November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re doing holiday shopping, don’t forget to add picture books to your list for the kids in your life. With so many picture books to choose from on all kinds of topics, there’s sure to be a perfect book for each child. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again, and today’s story is one kids will love to hear all through the year.

Thanks to Megan Litwin and Clarion Books for sharing a digital copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night

Written by Megan Litwin | Illustrated by Nneka Myers

 

Readers are invited along for a walk on a crystal-clear, moonlit snowy evening as a father and child discover how “nightfall sets the world aglow.” As darkness deepens overhead, and the stars twinkle over a white-blanketed field, “the sky sparkles like a chandelier.” Passing a pond where families are skating while snowflakes fall, “dusting glitter on earth’s face, / dressing trees in coats of lace,” the pair wave to a friend and then make their way into town.

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Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Here they come upon their village shimmering with magic as strings of white, gold, and colored lights outline rooftops, connect building to building, and create a glistening spectacle of snowy patches. Windows glow with candles glittering in wreaths for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, and kinaras for Kwanza. The flame of diya lamps for Diwali joins them. In the central square, a brilliant star shines forth as people gather around, enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the winter holidays. Father and child join in on this “Beaming, gleaming, lively sight— / twinkle, twinkle, winter night.”

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Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

On their way home and to bed, they pass a picture window where they can see a mom and her two kids hanging Christmas decorations, a fire flickers in the fireplace. In the woods, a deer and her fawn doze, curled up under a small tree, its branches covered in sparkling snow. In town, kids are tucked under covers but can’t resist going to the window for one last look, for “twinkle, twinkle, winter night. / Everywhere you look . . . / there’s light.”

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Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

You know that special glow you feel during the winter when the moon and stars seem to shine more brightly; the hearth or wood stove glimmers with extra warmth; snow and ice twinkle when caught in a beam of light; and, around the holidays, neighborhood streets wink on with glorious displays? The glow you wish could last all year long? Megan Litwin captures that feeling in her lovely Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night not only for the winter months, but all year around. Litwin’s graceful rhymes and rhythms immerse readers in winter’s quieter atmosphere and slower pace and invites them to really look at nature, at their communities, and in their own homes to find the light and magic there. Throughout the story, Litwin reintroduces her title phrase strung with glittering new adjectives, reminding readers of just how ardently we embrace the exquisite beauty of light. Her flowing storytelling is a joy to read aloud, making this a perfect book for bedtime or quiet story times.

Nneka Myers’ stunning pages seem to actually dance with the twinkling of stars, the glittery shimmer of snowflakes, and the breathtaking radiance of decorated homes, shops, and streetscapes. Images from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Diwali can be found in Myers’ illustrations of the town and its winter festival. Her rich purples, blues, and fuchsias set off the sparkling lights, patches of snow, and wide smiles of the townspeople as they mingle in the square welcoming and celebrating winter’s diverse and poignant holidays.

A book that shines with an appreciation for the beauty of light, nature, and community all around us, Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night would quickly become a favorite on home bookshelves for snuggly reading throughout the year and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Clarion Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0358572046

Discover more about Megan Litwin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nneka Myers, her books, and her art, visit her website. You can also visit her on Instagram and Twitter.

Meet Megan Litwin

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Megan Litwin holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University and is a former teacher whose lifelong work is to grow lifelong readers. Megan lives in Massachusetts with her family. 

You can connect with Megan on Her Website | Instagram | Twitter

I’m excited to be talking with Megan Litwin today about her debut picture book, her journey to publication, and how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids.

Hi, Megan! Congratulations on your beautiful book! Your writing in Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night really shimmers with so many gorgeous images of light. Was there one spark of inspiration for your story, or how did it come about?

Thank you so much for those kind words! I certainly agree that illustrator Nneka Myers has created the perfect shimmery, glimmery world for readers here! As for the story, there absolutely was an initial memorable spark. It happened on a cold, dark December drive. One of my sons was newly captivated by all the light he saw—everything from the snow to the moon to the houses decked out for the holidays. It was like the whole world was suddenly made of magic. He kept calling out things he noticed in his tiny toddler voice as we drove and repeating the words “twinkle lights” over and over. I realized I wanted to find a way to showcase this bright and beautiful time of year, with the focus not on any one particular holiday, but on the shared magic of these lights.

Can you tell readers a little about what your journey from that first idea to having Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night published was like?

LONG. That December drive was eleven years ago! I had the initial spark and a first draft poured out of me immediately. But it was not yet the story I wanted to tell. It didn’t have the magic I had seen and felt. It was too long, too wordy, overly descriptive. And so . . . I let it sit. I revisited it off and on over the years, but only around times of great inspiration . . . usually around this time every year! The idea never left me, but it wasn’t until 2016 (when I joined SCBWI) that I began working on this manuscript with the serious attitude it takes to publish. I took it to my first critique groups, I took it to conferences to get agent/editor feedback, I cut and polished and rewrote with a keener eye and ear—and 25 drafts later, it went out on submission. Even then, it was not quick! This manuscript went all the way to acquisitions with another publisher before landing, very happily, with Kate O’Sullivan at Clarion/HarperCollins (then Houghton Mifflin) in 2020.

You previously worked as a classroom teacher and reading interventionist. Can you talk about these positions? What did you love best about being a teacher?

I was a second-grade classroom teacher for nine years, and then spent time in part-time roles after my second son was born. I’ve worked as a literacy interventionist and a school library teacher, and I also helped our local school set up and run a take-home book program. I have always felt entirely at home in a school, and think I’ll always be a “teacher-at-heart.” In fact, one of the things I’m most excited about in this new phase of my book-centered career is being able to go into classrooms to do reading and writing workshops with kiddos.

How did you help kids not only learn how to read but to be excited about reading?

My years as a classroom teacher were especially magical because of the tight-knit community we built each year. In those early years of school, each classroom feels like a family. And a lot of deep connection can happen through books. We connected through our daily read alouds, huddled close together on the rainbow rug, and also through discussions about whatever we were reading, which were full of connections to our own lives and the books we had read before as a “reading family.” It was so important to me that my students saw books as magical. I wanted them to learn to read – but to love to read as well, because engaging comfortably in that process for your whole life opens so many doors. One of the best thank-you gifts I ever received was from a parent who wrote that I had inspired her daughter to be an “under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight-reader!” Nothing could make me happier.

Do you have any suggestions for how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids?

My best advice for instilling a love of reading is simple. Read together. Read often. Surround your kids with books of all kinds. Find books that bring you joy and read them alongside your kids. Modeling a love of reading and celebrating books is the first step.

And, since we’re talking about this, if anyone is interesting in more tips on growing readers, I include a section focused on that in my seasonal author newsletter that comes out just four times a year. It is called “Read, Write, Magic”—and you can sign up on my website!

What was your favorite type of book to read when you were a child? What kinds of books do you gravitate toward as an adult?

As a child, I loved books about animals and also things that had a healthy dose of magic or wonder. Some favorites were The Velveteen Rabbit, Animalia, and The Polar Express. I also loved series as I got older because I got to spend time in a world with characters I came to know and love. I was a big Sweet Valley Twins and Nancy Drew fan, and was (and still am) a Harry Potter lover. As an adult, I still enjoy ALL those same things! I would add that overall, the books I love best are ones that make me FEEL something. Or according to my husband’s observations, books that make me cry…

You’ve also published poetry in two anthologies: Friends & Anemones and An Assortment of Animals, released by the Writer’s Loft. Do the rhythms of poetry come naturally to you? What is your writing process once you have an idea?

Yes, those rhythms do come naturally, actually—even though I wouldn’t consider myself a poet! I’ve never studied poetry, and don’t know how to analyze it using all the proper terminology. For me, it is all about feel and sound. I think that is what initially drew me to picture books, way back when. Picture books have a bit of poetry and music and theater all mixed in. I like to say that I “play with words” for a living now. I pour words out onto a page for a first draft…and then I play. I cut, change, arrange, rearrange…over and over and over. I count beats, I read it aloud. My kids say it looks like I’m talking to myself!

You have such enthusiasm for meeting your readers at book events as well as spending time with kids in the classroom through your three different school workshops designed for various elementary age groups. Do you have an anecdote from any of these events you’d like to share?

I love interacting with young readers and writers at events and in schools. Kids are the best! I love the way they see the world, their honest language, and their willingness to try new things.

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One of the workshops I offer schools is about poetry, and the idea that to write a poem (or most anything), you need to play with words. And at the end of the session, I always wrap up the same way I began—by asking them to finish the sentence “Poetry is (blank).” It is fun and illuminating to see how their answers differ from the beginning. One of my favorite moments was when a first grader simply said, ‘You were right. Poetry IS fun.” He looked both surprised and excited by that thought. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.

What do you like best about being a children’s author?

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Reading aloud to kids! That was always my favorite part of the day when teaching. And now I get to do that all the time as an author—this time with words I wrote myself. It’s WILD!!

What’s up next for you?

I am thrilled to be launching the first of two books in an early reader series with Penguin Young Readers in February 2023. Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers is about two sweet boys who love to catch bugs.

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Each book features backyard adventures and lots of cool bugs—including a bit of backmatter for bug-loving readers. Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn did a fabulous job illustrating, and I can’t wait for newly budding readers to hold these books in their hands and to feel confident (and happy) while reading them. Kirkus recently gave it a great review, saying “Bugs, friendship, and fun—what more could burgeoning readers want?” Hooray!

I also have a second picture book just under contract. Stay tuned…

Thanks, Megan, for this amazing chat! It’s easy to see how much you love kids and books—and connecting kids to books! Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Nights certainly has that magical touch! I’m sure readers can’t wait to discover Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers as well! I know I can’t! I wish you all the best with Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night!

Picture Book Month Review

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Winter Lights Coloring Pages

 

Celebrate the lights of winter with these printable coloring pages!

Christmas Candle | Diwali Diya Lamp | Hanukkah Menorah | Kwanzaa Kinara

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You can order signed or personalized copies of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night at

Word on the Street Children’s Books and Gifts

You can find Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 24 – Celebrating Family Fun Month with Tara Knudson

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Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. Christmas Cookie Day, Easter Egg Day, and Valentine’s Day Treats are all part of Tara’s collected works celebrating a childlike approach to beloved holiday celebrations.

You can connect with Tara Knudson on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, Tara! I’m happy to be celebrating Family Fun Month with you since your books always invite kids and their families to enjoy the seasons together at home, with friends, and on special outings. You always include some kind of hands-on element to your books – either recipes, tips, or touch-and-feel pages – to get kids and adults spending extra time together. It makes me wonder if your previous job or jobs have influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write?

One of my favorite books when I was a child was Richard Scarry’s BEST WORD BOOK EVER. I remember sitting in a big chair and reading as many words as I could. I loved to learn and play school when I was younger, so it’s no surprise that later I became a teacher. I was a teacher for many years before becoming an author. I taught Spanish to K-12 students and math to elementary students in Chicago. I also taught English to middle school students in Barcelona, Spain where I lived as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar for a year.

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Given my experience in education, I think my books will always have some teachable moments in them. From making Christmas cookies, to dyeing Easter eggs, or creating a heart-shaped cake from a round cake and a square cake, I like to incorporate fun lessons in my books that early childhood teachers can incorporate into their classroom lessons. 

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In my board books for the youngest readers, little ones can experience the unique sights and sounds of a fall day or a lively parade and learn new words along the way!

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I am excited to be able to do in-person author events once again as schools safely welcome back students and teachers again. What a joy it is to teach with my own books! 

Your experiences in the classroom have certainly inspired wonderful books for little ones! Congratulations on your upcoming book Parade Day Fun, which is releasing from Zonderkidz in March 2022! I’m sure little ones will be lining up to bring the excitement of a parade home!

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Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

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

Holiday Books

Kids enjoy getting ready for the holidays with these sweet books by Tara Knudson and Pauline Siewert.

You can find printable coloring pages for each book on Tara’s website.

To connect with Pauline Siewert, visit her on Instagram.

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Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” 

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

You can find Christmas Cookie Day! at these booksellers

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

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Tara Knudson captures the enthusiasm little ones have for expressing their love in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. Of course, Valentines are to share, and readers will be eager to see who gets the little raccoon’s special treats.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

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

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Easter Egg Day

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Little ones love the magic of dyeing Easter eggs, and Tara Knudson’s bright, bouncy rhymes perfectly convey the giggly excitement kids feel during this once-a-year tradition. Readers will eagerly anticipate each step and page turn along the way as the bunnies turn their carton of white eggs into a basket full of creative, colorful treasures. Of course, Easter eggs are made for hiding and finding, and Knudson invites kids to join the bunnies and little moles and mice as they scamper through the yard on this most joyful of all hunts.

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Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With sunny yellows, tender-grass greens, and vibrant oranges, purples, and reds, Pauline Siewert drops kids as gently as an egg into dye into spring and the enchantment of Easter egg fun. White eggs marked with creative crayon designs will give readers a few ideas for their own eggs while the sweet smiles and enthusiasm of the bunny siblings and their parents mirror their own feelings. As the bunnies and their friends dash off to find the eggs, little ones will be just as excited for their own Easter egg traditions.

Adorable and endearing, Easter Egg Day will be a favorite spring read for adults and kids to share before Easter and to remember family fun.

Ages 2 – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310767527

You can find Easter Egg Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was conceived by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas as a day to prompt people to perform deliberate acts of encouragement to cheer and inspire others. On September 12, 2007 Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed a proclamation for a “State Day of Encouragement.” President George W. Bush later established September 12 a National Day of Encouragement. To celebrate, 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.

Hanukkah Hamster

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

The city was decorated with twinkling lights for the holidays, and busy shoppers bustled in and out of stores, delivered there by Edgar and his cab. After one shift, Edgar was so tired he took a nap in the back seat. He was awakened when “Ohhhf! Something scrambled onto his chest. Ayyee! Something hairy brushed his face.” Edgar opened one eye to see… a hamster! He picked it up and gazed at its tiny eyes and ears and feet.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Edgar wondered which of his many customers may have lost the little hamster as he called in to the cab company’s lost and found department. Edgar took the little hamster home and shredded some paper to make him a bed. Then he went to his menorah, said the Hanukkah blessing, and lit two candles. All the next day as he drove people in his cab, Edgar wondered if someone had claimed the hamster, but no one did.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That night after lighting three candles, Edgar made a chopped salad dinner for himself and a tiny one for the hamster. As he watched the little animal nibble on a chickpea, Edgar asked, “‘Okay if I call you Chickpea?’” No one had claimed Chickpea the next day either, so Edgar went to the pet store and bought hamster food. At home, he lit four candles and gave Chickpea some food. As Chickpea ate, “Edgar took pictures on his phone and shared them with his family in Israel.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On the fifth night of Hanukkah, Edgar made Chickpea “a slide out of a cardboard tube. Chickpea whooshed down. Wheeee! His nose twitched.” As the week of Hanukkah went on, Edgar was fearful that someone might call about their missing hamster. He spent the evenings telling Chickpea about Tel Aviv until the little one fell asleep.

The next day, Edgar took a customer to a neighborhood on the edge of town. There he saw a woman who looked familiar. With her was her son. “Edgar felt a punch in his heart.” But he rolled down the window and asked the boy if he’d lost a hamster. The woman answered that she had bought the hamster for her classroom and thought he had escaped at home. “Edgar showed them pictures on his phone” of Chickpea eating salad, sliding through the tube and drifting off to sleep.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the woman saw Edgar’s menorah in one of the pictures, Edgar told them how he and Chickpea were celebrating Hanukkah together since the rest of his family lived in Israel. When Edgar began to tell them that he could return the hamster tomorrow morning, “the boy touched his mother’s arm, and the two of them exchanged glances.” The woman told Edgar that she thought Chickpea belonged with him. Then she wished him a wonderful holiday. That night, “Edgar said the blessing and lit all the candles on the menorah.” Then, while he enjoyed a doughnut, Chickpea ran and ran on his new wheel.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Immersed in the special yearning for family and togetherness the holidays bring, Michelle Markel’s touching story glows with kindness and empathy. The growing friendship between Edgar and Chickpea will tug at readers’ hearts just as it does for Edgar, who so hopes to keep the little hamster but also knows there may be someone in the city missing him. As the days pass, and Edgar, alone for Hanukkah, shares his traditions with the hamster, readers also become participants in the holiday. Children will be riveted to the increasing suspense, and the pitch-perfect solution is joyful and satisfying. Realistic dialogue and honestly portrayed emotions provides depth to this moving story.

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From the tiny white lights lining main street to the first glimpse of the little hamster to Edgar’s cozy apartment with his menorah in the window, André Ceolin’s richly colored illustrations invite readers into Edgar’s life with his new friend, Chickpea. Chickpea is adorable as it nibbles on salad, poses for pictures, and curls up in its shredded paper bed. Images of Edgar lighting the menorah are luminous, and the Edgar and Chickpea’s smiles will spark happiness in readers’ hearts.

The portrayals of friendship, generosity, empathy, and family make Hanukkah Hamster a poignant story for all children to share not only at the holidays but all year around. The book would make a wonderful gift and much loved addition to home and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363995

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about André Ceolin, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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 Hanukkah Hamster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 6 – National Read a Book Day

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About the Holiday

It doesn’t get much better—or easier—than today’s holiday! Just like it says, National Read a Book Day celebrates the best way to spend our spare time—reading! If there’s a book you’ve been hankering to read, find a quiet spot during lunch or break time, turn off the TV this evening, and turn in early 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! Reading together is one of the best ways to have fun and make memories!

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

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

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

National Read a Book Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

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You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 2 – Motivation and Inspiration Day & Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-cover

About the Holiday

The beginning of a new year is often filled with optimism and excitement. We feel motivated and inspired to try new things, make positive changes, and accomplish goals—not only for ourselves but for the world around us. Finding new and diverse books is a fantastic way to get started.

To honor today’s holiday, I’m posting a review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an annual event that takes place every January and, this year, culminates on January 27 with a huge online celebration. Throughout the month bloggers, reviewers, and individuals post reviews of children’s books that offer multicultural themes, characters, and stories that inspire young readers and introduce them to peers, situations, and ideas around the world. To learn more about Multicultural Children’s Day and follow the fun, visit their website and see the information below.

Gokul Village and the Magic Fountain

Written by Jeni Chapman and Bal Das | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

In a faraway land with fresh air and blue skies, Gokul Village was built around “a very special fountain.” The fountain had always provided the people of Gokul Village with “water to drink, wash clothes, and to splash friends.” But now the fountain had fallen into disrepair. The six orbs that circled the pool were dirty and broken, and the pipes were clogged so water could not flow anymore. “The fountain was lonely, except when six friends visited it.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

The friends met at the fountain on the way to school and gathered there in the afternoons. Zoya was an artist and loved to paint pictures of “how beautiful the fountain could be.” Christopher loved to build and had “plans to fix the fountain one day.” Riya was inspired by the music of the dripping water when she played her flute, and Dalai rode his bike faster and faster as he circled the fountain. Jacob would bring his own homemade treats, and Noelle experimented with the drone iDEA that she had designed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-children

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

When the friends played together they imagined that the fountain connected to all the world’s waterways and could take them on adventures. They joined hands and skipped around the fountain singing, “‘Waters of the world, connect us this day. Waters of the world, take us away.’” New Year’s Day was approaching, and the children were looking forward to the big village party. Soon, they would be helping to decorate the square. But one day, Dalai brought bad news. The mayor had canceled the party because the fountain—the centerpiece of the celebration—could not be fixed in time.

The friends were disappointed, but then Christopher had an idea. If they all worked together, he thought, they could fix the fountain in time. They were all in! Riya gave each person a job to do. Noelle was to research the history of the fountain. She and Zoya were to find new orbs to replace the old ones. Christopher was going to fix the pipes. Dalai could restore the broken decorative stonework, and Jacob would keep them all working hard with his snacks.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

The next step was to convince the mayor that they could do it. Dalai, who loved talking with people, met with the mayor and got her approval. “If they could clean up the fountain, the celebration wouldn’t be canceled.” The kids went to work and in two days, the fountain was beautiful and the water flowed again. When the mayor came to look, she declared the New Year’s festival was “back on.”

Suddenly, “the fountain glowed with extra shimmer,” and the water glistened. The orbs shone and granted each child “an extraordinary gift. Notes from Riya’s flute transformed into singing birds.” Zoya could paint pictures in the air. “The beads of Dalai’s bracelet glowed with light.” Jacob’s backpack suddenly filled with all types of cooking ingredients and utensils. Christopher’s tools grew, and iDEA gained the ability to speak.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-song

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

iDEA told Noelle to look in the heart of the fountain for its hidden words. There, the kids found an invitation: “The world is big, are you bold? / With my help you’ll soon know. / Say the words. Watch me glow / 1, 2, 3…and off you go!” Then each orb shone with a different color. The children each placed a hand on an orb and sang their song. All at once, they found themselves floating to places they’d always wanted to see. They “saw the jostling, jolly New York City crowd” and watched the ball drop in Times Square to celebrate “the arrival of the New Year.” They joined the Chinese New Year parade and “watched millions of people clap and sway together, hoping for happiness and good fortune for all.” Then they found themselves in the midst of the “dazzling glow of the Diwali festival in India, signifying the power of light over darkness.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-back-from-travels

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

Just as quickly as they had left, the children were back at the fountain. To commemorate their magical adventure, the children decided to name the fountain “‘Friendship Fountain.’” But they had no time to waste! They made decorations inspired by all the celebrations they had seen and hung them in the town square. The next day, Gokul Village’s New Year’s celebration was the best ever.

The six friends were eager to have another adventure. Since Dalai had set the adventure in motion the first time, he whispered, “‘Friendship Fountain awake, Friendship Fountain activate.’” With that, Dalai’s bracelet glowed. Each child touched one of the fountain’s orbs and sang their song. As their voices soared into the sky, they felt themselves being lifted up too. “Where in the world would they go this time?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-bracelet-glowing

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

There is much to entice young readers in Jeni Chapman and Bal Das’s enriching story of six friends who have their sights set on their connections to each other and the world and the positive things they can accomplish. As the diverse group of children is introduced along with their unique talent, readers will recognize their various personalities and be eager to learn more about them. The children’s enthusiasm is infectious as they team up to fix the fountain and are rewarded with magical gifts and a special power to travel the world. Organically incorporating ideas of inclusiveness, cooperation, compromise, volunteering, and teamwork through realistic dialogue, this story is upbeat and affirmative and one that readers will respond to.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-all-kids

Copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, courtesy of gokulworld.com.

Upon opening the book to the first page, children are welcomed into the heart of Gokul Village where homes, each representing a different style of world architecture, circle the fountain. The effect is immediately inviting while introducing the story’s theme of unity. Each of Charlene Chua’s vibrant illustrations is infused with a joyful harmony as the children of diverse ethnicities pursue their individual talents while embracing each other as friends.

For today’s children, the Friendship Fountain—decorated with symbols of love, direction, and world religions—is a fitting metaphor for the global community, and the friends are excellent role models. The children of Gokul have inherited a monument that they love, that can provide for their needs, and that gives them a place to come together. The children want to improve it for all the townspeople, and without hesitation, they go about fixing it. Images of the festivals the children visit are full of light and cheer, and the decorated square shows that there is room for all traditions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gokul-village-and-the -magic-fountain-orbs

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2017, text copyright Jeni Chapman and Bal Das, 2017. Courtesy of gokulworld.com.

Gokul Village and the Magic Fountain is the first in a planned series of books and other entertainment, including digital shorts, an animated series, and interactive games that prepare “children ages 4 -7 for success by fostering exploration, understanding and celebration of cultural diversity.” The book would be a welcome and relatable addition to home and classroom libraries to foster discussions, learning, and creative projects.

Ages 4 – 7

Big, Bold, Beautiful World Media, 2017 | ISBN 978-0692917381

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Charlene Chua on her website.

You can find Gokul Village and the Magic Fountain at:

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

Motivation and Inspiration Day Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friendship-bracelet-craft

World Friendship Bracelet

 

Like Dalai in the story, you can make and wear a special bracelet with colorful beads that represent your friends, your dreams, or various places in the world that you would like to visit.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in six colors. For the center beads, get one of each color in a medium size. For the rest of the bracelet, get beads in a smaller size. (Dalai’s bracelet has red, purple, blue, yellow, green, and orange beads.)
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Measure your wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie on the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  2. Thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  3. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  4. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  5. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in a color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  6. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  7. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  8. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-world-of-friends-word-search-puzzle

A World of Friends Word Search Puzzle

 

There are friends all over the world waiting to meet you! Learn the word for “Friend” in twenty-one languages and find them all in this printable A World of Friends Word Search Puzzle!

A World of Friends Word Search Puzzle | Word Search Puzzle Solution

celebrate-picture-books-multicultural-children's-book-day-logo-2018

About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12 5-book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

 

Social Media

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Be sure and look for and use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Picture Book Review

October 29 – Hug a Sheep Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-six-creepy-sheep-cover

About the Holiday

Founded in 1992 by a woman who rescued a sheep from wooly circumstances, Hug a Sheep Day gives us time to appreciate the warmth and comfort these animals provide through their soft fleece. As winter approaches in many parts of the world, many of us would be lost and cold without our favorite wool sweaters. If you want to take full advantage of today’s celebration, find a farm or petting zoo where you can give a sheep or lamb a hug.

Six Creepy Sheep

Written by Judith Ross Enderle and Stephanie Jacob Gordon | Illustrated by John O’Brien

 

Six sheep just hanging out on Halloween night decided to go trick-or-treating. This spur-of-the-moment idea doesn’t leave them much time for elaborate costumes, so they cut holes in sheets and toss them over their heads. Then with pumpkin buckets in hoof and “on little sheep feet,” the “six creepy sheep went a-haunting UNTIL…they passed a passel of pirates, and one creepy sheep turned tail with a shriek.”

Five creepy sheep continue their haunting UNTIL…a flock of fairies crosses their path, sending one sheep running with a shriek. Down to four, the creepy sheep bravely head down the path again UNTIL…a herd of hobos happen by, “and one creepy sheep turned tail with a shriek.” Three bold sheep “on little sheep feet” tip toe through the forest UNTIL… “they glimpsed a gaggle of goblins” that sends one shrieking on its way.

Now two creepy sheep, more courageous than the others, hurry on as spooky trees wave and the wind howls UNTIL… “they whisked by a warren of witches” which is just too much for one of the sheep and it…well, you know! Under the bright full moon the last creepy sheep has come to the old barn that was the group’s final destination. Jack-o’-lanterns light the doorway, and the windows glow. The fearless ghostly sheep calls out, “Sheep trick or treat.”  Then the farmer swings open the door to a barnyard Halloween party with music, pumpkin pie, apple cider…and all the sheep’s friends!

When the holiday is “Hug a Sheep Day” to celebrate those sweet, gentle animals that say Baaaa instead of Booo, but the specter of Halloween is everywhere, what’s a reviewer to do? The classic Six Creepy Sheep is the perfect solution! Judith Ross Enderle and Stephanie Jacob Gordon created a concept book that will keep little readers on their little feet as they count down the flock of sheep that go “a-haunting” on Halloween night. Alliterative verses introduce the other trick-or-treaters who so frighten the sheep that their numbers dwindle with each page. The repetitive phrasing makes Six Creepy Sheep a fun read-along, and the inclusive ending will charm kids.

John O’Brien’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are just spooky enough to create a slightly shivery story time for young readers. Kids will giggle at the orange-fleeced sheep wearing ghost costumes and walking on two legs. The site of the sheep fleeing in fright will also delight little ones as they pluck up their courage and proudly know that they would never be afraid of the pirates, fairies, hobos, goblins, and witches the sheep encounter. The forest, rendered in muted shades of purple, green, blue, and orange, is populated with trees that appear eerily alive and add to the Halloween atmosphere.

More readily available at libraries and with used booksellers, Six Creepy Sheep is a cute addition to your Halloween reading list.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic, 1992 | ISBN 978-0590119481

To learn more about John O’Brien and his artwork for children’s books, The New Yorker, and other publications, visit his website!

Hug a Sheep Day Activity

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Sheep on a Farm Coloring Page

 

With their fluffy wool and sweet Baaaa, sheep are a favorite of kids and adults.Enjoy this printable Sheep on a Farm Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

March 27 – Easter

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

On this day we celebrate renewal—both personal and seasonal. Spring is officially here and new life is beginning. All around trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and baby animals and birds are being born and learning to make their way in the world. As the sun rises on warmer days, be inspired to discover new happiness.

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes | Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

 

This beautiful tribute to spring is as surprising as new buds pushing through the earth or tiny hatching eggs. Using repeated phrasing, lyrically expressed facts, and poetic rhythms, When Spring Comes echoes the anticipation that sunnier days bring after a long winter. The book opens with a simple, evocative sentence: “Before Spring comes the trees look like black sticks against the sky.” Children will immediately agree—they see trees in this way out their windows and draw them like this in art class.

The following sentence is equally as true: “But if you wait Spring will bring leaves and blossoms.” The book’s contrasting lines that explore conditions “before Spring comes” and “If you wait” gradually reveal more and more of springtime’s wonder, like the melting snows that usher in rainy days: “Spring comes with sun and it comes with rain and more rain and more rain. Do you like mud? Do you like puddles? I hope you like umbrellas.”

As Spring wakes more fully, it takes on a personality of its own: “Spring will call out the pussy willows and new kittens too. Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot. But when Spring is finally here to stay, you will know it…There will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles.”  And there is much more to discover about this season of rebirth as well as the future within these pages.

When Spring visits it brings many wonderful smells, sounds, activities, and creatures, all of which are gorgeously depicted in Laura Dronzek’s radiant illustrations. The early gardens, blooming cherry trees, frolicking kittens, and profusions of flowers are as bright and welcome as the springtime sun. As the sweet-faced boy and girl in the book play, they are surrounded by birds, bunnies, dogs and kittens, and even ponder a little worm poking its head from the garden. Brilliant blues, pinks, greens meld with lush browns to create a joyful celebration of the newness of the season.

When Spring Comes is not only a book about a particular season or even for a particular age. It is a wonderfully gentile and uplifting way to introduce or discuss the idea of waiting for good things to happen. Everyone, even the smallest child, has “winter days” when life doesn’t look so bright. But if you wait, spring comes with new life and surprises.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062331397

Easter Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

These paper flowers will brighten any room and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet for yourself or share them with a special friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue