November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

I received a copy of Iced Out from Cicada Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Cicada Books on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Iced Out

Written by CK Smouha | Illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

 

At Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals, Wilfred, a walrus, and Neville, a narwhal, stood out among the rest of the class of seals—but not in the way they wanted to. With his pointy horn that deflated every ball he caught, Neville “never got picked for the football team.” And Wilfred’s overly aromatic lunch meant he always sat by himself. Even parties were perilous, “so they didn’t get invited very often.” You might think that Neville and Wilfred would be friends, but they weren’t—not really.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Wilfred and Neville disliked mornings, and thinking about the week ahead made Sundays tough too. But one Monday something amazing happened. A new student joined the class—Betty Beluga. “Everyone wanted to play with her. But Betty wasn’t interested.” She sat alone at lunch, didn’t join the football team even though she was an awesome scorer, and declined the invitations she got for parties. “Wilfred and Neville were smitten.” In fact, now they couldn’t wait to go to school as they daydreamed about Betty.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Neville decided he had to prove himself to Betty, and he practiced catching a ball without impaling it on his horn. Finally, he had the knack. The next day, though, just as he was showing Betty, Wilfred “accidentally” bumped into him and Neville’s trick went splat. Wilfred swam off with Neville in pursuit. Wilfred was good at hiding and Neville couldn’t find him anywhere. Betty thought they were playing hide-and-seek—her favorite game—and she joined the search. When she found Wilfred, it was her turn to hide. The three played all afternoon.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Even though they were getting along, there was still a rivalry between Wilfred and Neville for Betty’s affections. “Who would you like to rescue you from dragons,” they wondered. But Betty set them straight. “I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much,” she told them. After that was understood, they became best friends. They ate lunch together, did classwork together, sometimes went to parties, and were just fine with not being like everyone else.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

CK Smouha’s story about a narwhal and a walrus who are ostracized by their classmates but find friendship with a new student is a complex tale that touches on group dynamics, self-esteem, independence, jealousy, finding your niche, and other topics that children deal with every day. There is a difference between totally fitting in and being accepted that frames the story and gives it its emotional punch. The pages in which Wilfred cowers under his covers, not wanting to go to school and Neville spends Sundays replaying the bullying he’s endured are heart-wrenching and important in that they reveal to readers that what happens in school colors life out of school. These pages also give children for whom these feelings are a reality a opening for discussing them. When Betty Beluga joins the class, she becomes a role model for Neville and Wilfred as well as for readers. While she has all the prerequisites to fit in with the seals, she charts her own course, maintaining her individuality.

As Neville and Wilfred become smitten with their new classmate, their hearts swell with romantic love, depicted with humorous snapshots of the two listening to love songs, writing adoring messages, playing cupid, and imagining themselves as rescuing heroes. Betty’s welcome reaction shuts this down, showing her burgeoning independent self-image while opening the door to true friendship. Accepted by Betty, Neville and Wilfred discover that where and how they fit in is just right for them.

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Isabella Bunnell’s matte illustrations, rendered in hues of blue, gold, red and black give a distinctive look to this multilayered story. Bunnell uses subtle shifts in the characters’ faces and body positions to portray their full range of emotions, giving readers much to think and talk about. With the exception of the hide-and-seek scenes, Bunnell chooses to depict the setting without an ocean background. Her pages thus orient readers in school, home, and sports-field environments that are familiar to them, reinforcing the universal theme of the story.

A unique and thoughtful look at the dynamics of groups, defining oneself, and friendship, Iced Out would be a discussion-starting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for all children.

Ages 3 – 8

Cicada Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1908714626

To view a portfolio of artwork by Isabella Bunnell, visit her tumblr.

Iced Out Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Cicada Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Iced Out written by CK Smouha | illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite sea creature for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

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

A winner will be chosen on November 14.

Prizing provided by Cicada Books

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

Picture Book Month Activity

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Sea Animal Friends Coloring Pages

 

These cute sea animals like playing together. Grab your crayons and give their world some color!

Beluga | Narwhal | Seal | Walrus 

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You can find Iced Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 29 – It’s Field Trip Month

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About the Holiday

As the leaves start turning red and yellow and the air becomes crisp and cool, thoughts turn to…field trips? Sure! Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy a bit of travel. For kids a field trip is a fun day away from the classroom, and for adults a little get-away can be refreshing and rejuvenating. With fall festivals, apple-picking, leaf-peeping, and other fun autumn activities, it should be easy to plan a family or group field trip.

It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus!

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Claire Messer

 

It’s a special day for Busy Bus. He’s going on his first field trip! The kids stream out of  school, smiling and waving. Once they’re all on board and have found a seat, Ben, the driver, pulls out onto the road. “Busy Bus can’t wait. He and the children are going to meet a fire truck!” On their way to the fire station, they pass a pharmacy, a bakery, and a café. There are lots of people out driving and walking along downtown.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

When they get to the fire station, the captain greets them and introduces them to Engine 4. The huge truck rolls out of the station with a roar. “‘Engine 4 is a fire-fighting beast,’ says the captain. ‘It saves people and their things.’” Then the fire fighters show the kids all around Engine 4. They get to sit inside and even pretend to drive. They get to try on a fire fighter’s uniform and wear their special hard hats. “The children love Engine 4.”

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Standing next to Engine 4 Busy Bus feels small. The captain takes the kids around the side of Engine 4 and slides open a door. Inside, there are dials and knobs, extra coats, boots, and hats, traffic cones, an axe, and the enormous hose. The captain pulls out the hose while another fire fighter lets the kids hold a hose while it sprays water—Whoosh—right at Busy Bus. Busy Bus wishes he “could put out fires.” Next, the captain and the fire fighters lift a ladder off of Engine 4. They extend the ladder up, up, up to show how they reach the highest parts of tall buildings. Busy Bus watches. “I wish I had a ladder, he thinks.”

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The captain reminds the kids that Engine 4 needs to tell people when it’s rushing to a fire. She tells them to cover their ears as she sets the siren blaring—Wee-ooo, wee-ooo. “Busy Bus’s wipers sag.” He can’t do anything a firetruck can do. Busy Bus wonders if the kids will still like him.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

But just then, Busy Bus hears the captain explaining that even though Engine 4 is “amazing…it can’t do everything.” Busy Bus perks up to listen. The captain says that Engine 4 “doesn’t have a stop arm so children can get on and off safely.” Busy Bus sticks out his stop arm proudly. Engine 4 doesn’t have seats for kids, and it can’t take them to school or on field trips, either. As the children file back on to Busy Bus, he smiles and gives a loud HONK!. “‘Hooray for Busy Bus!’ cheer the children.” Busy Bus can’t wait for their next field trip.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet Busy Bus is both an endearing companion to children just beginning to navigate school and a mirror for their new experiences and the feelings that often come with them. In Busy Bus’s latest adventure, he meets another vehicle that seems to have more “skills” and “talents” than he does. He begins to compare himself to Engine 4 and judge himself by what he doesn’t have. He wonders if the kids will still like him. When the captain points out all the features that Engine 4 doesn’t have but that Busy Bus does, he realizes that he has much to offer too. Shaffer’s multilayered story will excite little ones who love vehicles of all kinds while reassuring them that they each have their own unique talents and place in the world.

With her bold, vibrant illustrations, Claire Messer invites readers into a firehouse and up close to a fire engine to see the workings and equipment that goes into fighting fires. Little ones will be enthralled by the detailed images and the interaction of the fire fighters with the class. Messer captures the excitement of the children as well as Busy Bus’s flagging spirit as Engine 4 racks up attribute after attribute. As Busy Bus overhears the captain praising the abilities of a school bus and is cheered by the children, readers will applaud all the characteristics that make each person (and vehicle) unique.

A story rich in language and meaning, It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections. The book is an excellent follow-up to It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Ages 0 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534440814

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Claire Messer, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Field Trip Month Activity

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Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These kids are ready to go on a field trip, but first they have to get in the correct car! Help them find their way in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze.

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You can find It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 11 – National Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate all of those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways, from spending more time talking with someone to using your talents to make something you know a friend, family member, or coworker would love, to just giving a smile to those you meet during the day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

I received a copy of There’s Only One You from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

There’s Only One You

Written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook | Illustrated by Rosie Butcher

 

Parents, teachers, and other adults with children in their lives know how special each and every one of them are. But do the kids know that? They can wonder—what makes me one-of-a-kind? Or worry—about their “knobby” knees or their “ears that stick out, that they only “smile just a bit / or laugh loud with a shriek.” You want to reassure them that “you’re different—it’s awesome, / being unique.” But sometimes the words are hard to find.

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Image copyright Rosie Butcher, 2019, text copyright Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

That’s where There’s Only One You comes in. Through four-line rhyming stanzas, kids discover that everything about themselves from the way they feel and display their emotions to their skin color and hair to their talents and work styles is what makes them unique. Even the way they communicate is special: “When there’s something to say, / do you talk with your hands? / Do you speak with an accent / from faraway lands? / Some voices are booming, / and some, just a squeak. / Your way is the best way / of being unique.”

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Image copyright Rosie Butcher, 2019, text copyright Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Another pair of verses express the very welcome inclusion of different abilities: “You might have cool glasses / that help you to see. / A wheelchair or walker / gives mobility! / A hearing aid helps you / to hear people speak. / Listen! It’s glorious / being unique!” An individual preference that embraces both extroverts and introverts is the way kids play together—in a big group or with only one friend, often or just every now and then. The inclusiveness of the story extends to families too and expresses that each family is unique and would not be complete without their very special child or children.

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Image copyright Rosie Butcher, 2019, text copyright Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook celebrate individuality in their joyous affirmation that the attributes that make someone different are the very things that should be applauded. The breadth of diversity, which includes outward appearance as well as inner emotions, personality, abilities, and family, makes this a book that any child can find themselves in and reveals how each person fits into the community as a whole. Heling and Hembrook’s sprightly rhymes and jaunty descriptions (hair can be “poofy,” “sleek,” or a “long, thick cascade”; feelings “spill out” and “lay low”) make the story a delight to read aloud.

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Rosie Butcher’s richly colored and engaging illustrations teem with action and exuberance as first one little girl is introduced as she gets ready for school and then joins a group of children and adults at the bus stop. In this two-page spread, a boy and his mother converse through sign language, an older brother holds the handles of his sibling’s wheelchair, and another sibling pair—this brother and sister red-haired and freckled—wait behind a boy with forearm crutches to board the bus. The other children that readers will follow through the story—some shy, some gregarious, some alone, and some with a friend—also congregate on the sidewalk with their parents.

Throughout the year as the kids have a party, go to the zoo, attend a play, frolic in the snow, play on the playground and more, readers see how the children, each with their unique personalities and abilities, interact together. In the final two spreads, readers meet the kids’ families, which include two dads, two moms, moms and dads, and single parents.

A beautiful way for adults to share the wonderful uniqueness of their own child or children while also instilling in them an appreciation for the uniqueness of every person, There’s Only One You would be an inspirational addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454922926

Discover more about Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook and their books on their website.

There’s Only One You Giveaway

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

One (1) copy of There’s Only One You written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook | illustrated by Rosie Butcher

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

This giveaway is open from June 11 through June 17 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on June 18.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

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

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Initial Bookend

 

Kids can show all of their unique qualities with this easy-to-make initial decoration or bookend!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block in the child’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words that your think best describe you on the letter
  3. Display your letter on your bookshelf!

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You can find There’s Only One You at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 18 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today, enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Growing Season

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

 

El and Jo weren’t only best friends, they were the smallest kids in their class. They did everything together, even helping “each other reach the unreachable.” On picture day, Jo and El always got to be in front, and during reading time they could both fit into the comfy reading chair. “But in springtime, something BIG happened.” Jo began to grow. Their teacher, Mr. Diaz, said she was “growing like a weed.”

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She no longer needed El’s help to water the plants on the windowsill, and she had graduated to needing a bigger desk. On the last day of school, when Mr. Diaz told everyone they could take a plant home for the summer, El was overlooked and reached over as the other kids took all the colorful flowers. By the time El got to the windowsill, the only plant left was an aster, with no blooms at all.

Mr. Diaz told her that “aster means ‘star.’” El didn’t think her plant was a star, but Mr. Diaz encouraged her to wait and see. “Jo looked over at El’s sad plant, and then at her own” and offered to let El have her zinnia since she was going to be away all summer anyway. El said she’d plant them side by side, and Jo said they could be best friends.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

At home, El planted her aster and Jo’s zinnia. She cared for them and waited. They grew bigger, but while the zinnia had many colorful flowers, El’s aster still had none. All summer long, El and Jo wrote letters to each other. El sent a photograph of her zinnia to Jo and told her that waiting for aster was hard. Finally, Jo came home. It was the last day of summer, and the two girls ran to the garden. There, they saw that “something BIG had happened. Aster had finally bloomed…and so had El!”

An Author’s Note on plant life cycles describes the differences between annual, perennial, biennial, and tender perennial flowers and includes fun facts about peonies, dahlias, marigolds, and foxgloves.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her signature warmth and attention to children’s feelings, Maryann Cocca-Leffler offers a sweet story about growth and how each child’s experience is as varied as garden flowers. El and Jo, as the smallest kids in the class, are natural best friends—a relationship which, in a welcome demonstration of steadfastness, remains strong even when Jo begins to grow. As summer comes, El’s focus is not on herself but on caring for the aster and zinnia and staying in touch with Jo.

When Jo returns, readers will see that something more has happened over the summer too. As the two girls hug, excited to see each other again, children will notice that they are now the same height—a surprise that El and Jo also seem to share with smiles and sidelong glances at each other. The purple asters that greet the reunited pair, remind kids that growth in many forms follows the natural path for each individual.

Cocca-Leffler’s fresh and cheerful gouache, colored pencil, and collage illustrations present a diverse classroom and school details that will be familiar to readers, making this a highly relatable story. Mr. Diaz shows kindness and understanding as he crouches down to talk with El about the aster and offer encouragement.

A gentle, reassuring story, Growing Season would make an excellent story to pair with plant or garden lessons as well as to remind children that everyone grows and develops at their own pace for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927044

Discover more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Starting to dig out the flip-flops for warmer weather and finding they’re a little too small? Don’t get rid of them! Make them into this sandal-ightful way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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You can find Growing Season at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day

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About the Holiday

Since 1962, International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) has been held on April 2 to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen. Part of the International Board on Books for Young People, which promotes understanding through children’s books, works to ensure that children everywhere have access to books, and helps to protect the rights of children worldwide in accordance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ICBD is sponsored each year by a different member country. This year Lithuania is the sponsor and encourages readers to slow down and enjoy a good book. You can learn more on the IBBY website.

Remarkably You

Written by Pat Zeitlow Miller | Illustrated by Patrice Barton

 

In her stirring Remarkably You, Pat Zeitlow Miller celebrates each child’s individuality and gifts. She talks directly to the reader assuring them that they are exceptional, whether they’re bold, timid, small or “practically grown.” She then fills them with confidence, telling them that they are smart, have power, and can change the world.

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Image copyright Patrice Barton, 2019, text copyright Pat Zeitlow Miller, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With encouragement Miller beckons each child to find their place in the world and do what they can; and when that is done to “choose a new problem and do it again.” How do kids know where they fit in? “Just look for the moments that let you be you.” Miller goes on to validate each child, saying, “You have your own spirit, unparalleled flair. / So rock what you’ve got—every day everywhere.”

She then channels how every parent or caregiver feels about their child—“You are a blessing, / a promise, a prize. / You’re capable, caring, courageous, and wise.”—and emboldens kids to embrace who they are and get out there and enjoy life—their own, remarkable life.

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Image copyright Patrice Barton, 2019, text copyright Pat Zeitlow Miller, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

You will absolutely love reading this book to your child, grandchild, students, or any child who captures your heart. In her lovely and imaginative rhymes, Pat Zeitlow Miller celebrates each child as a special individual with unique traits that are valuable and an asset to the world. She reveals that the secret to happiness is staying true to yourself and using those traits to forge your own path. A glorious story, Remarkably You is an instant boost for any child—and no one could blame an adult for peeking inside for a little lift from time to time too.

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Patrice Barton’s rakish, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and freewheeling kids will melt your heart as they dip a toe into the sprinkler, wobble on skates, create a funny face with post-it notes, and gather to help each other and their neighborhood. Her softly hued pencil and mixed-media illustrations rejoice in diversity of all kinds, and each page shines with the acceptance and freedom all kids should feel while growing up and discovering themselves.

Remarkably You is a book you’ll love giving to new parents, caregivers, and the children in your life (even if they’re not so young any more). It would be a favorite go-to book to add to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062427588

Discover more about Pat Zeitlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Patrice Barton, her books, and her art, visit her website

Children’s Book Day Activity

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You’re Amazing Magnets

 

You can remind your kids about how special they are with these complimentary sayings. Print them out and attach adhesive magnet strips to create decorations for a child’s room, their locker, the fridge or anywhere they’ll see them and take the message to heart. You can also use heavy paper or poster board, markers, and stickers to create your own encouraging magnets.

You’re Amazing Magnet Templates

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You can find Remarkably You at these booksellers

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

 

 

 

January 26 – National Seed Swap Day

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About the Holiday

If you love to garden, you may want to get involved with National Seed Swap Day! The first Seed Swap Day was held in Washington DC in 2006. Since then it has grown to be a nation-wide event as gardeners get together to trade the seeds from their best plants. Not only does this improve the biodiversity in your local area, it’s a great way to make new friends! To learn more about what events are planned in your area, visit the official National Seed Swap blog.

The Bad Seed

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

A sunflower seed stares straight off the page and admits it: “I’m a bad seed. A baaaaaaaad seed.” He knows that all the other seeds would agree. They point him out and mumble, “There goes a baaaad seed.” You might wonder just how bad a seed he can be. Well…pretty bad. In fact, he’ll tell you himself. Are you ready? Take a listen: “I never put things back where they belong. I’m late to everything. I tell long jokes with no punchlines.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Heard enough? Still think this seed may not be so bad? Well, what if you knew he was unhygienic, a little untruthful, and sometimes a lot inconsiderate. Why does he do this stuff? You know why: he’s “a bad seed. A baaaad seed.” You might ponder if he was always this way. The answer’s No. In fact, he “was born a humble seed on a simple sunflower in an unremarkable field.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He just hung out with his big family of seeds until the flower began to droop, the seeds scattered, and then…he found himself in a bag. In a terrifying moment, he was almost eaten by a giant with a big, scary mouth, but he was “spit out at the last possible second.” He landed under some bleachers, and when he woke up he found his life changed forever. He had “become a different seed entirely.” He’d “become a bad seed.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He was in unknown territory, and all by himself. He’s happy to share the sad details: “I stopped smiling. I kept to myself. I drifted. I was friend to nobody and bad to everybody. I was lost on purpose. I lived inside a soda can. I didn’t care. And it suited me.” That is it did suit him until recently. This seed did some soul searching, and decided to be better.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

So now he still does some of that bad stuff (did you hear someone talking during a movie? That was probably him), but he does some good stuff too—like having good manners and smiling at people. Now, he says, “even though I still feel bad, sometimes, I also feel kind of good. It’s sort of a mix.” He’s just going to keep trying, and thinking, and readjusting his behavior and view of himself. Now when he’s walking down the street, he still hears, “There goes that bad seed.” But he also hears, “Actually, he’s not all that bad anymore.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Jory John’s sly look at bad behavior is a sophisticated psychological thriller for the youngest set. With a light touch, John explores some of the events that can cause sadness, loneliness, and even personality changes. As the once-happy seed loses his home, scatters from family, and ends up a bit bruised and battered, he sees his once sunny life turn dark.

With a hardened heart, he goes about his days, acting badly and letting the comments of others define him. To his credit, however, this seed has the presence of mind—and enough honesty—to recognize his bad behavior and also to know that only he can change it. The niceties that the seed foregoes will have kids and adults laughing out loud as his reputation seems more roguish than the reality. And the authentic ending holds a reassuring kernel of truth—life is a bit of a mix, but happiness often wins out.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Looking at Pete Oswald’s adorable illustrations, it’s understandable if you don’t quite believe the sunflower seed when he says he’s a baaaad seed. Sure, he scowls and furrows his brow, butts in line, and gets a bit stinky, but underneath that hard shell, lies the heart of a softie. The other seeds in the neighborhood—pistachios, peanuts, almonds, chestnuts, cashews, and more—are fed up with him, though, registering fear, dismay, and even anger over the sunflower’s behavior. When the sunflower seed has a change of heart, however, others take note, and he gets another crack at life.

The Bad Seed is a funny book that kids will love to hear again and again. It also provides many teachable moments for those times when life gets a little discouraging. If you’re looking for an original book that has a bit of everything to add to a home, classroom, or public library, The Bad Seed is a good—no, great—choice.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062467768

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website

Learn more about Pete Oswalk and view a portfolio of his artwork on his tumblr.

How good is this The Bad Seed book trailer? Take a look!

National Seed Swap Day Activity

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Seed Packet Coloring Pages

 

All of your favorite veggies come from seeds, of course!, and those seeds come in packets that are little bits of art. Grab your crayons or pencils and color these printable Seed Packet Coloring Pages.

Carrots Seed Packet | Peas Seed Packet | Broccoli Seed Packet | Corn Seed Packet

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You can find The Bad Seed at these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

January 24 – National Compliment Day

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About the Holiday

Getting a compliment can make the world seem brighter. Maybe this is what inspired New Hampshire residents Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman to create National Compliment Day in 1998. How to celebrate today’s holiday is simple. Take a look around and when you see something about someone that you like, tell them! Does your friend’s sense of humor always lift your spirit? Tell them! Did your employee do a great job today? Tell them! Are your kids the light of your life? Tell them why! You don’t have to limit your compliments to friends and family either. Giving a compliment to someone you don’t know may just make a big difference in their day. So, today, be generous with those nice comments!

Giraffe Problems

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

Giraffe was self-conscious about his neck—and why not? After all, it just seemed “too long. Too bendy. Too narrow. Too dopey” and “too” so many other things. All-in-all, he summed it up this way: “Yes, my neck is too necky.” Giraffe could feel everyone staring at it. He’d tried “dressing it up,” and hiding, but nothing made it better.

No other animals had such a ridiculous neck. Zebra’s was stylishly striped; Elephant’s was “strong and powerful, yet graceful”; and Lion’s was “adorned with a glorious mane of flowing locks.” Even the reassurances Giraffe’s mom gave didn’t make him feel better. In despair, Giraffe laid his long neck on a rock and sighed. But the rock turned out to be a turtle shell—with a turtle inside.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

What luck! Turtle had been watching Giraffe from afar and thought his neck was pretty spiffy. Turtle said, “Oh, how I wish my neck looked like yours! I’d get so much done in a day.” He longed to be able to look around properly and grab things that were high up. But instead Turtle was “saddled with this little excuse for a neck.” Turtle even demonstrated how far his neck could reach—which was not far at all.

Giraffe was nonplussed to find another neck sufferer. But they were happy to have found each other. Turtle introduced himself as Cyrus, and Giraffe said his name was Edward. In this spirit of camaraderie, Cyrus confessed a secret. “There is a hill in the distance, which you can surely see from your great vantage. I’ve stood on that very hill for seven straight days now staring skyward, watching as a single piece of fruit—a lone banana!—slowly changed from green to yellow, ripening.” Cyrus’s frustration poured forth as he explained how he’d spent sleepless nights waiting for the fruit to drop so he could taste just a bit of it. Then came the disappointment and self-recrimination as he revealed how foolish he felt as he stretched his “neck toward those greedy branches, only to be limited by my own physical shortcomings.” He topped off this soliloquy with a small smile.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Edward summed it up, just to be sure. “You want a banana from a tree.” That is indeed what Cyrus wanted. Easy as one, two, three, Edward plucked the banana from its branch and dropped it in front of Cyrus. Cyrus gobbled it up and declared it delicious. In thanks, Cyrus complimented Edward on his “impressive” neck that allows him “to do amazing things.” In return, Edward complimented Cyrus’s neck, saying “it’s elegant and dignified, and it works well with your shell. They each appreciated the other’s viewpoint then Edward had a suggestion for his new friend. Soon, each was smiling and complimenting the other on how they looked in their handsome bowties. And for the first time ever, both Edward and Cyrus felt good about their necks.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Who knew animals have the same insecurities as people? Jory John, that’s who—much to readers’ benefit! John’s completely original story about a giraffe and a turtle who both despair about the state of their necks will make readers laugh out loud even as they empathize with these two endearing characters. Edward’s flowery reveries comparing his own imperfect neck to those of his fellow animals and Cyrus’s burst of vexation at the limits of his neck are hilarious—and, really, who doesn’t feel this vociferous sometimes? Following this, the friendship forged by Edward’s ease at fulfilling Cyrus’s simple request provides a satisfying ending that’s all the more charming for its modest honesty—and bowties.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

When Jory John and Lane Smith team up, you always know you’ll be opening the cover to an exceptional experience. Here, sweet Edward juts onto pages with a neck so long that often only his head and neck, or body and neck, or just his neck appear. His attempts at disguising his most noticeable feature under neckties, behind palm trees, and in other natural surroundings will only make readers love him more. Edward is a born storyteller with a beautifully inlaid shell and an expressive face that makes his confession all the more touching. Alert readers will notice that the supposedly gawking animals all have their own unique features and perhaps are as self-conscious as Edward is. The muted and mottled browns, greens, reds, and golds that color the textured images are perfectly suited for the natural environment, and a gatefold page that flips up to let Edward procure the banana will delight kids.

Giraffe Problems is a must for fun story times as well as for when a child (or adult) needs a bit of a boost. The book would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. And if you’re looking for more adorable animals with problems, check out Jory John and Lane Smith’s Penguin Problems!

Ages 3 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524772031

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

To learn more about Lane Smith, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Compliment Day Activity

Caring Compliment Cards

 

Sharing a compliment is a great way to brighten someone’s day and make new friends! With these printable cards, you’ll always have a sweet compliment at hand to give to a friend, a teacher, a librarian, or anyone who looks as if they need encouragement.

Compliment Cards 1 | Compliment Cards 2

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You can find Giraffe Problems at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review