November 9 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

If you love picture books, you know the thrill of holding a new or a new-to-you book in your hands and opening up to that very first page. The children’s sections of bookstores and libraries draw you in with humor, fairy tales, poetry, biographies, science, and so much more—a whole universe of creativity, thought, knowledge, and imagination—that enlightens and entertains. This month take time to indulge your passion for picture books!

I’d like to thank Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Jaimie Whitbread

 

The air in the rainforest rang with “squeaks, squawks, grunts, growls, hisses, harrumphs, and frenetic feather-and-fur-flying fury. It was quite the rumpus.” But all of these sounds didn’t make the animals happy, in fact, they were miserable and, even worse, all the noise “made them feel very alone—even though they weren’t alone.” But then one day, a visitor emerged from the river with sounds of her own—sounds the other animals had never heard before, like a “fwippa fwip of flickering ears” and a “shookita shimmy of a shaking booty bottom.” 

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

Suddenly, the rainforest was silent as the animals stared at this unusual interloper as she yawned and stretched. A river turtle was the first to approach and ask what, exactly, she was. The answer came quickly (a capybara)—and with an invitation to “join my Sleepy Happy Copy Cuddle.” The turtle rebuffed this invite, thinking it would in some way soften his shell. When the capy reassured the turtle that he would stay as tough as ever, he relented. 

So they cuddled next to each other, and the river turtle had to agree that he felt better. “‘That makes me happy,’ said the capy. So she floofed. Floof!” Hearing this FLOOF, an iguana came by to see what was happening. The iguana did not want to get so close, and the capy let the iguana know this was perfectly all right. So she had another happy cuddler and enjoed another happy FLOOF. All this FLOOFing started to attract more and more animals, each wanting to cuddle in their own way. The capy agreed that all these ways of cuddling were valid and just perfect.

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

At last, all the rainforest animals were content. Then a dark shape came slowly moving into view just below the surface of the river, and in a moment a crocodile splashed onto shore with a “ROOOOOOAR!” Undaunted, the capy asked if the crocodile would like a cuddle. The crocodile was baffled, bewildered, and even a bit alarmed. But then he was touched, if a little confused. “‘No one ever wants to cuddle me,’ the crocodile sniffled.” The capy assured the crocodile that she did. Now everyone was capy cuddle happy. 

But what was this? More dark shapes and burbling bubbles were swimming their way. Was it? It was! “‘More Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddlers!'” Lots of them! Now there were plenty of cuddles—and FLOOFS—to go around for everyone!

In a short note Mike Allegra tells a little more about capybaras and includes a photo of the adorable cuddlers.

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

Mike Allegra, a very funny writer well versed in the magical gymnastics of language, dazzles with sentences energized with alliteration, assonance, and delightfully gleeful onomatopoeia. Add to that his recurring “sleepy happy capy cuddles” and infectious “Floofs,” and this is one story that will have kids and adults smiling from page one and long after the story is over. (Of course, adults should be ready to close the cover just to open it again immediately for at least one “one more time!”) What’s even more ingenious, perhaps, is that along with this giddiness comes some thought-provoking truths about feeling alone among a crowd, the diversity of ways to feel comforted, comfortable, and happy, how the most prickly of personalities may need love the most, as well as an education on capybaras and their behaviors.

Jaimie Whitbread brings this transformed rainforest to life with her realistic depictions of a wide variety of animals in all their glorious color and raucous, curmudgeonly, chill, or playful personalities. Her bold imagery clearly shows the difference in the stressed-out tension that existed pre-floof and the relaxed contentedness bestowed by the capy cuddles. Animal lovers and kids eager to do more research on the rainforest will find Whitbread’s illustrations particularly fascinating while the final floof-a-rama super cuddle is sure to inspire group snuggles at home.

A masterful combination of comical and educational that’s sure to be a favorite for kids and adults alike, Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles is a joyful read aloud and a must for any home, classroom, school, and public library collection. If you’re looking for a gift for any child, this book is a superb choice.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675594

Discover more about Mike Allegra and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jaimie Whitbread, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze

 

These two friends love reading! Can you help them through the maze to meet the bookworm? 

Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Puzzle | Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Solution

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You can find Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Tour Stop

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I’d like to thank The Children’s Book Review and Amy Nielander for sharing a digital copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug with me and offering a small stipend to write a review. All opinions on the book are my own. As part of the tour I’m also excited to be participating in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Name Is Not Ed Tug

By Amy Nielander

 

From the Publisher

A sweet, whimsical story about the meaningfulness behind a person’s name and the power of accepting people just as they are.

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug has a very special name that is all his own. But his teacher thinks it’s too long and hard to say. One day she shortens it to. . . Ed.

But he loves his name just the way it is. So he comes up with a plan—if he can teach everyone his name, maybe they’ll love it too!

Sweet and whimsical, My Name Is Not Ed Tug empowers readers to own their identities and proudly celebrate who they are.

My Review

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug knew where he came from and just where he fit into his family. After all, “he was named after his Grandpa Edimor,” who helped him learn how to spell his name with a tall tower of blocks; “his Great Uncle Whitimor,” who taught him how to play the accordion; his Aunt Mili,” who ran a butterfly farm; “and his Granny Gimmus,” who filled his tummy with warm, homemade soup.” Anyone hearing his name might think it was gibberish, but Edimorwhitimormiligimmus thought “it was perfect.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

School, of course, was a challenge since the other kids had a hard time spelling or even remembering his name. And his teacher, Ms. Mell, found that her mouth grew “quite tired” just trying to pronounce it. But one Monday, Ms. Mell announced that a new student, Ty, would be joining their class. Mrs. Mell had made name tags for each student to make it easier for Ty to remember their names, and she slapped one on Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s shirt. When he looked, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw that the tag simply read “Ed.” He gazed at the tag with sadness. “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug was shocked. He was perplexed. He felt like his heart had been stung by a giant bee. Twice.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

After school, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus went straight to his room and stayed there, thinking. When he emerged, he had a plan (and a very perfectly sized name tag taped to his sweater). The next day, he approached Ty, who was playing with puzzle blocks. He stood proudly, displaying his sweater, and introduced himself—his whole self. He slowly said each part of his name and, miraculously, Ty repeated it. Edimorwhitimormiligimmus “was so happy his curls bounced.” Then as he and Ty constructed a tall bridge with the blocks, he explained how he and his Grandpa Edimor “love to build things together”—and had even invented those blocks.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

At lunch he did the same thing with the kids at his table, and they also repeated his name. To explain how important his Uncle Whitimor was to him, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus, he played his uncle’s favorite song on the accordion. When the class went out for recess, he told more kids about his Aunt Mili and pointed out, and they too learned his name.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Mell was out sick, and Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw an opportunity to be kind and explain about his name. He and Ty delivered a steaming pot of Granny Gimmus’s soup to her doorstep and told her all about cooking with his granny. “The delicious soup warmed her heart.” Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s plan worked. Now everyone, including Ms. Mell, knew—and used—Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s full name.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

The experience prompted Edimorwhitimormiligimmus to come up with a new plan, a project to ensure all of his friends knew their names were just as perfect for them as Edimorwhitimormiligimmus was for him. And he and his classmates got started with the gift they made for Tyvantennyson to give him at his birthday party.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Amy Nielander’s heartwarming and affirming story will captivate kids from the first recitation of “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug”—a name that initially elicits giggles but soon rolls smoothly off the tongue. As they learn how each piece of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name reflects not only the family member he’s named for but also the special things they do together, readers will empathize with the pride he feels in his name and his disappointment when they can’t get it right.

While Nielander’s clever story revolves around one child’s name, there are many other important lessons for both kids and adults woven throughout. Children will understand that their names, personalities, heritage, talents, and dreams are perfect for them just the way they are. For adults, Ms. Mell’s dismissive mangling and shortening of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name to “make it easier for all of us” reminds us that every child deserves to be really seen and accepted for who and everything they are.

Nielander’s illustrations are full of warmth and love, charm and humor as she introduces the unique talents of each member of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s inclusive and close-knit family. As Edimorwhitimormiligimmus puts his plan to teach each classmate and Ms. Mell his name into action, the children’s sweet faces and palpable excitement are infectious and will draw readers into this universal hug of a story. The surprise reveal of Ty’s full name and the collective gift the class makes him—with the promise of the same for each child—will delight readers and is sure to spur them to create name signs for themselves.

An engaging, multi-layered story about acceptance, self-esteem, family, and friendship, My Name is Not Ed Tug is a story kids will want to hear again and again. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1513134871

Discover more about Amy Nielander, her books, and her art on her website.

Take a peek at the book trailer for My Name Is Not Ed Tug!

About Amy Nielander

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Amy Nielander is a designer and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who loves to create playful stories for kids. Growing up, she had her name frequently misspelled by others. My Name Is Not Ed Tug is inspired by this experience and by her time volunteering in her children’s classrooms. Amy lives near Detroit, Michigan. You can connect with Amy on: her Website | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest

My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Giveaway

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Click the image below (or click here and scroll down) for a chance to win a signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug, the Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe featured in the story, and a Name Journal! Three winners will be chosen:

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug
  • A Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe (soup is featured in the story). The digital download includes an “Ingredient Checklist coloring page” for kids.
  • A Name Journal: A 3.5″ x 5″ pocket-sized journal with 32 blank pages (100% recycled paper).

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug

To Enter just click the image below, scroll down, and follow the directions!

My Name Is Not Ed Tug, by Amy Nielander | Awareness Tour

And there’s so much more! Don’t miss any of the excitement  of the…

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Read an Interview with Amy Nielander at Crafty Moms Share

You can read other reviews of My Name is Not Ed Tug at these wonderful sites

Check out these upcoming posts too!

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You can find My Name Is Not Ed Tug at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & NobleBookshop 

 

 

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 20 – It’s a Book Birthday Party for Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m celebrating the book birthday of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with two holidays – Read a New Book Month and Friendship Month. I also have amazing interviews with author Jamie Michalak and illustrator Sabine Timm that really dive into the creation of this unique book. So, come on in!

Thanks go to Hippo Park and Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Sabine Timm

 

Kids first meet the sweet lemon (yes, an adorably sweet lemon) at the center of this story peeking out from a cutout in the cover. The narrator, having revealed that “there’ a party in this book,” now invites Lemon to find it: “Come on, Lemon! Let’s go look.” So, a little uncertainly, Lemon knocks at a red door with a mouse door knocker. Once inside, Lemon, readers, and the narrator meet a jaunty cast of characters—suspender shorts atop three pillows, a paint-tube mouse on a bed, a curious sock on the top of a bunkbed, and a little pink-and-green house on more pillows.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The scene sets Lemon and crew wondering… “Is this a mouse party? A pants, sock, and house party?” And the answer? “No! This is a game where we can’t touch the floor.” Ah! So the narrator says, “Lemon, keep looking. Try the next door.” Lemon tries another house, but there’s no party there either—just some fashionable cats and fruit.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Hmmm… Lemon is getting a little discouraged. But the narrator gives Lemon a nudge, saying “This book is not done.” Although Lemon meets a group of friends at the beach, they’re not partying, just hanging out together. Lemon meets some pigeons and enters a kitchen, where a bear, a bunny, and a little toast dog made of bread are baking up treats. But there’s no party! Finally, “…Lemon’s back home. Does the book end right here, with her sad and alone?”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

But then Lemon has an idea! An idea that needs readers’ help to succeed! Lemon (and readers) are going to host the party for everyone they’ve met! There’s going to be cake and candy, decorations and games. “This is a big and a small, / have a ball party. / Hooray for new friends at the / come one and all party!” And what about readers? Everyone shouts, “Come on in!”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Kids can’t help but get excited about joining Lemon in searching for the party promised on the cover. Jamie Michalak’s enthusiastic, inclusive storytelling speaks directly to them from the very first words as she exclaims “What?! There’s a party in this book?” As Lemon goes from door to door and page to page, readers follow, carried along on Michalak’s buoyant rhythm and rhymes that surprise—coming at the ends of lines but also sometimes in the middle, which keeps each page fresh and fun. 

When Lemon returns home after not finding the party and hits upon the idea of being the one to host it, the promise that “there’s a party inside” is fulfilled in an unexpected way. An interactive page gets readers involved in the party preparations and will make them feel both included and empowered to invite others to their own party—or just to make new friends. 

Sabine Timm’s illustrations, created with found objects, burst with childlike imagination and endearing personalities. Each page is a showstopper that kids and adults will want to explore together to soak up all the details. And you don’t have to stop there! Each character—from Lemon to the yarn cat and clothespin rabbit to the paintbrush dog and soccer-loving log boy (see Sabine’s answer to question 2 in her interview below)—offers up an opportunity for readers to have fun creating their backstories, imagining what they’re doing when Lemon first encounters them, and guessing what their favorite part of the party is. But wait! The party isn’t over yet! The front and back endpapers, full of tiny objects from the story, give families a super search-and-find game to do together.

Full of humor, whimsy, imagination, and the joys of inclusive friendship. Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! will quickly become a family favorite to read again and again. The book would make a terrific gift and one you’ll want in your home, school, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640001

Meet Jamie Michalak

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Jamie Michalak is a children’s book writer, who loves toast, dogs, and toast shaped like dogs. She is the author of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! illustrated by Sabine Timm. Jamie’s other titles include the multiple starred reviewed Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Kato-Jones; Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; the Frank and Bean early reader series, illustrated by Bob Kolar, and the Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. She lives with her family in Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie Michalak on her website | Instagram | Twitter

This story feels so fresh—whimsical, comical, and surprising.  I’d love to have you talk about how your story came to be and your writing process for it.

Thank you! Long ago, I jotted down the title and idea for this story—an interactive picture book with a different party on every page that the reader was invited to join. But I never wrote it. Several years later, my agent, Victoria Wells Arms, told me that editor Jill Davis was looking for a manuscript for artist Sabine Timm. So I checked out Sabine’s irresistible art on Instagram.

I instantly fell in love with her characters and wanted to write a story that included as many of them as possible. That’s when my old idea for COME ON IN; THERE’S A PARTY IN THIS BOOK! came to mind. I wrote the story and threw a party for Sabine’s characters—cats wearing boots and fruits dressed in suits, pigeons named Fred, and dogs made of bread. As it turns out, this party was just waiting for the right guests to get it started!

The idea of anthropomorphizing everyday objects is so interesting, especially as it’s a practice universal to adults and kids. As a storyteller, do you think this is just part of human nature or do we learn it in childhood?

That’s a fascinating question! I’m not sure. But I do love how children and children book creators are always turning inanimate objects into characters. A hot dog and baked bean can be new friends who form a band called The Chili Dogs. Or the salt and pepper shakers might face off in a talent competition before dinner arrives. Life is more interesting when you use your imagination.

The story lends itself so well to the “search and find” fun of Sabine’s illustrations. Was this also part of your intention as you crafted the story?

It wasn’t, but you’re right! I discovered all of the seek-and-find elements, just like readers will, when I first saw Sabine’s illustrations. There are so many whimsical details that I spot new ones with every read.

Every page is so creatively put together, but do you have a favorite spread in the book?

The cats wearing boots spread is one of my favorites from any picture book ever. How did Sabine create a cat from a small ball of yarn and sassy plastic doll boots? I mean … the BEST!

What would you like kids to take away from the story?

Everyone is invited to this book’s party—and that’s what makes the last spreads, starring all of the characters, the most joyful of all. I hope that readers take away that parties are more fun when no one is left out.

Do you have any special events or other marketing planned that you’d like to tell readers about?

Here’s a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio” that introduces readers to Sabine Timm and Lemon. Then Sabine gives a tutorial on how they can make a character of their own. a link to a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio – the illustrator of COME ON IN.”

And here’s a short bit of animation showing closeups of the objects that make up the book cover.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited about several books coming out next year. The first is a picture book about a tiny treasure hunt set in a Parisian bookshop: DAKOTA CRUMB AND THE SECRET BOOKSHOP illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press). It’s the follow-up to DAKOTA CRUMB: TINY TREASURE HUNTER about an Indiana Jones-ish mouse. The third Frank and Bean early reader, FRANK AND BEAN: THE STINKY FEET MONSTER, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick Press), is a hilarious take on Bigfoot. And two Chicken Soup for the Soul for Kids books—THE SUNSHINE GARDEN, illustrated by Jenna Nahyun Chung, and PLAYDATE (WITH BEAR TOO?), illustrated by Katie Mazeika—will be released from Charlesbridge.

Thanks, Jamie, for taking time to chat with me todat! Finding new book of yours is always a reason to celebrate! 

Meet Sabine Timm

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Sabine Timm calls herself an artist, creator, beach-trash collector, flea-market lover, and photographer. She draws, paints, assembles and shares her work nonstop on Instagram. She lives in Dusseldorf Germany, but has fans from around the globe.

You can connect with Sabine Timm on Facebook | Instagram

Hi Sabine! I’m so thrilled to have a chance to talk with you about your incredible illustrations! As your 168K Instagram followers would, I’m sure, agree, your adorable creations are not only awe-inspiring but always bring a smile. Can you tell readers how you got started doing this kind of art?

It’s hard to say when I started making art like this. I always had a big interest in playing with found objects. When I was a child, I collected various things from nature. Shreds, sticks, seeds, buttons I’ve found on the streets etc.

I always loved the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and I was very much inspired by the hidden life of things in his stories. Many years later when I became a mother myself we had holidays at the sea and me and my son made a beach walk. We found a lot of funny things…a broken flip-flop, a red-checked French-fries bag, sandblasted wood sticks, small rope pieces, bottle caps, shells, feathers, and stuff like this.

Together we started playing, and we made characters from this found trash. We transformed trash to treasures…through our eyes and visions the things got a second life. I was deeply fascinated by these experiences, and I continued in arranging and photographing characters like this.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

When you look at an object, do you immediately see its potential to become something else? I’m thinking of the sofa you made from crackers that appeared on your Instagram page recently.

When I work with found or everyday objects there two options. Sometimes the objects themselves are attractive (colour, shape, size) and while looking at these things I get an inspiration. For example, the Swedish bread that became an upholstered sofa.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

The other option is that I have the plan of creating a special character and I go around in my home or in my studio and look around for something that works.

I always try to look at the things around me with the eyes of a child. Forgetting about function and use, I enjoy playing and arranging.

For example the little tree trunk character from the book….I found the miniature soccer shoes at the flea market and I came back to my studio where I had a box with collected objects from nature. I immediately had the idea of a little tree trunk boy who loves playing soccer!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Come On In! is your debut picture book. What were your first impressions when you read Jamie’s manuscript?

I was totally thrilled!!! All my characters united in such a wonderful story! When I read the lovely text for the first time I could hardly believe that Jamie has never been in my studio.

She pictured everything so detailed and gripping. Jamie wrote a charming story of cohesion and team spirit. I love the rhymes and the imaginative language.

I’m so happy to have in Jamie an author who empathizes so much with my characters. Come on In! invites everyone to have a great time together, and I was inspired from the first moment! 

Your scenes in Come On In! are beyond adorable. Can you share a little bit about your process in creating them?

So let’s go into my studio . . .

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Here I will show you something about my working process. In the very first beginnings of this book, I started with sketches and scribbles to get an idea of the story and the characters.

When I want to build and arrange a scene, I usually start with the characters! When they “come to life“ I start playing and letting them interact with each other. I take a lot of test photos to see how it works.

Next step is building the background or finding the location. In the case of a cardboard background I recycle used boxes and cut them into the right size. I cut out windows and build doors and in the end I paint. 

When I just have to find a nice location, I pack all my utensils and my camera. I never go out before checking the weather forecast (no rain and wind, please)!

For example, the scenery with the pigeons is arranged on my studio rooftop even though I had built a nice cardboard roof, but it didn’t work as I imagined. I changed my plans and placed all the pigeons on the real rooftop…this was an authentic and perfect place for a crazy party with sunflower seed snacks and drinks and music! Adding these kind of items is like the icing on the cake!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Did you have a favorite part of the story to create an assemblage for? What made it stand out for you?

It’s hard to make a decision…each assemblage is unique and special.

Creating the characters of fruits and bread was a great fun. Working with edible materials is particularly appealing to me—it is easy to get and you can eat it up when the work is done. (I have to say…sometimes I can’t eat them when they are looking at me so sweetly.)

For the kitchen scene, I was so happy that I could use my lovely vintage furnishings I’d collected for my photo arrangements years before.

I found the perfect buns and cakes to assemble the characters—Mr. Bear looked like a fantastic pastry chef and little bunny girl in her crunchy dress was so photogenic! Very same with the fruits-in-suits scene—in the beginning there is just a bag with fruits and vegetables, and after a few hours you have a gallery of fruity friends!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

What are you hoping to inspire in readers with your illustrations?

I hope I can inspire the readers to realise that the best thing in life is coming together, having a good time, respecting each other, and celebrating the uniqueness of each being.

Lemon takes the initiative, and I hope she will empower the readers to do the same.

What would you like for children to take away from your illustrations in this book?

Children are so creative, and I would like for my illustrations to encourage them to play with anything they find around at home, in nature. or wherever. They don’t need to buy new and expensive Playmobil or Lego figures…just a lemon can become a friend.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Thanks, Sabine, for sharing so much of your creative process and all of these images! I’m sure readers are excited to read the book—and to stretch their creativity! I wish you all the best with Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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You can find Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

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Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

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To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 16 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of A Case of the Zaps

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Thanks to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of A Case of the Zaps for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Case of the Zaps

Written by Alex Boniella and April Lavalle | Illustrated by James Kwan

 

On Robot-Earth there lived a robot named 3.14159… (“or Pi, for short”). Pi liked doing things most young robots did, like “playing music, walking their dog, and hanging out with their Parental Units and friends. Pi also liked sports, science, camping, and exploring, and their favorite food was DW-40. One day at school, their teacher announced that in a month the class would be going on a field trip to Olde Silicon Valley.

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

All of Pi’s classmates were excited about the trip, and “Pi felt their circuit board BUZZ with anticipation.” Pi couldn’t stop thinking about the trip. But along with all the fun things they would do, thoughts about what could go wrong crept into his consciousness. And then, unexpectedly, while walking home from school with their friends, Pi experienced a tingle in their arms and then their “defense mechanisms JOLTED on.” Pi’s friends asked if they were all right.

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Pi wasn’t sure and took off for home, “feeling zaps all around. Feeling afraid for reasons they didn’t quite understand.” The intrusive thoughts kept Pi awake that night, and during the next few days, even though Pi tried to act calm, they felt anything but. Trying not to think about the field trip just made things worse. One night they couldn’t even eat their DW-40, and then… ZAP! 

Pi ran to their room and shut the door. Pi’s “Mother-Board and Father-Board followed their robo-kid upstairs. When they asked through the door what was wrong, Pi admitted that they didn’t want to go on the field trip anymore. They they explained that “something feels wrong” and how all their gears and sensors seemed to be in overdrive. Pi confessed “‘I’m scared I might be . . . broken.'”

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Pi was surprised to find that just telling their parents made them feel better. Pi’s Father-Board told them that they had had the zaps when he started his new job and that “‘cousin Cosine Tangent has had them for years.'” Pi was surprised because Cosine Tangent had recently won a major science award. Mother-Board suggested that they visit the doctor the next day.

Doctor Bleep Bloop was very friendly and welcoming. The doctor explained to Pi that the Zaps can happen to anyone and at any time and acknowledged that they can be scary. When Pi asked if there was any cure for the Zaps, Doctor Bleep Bloop was honest and told them “‘There isn’t a simple cure.'” The doctor went on to say, though, that there were ways of managing the Zaps and that they could work together to find strategies to help Pi.

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

By the time the field trip to Olde Silicone Valley came around, Pi was ready to go, and they had a lot of fun. Even after the trip, Pi sometimes felt the Zaps. “When that happened, Pi used the tools that Dr. Bleep Bloop had shared with them, and then the Zaps didn’t feel quite so scary.” 

Back matter includes an Authors Note explaining how both Alex and April have experienced anxiety in their lives as well as online resources where parents and caregivers can find more information and help from professionals in the areas of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-case-of-the-zaps-Dr.-Bleep-Bloop

Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Experiencing anxiety can be scary and confusing, and without the language to describe what is happening to them, children can feel isolated and alone. Alex Boniello and April Lavalle’s A Case of the Zaps provides kids and adults with a straightforward way to comfortably talk about anxiety while offering reassurance and a road map to discovering coping strategies that can help. Descriptions of the physical and mental effects of anxiety on Pi give kids direct examples to point to when talking about their own emotions and experiences with their parents, caregivers, or doctors. Pi’s parents’ suggestion to visit the doctor gives adults a starting point on the journey to helping their children. 

James Kwan’s vibrant illustrations, incorporating elements of comics and graphic novels, will enchant kids as they learn about Pi’s hobbies, family life, and excitement to visit Olde Silicone Valley. As Pi’s enthusiasm for the field trip turns to trepidation, kids can watch the robot’s expressive face change from happy to worried and fearful. They also see that anxiety causes physical effects, sleeplessness, depleted energy, and the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism to kick in. After the family’s visit with Dr. Bleep Bloop, Kwan’s depictions of calming activities Pi does with their mother-board and father-board, friends, and the doctor show readers that therapy can be found in many places from play to sports to yoga and more.

Honest, accessible, sprinkled with humor, and written in partnership with Child Mind Institute to ensure that the book can serve as a social-emotional tool, A Case of the Zaps is an outstanding book for talking about anxiety with any child. The book is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419756726

You can connect with writer, actor, musician, singer, and Tony award-winning producer Alex Boniella on Twitter and Instagram.

Connect with writer, comedian, actor, and Tony award-winning producer April Lavalle on her website and Twitter.

You’ll find James Kwan on Instagram.

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You can find A Case of the Zaps at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

August 9 – National Book Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

If you love to read, then today is a day to celebrate! National Book Lovers Day has a simple goal: to provide a day for bibliophiles to indulge their passion. With so many incredible books available—both fiction and nonfiction—on every imaginable topic and for all ages, it’s easy to fill the day with old favorites and new finds (like today’s book, which is launching into the world today!) So, visit your local bookstore or library, grab some snacks, and settle in for a day of reading for yourself and with your kids!

Thanks go to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of If You Cry Like a Fountain to me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

If You Cry Like a Fountain

By Noemi Vola

 

Upon opening this story to the first page, readers are met with a sad sight. A pink worm, having just seen his empty swimming pool, stares out at the reader with doleful eyes and a big frown. The narrator admonishes the worm that starting out the book this way will only make people worry. How about a little smile? But this doesn’t help—in fact, the frown turns deeper and tears well in the bottom of the worm’s eyes. The narrator tries to stop the coming tears, but a suggestion to “try thinking of something happy” just causes a small tear to break free and then… a full-on flood. 

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Image copyright Noemi Vola, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Worried that the little worm might drown in its own tears, the narrator offers a couple of suggestions for staying afloat until the tears dry up. And they do begin to abate until the narrator tells the worm “there’s no use in crying,” which brings on—you guessed it. But wait! This isn’t a criticism. Instead it means to be a helpful (and hilarious) way to look at crying in a positive light. “For example, if you cry like a fountain, you’ll be surrounded by friends and make all the pigeons happy.” That’s a good thing, right?

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Image copyright Noemi Vola, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Let’s look at some other ways those tears could be channeled beneficially. If sadness overtakes you around mealtime, get out your biggest pot, “turn on the stove and cry until the pot is filled. When the tears start to boil, stir in the pasta. You won’t even need to add salt!” And why waste water to brush your teeth and fill the tub, when a good cry can prove advantageous here too?

Since tears can flow all year around, the narrator gives some tips on using them during the winter and when spring comes. There’s even a recipe for homemade playdough that can be done anytime and used “to make surprise presents for your friends.” Now that all is looking up, the narrator decides this might be a good time to remind readers that “everyone cries” even “…superheroes, kings, soccer players,… dogs, peas, and rocks” The worm doesn’t believe rocks cry, but then becomes apologetic when the narrator explains that rocks “are very good at hiding,” so no one has actually “ever seen a rock cry.”

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Image copyright Noemi Vola, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

The narrator goes on to reassure will-be criers that tears are a “universal language,” understood everywhere in the…well…universe, and that shedding tears can eliminate an array of environmental disasters, such as exploding frogs and dried-up rivers. Our little worm friend is looking much happier now that all of this has been explained and there’s even tear-nurtured pears in the jar of jam it’s enjoying with caterpillar. But Oh no! The book—and the jam—are at an end, which are just the kinds of catastrophes that can… fill a swimming pool.

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Image copyright Noemi Vola, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Whether your household (or classroom) is made up of easy criers or those who are made of more stoic stuff, Noemi Vola’s hilarious, thoughtful, and wonderfully silly story will have everyone laughing while also appreciating the true benefits of not bottling up your emotions, but letting them flow. Vola’s seemingly random examples replicate the cadence of a well-told joke or the rapid-fire delivery of a child with an endless imagination.

Vola whimsically plays with shapes, textures, and perspective in her vibrant illustrations, where the characters’ large and copious tears flow in profuse but perfectly aimed streams to accomplish a myriad of tasks. Alert readers will recognize a few famous faces from literature and entertainment among the criers. The sensitive worm is an adorable companion on this journey of discovery, and readers will be glad to see that in the end happiness reigns supreme—at least until the next waterworks.

If you and your kids like your humor quirky, your characters unforgettable, and your themes thought-provoking, If You Cry like a Fountain should be at the top of your To Be Read List. Perfect for story times or discussions about emotions, the book would be an excellent addition to all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0735270503

To learn more about Noemi Vola, her books, and her art, visit her website. 

National Book Lovers Day Activity

CPB - Bookworm Book (2)

Bookworm Bookmark

 

For all you bookworms out there who love to read, here’s your very own Bookworm Bookmark to color and put between the pages of your favorite story!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print out the Bookworm Bookmark template
  2. Color the bookworm
  3. Cut out the Bookworm
  4. (Optional) Cut the Bookworm’s mouth at the dotted line. The top part of the bookworm’s mouth hangs over the page and marks your place!

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You can find If You Cry Like a Fountain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Hearts are full on Valentine’s Day as we share our love for family, friends, and special sweethearts. This centuries-old holiday continues to grow as people engage in traditional and new ways to express their feelings. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Well, of course, love – in all its wonderful forms – is in the air on those days too as today’s book so charmingly reveals.  

Love Is for Roaring

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

One day at school, the teacher gave her class an impossible assignment – at least for Lion. With their tables full of paper, paint, markers, crayons, scissors, and tape, the students were supposed to “show your Love.” “‘For whom? For what? and WHY?’ roared Lion.” He threw a tiny tantrum. “‘I don’t like pink and I don’t like hearts. I won’t do it!'”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mouse wanted to help and told Lion there must be something that he loved. But Lion protested, saying that while love was fine for some, he did not “‘love love.'” He didn’t like hugs or kisses or sweets. Mouse thought and thought and then decided there might be another way to think about love.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mouse asked Lion if he didn’t love “‘running and playing.'” Mouse also seemed to remember that Lion loved dozing – especially during class movie times. “‘And growling, and roaring…You don’t love that?'” Mouse prodded. And how about playing together? Lion thought it over, and while hugs, kisses, and sugary sweets weren’t his thing, he knew that playing and chasing and catching were. And there was one more thing that Lion realized he loved – his friendship with Mouse. So he happily worked at the table to make a special card with a pink heart on the front just for Mouse. 

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mike Kerr’s gentle story embraces children who may squirm at expressions of love that include hugs, kisses, or other showy displays of affection while reminding readers that love also can be revealed in favorite activities and moments shared with others. Mouse’s thoughtful response to Lion’s initial refusal to participate in craft time demonstrates empathetic friendship and alternate thinking that will resonate with kids. Honest dialogue between Lion and Mouse gives readers language to discuss their own feelings about love and other emotions as well as about how they like to express them. As Lion comes to see that he does love many things, he realizes that friendship is intrinsic to all of them and is a powerful kind of love in itself – a kind of love that he wants to share.

Kids will be captivated by Renata Liwska’s adorable and humorous illustrations. As Lion questions the assignment to show your love, his classmates look on with expressions of shock, sympathy, and confusion while a tiny inchworm makes a run for the door. Lion’s tantrum is more cute than cranky, and  Mouse, wanting to help, nearly becomes part of Lion’s stress snacking and moves a safe distance away to talk about the situation. Images of Lion participating in the rambunctious activities he likes best are joyful, and the final illustrations of Lion, now excited to share his love for Mouse, are heartwarming.

A sweet story of friendship as well as a meaningful way for adults and kids to talk about emotions and expressing their feelings, Love Is for Roaring will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. 

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681191249

Discover more about Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska, their books and their art on their website.

Valentine’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-entangled-hearts-matching-puzzle

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

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You can find Love Is for Roaring at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review