September 8 – World Fencing Day

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About the Holiday

In its second year as a recognized holiday, World Fencing Day promotes this action-packed Olympic sport and encourages kids and adults to get involved. Fencing is enjoyed worldwide and is a popular sport offered in schools and at community venues. To celebrate the day, Olympic and world champion fencers hold demonstrations at malls, public squares, beaches, and other places, and fencing clubs offer free trials to would-be fencers. To celebrate, check out a demonstration held near you and try your hand at this fun and rewarding sport!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight to check out. All opinions are my own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight

Written by Pam Calvert | Illustrated by Liana Hee

 

Princess Brianna Bright’s dreams of dancing ballet always seemed to go poof! whenever she actually tried to do the steps. “When practicing, she pranced and piquéd and pivoted…right into the palace pool. Ploink!” On the day when she tipped over her father’s throne with a grand jeté, the king suggested that maybe dancing wasn’t her talent.”

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Brianna sadly took off her ballet shoes, even her puppy Pixie was sympathetic. But Brianna was determined to find her true talent. During the week she tried ice-skating and baking, but those really weren’t for her either. Then on Saturday she saw two knights fencing, and “Brianna’s stomach fluttered.” Here was something that she could do, she thought, but the king and queen took one look at the pointy swords and worried.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Brianna continued her search. Skateboarding in the castle resulted in a frosting fiasco, and while playing soccer she caused a team pileup. Brianna feared she’d never find her talent. “Then she heard the click. And the clack. And the clickety, clackity, clack” that sends “her tiny heart swelling with anticipation.” One of the knights had left a fencing blade on the ground, and Brianna picked it up. She liked the way it felt in her hand.

All day she watched the knights parry and feint and shout, “‘en garde!’” That night she crept into the forest to practice on her own. But fencing wasn’t as easy as it looked. Brianna “tumbled and stumbled and bumbled.” After a few weeks of bumps and bruises, Brianna told Pixie that she didn’t think she had a talent.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

One night, Brianna and Pixie heard a suspicious sound outside the castle. She looked out her window just in time to see two thieves running off with some of the royal gems. Quickly, she grabbed her fencing blade and leaped in front of them. As “she parried and pirouetted…tiptoed and touchéd…dodged and dégagéd” she used the fencing blade for balance, executing each move just right. With a final feint and lunge, Brianna rescued the jewels. The king and queen and the knights were proud of their little princess, and Brianna was happiest of all because instead of having just one talent, she had discovered  she had two. She was no longer just the princess or even just Brianna. “She was Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight.”

A dictionary of ballet and fencing moves follows the story.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Kids searching for their special talent will find much to admire in Pam Calvert’s Princess Brianna. Despite bumps and bruises, missteps and mishaps, Brianna shows patience and perseverance as she tries a variety of activities. While some of Brianna’s slapstick blunders may raise a giggle, readers will also empathize with her grit as well as her sadness when the activities don’t work out. Declarations from Brianna, such as “I’ll find a new talent!” and especially the repeated “I’ll do it!” give young readers mantras that they can embrace. Highlighted ballet and fencing terms within the story will spark an interest in these two graceful and athletic pursuits.

Liana Hee’s Brianna shows excitement, wistfulness, good humor, and triumph in her expressive doe eyes. Vivid full-page illustrations depict Brianna’s mishaps with a comedic flair and her ballet and fencing moves with the kind of precision that makes these disciplines both beautiful and “cool” to watch. Brianna’s tiny pink poodle Pixie is a cutie as she keeps her princess company through it all—even the suspenseful late-night duel with the jewel thieves. Brianna’s celebration when she discovers her two talents is infectious and will encourage readers to search for their own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight is a reassuring read for children trying out various activities in that search for the one that excites and inspires them. Brianna’s persistence and self-confidence makes this a book to keep on hand at home and in the classroom for encouraging story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503951013

Discover more about Pam Calvert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liana Hee and her art, visit her on tumblr.

World Fencing Day Activity

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Fencing is Fantastic Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

The sport of fencing uses its own unique vocabulary to describe the equipment and actions of the participants. Can you find all of the fencing terms in the puzzle?

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Puzzle (20 words) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Solution (20 words)

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) Solution

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You can find Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 12 – New Conversations Day

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About the Holiday

This brand-new holiday extols the virtues of a really good conversation. Too often our exchanges with others fall into the realm of small talk where the weather, the score of the latest game, or a cursory “how are you?” is as deep as it gets. But there are so many more interesting topics to discuss that would lead to better connections with and understanding of family, friends, and acquaintances. Take the opportunity of today’s holiday to get together with your friends and talk about the funniest thing that ever happened to you, the best meal you ever had, or your favorite work of art. Of course a perfect topic of conversation is your favorite book or character and why! You’ll find out a lot about your friends as well as about yourself!

The Blue Songbird

By Vern Kousky

 

There once was a little blue songbird who loved to listen to her sisters singing in the morning, but when she tried to join in, the notes always fell flat. Sadly, she told her mother that she thought there were no songs for her, but her mother gently told her, “‘not just any notes will do. You must go and find a special song that only you can sing.’” So the little songbird began a journey to “find her special song.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

When she was far from home, she met a great crane and asked if he knew of any song made especially for her. The crane said he couldn’t help her, but pointed her in the direction of the mountains, where a wise bird lived. When she reached the pine forest on the other side of the mountains, the songbird explained to Mr. Wise Old Bird his quest for a song. But the owl could only ask, “‘Whoooo? Whoooo?’” so the songbird went on her way.

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

She stopped here and there to talk to a buzzard, a group of pigeons, and a family of penguins, but “no bird ever had the answer.” Then one snowy day the songbird saw “a bird who looked a little bit mean and more than a little hungry. Even so the songbird bravely chirped: ‘Please don’t eat me, Mr. Scary Bird. I was just wondering if you’ve ever heard of a very special thing—a song that only I can sing.’” The crow did know of such a thing and told the songbird about an island filled with enchanting music.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-penguins

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

The songbird grew weary searching for the island, and then one day he saw a glow on the horizon and knew she had found it. She could hear the faint strains of beautiful music, and she flew faster and faster to get there. When she neared the island, though, she knew this place. It was home. “The songbird’s heart fell.” After all that time and all the conversations with other birds, “her quest had failed.”

When she saw her mother, however, her mood brightened. She wanted to tell her mother all about her travels and the other birds she’d met. When she opened her beak to tell her stories, though, “what came out was not words at all…but a song!” She sang about Crane and Owl and Crow, “of cities and of stormy seas and mountains capped with snow.” She told of warm days and cold days and most of all “of the love the songbird felt for her family and her home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-crow

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

Vern Kousky gently nudges little ones out of the nest to begin exploring the world on their own, to test their wings, meet others, and discover their talents. Along the way young readers learn that they can trust their instincts, be brave, and that perseverance pays off. Kousky’s lyrical story also reassures children that home is always waiting and that no matter where they go or what they do, family will always welcome them.

Kousky’s tiny blue smudge of a bird is adorable as she cuddles with her mother to reveal her doubts and then demonstrates hopeful pluck as she talks with much larger birds on her way to self-discovery. Kousky’s settings delight with muted hues of blues, yellows, and reds and angled mountains, skyscrapers, and glaciers that point the little songbird—as well as readers—skyward. The image of the little songbird’s mother welcoming her home with outstretched wings is heartwarming, and the songbird’s elation at having found her song will fill readers with joy.

A joyful story for inspiring self-confidence, interactions with others, and personal growth, The Blue Songbird is a beautiful book for home and classroom libraries that will be asked for again and again.

Ages 4 –  8

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762460663

To learn more about Vern Kousky, his books, and his art, visit his website.

New Conversations Day Activity

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Family Conversation Starters

 

Because children have such fertile imaginations, great conversations can start from just one intriguing question. Put these printable conversation starters on the dinner table and let the fun and serious talk begin!

Conversation Starters Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6

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You can find The Blue Songbird at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 10 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers to the chicken side of things, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle to the world as a food source and source of material from earliest times. Cows have also long been beloved characters in children’s books, inspiring laughs, empathy, and imagination – as in today’s book!

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

By Gemma Merino

 

Tina is a very unique cow. Unlike her sisters who are only interested in “fresh and juicy grass,” Tina is very curious and always inventing new ideas. Her sisters proclaim her notions “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” One day while exploring the woods, Tina decides to climb a tree. Branch by branch she swings herself to the top. Up there among the owls and squirrels Tina discovers a dragon—a friendly one, and a vegetarian to boot!

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Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“All afternoon they talked about wonderful dreams and incredible stories.” Tina is excited to tell her sisters, but when she gets home they aren’t impressed. The whole idea of cows climbing trees and dragons is “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” The next morning Tina never shows up for breakfast. Her sisters find a note that reads “Gone flying with the Dragon of the Woods.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree-dragon

Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Her sisters decided this nonsense has to stop, so they head out to find her. As they leave behind their familiar farmland and enter the forest, they can’t believe how beautiful it is. Suddenly a pig wearing a backpack dashes past them and shimmies up a tree. Even though they consider this “impossible,” one sister follows the pig. The others join her. From a treetop branch the three find that “the world beyond the fields was extraordinary.”

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Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Still, Tina is nowhere to be found. The sisters look left, right, down, and up. Up! “It was impossible. It was ridiculous. It was nonsense. But it was true! Tina was flying!” She and other animals are taking flying lessons from the dragon, and while they don’t have wings, they soar just fine with a little help. From her lofty place, Tina asks her sisters to join her, and they say something she has never heard before: “Yes, why not?” They float, drift, and glide in the sunlit sky, and ever afterward find that nothing is “impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.” Now all four sisters can’t wait to see what else is possible.

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Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Gemma Merino’s mooving tribute to people who live and dream large will inspire young children to reach for the treetops and beyond. The plucky heroine who doesn’t cower under her sisters’ reproach is a confident and likable role model, happy to include her sisters when they finally see the light. Merino’s sweet, soft-hued illustrations humorously depict the dichotomy between the sisters’ grass-focused existence and Tina’s vivid imagination. The cows’ home has sage green walls, furniture, and floors.

The pictures on the walls, the flowerpot on the windowsill, and the planter are all full of various types of vegetation, and the jars in the pantry contain such ingredients as Pickled Leaves, Meadow Mix, Dried Petals, and Herbal Tea. But Tina’s imagination and the forest she loves to visit are infused with reds, ambers, blues, and teals; even the greens are more brilliant. For anyone contemplating the unknown, The Cow Who Climbed a Tree is rousing fun!

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807512982

To learn more about Gemma Merino and her books visit her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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Moo Cow Mug

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

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You can find The Cow Who Climbed a Tree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 5 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a real art to putting together a delicious meal from a bunch of seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. While we celebrate food and those who make it, though, we might also take a moment to think about the utensils that help us cook and eat. Without the proper kitchen tools and tableware, those perfectly planned dishes just would not be the same. To make your Culinary Arts Month a little more cutting edge, why not research the history of cutlery and—of course—enjoy a dip into today’s adorable book!

Spoon

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

Spoon comes from a large, diverse family. He enjoys visiting his Aunt Silver, who is “very fancy and proper” and says things like “‘Good-bye, darling!’” and “‘Ta-ta!’” He also likes to hear the story of how his great-grandmother “fell in love with a dish and ran off to a distant land.” But one day Spoon’s mother noticed that he was looking “‘a bit bent out of shape.’”

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Spoon confessed that he thought his friends had it better than he did. Spoon thought Knife was lucky because he got to cut and spread, and his mother had to agree that Knife was “pretty spiffy.” “‘And Fork, Fork is so lucky!’” Spoon exclaimed. Fork got to go all sorts of places, like hot barbecues, leafy salads, and spongy cakes. She even got to twirl spaghetti like a lasso. And then there were Chopsticks. They were so “cool and exotic.” Again Spoon’s mom had to concede that Fork and Chopsticks were rather special.

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

But Spoon may have been interested to know what his friends thought about him. Just then, Knife was telling his dad that Spoon was so lucky because he got to have fun and be silly, like when people used him to drum on a pot. Fork thought it was really neat that Spoon got “‘to measure stuff. No one ever does that with me,’” she said. And Chopsticks? They wished that something they could do things alone.

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

That night as Spoon’s mom tucked him into bed, she said, “‘You know, Spoon—I wonder if you realize just how lucky you are.’” She reminded him of the fun he had “diving headfirst into a bowl of ice cream,’” how he made a musical clink against the side of a bowl, and how cozy it was to “‘relax in a hot cup of tea.’” His mom’s words cheered him and kept him awake thinking of all the things he could do. He popped out of bed and told his mom and dad that he couldn’t sleep. For which they had the perfect snuggley solution….

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

This classic tale from Amy Krause Rosenthal is the perfect recipe for those times when kids feel others have it better, show more talent, or are luckier than they are. Written with a combination of wistfulness and humor, the story acknowledges the doubt everyone feels as some time or another while also presenting food for thought about ones place in the world, individual talents, and the simple pleasures of life that leads to self-realization and higher self-esteem for the story’s young audience.

From the Silverware family portrait to the dancing chopsticks to the final, sweet image of Dad, Mom, and little Spoon snuggling together on their sugar packet pillows, Scott Magoon’s clever take on the lives of tableware will charm kids and adults alike.  Endearing touches—like the utensils’ thread-thin arms and legs and the drawer-divider bedrooms—will capture the imagination of little readers, reinforcing the story’s gentle message each time them dive into their favorite meal.

Ages 2 – 6

Disney Hyperion, 2009 |ISBN 978-1423106852

To learn more about Amy Krause Rosenthal’s books for children and adults, her videos, and foundation, visit her official website.

Discover more about Scott Magoon, his books, and his art on his website.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Spoon Flowers Craft

 

Plastic spoons aren’t just for enjoying yummy treats, they make cute flowers too! With this easy and quick craft, you can give everyone you love a bouquet!

Supplies

  • Colorful plastic spoons
  • Heavy stock paper or construction paper in various colors, including green for leaves
  • Multi-surface glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Cut petals from the heavy stock paper or construction paper
  2. Glue the petals to the bowl of the spoon
  3. Cut leaves from the green paper (optional)
  4. Glue leaves to the handle of the spoon (optional)

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You can find Spoon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 29 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Adopt a Cat Month is all about bringing a kitten or older cat into your home to provide love and a forever family for these sweet animals who make terrific companions. If you’re considering sharing your life with a pet, check with your local animal shelter. There are many cats and kittens who would make the perfect addition to your family.

Vincent Comes Home

By Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley

 

“Vincent lived on a cargo ship. His paws had never touched land.” He liked living onboard the ship—there was plenty of fish to eat, seagulls to chase, and freedom to roam. At night he loved to gaze at the twinkling stars. His home, the Domus sailed to ports all over the world picking up and delivering goods. The ship was “always coming and going. Never staying.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-ship

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Although Vincent loved seeing all of the new and exciting places, he could only experience them from afar. He also enjoyed looking at all of the souvenirs in the captain’s cabin. “They seemed to have visited every place imaginable. Every place except one.” Vincent heard the crew talking about a place called Home. It sounded amazing, and the little cat wanted to go there some day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-galley

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When the ship docked the next day, “Vincent heard the first mate shout, ‘We’re HOME!!!’” Vincent couldn’t wait to see this exciting place. When he looked over the ship’s rail, though, this city looked like many others. He couldn’t see why it was so special. Vincent decided to follow one of the crew to find out. As soon as the “crewman opened the door, a bunch of people yelled ‘WELCOME HOME!’” Everyone inside hugged and kissed the crewman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-crewman's-home

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Vincent looked in other windows and saw the same things there. He decided that Home wasn’t really a place but where the people who loved you lived. “I guess I don’t have a Home,” he thought. He wandered around town and gazed at the familiar stars. Just then he heard a voice he knew. It was the captain. “‘I’ve been looking all over for you!’” he said. He picked Vincent up and scratched his chin and belly. “‘Let’s go home,’” he told Vincent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-captain-finds-vincent

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jessixa and Aaron Bagley’s endearing story about the meaning of Home will charm young readers who are beginning to navigate their own way in the world, leaving home for school and activities. Their lyrical storytelling offers tender comfort and heartwarming reassurance that Home is rich with those who love you and is always there waiting for your return. 

Beautiful watercolors bring to life the unique cargo ship setting, with its vibrant containers and world port-to-port schedule as well as the homey galley, staterooms, and common areas that make Domus a well-chosen name. Seen from afar, the European city, tropical island, and arctic vista—as well as the captain’s cabin filled with posters and souvenirs from the Domus’s trips—will entice young readers to do a bit of armchair traveling themselves. But, like Vincent, they will embrace their own home as the most wonderful place in the world.

A thoughtful book for children just entering school or other new situations or to share the warmth of home, Vincent Comes Home would be a welcome addition to personal or classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626727809

Discover more about Jessixa Bagley, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Aaron Bagley, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Love Craft

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cover

You can find Vincent Comes Home at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 25 – It’s Pride Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of June the LGBT community celebrates diversity, cultural accomplishments and influence, and the strides that have been made politically and socially. The month also highlights that there is still far to go before the LGBT community achieves full equal rights and acceptance. Around the world, the rainbow flag, designed in 1978 by American artist, gay rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran Gilbert Baker, flies proudly over a variety of events, including parades, marches, concerts, book readings, parties, and workshops.

Julián Is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

 

Julián and his abuela are riding the subway, when three women dressed as mermaids enter their car. The women’s shimmery aqua dresses, complete with flowing tail, capture the young boy’s attention because “Julián LOVES mermaids.” As they move down the track, one of the mermaids combs through her long hair; another, her head adorned with a filmy, seaweed-red pouf decorated with jewels fixes her tail; and the third waves at Julián, who smiles back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Julián-Is-a-Mermaid-subway

Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In Julián’s imagination the aqua dresses become a wave engulfing him in the frothy sea. He frees himself from his shorts and tank top while his tightly curled hair, loosens and floats upward. A ray with a rainbow of fish, jelly fish, eels, and an octopus following it its wake surround Julián, and when they’ve all passed by, he’s magically grown a pink tail with a golden fin. He swims, flips, and whirls in the water and then meets a fantastical fish who presents him with a shiny necklace.

The daydream vanishes as Julián hears his abuela say, “‘Vámonos, mijo. This is our stop.’” The three mermaids wave goodbye at the door of the subway car as Julián and his abuela walk down the platform. On the way home, they pass three girls playing in the spray of a fire hydrant.  “‘Abuela, did you see the mermaids?’” Julián asks. Without looking down, his abuela says, “‘I saw them, mijo.’”

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

On their doorstep, Julián tells his abuela that he too is a mermaid. The older woman takes this in without expression. Inside, as Julián’s abuela takes a bath, Julien sets off to make his imagination a reality. He frees himself from his shorts and t-shirt, harvests fronds from his abuela’s palm tree and flowers from her vase for a headdress, applies her lipstick in the vanity mirror, and ties the sheer, delicate curtain from her window around his waist for a tail.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With the costume complete, Julián is reay to swim just as his abuela steps into the room. She takes one unreadable look at Julián, says “‘Oh’” and “‘Uh-oh’” and leaves the room. Julián folds his arms, looks uncertainly at his “tail,” and checks out his face in the mirror. In a moment his abuela is back, dressed and ready to go out. She holds out her hand to Julián and presents him with a pearl necklace.

She takes Julián’s hand and leads him outside and down the sidewalk. Julián holds his abuela’s arm and walks beside her with his head held high. They meet up with a crowd of men, women, and children dressed as mermaids and other sea life. At first Julián holds back, but Abuela holds out her hand. “‘Like you, mijo. Let’s join them,’” she says. And as they join the parade—Julián revels in his freedom while he dances right behind the three aqua mermaids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-julian-is-a-mermaid-walking-to-parade

Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jessica Love’s joyful story will raise a lump in your throat. Perfectly constructed with a minimum of text and facial expressions that reveal so many nuances of wonder, awareness, and acceptance, Julián Is a Mermaid offers young readers and adults a rich tapestry for discussing emotions, memories, and experiences related to growing up, identity, and finding ones place. Love’s gorgeous color palette brings the beauty of the sea and the creativity of the imagination fully to life.

Julián’s abuela is a marvel of understated strength. Her seemingly strict gaze on Julián provides a bit of humor and the suspenseful turning point in the story, but as her eyes soften—just a little—when she takes Julián to the parade, readers will know that not only does she accept, but she truly understands. Julián knows this too, which is dynamically demonstrated when Abuela appears as the generous fish in his daydream. With so many people around the world striving for their voices to be heard, Julián is a Mermaid is an important gem to cherish and share.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763690458

National Pride Month Activity

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Mermaid Coloring Page

 

Everyone loves mermaids! Grab your crayons or pencils and even some glitter and enjoy this printable Mermaid Coloring Page!

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You can find Julián is a Mermaid at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 20 – National Look Alike Day

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About the Holiday

Do people say you look like someone else—a family member or friend or maybe a celebrity or historical figure? If so, today is the day to embrace that dopplegänger and perhaps have a little fun with the resemblance. The holiday got started in 1980 when television news reporter Jack Etzel was looking for a feature story on a slow news day. Out on the sidewalk with his camera crew, Etzel spotted a man who looked like Humphrey Bogart. He stopped him and asked him who people said he looked like. Etzel and his crew went on to ask more people about their look-alikes. The next day, Etzel contacted the people who organize the Chase Calendar of Events and proclaimed April 20 as Look Alike Day. Why not join in the fun and go all out? Dress up as your look alike, talk and act like them, and enjoy a day of fame!

Quackers

By Liz Wong

 

Quackers, a little orange tabby, wants to say hello! “Meow.” Quackers is a duck. “He knows he’s a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.” Not only that, but all of his friends are ducks. Sometimes, though, when he looks around at all the white feathers and orange beaks, he feels a bit out of place, and communicating is sometimes difficult. There’s also the issue of food—some of the things he’s given to eat are pretty slimy or tiny or hard to chew, and duckweed seems to be on the menu all the time. The worst, though? Getting wet.

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

One day, Quackers meets another duck who looks like him and sounds like him. In his joy, Quackers blurts out, “‘I’ve never met a duck who understands me!’” The gray kitten, Mittens, is confused at first and then understands and then laughs. At last, she invites Quackers to follow her. They end up at a farm where Mittens lives with “a whole flock of strange ducks. Ducks just like Quackers.”

Mittens shows Quackers how they “chase mice,” which Quackers prefers to swimming; “drink milk,” which is more delicious than duckweed; and clean themselves, which Quackers is a bit iffy on. Soon, Quackers is napping with his new friends. As much as he enjoys being a cat, Quackers starts to miss the duck pond. He even finds that he has a craving for duckweed. He scampers back and discovers that “most of all, he missed his friends.”

Now Quackers splits his time at the pond and the farm. Sometimes he’s a duck, and sometimes he’s a cat. But all the time “he’s just Quackers, and that makes him completely happy.”

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

As mom to a cat who thinks he’s part person and possibly part dog, I fell in love with Liz Wong’s little Quackers and little readers will too. Kids will giggle as Quackers sits contentedly on a lily pad, accepts slugs and snails as snacks with a meow-nimum of fuss, and explains to Mittens that he’s a duck.  Readers, who are beginning to develop their own identity, will be cheered when Quackers embraces both his duck and cat sides. They’ll understand that it’s what’s inside a person that matters and that being yourself is the best thing you can be. Wong’s adorable kittens and ducks will charm kids, and her simple hand-lettered text and speech bubbles create a cozy reading experience that’s like a sweet hug in a book.

Full of humor, self-acceptance, and inclusion, Quackers should find a home on any child’s and classroom’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553511543

Discover more about Liz Wong, her books, and her art on her website.

National Look Alike Day Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These adorable kittens all have a twin, but they’ve gotten mixed up while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

Picture Book Review