June 23 – It’s National Homeownership Month

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About the Holiday

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

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

Mr. Mole Moves In

By Lesley-Anne Green

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra, 2021 | ISBN 978-1101918029

You can connect with Lesley-Anne Green on Instagram.

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

National Homeownership Month Activity

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Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

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

Pop Up Houses Play Set

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You can find Mr. Mole Moves In at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 18 – Clean Your Aquarium Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is pretty straightforward as was instituted to remind those who keep aquariums to give them a good, thorough cleaning at least once a year. A clean tank is a healthy tank for your fish and aquarium plants. If you don’t have an aquarium but love their beauty and calming influence, today can be a spark to learn more about responsible aquarium ownership and maybe even head out to your local pet store for a tank or a bowl. 

Too Crowded

By Lena Podesta

 

Seeing a new pair of eyes looking in on him, Gil does what any well-mannered goldfish would do: gives the onlooker a tour of his home. He shows off the plant he fits neatly within. Next to the plant is his castle, and under his castle are his pebbles. “I clean them every day,” he explains. “All 138 of them. All by myself.” The viewer may notice that Gil looks a little less enthusiastic than he did just the page before. He quickly comes to the end of his tour with a “BONK!” into the glass. He sums up his house as “small, round, cramped [and] TOO CROWDED!”

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Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Gil – as any reader can see from the next page – is a go-getter, and having climbed out of his bowl, he’s going to get a new “house that is not too crowded.” He’s well equipped for the search with his suitcase, his shoes, and his injured nose covered with a band aid. First, Gil strolls up to Bird’s nest. He finds it roomy – plenty big enough for him and the three eggs already there. One by one, though, the eggs hatch and the nest is filled with song all day long. Gil considers this house “TOO LOUD!”

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Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Next, Gil comes upon a quiet high rise. It’s got three stories. It’s fuzzy. Cat lives there. Gil thinks maybe Cat’s house is too quiet… and “TOO DANGEROUS!” Soon, Gil runs into Turtle, who’s house seems just…. But, wait! Turtle has an urgent question for Gil. “‘Hey, aren’t you a fish?'” he inquires. Gil answers in the affirmative, but doesn’t see what that’s got to do with anything. Until… Turtle gives him the bad news. Then, with a “GAG,” a “GASP!,” and a “GLUB” Gil flops to the ground.

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Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Turtle calls for help and a little girl comes running. She scoops him up and runs toward home, where Gil’s bowl awaits. With a splash, Gil revives. He swims around his same old cramped house… but what’s this? Turtle is coming to stay! Now Gil is excited to show off his – I mean their – plant, castle, pebbles… perfect home.

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Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Witty, quirky, and completely charming, Lena Podesta introduces kids to a small-scale hero that will steal their hearts. Podesta’s short, snappy dialogue imbues Gil with an endearing personality that makes his impossible journey outside the bowl completely plausible until Turtle breaks the spell in a moment of hilarious horror that kids are going to want to relive again and again. Gil’s rescue offers pitch-perfect satisfaction as readers are treated to a two-page spread  Gil’s b inside the little girl’s house and the juxtaposition of Bird’s nest, Cat’s climber, and Turtle’s garden. As Gil is restored to his house, Podesta ingeniously adds more layers to her story with a small illustration of Turtle watching at the window and an invigorating change of pronoun from “my” to “our.” Suddenly, this tale of a rebellious goldfish is transformed into a story of friendship and the contentment that sharing brings. 

With a whole lot of humor and a tiny fin full of pathos to make the laughs all the sweeter, Podesta has created an intrepid cutie who’s unabashedly self-assured as he steps out into the world, his tail fins stuffed into sturdy shoes. She depicts Gil’s delayed “last gasp” with slapstick precision and captures the little girl’s mad dash back inside with perfectly cupped hands and steely resolve. Kids will also enjoy following the fate of the souvenirs Gil collects along the way. The playful antics of Gil and Turtle together in the bowl are a sweet ending to this unique story. 

Too Crowded would make a splash with any child and is highly recommended for summer reading and for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728222387

To learn more about Lena Podesta, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Clean Your Aquarium Day Activity

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Fish Bowl Coloring Pages

 

Here’s one fish bowl to fill with your favorite fish – real or imaginary – and one to color!

Fish Bowl with Fish | Fish Bowl to Fill

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You can find Two Crowded at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 17 – National Week of Making

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About the Holiday

In 2016 President Barack Obama instituted June 17 – 23 as the National Week of Making to celebrate the spirit of American ingenuity and invention and ensure that future generations receive the support they need to continue this proud tradition. In his official proclamation, President Obama stated: “Since our earliest days, makers, artists, and inventors have driven our economy and transformed how we live by taking risks, collaborating, and drawing on their talents and imaginations to make our Nation more dynamic and interconnected. During National Week of Making, we recommit to sparking the creative confidence of all Americans and to giving them the skills, mentors, and resources they need to harness their passion and tackle some of our planet’s greatest challenges.” Today, makerspaces can be found across the country in studios, libraries, schools, and community venues to encourage kids and adults to explore their ideas and the feasibility of bringing their creations to market. To learn more about this week-long holiday, visit the Nation of Makers website.

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis

 

“In a tiny bungalow, / there lived a clever thinker. / Young Goldilocks invented things. She’d make and craft and tinker.” Goldilocks made lots of useful things, like machines to help you tie your shoes, to a self-zipping zipper to a hat outfitted with a flashlight, magnifying glass, and itty-bitty satellite dish to help you find the things you’ve lost. But one day, Goldilocks found that she had “inventor’s block,” so she decided to take a walk.

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

At the same time, the Bear family was out gathering nuts and berries for their pre-hibernation celebration. Baby Bear had a nifty contraption that knocked fruit and nuts into a basket with a tennis racquet. Papa Bear had an ingenious wheelbarrow with mechanical arms and hands that picked berries one by one and deposited them in the cart—but only after tossing them through a tiny basketball hoop. Swish! And Mama Bear’s handy vacuum sucked fruit right off the bushes and collected them in a tank.

Their next stop was the beehive at the top of a hill. After they’d eaten all their goodies, Baby Bear spied a little bungalow. The Bears thought it was just the place to spend the winter. When they went inside, they found “the room was full of strange devices, / widgets, tools, and more!” Looking more closely, Papa Bear found a chair that was perfect for Baby Bear. He marveled that “it feed you and it wipes your mouth, / and reads you stories, too!” Meanwhile, Mama Bear had discovered a bowl that stirred porridge and a bed that automatically rocked you to sleep.

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Baby Bear loved the chair but wished for one more innovation that would make it just right. Papa Bear found parts and tools and fixed the chair to Baby Bear’s specifications. Mama Bear tasted the porridge and found it lacking one ingredient, so Papa Bear created a porridge-stirrer accessory to add it drop by drop. By now it was dark, and even though Papa Bear thought it wasn’t right to stay, Baby Bear convinced him that one night would be okay.

But when they crawled into bed and turned it on, it rocked so much that it tipped the Bears right onto the floor. There was only one thing to do: “Baby fixed the engine block. / Replace the gears that burned. / Soon the bears were fast asleep… / Then Goldilocks returned.” She saw the chair, tasted the porridge, and then… “heard snoring sounds.” Wide awake now, the bears began to explain. But Goldilocks was not upset. Instead she said, “‘You’ve improved my projects here, / and made them much more fun. / Proving that four brains, by far, / are better than just one!’”

Excited to be inventing again with the bears on board to lend their smart innovations, Goldilocks sends the family off amid promises to “‘…meet up in the spring’” when they will “‘…make the next big thing!’”

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Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With her fun flip on the Goldilocks story, Sue Fleiss invites kids to indulge their inner inventor with wacky contraptions that can make getting dressed, cooking, going to bed, and chores more exciting. Fleiss’s clever takes on the well-known “just right” chair, porridge, and bed get readers thinking creatively—perhaps even about their own household appliances. While the original story ends with the interloper being chased away, Fleiss’s version shines with the benefits of cooperation, collaboration, and being open to new ideas.

With so many cool inventions to discover on every page, readers will love taking extra time to find and talk about them all. Any young maker would swoon over Petros Bouloubasis’s well-stocked workbench, and readers would have a blast drawing their own gadgets using the tools and supplies depicted. Quirky, abstract landscapes add to the kid-centric ambiance, and just like the Bear family, who drives away in a new vehicle with their full wheelbarrow in tow, readers will look forward to returning to Goldilocks’ little bungalow again and again.

Imagination, creativity, teamwork, and friendship all wrapped up in a clever fractured fairytale—what could be better?! Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is one to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807529973

Discover more about Sue Fleiss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petros Bouloubasis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Week of Making Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Inventor’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

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You can find Goldilocks and the Three Engineers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

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

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

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

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

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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You can find The Color Collector at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 7 – Celebrating Our First Middle Grade Monday

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to welcome back Jakki Licare, who took time away from the blog to help her boys with virtual schooling. Jakki and I are also excited to tell you that on the first Monday of every month, Celebrate Picture Books will become Celebrate Middle Grade Books, with Jakki’s reviews of fantastic books for older kids. What does she have up first? A book that has it all – dragons, suspense, magic, and a new team of smart, brave, kind, and funny friends for readers to take adventures with. 

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Dragon Mountain for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Review by Jakki Licare

Dragon Mountain 

By Katie and Kevin Tsang 

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Billy Chang is dreading summer because his parents have shipped him off from his home in San Francisco to attend a summer camp in China so he can brush up on his Mandarin and “‘learn more about his Chinese heritage.'” But when he is paired with Dylan O’Donnell, Charlotte Bell, and Liu Ling-Fei for a scavenger hunt things start to look up. Determined to win, the kids take a shortcut – which they instantly regret when a tiger chases them. Unable to get away, the kids link hands and face off against the tiger together in front of a mountain. Incredibly, the tiger backs away and vanishes into thin air.

When they return back to camp, Ling-Fei realizes that she’s lost the necklace her grandmother gave her. The next morning the kids go back to search for Ling-Fei’s missing necklace. As they search the area, Billy realizes that they’ve lost something else – Ling-Fei! One by one the kids go missing, until Billy is all alone. Billy is convinced that something is pulling them into the mountain and he marches in to find his friends.

Deep within the mountain, he finds his friends trapped by a group of dragons. The dragons are glad that the children came because they’ve been waiting for the prophesized four to open it. The dragons explain that the mountain contains a special portal that connects the human and dragon realms together. These dragons are the portal guardians. An evil dragon, known as the Dragon of Death, tried to come through the portal thousands of years ago to maximize its powers by bonding with a human. The guardians fought to keep the Dragon of Death out, but they were unable to defeat the Dragon of Death so they sent her through a time portal. As they sent her back, she cast a spell that sealed the guardians in the mountain until they met their human matches. 

One of the dragons has the ability to see into the future, and she has seen the Dragon of Death coming back and enslaving the human realm. The kids want to protect their world and agree to bond with the dragons. The kids bond with their dragons by naming them. Once they’re bonded, the dragons are stronger in ability as well as size. Three of the dragons have magical pearls that will give the kids super powers: Charlotte receives super strength, Ling-Fei can sense nature, and Dylan has the power of persuasion. Billy’s dragon doesn’t have a pearl, but they know the fourth pearl is close. Billy realizes he has seen it at the summer camp. 

The kids head back to camp and break into the owner’s office that night. Billy finds the pearl on top of a bookshelf. When he grabs it, he loses his balance and does a perfect backwards flip. Billy now has agility superpowers. Now that they have the pearls and are bonded, the children are ready for the dragon realm. But the dragons find the entrance is still barred to them by the curse. The kids have to go through on their own to open the entrance for the dragons. The tiger that chased them earlier is waiting for them and is the keeper of the curse. The tiger attacks them with electric bolts and Billy distracts it. Using her powers, Ling-Fei learns that they must destroy the tiger’s heart. Charlotte uses her super strength and rips the tiger’s heart out.  

Now they can enter the Dragon Realm with their dragons, but they find that the entire dragon Realm is poisoned. The dragons then have to fight off the the Dragon of Death’s helpers, Noxwings, and soon the dragons are captured. With the help of Billy’s dragon, though, the kids are able to get away. The kids travel through the dragon realm on their own and have many adventures in which they must use their powers and wit to help them survive this dangerous land.

They finally reach the Nowxing’s camp and find hundreds of cages filled with captured dragons. The Noxwings are opening a portal to bring back the Dragon of Death by draining the dragons of their energy. The kids learn that if they destroy the floating flames that surround the portal, the cages will open and the portal will close. The kids work together and destroy the flames, but Billy is attacked. He’s about to be killed when his dragon swoops in and saves him.

They’re winning the battle and the portal is almost closed when the summer camp’s owner appears out of the forest. He grabs Dylan and heads toward the portal. He created the whole summer camp just to find the children he needed to open the dragon realm. The owner is determined to bring back the Dragon of Death. He jumps through, pulling Dylan with him. The kids are determined to get their friend back and all the freed dragons swear to help them. The kids and their dragons will travel through time to save Dylan and defeat the Dragon of Death.

Review

 

This fast-paced book will be sure to keep your middle grader’s attention. The writing is very immersive and you’re soon off on one adventure after another. Perfect for 8-12 year olds who love dragons and are looking for fun characters that you can’t help rooting for. Katie and Kevin Tsang’s dragons were inspired by both Chinese and European folklore and they even blended two of the dragons to create hybrids of both cultures. They also drew inspiration from the Chinese symbols of the Eight Great Treasures to create the eight pearls in Dragon Mountain which give the kids their superpowers. 

My favorite part of this book was how the characters work through their problems together. All of the characters are incredibly different and often their personalities clash, but they’re able to talk through their troubles together. After the children are separated from their dragons in the Dragon Realm, Charlotte is angry with Billy for running away. The group falls apart as they can’t agree on what to do. But after talking it through they’re able to come up with the beginnings of a plan that they can all agree with. This is one example of how the Tsangs do an amazing job of focusing on the intricacies of team work and thread it through the plot of the story. 

Billy Chang, the main character, is a surfing champ who is also good at keeping his head in stressful situations. Dylan O’Donnell is friendly, funny, and very cautious. Charlotte Bell is competitive, motivated, and smart. And Liu Ling-Fei is sweet, quiet, and generous. When the dragons are introduced, we learn that each child is destined to bond with a dragon. My kids and I loved guessing who was going to be matched with who. Some of the bonds were surprising.

My seven year old especially loved the dragons in this book. They start off as menacing and scary but, just like Billy and his friends, we soon learn to trust them. Each dragon’s personality is as unique as those of the kids, and they each carry their own powers that we learn about along the way.  I’m looking forward to the second book so we can spend more time with the dragons!

There are two distinct story worlds. The first part of the story takes place in a Chinese mountain. We get a very brief introduction to the summer camp before we are swept into the mountain. The other half of the book is spent in the dragon realm which is full of floating islands and has three moons and a mysterious red dome. The dragon realm’s barren world accurately reflects the danger the kids are in and increases the reader’s anxiety. As the kids try to maneuver through this foreign terrain, they come across many new and unexpected dangers. My son’s favorite part is when the kids have to bargain with a rock troll.

Dragon Mountain is a fast-paced, immersive adventure book that’s perfect for dragon lovers of all ages especially fans of How to Train Your Dragon and will make a great addition to class libraries as well personal libraries.

Parental Considerations: This book does contain fantasy fighting.

Ages 8 – 12

Grade Level 3 – 7 | AR Level: 4.8

Sterling Children’s Books 2020 | ISBN 978-1454935964

You can learn more about Katie & Kevin Tsang, their Dragon Realm series, and their Sam Wu Is Not Afraid series on their website.

Adventure into the Dragon Realm with this book trailer!

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You can find Dragon Mountain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 4 – National Doughnut Day

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About the Holiday

National Doughnut Day may be one of the most delicious holidays of the year, but did you know that the day has a charitable history? The holiday was established in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor the women who served doughnuts and other home-cooked foods to soldiers on the front lines in France during World War I. Two hundred and fifty Salvation Army “Lassies” volunteered to provide this morale boost to the troops. Salvation Army Ensign Margaret Sheldon “wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.'”

National Doughnut Day began as a fundraiser by Chicago’s Salvation Army to help the needy during the Great Depression. The holiday continues to be a fundraiser in Chicago and other cities and is supported by national and local businesses.  Doughnut lovers can also take advantage of special offers at doughnut shops across the country.

Dozens of Doughnuts

Written by Carrie Finison | Illutrated by Brianne Farley

 

On a bright autumn morning, LouAnn is busy making a dozen doughnuts—her last treat before her long winter nap. “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Toasty, and tasty, and ALL for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Woodrow?’” At the door stands a little beaver. LouAnn invites him in and seats him at the kitchen table. They’re just about to split the doughnuts when the doorbell chimes again.

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

This time it’s Clyde, the raccoon. LouAnn welcomes him in and offers him her plate of doughnuts while she whips up another batch. These doughnuts—four for each—are frosted in blue. They’re all about to take a bite when “DING-DONG!” Tospy the possum arrives. “‘Delicious!’ cries Topsy. / She gulps down a swallow. / LouAnn’s heart feels warm, / but her belly feels hollow.” She stirs and she fries and soon has “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Some for each friend, and the rest for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Mouffette?’”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

A skunk joins the group, nibbling and toasting with three doughnuts each as LouAnn uses her last egg to make more. This is it—the last dozen doughnuts. LouAnn is ready to munch when… you know! But there’s not a friend at the door—there are two! Two little chipmunks cram their cheeks full. And LouAnn? “She’s ready to sleep through the snow, ice, and sleet. / But winter is near and there’s NOTHING to eat!”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

From deep down in her grumbling, rumbling belly there emerges a huge “ROAR!”  as all of the friends “dash for the door.” LouAnn cries it out and collapses on the floor. Then “DING-DONG!” Who could be left? Who is there now? It seems Woodrow and Clyde, Topsy and Mouffette, and even Chip and Chomp are more observant than they might have seemed. They’ve brought milk and flour, eggs and supplies. And after snugging LouAnn into her favorite chair, they go to work. Soon there are “dozens of doughnuts, / hot from the pan. / Stacked up in heaps, and they’re ALL for LouAnn!” But does she gobble them all down, or are there some left for—?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-surprise

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Carrie Finison’s bright, bouncy rhythm and perfect rhymes set up brilliant suspenseful page turns that, while disappointing for LouAnn the Bear, will have readers in gales of giggles and chiming along after the first surprising twist. LouAnn’s ready willingness to share her dozens of doughnuts is kindness at its best and also provide an invitation for kids to do a little math as each friend shares in LouAnn’s generosity. When LouAnn, getting hungrier and sleepier, finally cracks, sending her friends running, the final “DING-DONG!” ushers in another sweet surprise. Just like readers, it seems LouAnn’s friends have been paying attention to the numbers, and they want to be sure that LouAnn gets her equal share too. Finison’s storytelling provides a baker’s dozen of delight and will become a favorite read aloud for any child.

Deliciously enchanting, Brianne Farley’s illustrations introduce some of the most adorable forest animals around as they come to visit LouAnn, lured by the aroma of her doughnuts. Farley has designed for LouAnn a little stone house that’s an ingenious update on a bear’s cave and has decorated it with from a fresh color palette. Likewise, her autumn foliage makes use of creative raspberry russets and glowing yellows. LouAnn’s facial expressions clearly depict her waning enthusiasm for all the interruptions, but also her gracious personality once she opens the door. Kids will love watching the window beside the front door and trying to guess who each new guest will be.

The detailed images of doughnuts on each animal’s plate makes it easy for children and adults to talk about math concepts, including counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and sorting. When hunger and weariness finally overtake LouAnn, kids and adults will recognize her meltdown and commiserate with her. The return of LouAnn’s friends with supplies and good cheer makes this pre-hibernation party one that all children will want to attend (with their own doughnuts, of course!).

Endearing to the max, Dozens of Doughnuts is a joy to share and is sure to stir up enthusiasm for repeat readings at home, in the classroom, or for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518358

Discover more about Carrie Finison and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brianne Farley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Doughnut Day Activity

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Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut – or bagel – hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs or cut circles from cardboard or regular or thick poster board
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD or other material and let dry
  2. Add “frosting” by painting from the wavy line inward to the clear center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted. If using another material, draw and cut a center “hole” for your doughnut.
  3. When the “frosting” is dry, draw sprinkles on it with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-cover

You can find Dozens of Doughnuts at these booksellers

Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 28 – National Road Trip Day Book Tour Stop for Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

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About the Holiday

In 2019 Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest travel center operator, established National Road Trip Day to mark the start of the summer travel period from Memorial Day weekend through the beginning of September. The holiday makes a perfect time to celebrate the launch of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places, a story about the joys (and sometimes foibles) of traveling, about making new friends, and, of course, about coming home. Whether you’re traveling to see family or friends you haven’t seen in awhile or setting your sights on new adventures; traveling by car, plane, train, or boat, remember to pack a few great books to take along – like today’s book!

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

Written by Katie Frawley | Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield

 

Scrolling through his phone in his rain forest abode, Fritz comes upon an ad that seems to be the answer to his wanderlust and need to escape the constant attentions of his herd. The ad from Tabitha, a self-described “pampered suburban cat” on Lair-BNB.com promises “First-class comfort! Five-star service! Fancy, frilly fun!” Fritz thinks it sounds perfect for a well-deserved birthday getaway. He answers the ad, and Tabitha responds right away. She can’t wait to exchange her pad for a “rain forest adventure” and tells Fritz to keep in touch.

The two pack up and take flights to their vacation destinations. Fritz sends a message to Tabitha that he was well received by one little human in particular and enjoyed splashing in the big watering hole. He also includes a warning about Rocky the snake who “does not play well with others.” For her part, Tabitha is relishing her time in the forest with Fritz’s herd. She’s even met some big cat family members, has discovered a bee hive makes a swell scratching post, found a perfect swatting toy hanging from a tree, and loves the outdoor litterbox with its holes and mounds already dug. She also knows just the human Fritz has met and warns him about Claudia’s penchant for playing beauty parlor.

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Image copyright Laurie Stansfield, 2021, text copyright Katie Frawley, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Fritz and Tabatha’s next messages gush about the local cuisine. Tabitha is gorging on mice salad, mice hors d’oeuvres, and mice pizza while Fritz’s herd looks on in horror, and Fritz is cooking up a storm with Claudia in Tabatha’s kitchen. But the next day brings confusion and disappointment when a trip to the museum with Claudia and a dust bath go awry for Fritz, and Tabitha has a run-in with a hippo and finally meets the dreaded Rocky. She does remember, however, to wish Fritz a happy birthday and hopes he enjoys the party Claudia is preparing.

Disappointment turned to disaster, Fritz tells Tabitha, when there was a mix-up in whose birthday they were celebrating. He fondly remembers the birthday surprise his herd gave him last year. He signs off “Singing the blues, Fritz.” Tabitha too is feeling out of her depth and wishes she was back home with Claudia.

Fritz gets the message loud and clear and is all-in on getting back to familiar and beloved  territory. They pack up, make travel plans, and with a hug from Claudia for Fritz and a squeeze from the littlest member of the herd for Tabitha they hit the airport. Contentedly back at home, Fritz and Tabitha keep in touch—happy to have made a friend. In fact, these two like-minded travelers have sent each other thank-you gifts, and Tabitha even floats the idea of taking a trip together!

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Image copyright Laurie Stansfield, 2021, text copyright Katie Frawley, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Katie Frawley’s clever travelogue—told entirely through phone messages exchanged by Fritz and Tabitha on Lair-bnb—will delight kids. As Fritz and Tabitha regale each other with their adventures, kids will find plenty to giggle about as the shine of the new and exciting gives way to a renewed appreciation of home. Mix-ups and misunderstandings lead to laughs as well as sympathy for these sweet, out-of-their-elements characters. Puns sprinkled throughout the text add to the lighthearted fun, and the story is neatly packed with themes of friendships made and nurtured.

Laurie Stansfield matches irresistibly cute and funny illustrations to Frawley’s text while adding enticing details that will keep kids lingering over the pages with each new reading. As Fritz and Tabitha write about their days, Stansfield’s vibrant images depict the humorous reality of their misinterpretations. Interspersed wordless two-page spreads juxtapose similar situations experienced by Tabitha and Fritz , such as eating, meeting a hippopotamus, and sleeping arrangements.

Although both travelers are happy to cut their trips short, the goodbye scenes demonstrate that despite some rocky moments, both Fritz and Tabitha have made good friends on the other side of the world. A late airport scene of a busy terminal in which both Fritz and Tabitha appear among the many animal travelers can be a fun jumping off point to talk about when and how this “almost meeting” occurred as well as about airports and travel in general.

Original, charming, and packed with lots of laughs and feeling, Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places will become a favorite summer (and anytime) read. The fast-paced, multi-layered story and clever illustrations make this a perfect story time read for home, classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542008549

Katie Frawley grew up on a diet of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Madeline. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in English from the University of Florida and a master’s in literature from Florida Atlantic University. These days, Katie lives in South Florida with her husband, four children, and a handsome mutt named Nantucket. When she’s not reading or writing, Katie can be found building pillow forts, testing recipes with her teensy sous-chefs, or shooing iguanas from her garden. You can connect with Katie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Laurie Stansfield grew up in Oxford, England, but packed her bags and moved west to study illustration at the University of the West of England. She now works as a freelance illustrator. She is the illustrator of Poems Out Loud!, published by Penguin UK, and has more books forthcoming. Laurie lives with her husband in Bristol, United Kingdom. You can connect with Laurie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

One Question with Katie Frawley

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I’m excited to start a summer series of One-Question Interviews with authors and illustrators with Katie Frawley and her debut picture book that’s sure to become a favorite for summer reading and whenever kids want to take a flight of fancy!

What is a favorite summer memory from your childhood?

Every summer from the age of about 8 to 18, I rode my bicycle across the state of Iowa with my family, some great friends, and about 10,000 other people. This event is called RAGBRAI, and it is an absolute hoot! The people are wonderful, the food is fantastic, and the memories definitely last a lifetime. I’m sure both Tabitha AND Fritz would enjoy the ride. Perhaps they should lace up their biking shoes and hit the road!

What an amazing experience! A biking tour sounds like a perfect trip for Fritz and Tabitha’s first adventure together! I wish you and Laurie Stansfield all the best with your book and definitely hope to see more about their friendship.

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places written by Katie Frawley | illustrated by Laurie Stansfield

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite travel destination for extra entry

This giveaway is open from May 28 to June 4 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on June 5. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

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

National Road Trip Day Activity

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Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

 

These suitcases are well-traveled! Can you find the matching luggage in this printable puzzle?

Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

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You can find Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review