September 22 – National Elephant Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

While today’s holiday was established in 1996 by Mission Media and its owner Wayne Hepburn because of Hepburn’s love for elephants, the day has garnered official recognition and deserves wide acknowledgement. These gentile, giant animals need our protection from environmental and human dangers. To celebrate today’s holiday visit a zoo or animal preserve, watch a documentary on elephants, or consider donating to their cause.

Strictly No Elephants

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little boy, his adorable pet elephant by his side, kneels on his bed and gazes out the window at the brownstones across the street. There he sees other kids with their—more conventional—pets: a bird, a cat, a fish, and dogs. “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” the boy reveals. Every day the boy takes his elephant for a walk, but even in this common pet-owner activity, the boy and the elephant show their special relationship. The elephant is thoughtful—protecting the boy with an umbrella on rainy days—and the boy is considerate—carrying his elephant over cracks in the sidewalk that frighten it. Why? Because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On this particular day the boy winds a red scarf around his elephant’s neck and joins the parade of kids on their way to Number 17 where the Pet Club meets. The elephant is reluctant, but the boy is reassuring, even carrying his pet on his back the last few feet. “‘It’ll be fine,’” he says. But when they reach the apartment, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Strictly No Elephants.” There’s even a picture of a crossed out elephant on the sign.

The elephant understands all too well and leads the boy back onto the sidewalk, now ignoring the cracks. “‘That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you,’” the boy says. The day has suddenly become rainy, and they are caught on the sidewalk without an umbrella. Taking shelter under an awning, the two find a little girl holding her pet skunk. “‘Did you try to go to the Pet Club meeting too?’” she asks. “‘Yes,’” the boy says, “‘But they don’t allow elephants.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

While the sign may not explicitly forbid skunks, the little girl says that the other members didn’t want to play with her and her skunk either. Wisely, the boy tells her “‘They don’t know any better.’” The elephant reaches out its trunk toward the skunk with the girl’s reassurance that he doesn’t stink. The two new friends decide to start their own pet club and head down the sidewalk to find a venue. The boy makes sure that his elephant follows because friends “‘never leave anyone behind.’”

On the way the boy, girl, elephant, and skunk encounter a whole crowd of kids with unusual pets—a tiny giraffe, a mini narwhal, an armadillo, a bat, a hedgehog, and a penguin. They come to a park, complete with tree house, that is perfect for their club. The kids and pets eagerly adopt their new play space—swinging on the tire swing, waddling around the balcony, exploring the roof, playing tag, reading, and more. The boy quickly does the most important thing of all: he paints a new sign for the clubhouse door. “Strictly No Strangers, No Spoilsports ALL ARE WELCOME” it reads. And if you need directions to the club, the boy’s tiny elephant will give them to you “‘because that’s what friends do.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Lisa Mantchev has written a story addressing the types of isolation and rejection that kids (and adults) can face—sometimes because of a single perceived difference—in an uplifting and productive way. With gentle honesty and thoughtfulness, Mantchev invites kids to consider their actions, attitudes, and responses to others. As Mantchev reveals, more inclusiveness leads to more understanding and better relationships. Her lyrical language and sweet reminders of “what friends do” elevate this tribute to camaraderie and companionship and make it a story kids will want to hear again and again.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Taeeun Yoo’s adorable illustrations of the boy, his tiny pet elephant, and the other animal-and-owner pairs are irresistible. Any reader would want a pet as cute and adaptable as these, which leads to a good opportunity for adults and children to discuss the ideas of and attitudes behind exclusion in this story and in real life. As the boy and his elephant are turned away from the Pet Club door, the day turns dark and stormy. The two-page spread is rendered in somber shades, except for the little boy with his yellow-striped shirt and red scarf, the elephant sporting a matching red scarf, and the soon-to-be-met brown-skinned girl who wears a red and yellow-striped dress, emphasizing the connections between these two children. The final pages in which the new friends meet and play together are joyful, inviting all readers to “join the club.”

Strictly No Elephants gives readers so much to see, think about, and discuss. The book is a must for school and classroom libraries and would be a very welcome addition to children’s home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481416474

Discover Lisa Mantchev’s books for children, young adults, and adults on her website.

See a gallery of books by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Elephant Appreciation Day Activity

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Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

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You can find Strictly No Elephants 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 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 15 – National Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

In 1985, when Sean Moeller was in fourth grade, he looked around and saw everyone rushing here and there, cooking, cleaning, toiling away, and, maybe, doing piles of homework and thought, enough is enough—at least for one day. As the founder of National Relaxation Day, Moeller encouraged people to slow down and take it easy. Taking time to relax is an important component in feeling healthy and happy. Our bodies and brains need downtime to deal with the stresses of everyday life and be rejuvenated. How will you spend the day? Taking a break for tea and treats with friends is a great way to celebrate—as today’s book shows!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

National Relaxation Day Activity

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The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

The Princess likes to help people relax and have fun together! You can help her too with these four activity pages!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

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You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

World Elephant Day was launched on August 12, 2012 to raise awareness to the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants and today’s holiday, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Mela and the Elephant

Written by Dow Phumiruk | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

When Mela headed out to explore the banks of the Ping River, her little brother wanted to go too, but Mela would only take him if he had something to give her in return. When he said he had nothing, Mela told him, “‘Then you stay home.’” When she reached the river, she jumped into her uncle’s boat to try and catch the big fish that swam in the sparkly water. She tossed out her net and nabbed the fish in her net, but he swam on, carrying Mela downstream. Soon, Mela found herself deep in the jungle.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When “the boat caught against a tangle of tree roots, Mela stepped out onto a large rock.” She looked around and realized she was a long way from home.  A crocodile happened by and Mela asked him if he could tow her boat back home. “‘What will you give me for my help?’” the crocodile asked. Mela told him he could have her fish, and the crocodile agreed. But as soon as Mela gave him the fish, he grabbed it and swam away.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela had just begun to walk in the direction of home when “a leopard slinked into sight.” Mela asked her if she knew how to get to the village. She did, but would only show Mela if she gave her something. Mela thought, then took off her sweater and gave it to the leopard, saying, “‘It will keep your cubs warm on cool nights.’” The leopard “snatched it up and leaped away.”

Mela continued on and was soon walking down a narrow path, where three monkeys swung from vines in the trees. Again Mela asked for help finding her way home. “‘What will you give us if we help you?’ one chattered. Mela held out her backpack.” It would be helpful for carrying fruit, she told them. As soon as the largest monkey grabbed the backpack, the three disappeared into the forest.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela began to cry. She had no idea how to get home, and night was coming. Just then “she heard the rustling and snapping of branches.” She looked up to see an elephant approaching. The elephant asked Mela if she were lost. When Mela said, yes, the elephant offered to give her a ride. Mela told him that she had nothing to give him. But the elephant said, “‘It would make my heart happy to help you. I don’t need anything else in return.’”

Then he allowed Mela to climb up his trunk and onto his back and they started off. When they reached the village, Mela thanked the elephant and he gave her a last hug with his trunk. The next day when Mela’s brother asked to accompany her to the riverbank, she remembered what the elephant had taught her and agreed to take him. And “from then on, she offered many kindnesses to others, asking nothing in return.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-riding-elephant

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her lovely story, Dow Phumiruk reminds children that the heartfelt rewards of kindness are more precious than material gain. Such inner happiness often radiates to others, creating strong bonds and long-lasting happiness. It’s interesting to note that Mela is actually inherently thoughtful, offering each potential rescuer an object that is useful to them. But this inner generosity is lost when she interacts with her brother and brushes off his friendship. Through her experiences in the jungle, however, she comes to empathize with her brother. Back at home, she embraces and includes him, and shares the lesson she’s learned with others as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-strong-current

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As Mela wanders deeper and deeper into Ziyue Chen’s lush jungle of Thailand, readers will understand that while she may be lost, she is also finding her way on her path in life. The animals that approach her initially look friendly and helpful, but as soon as they have their payment, they turn their back on Mela and desert her. The elephant, on the other hand, has kindly eyes and a gentle manner. The final scene in which Mela takes her little brother by the hand as they begin an adventure together demonstrates her change of heart and growth along life’s road.

An Author’s Note includes information about the history, geography, and customs of Thailand, where there story is set, introducing readers to the diverse culture of the country.

Mela and the Elephant employs a mix of traditional storytelling with today’s focus on kindness, empathy, and generosity. The book would make an excellent addition to home and classroom libraries for story time and to prompt discussions about compassion and helpfulness.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-998-0

Discover more about Dow Phumiruk, her books, and her art on her website

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

World Elephant Day Craft

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-cover

You can find Mela and the Elephant at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

July 11 – National Cheer Up the Lonely Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-cover

About the Holiday

There are many people who, due to age, health, lack of transportation, distance from family and friends, and other factors, feel lonely. Today’s holiday was established to bring awareness to this problem and to encourage people to reach out to those who are alone. There are many ways to cheer up someone who’s feeling lonely, including visiting, taking them for an outing, calling, and taking food, treats, or something else you know they would like.

The Lonely Mailman

Written by Susanna Isern | Illustrated by Daniel Montero Galán

 

The mailman sets off on his bicycle at the crack of dawn to deliver letters all around the forest. “The mailman goes to each door, rings the bell, and only says four words: ‘Squirrel! Letter for you!’” Squirrel’s letter is from Hedgehog, who accidentally pricked him while at the market. He’s inviting Squirrel for dinner to make up for it. Next the mailman delivers a letter from Squirrel to Hedgehog. “He whispers so quietly that even he can hardly hear the words. “‘Hedgehog! Letter for you!’” Squirrel says all will be forgotten if Hedgehog invites him to dinner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-squirrel-letter

Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

Sometimes the animals invite the mailman in for a cup of coffee, but he never accepts. In fact, “he never gets off his bicycle” as he makes his rounds. Today, that includes letters between Dormouse and Woodpecker, who are resolving a loud tapping issue. Even though the animals see the mailman every day, they don’t really know him or anything about him. It doesn’t occur to some of them to wonder about the mailman as he, say, tosses a letter to Turtle from the Butterflies, who want to visit “to flutter around and keep you cool, and sit awhile on your lovely shell, listening to your tales while we enjoy the sun” and delivers an invitation from Turtle to the Butterflies to “sunbathe in peace and quiet” on his shell and have a cup of tea inside if it rains.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-dormouse

Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

Other animals, though, do think about the mailman. Some think he doesn’t say much because he’s sad. But as Bear reads his letter from Rabbit and Rabbit reads a letter from Bear, they don’t take time to ask the mailman how he’s feeling. At the end of the day, with “no more letters in his bag,” the mailman goes home feeling weary. But he still has much to do. In the flickering light of his candle, he sits down at an old typewriter and writes letters. “They are the letters he’ll be delivering the next day: invitations, apologies, plans, and messages full of love.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-going-home

Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

One day, as the sun is going down and the mailman is heading home, he sees that the last letter in his bag is addressed to him. He rushes home excited by the letter—the first he’s ever gotten. At home, he puts the letter in his own mailbox, “whispers four words: ‘Mailman, letter for you!’” then retrieves it and goes inside. As he reads the letter, a lump forms in his throat. The forest animals have discovered his secret and want to thank him.

Just then the doorbell rings—for the very first time. When he opens the door, he sees all the forest animals waiting for him. They surround him with cheers and hugs, and as the “old mailman smiles and blushes” he’s already composing the letters he will write tonight.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-embraced

Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

The Lonely Mailman is a mesmerizing book in every way. Susanna Isern’s storytelling is straightforward, honest, and lyrical as she follows the mailman on his rounds, whispering those four words everyone wants to hear. Peeking into the letters that the animals exchange shows a world where mistakes happen, fears niggle, and grievances are expressed. It is also a world full of kindness, consideration, generosity, and love. The discovery that the mailman himself is the sower of this network of friendship will tug at readers’ hearts as they wish the same for him. The forest animals’ final response to one sharp-eyed mouse’s suggestion is touching and satisfying

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-animals

Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

Daniel Montero Galán washes the soft, velum-like pages with gorgeous earth tones from the warm, golden light of dawn to the soft blues and greens of a summer day to the fiery reds of sunset. The dens, knotholes, and burrows of the forest creatures are cozy with homey details, and the letters each animal receives are called out in parchment-colored rectangles that add to the vintage feel. Alert readers will be intrigued to follow the little mouse who chases here and there, spying on the rotund mailman—who is shaped like half an inverted heart just waiting to be completed—and will be cheered when the animals embrace him, filling out his life with love.

Captivating and moving, The Lonely Mailman is a beautiful story that touches on themes of friendship, empathy, loneliness, kindness, and the power of the individual to create change. The book would be a superb choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Cuento de Luz, 2017 Hardcover: ISBN 978-8416147984 | Paperback, 2018: 978-8416147977

Discover more about Susanna Isern and her books on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Montero Galán, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cheer Up the Lonely Day Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flower Bouquet

 

These paper flowers will brighten anyone’s day and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet to share them with a new friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lonely-mailman-cover

The Lonely Mailman can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 8 – It’s National Best Friends Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-bird-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the best friend—or friends—in our life. Whether you’ve known your best friend forever or have recently formed a strong bond, you know you can always rely on them to be there for a laugh or a shoulder to cry on. To celebrate today’s holiday, get together with your best friend and do something fun, relive old memories, and make some new ones!

Scholastic sent me a copy of Sleepy Bird to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Scholastic in a giveaway of Sleepy Bird. See details below.

Sleepy Bird

By Jeremy Tankard

 

Night has fallen and it’s time to go to sleep, but Bird is not tired yet. “His wings wanted to glap. His legs wanted to run. All of him wanted to play.” In fact, Bird thought it was “party time!” He went off in search of Fox, who was just settling in. He was disturbed by all the noise Bird was making and offered a hug of blankie to help Bird get sleepy. But Bird just said, “‘Blankie shmankie.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-bird-party-time

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2018, courtesy of Scholastic.

Next, Bird sought out Beaver and tried to interest him in a game of tag. Instead, Beaver said he’d read Bird a bedtime story. Bird thought bedtime and stories were for babies and ran to find Rabbit. When Rabbit handed Bird a stuffed cat to snuggle with, Bird was incensed. By the time Bird found Raccoon, he was getting a bit demanding. “‘Raccoon,’ said Bird, ‘you’ll play with me, right?’” But Raccoon was just about to sing a lullaby and go to sleep. Incredulous, Bird pointed out that Raccoon is nocturnal before he “flounced over to Sheep’s place.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleey-bird-sheep

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2018, courtesy of Scholastic.

When Sheep suggested counting sheep, Bird fumed that counting only one sheep would not make him sleepy. By this time, Bird was irritated, annoyed, and cross. He decided “he would just walk forever.” Pretty soon he plopped down on the grass and with tears in his eyes cried that he was not tired and would not go to sleep.

Bird’s cries reached his friends, who hurried over to help. While Beaver read a story, Fox and Rabbit tucked him in with a blanket and stuffed kitty. Then Raccoon sang and Sheep counted. Bird protested that he still wasn’t sleepy even as his eyes began to close. Birds’ friends were happy they could help him sleep. They lay down close by and were soon sleeping too. But what about Bird? His eyes popped open and he popped up, chirping and ready to play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-bird-crying

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2018, courtesy of Scholastic.

Jeremy Tankard’s latest book in his Bird series hits hilariously home as Bird refuses to succumb to sleep, becoming crankier and crankier until he can’t keep his eyes open any longer. When Bird jumps up refreshed and ready to play again, kids will laugh and adults will smile at the truth of it all. Bird’s friends are true buddies, willing to put up with some pretty super-silly-ous attitude from their endearing little pal.

As in Tankard’s other Bird books, eye-popping, boldly colorful backgrounds set Bird and his friends in a magical forest habitat that highlights the thickly outlined characters. Bird, with his wide eyes, spindly legs, and eagerness to play, is adorable even—and maybe especially—as he admonishes his friends before beginning to droop himself. Little readers will love watching the rising crescent moon that illuminates this sleepless night as much as Bird’s bright and shiny personality.

A feather in any child’s picture book collection, Sleepy Bird is a must addition for readers who love the series and a terrific introduction to this little blue, spiky-coifed character that will have kids wanting to go back for more.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338157857

To learn more about Jeremy Tankard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You’ll never get tired of watching the Sleepy Bird book trailer!

Sleepy Bird Giveaway

I’m thrilled to partner with Scholastic in this giveaway of

  • One copy of Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

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

A winner will be chosen on June 15.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Scholastic.

National Best Friends Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-friends-magnets (2)

Glass Stone Magnets or Picture Hanger

 

Creativity is meant to be shared! Here’s an easy craft that you can make for yourself or to give to your best friends whether they live close by or far away. You can use clip art, your own art, or other images of favorite characters, that remind you of inside jokes, or that represent shared experiences to make these magnets personal.

Supplies

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

Picture Book Review