November 20 – Get Ready for Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better to get kids in the spirit of Christmas than by sharing holiday stories both old and new. Packed with all the excitement and anticipation of the season, Christmas books offer humor, tradition, inspiration, and new perspectives on this favorite holiday. Stuff your stockings with pre-Christmas reads, and don’t forget that books make the perfect present for all ages!

Thank you to Flyaway Books for sending me a copy of The Worst Christmas Ever for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

The Worst Christmas Ever

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Porfirio

 

One spring day Matthew and Lucy’s dad came home from work and announced that the family would be moving to California. Lucy was excited, but her big brother was less than enthusiastic. Their mom thought it would be an adventure. That night in bed, Matthew’s dog Jasper licked his tears away. Before they knew it, spring had turned to fall and the moving van was being loaded up. “Matthew watched his life being packed away.”

In California everything was different, from school to church to nature—where the leaves stayed green and flowers bloomed even in the winter. He missed the fun he and Jasper used to have playing in the autumn leaves. Soon, even though it didn’t feel like it, it was almost Christmas and time to get the tree. Mom thought that would get them all in the spirit of the holiday.

But “Matthew muttered, ‘No snow. Worst Christmas ever. It’ll take a miracle to make it feel like Christmas.’” Lucy wanted to know what a miracle was. Matthew told her but was sure they wouldn’t find one there. “‘Oh, yes, I will!’ said Lucy. ‘I’ll find the miracle!’” At the Christmas tree lot—which was a far cry from the tree farm Matthew loved—there were plenty of trees to choose from, but they felt “prickly and dry,” and some were colored pink, purple, or blue with fake snow. Lucy wanted a pink one, but Dad stuck with green.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-tree-shopping

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Back home, Lucy dived under her bed. She was looking for a miracle, she said. Matthew was skeptical, but “he smiled, just a little.” On the Sunday before Christmas, the pastor at church asked for a volunteer family to play the holy family in the outdoor nativity. Dad raised his hand and “Lucy jumped up and down” and offered her doll Gabriela to play baby Jesus. Matthew tried to hide behind the hymn book.

Three days before Christmas Eve, while Matthew and Jasper were at the park, Jasper chased after a squirrel and then seemed to vanish. Matthew rushed home, sobbing. Although the family searched for hours, they couldn’t find Jasper. The next day they handed out flyers and called the shelters, but no one had seen him. On Christmas Eve, Matthew couldn’t get excited about decorating the tree, and Lucy’s constant singing of “Away in a Manger” didn’t help either.

As he participated in the Christmas Eve service, Matthew’s “heart ached for Jasper, lost somewhere in that terribly silent night.” During the last song, Matthew and his family slipped out, put on their costumes and walked to the stable on the church lawn. Lucy put her doll in the manger. As the congregation sang carols in the misty night, Matthew thought he could almost feel the snow he’d left behind.

Suddenly, Lucy shouted, “‘Look!’” The pile of hay was moving! Lucy thought Gabriela had come to life. “‘It’s the Christmas miracle!’” she said. Matthew “lifted the wriggling blanket in the manger and gasped.” It was Jasper, who’d been sleeping deep in the hay. “‘It is a miracle! You found your way…home,’” Matthew exclaimed. And with that he looked around and realized that this was home and this was the “‘best Christmas ever’” because it “had come, right in the middle of Matthew’s feeling lost in the world. Just as it had come that first Christmas, long ago. Ready or not.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-singing

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s emotional Christmas story captures feelings of loss and sadness children feel when life changes or unexpected misfortunes occur. Framed by Christmas, a time of magic, good memories, and miracles, Bostrom’s story offers hope for new perspectives and rediscovered happiness. Through Matthew and his younger sister, Lucy, Bostrom creates realistic portraits of children that will resonate with readers. Her detailed storytelling, rich with dialogue and sprinkled with humor, will charm kids. Matthew’s friendship with Jasper is a highlight, and Jasper’s running off sets up suspense and the joyful ending. The story has particular resonance this year when beloved traditions may change, families may not gather as usual, and the holidays may take on a different feel. Reading the book with children can help them discuss their feelings and find new ways to share the Christmas spirit.

Guy Porfirio’s vivid illustrations shine with realistic action and are especially effective in depicting Matthew’s and Lucy’s emotions and different reactions to moving, a warm-weather Christmas, and looking for the Christmas miracle. Matthew’s close relationship with his dog is sweetly portrayed, and his sadness is evident even as he goes about the traditional Christmas Eve activities. Alert readers may notice the hint of Jasper’s black-and-white tail mixed in with the hay as the family walks across the church lawn to take their places in the stable, letting them experience the giddy excitement of Christmas Eve discovery and also rejoice with Matthew when Jasper is found.

A poignant story that inspires children to look for the promise of Christmas in surprising places and all year long, The Worst Christmas Ever would be a favorite seasonal read aloud that would be asked for throughout the year as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Flyaway Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1947888098

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

You can connect with Guy Porfirio on Twitter.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

IMG_7695

To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

You can find The Worst Christmas Ever at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 19 – Children’s Grief Awareness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cover

About the Holiday

Created in 2008 by the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families in Pennsylvania, Children’s Grief Awareness Day is now recognized by organizations around the world. The day seeks to raise awareness of the painful impact that the death of a loved one has on a child and the fact that receiving support can make all the difference in their life as they grieve. It also provides an opportunity to make sure that these children receive the support they need.

The statistics are sobering. Before graduating from high school, one child out of every 20 children will experience the death of a parent. That number does not include those who experience the death of a sibling, a grandparent, an aunt, uncle or cousin, or a friend.

To learn more information on the needs of grieving children and find available resources, visit the Children’s Grief Awareness Day website.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of The Boy and the Gorilla for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Candlewick in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Boy and the Gorilla

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Cindy Derby

 

The sun casts long shadows as a little boy, his father, and a few mourners walk away from the cemetery. In the background a gorilla, strong and watchful, knows he’s needed. At home, the boy and his father sit on the sofa, aware of the family and friends gathered, but separated by grief. The gorilla waits silently nearby, filling some of the empty space. Escaping into the backyard, the boy kneels in his mother’s garden to pick a tomato. Now that he is alone, the boy acknowledges the gorilla, who asks if he can help. “Okay,” the boy says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cemetery

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Here, to this friend of his heart, the boy can express his deep sadness as well as the questions he has about death. “My mom died,” he says. Gently holding one and picking up another tomato, the gorilla answers, “I know.” As some of the routines of life return, the boy and his dad are separated by their individual thoughts and the tasks that need to be done. But the boy works through his questions about whether all people die, where his mom went, and if she can “come back home” with the gorilla. To each question, the gorilla offers honest answers as well as comfort. His mom won’t come home, the gorilla explains, “But she’s always with you.”

When the boy misses the things he and his mom did together, the gorilla quietly suggests that his dad might do them too. The gorilla reassures the boy when he needs to be alone or look for his mother in out of the way places. Finally, the boy asks the question that tugs at his mind: “Why did she have to die?” The gorilla acknowledges his pain, saying “It hurts not to be able to be with someone we love.” When the boy wonders when he’ll feel better, the wise gorilla says, “When you know she’s still with you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-strawberries

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The boy is ready to see his mom in their shared activities, like baseball, baking, and gardening. Each of these are gifts from his mother that will stay with him forever, the gorilla reminds him. That day, the boy goes to find his father and tell him the feeling he’s been carrying: “I miss Mom.” His dad takes him in his arms and they share their grief. The gorilla embraces them with love and understanding. The boy and his dad sit together looking at photographs and talking about Mom. The gorilla watches them from across the room. Later, they plant new flowers together, and then as the sun sets and the gorilla ambles away across empty fields, the boy and his dad walk back to the house, hand in hand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-swings

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In her emotionally resonant story, Jackie Azúa Kramer gives adults a poignant way to talk with children—and readers of any age—about the feelings of sadness, confusion, and loss that fill their hearts and days after someone they love passes away. Beginning with general questions that children have about death, Azúa Kramer offers honest answers or acknowledgements that “no one knows” the answers.

She then leads readers to ways they can accept a loved-one’s death and find comfort in memories, discover the constancy of their love in shared activities, and reach out to others. Told entirely in dialogue between the boy and the gorilla and, later, between the boy and his father, the story feels as personal as an embrace, allowing a grieving child to identify with it without any distancing. Beautifully paced, the story ends with a sense of acceptance, hope, and renewal.

Cindy Derby’s watercolor and mixed media illustrations will stir readers’ hearts with her touching depictions of the little boy and his father, both struggling in the wake of the loss of their mother and wife. The gorilla, painted in shades of purple and gray, is a hulking, yet soft, presence, a representation of the magnitude of the boy’s sadness but his capacity to understand too. Derby incorporates fragility and strength into her images that reinforce the boy and father’s changing awareness: On the day of his mother’s funeral, the boy goes into the garden to pick tomatoes. The gentle care the gorilla takes in helping hold these tender fruit reflects his mindfulness of the boy’s vulnerability. At the park, the chains on the swing set, where the boy and gorilla come to terms with the fact that his mother will not come back, as well as the climber appear precariously brittle, yet they are both capable of holding great weight. And a single branch, no thicker than a twig, supports them as they talk about why the boy’s mother died.

Derby also evocatively portrays how the boy and his father are each processing their feelings independently as two-page spreads allow for the boy to appear on one page while his father is on the other. They gradually grow closer—appearing on the same page, but in different places or rooms. When the little boy courageously approaches his dad, their reunion is moving, and to see them sitting next to each other after the page turn is uplifting and affirming. Derby’s use of color, especially touches of red, adds metaphorical depth to the story, and children will want to watch for the little red bird that seems to watch over this family from page to page, until the boy and his father reconnect and move forward.

For any child who has suffered a loss or knows a friend who has, or for families looking for a way to discuss death and the process of grieving, The Boy and the Gorilla is a must. The book also belongs in every school and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-0763698324

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

To learn more about Cindy Derby, her books, and her art, visit her website.

The Boy and the Gorilla Giveaway

 

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Candlewick Press in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of The Boy and the Gorilla, written by Jackie Azúa Kramer| illustrated by Cindy Derby

To enter:

This giveaway is open from November 19 to November 25 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 26. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Candlewick Press

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cover

You can find The Boy and the Gorilla at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-cover

About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Thanks to Two Lions for sending me a copy of Bird Hugs for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Bird Hugs

By Ged Adamson

 

Bernard had a feature quite unlike other birds, but as a baby, he didn’t know there was anything different about his extremely long wings. He made them work for him: he pretended to be a sleeping bat, wrapping his wings around his body as he hung from a tree. And he chased after his friends, waving his wings spookily. But when his friends learned to fly, Bernard knew something was amiss. “No matter how many times he tried, it was something he couldn’t seem to do himself.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-long-wings

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Soon all of his friends had flown away to other places. Longing to do the same, Bernard decided he just needed another approach. He had his friend Lawrence fling him into the air from a palm tree catapult. And for a glorious moment Bernard was flying. And then…he wasn’t. “Embarrassed by his useless wings, he tried to make them smaller.” He rolled them under and tied them up; he made them into a scarf, and he created a fancy headdress by tying them in a bow on the top of his head. But nothing worked.

“Bernard felt utterly sorry for himself.” He chose a branch where his wings could hang to the ground and “made it his home.” There he sat, day and night, all through the seasons feeling sorry for himself as the world went on around him. But one day he heard someone sobbing. Bernard left his branch to find out who was crying. He discovered an orangutan, who wailed, “‘I feel very sad and I’m not sure why!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-flying

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In an instant Bernard had wrapped his long wings around the orangutan in a “BIG HUG.” In a bit the orangutan felt better and thanked Bernard. Bernard was happy too. He began to think that “maybe his wings were good for something after all.” And he was right. In the morning a long line of animals was waiting for him—all looking for a hug. Bernard was busy all day…and the next day…and the next. Besides wanting hugs, “the animals told Bernard their problems.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-long-lines

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

All this hugging made Bernard happier too. His wings even felt stronger. He began to think maybe they were strong enough to fly. Bernard leaped from a cliff top and for a moment he was flying. And then…he wasn’t. But Bernard was philosophical: there was more to life than flying, he decided. And all the new friends he’d helped knew how they could help him. Taking him by the wings, they showed him that with a little support, anyone can soar.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-tree

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Trailing wings as long as a knitted winter scarf, little Bernard is an unforgettable cutie who only wants to be like all the other birds and fly. But is that his only talent? His only option? During Bernard’s year-long funk, it seems he finds the answers to these questions as his quick response to the orangutan’s sobs reveals, Bernard discovers that far from useless, his wings give him a gift more precious than flying––the opportunity to help his fellow animals. It’s a talent that brings him love in return. Readers can take comfort in and a lesson from Bernard’s hard-won but keen sense of empathy by embracing and using whatever makes them unique.

As in his other books, Adamson’s profound message is wrapped in images that combine kid-pleasing silliness, a bit of slapstick humor, and a diverse array of emotive characters. As Bernard mopes on his branch feeling lonely and sorry for himself, kids will notice that he’s not as alone as he might think. An anteater keeps him company on a rainy day, wide-awake nocturnal animals watch over him at night, and even the bees make room for him in their flight pattern. Bernard’s realization that life is filled with more than one might expect is welcome and heartening, and Adamson’s finale is wonderfully surprising and pitch perfect.

Bird Hugs is highly recommended for all kids and has multiple applications for story times at home, in classrooms, and for public libraries. The book would quickly become a favorite on any bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542092715

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

World Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1 |  Sheet 2 | Sheet 3

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-hugs-cover

You can find Bird Hugs at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

 

November 7 – National Bison Day

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

About the Holiday

Beginning in 2012, a movement grew to name the bison as America’s national mammal and declare the first Saturday of November as National Bison Day to bring together bison supporters, including Native Americans, bison producers, conservationists, sportsmen, and educators to celebrate the significance of Bison. On May 9, 2016, President Barak Obama signed into law the proclamation naming the bison our national mammal.

The bison, also known as the American buffalo are considered a historical symbol of the United States and were integrally linked with the economic and spiritual lives of many Native American tribes through trade and sacred ceremonies. Bison also play an important role in improving soil and creating beneficial habitat whilst holding significant economic value for private producers and rural communities. Hunted to near extinction, bison now reside in all 50 states in national parks, refuges, tribal, and private lands.

My Bison

By Gaya Wisniewski

 

The first time a little girl meets the bison she was walking with her mother through a field of tall grass. “‘Look!’” her mother said. “‘He’s back!’” Every day after that the girl went out into the field to see the bison, coming a little closer each time until she was able to pet him. Once, she even thought she heard him whisper an invitation to come closer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-first-time

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The little girl began to feed him food she’d made herself. Sometimes he didn’t like it, but he always tried it and that made her happy. One day it was time for him to move on with the rest of the herd. The girl walked with him as far as she could. When she said goodbye, the bison gave her a long look and she “knew he’d be back when snow covered the ground again.” The girl was lonely without him, but when winter returned she knew he had too without even seeing him. Now, seated together near the fire, the girl told him stories about the forest and what she’d done over the year while he, silent, “listened with tenderness.” She loved everything about him and loved him with her whole heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-come-near

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The girl and the bison grew old together, winter to winter, never feeling the cold of the snow. Once, they talked all night about their mothers. The girl remembering the first time her mother had shown her the bison, how she had comforted her and taught her the lessons of nature. She missed her mother so much, she told him, and imagined he missed his mother too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-tea

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

One winter the bison didn’t return and no amount of looking could find him. The girl, now an old woman, went home. She cried with missing him. And then just as in those winters so long ago when she felt his presence without seeing him, she knew he was with her. In her heart she “heard him say, ‘I am in every spring flower, every sound in the forest, and every snowflake.’” And she knew he was with her always.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-night

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Gaya Wisniewski’s stunning and gorgeous story about a friendship between a little girl and a bison is deeply moving, it’s straightforward and metaphorical meanings blending in harmony to settle in a reader’s heart. The girl’s and bison’s relationship is one of mutual respect and trust, and they are in many ways alike. With her shaggy coat and tousled hair, the girl looks like a miniature bison, while the bison is perfectly comfortable sitting at the table near the fire sipping hot chocolate or snoozing in the cozy built-in bed  in the girl’s home. The girl loves the bison the way children love their pets, and the way she takes care of him replicates a mother’s tender affection and attention.

Here the text and images take on deeper meanings as the little girl offers the bison homemade food, holding her long-handled spoon to his mouth the way mothers the world over do for their babies. She walks with him to the edge of the clearing as he leaves in the spring, waving goodbye but with the promise of his return like a mother taking her child to the bus stop, seeing them off to college, or watching them move away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-bison-sky

Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At other times the bison seems to take on the role of the mother. In the endearing illustration of the bison and the girl talking over cups of hot chocolate, the girl relates how the bison would listen to her stories. Later, readers learn that her mother made her hot chocolate when she couldn’t sleep, letting them imagine how the little girl might have told her mother about her day, about the things keeping her awake. The china cup also holds the bison’s memory of cuddling with his mother, their fur smudged and merging with the steam rising from the hot drink. This blending of roles subtly demonstrates the cycles of life and the reciprocal nature of love.

Readers don’t know when the girl lost her mother; but a snapshot of the girl playing Ring around the Rosie with her and her teddy bear, in which only the mother’s arms are visible at the side of the page and the circle of light highlighting this scene is surrounded by darkness, hints at the loss. As the bison and the girl grow old together and there comes the winter when the bison does not return readers discover that any great love is always with them.

Wisniewski’s charcoal and ink illustrations, punctuated with blue create a mystical, dreamlike atmosphere where the forest and the mountains, the girl and the bison reach out to embrace the reader and invite them into this world of a love like no other.

A tender story to share all types of unending love with children, My Bison would be a poignant addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898861

To learn more about Gaya Wisniewski, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bison Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bison-coloring-page

Bison Coloring Page

 

Bison are majestic creatures. Enjoy this coloring page of a bison roaming Yellowstone National Park.

Bison Coloring Page

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

You can find My Bison at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 4 – National Stress Awareness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-anxiety-cover

About the Holiday

National Stress Awareness Day was established by Carole Spiers, Chair of the International Stress Management Association, which provides employers with guidance on establishing company stress reduction programs and individuals with methods for looking after their health every day. The holiday aims to help people identify the stress factors in their life and learn how to reduce them. This year, of course, stress is high. Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to assess how they and their family are handling stress and look for ways to manage it while adding positive changes to their life.

Thank you to Beaming Books for sending me copies of All About Anxiety and Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

All About Anxiety

Written by Carrie Lewis | Illustrated by Sophia Touliatou

 

As you pick up this book, the first thing you notice is its comforting, velvety-soft cover. Upon opening it, the second thing young readers will see are illustrations of kids just like them engaged in familiar situations that can cause stress and anxiety and expressing their feelings in ways kids will recognize and understand. And then comes the third, most reassuring thing of all—discussions about anxiety: the different types, how it can manifest itself, and how it can be managed, written in kid-friendly, clear, and detailed ways by an author who really knows how to communicate with children.

In five chapters, this 89-page book covers a wide range of topics that answer the questions children may have about the feelings they experience every day or only in certain situations and give them encouragement and workable solutions to try. Chapter 1 introduces a definition of anxiety, describes six of the most commonly felt types of anxiety, and, through a relatable story of two sisters grappling with different anxieties, demonstrates how a fear can grow and how it can be lessened.

Chapter 2 talks about some of the things that can cause anxiety—from memories of frightening experiences and seeing others’ reactions to certain things to parents and brain chemical imbalances to growing up in difficult circumstances. Each of these, as well as a description of how the body reacts to anxiety, is treated with detailed and easy-to-understand paragraphs that contain examples kids will appreciate.

Chapter 3 likens anxiety to the various types of animals in a zoo and the child as the zookeeper. This chapter is especially effective in directly addressing some of the most common anxiety triggers and providing practical steps that will help. These include the news; stories, TV shows, and movies; hormones; changes within the family; money worries; moving; the pressure to succeed; comparing oneself to others; the way one looks; other people; peer pressure; and social media.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-anxiety-brain

Image copyright Sophia Touliatou, 2020, text copyright Carrie Lewis. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Chapter 4, children are encouraged to answer several questions that can determine if they actually have anxiety or not. In the next step, readers learn how anxiety can affect the quality of their life and relationships with family and friends. Here Carrie Lewis presents discussions on social anxiety, family relationships, school and studying, sports and hobbies, and overall health. Speaking directly to the reader, Lewis uses specific examples of ways anxiety may affect them. Moreover, with each topic, Lewis provides bulleted suggestions for activities that can boost self-esteem, release healthy endorphins, and change their focus.

Chapter 5 is a “taking-control toolkit” where Lewis explores “different ways to make life less anxious and to keep serious anxiety away.” These include deep breathing, visualization, body relaxation exercises, talking with a trusted adult or doctor, how to talk about anxiety, using mild anxiety as a superpower, and ways to stay positive. Lewis closes her book with six resources, complete with contact information, where young readers and adults can find help and more information.

Reading through this book by Carrie Lewis is like sitting down with a sympathetic, knowledgeable friend who can put you at ease and give you the help you’re looking for. That sense of being understood is just one of the many strengths of this book. Conversational text and an unflinching look at the real-world issues that can cause anxiety will resonate with children, tweens, and even teens and put them on the road to managing their feelings.

On every page the text wraps around Sophia Touliatou’s vibrant and evocative illustrations that let kids know they’re not alone. Images mirror feelings of fear and anxiety, depict brain activity related to feelings of anxiety, and show difficult situations all children deal with at one time or another. But Touliatou also includes many images of children finding ways to manage and overcome their anxiety that offer hope and happiness. In design, the book makes excellent use of typography and other elements to make topics easy to find and appeal to the targeted audience.

A superb book for helping children and tweens with anxiety or just navigating day-to-day feelings, All About Anxiety is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 8 – 13

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506463209

You can find All About Anxiety at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafting-calm-cover

Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids

Written by Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla | Illustrated by Aruna Rangarajan

 

One way to take control of your feelings is by finding an activity that calms the mind, changes your focus, uses your talents, or helps you reach out to others. That’s what Crafting Calm is all about. Through five chapters Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla show readers how they can use various arts, movement, breathing, their senses, and their sense of self to be calmer and happier.

Each chapter focuses on a particular topic. Chapter 1: Catch Your Calm helps children gain control of their thoughts or behavior with crafts such as making a glitter jar and a Zen garden, kneading homemade bread, and doing an easy yoga exercise. A short parable demonstrates the power of perspective, and other activities give readers a variety of options. Chapter 2: Examining Emotions contains activities that allow a child to better understand their emotions and how they physically react to them. Doing a body scan, making mood art, learning to walk with confidence, and creating an emotional support plant are just a few of the activities presented.

Chapter 3: Being Here and Experiencing Now provides methods to support the important idea of staying present in every moment. Mindful walking, engaging all your senses, slowing down to fully enjoy a snack, making a terrarium, learning how to neutralize noise, are some of the activities described here. Chapter 4 is designed to help readers observe their thoughts and “gain skills to better control what goes on in your mind while still allowing space for it to wander and dream.” A “mind dump” can help you get your thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto paper without judgement. Daily affirmations can help readers to embrace their good qualities and become the person they want to be. These and the other provided activities can bring much-needed peace.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafting-calm-glitter-jar

Image copyright Aruna Rangarajan, 2020, text copyright Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Chapter 5: Capturing Joy and Growing Gratitude gives readers the tools to find “inner joy during tough times and appreciate things [they] may have taken for granted.” These emotional resources can help readers “navigate life’s ups and downs with positivity.” Origami can help turn paper into a colorful gratitude garden of flowers that each represent something you’re thankful for. If you’re feeling alone, you can use the instructions here to create a Tree of Belonging to show you how many people love and care for you. Bringing joy and sharing gratitude with others takes the focus off of yourself and gives you purpose. Here you’ll find ideas for doing both of these things.

In a casual, light, and conversational style Megan Borgert-Spaniol and Lauren Kukla address many of the feelings and intrusive thoughts that can roil the mind and make inner peace hard to find. Readers will recognize and appreciate the straightforward examples and reassurance presented in the introduction to each chapter. Along with directions on how to complete the activities, Borgert-Spaniol and Kukla include how each activity can help bring about a more calm and positive attitude. The activities included are easy to do and don’t require special supplies, making them excellent go-tos for times when tranquility is needed.

Accompanying each activity are Aruna Rangarajan’s engaging illustrations, rendered in soothing colors, that demonstrate techniques and instructions while also adding whimsical touches that make every page inviting.

A wonderful, comprehensive guide not only to activities that can really make a difference in the life of any child, especially those disruptive feelings, but to the hows and whys inherent in them, Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids is highly recommended for family, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 8 – 12

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506465265

You can find Crafting Calm: Art and Activities for Mindful Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

National Stress Awareness Day Activity

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

Snowy Day Mind 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-all-about-anxiety-cover

November 2 – It’s Picture Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-cover

About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Martin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com

The Song for Everyone

By Lucy Morris

 

There was a tiny window “too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight.” But one day a “delicate tune” wafted from it’s open panes and floated along the street. A boy trudging to school alone heard it and stopped to listen. As the music swirled around him, he felt happy and he skipped along on his way. Soon an old woman, slow and bent with age, walked by on her way to the market. As she passed under the window, “the sound flowed down and wrapped itself around her weary body.” Suddenly, she felt strong and joyful. A homeless cat followed stray notes from this tantalizing music and was led to two children “who longed for a cat of their own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-schoolboy

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The music continued to float from the open window, always seeming to know who needed to hear it and making the townspeople begin to care for and connect with each other in new ways. The town grew content and peaceful. But then one morning, the music stopped. The town seemed gray and lifeless, and the people felt sad, lonely, and weary. The people held a meeting and decided to see what was behind the open window. The little boy who’d first heard the music climbed up the ladder of townspeople and clambered inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-happy

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

There he found a little wren. She was tired and hungry and her song had left her. The boy promised to help her and he yelled down to the people gathered below. They gathered food and provisions and sent them up to the window in a basket. Two days passed, but the wren stayed silent. But then early one morning…! “A melody, a song. A sound so sweet” once again floated into the air and through the streets. Everyone rushed from their homes and crowded together under the window. There they saw “the boy and the wren making music together. Singing the song for everyone.” A they listened, the central square came alive with dancing, twirling, and playing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-meeting

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Lucy Morris’s lovely story—in both words and pictures—reveals the power of one person’s voice and/or actions to transform lives. The wren, singing from a darkened window offers her song, a melody that brings happiness and makes passersby realize they are not alone. Readers can imagine the cheered schoolboy, old woman, and new cat owners sharing their new-found joy with classmates, store clerks, other shoppers, parents, and friends, who also pass their sudden optimism to others until this small community embraces each other as never before. But one wren (or person) cannot sustain it alone. As the townspeople in Morris’s story discovers, it takes a group effort, and it is that coming together that truly creates change.

Morris’s beautiful, lyrical language is as light and buoyant as the wren’s song. Her word choices evocatively describe both the angst, weariness, and world view of the townspeople before the wren’s appearance and the joy, peace, and hopefulness they acquire after accepting her song.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-dancing

Copyright Lucy Morris, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Morris’s charming illustrations, rendered in a serene color palette portrays a town where, despite the close proximity of the homes and buildings, the people are apparently distanced from each other. The wren’s music is depicted as a garland of flowers that once released into the air do not scatter, but remain strongly together to fill the streets, wrap around the needy, lead the lost, shelter the cold, and lift up those who need a boost.

While the loss of the wren’s song brings sadness, readers will also see that the wren has already accomplished much. Instead of returning to their solitary lives, the townspeople now gather together to discuss a solution. As a little girl addresses the group, kids will understand that their voice is important too. Images of the townspeople each contributing to the wellbeing of the wren and then celebrating her recovery reinforces Morris’ message of community.

A moving and triumphant story that will touch all readers and encourage them to use their individual talents to benefit others, The Song for Everyone will become a thoughtful favorite and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547602865

To learn more about Lucy Morris, her books, and her art, visit her website

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-to-read-bag-empty

Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

 

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-to-love-bag-empty

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-song-for-everyone-cover

You can find The Song for Everyone at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 24 – Photographer Appreciation Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-cover

About the Holiday

National Photographer Appreciation Month is for all photographers, professional and amateur. The month-long holiday gives people an opportunity to really look at the photographs they see in newspapers, books, online, and even in their own home and truly appreciate the artistry that goes into capturing a moment, a place, or a personality to tell a bigger story. October is also a great month to go through your own family photographs and relive or rediscover favorite memories. To celebrate, consider having a professional portrait taken of yourself, your kids, or your whole family to decorate your home, give as gifts, or send as a holiday card. There are also many galleries displaying photographic work to explore. 

Operation Photobomb

Written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie | Illustrated by Matthew Rivera

 

Monkey and Chameleon loved scavenging stuff from tours that came through their neck of the jungle. One lucky day when they raided a backpack, Monkey discovered a polaroid camera while Chameleon came away with a roll of toilet paper. Monkey had a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of taking great shots, but soon he was snapping stylish pics of all his friends.

Monkey got so good that he started taking themed pictures. He took some that were “only for the birds” and others of “just animals with fur.” Chameleon was beginning to feel left out, so just as Monkey was going to click the button on a cute-as-a-button shot of two frogs on a branch, Chameleon swung in on a vine, shouting, “‘Photobomb!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-camera

Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“‘Chameleon, please don’t do that!’” Monkey said. “But Chameleon was just getting started.” The Capybara family suddenly had a new member in their portrait; Sloth’s new baby was joined by a chameleon-y brother; and as Monkey was about to capture Grandma Macaw blowing out her 76th birthday candles, Chameleon photobombed in, sending the cake splat all over her and her guests.

“‘Help me stop him from wrecking all the pictures!’ Monkey howled.” Toucan did a song and dance routine to distract him, Jaguar tried to fling him away, and the tapirs attempted to form an impenetrable line, but he was always able to sneak in. Monkey shrieked at him, and the other animals complained that he had ruined their once-in-a lifetime pictures. Chameleon blushed pink and red and said, “‘Fine. You won’t see me in any more pictures.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-pictures

Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So Monkey went back to work. But the animals took a close look at their shots and noticed a phantom-like Chameleon blending in with them or their surroundings. “CHAMELEON!” they shouted. The animals huddled together to find a solution. Monkey had an idea, and they whispered and plotted until they had the perfect plan. “Operation Photobomb was a go.” Monkey called Chameleon over and arranged him in a perfect pose. Then he aimed his camera and counted down. When he reached “three” the Macaws yelled “‘Bombs away!’” and pelted him with juicy fruit. “Click!” Monkey took the shot.

Chameleon was covered in sticky pulp and juice. The animals laughed. But Chameleon didn’t think it was so funny. “‘You ruined my pic…Ohhhhh!’” he said. Monkey handed him the roll of toilet tissue and offered a truce. Chameleon agreed to both. Although it was hard, Chameleon stayed out of Monkey’s pictures from then on. But then he had an idea that was “picture-perfect.” He knew just the people who “loved a good photobomb.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-chameleon

Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s funny take on the photobomb phenomenon will have kids laughing and joining in with shouts of “photobomb!” as Chameleon inserts himself into all of the animals’ precious shots. When Chameleon ignores the animals’ complaints and requests to stop and instead uses his camouflage to trick them (a shrewdly worded hints at this), Monkey’s idea to give him a bit of his own medicine teaches him a valuable lesson. Chameleon also discovers a clever, more productive, and welcome way to enjoy his favorite activity. Through their fast-paced and humorous storytelling sprinkled with puns, Luebbe and Cattie reveal several truths about friendship, respect for others, and appropriate timing. Their surprise ending will satisfy and delight kids. It offers opportunities for discussion on social skills, putting others first, and finding the right time and place to engage in certain activities and behaviors.

Matthew Rivera’s tropical, sun-kissed illustrations will enchant readers. Chameleon, a mottled vibrant blue in most spreads, shows his enthusiastic prankster side popping up at the last moment to join the animals’ photos. Readers will love pointing him out in the polaroid squares scattered throughout the book. They’ll especially enjoy finding him when he camouflages himself against various backdrops. As he discovers his “picture-perfect” audience, kids will see that here he can show all his colors.

Operation Photobomb is a lively and original way to introduce children to ideas of respect for others and proper conduct. The humor and familiar activity will resonate with kids and makes this a book that will be a favorite for thoughtful as well as spirited story times at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807561300

Discover more about Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and their books on their website, BeckyTaraBooks.

To view a portfolio of work by Matthew Rivera and learn more about him, visit his website.

Photographer Appreciation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-threads-of-friendship-photo-holder

Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. Wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness
  3. Glue down the end of the twine to keep it from unraveling
  4. With the needle-nose pliers, roll down one end of the wire to create a small coil
  5. Repeat with two other lengths of wire
  6. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  7. Fit the three wires into the center hole on the top of the spool
  8. Push the wires into the clay until they are held securely
  9. Clip photographs into the coils
  10. Display your pictures!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-cover

You can find Operation Photobomb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound