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 – with portholes, of course! – 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 star ceiling stickers), and a room-dividing screen that’s great for playing and 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 eye 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 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, 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 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 often boxes are best-loved for what’s on the inside, and Kathryn offers up ten amazing designs for games like monster mini golf, tabletop soccer, an intricate labyrinth that make use of a box’s inside space. You can also make your little on their own camera, space helmet, and shadow puppet theater as well as a swing and a cradle for their 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 also 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 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

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

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. Chapter Two will get kids excited about building their own town that’s outfitted with a trampoline park where people can challenge themselves on the climbing wall, play basketball, pit themselves agains arcade games, have a picnic, and. of course, jump on the trampoline.

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

Playtime may have to wait until after school, and kids will love building the classroom, complete with a blackboard, book shelf, teacher’s desk, student desks, and a class pet. Perhaps your child is more into playing music than playing at the park. If so, they can put together their own “rockin’ garage band to “take the stage at the city park” on Saturday night. A keyboard player, piano player, drummer, and a couple of guitar players will have everyone cheering.

Everyone 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, kids can go back to their cozy bedroom, where bunkbeds; a desk complete with bookshelves, lamp, and accessories, a toy table, and dresser await.

But what about the forest on the edge of town? That magical place is populated with fairytale characters from their favorite stories. Take a ride on a dragon (after you build it, of course!) to the “Three Little Pigs Bake Shop. Bake shop? You bet! As Sarah reveals, “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 (where you know what grew!) 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, or perhaps the wise “Wizard of Marshy Bog” and his pet raven can cast a spell to 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.

Do 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. Once the danger has been discovered, the agents can go to work with 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, a surf shop at the edge of the shore, where a super-clever idea 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 – including a shark, a turtle, a hermit crab, and an adorable otter – 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.

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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 sixty-five 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, Strengthening and Active Play, presents ideas for making tummy time – “an important time for baby to strengthen their neck, back, and shoulders and prevent flat spots on their head” – engaging with a cardboard stand complete with plastic pockets that can hold bold black-and-white images or photographs to entertain and “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!

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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, a 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.

 
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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 when you follow the directions for making this popular toy with plastic jar lids, and those lids to baby wipe containers can be used to make a Link Drop Box – another creative way to get your child thinking and problem solving. 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.

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

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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 and a crinkle square made from felt and parchment paper, and a water mat created from a freezer bag filled with water and colorful buttons is ingenious! Kids will love feeling with their feet on the sensory path that includes everyone’s favorite – bubble wrap! Tin pan drums and Natural Sensory Lids that bring the outdoors inside.

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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 and 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 – or more fun – with the Baby Doll Bathroom that can help toddlers understand and share the steps to using the potty with a favorite doll.

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.

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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 as their child grows and develops and is a must for home, school, and public library collections. The book also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for baby showers or new babies or 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.

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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.

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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.’”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-darling-dragon-match-puzzle

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

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

You can find Dylan’s Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Celebrating Back to School Month with Deb Pilutti

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Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys, and watching cartoons is considered “research.” Before becoming an award-winning author & illustrator, Deb was a graphic designer and created toys for Oliebollen.com and graphics for SeaWorld and Warner Brothers theme parks. She’s the author of Old Rock (is not boring), Idea Jar, The Secrets of Ninja School, Bear and Squirrel are Friends, and Ten Rules of Being a Superhero.

You can connect with Deb Pilutti on Her website | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Deb! It’s so great to talk with you! This month we’re celebrating Back to School Month, Get Ready for Kindergarten Month, Family Fun Month, and even Happiness Happens Month! All of these are perfect opportunities for kids, families, and teachers to discover the creative ideas and self-confidence-boosting reassurance in your wonderful books as they leave summer behind and head back to the routines of a school year! Before we do that, though, can you share a favorite summer memory from your childhood?

The first time my family camped at Ludington State Park in Michigan. One summer, my parents packed my three brothers, my sister, and me into the station wagon and we drove from Indiana to Ludington and put up a huge canvas tent in our designated camping spot. We were thrilled when we discovered the rolling sand dunes that lay in between the campground and Lake Michigan. We spent our days running and jumping off the dunes, looking for tadpoles in the ponds nearby and body surfing in the ice-cold lake. Back then, I never imagined I would live in Michigan. Now when I head to the big lake every summer, I think back on the joy we felt.

Ludington State Park sounds gorgeous! How wonderful that you get to enjoy it every summer! Thanks so much for sharing that 

I’m happy to be featuring one of my favorite books for guiding kids on that journey to become the self-assured, optimistic, and ingenious person they want to be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ten-steps-to-flying-like-a-superhero-cover

Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero

By Deb Pilutti

 

Lava Boy and his favorite toy, Captain Magma, have saved the day many times. But there’s one superhero skill they haven’t mastered yet: the ability to fly. It shouldn’t be too hard for Captain Magma and Lava Boy to figure out. But it’s going to take a new set of rules, plenty of glitter, and some help from the brave Star Girl and her action figure, Meteor Shower, before these superheroes actually reach new heights. This clever gender-inclusive story takes young readers on an adventure in which learning lessons in friendship is just as important as learning how to fly like a superhero.

With humor and imagination, Deb Pilutti outlines terrific advice on how children can achieve their goals—whether they revolve around school, sports, art, making friends, or any activity—and soar. Her straightforward steps, which can apply to any situation, are charmingly paired with specifics for helping Captain Magma fly and kid-centric reminders like “never skimp on the glitter.”

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of Henry Holt & Company.

Kids will appreciate Lava Boy’s toy-strewn floor, where Lava Boy’s imagination takes flight with action, peril, animals, and people on the go. Captain Magma offers up lots of funny looks and asides (appropriately expressed in sunny yellow speech bubbles) that kids will recognize and empathize with. Hints on the identity of Lava Boy and Captain Magma’s new like-minded friends can be glimpsed early in the story through Lava Boy’s window and while he’s outside playing with his toys.

Wrapped in an exuberant story, Ten Steps to Flying like a Superhero – the soaring picture book companion toTen Rules for Being a Superhero – is a super way to teach kids the steps that lead to success. The book would be a favorite for story times as well as times when encouragement is needed and would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 9

Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt & Co, 2020 | ISBN 978-1627796507

Check out Deb Pilutti’s other books too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-cover    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-cover

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secrets-of-ninja-school-cover    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ten-rules-of-being-a-superhero-cover

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ten-steps-to-flying-like-a-superhero-cover

You can find Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound