September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was conceived by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas as a day to prompt people to perform deliberate acts of encouragement to cheer and inspire others. On September 12, 2007 Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed a proclamation for a “State Day of Encouragement.” President George W. Bush later established September 12 a National Day of Encouragement. To celebrate, say a kind word, mail a card, make a call, or send a text to anyone who needs a little more encouragement to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just to have a good day.

Hanukkah Hamster

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

The city was decorated with twinkling lights for the holidays, and busy shoppers bustled in and out of stores, delivered there by Edgar and his cab. After one shift, Edgar was so tired he took a nap in the back seat. He was awakened when “Ohhhf! Something scrambled onto his chest. Ayyee! Something hairy brushed his face.” Edgar opened one eye to see… a hamster! He picked it up and gazed at its tiny eyes and ears and feet.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Edgar wondered which of his many customers may have lost the little hamster as he called in to the cab company’s lost and found department. Edgar took the little hamster home and shredded some paper to make him a bed. Then he went to his menorah, said the Hanukkah blessing, and lit two candles. All the next day as he drove people in his cab, Edgar wondered if someone had claimed the hamster, but no one did.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That night after lighting three candles, Edgar made a chopped salad dinner for himself and a tiny one for the hamster. As he watched the little animal nibble on a chickpea, Edgar asked, “‘Okay if I call you Chickpea?’” No one had claimed Chickpea the next day either, so Edgar went to the pet store and bought hamster food. At home, he lit four candles and gave Chickpea some food. As Chickpea ate, “Edgar took pictures on his phone and shared them with his family in Israel.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On the fifth night of Hanukkah, Edgar made Chickpea “a slide out of a cardboard tube. Chickpea whooshed down. Wheeee! His nose twitched.” As the week of Hanukkah went on, Edgar was fearful that someone might call about their missing hamster. He spent the evenings telling Chickpea about Tel Aviv until the little one fell asleep.

The next day, Edgar took a customer to a neighborhood on the edge of town. There he saw a woman who looked familiar. With her was her son. “Edgar felt a punch in his heart.” But he rolled down the window and asked the boy if he’d lost a hamster. The woman answered that she had bought the hamster for her classroom and thought he had escaped at home. “Edgar showed them pictures on his phone” of Chickpea eating salad, sliding through the tube and drifting off to sleep.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the woman saw Edgar’s menorah in one of the pictures, Edgar told them how he and Chickpea were celebrating Hanukkah together since the rest of his family lived in Israel. When Edgar began to tell them that he could return the hamster tomorrow morning, “the boy touched his mother’s arm, and the two of them exchanged glances.” The woman told Edgar that she thought Chickpea belonged with him. Then she wished him a wonderful holiday. That night, “Edgar said the blessing and lit all the candles on the menorah.” Then, while he enjoyed a doughnut, Chickpea ran and ran on his new wheel.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Immersed in the special yearning for family and togetherness the holidays bring, Michelle Markel’s touching story glows with kindness and empathy. The growing friendship between Edgar and Chickpea will tug at readers’ hearts just as it does for Edgar, who so hopes to keep the little hamster but also knows there may be someone in the city missing him. As the days pass, and Edgar, alone for Hanukkah, shares his traditions with the hamster, readers also become participants in the holiday. Children will be riveted to the increasing suspense, and the pitch-perfect solution is joyful and satisfying. Realistic dialogue and honestly portrayed emotions provides depth to this moving story.

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From the tiny white lights lining main street to the first glimpse of the little hamster to Edgar’s cozy apartment with his menorah in the window, André Ceolin’s richly colored illustrations invite readers into Edgar’s life with his new friend, Chickpea. Chickpea is adorable as it nibbles on salad, poses for pictures, and curls up in its shredded paper bed. Images of Edgar lighting the menorah are luminous, and the Edgar and Chickpea’s smiles will spark happiness in readers’ hearts.

The portrayals of friendship, generosity, empathy, and family make Hanukkah Hamster a poignant story for all children to share not only at the holidays but all year around. The book would make a wonderful gift and much loved addition to home and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363995

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about André Ceolin, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Day of Encouragement Activity

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Random Acts of Encouragement Cards to Share

 

Today’s a day to spread a little encouragement to friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who looks as if they could use some cheering up.

Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 1Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 2

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You can find Hanukkah Hamster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 24 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact paying attention to those little moments during each day, going on spontaneous outings with friends or family, or taking time to do a favorite activity may be all you need to feel happier every day!

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Written by Monique Gray Smith | Illustrated by Julie Flett

 

A little girl gazes into her mother’s eyes as she sits on her lap wrapped in a big, soft blanket. She thinks, “My heart fills with happiness when…I see the face of someone I love.” Waiting for the bannock to bake, a mother and her children huddle close around the oven surrounded by the delicious aroma that fills their hearts with joy. Singing brings its own lightness and pleasure as it fills one’s soul.

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

A girl lifts her face to the sky and swirls around, her dress floating with a swish as she smiles to “feel the sun dancing on [her] cheeks.” Happiness can be the tickly feeling of “walking barefoot on the grass,” the freedom of dancing, and the security of holding a loved one’s hand. Hearing stories and making music can also set hearts racing with delight. When you think about joy, what do you see? “What fills your heart with happiness?”

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016, text copyright Monique Gray Smith, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

Monique Gray Smith’s sweet book for little ones about the various types of happiness offers readers and listeners a moment to stop and share the connection that joy brings. Whether feelings of happiness come from outside influences or from deep within, Smith encourages readers to reflect on what really makes them happy. Such awareness can inspire future activities and improve your quality of life. Smith’s lyrical phrasing and choice of pleasures will delight little ones, who will recognize each as a bond of love.

Julie Flett’s beautiful illustrations of indigenous families spending loving moments together are infused with warmth and strength. In her vignettes of the unhurried occasions that allow for profound happiness, children and adults sit together, hold hands, and wrap their arms around each other. Little ones also discover the individual joys found in a sunbeam, a blade of grass, or the abandon of dance. 

My Heart Fills With Happiness would be wonderful quiet book to add to a little one’s bookshelf to start a happy day or invite sweet dreams. 

Ages 2 – 4

Orca Book Publishers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1459809574 

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My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih, 2018 | ISBN 978-1459820180

Discover more about Monique Gray Smith, her writing, and speaking engagements on her website!

View a gallery of books and illustration work by Julie Flett on her website!

Happiness Happens Month Activity

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Happiness Cards

 

Happiness can happen anywhere, and you can help make someone’s day extra happy with these printable Happiness Cards. Just give them to a friend, someone in your family, or someone who looks as if they need a pick-me-up. It’ll make you feel happy too!

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You can find My Heart Fills with Happiness and My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih at these booksellers

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

English/Plains Cree: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s National Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the stuff of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.

Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of Idea Jar to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Simon & Schuster in a giveaway of a copy of Idea Jar. See details below.

Idea Jar

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Deb Pilutti

 

On the teacher’s desk sits an Idea Jar that holds her student’s story ideas. The teacher “says a story can be about anything” the kids want it to be. Like maybe “a space robot” or a “horseless cowgirl” or, yes, even that Viking who is trying to hoist himself over the edge of the jar to freedom. See, “there’s no such thing as a bad story idea,” and there are so many ways to tell your story.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

You can even combine your own ideas or make up a story with a friend. And maybe even that Viking in the back of your mind would make a good character too. He certainly thinks so. His motto is “Everything is better with a Viking”—even a giant badger who has lost her pink dress.

There is one thing about the Idea Jar, though. “It’s important to create stories for your ideas, or else your ideas get rowdy.” Just look at that Viking, who’s poking…at…the…jar! “Oh no! The ideas!”  They’re all loose! Now the robot is shooting his laser eyes and the dragon is swishing its enormous tail and the ideas are running amok!

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“These ideas need a story. Will you help?” Great! Should we? Should we start with the Viking? What if he gets into a battle with the space robot? Then gets rescued by the dragon? Who’s ridden by the horseless cowgirl! What? You’d like to change some ideas around? Go for it! This is your story, after all! “Wow! You were awesome!” You made all of those story ideas very, very happy. But it’s time that they went back in the jar to meet some other ideas for next time.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the award-winning author of Warning: Do Not Open this Book, Please Open this Book, This is a Good Story, and many others, Adam Lehrhaupt knows a thing or two—or three—about corralling ideas into a story. By appealing directly to students and any story creator, the narrator of the madcap Idea Jar will excite kids to pay attention to the ideas rattling around and flashing through their minds and inspire them to write, draw, or tell their own stories. The persistent Viking, who gives story suggestions throughout the book and nudges the story along, will delight kids and can serve two purposes for teachers or other writing coaches.

With his infectious enthusiasm, the Viking is that great idea that knocks at your consciousness until it is used. His whispered recommendations may also remind writers and artists of that little self-editor who so often can keep great ideas from running free. Learning to manage both of these is what great storytelling is all about. As the Viking sails into the classroom portrayed in the book, kids will jump at the chance to turn on their imaginations and give him—and their own characters—a story full of suspense, humor, and unexpected twists and turns.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As a space robot rockets from the Idea Jar, a horseless cowgirl lifts herself over the edge, and a big, scaly arm reaches from within to pull out the words “dragon” and “giant,” kids will be instantly invested in these characters without a story…yet. Deb Pilutti’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations show the creative process in action, whether a child’s talent lies in writing, drawing, or even reciting ideas aloud. The crafty Viking makes a frequent appearance—just like any good idea does—to prod the ideas in the jar (including the horseless cowgirl, the space robot, and the dragon as well as a pirate, a unicorn, a giraffe, a monster, and various animals) to unleash their inventive power. As the story comes together, the students and teacher cheer as they see their creation come to life. 

Kids will love answering the call to create a story and interacting with the ideas in Idea Jar. Idea Jar is infused with the natural spontaneity and inventiveness of children’s imaginations, making it a winner for jump-starting writing or art lessons in classrooms and inspiring creativity at home for kids and adults.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481451666

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Pilutti

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Today I’m excited to talk with author/illustrator Deb Pilutti about her new book Idea Jar with Adam Lehrhaupt, her branding work inspired by vintage signs, and the old Creepy Crawlies Thingmaker, a toy which I was surprised and delighted to discover we both loved as children.

Readers will love the way the characters interact with each other and with the kids writing and drawing stories in Idea Jar. Can you describe your journey from when you first received Adam Lehrhaupt’s manuscript for Idea Jar to the finished book?

I am a fan of Adam’s Warning: Do Not Open this Book! so I was quite excited when Paula Wiseman at Simon & Schuster asked me if I would like to illustrate IDEA JAR. Who wouldn’t want to illustrate a book with a Space Robot, a Viking, a cowgirl and a Dragon as the main characters? Adam left a lot of room for me to play. He did not specify what the other ideas in the jar would be, only the characters he had written into the text. It was fun to develop additional characters and their relationships and mini-side stories, like the developing friendship between the Yeti and the small dog, and the mouse driving a race car.

Kids’ imaginations are always so full of possibilities, and they can make such funny and amazing leaps of character and plot. What are some steps you’d give young writers and illustrators for capturing those snatches of imagination and developing an idea into their own story?

Keep a journal. I have several that I write or doodle in. If there is something I find interesting, like an idea or a character, I go back to it and try to work out a story. I start by asking questions of the character or situation. What would happen if… type of questions.

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Your branding work for Sea World, Warner Brothers, artists, food trucks, and more are infused with such a fun vintage vibe. Do you have a favorite decade to draw design ideas from, and why?

I absolutely love vintage signage and type from the 50s and 60s. Some of it is so campy while others can be evocative or elegant. The colors used were bold and saturated.

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Before you began illustrating and writing for children, you designed toys, and in your recent release The Secrets of Ninja School, the main character makes dragon stuffies for all of her classmates. Why do you think playing with traditional toys is so important for children? What was your favorite toy when you were a child?

Mostly because it’s fun. I also think it’s a way to navigate the world, but that isn’t something I thought about as a child. When I was young, I loved making Creepy Crawlers, which was an incredibly dangerous toy at that time. You pored possibly toxic goop into a metal mold and cooked it in a blisteringly hot ThingmakerTM oven, which resulted in many scorched fingers. But totally worth it, because once the plate cooled, you would have an army of colorful and stretchy bugs.

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My cousin is a graphic designer and whenever I visited her as a child I loved seeing her special corner of the house. It was so full of color and knick-knacks (inspiration, really, I guess) and works in progress, that I developed a fascination with artists’ studios. Do you mind describing your work space a little? What is your favorite thing in it?

My studio is in a small bedroom. I have a long table with a computer and extra monitor set up on it, and I sometimes sketch here as well. A painting easel is in the corner of the room. It’s a very messy place, with papers everywhere and knick-knacks and toys and bits of shiny things on every surface. I like all of my toys, but my favorite one is a realistic toy model of a T-rex with a moveable jaw.

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What’s the best part of being a children’s illustrator and author?

I have always loved books. To be involved with the art of bookmaking is a wondrous thing. My favorite part of the process is making the final illustrations.

Do you have any anecdotes from a reading or event that you’d like to share?

I was visiting a school last April and had a blast creating stories with the students using an Idea Jar. We made some pretty silly stories together. One student came up with a zombie tomato for a character, which was brilliant!

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on final illustrations for two books. The first is Old Rock (is not boring). A story about a rock sounds like it could be boring, right? At least Old Rock’s friends think so. Old Rock reveals her own surprising story, slowly and languidly, as rocks do. I’m also illustrating a sequel to Ten Rules of Being a Superhero. It’s called Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero. I had so much fun with the characters from the first book that they are back for another adventure. Lava Boy’s superhero toy, Captain Magma, wants to fly more than anything. They devise a plan, which does not go as anticipated.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Summer Solstice. I live in Michigan, which is quite lovely, but the cold and dark of winter can get a bit old. I miss the light. Our summer nights are very long. On Summer Solstice, I try to stay outside until the last vestiges of daylight disappear at around 9:45.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Yes, I illustrated The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, illustrated by Susan Collins Thoms.

Thanks so much for chatting, Deb! I wish you all the best with Idea Jar and all of your books!

National Back to School Month Activities

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Make Your Own Idea Jar

If you have lots of ideas looking for a place to hang out, discover how to make your own Idea Jar and find some cool starter ideas from Adam Lehrhaupt! Make your own IDEA JAR!

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Dream up Story Ideas

Do your kids (or maybe you!) want to think up awesome story ideas? Check out Deb Pilutti’s 5 Methods of Generating Story Ideas

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You can find Idea Jar at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 26 – National All or Nothing Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to throw caution to the wind and embrace who they really are and what they have always wanted to do. It’s a day to overcome fears and doubts to accomplish the large and small things that will make life better. To celebrate, seize the day, do that thing—you know which one—and the best you you can be!

Bloomsbury sent me a copy of Perfectly Norman to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Bloomsbury for a giveaway of a copy of Perfectly Norman! See details below.

Perfectly Norman

By Tom Percival

 

“Norman had always been normal—perfectly normal.” He liked to hang out with his friends and eat ice cream cones and fly kites. “Until one day … he grew a pair of wings!” When Norman thought about all the ways he might grow as he got older, he never imagined that he would sprout wings. But since he had them, he thought it was kind of cool and he took off immediately to try flying.

He was having tremendous fun soaring and diving, but then he heard his parents calling him in for dinner. Suddenly, Norman had doubts. “You see, Norman had always been so normal he didn’t know how his parents would feel about his extraordinary wings.” As soon as he walked in the door he put on his coat to cover them up. While his parents didn’t see his wings, they did wonder why he was wearing his coat inside.

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Norman had decided that no one should see his wings—ever, even if it made bathtime and bedtime difficult. The coat was sweltering, making it hard to play with his friends, ride in the car, swim at the pool, and even friends’ birthday parties were impossible. Now, Norman only felt normal on rainy days. One day, after Norman barely escaped having a boy pull his coat off, he was so angry and sad that he “wished he’d never grown those stupid wings.”

Then, as Norman watched some birds flying overhead, he remembered how joyous his flight had been. He realized that it wasn’t the wings but the coat that was the real problem. When his parents suggested that he remove the coat, he did “and let his wonderful wings fan out.” He soared into the air. From above he saw other children wearing coats. They gazed at Norman and then glanced at each other. In a moment they dropped their coats and took to the air. “Whoosh! The sky was filled with flying people!”

Norman felt happier than ever before as he understood that “there was no such thing as perfectly normal.” But “perfectly Norman?” That felt just right.

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Tom Percival’s celebration of what it means to be human is moving reassurance for children who—for whatever reason—feel different from the rest. Percival’s pacing—transitioning from “normal” to “not” with a page turn—mirrors the kinds of sudden realizations, doubts, and fears that many children experience. Norman’s attempts to hide his wings as well as the results this brings will also resonate with kids. Norman’s realization that it is external forces, not himself, that is making him miserable is a powerful and empowering moment for both children and adults. The recognition that Norman’s wings are what makes him uniquely him should encourage young readers to take off their own coats and soar.

In poignantly metaphorical imagery, Percival spotlights a colorful Norman against black-and-white backgrounds—hinting at first of the coming change and then demonstrating Norman’s feelings of difference and isolation. While color surrounds Norman when he gets his wings and tries them out, full-color spreads come when Norman flies with outspread wings. Norman’s facial expressions are clear, and Norman’s parents—an interracial couple—show their son love and support as well as space to come to his own understanding, The last spread of the sky filled with flying children will excite and cheer readers.

An important story beautifully told, Perfectly Norman should be in every home and classroom library to inspire children to spread their wings.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681197852

Discover more about Tom Percival, his books, and his art on his website.

Take off with this Perfectly Norman book trailer!

Perfectly Norman Giveaway!

I’m thrilled to partner with Bloomsbury Children’s Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Perfectly Norman 

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, July 26 – 30. 

A winner will be chosen on July 31.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National All or Nothing Day Activity

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Color Your Wings!

 

What color are your wings? Use these printable wing templates to show your special colors!

Wings Template 1 | Wings Template 2

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You can find Perfectly Norman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 19 – World Sauntering Day

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About the Holiday

In 1979 as the jogging craze was sweeping the world, W.T. “Bill” Rabe decided people needed to be reminded to slow down and really notice the things around them. At the time Rabe worked at the the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which boasts the world’s longest porch at 660 feet (200 m). Since that time people are encouraged to celebrate Sauntering Day by taking a long walk and enjoying the relaxation of a slower pace.

Tiny, Perfect Things

Written by M.H. Clark | Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

 

A little girl and her grandfather head outside for a walk. “Today, we keep our eyes open for tiny, perfect things,” the girl says. The first thing they find is a yellow leaf that has fluttered down from a nearby tree. While the girl is examining the leaf, she notices an intricate “spider’s web that’s caught the light.” Then Grandpa lifts her up to see “a snail that had climbed the fence last night.” 

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Crows overhead watch the pair and guard the treasures they’ve hidden in their nest. One drops a red bottle cap for Grandpa to find. The little girl and her grandfather also see a red flower pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk and a man wearing a hat with a long, red feather. Farther on, the girl realizes their “shadows are holding hands,” waking when they walk and standing when they stand.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

They wave to a neighbor and her cat and admire a shiny apple “way up high. / Red against the blue, blue sky.” As twilight falls and bunnies, birds, and other creatures settle in, a pale moon rises. The cold night air prompts the little girl and her grandfather to start back home. Around the corner, they see their house. A welcoming light is on, and a pretty white cat waits for them at the door.

The girl runs to her mother and exclaims, “We found so many things today! / A leaf, a snail, a cat, some crows. / The world is full of wonders, / no matter where we go.” She sits on the rug and draws all the tiny, perfect things they saw, ready to go out again tomorrow.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

M.H. Clark’s gorgeously written, lyrical story shines a light on seemingly simple aspects of nature and neighborhoods. As seen through a child’s eyes, leaves, snails, the surprise meeting of familiar people and pets, and even a change in light and temperature are gems to be remembered, recorded, and sought out again and again. The gentle pace and affection between the little girl and her grandfather makes each page a joy to read, and the love and warmth of the girl’s mixed race, multigenerational family will swell the reader’s heart. Clark’s final line invites children to find “perfect things” wherever they go. It’s a call both kids and adults will want to answer.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Madeline Kloepper’s lush illustrations combine sophistication with the sensibility of a child’s drawing to beautifully reflect the child’s-eye view of Clark’s story. With deep earth tones, Kloepper depicts a neighborhood teeming with life while also showing that the little girl and her grandfather are one with the natural world. Through various perspectives, Kloepper points out that astonishing things can be found at ground level, up high, and in surprising nooks and crannies if one just takes time to look. Each page depicts the object described in the text and then offers many more “tiny, perfect things” for alert readers to discover. A final double gate fold will have kids and adults sitting on the floor or spreading out at the table together to search for all of the wondrous things hidden in plain sight.

A book that opens readers eyes while warming their heart, Tiny, Perfect Things would be a much-loved addition to any child’s home bookshelf and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Compendium, 2018 | ISBN 978-1946873064

To learn more about Madeline Kloepper, her art, and her books, visit her website.

World Sauntering Day Activity

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My Nature Journal 

 

You can remember the things you see on a walk in this Nature Journal. Just print the cover, add pages, and staple it together. Then draw the flowers, trees, birds, snails, and things you see. You can tape leaves and other small objects inside too!

My Nature Journal Cover 

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You can find Tiny, Perfect Things at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 15 – National Nature Photography Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2009 by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) to promote the enjoyment of taking photographs of nature while out hiking, traveling, or just in your own backyard. Nature photography is a fantastic hobby and a creative way to get you out interacting with the environment. In addition, nature photography allows you to bring home the beauty of fragile ecosystems without hurting the native flora and fauna. Today, grab your camera or phone (or your notebook and pencils) and head out to capture some of the glorious colors and wildlife around you.

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Golden Glow to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Tundra Books in a giveaway of The Golden Glow. See Details below.

The Golden Glow

By Benjamin Flouw

 

Fox was a collector. As he sat in his armchair, his leafy acquisitions shaded him as if he were in the jungle. Reading through a botany book “looking the next new plant to add to his collection,” he came to a page that had no picture to go with the intriguing description. The plant’s name, he read, is “the golden glow” and it is part of “the Wellhidden family.” The book continues to say that the plant only grows high in the mountains and is so rare no one has ever seen it.

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox determined that he would find this “fabulously fascinating flower.” He packed his things and in the morning set out to the mountains in the distance. As he walked, he admired the familiar plants along the way. Fox also knew “the name of each tree he walks under.” At the stream, he met Bear and asked him about the golden glow, but Bear knew nothing and suggested Fox talk to Marmot.

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Like the golden glow, Marmot also liked to hide. Fox looked in every nook and cranny, but didn’t find her. While Fox was snacking on a grape pate sandwich, his cousin Wolf happened by. He’d never seen the golden glow either, but he could help Fox find Marmot. They crossed a field of wildflowers, and when he and Wolf stopped, Wolf whistled and Marmot answered.

Marmot turned out to be very helpful, telling Fox that the flower could be found at the very top of the mountain. Fox climbed and climbed as the air turned foggy. “Suddenly, a strange shape looms into view….” As Fox got closer, he recognized Mountain Goat. Mountain Goat told Fox that nothing grows at the top of the mountain, but he lent him a walking stick when he saw Fox’s determination.

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox climbed all the way up 9,800 feet to the snow zone. When the sun peeked out of the clouds, Fox looked around, but he found nothing growing there. The sun was due to set soon, so Fox pitched his tent and watched as the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky. He was just putting down the walking stick when he felt “something brush against his paw…”

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox brushed away the snow to find “a fabulously fascinating flower.” Fox knew it must be the golden glow. Fox was just about to pick it, when he changed his mind. “This golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room.” Instead, Fox reached into his backpack for his notebook and pencil.

Fox studied “the plant from every angle” and then began to draw. When Fox returned home, he “put all of his drawings into his botany book” so that he can look at the golden glow often and remember “just how fabulously fascinating his golden glow is, high up on the mountaintop.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-golden-glow-coming-home

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Just as the simplest flower or leaf, Benjamin Flouw’s story holds delicate charms and hidden complexities that make The Golden Glow a book to be savored through multiple readings. While the book begins as a mysterious adventure story, as Fox journeys to the mountaintop, The Golden Glow offers beautifully detailed images of camping supplies, trees, wildlife habitats, wildflowers, and mountain zones; the quiet, unhurried pace of the text echoes the restorative power of nature; and Fox’s decision to leave the golden glow instead of picking it reminds readers that nature’s bounty belongs to everyone.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-golden-glow-wildflowers

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

After the adventure is over, however, a deeper meaning is revealed in the final line of the book. A simple exchange of modifier from “the golden glow” to “his golden glow” presents a profound opportunity to consider and discuss the nature of individuality, uniqueness, and how people let their “glow” shine. 

Flouw’s distinctive angular illustrations are strikingly evocative of nature while giving the book a fresh look and a feeling of tranquility. The shiny gold foil leaf on the golden glow will elicit “oohs” and “ahhs,” and the penciled image of the golden glow that Fox draws will inspire young botanists to start their own nature notebook.

A gorgeous book that seamlessly combines nonfiction with a fictional story that has depth, The Golden Glow is an inspiring choice for home bookshelves and would be a fit for many classroom lessons as well as general story time.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0735264120

To learn more about Benjamin Flouw and view a portfolio of his work, visit his website.

The Golden Glow Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Tundra Books to be giving away:

  • One (1) copy of The Golden Glow by Benjamin Flouw

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 15 – 21. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

Winners will be chosen on June 22.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Tundra Books

National Nature Photography Day Activity

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Pot a Pic of Flowers Craft

 

A collection of flower photographs can be just as beautiful as a pot of real posies. With this simple craft you can keep memories of flowers and plants you’ve seen while decorating your room or give a unique gift that shows off your photography skills and your love of nature!

Supplies

  • Small flower pot
  • Green floral wire
  • Green construction or heavy-stock paper
  • Pliers
  • Clay, playdough, or oasis
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Stem

  • Hold one tip of the wire tightly with the pliers
  • Wind the wire around the nose of the pliers two or three times. Squeeze the loops together, if necessary.
  • Cut the wire to the desired length. An assortment of lengths makes the display more interesting and allows all pictures to show
  • Cut small leaves from the green paper and tape to the stems
  1. Take pictures of flowers you like with your phone or other camera. Alternately, you can find pictures of flowers online.
  2. Print pictures on photo paper or regular paper
  3. Place clay, playdough, or oasis in the flower pot
  4. Stick the stems into the clay
  5. Carefully slide the pictures into the loops on the stems
  6. Display or give your flower pot!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-golden-glow-cover

You can find The Golden Glow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review