December 21 – National Humbug Day

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About the Holiday

Christmas Day is getting close! Are you ready—tree decorated, all gifts bought and wrapped, cookies baked? Or are you feeling a little stressed? Today’s holiday was created to give you a chance to let off a little steam and say “Bah, humbug” if you feel like it. So, it’s okay to let out your inner Scrooge today before you get back into the holiday spirit!

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.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

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!

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

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 Humbug Day Activity

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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

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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

December 18 – Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month

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About the Holiday

With all the special baking, cooking, and dining that takes place this month, it’s a good time to celebrate some staples of our diets as well as some unusual ingredients. Root vegetables, such as potatoes, onions, yams or sweet potatoes, celery root, turnips, and parsnips make meals homey and delicious, while exotic fruits, such as persimmon, dragonfruit, sapodilla, durian, and jackfruit, make for special and festive sides and desserts. This month try some new recipes that highlight two nutritious ingredients.

Potato Pants!

By Laurie Keller

 

Potato is so excited that Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store is selling potato pants that he’s doing a little dance—the robot, which he calls the “po-bot,” of course! He dances all the way to the store where potatoes are pouring in from all over and even delivered by Spud Bus, Tater Taxi, and Tuber Uber. They’re all rushing to Lance Vance’s because the sale is “Today Only” and “once they’re gone, they’re gone.” Potato knows just want he wants “…a stripey pair just like the ones in the window with stripey suspenders for added stripey-ness.”

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But then, through the window, Potato spies an eggplant—and not just any eggplant. It’s the same eggplant who, in his hurry to Lance Vance’s for the eggplant pants sale yesterday, ran into Potato and knocked him into a trash can. Now, Potato worries, “If he sees me in Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store, he’ll push me again—and ruin my brand-new potato pants!” All Potato can do is watch from outside as all the other potatoes find just the pants for them.

He finally thinks to call the grocery store. Since they have potatoes, they just might carry potato pants too, he reasons—and he could avoid that eggplant altogether. But the grocery store doesn’t have potato pants, spud slacks tater trousers, or even yam chaps, so Potato has to think of another way to get his pants while avoiding the eggplant. And time is running out. “There’s only one pair of pants left on the rack.”

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The dire situation emboldens Potato. He barrels toward the store and bursts through the door knocking Eggplant aside and ripping his new eggplant pants. Potato is too late anyway; the last pair of potato pants has just been sold. Potato is steamed and he lets loose with a tirade about how “that eggplant ruined everything” and how “he has brand-new perfect eggplant pants” while Potato has nothing and how unfair it all is.

Just then another spud points out that Eggplant’s pants aren’t perfect anymore since Potato tore them. Now Potato is scared as Eggplant gets right in his face and tells him that the only reason he was at Lance Vance’s in the first place was to…turn Potato into mashed potatoes? the spud wonders…apologize for pushing him. Eggplant is hoping that Potato will forgive him.

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Potato agonizes over this dilemma and finally decides to…forgive him and offer his own apology for tearing Eggplant’s pants. At that, the store clerk appears to tell Eggplant they can fix his pants and that Potato can have the stripey potato pants in the window. Both Eggplant and Potato are so happy they leave the store doing the po-bot and the egg-bot in their perfect new pants.

An Author’s Note introduces kids to the creator of potato pants—Tubérto—and unveils his latest collection of pants for “both the active and the couch potato.”

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A laugh-out-loud, tongue-tickling read aloud, Laurie Keller’s Potato Pants! is silliness at its best with lots of heart to boot. Keller’s clever mix of narration and dialogue draw kids into the mind of Potato as he bounces from the excitement of possibly getting stripey pants to the fear of facing his nemesis to the disappointment of missing the sale to plucking up the courage to forgive and apologize to Eggplant. Speech bubbles bring these dapper spuds to life as they negotiate the racks at Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store (adult readers should be prepared to read that name over and over!).

Keller’s bright, mixed-media (including potato stamps) illustrations are full of action, dynamic perspectives, and a community of potatoes and yams as delightfully bumpy, lumpy, and unique as those seen at any grocery store or farmers market. Kids will love picking out their own favorite potato pants from Tubérto’s fabulous collection, and you can bet they’ll jump up to do the Po-bot dance too.

Fun for all, Potato Pants! will inspire many tuberific story times at home, in the classroom, and at public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250107237

To learn more about Laurie Keller, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month Activity

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Veggie Dot to Dots

 

You can dig up some fun with these three printable root vegetable dot-to-dot coloring pages.

Carrot Dot-to-Dot | Onion Dot-to-Dot | Radish Dot-to-Dot

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You can find Potato Pants! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 17 – It’s National Write a Business Plan Month

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About the Holiday

Do you own a business or have dreams of opening your own shop or service company? An important step toward success is to write a clear business plan, and that’s what this month is all about! Established to help businesses plan efficiently, stay organized, and run smoothly whether they’re big or small, today’s holiday can inspire you to reach for and achieve the work life you’ve always wanted. Even job seekers benefit from writing a business plan of sorts to clarify what they’re looking for in the perfect job.

Duck Gets a Job

By Sonny Ross

 

Duck needed a job. All of his friends talked about their super office jobs in the city and encouraged him to get one too. Duck scoured the want ads in the newspaper. There were lots of jobs in tech, finance, and business. He imagined himself working with spreadsheets like his friends did. The jobs “seemed boring, but he applied anyway. And he got an interview!”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Duck agonized over what he’d wear. He tried on an outfit that made him look cool, one that was very professional, and one that was his natural, casual look. He decided to go with the professional style. Next, Duck thought about how he would get to the office. “Flying would make him tired and sweaty, but public transportation is tricky for ducks.” In the end he walked… and he got lost. Once in the city, he hailed a taxi, and while he rode to the interview “he gave himself a pep talk.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Talking to the interviewer made Duck very nervous, but, still, he was offered a job. Sitting in his little cubicle with “spreadsheets full of facts and figures” in front of him, Duck realized that this job “did not interest him at all.” Duck decided to quit. Duck had always dreamed of being an artist, so he looked at job ads for the Creative Quack Magazine and found one he thought he’d like. “For his interview, he dressed in his natural look and put samples of his best work in a portfolio.”

He prepared for his trip into the city, and when he got to the office he didn’t feel at all nervous. He showed the art director his portfolio feeling confident about his work. The art director loved his work and offered him a job. Now Duck loves his job, and he’s especially glad “that he had decided to follow his dreams.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

The strength of Sonny Ross’s affirming story comes in its straightforward approach to recognizing when an action is not right for you and feeling free to change course. While Duck is looking for the perfect job, the story is appropriate for any activity that children embark on as they find their place in the world. Ross peppers his story with clues that will alert readers to Duck’s true feelings about the two jobs—internal thoughts, clothing styles, and confidence level to name a few—feelings that they too can rely on to guide them in the choices they make.

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Ross’s matte mixed-media illustrations are fresh and stylish in a palette of blues, reds, and golds. Kids experimenting with their own look will appreciate Duck’s dilemma in choosing between cool, professional, and natural clothing styles. They’ll also empathize with his previous attempts at using public transportation and his travails in getting to the first interview on time. When Duck decides that a “spreadsheet job” isn’t for him, the page backgrounds lighten, his road to the interview is smooth, and his happiness is evident. A clever contrasting juxtaposition comes in the depictions of Duck’s two very different interviews. While the businessman sits at his desk peering down on tiny Duck who can barely see over the desk and is nearly swallowed up in his chair, the art director kneels down to Duck’s level to shake his wing in congratulations on getting the job.

Both an entertaining story and a lesson for kids on trusting their gut and staying true to themselves, Duck Gets a Job is a confidence-boosting tale for any home or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763698966

Discover more about Sonny Ross, his books, and his art on his website.

National Write a Business Plan Month Activity

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Dream Job Application

 

Before you can know your customers, you need to know yourself and find your perfect job. Here’s a printable Dream Job Application to get you thinking about what job you’d like to have!

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Duck Gets a Job is available at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 12 – National Ding-a-Ling Day

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About the Holiday

Since 1972, when Franky Hyle founded the Ding-a-Ling Club, people have celebrated Ding-a-Ling Day by calling up loved ones, friends, and others who they’ve lost touch with to say hi and catch up. These days sending an text or email may be more the thing, but there’s still nothing like hearing a familiar voice excited to reconnect. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a few minutes to call that person you think about sometimes and wonder….

The Lonely Phone Booth

Written by Peter Ackerman | Illustrated by Max Dalton

 

Once there was a corner phone booth in New York City that everyone used: “A businessman always running late for meetings…. A construction foreman who needed cement…. A zookeeper who lost his elephant…. A ballerina who wanted to know if she got the part in Swan Lake…. Even a secret agent who needed to change his disguise.” Sometimes a long line of people waiting to use the phone snaked down the sidewalk, and every week, the phone booth was visited by maintenance workers who kept it shiny clean. The phone booth was happy.

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Image copyright Max Dalton, 2010, courtesy of maxdalton.com.

But one day the phone booth noticed the business man walk right past it while talking on a small, shiny object. The same thing happened with others who always paid a visit to the phone booth. Finally, on Friday, the ballerina popped in, but she was only getting out of the rain while she talked on her small, shiny object. “The phone booth was flabbergasted.” When it found out that the shiny object was a cell phone, “the Phone Booth was devastated.” It worried that no one would need it anymore. And it was right.

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Image copyright Max Dalton, 2010, courtesy of maxdalton.com.

Soon, the maintenance workers stopped coming and the Phone Book began to look shabby, with a cracked window, peeling paint, and a dusty interior. “Even the secret agent changed his disguise in the run-down hotel next door.” The Phone Booth saw other phone booths being taken down and driven away from their posts, and it knew that its turn would come soon too.

Then one day a storm knocked out the power and no one’s cell phones worked. People had no way to let friends and family know they were okay. The construction foreman noticed the old phone booth and wondered if it still worked. A girl scout put in her coins and discovered that it did! A long line formed outside the phone booth as everyone waited to make their calls. “The ballerina called to see if she got the part in Swan Lake. She didn’t. But she did get a part in the Nutcracker.” And the zookeeper let the zoo know that he found the elephant and the West African Dik-Dik in a poker game in the city.

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Image copyright Max Dalton, 2010, courtesy of maxdalton.com.

When the electricity was restored, the Phone Booth was hailed as a hero. It was given a new window and cleaned inside and out. The mayor even put up a plaque. Just then, though, city workers came to take the Phone Booth to the dump. The Phone Booth was afraid. But “the people of the neighborhood spoke up.” They wanted the Phone Booth to stay. “‘What if there’s another storm?’ asked the ballerina. ‘It’s been here forever,’ said the girl scout. ‘It’s been here forever,’ said the construction foreman.”

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Image copyright Max Dalton, 2010, courtesy of maxdalton.com.

Just then the phone in the Phone Booth rang. It was the mayor’s grandmother. She told the mayor that the Phone Booth was a national treasure. The mayor told the city workers that the Phone Booth was staying right where it was. The people of the neighborhood cheered, hugged the Phone Booth, danced around it, and had a party.”

And even now, if you go to West End Avenue and 100th Street, you will find the Phone Booth. Step inside and make a call—”and neither you nor the Phone Booth will be lonely anymore.”

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Image copyright Max Dalton, 2010, courtesy of maxdalton.com.

Peter Ackerman’s humorous love letter to the phone booths—and one particular Phone Booth—that once dotted corners, lobbies, shopping areas, and transportation offices in every city may be a revelation to kids, but the personalities who use the phone are familiar and funny, making The Lonely Phone Booth a timeless story. With realistic dialogue and running jokes and appearances by the neighborhood characters, the story flows along like a good connection to its tender ending that gives a nostalgic nod to remembering and embracing history.

In his bright, retro illustrations, Max Dalton infuses the story with the sights, sounds, and flavor of New York. Squared-off four-door sedans, a square-jawed businessman, a rounded construction worker, a triangular clown, and a host of diverse neighborhood personalities harken back to a time when cellphone tech was new. Kids who have never seen a phone booth may well wonder if they’re missing out on a bit of old-fashioned fun.

Ages 4 – 7

David R. Godine, 2010 | ISBN 978-1567924145

To learn more about Max Dalton, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Ding-a-Ling Day Activity

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Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle

 

These kids want to use a telephone. Can you follow the tangled wires to find a phone for each child in this Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle?

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You can find The Lonely Phone Booth at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 9 – National Llama Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the llama, that South American long-necked animal in the camel family that has long served as a pack animal and provides both wool and meat. Because of its personality and high placement on the cuteness scale, the llama has enjoyed a spurt of popularity lately, appearing in artwork, decorating all types of clothing from t-shirts to Toms shoes, splashed across sheets and comforters, and even fashioned into salt and pepper shakers and cookie jars. To celebrate today, visit a zoo, petting zoo, or llama farm and read a llama-inspired book – like today’s!

A Couch for Llama

By Leah Gilbert

 

The Lagos had a couch they loved. They loved it for “…snuggling and reading, card playing, fort building, and hiding and seeking!” But now their beloved couch needed replacing. So the three little Lagos and their parents piled into the car and drove off down the winding road past a farm and fields and a lone llama to find another.

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Copyright Leah Gilbert, 2018, courtesy of leah-gilbert.com.

At the furniture store, they tried a brown couch that was too big, an old-fashioned sofa that was too small, and finally a red couch that was just right. They tied it to the roof of their car and headed back home. But just as they were passing that lone llama again, the ties came undone, and the couch flew off into the field of golden wheat.

Llama was surprised. He gave it a sniff and “brayed ‘Hello!’ to the couch. But the couch didn’t say anything.” Llama tried giving it a few sheaves of wheat, but the couch did not seem hungry. So Llama took a big bite out of the couch instead. He found “it tasted worse than a dry, dusty tumbleweed.” Worse, the couch was very boring. Llama wanted it out of his field, but it wouldn’t move.

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Copyright Leah Gilbert, 2018, courtesy of leah-gilbert.com.

At the same time that the Lagos realized the couch was gone, Llama realized the couch made a very good trampoline. He “bouncey-bouncey-bounced, whirled and twirled, bumped and jumped.” Finally, Llama came to rest on the soft cushions and discovered that he “completely loved the couch.” Llama was taking a nap on the couch when the Lagos found it.

Llama didn’t want to give up the couch, but the Lagos strapped it once more to the roof of their car and drove away with a promise that they’d come back. And they did—with their old “couch just for llama!” Now, the Lagos are happy and Llama is “the happiest of all.”

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Copyright Leah Gilbert, 2018, courtesy of leah-gilbert.com.

Leah Gilbert knows there may be no more beloved piece of furniture than the family sofa, and she’s turned what can be a sad event—the replacement of this almost-family member—into a humorous and joyful story of paying it forward in a most unusual way. Gilbert’s lively illustrations show the playful parents partaking in games and chases with their kids and loyal dog all centered on and around the couch until it’s rumpled and worn.

When the llama first makes his appearance, readers will be just as curious about him as he is about the passing car and later about the red couch that suddenly appears in his field. Llama’s expressions as he tries to interact with this interloper are hilarious, and kids will laugh (and probably do some bouncing of their own) when Llama discovers the thrill of jumping on the couch. The Lago’s solution to their dilemma is endearing and proves that there’s always plenty of life left in any old sofa. Readers will also enjoy following the geese as they fly this way and that and make a funny front-of-the-page appearance.

For silly story times and also for when a change in the house carries a tug at the heart, A Couch for Llama will be a much-asked-for addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454925118

Discover more about Leah Gilbert, her books, and her art on her website.

Come have a seat for this A Couch for Llama book trailer!

National Llama Day Activity

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Lovable Llama Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons or pencils and give the lovable llama in this printable page a colorful personality!

Lovable Llama Coloring Page

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You can find A Couch for Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Gingerbread Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

Originating in the Middle East the art of gingerbread making made its way to Europe in the 10th century. It was quickly embraced for its delicious combination of spices as well as for its soothing medicinal qualities. It was during the 13th century that gingerbread began to be decorated and displayed. The gingerbread man we know today was first introduced in 1875 in a story published in St. Nicholas magazine. To celebrate, mix up a batch of gingerbread cookies and get out the icing and sprinkles!

The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas

Written by Laura Murray | Illustrated by Mike Lowery

 

One wintry morning, the Gingerbread Man heard the teacher calling. It was time to wake up and start a very special day. All the kids listened as the teacher told them, “It’s the season of giving, / and we can give, too! / Our gifts could be things / that we make, say, or do.” Individually, paired up, or in groups, the kids went to work on their gifts. Some made cards, some baked cookies, and one trio practiced singing a holiday song.

The Gingerbread Man wanted to join in too. He thought hard about what he would make and then went to work. As the kids headed out the door of their classroom and into town, the little cookie excitedly said, “I’ll deliver this present / as fast as I can. / With a jolly Ho-Ho from the / Gingerbread Man!” All through town the kids delivered their gifts. A few children sang a song to a police woman, the garbage men got a plate of cookies, and a special card went to the librarian. The kids also visited the dentist, the grocer, and the vet.

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Image copyright Mike Lowery, 2015, text copyright Laura Murray, 2015. Courtesy of lauramurraybooks.com.

When an icy wind blew up and it started to snow, the teacher gathered all the kids and hurried back to school. But the Gingerbread Man hadn’t delivered his gift yet. He yelled for the class to stop, but they didn’t hear him. He decided to deliver it himself and dashed past the barber, the bookseller, the doctor, the florist, and the bank teller giving them all a happy wave on the way. The snowy sidewalks took their toll on the Gingerbread Man, though, and by the time he found the bake shop, his “feet were all mushy and crumbled.”

Inside, the warm, delicious-smelling shop, the Gingerbread Man held up his card. “I’ve come to say thanks / for your sweet recipe. / without it, / my class would’ve / never made me.” The baker was so touched that she gave the Gingerbread Man a kiss and then noticed his feet. She knew just what he needed. She sat him on the side of a bowl and let him dip his feet into the dark chocolate icing. When she took him out, he was wearing boots! He smiled and told the baker, “I’ll run in my boots, / as fast as I can. / Thank you so much, from the / Gingerbread Man!”

He dashed back to school just in time to join the class in presenting a last, surprise gift—a poem they had all written just for their teacher: “You are a gift / that we get every day. / You help us to learn / in our own special way.” They told her she was “funny and kind,” encouraging, and “clever,” and when they were finished with their special thank-you, their teacher gave them all “a warmhearted hug and a very big grin.”

The book also includes a poster of fun activities to extend the fun.

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Image copyright Mike Lowery, 2015, text copyright Laura Murray, 2015. Courtesy of lauramurraybooks.com.

Fans of Laura Murray’s sweet Gingerbread Man series will be delighted with this holiday treat. With jaunty, pitch-perfect rhymes and a message about the joys of giving thanks for and to all the members of a community, Murray’s story resonates long past the holiday season. Murray’s adorable cookie creation will make kids smile with his plucky attitude as he “hobbles” on mushy legs through the slushy streets to deliver his gift and giddy enthusiasm on succeeding in surprising the teacher. The story offers a wonderful opportunity to talk with kids about truly valuable gifts and ways they can show their love for others.

As cute as ever, Mike Lowery’s Gingerbread Man is a pint-sized dynamo spreading happiness and thoughtfulness wherever he dashes. Kids will love following the class as they fan out into town delivering baked treats, songs, and cards to the adults who make their lives better. Smiles and hugs abound, making this one of the merriest Merry Christmas books around. Little ones will love pointing out the tiny Gingerbread Man on the pages, talking about familiar shops and businesses in the town, and giggling over humorous details like the bat hanging from the vet’s examining table.

A thoroughly charming way to celebrate Christmas and sure to spark random acts of giving in young readers, The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas will be a favorite on home bookshelves for years to come.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015 | ISBN 978-0399168666

Discover more about Laura Murray and her books on her website and find lots of Gingerbread Man-related activities too!

To learn more about Mike Lowery, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Gingerbread Decorating Day Activity

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Dashing Home! Maze

 

Help the Gingerbread Man find his way home the fastest way in this printable puzzle!

Dashing Home! Maze | Dashing Home! Maze Solution

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You can find The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 2 – Hanukkah Begins

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The lighting of the menorah is at the heart of the celebration. On the first night, the first of the eight candles is lit using the shamash, or attendant, candle. Each subsequent night another candle is lit until at the end of the eight days all the candles are lit. The menorah is displayed in the window of homes and synagogues. Special blessings, traditional songs, prayers, oil-based foods, fun games, and gifts are part of this much-anticipated holiday. 

Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Andy Rowland

 

While enjoying a breakfast of Gorilla Flakes and bananas, Esther viewed her calendar. Time had crept up on her, and she realized with a shock that Hanukkah was only one day away and she hadn’t bought her friends any presents. She hurried out to the Jungle Store and hit the clothing department. There she found a pair of striped and a pair of argyle socks for her friend Sarah. “Then she spotted a bright red turtleneck. ‘I’ll surprise my friend Zack with this,’ she decided.”

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

In the sports department Esther spied a jogging suit. It was even on sale—“marked down from $13.00 to only $12.99.” Esther quickly put it in her cart for her friend Josephine. She also discovered a make-your-own jungle gym that would be perfect for Hal, and it wouldn’t even take that long to build. “Just 10 minutes…or 10 days at the most!” the directions on the box said. “In the book department, Esther picked up a paperback called 100 Jokes About Elephants.” The jokes were so funny that she bought it for her pal Oscar. Back home, Esther wrapped her gifts.

The next night “Esther placed two candles in her menorah. She lit the shamash candle and said the special blessing. Then she lit the candle for the first night of Hanukkah and said the other two blessings. She remembered the story of the Maccabees and the little jug of oil that lasted eight days.” Soon it was time for her to deliver her presents.

She was happy to stop first at Sarah’s house. Esther was sure she would love the socks she had gotten her. But when the little monkey opened her gift she burst out laughing and said, “‘These socks are big enough for an elephant!’” but added that the gifts were not the most important part of Hanukkah. Sarah’s gift for Esther was Gorilla-Vanilla perfume, which was the perfect thing to make Esther smell nice.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

Next, Esther headed over to Zack’s house. When the zebra unwrapped the red sweater Esther had chosen for him, he frowned. “‘I never, ever wear red clothing,’” he said, citing “‘that terrible riddle.’” When Zack related the riddle, ending with “an embarrassed zebra,” Esther laughed and agreed that red was probably not the best clothing choice. Zebra’s gift to Esther was membership in the Coconut of the Month Club—a perfect, yummy gift. Esther was beginning to feel bad about the gifts she was giving

At Josephine’s house Esther learned that the jogging suit she had picked for her turtle friend missed the mark, while the princess costume Josephine gave her fulfilled her dream of dressing up like a human. A little later when Oscar the Elephant opened the joke book, he gently told Esther that he thought “the book was in very poor taste” and that “there should be a law against elephant jokes.” Poor “Esther wasn’t laughing anymore. In fact she felt more like crying. ‘I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,’ she said.” She felt even worse when she opened Oscar’s thoughtful cookbook 1001 Ways to Serve Bananas.

With one gift left to deliver, Esther was sure there would be something wrong with it too, and when she reached Hal’s house she discovered what that was. “‘Hyenas can’t climb jungle gyms like monkeys can,’” he told her as he handed her two tickets to The Gorilla Theater. As Esther trudged away, she felt miserable, but at home with a cup of tea she had an idea. She sat down and wrote out invitations for all of her friends to join her on the Eighth Night of Hanukkah. “‘Make sure to bring the gift I gave you!’” she added.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

When her friends arrived, they lit the shamash candle, said the blessings, and sat down to a delicious dinner. Afterward, Esther admitted, “‘I know that my gifts to you were a total disaster, but now you can trade!’” She looked at Sarah. “‘The two pairs of socks I bought you would fit an elephant,’ she said. Sarah smiled and handed the socks to Oscar. Hal’s jungle gym turned out to be just right for Sarah. Zack Zebra was thrilled to get Josephine’s jogging suit, and Hal laughed like the hyena he was at 100 Jokes About Elephants. And that red turtleneck was the exact thing for their turtle friend, Josephine.

After her friends left, Esther thought that her gifts had not been so bad. After all, they brought everyone together for a perfect Hanukkah celebration.

Jane Sutton brings humor and meaning to her Hanukkah story that reveals the true nature of the holiday and friendship. With clever gift choices and a sweet plot twist, Sutton’s Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster will have kids giggling and empathizing as Esther’s plans go awry. Her easy-going delivery invites kids along on Esther’s shopping trip and sets up the jokes and final swap in a natural and engaging way. Sutton’s inclusion of Esther’s and her friend’s honest reactions to the gifts encourages discussion of how to choose gifts, how to make up for mistakes, how to graciously accept gifts, and more topics surrounding gift-giving.

Andy Rowland’s purple gorilla Esther is sweetly expressive even as she is a bit oblivious to the needs of her friends and clearly disgruntled when her gifts don’t work out. Kids will love the brightly colored illustrations loaded with details appropriate to Esther’s world, especially the bowls, drawers, and hangers of bananas, banana cookbooks, banana-decorated table cloth and even a banana-shaped teapot in her kitchen. The Jungle Store is a riff on big-box stores with multiple departments where shoppers finding everything from fish for a pelican to a book of Antelope Recipes for a lion to Ele-Wellie boots for an elephant.

Esther’s nighttime neighborhood is likewise beautifully drawn with lush foliage; hanging lanterns; wood, bamboo, and stone homes; and even a waterfall. The window of each friend’s home frames a menorah.

With its humorous take on a common mishap and loveable characters, Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster is a book kids will enjoy no matter what the gift-giving occasion is!

Ages 4 – 7

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761390435

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books as well as book-related activities on her website!

Become wrapped up in this swinging Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster book trailer!

Hanukkah Activity

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Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review