June 6 – It’s National Vacation Rental Month

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About the Holiday

A great vacation starts with a great place to stay! Whether you like a cabin by the lake, a cottage by the shore, a tent or camper in the woods, an airbnb, or that good-ol’ staple the hotel, getting away from home is an adventure in itself. National Vacation Rental Month takes place in July because this is the month when most people go on vacation. If you haven’t planned a get-away yet, there’s still time to find just the right accommodation for maximum enjoyment! You might even look into staying in a sandcastle – especially if it’s as luxurious as the one in today’s story!

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary sandcastle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside, chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses during construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. It didn’t take long for more kings and queens from across the globe to discover the girl’s castle and come to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a playing card from the stack. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one elderly queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity that will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Vacation Rental Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vacation-rental-maze

Family Vacation Fun! Maze

 

This family is really looking forward to their vacation in the woods. Can you help them find their way to their cabin in this printable maze?

Family Vacation Fun! Maze | Family Vacation Fun! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-cover

You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 31 – It’s National Umbrella Month

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About the Holiday

The rainy season is coming—do you know where your umbrella is? March, with its unpredictable weather has been designated National Umbrella Month to commemorate those useful objects that keep us dry in the rain and shaded from the sun’s rays. Invented in China over 4,000 years ago, the umbrella underwent many changes before becoming the pocket-sized helper it is today. To celebrate this month, check on the condition of your umbrella or treat yourself to a new one!

Thanks to Lerner Books for sharing a digital copy of Sunday Rain with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sunday Rain

Written by Rosie J. Pova | Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher

 

When Elliot heard the wind Whoosh by and a tree branch tap against his window, he stopped reading and went to the window to look outside. “A leaf few by, swinging down and side to side. Then another and another.” Elliot watched craggy lightening break through the clouds and heard a crash of thunder. Elliot went back to his book, back to the princess, the dragon, and the raging sea.

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

In a bit Elliot heard laughter. He went to the window again “and glued his nose to the glass.” On the sidewalk outside his house, kids from the neighborhood were “skipping, springing, and splashing in oodles of puddles.” When one of the kids looked his way, Elliot stepped away. Then he heard his mother calling. She had pulled his rainboots from a box she was unpacking. She encouraged him to go out and “make some friends.”

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

Elliot took his toy boat and went outside. It “smelled like wet grass and flowers and the pages of a new book.” Two kids were playing at the next stoop. Elliot let out a roar and stomped in a puddle. “‘My boat is filling up with water,’ he said to no one in particular.” Suddenly he had two helpers to row them all to the safety of the nearby island. But the dragon had landed on the mast and was pushing the boat backward. All three kids pulled on the dragon’s tail to dislodge it.

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

Safely on the island, the three were joined by a little girl wearing a gold crown and flying a dragon kite. They built a sandcastle, listened to shells, and Elliot caught raindrops falling from the trees on his tongue. As the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, Elliot and his two new friends headed back across the ocean to the city. Back home, it was time for supper with “freshly baked bread and stew and warmth.” Before turning out the light, Elliot finished his book. “The princess befriended the dragon and saved the kingdom. He snuggled down into his covers, hugging his book and listened to the hoot of an owl as he “drifted off to sleep.”

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

A quiet aura of nostalgia wafts through Rosie A. Pova’s fresh story of imagination and making new friends after a move. No angst or worry, fear or longing ripples Pova’s gentle nudge for readers to step a little bit outside their comfort zone to meet new experiences head on. The rainstorm, soon spent, creates two inviting environments: Elliot’s cozy bedroom and a playground of “oodles of puddles” where Elliot feels comfortably at home. Pova’s neat transition from reality to imaginative play is seamless and authentically childlike.

Her lyrical phrasing and close observations shine, giving the story a tenderness adults and kids will want to share again and again. Coming in for supper (a word that conjures images of old-fashioned family dinners), Elliot is embraced by the warmth of good food and family love. As he drifts off to sleep, all is well in Elliot’s story and his heart.

Amariah Rauscher’s lovely illustrations perfectly reflect the welcome and hope of Pova’s story. As the storm begins, Elliot looks up from his book with an expression of curiosity. Returning to his book after peeking out the window at the storm, the same blue-gray of the sky colors the ocean on which he and the intrepid princess battle the dragon. Readers first meet the neighborhood kids the way Elliot does—through his bedroom window. A nice touch that puts them in his shoes.

When Elliot takes his boat outside, readers can see—and almost feel—his momentary hesitation before he takes that first stomp and goes about making friends. When Elliot’s little boat turns into a sailboat for three, the dragon and princess from Elliot’s book show up to play too. But is the princess another new friend or just in Elliot’s imagination? Ask your young reader and see what they say! Rauscher’s children are sweet little charmers, full of fun and all the possibilities in the world.

As Elliot’s mom says, “Sunday rains are the best!” Rosie J. Pova and Amariah Rauscher’s Sunday Rain will quickly become a family or classroom favorite for cozy, imaginative story times and is highly recommended as a gift or addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Lantana Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1911373971

Discover more about Rosie J. Pova and her books on her website.

To learn more about Amariah Rauscher, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Umbrella Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-umbrella-match-up-puzzle

Find the Matching Umbrellas

 

These umbrellas and raincoats were mixed up in the wind! Can you find the matching pairs? Look carefully! How will you match them up?

Rainy Day Mix Up Umbrellas Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-cover

You can find Sunday Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 16 – National Panda Day

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About the Holiday

National Panda Day was established to raise awareness of the dangers faced by these favorite, adorable animals. Destruction of the vast bamboo forests on which pandas rely for food, coupled with their low birth rate has resulted in their being placed on the endangered list. Conservation groups as well as zoos and other animal sanctuaries are working to breed and protect these gentle black-and-white beauties. If you’d like to get involved, consider donating to a local zoo program or other environmental group.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for sharing a digital copy of When I Draw a Panda for review. All opinions of the book are my own.

When I Draw a Panda

By Amy June Bates

 

A little girl, art box in hand, gazes at her full-wall blackboard and tells readers “I love to draw.” She tells them, though, that “when they say to draw a perfect circle, [hers] turns out a little wonky.” There are things she can draw perfectly, like a cloud or a flat bicycle tire, and to draw a panda she just keeps drawing circles until one appears. Then she gives it a personal touch and makes it hers.

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Copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

The panda also has its own style of drawing, which includes drawing a castle the left way “when someone tells him to draw a castle the right way.” The panda has his own interpretations of pictures people tell him to draw, and sometimes he gets distracted by something better, begins to daydream, and forgets what he was told to draw. The panda shows the girl how to draw a dragon from a squiggle.

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Copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

The girl says that she has her individual way of drawing too, and “when they say to draw it ‘this way,’” she asks, “‘Why?’” When she does draw a picture the way they want her to, she changes it later. Sometimes people tell the girl her drawing won’t work or remind her to stay in the lines, but the drawings turn out just fine. And when people can’t figure out what she and her panda have drawn, they let it remain a mystery. The girl and her panda can draw quietly, but there are times when their pencils like to ROAR! Then they go willy-nilly, the girl says, to “somewhere that makes us happy.”

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Copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Amy June Bates celebrates the imagination and creativity of kids who, when given paper and freedom, will draw a unique picture every time, a masterpiece. Her storytelling in which the young artist counters the instructions of all of the “theys” who tell her to draw a “perfect” circle, castle, or other shape, is reassuring and uplifting to children who are proud of the artwork they do—artwork that is just what they want it to be. The girl’s honesty will resonate with readers of all ages who engage in the creative process, whether its art, writing, music, dance, inventing, or other discipline.

Bates’ own distinctive art shines in her illustrations of a child’s room that any kid will envy. One wall is painted completely with chalkboard paint, allowing her to give full expression to her imagination. Kids will appreciate the second and third spreads in which the girl demonstrates her “wonky” circles and then reveals that these become “perfect” clouds, ice cream cones, and flat tires. As the panda emerges from a great storm of squiggles, the girl’s imagination comes to life, and readers will cheer her on as she turns “the right way,” “something pretty,” and a “perfect” character or animal on their heads with panache and humor.

The front endpapers depict a series of familiar step-by-step diagrams that show how to draw a perfect circle, panda, princess, pirate, and more. The final diagram includes a fancy frame in which “something perfect” should be drawn. In the endpapers, these same diagrams appear covered in crayon scribblings, and the final frame holds a drawing of the girl herself.

Encouraging, freeing, and a delightful celebration of the ingenuity of children, When I Draw a Panda is a book kids will ask for again and again. This one’s a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1481451482

Discover more about Amy June Bates, her books, and her art on her website.

National Panda Day Activity

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Pick a Panda! Puzzle

 

Can you match the six twin pandas in this printable puzzle?

Pick a Panda! Puzzle

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You can find When I Draw a Panda at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 14 – International Book Giving Day

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About the Holiday

It’s been a terrific month of celebrating the joys of reading at home, in the classroom, and at the library! Every book read to and with a child enriches their life and helps to foster a life-long love of learning. Whether your child likes books that are fiction or nonfiction, stories or poetry, funny or poignant, there are a vast array of new and old books to teach them about the world and get them excited about being part of it. There really is a book for every child—as you’ll see in today’s review!

Thanks to Macmillan for sending me a copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Claire Almon

 

You are quite lucky, the narrator greets you, to be holding the world’s most favorite book. What makes it everybody’s favorite? Well, “lots of great books have cool heroes.” But these are heroes with just one talent—“like spacemen! Or ninjas! Or cowgirls!” In this book, though, the hero multitasks! What is he? “A space ninja cow!” and “his name is Bob.”

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Of course, a hero needs a villain to vanquish, and Bob is lucky because instead of a one-dimensional bad guy, he gets to pit himself against a fierce mash up of a robot, a dragon, and a pirate. What’s this horrible marauder’s name?. Are you ready? It’s Corky! So Bob and Corky fight. It’s thrilling…it’s dangerous…it’s stopped? Ah, the narrator sees now— “everybody doesn’t like violent books” and since this is Everybody’s Favorite Book, the story needs to be a bit more… Well, let’s see if Princess Glittersprinkles can help!

Yes! A tea party would be splendid. Bob and Corky and the princess sit down to a lovely spread with the adorable but really, really, really, really BIG guinea pig, Snuggy. But, wait! We’re forgetting about babies. Baby’s love books too, right? Now might be a good time to offer a bit of ABC fun. “A is for Apple. B is for Bob.” By the way…where is Bob? Is that a suspicious bulge in Snuggy’s cheeks? 

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Finding Bob’s going to require spies, especially cool ones. Now, while they’re out spying, let’s give it up for those teachers and librarians who love big, educational words like “Gallimaufry, Codswallop, and Frippery.” Sure, the narrator knows the definitions, but the book will be more fun and educational if you read them for yourself. Oh, dear! Are those words too educational? Then maybe a poop jok…wait a minute! Do you see a suspicious bump in Snuggy’s belly? No, me either.

If this really is Everybody’s Favorite Book, it seems that “we are still missing so many things that everybody likes. Things like wizards! And a fairy tale!” And so many other characters and things to do…. Hey! Why is everyone fighting? There’s plenty of room for everybody, but right now “this is nobody’s favorite book.” What’s needed is a hero. “Oh wait! There’s Bob,” launching from Snuggy’s HUGE burp just in time! “Maybe he has an idea.” Bob suggests a “sweet ending.” This is more like it! All the hugs and smiles and cooperation is so sweet. Sweet, Snuggy. Not sweets! Oh dear….

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Mike Allegra will have kids laughing out loud with every page turn in his riotously clever genre mash-up. Allegra’s well-meaning narrator offers up droll juxtapositions of characters and situations while riffing on favorite books and movies, fads and fantasies with some crafts, coloring, and craziness to boot. The fast pace, abrupt interruptions, and zigzagging storyline keep kids guessing and eager to find out what comes next. As the action devolves into a free-for-all, the promise of a book for everybody is fulfilled with inclusive hugs and teamwork.

Claire Almon’s cartoon-inspired illustrations are bold, dynamic, and full of action with plenty of humor thrown in. Ingenious details, comically used tropes, and familiar styles of graphics from kids favorite TV shows and movies give young readers a feeling of shared experiences and culture that underline the theme of friendship. Readers will love following Bob’s journey to escape from Snuggy’s belly, and cutaways and character involvement from page to page keeps everybody reacting to the narrator’s directions until the big finale.

For book lovers of all stripes, Everybody’s Favorite Book will be a much-asked for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. The book makes a terrific gift for all those readers on your list.

Ages 3 – 7 

Imprint, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250132765

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and other projects on his website.

To learn more about Claire Almon, her books, and her art, visit her tumblr.

International Book Giving Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-love-word-search-puzzle

Book Love! Word Search

 

What kind of book would you like to be given – or to give? Is your favorite in this printable puzzle? Search and find out!

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-cover

You can find Everybody’s Favorite Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 4 – Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I always love celebrating kids’ creativity, imagination, and smarts and today’s book has all three! If you never want to say goodbye to January’s “Creativity Month” and am looking forward to Expanding Girls’ Horizons in Science and Engineering Month and National Ideas Month in March, then you’ll want to add Sadie Sprocket to your reading list.

Thank you goes to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m also excited to be teaming with them for a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Annabel Tempest

 

Sadie Sprocket wanted to travel. Not your regular vacation kind of travel but the kind that would take her across the galaxy. “So one day Sadie drew a map / to navigate the stars. / ‘It’s time to leave the Earth,’ she said, ‘and travel straight to Mars!’” She chose her crew—a bunny, bear, and owl—and began building her rocket ship with parts she got from the junkyard.

When the rocket was finished, Sadie and her crew were ready to blast off. Her family, friends, and even reporters gathered to see “this space-bound girl with smarts and skill / would soon make history.” They basted off on their journey that would take one hundred days. To pass the time the crew of four tried playing cards, and checkers and chess, but the pieces just floated away, so they read and cooked instead.

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Image copyright Annabel Tempest, 2021, text copyright, Sue Fliess, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Soon, when Sadie looked out the window, Earth was no more than a dot while Mars came into view. When it was time to land, Sadie directed her crew to land on level ground. On the surface of the red planet, they gathered samples and put them into bags and then when they were done, they planted yellow flags. After a few selfies, Sadie knew it was time to go, but a storm blew up and “the rocket wouldn’t budge.”

Sadie, Bear, Bunny, and Owl got out and dug the landing gear free, but when they tried to leave Mars again, the sand swirling in the air was so thick, they couldn’t see. When the storm abated, they thought flying would be a snap, but the rocket didn’t work. Sadie grabbed her tools and they went to work sweeping sand from the circuit board and repairing the wires. Finally, Sadie said, it is “‘time to Blast!’” / They zoomed by stars and asteroids / and made it home at last.” When she landed back on Earth, Sadie learned she “had rocketed to fame,” but one trip was not enough. She now had Neptune in her sights, but clever Sadie Sprocket new she’d “need a bigger rocket.”

Following the text is “Sadie’s Notebook,” which contains facts about Mars and short bios on seven pioneering women in space.

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Image copyright Annabel Tempest, 2021, text copyright, Sue Fliess, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Sue Fliess’s jaunty story about Sadie Sprocket, a young go-getter who doesn’t let things like gravity or obstacles get in the way of her dreams of discovery offers inspirational motivation for children who have big (or smaller) aspirations. Sadie’s confidence in herself and in science jumps off the page as she talks to the press and her supporters at her launch, gathers samples from the surface of Mars, and documents her finds. When the sand storm disrupts her return to Earth, she doesn’t give up the mission, but rallies her crew and fixes the problem. And does Sadie rest on her laurels? Nope! Like any inventive kid, she has her sights set on the next big adventure. Fliess’s pitch-perfect rhymes and quickly paced rhythm make the story an entertaining read aloud.

In her bright, active-packed illustrations, Annabel Tempest gives Sadie a cheery, self-assured look as she studies, makes plans, and builds her rocket. Kids will eagerly follow her steps as she gathers her supplies and gets to work. As Sadie, schematic in hand, directs her crew, kids will have fun seeing how she makes clever use of a wheelbarrow and appreciate the spacesuits and fitted helmets for each crew member. Images of the circuit board will appeal to tech-loving kids, and pictures of the rocket shooting across the galaxy will thrill readers. Any kids looking for inspiration to decorate their rooms will find plenty of ideas here too.

A lively story to encourage creative and science-loving kids, Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket is a terrific book for exciting story times and to enhance STEM lessons in school and at home. It is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542018036

Sue Fliess is the author of more than thirty children’s books, including Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins, illustrated by Mark Chambers; Shoes for Me!, A Dress for Me!, and Books for Me!, all illustrated by Mike Laughead; and Let’s Build, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. She lives with her family and their two dogs in northern Virginia, where they admire the moon, stars, and sometimes even planets from their backyard. You can connect with Sue on www.suefliess.com | Twitter | FacebookPinterest

Annabel Tempest is the illustrator of a number of picture books and board books. She holds a degree in fashion and textiles and has worked as a freelance illustrator on everything from maps and packaging to greeting cards and children’s books. She lives in the beautiful Somerset countryside in the UK with her husband and a houseful of muddy boys and dogs. You can connect with Annabel on annabeltempest.comInstagram | Twitter

Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket by Sue Fliess | illustrated by Annabel Tempest

To enter:

This giveaway is open from February 4 to January 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 11. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

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

Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket Book Tour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blast-off-to-mars-maze

Blast off to Mars! Maze

 

Can you help the rocket navigate its way to Mars in this printable puzzle?

Blast off to Mars! Maze | Blast off to Mars! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sadie-sprocket-builds-a-rocket-cover

You can find Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Today, of course, is Halloween but October 31 is also National Magic Day! This holiday got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day. No matter how you celebrate Halloween or National Magic Day today, the shivery thrills of surprise and imagination are always a joy.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of The Magician’s Secret for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-magic-maze

It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

August 19 – National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day

About the Holiday

While some celebrate Sandcastle Day on the first Saturday of August and others take part in National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day on August 19, any sunny summer day is perfect for going to the beach and letting your artistic abilities take over! In expert hands, sand and water become elaborate  multistory castles and sculptures of animals, ships, mermaids, and nearly anything one can imagine. 

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary castle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses her construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. Soon more kings and queens from across the globe had discovered the girl’s castle and came to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-royal-visitors

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a card from the pile. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one old queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-floating

Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity and will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandcastle-coloring-page

Sandcastle Coloring Page

 

No matter whether you live near a beach or in the city, if the day is sunny or rainy, you can make a sandcastle with this printable coloring page.

Sandcastle Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-cover

You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review