June 25 – It’s National Insect Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-cover

About the Holiday

Insects are endlessly fascinating, and this week celebrates their diversity, purpose, and beauty. This week was established by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people to learn more about insects, from those close to home to the exotic species around the world. This year the theme is Entomology at Home and people are invited to participate by learning about local species of insects and enjoying the resources on the National Insect Week website. There’s a photography contest, learning videos for all ages, access to Instar the Magazine for Young Entomologists, and so much more, including a mention of “the most bizarre use” of an insect ever imagined. To discover all of the resources and fun, visit the National Insect Week website.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of A Way with Wild Things for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Way with Wild Things

Written by Larissa Theule | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Poppy Ann Fields made friends with lots of bugs. She appreciated all of their natural talents—the way the cicadas formed a symphony, the way the ants marched in perfect lines, the way the shy roly poly said hello, and the “magnificent art” the spider wove. She could spend all day outside among these friends, “but when people came around, Poppy preferred to disappear into the background.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-bugs

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At parties she dressed to blend in with the wallpaper or the brightly flowered rug. She could disappear into the framed landscape on the wall or behind the tree in the corner. To celebrate Grandma Phyllis’s 100th birthday, there was a big party. Poppy watched from behind the flowers and bushes. She watched as people strolled about, meeting and hugging, dancing and running. “They looked like colorful leaves falling into each other then drifting apart.”

A shimmering dragonfly drifted on the breeze and landed on the cake. “Her whole heart glad, Poppy clapped her hands.” She came over to look and that’s when Uncle Dan spotted her. His voice boomed, “‘Poppy Ann Fields, you wallflower, you. So that’s where you’ve been hiding this time.’” Everyone turned to look at Poppy. She froze. The dragonfly took off… “and landed in her hand.” No one could believe it; they smiled and stared in wonder. Then they moved in to get a closer look.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-party

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Poppy wished she could run away. She didn’t know where to look, so she gazed at the dragonfly. “She knew the dragonfly had come here for her.” She listened to the cicadas’ music wafting through the air and took a breath. Then she spoke, telling everyone the dragonfly’s scientific name. Grandma Phyllis clasped her hands and gave Poppy a hug. “‘You wildflower, you,’” she whispered. In her heart Poppy knew Grandma Phyllis was right. She was not a wallflower, but “a wildflower.”

An illustrated glossary of Poppy’s bug friends, along with their scientific name and a brief description follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-birthday

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Larissa Theule’s quietly comforting story is balm for those thoughtful, introverted children who interact with the world through observation, contemplation, and gentle interactions. With the soul of a poet, Poppy listens to, watches, and connects with nature, feeling its rhythms and wonder with her whole heart. Theule’s carefully chosen verbs and play on the idea of nature embrace Poppy’s personality. Poppy “preferred” to observe large, noisy gatherings from the sidelines while she “became” things that most people find lovely: landscapes, trees, rain, a group of animals.

When Uncle Dan’s loud voice turns everyone’s attention to Poppy, Theule’s simply stated “she was scared down to her toes” validates the feelings of kids who’d rather not be in the spotlight and gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about these emotions. The party-goers’ enthusiasm to hear what Poppy has to say and Grandma Phyllis’s loving and apt nickname for her granddaughter will reassure introverted readers that they are seen and appreciated for their unique strengths.

Sara Palacios festival of flowers—found outside, in Poppy’s home décor, and on party-goers’ clothing—surrounds Poppy and reveals that she is a part of and does fit in everywhere. One of the joys of A Way with Wild Things is finding Poppy on each page and appreciating Palacio’s creative genius in how she uses camouflage similar to nature. Her vivid, textured illustrations are joyous and full of love for nature, for life, and especially for Poppy who tenderly takes it all in and makes it uniquely hers.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681190396

Discover more about Larissa Theule and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Insect Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft-3

Dragonfly Decoration

 

Your kids can bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-cover

You can find A Way with Wild Things at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

February 9 – It’s Creative Romance Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-cover

About the Holiday

February, the month of love, is a perfect time to think up creative ways to surprise that special person in your life with a romantic gesture, exciting date night, or fun adventure that will add spice and fun to your relationship. With a little imagination you can find unique ways to show all the love that’s in your heart. 

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Bear Meets Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bear Meets Bear

By Jacob Grant

 

Bear was waiting for the teapot he and Spider had ordered to arrive. It was exciting to think of getting something new delivered. At last the doorbell rang. When Bear opened the door, he found Panda, a delivery person he’d never seen before. She asked him to sign for his package, but Bear was smitten. “His heart beat fast…. He wanted to say something clever, or funny, or anything at all,” but he couldn’t.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-delivery

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The delivery woman asked for his signature again, and finally he was able to sign the sheet. He watched Panda peddle away on her delivery bike. Spider thought Bear’s predicament was quite funny. Bear rushed to his computer and ordered another teapot. Bear waited and waited. He watched out the window, hoping to see Panda’s delivery bike roll up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-waiting

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Bear was just considering ordering another tea pot when he saw Panda coming up the walk. But when she handed him the box and asked him to sign, Bear just stood silently again. “Spider felt sorry for his friend.” Bear ordered another teapot and another and another. Never could he summon the courage to talk to Panda, even though Spider encouraged him. Standing among all of the boxes of teapots, Spider told him he should “invite her to tea” or “at least remember to breathe” when Panda came to the door.

Bear agreed. He would order one more teapot and talk to Panda when it arrived. Bear waited with anticipation. But when the doorbell rang, it wasn’t Panda standing there, but a “gruff raccoon.” “Bear’s heart hurt.” He bemoaned the missed opportunities and regretted all the teapots. Spider wanted to help. He wrote a note and headed out to find Panda. He went from door to door asking if anyone had seen her. Finally, he found her at Duck’s house.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-sad

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next day Panda was excited to see Panda on his doorstep. She thanked him for his invitation to a tea party. Bear felt himself freeze, but then he told her he would be just a minute. He cleaned up the scattered teapots and welcomed her in. Soon Bear and Panda were chatting and laughing like old friends.

After Panda said goodbye, Bear thanked Spider and said that Panda was very nice but that they would “not be meeting for tea again.” It turned out that Panda didn’t like tea! Bear was nonplussed, but thought it was “all rather funny.” The next time he and Panda met, Bear served lemonade. And what about all those teapots? Bear held a yard sale!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-tea-party

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Fans of Jacob Grant’s Bear and Spider series know that Bear is often hesitant to put himself out there, to try something new, or even, sometimes, to leave the house. It might be because his feelings are so strong or he doubts himself  – or a little of both. Fortunately, Bear has his good friend Spider who supports him and gives him a nudge when he needs it. When Bear meets Panda and is smitten, he, like many people, can’t find the exact right words among all those feelings; a simple “hello” doesn’t seem like enough. Grant understands. Enter Spider, who offers a gentle dose of honesty and provides always-polite Bear with an opportunity to shine. When Bear discovers that Panda doesn’t like tea, Grant also shows readers that conditions don’t have to be perfect to make a new friend and that a little humor goes a long way toward smoothing things over.

Grant’s tranquil color palette and simple shapes make it easy for readers to immerse themselves in Bear’s feelings, empathizing with his all-too-human predicament while enjoying the comical collection of all those tea pots. When Bear watches out the window day after day, willing Panda to return only to be filled with fear and anxiety when she does, Grant perfectly captures that “oh no, now what?” emotion as Bear’s paws fly to his face and his eyes widen. Likewise, Bear’s regrets are palpable as, surrounded by boxes, he buries his head in the chair. Throughout, Spider is there, weaving his web, strumming his banjo, and watching out for Bear. Wordless images of Bear and Panda enjoying lemonade together and Bear’s yard sale let kids know it has all turned out all right.

A charming, poignant, and reassuring addition to the Bear and Spider series, Bear Meets Bear,  a story about overcoming emotions that hold us back, is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547604241

Discover more about Jacob Grant, his books, and his art on his website.

Creative Romance Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Create a Mug

 

If you’re kids are looking for a gift to make for a family member or a friend for Valentine’s Day or any time, a personalized mug makes a creative way to share a little love every time it’s used. 

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

  1. Design and color your mug
  2. Follow directions on the markers or paint to properly bake on your decoration and make it permanent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-cover

You can find Bear Meets Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Get Ready for New Year’s Eve

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

About the Holiday

It’s safe to say we’re all happy to be saying goodbye to 2020 and looking forward to 2021 with hope and resolve. A new year offers opportunities for reflection and growth as well as sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong no matter what challenges we face. Today’s book celebrates all three of these parts of life at the New Year or any time.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-abuelita

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-kitchen

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-mamá

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Año Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-new-years-eve

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-new-years-coloring-page

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-abuelita

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-kitchen

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-mamá

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-new-years-eve

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

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

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 2 – Name Your Car Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

About the Holiday

We love our cars! Sometimes it seems we spend more time with them than with our own family – and maybe some of us do! What do you call such a reliable partner? A friend, of course! Our friends have names, so why shouldn’t our cars? That’s the idea behind today’s whimsical holiday. To celebrate, give your car the perfect moniker. All names are open, well… 

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and Aladdin for sending me a copy of All Except Axle for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m revved up to be offering a giveaway of the book as well! See details below.

All Except Axle

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

 

At the car assembly plant, all the new cars were happily getting buffed before they rolled off the conveyor belt and raced into their slot on the lot. That is… “all except one. Axle.” From the parking lot, the cars drove up the ramps and onto the big transport trucks for the next part of their adventure. But one car lagged behind, watching from a distance – Axle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-factory

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

The transport trucks vroomed onto the highway, but…. They were one short. “Earlene, and her passengers…were waiting for Axle.” Axle idled nearby. “‘I think I’m out of alignment,'” he told Earlene. “‘I think you’re stalling,'” Earlene said. The other cars were encouraging, but Earlene got Axle moving with a loud HONNKK!

Finally zooming down the highway, the other cars loved feeling the wind and “[leaning] into the twists and turns.” But Axle felt carsick. When the reached the dealership, the other cars eagerly explored the lot and showroom. All except Axle, who “hurried back up Earlene’s ramp and pleaded with her to go back to the plant. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-afraid

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

With a Vroom they were off – but not to the plant. Soon, Earlene veered into a truck stop, where, she said, Axle could practice. Axle made right turns, left turns, and U-turns around the cement columns and followed Earlene around and around the lot. Then they left the truck stop and headed out to the flatlands, the foothills, where “the slope grew steeper and steeper,” and even into the mountains. From high on the top of a mountain, Axle stopped to enjoy the view.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-truck

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Earlene was zipping back down the curvy mountain road with Axle far behind. Then Axle smelled something burning and watches as Earlene “rockets up a runaway truck ramp.” When Earlene finally stopped, they saw the flat tire. Earlene needed a tow truck and Axle was her only hope. He turned around and climbed the mountain road again. It was a strain on his engine, but when he reached the top, Axle kept on going all the way back to the truck stop.

There he found a tow truck and led it straight back to Earlene. “‘Nice job, kid,’ the tow truck said” then offered Axle a ride back into town. But Axle replied, “‘No thanks, I can drive!'” and he zoomed ahead to lead Earlene and the tow truck back to the city. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-city

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Car, truck, and vehicle fans will love Sue Lowell Gallion’s story that boosts little ones’ self-confidence with reassurance and a sweet hero who just needs a little more practice to discover the courage under his hood. With plenty of puns to tickle readers, Gallion’s story reflects the feelings of kids hesitant to make changes or leave their comfort zone. Axle’s reactions mirror many behaviors anxious or hesitant children display, allowing adults and kids an opportunity to talk about emotions. Her well-paced story also lets readers to ride along with Axle as he tries out and improves his skills. When Earlene needs help, Axle may feel a moment of nervousness, but with his new-found belief in himself, he takes to those once-scary roads and saves the day.

Lisa Manuzak Wiley’s bold and vibrant illustrations will appeal to kids – and especially vehicle-lovers – with detailed images of cars on a factory line, loaded into transport trucks, and heading out on the open road. Her vehicles are both realistic and whimsical, and their expressive headlight eyes clearly reflect Axle’s trepidation and the other cars’ excitement for their adventure. Children will enjoy pointing out and counting the different cars from page to page.

For children who need a little encouragement on the road of life, All Except Axle is an engaging and reassuring story that’s sure to capture their imagination.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534440227

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axle-storytime-kit

You can find an All about Axle Storytime Kit with a puzzle, puppets, a coloring page, discussion questions, and a coping strategies worksheet on Sue’s website here.

To learn more about Lisa Manuzak Wiley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All Except Axle Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Blue Slip Media and Aladdin in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of All Except Axle, written by Sue Lowell Gallion | illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with a name for your car for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 2 to October 8 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 9. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Aladdin

Name Your Car Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truck-racing-game-wood

Racing for Friendship Game

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

You can find All Except Axle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 2 – Kat and Juju Book Tour Stop

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-cover

About the Holiday

Today I’m happy to be participating in the Kat and Juju book tour! The months of summer vacation often provide an opportunity for growth, change, and the kind of self-discovery that comes without the constraints of a regular schedule and school assignments. This can be especially true for hesitant children or those who prefer more studied steps into new experiences. Today’s book may spark discussion and ideas for integrating internal feelings and external opportunities when they come along.

Thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing Kat and Juju with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Kat and Juju

By Kataneh Vahdani

 

Kat had her own special way of doing things. While other kids scribbled outside the lines, she preferred to stay inside them. “She found wonder in places no one else thought to look.” And her confidants were decidedly of the strong, silent, and leafy type. She was too timid to talk to the other kids, who always seemed to be laughing and talking and playing. She did feel lonely sometimes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-drawing

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Kat’s birthday was coming up, and she was looking forward to the moment when “her very best friend would arrive,” just as “had happened to all the other kids.” She wasn’t disappointed. At her door on her birthday was Juju—a huge, red, dapper bird who’d brought her a bouquet of flowers and a definitely different perspective on things. She loved him immediately. Juju was fearless and encouraged her to be brave. “Sometimes,” he said  as he hopped from foot to foot and spun on the floor, “you’ve just got to LET GO and do a HAPPY DANCE.” Kat thought it looked like fun, but she just couldn’t get herself to do it.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-drawing

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Then one day. Kat and Juju found a lost baby bird. Kat could relate to the fear in its eyes. With Juju’s help, she overcame her initial doubts about her ability to take care of it. She wrapped the birdie up, fed it, and, when it was stronger, took it on adventures—adventures that even took Kat out of her comfort zone. The birdie loved them, and pretty soon so did Kat.

It didn’t take long for the birdie to feel “brave enough to fly on its own.” Kat was so excited for her little friend that she forgot all of her inhibitions and broke out into a happy dance. The other kids suddenly saw Kat in a whole new way. Now, Kat still does things her own special way, but she has friends to do them with.

A good conversation-starter on the value of trying new things while staying true to yourself, Kat and Juju makes a fun read on the journey and would be an inspiring choice for home, school, and public library collections.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-birthday

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In her thoughtful story, Kataneh Vahdani explores the emotions of a girl who has a hard time letting go of her fears and inhibitions to reach outside of her comfort zone. When Juju—a buoyant, larger-than-life bird—enters Kat’s life, he brings spontaneity and courage closer, but it’s not until the little birdie needs her that Kat participates in Juju’s silly fun and daring adventures. Over time, Kat discovers she likes these escapades too, and when the little bird is ready to fly, so is she. It’s a truism that we will often do things for a friend or our children that we might not do for ourselves.

Kat is a sweet companion for readers on their own road to discovering the bravery inside themselves, and Vahdani’s storytelling gives adults and children a starting point for discussion. She provides metaphorical examples—coloring inside the lines, a special birthday present that gives her a new start, learning to fly—as well as honestly depicted nagging internal doubts to help readers articulate and share their feelings. Vahdani also includes an important reminder that branching out doesn’t mean losing one’s unique qualities, instead it allows them to grow.

Kataneh Vahdani’s textured gray-scale and red and blue digital illustrations, punctuated with the little yellow fluff of a birdie, puts the focus on Kat and Juju, who sport red clothing and feathers. Kat’s wide-eyed, expressive face reflects her emotions clearly and Juju is a sweetie with smiling eyes who’s always ready with a hug or a bit of encouragement or reassurance.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043281

Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also rescues fallen baby birds. Together with her students, they have raised more than thirteen fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-cover

You can find Kat and Juju at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 8 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-cover

About the Holiday

The Get Caught Reading campaign was initiated in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers with the idea to promote literacy and language development through reading to children and encouraging them to read on their own. As part of the campaign, posters of celebrities, dignitaries, and even fictional characters enjoying a book are available for schools, libraries, and other organizations to hang where kids will see them. The excitement of reading also takes over social media all month long, which this year is more important than ever. To celebrate this holiday, make sure you stock up on new and favorite books or download ebooks or audiobooks from your library and get caught reading! Learn more by visiting the Get Caught Reading website and the Every Child a Reader website.

I received a copy of Two Tough Trucks from Orchard Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Two Tough Trucks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Hilary Leung

 

One morning, two trucks are ready “for their first day of class.” But Rig’s “riding the brakes” while Mack’s “hitting the gas.” In their classroom, their teacher Miss Rhodes pairs these two up for a practice run on the track. First up is the circuit, with twists and a hairpin turn. Rig feels shaky, but Mack’s “a speedy red blur.” Mack picks up speed going into the turn and keeps on going, but Rig hits the brakes and skids off the course.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-meeting

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Next comes learning to downshift while climbing a hill. Mack breezes up as Rig carefully inches along. First to the top, Mack gloats, “‘I knew I was fast.’” And although Rig tried his best he “finished dead last.” Mack thought Rig was just dragging him down. For Rig, Mack just seemed liked a braggart. As he vroomed, Mack fumed and left Rig “in the dust.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-sharp-curve

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

The students moved on to practicing backing up. As they moved around traffic cones,  “they veered and corrected, / they turned and reversed. / Rig had good instincts, but Mack was… the worst.” Rig aced the course, but Mack? He was ready to quit until Rig steered him right. “Vroom! Zoom! / They backtracked and bumped. / A Mack making progress, / a Rig feeling pumped!”

Mack was surprised that Rig had helped him, but for Rig it was just the right thing to do. They headed back to the track and took it by storm. These two trucks were “now the fastest of friends.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-blundering-mack

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Like life’s road itself, this original story of two trucks with distinct personalities and different strengths has many twists and turns and takes little ones on a multilayered journey of discovery. While Mack is rarin’ to go on his first day of truck school, Rig is more hesitant. When these two are teamed up for the day, Mack’s fast and daring approach to the track seems to be the right one as he nails the sharp curve and is the first to reach the peak of the hill, leaving Rig far behind. These early successes cause him to honk his own horn and complain about Rig.

But then in a clever literal and metaphorical reversal, Rig’s thoughtful restraint makes backing up his forte. In Mack’s reaction to being last, Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez gently ramp up life lessons about perseverance and losing gracefully. Rig then goes on to demonstrate another winning trait in his generosity to teach Mack the finer points of driving in reverse. Mack’s acceptance of Rig’s kindness shows that the experience has taught him to be humble. Kudos to Miss Rhodes for creating a track that leads to strong bonds and friendship.

A book by Schwartz and Gomez always charms with smart rhyming and jaunty rhythms and Two Tough Trucks is no exception. Ingenious puns, evocative and active vocabulary, and plenty of “vrooms” and “zooms” for kids to chime in on make this book a lively read aloud.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-sunset

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Hilary Leung’s textured and boldly colored pages will thrill little readers as Mack and Rig take center stage on the dusty, western track. Mack’s confidence shows in his straight, crisp lines and grinning grill while Rig’s wariness takes the form of wobbly tires, bent frame, furrowed brow, and grimacing grill. Fittingly, the Truck School building is shaped like a parking garage, complete with a spiral ramp that takes students to the second and third story. Cacti, roadrunners, and craggy rock formations dot the sun-drenched desert track where Mack, Rig, and the rest of the students strut their stuff.

A joy to read out loud and a story kids will want to hear again and again, Two Tough Trucks is highly recommended for home bookshelves, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338236545

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

To learn more about Rebecca J. Gomez and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Hilary Leung and learn more about his work, visit her website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truck-racing-game-wood

Racing for Friendship Game

 

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-cover

You can find Two Tough Trucks at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-get-lost-cover

Vroom and zoom with Mack and Rig in Two Tough Trucks Get Lost!, a new  adventure coming on September 1! You can preorder it here

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