January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Kids are born creative, that’s for sure! With their huge imaginations and love for pretending, almost anything goes! Parents trying to keep up with their little charges need to stay on their toes and be inventive too. Answering all the “what,” “why,” and “how” questions takes some ingenuity, managing sibling rivalry takes finesse, and introducing new foods, getting a room cleaned, or making sure homework’s done? Well, “innovative” doesn’t begin to describe the brainstorms that (sometimes) lead to success. But at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) adults are inspired by their kids and wouldn’t trade their role for a minute. Yes, it’s great being a mom, grandmother, grandfather, teacher, dad—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

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

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Creativity Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

Picture Book Review

December 31 – No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

Have you had enough of all the extra goings on this month? Do you just hanker after a nice long respite where you can think your own thoughts? Or do you want to get organized at home or at the office for the new year? Then today is for you! So close the door or put in your earbuds and take some quiet time for yourself!

Interrupting Chicken

By David Ezra Stein

 

It’s time for a certain little red chicken to go to sleep, and Papa is about to nestle his chick into bed when the subject of a bedtime story comes up. Papa agrees to read one of his daughter’s favorites—after being reassured that she won’t interrupt the story tonight. “‘Oh no, Papa. I’ll be good,’” she says.

So Papa opens Hansel and Gretel and begins to read. He’s related that Hansel and Gretel were very hungry, that while out in the woods they found a house made of candy, and that they had begun to nibble away on the house when the old woman who lived there invited the children in. “They were just about to follow her when—,” Papa continued. But his little chicken can’t help herself and says: “Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, ‘DON’T GO IN! SHE’S A WITCH!’ So Hansel and Gretel didn’t. THE END!”

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Image copyright David Ezra Stein, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Papa peers over the top of his story book, and he and his daughter give each other a long look. “‘Chicken.’” Papa says. “‘Yes, Papa?’” his daughter asks innocently. “‘You interrupted the story. Try not to get so involved.’” Papa tells her. “‘I’m sorry, Papa. But she really was a witch.’” Papa understands, but he also tells little chicken that she should relax and try to fall asleep. His daughter agrees to be good if he reads another story.

Papa turns the page to Little Red Riding Hood. He reads about how Little Red Riding Hood’s mother gave her a basket of goodies to take to Grandma and warns her about the dangers in the woods. “By and by she met a wolf who wished her ‘Good Morning.’ She was about to answer when—”…the little avid reader can’t help herself again! “Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, ‘DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS!’ So little Red Riding Hood didn’t. THE END!”

Papa puts the story book down and gazes into his daughter’s wide-awake eyes. She apologizes for interrupting a second time and suggests “one more little story” and promises to behave. Papa picks a most appropriate story for the third go-around: Chicken Little. He starts off with the unfortunate event when Chicken Little is hit on the head by an acorn and mistakenly thinks that the sky is falling. “She was about to run off and warn Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny, and everyone on the farm the sky was falling when—”…the little chicken loses control yet again. “Out jumped the little red chicken, and SHE said, ‘DON’T PANIC! IT WAS ONLY AN ACORN.’ So Chicken Little didn’t. THE END!”

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Image copyright David Ezra Stein, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Papa is now flat out tired and—even though his little chick hugs him and vows that with only one more story she’ll fall asleep—is out of stories. Little chicken exclaims, “‘Oh no, Papa. I can’t go to sleep without a story!’” Yawning, Papa suggests that his daughter tell him a story. She grabs her notebook and crayons and begins. “Bedtime for Papa by CHiKn Once there was a little red chicken who put her Papa to bed. She read him a hundred stories. She even gave him warm milk, but nothing worked: he stayed wide awake all—”

Suddenly, the sounds of snoring interrupt her storytelling. She looks up from her page to find her father fast asleep in her bed. She pats him on the head “‘Good night, Papa.’” she whispers before finally falling asleep herself.

David Ezra Stein’s Caldecott Honor book is a hilarious look at the nightly bedtime story scene in so many households. One story just isn’t enough, and familiar stories just beg to be finished by excited little voices. The father/daughter relationship in Interrupting Chicken is sweet and endearing, as the day-weary dad reads story after story and his daughter chimes in. Many a parent or caregiver has gazed at their little charge in just the way Papa does, and received the same knowingly innocent eyes back.

Kids will fall in love with Stein’s adorable little chicken and her patient Papa. The stories Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little are cleverly depicted in vintage black, brown, and white hues that are brilliantly interrupted by the little chicken and her well-timed warnings.  Even the characters of these classic tales react to being so “rudely interrupted” and are left with dubious expressions as our little heroine saves the day.

Animated readings (there’s no way you’ll get away with just one!) will make Interrupting Chicken one of the favorite books on your child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2010 | ISBN 978-0763641689

Don’t’ interrupt this funny book trailer!

 No Interruptions Day Activity

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Good Manners Matter! Word Search

 

No interruptions means good manners which means those around you will smile! Find the 20 manners-related word in this printable Good Manners Matter! smiley-faced-shaped puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins and Needles Day

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About the Holiday

Originally established to celebrate the pro-labor Broadway play Pins and Needles that opened in 1937 on this date, today’s holiday has come to commemorate that pins-and-needles nervous or excited feeling that certain events cause. That electric anticipation is especially experienced at this time of year and is often the lead-in to momentous achievements—as today’s book shows!

Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

 

Today was the day! Jabari was going to jump off the diving board at the local swimming pool. Sure, the board “was high and maybe a little scary,” but Jabari had taken swimming lessons and passed his test, and he was ready. “‘I’m a great jumper,’ said Jabari, ‘so I’m not scared at all.’” As he and his dad approached the pool, Jabari watched other kids springing into the air from the diving board and plunging into the water below.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-at-the-pool

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

“‘Looks easy,’ Jabari said. But when his dad squeezed his hand, Jabari squeezed back.” Jabari stopped at the base of the ladder and looked up, up, up. He let the other kids in line go ahead of him while he thought about “what kind of special jump” he was going to do. Pretty soon he was the only one left at the ladder.

Jabari climbed up rung after rung. Part way up, he realized just how tall the ladder really was. When his dad asked him if he was all right, Jabari told him he was a little tired. His dad suggested “a tiny rest.” Jabari backed down, and when he got to the ground, he decided he needed to stretch. After loosening up, he and his dad looked at the diving board again. “‘I think tomorrow might be a better day for jumping,’ Jabari said.”

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Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jabari’s dad knelt down and told his son that he felt scared too sometimes. When that happened, he said, he would take a deep breath and tell himself he was ready. Sometimes he realized he actually was, and it felt “‘a little like a surprise.’” That sounded good to Jabari because he liked surprises. He breathed deeply and began his climb. At the top, he walked to the end of the diving board, grabbed the edge with his toes, and looked down. Then he looked out at the horizon. “He felt like he was ready. ‘I love surprises,’ he whispered.”

He bounced into the air and as the others below waited for him, he jumped. “Jabari hit the water with a SPLASH!” He floated down and then sprang back up. “‘You did it!’” his dad celebrated. “‘I did it!’ said Jabari. ‘I’m a great jumper!’” He ran to the ladder and climbed up for his next dive: a “surprise double backflip.”

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Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Often in life taking big leaps can be scary—for adults as well as kids. Gaia Cornwall’s jubilant story of a little boy working up the courage to try the unknown of the diving board offers both support and comfort. Knowing that his son has it in him to accomplish his goal, Jabari’s dad provides not only the gentle nudge he needs but also the permission to decide on his own when the time is right. Cornwall’s straightforward telling sprinkled with good advice will resonate with children and is applicable for many new experiences.

Cornwall’s watercolor, pencil, and collage illustrations abound in the excitement of a day out with Dad. The loving relationship of the family is evident in their smiles, the way the father squeezes Jabari’s hand and bends down to offer encouragement, and the joyful celebration of both Dad and Jabari’s younger sister after Jabari’s jump. The diverse group of swimmers at the pool play, laugh, and talk together, giving readers much to enjoy on each detailed page. Cornwall’s beautiful palette of blues and greens accented by structures rendered from printed pages of text, highlights the buoyancy of the story.

Jabari Jumps is a wonderful story to add to any child’s or classroom bookshelf for those times when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763678388

Discover more about Gaia Cornwall and her work as well as activity sheets on her website

Jump into this Jabari Jumps book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

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Soothing Sand

 

When you feel nervous or on pins and needles, this easy-to-make kinetic sand can help you relax as the sand slips through your fingers.

Supplies

  • 1 cup of play sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • About ¾ cup of Water or as needed
  • Bin or larger bowl
  • Small bowl

Directions

  1. The amount of water you use will depend on the consistency of the sand
  2. In a bin or bowl, combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  3. In the small bowl combine the dish soap and water and stir until the water is bubbly
  4. Slowly pour some of the water/dish soap mixture into the sand/cornstarch mixture and mix well.
  5. Continue mixing, adding a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

September 26 – Love Note Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kindness-cards

Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review

August 18 – National Men’s Grooming Day

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About the Holiday

If men need a special day to be reminded of this, I’m glad it’s on the calendar!

Beard in a Box

By Bill Cotter

 

A little boy is so proud of his dad. He thinks his dad is “the coolest…the tallest, the fastest, the strongest. The awesomest!” The boy has done a little research and can boil all this greatness down into one quality: his dad’s beard. In fact, he’s found that the length of a beard has a direct connection to the awesomeness factor. Knowing this, the little boy wants to grow a beard of his own.

He tries everything. He scribbles one on with markers, attaches hairy patches from his pet cat to his cheeks with glue, and smudges on chocolate syrup (but that disappears with a few licks by the cat). Then he hears “an amazing offer” on TV. “SCAM-O! Makers of the Talking Toupee and the Baby Barber Kit” have created “Beard in a Box.”

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Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

This great kit promises that in just 5 easy steps anyone can “grow a beard (almost) instantly” With such a fabulous face of hair, in no time you’ll have the life of a lumberjack, a pirate, or a rock star. What’s in the box? Glad you asked! Each kit comes complete with “beard seeds, mirror, step-by-step instruction manual, style guide, comb, trimming scissors, and  mustache mousse.”

The boy rushes to the phone and orders one. Every day he sits by the mailbox waiting for his kit to come in. Finally, “6 – 8 weeks later” it arrives. The boy opens the package and starts his treatment. First up, is choosing a style. There are so many to pick from! Does he want the hippie look? The wizard? Maybe, the hipster, the tycoon, or the beatnik. The Octopus may be a little too tentacle, the King Tut a little too ancient, and the Double-Beard a little too…two.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beard-in-a-box-water-seeds

Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

But that can all be decided later. The boy slathers on the seeds, waters them, does the prescribed facial exercises, and repeats “steps 1 – 4 for 10 – 15 years.” Wait? What?! The boy is incensed. “AHHHHHH!!! Stupid Beard in a Box!…Who would have thought SCAM-O would be a dishonest company?” Dad comes on the scene just then and wonders what all the fuss is about.

His son begins to tell him, but…wait a second…something’s different. What is it? His dad has shaved his beard! Well, this is the last straw! How will the boy be awesome like his dad now? But Dad puts his arm around his son and tells him, “Awesomeness doesn’t have anything to do with beards. It’s about the kind of person you are.” And then he shows his boy what he means. They play basketball together, ride bikes together, and jam together. And as they head out to the fishing hole, what’s the cat up to? “Beep, boop, beep.” He’s ordering “SCAM-O’s new Fur-Ever Spray-On Fur.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beard-in-a-box-different-beards

Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

Bill Cotter’s unique, multi-level story revels in visual humor that will get kids laughing and thinking about issues of growing up. Through SCAM-O’s Beard-in-a-Box come-on, Cotter addresses the consumerism that tells kids and adults that outer appearances are more important than what’s inside. With gentle understanding and active participation, the boy’s father demonstrates the kinds of qualities that makes a thoughtful and caring person. Cotter knows how much children look to their parents and other adults in developing their own personalities and behavior. By juxtaposing the two influences in the boy’s life, Cotter nudges young readers to recognize and reject the artificial.

Cotter’s little boy, enthusiastic to be like his awesome dad, will charm children. Young readers will also have fun choosing their favorites from among the suggested beards in SCAM-O’s kit. The boy’s pet cat makes a funny sidekick, and the final scene of the loving dad and son heading out on another adventure is heartwarming.

Ages 4 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553508352

To discover more about Bill Cotter, his picture books, chapter books, and art, visit his website!

National Men’s Grooming Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moustache-template

Marvelous Moustaches

 

Moustaches can look distinguished or madcap! Here are some printable Marvelous Moustaches that you can use to make yourself look whacky, wild, and wonderful! Just color them, glue or tape each to a thin wooden craft stick and hold them to your face for fun!

Picture Book Review

June 24 – It’s Zoo and Aquarium Month

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About the Holiday

It’s fun to go to an aquarium to see sea creatures from all over the world and hear interesting presentations, but it’s also a great experience to have an aquarium—or even just a bowl at home! Having a pet, whether it is large or small, offers wonderful opportunities for children to establish bonds of friendship and to learn about the natural world around them. To celebrate this month’s holiday, consider getting a home aquarium!

A Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Dad plans a fun trip into town with his young child to buy a pet fish. He says, we will get “‘a fish to swim in our bowl. A fish we can look at and feed.’” The pair are excited to go together and have time to “‘walk…and talk.’” The two head out and soon pass a store. In the window the child sees a T-shirt with the picture of a fish on it and points. “‘Look—fish! Fish! Fish!’” Dad reinforces the observation—“‘Yes, I see the fish on the T-shirt too.’”—and further explains: “‘That’s a fish to wear, not a fish to swim in our bowl.’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2015. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Going into the store, Dad and his youngster find another item with a fish on it. On a shelf is a backpack with a picture of a gold-and-yellow fish on the front pocket. This is a “‘fish to wear on your back,’” Dad says, before going in search of a “‘fish to feed.’” Next, the two come to a toy store. The child points to another fish—a fish on a mobile. “‘Look—fish! Fish! Fish!’” the toddler exclaims. Dad affirms his child’s remark and expands on it using complete sentences that model conversation and increase vocabulary. They linger in the shop, finding other examples of fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-mobile

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2015. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

“‘Now let’s go find a fish to feed,’ says Daddy.” They head out of the store and continue down the street. As they come to the Pet Shop, the little one shouts, “‘Look—fish! Fish swim!’” Daddy echoes the excitement while praising his child. “‘You found a fish that swims!’” They take the goldfish home, where it swims happily in their bowl—a pet they “‘can love and feed.’”

A Fish to Feed contains die-cut holes in the pages that kids will love peering through as they shop along on this adventure to find a special pet.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2015. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s story of a dad and his child out for an afternoon together as they look for a pet to love offers adults and children such a sweet way to spend time with one another. The story, set in the familiar environments of home and stores and revolving around a close parent-child relationship, will engage even the youngest readers. The back-and-forth conversation between Dad and his child as they shop models ways in which adults can follow a child’s lead while providing language and literacy development. The abscence of gender-specific pronouns makes this a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations are vibrant and joyful. When Dad bends down to be at eye-level with his toddler as they talk, the close bond between them is obvious in their smiling and laughing faces. The shops are full of colorful toys, clothes, backpacks, and other items that will capture kids’ attention. Spending time looking at each page allows adults and children to point at the various items, name them, and talk about them.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727077

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Red Socks, Cake Day, and Rosa’s Very Big Job) as well as to find activities to accompany each book, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

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About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults talking together while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. The adults speak in full sentences as they share details of their adventures and respond to and reinforce their child’s words and actions. Their conversations model the kinds of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes a note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. This inviting introduction for parents and caregivers discusses how little ones connect actions, words, and meaning as adults talk with them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Red SocksCake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as to libraries and preschool classrooms.

Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

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Swimmingly Sweet Sock Fish

A colorful sock can become a charming fish to decorate a child’s room with this easy craft.

Supplies

  • Child’s colored sock
  • Poly fiber fill
  • 2 googly eyes
  • Small buttons or foam dots (optional). Do not use small items with young children as they pose a choking hazard
  • Fabric Markers or fabric paint (optional)
  • Needle and thread 
  • Glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Stuff the child’s sock with fiber fill up to where the ankle cuff starts
  2. Tie a knot in the ankle, letting the cuff free as the tail
  3. Glue the googly eyes on the fish with the glue gun or strong glue
  4. Glue the buttons or foam dots on the fish with the glue gun
  5. To hang the fish, insert thread through the top of the fish and knot to make a hanger

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 18 – Father’s Day

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About the Holiday

While celebrations of Mother’s Day caught on very quickly after the first ceremony in 1908, proclaiming Father’s Day as a national institution took a little longer. On July 19, 1910 the governor of Washington State held the first Father’s Day event. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson, trying to attract attention to the holiday with a little technology, unfurled a flag in Spokane, Washington by pushing a button in Washington DC. This clever ploy, however, did not convince the men of the time, who scoffed at a holiday dedicated to fathers as somehow too “domesticated” and “unmanly.” During World War II celebrating Father’s Day began to be seen as a way to honor American troops and to help the war effort. The holiday then entered the mainstream, but it wasn’t until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation, that Father’s Day became a federal holiday.

The Best Part of Daddy’s Day

By Claire Alexander

 

Little Bertie is proud to introduce his daddy to readers. His dad is a builder who drives diggers and trucks every day. Today he’s going to be in a crane high up in the sky working on a tall tower. “When I’m big,” Bertie says, “I want to be a builder just like him….” But right now Bertie’s dad is dropping him off at school. “‘Have a good day, Bertie!’” he says as he gives his son a hug.

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Image copyright Claire Alexander, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With the BRRRIIING of the bell, Bertie runs into class, where he’s in for a surprise. “‘Today we’re going to be builders,’” his teacher tells her class, and Bertie knows it’s going to be a great day! First the teacher reads “an exciting story about a digger” then Bertie paints a picture of a crane like his daddy’s. But just as he’s finishing it, a classmate with paint on his shoes tracks green footprints across the paper.

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Image copyright Claire Alexander, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At lunchtime Bertie trips over his shoelace and spills his lunch. His great day is having some bumps along the way, and Bertie wishes he could see his daddy. Bertie knows just what to do. He runs to the playground and climbs “up, up, UP…to the top of the jungle gym.” Bertie is so high up he “can see the top of Daddy’s tower!” Bertie can even see someone driving the crane and knows it must be his dad.

After lunch the class constructs an enormous tower. Bertie pretends to be a small crane, while his teacher, in her high-heeled shoes, is a big crane, able to place boxes higher and higher. The building they make is amazing! As the day progresses it begins to rain, but when Bertie’s dad picks him up he gives Bertie his hat to keep his ears dry. Bertie is excited to tell his dad about building the tower—it was the best part of his day, he says.

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Image copyright Claire Alexander, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At home Bertie tells his dad “the not so good parts” of his day—about his spoiled painting and about tripping and falling. “‘I bet things like that never happen to you, Daddy,’” Bertie says. “‘Well, actually…they do sometimes!’” Bertie’s dad answers, and he tells his son about the bumps in his day—how someone walked across his new, wet cement floor and that he also tripped and fell over an untied shoelace, just like Bertie. But then, his dad says, he went back up in the crane and “‘finished my tower, and I think I saw you, Bertie, on the jungle gym!’”

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Image copyright Claire Alexander, 2016, courtesy of clairealexander.com

“‘It WAS me, Daddy!” Bertie exclaims. Then he asks his dad “if the best part of his day was finishing the tower.” His dad looks at his son snuggled on his lap and answers, “‘Actually, the best part of my day is right now, being here with you, Bertie.” Bertie agrees. “‘I think this is the best part of my day, too.”

Claire Alexander hits all the right notes in her heartfelt tribute to loving father-son relationships. Perfectly paced toward an emotional surprise twist, Alexander’s story is sweet and satisfying. The open communication between father and son adds poignancy, and the truth that while kids are inspired by their parents, parents are equally inspired by their kids may amaze children and will bring a lump to parents’ throats. This father and son aren’t just building towers, they’re building a life-long bond.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-part-of-daddy's-day-bath

Image copyright Claire Alexander, 2016, courtesy of clairealexander.com

Alexander’s vivid, cheerful watercolor illustrations glow with the enthusiasm and love that Bertie and his dad feel for each other. Large two-page spreads invite kids into Bertie and his dad’s world as they eat breakfast together in the tidy kitchen, say goodbye outside the school gate, and read together in their comfy, overstuffed chair. Kids will love the view of Bertie’s playground with the gleaming glass tower and red crane rising above it and the sweeping vista of the city as seen by Bertie’s dad from atop the crane. A vertical spread of the tall tower Bertie’s class builds adds a fun element to the story and emphasizes the tower’s height for young children. 

The Best Part of Daddy’s Day  is an excellent addition to a child’s bookshelf and makes a wonderful gift. It will quickly become a favorite for bedtime or story time.

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801965

To see more of adorable books for children by Claire Alexander visit her website!

Father’s Day Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy to make unique building materials. They’re great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

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

Directions

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

Picture Book Review