November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

I received a copy of Iced Out from Cicada Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Cicada Books on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Iced Out

Written by CK Smouha | Illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

 

At Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals, Wilfred, a walrus, and Neville, a narwhal, stood out among the rest of the class of seals—but not in the way they wanted to. With his pointy horn that deflated every ball he caught, Neville “never got picked for the football team.” And Wilfred’s overly aromatic lunch meant he always sat by himself. Even parties were perilous, “so they didn’t get invited very often.” You might think that Neville and Wilfred would be friends, but they weren’t—not really.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Wilfred and Neville disliked mornings, and thinking about the week ahead made Sundays tough too. But one Monday something amazing happened. A new student joined the class—Betty Beluga. “Everyone wanted to play with her. But Betty wasn’t interested.” She sat alone at lunch, didn’t join the football team even though she was an awesome scorer, and declined the invitations she got for parties. “Wilfred and Neville were smitten.” In fact, now they couldn’t wait to go to school as they daydreamed about Betty.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Neville decided he had to prove himself to Betty, and he practiced catching a ball without impaling it on his horn. Finally, he had the knack. The next day, though, just as he was showing Betty, Wilfred “accidentally” bumped into him and Neville’s trick went splat. Wilfred swam off with Neville in pursuit. Wilfred was good at hiding and Neville couldn’t find him anywhere. Betty thought they were playing hide-and-seek—her favorite game—and she joined the search. When she found Wilfred, it was her turn to hide. The three played all afternoon.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Even though they were getting along, there was still a rivalry between Wilfred and Neville for Betty’s affections. “Who would you like to rescue you from dragons,” they wondered. But Betty set them straight. “I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much,” she told them. After that was understood, they became best friends. They ate lunch together, did classwork together, sometimes went to parties, and were just fine with not being like everyone else.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

CK Smouha’s story about a narwhal and a walrus who are ostracized by their classmates but find friendship with a new student is a complex tale that touches on group dynamics, self-esteem, independence, jealousy, finding your niche, and other topics that children deal with every day. There is a difference between totally fitting in and being accepted that frames the story and gives it its emotional punch. The pages in which Wilfred cowers under his covers, not wanting to go to school and Neville spends Sundays replaying the bullying he’s endured are heart-wrenching and important in that they reveal to readers that what happens in school colors life out of school. These pages also give children for whom these feelings are a reality a opening for discussing them. When Betty Beluga joins the class, she becomes a role model for Neville and Wilfred as well as for readers. While she has all the prerequisites to fit in with the seals, she charts her own course, maintaining her individuality.

As Neville and Wilfred become smitten with their new classmate, their hearts swell with romantic love, depicted with humorous snapshots of the two listening to love songs, writing adoring messages, playing cupid, and imagining themselves as rescuing heroes. Betty’s welcome reaction shuts this down, showing her burgeoning independent self-image while opening the door to true friendship. Accepted by Betty, Neville and Wilfred discover that where and how they fit in is just right for them.

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Isabella Bunnell’s matte illustrations, rendered in hues of blue, gold, red and black give a distinctive look to this multilayered story. Bunnell uses subtle shifts in the characters’ faces and body positions to portray their full range of emotions, giving readers much to think and talk about. With the exception of the hide-and-seek scenes, Bunnell chooses to depict the setting without an ocean background. Her pages thus orient readers in school, home, and sports-field environments that are familiar to them, reinforcing the universal theme of the story.

A unique and thoughtful look at the dynamics of groups, defining oneself, and friendship, Iced Out would be a discussion-starting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for all children.

Ages 3 – 8

Cicada Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1908714626

To view a portfolio of artwork by Isabella Bunnell, visit her tumblr.

Iced Out Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Cicada Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Iced Out written by CK Smouha | illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite sea creature for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 7 through November 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 14.

Prizing provided by Cicada Books

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

Picture Book Month Activity

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Sea Animal Friends Coloring Pages

 

These cute sea animals like playing together. Grab your crayons and give their world some color!

Beluga | Narwhal | Seal | Walrus 

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You can find Iced Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 11 – Eunice and Kate Cover Reveal

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Eunice and Kate 

Written by Mariana Llanos | Illustrated by Elena Napoli

 

Eunice and Kate are best friends, but can their friendship weather a storm? 

The girls live with their moms next door to each other in the heart of the city and have a lot in common—even though they have different dreams for the future.

Kate wants to be an astronaut and Eunice wants to be a ballet dancer. But when they draw portraits of each other in art class, things get mixed up. Eunice draws Kate as a ballet dancer and Kate draws Eunice as an astronaut, and they both get more than a little annoyed.

Can their friendship survive? With a little help from their moms, the girls come to learn the value of respecting each other’s different dreams. Eunice and Kate is a heartfelt new book by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Elena Napoli, about how honoring our differences can strengthen our bonds. 

This story about what it really means to be best friends will be released on National Make a Friend Day, February 11, 2020!

Ages 5 – 9

Penny Candy Books, 2020ISBN 9780999658475 | $16.95

Discover more about Mariana Llanos and her books on her website.

To learn more about Elena Napoli and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website. 

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You can preorder Eunice and Kate at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

October 2 – It’s Family History Month

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About the Holiday

Family History Month has been celebrated in October since 2001. Coming before the family holidays of fall and winter, it’s a fantastic time to explore your family history. Knowing the people who you came from can be enlightening in so many ways. Not only can you find out where your ancestors came from geographically, you can learn what traits have been passed down from generation to generation—traits that have made you who are. This month take time to dig into your genealogy. Online databases and other research methods make it easier than ever to learn more about your family history!

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

Written by Chana Stiefel | Pictures by Mary Sullivan

 

Wakawakaloch had a problem. Well, it wasn’t really her problem; none of the kids at school could pronounce or even remember her name. After another day in which her name was mangled (Oog called her “‘Walawala,’” Boog shouted “‘Look out, Wammabammaslamma!’” and Goog cheered her on during Club Club with “‘Swing, Lokamokatok!’”), Wakawakaloch was as angry as an erupting volcano.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When her parents asked what was wrong, Wakawakaloch said she wanted to change her name to Gloop. Pa thought Gloop was a good name, but reminded his daughter that her name had been “‘in family many, many moons.’” But Wakawakaloch was inconsolable. Not only could no one say her name right, but she never found it on any T-shirts. Ma and Pa thought there was only one thing to do—take her to see Elder Mooch.

Despite his leathery skin and aroma of “rotting mammoth poop,” Elder Mooch was an insightful Neanderthal. He started off with an ill-considered joke that set Wakawakaloch reaching for tissues from the nearby dispenser rock. But she poured out her heart and the fact that she wanted an easy name, one found on T-shirts. She could just imagine all of the heroic and adventurous things she could do with a name and T-shirt like that.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Elder Mooch looked at her and then bestowed his wisdom. He told her she was a “‘forward thinker’” but “‘must be a backward seer too.’” This bit of knowledge cost her two pigeons and left her smoldering. What did he mean by that? Later that night as she tossed and turned in bed, she caught a glimpse of the paintings on her wall. They showed her great-great-great-great-great grandmother Wakawakaloch “performing brave and heroic acts…. Little Wakawakaloch placed her hand on the ancient handprint of her mighty namesake. It was a perfect match.”

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

In the morning, Wakawakaloch was smiling. She no longer wanted to be called Gloop, and she told her parents that she was ready to help others. When the Roll-the-Boulder tournament came round, Wakawakaloch had her personalized T-shirt stand all set. Oog, Boog, and Goog thought her shirts for Chana, Sioban, Xavier, Eoghan were “‘Ooga booga’ (way cool).” Wakawakaloch had even made one for herself. Elder Mooch wanted to buy three, and when little Hoopaloopie came by, Wakawakaloch got to work on another shirt.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

For all those kids who never find their names on shirts, mugs, necklaces, keychains, or other personalized items and who frequently hear the question, “How do you pronounce that?,” Chana Stiefel’s book is for you! This fresh tale will also resonate with any child who feels different for any reason. Wakawakaloch, with her strong personality, thoughtful introspection, and creative solution, is a character that readers will love and want to emulate. Stiefel deftly navigates this sensitive landscape with a combination of honest feelings and hilarious mispronunciations, prehistorical details, and descriptions. Readers will laugh all the way through but will also be absorbing the lesson that everyone should embrace their own “mighty” personality and be celebrated and recognized for their unique qualities.

In her vibrant illustrations, Mary Sullivan creates a comically anachronistic ancient world, where safety cones made of stone mark the playground, a stone telescope is aimed out the window, mail is delivered (this part may be accurate, I’d have to check), and cupcakes are eaten with forks. Kids will want to linger over each page to point out all of the funny elements that add depth and glee to this story. Wakawakaloch shows the feelings bubbling up inside her with furrowed brows, livid gestures, and ready tears, while the other kids cluelessly continue to distort her name even after being told the right pronunciation multiple times. Wakawakaloch’s visit to Elder Mooch is a funny take on therapy sessions, but his advice leads to a welcome image of contemplation and realization that makes Wakawakaloch appreciate her family history and also want to contribute to its—and society’s—advancement. Wakawakaloch’s T-shirt booth is sure to inspire kids to make their own shirt too.

A delightfully inventive story with many applications and prompts for further discussion as well as activities celebrating individuality, My Name is Wakawakaloch! will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328732095

Discover more about Chana Stiefel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out My Name is Wakawakaloch! “ooga booga” book trailer!

Family History Month Activity

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I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page

 

Family trees are often filled with the names of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and where your family came from. But you can also fill the spaces with family traits that have made you who you are. Print this I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page then write the names or draw pictures of your family members or family qualities that you admire in the hearts. Afterwards, grab your crayons, color the picture, and hang it where you can see!

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You can find My Name is Wakawakaloch! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 27 – Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As September winds down, there’s still time to feature one more new book for this month’s special holiday. Searching for and sharing new books—whether they are recently published or just new to you—is not only a fun way to spend a day together with kids, but an experience that pays big benefits now and in the future. Make a plan to add a few new books to your home library or visit your local library today!

Maybe

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Gabriella Barouch

 

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” Not why are you HERE? But why are YOU here? There is a very special reason, you know. “You are the only you there ever has been or ever will be,” and because of this “you have so much to offer.” You might discover or design something completely new. But first, you should experiment and explore, guided by your hopes and dreams.

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Image copyright Gabriella Barouch, 2019, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2019. Courtesy of Compendium.

Perhaps your talent lies in helping “others to see the beauty in each day?” or maybe you will be the one that people cheer for. No matter what you do, do it with your whole heart and follow where that leads. It could be that you’ll be a light in the darkness. Or “maybe you will speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves?”This is not to say that life will always be easy. There will be struggles and fears and even failures, but each one will make you stronger and smarter.

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Image copyright Gabriella Barouch, 2019, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2019. Courtesy of Compendium.

You have more courage than you might think, and the world is waiting for you. Just think—maybe “you are only scratching the surface of what you can do and who you can be?” But even now everything you need to do great things is inside of you. “Maybe you have no idea just how good you really can be” or “how much you matter?” But just your presence means that “anything is possible.”

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Image copyright Gabriella Barouch, 2019, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2019. Courtesy of Compendium.

Like all parents and caregivers, Kobi Yamada understands that from day one children exhibit unique talents, personalities, and ideas that they will use to make their mark on the world. In Maybe, he beautifully expresses the ideals every adult wants their children to know and embrace. Yamada addresses that essential question that everyone asks themselves, starting in childhood and continuing throughout life. He offers reassurance that discovering one’s gift, place, or method of influence is not a one-time thing or quickly and easily found, and he encourages readers to take their time, explore, think, and keep their eyes and hearts open.

Kamada’s phrasing throughout the story is designed to uplift and also to promote thought and discussion. By ending lines that speak to what the reader might be or become with question marks, he invites children and adults to reflect on each suggestion. Sentences composed of self-esteem building ideas end with a period, reinforcing the wisdom in them. Yamada’s use of the word Maybe is also ingenious. Not only is it an adverb, prompting consideration, but deconstructed, May be becomes a verb bursting with promise. Sharing this book with their children, adults will also appreciate the sentiments—for as we know, life is ever-changing and we are too.

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Image copyright Gabriella Barouch, 2019, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2019. Courtesy of Compendium.

Gabriella Barouch’s breathtaking illustrations immediately draw readers into the world of this story and the world of childhood with its mix of wonder, concreteness, imagination, and potential. The child’s striking cap made of leaves, coupled with their overalls, creates a clever way for Barouch to make the book gender-neutral while piquing readers’ interest in what they are doing from page to page. This child of nature quietly coexists with a fawn, bunny, birds, and squirrels and has, as a companion, one of the cutest piglets ever seen. Barouch’s use of various perspectives contributes to a fluid fluctuation between elements of fantasy and realism. As the story progresses, kids watch the child gathering supplies that she assembles in the final scenes to send her piglet off on its own adventure.

No maybe’s about it, Maybe is a book you’ll  want to add to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 5 and up

Compendium, 2019 | ISBN 978-1946873750

You can discover more about Kobi Yamada and his books on the Compendium website.

To learn more about Gabriella Barouch, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

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You can find Maybe at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 17 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Established by the Oddfellows, an organization dedicated to philanthropy and charity, about ten years ago, Friendship Month encourages people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and especially to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I received a copy of Two Tough Trucks from Scholastic for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Scholastic in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Two Tough Trucks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Hilary Leung

 

One morning, two trucks are ready “for their first day of class.” But Rig’s “riding the brakes” while Mack’s “hitting the gas.” In their classroom, their teacher Miss Rhodes pairs these two up for a practice run on the track. First up is the circuit, with twists and a hairpin turn. Rig feels shaky, but Mack’s “a speedy red blur.” Mack picks up speed going into the turn and keeps on going, but Rig hits the brakes and skids off the course.

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Next comes learning to downshift while climbing a hill. Mack breezes up as Rig carefully inches along. First to the top, Mack gloats, “‘I knew I was fast.’” And although Rig tried his best he “finished dead last.” Mack thought Rig was just dragging him down. For Rig, Mack just seemed liked a braggart. As he vroomed, Mack fumed and left Rig “in the dust.”

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

The students moved on to practicing backing up. As they moved around traffic cones,  “they veered and corrected, / they turned and reversed. / Rig had good instincts, but Mack was… the worst.” Rig aced the course, but Mack? He was ready to quit until Rig steered him right. “Vroom! Zoom! / They backtracked and bumped. / A Mack making progress, / a Rig feeling pumped!”

Mack was surprised that Rig had helped him, but for Rig it was just the right thing to do. They headed back to the track and took it by storm. These two trucks were “now the fastest of friends.”

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Like life’s road itself, this original story of two trucks with distinct personalities and different strengths has lots of twists and turns and takes little ones on a multilayered journey of discovery. While Mack is rarin’ to go on his first day of truck school, Rig is more hesitant. When these two are teamed up for the day, Mack’s fast and daring approach to the track seems to be the right one as he nails the sharp curve and is the first to reach the peak of the hill, leaving Rig far behind. These early successes cause him to honk his own horn and complain about Rig.

But then in a clever literal and metaphorical reversal, Rig’s thoughtful restraint makes backing up his forte. In Mack’s reaction to being last, Schwartz and Gomez gently ramp up life lessons about perseverance and losing gracefully. In addition, Rig goes on to demonstrate another winning trait in his generosity to teach Mack the finer points of driving in reverse. Mack’s acceptance of Rig’s kindness shows that the experience has taught him to be humble. Kudos to Miss Rhodes for creating a track that leads to strong bonds and friendship.

A book by Schwartz and Gomez always charms with smart rhyming and jaunty rhythms and Two Tough Trucks is no exception. Ingenious puns, evocative and active vocabulary, and plenty of “vrooms” and “zooms” for kids to chime in on make this book a lively read aloud.

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Hilary Leung’s textured and boldly colored pages will thrill little readers as Mack and Rig take center stage on the dusty, western track. Mack’s confidence shows in his straight, crisp lines and grinning grill while Rig’s wariness takes the form of wobbly tires, bent frame, furrowed brow, and grimacing grill. Fittingly, the Truck School building is shaped like a parking garage, complete with a spiral ramp that takes students to the second and third story. Cacti, roadrunners, and craggy rock formations dot the sun-drenched desert track where Mack, Rig, and the rest of the students strut their stuff.

A joy to read out loud and offering so much repeat readability, Two Tough Trucks is highly recommended for home bookshelves, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338236545

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca J. Gomez and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Hilary Leung and learn more about his work, visit her website.

Two Tough Trucks Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Two Tough Trucks, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | illustrated by Hilary Leung

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite truck or vehicle for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from September 17 through September 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 24.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Friendship Month Activity

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Racing for Friendship Game

Here’s a racing game that kids will love making and playing with friends or family! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in, a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Then get out your own toy cars and trucks to play with or use the printable truck tokens included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

Supplies

  • Black poster board, thick poster board, or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Tokens (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut about 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. Alternately, draw scenery on the board with chalk
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Gather one toy truck or car for each player. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Tokens. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

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You can find Two Tough Trucks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 27 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

It’s all up to you to make his month-long holiday happen. It offers an opportunity for each person to ask: What makes me happy? As the summer comes to a close and the hustle-bustle of school and extracurricular activities starts up again, be sure to include those things that truly bring you and your children joy. Spending more time with siblings and friends may be at the top of the list—just like in today’s book!

Twins

By Mike Ciccotello

A little boy and a giraffe love being twins. In fact, they are so alike, the boy says, that “sometimes our friends can’t tell us apart.” Having a twin means there’s always someone to play games—“and piano duets”—with. While it’s true that twins like many of the same things, the way they do activities is way different. Take the little boy and his giraffe twin, for instance. The boy’s tricycle is short, while his twin’s is looong, and the snowman the boy makes has three sections while the giraffe’s snowman has six—and antlers.

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

As you might imagine, salad is high on the list of favorite foods. Other faves include dancing, reading, and drawing. But who does these best? That question sometimes causes squabbles. And when there’s, say, only one tool to share or a big issue like “who is stronger,” sometimes that “disagreement…might last all afternoon, and turn into a big, rotten fight.”

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

But after a little alone time, the boy and his twin and the giraffe and his twin “can never stay mad for very long.” Then they end up compromising because they know that they “work best together.” Yes, “it’s great being a twin, knowing there’s someone who’s just like you.”

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Mike Ciccotello’s sweet tribute to twins, whether they’re siblings, best friends, or even pet-and-people pairs will have kids giggling at the juxtapositions of the little boy and his extra-tall twin as they play and work together. The two are exuberant partners, smiling, laughing, and making knowing eye contact, as they dress the same, share the same activities, and talk in their bunk beds before going to sleep. When the inevitable quarrels come, readers will recognize the mixed emotions that ultimately bring these two best friends back together. Ciccotello’s emphasis on resolving disputes, compromise, and staying mindful of all the benefits to having a twin or “near twin” gives the story deeper resonance for building bonds between siblings and friends.

Ciccotello’s vibrant illustrations are clever and cheerful, touching on kid-favorite year-round events and everyday routines. They also give a sly wink to the idea that twins are always identical and highlight the individuality of not only these twins but each reader too. The wide-open pages and spotlighted vignettes allow the youngest readers to focus on the relationship between the boy and the giraffe and offer opportunities for adults and kids to talk about that special bond.

A funny book with a lot of heart, Twins would be an endearing addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 6

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0374312121

To learn more about Mike Ciccotello and his work, visit his website.

Happiness Happens Month Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is the winner.
  2. Using a time limit (depending on age): players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

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You can find Twins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 25 – It’s World Watercolor Month

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About the Holiday

World Watercolor Month was begun in 2016 by Charlie O’Shields, the creator of Doodlewash®, a blog, and a social artist movement dedicated to promoting and connecting watercolor artists from all over the world. The holiday also raises awareness of the importance of art and creativity to the world. Everyone from amateurs to professionals are welcome to participate—and if you’ve never painted with watercolors before, now’s a great time to try!

It’s a month to inspire people to paint with watercolor (watercolour, aquarelle) while raising awareness for the importance of art and creativity in the world. And anyone can join the celebration from master watercolorists to artists just starting out with watercolor! If you want to find prompts to inspire your work and other ways to enjoy the month and take your love of watercolor painting into next month and beyond, visit Doodlewash.

Painting Pepette

Written by Linda Ravin Lodding | Illustrated by Claire Fletcher

 

If you were to peek in the great room window of the grand yellow house at #9 Rue Laffette in Paris, you would most likely see Josette Bobette and her beloved stuffed rabbit Pepette cuddled together on the comfortable seat. It was their favorite place. Looking past them you would see that on the walls hung portraits of the family—Josette’s mother was there as well as grand-mère and grand-père, the three Bobette sisters, and even their schnoodle Frizette.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“One day Josette noticed something strange. There was no portrait of Pepette!” Josette at once determined to find an artist to paint a special portrait of her best friend. The pair head out to Montmartre, where all of the best artists set up their easels to paint and sell their work. It didn’t take long for a man in a striped shirt to stop them.

“‘Those ears!’” he cried. “‘Never have I seen such majestic ears. I must paint this rabbit’s portrait!’” Pepette blushed at such an effusive compliment, and Josette exclaimed, “‘Magnifique!’” It appeared that Josette had found just the artist to create Pepette’s portrait. The painter waved his brush with a flourish, “declared his painting a ‘masterpiece,’” and held it up for inspection. Josette gazed at a Pepette with two noses and three ears. Diplomatically, she proclaimed the picture “‘nice’” but not quite Pepette. Her best friend agreed.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Just then a man with a thin, curved handlebar mustache spied the pair. Admiring Pepette’s whiskers, the artist begged to capture “‘the very essence of her rabbitness!’” He immediately set to work, and in no time a most unusual portrait emerged. Pepette seemed to melt from atop a tall red wall. Josette considered it—and her reaction—carefully. “‘It’s imaginative,’” she said. “‘But you’ve painted Pepette quite, well, droopy.’” Pepette agreed.

As Josette and Pepette enjoyed a Parisian snack on the curb of Montmartre, a rakish young man happened along. He was arrested by Pepette’s nose, which he likened to “‘a faint star twinkling in a misty, velvet night.’” Josette had a good feeling about this artist and followed him across the square to his easel. Pepette posed on a red tufted stool as the artist painted a rabbit soaring through the clouds. He proclaimed the finished portrait “‘one of my best works’” as he displayed it to the crowd. Josette liked the clouds but told the painter that Pepette is afraid of heights and not fond of flying. Pepette agreed.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

By now Pepette was the most sought-after model in Paris, and another artist rushed up, captivated by her beauty. The balding man in a dapper suit and round spectacles peered at Pepette. “‘What a colorful lady—balloon blue, pansy pink, and radish red!’” Although a little suspicious of his vision, Josette allowed him to paint Pepette. “‘Ta da!’” the man exclaimed, revealing the magic of his brush. Josette studied the canvas with its vibrant dots, dashes, and splashes. While she admired the colors, she reminded the artist that Pepette isn’t pink. “‘Ah, yes,’” nodded the painter. “‘But through art we can see the world any way we want.’”

With the sun setting low in the sky, Josette politely said thank-you and goodbye to the artists. She and Pepette had enjoyed their day, but it was time to go home. Curled up once more on the window seat, Josette sighed. She had so hoped to have the perfect portrait of Pepette—one that showed her velvety grey listening ears, her heart-shaped nose, and her soft arms that give tight hugs. Suddenly, Josette had an idea! After gathering all of her art supplies, she created the perfect likeness—one as special as Pepette herself!

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

An author’s note on the last page describes the creative atmosphere of 1920s Paris, home to writers, artists, musicians, and fashion designers, that gives a frame to her story. The artists that Josette meets are inspired by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse.

In Painting Pepette Linda Ravin Lodding has written a multi-layered story of love, friendship, and unique vision. Through the sweet relationship between Josette and Pepette and with a sprinkling of humorous self-congratulation by the artists, Lodding nudges readers to appreciate that while art can reveal and obscure, reflect or transcend reality, ultimately the success of a piece—complex or simple—lies within the viewer’s heart. Children will also see that their creative endeavors, undertaken with love, are just as meaningful and appreciated as those of professional artists. Lodding’s lyrical language trips off the tongue and is a joy to read—as if readers are following Josette as she skips happily through Paris.

Claire Fletcher’s striking pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations pay delicate homage to cityscapes of a bygone Paris. Adorable Josette and her enchanting rabbit are the perfect tour guides through crowded Montmartre and this introduction to art history. Soft tones of yellow, rose, and green illuminate the apartments and cafes of the square, where colorful shoppers and artists mingle. Fletcher’s renderings of Pepette’s various portraits will not only make kids giggle, but entice them to learn more about each artistic style. The final endpapers reveal that the four fine-art portraits now hang in the Muse of Paris, while readers already know that Josette’s perfectly perfect portrait of her well-loved friend has taken its rightful place on the wall in the Bobette’s great room!

Painting Pepette is a beautiful addition to any child’s bookshelf and a lovely way for teachers to initiate a discussion of art history and get kids excited about artists and different art styles.

Ages 4 – 9

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801361

Follow Josette through Paris as she searches for just the right artist to paint a portrait of her best friend Pepette and comes to a surprising discovery in this beautiful Painting Pepette book trailer:

Discover more books by author Linda Ravin Lodding on her website.

Illustrator Clair Fletcher invites you to find more of her artwork by visiting her online gallery.

National Watercolor Month Activities

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Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide

 

little bee books has created an interactive activity so you can continue to explore Josette’s world and your own artistic talent! Just click here—Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide—to start having fun!

Stuck on You Magnets or Picture Hanger

 

Creativity is meant to be shared! Here’s an easy craft that you can make to give to your friends whether they live close by or far away. These magnets can used by themselves or to hold a picture-hanging wire. Use inside jokes, favorite characters, or shared experiences to make these  crafts personal!

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For Magnets

Supplies

  • To get you started, here are two printable Best Friends Templates! Template 1 Template 2
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Markers or colored pencils OR find images online to print out
  • Medium to large flexible magnets, available in craft stores
  • Super glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors

Directions

  • Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  • Draw your design in the circle on the poster board
  • Cut out the circle
  • With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the design side of the circle
  • Attach the circle to the flat side of the stone, let dry
  • Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  • Attach the magnet to the back of the cardboard with glue

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For Map Picture Holder

Supplies

  • Use a mapping program to find a map of your town and your friend’s town
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Twine
  • Super Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty mounting squares

Directions

  1. Find maps of your and your friend’s towns
  2. Zoom in so the name of your and your friend’s towns are displayed well. You will be using about a 1-inch area around the towns’ names.
  3. Take a screen shot of the maps
  4. Print the maps
  5. Place the glass stone on the map and trace around it
  6. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  7. Cut out the circles on the map and poster board
  8. With the toothpick, glue the map to the poster board, let dry
  9. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  10. Attach the circle to the flat side of the glass stone, let dry
  11. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  12. Repeat with the other map
  13. Attach a length of twine to the back of each glass stone
  14. Attach heavy duty mounting squares to the back of each glass stone
  15. Attach stones to the wall and hang pictures on the twine

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You can find Painting Pepette at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review