February 13 – Get a Different Name Day

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About the Holiday

It can be fun to try out new names or special nicknames in forming your identity. For those who are not so fond of their birth name, choosing a new name offers comfort, control, and happiness. Actors, writers, and other creative types sometimes change their name to something that is more memorable, easier to say, is flashier, or has more cred. To celebrate today’s holiday, try on a few different names. If you were going to change yours, what would you pick?

My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream?

Written by Jennifer Fosberry | Illustrated by Mike Litwin

 

Mom opens her daughter’s bedroom door with a cheery “‘Good morning, Isabella. It’s time to get up and out of bed.’” But the little girl yawns and stretches and most emphatically states, “‘My name is not Isabella!’” Mom plays along, wondering who has then been sleeping here. “‘My name is Sally,’” Isabelle states, “‘The greatest, toughest astronaut there ever was!’” Having Sally Ride in the house is fine with Mom, as long as she puts on her space suit and comes down for breakfast.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

When the little girl comes to the table, it seems she is no longer Sally. Hmmm… her mother says. She doesn’t know who will eat the delicious waffles she has made. Annie, the greatest, fastest sharpshooter, grabs the syrup and aims for her target.

Soon it’s time for school, but when the bus arrives, Annie is nowhere to be found. In her place is “‘Rosa, the greatest, bravest activist that ever was.’ ‘Well, Rosa’” her mother says, “‘March over there and take your seat on the bus.’” School ends, but the bus doesn’t drop off Rosa. Instead, the freshly made chocolate chip cookies will be enjoyed by “‘Marie, the greatest, smartest scientist who ever was.’”

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

Her mom is happy to see Marie and offers to get the cookies while Marie discovers the answers to her homework. Well, the cookies must fill Marie up, because when dinner rolls around, Elizabeth Blackwell shows up to set the table. At bath time, Elizabeth doesn’t feel like soaking in the relaxing bubbles, so she sends “‘Mommy, the greatest, sweetest mother who ever was,’” instead.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

With pajamas on and teeth brushed the “little girl climbed into bed, [and] the mother says, “‘Good night, Mommy.’” But Mommy is standing near the starlit window, so who is sleeping in the little girl’s bed? “‘Isabella, the sweetest, kindest, smartest, bravest, fastest, toughest, greatest girl that ever was.’” And as she sleeps, she “dreamed about who she would be tomorrow.”

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

In Jennifer Fosberry’s inspiring story, it’s not that the little girl doesn’t want to be Isabella, it’s that she wants to be the best Isabella she can be. In thinking about her role in the world, she’s chosen to emulate five of the most amazing women the world has ever known—and that’s just on day one. Fosberry’s ending, with its view toward tomorrow, allows children to consider all of the influential women throughout history and working today as role models. Her inclusion of “Mommy” as one of Isabella’s heroines is a welcome tribute to the job of motherhood. After all, it’s clear from the way Isabella’s mother supports her daughter’s alter egos without a “Sally who? or a “Rosa who?” that she has taught Isabella about these “greatest” women. It’s just one lesson this mother—and all mothers—teach their children.

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Mike Litwin will enchant readers with his colorful illustrations of Isabella and her transformations. Whimsical details and even the way Isabella’s stuffed toy mouse changes into a real companion for Sally, Rosa, Annie, Marie, and Elizabeth mirrors the power of imagination and education in the formation of a child’s identity and the discovery of their particular talents. Isabella is adorable with her purple hair—just another proof of her individuality—and inspirational in her can-do attitude

Short biographies and portraits of Sally Ride, Rosa Parks, Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell follow the text.

A book that will charm as well as educate, My Name is Not Isabella is a classic that makes a great introduction to the women mentioned in the story and can spur further discovery for younger readers. It would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010 | ISBN 978-1402243950

Discover more about Jennifer Fosberry and her books on her website.

Learn more about Mike Litwin, his books, and his art on his website.

Get a Different Name Day Activity

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First and Last Initials Bookends

 

You can show your pride in your name (or play with changing it) with this easy craft that will keep all your books tidy on their shelf! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

 

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

Picture Book Review

February 7 – Girls and Women in Sports Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its 32nd anniversary, National Girls and Women in Sports Day honors all of the girls and women involved in sports at all levels and highlights their extraordinary achievements. It also raises awareness of the positive influence sports can have on those who participate. This year’s theme is “Play Fair, Play IX,” providing a reminder of Title IX, which “ensures that all students receive educational opportunities free from discrimination based on sex.” While programs have expanded for female athletes since the inception of Title IX, many schools still do not provide equal opportunities for girls to participate in the sport of their choice. To learn more about National Girls and Women in Sports Day, find resources, and perhaps get involved yourself, visit ngwsd.org.

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon

Written by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee | Illustrated by Susanna Chapman

 

“Bobbi loved to run. Into the woods, over the hills, through fields and by streams, Bobbi’s feet flew across the earth.” When Bobbi was little, she and her friends ran and played together. But as they grew older, her friends found other pursuits while Bobbi still loved to run. She took to the fields with her dogs, “going higher and higher, / just her and the sound of the wind in the fire.”

When Bobbi was grown, her father took her to watch the Boston Marathon. She loved the camaraderie of “hundreds of people moving as one. Kindred spirits, all running miles together.” Immediately, she wanted to participate too. When Bobbi told her parents that she wanted to run in the marathon, however, they thought her idea was strange. They told her she would hurt herself and that it was unladylike.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

But Bobbie wanted to run. She didn’t know if she could run that far but was determined to try. She trained in the woods, running “further and further, and she ached and perspired, / and the world whooshed on by, like the wind in the fire.” Because she knew her parents disapproved, Bobbi set out on her own across country to train. Every day she ran in a new place—“lush forests in Ohio and Indiana, vast plains in Nebraska and Kansas, majestic mountains in Wyoming and Montana.” She even ran with wild horses out west and up steep Rocky Mountain trails. At night she camped, “tired and happy.”

All of her training seemed for nothing, however, when Bobbi received a letter rejecting her application for the Boston Marathon. The letter said that women were incapable of running marathons, that it was against the rules for a woman to run, and that the rules had been written to protect women from injury. Bobbi was not deterred, however. She went back home and told her parents what she wanted to do. Her father thought she was crazy to attempt it.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

Bobbi knew that the only way she could run would be “to blend in with the men.” Dressed in men’s shorts and a baggy hooded sweatshirt to hide her hair and wearing men’s running shoes (running shoes were not made for women), Bobbi was ready to go. Her father refused to drive her to the race, though. He stormed out of the house, and drove away. Bobbi thought her dream was dashed until her mom came to her room, car keys in hand, and said, “‘Let’s go.”

Hiding in the bushes at the starting line, she sprang out and joined the pack of runners with the bang of the starting pistol. “So she ran with the pack, going higher and higher, / the world whooshing by, like the wind in the fire.” As she ran, she realized that the men around her had seen through her disguise. Bobbi was worried, but the men were supportive. “‘Hey! Are you running the whole way?’ one asked.” She told him she hoped to, but in that sweatshirt, she was getting hotter and hotter. She was afraid that if she took it off, she’d be thrown out of the race.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

The men around her said they wouldn’t let that happen, so Bobbi took off the sweatshirt. “Word spread quickly throughout the course. A girl was running! They couldn’t believe it!” All along the route, the crowd cheered and encouraged her. Hearing the roar motivated Bobbi to ignore the hard ground and her stiff shoes and face the last steep hill. “Closing her eyes, she imagined she was back in Montana running up the mountains, the soft earth under her feet.”

Her feet were blistered and she was parched with thirst, but she crossed the finish line—ahead of nearly half of the men. Photographers, reporters, and radio presenters swarmed around her to hear her history-making story. From that day on “hearts and minds were forever changed.”

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

The story of Bobbi Gibbs is one that every girl and boy should know, and Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee’s excellent biography will have readers awe-struck by how she changed the way the world viewed women and their capabilities. A pioneer for women’s rights in every way—from her traveling the country alone to rejecting the prevailing ideas to competing on her own terms—Bobbi Gibbs is an inspiration for achievers everywhere. Poletti and Yee’s conversational storytelling is both lyrical and honest, not stinting on the obstacles Bobbi had to overcome, including race officials, her own parents, and even the fact that running shoes weren’t made for women.

As the marathon approaches, readers will be enthralled by the building suspense. They’ll feel Bobbi’s determination, her disappointment, and her fear that she will be discovered and thrown out of the race, and will cheer along with the crowd at her victory.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

Susanna Chapman’s gorgeous illustrations are infused with Bobbi’s boundless energy and spirit as she soars over grassy dunes with her dogs at her heels, zips through shady woods, and runs alongside wild horses in the shadow of the Rockies all the while trailing a red swish, representative of the fire within her. The turmoil surrounding Bobbi’s desire to run the Boston Marathon is depicted in words of rebuke, recrimination, and rejection printed in large, emphatic typefaces that swirl around her like a tornado.

The inclusion of the image of Bobbi’s mother with the car keys in hand on the morning of the race is a welcome reminder of the many unknown women of earlier generations who  contributed to the fight for women’s equality. A beautiful double gate-fold illustration of Bobbi crossing the finish line to cheering crowds and the waiting media puts the focus fully on Bobbi and the fire that spurred her on.

An Afterword tells more about Bobbi Gibb, and a timeline of seminal events in the Boston Marathon from 1896 to today, is a fascinating must-read.

The Girl Who Ran is an inspirational biography and revealing history from the not-so-distant past that offers encouragement and triumph. It would be a wonderful addition to home, school, and public libraries.

I received a copy of The Girl Who Ran from Compendium to check out. All opinions are my own.

Ages 8 – 12

Compendium, 2017 | ISBN 978-1943200474

Discover more about Kristina Yee, her books, and her films on her website

Learn more about Susanna Chapman, her books, and her art on her website

Girls and Women in Sports Day Activity

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Pioneering Women in Sports Word Scramble Puzzle

 

In every sport there have been women who have overcome barriers, incredible odds, set records, and inspired others. Using the clues and a little research, can you unscramble the names of these twelve awesome athletes?

Pioneering Women in Sports Word ScramblePioneering Women in Sports Word Scramble Solution

Picture Book Review

February 5 – National Weddings Month

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About the Holiday

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th, February is known as a month of love. Add to that its designation as National Weddings Month, and you might say February is the most romantic month of the year. While more people get married during the summer months, February has a few distinctions that set it apart. As you might imagine, Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular days to get married, but did you know that many people with a hearty sense of humor choose February 29th —in those leap years when it occurs! Couples planning a wedding often start during February. It takes time to make all the arrangements, find a venue, and pick out just the right clothes to wear—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Green Pants

By Kenneth Kraegal

 

Jameson loved green pants—in fact, they were the only kinds of pants he wore. “When he wore green pants, he could do anything.” He flew to the basketball hoop for spectacular dunks; made Olympic gold-medal-deserving dives; and he could dance.” Sometimes Jameson’s mom and dad gave him different colored pants to wear, but somehow they ended up hanging from trees or flying from flagpoles, or even clothing neighborhood dogs.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

One day Jameson’s cousin Armando and his fiancée Jo dropped by with a very important question. Jameson loved Jo. She “had the nicest smile Jameson had ever seen, and her eyes seemed to sparkle like the autumn sun shining upon a running river.” And when she asked if Jameson would like to be in their wedding, Jameson said, “‘Absolutely.’” Later, Jameson’s mom sat him down and explained the requirements: lots of standing, smiling nicely for photographs, using his best manners. “‘No problem,’” Jameson replied. “‘And one more thing,’ his mother said slowly. ‘You will have to wear a tuxedo.’” That sounded okay to Jameson too, until he learned the pants would be black. Jameson gasped.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of candlewick.com

At the tuxedo fitting, Jameson tried on pair after pair of black pants, but none were as handsome as his own green pants. His mother put down her foot, though. If he wanted to be in the wedding, he had to wear black pants. On the day of the wedding, Jameson still didn’t know what to do. Even moments before the ceremony was to begin, Jameson had not made up his mind. His mother kissed him on the forehead and left him to figure it out.

“Jameson sank in despair. ‘But how? HOW? How do I make such a decision? AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!’” At that moment Jo poked her head out the door. “Her hair played happily in the sunny breeze, her eyes shone like the summer stars, and her smile warmed his very soul. ‘Hey,, Jameson! I’m so glad you’re here! I’ll see you inside!’” she said and then she was gone. Suddenly, Jameson’s decision was made.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

Following the bridesmaids down the aisle, Jameson looked “quite dashing in his tuxedo!” He remembered all of his mother’s words, too. He stood still, smiled for the camera, and used his best manners. But then the music began. With a leap, a flip, and a whoosh, Jameson’s black pants came off to reveal his green pants underneath, “and Jameson danced like no one has ever danced before.”

Kenneth Kraegel’s at-once funny and sweet story of obsessive love will resonate with young readers and adults as well. Kids often go through stages where one outfit, food, drink, or activity becomes synonymous with their identity and only that thing will fit the bill. Kraegel’s straightforward and tender storytelling wonderfully portrays opportunities for Jameson’s independent thought while showing how love overcame and became personal preference when it mattered. The dialogue among the characters rings true and is inspirational modeling. Jameson’s ultimate solution to his dilemma is all-kid and will make his reading peers nod in appreciation.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

Jameson, with a shock of curly hair and his ever-present green pants, is an adorable protagonist. Ready with a smile for Jo or when accomplishing daring feats, he also registers amusing alarm at the idea of wearing black pants. Children will laugh to see where Jamison’s non-green pants end up and will empathize with his agonizing indecision—and they may just want to try some of his pretty sweet dance moves too!

Ages 3 – 8 (great as a read-aloud for younger kids and also as an independent book for early and transitional readers)

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763688400

You’ll find books, art, coloring pages, and more by Kenneth Kraegel on his website!

Dance with Green Pants in this toe-tapping book trailer!

National Weddings Month Activity

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Love,,,and Cake!

 

Weddings are all about love…and then comes the cake! So get your pencil and do this printable LOVE maze, then grab your crayons or markers and decorate the layers of this wedding cake just the way you’d like it.

LOVE Maze | Wedding Cake Coloring Page

 

 

 

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Kids are born creative, that’s for sure! With their huge imaginations and love for pretending, almost anything goes! Parents trying to keep up with their little charges need to stay on their toes and be inventive too. Answering all the “what,” “why,” and “how” questions takes some ingenuity, managing sibling rivalry takes finesse, and introducing new foods, getting a room cleaned, or making sure homework’s done? Well, “innovative” doesn’t begin to describe the brainstorms that (sometimes) lead to success. But at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) adults are inspired by their kids and wouldn’t trade their role for a minute. Yes, it’s great being a mom, grandmother, grandfather, teacher, dad—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Creativity Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

Picture Book Review

January 17 – It’s Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

Hobbies are great! They give us the chance to explore our creative side, form friendships, travel, and get away from the stresses of daily life. Sometimes hobbies can even lead to better and more satisfying careers. This month celebrate your hobby! Throw a party for others who share your passion, consider signing up with an online site to sell your wares, or join a group of like-minded people. It’s also a wonderful time to share your talents with others—like the protagonist of today’s story! 

Prudence the Part-Time Cow

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

Out in the pasture swatting flies with her tail and lumbering along with the rest of the herd, “Prudence looked like a full-time cow.” But when she had a little time off from her bovine duties, Prudence “was a part-time cow.” While being milked she was a scientist, reading a book on the milking process that she found “udderly amazing.” The salt licks were perfect blocks for architect Prudence’s wondrous structures. And engineer Prudence experimented with automatic lighting, even if the results in the water trough were a bit electrifying.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows didn’t like it. They wanted Prudence to be more like them. She would never fit into the herd, they whispered to each other. Prudence fretted. She wanted to have friends and fit in, so “she decided to try to be like the others.” Dutifully, she went down to the pond with the rest of the herd for a little refreshment and was doing fine until… “she calculated the water temperature and wind speed. ‘Sixty-eight degrees and four miles per hour.’”

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows were miffed, especially Bessie, who said “‘Cows don’t calculate,’” while carefully counting her calves as she called them from the pond. Another day as the herd lazed under a tree, Prudence joined them, leaving only once to create a hat from an old wagon wheel, scrap of cloth, and piece of rope she found nearby. The other cows snorted. “‘Cows don’t create,’ said Patty as she jostled to find some shade.”

Even sleeping the same way as the others was difficult for Prudence. When she had a brainstorm in the middle of the night she just had to explore it—no matter how noise she made. The herd had given up. Alone and sad, Prudence thought and thought of ways to make the others like her. Then it hit her! “‘Cow Power!’” That night the barn rang with the sounds of her idea. But it wasn’t only one idea! When the herd woke and saw yet another contraption, they rolled their eyes and said “‘Not again, Prudence! What is this mess?’” Until…

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-cow-power

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Bessie saw the “cow-culator” Prudence had made to help her keep track of her calves. Patty was thrilled with the “portable shade tree” made from an umbrella, a saddle, and some dangly adornments. And Spotz thought his new guitar made from a shovel and fishing line was “gnarly.” Prudence was suddenly pretty popular! Even though “she knew she would always be a part-time cow,” she was happy to feel like a “full-time member of the herd.”

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-happy-animals

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s moooving and funny story of a cow with a scientific bent will delight kids. Little ones who think differently will empathize with Prudence’s wish to be herself while also fitting in with the herd. As the cows stand around in a pond and huddle under a tree, Shaffer offers a wink to the crowd mentality and peer pressure that can foster inaction and clone-like behavior. Prudence makes a gentle, but determined role model as a thinker who won’t be cowed by others’ opinions.

Stephanie Laberis’s cartoon-inspired illustrations of a herd of very distinct cows are a perfect accompaniment to this humorous story with a meaningful message. Prudence, with her fluff of pink hair, is happiest when fulfilling her creative visions. As the other cows disparage her efforts and isolate her from the herd, Prudence’s sad eyes and droopy tail and ears make the effect of their words obvious. Each page offers an opportunity for readers to discuss diversity, individuality, and what it means to be a friend.

Prudence the Part-Time Cow would be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries as well as to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796156

Find out all about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and magazine writing for children on her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration and craft work by Stephanie Laberis on her website!

Hobby Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craftMooo Mug

 

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

Supplies

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft-back

Directions

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

Picture Book Review

January 13 – Make Your Dream Come True Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-cover

About the Holiday

Children are asked about their hopes and dreams as soon as they enter school. In kindergarten kids draw about them, and as they grow older, they write about them and begin working to make those dreams a reality. Adults also have goals they want to achieve at work, at home, or just for themselves. Today’s holiday encourages people to define their dream, make a plan, and take the road toward fulfilling it. That spark of inspiration can burn brightly and long and guide you to the future you always wanted!

Happy Dreamer

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

A child floats on a golden, sparkling swirl of their own creation. “I am a happy dreamer,” they say. “I’m really good at dreaming. Daydreams, big dreams, little dreams, creative dreams.” In fact, this child is a “dreamer maximus!” There are times when they’re told to ignore that voice inside…to “sit still” and pay attention. But the music inside is persistent and persuasive, inviting the child to move, to play along and let it out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-dreamer-maximus

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Sometimes dreams require quiet. Then the child says, “I make time to stay still and hear myself think—to let go and see what takes shape.” Can you see it too? There are dreams so big, the child reveals, that sometimes “I’m a shout-at-the-top-of-my-lungs dreamer (even if I’m just a loud-inside-my-head dreamer!)”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-musical-beat

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

There are times when dreams come in colors that paint a surprising path, and sometimes there are so many dreams firing at once that they cause “creative chaos.” When you ask make me clean up, the child says, I will, but “cleaning up hides my treasures” and “there is less of ME to show.” When that happens, the child explains, “…I feel alone. BOXED IN.” But there is always an escape, a way to recover the “happy dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-focus

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

You know what? the child says, “I’m really good at being me. A dreamer—surprising, caring, funny, gentle, smart.” Falling or failing don’t hurt because dreamers always bounce back and keep going. Do you know what kind of dreamer you are? There are so many kinds! What makes you happy? Exploring, working hard, being with family or friends, being alone? Maybe laughing, acting, being wild, being strong. Are you civic-minded, peaceful, thoughtful?

What’s “the best way to be a happy dreamer? Just be YOU.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-all-kinds-of-dreamers

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Peter H. Reynolds is always inspirational, finding just the right words to include all readers while speaking directly and intimately to each reader individually. In Happy Dreamer, Reynolds taps into the ways ideas and talents come knocking, whispering, or shouting to be heard and set free. His lyrical language is engaging for even the youngest readers and meaningful for adults as well—on both a personal level and for those who are parents, caregivers, or teachers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-bouncing-back

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

From the first image in which the child floats on the glowing swirl of dreams, readers will follow the child as they play music, discover shapes in the clouds, swing to lofty heights, shout to the world, paint a rainbow path, create fireworks and treasures, and break free from the restraints of the world that sometimes tamp down dreams. A double gate-fold filled with dreamers will delight readers as they search for just the type of dreamer they are. Written in the first-person and with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, Happy Dreamer is a universal story.

Empowering, encouraging, and accepting, Happy Dreamer is a superb choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545865012

Discover more about Peter Reynolds, his books, and his art on his website.

Make Your Dream Come True Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dream-job-application-activity

Dream Job Application

 

Imagine you are applying for your dream job. What would it be? Why are you the right candidate? Have fun with this printable Dream Job Application and start on the road to your happy future!

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Day of the Horse

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to commemorate the importance of the horse to the history, culture, and economy of the United States. The domesticated horse that we know today was first introduced by Spanish Explorers. As the country grew, horses became indispensable for transportation, farm and ranch work, and communications. The more than nine million horses that now reside in America depend on people for adequate food, water, shelter, and protection. On this holiday, consider donating to a horse rescue shelter near you.

Thelma the Unicorn

By Aaron Blabey

 

“Thelma felt a little sad. / In fact, she felt forlorn. / You see, she wished with all her heart / to be a unicorn.” Thelma was a little pony—brown and short and overlooked. Her best friend Otis told her, “‘You’re perfect as you are,’” but when Thelma compared herself to the sleek white mare on the farm, she said, “‘I’m not.’” Suddenly, she saw a carrot left over from dinner and had an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-wishing

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

She tied the carrot to her nose and told Otis, “‘I’ll say that I’m a unicorn! / It might just work… / who knows?’” At this very moment a truck driver passing by caught sight of this spectacle and careened off the side of the road. “As Thelma watched the swerving truck, / it very nearly hit her. / Would you believe that truck was filled / with nice pink paint and glitter?”

In the blink of an eye Thelma was doused in sparkles and had become what she always dreamed of. She was a unicorn and “special now!” Crowds lined up at the farm gate to see the pink unicorn. The media descended with their cameras and video recorders, and Thelma quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. Everywhere she went fans screamed her name, took pictures, waved signs, and wanted to be near her. She even got her hoofprint on the Walk of Fame.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-becomes-unicorn

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Thelma sailed to foreign ports on a ship named The Fairy Princess, attended by stewards who fulfilled her every wish. “But soon she found that so much fame / was kind of tricky, too….” Her fans mobbed her with crushing zeal, chased after her wherever she went, screamed, cried, laughed, and pointed whenever they saw her, and hounded her day and night for her autograph. “It NEVER EVER stopped.”

When Thelma asked “the screaming crowd” not to chase her anymore, they said “‘We’ll chase you all we want….We’re fans, so it’s allowed.’” Then there were there were the people who “were not her fans at all. / No, some were really mean. / And some just did the meanest things / she’d really ever seen.” Some threw eggs while she roller skated for charity and others held up signs reading “I don’t like unicorns” where she was sure to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-adoring-crowds

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Back in her fancy hotel room, all alone and bedraggled, soaked in egg, and with her “horn” losing its luster, Thelma looked at a photo of Otis. “…she felt quite sad, / this famous little pony. / She said, ‘I thought that I’d feel great… / but all I feel is lonely.’” She decided to make a change. She washed off all the pink paint and sparkles and “ditched her magic horn.”

She left and “walked right past the crowd. / They didn’t even notice / She thought how nice that it would be…to see her lovely Otis.” As Thelma stood underneath a tree with Otis, “he asked about her trip.” “‘Oh, it was fun,’” she answered him, “‘But I’d rather be just me.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-being-chased

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey’s cautionary tale of a pony who is granted her wish to be “more” than she is, deftly reveals the pitfalls of abandoning your true nature for what appears to be the perks of celebrity with a splash of humor and some no-nonsense honesty. Through Blabey’s smoothly flowing rhymes, readers see that being special is not based on a sparkly appearance that pleases false friends. Instead, each person is remarkable for their unique personalities and talents that true friends will appreciate.

Today’s social media-savvy children will recognize Blabey’s screaming crowds and overzealous fans and will come to understand, with Thelma, that being “in the pink” can be short-lived and glitter soon fades.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-carrot-horn

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Blabey’s distinctive illustrations portray Thelma’s transformation from “regular pony” to celebrity unicorn and back again with flair and all the bling that goes along with superstardom. The crowds are giddy, awed, obsessive, and adoring until the backlash starts, which Blabey portrays with candid examples. His final spreads in which Thelma goes unrecognized by her fans and is then lovingly welcomed back by Otis beautifully sum up the theme of the story.

Thelma the Unicorn provides readers and adults a wonderful opportunity to discuss the allure of changing oneself in order to fit in as well as the social media atmosphere that can be so influential in a child’s life. Blabey’s light touch coupled with his honesty makes Thelma the Unicorn a great choice for  home and classroom libraries.

Ages  3 – 7

Scholastic Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1338158427

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Thelma the Unicorn to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Aaron Blabey, his books, and his art on his website

National Day of the Horse Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-horse-candy-stick-cover

Whoa! Candy Stick Cover

 

There’s no neigh-saying that this isn’t a cute way to give your favorite candy stick a bit of flair!  With a bit of felt and a few other supplies you can make this horse craft. Alternately, this craft can be used with a cardboard tube or wooden dowel.

Supplies

  • Large or small candy stick, cardboard tube or wooden dowel
  • Felt in whatever color you’d like for your horse
  • Felt in a another color for the mane
  • Black felt for the nostrils
  • Thin ribbon or leather lacing
  • Small googly eyes
  • Fabric glue or hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

Directions

  1. Cut a piece of felt wide enough to wrap around the stick overlapping a little to glue together. It should be long enough to cover about 1 ½ inches of a small candy stick, about 2 ½ inches of a large candy stick, or about 3 to 4 inches of a cardboard tube or wooden dowel.
  2. Wrap the felt around the stick overlapping the edge about ¼ inch and leaving about ½ inch above the top of the stick.
  3. Glue the felt together along the overlapping edge to make a tube that fits the stick tightly

To make the ears

  1. Push down on the center of the back side of the felt that rises above the top of the stick
  2. Apply a drop of glue
  3. Push the center of the front edge of the felt into the glue
  4. The ears will stick up on the sides of the head

To make the horse’s nose and mouth

  1. Remove the felt head from the stick
  2. Pinch the end together
  3. Starting about ½ inch from the bottom, round the corners of the felt tube with the scissors

To make the nostrils

  1. Cut small circles from the black felt
  2. Glue them to the bottom of the horse’s nose
  3. Glue the googly eyes on the horse’s face

To make the mane

  1. Cut a strip of felt as long as the face by 1 inch wide for a large candy stick; about ¾ inch wide for a small candy stick
  2. Fold the felt in half lengthwise
  3. Glue the edges of the felt together, leaving the top unglued
  4. Snip fringe along the length of the felt
  5. Cut a small curve in the bottom of one end of the length of felt so it will fit over the top of the horse’s head
  6. Glue the rest of the length of felt down the back of the horse’s head

To add the reins

  1. Cut a length of narrow ribbon or leather lacing about 6 inches long
  2. Glue the center of the ribbon or lacing to the horse’s face above the nostrils at the level of the trimmed mouth around to the mane
  3. Tie the ends of the ribbon or lacing together

Picture Book Review