September 7 – National Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2010 to promote an appreciation for physical paperback and hardbound books. Whether you’re cracking open a brand-new release or gently turning the pages in a well-worn volume, holding an actual book in your hands makes an unforgettable connection between you, the author, and another world—real or imaginary. To celebrate, drop into your local bookstore and peruse the shelves, call up and order, or order online to buy great reads for everyone in the family. An don’t forget to add today’s reviewed book to the list!

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Sophie and her dad, Leonard, have been invited to Olive’s birthday party on the tenth floor of their apartment building. She and her dad bake their favorite cookies to bring—”molasses with jam in the middle. It’s my grandma’s recipe,” Sophie says. Sophie and her dad live on the first floor, so just before 2:00, they head for the elevator, where Sophie pushes the button to go up.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The elevator stops at the second floor, and when the door opens, “the Santucci brothers, Andrew and Pippo”—two biker dudes—get on. “‘Hey, Little Bit!’” Pippo says to Sophie. On the third floor, a couple and their dog, Norman, get on, along with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. On the fourth floor, Mr. and Mrs. Habib and their grandkids, Yasmin and Jamal, are waiting with a “big bowl of gulab jamun” which they made especially for Sophie and her dad.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Things are getting pretty tight in the elevator by the time it reaches the fifth floor, so Leonard puts Sophie on his shoulders and Sophie holds the cookies on her head like a hat. The elevator door opens at the eighth floor to find Grace and Arnie standing there with a bass and a clarinet. Can they fit too? With a squeeze or two, they juuust make it. One more floor to go…. Will anyone else fit?

At last, the elevator reaches the tenth floor, and with a DING everyone runs, cartwheels, dances, and tumbles out—all to wish Olive a Happy Birthday. And who is Olive? Take the elevator up to see!

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Sherry J. Lee’s warm and welcoming story of a group of diverse neighbors getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of their favorite tenants will delight kids. With the thrill of riding a real elevator, readers will eagerly await the door’s opening on every floor, where they’re introduced to a new family or individual. Told from Sophie’s point of view and rich in dialogue, the story shines with inclusiveness as the neighbors greet each other enthusiastically. Humor and suspense builds as the elevator stops on each floor and more and more people bringing food, instruments, pets, and housewarming gifts squeeze into the tiny space. The elevator provides a natural setting for fun math and observational engagement, and kids will love flipping back through the pages to count, add, talk about spatial relationships, and notice hints about the favorite talents and activities of each neighbor.

With her colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, Charlene Chua creates a vibrant apartment building community that works in perfect synchronicity with Lee’s story. Images of the diverse neighbors—from Black Sophie and Leonard to two supposed tough guys (who sport cat tattoos and carry the tiniest of kittens) to a same-sex couple and a South Asian family to Oliver’s owner, who uses a wheelchair—reflect readers’ urban, suburban, and rural experiences. On the journey from the first floor to the tenth, Chua includes a cornucopia of humorous, sweet, and “oh no!” clues that define personalities, add to the suspense, and hint at the identity of the birthday girl. The pull-out page as everyone tumbles out of the elevator is a showstopper that will have readers of all ages pointing, giggling, and appreciating all the residents of this special home. Opportunities to visualize and discuss math concepts occur with each push of the button or turn of the page. After taking this trip, kids will eagerly look for and welcome the diversity and individuality in their own neighborhoods.

Clever, sweet, and organically inclusive, Going Up! is a book kids will want to read again and again. As a charming story on its own and with so many applications for discussion and cross-curricular activities, the book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1525301131

Discover more about Sherry J. Lee and her books as well as a fun Going Up! Activity Kit on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Buy a Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i've-got-the-reading-bug-books-to-read-list

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find Going Up! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 19 – New Friends Day

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About the Holiday

Friendships and making new friends are so important to our happiness that this national holiday is actually celebrated three times a year—on January 19th, July 19th, and October 19th. Making friends is one of the first skills little ones learn as they begin, as babies and toddlers, to join playgroups, music groups, daycare, and other social activities. Sharing books with stories about friendship, that model good examples of talking and playing with others, and which depict an appreciation for people’s differences is a wonderful way to expand a child’s social and emotional development. Sharing life with good friends a joy to be cherished. Start your little one off on the journey with today’s book!

Will You Be Friends with Me?

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

 

As the story opens, two vignettes show a little brown boy greeting the dawn while a blond, bespectacled girl shows up to the breakfast table after everyone has finished. “I wake early,” the boy says. “You sleep late.” At the playground later, this same girl enjoys the swings with another girl. She observes, “My hair’s curly. / Yours is straight.” On a trip to the pool, this second girl meets a Black girl, who, wearing two types of floaties and a swimming cap, just dips her toe in the water as her new acquaintance jumps in, noting, “I say, ‘Now!’ / You say, ‘Wait?’” Then as they both dry off, she asks, “Will you be friends with me?”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

At school the early riser notices that his tablemate likes to use different art materials than he does. Is one better than the other, he wonders, but it doesn’t keep him from asking, “Will you be friends with me?” A picnic and snack time during soccer practice are two more places where pairs of kids meet each other and discover different ways of doing things that don’t deter—and probably prompt—the repeated refrain, “Will you be friends with me?”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

All of these children meet on a grassy hill to play a game of leapfrog, encouraging each other to soar as high as they can. As the early bird reads on a sunny porch and the night owl reads by flashlight under her covers, the boy reveals, “I like morning. / You like night. / We’re just different. / That’s all right!” And indeed it is as these new friends show readers how to play instead of squabble, share instead of judge, and embrace each other’s differences because they know—and readers discover—that “life is much more fun that way.”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s delightful ode to making friends combines simplicity and intricacy in equal measure. Her endearing verses blend declarative sentences about various personality traits with questions kids commonly ask each other about their favorite things—questions that readers will enjoy answering as well. These pages give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about differences and similarities within their own family, classroom, sports team, and friends. The repeated phrase, “Will you be friends with me?,” is a joy to read aloud, and children will love chiming in each time. This simple, welcoming invitation is also one that kids can remember and use, whether they’re outgoing or more hesitant, whenever they meet someone they’d like to be friends with. The final line: “I’m glad you’re friends with me!” is a heartfelt sentiment everyone wants to hear and is just as appropriate for new friends as for old or even between adult reader and child.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Jo de Ruiter’s adorable illustrations sparkle with the actions, expressions, and emotions of children navigating their world while discovering themselves and those around them. Her fresh color palette and kid-favorite places make each page one that readers will want to explore. Kids will enjoy following the fluid pairings of friends and their varying interactions. Diversity within the group of friends in race and ability—the boy who’s the early riser wears leg braces and uses forearm crutches—reflects readers’ experiences at school and in their community.

Playful, charming, and enriching, Will You Be Friends with Me? is an inspiring book for home story times, classroom reading, and public library collections. The book can also spark discussions about making friends at the beginning of a school year or during any new experience. The bouncy rhythm makes this a book little ones will want to hear again and again.

Ages Birth to 5

WorthyKids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1546033806

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jo de Ruiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

New Friends Day Activity

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Beaded Friendship Bracelet

 

Little ones love to make, wear, and share special bracelets. In this easy-to-make bracelet, each color of bead can represent friends and/or family. Fill it all at once or add beads with each new friend made.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in various colors—one color for each friend or family member. You can use medium-size beads for the center and smaller beads for the rest of the bracelet, if desired
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Plastic sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Determine the number of friends your child would like the bracelet to represent.
  2. Choose a different color of bead in both sizes for each friend.
  3. Determine the color pattern of the beads.
  4. Measure your child’s wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie onto the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  5. Help your child thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  6. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  7. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  8. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in the chosen color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  10. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  11. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  12. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

Children can make two or more bracelets to share with their friends.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

You can find Will You Be Friends with Me? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 5 – Build a Scarecrow Day

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About the Holiday

With so many crops – from corn to berries to peppers to squash – ripening in fields across the country, it’s time for farmers on small and large farms to put up a scarecrow to watch over all that bounty. To celebrate, gather some old clothes, a bale of straw or other filling, and a pole and put your imagination to work. This is a fun activity for the whole family – even if you don’t have a farm! 

The Scarecrow

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

 

Golden autumn has quieted the fields. The hay is rolled and the scarecrow waits for spring. The animals and the crows stand at a distance, afraid of this figure that does his job so well. “He never rests. / He never bends. / He’s never had a single friend, / for all the woodland creatures know / not to mess with old Scarecrow.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Winter comes with gentle snow, and Scarecrow dreams of “spring…of buds and blooms and things that sing.” When spring dawns with warm sun and green grass, a tiny crow—with a “broken wing?”—“drops from midair” and attracts Scarecrow’s attention. Then Scarecrow does a most surprising thing: “He snaps his pole, / bends down low, / saves the tiny baby crow.” He tucks the baby in the straw near his heart, and as he sleeps and settles in, Scarecrow “sings the sweetest lullaby.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The baby heals and the two become the best of friends. As the little crow grows, he and Scarecrow “will laugh and wish on stars, forgetting who they really are…” Spring turns to summer, and Scarecrow proudly watches as Crow learns to fly, but with the return of autumn, he knows that Crow must leave. Through late autumn and the frigid winter, Scarecrow slumps on his pole, alone—“Broken heart. Broken pole. Nothing fills the empty hole.” Then with the spring rains, the crow returns with wings wide open and Scarecrow welcomes him with a hug. The crow mends Scarecrow’s broken pole and refreshes his hay and then he says, “‘I’m here to say.’”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Crow and his mate build a nest in the spot where he grew up. Soon, “five small eggs are tucked unseen,” and Scarecrow watches over them for he knows that soon they will hatch baby crows. “And they will love him from the start, and they will grow up in his heart.” Throughout the year, these friends and more keep Scarecrow company and love him so.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

In her story of a scarecrow and a baby crow who form a family, Beth Ferry’s gorgeous, lyrical language sweeps readers into Scarecrow’s world and lets them stand with him through the changing seasons and the progression of his transformation from a lonely existence as bleak as winter to a life as bountiful as summer. Ferry’s alternating short, staccato lines and longer, flowing rhythms create an emotional bond between the reader and Scarecrow. With a single sentence, in which Scarecrow and Crow forget “who they really are,” and through her periodic use of future tense, Ferry sparks hope and welcome reassurance for the future—not only for these two characters, but for us all. Crow’s return to raise his own family where he learned love and security and to help the aging Scarecrow is a moving portrayal of home, and the reciprocal devotion between Scarecrow and the crows will bring a tear to readers’ eyes.

Through their softly hued and textured mixed-media illustrations, The Fan Brothers create a tapestry of rural life, with its sometimes generous, sometimes harsh conditions.  As autumn turns to winter, Scarecrow is seen from a distance as animals look on, showing the divide in this natural landscape and the fear that rules it. But when a baby crow drops into the scarecrow’s life, he changes the dynamic, as children often do. With this life-changing event, The Fan Brother’s images become brighter, and the gauziness of the first spreads—so effective in depicting the barrier between Scarecrow and the rest of the world—clears. In turns Scarecrow is tender and proud, wistful and overjoyed—images that will tug at adults’ hearts. As Scarecrow once again stands tall and is surrounded by his crow family and the other animals on a sunny fall day, The Fan Brothers bring readers full circle in this story where the seasons of bounty and hardship mirror so well the cycles of life.

A thoughtful and beautifully conceived masterpiece, The Scarecrow is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062475763

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books on her website.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers, their books, and their art, visit their website.

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

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Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page

 

Building a scarecrow with old clothes, some twine, and just the right amount of stuffing is creative fun! If you’d like a simpler way to make a scarecrow, enjoy this printable Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page!

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You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 15 – Bike Anywhere Week

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About the Holiday

May is National Bike Month and today’s date was usually set aside for riders to replace their usual method of commuting to work with pedaling instead. This year, though, Bike to Work Week has been moved to September 17 – 27 and Bike to Work Day will occur on September 22. In it’s place we have Bike Anywhere Week! Biking is a great activity for getting much-needed exercise and enjoying the warm weather.  So. bring out your bikes, pump up the tires, and take to a street or trail near you!

Bikes for Sale

Written by Carter Higgins | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

“They were new once. And then they weren’t.” The yellow bike with the lemonade stand attached to the front belonged to Maurice. He rode through town to the grocery store, into the 3rd Street park where he picked lemons, and out to a spot mid-way between the grocery store and the park snack bar. Everywhere he went, he found customers for his twenty-five-cent cups of “squeezy drops of sunshine”—cup included. After a while, Maurice moved on to another spot even though there were still people who wanted his thirst-quenching lemonade.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bikes-for-sale-Maurice

Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The red bike with the basket on the back that was perfect for collecting sticks belonged to Lotta. “She rode it to the woods, through the ditch on 5th street that had the best mud, and to the fort.” Wherever she rode, Lotta was always on the lookout for more sticks. She built up her fort with sticks and gave some away. She thought sticks were “the best thing to collect.” After a while, she would ride on even though there were still people who wanted a stick.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

They rode all over—sometimes leaving sticks and lemon peels in their wake—until for Maurice “…what looked like a small stick was really a smashup,” leaving him without his lemonade bicycle, and for Lotta “…what looked like some petals was really some peels,” leading to a catastrophic crash. They both took up walking—which left the lemonade buyers and the stick collectors out of luck.

“Meanwhile…. To someone new, the rust sparkled. The deflated tires still held hope. Sid could read the stories the bikes had to tell. Then one day, Maurice happened by a corner store with a sign that read: Bikes For Sale: Abandoned & Discarded, Found & Restored. Come See Sid. At the same time, Lotta read the sign on the other side of the corner. “And then they went to see Sid.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Now “Lotta rode her bike to the woods,” into the 3rd Street park, and “through the ditch on 5th Street…” and “Maurice rode his bike to the grocery store,” to the 3rd Street park, and into the woods on their new bicycle for two. “They had new adventures,” and even the lemons and sticks took on a new sheen. And Maurice and Lotta each discovered a new friend. “And that’s how friendships begin. They are new once. And then, they aren’t.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

In her overlapping story about Maurice and Lotta and their beloved bikes, Carter Higgins creates a layered celebration of what makes life—and particularly childhood—so rich. In her sparse, lyrical prose, Higgins explores the ideas of freedom, independence, self-assurance, loss, renewal, and friendship. Lotta and Maurice are industrious and joyful as they ply their trades around town and then zip off to discover new environs. When they both lose their bikes, they don’t complain or give up but wait for a new opportunity—and are open to it when it comes. Once solo contractors, Maurice and Lotta embrace their tandem lifestyle, which makes even their lemons and sticks shine brighter and gives them a permanence they didn’t have before.

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Zachariah OHora’s wide-eyed Maurice and smiley Lotta happily tool around on their bikes, gathering supplies and handing out their wares around town and in a park centered around a lake complete with swan boats. OHora’s colorful palette is as fresh as a sunny summer day and invites kids along for the ride through the city, into the ditch, past the dog walker, the construction workers, and the recipients of Lotta’s sticks who find fun and creative ways to use them. An aerial view of Lotta and Maurice as they pass each other on the path that will, literally and metaphorically, deprive them of their bikes and unite them in the end is a clever touch that will have children guessing what comes next. The final two-page spread of the finished fort—which now serves as Lotta and Maurice’s new lemonade and stick stand—paired with Carter Higgins’ touching truism about friendship makes a moving ending that will tug at readers’ hearts.

An emotional charmer, Bikes for Sale is a can’t-miss addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1452159324

Discover more about Carter Higgins and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Bike Anywhere Week Activity

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

Come Bike with Me! Coloring Page

 

Here’s a bike just for you! Draw yourself riding it and fill in where you go. Will it be to the park, through town, or somewhere else? Print this page and have some fun!

Come Bike with Me! Coloring Page

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You can find Bikes for Sale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-MillionBook

To support your local independent bookstore, order here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

April 8 – National Zoo Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

Zoos are wonderful places to see and learn about exotic animals from around the world. In addition to creating educational exhibits, zoological experts are involved in the preservation of endangered species. Although we can’t visit a zoo in person right now, there are still lots of ways to stay in touch with a zoo near you or even far away. Many zoos and aquariums provide webcams so you can check in with your favorite animals whenever you want. Connect online with your favorite zoo. Many are bringing the zoo to you with behind-the-scenes videos, activities for kids and families, and lots of learning opportunities. Here are a few to get you started: Dallas Zoo | Oregon Zoo | San Diego Zoo | Smithsonian’s National Zoo Monterey Bay Aquarium | Shedd Aquarium.

By Jakki Licare

This Zoo is Not for You

Written and Illustrated by Ross Collins

 

The zoo is holding interviews and when a platypus walks with an envelope in hand, Tiger assumes he’s there to apply for entry. Tiger rushes him through to the first interviewer, Panda. Panda thinks she is incredibly special and rare and isn’t impressed with platypus who doesn’t even eat bamboo! She concludes, “I think this zoo is not for you.”

Next, Platypus meets the flamingos. They talk about how beautiful and graceful they are, but they are disappointed platypus. He’s rather brown after all. The wild monkeys provide a very active interview for Platypus. They talk about all the tricks they can do like throw poo and play the kazoo. Does Platypus have any cool tricks? “If not, this zoo is not for you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-zoo-is-not-for-you-panda

Copyright Ross Collins, 2018, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Platypus passes a tree filled with multicolored chameleons. They greet him with: “We’re green, then red, then pink or blue. Is brownish-gray your only hue?” Unimpressed the chameleons send him on to Elephant. Elephant rudely tells him that he isn’t powerful or huge like him. Instead he’s small and weird and has “failed this interview.”

The other animals watch surprised as the Platypus drops his envelope on the ground and walks away. They look at each other, saying, “I’m not proud of that interview. I think I was unkind. Were you?” All the animals gather around and wonder what they can do to make it up to Platypus. Monkey picks up the envelope Platypus dropped. The other animals look shocked as monkey holds up the letter that platypus had left.

All the animals leave the zoo and head towards Platypus’s bus. The zoo animals apologize to Platypus. They realize they had gotten it wrong and that Platypus hadn’t wanted to join their zoo. He wanted to give them an invitation. They ask if Platypus would still be willing to be friends. Platypus tells them it’s all right, “this platybus is for all of us!” The animals climb aboard and party away together with a DJ, a hot tub, fancy drinks with little umbrellas, and, of course, a shiny disco ball.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-zoo-is-not-for-you-sorry

Copyright Ross Collins, 2018, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Fun rhyming couplets paired with bold colorful illustrations make for a delightful read. Collins’s  rhymes have a wonderful rhythm that make the reader flow right through the book. The repetitive phrasing “this zoo is not for you,” makes it easy for young readers to join in.  All the zoo animals have  strong personalities which are further enhanced by Collins’s striking illustrations. The flamingos are drawn with their heads held high and stand out against a yellow background. The panda is slouched against her pile of panda souvenirs. The monkeys are all over the page: swinging, playing the kazoo, and, to many kids’ delight, flinging poo. 

Collins has provided many opportunities to discuss the problems of presumptions and the necessity for open mindedness. The zoo animals are snobs who quickly dismiss the platypus for being odd looking, brown, common, and unexciting. Their quick dismissals make it obvious to young readers that they are being judgmental. This Zoo is Not for You reminds all of us that  we should be open minded when meeting someone new. Another strong theme through the book is the necessity of making amends. When the zoo animals realize their mistake, they hang their heads looking sad. They realize they could have been kinder to the platypus and decide to apologize. Platypus graciously accepts their apologies and invites them in. The readers can see how apologies can solve conflicts and strengthen friendships.

A fun book in rhyme that offers a great opportunity to open discussions about presumptuousness, quick judgement, and forgiveness. This Zoo is Not for You would make a wonderful addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3-7

Nosy Crow 2018| ISBN  978-1536200157

Discover more about Ross Collins, his books, and his art on his website.

You can find a game of This Zoo is Not for You! Animal Snap on the Nosy Crow website.

National Zoo Lovers Day Activity

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Platybus Play Set

 

The Platybus has arrived at your house!  Print and accessorize your characters for their big party.

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Platybus-Craft-animals

Directions

  1. Print out Platybus, characters and accessories.
  2. Cut out Platybus, characters and accessories. Make 6 slits marked on the platybus. These slits will hold the puppets in place.
  3. Glue characters to popsicle sticks.
  4. Glue accessories to characters.
  5. Slip puppets into bus.

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You can find This Zoo Is Not for You at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 31 – National Crayon Day

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About the Holiday

If the aroma of crayons takes you back to your childhood or means that you know your kids are having fun and being creative, then today’s holiday is for you! Invented in 1902 by Edwin Binney, the Crayola crayon is a staple of young artists everywhere. With 120 different colors. many with imaginative names, everyone has a favorite color. What’s yours?

I received a copy of The Forgotten Crayon from Minedition for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

By Jakki Licare

The Forgotten Crayon

By Yoko Maruyama

 

Twelve brand new crayons are waiting at the store for someone to choose them. They are excited to find out who their new owner will be. The crayons are thrilled when they feel their box moving. They are finally going home. In his room, their new owner, Lucas, opens the lid and smiles down at the crayons.

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Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

Lucas uses a light green crayon to color grass. Then, he uses a brown crayon to draw a tree. Using the dark green and pink crayons, he adds in flowers and leaves for a springtime picture. “Those three crayons returned to the box a little shorter, but they seemed very happy.”

When summer comes, Lucas draws an ocean with a light blue crayon and makes a sail boat with the dark blue crayon. Even though the crayons are shorter, they return to the box happy. Fall comes and Lucas makes a Halloween picture using the orange, red, yellow, and black crayons. Happy to have been chosen, the crayons return to their box. “Day after day Lucas colored picture after picture, but he never chose the white crayon.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-forgotten-crayon-halloween

Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

Around winter time, Lucas tells his mom that he would like a new box of crayons. The white crayon, towering over his shorter boxmates is very upset that he was never used. One day Lucas’s family holds a yard sale, and the old box of crayons is put out with the rest of the unwanted items. People come by taking this and that, but nobody is interested in the crayons. Lucas’s mother tells him that if no one takes them then they will throw away the crayons. 

“As it grew later and darker, the crayons started to feel so sad they were near to tears.” Just when they feel certain they are going to be thrown out, a little girl opens them up. She is so excited. There is a brand-new white crayon in the box! “She cradled the old crayon box all the way home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-forgotten-crayon-white-crayon

Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

Their new owner, Olivia, always starts her pictures with a white crayon. Then, using water colors, she paints the paper. The white crayon’s wax prevents the watercolors from sticking to it. So, wherever Olivia had used the white crayon, it remains white. She paints white stars in the sky, blue seas with white jellyfish, and forests with white unicorns. When the first snow of the year comes, “Olivia drew a picture using mostly the white crayon.” Returning to the box, the white crayon is now much shorter and all the crayons are happy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-forgotten-crayon-olivia's-drawing

Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

 Yoko Maruyama’s soft-toned illustrations nicely complement her gentle narrative. The story starts off in a dark, quiet box where the colorful, tall, and happy crayons are waiting to be bought at the store. Her hopeful words, “Their hearts were filled with expectation,” start the story off on a happy and peaceful note.  The book ends with the crayons in the dark box once again, but this time they are all shorter and happy to have been chosen. 

The message of inclusivity is a beautiful theme woven throughout the book. Maruyama returns to the inside of the box several times, illustrating how the white crayon is the only crayon that doesn’t get used. The tall white crayon sticks out compared to the more colorful and shorter crayons. The white crayon’s simplistic sad face makes it easy for young readers to understand that the white crayon is sad from being excluded. Then, later Maruyama shows the white crayon smiling along with the rest of the crayons, shorter and happier from being included.

While a third of the book’s illustration take place inside the crayon box, Maruyama has created a beautiful tale about thinking outside the box. Olivia’s unique way of using the white crayon’s wax is very different from the way Lucas had created his drawings. Maruyama’s clever illustrations displaying crayon-resistant art can easily be replicated by young readers. The illustrations throughout the book play on the use of white space as well. The dark interior of the crayon box contrasts with bright light that appears when Olivia or Lucas open the box. This technique is also featured in the human world. For example, in Olivia’s house the dark interior contrasts sharply with the white snow outside.

My son loves this book! It has been in nightly rotation since we first read it a week ago. The Forgotten Crayon is a great book for helping children understand the importance of inclusivity and makes a creative addition for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5-8

minedition,  2020 |  ISBN 978-9888341986

National Crayon Day Activity

CPB - Jellyfish-Painting-(2)

Jellyfish Painting

Have fun recreating Olivia’s jellyfish painting from your own crayon box! 

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print out stencil template
  2. Starting in the center of each figure cut out the jellyfish and the fish
  3. Place template on paper. Using your white crayon, trace and color in your jellyfish and fish
  4. Use blue watercolors and paint your paper
  5. Let dry

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You can find The Forgotten Crayon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 28 – It’s Great Outdoor Month

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About the Holiday

The warmer weather begs to be enjoyed—whether you’re playing, working, or just lounging around. Established in 1998 as Great Outdoors Week, the holiday expanded to a month-long celebration in 2004. There’s so much to see and do outside as the wonders of nature are always changing and challenging you in new and surprising ways.

The Nocturnals Series

The Nocturnals series of books—early readers and middle grade novels—brings together a trio of friends for adventures and learning. The three main characters are Dawn, a gentle, kind, and wise red fox; Tobin, a shy, hesitant, and loyal pangolin; and Bismark, a chatty, romantic, impetuous sugar glider. Their distinct personalities serve them well as they meet up with various other woodland animals in mysterious, dangerous, and surprising ways. No matter what challenges they face, however, Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin support each other as best friends should.

Whether children meet the Nocturnal Brigade as an beginning reader or as an established reader, they will love following the friends’ adventures and be charmed by their close relationship, even when squabbles arise. As with any favorite series, kids will look forward to catching up with what this unique group of nighttime animals are doing next.

Grow & Read Early Reader Level 2 Books

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The Moonlight Meeting

Written by Tracey Hecht and Rumur Dowling | Illustrated by Waymond Singleton

 

As the twinkling stars began to appear in the sky, a sweet pangolin by the name of Tobin woke up. “‘Oh my, Tobin said. ‘I smell something delicious!’” He yawned and stretched and went in search of that wonderful smell. It didn’t take long before he bumped into a pomelo—the perfect thing for breakfast. But before he could dig in, he heard a screech from the tree above. “‘Thief!’ it cried.” Tobin was so frightened that he “let out a stinky poof!”

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Image copyright Waymond Singleton, 2017, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2017. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

The small creature in the tree covered his nose. “‘That stench! That odor! That tang!’” he exclaimed. “‘This calls for the flaps!’” In a moment the animal leaped out of the tree and glided to the ground. Although a little scared, Tobin was curious. He wondered if perhaps this creature could become a friend. But it didn’t seem he was interested in anything but the pomelo. As he grabbed the green fruit, he introduced himself. “‘I am Bismark! Sugar glider spec-tac-u-lar! And the owner of this pomelo.’” But before Tobin could reply, a red fox emerged from the bushes.

She had smelled Tobin’s spray of fear and wondered if help was needed. The fox had “kind eyes” and “a warm smile.” Bismark spoke up and told the fox about Tobin and the pomelo and the thievery. The fox asked if all of this was true. “Tobin was shy, but the fox made him feel brave.” He answered that he was not stealing the fruit, but Bismark said he had seen it first.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-moonlight-meeting-pomelo

Image copyright Waymond Singleton, 2017, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2017. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

The fox thought over the problem and…sliced the pomelo into three pieces. She gave a piece to Tobin and Bismark and kept one for herself. “‘Mmm,’ Tobin said. The pomelo was sweet! ‘Burp,’ Bismark belched. The pomelo was juicy. ‘Perfect,’ the fox declared. The pomelo was delicious!” It seemed the little sugar glider liked more than just the pomelo. After smoothing his hair and giving a deep bow, he introduced Tobin and himself. The fox smiled and told them her name was Dawn. Tobin was smitten.

Suddenly, they all realized that each of them slept during the day and were awake at night. Bismark exclaimed that they would be “a moonlight trio… a nocturnal brigade”… a…. Dawn broke in. “‘We will be friends,’” she said. Tobin and Bismark were happy. They were friends.

Facts about the nocturnal animals in the book and their favorite food, the pomelo, follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-moonlight-meeting-bismark

Image copyright Waymond Singleton, 2017, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2017. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Tracey Hecht introduces her unique band of friends in this story that brings a diverse group of animals together over the disputed ownership of a pomelo. The strong personalities of the characters lend humor and intrigue to their quarrel over this favorite fruit, and as Dawn raises her sharp claws to decide the issue, readers may join Tobin and Bismark in a moment of wide-eyed suspense. The fox’s solution, however, is one of inclusion and sharing and sets the tone for the rest of the series. Hecht’s short sentences are composed of active, high-interest vocabulary, and the story moves along at a quick pace, carried by realistic and funny dialogue.

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Kids will love meeting Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin through the illustrations on each page that convey their personalities and the storyline clearly. Tiny Bismark, with his big eyes, dramatic expressions, and energetic attitude is always ready for action. Tobin, the scaly pangolin with long claws, an anxious demeanor, and an inherent sweetness, is devoted and trustworthy. And Dawn, with her sleek red coat and gentle eyes, is caring, intelligent, and the glue that holds the three together. As readers get to know each character better, they’ll look forward to each one’s individual reactions to whatever adventure they encounter.

Ages 5 – 7 

Fabled Films Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1944020149

You can find The Moonlight Meeting at these booksellers

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

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The Slithery Shakedown

Written by Tracey Hecht | Illustrated by Josie Yee

 

Although nighttime had come, Bismark was still waiting for his friends to arrive. “Bismark tapped his foot. Bismark put his fists to his hips. Bismark scrunched his tiny pink nose. This sugar glider was peeved!” Still, he was more relieved than angry when Tobin, the pangolin, came through the reeds. It wasn’t long before Dawn, a red fox, joined them. Bismark jumped on top of a rock and declared that he was going to take them on an adventure. After all he was “‘Bismark the Brave.’” Tobin and Dawn giggled at their tiny friend.

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Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Before they could get started, though, Dawn noticed something lurking in the bushes. It was a snake—a snake who seemed to have designs on eating Bismark for breakfast. “The snake slithered closer. ‘Sss-scrumptious!’ the snake said. ‘A sss-scrawny, little sss-sugar glider.’” Bismark ran and hit behind Dawn’s legs. Dawn stepped forward and confronted the snake. “Tobin summoned his courage” and joined her.

The snake prepared to attack. “Dawn snarled…. Tobin raised a sharp, taloned claw.” The snake took a look at the stalwart friends and decided it was time to “‘sss-skedaddle.’” Biskmark was trembling as he watched the snake slither away, but he would not admit that he had been scared. Dawn and Tobin reassured him that “‘You can be scared and brave, too.’” In fact, they told him, they had also been afraid of the snake.

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Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Just then something blue and shiny in the bushes caught Bismark’s eye. He went closer. The thing was long and thin, but it did not slither. “‘By the moon!’ Bismark said. ‘Look here! That snake slithered right out of its skin.’” He picked it up and tore it into three pieces. He gave a piece to Tobin and Dawn. They each tied the piece of snakeskin around their neck like a cape and admired themselves. Dawn thought it was the perfect symbol for their brigade. “‘The Nocturnal Brigade!’ Tobin cheered, and Bismark added, “‘Bold in adventure. And best of all, brave!’”

Information about the nocturnal animals in the book and their favorite food, the pomelo, follows the story.

When the three are threatened by a snake, will they be brave enough to send him packing? Even though Bismark considers himself the bravest of the brave, he turns out to be the one most frightened by the slithery bully. With his new friends behind him, Biskmark learns that fear and bravery often go hand in hand. Here, the three solidify their friendship with a physical symbol of the brigade, and their blue snakeskin capes become a regular feature of the series. Using lots of alliteration, dialogue and some sss-snakey onomatopoeia, Tracey Hecht weaves a fast-moving story that shows that sticking together and standing up for others is the best way to defeat a bully.

Josie Yee further develops her characters in this story that sees the usually uber-confident Bismark experience fear that he can’t hide. Tobin demonstrates another level of self-assurance by swallowing his usual shyness to confront the snake, and Dawn, true to her nature, serves as strong example to her friends and readers.

Ages 5 – 7 

Fabled Films Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1944020170

You can find The Slithery Shakedown at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-peculiar-possum-cover

The Peculiar Possum

Written by Tracey Hecht | Illustrated by Josie Yee

 

It was a bright, beautiful night when Dawn, a fox; Bismark, a sugar glider, and Tobin, a pangolin met under the pomelo tree. Bismark was dismayed because while the tree was usually full of fruit, tonight he could only find one. Just then they heard a strange “cluck cluck clatter! Chit chit chatter!” Bismark was sure it was a prowler who’d come for his pomelos. “Suddenly, the wind blew. The shadows shifted. A strange smell filled the air.”

Dawn looked up into the tree and saw “two shiny, brown eyes. And a paw, holding a pomelo! ‘Popping peepers!’ Bismark bellowed. ‘There is a prowler! And it has one of my precious pomelos!’” Quickly, the eyes disappeared and the pomelo came soaring out of the swaying branches. With a few more clucks and clatter, chits and chatter, the prowler plunked down in front of them. The three friends recognized the interloper as a possum. They gathered around it, but it lay motionless on the ground.

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Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Dawn prodded it with her paw. “‘Perhaps this possum is feeling a bit peaky,’” she said. But the possum opened one eye and told them it was just playing possum. The possum got up and introduced herself as Penny. “‘Pleased to meet you,’” she said, sticking out her paw. But Bismark was not pleased to meet her. He did not like that she “prowls and pillages.” As evidence he pointed to the wayward pomelo.

Dawn gazed at her friend and said, “‘Bismark, these pomelos belong to everyone.’” Well, what about the way Penny chits and chatters? Bismark asked. He thought her way of speaking was strange. Dawn reminded him that he too had a unique way of speaking. Then Bismark pointed out the unusual hairless patch on Penny’s tail. “Dawn smiled gently. She looked down at Bismark’s bald spot. ‘Bismark, Penny is not the only one with a hairless patch.’” Still, Bismark wasn’t keen on Penny’s smell or the way she played possum.

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Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Tobin hurried to Penny’s side to defend her. “‘Penny, I spray a terrible odor when I get scared,’” he reassured her, reaching for her paws. Dawn told Bismark that no one is exactly like someone else. That everyone is unique. Then Penny told Bismark that she was proud of who she is. Bismark looked at Penny, and even though it was hard to admit he’d been wrong, he apologized to her and proclaimed, “‘You are your own possum. And that makes you perfect.’” Then Bismark split the pomelo into four sections and they all had a pomelo picnic.

Fun facts about pangolins, red foxes, sugar gliders, brushtail possums, and pomelos follow the text. Back matter also includes a Language Glossary showing forms of five words in the story as well as the translations of these words into Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, French, and Arabic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-peculiar-possum-tobin

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2018, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2018. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

When Bismark encounters Penny, a possum and an animal he’s never seen before, his adverse reaction to her disappoints Dawn and Tobin, who show him the errors in his thinking. Through her story, Tracey Hecht demonstrates that everyone has more similarities than differences and that what makes one person distinctive should be celebrated. Along the way, readers learn how to welcome a new friend.

Ages 5 – 7 

Fabled Films Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1944020194

You can find The Peculiar Possum at these booksellers

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

Grow & Read Early Reader Level 3 Book

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The Chestnut Challenge

Written by Tracey Hecht | Illustrated by Josie Yee

 

After sundown, while other animals slept, Dawn, a red fox; Bismark, a sugar glider; and Tobin, a pangolin “were playing a game of chestnut checkers.” Bismark thought Tobin was taking too long to move his chestnut. He snapped his fingers, tapped his foot, and finally said, “‘Hurry up!’” But Dawn chided Bismark and said Tobin should take the time he needed. At last Tobin moved his piece. Bismark was delighted. Tobin, it seemed, had set him up to win. Bismark moved one of his chestnuts. Now it was Tobin’s turn to be delighted. “Tobin jumped a chestnut across the board—and captured all of Bismark’s chestnuts.” Bismark was crushed. Tobin chuckled and said that it was only a game.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-playing

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2019, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2019. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Suddenly, a voice called out and Chandler, a chinchilla, popped out from a nearby bush. He said that he was “‘the real chestnut champion.’” Bismark warned his friends against playing chestnuts with Chandler. He seemed to boastful to the little sugar glider, but Dawn wanted to give him a chance. Chandler chose Tobin to play first. Tobin didn’t like playing competitively; he just liked to have fun.

Bismark was all for Tobin taking up Chandler’s challenge, while Dawn said it was up to him to play or not. Chandler wanted an answer. Tobin decided to play—but just for fun. “Chandler and Tobin started to play. Chandler’s brow wrinkled. Tobin’s jaw tightened. No one seemed to be having fun.” Just then, Chandler shouted and pointed to the bushes. Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn all turned to look. “That’s when Chandler reached forward—and moved one of Tobin’s chestnuts!” When the three friends turned back, Chandler took his turn and Tobin’s chestnut that he had moved.

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Image copyright Josie Yee, 2019, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2019. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

Dawn thought something looked suspicious. Bismark begged Tobin to win against the “cheeky challenger.” Tobin was nervous. Suddenly, Chandler sneezed right in their faces. While their eyes were closed, he moved two chestnuts. He laughed when he saw that no one had seen him. Chandler only grew bolder. When Tobin closed his eyes for a moment, the chinchilla stole one of his pieces. This time Bismark caught him. He called on Dawn and Tobin, but Chandler denied it. Dawn, however, had also seen him steal the piece. She looked directly into his eyes and asked if he had stolen Tobin’s chestnut.

Now it was Chandler’s turn to be nervous. His cheeks reddened, his teeth chattered, “and then from Chandler’s paw, out dropped the chestnut.” With tears in his eyes, he admitted that he was a cheater. Dawn told him that champions don’t use tricks, and Tobin told him no one wins all the time and practice helps. Then they offered Chandler a second chance. So with Tobin cheering him along and Bismark keeping an eye on the board, “the four friends settled into a cheerful game of chestnut checkers.”

Fun facts about pangolins, red foxes, sugar gliders, chinchillas, and chestnuts follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-chestnut-challenge-game

Image copyright Josie Yee, 2019, text copyright Tracey Hecht, 2019. Courtesy of Fabled Films Press.

As the three friends meet a chinchilla with competitive streak, Tracey Hecht shows readers that cheating to win deprives all participants—even the champion—of the fun and pleasure of playing a game. In today’s super-charged world of competition at all levels, Hecht’s reminder that good sportsmanship wins out is welcome, and Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn, with their various personalities and generous offer to give him Chandler a second chance, make good companions as developing readers increase their skills while learning to play fair and for fun.

Josie Yee’s nighttime illustrations, rendered in dark blues, plums, and deep greens, take kids to the heart of a heated chestnut checkers match where they watch as Chandler concocts false alarms to cheat his way to victory. When Chandler is caught red-handed, readers see the positive effect his confession and the brigade’s offer of another chance have on him.

Ages 6 – 8 

Fabled Films Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1944020231

You can find The Chestnut Challenge at these booksellers

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

You can learn more about The Nocturnals series; watch videos of games, face painting, and other activities; find educational language arts and science guides; download activity kits; and even join the Brigade by visiting The Nocturnals website.

You can find information about the Grow & Read program, Educator’s Guides, and The Nocturnals Book Club Kits with printable coloring pages and masks at Grow & Read.

Picture Book Review