May 20 – National Pick Strawberries Day

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About the Holiday

In warmer climates the strawberries are ready to be picked, ushering in one of the delights of summer. For those who live in cooler regions, the fun of going strawberry picking and the delicious treats to follow are being eagerly looked forward to. Strawberries are grown in all parts of the world except for the most frigid areas and are enjoyed alone or in delectable desserts, salads, and other recipes To celebrate today, pick some strawberries—at a farm, in your own garden, or at the market—and enjoy!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Written by Don and Audrey Wood | Illustrated by Don Wood

 

It’s quite curious what Mouse is doing with that ladder at this time of day. In fact, it might be worth asking. “Hello little Mouse. What are you doing?” Ah! It seems that beyond the hammock and the huge gnarled tree, there’s a strawberry plant. And on that strawberry plant is an enormous strawberry. Mouse seems very pleased with himself that he’s found it and has the ladder set up to pick it.

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Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

But there is some disturbing news. Even though Mouse is half way up the ladder, it might just be good to ask if he’s heard about “the big hungry Bear.” His shocked reaction would say he hasn’t. Maybe it would be good to emphasize just “Ohhh, how that Bear loves red, ripe strawberries.” The Mouse wants to protect his find, but there’s no time to lose. After all that Bear “can smell a red, ripe strawberry a mile away….”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-mouse-the-red-ripe-strawberry-and-the-big-hungry-bear-disguised

Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

Oh! The Mouse already has the strawberry off the stem. Well, this does pose a problem. You see, that only helps the Bear smell it more easily. Run, little Mouse! That Bear will soon be tromping through the forest on his huge feet with his huge appetite and find that strawberry. Burying it won’t help. Putting it under lock and key won’t help. And there’s no disguise the Bear can’t see through.

In fact… “There’s only one way in the whole wide world to save a red, ripe strawberry from a hungry Bear!” That’s right, so…get a knife… and… “cut it in two.” Then “share half with me. And we’ll both eat it all up!” And the Bear? Well, he’ll have to find another red, ripe strawberry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-mouse-the-red-ripe-strawberry-and-the-big-hungry-bear-eating

Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

This classic story by Don and Audrey Wood was a favorite in my house and continues to excite gasps and giggles in kids today. The enticing storyline, teased along through innocent-sounding questions and “helpful” suggestions, leads to a twist ending that begs the question: Was there ever really a bear? Young readers will be thrilled to discover that they, too, get to share in that delicious red, ripe strawberry.

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Don Wood’s pleased-as-punch, surprised, worried, hurried, and ultimately satisfied Mouse is the star of the story and as cute as his readers, although the strawberry, dressed up in a glasses-and-moustache disguise, may get the biggest guffaw. The forest, with its gnarled trees and overhanging vegetation, offers a suspenseful obstacle course for the fleeing Mouse, and the Mouse’s home is a cozy spot for a snack.

A perfect book to jump-start gardening with kids, as a take-along on outings, as a lead-in to snack time, or for any spirited story time at home or in the classroom, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is a perennial charmer.

Ages 2 – 5

Child’s Play, 1984 | ISBN 978-0859530125 (Paperback); 978-0859531825 (Hardcover, 1997); 978-1846434037 (Board book, 1998); 978-1846434051 (English/Spanish edition, 2011)

To learn more about Don and Audrey Wood and their books and find activities, secrets, and more, visit their website.

National Pick Strawberries Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-go-strawberry-picking

Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle

 

It’s strawberry-picking day! Can you match pairs of strawberries before you put them in the basket in this printable Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-mouse-the-red-ripe-strawberry-and-the-big-hungry-bear-cover

You can find The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 14 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Launched in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and managed by Every Child a Reader, Get Caught Reading Month hopes to instill a love of reading in every child and encourages people of all ages to read more. Celebrities, authors, illustrators, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Special materials are available for and programs held in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues all month long. Why not join in by finding a new book to lovelike today’s book?! For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Chip and Curly, The Great Potato Race

Written by Cathy Breisacher | Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz

 

Spud City was about to hold its annual festival, and everyone was excited. Chip was practicing for the sack race. This year “he was determined to win the first-place prize: a Golden Bushel Award.” But a new spud in town—Curly—had a “spring in his step” and seemed to be real competition. Even though the other potatoes cheered him on, Chip was nervous.

On the day of the festival, the race route was lined with spectators. The couch potatoes lounged near the path while “the French Fries stood with their Tater Tots.” Even the sweet potato cheerleaders were waving pompoms and shouting. Just before the race began, Curly took a place next to Chip at the starting line.

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Image copyright Joshua Heinsz, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the whistle blew, Chip took off. He was in the lead until he heard someone behind him. “‘Look out!’ the BBQ Chips shouted. ‘Here comes a hot potato!’” Chip raced on, but then Curly bounced in front of him and even though Chip gave it his all, he couldn’t catch up. A moment later, though, Curly tripped and fell, leaving the path—and the race—wide open for Chip.

Chip hopped past Curly and was in clear sight of the finish line when he realized “he felt rotten.” He glanced back and “hashed it over in his mind.” He decided the only right thing to do was to go back. He offered Curly a hand up, and together they bounded down the route and past the other racers. But Curly was too quick for Chip, and he broke through the tape first. “In an instant, Chip’s dreams of winning were mashed.” 

Chip was just about to leave when Curly asked him to be his partner in the relay race. Curly thought they made a great team. They practiced until they found their groove. Everything was looking good until a new team showed up….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chip-and-curly-practicing

Image copyright Joshua Heinsz, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kids will devour Cathy Breisacher’s pun-filled romp that takes them to Spud City’s annual festival, where Chip and Curly face off to win a Golden Bushel Award in the sack race. While Chip pulls out to an early lead, Curly bounces back and threatens Chip’s years-long dream to win. A misstep by Curly gives Chip the opportunity to achieve his goal, but in his decision, Breisacher shows readers true sportsmanship and integrity. Curly also displays the qualities of a gracious winner, and as the two work together to perfect their relay skills, a friendship sprouts. The final scene offers a funny “oh, no!” moment while also reminding readers that winning can be fleeting, but friendship and staying true to oneself endure.

Joshua Heinsz populates Spud City with a wide array of taters—from tots to waffle fries, sweet potatoes to twice-bakeds, French fries to home fries, and more. Heinsz adds plenty of visual humor to the mix with clever street sign and shop names, and the couch potatoes are, ingeniously, those impossible-to-peel curved ones that lurk in many a 5-pound bag. Kids will love picking out their favorite kind of potato, and the expressive spuds will have readers captivated from the very first page.

For rollicking story times that also offer opportunities to discuss the nature of competition and friendship, Chip and Curly, The Great Potato Race is one to add to your home, classroom, or library shelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364084

Learn more about Cathy Breisacher and her books on her website.

To learn more about Joshua Heinsz, his books, and his art on his website.

A Chat with Cathy Breisacher

011CB

It’s so great to be talking with you again! This must be a really exciting—and busy!—time for you, so I’m thrilled to have you stop by!

You’ve mentioned that the inspiration for this story was a local potato festival. Can you describe that event a bit and tell what sparked the idea for Chip and Curly?

Every year, on the last Saturday in September, a town not far from where I live holds a Potato Fest.  The county where it is located is the second-largest supplier of potatoes in the state. People come from all around and a good portion of the downtown area is closed off for the event. There are tons and tons of vendors selling a variety of crafts, and the food vendors whip up all kinds of potato treats: sweet potato fries, potato candy, baked potatoes, perogies, potato soup, French fries, potato bread, etc. There is live music as well as games for the kids. I love the fall season, and this is a great kick-off to the fall. I try to attend every year. So, in 2016 when I wrote this story, I thought about the potato festival and all of the kinds of potatoes that are sold at the event.  The names CHIP AND CURLY came to me and the idea for the story just flowed from there.

Of course, I have to ask—what’s your favorite kind of potato? Do you have a favorite recipe? Would you like to share it?

 I love twice baked potatoes. They are probably my favorite. But, there really isn’t a potato I don’t like. I also love perogies and sweet potato fries. Oh my goodness…it’s hard to choose just one. 

I’ll share a recipe for Cheesy Hash Brown potatoes that are gobbled up at many family events. They are so easy to make.

CHEESY HASH BROWN POTATOES

26 oz. Bag of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes (thawed)
2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
16 ounces sour cream
1 (10 1/2 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 ½ sticks butter
3 cups Crushed corn flakes
1 teaspoon garlic salt and pepper to taste

Thaw the hash browns.  Melt 1 stick of butter and mix it with the hash browns.  Pour into 9 x13 pan.  Mix the sour cream, soup and cheese in a bowl. Spread over the potatoes. Melt ½ stick of butter and mix it with the crushed corn flakes.  Sprinkle over the potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

Being competitive can take so many forms. Do you consider yourself competitive? If so, in what way?

Yes, I’m definitely competitive. I always want to put 110% into things that I do. If there is a challenge of some sort, I am in it to win it. J In the past couple of years, I’ve been intrigued with Escape Rooms and trying to solve all of the clues before the time runs out. Recently, I heard of an Escape Room that no one has “broke out of” yet.  I want to be the first! J

Chip and Curly is loaded with puns and really clever word play! The story must have been a blast, but also challenging to write. Can you talk a little about how you put it all together?

Chip and Curly was definitely a fun story to write. I just pulled out my first version of this story, and it has so few puns in it. I didn’t initially write this story to be punny.  But, as I was doing my first set of revisions, a pun popped in my head.  More puns came to me as I continued to revise. It wasn’t long before I knew this had to be a story that centered on potato puns. I scoured the Internet to find words associated with potatoes. I must have looked at every list that exists online. The tricky part was to include those words and phrases that fit nicely with the story. I didn’t want to include something just to include it if the word or phrase really didn’t flow with the storyline. My amazing editor, Sarah Rockett, had excellent suggestions for tweaking the story a bit more after she acquired it. And I was delighted with the fun, playful, colorful art provided by the illustrator, Joshua Heinsz.

After practicing for a year to win a Golden Bushel Award for the sack race, Chip makes a surprising decision part way through the race. What would you like kids to take away from the story?

This is the crucial part of the story. I want kids to know that competing can be a lot of fun. And it can feel good to win at something, too. However, practicing good sportsmanship is important and helps build character. When we show respect toward our opponents, we can still have fun and compete, but it helps us to keep our focus on what’s most important—treating one another the way we want to be treated.

Since CaveKid Birthday was released in March, what’s been the best part of being a published author? The most surprising? As a librarian, how does it feel to see your own book on your library’s shelf?

Gosh, there is so much I am enjoying about being a published author. I love meeting new people (kids and adults) at book events and talking with them about stories. It has also been a treat to see friends and family who I haven’t seen for a while. Being a school librarian, I get an extra treat when kids ask to check out my book. That has truly meant the world to me. When my students tell me they love my books, my heart just completely melts.

During our first interview for CaveKid Birthday how did I miss that you’re from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania? Does the town live up to its celebratory name? Do you have a favorite town celebration or spot to write or visit?

Hmmm…very good question. The town where I live is a true community. People really get behind and support the schools, sports teams, agencies, fundraising events, etc. So I guess you can say that the people who live in Hollidaysburg celebrate one another’s aspirations and accomplishments. I am proud to live in this town. I do have a few favorite spots that I like to visit. There are a couple of parks that are so beautiful and serene. They are a great place to spend timejyeither alone or with family and friends. As for a favorite town celebration, I would have to say the Winterfest Light-Up Night that is held at the end of November each year. There are festivities in the downtown area and everything is decorated for Christmas. Local restaurants hold soup samplings and people vote on their favorite. Santa arrives and a giant tree is lit up that evening. There are ice carvings, too. It’s such a fun night and everyone is in the holiday spirit.

Thanks, Cathy! I can’t wait to try those delish-sounding potatoes! I know you’ll have lots of fun with Chip and Curly, and I wish you all the best with all of your books!

You can connect with Cathy Breisacher on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Chip and Curly, The Great Potato Race Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Chip and Curly, The Great Potato Race written by Cathy Breisacher | illustrated by Joshua Heinsz

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

BONUS: Reply with your favorite kind of potato or potato dish for an extra entry

This giveaway is open from May 14 through May 20 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 21.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

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

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-appealing-potatoes-game-cards

Appealing Potatoes Game

 

If you love potatoes, you can never get enough! Race to fill your plate with all six kinds of potatoes in this fun game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a game board and set of game cards for each player.
  2. Choose a player to go first.
  3. Taking turns, each player rolls the paper die and places a game card matching the rolled potato to their plate
  4. Or: If using a regular playing die, use the corresponding number and kind of potato listed below
  5. The first player to add all six kinds of potatoes to their plate is the winner.

Corresponding Numbers and Potatoes:

  1. Mashed Potatoes
  2. French Fries
  3. Potato Chips
  4. Baked Potato
  5. Twice-baked Potato
  6. Sweet Potato Fries

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chip-and-curly-cover

You can find Chip and Curly, the Great Potato Race at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 13 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the amazing egg! Since ancient days people have relied on eggs for protein and other nutrients as part of a healthy diet. Eggs also provide delicate canvases for incredible works of art. If you’re fond of eggs—on their own or whipped up into a quiche, frittata, or other delicacy—crack a few open and enjoy your favorite recipe!  

The Good Egg

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

Have you ever met an egg that was so good he would rescue a cat from a tree, “…carry your groceries, …water your plants,” or “paint your house?” Well, you have now! And this isn’t some fly-by-night goodness, this little egg has always been this way even though all the other eggs in the carton exhibited less-than-stellar behavior.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

What did they do? Are you ready for this? “They ignored their bedtime. They only ate sugary cereal.” There were tantrums…and it only got worse. The good egg tried to help—after all, he was “a verrrrrry good egg,” but no one paid any attention. Eventually, the good egg cracked under the pressure of  trying to make his carton buddies as good as he was.

The good egg decided to leave the market and the other eggs behind. Did they care? It didn’t seem like it. The egg traveled far and wide and into his very own heart. The egg “took walks” and “read books.” He took up writing, painting, and meditation. Slowly, the cracks began to heal. Feeling better, the egg made a big decision. He decided to go back to the market and his friends. But this time, he would “try not to worry so much” and he’d be good to the other eggs and himself.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The good egg had discovered that he missed the other eggs, but how would they feel about his come back? He needn’t have worried. They welcomed him home with egg-citement. It seems that while the good egg was gone, the other eggs became a little better behaved. And now? Here’s what the good egg “realized: The other eggs aren’t perfect, and I don’t have to be, either.” The whole experience gave the good egg a whole new perspective, and he’s glad to be home.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Behavior studies have never been as bewitching as in Jory John and Pete Oswald’s The Good Egg, a sequel of sorts to The Bad Seed. Everywhere he looks, the good egg finds ways to be helpful, peaceful, and…well…good. But his friends are a rowdy bunch, given to messes, tears, destruction—badness. When the good egg’s perfectionism meets this unruliness, he cracks. When the good egg leaves the carton in search of healing, John invites readers to consider the line between fun and rotten behavior from both sides.

Children prone to perfectionism see that it’s okay to give themselves a break and let go at times, while those who tend to be wild learn that reigning in some impulses can lead to more enjoyment. John’s clever egg names, funny examples of good and rotten behavior, and pun-filled wordplay will have kids giggling from the first page while his nod to self-care practices and the empowering ending give them moments for thoughtful contemplation.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Pete Oswald dishes up a full menu of visual jokes from the wrinkled bacon slice getting help with her groceries to the intravenous yolk drip the good egg gets on his trip to the doctor to the stack of books with eggs-centric titles that are part of the good egg’s recovery. The dozen eggs—all with distinct personalities—may be “fresh” as the carton proclaims, but they make for eggsellent companions on this journey of self-discovery.

Witty and ingenious, The Good Egg will be an often-asked for addition to home, school, and public libraries for perfectly fun-filled story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Harper Collins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062866004

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website.

To learn more about Pete Oswald, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Take a crack at The Good Egg book trailer!

National Egg Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-double-chickens

Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With these cute egg-carton chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-tic-tac-toe

Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-where's-the-chick

I’m sure you can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-good-egg-cover

You can find The Good Egg at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 9 – It’s National Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the creative minds who devise new products, better ways of performing tasks, faster methods of communication, and all kinds of innovative ways to interact with our world. Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month’s holiday encourages people to embrace their creativity and go that extra step toward producing their invention. If you’re a tinkerer, who knows—your product or service could make the world a better place!

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe

Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

 

Every Friday, Magnolia Mudd’s favorite adult—her uncle Jamie—visited and spent time inventing with her. He always encouraged Magnolia to think big. One day, Magnolia and Uncle Jamie created their “greatest invention—the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe,” which ran on Mudd Power. Later, after just one experimental launching, Magnolia discovered that she had to build it all over again. When she called her uncle and told him they’d have to repair it next Friday, though, he said she would have to wait. Instead, he was bringing Miss Emily over because they “had ‘something to talk about.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-uncle-jamie

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia didn’t want her time with Uncle Jamie taken up by Miss Emily. As far as Magnolia was concerned Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily had nothing in common, so on Friday when they told her they were getting married, Magnolia was surprised. When Miss Emily asked Magnolia to be their flower girl and showed her the fancy dress she’d wear, Magnolia thought, “no way!” Later, Uncle Jamie said maybe they could find a different way for her to be involved in the wedding.

Magnolia researched all the different things she could do, and experimented with some of them. She read that in India women decorate their hands with henna tattoos. She devised a henna tattoo-painting machine, but it went a little haywire. In Sweden, she learned, guests scared off trolls by bringing bouquets of stink weed. Magnolia built a troll trap, but only caught herself. And in a German tradition, guests throw plates at the couple’s door for good luck, but when Magnolia retooled her “Fantastic Frisbee Flinger,” she only caused a mess of broken pottery.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-friday

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia resigned herself to being “doomed to ruffles and roses.” She was just wishing she could launch the rose petals instead of scattering them when she had an idea. She showed Miss Emily her brainstorm for a bouquet-launcher that worked on Mudd Power. Miss Emily loved it. Together they began to invent. On the day of the wedding, they revealed their “new-and-improved Dual-Directional Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher Deluxe (with Confetti Blaster),” and as Magnolia and Miss Emily jumped on the launch pad together, Magnolia realized that with Aunt Emily in the family, there was “way more Mudd Power” for inventing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-miss-emily

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Katey Howes’ humorous and clever story is as dual-purpose as Magnolia’s super launcher deluxe. Young readers will love seeing Magnolia’s gizmos that fire rockets, squirt paint, capture trolls, fling plates, and toss the bouquet (maybe a little too far!) while learning about some wedding traditions around the world. The heart of Howes’ story, however, lies in the ideas of family, relationships, communication, and acceptance. Readers will understand that Magnolia’s initial dislike of Miss Emily has more to do with her fear of a changing relationship with Uncle Jamie than with Emily’s dangly earrings or preference for sushi over pizza.

When Magnolia balks at being a flower girl, the adults allow her to be herself and work with her to find a job that makes everyone happy. As Magnolia gets to know Emily better, she takes a chance in suggesting a bouquet launcher and is rewarded when Emily (literally) jumps in with both feet (the fact that Miss Emily works at an art gallery hints at her ability to think creatively too). The final image of Magnolia, Uncle Jamie, and Aunt Emily hard at work in their lab reminds kids of the adage, “the more, the merrier”—or in this case, “the more Mudd power, the merrier.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-thinking

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Valerio Fabbretti’s bright, cartoon-style artwork is ideally suited to bring out the humor and emotions in Howes’ action-packed story. Magnolia’s and Uncle Jamie’s love of science is on display in both Jamie’s office and Magnolia’s room, where diagrams, chemical equations, test tubes and beakers, and retrofitted home appliances create an eclectic décor. Kids will laugh as Magnolia’s inventions go awry, and cheer when Magnolia and Miss Emily discover the perfect wedding job for Magnolia and complete it together. 

An entertaining and endearing story, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe is an inventive book to launch fun story times as well as discussions on individuality, inclusion, change, and family.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454921745

Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.

To learn more about Valerio Fabbretti, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Inventors Month Activity

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Sparkle Test Tubes

 

Kids love inventing and experimenting, and these sparkle test tubes give children a fun way to be creative while making a cool way to relax and on those hectic days.

Supplies

  • Plastic test tubes with tight-fitting screw cap, available at craft or science supply stores. Having two or three will allow for more experimentation
  • Glitter glue
  • Hot water
  • Fine glitter
  • Chunky glitter
  • Small glass beads (optional)
  • Neon food coloring (optional)
  • Test tube stand (optional)
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Teaspoon

Directions

  1. Fill a test tube 1/3 full of hot water and pour the water into the mixing bowl
  2. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of glitter glue (the more glitter glue that is added the thicker the liquid will be and the more the objects will be suspended in the liquid. To allow the objects to flow more freely when the test tube is shaken, add less glue
  3. Whisk the water and glitter glue together
  4. Add chunky glitter, glass beads, or try other small objects
  5. Pour into test tube
  6. Add more water to within a ½ – 1 inch of the top to allow for shaking
  7. Experiment with amount of glitter glue, glitter, and colors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-cover

You can find Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture book review

 

 

May 7 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Cathy Ballou Mealey

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About the Holiday

Reading is great all the time, but this month we celebrate actually being seen with a book in hand laughing at a funny line, shivering over a suspenseful scene or maybe even tearing up over an unexpected plot twist. Throughout the month, authors, illustrators, actors and actresses, athletes, business people, teachers, and students all upload pictures of themselves reading to encourage others to discover the joys of this fun and important pastime. To learn more about the holiday and find resources to download or order, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

I received a copy of When a Tree Grows from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Sterling Children’s Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

When a Tree Grows

Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | Illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

 

We all know that age-old question “When a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound?” Inexplicably, this riddle seems to forget all about the adorable woodland animals—many of which we meet in this hilarious book that poses many thought-provoking conundrums of its own. For instance: “When a tree grows in the forest, two things can happen. It becomes a scratching post for Moose’s itchy antlers, and the tree sways gently side to side. OR… CRASH-BOOM! Moose pushes a little too hard, the tree falls on a cave, and the bear inside wakes up.”

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Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But how does Bear react? He can stay inside… OR come out to see what all the ruckus is about. And when he comes outside? Well, the domino effect could take over the forest… OR not. Alert readers will notice that Bear’s not the only one affected by the falling tree. Squirrel loses his home, but does he find the perfect replacement when a Nifty Nuts truck loaded with acorns gets entangled in this roller-coaster ride of a story… OR not?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-bear

Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As readers follow the action, they’ll wonder—will Squirrel discover a lifetime supply of nuts? Fame and fortune? An empty spot in his heart? And when (if?) “Scribble-Scratch! He writes a letter to Moose,” will Moose eat it or read it? The answers to these forest-related questions lead to a fantastic welcome-home feast with party hats and decorations and, of course, lots and lots of acorns that Squirrel will either gobble all up… OR….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-squirrel

Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Nuttiness abounds in this funny story that will have kids on the edge of their seats and excitedly chiming in as each situation plays out, leading to more and more consequences for Squirrel. Cathy Ballou Mealey’s action-packed storytelling, punctuated with onomatopoeia, makes each page a joy to read aloud. Underlying all of the shenanigans is a sweet friendship story that will tug at readers’ hearts as the gently suspenseful circumstances seem to take Squirrel farther and farther away from the forest. Kids will cheer along with Moose, Bear, and a bevy of other cute animals as they celebrate Squirrel’s homecoming and enthusiastically approve of what Squirrel does with his windfall to guarantee that all the friends can stick together forever.

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Kasia Nowowiejska populates this most friendly of forests with adorable, wide-eyed animals whose expressions perfectly reflect their dilemmas without giving away the secret answers. Kids will laugh out loud to see Moose nervously clinging half-way up a tree as Bear growls, applaud squirrel’s aim with a slingshot, and wish they could join in the party when Squirrel comes home. Nowowiejska’s beautiful earth-tone color palette provides depth and texture to the lush foliage while highlighting each animal’s choices in clever and original ways that kids will love. The onomatopoeic phrases are spotlighted with vibrant, bold lettering, ensuring that readers will add their own spin to this fun element of the story.

No “OR…”s about it, When a Tree Grows will be a hit for lively, animated story times and would be an often-requested addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up 

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454921202

Discover more about Cathy Ballou Mealey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kasia Nowowiejska, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Cathy Ballou Mealey

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Cathy-Mealey-headshot

Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.

Thank you for inviting me to the fabulous Celebrate Picture Books! I am delighted to join your celebration of Get Caught Reading Week by talking about writing inspiration and what we might learn from our hobbies and jobs, and also sharing a story starter for a favorite fall holiday!

I’m delighted that we get to talk about all of these things—and more! So let’s get started at the beginning of your journey with When a Tree Grows!

What was the spark of inspiration that led to When a Tree Grows?

When A Tree Grows was inspired by a distant creaky Crash! that I heard in the woods while hiking with my family. Was it a falling tree? An animal? I wondered: What if that crash had scared a bear or frightened a deer?

Building on that “OR” question, I framed a wacky story with two different possible outcomes, one rather expected and one funny, unexpected outcome. Readers will find that “OR” spotlighted on the bottom corner of each recto page with a clever curled paper art effect.

You must have had fun coming up with the alternate scenarios in your book. Can you share any that didn’t make the cut?

An early draft had a sweet city scene between Squirrel and a pigeon, but it didn’t make the final cut. It was tender and poignant, but needed a funnier alternative outcome to move the storyline along. In the end, I am happy that only Squirrel, Moose and Bear share the spotlight!

I love Kasia Nowowiejska’s illustrations that combine adorable, expressive animals with silly antics. Do you have a favorite spread? Did anything in the illustrations surprise you? 

I agree! Kasia is from Poland, and I loved the European flair in her forest sketches. Seeing the warthog was a complete, delightful surprise. Warthogs are not animals we would typically see in a North American woodland, and that leads to great discussions with young readers.

You have degrees in psychobiology and classical civilization. Can you describe these a bit and how they are connected? Does your study of psychobiology help inform the character development in your stories?

Psychobiology is the study of the brain, behavior and cognitive processes. I found it fascinating to research why and how we think, feel and do the things we do! I learned how to be a good observer, listener, and follower of the empirical method. I also studied classical civilization because I loved Latin, and the professors were extremely gifted storytellers. They brought ancient texts to life through dramatic readings and captivating extemporaneous performances. Exactly how these field of study inform my present work is unclear, but a liberal arts education really does cultivate curious minds!

In your bio, you also say that you were a crossing guard, hash-slinger, gift-wrapper, and pet sitter. This sounds like perfect prep for becoming a picture book author! Have any of these jobs inspired a story? Do you have a funny or surprising experience you’d like to share?

Writers DO find a way to wring fictional purpose out of anything, don’t we? I have found that one common theme across many of my stories is work. In When A Tree Grows, Squirrel gets a job in the Nifty Nuts factory as a quality control inspector. That’s one job I have not done! But working as a department store gift-wrapper was a job where quality mattered. Customers could buy a specialty paper/ribbon combination or choose the free “store wrap” which was red with tiny white checkered squares. The squares had to line up perfectly, no matter how lumpy or bumpy the item was, or the boss would make us re-wrap it. Wrap a floor lamp? Rocking chair? I like to imagine one of my co-wrappers invented printed gift bags out of desperation.

In previous interviews, you’ve described how you wrote your first picture book to enter the Cheerios “spoonful of stories” contest. But did you always like to write? What kinds of writing did you do? What inspired you to try the picture book form?

As a kid I loved to write and illustrate greeting cards, so my earliest efforts were short and to the point, just like picture books. I also wrote scripts for Muppet-like puppet shows, assigning the best roles to myself, of course. When school assignments piled up and writing lost its luster, I stopped scribbling for pleasure. Decades later, having children led to reading many picture books and to many boxes of Cheerios. So those factors definitely helped re-ignite my passion for writing and picture books specifically.

When a Tree Grows was released on April 2. What have you found to be the best part of being a published author? If you’ve held any book events, can you describe the reactions of kids to your story?

Of course seeing Tree on bookstore shelves and in readers’ hands is delightful. Hearing people laugh at the funny spots is a thrill! I like to ask a helper to wave a big sign that says “OR” to dramatize the page turns during readings. And kids love to see Squirrel scooping coins out of the fountain to buy a bus ticket home – so naughty!

What’s up next for you?

Next up for me is a still-secret, super funny picture book with an amazing publisher in Canada. A sloth and a squirrel team up for a special mission. Look for an announcement soon, and a book sometime in 2021!

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Halloween – because it is in the fall, my favorite season. It also happens to be my birthday! Costumes, candy, glowing pumpkins, being outside after dark – all these elements make magical memories for kids. And on top of all that I got a cake, candles, and presents too? Pretty great.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

What a great idea! Let’s imagine re-casting When A Tree Grows as a Halloween story.

When an Owl hoots in the forest on Halloween, two things could happen.

Warthog blows out the candle in her pumpkin. Trick or treat is over.

OR…

Eek! Warthog is startled and tosses her candy into the air.

When Warthog tosses her candy into the air, two things could happen.

What do YOU think should happen next?

Oh my! Let’s see…

Bat neatly snatches all the candy out of the air with her trick-or-treat bag.

OR…

A candy corn ricochets off a tree and bonks bat, sending her wildly off course.

Readers? What do YOU think? Add your ideas in the comments section below!

Well, this was tons of fun, Cathy! I’m so glad we had a chance to chat! I wish you all the best with When a Tree Grows!

You can connect with Cathy Ballou Mealey on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

When a Tree Grows Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of When a Tree Grows written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

To Enter:

Leave a comment here on this post answering the story starter at the end of my interview with Cathy or mention your favorite kind of forest animal.

OR…

Follow me @CelebratePicBks and Cathy @CatBallouMealey on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet

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

A winner will be chosen on May 14.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

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

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moose-headband-craft-when-a-tree-grows

Moose starts a whole string of events in today’s book! What will you get up to in your own moose antlers?

Supplies

  • Stiff brown paper
  • Brown hair band
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Trace your hands with fingers spread on the brown paper. Leave a 1 – 2 inch tab on the end of the wrist for wrapping around the head band
  2. Cut out the hand prints
  3. Place one hand print on the right side of the headband with the thumb of the hand pointing up.
  4. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  5. Place the second hand print on the left side of the headband with the thumb pointing up.
  6. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-cover

You can find When a Tree Grows at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 2 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-not-friends-cover

About the Holiday

The Get Caught Reading campaign was initiated in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers with the idea to promote literacy and language development through reading to children and encouraging them to read on their own. Research shows that early experience with language and reading stimulates a child’s brain and gives them an advantage in learning and school. As part of the campaign, celebrities, dignitaries, and even fictional characters are pictured book-in-hand and enjoying reading. Posters of these readers are available for schools, libraries, and other organizations, and the excitement of reading also takes over social media all month long. To celebrate this holiday, make sure you stock up your shelves with new and favorite books and get caught reading!

We Are (Not) Friends

Written by Anna Kang | Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

This big, brown, fuzzy bear and little, purple, fuzzy bear have been through a lot together—disagreements, fear, problems with sharing—but nothing has prepared them for the blue, fluffy rabbit who bounces onto the scene and into their friendship. When the newcomer asks to join them just as they’re about to explore the stuff in the big, green trunk, Big Bear is all for it, but Little Bear is wary. Rabbit pulls two canes from the trunk and, handing one to Big Bear, suggests they perform a duet. Big Bear’s in, but Little Bear feels left out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-not-friends-dinosaur-hunters

Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2019, text copyright Anna Kang, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Big Bear and Rabbit do a tap routine in perfect sync. Then Little Bear shows his stuff with flying feet that aren’t exactly in rhythm. When they all toss their hats in the air, Big Bear and Rabbit neatly catch theirs on their heads while Little Bear’s bonks him on the noggin and bounces off. Little Bear storms off and comes back with a fan so powerful it blows Rabbit’s hat nearly off the page. “What? It was getting hot,” Little Bear replies to Big Bear’s questioning look.

When Little Bear wants to “play dinosaur hunters,” Big Bear looks for their new friend. Little Bear, for his part, denies all knowledge of who he’s talking about. “Our friend—” Big Bear begins to explain, but Little Bear counters “We are friends. We are not friends with—” But then Rabbit’s back and a game of dinosaur hunters gets underway without Little Bear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-not-friends-car

Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2019, text copyright Anna Kang, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Little Bear then has a brainstorm that Rabbit likes, and a new duo is formed that doesn’t include Big Bear. Now Big Bear’s feeling left out. Rabbit decides they can combine both games and proclaims Big Bear a dinosaur. “Yeah! Attack, T. rex!” Little Bear urges. Big Bear lets out a tiny roar, then a bigger roar, and finally a huge “ROAR!!!” at which Rabbit Whumps him over the head with a net. Big Bear begins to cry and shouts “WE ARE NOT FRIENDS!!!”

Shaken, the two quiet down and look on sadly. Little Bear gazes at Big Bear and understands. He lays his paw on Big Bear’s arm and clarifies: “We are best friends.” And Bear offers, “And this is our new friend?” That’s exactly it! With everyone satisfied, they’re all happy playing spies, until….”

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2019, text copyright Anna Kang, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Anna Kang continues to develop the relationship between her sweet friends in this funny and heartwarming story about how to make room for new buddies in a well-established relationship. Kang perfectly captures the fluctuating dynamics that occur when a new person joins a group and through honest dialogue portrays the hurt feelings and misunderstandings that can happen while children play together. Little Bear’s sensitivity to Big Bear’s feelings strengthens their friendship while allowing it to grow. The story gives adults and children an opportunity to discuss this complex challenge that’s a common part of growing up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-not-friends-dancing

Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2019, text copyright Anna Kang, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Christopher Weyant’s lovable and beloved fuzzy friends are joined by an equally cute character who brings new energy and ideas into the relationship between Big Bear and Little Bear but also dismay. Weyant portrays the actions that lead to hurt feelings clearly through images of Big Bear and Rabbit dancing perfectly in synch while Little Bear flounders and then Little Bear and Rabbit building a car that has no room for Big Bear. The characters’ changing facial expressions also provide distinct emotional clues that lead young readers to recognize and empathize with each friend’s experience.

A touching ride through the sometimes-choppy waters of friendship, We Are (Not) Friends reassures young readers that there’s room enough for all. The book is a must for fans of the series and a great place to start if you have not yet been introduced to these adorable characters. We Are (Not) Friends will be a much-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542044288

Discover more about Anna Kang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Weyant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-catch-a-book-maze

Catch a Book! Maze

 

One boy has a whole stack of books to share with his friends! Can you help him through this printable Catch a Book! Maze? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-not-friends-cover

You can find We Are (Not) Friends at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

May 1 – It’s Children’s Book Week & Interview with Jodi McKay

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading and books, turns 100 this year! Founded in 1919, this longest-running literacy initiative in the US, was a collaborative effort by Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, Frederic G. Melcher, the editor of Publishers Weekly, and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library. In 1916, the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts, sponsored the first Good Book Week.

When the Children’s Book Council was established in 1944, they assumed responsibility of running this important initiative. The holiday is celebrated with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities across the country with the participation of authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers. This year the theme of the week is Read Now, Read Forever. To find out more about the week as well as activities to download and locations of events in your area, visit Every Child a Reader.

I received a copy of Pencil’s Perfect Picture from Albert Whitman & Company for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Pencil’s Perfect Picture

Written by Jodi McKay | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Pencil loves his dad so much that he wants to do something special for him. He thinks about baking him a cupcake or giving him a bouquet of flowers, but then he hits on just the right thing. Pencil decides “I’ll draw him the greatest, the best, the most perfect picture he has ever seen!” But there’s a hitch, Pencil doesn’t really know what that is. He heads off to the Art School to find out.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

He finds Brush doing a headstand in a paint can, and after Brush adds a golden swoop to a sunset painting, Pencil asks if that’s what makes the picture perfect. “Perfection?” Brush answers. “Pah! I paint for pleasure.” This answer doesn’t really help, so Pencil goes in search of Marker.

Marker shows Pencil all the fancy moves he uses when drawing. Pencil loves the action in Marker’s work and wonders if that’s what makes it perfect. Marker’s not that interested in perfection though, just in doing his best. Pencil then thinks he’ll go ask Pastel for her opinion. He finds Pastel practicing yoga before she creates. Then she faces her blank paper and in a few minutes has a picture that makes Pencil “feel happy.” Could this be the secret to perfection? Pastel says peace is her aim, but Pencil counters, “I don’t think I’ll find peace until I know how to draw a perfect picture” and walks off to find the crayons.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil's-perfect-picture-dipping

Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The little crayons have all been working hard on their drawings and are proud to show them off. Pencil thinks they’re all perfect and asks how they achieved it, but their teacher reveals that they just “draw because it’s fun.” Pencil’s still no wiser when he meets up with Chalk, but in describing his frustrations, Pencil has a brainstorm.

He hurries home to try a little bit of everything he’s learned. He stands back to take a look at his drawing just as his dad comes in. Pencil explains that he wanted to make a special drawing for him, but he’s just not sure it’s…. His dad studies the drawing and says, “Wow, this picture is PERFECT!” Pencil is excited and wants to know why. As they gaze at the drawing in which Pencil and his dad are smiling and have their arms around each other, Pencil’s dad says, “It’s perfect because YOU drew it for me.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil's-perfect-picture-paint-brush

Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jodi McKay so sweetly taps into the desire of little ones to show their parents, grandparents, or other caregivers how much they love them while including that lump-in-the-throat moment adults experience when it happens. Through Pencil’s unwavering determination to find the answer, kids are introduced to all their favorite drawing tools and lots of ways to look at art or any pursuit. Pencil’s enthusiasm is infectious and charming, and readers will be happy to take the journey with him. When Pencil puts his own spin on what he’s learned and creates the drawing for his dad, little ones will see that they too have great creative ideas. The reaction of Pencil’s dad is reassuring and teaches an important lesson about anything children pursue—that “perfection” is personal and in the eye of the beholder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil's-perfect-picture-crayons

Opening the cover of Pencil’s Perfect Picture is like stepping into a classroom full of color and joyful kids eager for fun. Juliana Motzko’s adorable Pencil with his stick arms and legs and expressive smile and eyebrows is just the kind of friend readers would love to spend time with. Cleverly, Motzko depicts the other drawing tools as other influences that children meet along their way in life—teachers, coaches, and classmates. Readers will love seeing all of the drawings these artists create and may even want to try drawing some of them themselves (in their own style, of course!). Every page will make kids and adults smile, and the final spreads in which Pencil and his dad stand with their arms around in real life and in the portrait make for the perfect ending.

Sprinkled with humor, Pencil’s Perfect Picture is an adorable and endearing read that would quickly become a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807564769

Discover more about Jodi McKay and her books on her website.

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

Meet Jodi McKay

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jodi-mckay-headshot

Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019). Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.

Today, I’m excited to chat with Jodi McKay about Pencil’s origin, how adults can help kids develop and keep their own style, and some of the best parts of book events.

What inspired you to write Pencil’s Perfect Picture?

I actually wrote Pencil’s Perfect Picture thinking that it would be a companion book to my first book, Where Are The Words? That story ends with the characters asking Pencil to draw them pictures for the story they just wrote. I figured book number two would show Pencil trying to draw pictures for them, but not just any pictures, they had to be perfect. That idea came from watching my son struggle with drawing something “just right.” He had developed a sense of perfection when it came to his art and that broke my heart a little. I realize that kids start to compare themselves to their peers or others as they grow up, but I didn’t want that to affect how he approached his creativity. I had to make sure the story addressed that idea of perfection especially when it comes to art. My editor suggested that I change who Pencil draws his picture for to include more of a family theme which I loved. It adds a layer of heart that is relatable to kids as they often draw pictures for their parents or loved ones.

I love the message of Pencil’s Perfect Picture. As you say, children seem to learn so quickly to compare their work and themselves to others. What are a couple of ways that adults can help them appreciate and embrace their unique view of the world.

Yes, agreed! I know it has to do with some developmental stage where the self becomes less important and peer opinions more important, but it’s imperative not to lose that sense of self. We have to celebrate our individuality, explore what makes us unique, and find ways to express ourselves with our imaginations. Parents have a special job when it comes to fostering all of that, and for me it really comes down to creating a judgement-free zone not just with art, but with all aspects of life. For the sake of time let’s stick with art here.

  • Provide your child with different types of art supplies: markers, crayons, paint, fabrics, clay, etc. Let them pick what they want to use and how they want to use it (watch where those small pieces go!).
  • When your child is finished, talk to him or her about what they made, how it made them feel, what is their favorite part about their art project. Keep it positive.
  • Remember, art is never wrong. Emphasize that to your child. It is awesome because they imagined it and brought it to life. No one else can make that same picture.
  • Consider creating with your child. I think kids love to see their parents use their imaginations so grab a marker or a crayon and draw together! Need a fun idea? Try to draw a perfect picture together.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil, crayon, marker, whatever is fun to draw with

Instructions:

One person starts by drawing something simple, a shape, a line, etc. Take turns adding elements to the picture until you both decide it’s perfect. Enjoy your masterpiece!

Another wonderful aspect of your book is that you include so many different personalities in Brush, Marker, Pastel, and the Crayons. Which do you identify with most and why?

I really like this question! It’s taken me a minute to think about it and the one I have chosen is not an obvious answer if you know me. I think I’m most like Marker. I’m not particularly sporty or a fan of sweat bands, but I am organized like him. He’s a “First, Next, Last” kind of guy which is how I can be when it comes to tackling a project. Also, his motto, “Do your best” resonates with me.

When my son was young, he and his friends took to sharpening old pencils down to the eraser to see how small they could get them. We loved those cute nubbins! Your first book, the very clever Where Are the Words? also has a pencil character. Do you have a special place in your heart for pencils, a favorite pencil or a special memory involving pencils or writing instruments?

I know, it must seem like I have a thing for pencils, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t. I used to draw a ton with pencils, color and plain. Lots of doodles in the margins of notebooks, drawing pads full of patterns, cartoons, likenesses. I never write with pencils though, I use pens for the most part which makes one wonder why I didn’t include a pen in the story, right? I do have a favorite pen—it has a sloth on it, which makes me very happy.

On your website you mention that The Story of Ferdinand was your favorite book as a child. Me too! In fact, I just found a boxed edition for $3.00 at my wonderful local used book store and snapped it up. I really identified with Ferdinand, but there’s also so much sage advice in that book. What is about that book that made it a favorite for you?

There is so much to love about that book—the sense of calm I feel when I read it, the way pacing is used to create both tension and ease, the words Leaf chose that paint beautiful pictures (smelling flowers under a cork tree), and how Ferdinand stayed true to himself. LOVE it!

One fun part of being a children’s author must be visiting schools and holding other events. What do you like best about meeting your readers? Do you have any anecdote you’d like to share?

Yes! I love meeting readers and chatting with them about books—what they like, what they don’t like, and listening to their story ideas. It’s such a great feeling to see kids get excited about writing and reading, it makes me think that I’ve done my job as an author.

Some of my favorite moments happen when I see a young reader connect with the humor in my books. I love the laughs and the, “aha!” moment of understanding the joke. Some of my funnier experiences have happened during school visits. There’s always the question, “How old are you?” and the follow up comment, “My mom is that old!” or the looks I receive when the kids walk into the room and say, “That’s her!” and “She’s the author!” I’ve never seen myself as that person and hearing their whispers is funny to me. Of course, there are also sweet moments filled with hugs and thank you’s from the students.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment I am busy preparing for upcoming book-signing events as well as a few future events for the Michigan SCBWI members. Otherwise, I am still writing, writing, and writing some more. I have a couple of stories ready to send to my agent, one ready for submission to editors (fingers crossed!), and a bunch waiting for revisions or reworking.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Christmas all the way. I love the joy of the holiday, the shared excitement, the smells and sounds, and the colorful, glittery décor. It’s all about family, love, and giving. There’s not much better than that!

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Christmas definitely has inspired some stories (surprise!), however I was informed that holiday, Christmas specifically, stories are really hard to sell. I’m not giving up hope though, I will just need to find the right spin on a holiday theme and maybe it will become one of those few that are chosen.

Thanks so much Jodi! This was fun! I wish you all the best with Pencil’s Perfect Picture, Where Are the Words, and all of your future projects!

You can connect with Jodi on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter | You can email her at Jodi@JodiMcKayBooks.com

Pencil’s Perfect Picture Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Jodi McKay in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) signed copy of Pencil’s Perfect Picture, written by Jodi McKay | illustrated by Juliana Motzko

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from May 1 through May 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 8.

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

Children’s Book Week Activities

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Pencil’s Draw Your Own Picture Page

 

Are you eager artist? Then Jodi McKay and Pencil have a treat for you—a page where you can create their own “perfect picture!” Download it here and get drawing!

Draw Your Own Picture Page

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Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project

 

Today, Jodi’s also sharing one of her favorite craft ideas courtesy of Janette Nyberg’s Craft Whack website. If you love to draw—and add an element of surprise to your work—you’ll love this clever idea! After your kids do this one, they’ll want to take a look at all of the fun ideas on this fantastic site!

Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project

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You can find Pencil’s Perfect Picture at these booksellers

Albert Whitman & Co. | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review