September 20 – It’s a Book Birthday Party for Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m celebrating the book birthday of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with two holidays – Read a New Book Month and Friendship Month. I also have amazing interviews with author Jamie Michalak and illustrator Sabine Timm that really dive into the creation of this unique book. So, come on in!

Thanks go to Hippo Park and Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Sabine Timm

 

Kids first meet the sweet lemon (yes, an adorably sweet lemon) at the center of this story peeking out from a cutout in the cover. The narrator, having revealed that “there’ a party in this book,” now invites Lemon to find it: “Come on, Lemon! Let’s go look.” So, a little uncertainly, Lemon knocks at a red door with a mouse door knocker. Once inside, Lemon, readers, and the narrator meet a jaunty cast of characters—suspender shorts atop three pillows, a paint-tube mouse on a bed, a curious sock on the top of a bunkbed, and a little pink-and-green house on more pillows.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The scene sets Lemon and crew wondering… “Is this a mouse party? A pants, sock, and house party?” And the answer? “No! This is a game where we can’t touch the floor.” Ah! So the narrator says, “Lemon, keep looking. Try the next door.” Lemon tries another house, but there’s no party there either—just some fashionable cats and fruit.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Hmmm… Lemon is getting a little discouraged. But the narrator gives Lemon a nudge, saying “This book is not done.” Although Lemon meets a group of friends at the beach, they’re not partying, just hanging out together. Lemon meets some pigeons and enters a kitchen, where a bear, a bunny, and a little toast dog made of bread are baking up treats. But there’s no party! Finally, “…Lemon’s back home. Does the book end right here, with her sad and alone?”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

But then Lemon has an idea! An idea that needs readers’ help to succeed! Lemon (and readers) are going to host the party for everyone they’ve met! There’s going to be cake and candy, decorations and games. “This is a big and a small, / have a ball party. / Hooray for new friends at the / come one and all party!” And what about readers? Everyone shouts, “Come on in!”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Kids can’t help but get excited about joining Lemon in searching for the party promised on the cover. Jamie Michalak’s enthusiastic, inclusive storytelling speaks directly to them from the very first words as she exclaims “What?! There’s a party in this book?” As Lemon goes from door to door and page to page, readers follow, carried along on Michalak’s buoyant rhythm and rhymes that surprise—coming at the ends of lines but also sometimes in the middle, which keeps each page fresh and fun. 

When Lemon returns home after not finding the party and hits upon the idea of being the one to host it, the promise that “there’s a party inside” is fulfilled in an unexpected way. An interactive page gets readers involved in the party preparations and will make them feel both included and empowered to invite others to their own party—or just to make new friends. 

Sabine Timm’s illustrations, created with found objects, burst with childlike imagination and endearing personalities. Each page is a showstopper that kids and adults will want to explore together to soak up all the details. And you don’t have to stop there! Each character—from Lemon to the yarn cat and clothespin rabbit to the paintbrush dog and soccer-loving log boy (see Sabine’s answer to question 2 in her interview below)—offers up an opportunity for readers to have fun creating their backstories, imagining what they’re doing when Lemon first encounters them, and guessing what their favorite part of the party is. But wait! The party isn’t over yet! The front and back endpapers, full of tiny objects from the story, give families a super search-and-find game to do together.

Full of humor, whimsy, imagination, and the joys of inclusive friendship. Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! will quickly become a family favorite to read again and again. The book would make a terrific gift and one you’ll want in your home, school, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640001

Meet Jamie Michalak

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Jamie Michalak is a children’s book writer, who loves toast, dogs, and toast shaped like dogs. She is the author of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! illustrated by Sabine Timm. Jamie’s other titles include the multiple starred reviewed Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Kato-Jones; Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; the Frank and Bean early reader series, illustrated by Bob Kolar, and the Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. She lives with her family in Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie Michalak on her website | Instagram | Twitter

This story feels so fresh—whimsical, comical, and surprising.  I’d love to have you talk about how your story came to be and your writing process for it.

Thank you! Long ago, I jotted down the title and idea for this story—an interactive picture book with a different party on every page that the reader was invited to join. But I never wrote it. Several years later, my agent, Victoria Wells Arms, told me that editor Jill Davis was looking for a manuscript for artist Sabine Timm. So I checked out Sabine’s irresistible art on Instagram.

I instantly fell in love with her characters and wanted to write a story that included as many of them as possible. That’s when my old idea for COME ON IN; THERE’S A PARTY IN THIS BOOK! came to mind. I wrote the story and threw a party for Sabine’s characters—cats wearing boots and fruits dressed in suits, pigeons named Fred, and dogs made of bread. As it turns out, this party was just waiting for the right guests to get it started!

The idea of anthropomorphizing everyday objects is so interesting, especially as it’s a practice universal to adults and kids. As a storyteller, do you think this is just part of human nature or do we learn it in childhood?

That’s a fascinating question! I’m not sure. But I do love how children and children book creators are always turning inanimate objects into characters. A hot dog and baked bean can be new friends who form a band called The Chili Dogs. Or the salt and pepper shakers might face off in a talent competition before dinner arrives. Life is more interesting when you use your imagination.

The story lends itself so well to the “search and find” fun of Sabine’s illustrations. Was this also part of your intention as you crafted the story?

It wasn’t, but you’re right! I discovered all of the seek-and-find elements, just like readers will, when I first saw Sabine’s illustrations. There are so many whimsical details that I spot new ones with every read.

Every page is so creatively put together, but do you have a favorite spread in the book?

The cats wearing boots spread is one of my favorites from any picture book ever. How did Sabine create a cat from a small ball of yarn and sassy plastic doll boots? I mean … the BEST!

What would you like kids to take away from the story?

Everyone is invited to this book’s party—and that’s what makes the last spreads, starring all of the characters, the most joyful of all. I hope that readers take away that parties are more fun when no one is left out.

Do you have any special events or other marketing planned that you’d like to tell readers about?

Here’s a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio” that introduces readers to Sabine Timm and Lemon. Then Sabine gives a tutorial on how they can make a character of their own. a link to a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio – the illustrator of COME ON IN.”

And here’s a short bit of animation showing closeups of the objects that make up the book cover.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited about several books coming out next year. The first is a picture book about a tiny treasure hunt set in a Parisian bookshop: DAKOTA CRUMB AND THE SECRET BOOKSHOP illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press). It’s the follow-up to DAKOTA CRUMB: TINY TREASURE HUNTER about an Indiana Jones-ish mouse. The third Frank and Bean early reader, FRANK AND BEAN: THE STINKY FEET MONSTER, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick Press), is a hilarious take on Bigfoot. And two Chicken Soup for the Soul for Kids books—THE SUNSHINE GARDEN, illustrated by Jenna Nahyun Chung, and PLAYDATE (WITH BEAR TOO?), illustrated by Katie Mazeika—will be released from Charlesbridge.

Thanks, Jamie, for taking time to chat with me todat! Finding new book of yours is always a reason to celebrate! 

Meet Sabine Timm

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Sabine Timm calls herself an artist, creator, beach-trash collector, flea-market lover, and photographer. She draws, paints, assembles and shares her work nonstop on Instagram. She lives in Dusseldorf Germany, but has fans from around the globe.

You can connect with Sabine Timm on Facebook | Instagram

Hi Sabine! I’m so thrilled to have a chance to talk with you about your incredible illustrations! As your 168K Instagram followers would, I’m sure, agree, your adorable creations are not only awe-inspiring but always bring a smile. Can you tell readers how you got started doing this kind of art?

It’s hard to say when I started making art like this. I always had a big interest in playing with found objects. When I was a child, I collected various things from nature. Shreds, sticks, seeds, buttons I’ve found on the streets etc.

I always loved the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and I was very much inspired by the hidden life of things in his stories. Many years later when I became a mother myself we had holidays at the sea and me and my son made a beach walk. We found a lot of funny things…a broken flip-flop, a red-checked French-fries bag, sandblasted wood sticks, small rope pieces, bottle caps, shells, feathers, and stuff like this.

Together we started playing, and we made characters from this found trash. We transformed trash to treasures…through our eyes and visions the things got a second life. I was deeply fascinated by these experiences, and I continued in arranging and photographing characters like this.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

When you look at an object, do you immediately see its potential to become something else? I’m thinking of the sofa you made from crackers that appeared on your Instagram page recently.

When I work with found or everyday objects there two options. Sometimes the objects themselves are attractive (colour, shape, size) and while looking at these things I get an inspiration. For example, the Swedish bread that became an upholstered sofa.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

The other option is that I have the plan of creating a special character and I go around in my home or in my studio and look around for something that works.

I always try to look at the things around me with the eyes of a child. Forgetting about function and use, I enjoy playing and arranging.

For example the little tree trunk character from the book….I found the miniature soccer shoes at the flea market and I came back to my studio where I had a box with collected objects from nature. I immediately had the idea of a little tree trunk boy who loves playing soccer!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Come On In! is your debut picture book. What were your first impressions when you read Jamie’s manuscript?

I was totally thrilled!!! All my characters united in such a wonderful story! When I read the lovely text for the first time I could hardly believe that Jamie has never been in my studio.

She pictured everything so detailed and gripping. Jamie wrote a charming story of cohesion and team spirit. I love the rhymes and the imaginative language.

I’m so happy to have in Jamie an author who empathizes so much with my characters. Come on In! invites everyone to have a great time together, and I was inspired from the first moment! 

Your scenes in Come On In! are beyond adorable. Can you share a little bit about your process in creating them?

So let’s go into my studio . . .

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Here I will show you something about my working process. In the very first beginnings of this book, I started with sketches and scribbles to get an idea of the story and the characters.

When I want to build and arrange a scene, I usually start with the characters! When they “come to life“ I start playing and letting them interact with each other. I take a lot of test photos to see how it works.

Next step is building the background or finding the location. In the case of a cardboard background I recycle used boxes and cut them into the right size. I cut out windows and build doors and in the end I paint. 

When I just have to find a nice location, I pack all my utensils and my camera. I never go out before checking the weather forecast (no rain and wind, please)!

For example, the scenery with the pigeons is arranged on my studio rooftop even though I had built a nice cardboard roof, but it didn’t work as I imagined. I changed my plans and placed all the pigeons on the real rooftop…this was an authentic and perfect place for a crazy party with sunflower seed snacks and drinks and music! Adding these kind of items is like the icing on the cake!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Did you have a favorite part of the story to create an assemblage for? What made it stand out for you?

It’s hard to make a decision…each assemblage is unique and special.

Creating the characters of fruits and bread was a great fun. Working with edible materials is particularly appealing to me—it is easy to get and you can eat it up when the work is done. (I have to say…sometimes I can’t eat them when they are looking at me so sweetly.)

For the kitchen scene, I was so happy that I could use my lovely vintage furnishings I’d collected for my photo arrangements years before.

I found the perfect buns and cakes to assemble the characters—Mr. Bear looked like a fantastic pastry chef and little bunny girl in her crunchy dress was so photogenic! Very same with the fruits-in-suits scene—in the beginning there is just a bag with fruits and vegetables, and after a few hours you have a gallery of fruity friends!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

What are you hoping to inspire in readers with your illustrations?

I hope I can inspire the readers to realise that the best thing in life is coming together, having a good time, respecting each other, and celebrating the uniqueness of each being.

Lemon takes the initiative, and I hope she will empower the readers to do the same.

What would you like for children to take away from your illustrations in this book?

Children are so creative, and I would like for my illustrations to encourage them to play with anything they find around at home, in nature. or wherever. They don’t need to buy new and expensive Playmobil or Lego figures…just a lemon can become a friend.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Thanks, Sabine, for sharing so much of your creative process and all of these images! I’m sure readers are excited to read the book—and to stretch their creativity! I wish you all the best with Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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You can find Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 22 – National Dog Walking Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you’re still in the midst of winter or spring is knocking on the door, dog owners know that one part – maybe the best part – of their day will be spent taking their beloved pooches for a walk. Today’s holiday celebrates this special time people share with their pets and encourages them to make today’s walk extra fun by taking a new route or rewarding your pup with a few extra treats or minutes of playtime. 

Thanks to Floris Books for sharing a copy of The Dog Walk with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Dog Walk

By Sven Nordqvist

 

Anyone who spends time outside with their pet knows that you start to see the yard, neighborhood, and perhaps even the world in a different way. Small details of nature, hidden creatures or objects, odors and sounds wafting on the breeze, and people passing by all become new when seen through the eyes of an animal. In his wildly whimsical The Dog Walk, Sven Nordqvist takes readers on a wordless meandering out of the city and into fantastical worlds where anything is possible.

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Copyright Sven Nordqvist, 2021, courtesy of Floris Books.

The frame for this adventure is the titular dog walk, in which a child takes their grandmother’s shaggy pet for a jaunt, setting up dazzling discovery as well as an amusing search-and-find puzzle. Following along on this journey, kids and adults are treated to Nordqvist’s endlessly delightful creativity that plays with perspective and size, the expected and the extraordinary and invites readers to look, look again, and ponder.

As the train leaves the station, traversing a bridge that elevates it high above rolling hills and the vast tree houses residents call home as well as a derelict stone castle that now serves as the trunk of a tree, a giant chess board, and giggle-inducing images of a man rowing a boat with a giraffe as passenger (cargo that requires the drawbridge to be raised and traffic to back up) and a bull sitting on the river’s bank and enjoying a tuft of grass like a person picnicking while his bovine friends chomp grass the regular way.

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Copyright Sven Nordqvist, 2021, courtesy of Floris Books.

The train is headed for a maze of tracks that twist their way through a castle that houses no fewer than five kings and boasts a turret-top pool. The next stop is a sculpture and animal park, where readers will want to stop and join the cleverly posed statues that tour the gravel paths via goat-pulled platforms and a variety of familiar and fanciful creatures welcome them.

Continuing on, take in the orchestra that’s playing in the bandshell while the appreciative audience enjoys pastries, ice cream, and tea served by a walking teapot and creamer. Further on, readers come to a seaside vista, where small islands of thatched buildings set sail. And if there’s no wind to power them, that’s okay because each island has its own windmill. On shore, a giant couple sit enjoying the sun; the woman reads under a parasol, while the man, his painting supplies at hand, carefully recreates the tiny kindergarten-drawing island. Other islands dotting the inlet are in the shape of hats, while the harbor’s lighthouse is a burning candle atop a top hat.

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Copyright Sven Nordqvist, 2021, courtesy of Floris Books.

After a bite of lunch, the child is literally dragged into an antiques store – breathtaking in its intricacies – when the pooch chases a cat inside. This showstopper of a two-page spread juxtaposes items from homes of yesteryear with those of today with, of course, surreal and inventive additions to capture readers’ attention and imagination. From here, the walk takes the child into more bucolic scenery, where the dog gets to frolic with other animals while blueberries are picked from tall trees by a well-steered dragonfly.

Then dodging spitballs through a field, the two come to a sleepy castle where Escher-like stairways lead to the exit and a game of croquet – or is it billards? It’s nearly time to get back home, but first the dog becomes distracted in a community of cats. But nothing – not even a bicyclist balancing on a huge orange; a unicyclist juggling lit torches, an ax, a knife, and a toaster; or a hot dog big enough to fee four – can arrest the dog’s attention when it sees… Grandma!

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Copyright Sven Nordqvist, 2021, courtesy of Floris Books.

Beyond lingering over Sven Nordqvist’s hilarious, ingenious, and unbelievably detailed drawings, The Dog Walk offers unending opportunities to expand on and engage with every page. Whether embraced in a classroom or at home, every page provides plenty of inspiration for kids to create their own stories, artwork, inventions, games, and so much more based on the images. Searching for repeated themes, objects, and creatures will also keep kids happily occupied. 

A book for sharing or enjoying individually that will spark laughs, awe, inspiration, and fun conversations, The Dog Walk would make a treasured gift and is a highly rewarding and recommended addition to home, school and public library collections.

Ages 3 and up

Floris Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1782507437

National Dog Walking Day Activities

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I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you love dogs, you’ll have fun discovering the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Dogs! Word Search Solution

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find The Dog Walk at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you’re still looking for a gift to give, looking forward to the upcoming break from school, or wondering how to spend the long winter days with your kids in an exciting new way, the books in today’s lineup will get hearts and imaginations racing and families and friends creating and playing together. You won’t believe what you can make with simple supplies you’ll find in your own home or nearby until you check out the three books below. Working on these projects together with your kids will make lasting memories while setting them free to tinker on their own pays big rewards in self-confidence, pride, and imagination building. 

Thank you to Page Street Kids for sharing Cardboard Creations for Kids, The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations, and Play & Learn Activities for Babies with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

Cardboard Creations for Kids: 50 Fun and Inventive Crafts Using Recycled Materials

By Kathryn Ho

 

You will never look at a cardboard box the same way again after exploring the pages of Kathryn Ho’s wildly inventive guide to turning boxes, tubes, egg cartons, lids, wooden skewers, and other bits and bobs you have around the house into nearly anything your child can imagine. Like what, you ask? Well, for the homebody, there’s the charming cottage, complete with shingled roof and flowers (or maybe lollipops) in the window boxes. For kids who prefer adventures far from home, the rocket, retro van, or the submarine will take them as far as their imagination can take them!

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Other big-box beauties include an ice-cream cart with a jaunty umbrella, a play oven with knobs that turn, a puppet theater, a castle with a working drawbridge, a tent for camping under the stars (or ceiling festooned with star stickers), and a room-dividing screen that’s great for playtime or drawing on.

But what if you don’t have a big box? Kathryn Ho has you covered with dozens of ideas that will put a gleam in your child’s eyes and have you shaking your head in admiration for her clever crafting. The next chapter is all about creating things that really move, from a train to a school bus to a mini monster truck, complete with a big “personality with headlight eyes and a monster grin.” Other vehicles include a jet plane, a race car to rival any wooden toy, and a sailboat.

Kids who love construction vehicles will really dig the bulldozer with working shovel and the crane that can actually pick up the blocks you’ll make or any other small item from home. And if your kids have been asking for a puppy, the adorable hound will steal their heart.

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Next, Kathryn moves on to creations that can enhance any playtime experience. “Adding just a few simple props to their pretend play can spark so many opportunities for discovery and delight,” she says at the beginning of the fourth chapter, which includes ideas that will delight kids whether they’re playing indoors or out. Got a young builder in the family? Make a tool belt, complete with a screw driver, hammer, wrench, and T-square. Fairy or gnome lovers will want to make their wee friends toadstool homes or maybe a triple-decker treehouse. Machine lovers will want to pretend with the cardboard laptop, and playing grocery store will be even more fun with the clever cash register. There are plenty of other ideas to spark pretend play here too.

Of course, boxes often are best-loved for what’s on the inside, and Kathryn offers up ten amazing designs for games like monster mini golf, tabletop soccer, and an intricate labyrinth that make use of a box’s inside space. There are also instructions on how to make a camera, space helmet, and shadow puppet theater as well as a swing and a cradle for a doll or teddy bear. And did I mention the car wash – with rotating brushes? So clever!

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Designs for simple playthings, room decorations, stamps, and even a flower press make up the final chapter of the book and provide ideas for those rainy or snowy afternoons when a quick craft is just the thing to keep kids busy and happy.

Introductory chapters reveal everything you need to know about the different kinds of cardboard and what they’re best used for, the basic tools for creating with cardboard as well as cutting tips and how to prepare the cardboard. Kathryn Ho also discusses where to source boxes and cardboard if you don’t have what you need at home. Kathryn even makes it easy to create many of the designs by including templates for fourteen of the crafts in the back of the book.

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Cardboard Creations for Kids is a book I would have LOVED to have when my kids were young. This is a must addition to any home as a go-to resource for school projects, art classes, scout projects, pretend play, party ideas, and so much more. Not only will you want to make all of these creations, they’ll spark your and your child’s imagination and desire to try your own hand at designing. The book is also a must-buy for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 10

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645674627

You can connect with Kathryn Ho on her Instagram, Cardboard Folk.

You can find Cardboard Creations for Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

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The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have

By Sarah Dees

 

Are your kids LEGO fanatics eager for every new kit that comes out? Do little tiles occupy buckets and boxes and more buckets in your toy boxes and closets? Then this is the book for you! Open the cover and you’ll discover more than seventy-five creatures, vehicles, games, and dioramas perfect for imaginative play all described with illustrated, step-by-step instructions that make it easy for kids to put them together themselves (but adults will find it hard to resist digging into the stash and building some of these too!).

Sarah Dees begins with eight awesome vehicles, including a retro race car, hot rods, a tank and Humvee, an ATV for off roading, and a sports coupe and tiny car for impressing the inhabitants of any LEGO city. 

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Chapter Two gets kids excited about building their own town that even boasts a trampoline park where people can challenge themselves on the climbing wall, play basketball, pit themselves against arcade games, have a picnic, and, of course, jump on the trampoline. Perhaps your child is more into playing music than playing games. If so, they can put together their own “rockin’ garage band to “take the stage at the city park.” A keyboard player, piano player, drummer, and a couple of guitar players will have everyone cheering.

Every resident of a LEGO village needs to stay in shape, and they can do that at the gym, using the free weights, bench press, pull-up bars, floor mats, or treadmills. After this full day of activity, LEGO kids can relax in their cozy bedroom, where bunkbeds; a desk complete with bookshelves, lamp, and accessories; a toy table; and a dresser await.

But what about that forest on the edge of town? That magical place is populated with fairytale characters from favorite stories. Take a dragon (after you build it, of course!) to the Three Little Pigs Bake Shop. Bake shop? You bet! Sarah reveals that “after the unfortunate incident with the house of bricks and the Big Bad Wolf coming down the chimney, the Three Little Pigs decided to put their brick house up for sale and make a fresh start in a different part of Fairytale Forest.” After buying a “lovely gingerbread house…and watching some inspiring baking shows, they decided to open their very own bake shop!” And this little cottage does look good enough to eat…I mean eat in!

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, lives here too in a tidy home with a little garden. Jack can climb that stalk all the way to the Castle in the Clouds, where he finds the goose that lays golden eggs. No magical forest is complete without a few Terrible Trolls to outsmart, and kids will have a blast building the ones in this book and making up their own.

And what would any Fairytale Forest be without unicorns, a “scheming and conniving witch” who lives in a treehouse lair, complete with potions and a crackling fire in the fireplace and “might be stealing a baby dragon or helping herself to some of the treats at the Three Little Pigs Bakery.” Kids will love coming up with stories of brave knights rescuing the dragon from its cage. Perhaps they’d like to make the wise “Wizard of Marshy Bog” and his pet raven to cast a spell and vanquish that witch! Instructions for making a griffin and a host of small forest creatures finish up the chapter.

If the world of spies is more your child’s thing, building the TEK Agent Headquarters will be an assignment they can’t refuse. This secret, impenetrable room even has a working “secure sliding door that opens when you turn a knob.” And what does all this security protect? The “TEK Agent Headquarters is the place for agents to invent gadgets, fix equipment and monitor villain activity with powerful cameras and computers” that kids construct from scratch.

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

If the agents need to get a bird’s eye view of nefarious activity, the Drone Launch Station is the perfect addition to the agents’ equipment and contains all the high-tech gear kids can make—a surveillance trailer, equipped with listening devices, recorders, computers, and more; speedy hover craft; jet packs; and a Hero Bot—to defeat the Villain Bot. Sarah Dees even gives kids ideas for disaster scenes that will spark plenty of storylines.

After all that action, a Vacation by the Sea is in order. Young builders can create a relaxing beach scene and a surf shop at the edge of the shore. A super-clever idea even allows kids to make waves worthy of any pro surfer. But what’s this on the horizon? A pirate ship! And under the sea? A colorful diorama of fish, sea plants, and sea creatures that any scuba diver would love to explore.

Kids ready to make their own city or town? Sarah finishes up her book with Awesome Mini Builds that will help kids enhance any landscape with vehicles of all types, animals from around the world, candy machines, robots, cameras and lab equipment, tiny houses, and more. Play and Display shows kids how to build a city skyline, working miniature golf fields, a solitaire game, treasure boxes, and even mosaics and self portraits worthy of hanging on the wall.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Sarah Dees, author of four other books in the LEGO project book series, continues to amaze with the diversity of kid-pleasing projects made from those little colorful blocks. The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have is a must for all LEGO lovers and is sure to turn newbies into diehard fans. The book also makes a perfect gift for any occasion and one to definitely add to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 12 and up

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645673507

To learn more about Sarah Dees and her books, visit her at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.

You can find The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-cover

Play & Learn Activities for Babies: 65 Simple Ways to Promote Growth & Development from Birth to Two Years Old

By Hannah Fathi

 

If you have a baby or young toddler at home or in your family, you know how active they are and that they’re learning all the time. “How can you develop their language and motor skills, emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving abilities and occupy them all day?” Hannah Fathi has the answers to this question with her 65 easy-to-make and inexpensive ideas that will delight kids and adults alike.

Hannah begins each of her chapters with a discussion about how the projects will promote development—such as strength, investigation, dexterity and coordination, sensory awareness, visual awareness, and imagination—and how this development is important to the growth of your child long-term. The first chapter is entitled “Strengthening and Active Play” and presents ideas for making tummy time, which is “an important time for baby to strengthen their neck, back, and shoulders and prevent flat spots on their head,” engaging. A cardboard stand, complete with plastic pockets that can hold bold black-and-white images or photographs to entertain babies, will “encourage them to lift their head and push up on their arms.” You can also help your baby become more aware of their body and movement with the clever Rattle Socks that will make a sound each time baby kicks or moves their feet. This is a toy that can grow with your child as they learn to walk too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-rattle-socks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Babies who are able to sit on their own or with support will be mesmerized by the Spider Web Toy Grab that uses a laundry basket, string, and small toys to create a framework that encourages problem-solving skills and investigation while developing small motor skills. Older babies and toddlers will enjoy the hands-on learning of Transforming Disks that teach nature science and the Box Car that promotes imaginative play.

Get your child crawling across the floor in chase of the Vibrant Straw Roller, a clear plastic bottle filled with colorful bits of straws and/or beads. Other creative ideas include a play mat to use with little cars, a magnetic fishing pole and fish, the Pound-a-Ball box that will encourage your child to stand and squat to push balls through the holes in the top, a color-matching game, and a felt board for teaching shapes.

 
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-straw-bottle

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hands-on investigation takes center stage in the next chapter with a lift-the-flap book of family photographs that promotes important social-emotional learning while teaching kids about their family and encouraging fine-motor skills. A cardboard box Ball Run will keep babies busy, and the Egg Carton Color Sort activity promotes multiple development skills. You don’t need to buy expensive stacking rings, either, if you follow the directions for making this popular toy with plastic jar lids. Hannah includes many more ideas for keeping your little one busy all day long.

Developing dexterity and coordination has never been as fun as when you make the easy crafts in the next chapter. Each activity is designed to encourage little ones to grab or pick up small objects; spin a wheel; and pull, push, pinch, or bat at objects depending on their age and abilities.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-transformation-disks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-transforming-disks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The projects in the chapter on Sensory Play “primarily focus on hearing, touch and sight to capture your child’s interest and create lasting neural connections.” Taste-Safe Sponge Painting lets babies and toddlers paint and make stamps with more ease than using paint brushes, and the flour-based paint is safe for little tasters. Babies in a crib or enjoying some floor time will enjoy the sights and sounds of cardboard tube shakers. A crinkle square made from felt and parchment paper as well as a water mat created from a freezer bag filled with water and colorful buttons are ingenious! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-box-car

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Projects for Visual Exploration will thrill little ones with surprises, opportunities for hands-on play, matching games, mobiles, and even an I-Spy bottle to excite them again and again. As kids become more independent, imaginative play “promotes problem-solving, empathy, curiosity, and creativity…while providing opportunities to develop language and social skills.” Squishy sock bunnies, a cardboard hutch, and clever carrots; a pretend mailbox and letters; finger puppets made from tiny socks; a milk-jug fish; and a parking garage for little cars made from cardboard tubes, along with other fun crafts will get kids making up stories in no time. Even toilet training will be easier with Hannah’s ideas.

Rounding out her book, Hannah includes templates for many of the crafts as well as a chart that depicts the type of skill each project provides—a valuable resource as children grow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-finger-puppets

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hannah Fathi’s Play & Learn Activities for Babies is a superb collection of ideas that parents, daycare and preschool providers, and other caregivers will find themselves consulting and creating from again and again. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections and also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for baby showers, for new babies, or for anyone with a young child.

Ages Baby – 2 years

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645673989

You can learn more about Hannah Fathi and her book by visiting her at Baby Play Hacks

You can find Play & Learn Activities for Babies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 21 – National Flashlight Day

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About the Holiday

The founders of Flashlight Day chose the Winter Solstice to shine a little more light on today’s celebrated object. As today is the winter solstice and the shortest of the year, you may find that a flashlight comes in handy during that extra bit of darkness. If you’re wondering about the history of the flashlight, it all goes back to the invention of the dry-cell battery in 1887. These portable power sources inspired new products, such as the flashlight or torch (as it’s called outside of North America), which was invented in 1899. So indispensable is the flashlight, that it is even incorporated into our phones! To celebrate today’s holiday, why not turn off the lights tonight and tell stories, play games, or go exploring illuminated only by your flashlight!

Flashlight Night

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Fred Koehler

 

Three brave explorers—a boy, a girl, and a little brother—set out from their tree house at night armed only with their flashlight. In the golden beam, the picket fence turns dilapidated and overgrown as it weaves in and out among the gnarled trunks of a dense forest. The children follow “past old post and rail / along a long-forgotten trail / into woods no others dare, / for fear of what is waiting there.” Soon, they find a crawlspace under the deck of their house and venture in. They can hear the sound of rushing water and the yowl of a big cat. Before joining his friend and her little brother, the boy shines his flashlight around the yard, illuminating a wild waterfall and a tiger on the prowl where a tabby had dozed just minutes ago.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

The three friends crawl deep into the dusty crevices of the tunnel, where the flashlight shows them bones and lost treasures of ancient Egypt “as inky shadows rise and fall, / dancing… / to no sound at all.” They come to “a peculiar door that opens to… / a foreign shore.” From the pool stairs they step into a rubber boat and sail across the sea to the pirate ship dead ahead in the circle of light. A parrot swoops low and a kraken reaches its writhing tentacles from the roiling waves just as the treasure chest is found.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

With the ship engulfed and sinking, the stream of light from the “shows a stealthy way to flee—….” The three kids run across the sandy beach and around the umbrella palm then scramble up a steep slope. But the angry pirate, brandishing his sword, is looking for his treasure; the kraken has scaled the wall and nabbed the girl; and the tiger approaches with a hungry look in its eyes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-night-kraken

Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Quickly, the older boy swings himself onto the ramparts of an old stone castle and reaches for the outstretched hand of his friend as she dangles upside down in the kraken’s arm. Her brother distracts the beast with his teddy bear, which transforms into a mighty grizzly that scares off the tiger, the pirate, and the astonished kraken. The littlest explorer is hailed as a hero as he is lifted through the window to safety.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-night-pool

Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Happily back in the tree house, the three snuggle under a blanket, reading 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while flanked by stacks of the classics, including Around the World in 80 Days, Treasure Island, and Mysteries of Egypt. And even though “weary eyes fight off the sleep, / adventure lingers, stirs about— / “until a voice says, ‘Shhh…lights out.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-night-shhh

Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Flashlight Night is that perfect combination of text and illustrations that creates a reading experience that immerses a reader in an alternate world. Matt Forrest Esenwine’s rhyming story entrances with an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue created with language that sets the imagination racing—inky shadows, time-forgotten tomb, slyly sneak, and craggy mountainside is just the beginning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-reading-fun-forgotten-tomb

Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Accompanying this beguiling narration are Fred Koehler’s masterful, dual-duty illustrations. Outside of the flashlight’s beam, charcoal-colored images depict the reality of the children’s yard and treehouse. Inside the beam, the children’s imaginary game is fully illuminated. At the sharp edges between the two, reality and imagination blend together as seamlessly as children traverses both worlds. Under the deck, a forgotten baseball meshes with the rounded body of Egyptian pottery, the wall of the deck morphs into a rocky cliff, the stern of the rubber raft gives way to a wooden dinghy, and the top of the treehouse stretches to become the ledge on a castle.

The classic stories the children read in their tree house inform the friends’ nighttime jaunt and come to life in Koehler’s engrossing illustrations that are themselves scavenger hunts for small details, foreshadowing clues, bits of humor, and literary allusions.

Flashlight Night is a beautiful tribute to adventure classics. It is a fantastic book to cuddle up with for cozy bedtime reading (flashlight highly recommended), to take along for campfire storytelling, or to spark imaginary play. Flashlight Night would be a great gift and welcome addition to any child’s home bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 4 – 8

Boyds Mill’s Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629794938

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine and his books on his website.

To learn more about Fred Koehler, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Flashlight Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-reading-maze-cropped

Flashlight Fun Maze

 

Three friends want to do a little nighttime reading. Can you help the glow of the flashlight reach them so they can enjoy their favorite book in this printable Flashlight Fun Maze? Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Flashlight Night at these booksellers

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

YouPicture Book Review

December 13 – National Cocoa Day

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About the Holiday

There’s no better drink to dispel the frostiness of winter than hot cocoa. Whether you make it from dark, rich cocoa powder or from an easy-open pack, drink it straight or add extra flavors like peppermint or cinnamon, enjoy it unadorned or topped with whipped cream or marshmallows, there’s no doubt that hot cocoa is a favorite for cozy snuggling. The history of cocoa being used as a drink goes back to the Aztec culture in 500 BCE (although archaeologists believe it predates that time). It took until 1828, however, for powdered chocolate to be developed (allowing for both chocolate bars and instant hot chocolate to be produced); and it wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that Charles Sanna created Swiss Miss – the first hot cocoa able to be mixed in a cup. To celebrate this rich indulgence, mix up frothy mugs of hot cocoa and cuddle up with your kids and a great book –like today’s!

Tiny Reindeer

By Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

 

As the book opens, a little girl has made her way down the hill from her rural home to the mailbox, where she slips a special letter into the slot. In the distance, a town is nestled between the rolling hills. In another part of the world, a “very, very tiny” reindeer was wondering what he could do to help “Santa get ready for the most important night of the year.” Every year it was the same, Tiny tried to help but ended up getting “tangled in the reins and harnesses,” falling into the other reindeer’s water bowls, or completely covered in tape “when he tried to wrap the presents. 

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

This year on the day before Christmas Eve, Santa suggested that Tiny visit the Mail Room to help sort the last of the children’s letters. Santa had told him there was just a little pile of letters, but when Tiny got to the Mail Room, he found himself buried in an avalanche of paper. As he wriggled his way out, one letter caught his eye. There was a picture of a reindeer drawn in the corner, and the child was asking for just one gift for Christmas: a tiny reindeer to go with the tiny wooden sleigh her granddad had made for her.

He had planned on making a little reindeer to lead it, but had not been able to. She wrote, “I know reindeers are REALLY BIIIG but I only need a very very tiny one so that we can all fly together like you Santa and your Big Big reindeers.” Then she thanked Santa and sent lots of love before signing her name. After Tiny read the letter, “he came up with a plan.”

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

On Christmas Eve morning, when Santa and the other reindeer were distracted , Tiny leapt into the fully loaded sleigh. He felt like “a secret voyager on a special mission.” While Santa made his rounds, flying high in the sky, Tiny waited for a precise moment. When it came, he “leapt from the sleigh into the freezing air as Santa and his galloping herd disappeared into the darkness.” He floated toward a particular house, carried by the parachute he’d made from the little girl’s letter. Down the chimney and into the fireplace he fell. He made his way to the staircase leading upstairs only to find that he was too small to climb it. Discouraged and unsure if he’d even found the right house, Tiny began to cry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-letters

Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Just then he heard a crash in the room he’d just left and, then, footsteps. Tiny tried to hide in the shadow of the steps, but in a moment a huge figure stood over him. It was Santa! Santa carried Tiny upstairs and placed him on a pillow next to where a little girl lay sleeping. On her nightstand was “a beautiful, tiny wooden sleigh.” Santa whispered goodbye and promised to visit next year. Tiny wondered what tomorrow would bring as he yawned and went to sleep.

When the little girl woke on Christmas morning, her eyes lit up. “‘A tiny reindeer! My tiny reindeer!’ she cried out.” Then “Tiny…knew he had finally found where he belonged – and with the most beautiful sleigh he’d ever seen, handmade to fit him perfectly.” The little girl hitched him to the sleigh, and they raced outside to fly over the snowy hills in the frosty morning sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-sleigh

Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’s sweet, warm, and breezy story is a Christmas and wintertime delight that will charm kids. Young readers eager to help with holiday preparations and to find their place among older siblings and/or adults will empathize with Tiny’s predicament. As this littlest of reindeer devises and carries out a clever and courageous plan to make a girl’s dream come true, readers will see that they too make a big difference just by being themselves. When it seems that all will be lost at the foot of the insurmountable stairs before a watchful and caring Santa appears with a helping hand, kids will feel that comforting assurance their own parents, caregivers, or teachers provide to help them achieve their goals and potential. 

Naylor-Ballesteros’s rustic illustrations glow with the magic of the season, and readers will fall in love with Tiny, who’s no bigger than one of the carrots in the other reindeer’s dinner bowl. Humorous snapshots of Tiny tangled in the reins, tape, and ribbon will make kids giggle. Kids may take note of Santa’s backward glance as Tiny leaps from the sleigh, but his appearance still comes as a happy surprise when Tiny is feeling low. For all children with big imaginations and that harbored desire to have a tiny pet or friend of their own, Naylor-Ballesteros’s uplifting ending will cheer their heart.

An enchanting Christmas tale that will become a family favorite, Tiny Reindeer would make a much-loved gift and a heartwarming addition to home bookshelves and school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735271180

Discover more about Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, his books, and his art on his website.

National Cocoa Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Cocoa Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-reindeer-cover

You can find Tiny Reindeer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 28 – Celebrating the Happy Cat Month Book Birthday of Miss Meow

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.

Thanks to West Margin Press for sharing a digital copy of Miss Meow with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Miss Meow

By Jane Smith

 

Miss Meow is a little girl who prefers being a cat. She has a soft head with two perky ears and a long tail. Things that make Miss Meow purr are getting scratched between the ears while reading with her mom and brother, Felix; chasing her toy mouse; napping in the sun; and lapping up water and snacks from her bowls. Things that make her hiss include taking a bath, having her snacks stolen, having her tail pulled, and having someone—like her little brother—intrude upon her territory.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cuddle

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

One stormy night Miss Meow discovers her favorite mouse toy torn open in her room. The fluff inside was scattered across the floor. “Miss Meow’s fur stands straight up. Her ears flatten against her head. She knows who did this—who always does this!” She runs to her mom and complains about Felix. Then she “stalks toward her brother, pointing her claw.” Snack crackers crunch underfoot. Not only has Felix broken her toy, he’s upset her snack bowl.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-snacks

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Miss Meow is caterwauling and stomping around when she slips in a puddle of water and falls to all fours—“Meee-ow!” But then Felix notices a “mysterious trail of wet paw prints” leading from the kitchen. Miss Meow, Felix, and Mom follow them to Miss Meow’s room, where they find . . . “a sopping wet intruder” asleep on Miss Meow’s pillow. Felix is thrilled to see the kitty, but Miss Meow is not. She chases the interloper through the house until she has him trapped in the kitchen.

But when Miss Meow sees that the stray is cold, shivering, and scared, her heart melts. “‘Here, kitty. It’s okay,’ she coos softly.” As the cat approaches, Miss Meow apologizes to her brother. The cat purrs as Miss Meow pets him between the ears then all three curl up on the pillow for a warm afternoon nap.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cat

Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Young feline fanatics will purr with delight at Jane Smith’s tale of a little girl with a big imagination and an all-in love for cats. The uncanny similarity in behavior between cats and kids gives Smith full range to shine a humorous spotlight on bath time, naptime, territorial disputes, and sibling rivalry. But, as part cat, part human, Miss Meow’s natural empathy for her fellow cat and for her brother takes over when she sees how miserable the stray is and realizes that she owes Felix an apology. Smith’s use of present tense puts kids in the middle of the action, while her vivid and evocative illustrations clearly depict the characters’ emotions. Readers will love spying the first glimpse of the hidden stray, and Miss Meow’s mad-dash chase through the house leads to a sweet resolution.

Both a captivating story and an engaging way to talk to kids about their emotions and family relationships, Miss Meow is a purr-fect read aloud for all kids.

Ages 4 – 6

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513289458

You can connect with Jane Smith on Twitter and linktree.

Happy Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy 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 it’s painted it’s 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. Paint the inner ear.
  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-miss-meow-cover

You can find Miss Meow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 1 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dylan's-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

The beginning of a new school year is a terrific time to celebrate Read a New Book Month. Whether the books are recently published or just new to you, there are stories and nonfiction books to fit any subject, to inspire learning, to laugh or cry with, and to share with friends. This month visit your local bookstore and library and stock up on books for everyone in the family! 

Dylan’s Dragon

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse

 

When Dylan was little, he liked to while away his days “playing, doodling, drawing, daydreaming.” He drew spaceships and race cars, dragons and robots. But as he got older, Dylan found there were many more things to do, like karate, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming. And of course there was lots of homework. There wasn’t a moment when Dylan wasn’t doing something. Then one day Dragon showed up at his door wanting to play. But Dylan was just on his way to school. All day long Dylan thought about Dragon. He seemed vaguely familiar, but Dylan couldn’t remember. Dylan planned on playing with Dragon after school, and when he got home they did fly a few circles around the yard, but then it was time for his piano lesson. 

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, after he gave Dylan a ride to the kitchen, Dylan asked if Dragon would like to play after school. “Dragon stuck out his tongue and slurped oatmeal off Dylan’s cheek, which felt kind of slimy but seemed like a yes.” But they only had a few short minutes before Dylan had to study and then go to science club. Dylan thought Dragon might be able to help with his homework, but Dragon’s flames singed his test review papers.

On the rest of the days that week, Dylan tried to include Dragon, but it just didn’t work out. Finally, the weekend came and Dylan thought they would be able to play then. Dragon “swatted Dylan with his tail, which felt cold and scaly but had to mean yes.” Saturday morning, Dylan jumped out of bed ready to play with Dragon, but his parents reminded him of his baseball game, piano recital, and Aunt Edith’s 90th birthday party. But “when do I get to play?” Dylan asked.

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When Sunday morning rolled around, Dylan woke up and asked his mom, “‘What do we have to do now?'” Surprisingly, Dylan had nothing planned. “‘Just go out and play,'” his mom told him. Dylan cheered and called for Dragon, but he didn’t come. In fact, he was nowhere to be found. “It seemed like Dragon was draGONE.” Dylan looked everywhere, but no dragon. Dylan began to cry. 

When his mom asked him what was wrong, Dylan told her about Dragon and wanting to play and never having enough time. “‘Sounds like we need to cut back,'” his mom said. Then she told him she’d help look for Dragon. As Dylan was drawing a picture of Dragon to show his mom, when he remembered where he’d seen Dragon before – in his old drawings from when he was little.

As he carried his drawing downstairs to show his mom, it began to steam. “It smoked… then POOF popped Dragon, right into the living room. This time when Dylan asked if he wanted to play, Dragon wrapped a wing around him in a hug that “was most definitely a yes!”

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Annie Silvestro’s creative storytelling is both whimsical and realistic as she reminds readers about the importance of balance between activities, school, and free time in children’s schedules. When the dragon, a favorite drawing from Dylan’s preschool or kindergarten days, appears to rescue him and his harried family, many kids (and adults) may identify with Dylan’s desire for a more relaxed lifestyle. Silvestro’s dialogue rings true as Dylan’s parents call him from snatched moments of play and Dylan pleads for just ten more minutes. Dylan’s mom’s recognition of the need to cut back on some of her son’s activities sets a good example, and Silvestro’s message that imagination and creativity make beneficial playmates is reassuring.

Ben Whitehouse’s vivid illustrations cleverly depict the dichotomy between Dylan’s desire for playtime and his over-scheduled routine as images of Dylan riding and playing with his Dragon are juxtaposed with his mom and dad indicating that it’s time to go to one activity after another. Well-marked calendars, a tablet, watches and clocks, lots of sticky note reminders, and equipment for various extracurricular activities at the ready crowd the family’s home – fitting images for the dizzying swirl of appointments that must also crowd Dylan and his parents’ minds. While Dylan’s room is decorated with his many interests, Whitehouse shows that it is his long-lost love of drawing and imagination that truly makes him happy.

A clever and engaging story about recapturing the simple pleasures of free time and playtime, Dylan’s Dragon can also spark conversations between adults and kids about how much is too much and finding that happy medium. A perfect book to share at home, especially as the new school year begins, Dylan’s Dragon would be an excellent addition to home bookshelves as well as school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807517420

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ben Whitehouse, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

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Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

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Bookshop | IndieBound

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