September 12 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday got its start when a group of high school students attending a leadership conference were asked to devise a solution to what was perceived as a major problem facing young people: a lack of encouragement. Their solution led to the establishment in 2007 of a National Day of Encouragement on which people are prompted to perform deliberate acts of encouragement to cheer and inspire others. The theme for 2019 is “Share a Smile.” To celebrate, smile at those you meet, say a kind word, mail a card, make a call, or send a text to anyone who needs a little more encouragement to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just to have a good day. You can also print and give out the Encouragement Cards below.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books provided me with a copy of Ruby Finds a Worry for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival

 

“Ruby loved being Ruby.” She was happy swinging on her swing set and exploring her backyard. But one day, she “discovered a Worry.” It wasn’t too big. At first it was just a little nudge, but then it started to grow…and grow. Then it began following her around—everywhere. It sat opposite her at the breakfast table and hung around while she brushed her teeth. Ruby was sure her teacher and the other kids in her class would see it, but they didn’t, “so Ruby pretended that she couldn’t see it either.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Ruby kept hoping that it would go away. Then she began to worry that it would never go away. Ruby’s worrying just made the Worry grow even bigger. It was soon so enormous that Ruby felt squeezed for space at home and in the school bus. The Worry filled up all of her thoughts; she couldn’t do the things she loved anymore and “it seemed like she would never feel happy again.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then one day, Ruby saw a boy sitting glumly on a park bench. She recognized that look—and the Worry floating just behind him. For the first time, Ruby realized that other people had Worries too. She sat next to the boy, and they began to talk. As the boy told her what was troubling him, “his Worry began to shrink.” Then Ruby told the boy about her Worry, and it shrank away too. With both Worries gone, the world seemed brighter, and the boy and Ruby jumped for joy. Ruby “felt like her old self again.”  Ruby still found Worries sometimes, “but now that she knew how to get rid of them, they never hung around for long.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Tom Percival’s reassuring story is so welcome for children who tend to let their worries crowd out other thoughts and even their happiness. Percival’s straightforward and honest depictions of the stages of worrying—first twinges, growing fears, pretending everything’s okay, and overwhelming anxiety—are both educational and helpful for kids struggling with these feelings. Two stand-out sentences in which Percival directly reveals to readers the worst and best things they can do with a Worry provide excellent guides for dealing with this common emotion.

Working hand-in-hand with the text, Percival’s clear illustrations show Ruby’s progression from a happy, carefree little girl to a child paralyzed by her worries. Ruby’s initial curiosity and courage, shown through full-color spreads, gives way to uncertainty and reticence as her once-happy expression turns sad and the world around her is washed in somber grays. As the Worry keeps up its constant presence, Percival depicts three vignettes—Ruby’s birthday, Ruby riding her bike, and Ruby practicing the piano—that depict activities that can cause worry but also be spoiled by it. Ruby’s discovery that other people also have worries comes with another bit of insight. As Ruby talks to the boy, she reveals that she—perhaps instinctively—knows just what he needs to feel better. Helping kids implement this awareness to advocate for themselves as well is what this book is all about.

A supportive and encouraging book for kids who have a high sensitivity for worrying as well as for those who have periodic doubts, Ruby Finds a Worry should be part of every classroom and public library collection and would be a comforting book to own and share for home libraries too.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547602377

To learn more about Tom Percival, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Ruby Finds a Worry Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

This giveaway is open from September 12 through September 19 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 20.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Day of Encouragement Activity

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Random Acts of Encouragement Cards to Share

 

Today’s a day to spread a little encouragement to friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who looks as if they could use some cheering up.

Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 1Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 2

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You can find Ruby Finds a Worry at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 11 – National Quiet Day

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About the Holiday

We’re surrounded by noise every day. Cars whoosh by on the street, TVs drone on, and voices fill the air in the office and at school. Sometimes it seems as if you don’t hear the constant din, but you do. Quiet Day was established to give people an opportunity to experience the benefits found in silence. Not only did the founders envision a day in which you sought out quiet places, but they suggest that you don’t speak at all for the entire day. Reconnecting with yourself and your thoughts can make you feel more relaxed and give you new perspectives that can stimulate creativity and better communications.

Albert’s Quiet Quest

By Isabelle Arsenault

 

With an “Ugh!” Albert heads out to his backyard to escape all the noise inside. He opens the gate to the alley, and there he sees, tossed away with an old lamp and some other trash, a painting of the setting sun shimmering on a calm ocean. Albert has an idea. He retrieves a chair and sits back, relaxing in front of the painting. In Albert’s imagination the hard, straight back chair becomes a beach lounger and the stony asphalt turns to soft sand.

Soon, two girls enter the alley. They’re repotting a green, leafy plant and ask Albert if he’d like to join them. “No, thanks, I’m reading. I’m fine,” Albert answers. Albert picks up the book on his lap and while he reads, the girl’s flowerpot turns into a beach pail, their coats become summer dresses, and the crown one girls is wearing softens into a wreath of flowers. Instead of potting a flower, they are building a sandcastle.

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Copyright Isabelle Arsenault, 2019, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

In a few more minutes Albert’s brother Tom comes out with badminton racquets clutched in his arms. He’s been looking for Albert to play with, but Albert tells him he’s reading. It doesn’t look like he’s reading to Tom since Albert is just sitting in a chair with a book on his lap, but then one of the girls says she’ll play with Tom. The sandcastle grows as one girl pats sand into turrets and stairs while Tom and the other girl bat around an enormous birdie with oversized racquets.

Suddenly, another girl appears, strolling her doll in a green carriage. She wants Albert to watch her doll while she goes back to get her cat. Albert starts to object, but the girl is already gone. When she returns with her cat, she proclaims Albert “so sweet.” But the beach is now quite crowded and the baby doll is crying and crying. The sandcastle has sprouted taller towers and a grand entrance. Albert tries to shut it all out by putting his nose in his book.

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Copyright Isabelle Arsenault, 2019, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Just then a boy from down the block shows up with his radio. The music blares through the alley, calming the baby, inviting dancing, and attracting another child to join in. Albert sits on his beach chair with his head on his fist scowling at the huge boom box, the caterwauling baby, the dancing kids, and that enormous birdie. And you should see the castle! It’s now big enough to stand on.

Then Jimmy comes rolling in on his skateboard. He scares the cat, tips over the potted plant, causes the birdie to “thunk!” into the painting, and in Albert’s imagination causes everything to go kerflooey. Albert slams his book shut, steps onto his chair, and lets loose about how all he wants to do is read. All the kids in the alley stare sadly at him as they gather up their stuff and head back home. Albert climbs down from his chair and sits, a bit forlornly. Then he hears the “KRRRRRR!” of a scraping chair. Tom is back with his own seat and book. Soon, there’s a “Clomp! Clomp,” a “Tap Tap Tap,” a “Zzoooom,” a “tip tap,” and a “TTRRRRR,” and all of the kids are back with their own books.

Albert looks around at all of his friends sitting nearby quietly reading and smiles. He says, “Hey, guys… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—.” The kids all turn to him and say, “SHHH! SHHH!” Albert gazes at them and they gaze at Albert. Then they all erupt in laughter and enjoy the last moments of the sunset on the beach.

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Copyright Isabelle Arsenault, 2019, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Isabelle Arsenault’s clever story nimbly switches back and forth between Albert’s imagined day at the beach and the reality in the alley, which little-by-little overtakes Albert’s quiet interlude. Each child, intent on their own activity, is not aware of or not bothered by the collective noise, but for Albert the din takes him to the breaking point. When Albert loses his cool, these children—first met in Arsenault’s Colette’s Lost Pet—flee, but not away from Albert. They empathize, and soon return with books of their own to fulfill Albert’s quest for quiet and show true friendship.

Arsenault’s buoyant cartoon-inspired line drawings alternate between the gray-scale background of the alley and the beach scenes rendered in tranquil tones of aqua and orange—the same colors that define Albert and his book. Details like the crying “baby” and the growing badminton set and radio as well as Albert’s meltdown provide opportunities for kids and adults to talk about how noise is perceived by people who thrive in a quieter atmosphere.

A charming mix of imagination, humor, and friendship, Albert’s Quiet Quest would be a delightful addition to home and public library bookshelves and a conversation starter for elementary school classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0553536560

To learn more about Isabelle Arsenault, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Quiet Day Activity

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Make Your Own Sensory Sand

 

You can have quiet fun with this sensory sand that you can mold or just let slip through your fingers.

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack.

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You can find Albert’s Quiet Quest at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 6 – National Read a Book Day and Interview with Blake Liliane Hellman & Steven Henry

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About the Holiday

Avid readers, rejoice! Today is your day! Just as its name implies, National Read a Book Day celebrates one of the best ways to spend our spare time: reading! If there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read, find some quiet time during lunch, after dinner, or before turning out the light to snuggle in with a cup of tea and that great book. Kids will enjoy some extra reading time as well. Make it a family event! Not only is reading together fun, it’s an important way to help children develop skills that will benefit them far into the future. 

Get to Know Blake Liliane Hellman and Steven Henry

Today, I’m celebrating National Read a Book Day by talking with Welcome to Morningtown author Blake Liliane Hellman and illustrator Steven Henry. This husband-and-wife team combine their talents for art and writing to create adorable picture books with characters and storylines kids love.  

First up, I’m chatting with Blake about how Welcome to Morningtown came to be and how her visual arts background influences her storytelling. 

Welcome to Morningtown is composed of only 119 words and yet readers get the feeling of a joyful day bursting with possibility and promise while the story also reflects the common routines of a morning for little ones. The story includes a wonderful feeling of camaraderie and inclusion, plus it ends on a humorous note. That’s a masterful use of words and rhythm! Can you describe how you approached the story, chose your words, and structured the cadence of the story? Did the story start out this short or was there a whittling process involved?

This book started out as a phrase Steve would use to wake up his little one in the morning. We knew we wanted to make it into a children’s book but we weren’t sure what it was going to be about. We had long discussions on the world of Morningtown—the setting, the season, the homes, and the creatures who lived there. We even designed maps for fun. There were many iterations. The text was much wordier at first, but I always knew it was going to be a prosaic style of book rather than a classical narrative. I’m a fan of Mary Lyn Ray (STARS, A LUCKY AUTHOR HAS A DOG) who uses words in a lyrical and economical way, without depending on rhyme. Similarly, I curated my word choices so Steve’s illustrations could shine.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Your background is in journalism, English, and filmmaking. You’re also an abstract painter. How did you become interested in writing picture books? How does your experience in all of these disciplines help you write your stories?

My background in filmmaking helped me learn how to tell stories visually. Years of crafting song lyrics taught me to express myself concisely and poetically. Journalism gave me a great foundation in writing, and painting abstractly taught me to get used to making mistakes—that mistakes are just the path to success. As a writer, you’re going to make a lot of bad stuff. If you accept that, you won’t give up. If you don’t give up, you get better.

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Diamond (acrylic on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

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Iris (acrylic and mixed media on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

As an artist, do you have a vision for your stories’ illustrations? In addition to working with Steven on Welcome to Morningtown  and the forthcoming GoodnightSleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020) and Something Smells! (Atheneum, 2018), you have a third picture book, Cuddle Monkey, coming out from Atheneum in 2020, illustrated by Chad Otis. Were you able to work closely with Chad on the adorable illustrations for this book?

As a filmmaker and visual designer, I absolutely have a vision for my stories when I’m writing them. It might be unusual for the writer to have a say in the illustrations, but I’ve been lucky in this. Both Steven Henry, my husband, and our good friend Chad Otis, (CUDDLE MONKEY, OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL) have design agency backgrounds and are used to collaborating, so designing picture books with them is a no brainer—and a delight. I don’t think I would have been able to sell my earlier manuscripts without the artwork because to my mind, in a picture book manuscript, half of the story just isn’t there! But as I establish myself as a writer, I’m learning that a professional picture book manuscript should be precise and uncluttered. It should speak for itself without relying on illustration notes.

What do you find to be the best part of being a children’s author?

I get to create fantastical, funny, heartfelt worlds and share them with kids and parents. When you see someone enjoying your work, it validates your imagination.

Steven, you also bring a varied background in design and illustration to your picture book career. Early on you worked as a window display artist for Tower Records and Macy’s Department Store. What are the challenges of this kind of work? What elements are important for capturing the attention of passersby and enticing them into the store? Is there a correlation to creating a book’s cover?

In both retail display and illustration, I’ve always tried to set up a visual hierarchy that leads the eye and gives the viewer the most important information first. To do this, first I figure out my visual storytelling goal (or goals). Once I understand what I’m trying to “say”, then I’ll ask myself what the reader should see first. Are any other elements distracting from this? Whenever possible I try to keep things simple in an engaging way. 

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What drew you to focus on illustrating picture books?

I started drawing superheroes and dinosaurs in grade school. My first-grade teacher noticed my doodles in class and, rather than scolding me for not working on my lessons, asked me if I’d like to draw dinosaurs on the chalkboard for the class at the end of the day. I don’t remember how I got the nerve up to do it, but I got up in front of the room and drew a big Tyrannosaurus, explaining how tall he was and who he fought with. I became a minor classroom celebrity for a couple of days, but that, along with encouragement from my parents, was enough to keep me inspired to draw. 

My parents got rid of our TV in the 70’s, so we spent many hours at the library and brought stacks of books home. Seuss, Sendak, and Scarry were—and still are—big heroes. As a teenager I became more interested in drawing comic book art, but I eventually returned to my picture book roots in 2004 with Ella The Elegant Elephant.  

The characters in Welcome to Morningtown are cuter than cute, and the whole book is like a warm hug. How do you achieve this look and feeling? Why do you think such sweet illustrations are important for little readers? I’m also thinking in particular of the final spread of the busy town that glows with friendship and happiness. Can you talk a bit about some of the elements adults can point out as they share the book with their kids?

When I’m designing characters, I try to make combinations of pen marks on paper that remind me of the kinds of books I loved as a kid and continue to resonate with me emotionally. In order to get to a point where I can communicate certain feelings visually, the boring secret has been practice. I really do believe the adage that, if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll become an expert. 

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Ladybug concept for Welcome to Morningtown by Steven Henry.

I still use a simple mechanical pencil to do most of my line work. I also try to stay well within my skill set when I’m working on a book. I try to save things like experimentation and pushing boundaries for the concept work that precedes actual book production. Usually, but I’m not always successful—haha.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As I mentioned earlier, I pay close attention to the visual hierarchy of an illustration to make sure the most important things stand out. But I also like to include little details that the reader may not catch the first time around, or I include a visual storyline that’s not necessarily a part of the text. In Welcome to Morningtown, there’s no mention of a bear family, for instance; but the illustrated exploits of the little bear and his family provide a gently funny counterpoint to the text. Whenever I can, I like to tell a parallel or separate story with the pictures, so parents and young readers should definitely keep their eyes open—and maybe even check the pictures more than once!

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Multiple readings of Welcome to Morningtown are definitely a must! As a husband and wife team collaborating on picture books, could you both tell readers about your process for completing a book that inspires such enthusiasm? Does the story come first and then the illustrations or do you work on the whole project together?

We’re always thinking of new ideas for books, usually they start with a title or concept, a funny thing we see while on a walk or overhear on the street. There’s a lot of silly wordplay at our house.

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Steve working on the picture book dummy for Welcome to Morningtown.

I throw a lot of ideas at Steve and not all of them stick. He’s particular. And for good reason. It takes a lot of work and commitment to illustrate a book. When we decide, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Part of our process is to make a ‘dummy,’ which is a roughly laid out version of the book that we create with a program called InDesign. It has the text laid out alongside rough sketches. This step helps clarify the pacing and can validate or invalidate the story structure. It provides opportunities for improvement. We do a lot of iterating before giving it to our agent.

Blake, you work as an interactive and user experience designer and, Steven, you used to work for Smashing Ideas, which also provides these kinds of serves to clients. Can you briefly describe this work for readers? Can you talk a bit about your work for kids in this area? How do these techniques influence your work with picture books?

I’m a UX Designer and Steve is a Design Manager and we use user experience design principles, including white boarding, prototyping, and wire framing to make picture books! It sounds funny, but it’s actually a great way to work. The only thing we don’t do is user testing because it’s hard to find people who are willing to be honest with you about your picture book. (Unless it’s my mom, she’s very honest.)

Conversely, we’ve found that the process of making picture books helps us in our office environments. Making a picture book forces one to be very organized. There’s a lot to cover in just thirty-two pages! If you can master this kind of efficiency, you can apply it most anywhere.

I’ve had several comments from adults wishing they could live in Morningtown. What can readers look forward to in your upcoming companion book Sleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, date)?

In the companion book to this one, Sleepyville is a cozy seaside village just a hop, skip and jump from Morningtown. It’s bustling with animals who are getting ready for bedtime. Keep your eye out for a library in a giant tree, a candy shop, and camping worms.

 What’s up next for both of you?

We have a few book ideas we’re developing—one of which Steve has written. I’m currently shopping a manuscript on my own about a rambunctious river.

Since my blog is holiday themed, can’t let you get away without asking what your favorite holiday is and why?

My favorite is the Fourth of July. There’s a current of excitement that runs through the air on the Fourth of July. All the explosions, smoke, and fire—the bursts of colors in the night sky—break the routine of other days. But I’d be happy with just black snakes and sparklers. I especially love the smell of fireworks, which conjures hot summer pavement, watermelon picnics, and swimming pools.

I love the sensory details in this last sentence, Blake! I can almost feel my bare feet sizzling and taste that cool watermelon!

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BLAKE LILIANE HELLMAN is a picture book author and senior UX designer. She and her husband Steven Henry live in Seattle and collaborate on books such as Welcome to Morningtown, Goodnight, Sleepyville, and Something Smells!, which was nominated for the Washington State Book Award. Take a peek into their world by viewing her Instagram page and Facebook page.

STEVEN HENRY (né D’Amico) is the illustrator of many picture books, including the award-winning Ella the Elegant Elephant Series, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, and Herbert’s First Halloween. He currently serves as an art director at Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization promoting social and emotional learning.

You can take a peek into Blake and Steven Henry’s world on

Instagram | Facebook

You can connect with Steve on

His Website | Twitter

National Read a Book Day Review

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Welcome to Morningtown

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

It’s the crack of dawn in Morningtown and “everyone is waking.” A little cub rubs his eyes and sees his dad standing at the foot of his bed, fishing pole in hand, tackle box at the ready. The little tyke yawns and stretches along with the birds in the tree outside his room. Down at the pond, the frogs are “hopping, flopping, splashing awake while the turtles and a beaver enjoying the first cup of the day look on. All over Morningtown the animals, the insects, and even the fish are leaving their beds, brushing their teeth, washing up, and getting dressed.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Next comes breakfast! “Some crunch, some nibble, some sip their morning feast.” Then in houses all around town the windows are opened and the shutters thrown wide. What will the day bring? Perhaps a banjo lesson, a new friend, and chance to help out. The cub dries the breakfast dishes while his mom washes. “Every day’s a surprise, and as the sun rises… busy bees buzz, fun bunnies bounce, and eager beavers slide into the day.” Yes, it’s a busy day in Morningtown. “Everyone is up…except one.” It’s a good thing Mom likes to go fishing too.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Blake Liliane Hellman’s lyrical look at morning and all the promise it holds is an enchanting, cheerful way to start the day for little ones—and their adults. As the bear family wakes up in their stone home, the rest of Morningtown’s residents are also rising and greeting the day with all of those little details that go into getting ready to meet the world. Hellman’s evocative verbs, jaunty rhythms, and humorous ending make Welcome to Morningtown a joy to read aloud.

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Accompanying Hellman’s story are Steven Henry’s beyond adorable forest creatures who populate this peaceful hamlet. The sky glows golden and then softens into a clear, light blue as the animals leave their beds. One snoozing butterfly catches a few more winks on her soft dandelion bed, a tiny turtle enjoys another minute on Mom’s back, and Mr. Mole climbs emerges from his “secret” bed underground while three chirping birds wake a little mountain goat on his snowy ledge. Smiles abound, and readers will find themselves smiling too as they follow the little cub as he gets ready to go fishing with Dad. Henry’s clever details and charming perspectives create a rich and, as the title invites, welcoming community that little ones will want to visit again and again.

To start a little one’s day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead, put them to bed looking forward to tomorrow, or share cuddly down time, the charming Welcome to Morningtown is as sweet as it gets and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681198736

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You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 2 – It’s National Chicken Month

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About the Holiday

For over twenty years, the National Chicken Council has used the month of September to promote chicken sales as the summer grilling season winds down. The endeavor has been so successful that September is now known as National Chicken Month! While chicken on the dinner plate or in a sandwich is delicious, chickens also make good pets and—as today’s book proves—great friends!

Bear and Chicken

By Jannie Ho

 

On a cold winter day, Bear was coming home from his morning walk when “he saw a chicken, frozen in the snow!” He picked her and her knapsack up and brought them inside, where a warm fire crackled in the fireplace. “How does one defrost a chicken? thought Bear.” Bear took a blanket and wrapped the chicken like a burrito and held her tight until her eyes opened. When that happened, Bear smiled and Chicken found herself staring into two rows of very sharp teeth.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear took Chicken into the kitchen, where carrots and onions sat on the counter. Bear picked up his cookbook and began to read. “‘You are just in time,’” he said to Chicken. Chicken looked on worriedly as Bear filled a huge, chicken-sized pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. When Chicken inadvertently knocked over a pot of basil, Bear decided it was a perfect addition to his recipe.

With a newly sharpened knife, Bear chopped up carrots, celery, and onions. “‘Hmmm…what else is missing?’ said Bear,” looking right at Chicken. Bear lifted Chicken up to the pot of hot, bubbling broth. Imagining what would happen next, Chicken wriggled out of Bear’s grasp and ran away as fast as she could and out the front door.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear chased after her, and even though Chicken “zig-zagged through the trees,” Bear caught up with her. She glanced at the big stick Bear had raised over her head, and thought it was the end for her. But Bear, his feelings hurt, was just holding out Chicken’s knapsack. “‘You forgot this,’” he said. Surprised, Chicken blurted out, ‘”You’re not going to eat me?’” Now it was Bear’s turn to be surprised, and he explained that he was making lunch for both of them.

Still wary, Chicken protested that she wasn’t hungry, but her grumbling tummy gave her away. The two laughed, and after Bear promised to help Chicken find her way home, they went inside to enjoy delicious bowls of vegetable soup.

An adorably illustrated recipe for Bear’s Vegetable Soup and a note about the diet of Black Bears follow the text.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Kids will love the suspense and humor of Jannie Ho’s mistaken purposes story. Her clever culinary puns set the action directly in the kitchen and put young readers in the same mindset as poor Chicken when she wakes up to a very suspicious smile. As Chicken stews about her predicament, little ones will empathize with her while older readers may have fun predicting Bear’s intent. The chase through the woods provides gentle suspense while the sweet reconciliation will have readers giggling along with Chicken and Bear.

Ho brings her distinctively cute artwork to her debut as an author/illustrator with great effect as Bear and Chicken exchange meaningful looks—but is Bear serious about cooking Chicken or just serious about his cooking? Kids will fall in love with little chicken from the moment she’s found in the snow and snugged into a warm blanket. Her worried expression will further endear her to readers, and who can blame them for a bit of worry of their own when Bear’s décor includes such things as a picture of bacon and eggs and the prominently displayed Chicken Cookbook?

A cozy Cozy for the youngest mystery lovers, Bear and Chicken would be a welcome guest on any home, classroom, or public library bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762462667

Discover more about Jannie Ho, her books, and her artwork on her website.

National Chicken Month Activity

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A Chicken to Crow About

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooden turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Cut out the comb from the red felt
  2. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  3. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  4. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

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You can find Bear and Chicken at these booksellers

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

August 29 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby this month!

Back Roads, Country Toads

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

Best toady friends, Hank and Buckaroo, were just hanging out in “their favorite drainpipe near Cooper’s General Store” sipping the last drops from a discarded bottle of strawberry soda when they overheard Mr. Cooper and his friends talking about going fly-fishing. Hank and Buckaroo thought FLY-fishing sounded awesome and wanted to go along. They spied the perfect place to catch a ride: the fishermen’s open lunch basket. With a KERPLOP! they jumped in.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soon they were on their way to what Buckaroo said would be “‘the greatest day of their lives.’” “‘Toadally,’” agreed Hank. While they rode to the fishing stream, Hank and Buckaroo sang “When You Fish Upon a Star,” and as soon as the truck stopped they jumped out and hid in a nearby bush. But Emmitt the raccoon was already there. Hank and Buckaroo were reveling in the glory that was going to be that day’s “‘fly cafeteria’” and “‘down-home big-time fly barbecue’” when Emmitt gave them the bad news. Hank didn’t believe it. He thought “‘fishing WITH flies’” instead of “‘fishing FOR flies’” sounded ridiculous.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And just then a nice juicy fly sailed by. Hank leaped and released his long tongue, but Emmitt pulled him back just before he grabbed onto the fake fly. The three watched as the fishermen caught fish after fish with the imitation flies. Hank and Buckaroo couldn’t imagine what Mr. Cooper and the rest of the fishermen would want with “‘those smelly fish.’” Emmitt disagreed—he loved smelly fish. To prove his point, he ran up and snatched one from the fishermen’s bucket.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seeing the fish, Hank had a brainstorm and asked to “‘borrow’” Emmitt’s fish. He placed it on a rock in the sun and went back to their hiding place in the bushes. Emmitt and Buckaroo were confused. But “before long, a swarm of flies hovered over the fish.” When there was a large cloud of flies, “Hank croaked, ‘Let’s go fishing!’” Their tongues snapped in the air, reeling in dozens of flies. When they were filled to the brim, they gave the fish back to Emmitt and happily made plans to go fly-fishing again the next Saturday.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s clever, pun-filled fish story has everything needed to hook young readers and deliver a funny story time. With the lure of all the flies they can eat, Hank and Buckaroo take action to have the best day of their lives and discover a new hobby. When they meet up with Emmitt the raccoon and learn that their initial idea was a bit off the mark, Hank shows persistence and innovative thinking to make their fishing dreams come true. Demonstrating acceptance of each other’s different tastes and some creative cooperation, the camaraderie among Hank, Buckaroo, and Emmitt serves as a good example for readers. The close bond between Hank and Buckaroo—and their hilarious dialog—will endear them to kids, leaving them wanting more from this “toadally” charming duo.

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Tim Bowers’ energetic toads, with their wide smiles, eager eyes, and spirited personalities are obvious best friends from the first page. Bowers’ vibrant, action-packed illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny as Buckaroo and Hank grow giddy at the thought of all those flies they’re going to catch, flick their loooong tongues, and hobble down the road with overstuffed bellies. Emmitt may chuckle at the toads’ misinterpretation of “fly-fishing,” but he’s a true and trusting friend to rescue Hank from a fisherman’s line and lend his filched treat to attract their lunch. In the background, images of the two fishermen and their young protégés casting their lines and reeling in bucket-loads of fish add depth, interest, and visual clues for readers.

A comical, well-developed tale that will captivate kids, Back Roads, Country Toads is a winner for group story times or one-on-one fun at home, in the classroom, or for public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-153411039

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, music, and journalism on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game

Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color their set of playing cards (optional)
  4. Three spaces are left blank for kids to design their own lures, bait, and flies too (optional)
  5. Cut the cards apart
  6. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  7. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  8. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  9. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  10. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  11. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

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You can find Back Roads, Country Toads at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 27 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

It’s all up to you to make his month-long holiday happen. It offers an opportunity for each person to ask: What makes me happy? As the summer comes to a close and the hustle-bustle of school and extracurricular activities starts up again, be sure to include those things that truly bring you and your children joy. Spending more time with siblings and friends may be at the top of the list—just like in today’s book!

Twins

By Mike Ciccotello

A little boy and a giraffe love being twins. In fact, they are so alike, the boy says, that “sometimes our friends can’t tell us apart.” Having a twin means there’s always someone to play games—“and piano duets”—with. While it’s true that twins like many of the same things, the way they do activities is way different. Take the little boy and his giraffe twin, for instance. The boy’s tricycle is short, while his twin’s is looong, and the snowman the boy makes has three sections while the giraffe’s snowman has six—and antlers.

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

As you might imagine, salad is high on the list of favorite foods. Other faves include dancing, reading, and drawing. But who does these best? That question sometimes causes squabbles. And when there’s, say, only one tool to share or a big issue like “who is stronger,” sometimes that “disagreement…might last all afternoon, and turn into a big, rotten fight.”

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

But after a little alone time, the boy and his twin and the giraffe and his twin “can never stay mad for very long.” Then they end up compromising because they know that they “work best together.” Yes, “it’s great being a twin, knowing there’s someone who’s just like you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-review-twins-activities

Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Mike Ciccotello’s sweet tribute to twins, whether they’re siblings, best friends, or even pet-and-people pairs will have kids giggling at the juxtapositions of the little boy and his extra-tall twin as they play and work together. The two are exuberant partners, smiling, laughing, and making knowing eye contact, as they dress the same, share the same activities, and talk in their bunk beds before going to sleep. When the inevitable quarrels come, readers will recognize the mixed emotions that ultimately bring these two best friends back together. Ciccotello’s emphasis on resolving disputes, compromise, and staying mindful of all the benefits to having a twin or “near twin” gives the story deeper resonance for building bonds between siblings and friends.

Ciccotello’s vibrant illustrations are clever and cheerful, touching on kid-favorite year-round events and everyday routines. They also give a sly wink to the idea that twins are always identical and highlight the individuality of not only these twins but each reader too. The wide-open pages and spotlighted vignettes allow the youngest readers to focus on the relationship between the boy and the giraffe and offer opportunities for adults and kids to talk about that special bond.

A funny book with a lot of heart, Twins would be an endearing addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 6

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0374312121

To learn more about Mike Ciccotello and his work, visit his website.

Happiness Happens Month Activity

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Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is the winner.
  2. Using a time limit (depending on age): players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

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You can find Twins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 21 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

For many children across the country August is the month for going back to school—or just starting on that journey. Some children eagerly look forward to spending the day in a classroom with other kids and learning new things from their teacher or teachers. For others the transition from home to school is a little more daunting. Finding ways to reassure hesitant students can go a long way toward happiness and success in school. Books can help! Through the experiences and feeling of all types of children and characters in picture books, chapter books, and middle grade and young adult novels, kids can share their feelings, whether they are excited or more uncertain about the school year ahead.

Truman

Written by Jean Reidy | Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

 

Truman was a little round tortoise “the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet.” He lived with “his Sarah,” who was just as quiet and thoughtful as he was, in an apartment above a busy street. One day, Sarah ate an extra-big banana, wore a new sweater, and strapped on an enormous backpack. She even gave Truman extra green beans for breakfast. Then before she left, “she kissed her finger and touched it to his shell and whispered, ‘Be brave.’”

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Truman got to thinking about all the new things he’d seen that morning. He looked out the window and saw Sarah getting on the number 11 southbound bus. She had never done that before. Truman waited and waited and waited for Sarah to return. At last, we could wait no longer and decided he would go after her, even if it meant catching the bus “amid the honking and the growling and the shrieking” of the street below. Of course, his tank might be a problem, but there was that nice rock pile….

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

In a moment he was out and traversing the soft pillows and rubber boots, wooden floor and “endless rug. Without Sarah, their home seemed vast and uncharted and unsettling.” But as Truman reached the window, he realized that he couldn’t see the street at all and that he didn’t even know which way was south. Truman was beginning to lose heart. Then he heard, amid all the other sounds, the number 11 bus and Truman felt brave.

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

“He was just about to slip under the door” when it opened and Sarah walked in. She saw him immediately and was so full of wonder at his amazing feat. She gently put him back in his tank. Truman felt proud. Later, Sarah read him a story she’d written and he couldn’t wait for that day when Sarah would take him with her south where they would “see new sights and hear new sounds and think new thoughts…together.”

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Jean Reidy’s sweet and surprising tale of a tiny tortoise with a big heart has everything you’d want in a story of friendship and new experiences. This adorable pair are two of a kind, ready to explore and meet new challenges. Truman’s trek from his tank to the front door is as daring as any grand adventure, and Sarah’s recognition of her pet’s bravery is reassuring and affirming for all those facing journeys of their own. Reidy’s gentle storytelling sparkles with evocative vocabulary and the kinds of perfect little details that draw kids in. As Sarah tells Truman to “be brave,” she could be encouraging herself as well, and their day, each successful in its own way, is something both can take pride in. Readers will relate to Reidy’s touches of humor and Truman’s indefatigable spirit.

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Lucy Ruth Cummins’ stylish illustrations, rendered in a bright yet soothing color palette have a wonderful welcoming feeling as readers are introduces to Sarah, who has a delightful affinity for tutu-like skirts, and Truman, who likes nothing better than being close to “his Sarah.” Kids will fall in love with this tiny, adorable tortoise as he nibbles green beans, contemplates the differences in the morning routine, and makes his way across the rug and past scary toys to the front door. Kids will enjoy keeping an eye on the Sarah’s little yellow flower from page to page. The moment when Sarah finds Truman at the front door shines with their mutual love for each other, and their tender story time will captivate any child.

Endearing from beginning to end, Truman will be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534416642

Discover more about Jean Reidy and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lucy Ruth Cummins, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Back to School Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

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You can find Truman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review