October 6 – Get Ready for Halloween

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About the Holiday

October may have just begun, but kids are already thinking of the thrills and chills of Halloween. Witches and jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and skeletons take center stage all month long with fun Halloween-themed books like this one. So get shivering and giggling with the kids and skeleton in today’s book! 

Thanks go to Page Street Kids for sharing a copy of If You Ever Meet a Skeleton for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Review by Dorothy Levine

If You Ever Meet a Skeleton

Written by Rebecca Evans | Illustrated by Katrin Dreiling

 

Have you ever met a skeleton? No? Phew. Well, if you ever do, there’s no need to be spooked! If You Ever Meet a Skeleton teaches that creepy crawly bones that emerge on Halloween are not as scary as you may think.

On Halloween night, a skeleton claws its way out of the earth, and the trick-or-treating children are frightened. They run away as the bones follow, stumbling over hills and fallen candy. When the skeleton catches up, the kids realize that it may not be as fearsome as they first thought. When they all try to play, the kids find out skeletons have no guts, no muscles, no brains: Because they have no muscle, they can’t win races, and with no brain to count with they play hide-and-seek. “Skeletons have no guts, so they can’t be brave like you. They’re scared of nighttime shadows and owls that say ‘whoooo’”— just like these kids, or maybe me, or you!

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Image copy Katrin Dreiling, 2021, text copyright Rebecca Evans, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Skeletons have no nose to smell the stinky boots of kids. But most of all, “Skeletons have no friends,” and “they’d like to find a few: some kids with stinky feet and little brothers too.” When a child loses his shoe the skeleton returns it to him, and the group of friends invite the skeleton up to their treehouse fort.

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Image copy Katrin Dreiling, 2021, text copyright Rebecca Evans, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

They find that “Skeletons like to smile at stories in the dark…” and “they’ll trick-or-treat with you then share their chocolate bar just like buddies do.” And when one friend’s mother brings drinks out to the fort, they love to hear her “SHRIEK!” They dance and play and draw a trio of other skeletons hoping to join their joyous, Halloween romp.

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Image copy Katrin Dreiling, 2021, text copyright Rebecca Evans, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

While skeletons seem spooky to the kids at first, Rebecca Evan’s lyrical rhyming prose about skeletons’ parts helps readers to realize they’re not so scary after all. The story contains an underlying message encouraging readers to not be scared of making friends that may seem different at first glance. The story of friendship is simple, sweet and a delight to read. It’s a perfect bedtime story for anyone who may be frightened of (or excited by) spooky Halloween creatures. Treat yourself by getting into the Halloween spirit with this quirky read!  

Katrin Dreiling is well known for her spooky, yet adorable drawings. She says, “the spooky is a fascinating genre to work with because you need to create a certain atmosphere in a spooky illustration. Also, it is very challenging to achieve a balance so that the finished work is neither too scary nor too bland.” Her multi-medium illustrations in If You Ever Meet a Skeleton accomplish this exactly. The skeletons and children mirror each other with the same cute and spooked expressions. With spreads that are fully black and white, adding to the late-night Halloween scene, pops of red, gold and green draw attention to the diverse cast of children and glorious candy details of the story.

A creative tale of friendship and festivities on Halloween night, If You Ever Meet a Skeleton combines spooky and sweet framed by the tradition of trick-or-treating. The story can also provide a fun way to introduce anatomy to young readers throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645672159

Discover more about Rebecca Evans, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Katrin Dreiling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Halloween Activity

A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy Q-tip Skeleton Image 2

Q-tip Skeleton from A Little Artsy A Little Crafty (littleartsylittlecraftsy.blogspot.com)

 

Create Your Own Q-tip Skeleton Friend

 

You can make a skeleton just in time for Halloween with this easy craft by A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy. Will your skeleton be dancing, walking, scaring—or maybe trick-or-treating? You can find the directions for this craft as well as other fun crafts and delicious recipes on A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy.

You Will Need

  • Q-tips
  • Glue
  • 1 piece of black or other dark colored construction paper
  • 1 piece of white paper or white foam sheet
A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy Q-tip Skeleton Image 1

Q-tip Skeleton from A Little Artsy A Little Crafty (littleartsylittlecraftsy.blogspot.com)

 

What to Do

To Make the Bones

  1. Draw and cut out a skull from the white paper or foam sheet
  2. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in the skull
  3. Cut 2 Q-tips in half for the legs
  4. Cut 2 Q-tips shorter than the leg parts for the arms
  5. Use 4 Q-tips to create the ribs (the top two sets will be slightly shorter than the bottom two)
  6. Cut 1 short piece from the end of one Q-tip to make the neck
  7. Cut 2 short pieces from the ends of one Q-tip to make the feet
  8. Use the stick part of one Q-tip to make the spine
  9. Use the stick part of one Q-tip to cut small pieces for the fingers

To Assemble the Skeleton

  1. Decide how you will pose your skeleton
  2. To make elbow, knee, and ankle joints, glue the “bones” to the construction paper tip-to-tip, end-to-end, or tip-to-end by following the example in the picture.
  3. Follow the picture to place the ribs, neck, and fingers

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You can find If You Ever Meet a Skeleton at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 27 – Get Ready for Halloween

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About the Holiday

With its invitation to dress up, free candy, and spooky fun, Halloween is a favorite holiday of kids and adults—even pets get in on the act! With September winding down, Halloween will be here before you know it. Celebrating all the spookiness of ghosts, goblins, and especially witches, with their ability to conjure magic with just a flick of their wands, with picture books is a big part of the fun. Today’s book is perfect for read alouds this month and all through the year! 

Thanks go to Maverick Arts for sharing a copy of Which Nose for Witch? with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Which Nose for Witch?

Written by David Crosby | Illustrated by Carolina Coroa

 

When Grizelda was born, she was a pretty little baby with a button nose, “but now Grizelda’s growing up / A special day has come. / She’s off to choose her grown-up nose, / A super WITCHY one!” Her mom takes her to “‘The Conk Boutique,’” where she has shelves and shelves of noses to choose from. But how will Grizelda see how they look on her? Her mom tells her that with just a wave of her wand, she can cast a “‘nose-swap spell / To try it on your face!’”

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Image copyright Carolina Coroa, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Griz picks out one that’s pointy with two warts on the tip and with a flick of her mother’s wand, she feels her nose growing. Her mom thinks Griz looks beautiful, but Griz imagines eating an ice-cream cone will not be easy. Next, she tries a hooked nose with bumps and bits of hair. Again her mom thinks Griz is gorgeous, she says, “‘You look COMPLETELY witchy!’” But “‘This nose feels really bad,’ says Griz. ‘It’s TINGLY and it’s ITCHY!’”

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Image copyright Carolina Coroa, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

She tried on nose after nose, drawing a crowd of onlookers, but none of them were right. Her mother marched her outside and laid down the law: she had “‘to choose a grown-up nose / To be a grown-up witch.’” Grizelda said, “‘Says who?’” and turned away. Then she saw something in the shop window and knew exactly which nose she wanted. It was perfect for eating ice cream and she knew it wouldn’t itch. Her mom was relieved and offered to “‘buy it right away.’” Griz called her mom over to the window to show her what she’d found.

Reflected in the glass was Griz’s own nose! “‘But NO witch keeps her baby nose,’” her mother said. “‘Oh Griz, this is the WORST.’” But Griz saw opportunities and nothing wrong with being first. So now while most witches still change their nose, “Griz feels grown-up and confident, / And LOVES her own reflection.”

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Image copyright Carolina Coroa, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Just in time for Halloween, when kids’ thoughts turn to transforming themselves into all things witchy and scary, comes a humorous and bewitching story of confidence, self-love, and the courage to be yourself. David Crosby’s clever concept—that witches choose their own distinguishing facial feature as a rite of passage gives kids a lighthearted way to think about their own uniqueness in looks, personality, talents, thoughts, and other traits.

Along the way they can empathize with Grizelda as the noses she chooses just aren’t right for her. Grizelda’s pluck in resisting the pressure of the crowd and her mother’s scolding while realizing that she’s perfect just the way she is is a reassuring message for kids who might feel the undue burden of peer pressure or expectations.

Carolina Coroa’s charming illustrations of witches and warlocks sporting prominent noses include plenty of spooky details to keep kids enchanted. As a baby at home, Grizelda’s grandfather dangles a spider for her to play with while a crow sits on his shoulder and a Venus flytrap plant sits on a nearby table. Grown up and shopping for noses, Griz rides a broom, wears a spider in her hair, and completes her outfit with the requisite cape.

The shelves of noses, each in its own jar, will have readers stopping to choose their favorites—for themselves, their mom and dad, their siblings, and other family members and friends. Coroa’s image of Grizelda gazing into the shop window happy to have found the perfect nose is cunningly conceived to keep kids guessing until the surprise twist ending is revealed. The final illustration of a confident Grizelda taking her place in the sky with other grown-up witches will delight readers.

An enchanting and uplifting story to inspire kids to be true to themselves, Which Nose for Witch? is magical storytelling for the Halloween season and all year through for all kids on the path to growing up and self-discovery.

Ages 4 – 9 

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867789

You can connect with David Crosby on Twitter.

To learn more about Carolina Coroa, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Halloween Activity

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Halloween  Masks and Coloring Pages

 

Discover how you’d look with a witch’s nose (and chin, hat, and all the rest) with this printable witch mask to color. Or maybe you’d rather be a robot! Why not try them both and then have fun with the two printable coloring pages.

Witch Mask | Robot Mask | Witch Coloring Page 1 | Witch Coloring Page 2

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You can find Which Nose for Witch? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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

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About the Holiday

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

Review by Jakki Licare

The Hatmakers

By Tamzin Merchant | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Synopsis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 9 – 12

Norton Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1324016038

You can connect with Tamzin Merchant on Twitter.

You can connect with Paola Escobar on Instagram and Twitter.

celebrate-picture-books-middle-grade-book-review-the-hatmakers-cover

You can find The Hatmakers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-come-to-earth-homes

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-come-to-earth-cover

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