October 25 – It’s Middle Grade Monday

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Review by Jakki Licare

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Zoe, an aspiring baker, receives a letter on her 12th birthday from her biological father, Marcus, who is incarcerated for murder. She’s sure her mother won’t let her read his letter so she secretly hides it. She isn’t sure if she should write back because her bio dad must be a monster to have murdered someone. But he sounds so nice in the letter that Zoe decides to write back just this once to see if she can get some answers. As she’s trying to write back to her dad, her ex-best friend and next-door neighbor, Trevor, tries to hang out with her. After making it clear that they aren’t friends anymore, Zoe finishes her letter and mails it.

Zoe discovers that the Food Network is auditioning kids for a children’s baking show, and she begs her mom and step dad to let her audition. They aren’t sure if she’s ready, but they agree to think about it and even get her an internship at a local bakery. Over the next couple of weeks, Zoe sneaks out letters as she writes back and forth with Marcus. Zoe tells Marcus about her job at the bakery and how she wants to make her own recipe. Marcus tells her about his life in prison and how he’s going to college online. He suggests she tries to make a cereal cupcake.

After some prodding from Zoe, Marcus confesses that he’s innocent of his crime, but had a bad lawyer and ended up wrongly convicted. Zoe wants to continue writing to Marcus, but doesn’t like hiding it from her mom, so she asks her mom if she can write to Marcus. Her mother absolutely refuses, and Zoe decides she must keep lying.

Zoe is sickened by the idea that her dad is innocent and stuck in jail, but what if he’s just lying to her? Zoe decides to do some research at the library. Trevor finds her reading books about incarceration, and he listens as she explains that she wants to find out if her dad is really innocent. He helps her research and they start to talk. Zoe confesses she heard him bad mouth her to his basketball friends. Trevor apologizes and they decide to work things out.

Zoe decides she must find Marcus’s alibi witness and find out if Marcus is telling the truth or not. She begs Marcus for the name of his alibi witness and sets off trying to find the lady he met at a tag sale. She hits a lot of dead ends, but with Trevor’s help she stumbles across the person who fits the description Marcus gave her.

Unable to reach the woman by email, Zoe and Trevor sneak off to Harvard, where she teaches. When they find her, she says she doesn’t remember Marcus. Zoe is devastated that she trusted Marcus. She thinks that he must have been lying to her and that he did kill someone. Zoe and Trevor get back late, and their parents are furious that they ran off. While Zoe is waiting for her mom to get home, she gets a text from the professor saying she does remember Marcus and to call her back.

Zoe’s mom is furious when she finds out why Zoe went to Harvard on her own and absolutely livid to discover that she’s been secretly writing to Marcus. She takes away Zoe’s phone before she can call the professor back. Several days later Zoe’s mom and step dad tell her they’ve been in contact with the professor and that she did have an alibi for Marcus.

Over the next several weeks, a friend of her stepdad who is a lawyer and lawyers from the Innocence Project work together to assemble a case to appeal Marcus’s verdict. When they take it to trial, Marcus and his attorneys win. At the end, Zoe’s mom admits that she was wrong about Marcus and shouldn’t have thrown out Zoe’s letters. Zoe is still grounded for lying and running off to Harvard, but she uses the time to reconnect with her family. On his next birthday, Marcus gets to celebrate with his family at home. And while Zoe never realizes her dream to audition for the Food Network show, she does create a cupcake based on her dad’s suggestion, and the bakery where she’s interning adds it to their menu. She’s proud to take this as a success.

Review

 

Janae Marks’ uplifting and timely contemporary novel takes you on a quest for justice that is filled with memorable characters and strong friendships. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a compelling introduction for kids to the problem of racism in our justice system and will open up a lot of meaningful discussions.

Zoe is a spunky, upbeat, and determined twelve-year-old middle-class twelve-year-old. It’s her determination that ultimately brings about Marcus’s appeal, but we also see Zoe’s determination through multiple facets of her life. I love how she’s willing to prove to her parents she’s ready to audition for the Food Network. I like how she gives herself her own challenges too. No one asks her to come up with her own recipe, but she tackles that task and the problems involved in creating her own recipe herself. She doesn’t give up after the first batch of cupcakes comes out too sweet, but instead spends her time problem solving. She creates a system of small batches of cupcakes with different amounts of sugar until she finds the perfect recipe.  

Marks tackles the incredibly complex issue of wrongful incarceration with beautiful sensitivity. This is highlighted in the way Marks slowly changes commonly held views of prisoners. Zoe starts off reading her father’s letter and being surprised that he sounds nice instead of like a scary villain from a tv show. Marks also debunks the idea that only guilty people go to jail, a concept that many young readers may not understand. She introduces statistics on how black men are more likely to go to jail than white men and shows that an indifferent lawyer can lead to wrongful conviction.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington never feels depressing because Marks balances Zoe’s ambition of becoming a pastry chef along with her father’s storyline. Marks even manages to tie the two together by having Marcus make a suggestion in his letter to make a cereal cupcake. Forgiveness is a strong theme in From the Desk of Zoe Washington. In the beginning, Zoe is not speaking to her best friend Trevor, and he has no clue why. It isn’t until almost halfway through the book that we learn she heard Trevor dissing her to his teammates.

Marks does a superb job in showing how awkward it is to discuss hurt feelings but also how necessary it is to talk them through so there’s a chance for understanding and forgiveness. Here’s how Zoe describes her impressions of their conversation: “But it was like when you drew something in pencil and then tried to erase it—the pencil lines would mostly go away, but sometimes the indent would still be there, so you could still sort of see what had been erased. That’s how Trevor’s apology felt….”

Zoe’s mom also has her own issues with talking through problems. She’s so devastated by Marcus’s arrest that she closes off her heart and is unwilling to let Marcus hurt her baby. Zoe’s mom apologizes at the end, but Marks gives us enough of the scenario to see why Zoe’s Mom felt so betrayed. I think kids can relate to and learn a lot from these story lines leading to an understanding of how to open up to others.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is an outstanding middle-grade read for those interested in social justice and the intricacies of family relationships and friendship. If your kids enjoy Joan Bauer’s Close to Famous or Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, then From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a must read. 

Parental Considerations: racism, racial slurs, and talk of murder.

Ages 8-12

Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062875853

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You can find From the Desk of Zoe Washington at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 7 – National Father Daughter Takes a Walk Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to promote the bonding of dads and daughters through the simple act of taking a walk together and sharing observations and conversation. By getting away from the distractions of work, chores, and electronics, fathers and their daughters can learn more about each other and make memories that last a lifetime. To celebrate today, plan a walk with your daughter or granddaughter!

Ask Me

Written by Bernard Waber | Illustrated by Suzy Lee

Even before Dad has finished tying his shoes, his daughter has leaped from the front steps, eager to walk. As the pair stroll through the park, the little girl twirls in front of her dad and says, “Ask me what I like.” Dad obliges, and his daughter presents him with a list that includes dogs, cats, turtles, and geese. “Geese in the sky or geese in the water?” Dad asks as they pass a pond that’s alive with a smattering of both. The girl decisively answers “Geese in the sky.” But then she has a change of heart for those floating peacefully in the pond, and finally settles on “both.”

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Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

The little girl likes this game and asks for more. She reveals she likes frogs and bugs and flowers. She also likes horses… well, “riding horses.” Her dad is surprised to learn that she’s ridden a horse. “You remember,” she says, reminding him of the horse she rode on the merry-go-round. “I remember,” her dad says. As they pass an ice cream truck, the little girl tells her dad to ask if she likes ice cream cones, and when he does, she says “No. I love love love ice cream cones.” With strawberry ice cream cones in hand and the little girl riding on her father’s shoulders, they keep walking and talking.

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Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

It turns out the girl loves digging in the sand, collecting sea shells, and starfish. As they enter a forest of maple trees decked out for autumn and with a red balloon in tow, the little girl answers “some more likes.” She likes the color red, “splishing, splashing, and splooshing” in the rain, and making up words. Next, she wants to hear a “how come” as in “How come birds build nests?” But the little girl doesn’t want to answer this one, she wants to hear her dad’s explanation even though she already knows what he’s going to say. She just likes hearing him tell it.

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Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Back on their front steps, the little girl tells her dad to ask one more “I like.” She likes next Thursday, she says at last and prompts her dad, “Do you know why I like next Thursday?” Her dad plays along, pretending not to know. Next Thursday, she happily reminds him, is her birthday—and she likes balloons, hats, and a cake. Dad assures his daughter he won’t forget. Then it’s time for the little girl to go to sleep. With her favorite stuffed toys and one more “I like”—a second kiss goodnight, the girl drifts off to sleep.

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Image copyright Suzy Lee, 2015, text copyright Bernard Waber, 2015. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Bernard Waber perfectly captures the rapid-fire banter of children while making this father-daughter outing joyfully unhurried and carefree. The father’s simple responses and gentle prompts that echo his daughter’s tone and enthusiasm demonstrate the strong trust and understanding between the two and offer a terrific model for adult readers. Children will love hearing the back-and-forth conversation between father and daughter that affirms their own curiosity and favorites. The sweet final request and answer are heartwarming and reassuring.

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Suzy Lee’s vibrant settings spotlight the line-drawn figures, giving the story a wonderful mixture of whimsy and reality with a lighthearted sense of movement. Just looking at the pages, readers can imagine the sounds of conversation, geese honking, bugs humming, the ice cream truck chiming, and the rustle of leaves as the little girl and her dad slush through the woods. Each image also, however, draws readers in with a peaceful, comforting feeling where all intrusions fall away and the focus is on the love between adult and child.

Ask Me is a heartfelt book for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to share with the children in their life. The book would make an often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves for sweet and fun story times (that may lead to outside excursions) and a terrific classroom book to jumpstart short writing or drawing prompts, outdoor jaunts, or conversations.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0547733944

Discover more about Bernard Waber, his books, and his art on his website

To learn more about Suzy Lee, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Father Daughter Take a Walk Day Activity

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I Like Walking Journal Page

Print this I Like Walking Journal Page, find a walking buddy, and head out! When you see something you like or that makes you excited, add it to your list!

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You can find Ask Me at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 14 – International Bath Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encompasses so much more than keeping clean. Sure, a soaking in a tub of warm water is necessary and relaxing, but did you know that a bath is responsible for a mathematical and a linguistic discovery? The story goes that on June 14th in the year 287 BCE, Greek mathematician, scientist, and scholar Archimedes, noticed that when he stepped into the bathtub, the water rose. He realized then that by submerging an object in water, he could accurately find its volume by measuring the amount of water displaced. Unable to contain his excitement over this discovery, Archimedes leaped out of the bathtub and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse, Greece yelling “Eureka, Eureka!” Thus, both a scientific principle and a new word were born! To celebrate today, take some time for yourself and indulge in a nice long soak!

Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath

Written by Todd Tarpley | Illustrated by Vin Vogel

 

Naughty Ninja had been training in the jungle when his rumbling stomach told him it was time to go home. As he stepped in the door, he announced that he needed food. But Naughty Ninja aka Will “was covered with river mud, smelly leaves, and beetle dung. Flies buzzed around him.” His mom and dad told him he needed to take a bath before he had his “ninja nuggets.”

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Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Will’s dad filled the tub and calmly reminded him not to say “‘Ninja to the rescue’” because whenever he did bad things happened. But Naughty didn’t hear. He was focused on the flies that were now swarming around his dad. He recognized them as “wild, poisonous flies from the jungle.” His dad saw the gleam in his eyes and begged him not to say those dreaded words.

But they were already leaving Naughty Ninja’s mouth, and his foot was already coming up to kick those flies. Unfortunately, he kicked his dad instead. Dad fell backward into the tub of water. Naughty Ninja was sure a fierce alligator had dragged his dad into the tub. Calling out his signature phrase, Naughty Ninja leaped into the air and rescued his dad. Of course, he also caused a tidal wave of water to fill the bathroom. He was sure his dad was okay now, but Dad said he was ‘not better.’ Naughty Ninja thought about this. “It could only mean one thing…invading samurai warriors!” In on smooth move, Naughty Ninja picked up the bubble bath, soared into the air, and poured it into the tub. In a moment, clouds of bubbles filled the room. Naughty Ninja yelled for his dad to run.

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Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As water and bubbles, bath toys and toothbrushes flowed out of the bathroom, Naughty Ninja bounded across the bathroom and out the door. Ninja Dad gave chase with an armload of towels. But Dad slipped and slid on a towel across the room and back again. “Naughty Ninja thought that looked like fun.” He grabbed a towel and slid loop-de-loops around the floor, walls, and ceiling. By this time even Ninja Dad was having fun.

They came to a halt in front of Mom, who wanted to know what they were doing. “Naughty Ninja and Dad stopped and slowly pointed at each other.” Mom didn’t care who started it or how it had happened. She was just thrilled with how clean the house looked. Dad smiled at Will. It was just another successful Ninja rescue.

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Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Todd Tarpley’s madcap ninja adventure will thrill kids who play hard and have active imaginations. His funny description of Naughty Ninja’s dire need for a bath segues naturally into the slapstick comedy to come. Ninja Dad’s wary warning ramps up the suspense, and readers will be eagerly anticipating Naughty Ninja’s catch phrase to see what “bad things” happen. Tarpley’s disconnect between Naughty Ninja’s thought process and his dad’s desires to get him in the tub create moments that will have appreciative kids laughing out loud. As Dad embraces the slip-sliding fun and Mom thanks them for cleaning the house, readers will be happy to adventure with this Ninja Family again and again.

Vin Vogel’s humorous, action-packed illustrations depict all the fun of Naughty Ninja’s imagination with clever details and a deft eye for scenes that make kids giggle. Flailing arms, heroic leaps, and air-born kicks are all part of Naughty Ninja’s repertoire, and his ninja outfit (which includes a black hoodie with the size tag sticking out and one untied sneaker) is inspired. Readers will enjoy pointing out the flies, bath toys, and bath accessories that become unwitting stars of Naughty Ninja’s daring rescue.

Sure to be a favorite of Ninja-loving kids and fun-loving adults, Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542094337

Discover more about Todd Tarpley and his books on his website.

To learn more about Vin Vogel, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Bath Day Activity 

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Recycled  Bathtub Catapult Battleship 

 

If your kiddo isn’t interested in taking a bath like Otis P. Oliver then you should give this craft a try! Blast the bubbles away as you sail your battleship in the tub.

Supplies

  • Applesauce or yogurt cup
  • Skewer
  • Plastic spoon
  • Popsicle stick
  • 10-15 pennies
  • Rubber band
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Crayons (are best since they are waterproof)
  • Tape

These supplies are just suggestions. Play around with different recycled materials and see what works!

Directions

To Make the Mast

  1. Cut the bottom of the popsicle stick off so the end is flat

  2. Take the cut-off part of the popsicle stick and hot glue the flat side to the popsicle stick, one inch down from the top. This will help hold the rubber band in place

  3. Hot glue the popsicle stick to the center of your yogurt or applesauce cup.

To Make the Catapult

  1. Cut off the pointy ends of skewer

  2. Hot glue the handle of the plastic spoon to the skewer

  3. Hold the catapult at an angle and hot glue the skewer next to the popsicle stick

To Make the Flag

  1. On paper draw a triangle and color in.

  2. Cut out triangle and tape to popsicle stick as a flag

To Finish

  1. Place pennies in front of popsicle stick to balance it out for floating (mine needed 12 pennies to keep it from tipping over backwards)

  2. Attach rubber band around popsicle stick and skewer

  3.  Float in bathtub and attack those bubbles!

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You can find Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

June 13 – National Weed Your Garden Day

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About the Holiday

So, you’ve planted your seeds and seedlings and they’ve started coming up, but so is something else. Suddenly, it’s a race for ground space, water, and nutrition between the veggies, fruit, or flowers and a fast-moving intruder. How do you slow down the intruder or keep it at bay? That’s where today’s holiday comes in. National Weed Your Garden Day encourages people to set aside some time each day to weeding their gardens and give their crops the best environment to grow in.

Dandy

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Charles Santoso

 

When Daddy Lion looked out the window and saw the little yellow flower of a dandelion nodding to him “on his perfect lawn. He ran for his clippers….” But when he got out there, his adorable daughter, Sweetie, was already there watering her “flower.” “‘Her name is Charlotte. She’s my best friend,’” the tyke said, gazing up at her daddy with her big, bright eyes.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Daddy may have let it go, except for the neighbors who railed over the hedge that the weed would take over his yard, the neighborhood, and even the universe. The giraffe caught Daddy in a steely gaze and said, “‘You KNOW what you have to do.’” While his daughter read in the family room, Daddy snuck out with his shovel, and even though the dandelion gave him its most winning look, he raised the shovel high above it, readied for the forward swing, and… “‘Hi, Daddy!’” Sweetie was there reading to Charlotte.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

During nap time, Daddy tiptoed out of Sweetie’s room and ran pell-mell with his mower toward the little weed. “But Sweetie was there” camped out with a tent and sleeping bags for her and Charlotte. When Sweetie was preoccupied with raiding the cookie jar for snack time, Daddy leashed up a hungry goat… but Sweetie beat him to it with a tea party, complete with cookies for her, Charlotte, and the goat.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

“Once again, Daddy hoped his friends wouldn’t notice. They did.” They spurred him on to get rid of that dastardly dandelion, and Daddy tried everything from nunchucks to chemicals to a jackhammer and, finally, a cannon. But each time, Sweetie was there. Until, that is, she took the bus to her swimming lesson. Promising his daughter to “take care of Charlotte,” Daddy waved goodbye and rushed out to the yard with the neighbors cheering him on.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

But there, propped up on Charlotte’s leaves, was a painting by Sweetie of Daddy standing next to Charlotte surrounded in hearts. When Daddy held it up, he and the neighbors shared a good cry. “(They were daddies, too.)” But just then, Daddy’s clippers slipped out of his hand. Daddy and the neighbors put Charlotte back together as best they could and “hoped Sweetie wouldn’t notice.” With tears in her eyes, though, she came to Daddy and pulled him outside to show him that something was “‘WRONG with Charlotte!’” And there, bent and broken but taped together, stood Charlotte, and where her bright yellow flower had been there was a cloud of white fluff.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Daddy gazed out at the lawn and then down into Sweetie’s crumpled face and chose. He picked up Charlotte and blew, sending the fluff flying. And soon, Sweetie was introducing Daddy to “‘Charlotte Two! And Charlotte Three! And Charlotte Four! And…’” And Daddy thought they were all “DANDY.”

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Smart, sweet, and surprising, Dandy is a delight from beginning to end. The book’s cover, dotted with posing dandelions, hint at the endearing personalities that preserve these sunny weeds while the front endpapers depict perfect lawns where kids play and dads snip, clip, and dig up any interlopers. The back endpapers show a change of heart on the part of these dads following the story.

In between, Ame Dyckman’s pitch-perfect, laugh-out-loud series of events in which Sweetie is always there to protect her best friend, Charlotte, will charm kids and adults. Dyckman’s Sweetie lives up to her name with her invitation to tea, love-filled painting, and ever enthusiastic “Hi, Daddy!” greeting from Charlotte’s side. Clever wording introduces a plot twist that will melt the heart of even the most stalwart lawn lover, and the touching suspense leads to a tender moment between father and daughter.

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Charles Santoso infuses every page of Dandy with humor that grows more and more hilarious as Daddy tries to placate the neighbors only to be bested by his adorable daughter who has enormous eyes, rosy cheeks, and even a heart-shaped nose. The action gets off to a fast start as Daddy Lion, his face plastered to the window in horror, is taunted by the waving dandelion. Clippers in hand, he’s caught up short by Sweetie’s introduction of her “best friend Charlotte,” a scene that only grows funnier as Daddy’s methods of destruction escalate.

The five neighbors—a modern day, suburban-dressed Greek chorus—keep up the pressure, but crumble in the end. As the dads surround the injured Charlotte, surgical masks in place and holding a variety of medical instruments, kids and adults will be thoroughly invested in Charlotte’s prognosis. The final illustration of Sweetie and Daddy happily watering their crop of Charlottes proves that love has the deepest roots.

Highly original, funny, and touching, Dandy is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries, and makes a perfect gift for dad on for Father’s Day or any day.

Ages 4 – 8

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0316362955

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charles Santoso, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Weed Your Garden Day Activity

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Dandelion Garden Coloring Page

 

With their bright yellow petals and soft fluff, it’s easy to see why dandelions can be a child’s favorite flower, so here’s a little patch of dandelions that kids can keep inside! Just add some color and maybe a bit of cotton or polyfill  to bring this printable garden to life.

Dandelion Garden Coloring Page

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You can find Dandy at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 3 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

Observed during the five weeks between Mothers Day and Fathers Day, National Family Month was established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882. Leading into the school vacation season, the holiday encourages families to spend more time working, playing, talking, and just hanging out together. This year, of course, we’ve gotten to know and appreciate our families in a whole new way. This Family Month and all throughout the summer, celebrate your close bonds. You can read more about the qualities of strong families in this publication about the holiday from childwelfare.gov. During this month of Father’s Day, one wonderful way for kids to celebrate their dads is to share today’s book. 

My Dad

Written by Susan Quinn | Illustrated by Marina Ruiz

 

A little boy confides that his dad has blasted off to another galaxy, “been a secret agent, or won a Grand Prix race.” He’s not one of those jet-setting dads, either. But, the little boy boasts “my Dad is FANTASTIC!” What makes him so fantastic? Well, he’s a wonderful baker and makes “the best cookies” and cake. His dad is also likes to work outside. The boy says, “He gives me rides around the garden, / he grows vegetables all in a row. / And it’s fun to pull up carrots, / shouting, “Ready! Set! GO!'” Even grocery shopping is not “BORING” when they go together and pretend they’re in the jungle “looking for tasty food to eat.”

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

The boy says his dad is always there to teach him things, to cheer him on, and to cheer him up when he’s had a bad day. They go on outings together and play until they stop to quietly enjoy the sunset. On rainy fall days, they splash in puddles under a rainbow canopy, and in the winter they play in the snow. With Dad, bath time is time for adventures on the high seas.

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

At bedtime Dad reads stories as they cuddle up together. “Then,” the boy says, “we count twinkling stars, before Dad says ‘night, night!'” With a final kiss, Dad tucks his son in tight, and the little boy smiles, thinking “he’s the best a dad can be. / And every day is special / when it’s just my Dad and me.”

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

Susan Quinn’s sweet and earnest ode to the love between a son and his father is all the more touching for the simple, conversational style of her rhyming verses. From the first page, the little boy’s pride and affection for his dad is evident as each spread describes a specific way in which Dad makes every day special or attends to his son’s needs. The unique bond fathers form with their children through working together, physical play, imagination, snuggle time, and just being there for them are all represented with heartwarming, childlike enthusiasm. As a busy day winds down, the quiet assurance of a father’s love will move readers – both children and adults. 

Marina Ruiz’s soft, textured, multi-media illustrations welcome readers into the comforting home and routine of a little boy and his dad as they spend treasured time together. From home to the soccer field to beach picnics to the grocery store transformed by imagination, Ruiz’s gorgeous color palette and collage-style images highlight what makes this father-son relationship so special. Plenty of smiles, adoring looks, and shared snuggles will charm readers.

My Dad will be a favorite choice for fathers to read to their kids and mothers or other caregivers to share when Dad’s away. The book would make a much-appreciated gift for Father’s Day or other gift-giving occasions and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7 

words & pictures, Quarto Knows, 2021 | ISBN 978-0711255340

Discover more about Susan Quinn and her books on her website.

To learn more about Marina Ruiz, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Month Activity

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

I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-day-cover

You can find My Dad at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 2 – National Leave the Office Early Day

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About the Holiday

Would you like to spend less time at the office and more at home with your kids or just relaxing with a good book or favorite hobby? Employee productivity expert Laura Stack thought most people would say yes, so in 2004 she established today’s holiday to raise awareness of adjustments and strategies workers and management can take to make the work day more efficient and productive so that people can leave on time. A better balance between work and home life has benefits for people’s health, happiness, relationships, and their job itself. 

Somewhere in the City

Written by J. B. Frank | Illustrated by Yu Leng

 

The sun has set and it’s growing late. “Somewhere in the city,” Lucy peers out her window hoping to hear her dad’s footsteps amid the “bustle of the street below.” A dog across the street barks, and Lucy calls out “‘Daddy’s coming home.’” Across town Lucy’s father turns off his computer, grabs his briefcase and jacket and says goodbye to his coworkers. He rushes through the office lobby and “Swish, Swish” spins through the revolving door and onto the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-Lucy

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

While she waits, Lucy watches the baker mixing dough through the plate glass window. She stirs and stirs in a big bowl. “Somewhere in the city,” Daddy hurries past a musician “playing a lullaby to the people passing by.” Some friends who are listening invite Lucy’s dad to stop and chat, but he begs off, telling them he needs to get home to tuck his little one into bed. At home, Lucy yawns and puts on her pajamas. At the bus stop, a woman also yawns after a long day. The bus finally comes, but Lucy’s dad does not get off.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-dad

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

“Somewhere in the city” Daddy’s been delayed. When the path finally clears, he runs toward home. He passes a street performer and thinks how much Lucy would love it. Meanwhile, Lucy stretches out her time getting ready for bed, but her mom finally taps her watch and tells her it’s time for bed. But how can Lucy go to sleep without “hearing that special something?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-carousel

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Finally, Daddy is on the train and although Lucy is in bed, she’s not sleeping. She dances to the music floating through her window from the radio in the grocery store below, she plays with her cat, and at last she hears the door open. Snuggled up with Daddy as he reads her a story, Lucy rests “her head on his chest…hears that special something,” and sighs with contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-waiting

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Steeped in the sights, sounds, and pop-up events of a city and enriched by the urgency of a parent-child reunion for a daily tradition, J.B Frank’s story will delight kids and adults alike. Frank’s repeated phrase “somewhere in the city” makes the story universal while playing with pacing and enhancing Lucy’s and her father’s feelings. Children will love the back-and-forth storytelling that keeps tabs on Daddy’s progress through the city and Lucy’s attempts to delay bedtime. When Daddy finally makes it home, what Lucy has been waiting for will melt readers’ hearts.

Yu Leng’s realistic portrayals of the city share space with dreamlike whimsy in clever transitions that young readers will adore. As Lucy’s father rushes through the city, he meets up with surprising performers, a humorous delay that’s just right for little readers on their way to “counting sheep,” and other fun-living city folk. Just as charming is the view from Lucy’s window of the bakery, grocery store, bus stop and the rooms of her apartment home, all washed in a sleepy blue, punctuated by the welcoming golden glow of Lucy’s bedroom light. Lucy and her father’s facial expressions clearly show their changing emotions, and the final spreads of them sharing a special moment is heartwarming.

Enchanting, smart, and touching, Somewhere in the City would make a wonderful gift for dads anytime and especially for Father’s Day or for new dads. The book  is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2021| ISBN 978-1641702607

Discover more about J. B. Frank and her books on her website.

You can connect with Yu Leng on Instagram.

National Leave the Office Early Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-briefcase-craft

Briefcase Craft and Dream Job Application

 

Kids will have fun pretending to be dad or mom going off to the office with this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application! 

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-cover

You can find Somewhere in the City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 1 – Global Day of Parents

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About the Holiday

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly instituted Global Day of Parents to honor and support parents and their importance to the health, welfare, education, and nurturing of their children. This past year, especially, has seen parents stepping up to help their children with school work, protect them from illness, soothe their fears, and help them adjust to necessary changes. Today’s holiday provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their “selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.” To learn more about the holiday, visit the United Nations website.

Hair Twins

Written by Raakhee Mirchandani | Illustrated by Holly Hatam

 

A Sikh father and his young daughter have a favorite routine every morning. Before school and work, Papa combs out his daughter’s long hair and brushes it “like he does his own, splitting it down the middle, like a river separating two enchanted forests.” Papa then smooths the tangles with coconut oil. Next, he styles it, sometimes making two braids that remind her of the braid her dadi, her grandmother, “wears to parties.”

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Raakhee Mirchandani, 2021. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

As her father combs out his own long hair, his daughter helps out by handing him a rubber band and a brush for his beard. Sometimes the little girl wears her hair in a bun at the top of her head, just “like the joora” her father wears every day.” She calls this their “twin look.” Back at home after school, the girl shakes out her hair as they dance together, and before they go to the park to meet friends, her father covers his bun with his patka and ties his turban around his head.

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Raakhee Mirchandani, 2021. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Today, Papa styles the girl’s hair into one long braid. She imagines it’s a “unicorn tail” and she’s ready to run like unicorns with her friends and “the grown-ups who love them” when they get to the park. Each week the group pretends to be something new but no matter if they wear “braids [or] buns, Mohawks [or] mullets, spiked [or] shaved,” they all play together. As they run, the girl smells coconut and, without looking, knows her father is behind her and feels comfort in her “hair twin.”

An Author’s Note reveals the personal origins of the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hair-twins-turbin

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Raakhee Mirchandani, 2021. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Raakhee Mirchandani’s lyrical story celebrates family, love, and joy in shared and passed-down traditions. The little girl’s strong bond with her father is sweetly revealed as he styles her hair in braids or a bun and then winds his own long hair into a joora, covers it with a patka, and then wraps his turban for the day’s activities. The girl’s straightforward explanations about her and her father’s hair leads into the fun they have together, and story’s first-person point of view creates a personal bond with readers as well as her enthusiasm shines through on every page. 

Holly Hatam’s bright and cheerful illustrations are expressive and creative, beautifully playing on Mirchandani’s metaphors. The father and daughter relationship is the highlight of the book, and Hatam let’s readers in on their moments of laughing, dancing, and playing together. Hatam’s neighborhood and park scenes embrace diversity while also extending the idea of family connections through parent-and-child pairs who, like the girl and her father wear similar hairstyles.

A unique and poignant story about Sikh families and traditions, Hair Twins enchants as a universal story full of the love of family relationships and traditions for all children. The book is a highly recommended addition to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-0316495301

Discover more about Raakhee Mirchandani and her books on her website.

To learn more about Holly Hatam, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Global Day of Parents Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hair-twins-activity

Hair Twins Activity Kit

 

You can download a coloring page, a Storytime Kit with puzzles and games, and a collection of Father’s Day cards from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers here.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hair-twins-cover

You can find Hair Twins at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review