April 12 – D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read) Day

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About the Holiday

National D.E.A.R. Day is celebrated every year on April 12th in commemoration of Beverly Cleary’s birthday. D.E.A.R. stands for Drop Everything And Read and encourages families to set aside at least thirty minutes to enjoy reading together. Beverly Cleary, who recently passed away at the age of 104, gave the world such unforgettable characters as Ramona and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, and the motorcycle-riding mouse, Ralph S. Mouse. You can learn more about D.E.A.R. Day and find resources and tips for reading with children on the Reading Rockets website.

Thanks to Lerner Books for sending me a copy of Pirates vs. Monsters for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Pirates vs. Monsters

Written by David Crosby | Illustrated by Lee Cosgrove

 

“Three pirates met up at the old Parrot’s Head, / to brag about monsters they’d each left for dead.” Over a few mugs of frothy grog, while the fog rolled in over the pier, Hector took the stage first. His gold teeth glinted in the light as regaled the others with his tale of besting the Hockler, who could “spit globs of poison straight into your eye.” While the pirates were enjoying deep belly laughs over Hector’s adventure, an eerie ship pulled into port.

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Image copyright Lee Cosgrove, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts/Lerner.

Next up was Pirate Sue. She climbed atop a barrel and told a hair-curling story of defeating the Crunk, “‘…a two-headed beast” who’s heads took turns feasting and sleeping. The three pirates were laughing so hard that they didn’t see three shrouded shapes leave the spooky ship. Finally, it was George’s turn to tell his story. Holding his peg leg aloft, he began. “‘The Muncher,’ he snarled, / ‘bites pirates on sight. / He ate my left leg but did / not get my right.” To beat him, George tricked the Muncher into swallowing an anchor festooned with sharp points all around by dressing it up like a pirate scarecrow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirates-vs-monsters-fog

Image copyright Lee Cosgrove, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts/Lerner.

The pirates were rolling on the floor in hysterics when a “BANG!” shook the door. The piano player screamed as in burst the Hockler, the Crunk, and the Muncher. The three pirates ran for their lives from the Parrot’s Head. Hector dove off the pier, Sue took off down the pier, and George leaped through the window.

With grog in their claws, “three monsters met up at the old Parrot’s Head, / to brag about pirates they’d faced and had fled.” But who told the truth and who was a liar while telling brave tales in the glow of the fire?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirates-vs-monsters-hockler

Image copyright Lee Cosgrove, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts/Lerner.

David Crosby’s story of three pirates and three monsters who love bragging about their exploits will have kids guffawing along with Hector, Sue, and George as they crack each other up with their tales of daring do. Crosby’s madcap rhymes are a joy to read aloud, especially using dramatic inflection to wring out all the arg-mosphere and suspense of this surprising story.

Lee Cosgrove’s cozy Parrot’s Head, with its crackling fire; wooden barrel tables; swords, swordfish, and skeleton décor; and scruffy piano player is the perfect pier-side hangout for a jovial tankard of grog. Even the dog wears an eyepatch. Images of the pirates and monsters will have kids giggling, and close examinations of the pages reveal plenty of humorous details like the island map on the wall of the Parrot’s Head that looks suspiciously like the “globs of poison” the Hockler spits, the curly hair sprouting from the skull on Sue’s hat that mirrors her own, and George’s heart-print underwear.

A treasure for kids who love pirates, monsters, and a funny story with an unexpected ending, Pirates vs. Monsters makes a fun go-to book for boisterous story times at home, in the classroom, and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts Publishing/Lerner, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867086

You can connect with David Crosby on Twitter.

To learn more about Lee Cosgrove, his books, and his art, visit his website.

D.E.A.R Day Activity

CPB - Bookworm Book (2)

Bookworm Bookmark

 

For all you bookworms out there who love to read, here’s your very own Bookworm Bookmark to color and put between the pages of your favorite story!

Supplies

  • Bookworm Bookmark template
  • Heavy stock paper (optional)
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print out the Bookworm Bookmark template
  2. Color the bookworm
  3. Cut out the Bookworm
  4. Cut the Bookworm’s mouth at the dotted line. The top part of the bookworm’s mouth hangs over the page and marks your place!

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You can find Pirates vs. Monsters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 9 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Hosting Read across America Day, March is the perfect month to celebrate reading! Reading is one of life’s great joys! Reading with children every day is one of the best ways to develop language and literacy skills that promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. You can get kids enthusiastic about reading by setting up a bookcase specially for them and letting them choose the books they want to read. To celebrate this month, why not go on a book hunt and bring home some new books to enjoy together?

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go with there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard, came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly, ever since.”

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-george-in-kitchen

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

A boy wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

Picture Book Review

 

April 30 – National Honesty Day

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About the Holiday

National Honesty Day encourages honesty and straightforward communication in politics, relationships, consumer relations and historical education. Some may find it interesting, appropriate, or (fill in your own adjective) that the holiday was established in 1990 by former press secretary of Maryland M. Hirsh Goldberg while writing a book about the frauds, scams, schemes and other such nonsense that have “changed the course of history and affect our daily lives.” To honor the day, it is suggested that people ask the hard questions—and also offer what can sometimes be the hard truth. Only then can we clear the air and build better relationships. As the wolf in today’s book discovers, honesty really is the best policy.

Tell the Truth, B. B. Wolf

Written by Judy Sierra | Illustrated by J. Otto Seibold

 

The Villain Villa Senior Center is getting a makeover. The Big Bad Wolf and his equally evil friends are doing the repairs. Suddenly, the air hums with the tune “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.” “‘Quiet!’” the wolf shouts, “‘I have to answer my phone.’” It turns out that Miss Wonderly at the library wants B. B. to come in and tell the story of how he met the Three Little Pigs. He’s excited to take part, but one thing worries him: He wasn’t a hero in the story.

Rumpelstiltskin tells B. B. Wolf to spin the story; the crocodile advises a happy ending. B. B. Wolf changes into his best clothing and, vowing to try these suggestions, hurries over to the library. Ensconced in a cozy chair, B. B. begins with a song: “Hard luck always follows me, and Trouble is my middle name.” But this ploy doesn’t fly with one little attendee (a pig with the number 1 on his hat) who reminds B. B. that his middle name is B-A-D.

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Image copyright J. Otto Seibold, text copyright Judy Sierra. Courtesy of penguinrandomhouse.com

Undeterred, B. B. Wolf launches into his story after amending his song to include that he is always blamed for any crime that occurs. It seems that one day B. B. Wolf was out innocently picking dandelions. While blowing on the puff to make a wish, he inadvertently blew down the straw house of a little piggie. The poor wolf was on the run as the piggie chased him. This version of events brings an oinkburst from the back of the room: “‘Tell the truth, B. B. Wolf!’”

As he ran, B. B. Wolf continues, he suddenly smelled smoke and dashed over to help. He found a little piggie playing with matches next to a pile of sticks that were on fire! He only blew on the sticks to put out the fire. From his place on a shelf Pinocchio thinks he sees the wolf’s snout growing bigger. Charged by this second piggie, B. B. Wolf says, he kept running until he collapsed at the door of a little brick house. Tired and thirsty the wolf begged to be let in. But the mean porker merely said, “‘Climb up on the roof and slide down my chinny-chin-chimney.’”

That ridiculous fib causes an uproar in the children’s section. “‘No one is falling for your story,’ cracked Humpty Dumpty.” And the Gingerbread Boy added, “‘It’s a cooked-up, half-baked tale.’” “Tell the truth, B. B. Wolf,” orders Pig 3. Deflated, B. B. Wolf lets out “a dismal huff and a small, sad puff.” He admits that he hasn’t told the truth because the truth is so embarrassing. But “‘what’s important is that I’ve changed. Really I have,’” he says. The three pigs demand that he apologize, and B. B. stutters over the words. Try as he might, B. B. cannot say it. But he can sing it!

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Image copyright J. Otto Seibold, text copyright Judy Sierra. Courtesy of penguinrandomhouse.com

Down on his knees, he sings a heartfelt and perfectly rhyming apology. The Three Little Pigs take pity on their former enemy and give him a second chance. “‘But your middle name is still Bad,’” the third pig reminds him. Taking advantage of where he is, B. B. grabs a dictionary from the shelf and flips through the B words. He finds many to his liking, and before he leaves the library with an armful of books, he’s changed his name and even added two Bs! “‘From this day forward, I am the one and only Big Bodacious Benevolent Bookish Wolf,’” B. B. B. B. Wolf announces on his way out the door.

The wolf was even better than his word. Once home he straightaway began designing a big, beautiful house for his new friends, and when it came time to build it, all the villains helped. The Three Little Pigs were so thrilled with their “piggyback mansion” that they composed a song to thank B. B. B. B. Wolf: “The wolf was mean and vicious. / He thought piggies were delicious. / Then he lied and told a story / that was wrong and he was sorry. / Now he’s changed. He’s not pretending. / That’s a very happy ending!”

Judy Sierra writes a hilarious and enchanting story of personal reinvention which reveals that while people may not be able to escape their past, they can make up for it. Through fast-paced, clever dialogue and characters with a compelling stake in the action, Sierra’s howler of a story will have kids wondering what excuse the wolf will devise next. The circular plot line ties up the beginning and ending neatly and is a satisfying resolution to this favorite fairy tale in fractured form.

J. Otto Seibold has drawn the Big Bad Wolf as he has never been seen before. Sporting a kitschy plaid suit and green top hat, B. B. Wolf grows more and more disheveled as his falsehoods fall flat. The wolf’s tall tales are vividly illustrated to comic effect, bridging the wolf’s attempt to refurbish his reputation and the absurdity of his invention. Kids will love to point out the many storybook characters that populate the pages and will giggle throughout at the wolf’s misadventures.

Ages 3 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010 | ISBN 978-0375856204

Learn more about Judy Sierra and her books and meet a very literary pup on her website!

National Honesty Day Activity

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Dot-to-Dot Coloring Pages

 

After the Big Bad Wolf admitted the truth, he and the Three Little Pigs made up! Here are two printable dot-to-dot coloring pages that bring them together for fun!

Picture Book Review