she have up first? A book that has it all – dragons, suspense, magic, and a new team of smart, brave, kind, and funny friends for readers to take adventures with. 

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Dragon Mountain for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Review by Jakki Licare

Dragon Mountain 

By Katie and Kevin Tsang 

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Billy Chang is dreading summer because his parents have shipped him off from his home in San Francisco to attend a summer camp in China so he can brush up on his Mandarin and “‘learn more about his Chinese heritage.'” But when he is paired with Dylan O’Donnell, Charlotte Bell, and Liu Ling-Fei for a scavenger hunt things start to look up. Determined to win, the kids take a shortcut – which they instantly regret when a tiger chases them. Unable to get away, the kids link hands and face off against the tiger together in front of a mountain. Incredibly, the tiger backs away and vanishes into thin air.

When they return back to camp, Ling-Fei realizes that she’s lost the necklace her grandmother gave her. The next morning the kids go back to search for Ling-Fei’s missing necklace. As they search the area, Billy realizes that they’ve lost something else – Ling-Fei! One by one the kids go missing, until Billy is all alone. Billy is convinced that something is pulling them into the mountain and he marches in to find his friends.

Deep within the mountain, he finds his friends trapped by a group of dragons. The dragons are glad that the children came because they’ve been waiting for the prophesized four to open it. The dragons explain that the mountain contains a special portal that connects the human and dragon realms together. These dragons are the portal guardians. An evil dragon, known as the Dragon of Death, tried to come through the portal thousands of years ago to maximize its powers by bonding with a human. The guardians fought to keep the Dragon of Death out, but they were unable to defeat the Dragon of Death so they sent her through a time portal. As they sent her back, she cast a spell that sealed the guardians in the mountain until they met their human matches. 

One of the dragons has the ability to see into the future, and she has seen the Dragon of Death coming back and enslaving the human realm. The kids want to protect their world and agree to bond with the dragons. The kids bond with their dragons by naming them. Once they’re bonded, the dragons are stronger in ability as well as size. Three of the dragons have magical pearls that will give the kids super powers: Charlotte receives super strength, Ling-Fei can sense nature, and Dylan has the power of persuasion. Billy’s dragon doesn’t have a pearl, but they know the fourth pearl is close. Billy realizes he has seen it at the summer camp. 

The kids head back to camp and break into the owner’s office that night. Billy finds the pearl on top of a bookshelf. When he grabs it, he loses his balance and does a perfect backwards flip. Billy now has agility superpowers. Now that they have the pearls and are bonded, the children are ready for the dragon realm. But the dragons find the entrance is still barred to them by the curse. The kids have to go through on their own to open the entrance for the dragons. The tiger that chased them earlier is waiting for them and is the keeper of the curse. The tiger attacks them with electric bolts and Billy distracts it. Using her powers, Ling-Fei learns that they must destroy the tiger’s heart. Charlotte uses her super strength and rips the tiger’s heart out.  

Now they can enter the Dragon Realm with their dragons, but they find that the entire dragon Realm is poisoned. The dragons then have to fight off the the Dragon of Death’s helpers, Noxwings, and soon the dragons are captured. With the help of Billy’s dragon, though, the kids are able to get away. The kids travel through the dragon realm on their own and have many adventures in which they must use their powers and wit to help them survive this dangerous land.

They finally reach the Nowxing’s camp and find hundreds of cages filled with captured dragons. The Noxwings are opening a portal to bring back the Dragon of Death by draining the dragons of their energy. The kids learn that if they destroy the floating flames that surround the portal, the cages will open and the portal will close. The kids work together and destroy the flames, but Billy is attacked. He’s about to be killed when his dragon swoops in and saves him.

They’re winning the battle and the portal is almost closed when the summer camp’s owner appears out of the forest. He grabs Dylan and heads toward the portal. He created the whole summer camp just to find the children he needed to open the dragon realm. The owner is determined to bring back the Dragon of Death. He jumps through, pulling Dylan with him. The kids are determined to get their friend back and all the freed dragons swear to help them. The kids and their dragons will travel through time to save Dylan and defeat the Dragon of Death.

Review

 

This fast-paced book will be sure to keep your middle grader’s attention. The writing is very immersive and you’re soon off on one adventure after another. Perfect for 8-12 year olds who love dragons and are looking for fun characters that you can’t help rooting for. Katie and Kevin Tsang’s dragons were inspired by both Chinese and European folklore and they even blended two of the dragons to create hybrids of both cultures. They also drew inspiration from the Chinese symbols of the Eight Great Treasures to create the eight pearls in Dragon Mountain which give the kids their superpowers. 

My favorite part of this book was how the characters work through their problems together. All of the characters are incredibly different and often their personalities clash, but they’re able to talk through their troubles together. After the children are separated from their dragons in the Dragon Realm, Charlotte is angry with Billy for running away. The group falls apart as they can’t agree on what to do. But after talking it through they’re able to come up with the beginnings of a plan that they can all agree with. This is one example of how the Tsangs do an amazing job of focusing on the intricacies of team work and thread it through the plot of the story. 

Billy Chang, the main character, is a surfing champ who is also good at keeping his head in stressful situations. Dylan O’Donnell is friendly, funny, and very cautious. Charlotte Bell is competitive, motivated, and smart. And Liu Ling-Fei is sweet, quiet, and generous. When the dragons are introduced, we learn that each child is destined to bond with a dragon. My kids and I loved guessing who was going to be matched with who. Some of the bonds were surprising.

My seven year old especially loved the dragons in this book. They start off as menacing and scary but, just like Billy and his friends, we soon learn to trust them. Each dragon’s personality is as unique as those of the kids, and they each carry their own powers that we learn about along the way.  I’m looking forward to the second book so we can spend more time with the dragons!

There are two distinct story worlds. The first part of the story takes place in a Chinese mountain. We get a very brief introduction to the summer camp before we are swept into the mountain. The other half of the book is spent in the dragon realm which is full of floating islands and has three moons and a mysterious red dome. The dragon realm’s barren world accurately reflects the danger the kids are in and increases the reader’s anxiety. As the kids try to maneuver through this foreign terrain, they come across many new and unexpected dangers. My son’s favorite part is when the kids have to bargain with a rock troll.

Dragon Mountain is a fast-paced, immersive adventure book that’s perfect for dragon lovers of all ages especially fans of How to Train Your Dragon and will make a great addition to class libraries as well personal libraries.

Parental Considerations: This book does contain fantasy fighting.

Ages 8 – 12

Grade Level 3 – 7 | AR Level: 4.8

Sterling Children’s Books 2020 | ISBN 978-1454935964

You can learn more about Katie & Kevin Tsang, their Dragon Realm series, and their Sam Wu Is Not Afraid series on their website.

Adventure into the Dragon Realm with this book trailer!

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You can find Dragon Mountain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the National Education Association in 1997, encourages children all across the country to celebrate reading and all of its joys and benefits. The NEA strives to create a nation of diverse readers and to provide teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion. In NEA’s digital Read Across America calendar, the theme for March is “Cultivate Compassion.” This year teachers and parents can connect with authors, discover ideas for virtually celebrating Read Across America, and find lots of resources for a full year of reading. A love of reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a powerful force for future success. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. There are fabulous worlds and stories waiting to be discovered. Just take a look into today’s book1 For more information on Read Across America, visit the NEA website.

If You Come to Earth

By Sophie Blackall

 

In Sophie Blackall’s beautifully—and often whimsically—illustrated If You Come to Earth, a child named Quinn who wears a red elfin hat writes a letter about Earth to any visitor from Outer Space who may venture to our planet. Quinn starts out with a map of sorts to guide the visitor through the cosmos to our “greeny-blue” home and, closer still, to the cities, towns, and villages where we congregate. A patchwork image shows the visitor the variety of houses people live in—from huts to trailers, castles to houseboats, cabins to treehouses to a familiar lighthouse. One space is also dedicated to those who have lost their homes “in a fire. In a flood. In a war.”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Turn the page to a sunny-day picnic and Quinn reveals that in those homes live “all kinds of families.” Sometimes people are quiet, but Quinn tells the visitor, “inside our heads, we are usually thinking. You can’t see our thoughts, but sometimes we show our feelings on our faces.” What kinds of feelings? Blackall’s portraits show sadness and glee, confusion and surprise, frustration and calm. The child mentions clothing, weather, and transportation. “I’m a kid,” Quinn says, “and kids go to school to learn stuff, so we’ll know what to do when we’re grown up.” Quinn’s class is seen drawing space aliens while they talk together and share colored pencils. One boy is making a face and another is sleeping on his blank piece of paper.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What will these kids grow up to be? Forty snapshots of adults—including a beekeeper, potter, astronaut, tennis player, barber, chef, dancer, chess player, construction worker, veterinarian, doctor, singer, and scientist—will give the visitor an idea of the vast array of jobs people do “to make the world work.” There are ideas for leisure time too. And as a large group sits around table laden with all kinds of food, Quinn says that we “eat when we are hungry” and that “some of us have more food than others,” but that “we all need food and water to survive.”

From this introduction, the visitor learns about the ocean, which appears empty but “actually it’s full.” A stunning montage of sea creatures depicts what the child means. Likewise, the land hosts animals, which bound, creep, and lope across the pages, and the sky is home to birds of all colors and sizes.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Quinn talks about the music in the world, made by animals and people, about deaf people who talk with their hands, and about blind people who read with their hands and includes images of the sign language and braille alphabets. He tells about things created by nature and those made by people; things that are big and things that are small and even things that are invisible but make a big impact. One of these is germs, which “can make you sick” just like “eating a woolly milkcap toadstool or breathing in smoke or getting spat on by a slow loris.”

Quinn reveals different ways people interact and how they grow up from babies to older people. He admits that “there are lots of things we don’t know…. But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.” Quinn ends his letter with some questions for the possible visitor from Outer Space and an invitation to stay in his room if, indeed, they come to Earth.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Every page of Sophie Blackall’s mesmerizing and welcoming look at life on our planet invites readers to explore her detailed illustrations and imagine what their own additions would be to each topic. Blackall’s straightforward text is sprinkled with humor and poignancy and each line opens up a world of possibilities and the gifts of our rich diversity, both natural and human. The subjects Blackall chooses flow from each other like a long strand of yarn teased from a sweater with an intricate design and are sure to lead to fun, fascinating, and thoughtful discussions. Blackall’s ending will inspire as much as it makes you smile.

Accompanying Blackall’s text are her exquisite illustrations that are fresh and fun and, in many cases, will take your breath away. Both kids and adults will want to spend time carefully studying and talking about each page, as there is so much to see, so many connections to make, and so many secrets tucked away in each of them. Readers will notice allusions to other books and will want to point out all of the things that are “just like me!” Pages dedicated to transportation, birds, animals, sea creatures, and jobs will enthrall kids with these particular interests. Artists, collectors, and philosophers will also find pages to excite them too.

A book kids and adults will want to dip into again and again as well as an excellent read to spark writing workshops, nature studies, and social studies classes for schools and homeschoolers, If You Come to Earth is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452137797

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find If You Come to Earth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 14 – International Book Giving Day

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About the Holiday

It’s been a terrific month of celebrating the joys of reading at home, in the classroom, and at the library! Every book read to and with a child enriches their life and helps to foster a life-long love of learning. Whether your child likes books that are fiction or nonfiction, stories or poetry, funny or poignant, there are a vast array of new and old books to teach them about the world and get them excited about being part of it. There really is a book for every child—as you’ll see in today’s review!

Thanks to Macmillan for sending me a copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Claire Almon

 

You are quite lucky, the narrator greets you, to be holding the world’s most favorite book. What makes it everybody’s favorite? Well, “lots of great books have cool heroes.” But these are heroes with just one talent—“like spacemen! Or ninjas! Or cowgirls!” In this book, though, the hero multitasks! What is he? “A space ninja cow!” and “his name is Bob.”

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Of course, a hero needs a villain to vanquish, and Bob is lucky because instead of a one-dimensional bad guy, he gets to pit himself against a fierce mash up of a robot, a dragon, and a pirate. What’s this horrible marauder’s name?. Are you ready? It’s Corky! So Bob and Corky fight. It’s thrilling…it’s dangerous…it’s stopped? Ah, the narrator sees now— “everybody doesn’t like violent books” and since this is Everybody’s Favorite Book, the story needs to be a bit more… Well, let’s see if Princess Glittersprinkles can help!

Yes! A tea party would be splendid. Bob and Corky and the princess sit down to a lovely spread with the adorable but really, really, really, really BIG guinea pig, Snuggy. But, wait! We’re forgetting about babies. Baby’s love books too, right? Now might be a good time to offer a bit of ABC fun. “A is for Apple. B is for Bob.” By the way…where is Bob? Is that a suspicious bulge in Snuggy’s cheeks? 

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Finding Bob’s going to require spies, especially cool ones. Now, while they’re out spying, let’s give it up for those teachers and librarians who love big, educational words like “Gallimaufry, Codswallop, and Frippery.” Sure, the narrator knows the definitions, but the book will be more fun and educational if you read them for yourself. Oh, dear! Are those words too educational? Then maybe a poop jok…wait a minute! Do you see a suspicious bump in Snuggy’s belly? No, me either.

If this really is Everybody’s Favorite Book, it seems that “we are still missing so many things that everybody likes. Things like wizards! And a fairy tale!” And so many other characters and things to do…. Hey! Why is everyone fighting? There’s plenty of room for everybody, but right now “this is nobody’s favorite book.” What’s needed is a hero. “Oh wait! There’s Bob,” launching from Snuggy’s HUGE burp just in time! “Maybe he has an idea.” Bob suggests a “sweet ending.” This is more like it! All the hugs and smiles and cooperation is so sweet. Sweet, Snuggy. Not sweets! Oh dear….

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Mike Allegra will have kids laughing out loud with every page turn in his riotously clever genre mash-up. Allegra’s well-meaning narrator offers up droll juxtapositions of characters and situations while riffing on favorite books and movies, fads and fantasies with some crafts, coloring, and craziness to boot. The fast pace, abrupt interruptions, and zigzagging storyline keep kids guessing and eager to find out what comes next. As the action devolves into a free-for-all, the promise of a book for everybody is fulfilled with inclusive hugs and teamwork.

Claire Almon’s cartoon-inspired illustrations are bold, dynamic, and full of action with plenty of humor thrown in. Ingenious details, comically used tropes, and familiar styles of graphics from kids favorite TV shows and movies give young readers a feeling of shared experiences and culture that underline the theme of friendship. Readers will love following Bob’s journey to escape from Snuggy’s belly, and cutaways and character involvement from page to page keeps everybody reacting to the narrator’s directions until the big finale.

For book lovers of all stripes, Everybody’s Favorite Book will be a much-asked for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. The book makes a terrific gift for all those readers on your list.

Ages 3 – 7 

Imprint, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250132765

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and other projects on his website.

To learn more about Claire Almon, her books, and her art, visit her tumblr.

International Book Giving Day Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

What kind of book would you like to be given – or to give? Is your favorite in this printable puzzle? Search and find out!

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find Everybody’s Favorite Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Little ones know all about magic. Not only the rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind, but the wonder-of-the-world kind. Where do they get that wide-eyed awe at the amazing things the world has to offer? Some of it’s inborn, while the rest comes from you and books that make them laugh, think, and become part of a community. Reading books—like today’s—right from the start opens kids’ eyes to the magic around them—even what comes after “Abracadabra!” National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31—the date of his death in 1926—as National Magic Day.

My Magical Dragon

Illustrated by Yujin Shin

A prince and princess in a magical kingdom are lucky to have “a dragon who was kind and strong” watch over them. One day the dragon soars through the air with the princess and prince on her back. They fly over mountains and ponds, homes and mushrooms and are delighted to see all the wondrous creatures—like flying horses, baby dragons, little monsters, fairies, and even a unicorn—who lived in their land.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

They glided through the sky until they spied a very special place. “At Grandma’s castle they stopped for tea, which Dragon helped make magically.” As Grandma brought out scrumptious ice cream, sparkly cupcakes, and a colorful salad, the dragon used her fire-breathing talents to heat the logs and make the teapot boil and sing.

After they’d feasted and had fun with their friends, the princess and prince took a nighttime flight on their protective dragon. While the kingdom grew quiet and all the creatures slept in their cozy homes or under the stars, the prince and princess snuggled into their beds and the dragon “took a long snooze underground.”

The short and sweet rhyming story of a prince and princess’s trip to Grandma’s is the frame for Yujin Shin’s adorable, show-stopping illustrations and interactive elements that will have little readers enthralled with each page of this joyful board book. The fun begins on the cover with a wheel to turn that adds a rainbow of glittery highlights to the dragon’s wings, body, and fire through shaped cutouts. 

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Opening the book, readers enter the kingdom at the front gate of the violet castle. On the lawn a winged pony meets a butterfly, a pink and a purple unicorn splash in a fountain, and cute-as-a-bug bugs peek out of colorful flowers. A mermaid in the moat even swims by to say hello. The highlight of the spread is the silver gate, which lifts up with a gentle push to reveal the prince and princess in the tower, a knight, a fairy, and a smiling monster. Down below, behind the gate, an orange and spotted dragon rouses from a nap.

Turn the page, and the trio are on their way to Grandmas. Little ones will want to linger over this two-page spread as happy and welcoming magical creatures appear from their fantastical homes, in clouds, and from behind mountains. Another easy-to-maneuver interactive element lets kids set the dragon’s wings flapping up and down. The prince and princess look as excited and amazed as readers will be.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At Grandma’s, little ones will spy a few friends who have made the journey with the princess and prince. Tiny fingers can easily move the wheel to help the dragon blow her fiery breath to heat up the teapot. In a clever use of the wheel, it takes a bit of turning for the pot to steam—timing that mirrors a real teapot on the stove.

The tranquil nighttime scene will put little ones in mind of sleep as they see now-familiar friends happily snoozing as the princess, prince, and dragon arrive back at the castle. A cut-away view of the hill under the castle shows the dragon’s lair, and how the baby’s play while Mom’s away. With the pull of a tab—the mother dragon settles in for a long slumber. The tab also reveals another room in the dragon’s vast den and the silhouette of a dragon flying across the full, golden moon.

On the back cover, a cute mushroom challenges readers to find her in the book. Locating this character on each page will charm little ones.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

An enchanting, interactive story adults will enjoy sharing with their kids over and over, My Magical Dragon makes a wonderful gift for little ones, babies, and baby showers. The book will also be a favorite on your own home bookshelf and is a great choice for preschool and public library collections.

Ages Baby – 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419737312

National Magic Day Activity

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Cute Dragon Coloring Page

 

This cute dragon is no ordinary dragon, she’s a magical dragon! Print and grab the crayons—and don’t forget the glue stick and glitter!

Cute Dragon Coloring Page

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You can find My Magical Dragon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 28 – National Ghost Hunting Day

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About the Holiday

On the last Saturday in September, The ScareFest in Lexington, Kentucky kicks off a coast-to-coast simultaneous ghost hunt by teams investigating paranormal phenomenon in various venues. They collecting supporting evidence with EMF meters, digital thermometers, handheld and static digital video cameras, audio recorders and computers. The hunt ushers in a month of mysteries, haunted attractions, and other autumn festivals.

How to Make Friends with a Ghost

By Rebecca Green

 

Have you ever thought of ghosts and felt a shiver? Ever been glad you don’t know any ghosts? Well, the little girl narrating this ghostly guide says you should dispel those notions. Ghosts, she assures, “are sweet creatures who need friends too. And who better to befriend them than you?” She even goes on to show potential ghost pals everything they need to know.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

First, you must learn to recognize a ghost when you see one. There are many false sightings, like kids in costumes, impressions made by a “dusty camera lens,” and “a towel on a doorknob.” But the leading expert on such matters, Dr. Phantoneous Spookel reveals that instead of searching for ghosts, it’s best to let them find you. To help you recognize them, the little girl provides an easy-to-follow classification guide that can help.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

If you’ve been approached by a figure that has rosy cheeks, arms but no fingers, a glowing body, and a “wavy bottom for mobility,” you can be pretty sure you’ve seen a ghost. Here are some dos and don’ts for how to proceed. Your first instinct may be to flee, but “do not run! Ghosts are very sensitive creatures.” Just be friendly and “tell the ghost your name.” Invite the ghost into your home, but “never ever put you hand through a ghost. It can cause a serious tummy ache.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Ghosts require special care and enjoy snacks like “moldy toast, earwax truffles, pickled boogers, mud tarts, and cinnamon-dusted insects.” For a main course, “Floating Spaghetti and Mudballs hits the spot. Wonder how to keep your ghost friend happily occupied? A walk through the woods in search of “leaves, acorns, and worms” is always nice. Ghosts also love scary stories like the ones found in “Tales of the Living by Mort L. Bings.” And they like to laugh at funny jokes and dance to “creepy music.” Of course, a ghost friend fits right in on Halloween.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

When a ghost gets tired, it’s a perfect time for a long soak in a warm caldron bath. Then off to the dankest corner of the attic for a little snooze and sweet nightmares on some soft moss. If your ghost has trouble falling to sleep, you can sing a lullaby of “eerie hums and wails.” Sometimes your ghost might like to hide when you have company, Good spots include the “tissue box…a sock drawer…or the refrigerator” next to the milk.

Even though ghosts are quick, their soft, white shapelessness can get them into trouble. “Do not let your ghost be used as a tissue!” Getting mixed up with the laundry can cause problems of the soggy or fluffy kind, and ghost should be especially careful in the kitchen, where they can be mistaken for “eggs, whipped cream, sour cream, and marshmallows.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Perhaps the best part about having a ghost as a friend is that they will be your buddy for life—and even beyond. As you grow up there are certain things you can do to maintain your friendship. When you leave home and find your own place, make sure it’s comfortable and isn’t haunted. “Ghosts do not like competition.” Make time every day to spend with your ghost, and if you start a family, you should know that “your ghost will love mini versions of you too.” When you grow old, your ghost will still be there to help out and make life better. Yes, “the best part about making friends with a ghost is that you’ll have the sweetest friend…forever.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

Rebecca Green’s spirited tribute to true friendship is sweet and funny and applicable to all pals—ghostly or not. Who wouldn’t like the kind of friendship that lasts forever? Through her ghostly guide, Green reveals that a new friend may be of an unexpected sort and might even be someone who has been invisible to you. Her tips show that embracing a new friend is as easy as saying hi and making them feel important with special treatment, understanding, and sharing favorite activities. Friendships can suffer when two people grow up and grow apart because of distance, work, or family, but Green suggests that with careful attention, a friendship can last forever.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

Green’s adorable gouache and colored-pencil illustrations have a timeless feel rendered in soft beiges and grays punctuated with red accents. Green’s clever text is enhanced by images of the false ghost sightings, classification guide, ghost snacks, hiding places and hazards, and the expressive little ghost as it laughs, plays, sleeps, and smiles. As the girl grows older, the ghost takes the lead in activities the two enjoy, leaving readers with a satisfying and comforting feeling.

Readers will giggle and “aww” and fall in love with the little ghost and the idea of such a wonderful friendship. How to Make Friends with a Ghost is rich in charm and sage advice and would make a welcome presence on any child’s or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101919019

Learn more about Rebecca Green and find a gallery of her illustration work on her website.

Don’t be frightened! It’s just the adorable How to Make Friends with a Ghost book trailer!

National Ghost Hunting Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ghost-coloring-page

Cute Ghost Coloring Page

 

If all ghosts were this adorable, who would be afraid of them? Color this printable Cute Ghost Coloring Page then let it hang around your room.

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You can find How to Make Friends with a Ghost at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 16 – Father’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today is all about celebrating dads and telling them how much you love them. It’s a great day to think of all the things dads do for their kids and their families and to share a thank-you, a hug, and of course a book! Reading together is one of the best ways for dads and their kids to bond not only today, but every day!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that makes a wonderful gift for dad and would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website! Click here for a funtastic It’s Great Being a Dad activity kit!

Father’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-building-blocks-craft

I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

You can find It’s Great Being a Dad at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 2 – National Science Fiction Day

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About the Holiday

If Sci-Fi is your thing, today’s the day to celebrate! Today’s holiday is enjoyed by science fiction fans around the world, who take in movies, read favorite books, and attend special events and parties all with a sci-fi theme. Today’s date was chosen for the holiday to commemorate the birthday of master science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, who was born January 2, 1920. Channel your inner galactic traveler, today, and discover some entertainment that’s out of this world—like today’s book!

Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader?

By Adam Rex

 

Darth Vader, as we all know, is a pretty scary guy. But does anything scare him? “I do not get scared. No one has the power to frighten Lord Vader,” he says. But what about a…wolfman? The wolfman, with bulging yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and unkempt nails (and wearing torn pants and a ripped up plaid shirt) attacks! Darth Vader gives him a withering look and explains that he is “not afraid of a wolf” and “not afraid of a man” so he is “not afraid of a wolfman.” And if the wolfman should bite? Lord Vader’s armor will take care of that.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Perhaps a vampire is more frightening. But another biting creature? Nah…not scary. Next up to alarm Darth Vador is a little ghost: “BoooooWoo!” Fearlessly, Vader pokes it, wondering if it is the ghost of Yoda. The witch that appears next is proclaimed, “just an old woman” by the intrepid Vader, and when he is told that she could curse him, he retreats into a dark place to reveal, “I am already cursed.”

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

The narrator offers up a list of other possible triggers, but Darth Vader defects them all. Well, then, the narrator tells the kids, they can take off their spooky masks. Lord Vader is shocked. As the kids run to him, hang from his cape, and wield his light saber, Darth Vader tries to shake them off—but he’s still not scared. Then more kids join the fray. Darth Vader shakes his fist and rails, “I am most displeased.” “I am most displeased!” a little girl repeats.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

At last, Lord Vader has had enough and begs for the children to be taken away. Mumbling that he’s no fun, the kids tromp off. But then Darth Vader is alerted to one more kid—the reader—“who’s about to close the book.” Shaken, Lord Vader pleads with the child not to turn the page and bargains with them, offering to share the power of the dark side. The pages are waning, and at last Darth Vader knows fear. One page left… “Nooooooo….”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-you-scared-darth-vader-yoda

Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Adam Rex’s laugh-out-loud send-up of Darth Vader and his steely persona takes full advantage of the Star Wars world and lore—from the movies to spin-off toys to kids’ pretend Star Wars play—to immerse readers in the humor and power of his story. Cloaked in darkness, the pages, created from mixed-media illustrations punctuated with white and yellow text, are masterfully funny. While Darth Vader stands stoically, his mask never changing, Rex wrings out an array of emotions through the humor of the narrator’s questions and Vader’s monotone answers.

The monsters who attempt to frighten Vader are straight from Halloween sidewalks, adding to the comic effect. When they’re unmasked, their love for this villain is unmistakable. Vader may strike threatening poses and shake his fist at the injustice of it all, but deep down could he be enjoying himself?

For Star Wars lovers (and who isn’t?) and those who love to laugh, Are You Scared Darth Vader? is a celebration of sci-fi fun for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484704974

Discover more about Adam Rex, his books, and his art on his website.

National Science Fiction Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocket-to-the-moon-tic-tac-toe-game

Out-of-this-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

 

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

SUPPLIES

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

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You can find Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review