January 18 – World Day of the Snowman

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate snowmen, those winter sculptures that roll to a stop on front lawns, welcome customers to friendly business, and enjoy a day or two (or more if the weather cooperates) in parks and town greens wherever snow falls. Why today? Because the clever founder of the holiday looked at the 18 and decided it looked enough like the rounded body of a snowman and requisite handle of a broomstick to honor our winter friends. Speaking of friends, did you know that tomorrow is one of the three times during the year that we celebrate New Friends Day? The other two dates are October 19 and July 19! If you’re looking for a story to share for both World Day of the Snowman and New Friends Day, you’ll want to pick up today’s book!

Making a Friend

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Alison Friend

 

“Beaver was good at making lots of things.” He could build, he could knit, and he knew a bit about engineering. But he was not so good at making friends. He tried hard to do nice things, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, one day, the snowflakes falling from the sky gave Beaver an idea. “Hmm! Maybe this is what I need to make a friend,” he thought.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-water-slide

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He began rolling a huge snowball. While he was working, Raccoon came by to watch. When Beaver told him that he was making a friend, Raccoon said that it “takes two to make a friend.” Beaver was a bit disappointed until Raccoon did some math and showed him that Raccoon plus Beaver made two.

Working together Beaver and Raccoon made a cute snow friend. They added eyes, a nose, a smile, and two stick arms. But something was still missing. Raccoon said that thing was “pizzazz.” So they added a hat, a boa, some socks, and even a swim mask until their friend looked just right. But their friend just stared back at them. “This friend was not much of a friend at all. In fact, he seemed rather cold.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-water-snow

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then Beaver and Raccoon looked at each other. They talked about what fun they’d had building the snow friend together. And they realized that they had become friends. Now they make lots of things to share, but they agree—“the best thing they made was a friend.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-friends

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins

Tammi Sauer unlocks the secret to friendship in her clever story in which making a friend leads to making a true friend. While Beaver tries to extend the hand of friendship and do nice things for others in the forest, his efforts miss the mark. But when he meets Raccoon, their personalities, talents, and ideas of fun click and they build a real friendship. Young readers will understand Beaver’s feelings of disappointment and confusion when his overtures of friendship are not reciprocated and see that collaborating with someone—either in play or toward a common goal—often brings friends together naturally.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-pointing

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Little readers will fall in love with Alison Friend’s adorable Beaver who’s so good at creating a playhouse complete with water slide but has trouble making friends. Cheerful and enthusiastic, Beaver is a sweetheart as he begins rolling the snow into a ball. When Raccoon comes by, Beaver quickly shares the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing and learn from the images of companionship and give-and-take as Beaver learns a little math and a new word from Raccoon and Raccoon discovers that he likes the raisons Beaver offers him on their way to creating their snowman.  Full of color, smiles, and endearing moments, Friend’s pages are sure to delight kids.

Making a Friend is a charming read aloud, a celebration of creativity, and a gentle lesson on friendship all rolled into one. To share with children learning to navigate new friendships and those who love doing everything with their best buddy, the book makes a sweet addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062278937

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

You can connect with Alison Friend on Instagram.

World Day of the Snowman Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-snowman-craft

Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-cover

You can find Making a Friend at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 3 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-owns-the-moon-cover

About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

I’d like to thank Berbay Publishing for sharing a copy of Nobody Owns the Moon with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Special Note: As I have been asked to take on extra shifts as a staff member at my local public library due to personnel shortages, I will be taking a break from posting daily reviews over the next coming months. In between new reviews, I invite you to explore all of the holidays, author and illustrator interviews, activities, and, of course, the wonderful books featured on Celebrate Picture Books.

Nobody Owns the Moon

By Tohby Riddle

 

Upon the opening pages readers are treated to an engaging treatise on the success (or not so) of certain animals trying to “make a life for itself in cities.” The fox, we learn, is especially adept because it is “quick-witted and able to eat a variety of foods.” We are then introduced to one such city-dweller, Clive Prendergast – a self-named fox because his real name “can only be pronounced by foxes.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-owns-the-moon-fox

Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Clive lives in a small apartment and works on a factory production line. At night he takes to the streets, visiting food stalls and watching the interesting goings-on. Clive has a few friends, but the one he sees the most is Humphrey, a donkey who is “one of those creatures that live in cities with less success than foxes” and “doesn’t always have a fixed address.” While Humphrey has had jobs, he has trouble keeping them. Right now he’s working as a piano removalist.

One day Clive saw Humphrey sitting on the stone steps of “a statue of a great conqueror.” Clive thought he looked tired and underfed. Then he noticed a blue envelop sticking out of Humphrey’s tote bag. It turned out that Humphrey had found it in the street and planned on eating it, but thinking Clive was also hungry he offered it to him without a second thought. When Clive opened the envelope, he found two tickets to that night’s performance at the theatre. They should go, he said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-owns-the-moon-humphrey

Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

“That night Humphrey and Clive attended the premier of Nobody Owns the Moon – the latest play by the city’s most celebrated playwright. Before the show, ticket-holders were treated to hors d’ oeuvres and punch. Then they were shown to their front-row balcony seats. The play was wonderful, full of humor and poignancy. Tears filled Humphrey’s eyes at the show’s “bittersweet ending” and again as they enjoyed a beverage and “large slice of cake in the theatre’s elegant restaurant.”

Filled with the wonder of the evening, Clive and Humphrey headed out into the “glimmering melee of lights and sounds that was their city at night. “‘This is our town!'” they exclaimed to each other, and before they went “their separate ways, Humphrey gave Clive a big hug goodnight.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-owns-the-moon-city

Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Immersive and openhearted, Tohby Riddle’s poignant friendship tale is as surprising and inclusive as the invitation Humphrey finds. Opening with lines that could come straight from a nature documentary, the story quickly becomes interwoven with an air of mystery and anticipation as Clive Prendergast and Humphrey are introduced. Riddle’s inclusion of smart details, such as Clive’s fox name being unpronounceable to humans and Humphrey’s job that takes advantage of a donkey’s strong back, adds a verisimilitude that will delight readers. The emotional core of the story comes with Clive’s and Humphrey’s friendship, which is equitable and caring and full of generosity. The discovery and use of the theater invitation ushers in sumptuous scenes of a glittering theater, delicious food, and a life-affirming performance while also touching on the importance of satisfying the body and the soul, however one defines this.

Equally captivating are Riddle’s collage-style illustrations, which incorporate sly humor and thought-provoking perspectives. The book opens with an illustration of Clive Prendergast lounging in a comfortable armchair between Vincent van Gogh’s painting “A Wheatfield, with Cypresses” and a window which frames a view of the city that cleverly mirrors the famous artwork. Clive’s position suggests his comfort in both environments. Humphrey’s difficulties fitting in, on the other hand, are depicted in an Italian restaurant where, distracted for a moment, the plates of spaghetti and meatballs he’s carrying tip precariously over a customer sitting under a photograph of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Other images that contribute to the depth and atmosphere of this book are theater posters advertising Vaudeville and magic acts, Russian nesting dolls and fresh foods for sale in Clive’s multicultural neighborhood, and the copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass next to a view-master in Humphrey’s tote bag.

The city’s human inhabitants are all depicted in flat grays and browns while the animals – pigeons, a crocodile, a dancing bear – are portrayed in textured full color. This dichotomy begins to fade at the theater, where a waiter in formal dress offers Humphrey hors d’ oeuvres, in the balcony row where Clive and Humphrey sit, and in the restaurant after the show, a change that offers opportunities for readers to talk about acceptance and how we look at others. The moving ending is eloquent in it’s simple embrace of individuality and acceptance.

A touching, multi-level story that will enchant and impact readers, Nobody Owns the Moon will become a favorite and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Berbay Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-0994384195

Discover more about Tohby Riddle, his books, and his art on his website.

International Quality of Life Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smile-cards-craft

Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, give someone a smile. You can be sure that you will have made their day and your day better! These cards are another way you can share a smile. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-owns-the-moon-cover

You can find Nobody Owns the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

About the Holiday

Making paper snowflakes is a fun wintertime activity that brings the outdoors in on snowy days or clear ones. This craft originates in the art of origami—a variation called kirigami. While both origami and kirigami involve folding paper, kirigami entails unfolding the paper and making cuts in desired places to create an effect. Cut-out snowflakes combine the two as the cuts are made while the paper is still folded. Today, get out some paper and scissors and make your own snowflakes to hang!

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-skating

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-snowflakes

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-sledding

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-igloo

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.  It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other.

In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

World Snow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-snowman-craft

Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

2021 marks the fifth year that I’ve celebrated Mitten Tree Day with the book that started it all. Originally published in 1997, The Mitten Tree has become a treasured read aloud and continues to inspire kindness programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country. The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? The word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Now that mitten weather is upon us, make sure your pair is still soft, wooly, and warm. If they’re not, consider buying a new pair from a local artisan, or, if you’re crafty, knit a new pair yourself. And, of course, enjoy the season with today’s book!

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-sarah

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-blue-sprce

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-basket

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.01.00 PM

Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mitten-match

Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-cover

You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 29 – Middle Grade Monday

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-legend-cover

Review by Jakki Licare

Dragon Legend

By Katie & Kevin Tsang

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Dragon Legend continues the exciting saga begun in the first book of the series, Dragon Mountain, in which San Franciscan Billy Chan, attending a summer camp in China to improve his Mandarin language skills and learn more about his Chinese heritage, discovers that he and his friends, Charlotte, Ling-Fei, and Dylan, are destined to bond with dragons who are guarding a portal that leads to the Dragon Realm. Once they’re bonded, the dragons gain strength in ability as well as in size. Through the dragons’ mystical pearls, the kids also gain super powers. Charlotte receives super strength, Ling-Fei can sense nature, Dylan has the power of persuasion, and Billy gains super agility.

These dragons tried to keep an evil dragon, known as the Dragon of Death, out of the Human Realm, but they were unable to defeat her so they sent her through a time portal to the past. Now in the Dragon Realm, evil dragons are trying to open up a time portal and bring back the Dragon of Death. Billy and his friends are able to stop the evil dragons and close the time portal. But not before Old Gold, the owner of the summer camp, kidnaps Billy’s best friend, Dylan, and jumps through the time portal before it closes. (for a full synopsis and my review check it out here: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/tag/dragon-mountain-book-review/)

As Dragon Legend opens, Billy, Charlotte, Ling-Fei, and their dragons must create a portal to go back in time to save their friend Dylan who was kidnapped by Old Gold, the owner of the summer camp the children have been attending. The group agrees that JJ, Old Gold’s grandson, can come too so he can find his grandfather. While they all believe that JJ will be helpful in locating Dylan in the Dragon Realm, they don’t trust him and tend to exclude JJ from the group.  Billy’s dragon, Spark, swallows a star to create a portal and they are transported back in time to the Dragon Realm.

With the help of some dragon parents and a cute flying pig, Billy and his friends find Dylan entrapped in a tree by dark magic. JJ is able to open the tree because his grandfather created the spell. Billy and his friends are thrilled to have Dylan back, but JJ, who has felt like an outcast among the group, lets the tree ensnare him. He wants to wait for his grandfather.

Billy feels conflicted over JJ’s decision but ultimately decides that there isn’t anything he can do about it. Dylan tells the group that Old Gold has bonded with the Dragon of Death and together they are searching for the remaining mystical pearls. In all there are 8 pearls, inspired by the  Chinese symbols of the Eight Great Treasures. The group is determined to find the rest of the pearls before the Dragon of Death does. As they travel, Spark confesses to Billy that since she swallowed the star she craves the power that comes from dark magic and now she hungers for more. She promises BIlly that she will fight it, and Billy vows to help her.

To find the Ice pearl Billy and his friends have to travel to the Frozen Wasteland on their own. The dragons can’t cross a magical barrier that separates the dragons from their mortal enemy, the worms. While the kids negotiate with a giant hungry fish for passage and fend off giant scorpions, they discover that their powers are enhancing. Dylan can create illusions, Ling-Fei can open up the earth, and BIlly is even faster than before and can create electric shields. After Charlotte defeats the Wasteland Worm and captures the Ice pearl, the group discovers that Charlotte has been lethally bitten by the giant worm. Using their new powers and working together they are able to locate a flower to heal her. Once Charlotte is healed, they create a portal using the magic from their pearls to get back to their dragons.

As soon as they reunite with their dragons, they all head off to the human realm to find the Diamond pearl. They travel into ancient China and steal the Diamond pearl from the emperor’s headdress. The Dragon of Death appears with JJ and Old Gold. JJ has bonded with Dimitrius, a noxwing they fought in Dragon Mountain. Billy tries to convince JJ to come to their side, but JJ refuses.

Dylan and his dragon, Buttons, protect the humans from the Dragon of Death’s poisonous breath. Ling-Fei and her dragon attack the Dragon of Death while Charlotte and her dragon attack the noxwings. Billy and Spark go after JJ and his pearl. Billy grabs the pearl just as JJ’s dragon tries to blast him with fire. Spark reacts just in time and blasts Dimitrius and JJ with an electrical net. Billy is stunned by the look of pain on JJ’s face, but before he can ask Spark about it, he has to help Charlotte who falls off her dragon’s back. Billy catches Charlotte and together they fight the noxwings. Spark entraps the noxwings with an electrical net and BIlly is surprised when Spark starts sucking away the noxwings’s life force. Spark then ensnares the Dragon of Death with an electrical net and starts to feed off of her life force too.

The dragons decide that the Dragon of Death must be turned into a star. Spark releases JJ and Old Gold, and they are all shocked that Spark has injured them. Spark gathers the pearls from everyone so she can turn the Dragon of Death into a star, but then she releases the Dragon of Death. Spark acknowledges that the Dragon of Death is too powerful to fight and gives her the pearls. Everyone is stunned by Spark’s betrayal, and Billy feels guilty for hiding Spark’s struggle with dark magic. The Dragon of Death uses the pearls to call forth a turtle named Destiny Bringer. Destiny Bringer shows the Dragon of Death eight different destinies and the Dragon of Death chooses one.

Billy wakes up back in the human realm, but the entire human race is enslaved by the Dragon of Death. He’s thankful that he is still with his friends and explains to them all that he has a plan. Together they will defeat the Dragon of Death.

Review

 

Dragon lovers rejoice! The second book in the Dragon Realm series is here and it’s ready to sweep you back into Dragon Realm. Like the first book, Dragon Legend is a fast-paced adventure that will keep your middle grader on the edge of their seat. Be prepared to join Billy Chan, his friends and their dragons as they face off with the Dragon of Death. Katie and Kevin Tsang’s imagination soars to new levels in Dragon Legend. The fantasy world is filled with memorable locales like the Forgotten Sea, a body of water that can only be seen by those who remember it.

The children also must cross the daunting blood strait, a river of blood that separates the dragons from the worms. Additionally, they must also traverse the Frozen Wasteland that looks like a frozen “thrashing ocean” while the ground is covered in bones. While the majority of the story takes place in the dragon realm, my favorite part was when the kids travel into the human realm. Here we get to fly over the great wall of China on a dragon’s back, protect the imperial palace and its inhabitants from the noxwings’ fiery breath, and steal the Diamond pearl from the emperor’s headdress.

One of my son’s favorite things about Dragon Mountain was when the kids discover their magic. So he was thrilled when, in Dragon Legend, the kids’ magical powers begin to evolve. Kevin and Katie cleverly string these evolutions throughout the story, adding an extra element of surprise to many of the fight scenes. For example, Dylan’s power of persuasion evolves into the power to create illusions just as the drifters, hungry soaring jellyfish-like creatures, are about to descend upon them. Dylan is able to distract the drifters from eating them with an illusion of their group in a different location. Then, when they are trying to steal the Diamond pearl from the emperor’s headdress, Dylan’s powers evolve again, allowing him to camouflage people in invisibility.

Like the first book, a major theme of Dragon Legend is the power of working together, but this time we see the negative effects of not working together in JJ’s storyline. Kevin and Katie explore the feelings of exclusion and distrust when JJ joins the group. JJ’s close relationship with his grandfather makes the kids distrust him, when the reality is that JJ is just as confused by his grandfather’s actions as they are. 

In the beginning when Dylan is missing, JJ feels as if he can’t live up to Dylan’s image and believes that everyone is disappointed that they have him instead of Dylan. The kids could have befriended JJ and potentially gained another ally, but their distrustful nature create their own enemy. To add fuel to the flames, Katie and Kevin add in  Spark’s mistreatment of JJ at the end, leaving a wonderful plot thread for us to explore through the rest of the series. I won’t lie, my middle grade-loving heart is hoping for a reconciliation.

Spark’s struggle and her craving for dark magic took this series to a whole new level. The entire first book built up BIlly’s bond with Spark, so Billy’s debate of whether to keep Spark’s struggle a secret or to tell the others about it had my son and me on the edge of our seats. Every time Spark’s eyes flickered black my son and I groaned out loud. Like Billy, we too, are rooting for Spark to overcome her craving for dark magic. I’m very interested in seeing how Billy’s and Spark’s relationship plays out in the next book.

If your child enjoyed The Land of Roar or How to Train Your Dragon, then this fast-paced, immersive adventure is a perfect fit.

Parental Considerations: this book does contain fantasy fighting; the most extreme moment included an innocent bystander being burned alive.

Ages 9+

Sterling Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1471193095

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

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

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You can find Dragon Legend at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 23 – It’s Adopt a Turkey Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1986 with the founding of Farm Sanctuary, a refuge for farm animals and advocate for institutional farming practices and plant-based living, Adopt a Turkey Day inspires people to think of turkeys differently and encourages them to symbolically adopt one of the Sanctuaries rescued “spokesturkeys” to help with its care. Operating sanctuaries in Watkins Glen, NY and Los Angeles, CA, Farm Sanctuaries provides homes for chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, in addition to turkeys. They also connect animals with loving forever homes, where they can live with plenty of space and care. If you’d like to learn more about Farm Sanctuary, visit their website. To celebrate, give the generous turkey and his friends in Cold Turkey a forever home on your bookshelf!

Cold Turkey

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call | Illustrated by Chad Otis

 

A frigid blizzard blast swirls through the coop, and “turkey woke up c-c-cold. / He wheezed, ‘It’s ten degrees! / I need to b-b-bundle up / before I f-f-freeze!'” Turkey pulls on a turtleneck sweater and overalls, a scarf, hat, and mittens and heads out into the snow. When he comes to Sheep’s shed, he finds his friend “s-s-shivering” and gives him his hat, tying it on nice and tight.

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Image copyright Chad Otis, 2021, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, 2021. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Further down the path, Turkey finds Chick “all alone.” She tells him that her “‘beak is ch-ch-chattering. / I’m chilled right to the bone.'” Turkey wants to help and stuffs Chick’s crown and tail feathers into his two oversized mittens. Continuing on, Turkey finds Horse, who’s having trouble neighing through his frozen lips, and provides just the warmth he needs by wrapping his muzzle in his long, long scarf.

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Image copyright Chad Otis, 2021, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, 2021. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Turkey then discovers poor cow “qu-qu-quivering” and totally miserable. What can Turkey do? He find that his sweater makes an utterly warming udder warmer, and he’s on his way again. In the sty Turkey spies a “polar Pig” with icicles on his snout peeking from the straw. He says, “‘My body’s numb from snout to bum. / I don’t know when I’ll thaw.'” Turkey has just the thing to warm Pig’s cold behind. In a minute Pig is wearing Turkey’s overalls – even if they are a little snug.

Now Turkey “had loaned out all his loot. / He wobbled homeward, cold and bare, / in just his birthday suit!” Although he now was freezing, he thought “‘At least my heart feels warm.'” But his friends were very thankful and they built a roaring fire. They sat around it toasty warm – Turkey in his feathers and the rest in his attire.

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Image copyright Chad Otis, 2021, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, 2021. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

If you and your kids love to laugh during story time and are looking for a new book to share this winter, you’ll want to trot out to your bookstore and pick up a copy of Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call’s hilarious story. A perfect read aloud that will get all kids ch-ch-chiming in on every teeth-ch-ch-chattering line, Cold Turkey is fast-paced, full of puns, and loaded with charm and empathy. Turkey’s generosity and the farm animals’ reciprocation adds a layer of sweetness and friendship that will enchant kids. Rosen Schwartz and Call’s impeccable rhyming and rhythm creates a cold-weather giggle fest that readers will want to return to again and again. 

Chad Otis amplifies the humor with his adorably chunky animals and their goggle-eyed acceptance of Turkey’s largesse. Cowering, quivering, and complaining, the farm animals look laugh-out-loud funny stuffed into the bits and bobs of Turkey’s winter clothes. Otis’s clever choices and frozen landscape create active, dynamic scenes that flawlessly carry the story to its warm conclusion. 

A quirky, hilarious romp in which kindness shines, Cold Turkey would be a quick favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves. The book is highly recommended for winter story times and all throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-0316430111

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kirsti Call and her books, visit her website.

You can find out more about Chad Otis and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Adopt a Turkey Month Activity 

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Dress Your Own Turkey Activity Sheet

 

If you’re cr-cr-creative and love to c-c-color, then this printable Cold Turkey activity sheet is for you! Color and cut out Turkey and his clothes then get him all bundled up for the winter. You can even make Turkey some clothes for the other seasons as well!

Dress Your Own Turkey Activity Sheet

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You can find Cold Turkey at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 15 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Established in 1989 by the Center for the Book and Pizza Hut as a way to celebrate reading and invite kids and adults to discover the fun and benefits of reading, Young Readers Week is a favorite on any book-lovers’ calendar. Bringing together businesses, schools, families, and libraries, the Book It! program offers encouragement and resources to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find activities, printables, reading trackers, and other resources for schools and families, visit the Book It! program website.

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sending me a copy of Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.)

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Norman was a porcupine whose best friend, Mildred, was a tree. During the day, Norman loved playing baseball with Mildred (even though she always struck out—and, if truth be told, never even swung at the ball), bird-watching, “playing ‘tree’ together, and even playing chess (even if Norman had to play both black and white). At night, Norman settled himself in Mildred’s branches and read to Mildred (who always asked for “one more chapter.” Sometimes Norman just liked being with Mildred, holding hands with a low-growing branch.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then one day an interloper popped from the ground complete with some leafy appendages. “And WHO is THAT?!” Norman asked Mildred. Of course, “it was another tree”—a tree that did not belong with Norman and Mildred. At first Norman just stewed, but soon he began to worry about whether Mildred might prefer this other tree to him. And, in fact, as the other tree grew taller, it seemed that Mildred didn’t need Norman to play baseball, birdwatch or play “‘tree’” anymore. “Life wasn’t the same.”

On the day that Mildred and the other tree actually touched leaves, Norman decided that was “the last straw. Even though, in this case, there were no straws. Just branches.” He decided to take action and devised the perfect plan. One night, Norman dug up the other tree, plopped it into a wheelbarrow, “and took it far away. Very far away.” So “very, very far away” that he needed a rowboat to get there.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

And on a tiny island, Norman replanted the other tree and rowed back to shore. After that things were back to normal—sort of. But Mildred was suspicious; she had questions. Norman did his best to offer possibilities after first explaining that he hadn’t done anything with the other tree. “Maybe it went on vacation,” he said. “Maybe it moved. How should I know?” And then he reassured Mildred that she still had him.

But there a niggling disquiet came to Norman. He began to fear that someone had seen him and that maybe “digging up your friend’s friend…was NOT the right thing to do.” His guilt ate at him until, under Mildred’s accusing gaze, he tripped and fell into the other tree’s empty hole. “Norman had hit rock bottom. ‘I have hit rock bottom!’” he announced. He knew what he had to do.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

He took the wheelbarrow and the rowboat and hurried to the tiny island. Back home, he replanted the other tree right where it had been before. “Norman knew life was going to be different.” Maybe it would even be better, he contemplated from the comfort of his hammock. “Just the three of them”—until the other tree’s best friend appeared from its nest, saw Norman, and demanded to know “And WHO is THAT?!”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ superbly well-conceived story of personal relationships tested by newcomers paints the wide swath of emotions that friendships, sibling bonds, and other connections spark in the human heart with his well-known and ameliorating humor. Higgins’ honest look at the progression of contentment, jealousy, resentment, fear, and sadness leading up to a desperate act followed by short-lived satisfaction, denials, guilt, dread, introspection, and finally acceptance not only makes for a dramatic and suspenseful read, but offers kids and adults a compelling way to talk about the delicacy and resilience of strong relationships.

Higgins’ plump and rakish Norman garners immediate affection with his adorable expressions and enthusiastic friendship with the steadfast Mildred so that when “the other tree” comes into the picture, readers will feel a deep empathy with his predicament. Depictions of how Norman sees interactions between Mildred and the other tree as usurping his role are clever and meaningful conversation starters. The aftermath of Norman’s replanting of the other tree also provides insight into whose life Norman really uprooted. In his pitch-perfect ending, Higgins reminds kids that no one lives in isolation and that their own experience may be mirrored in someone else’s.

An outstanding story that charms as a favorite read-aloud for humorous story times as well as one that makes a poignant impact on social-emotional growth, Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2021 | ISBN 978-1368026239

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter. 

To find more books by Ryan T. Higgins and an Activity Kit/Educator’s Guide for teachers and families, visit Ryan’s page on the Disney Books website.

Young Reader’s Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-to-read-maze

We Love to Read! Maze

 

Help the kids pick up books and find their way through the library in this printable maze.

We Love to Read! Maze Puzzle | We Love to Read! Maze Solution

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You can find Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review