February 2 – It’s National Women Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all the women, past and present, who have changed the world for the better with their inventions and innovations! Every day, women are working in all industries researching and creating the next products, services, medicines, machinery, games, and some things we can’t even imagine yet that will revolutionize the way we live. Who are these women? They might be your friends, neighbors, sisters, daughters—or maybe even you! To celebrate this month, read up on amazing women inventors, and, if you have a big idea, work to get it noticed and on the market!

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

Written by Julia Finley Mosca | Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

 

If you feel different and sometimes discouraged, the story of Temple Grandin may help you see that everyone has a talent and their own place in the world. Temple was born in Boston and “unique from the start, / an unusual girl, / she loved spinning in circles / and watching things twirl.” Loud sounds, big crowds, bright lights, and scratchy clothes disturbed her. And she did not like to get a “big squeezy hug.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-girl-who-thought-in-pictures-too-loud

Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

When she became overloaded with stress and frustration, Temple was known to “kick, holler, bang, shrieeeeek! Yet, still, by age three, not one word did she speak.” People told Temple’s parents that she’d never be normal and to send her away, but her mother would not hear of it. With a lot of work, special teachers helped Temple learn to talk. “And that thing with her brain… / it was AUTISM, see? / She was ‘different not less,’ / they all finally agreed.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

While Temple was like her peers in many ways, she interacted with words differently. “If something was mentioned, / for instance, a fly, / in her mind, she’d see dozens / of PHOTOS buzz by.” Her different view point made it hard for her at school. The other kids chased her and teased her for the way that she acted and for “…saying things / over and over. / and over… / and over… / AND over.” When she had finally had enough, “she threw a book at a kid / and was kicked out of school!” No one understood Temple and Temple couldn’t understand them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-girl-who-thought-in-pictures-fly

Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Her mother then sent her to visit her aunt, who lived on a ranch out west. Here, among the animals, Temple felt better. Her favorites were the cows, so silent and sweet. “At a NEW school that fall, / Temple found more support / said a teacher who taught her: / ‘You’ll never fall short.” That teacher was right, and at engineering and science she felt right at home.

Her first invention—made from memory—was “a machine / like she’d seen on some farms, / an INVENTION that hugged her / with boards, and not arms.” In this device she felt snug and calm, just like the cows. As she began to succeed, Temple came to see that her attention to detail was a benefit, and she began to feel special. Then she learned about farms where the cows were not treated kindly and resolved to change that.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

She went on to college and became an expert on farms, earning three degrees. Telling people about her ideas for farming improvements was sometimes scary because they ignored her and, well…weren’t very sweet. But she didn’t give up. She learned more about cattle, like why they circle and moo. “To build better farms / was her goal—she would do it. / ‘Be KIND to our creatures. / They have FEELINGS!’ She knew it.”

It took time, but people began to see that Temple was right, and farm after farm implemented her ideas. She won awards for this work and other ideas, a movie was made about her life, and she now travels the world telling her story and teaching: “‘Each person is special– / so UNIQUE are our minds. / This world needs YOUR ideas. / It takes brains of ALL kinds!”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

A letter from Temple Grandin to young readers, extensive information about Temple and tidbits from her interview with the author, a timeline of her life, and resources follow the text.

Julia Finley Mosca’s insightful biography of Temple Grandin offers inspiration and encouragement to children at those times when life seems difficult or if they feel misunderstood. Childhood can be filled with moments—both small and large, short or long—when comfort and reassurance are needed. Mosca’s rhyming verses make Temple’s story accessible to a wide age range of readers while providing an inclusive way to show how autism creates a different way of experiencing the world. Temple’s supportive teachers are role models for all educators. Temple Grandin’s fascinating life demonstrates that there is a niche for everyone and that through understanding, perseverance, and acceptance, all children can go far.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-girl-who-thought-in-pictures-cows-in-field

Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Daniel Rieley’s cartoon-style illustrations will resonate with readers as Temple takes in everything she sees with wide-open eyes and interprets it in her own way—even before she can speak. The separation between Temple and the other students at her first school is poignantly communicated in a two-page spread in which pointing hands and a lobbed ball of paper appear from the left-hand margin and Temple reads alone on the far side of the right-hand page. Temple’s ability to think in pictures is demonstrated throughout the book with inset images. Readers see some of the farming practices Temple wanted to change, her original drawings, and the resulting equipment now used on farms to improve the conditions of the animals raised there.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a moving and motivational story for all children and is a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

The Innovation Press, 2017 | ISBN  978-1943147304

Discover more about Julia Finley Mosca and her Amazing Scientists series on the Amazing Scientists website.

Learn more about Daniel Rieley, his books, and his art on his website.

National Women Inventors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-women-in-stem-coloring-book

Historical Women in STEM Coloring Book

 

From civil engineering to chemistry and botany from radio waves to computer programming, the five women in this coloring book changed science and the world. Enjoy coloring the pages and learning about these amazing women in this printable: Historical Women in STEM Coloring Book

Picture Book Review

January 17 – It’s Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

Hobbies are great! They give us the chance to explore our creative side, form friendships, travel, and get away from the stresses of daily life. Sometimes hobbies can even lead to better and more satisfying careers. This month celebrate your hobby! Throw a party for others who share your passion, consider signing up with an online site to sell your wares, or join a group of like-minded people. It’s also a wonderful time to share your talents with others—like the protagonist of today’s story! 

Prudence the Part-Time Cow

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

Out in the pasture swatting flies with her tail and lumbering along with the rest of the herd, “Prudence looked like a full-time cow.” But when she had a little time off from her bovine duties, Prudence “was a part-time cow.” While being milked she was a scientist, reading a book on the milking process that she found “udderly amazing.” The salt licks were perfect blocks for architect Prudence’s wondrous structures. And engineer Prudence experimented with automatic lighting, even if the results in the water trough were a bit electrifying.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows didn’t like it. They wanted Prudence to be more like them. She would never fit into the herd, they whispered to each other. Prudence fretted. She wanted to have friends and fit in, so “she decided to try to be like the others.” Dutifully, she went down to the pond with the rest of the herd for a little refreshment and was doing fine until… “she calculated the water temperature and wind speed. ‘Sixty-eight degrees and four miles per hour.’”

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows were miffed, especially Bessie, who said “‘Cows don’t calculate,’” while carefully counting her calves as she called them from the pond. Another day as the herd lazed under a tree, Prudence joined them, leaving only once to create a hat from an old wagon wheel, scrap of cloth, and piece of rope she found nearby. The other cows snorted. “‘Cows don’t create,’ said Patty as she jostled to find some shade.”

Even sleeping the same way as the others was difficult for Prudence. When she had a brainstorm in the middle of the night she just had to explore it—no matter how noise she made. The herd had given up. Alone and sad, Prudence thought and thought of ways to make the others like her. Then it hit her! “‘Cow Power!’” That night the barn rang with the sounds of her idea. But it wasn’t only one idea! When the herd woke and saw yet another contraption, they rolled their eyes and said “‘Not again, Prudence! What is this mess?’” Until…

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-cow-power

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Bessie saw the “cow-culator” Prudence had made to help her keep track of her calves. Patty was thrilled with the “portable shade tree” made from an umbrella, a saddle, and some dangly adornments. And Spotz thought his new guitar made from a shovel and fishing line was “gnarly.” Prudence was suddenly pretty popular! Even though “she knew she would always be a part-time cow,” she was happy to feel like a “full-time member of the herd.”

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-happy-animals

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s moooving and funny story of a cow with a scientific bent will delight kids. Little ones who think differently will empathize with Prudence’s wish to be herself while also fitting in with the herd. As the cows stand around in a pond and huddle under a tree, Shaffer offers a wink to the crowd mentality and peer pressure that can foster inaction and clone-like behavior. Prudence makes a gentle, but determined role model as a thinker who won’t be cowed by others’ opinions.

Stephanie Laberis’s cartoon-inspired illustrations of a herd of very distinct cows are a perfect accompaniment to this humorous story with a meaningful message. Prudence, with her fluff of pink hair, is happiest when fulfilling her creative visions. As the other cows disparage her efforts and isolate her from the herd, Prudence’s sad eyes and droopy tail and ears make the effect of their words obvious. Each page offers an opportunity for readers to discuss diversity, individuality, and what it means to be a friend.

Prudence the Part-Time Cow would be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries as well as to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796156

Find out all about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and magazine writing for children on her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration and craft work by Stephanie Laberis on her website!

Hobby Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craftMooo Mug

 

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Mooo Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft-back

Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mooo mug of milk and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

June 8 – Upsy-Daisy Day

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About the Holiday

Do you wake up before the alarm or do you hit the snooze button a couple of times? Do you bound out of bed or do you pull the covers up tighter? Do you greet your family with a cheery “Good Morning” or do you mumble an incoherent “gmmmphngg?” If you’re more the latter type of person, then today’s holiday encourages you to be a happy “upsy-daisy” who starts the day with enthusiasm and an optimistic outlook. Beginning the day fresh as a daisy helps the whole day go better!

A Crow of His Own

Written by Megan Dowd Lambert | Illustrated by David Hyde Costello

 

When fame and fortune came calling for Larry, the charismatic rooster of Sunrise Farm, the daily routine turned upside down. “The animals overslept and no one knew what to do.” But while the cow, horse, sheep, chickens, and goose fretted, Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin had a plan. One day they gathered all the animals and introduced Clyde, the new rooster. Looking at the “scrawny little guy” as he stammered his hello, the cow, horse, and sheep expressed doubt in his abilities, already comparing him to their beloved Larry.

Roberta, the goose, stepped forward, however, and reassured him that “they just miss Larry.” When Clyde asked who Larry was, the animals gasped. “Only the best rooster ever,” claimed the sheep. “Take it straight from my mouth: he was more than that,” said the horse. “He was a genius,” the cow chimed in.” And the chickens? In the dirt they scratched a heart with Larry and XOX in the center.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was worried—how could he ever live up to Larry? Roberta tried to soothe him. “‘Larry wasn’t a genius…he just made quite a show of it.” Emboldened and with an inkling of what he needed to do, Clyde thanked Roberta and dashed off. “Clyde spent the whole day gathering props, designing his costume, and choreographing a sublime two-step.” As Clyde gave himself one last look in the mirror in his top hat and cloak, he had misgivings. “Could he put on a show of a crow?” He went to bed, but hardly slept at all.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

In the morning…well…Clyde overslept. The animals were not happy. “Who ever heard of a rooster sleeping in?” baaad mouthed the sheep. “What a worthless chicken,” complained the horse. And the cow had issues of her own. Once again Roberta came to Clyde’s defense. With a wagon full of new props and material, Clyde rushed away to prepare for the next day. Up bright and early and balanced on a unicycle atop the coop while surrounded by promotional signs, Clyde “opened his beak, and…promptly fell to the ground with an undignified croak.”

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Poor Clyde! Humiliated and hurt he once again had to endure the slights of the farmyard animals, but their comments only spurred him on. Vowing to go bigger and better, Clyde built himself a ramp, ordered roller skates for birds and a parachute, and designed a colorful Western-themed set. “‘Oh, my!’” remarked Farmer Jay as he walked by. “‘Try, try again,’ encouraged Farmer Kevin.” But in the morning Clyde’s spectacular trick left him hanging upside down from the chicken coop, and the animals more “disgruntled and dismayed” than before.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-ramp

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was distraught. “‘Forget about Larry.’” Roberta said. “‘Just crow your own crow.’” Clyde considered her advice. The next morning as the sky turned pink and orange with the rising sun, Clyde stood tall atop the chicken coop. He quietly cleared his throat and then—“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!” The newly awakened animals came running. Even Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin came to see this new Clyde. The horse summed up their collective feeling: “It’s not so much like crowing, but crooning.” Roberta agreed. “‘Enough to give you goose bumps!’” she exclaimed. As an encore, “Clyde took a deep breath, gave a shake of his comb, and called out another crow of his own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

These days it’s nearly impossible for kids not to compare themselves or be compared to others—even those they’ve never met. All they need to do is jump on the Internet and discover that so-and-so has double, triple, or more friends and/or followers than they do; go to class and get their grade on that assignment they worked so hard on; or simply stand by their locker, go to lunch, or head out to gym and overhear the comments of other students. Avoidance isn’t the answer, but a good base of self-confidence and personal identity is. In A Crow of His Own Megan Dowd Lambert offers readers such a base in her entertaining and meaningful tribute to self-acceptance and love that hits all the right notes.

As soon as scrawny Clyde walks out of his crate to the scorn of his farm mates, kids will root for this underchicken. With a light touch and plenty of wordplay, Dowd deftly presents honest portrayals of the opposition Clyde is up against as well as Clyde’s distressed reactions. Clyde’s three attempts to act like Larry humorously demonstrate the difficulties of trying to be someone you’re not. When Clyde finally musters the courage to “crow his own crow” and is met with praise, readers will see that their own unique talents will find an appreciative audience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise-farm

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

David Hyde Costello knows how to put on a show! His Sunrise Farm is a gentle, bucolic spread still under the thrall of Larry. Humorous details, such as the valentines to Larry the chickens draw in the dirt, the movie house-style posters on the side of the barn, and the surprised and exasperated expressions of the animals, testify to Larry’s enduring legacy. But careful observers will notice that while Larry is a rather bland white rooster with some black tail feathers, Clyde is distinctively colorful from his comb to his feet. Kids will giggle at Clyde’s increasingly complex morning shenanigans even as they sympathize with his plight. When Clyde finally reveals his magnificent crow, readers will cheer.

A Crow of His Own is a winner on so many levels. It offers parents and children a way to discuss and begin building the strong sense of self so important to a happy and successful life. The book also presents a positive visual representation of diversity, and in Roberta and Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin it shows that finding support helps. And it does all of this in a story that stands on its own as a funny, laugh-inducing romp. Because kids will want to hear this story over and over, A Crow of His Own would be a wonderful addition to libraries and home book collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2015 | ISBN 978-1580894470

To learn more about Megan Dowd Lambert, her picture books, her Whole Book Approach to Reading, and more visit her website!

On David Hyde Costellos website you’ll find a gallery of artwork, a portfolio of picture books, videos, and more!

Upsy-Daisy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

A Chicken to Wake Up To

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt, 2 inches by 2 inches
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  2. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  3. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

Picture Book Review

May 2 – Baby Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-cover-clavisAbout the Holiday

Today we celebrate babies in all their cuteness, curiosity, and cuddliness.  If you have a baby or young child, spend the day doing something special with them! The years go by so quickly—enjoy showing your little ones the world around them! Of course, kids love babies of all kinds—and as today’s book shows Moms of all kinds love their kids!

How Many Baby Animals

By Guido van Genechten

 

It’s springtime and the farm animals are about to welcome lots of little ones to their families! How many? Little readers are about to find out! Mama Sheep is happily waiting for her babies to be born, and with a turn of the page, kids discover “Baa, baa, baa! / Three little lambs playing / in the meadow! / She gives them each / a kiss on the head, oh!” Mama Cat smiles at the thought of her new kittens to come. Just lift the flap and see—she has five: “Max, Mary, Mo, Molly, and Mittens!”

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

“Mama Chicken sits on her eggs / for more than a week. / Then the eggs begin to wobble / and start to speak!” Her new little peepers are keeping her busy—they’re such “brave little chicks!” What do they look like? Well, “they’re yellow and fluffy and there’s a freckle on number six.”

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Wow! Mama Pig’s belly nearly touches the ground! How many babies will she welcome? Just flip the flap to count eight little piglets snuggling close. Mama Mouse is preparing for her little brood with tasty cheese and nuts, but how much should she store away? Enough for “eleven wee mice! They love sleeping together. Isn’t that nice?” And Mama Fish is the last to give birth. She swims through the water and hides in the plants with her large, happy family of…thirty three?!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-lambs-clavis

Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Children who love animals and/or have pets will be enchanted with this unique counting book that also teaches a little bit about the nature of…nature. Sweet, smiling animal moms welcome their babies and cuddle up close, while Guido van Genechten’s funny rhymes lead readers to count increasing numbers of babies. The bold, vibrant pages allow kids to see each baby clearly, making counting easier. They also include one or two details about each animal’s farm habitat that can spur discussions of how and where each animal lives. The half-flap pages provide opportunities for interaction and fine-motor-skill practice, and the paper is heavy enough to stand up to much flipping back and forth.

Ages 2 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373249

Baby Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-photo-album

Baby’s Own Family Photo Book

 

Babies love seeing pictures of their family! Take the opportunity of Baby Day to put together a photo album for your baby or young child to look through. An album with pages of individual photographs makes it easier for babies to focus on one picture at a time, and close-up shots of family members smiling will make kids smile too. When you share the photo book with little ones, talk about the person in the picture and tell a family story. Doing this will help kids learn about their family and develop closer bonds!

Picture Book Review

April 27 – National Tell a Story Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate the art of storytelling. Highlighting the tradition of oral storytelling, the day encourages families to get together and have fun remembering and sharing family tales. Reading together is another wonderful way to discover your own stories and those of others around the world.

A Symphony of Cowbells

Written by Heather Preusser | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

With the dawning of spring, Gimmelwald came alive with the “Da-ding, da-ding. Jingle-jangle, jingle-jangle. Clang-clong-clank, clang-clong-clank” of bells as the cows were led to the sweet, green grass in the high meadows. The cows’ milk would become “scrumptious cheese…sold by the wedge, wheel, and wagonload.” As Petra walked with her family’s herd, she led her favorite cow, Elfi, who “wore the most booming brass bell of all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-no-bell

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But one day Elfi’s bell was missing. Petra’s father told her they had a schedule to keep and that Elfi would have to go without her bell, but Elfi wouldn’t hear of it. She stomped her hoof and stood her ground. No amount of pushing, pulling or prodding could move Elfi from her spot. Petra ran and retrieved a tiny tin bell to hang around Elfi’s neck, but Elfi only “sniffed and snorted at the embarrassing tinkling. Tittle-tattle-tink, tittle-tattle, tink.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-stubborn-elfi

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Without Elfi to lead them, Petra’s other cows lay down in the meadow and refused to move as well. “‘No milk? No cheese? What’ll we do?’ Petra gulped.” She begged Elfi to get up, but Elfi simply gazed at Petra with “eyes wide as milk saucers.” Petra knew she had to find Elfi’s bell. She searched the house, looked in the barn, and combed the field, but didn’t find the bell. The sun went down, and “the stubborn cows remained rooted among the bellflowers.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-tiny-bell

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In the morning, Petra spied a crow with something shiny in its beak. She ran after it and discovered the bird’s huge nest high on a cliff. She was much too small to reach it, so she called her father, her mother, and a couple of neighbors. They piled on top of one another, and as Petra teetered on her mother’s shoulders, she reached into the nest and pulled out…Mr. Schmid’s pocket watch, Miss Baumann’s reading glasses, Farmer Felber’s wrench, Mother’s bracelet, Father’s keys, and…Elfi’s brass bell!

Petra skipped all the way to where Elfi and the other cows were keeping their protest, the brass bell announcing “Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG. Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG” all the way. When Elfi saw her bell, she danced with joy. Petra placed the bell over Elfi’s head and kissed her velvety nose. The other cows took notice. “On cue, they stood and moseyed up the mountainside….The symphony of cowbells was harmonious again—and LOUD. It was springtime in Gimmelwald after all.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Heather Preusser’s enchanting Swiss tale of tenderhearted but stubborn Elfi will delight readers with its musical mystery and gentle humor. Kids will love hearing and reading along with the melodic verses of jingling cowbells sprinkled throughout the text. Preusser’s lyrical phrasing is as fresh as the mountain air and will transport children to the beautiful Swiss countryside.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a perfect example of text and illustrations working together to present the story and add layered details that elevate the reading experience. Eileen Ryan Ewen’s gorgeously detailed and charming paintings take readers to the heart of Gimmelwald, with its glorious mountain backdrop, quaint village architecture, and cozy homes decorated with Alpen cuckoo clocks, dainty curtains, and window boxes overflowing with flowers.

Along the way Ewen frames a consecutive story along the bottom of most pages. Through these panels, eagle-eyed readers will notice a curious happenstance occurring in Gimmelwald which just may explain a few things…. It’s not until the end, however, that kids discover the answer to the story’s mystery.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a captivating and humorous look at country life with a little science sprinkled in. Readers may be enticed to do a little more research into the animal behaviors that influenced the story. The book would make a lovely addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369683

To learn more about Heather Preusser and her book as well as see a video about the real Gimmelwald, visit her website!

Discover more about Eileen Ryan Ewen and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Tell a Story Day Activity

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Ring a Bell for Reading Bookmark

 

It’s easy to make a stylish bookmark that can ring out your love of reading while marking your page!

Supplies

  • 3 shoelaces or ribbon of different designs
  • Small “sleigh” bells or other bellscelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-a-symphony-of-cowbells

Directions

  1. Hold three shoelaces together and knot them together at the top
  2. Braid the shoelaces together as long as you want your bookmark to be
  3. At the end, string three or more bells onto the ends of the shoelaces and knot the shoelaces together to hold the braid closed.
  4. Alternately, you can knot the braid at the end and tie a group of bells to the end.
  5. The end with the bells becomes the top of the bookmark.

Picture Book Review

November 25 – Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

National Farm City Week aims to raise awareness of America’s farmers and ranchers, who “dedicate their lives to promoting our nation’s agricultural abundance and environmental stewardship.” During this week we take the opportunity to support the crucial relationship “between farms and families and work to ensure farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations.” It is through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

On the Farm, At the Market

By G. Brian Karas

 

On the Farm

On the Monterosa Vegetable Farm Leo and his workers are preparing for tomorrow morning’s farmers market. “Some vegetables are packed up tonight, while others will be picked early tomorrow. The workers know that greens are best picked soon after the sun rises, when temperatures are still cool.” When the vegetables are picked, they’re washed, packed into crates and loaded into trucks. After the sun has set and before going home, Leo ensures everything is ready for the morning. “He snaps a bean in half and tastes it. ‘Perfect,’ he says.”

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Copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Meanwhile at the Amazing Cheese Dairy Farm, Isaac is teaching Rachael how to make their delicious cheese. First, milk must be converted into curds. Isaac shows Rachael just how to stir the warming milk with a special paddle. Once the curds are formed, Rachael scoops them out of the vat and puts them into molds and then on shelves to age. Tomorrow, the Amazing Dairy Farm will be bringing mozzarella, queso blanco, and cheddar to the market.

Gary’s farm is all indoors. He is a mushroom farmer, and his crops grow in a special room, sprouting on ‘cakes’ placed on shelves and from plastic bags that hang from the ceiling and give the room a feeling of being in a forest. The cakes and bags are filled with a “mixture of hay, sawdust, and water” that give the mushrooms nutrients. The air in the room is misty and cool. To prepare the mushrooms for market, Gary trims them with scissors and snugs them into foam crates.

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Copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the Market

Early Sunday morning the farmers assemble in the parking lot that sponsors the farmers market. They each erect a tent and tables, struggling with the wind that fills their tents “like balloons.” The market manager, Sharon, offers cups of hot chocolate to all of the workers while “friends catch up with one another.” At 10:00 customers begin to arrive, perusing the tables of their favorite farmers.

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Copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Amy, owner of the Busy Bee Café, scouts ingredients for her delicious menu. From Leo, she chooses Swiss chard, leeks, and tomatoes. In no time the number of customers has grown, and long lines appear at each farmer’s table. Babies and children enjoy the relaxed atmosphere as well as “farm-fresh ice cream and cookies,.” Friends chat, happy to see each other again. Food isn’t the only attraction at the farmers market. Soon, the Blackberry Fiddlers set up on stage to provide entertainment.

Next, Amy stops by the Amazing Cheese Farm stand and picks up a wheel of cheddar for that night’s special. “‘What’s for dinner at the Busy Bee tonight?’ Isaac asks. ‘One way to find out,’ Amy says, and winks.” Last, Amy visits Gary’s Mushrooms and buys some of each type. Peering into Amy’s basket, Gary can guess what Amy’s special of the day will be. “‘Should I save you a seat?’ Amy asks him. ‘You bet,’ Gary says.”

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Copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the end of the day, the crowd has thinned. The farmers begin packing up their leftovers and taking down their tents. The camaraderie of market day continues at the Busy Bee Café, however, where the Blackberry Hill Fiddlers have set up once again and the farmers, their families, and their customers have gathered to enjoy Amy’s special Market Pie.

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Copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Brian Karas’s charming visit to farms and the farmers market is both educational and heartwarming. With emphasis on the loving care both the farmers and the café owner display toward the crops and their use, On the Farm, At the Market is a wonderful introduction for young children to the farm-to-table movement. Karas’s descriptions of three distinct farming methods are clearly explained with engaging characters that kids will embrace. The structure of the book—divided into two sections and offering interconnecting stories—is well chosen to explain the relationships among the farmers, families, workers, and customers.

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Copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Karas’s homey gouache, acrylic, and pencil illustrations are perfectly suited to his subject. Colorful two-page spreads of the farms and market, combined with smaller snapshots of particular processes and special moments, allow readers to fully understand the concepts as they enjoy the inclusiveness of this tight-knit, supportive community. There is a peaceful wistfulness to the muted image of Leo standing in the waning twilight, happy with a day well-spent; a sense of wonder in the misty atmosphere of Gary’s mushroom farm; and a palpable excitement as customers gather at the farmers market. The final scene at Amy’s Busy Bee Café offers a glowing conclusion to this cyclical story.

Ages 4 – 9

Henry Holt and Co, 2016 | ISBN 978-0805093728

To learn more about G. Brian Karas and his work, visit his website!

Farm City Week Activity

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Farmers Market Coloring Page

 

Farmers markets are so beautiful with all the different colors of the fruit and vegetables in the stands, the festive tents, and all the customers mingling and shopping. Grab your pencils or crayons and create your own vivid picture with this printable Farmers Market Coloring Sheet!

Picture Book Review

October 14 – World Egg Day

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About the Holiday

Marking its 21st birthday, World Egg Day celebrates the health benefits of the humble egg—which offers the highest quality of protein available. An important dietary component for fulfilling the nutritional requirements of people living in both developed and developing communities, the egg is a versatile food, able to be eaten on its own or as a necessary ingredient in many recipes. Eggs are essential for fetal development, healthy brain development, maintaining concentration, aiding the immune system, and more. Today, enjoy eggs your favorite way!

What’s Up with This Chicken?

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Peter J. Welling

 

When Sylvia goes out to the barn to collect the chicken’s eggs, something’s up with Trudy. She squawks and screeches when Sylvia tries to reach under her, but Sylvia takes it in stride and with humor: “‘Don’t get so egg-cited!’” she says “‘I’ll get your egg tomorrow.’” But the next day Sylvia is met with the same reaction. Trudy isn’t acting like the other chickens in Grandma’s backyard; if fact, she isn’t even acting like Trudy! “‘What’s up with this chicken?’” Sylvia wonders.

While she and Grandma enjoy “omelets with eggs from Sue, Clara, Doris, and Olga,” Sylvia tells her about “stubborn Trudy.” Grandma doesn’t know what’s wrong either. The next morning Trudy is even more obstinate. Not only does she make a racket, she tries to peck Sylvia, and she puffs “herself up to twice her size.” Sylvia also notices “that Trudy left her roost just once a day to eat, drink, and poop. She was getting skinny.”

Sylvia decides Trudy must be hungry and tries to lure her off her nest by offering chicken feed, but while all the other hens “wolfed it down like chocolate,” Trudy remains firmly on her roost. Sylvia tries everything she can think of to move Trudy, but nothing works. That night she and Grandma consult The Big Book About Chickens. Here they discover that “‘Trudy is broody!’” Grandma reads on: “‘Broody hens stay on their eggs so they will hatch into chicks.’” But Sylvia and Grandma know that Trudy’s eggs are not the kind that hatch.

Sylvia realizes that Trudy just wants to be a mother, and she wishes there were some way to help her. She thinks and thinks and finally comes up with an idea. She runs to Grandma who thinks Sylvia’s plan is “an egg-cellent idea.” A few days later a box arrives with four eggs that would hatch. With thick rubber gloves, a dose of determination, and two tries, Grandma is able to lift Trudy off her nest. Sylvia makes a quick switch of the eggs, and “Broody Trudy settled down on the new eggs.”

Trudy grows thinner every day but she stays on her roost, rolling the eggs to keep them uniformly warm and even blanketing them with her own feathers. One day Sylvia hears peeping! Grandma and she are even in time to watch the fourth little chick peck its way out of its shell. They name the new “little yellow fluff balls Sophie, Danielle, Mildred, and Judy.”

Trudy is a proud and protective mother, shielding them with her wings “like a feathery beach umbrella” and teaching them how to find food and water. Trudy goes back to her regular routine and begins gaining weight. As the chicks grow they get their own nests in Grandma’s coop. But one day Judy squawks and screeches. This time Sylvia knows exactly what’s up with this chicken!”

An Author’s Note about the real-life “Broody Trudy” that inspired the story follows the text.

With a deft and delightful understanding of the puns and humor that set kids to giggling, Jane Sutton has written a fun—and informative—story for animal lovers and anyone who loves a good, natural mystery. Through the well-paced plot and action-packed description, readers learn about a particular behavioral aspect of some chickens and the clever and sensitive way that Sylvia solves the problem. The close relationship between Sylvia and her grandmother adds charm and depth to the story, and their dialogue is spontaneous and playful.

Peter J. Welling’s bright, homey illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the story. Animated Trudy shoos Sylvia away while the other chickens take dust baths, scratch for bugs, and look just as perplexed as Sylvia and Grandma. Humorous touches abound in Grandma’s choice of home décor and Sylvia’s printed T-shirts as well as in the facial expressions of the human and feathered characters. Trudy’s chicks are adorable, and readers will cheer to see Trudy fulfill her heart’s desire.

What’s Up with This Chicken is a wonderful read-aloud for younger kids’ story times and a fun romp that will keep older, independent readers guessing and wondering how it all comes out right up to the end. The likeable characters—both human and chicken—make this a book kids will like to hear again and again!

Ages 3 – 8

Pelican Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1455620852

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website!

To view a gallery of artwork plus more books for readers of all ages by Peter J. Welling, visit his website!

World Egg Day Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

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

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

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

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Where’s the Chick?

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

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

Q & A with Author Jane Sutton

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Today, I’m pleased to talk to Jane Sutton about her books, her journey as a writer, her family, and the joys and inspiration of being a new grandmother! 

As someone who loves humor and was voted class comedienne in high school, what were some of the books you most enjoyed as a child and young adult?

 Two of my childhood favorites were Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches an Egg and Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. As a young adult, I was drawn to Virginia Woolf novels (I know–not exactly humorous, but most comedians are prone to depression).

You write both picture books and books for older children. What inspires or influences your stories?

My childhood memories have been the basis of many of my books—experiences and feelings. What’s Up with This Chicken? was inspired by a true story my friend-since-we-were-11 Fay told me about one of her backyard hens who refused to get off her eggs. I said, “This has to be a children’s book!” So I invented characters, had the child protagonist solve the problem, and snuck in a subtle message about the importance of empathy.

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As someone who always wanted to write and who achieved the goal of becoming a published author, can you briefly describe your journey?

At a young age, I was encouraged by my teachers. They would be impressed by something I wrote and send me to show it to another teacher, which really pumped me up. I was an editor of my high school newspaper and after graduating from college had a job writing for a newspaper, wrote ads and press releases, and sold some stories for reading comprehension tests. My first book, What Should a Hippo Wear? was published when I was 29. I’ve had periods where everything I wrote was selling, and periods when nothing I wrote was selling. It’s a tough market!

What’s the best part about writing books for kids?

Well, I never wanted to grow up, and when I realized it was happening whether I liked it or not, I vowed to always remember what it felt like to be a child. Writing for kids helps me do that.

You conduct school presentations and workshops for kids from kindergarten age through grade 5, can you describe a funny or poignant anecdote from one of your events? 

One school had a wonderful program that paired parents and their children as writing partners. The culminating event was a presentation by me about how to make writing come alive. Then the parent-children pairs displayed their books, and it was so lovely to see how much the experience meant to the adults and the children. They also loved showing me—the big famous author—what they’d written and I could sincerely point out parts of their writing that were especially effective. The whole thing made me ferklempt.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jane-sutton-reading-to-kids

I read that you love elephants and collect elephant-inspired items. Can you tell me about one of your favorites?

One of my favorite elephants is gray and plastic (about the size of a toaster) and lives outside, in view of our kitchen window. My mother, who died in 2004, gave him to me and named him “Sabu.” He has survived about 18 New England winters so far, sometimes getting totally buried by snow and then poking out the tip of his trunk as the snow starts to melt. My mom asked me once if the elephant made me think of her, and yes, he surely does.

Talking about your mom makes me think of the strong relationship between Sylvia and her grandmother in What’s Up with This Chicken. Can you tell me about your own family?

My husband, Alan, taught a variety of grade levels spanning grades 1-6. He served as a science coordinator, curriculum developer, and teacher mentor. He’s written and co-authored six books for educators, four focused on science instruction and two about systems thinking. Currently, he coordinates the systems thinking program at a grades 5-12 public school and also presents workshops at meetings and conferences. We met in college and have been married for 41 years!

My son, Charlie, works for a coalition made up of organizations pushing for a better transportation system in Massachusetts. He’s worked in Massachusetts public policy since graduating from college in 2007. He married the wonderful Amberly, a nurse, in 2014, and they recently had a baby!

My daughter Becky is the director of an SAT tutoring program. Her company tries to make SAT tutoring as fun and effective as possible, so they try to match the kids with tutors who have the right personality for the student’s learning style. The SAT has completely changed in the last year, so they have had to retrain all of their tutors and rewrite all their curricula. For any tutoring program, building students’ confidence is key. So much of standardized testing is psychological.

I understand Becky also writes a blog for all of us grammarians who like a laugh once in awhile called Apostrophe Catastrophes: The Worlds’ Worst. Punctuation. Can you tell me a little about how she got started?

Yes, Becky does a great job with that blog. I love the examples she posts, and her comments are hilarious! She started Apostrophe Catastrophes almost 10 years ago after seeing an errant apostrophe on a giant cake at Governor Deval Patrick’s Inauguration. She pointed it out to the catering staff, and they had no idea what she was talking about, and then she started to notice misused apostrophes everywhere! Friends and family started taking pictures and sending them to her, and eventually, strangers from all over the world started sending in pictures! The Facebook group has almost 4,000 members now! Becky says, “I guess a lot of people share my love for proper punctuation.”

You’re a new grandmother! Can you tell me a little about your grandson?

That’s a dangerous question! How much time do you have? Caleb is an adorable, cuddly little person. And he’s now a month old!

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What is the best part about being a grandmother? 

 As a new mother, I was very anxious and questioned all my decisions. But as a grandma, there’s none of that anxiety. Being with my grandson is pure joy. And seeing how loving, confident, and tender my son and daughter-in-law are with the baby fills me even more love. And seeing him in my husband’s arms as he gazes down at him…I’m getting ferklempt again!

Have you thought about how being a grandmother might influence or inspire your future work? 

You betcha! Stay tuned.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, a Passover-themed picture book, is scheduled for publication by Kar-Ben in the spring of 2018.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you a few holiday-related questions! So…

 What is your favorite holiday?

I love Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because they are occasions for my husband and me to get together with our children. And there’s good eating involved.

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

The first time I hosted Thanksgiving, rather than attending one at my parents’ house, my mother gave me very, very specific instructions about what to buy. For example, there had to be 2 Butterball frozen turkeys, both between 11 and 13 pounds. The reason for 2 is so that each of the 4 grandchildren could have a drumstick. My daughter and I were rummaging through the supermarket frozen case trying to find the exact acceptable weight for exacting Grandma. Our fingers were half frozen, and I admit that I kind of dropped a turkey on my daughter’s finger. The turkeys, by the way, were quite delicious.

How has a holiday influenced your work?

The festive, joyous celebration of Chanukah shows up in my 2 Chanukah picture books: Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster (Kar-Ben) and Aiden’s Magical Hanukkah (Hallmark).

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Thanks so much for chatting, Jane! It’s been wonderful getting to know you. I wish you all the best with all of your books, and am looking forward to seeing your next book!

Connect with Jane Sutton on her website and catch up with her events and other fun activities on her blog!

What’s Up with This Chicken can be found at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Pelican Publishing Company

Picture Book Review