June 23 – It’s National Homeownership Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-cover

About the Holiday

Owning a home is a major goal for many people, and while home ownership provides security for individuals and families, it’s also good for cities and towns, offering stability, economic benefits, and community cohesion. To that end, today’s holiday was established as a week-long observance in 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton as a way to increase homeownership by helping people negotiate the sometimes confusing elements of finding and purchasing a home. In 2002, President George Bush extended the holiday to a full month. A home is so much more than just a building, and each person has their own idea about what makes a home—or a neighborhood—perfect. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it—it’s just a feeling. Today’s sweet book shows how one community welcomed its newest member.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of Mr. Mole Moves In for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mr. Mole Moves In

By Lesley-Anne Green

 

Mr. Mole was new to Juniper Hollow and couldn’t wait to meet his neighbors. “Now, Juniper Hollow doesn’t get too many new residents, so when they do, boy oh boy, do these critters get excited!” In fact, Raccoon had been playing close to Mr. Mole’s house, just waiting for him to come outside. When he did, Raccoon ran over, introduced himself, and stuck out his paw. Mr. Mole was happy to meet Raccoon, but instead of shaking Raccoon’s hand, he grabbed a branch from the bush next to him and gave “it a good shake.” Although a bit confused, Raccoon took it in stride and figured that’s just how things were done in Mole Town.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-boxes

Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

While Raccoon was relating this story to the Rabbit family, Mr. Mole ran into a fence post and apologized to it. Rabbit was impressed with Mr. Mole’s manners and hurried after him to introduce herself and her bunnies. They caught up with him at the general store, where he was talking to Giraffe. “‘What a beautiful baby!’ Mr. Mole said, looking sweetly at the watermelon Giraffe was holding.” When Mr. Mole went inside the store, Giraffe and Rabbit discussed what had happened. They decided that watermelons must be very prized in Mole Town. Inside the store, Cat and Chicken were talking about Mr. Mole too.

Mr. Mole stocked up on cans of worms and approached the counter, where Rabbit introduced herself and her bunnies. He was so thrilled to meet them that he immediately reached for a jar on the counter. “‘Bear, I will also take three of these candies for the little ones,’” Mr. Mole said as he handed them around. The bunnies looked at the erasers in their paws and decided to keep them for later.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-fence

Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Watching all of this, Cat and Chicken decided that they would plan some kind of special event to welcome their wonderful new neighbor to Juniper Hollow. Everyone wanted to help. The next day they all went to visit Mr. Mole, and called out that they wanted to welcome him to town. A little nervously, Mr. Mole went out onto his front porch. All the critters had made him a welcome basket of all his favorite things.

Then “the littlest bunny hopped over to Mr. Mole and handed him her extra pair of glasses.” Mr. Mole was surprised and thanked her profusely. He had lost his glassed while moving, he told them, and couldn’t “‘see a THING without them.’” After the get-together, Mr. Mole took his basket inside and found—along with a handknit sweater and a pie—branches, erasers, and watermelon. Hmmm… he thought. “‘I guess that’s just how they do things in Juniper Hollow.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-watermelon

Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Lesley-Anne Green’s story of friendship and acceptance charms with humor, clever misunderstandings, neighborliness, and one particularly sweet and empathetic bunny. Green’s enchanting storytelling immerses readers in the world of Juniper Hollow, a gentle, easy-going community that welcomes readers with the same warmth it extends to Mr. Mole. Kids will be especially pleased to see that the littlest bunny understands Mr. Mole’s plight and knows just how to help. Green’s adorable needle-felted critters, decked out in dapper outfits, shine with personality, conveying the critters’ confusion as well as their enthusiasm to embrace their newest resident and desire to make him feel at home. Her handmade backgrounds will also captivate readers with their rustic appeal, and readers will want to spend some time in the General Store exploring its well-stocked shelves.

The second book in Lesley-Anne Green’s Juniper Hollow series, Mr. Mole Moves In is a story with depth and charm and inspiring illustrations that will be asked for again and again. The book is a top choice for home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out Fox and Raccoon, the first Juniper Hollow book.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra, 2021 | ISBN 978-1101918029

You can connect with Lesley-Anne Green on Instagram.

You can watch Lesley-Anne Green talk about her work and create an adorable critter on Tundra Illustrator Studio.

National Homeownership Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-houses-coloring-page

Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

You can own your own home with this printable Pop Up Play Set thanks to Education.com. It has a house for you and one for a friend! Give your houses some color, plant the trees and move in! Print on heavy paper to make the figures sturdier.

Pop Up Houses Play Set

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-cover

You can find Mr. Mole Moves In at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Apriori Beauty in 2015 to recognize all those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways. Spending more time talking with someone lets them know you care. Sharing your talent for baking, art, music, gardening, home repair, or any skill with a friend, family member, or coworker brings joy to them and you. Even just giving a smile to those you meet can brighten someone’s day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

A boy notices a new girl, Violet, at school. He knows what it’s like to be the new kid, so he waves to her as she sits on a bench alone, reading. She gives him a small smile—he thinks—but doesn’t say anything. He knew that Violet lived near him because they always “walked home the same way,” although he “was on one side, she on the other.” She was “always quiet. Always alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-walking

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was always the same until one day when the wind blew a red candy wrapper Violet’s way and the boy watched her pick it up and put it in her backpack. When she looked up, Violet saw the boy watching. “She looked at me,” he says. “She waved. Then her eyes went down and she turned the corner.” Now, the boy noticed how many things Violet picked up along the way home. “Bright blue cookie wrappers. Yellow pieces of paper. Green bottle caps. Red fall leaves. All disappearing into the gray backpack.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-paper

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One day the boy crosses the street and asks Violet what she does with the things she picks up. Violet invites him to come see. They come to a brownstone and up a few flights of stairs, Violet takes him inside her home and opens the door to her room. “Here in her room, the sun comes to shine,” the boy says. “It reaches in and makes her glow. It makes her collection glow as well.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-colorful-items

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What the boy sees—on the walls, the ceiling, the door—is “her sky, her beach, her village” recreated from the wrappers, paper, leaves, caps, and other bits she’s found. “We came here for a better life,” Violet tells the boy. “I miss home, though. I miss the sounds and smells. And I miss the colors.” The boy tells her the mural is beautiful. Then Violet tells him stories about her village, the people there, and the ocean. The boy and Violet “sit and talk. Then laugh. Then talk some more.” The boy sees that Violet is not so sad or alone anymore, and he’s glad to be her friend. When he leaves, he and Violet wave goodbye and “smile the same.” One the way home, the wind blows a red leaf his way. He picks it up and puts it in his backpack.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-light

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Poignant and honest, Nicholas Solis’s multilayered story touches on friendship, loneliness, new experiences, immigration, creativity, and how acts of welcome, empathy, and kindness can change perspectives and bring joy to life. Told from the boy’s point of view in short, straightforward observations, the story captures readers’ emotions and curiosity as they walk with him and Violet, waiting to see why the reason for her collection. As days and maybe weeks or months pass before the boy speaks to Violet, readers on “both sides of the street” (those who are hesitant to talk and share as well as those who would like to get to know someone better) learn that friendship takes time, patience, trust, and sincere interest. 

Renia Metallinou adds visual eloquence to the story with his gray- and dun-hued illustrations, which pick up increasing hints of color as Violet and the boy grow closer to Violet’s house and finally explode with vibrancy when she opens the door to her room. The first clue of the importance of color to the “new girl” is in her name, and to punctuate this fact, Metallinou gives Violet purple hairbands for her braids. As Violet walks home on a parallel track to the boy, purple tints the pots and flowers decorating the sidewalk, a woman’s purse, and her dog’s collar as if to show that Violet is already assimilating and contributing to her new community.

After she picks up the red wrapper, red flowers, and accents dot the next page, and after the boy describes the blue, yellow, and green items she finds, the trees gain red and yellow leaves, container gardens overflow with greenery, an orange cat watches a trio of red-bellied birds, and blue curtains hang in a downstairs room. But it’s when Violet opens her bedroom door that the real magic happens.

Readers are treated to one more two-page spread of suspense, heightened by the boy’s look of wonder and Violet’s proud gaze. Surrounded by light, Violet smiles. Her gray-and-white-striped shirt turns green and yellow, her brown skin glows with joy. Then readers turn the page and, like the boy, step into a sun-drenched coastal village with candy-colored buildings, lush foliage, a sparkling sea, and a woman – perhaps Violet’s grandmother – looking toward the horizon, maybe looking for Violet herself. Metallinou has made Violet’s mural a masterpiece of art, life, longing, and love. As Violet’s stories pour forth, she and the boy discover how to let their true colors show.

A beautiful and evocative story about the power of friendship, empathy, and kindness, The Color Collector provides a unique and highly effective way for kids and adults to talk about feelings of loneliness, homesickness, making new friends, opening up to others, and many other feelings kids experience. The book could spark meaningful art projects for classrooms and homeschoolers and would be an excellent addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

Discover more about Nicholas Solis and his books on his website.

To learn more about Renia Metallinou, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-initial-bookend

Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

Today’s holiday is all about making someone feel special. With this easy craft, kids can make a gift for a family member, friend, or teacher that shows them why they think the person makes the world more beautiful. And don’t forget to make one for yourself too!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block of the recipient’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words on the letter that you think best describe the person you’re giving it to
  3. Wrap and give your letter!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-cover

You can find The Color Collector at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 10 – It’s National Rivers Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mae-the-mayfly-cover

About the Holiday

Rivers are beautiful, provide recreation, and are crucial to our water supply. Did you know that in the United States 65% of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams? This month environmentalists and others work to promote awareness of the importance of keeping the nation’s rivers pollution free to protect the fish and animals that call them home and increase enjoyment for all. To help the cause, find out how you can help an environmental organization in your area. This year get to know your local river system and the insects and animals that live in and near these rivers. 

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Mae the Mayfly for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Mae the Mayfly

Written by Denise Brennan-Nelson | Illustrated by Florence Weiser

 

“Near the bank of the river one warm spring day / a new life began, and her name was Mae.” Before her mama said goodbye, she hugged her daughter and told her that she had her “whole life—a day, perhaps more” to explore her world. As Mae flitted along the river, a large, hungry trout waited for just the right moment to lure her in. It smiled deceitfully and beckoned to her, and, even though her inner voice told her not to, Mae flew down closer to take a look.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mae-the-mayfly-fish

Image by Florence Weiser, 2020, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That’s when the trout leapt from the water to snatch Mae from the air. But she darted and dodged and got away. Shaking with fear, Mae found a hole in a hollow tree and flew in. “I’ll stay here forever! I’m not coming out!” she told herself.  But once her heart stopped beating so loud, she heard a happy tweet and peeked out of the tree. She saw a mother robin feeding her chicks and a spider web glittered in the sun. “The mist on the river was a fine, pink cloak. / A bullfrog bellowed his morning croak.” 

Mae remembered what her Mama had said and “launched herself from the dark, hollow place.” She followed the river, where she saw flowers and birds, a deer and a bear and one “stubby toad.” Then, she came to a clearing where she found “a singing, dancing jamboree… a wild mayfly jubilee! / Joining in, Mae danced with glee!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mae-the-mayfly-bird

Image by Florence Weiser, 2020, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As morning turned to afternoon, Mae was floating on the breeze when she heard a call for help. She went in search of who it was and found Trout lying motionless and barely breathing. Fearful that he might leap at her again, she carefully went closer to inspect. “But Trout was weak, no flip or flail. / Tangled line had caught his tail.” Then Mae noticed something else—his shimmering “rainbow stripes in every hue, silver, pink, and shades of blue.” And in his eyes she saw his fear and realized that she and Trout were alike.

Mae went to work to try to free him. The knot was tight, but Mae worked patiently until the line slipped free and Trout swam away with the current. Mae hoped that he would be okay. Just then she saw a flash as Trout returned and with a flip of his tail said, “Thank you.” As nighttime settled over the river and the moon rose high, Mae settled on a cattail leaf. She listened to the bullfrogs and watched the fireflies glow. “The stars came out early for  sweet, little Mae. / She counted each one… then called it a day.”

Back matter includes a message about mindfulness, an exercise to try and facts about mayflies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mae-the-mayfly-fishing-line

Image by Florence Weiser, 2020, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soaring and uplifting, Denise Brennan-Nelson’s unique story reminds children and adults alike to live each day to the fullest and reveals where the treasures that make life so fulfilling can be found. The short lifespan of a mayfly gives Brennan-Nelson a perfect canvas for compressing the lessons of a lifetime into one day, and her superlative storytelling incorporates parental love, fear, appreciation for our surroundings, courage, selflessness, and friendship. Her language is triumphant, carried breezily on rhyming couplets that are a joy to read aloud. The pitch-perfect ending may bring a tear to the eye but spur readers to find the beauty in every day.

Through Florence Weiser’s lovely textured illustrations, readers can almost feel the breeze ruffling the tall grasses, the spray of river water, and the warmth of the sun as they follow Mae on her adventure. Mae is a cutie with lacy wings and a sweet, expressive face. A powerful image of empathy comes in a close-up, two-page spread in which Mae, looking into Trout’s frightened eye, sees her own reflection. Whereas up to now Mae has been an observer of life, she now becomes an active participant by helping a fellow creature. Working in perfect tandem with Brennan-Nelson’s text, Weiser’s pages take readers on a journey of growth and discovery they’ll take to heart. Calming shades of green dotted with subtle pinks, purples blues, and browns reflect Mae’s mindful approach to life, making this a delightful book to share for quiet story times.

Beautiful and resonant, Mae the Mayfly is highly recommended and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110519

Discover more about Denise Brennan-Nelson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Florence Weiser, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Denise Brennan-Nelson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Denise-Brennan-Nelson-headshot

Denise Brennan-Nelson has written a number of books for children, including Tallulah: Mermaid of the Great Lakes, Leopold the Lion, Someday Is Not a Day of the Week, My Momma Likes to Say, Santa’s Secret, and the popular Willow series. As a national speaker, Denise encourages adults and children to tap into their imaginations to create richer, fuller lives. She travels the country, sharing her reading and writing enthusiasm with schoolchildren and teachers. Denise lives in Howell, Michigan with her husband, Bob. She strives to spend each day teaching and learning with a creative spirit. Find out more about Denise at www.denisebrennannelson.com.

Today, I’m really thrilled to be talking with Denise Brennan-Nelson about her inspiring story, her journey in writing it, and how we can all appreciate the life around us. My blog partner Jakki’s sons, Jack and Steve, also loves Mae the Mayfly and had a few questions of their own. 

Jack wonders: What inspired you to write about a mayfly? 

The inspiration to write about a mayfly came when I discovered that they live, on an average, only one day. I started digging and discovered that while mayflies have many interesting qualities, it was their life cycle that reeled me in and set the basis for the story: a mayfly begins as an egg, then hatches into a nymph. It then lives as a nymph for one to three years before emerging from the water as an adult. Once they have molted––the only insect known to molt twice!––they only have about a day to live. ONE DAY? How do you live your entire life in ONE day? Where would you go? What would you do? I had so many questions. And so, the journey began!

Steve would like to know: Where is your favorite place to go and enjoy nature?

Our backyard has many trees and a few paths to meander on. One of those paths leads to a playhouse that my husband built years ago for our children, Rebecca and Rachel. I love to sit on the steps and take it all in––especially the forever-changing trees and the way the light filters through them. It’s quiet and I watch the birds and the chipmunks, squirrels, and occasionally deer show up. It’s far enough away from our house that I can forget about my “to-do” list and relax.

There are also a couple of parks nearby that have trails and lakes and offer a beautiful place to enjoy nature.

Jack and Steve asked if you spent a lot of time at a pond while creating the story.

No, I didn’t spend a lot of time at a pond, but I did a lot of research to help me visualize the setting.

In early drafts, I pictured Mae’s life beginning on a pond but as the story emerged it turned into a river. Unlike a pond, a river “flows.” It seemed to fit with the ebb and flow of Mae’s life.

The river became integral to the story; Mae’s life began there, she experiences a harrowing ordeal with Trout, which causes her to flee the river out of fear, but ultimately, Mae returns “home” to the river and completes her life. (This was in keeping with a mayfly’s lifecycle.)  

Hi Denise! I love your answers to Jack and Steve’s questions! What an amazing character a mayfly makes. You’ve published many, many books for kids. What inspired you to become a children’s writer? What’s the best part about your job?

I had been happily writing for myself – journals and poetry mostly – when inspiration came knocking at my door in the form of a documented study about bumblebees. According to scientists, bumblebees are not “equipped” to fly. Aeronautically, their wings are too small for their bodies. Upon hearing that, I was compelled to write what was in my head and my heart. I wanted to answer the questions I had: What would happen if bumblebees found out about their small wings? Would fear and doubt stop them from doing what they love to do? Once it was written, I felt I had written something that I wanted to share with others. Four years and many rejection letters later, my first book, Buzzy the Bumblebee was published.

The best part about my job is creating something – taking an idea and turning it into something new that entertains and inspires children and adults. I also love the freedom to work when and where I want to, often in my pajamas in the wee hours of the morning.

Mae the Mayfly is a gorgeous, poignant reminder for both kids and adults to look around and appreciate the beauty all around us. Not only the mayfly, but all of the sights that Mae sees are ephemeral parts of nature. How did you choose each of these?

I felt they had to be simple, yet remarkable acts of nature that would draw Mae out from the hollow of a tree. You know that awe-inspiring feeling you get when you discover a bird’s nest or a spider’s web? That was the basis for the sights and sounds Mae encountered.

I also drew from a trip to Yellowstone where the vivid images of rivers, flowers, bear cubs, and other magnificent acts of nature are forever embedded in my mind.

The rhymes of Mae the Mayfly are as light as she is, and your rhythm is as jaunty as a mayfly’s flight. Could you describe your journey in writing this story?

After learning of a mayfly’s short lifespan, the mulling-over period ensued. A lot of thinking and dialogue in my head takes place before taking pen to paper. Often, I share my initial thoughts with family and friends which helps the pieces come together.

I did more research, too. I watched a video showing how some mayfly nymphs resist the pull to come to the surface when it is time to shed their outer covering and expose their wings. After spending years at the bottom of the dark river, why would they resist? I wondered. Why would they want to stay at the bottom of the river when they could break through the surface into the light, and fly––if only for a day?

Ah, fear.

It was starting to come together – I would write about a mayfly and how beautiful and meaningful one day could be, if she can overcome her fears.

Initially, the story was written in prose and then I wrote it in verse. At one point, I even wrote a funny version for my kids about Mae being stubborn and not listening to her mama. That version didn’t end well for Mae, because, well, she didn’t listen to her mama! My kids got a kick out of it.

Before she was Mae, she was Martha. From Martha to Marvin. Then I changed it to May. And then May became Mae.

My first submission was declined. So, I gave it a rest. The idea was there but I needed to start over. I believed in this story with my whole being and I wasn’t giving up. In June 2018, I resubmitted it and in August I learned that Sleeping Bear Press wanted to move forward with it. I signed the contract in September and it was released in March of 2020 amid a pandemic. It wasn’t the launch I envisioned, but the story is about appreciating the simple things and living life to the fullest. It is also about empathy, fear, and gratitude. Perhaps the timing was just right.

Florence Weiser’s illustrations are adorable while truly highlighting the beauty of what Mae sees. Do you have a favorite spread? Why do you love it?

I love the cover and the end sheets, and the illustration of Mama saying good-bye to Mae tugs at my heart. But my favorite is the spread where Mae encounters Trout tangled in fishing line and Mae sees herself – literally and figuratively – in Trout’s eyes. Mae is confronted with a difficult decision between fear, or courage and compassion. This was a pivotal part of the story and Florence did a remarkable job capturing the emotion of both Mae and Trout.

You encourage people to be aware of and open to inspiration and those small moments in life that make them the best version of themselves they can be. How can kids and adults practice this kind of mindfulness while at home during this time of self-isolating and social distancing?

In a robust and enthusiastic voice my dad often proclaims, “This is living!” He says it with such conviction that you might think he won the lottery. On the contrary, he says it to express his delight over life’s simple/small pleasures; a sunset, eating a fresh-picked tomato from the vine, watching the birds, the daffodils sprouting, a delectable meal, a rainstorm . . .

I am by no means an expert on mindfulness, but I have learned a few things that help me enjoy life a little bit more:

  • Be aware/pay attention – the list of things to delight over is endless when we notice what is going on around us
  • Make room for quiet time and stillness every day
  • Focus on one thing at a time and do it with intention and purpose
  • Write down 3-5 things daily that you are grateful for. Do it as a family with a “family journal” or get a notebook for every member and make it a nightly ritual

Lately I’ve been asking people, “What do you like most about the shelter-in-place order that we are being asked to follow?” Over and over, I’ve heard, “It feels good to slow down . . . less hectic . . .” I hope we emerge from this unique experience with the realization that life is not a race, it’s a gift.

What inspires you each time you start a new story?

When I have an idea that interests me I feel invigorated and purposeful. What can I do with it? Where will it take me? What can I learn from it?

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes, “If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its only little lighthouse.”

Each time I begin a story I am hopeful that what I write “will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse.”

Thanks so much, Denise! This has been such a wonderful talk! I wish you all the best with Mae, the Mayfly and can’t wait to see more from you in the future.

You can connect with Denise Brennan-Nelson on 

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

National Rivers Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rivers-word-search

World Rivers Word Search Puzzle

 

The world’s rivers provide homes for fish, animals, and birds; offer opportunities for recreation; and supply drinking water for millions. Can you find the names of twenty rivers of the world in this printable puzzle? Then learn where each river runs!

World Rivers Word Search | World Rivers Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mae-the-mayfly-cover

You can find Mae the Mayfly at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Sleeping Bear Press

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

May 21 – World Meditation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-cover

About the Holiday

While we may not know exactly when World Meditation Day was established, their is evidence that the practice of meditation has been observed since 5000 BCE and talked and written about since 1500 BCE. In today’s hustle-bustle world (and has life ever really been leisurely?) taking some time each day to center yourself and get in touch with your feelings – and even yourself – can make for a more peaceful, less stressful, and more positively productive day. Meditation can also lead to more creativity, better health, and more happiness. There are many ways to learn how to meditate, from classes to YouTube videos to books. To celebrate today, take a few minutes to learn more about how mindfulness and meditation can help you and your child or children. 

Thank you to Henry Holt and Company and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story

Written by Julia Alvarez | Illustrated by Raúl Colón

 

Mari, a butterfly, lived in a field of wildflowers, spending “her days flitting from flower to flower to flower, touching down only for seconds before she was off again. She went so quickly that she took no notice of which flowers she visited. For Mari “everything was a blur in her hurry to gulp down nectar and pollinate the whole field.” If she did stop for a moment, it was only to do her wing exercises or think about what came next.

At night she was proud of everything she had accomplished that day, but she could never fall asleep as all the things she had to do tomorrow crowded in on her. Mari felt that there was “no time to enjoy just being a butterfly.” When Mari asked her parents, the Posas, how to be a happy butterfly, they had not had the time to teach their children, either. Instead, Papa Posa told her that her “instincts will guide you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-Mari

Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

One day, as her feet sank into a flower’s pollen, the heady fragrance brought back memories of when she was still wrapped in her cozy chrysalis. She wished she could find that peaceful feeling again. Then she heard a voice that “sounded as if it were coming from deep inside her” and saw a bud just beginning to open. To Mari’s questions, the bud just hummed “‘Ommmmm.’” But Mari didn’t have time to figure out what the bud was trying to say.

She apologized and rattled off her long to-do list. Then she realized she might sound rude, so she asked the bud what its name was. It told her that for now she could call him Bud, “But that will soon change. What’s important is feeling happy just being who I am,” Bud explained. Again, Mari remembered the time in her chrysalis and wondered if that was the feeling of being herself.”

Bud seemed to read her thoughts and said, “‘of course, back then… you were just following your instincts.’” And “‘those instincts led you to become a beautiful winged creature who doesn’t yet feel like a butterfly.’” Mari knew Bud was right. She was always so busy that she didn’t feel like anything at all. But, Bud told her, “‘you already are a butterfly.’” Then he told her that she could capture that feeling of happiness and sense of self anytime she wanted. Mari didn’t believe it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-wing-exercises

Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

Bud taught her how to breathe in and out while she imagined her happy time in her chrysalis. He showed her how to put aside all of the busy-ness of her life and just enjoy that moment. Mari tried it. She felt peaceful and calm, and something else. Suddenly, she was aware of all the different flowers, scents, and sounds there were. Bud gave her a chant to say while she breathed in and out.

Mari joined in, “and for the first time ever, from the tip of her tiny feet to the tippy top of her curly antennae, Mari felt like a butterfly.” Mari slowly fanned her wings and rose into the air. When she looked down to thank Bud, she didn’t see him. Instead, “a beautiful flower was blooming.” Mari dipped her toe into the flower’s “pollen to carry with her everywhere.”

Following the story, Julia Alvarez has included an Author’s Note with photographs—Growing Your Own Wings—about her volunteer work with the Mariposa DR Foundation in the Dominican Republic and how it, as well as the experiences of her own granddaughters, inspired Already a Butterfly. She then talks directly to the reader, revealing how to sit for meditation, how to breathe, and then how, with self-care and kindness, to clear your mind to find peace and contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-family

Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

Julia Alvarez gifts children and adults with an uplifting story that will inspire them to find their true selves amid all the outer and inner noise of nonstop activities, chores, assignments, work, expectations, and all the other obstacles to peaceful, contemplative thought. The gentle mindfulness and meditative exercises that Bud teaches Mari are easy for children to remember and help them discover and stay focused on who they really are as well as who and what they want to become. At various times, Alvarez’s graceful taps along at the pace of Mari’s (and readers’) busy, busy lifestyle then slows to mirror the languid restfulness we all crave. In certain sentences, readers (especially adults) will recognize a gentle ribbing about our penchant for multi-tasking, as when Mari, seemingly taking a break, is actually doing wing exercises or mentally reviewing her schedule (or probably both). The overarching message to listen to your instincts is sage advice for finding happiness in all stages of life and is echoed in Alvarez’s final, poignant sentence.

Raúl Colón’s softly textured mixed media illustrations burst with the beauty of nature in vibrant, glowing colors that remind readers that we are all part of one Earth and should take the time to appreciate our place in it. His seamless melding of human and butterfly creates a stirring image for children to carry with them as they begin to fly free. As Bud talks with Mari and teaches her the art of meditation, Colón’s images help children to stop along the way to appreciate all they have already accomplished as well as the surroundings that nurture them. Bud’s transformation into a beautiful flower shows readers of all ages that we are all on a journey to becoming who we who are truly meant to be.

A stunning, inspirational, and concretely helpful story about believing in yourself, mindfulness, and finding contentment, Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story is a must for children of all ages and will become a go-to book on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves to sustain tranquil thought and self-affirming growth.

Ages 5 – 9 and up

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-1627799324

Discover more about Julia Alvarez and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Raúl Colón, his books, and his art on his professional website.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Macmillan Publishing and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story written by Julia Alvarez | illustrated by Raúl Colón

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 21 to May 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 28. 

Prizing provided by Macmillan Publishing and Blue Slip Media.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

World Meditation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Mindfulness Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-cover

You can find Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 4 – National Teacher Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover

About the Holiday

This school year has been like no other – for students and teachers. Switching from in-person, in-the-classroom learning to virtual learning and zoom classes to hybrid models has been a head-spinning experience for all. Yet our teachers have adapted, designing new lesson plans and devising creative ways to engage their students online. This week (National Teacher Appreciation Week) and today in particular, we honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our and our children’s lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity. Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you. You can find 51 ways to thank your teacher on Waterford.org and a Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit, complete with virtual and printable thank-you cards and certificates and other ideas to download on the National PTA website.

I Wish You Knew/Ojalá Supieras

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

 

As a little girl approaches her school building, she tells the reader, “Our school wraps around a hundred-year-old oak tree.” The students mark the passage of time by the changes in the leaves. The school has a garden with cabbages, tomatoes, and sunflowers that the girl’s father helped her class plant. “One day,” the girl says, her father told her “that because he wasn’t born here like me, he must return to his native country.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-school

Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Before he left he hugged her and said, “Te quiero mucho, Estrella…my little star.” He promises to come back one day “to see the sunflowers bloom. Until then, Estrella skips between the tall flowers and “think[s] of his smile.” In her thoughts she addresses her teacher: “I wish you knew that when I forget my homework or sit alone at lunch or cry over little things, it’s because I miss him.” And it is not only these things that have changed. Everything at home, for her mother and her brother, too, is different.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-garden

Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

As Estrella’s teacher enters the classroom one day, she says she is also proud that her school surrounds the old oak tree. Her favorite place is in her classroom, where her students are busy and curious. She also loves to watch them play on the playground. The students may not realize it, but the teacher sees when they are sad and understands when they are without their homework. She wishes they knew that “they are not alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-home

Image from Ojalá Supieras, copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

The teacher starts a new tradition, a “sharing circle called I Wish You Knew.” There the kids can tell their classmates how they are feeling, what they’re thinking about, and other “secrets” they are ready to share. Estrella’s teacher lets her students know she’s there if they need help. One student reveals that they are “hungry a lot.” Another student’s mom is in the military and another explains that he lives in a shelter.

But not all of the children’s sharing is sad. Estrella likes to talk about all the things her dad taught her and what they did together. And while she waits to be together with her father again, she and her friends plant more sunflower seeds and “wait for them to bloom.”

I Wish You Knew is also available in a Spanish Version with the title Ojalá Supieras.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-spanish-version-hungry

Image copyright Ojalá Supieras, Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

In her moving story Jackie Azúa Kramer embraces the many children affected by hardships, whose parents are absent for a variety of reasons, or who live with difficult family situations. Through Estrella, whose father has been deported, Kramer dives deep into the hearts of children grappling with strong feelings, hunger, homelessness, and otherwise disrupted home lives while still trying to succeed in school. Using “I wish you knew” from a variety of points of view, Kramer first draws children into Estrella’s confession as she directly addresses the reader. With the tenor of a confidant, Estella gives readers a tour of the favorite parts of her school. It is here, among the sunflowers that she feels comfortable talking about her father. During lunch, Estrella wishes her teacher knew what had happened at home.

The perspective then shifts to the teacher who shows her favorite parts of the school while revealing that, while she may not know the exact situation, she does recognize when something is wrong and hopes her students understand she is there to empathize and help. These two storylines merge when the teacher establishes the sharing circle and three students share their wishes straightforwardly, addressing the reader as much as their teacher and creating a poignant reading experience for all. Echoing the resilience of children, Kramer ends her story with a message of hope.

Magdalena Mora uses warm earth tones in her evocative mixed-media illustrations, mirroring the ideas of growth and renewal found in Kramer’s story. Estrella’s school building is a green-and-glass structure that looks out on the old oak tree, a symbol of steadfastness and strength for the students and teachers alike. The events and situations the children share are rendered in gray, giving them a feeling of distance from the children’s school day. Mora’s stylized sunflowers grow in profusion, framing the students and teacher on various pages and appearing in the background on others, an ever-present reminder that friendship and understanding are nearby and that better days lie ahead.

A moving story of empathy, sharing, and kindness, I Wish You Knew is a must for classrooms and is highly recommended for home and public library collections to help children and adults initiate difficult discussions about emotions and events or experiences affecting their lives.

Ages 4 – 7 

Roaring Brook Press | ISBN 978-1250226303 (I Wish You Knew) | ISBN 978-1250814784 (Ojalá Supieras)

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Magdalena Mora, her books, and her art on her website.

I Wish You Knew Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Jackie Azúa Kramer in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | illustrated by Magdalena Mora

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 4 to May 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 11. 

Prizing provided by Jackie Azúa Kramer.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover      celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ojalá-supieras-cover

You can find I Wish You Knew at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

You can find Ojalá Supieras here

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order I Wish You Knew from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Order Ojalá Supieras here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 1 – April Fools Day Interview with Pug & Pig and Sue Lowell Gallion & Joyce Wan

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-cover

About the Holiday

What would April Fools Day be without having fun with friends? Just April 1st. Sounds boring, huh? So to celebrate, we have a surprise! A couple of your favorite literary friends, the adorable Pug & Pig, have dropped by for a chat about life together and their new book Pug & Pig and Friends coming on August 3. And, oh yeah! They’ve even brought along their friends—author Sue Lowell Gallion and illustrator Joyce Wan who also join in the fun! No joke! If, after spending time with Pug & Pig, you’d like to discover astounding facts about the origins of April Fools Day and learn some outrageous pranks played throughout history, visit History.com

A Sneak Peek at . . . 

Pug & Pig and Friends

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Joyce Wan

 

Pug and Pig and their friends Robin and Squirrel love digging in the garden and zooming around the backyard together. But there’s another “friend” in the backyard who isn’t quite so friendly. That’s Cat. What does Cat love doing? Cat loves sneaking up on Pug and scaring him! Pug does not think this is funny. And he does not like it at all. But when a thunderstorm comes and Cat gets scared up a tree, Pig, Robin, and Squirrel can’t get him to climb down. Only Pug can help. But will he?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-playing

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Pug & Pig and Friends is the third book in the Pug & Pig series that includes Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig, Trick or Treat. The book will be released August 3, 2021.

Ages Baby – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534463004

Now let’s have some fun with the stars of the series and their creators!

Meet Pug

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Pig-Meets-Pug-pug

Pug made his publishing debut in Pug Meets Pig, published by Beach Lane Books in 2016. Before meeting Pig, Pug was a very happy pup. He had his own yard, his own bowl, and even his own cozy bed! That is, until Pig moved in and started eating from Pug’s bowl, interrupting Pug’s routine, and, worst of all, sleeping in Pug’s bed. The world wondered: could Pug and Pig ever learn to live together as friends? The answer was Yes! Since then Pug & Pig had a wonderful adventure together in Pug & Pig, Trick-or-Treat and are excited to share their new story Pug & Pig and Friends. You can connect with Pug here and here.

Welcome to Celebrate Picture Books, Pug! It’s quite a treat to talk with you today! I’m sure readers would love to know – What’s the best thing about being a pug?

Being everybody’s favorite. Oh, and the naps.

What is your favorite holiday and what do you like best about it?

Halloween. Answering the door with Pig, trick-or-treating with Pig, and eating all the tasty tidbits with Pig,

Eating all of those Halloween treats is fun! What is your favorite?

Lolli-pups

You’ve known Pig for a long time. What do you like best about her?

Once you get past her attention-hogging tendencies, she is fun-loving and radiates positivity. There’s never a dull moment when Pig is around.

I can imagine! So, tell me, what is it about Pig that makes her such a great friend?

She makes a great snuggle buddy during nap time.

What part of the day do you like best?

Nap time, with meal time being a very close second.

Today is April Fools Day, a holiday when people play tricks on each other. Have you ever played a trick on Pig?

I don’t like surprises or tricks as much as Pig does, but I covered myself with mud one time and pretended to be Pig’s shadow. Whatever Pig did, I followed. We had a really good laugh about it later.

That sounds like so much fun! I bet you can’t wait to unleash your newest book! And no bones about it – I’m sure kids are eager to read it! What’s that? Ohhh… Almost nap time…! Let me talk with Pig a little and then you can snuggle into your little house in the yard. Thanks for spending time with me!

Meet Pig

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Pig-Meets-Pug-pig

Pig first trotted onto the literary scene in Pug Meets Pig. Even though she might have been a little bit oinksious about Pug’s initial reaction, Pig and Pug have grown to be best of friends. Pig is always ready to try something new and her welcoming smile is an ever-present part of her sty-le. For Pig there’s nothing better than sharing a new adventure with Pug, and she’s excited for the summer launch of Pug & Pig and Friends. You can connect with Pig here and here.

It’s so nice to meet you, Pig! In your stories, you’re always so happy. What’s the best thing about being a pig?

Being a pig is delightful in every way. I am a pig for all seasons. I do wish I was taller, and I’d like to get out of the yard more. Maybe in another book?

Did you say, “another book?” That would be fantastic! Just listen to all those kids saying, “Yes, please!” I bet they’re also wondering what your favorite holiday is and what you like best about it.

I like to find something to celebrate in every single day. But my birthday would have to be my favorite. I love to look around and see friends and family all together for one happy reason—a party! With treats!

From Pug & Pig, Trick-or-Treat, readers know you love treats, but what’s your favorite Halloween treat?

I am very fond of candy corn (I’m a pig, after all!). I also like miniature Snickers bars. I might peek in Pug’s treat basket when mine is empty, but don’t tell him. . . .

Ok, I got it: Shhhh…. What do you like best about Pug?

Pug is in charge of security at our place. He’s always on the alert for any change in our routine. I can relax and go with the flow. We make a good team.

You certainly do! What makes Pug a great friend?

Pug’s bark is definitely worse than his bite. (With that underbite, I’m not sure he could bite too well. He’s a champion chewer, though.) Underneath that tough guy exterior, he’s a sweetheart.

What part of the day do you like best?

I’m definitely a morning pig.

Today is April Fool’s Day, a day for pranks and shenanigans. Do you like playing tricks on your friends?

Of course! I like to keep my friends on their toes/hooves/paws/claws!

I can see why Pug and all of the neighborhood animals love you! Thanks so much for trotting over to chat with me today! I understand it’s nap time, so I’ll let you meet up with Pug and talk awhile with Sue and Joyce. 

A Chat with Sue Lowell Gallion

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Sue-Lowell-Gallion_2021_credit Isbell Creative

As the daughter of a printer, Sue Lowell Gallion has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She is the author of the Pug & Pig series and the picture book All Except Axle as well as a nonfiction board book, Our World: A First Book of Geography, and three books in the Tip and Tucker early reader series. Sue lives in Leawood, Kansas, with a black lab mix who provides her with daily inspiration. To learn more and download free activities for all of her books, visit suegallion.com. You can also connect with Sue on Instagram and Twitter.

Hi Sue! I’m so happy to be talking with you about your next Pug & Pig book with Joyce! Since we’re celebrating April Fool’s Day today, I have to ask: Have you ever played an April Fool’s joke on anyone? Can you tell readers more about it?

I grew up in a family and neighborhood of practical jokers. One of the most memorable was when the neighborhood set up a Used Christmas Trees lot on the driveway of a family that was out of town for the holidays. In fact, some jokes are better done on days other than April Fool’s Day! People are less suspicious.

Would Pug and Pig ever play tricks on each other?

Yes, their relationship has grown to this point. But at first, Pug probably would be annoyed.

I’m sure readers are eager to find Pug & Pig and Friends on bookstore shelves. Can you give readers a sneak peek of your and Joyce’s upcoming book?

I’ve been pondering Pug’s relationship with Cat since the first book, Pug Meets Pig. It took a lot for Pug to welcome Pig into his world, and his relationship with Cat was tricky to begin with. Expanding the circle of characters gave me lots to work with. I want each Pug and Pig book to have unexpected twists and explore feelings and friendships in a different way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-cat

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

A thunderstorm in Pug & Pig and Friends is another layer. I was terrified of thunderstorms as a kid (and I grew up in Kansas City, right in the middle of Tornado Alley). I hope it’s a conversation starter or reassurance for kids who aren’t fans of storms, either.

Pug and Pig make such perfect companions. Where did the idea for this sweet series come from?

A friend in my water aerobics group told us about her daughter and family adopting a rescue pig. The family already had a pug, and the two animals didn’t end up getting along. I was intrigued with how the words “pug” and “pig” rolled off my tongue together. These two animals somewhat resemble each other, with their snouts and curly tails. And the joy of fiction is that you can make the story unfold (and end!) however you want!

In Pug Meets Pig, you mix humor and disappointment in such a poignant way. How do you balance those emotions in a story for little readers?

Kids feel deeply and those feelings are important. Experiences may seem small from an adult perspective, but they aren’t small to a child. The themes of handling change and growing in empathy are intriguing to me as a story creator. I also love funny moments in books and sharing giggles with kids over a story and the illustrations! Sometimes it’s easier for all of us to absorb or process emotions and ideas that way, too.

In your Pug & Pig stories, you show how friends don’t always like the same things but can still find ways to enjoy time together or cooperate. Why do you think this is such an important idea? What do you want kids to take away from your stories?

I hope the takeaway is that all of us experience the world differently and we don’t always feel the same way as others. Those differences need to be understood and respected, and friendship involves supporting each other in our differences. I want to continually grow in trying to understand others’ perspectives, and in giving others grace. And a sense of humor always helps! Joyce’s illustrations in Pug Meets Pig where Pig is stuck in the new doggy door really show that combination of humor and understanding. It’s one of my favorite spreads.

Do you identify more with Pug or Pig?

I probably am closer to Pig’s personality. I’m pretty sensitive at times. Pug was partly based on the personality of my dog, Tucker, but there’s plenty of Pug in me, too.

Thanks, Sue! I’ve loved learning more about your series and its two stars, Pug and Pig! I wish you all the best with Pug & Pig and Friends!

A Chat with Joyce Wan

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joyce-wan-headshot-2019-credit City Headshots

Joyce Wan is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including Pug Meets Pig, Pug & Pig Trick-or Treat, Sleepyheads,You Are My Cupcake, We Belong Together, and The Whale in My Swimming Pool. Joyce lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey. Visit her at wanart.com. You can connect with Joyce on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.

Hi Joyce! It’s so wonderful to chat with you about your newest Pug & Pig book with Sue! These two characters are so endearing, you just can’t help but fall in love with them. In this latest story there’s a little bit of shenanigans going on, so since we’re celebrating April Fools Day today, I have to ask if have you ever played pranks on anyone? 

Yes, mostly on my siblings, like using trick birthday candles that don’t blow out and wrapping a Christmas gift in an empty cereal box.

Your illustrations of Pug and Pig are adorable. It’s hard to imagine them looking any different than as these little bundles of cuteness. Did they undergo transformations as you developed your drawings for Pug Meets Pig? If so, can you talk about that a little?

My drawings usually require a few iterations before I get to a final design. I often work backwards, drawing things as they look with a lot of details and then stripping away lines, making things rounder, and simplifying as much as possible.

The upcoming Pug & Pig and Friends is the third book in the series. As the illustrator, what do you look forward to as you revisit the characters and setting with each new book?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-home

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

I love revisiting characters and settings. The look and feel of the characters, and the world they inhabit have already been established (that part of the process can often feel daunting) so I get to dive back in and pick up where we left off. It’s like visiting and spending time with old friends.

I love your gentle color palette. Even though there are conflicts in the story, the calming colors give you the feeling that things will work out. Is that idea in your mind when you choose colors for these books?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-squirrel

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Sue created such sweet and heartwarming characters and stories. I wanted to carry this through into the pictures, picking colors that evoke a cozy and comforting feeling, books that feel like a warm hug.

Would you say you identify more with Pug or Pig?

I have more of a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving personality like Pig but I do enjoy and appreciate my alone time like Pug—even more so with everyone home these days!

Thanks, Joyce! I know readers can’t wait to see Pug and Pig in their new adventure!

Readers, while you wait for Pug & Pig and Friends, enjoy Pug & Pig’s other adventures! You can find activities and coloring pages to enjoy on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website and on Joyce Wan’s website while you read Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig, Trick-or-Treat. Visit their page at Beach Lane Books, too!

April Fools Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review--pug-meets-pig-coloring-page-nap-time

Snoozing Together!

 

Enjoy this coloring page of Pug & Pig snuggling up for nap time!

Pug & Pig Snoozing Together Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-cover

You can preorder signed and personalized copies of Pug & Pig and Friends at Rainy Day Books!

 

You can also preorder Pug & Pig and Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 23 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of I Miss Your Sunny Smile and Interview with Deb Adamson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-cover

About the Holiday

It’s National Reading Month, the perfect time to celebrate a book birthday! Today I’m excited to be featuring a sweet board book for the littlest readers that parents and caregivers will love sharing to make every day better. 

Thanks to Blue Manatee Press for sharing a digital copy of I Miss Your Sunny Smile for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Deb Adamson in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

I Miss Your Sunny Smile

Written by Deb Adamson | Illustrated by Anne Zimanski

 

On a rainy day a mom sits with her son watching out the window. The little boy is sad, and Mom is trying to cheer him up. She suggests going in search of his smile. They head to the living room and Mom makes a game of it—and even their dog joins in. “Did it roll under the sofa? / Is it with marbles in the dark? / Do you think your smile will make a show / if we wag our tails and bark?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-chair

Image copyright Anne Zimanski, 2021, text copyright Deb Adamson, 2021. Courtesy of Blue Manatee Press.

They look in the cookie jar and play dress up, but still the little boy wears a frown. Maybe dancing or playing peek-a-boo will help him find his smile. Even while he’s playing, though, something else is on his mind. He and his mom continue the search. At the boy’s bedroom door, they spy two fuzzy ears peeking out of the blanket. “Wait!” says Mom. “Is that your smile napping? / All cozy in your bed?”

They tiptoe in and lift the covers. There is Teddy—and the boy’s smile. The little boy hugs his teddy bear and grins from ear to ear. Outside the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. The boy, Teddy, and Mom take a walk to the park, ready to enjoy their day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-park

Image copyright Anne Zimanski, 2021, text copyright Deb Adamson, 2021. Courtesy of Blue Manatee Press.

All little ones have moments when things aren’t going right or they feel afraid or worried. Deb Adamson’s sweet story lets parents and caregivers show their little ones that feeling sad can be temporary and that adults are there to help them by talking about what’s bothering them or trying to find out in other ways. When children aren’t old enough or don’t know how to express their feelings yet, playing with them, having a snack, or just spending time together can lead to happiness. Kids will be charmed by Adamson’s tender rhyming storytelling that reveals a loving mother and son bond and will be reassured when the boy finds his teddy bear—and his smile.

Anne Zimanski’s lovely illustrations show a mother fully engaged with helping her son feel happy again. Children will love her detailed images of home that create a cozy atmosphere as well as the enthusiastic dog that joins in on the search, snack time, and playtime. The characters’ facial expressions clearly show the mother’s love and patience and the little boy’s sadness, discontent, and worry. When the teddy bear is found, the boy’s smile is infectious. This scene is made even more endearing as Teddy’s floppy arms wrap around the boy as he hugs his favorite friend.

An enchanting story for families to share during those times when a little encouragement and understanding are needed as well as for quiet story times full of love and reassurance.

Ages Baby – 4

Blue Manatee Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1936669875

Discover more about Deb Adamson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anne Zimanski, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Adamson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Deb-Adamson-headshot

Deb Adamson’s children’s books can be silly, sweet and sometimes even a little bit quirky. Her goal is to always bring on a sunny smile! She lives in Connecticut with her husband, son, and orange cat extraordinaire, Lumpy.

You can connect with Deb Adamson on her website | Facebook | Twitter 

Hi Deb! It’s wonderful to be talking with you about your latest book! You’ve had such a varied career in all types of communications jobs—from being a broadcast news journalist and syndicated columnist to working as a public relations spokesperson for a major aquarium to becoming a published picture book author. Do you feel like your previous jobs have led you to writing for children? What do you like most about this genre?

I do feel that my previous careers have influenced my children’s books. As a writer, I feel like everything we do colors our work. And the varied career I’ve had definitely shows up in my  books. Writing can be such a magical pursuit. We draw from all aspects of experience. The subconscious is tapped and what we didn’t even know was a focus or deep impression makes an appearance on the page. I love the saying, “What a boring world it would be if we were all the same.” That goes for writing. I guess for me, once a journalist, always a journalist because  a few of my story ideas came from news stories that sparked an interest. And animals, whether marine or not, seem to more often than not, make a cameo in most of my books. I have to add though, that even through all those careers, I was reading children’s books and writing and querying children’s manuscripts. My first book was published while I was working at the Aquarium. Even before I had my son, there was something about writing for children that called to me. So, this has actually been my preferred career choice for many years now. I consider myself really lucky to finally call this my current vocation!

Have you always loved to write? Who were you influenced by while growing up?

I’ve always loved to read and to write. I was most influenced by my mother. She was a voracious reader. She wrote herself and believed in the power of story. Even though I was barely six years old, I still have vivid memories of the newest branch of our city library opening a half mile from my house. I recall frequently skipping along the sidewalk with her to that library and carrying home stacks of books. Such happy memories.

What inspired you to write I Miss Your Sunny Smile? Can you tell readers a little about your process in writing it?

I am big believer at cultivating emotional intelligence. (I have a shelf lined with self-improvement books!) As adults we come to learn that bad days come and go. So, we focus on what is good in our lives and hopefully are able to put most things in perspective. Little ones have yet to acquire those skills, therefore it is up to us to model a healthy approach. This little book is my attempt at helping parents guide young children ages one through four, through a bad day. The mom in the book is attempting to lighten the situation with distraction and humor, which is a great tool for redirecting feelings in young children. It is my hope that parents will remember the message of distraction and recall it whenever they need it. Even though it has been over 16 years, I certainly remember needing a book like this when my own son was a toddler!

Anne Zaminski’s warm illustrations show such a sweet relationship between the mother and her child. What were your first thoughts when you saw them? Do you have a favorite spread?

I cannot gush enough about Anne Zimanski’s art for this book! The illustrations are somewhat retro. The color is vivid. The emotion she captured is spot-on. We picture book authors are lucky to be paired with such talent. Anne really brought the characters to life, just as I had imagined. I could not be more pleased. If I had to pick a favorite spread it’s the one where the mom, child, and dog are looking under the sofa barking and wagging tails searching for a smile! I imagine that one generating giggles.

Your Twitter followers have been introduced to your cat whom you affectionately call Fatty Lumpkin, or Lumpy for short. Can you tell us a little about him?

Lumpy, like most author cats, is my constant companion.He is usually somewhere in the room, contentedly snoozing, just glad to have me nearby.  And yes! He has been my muse. I was not always a cat person. I grew up with dogs and just never knew a cat until as a young adult. I moved away and decided to adopt one. Then I learned about cats’ many charms. I actually wrote a manuscript inspired by that fact, that many people label themselves one or the other—cat or dog person, but usually not both. That’s often because they just don’t take the time to familiarize themselves with the great differences in cat and dog behavior. The manuscript is  super silly! My agent and I are hoping that one finds a home.

What’s the best part about being a children’s writer?

The best part of being a children’s book writer is losing myself in story and then ultimately sharing what I cultivated with children and families. I think most writers enjoy finding some universal truth that will ultimately reach out and touch the reader. And when that reader is a child it takes on that much more meaning and pleasure. But of course, not all children’s book writing has to have such depth. Like I said, books for kids should also just be written to encourage the pure pleasure of reading. I really enjoy knowing that my books generate laughs!

What’s up next for you?

I have three children’s books coming out in 2021 and one in 2022. I cannot even believe that, myself! I Miss Your Sunny Smile board book in March, Bing Bang Pling, Now We Swing, a picture book this summer, and A Christmas Eve Wish For Santa, a picture book in the fall. Needless to say, I will be especially busy with marketing. And then in 2022, Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, a nonfiction picture book is next.

Thanks, Deb! It’s been great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with I Miss Your Sunny Smile and all of your upcoming books!

I Miss Your Sunny Smile Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Deb Adamson in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Miss Your Sunny Smile written by Deb Adamson | Illustrated by Anne Zimanski

Here’s how to enter:

This giveaway is open from March 23 through March 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 31

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Deb Adamson.

If you would like a signed copy of I Miss Your Sunny Smile, you can order from Bank Square Books.

I Miss Your Sunny Smile Activity

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-teddy-bear-coloring-page

Teddy Bear Coloring Page

 

Enjoy some teddy bear love with this printable coloring page!

Teddy Bear Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-cover

You can also find I Miss Your Sunny Smile at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review