August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

It’s the day you and your child have been waiting for! Preschool is in the rearview mirror and kindergarten is full-steam ahead! As you and your child do the shopping for backpacks, new clothes, and other necessary items and excitement grows, there could also be a little nudge of worry or nervousness just below the surface. Today’s holiday can be a reminder for adults to talk with their kids about starting school or entering a new class to see how they’re feeling about the changes ahead. Sharing picture books about school, making friends, and having a new kind of independence can help ease the transition. Today’s book is a great place to start!

I received a copy of Butterflies on the First Day of School from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Butterflies on the First Day of School

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Dream Chen

 

Rosie had been looking forward to school for ages. She’d already picked out her backpack and practiced all the skills she’d need on that first day. “But the night before her first day, Rosie couldn’t sleep.” The next morning, she couldn’t eat her breakfast, her stomach hurt, and she worried her baby sister would be lonely without her. At last, her dad told her it was time to go. As he took a picture of her, she said that she didn’t feel well. “‘You just have butterflies in your belly,’ said her mother, hugging her tight.” Rosie was going to ask about those butterflies, but just then the bus pulled up.

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Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosie felt nervous as the bus rumbled on. Then a girl sat next to her and introduced herself as Violet. Rosie introduced herself. “As she spoke, a butterfly flew from her mouth.” When Rosie revealed she had the same teacher as Violet, two more butterflies flew out. “Violet didn’t seem to notice.” In the classroom, everyone gathered on the rug, and Mrs. Mancini asked the kids to tell a little bit about themselves. In turn, each one said something. Rosie waited nervously. Then suddenly it was her turn. She stood up and words tumbled out. As she spoke, “three butterflies flitted into the air.” Later, Rosie painted two pictures of flowers—one for her and one for Violet—and played with the other kids. Sometimes a butterfly would flutter out. “But by recess, she could barely feel them anymore.”

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Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

While everyone was playing tag on the playground, Rosie noticed one girl standing alone by a tree. Rosie went over and asked if she wanted to play. As they introduced themselves, Isabella’s butterflies “soared into the sky.” At the end of the day when Rosie got off the school bus, she ran to her mom and told her how much fun she’d had. Her mom hugged her and told her that she wanted to hear all about it as “the words floated out on a shimmering butterfly’s wings.”

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Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Annie Silvestro’s sweet story of a little girl on her first day of school is a sensitive and insightful portrayal of the nervousness that can accompany any new experience. Acknowledging those “butterflies” that can emerge to dampen even the most ardent enthusiasm, Silvestro gives adults and children a positive way to discuss and manage these feelings. Her reassuring imagery will captivate the reader’s imagination while showing them that accepting and offering friendship and participating in classroom or other activities are effective ways to release apprehension and embrace opportunities. Silvestro’s last line is a tug at the heart, and little ones may be surprised but also comforted to learn that they are not alone in their feelings.

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Dream Chen’s delightful and vibrant illustrations glow with warmth and the camaraderie of a kindergarten class, while also highlighting Rosie’s uncertainty and her growing confidence as the butterflies she feels flutter away. Alert readers will notice another classmate who’s also experiencing butterflies on the bus and in the classroom. In Chen’s busy classroom gives adults and kids an opportunity to discuss common things they will likely see in their own room, including a rug for gathering on, a bulletin board, an easel, books, toys, and games. Rosie’s butterflies are beautiful and varied, suggesting that these feelings are a natural part of life and as you watch them flutter away, you can be proud of being brave and seizing opportunities.

Butterflies on the First Day of School is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections not only for first-day-of-school jitters but for any new activity or experience that sets the butterflies fluttering.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454921196

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dream Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Butterflies on the First Day of School Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Butterflies on the First Day of School, written by Annie Silvestro | illustrated by Dream Chen

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from August 6 through August 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 13.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

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

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Colorful Clothespin Butterfly Craft

 

With this easy Colorful Clothespin Butterfly Craft, you can make and display your own butterfly that will always remind you of the opportunities you’ve taken.

Supplies

  • Wooden pin clothespin
  • Tissue paper in a choice of colors
  • Craft paint in a choice of colors
  • Black craft paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Toothpick
  • Scissors
  • Fishing line, thread, or string for hanging (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet for hanging (optional)

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the clothespin, let dry
  2. When dry add accent dots or lines and eyes. I used a toothpick with the point cut off to make the dots on the purple butterfly. I used the pointy end of a toothpick to make the eyes and the lines on the pink butterfly.

To Make the Wings

  1. For the top wings, cut a 6 ½ -inch circle from tissue paper
  2. For the bottom wings, cut a 5 ¼ – inch circle from tissue paper
  3. With the head of the clothespin facing down, insert the larger circle into the split in the clothespin so that half of the circle shows on either side.
  4. Gently pull the circle down tightly into the split, pulling it as far in as possible—about half way
  5. Next insert the smaller circle into the split and repeat the above step.
  6. Gently fan out the wings if necessary

If hanging the butterfly, attach fishing line, threat, or string

If making a magnet, attach the adhesive magnet to the back of the butterfly.

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You can find Butterflies on the First Day of School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 1 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

So Big!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

With six words and cover-to-cover cuteness, Mike Wohnoutka takes kids on a journey from home to school, making stops along the way to experience many of the emotions of that very first day. Little Bear wakes up with a smile on his face. On the calendar hanging by his bed, the day is circled with a big red star, and this bear knows he’s not so little anymore. In fact he’s “so big.” How big? “So-o-o…big” that he can dress himself, reach the cereal box on the counter, and make his own breakfast.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He’s “So, so, big” that he can pack up his backpack, tie his shoes, and walk to the bus stop all by himself. He waits proudly next to a little elephant who looks a bit uncertain and a tiny squirrel who’s in awe of the much bigger Bear. But then the bus pulls up, and it is “SO big.” Now it’s Bear who looks a little uncertain as he climbs in and in awe of the much bigger elephants, rhino, and giraffe he sits near.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When the bus drops him in front of the school, Bear looks up and up at the enormous building. It’s “SO BIG!” While the little elephant he met at the bus stop heads through the open doors, Bear sits on the steps and sheds a few tears, feeling “not so big.” But then the squirrel approaches and looks up, up, up, up at the enormous building and bursts into a flood of tears at the “TOO big” school. Bear notices his distress and even though he’s a little intimidated himself, he reaches out his hand to Squirrel and they enter the school together.

The hallway seems okay—it’s “not so big…,” and when their teacher welcomes them to their room, they see that the desks and the other kids are “just right!”

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s bright, honest look at the first day of school through a child’s eyes and from their perspective is encouraging in every way. As Bear gets ready for his first day of school, his independence will spark confidence in readers. Squirrel’s reaction to meeting Bear and Elephant at the bus stop, and Bear’s feelings on seeing the bus and the school building encourage kids and adults to discuss the emotions involved in the first day of school and other new experiences. Bear’s kindness to Squirrel will help readers develop a sense of camaraderie between the themselves and their new classmates while also fostering an early appreciation for empathy and friendship during this transformative time.

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Wohnoutka’s minimal text takes on various meanings with a touch of italics or the juxtaposition of Bear and Squirrel to their surroundings, allowing for further conversation about internal feelings and physical size. His clever uses of these simple phrases combined with illustrations that put the characters in proportional proximity to kitchen counters, a child’s backpack, the school bus, larger and smaller children, the school building, and more also provide adults with clear visual portrayals of relative size that can encourage math talk and exploration at home or in the classroom.

So Big!—a story that offers so much for kids just starting school or other activities—is highly recommended for children taking new forays into the world. The book makes for a sweet and satisfying go-to story for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600793

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art on his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page

 

Riding the school bus is fun! With this coloring page you can fill the bus with your friends—and don’t forget to add yourself! Then grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and color it in!

Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page

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You can find So Big at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 8 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

National Book Month celebrates the joys of books for all ages. Starting at birth, children reap tremendous benefits from being read to every day. Even before they can talk, babies love listening to stories and looking at bright, colorful illustrations. Reading with babies improves their language development, literacy development, their understanding of math concepts, and their recognition of emotions. Board books, with their smaller, chunky size and thick pages are perfect for the youngest readers and their parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to share! Board books make excellent gifts for baby showers and new babies as well as for other gift-giving occasions.

This week I’m thrilled to share five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

The Itsy Bitsy School Bus

Written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček

 

It was a big day for itsy bitsy school bus! With a full backpack and a ready smile, the itsy bitsy bus was “dropped off at school, it was time to learn and play.” In the bright classroom with pictures, numbers, and a colorful table where all the students sit the teacher said hello and then  itsy bitsy bus read and played, drew and painted with new friends – pink car, little police car, and tiny cement truck. And what happened after school? “The itsy bitsy school bus asked to go back again.”

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Image copyright Sanja Rešček, 2018, text copyright Jeffrey Burton. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

A fun, school-time twist on the nursery rhyme “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” Jeffrey Burton’s sweet story for the preschool set is sure to charm the littlest students as they go off to school on their first day or want to relive the fun of the day at story time. For little ones who have not yet started school, the jaunty lilt of the story and upbeat activities shown will get them excited for when their turn does come. The story can be read and/or sung and invites kids to join in on subsequent readings.

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Image copyright Sanja Rešček, 2018, text copyright Jeffrey Burton. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Sanja Rešček’s first double-spread page lets little ones into the Bus family’s sunny kitchen with its car-motif tablecloth, healthy breakfast, and garage-sized door. Itsy bitsy bus rolls on out with backpack attached and zips down the road, first in line. The school has an equally wide door through which other vehicle families can be seen entering. Waving their tires, the little bus and Daddy say goodbye. The teacher, an orange beetle car, greets her new students and, after reading time, she shows them to the arts and crafts area where they all love making pictures of…themselves! When the final bell rings, the students file out to be picked up, but their smiles show that they’re ready to come back tomorrow.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534416956

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Sort the Straws

 

With a box of colorful plastic straws and a muffin tin, you can set up a sorting activity that will keep little ones happily busy. Talk with children about how they can sort the straws and why they choose that method.

To start: cut straws of different colors into various lengths. For younger children, use only two or three lengths. Older children may enjoy a more challenging activity with straws that are cut into lengths that are more difficult to distinguish.

To sort: children can sort straws by size, by color, or by any way that makes sense to them.

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You can find The Itsy Bitsy School Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 19 – National Talk Like a Pirate Day

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About the Holiday

Ahoy mateys! Welcome to what may arrrguably be the most fun holiday of the year. You might think that this most treasured of days got its start shipboard on the bounding main, but it actually began in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted humorist Dave Barry, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some talkin’ ye scalliwags!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Kindergarrrten Bus to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Kindergarrrten Bus

Written by Mike Ornstein | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

As the little tykes climb the plank into the kindergarten school bus, they’re met by a most unusual driver. He has a hook hand, a peg leg, a curly beard, a broad-brimmed hat with a parrot perched on the edge, and he greets the first little boy like this: “Ahoy, boy! What? It be ye first day of kindergarrrten? Well, don’t worry, laddie—it be me first day as a bus driverrr!” The pirate shows the kids to their seats and lays down the rules. Any infractions…. Well, Polly will tell ya: “Raaaaa, mutiny!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The kids don’t seem too sure of this turn of events. They miss their family, their pets, their toys, and it’s all a little scary. But the pirate will have no “blubberin’ on me bus” because pirates are “rrrough” and tough. “And we ain’t got time for that fluffy stuff!” So the bus takes off, and the driver sings a little ditty as they go.

But the route turns as bumpy as a churning sea with potholes that rattle Polly so much that she flies out the window…I mean “winderrr.” The pirate calls after his parrot, “Waaaa arrrgh waaaa arrrgh!” Then the bus comes to a screeching halt amid a pirate melt-down. “I can’t drive me bus without me sweet snuggly Polly! I can’t do it, I tells ya! I can’t! I can’t I can’t!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Everyone piles out, and the kids try to reassure the poor driver—and they kind of remind him of all the things he told them. Turns out that ol’ pirate “was only hornswogglin’” and that he considers himself “nothin’ but a scared, blubberin’ boob of a buccaneer.” The kids are empathetic and reassuring, and pretty soon the pirate is feeling better about things.

Back on the bus, the little ditty now has more than a note of encouragement to it. As they pull up at the X where “the treasure of all treasures” awaits the kids, the pirate gives one more lesson before letting all those little “scoundrels walk the plank—errr, I mean, exit the bus.” But why? one little boy wants to know. Why is a pirate driving a school bus? Well, that be somethin’ ye just have to see for yourself!

An afterword from the author discussing tips for talking with kids about fears and worries follows the story.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Could Mike Ornstein actually be a pirate? I’m thinking yes! His ease with Pirate-ese makes this dialogue-rich story a comical treasure that will have kids “Harrr, harrr, harrr-ing” at every twist and turn in the book—and lucky for them, there’s a whole loot of those. Scrumptious words like “blubberin’, hornswogglin’, landlubbers,” and “blue-footed booby bird” as well as a liberal sprinkling of rrrrs make this book a joyful read- aloud that kids will clamor to participate in. Nuggets of reassurance about “rrrespect,” admitting fears and worries, and enjoying school are pure gold.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kevin M. Barry’s wide-eyed, rakish kids and scallywag of a bus driver are the perfect companions on this hilarious journey to the first day of kindergarten. The school bus—a wooden jalopy with porthole windows, a ship’s wheel steering wheel, and a teddy bear jolly roger—comes to a tipping point when the pirate’s beloved Polly flies the coop. As the pirate dramatically looks to the skies and admits his false bravado, the kids—skeptical, astonished, and empathetic—look on. While one curly-haired little girl reassures the pirate, the other kids channel their own bravery and get ready to have a fun day at school. Readers will love the expressive faces, small details (a fish-skeleton belt buckle, a girl’s “I Got This” t-shirt), and, of course, ruffled Polly.

Kindergarrrten Bus is a rip-roarin’ yarn with a heart of gold that will get kids and grown-ups laughing and talking about feelings, fears, and the fact that everyone gets scared sometimes. A go-to book for fun story times and moments when a little more encouragement is needed, Kindergarrrten Bus would be a favorite on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363988

To learn more about Kevin M. Barry, his books, and his art on his website.

Kindergarrrten Bus Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Kindergarrrten Bus written by Mike Ornstein | illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 19 – 25. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 26.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

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Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze

 

Join the crew of scallywags to pick up supplies on your way to finding a treasure chest full of gold in this printable maze.

Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Puzzle | Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Solution

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You can find Kindergarrrten Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 29 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

Well, Monday is Labor Day, and the official ending of summer. While the carefree (or were they even more hectic?) days of summer vacation are coming to a close, a new school year is just beginning. Make this one the best yet by talking with your kids about their day and your day. Taking time to read together—no matter how old your kids are—is another way to build bonds. Why not start with today’s funny and insightful book!

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Penelope Rex was nervous about her first day of school. She wondered whether her classmates would be nice and how many teeth they would have. Her mom had gotten her a backpack decorated with ponies, and her dad had made three-hundred tuna sandwiches for her lunch. Both of these made Penelope smile because both ponies and tuna were delicious.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

On the first day of school, Penelope walked into her classroom only to discover that “all of her classmates were CHILDREN! Penelope loved children! “Because children are delicious.” Right away Penelope ate them all up. Her teacher, Mrs. Noodleman, was not happy and told Penelope to “‘Please spit them out at once!’” Deposited back on the carpet, the saliva-covered kids were not too happy either.

Penelope tried to be good on the playground, during creative time, and at lunch, but she couldn’t help trying to eat the other kids. She couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t making any friends. When she got home, though, and told her dad, he had a pretty good idea why she’d been so lonely.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Her dad told her that eating children made it hard to make friends. Penelope thought and thought about this. The next day she tried to keep her teeth to herself, but the kids really were so delicious that Penelope just had to take a bite. The kids were terrified. The only one who didn’t run away from her was Walter, the class goldfish. Penelope tried to be friends, but when she poked her finger into his bowl—“CHOMP!”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Penelope screamed and then she cried. She didn’t like being Walter’s snack and suddenly realized why the kids didn’t like her. The whole experience ruined her appetite for children, but she discovered that once she stopped eating them, the kids wanted to be her friend. Sometimes, the children still look a little tantalizing, but when that happens Penelope just “peeks at Walter and remembers what it’s like when someone tries to eat you.” And Walter? He “stares right back and licks his lips. Because dinosaurs are delicious.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Higgins dips his pen into the Edward Gorey pool of gloriously grisly storytelling that so delights kids. If you want children to laugh out loud, respond with “Ewww!” and “Yuck!” and then laugh some more during story time, you’ll want to pick up this book. Kids will give Penelope plenty of “Awwws!” too as she tries so hard to understand why her classmates are afraid as well as to overcome her natural instincts and love for a tasty snack. In an unexpected and hilarious twist, goggle-eyed Walter inadvertently teaches Penelope a few valuable lessons.

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Higgins’ little yellow dino in pink overalls is adorable as she revels in her pony backpack, hopes for a child-sized treat, and plays with new friends. Her sad eyes and bewildered expression after a day at school will spark plenty of empathy too. Penelope’s classmates are a most welcome representation of diversity, and her classroom—with two cozy reading nooks—is as cool as it gets.

For back to school and all year through, We Don’t Eat Our Classmates will be a favorite on home bookshelves and in classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1368003551

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Back-to-School Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

Are the kids going back to school? Then they need a bag to carry their favorite books and stuff in! This easy-to-make book bag—recycled from the cloth bag sheet sets come in—makes a perfect kid-sized bag for taking to the library or after-school activities! 

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 We Don’t Eat Our Classmates at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 8 – National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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About the Holiday

So, it’s that time of year! If you’re a gardener, you know what I’m talking about. A couple of weeks ago, you might have been filled with that giddy happiness as your squash plant produced its first zucchini. Maybe it went into a salad or pasta dish. Then came the second one—maybe two—a few days later, and you found a great recipe for those too. But now? You’re harvesting them by the bushel, and…well…you’re just not sure what to do with them all! That’s where today’s holiday comes in! Hasn’t it been a while since you did something really nice for your neighbors? A surprise bag of zucchini or yellow squash left on their porch might be just the thing! What’s that? They all garden too? Hmmm…. Then try the delicious chocolate chocolate-chip zucchini bread recipe below!

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Backed up by her parents and clutching her best friends, two squash named Bonnie and Baxter, Sophie peeks into her classroom on the first day of school. She sees kids running everywhere, talking and laughing. Her parents assure Sophie that she’ll make a lot of friends and have tons of fun, but Sophie is adamant: “‘I won’t,’” she says. And Sophie’s right. “The chairs were uncomfortable. The milk tasted funny. And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.”

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The other kids surround her with questions about Bonnie and Baxter. “‘Are they toys? Do they bounce? Can we EAT them?’” Sophie has had enough. “‘No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.’” And then there’s Steven Green. He sits near Sophie at circle time, plays near her on the playground, and stands over her breathing down her neck during art time. Ms. Park, the teacher, tells Sophie Steven is just being nice, but Sophie isn’t interested.

Steven does not give up so easily. He returns to show Sophie his best friend—Marvin, a stuffed frog that he got when the toy was just a tadpole. “‘Then you don’t need me,’” Sophie says and decides “that’s that.” But that isn’t that. The next day Steven is back, building a block tower near Sophie, reading her book over her shoulder, and even offering facts about fruit and vegetables during Sophie’s show and tell.

When her parents hear about Steven, they encourage Sophie to make a friend, but Sophie just clings tighter to Bonnie and Baxter. “Still, Sophie knew that Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever,” so when the other kids dance, spill their milk, or tell jokes, Sophie considers joining in. On the playground Sophie plays hopscotch while the other kids play tag, jump rope, and play other games together. When Steven asks if he can join Sophie, Bonnie, and Baxter, she refuses, leaving Steve and Marvin to sit alone.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When the weekend comes Bonnie and Baxter look “too tired to hop. Or build towers. ‘It’s time,’” says Sophie’s mother. Sophie digs a hole to make “a garden bed and tucked her squash in for their winter nap. ‘Sleep tight,’” she says. “‘See you soon.’ But spring seemed very far away.” On Monday Ms. Park asks the class to tell her what makes a good friend. The kids answer that friends play with you, help you, and think you’re funny. Steven answers “‘They like what you like.’” Ms. Park sends the kids off to draw pictures of their friends.

When Steven wants to see Sophie’s drawing of Bonnie and Baxter, the two get into a scuffle over the paper and it tears in half. “‘You are NOT my friend,’” Sophie says as she walks away. On the way home from school, Sophie tells her mom what happened. “‘Sweet potato,’” her mom says. “‘That adorable boy didn’t mean to tear your picture.’” But Sophie’s not so sure.

The next morning Sophie finds Marvin and a note in her cubby. She ignores it, and by lunchtime, Marvin is gone. Later that night, though, Sophie and her dad discover Marvin and the note inside her backpack. The note contains a drawing of Bonnie and Baxter as well as a packet of seeds.  “‘Do friends really like the same things you like?’” Sophie asks her dad. When he answers “Sometimes,” Sophie begins to think. She takes Marvin outside and sits near Bonnie and Baxter to think some more.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The next day Sophie runs up to Steven to tell him the great idea that Marvin had. They then tell Ms. Park. The next day, Ms. Park hands each child “a cup, some dirt and one small seed.” “‘Can we EAT them?’” a classmate asks. “‘No!’” says Sophie, and Steven adds, “‘You never eat a friend.’” The kids plant the seeds and put the pots on the windowsill. Soon tiny shoots appear in the cups and Sophie and Steven invite the kids to do a new-plant dance.

“‘See?’” Sophie tells Steven. “‘Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.’”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s sequel to her award-winning Sophie’s Squash is a heartfelt story for kids for whom the definition of friendship runs deep. Sophie’s hesitancy to join in the freewheeling play of other kids echoes the feelings of many children entering new classrooms, joining unfamiliar groups, or meeting any new challenge. The excellent pacing of the story as well as Sophie’s honest emotions allow for development of the theme that sometimes friendship takes time. Steven’s persistence sets a positive example for not passing judgement too quickly. Sophie’s transition from squash friends to human is treated sensitively and with cleverness. In the end Sophie learns how to make a friend while still staying true to herself.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Anne Wilsdorf’s cartoon-inspired illustrations perfectly depict the world that Sophie reluctantly inhabits. Her classroom is boldly colorful, full of books, toys, separate spaces, and of course all sorts of kids. Sophie’s reactions to the comments and actions of her classmates are clearly registered on her face and will make kids giggle even while they recognize her feelings. Steadfast Steven is, as Sophie’s mom says, adorable, and readers will empathize with his plight in just wanting to make a friend. The nighttime scene beautifully sums up Sophie’s dilemma and provides her and readers a moment to reflect on the story’s ideas.

On so many levels, Sophie’s Squash Go to School makes a wonderful addition to children’s and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509441

Discover much more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website!

National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day Activity

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Two Peas and Their Pod Chocolate Zucchini Bread 

 

Got some zucchini that you’ve grown yourself or that was snuck onto your porch? This scrumptious bread is doubly chocolate and as melt-in-your-mouth delicious as chocolate cake. I’m sharing this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe from the cooking, baking, and entertaining blog Two Peas and Their Pod. Check out more of their delectable recipes at twopeadsandtheirpod.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divide

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. You might have a few small brown sugar clumps and that is fine.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, don’t overmix. Stir in the shredded zucchini until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean, you might have some melted chocolate chips on the toothpick and that is fine. You just don’t want a lot of gooey batter.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the bread and carefully remove from the pan. Let the bread cool on the wire cooling rack until slightly warm. Cut into slices and serve.

If making muffins, bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Note-if you use coconut oil, make sure it is melted and slightly cooled. The bread will keep on the counter, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days. This bread also freezes well. To freeze, cool the bread completely and wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost before slicing.

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You can find Sophie’s Squash Go to School at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 21 – National Kindergarten Day

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About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, all of those soon-to-be preschool graduates are looking forward to going to kindergarten in the fall. Becoming a “big kid” with new friends to make, new responsibilities, and lots of new things to learn is exciting. National Kindergarten Day celebrates that feeling and wishes all young learners the best start to their school career.

My Good Morning

Written by Kim Crockett Corson | Illustrated by Jelena Brezovec

 

A little girl wakes up before the sun to start her day. She’s ready and rarin’ to go so why aren’t Mommy and Daddy? Slippers on, she runs to wash her hands “without a hitch” even though—Oops!—the soap is so slippery! Next she brushes her teeth, which is a cinch once there’s more toothpaste in her mouth than in her hair and on the mirror. She’s even got the potty thing down.

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Then, says the girl it’s “Onto the bed, where I jump up and down. / Whee! There’s no time to waste as I flop around. / Mommy wrestles me into my clothes. / Daddy slide socks and shoes over my toes.” She ties her own shoes over mismatched socks, and her coat, though askew, is buttoned bottom to top. Before school she has just enough time to slurp down some milk. Her kitty laps up the splashes and drips.

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Bundled up for the cold, the little girl strides out the door, but just at the edge she trips over the rug. Not to worry, she says. “I pick myself up, / then I wave and smile.” And so what if “getting me into the car seat / takes a while.” At school she climbs the stairs without any help. She puts her backpack on the shelf and her coat on the hook—well, almost.

In the classroom, the little girl says hi to her friends and then with “so many puzzles and toys, / I’m ready to play! / I hug Daddy good-bye, / I’m going to have a great day!”

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

In Kim Crockett Corson’s “can-do” book for young readers, a little girl is exuberant and positive as she gets ready for school. Kids will love the girl’s infectious personality that turns every experience into a self-confidence boosting success. The cheery rhymes echo the little girl’s attitude, making My Good Morning a perfect book to share with readers who are beginning to make their way in the world.

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Jelena Brezovec’s colorful illustrations offer both humor and encouragement as she juxtaposes the little girl’s view of her accomplishments with the small mishaps that accompany them. The girl’s parents are in turn smiling, frazzled, watchful, and ultimately proud. Brezovec’s portrayal of an interracial couple is welcome, and the curly-haired little girl will become a fast friend to little readers.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373423

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Jelena Brezovec on her website!

All or Nothing Day Activity

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Today is a Good Day Coloring Page

 

You can make every day a good day just by remembering the good things (even one good thing) that happened. Color and hang this printable Today is a Good Day Coloring Page. It will make you smile!

Picture Book Review