January 15 – National Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Hats are always stylish, and during this time of year they can be a necessity for keeping warm! No matter if you make your own hat or buy it in a shop, whether you like stocking hats, felt hats, hats with earflaps, or hats that just hide a bad hairdo, this is the perfect season to indulge your fashion fancies!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016,  courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hat Day Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-cover

You can find A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 14 – It’s Book Blitz Month

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About the Holiday

Is your motto “So many books, so little time?” Is every shelf, nook, and cupboard in your house filled with books? Is your library card the first one on your ring? If so, you’ll love Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read, read, read as many books as possible! For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting. Sit down with your child or students and make a stack of books they’d like to read. Find time every day to read one, two, or a few of the books in the pile. Seeing the stack shrink gives kids a sense of accomplishment, and they’ll love building it up again! Mix reading with fun activities to encourage a new generation of avid readers!

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

Duck was meandering down the lane when she heard birds happily twittering over their Valentine’s Day cards. Suddenly, Duck realized that she didn’t have a valentine, but in the next moment she came up with an idea. Later that day, while Hippo was dusting his house there was a knock at the door. He rushed over hoping that it was Duck, but when he opened the door he found only a card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Come to the park today at 4 pm. And bring something for your Valentine!” The card wasn’t signed, and all Hippo saw was a “white feather floating down, landing softly on the ground.”

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Down at the pond, Turtle was napping when he heard a splash. He woke up to find a card floating on a nearby lily pad. The heart on the front “reminded him, just a little bit, of a pizza with a slice out of it!” The card had the same message as Hippo’s and it wasn’t signed either. Turtle was disappointed to find his valentine, Pig, wasn’t there.

Pig was at her pizza shop. As she was tossing dough in the air, the bell above her door jangled. Pig was startled and the dough fell on her head. When she got cleaned off, she saw a card with a heart on it under her door. The card told her to come to the park at four o’clock and bring something for her valentine. “Pig blushed and raced outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of her valentine. ‘Turtle! Are you there?’” she called.

At his market, Elephant was excited to discover a card in his mailbox. He twirled around so quickly, trying to catch a glimpse of Duck or Pig that he fell down and crumpled his trunk. “He sat up and rubbed it. Then he held the card against his heart and beamed.” Back at Hippo’s house, it was only one o’clock, but he was dressed in his finest suit and brushed his teeth. At two o’clock, Turtle grabbed his basket full of doughnuts and headed for the park.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

At three o’clock, Pig was in the bathtub. She quickly scrubbed away the pizza dough, dried off, and put on her favorite dress. She hurried out, holding a pizza box aloft. Elephant left his house at three thirty with a bouquet of flowers held in his trunk, and with fifteen minutes to spare, Hippo hurried down the path “with a box of chocolate and flowers, hoping that Duck would be there.”

Exactly at four o’clock the four friends arrived at the part, “but…where, OH WHERE, was Duck?” Just then, Duck popped out of a bush and announced, “‘TA-DA! I’m the secret valentine!’” She presented Hippo with a rose, and said, “‘The best valentines are friends!’” Everyone danced and cheered, and then they sat down for a picnic and passed around their cards and goodies and enjoyed spending Valentine’s Day together.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Jonathan London’s beloved Duck and Hippo and their friends are back in a sweet Valentine’s Day story that combines humor and mystery with a heartwarming message about friendship. Duck’s ingenious idea for each friend to bring something for their valentine will get kids thinking about the nice things they can do for their friends and others to show how much they appreciate them. Little readers will giggle at the mishaps that befall each character and empathize with the bit of nervousness each one experiences when presented with their card. The happy enthusiasm of this group of friends is as infectious as ever and may inspire your own Valentine’s Day picnic.

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Fans of Duck, Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant will be happy to be reunited with their favorite characters through Andrew Joyner’s bright and inviting illustrations. As readers drop in to watch each friend receive their card, they’ll love hunting for the hint at who the secret valentine is. Suspense grows as each character gets ready, and little ones can discover what time it is on a variety of clocks, which may spark an interest in finding similar clocks in their own homes and towns. The final pages showing the five friends and the birds celebrating the holiday together are joyful and full of love.

An adorable and feel-good story to share at Valentine’s Day or whenever love is in the air, Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine is fun addition to the series and to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900356

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mystery that you’ll love this Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine book trailer!

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine written by Jonathan London | illustrated by Andrew Joyner

This giveaway is open from January 14 through January 20 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST on Jan. 20.

A winner will be chosen on January 21.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

Book Blitz Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

I Love You! Jar

 

Do you ever feel like saying “I love you” to friends and siblings, but don’t know how? Here’s a gift you can make that will tell them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar—you can add as many as you like and even continue to fill the jar after you’ve given it away. Here are some ideas:

  • Add one heart for each year you have known your friend
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your friend, sibling or others (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever the recipient of your jar does something nice for you
  • Encourage the recipient of your jar to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to someone that they have special feelings for.

4. Give your I Love You! jar to a friend, your parents, your siblings, or anyone who fills your heart with joy.

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You can find Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all our feathered friends from the birds in our backyards to the chickens and turkeys that provide us with food to the penguins of Antarctica. They include wild birds and those in captivity, either as pets or in zoos or other aviaries. National Bird Day was established to promote an awareness of issues concerning the safety, health, and protection of the world’s birds. To celebrate put out birdseed and suet for winter birds or learn a little more about the birds in your area.

Trevor

Written by Jim Averbeck | Illustrated by Amy Hevron

 

“Trevor stretched his wings the width of his safe, boring cage.” Even though he knew the door would open easily, he never ventured out because everything he needed was right within reach. Today, instead of being tempted to eat his one remaining striped seed—his favorite kind—he sang a lonesome song. Outside his window, Trevor suddenly saw a lemon bump his windowsill. He took it for a fellow canary and asked it to join in singing with him. “The lemon said nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Thinking that the canary was shy, Trevor picked up his cherished seed, opened the cage door, and flew outside. He placed the seed near the lemon, but the lemon stayed quiet. It didn’t take the hint that Trevor liked gifts too, either. Trevor jumped up and down on the branch, trying to get some reaction, but he only caused the seed to fall to the ground and the lemon to drop and be caught on a branch below.

Trevor was angry at the lemon and turned his back on it. He “saw the vast, frightening world stretched out before him. He felt very lonely.” Trevor looked back at the lemon and made a bargain. If the lemon was sorry for being rude, he said, it should say nothing. The lemon obliged, and Trevor forgave it. Trevor built a nest for himself and the lemon, and the two spent a cozy summer together. Below, the striped seed began to grow.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Every morning they sang together. “Trevor sang the notes. The lemon sang the silences.” Trevor was happy snuggling with the lemon and decided he was never leaving the nest. One day, a storm blew up. It shook the branch and then, in a strong gust of wind, the lemon flew out of the nest. On its way down, it hit the sunflower and knocked out its seeds. The lemon soon rolled out of sight.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Trevor flew into the storm to look for his friend, but he couldn’t find the lemon anywhere. “Trevor cowered among the scattered seeds and wept.” Suddenly, though, a group of colorful birds appeared, wondering if the seeds were Trevor’s and whether  he would share them. He agreed, knowing that the lemon “would have wanted it that way.” In the fall, Trevor and his new friends flew south to spend the winter there. They sang together on their journey. Trevor was happy, “but he never forgot his first shy friend…who gave him everything, and asked for nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jim Averbeck’s gentle nudge for children who are hesitant to venture out of their comfort zone tenderly shows how taking a chance and sharing one’s talents or favorite things can lead to positive and rewarding experiences and new friendships. Through Trevor’s friendship with the silent lemon, Averbeck highlights Trevor’s natural kindness, a quality that leads him to find his inner strength and sociability. Cleverly weaving together the ideas of “leaving the nest” and “sowing seeds of friendship,” Averbeck creates a moving storyline that will hearten quieter children and inspire them to reach out in ways that are comfortable and meaningful to them.

Amy Hevron endears little Trevor to readers with her soft acrylics-on-wood illustrations full of sweet hugs and selfless acts that bring this adorable bird his first, best friend. The close-up focus of these images serves to also emphasize Trevor’s loneliness and trepidation when he later turns away from the lemon and overlooks a vast forest. The appearance of a diverse group of birds attracted by Trevor’s seeds will cheer readers, especially as Trevor joins them on their flight south. The last page offers a just-right surprise that gives kids and adults another opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship.

A tribute to formative friendships and self-discovery, Trevor makes an uplifting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250148285

Discover more about Jim Averbeck and his books on his website.

To learn more about Amy Hevron, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bird Day Activity

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Cheery Canary Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your winter table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape
  • Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

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You can find Trevor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

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About the Holiday

The idea of Barbara Condron, the Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for the hour between 11:30 p.m. December 31 and 12:30 January 1 and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

 

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

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Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

 

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

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You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 30 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

As 2018 gives way to 2019, we give one last bow to those friends that keep us smiling, whether at home or in cute pics and videos online. Who are they? Cats! With their “who me?” looks, disregard for privacy, and utter confidence that they rule the house, cats and kittens make life better in so many ways. If you’re thinking about adding a furry family member to your home this coming year, check out the sweet cats at your local animal shelter.

Quackers

By Liz Wong

 

Quackers, a little orange tabby, wants to say hello! “Meow.” Quackers is a duck. “He knows he’s a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.” Not only that, but all of his friends are ducks. Sometimes, though, when he looks around at all the white feathers and orange beaks, he feels a bit out of place, and communicating is sometimes difficult. There’s also the issue of food—some of the things he’s given to eat are pretty slimy or tiny or hard to chew, and duckweed seems to be on the menu all the time. The worst, though? Getting wet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-quackers-liz-wong-at-the-pond

Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

One day, Quackers meets another duck who looks like him and sounds like him. In his joy, Quackers blurts out, “‘I’ve never met a duck who understands me!’” The gray kitten, Mittens, is confused at first and then understands and then laughs. At last, she invites Quackers to follow her. They end up at a farm where Mittens lives with “a whole flock of strange ducks. Ducks just like Quackers.”

Mittens shows Quackers how they “chase mice,” which Quackers prefers to swimming; “drink milk,” which is more delicious than duckweed; and clean themselves, which Quackers is a bit iffy on. Soon, Quackers is napping with his new friends. As much as he enjoys being a cat, Quackers starts to miss the duck pond. He even finds that he has a craving for duckweed. He scampers back and discovers that “most of all, he missed his friends.”

Now Quackers splits his time at the pond and the farm. Sometimes he’s a duck, and sometimes he’s a cat. But all the time “he’s just Quackers, and that makes him completely happy.”

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

As mom to a cat who thinks he’s part person and possibly part dog, I fell in love with Liz Wong’s little Quackers and little readers will too. Kids will giggle as Quackers sits contentedly on a lily pad, accepts slugs and snails as snacks with a meow-nimum of fuss, and explains to Mittens that he’s a duck.  Readers, who are beginning to develop their own identity, will be cheered when Quackers embraces both his duck and cat sides. They’ll understand that it’s what’s inside a person that matters and that being yourself is the best thing you can be. Wong’s adorable kittens and ducks will charm kids, and her simple hand-lettered text and speech bubbles create a cozy reading experience that’s like a sweet hug in a book.

Full of humor, self-acceptance, and inclusion, Quackers should find a home on any child’s and classroom’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553511543

Discover more about Liz Wong, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-match-the-kittens-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These adorable kittens all have a twin, but they’ve gotten mixed up while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-quackers-liz-wong-cover

You can find Quackers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 22 – It’s Cat Lover’s Month

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About the Holiday

You’re a cat lover, right? You just can’t help watching cute kitten videos or smiling at those sweet cats on Twitter or frisky kitties on Instagram. Maybe you even have a cat at home that makes you laugh with their antics or cuddles up for some snuggle time. If you are a cat lover, this month was created just for you. So indulge in all things feline – and if your home and heart are yearning for a ball of fluff, consider adopting a new friend from your local shelter.

I Am a Cat

By Galia Bernstein

 

Simon, a little gray tabby, proudly introduces himself, saying, “I am a cat. Just like you!” You might think this sweet greeting would be met warmly, but instead, the kitten’s audience stares at him wide-eyed and then…bursts out laughing. The tiger, lion, cheetah, puma, and panther think this is the funnies thing they’ve ever heard.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The lion protests that the little ball of fluff can’t be a cat because “cats have a mane and a tuft at the end of their tails” and a fierce roar because “they are the king of all beasts.” The cheetah didn’t think the gray cat had the legs or speed to be a cat. The puma had never seen such a small and weak cat living in the mountains like he did, and the panther knew cats were black and lived in the jungle.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The tiger may have been the most skeptical of all. He thought that the gray creature in front of him might be a rat, but a cat that wasn’t orange? Ha! Simon looked at each cat with their individual traits and wondered aloud how they could all consider each other cats, but not him. Well, replied Lion, it’s “‘because we also have many things in common. We all have small, perky ears and flat noses…long whiskers and long tails.’” They also all showed Simon their teeth and claws and eyes that could see in the dark.

“‘I have all those things,’” Simon said. “‘Only smaller.’” The lion, tiger, puma, cheetah, panther, and tiger took a second look. They couldn’t deny it: Simon was a cat. They even admitted that he was one of the family. Then they played and pounced and prowled, “like cats of all sizes do.”

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Galia Bernstein’s ingeniously uses a variety of “big cats” to expose the kinds of smug, narrow-minded thinking that leads to prejudice based on color, abilities, social standing, and size. Simon’s polite push-back to the rebuffs he gets from the other cats echos the kind of honest, probing questions that little ones often ask. To their credit, the other cats recognize and admit to their blind spots and welcome Simon into the family. Bernstein’s straightforward storytelling provides a perfect setup for the satisfying and enriching ending.

Bernstein’s bold images of each big cat interacting with adorable and earnest Simon cleverly demonstrates the differences as well as the similarities between them. The lion and Simon lie side by side, their paws crossed and their tails intertwined. The puma and Simon sit next to each other leaning slightly to the left. And the panther and Simon both lounge in a tree batting at the same butterfly. The final spread of all the cats frolicking together is joyful and will make children smile knowingly.

I Am a Cat is a story that’s as fun as it is meaningful and deserves a place on any child or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Harry N. Abrams, 2018 | ISBN 978-1419726439

Discover more about Galia Bernstein, her book, and her art on her website.

You’ll love watching this I Am a Cat book trailer!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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Purr-fect Friends Maze

 

One little kitten wants to play with her friends, Can you help her find her way in this printable puzzle?

Purr-fect Friends Maze | Purr-fect Friends Maze Solution

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You can find I Am a Cat at these booksellers

Abrams BooksAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million|IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 21 – National Humbug Day

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About the Holiday

Christmas Day is getting close! Are you ready—tree decorated, all gifts bought and wrapped, cookies baked? Or are you feeling a little stressed? Today’s holiday was created to give you a chance to let off a little steam and say “Bah, humbug” if you feel like it. So, it’s okay to let out your inner Scrooge today before you get back into the holiday spirit!

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Santa Bruce to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

If you know Bruce, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he “did not like the holidays.” In fact, before he had kids (and mice), he used to sleep right through them. But this year his family wanted that picture-perfect Christmas together. This meant “no migrating! No hibernating!” Whether Bruce liked it or not, “the holiday season was going to be filled with fun and cheer.”

So the geese decorated, and the mice made eggnog. And Bruce? He was not happy. He was awake and he was cold. And because he was awake and cold, he was shoveling the walk in his red long underwear. And that’s when a raccoon made an erroneous conclusion, and Bruce was the victim of “a case of mistaken identity.” Again.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

It didn’t matter that Bruce tried to set the record straight. The little raccoon scampered off to tell his friends. Soon, Bruce’s house was full of animals wanting to talk to Santa. Every young forest critter took their turn sitting on Santa’s…I mean Bruce’s…lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and no sooner had they all gone home then their parents showed up to “thank Bruce for his Christmas spirit. Then, before Bruce could even say “bah humbug,” Thistle announced that Santa Bruce would “deliver presents to all of your kids tonight.”

What was Bruce’s reaction? He headed for bed. When the mice protested, Bruce reminded them that he didn’t have a sleigh. The mice easily fixed that with a wagon and a sled. How about reindeer?, Bruce countered. Well, what else are geese for? Okay, Bruce conceded, but what about the presents? The mice had that covered too.

And so it was that on that magical night that Santa Bruce made the rounds to all the good little forest critters (and even to the “grown up Bunny who still lives with his parents”). As morning dawned and Santa Bruce trudged back home, happy tykes were waking up to a beautifully wrapped present. What was it? You’ll have to join the holiday feast and see!

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

A new Bruce book is always a cause for celebration, so combining a celebration with a new Bruce book makes the holiday doubly exciting. Ryan T. Higgins’ woebegone Bruce is just trying to make his kids (and those mice) happy when another case of mistaken identity turns his winter topsy-turvey. Bruce’s tetchy responses as he loses control of his fate and becomes Santa Bruce as well as the silly asides and persuasive pleas from the mice will have kids in stitches. Sly references to holiday songs, Christmas clichés, and even a spring holiday add to the zany hubbub, and the little ones’ Christmas wishes will make adult readers chuckle.

Higgins’ unibrowed bear wears his signature scowl with aplomb—not even cracking the wee-est smile as a houseful of tiny, adorable hopefuls cheer and shout for “SANTA!” As usual, the mice are jubilantly unconcerned with Bruce’s feelings, giving him, in turn, thumbs up and innocent eyes as they cajole Bruce into creating their vision of the perfect holiday. The guileless geese are just happy to be along for the ride, and the forest children are sweetly excited to get their special present.

Destined to become a holiday classic, Santa Bruce has laughter, generosity, and togetherness all wrapped into one—and isn’t that what the holidays are all about? A must buy for home holiday and anytime reading.

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art on his website.

National Humbug Day Activity

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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

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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

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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!

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You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

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

Picture Book Review