October 20 – It’s the Spooky Season

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About the Holiday

The month of October is a spooky season. There are monsters lurking in closets, witches stirring up brews, and evil screams in the night. But, not all spooky things turn out to be scary. Sometimes, it just takes a closer look to see that what once spooked you was actually a helper in disguise, perhaps even a friendly ghost. After all, ghosts like to have friends too.

Today, I’m happy to welcome writer and artist Amanda Leemis, who also loves sharing books and creating worksheets and crafts for young readers. Just in time for Halloween, Amanda’s stopped by with a review of a book that’s perfect for the holiday and all year around. You can read more about Amanda and find some of her fun activities for kids at the end of this post.

Review by Amanda Leemis

Gustavo The Shy Ghost

By Flavia Z. Drago

 

When it comes to making friends, it can be hard, especially if you’re a paranormal being who blends into the background. Gustavo is a very shy ghost who loves to play the violin more than anything in the world. He is so shy that he can never get the courage to talk to any of the monsters, so he tries to get close to them in other ways. Being a ghost has its perks, and Gustavo is able to morph his shape into any situation. He rounds up his sides into a balloon and hangs out for a celebration, but none of the monsters notice him. He tries everything from curling up into sports equipment to becoming a lampshade, he even becomes a blank canvas in the art classroom, but none of the monsters take any notice.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Gustavo’s sadness turns to determination as he sends out invitations to his very own violin concert. This is his chance to really be seen, face his fears, and make some new friends. He pushes his nervous thoughts – “What if no one shows up? What if they don’t like my music?” – away and invites all the monsters in the land! As the big night arrives, Gustavo’s worst fears come to life, not a soul had come to his party. Sitting all alone and mending his crushed heart, he picks up his violin and his music fills the air. Soon, he is glowing brightly with the music that fills his spirit!

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

A voice calls “Gustavo!” from behind the bushes, and soon all kinds of monsters begin to emerge from the darkness. The monsters got lost on the way to the party, but found their way back by following the music in the air and spotting Gustavo’s luminous glow! After the brilliant violin performance, Gustavo’s life changes forever. Now, he has all kinds of monster friends in his neighborhood! His quiet nature is now filled with friendship, and he has lots of friends to spook and surprise. Instead of trying to blend into situations, he gets to stand out! Whether it’s becoming an umbrella to shield his friends from the rain or creating an amazing shadow show on the wall, Gustavo isn’t alone.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Flavia Z. Drago’s message of perseverance and courage will remind your little ones that it’s ok if making friends is hard. Drago reassures kids that the best way to introduce yourself to new people is to simply be yourself, just like Gustavo. While the October season can be a spooky time, this book is great chance to bring more fun and less unease about what’s lurking in the night. Not all spooks are scary, and in fact, some just want a friend.

Drago’s illustrations will have you captivated from the first moment you see Gustavo floating a teapot across the page. The vibrant, warm colors throw you into a new world full of monsters and spooks, and gets you in the mood to hear a tale of the lesser-known paranormal beings. The illustrative details – like Gustavo’s family portrait, his handcrafted invitations, and his kitty cat peeking around the door – give the reader so much to explore within each and every page!

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2020, | ISBN 978-1536211146

Discover more about Flavia Z. Drago, her books, and her art on her website.

The Spooky Season Activities

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Gustavo the Ghost Puzzles and Craft

 

The fun with Gustavo doesn’t have to end! Be sure to print out an activity to accompany the story! Gustavo Shape Sorting” is great for little ones in preschool. Sort Gustavo’s shape into his same column. “‘Gustavo The Shy Ghost’ Word Search” is great for ages 5-7. Highlight all of the spooky words hidden in the mishmash of letters! And hey, while you’re at it, get creative with a fantastic make-your-own ghost water bottle craft!

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About Amanda Leemis

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Amanda Leemis is a model, artist, and creator of The Hollydog Blog! She is passionate about encouraging our littlest humans to read! With two books published in the “My Hollydog” series, she loves illustration and uses her skills to create printable worksheets for ages 2-5. Creating resources that build fine motor skills and boost creativity is her passion.

Amanda Leemis is the illustrator of My Hollydog and My Hollydog Rides in the Car. Her mother Charise Leemis is the author! The “My Hollydog” series is written specifically for ages 2-3. With one sentence per page, little ones will stay engaged and keep focused on the vibrant illustrations. Come along with Hollydog on an adventure! Whether it’s hanging her head out the window or jumping into a pile of leaves, Hollydog loves her humans more than anything in the world!

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You’ll find Gustavo the Shy Ghost at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 5 – National Do Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Similar to Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Do Something Nice Day encourages people to think of others and do nice things for them. These don’t have to be big or expensive; in fact, small gestures or thoughtful actions can make all the difference in the way a friend, family member, or stranger feels. These acts of kindness will make you feel good too! To celebrate today, keep an eye out for ways you can lend a hand, times you can share a smile or a conversation, or ways you can make a new friend. Kids may enjoy sharing the encouraging cards found below with friends, siblings, and teachers or by leaving them at school, the library, shops or anywhere that someone may find them.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice

Written by Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrated by Kelly O’Neill

 

It seems like being nice should be easy, but there are so many emotions that often surround that one little word that sometimes doing the considerate thing is really hard. How hard? Like smiling and saying “that’s okay” when “your mom says you have to share” your favorite toy with a friend, sibling, or cousin and they break it. Like sitting through your brother or sister’s boring performance, game, or recital when you’d rather be somewhere else—anywhere else. Or like eating your least favorite food and thanking the cook for the meal because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In fact, “sometimes being nice takes practice” like when a little brother or sister destroys your stuff and you yell at them, but then later you realize they didn’t really understand what they were doing. Or like when visiting someone you love in a nursing home or new place is scary and you hang back, not wanting to see them but then decide you won’t be scared next time you visit. And then there are times like these on the playground “when you have been waiting in line for the big slide, and a kid jumps in front of you because he didn’t see you standing there. And your mom says that the polite thing to do is to let him go first. But it’s your turn so you go anyway. Somehow it isn’t as fun. Next time you’ll let him go first.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So what does all that practice lead to? The good feeling you get when you are nice. Like when you let your baby brother sit with you as you play a video game, “and he claps for you the whole time.” There’s also the great feeling you get when you’ve cleaned up after playing and your parents really appreciate it, or “when you’re late for soccer practice and your mom can’t find her keys, so you help her look for them . . . and find them in the doorknob! And your mom says she doesn’t know what she would do without you!”

While these examples may be hard because you feel slighted or tired or rushed or scared, there are times when being nice takes all your courage—like when you befriend the new kid or the kid everyone picks on and find out you have lots in common. Or when the bullies come around and you stand up for your new friend even though it’s scary and you end up in the principal’s office. So why would you want to be nice? Because “it’s worth it.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Maggie C. Rudd’s excellent primer to the emotions and circumstances around being nice presents children with realistic scenarios involving family members and friends, favorite toys and activities, and common situations at school that often require extra effort to respond to in a positive way. Rudd’s conversational writing style directly engages the reader, and while every example may not be an exact match to the reader’s experience, many will be spot on and the others easily recognized and adaptable.

Rudd’s four-step progression acknowledges that showing kindness or even just good manners can be difficult, but that it can become easier—especially when a situation seems unfair or is disappointing—with practice and perspective. Rudd’s examples of when being nice feels good are sprinkled with humor and warm family feelings that will bring smiles that support her point. A thread involving a favorite Galactic Star Crusher action figure ties several of the vignettes together, adding a sense of relationship and connectedness among the characters.

Kelly O’Neill illustrates each example for readers with clearly depicted scenes involving kids like them playing video games, visiting with grandparents, playing on the playground, helping their parents, and standing up for another child. In every instance, the children’s emotions are easily understood, which opens up many opportunities for adults and kids to discuss the feelings and issues surrounding how one treats others from both a child’s and adult’s perspective and experience. O’Neill’s bright colors, familiar settings, and uncluttered, well-conceived pages put the focus on her engaging children and elegantly complement Rudd’s important message.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice is a superb read aloud for honestly addressing the complexities and rewards of showing kindness and being nice. It is a book that families, teachers, and caregivers will find themselves turning to again and again in helping children navigate and learn this important social skill. The book is a must addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company | ISBN 978-0807575734

Discover more about Maggie C. Rudd and her books as well as an Activity Kit for educators and parents on her website.

To learn more about Kelly O’Neill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Do Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 22 – It’s the Autumn Equinox

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About the Holiday

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, fall has arrived! If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, welcome to spring! Today, daytime and nighttime will be equal, ushering in a changing of the seasons. For some that means cooler weather, shorter days, and a slowing down in nature which leads to our being able to see the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges in the leaves of certain trees. The phenomenon featured in today’s book. For others nature is just awakening, with all the beauty warm weather and new growth bring. Wherever you live, enjoy the activities and events the change in season brings!

Before We Sleep

Written by Giorgio Volpe | Illustrated by Paolo Proietti

 

“As the season turned, the forest was dressed in new colors of rich amber, burned orange, and chestnut brown.” Little Red, the fox couldn’t wait to play hide-and-seek with his friend Hazel the dormouse because he would be so much harder to find. Little Red and Hazel also enjoyed jumping in the crisp, rustling leaves. “‘The leaves are laughing with us,’ said Hazel joyfully.” But there was one thing about autumn that Little Red did not like. He knew that soon winter would come and he would be lonely.

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Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Hazel was already getting ready to hibernate in her warm burrow. Little Red thought maybe this year Hazel would take a shorter sleep, but Hazel reminded her friend that, although she would like to keep him company, she couldn’t. Little Red thought of ways the earth could stay warm and nurturing, but his ideas, he knew, were just wishes. In fact, Hazel was already growing tired. She promised Little Red that come spring she would be back to play with him again.

Little Red wanted just a few more minutes with his friend and asked if he could tell her a story. Little Red curled up next to her cozy burrow, and Hazel nestled into his soft tail to listen. “But before a word of the story was spoken . . . the two friends had fallen fast asleep, together.”

Note: Only first-person pronouns are used in this story, making the characters gender-neutral.

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Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Tranquil and soothing, Giorgio Volpe’s autumn friendship story floats on beautiful, evocative language that stirs memories of the fun fall offers while also reassuring readers that no matter what changes take place, love between friends always remains. Volpe’s story also touches on how friendships are built despite—or because of—individual differences. The sweet and comforting ending makes Before We Sleep not only a perfect fall read but a cozy bedtime story as well.

Paolo Proietti’s lush illustrations of a woodland dressed for autumn fuse realistic images of nature with delightful whimsy that mirrors the wistful tone of Volpe’s story and will charm readers. Proietti’s rich illustrations of fiery Little Red, adorable Hazel, and the plants, berries, nuts, and wildlife of the forest are set against lovely muted gray, blue, and sage backgrounds and invite readers to visit again and again.

A quiet and enchanting story for cozy fall days and dozy nights, Before We Sleep is highly recommended as a gift for family or friends and as an addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550046

To download a Before We Sleep Activity Kit and find video resources, visit Red Comet Press.

You can connect with Giorgio Volpe on Facebook.

You can connect with Paolo Proietti on Instagram.

Autumn Equinox Activity

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Falling for Fall Matching Puzzle

 

These kids are having fun in the leaves. Can you find the matching leaves in this printable puzzle?

Falling for Fall Puzzle

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You can find Before We Sleep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Kids seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Encouraging them to use their particular talent or talents, helps them build confidence and find thier place in the world. Reading today’s book with them is a great way to start! To celebrate today, take time to share your talents with others. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks to Red Comet Press and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Mister Fairy with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mister Fairy

Written by Morgane de Cadier | Illustrated by Florian Pigé

 

All sorts of fairies lived in the forest. There are “morning fairies, brave fairies, sleepy-time fairies, and even fairies that clean. There is also Mister Fairy. Mister Fairy doesn’t seem able to do anything right. He isn’t a morning fairy. His attempt to be a kissing fairy turns ticklish. And when he tries to heal a boo-boo, he only turns the leaves on the trees to pink fluff. “‘I’m the most useless fairy in the forest,’” he says. “‘I’m the fairy of nothing at all!’”

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Image copyright Florian Pigé, 2021, text copyright Morgane de Codier, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Mister. Fairy decides to find a different home. He comes to a city shadowed in gloom, where everyone seems “sad and unhappy too.” Mister. Fairy wants to help. “Cautiously, he waves his wand. Suddenly light bursts over the drab city walls in beautiful shades of color!” He watched the people begin to smile. Next he enters the subway. On a train, Mister Fairy weaves in and out and around, tickling the riders and making them laugh.

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Image copyright Florian Pigé, 2021, text copyright Morgane de Codier, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Excited to have made so many people happy, Mister Fairy flies off to see where else he can help. He passes by an outdoor café and turns all the table umbrellas into cotton candy. These balls of pink fluff remind him of home, and he begins to worry. He leaves the city and flies back to the forest. When he gets there, he discovers that all the color has faded to gloomy gray. He calls out to his friends and they respond. Since he left, they tell him, they “‘lost the gift of laughter.’” No matter what they tried, they couldn’t find their smiles.

“Without a word, Mister Fairy confidently waves his wand…” and instantly “color and laughter return to the forest.” Mister Fairy then realizes that far from being useless, he fills the forest with smiles, happiness, and joy “in his own special way.”

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Image copyright Florian Pigé, 2021, text copyright Morgane de Codier, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

This enchanting book is the sixth collaboration between Morgane de Cadier and Florian Pigé and the first to be translated from French into English. Morgane de Cadier’s whimsical realism plumbs feelings of self-doubt, disappointment, and failure as well as confidence, fulfillment, and joy as Mister Fairy tries to be like others before discovering his true gift. Told in the present tense, the story immediately feels contemporary and fresh as it draws readers into this unique community of fairies. Mister Fairy’s discouragement is palpable and all the more moving since it is joy that he creates with a wave of his wand.

On his own in the city, not comparing himself to the other fairies, and with only his own aspirations and empathy to guide him, he bravely brandishes his wand and does what he can. That he gets instant and positive feedback is a gamechanger. As his particular talent alters the city and its residents, Mister Fairy grows in confidence and, although not explicitly stated, he seems to consider that he did add value to the forest. When he returns, Mister Fairy and children see that the forest is not the same without him—just as the reader’s family, friends, school, and the world are not the same without them. de Cadier’s final sentiment about the irreplaceable importance of Mister Fairy echoes priceless acknowledgement of every child’s worth.

Kids will fall in love with Florian Pigé’s tiny fairies and especially the endearing Mister Fairy. Mister Fairy, with his dejected trunk and disconsolate frown and eyes, but prim fairy dress or pajamas instantly reveals his talent, but smiling readers—who will be smiling—don’t know it yet. As Mister Fairy gives vent to his frustration, an empathetic fairy offers a paw of comfort while kids can see that the animals of the forest are enjoying the pink fluff he’s conjured up. Like a hummingbird against the open sky, Mister Fairy takes off for the city, where the people look as downtrodden as he feels.

With the first splash of paint, though, things begin looking up, and kids see what a difference one tiny fairy—or person—can make. When Mister Fairy leaves the city, the once-gray buildings are a rainbow of colors, and the people, sporting grins, are aware of each other and looking up from their phones. Mister Fairy returns to a now-gray forest a changed elephant, and the final two-page spread of the home he restores will cheer kids and adults alike.

Mister Fairy transcends the fairy story genre to offer a humorous and poignant look at self-discovery and finding one’s place in the world. It’s a book you and your kids will find yourselves returning to again and again and is enthusiastically recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550008

Discover more about Morgane de Cadier, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Florian Pigé, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

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Spool Elephant and Baby

 

You can make your own elephant fairy or friend to keep you company with this easy craft ! 

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

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You can find Mister Fairy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 13 – Bald Is Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors those who through choice, illness, medication, or heredity sport bald heads. Baldness for both men, women, and children can show courage, beauty, and an independent spirit. To commemorate today, give a shout out or support to your friends who are bald.

What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair?

Written by Norene Paulson | Illustrated by Camila Carrossine

 

“Bea wore hats everywhere.” But unlike her friend Shaleah, who sometimes wore hats too, she didn’t have to worry about “hat hair.” Why? Well, while Bea had been born with hair, she began losing it and “before Bea turned four, she was bald.” Bea didn’t remember having hair, and her family and friends loved her, so she just took it in stride—usually.There were times when she wished she could style her hair like Shaleah and felt sad when “a classmate called her a mean name.” And then there was Silly Spirit Week at school. Friday was Silly Hair Day. Bea wondered how she could participate. Shaleah reassured her that they’d think of something.

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Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Shaleah’s first thought was a wig, so on Saturday Bea’s mom took them to a costume shop and Bea tried on lots of different wigs—but none seemed right. The next day they tried crafting hair with yarn and pompoms. It was silly, but still not right. Bea was getting discouraged. Maybe, she said, she should just stay home on Friday. But Shaleah reminded her that if she did she’d miss the Spirit Week picnic. And Shaleah vowed that if Bea stayed home, she’d stay home. Bea didn’t want Shaleah to miss the picnic, so they started thinking again.

For Monday’s Silly Costume Day and Tuesday’s Silly Backwards Day, Bea had great ideas. “On Wednesday Bea won the Wackiest Hat Award,” but she still didn’t have an idea for Silly Hair Day. Then during Silly Feet Day, she saw a temporary tattoo on the principal’s leg that gave her an idea. But first, she needed to get Shaleah and the principal’s approval. When they both said Yes, Bea was excited.

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Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

After school and late into the night, Bea and Shaleah worked on the idea. The next day they got to school early and put up a new sign. It read “FRIDAY: Silly Hair or Head Day.” The kids wondered what that was all about. Then Bea and Shaleah approached in hoodies and lowered the hoods to reveal colorful tattooed and bejeweled designs on Bea’s head and a skullcap for Shaleah. “‘Because now everyone can participate!’ Bea and Shaleah said together. Even the principal joined in with her own decorated cap. And all the kids—including Bea—enjoyed the Silly Spirit Week picnic.

An Author’s Note discussing hair loss due to Alopecia—as Bea has—and some cancer treatments, including online resources that can provide more information follows the text. Bea also offers readers some fun tips on applying temporary tattoos.

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Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Norene Paulson addresses childhood alopecia and hair loss due to cancer treatments or other causes in her sensitive and uplifting story. While briefly mentioning bullying, Paulson focuses on a common school spirit week event that leaves Bea out. By empowering Bea and her best friend Shaleah to devise a solution, Paulson invites young readers to both empathize with Bea and see how true friends support each other. Two foundations of Bea’s strong self-confidence and positive self-esteem are revealed in two short, important, and instructive sentences: “Her family loved her.” And “Her friends didn’t care.” Underlying the mystery of how Bea will solve her problem, Paulson provides an excellent way for parents, teachers, school administrators, and other caregivers to discuss inclusivity, acceptance, and friendship.

Camilla Carrossine’s engaging illustrations mirror Paulson’s story, allowing readers to understand and empathize with Bea’s experience and join in on Bea and Shaleah’s close friendship. Children will love the silly wigs Bea tries on, the playful updo of yarn Bea and Shaleah create, and the vibrant tattoos that Bea, Shaleah, and the principal all sport.

A unique and welcome book that allows children with alopecia and/or undergoing cancer treatment to be seen with new understanding from their peers, What’s Silly Hair Day with No Hair? is highly recommended for home bookshelves and for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807506080

Discover more about Norene Paulson and her books on her website. You’ll also find reading questions, a curriculum guide, and other resources for the book on her site here.

To learn more about Camilla Carrossine, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 10 – It’s Children’s Good Manners Month

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About the Holiday

As kids go back to school and will be interacting with other students, teachers, coaches, group leaders, and others, this month is dedicated to the kinds of manners that promote good relationships and cohesive gatherings. Thinking about how one’s actions will affect others is part of being a great friend, teammate, or participant in any activity. Family life with parents and siblings is also better when everyone treats each other with good manners and respect.

Sonny Says Mine!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

Sonny and his friends are playing on the playground when he spies a stuffed pink bunny in the sandbox. “Ooh! SO soft. SO cute. SO cuddly. I’ll call you Bun-Bun!’ he says.” But Meemo runs up to Sonny, interested in the bunny too, but Sonny pulls Bun-Bun away with a determined, “Mine!” Sonny plays with Bun-Bun, feeding her, dancing with her, reading her a story, and finally putting her to bed under a sand blanket.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Honey and Boo come over and Boo is crying because she’s lost her bunny doll Suki. While Boo sits sadly on the bench, Honey looks all over for Suki. Sonny says nothing and tells Meemo to stop barking. Then Honey directly asks Sonny if he’s seen Suki. “No!” he says, hiding the doll behind his back. Honey and Boo go back to their search. Sonny is so happy with Bun-Bun. “He LOVES Bun-Bun SO much.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But Meemo scolds Sonny and tries to take Suki. Sonny hides Bun-Bun and goes to play with Boo and Honey. But Boo is too sad to play pirates or to eat chocolate cake. “Now Sonny feels sad too.” What will he do? He goes to his hiding place and retrieves Bun-Bun. He hides Bun-Bun behind his back as he walks near Honey and Boo. Then he gives Bun-Bun to Boo and apologizes. Now everyone is happy! “Woof!” says Meemo. “Hooray!” says Boo. And what does Sonny say? He wants you to “Come back soon!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sharing something can be hard. Giving back something you’ve found and LOVE to its rightful owner can be even harder. Caryl Hart understands these strong tugs on the heart and in her tender and realistic tale shows little ones the other side of the story—the sadness a friend experiences over losing a beloved toy or other object. Each of the characters demonstrate different actions and emotions providing adults and kids opportunities to discuss feelings and various roles of friendship. With their natural empathy, kids will identify with both Sonny and Boo and learn how in this type of situation real happiness and peace of mind are found.

Zachariah OHora’s instantly recognizable illustrations bring a cute, comforting, and completely relatable vibe to the story. Sonny’s instant love for Bun-Bun is palpable and little ones will know exactly what’s at stake when he’s asked to give the bunny up. On the other side, Boo’s grief is also evident as tears stream from her eyes and the usual fun of playtime and snacks offer no cheer. Meemo and Honey have their own reactions too, which give kids more perspectives to consider. As Sonny contemplates what to do, children will empathize with both Sonny and Boo as they know one of them will be left unhappy. But Through OHora’s touching illustrations, they’ll see that Sonny makes the right choice—and how it really makes him feel.

The first in the new Sonny Says series, which introduces preschoolers and kindergarteners to universal experiences, Sonny Says Mine! is a multilayered story that is as adorable as it is encouraging and educational. The book will captivate young readers just beginning to venture out into the world and make friends and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and library shelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605804

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-cover

You can find Sonny Says Mine! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 3 – National Food Bank Day

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About the Holiday

National Food Bank Day was established by St. Mary’s Food Bank, the world’s first food bank, which was founded by John van Hengel in Phoenix, Arizona in 1967. The idea spread throughout the country, and now St. Mary’s Food Bank distributes 250,000 meals daily with the help of staff, volunteers, and partner agencies, making it one of the largest food banks in the United States. Food banks across the country help millions of men, women, and children who live with food insecurity due to job loss, illness, and other circumstances. Many food banks offer educational opportunities that help people change their situation and begin anew. Often, those who have benefited from the programs return to volunteer and contribute to the very food bank that staved off hunger to do the same for others. To learn more about St. Mary’s Food Bank, visit their website. To find a food pantry in your area for help, to donate, or to volunteer, visit the Ample Harvest website.

I’d like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Saturday at the Food Bank with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Saturday at the Food Pantry

Written by Diane O’Neill | Illustrated by Brizida Magro

 

When Molly came to the table for dinner, she saw that they were having chili—again. She and her mom had eaten chili for two weeks straight. But there was “fancy milk too.” Molly smiled as her mom measured sugar and cinnamon into her glass and added milk.” There was only a splash of milk left when Mom put it back into the almost-empty refrigerator.

Tomorrow, Mom said, they’d go shopping. “Molly’s eyes lit up” as she imagined “chicken and spaghetti and ice cream.” But Molly’s mom tempered her expectations, saying that they’d be going to a food pantry. A food pantry, she explained, is “‘a place for people who need food…. Everybody needs help sometimes,’” she added. That night there was no warm milk before Molly went to bed and her stomach growled.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In the morning when Molly and her mom got the food pantry there was already a line waiting for it to open. Molly had brought paper and crayons and sat down to draw. Then she saw a girl who was in her class at school. She called out hi, but “Caitlin looked away.” When Molly ran over, Caitlin told her she didn’t want anyone to know that she and her grandmother needed help.

Molly went back to her mom, wondering if there was “something wrong with needing help.” She wanted to go home, but she was also hungry. Molly’s mom suggested she draw a picture, and the woman in front of them asked if she’d draw one for her too. Then everyone in line seemed to want a picture. Molly ran back to Caitlin to ask for help. Caitlin sat down and began to draw too.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When the door opened, Molly and Caitlin each had a picture for the woman who welcomed them in too. Molly noticed that her mom had to sign in before she got a cart and they could begin shopping. They didn’t do that at the grocery store. The shelves at the food pantry were stocked with items she recognized from the store they usually shopped with. She ran over and took a box of sugar cookies off the shelf, but her mom told her “‘They—the people in charges—they’ll want us to take sensible stuff.’” Molly felt embarrassed and couldn’t understand why the cookies were there if they couldn’t take them. She sadly returned them to the shelf. As they went to look for food, Molly thought her mom didn’t want to be seen there, either—just like Caitlin. In a whisper, Molly reminded her that everyone needs help sometimes.

They went through the store taking one can, bag, or box of the food they needed. Then Molly’s mom reached for a box of powdered milk. They could have fancy milk that night. When they got to the checkout desk, Molly and Caitlin found their drawings hanging on the wall. The man at the counter bagged their groceries and then handed Molly’s mom a box of sugar cookies. “‘Saw your little girl looking at these. She can have them, if that’s okay with you, ma’am,’” he said. Molly noticed that her mom looked like she might cry.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As they were walking home, Molly saw Caitlin and her grandmother coming the same way. They were all happy to discover that they were neighbors. Molly’s mom explained that she’d been looking for work since the factory closed, and Caitlin’s grandma said she’d been sick. Caitlin understood, but wished they didn’t have to shop at a food pantry. But then Molly told her that “everybody needs help sometimes” and reminded her that they had helped make the man at the checkout counter feel happy with their drawings. Caitlin hadn’t thought about it that way. She smiled. Then Molly invited her and her grandmother to have lunch with them—with sugar cookies for dessert.

A note for adults, parents, and other caregivers from Kate Maehr, the Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository about food insecurity, including recent statistics and a resource where people can find help and more information, follows the text.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Diane O’Neill’s well-executed story about two families who need the help of a food pantry is a poignant reminder of the many people—perhaps even readers’ classmates—who face food insecurity every day. Through the experiences of Molly and her mother and Caitlin and her grandmother, readers discover what it’s like to go to bed hungry, miss out on treats, and feel ashamed to ask for help. As this is Molly and her mother’s first trip to a food pantry, Molly’s questions and observations well reflect children’s own or reassures those who are familiar with these important resources. O’Neill’s straightforward storytelling emphasizes the fact that at one time or another everyone needs help and demonstrates simple ways that children make things better through their generosity, optimism, and acceptance. Molly and Caitlin’s budding friendship makes for an uplifting and hopeful ending and may spur readers to recognize need in their midst and extend kindness.

Through her realistic illustrations of two families in need of assistance from a food bank, Brizida Magro helps children see and understand what food insecurity and food pantries look like. At home, Molly and her mom eat small portions of leftover chili and the last full glass of milk. When Molly’s mom puts the carton in the refrigerator, the shelves are nearly empty, and Molly lies awake in bed, too hungry to fall asleep. The line outside the food pantry is made up of people from all walks of life, and inside the displays of food replicate a grocery store with the exception of signs asking shoppers to take one item only. These images can lead to meaningful discussions on the enormity of the issue. When Molly and Caitlin draw pictures that cheer up everyone in line as well as the food pantry workers, kids will recognize not only different ways of helping but their own role in making the world a kinder place.

Empathy shines on every page of O’Neill’s necessary and welcome story. Saturday at the Food Pantry is timely, heartfelt, enlightening and a must-buy addition to home, classroom, and school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807572368

Discover more about Diane O’Neill and her work on her website.

You can connect with Brizida Magro on Instagram.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saturday-at-the-food-pantry-cover

You can find Saturday at the Food Pantry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review