June 23 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1998 to celebrate nature and encourage people to enjoy outside activities, Great Outdoors Month is a favorite summer event. With indoor activities curtailed this year, heading out to explore, hike, picnic, or have other adventures with your family is a great way to rediscover familiar places and to set your sights a little farther

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati

 

At home in London, young Beatrix Potter loved drawing and painting pictures of her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer and other woodland creatures. Beatrix and her brother didn’t go to school but were taught at home under a strict daily timeline. “Then came summer and … freedom! During the summer, Beatrix’s whole household—pets included—moved to a country house where there were ducks, chickens, cows, and a garden.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

When Beatrix’s brother grew a little older, however, he went away to a boarding school while Beatrix had to stay home. “But Beatrix wanted to do something important, something that mattered. She often helped her father with his hobby, photography.” She visited artists’ studios and museums. She learned about art and how to make her drawings better.

She made more pictures of Benjamin Bouncer and sent them to publishers. One publisher put her drawings on the front of greeting cards, and Beatrix began making money from her work. But Beatrix was also interested in the science of nature. She even wrote a paper about mushrooms and hoped to have it printed in a scientific journal, but it was rejected. Beatrix was disappointed but went back to drawing.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Then one day, to cheer up a sick child, Beatrix wrote and illustrated a story about Peter Rabbit. Later, she submitted it to publishers. When they told her they weren’t interested, she had books printed herself. She sold every copy—the second batch too. Finally, a publisher agreed to print her books. Beatrix went on to write more and more stories. At last she had fulfilled her dreams of creating something important. She was also an excellent marketer and self-promoter, and “soon people all over the world knew about Peter Rabbit, and they knew about Beatrix Potter too.”

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

As Beatrix grew older, she couldn’t draw in the way she had, but that didn’t mean she left the countryside behind. She wanted to protect the farmland she loved. She helped farms and families, paying for needed veterinary care for animals when the farmers couldn’t afford it and for a nurse when the flu hit. Beatrix Potter’s life was made up of so many things that mattered. Not only did she give the world the beloved Peter Rabbit and his friends, but through donations of farms and acreage she “made sure the land would be cared for, protected, and cherished. Forever.”

An Author’s Note about how she came to write this book and more information on Beatrix Potter’s legacy follows the story.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s delightful and surprising biography of Beatrix Potter delves into the depths of her desire to make a difference with her life. A woman far ahead of her time, Beatrix Potter remains an inspiration for each new generation of readers not only for her well-loved stories but for her community work and foresight. Marshall’s thorough and well-paced story will captivate today’s children, who have the same hopes as Beatrix to influence the world with their talents and opinions. Marshall’s descriptions of Beatrix’s later largesse swell the heart and readers’ admiration for this exceptional woman.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Marshall’s words are set among Ilaria Urbinati’s exquisite illustrations that take children inside Beatrix Potter’s world at home in London and out to the countryside she adored. Her delicate and detailed renderings of young Beatrix drawing with her pet Benjamin Bunny by her side, the farm where she spent summers, her scientific explorations, and her later successes immerse readers in the late 1800s to mid-1900s, allowing them to experience the environments that created one of the world’s most beloved authors. Urbinati’s glorious panoramas of the lake district farms that Beatrix saved are breathtaking and inspiring in their beauty.

For fans of Peter Rabbit and any lover of children’s literature, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit is a must. Stirring on so many levels, the book will inspire multiple readings as well as the discovery or rediscovery of Beatrix Potter’s tales. Perfect for home, school, and public library collections for story times and to enhance language arts lessons and even nature science studies.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1499809602

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ilaria Urbinati, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

As all readers know, Peter Rabbit loved vegetable gardens. With this fun game you and your family can grow your own gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 7 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate poets and the poetry they create to illuminate our lives in new and often surprising ways. National Poetry Month is a world-wide event, bringing together tens of millions of poets, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and other poetry lovers in readings, school visits, and special events. To celebrate, check out some events in your area and enjoy reading the work of your favorite—or a new—poet. You might even try writing your own poetry! Get inspired with today’s book!

I received a copy of Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

Growing up in Chicago, Gwendolyn Brooks’ family didn’t have a lot of money but they did own “great treasure—a bookcase filled with precious poems.” Every night Gwendolyn’s father read aloud from those books, and, mesmerized, Gwendolyn memorized poems to recite for her visiting aunts. “When she was seven, Gwendolyn began arranging words into poems of her own.” One day, her mother read her poems and declared that one day she would be as great as Paul Laurence Dunbar—Gwendolyn’s favorite poet.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Gwendolyn loved to sit on her porch and watch the clouds float by. She filled notebooks about them and about her “paper dolls, ticktock clocks, raindrops, sunsets, and climbing rocks.” When Gwendolyn was eleven, she sent four of her poems to a newspaper, and, much to her delight, they were printed. A poem she sent to a national magazine also appeared in print.

Gwendolyn was looking forward to a bright future when the Great Depression hit. But Gwendolyn kept writing. In high school she was an outsider, never seeming to fit in despite trying several schools. “Gwendolyn felt invisible. But when words flowed from her pen, she became invincible.” After college she took whatever jobs she could find and continued writing. She got married and had a baby boy. Even though she was busy, she took poetry classes about modern poems and wrote in a new style herself.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

She wrote about what and who she saw in her South Side Chicago neighborhood, Bronzeville. She began to win poetry contests and had some poems published in a well-known poetry journal. She and her family were still poor, but that didn’t stop her from writing “‘what she saw and heard in the street’” even when there was no electricity. Just as when she was a little girl, Gwendolyn “kept dreaming about a future that was going to be exquisite.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

One day, she gathered her best poems and submitted them to a book publisher in New York. Soon after, they wrote asking for more. She wrote and wrote until she had enough to send. With the next letter from the publisher, she learned that they “loved her poems!” They were published with the title A Street in Bronzeville. After that book, came a second, Annie Allen. Her poems were now read all over the world. They “helped people better understand others” and “changed the way some people thought and acted.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Even with two books published, money was scarce. And yet she kept writing because “everywhere she looked, Gwendolyn saw more stories that needed to be told.” One day two things happened in Gwendolyn’s apartment: the electricity was turned off—again. And the phone rang. The reporter on the phone had one question for her: “‘Do you know that you have won the Pulitzer Prize?’” She and her young son danced around the apartment as “outside, exquisite clouds exploded in the sunset sky, because Gwendolyn had won the greatest prize in poetry!”

“Clouds,” a poem written by Gwendolyn Brooks when she was fifteen, follows the story. An Author’s Note giving more information about Brooks’ work, a timeline of her life, and resources are also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-exquisite-writing

Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

In her outstanding biography, Suzanne Slade highlights the prodigious talent of Gwendolyn Brooks, illuminating the influences, continual study, and inborn voice that informed and created her poetry. Gwendolyn’s self-confidence, unique perspective, and the support she received throughout her youth and career are strong themes that will inspire readers. Slade focuses on the awe Brooks found in her subjects, demonstrating her singular vision and how poetry is found in the everyday aspects of life. Beginning with Gwendolyn’s childhood, Slade links the events of Brooks’ life with beautiful imagery of the clouds she once likened to her exquisite future. Quotes are sprinkled throughout Slade’s lyrical text, allowing children to hear Brooks’ own voice and the dreams and pride had for her work.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, 2020, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s acrylic paintings are stunning representations of Gwendolyn’s life. Her family life with her well-read and supportive family comes alive with images of their home, where the large glass bookcase has pride of place, portraits hang on the walls, Gwendolyn practices the piano while her mother exclaims over her poetry, and the family gathers for a meager dinner during hard times. For young readers, Cabrera visualizes the parts of Gwendolyn’s life that fed her imagination and work and the copious amounts of poetry that she created—even as a child. Images of Gwendolyn’s early publishing successes give way to the changes brought by the Depression, school, marriage, and motherhood, but a pen, paper, and books are still her constant companions. Scenes from Chicago give children a look at the city that inspired Gwendolyn’s poetry, and intermittent views of the pastel clouds let readers dream along with her.

A stirring biography to inspire the dreams of any child, Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks is a story that children will want to hear again and again. On its own or paired with Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry, the book also makes an impactful lesson for homeschooling. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419734113

Discover more about Suzanne Slade and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cozbi A. Cabrera, her books, and her art on her website.

Watch the Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks book trailer

National Poetry Month Activity

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You’re a Poet, Don’t You Know It! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the twenty poetry-related words in this printable puzzle then write a poem of your own!

You’re a Poet, Don’t You Know It! Puzzle | You’re a Poet, Don’t You Know It! Solution

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You can find Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks at these booksellers

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

November 1 – National Author’s Day

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About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, promoted the holiday after Nellie’s death in 1968. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Who is the Mystery Writer? (Unlimited Squirrels)

By Mo Willems

 

Mo Willems passel of fifteen squirrels—and one winged squirrel-wanna-be—is back in this beginning-reader series that offers lots of laughs along with enthusiastic encouragement for new readers. The table of contents (introduced by a punny joke) reveals that there are plenty of stories and jokes to come before the Tale End, where kids get to celebrate their detective skills.

First up is The BIG Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? Zoom Squirrel, Zap Squirrel, Zip Squirrel, Flink Squirrel, and Wink Squirrel are walking along when they come to a STOP sign. Zoom Squirrel pulls up quick and stops the crew—not because of the sign, exactly, but because he can’t read it. Zap, Zip, and Flink are in a bit of a tizzy about how to discover what the sign says, while Wink Squirrel excuses himself and walks off the page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-stop-sign

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the wink of an eye, a masked squirrel appears to suggest the squirrels read the sign. The other squirrels are mesmerized by their hero, and as he passes out his card, all Zoom Squirrel can say is “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.” After the squirrels reveal their predicament, the Mystery Reader springs into action. He begins by sounding out the letters, but Zoom Squirrel shouts “STOP!” He doesn’t see how this is helping.

After a bit of explanation, Zoom is ready to try sounding out the letters for himself—and… he’s got it! While congratulations are being passed around, the Mystery Reader excuses himself and walks off the page. When Wink Squirrel returns, his friends tell him what he’s missed. Thus, begins the search for who the Mystery Reader really is. Zoom has turned into quite a reader, but his interpretation of the Mystery Reader’s card leads to his mistaken impression that he is the Mystery Reader. He’s just beginning his thank-you speech, when the real Mystery Reader is back (with a wink).

Zoom feels a bit deflated until the Mystery Reader gives him his own “New Mystery Reader” mask and underpants. Zap, Zip, and Flink think it’s too bad that Zoom missed meeting this new mystery reader. The Mystery Reader ends the story with a wry “Well… We learned something today.” To which Zoom responds, “Squirrels do not know much about costumes! Up next is an “Acorn-y Joke” that is guaranteed to be “100% corny!”—much to the delight of readers!

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the following segment, Wonder Squirrel is doing some deep thinking about the origins of writing. Now, everyone wants to know. This is a job for… The Book of Wonders! Inside The Book of Wonders! readers learn about cuneiform, hieroglyphs (and how they influenced our alphabet), the Inca’s use of knotted ropes, and the invention of paper. Kids also learn that there are mysteries about writing still to be solved.

Another Acorn-y Joke will have kids giggling, and then it’s time for readers to learn how Mo Squirrel makes a book—from idea to agent and editor, to writing, rewriting and redrawing, to re-rewriting and re-redrawing, and finally to printing. The Tale End poses a conundrum of sorts. Zap, Zip, and Flink are shocked to discover that they never learned who the Mystery Readers are. Readers at home, will feel empowered to be in on the joke as Zoom Squirrel and Wink Squirrel wink at each other knowingly.

A page preceding the stories introduces emote-acorns—small acorn faces that display nine emotions, such as surprised, sad, confused, and proud. These small graphics are found throughout the stories in the bottom corner whenever “the squirrels have big feelings” allowing children to practice not only their print-reading skills but their skills in reading facial expressions as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-making-a-book

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Mo Willems’ zany squirrels will keep kids laughing and shouting out the answers to their questions in this rollicking beginning reader. The text of each story is presented solely in dialog bubbles that are clearly attributed to the speaker. The short phrasing and repeated words will give new readers confidence in their abilities and encourage them to try longer sentences. The non-fiction pages include photographs of the various types of writing discussed, and the facts presented are detailed and written so the target age can easily understand. Readers who would like to learn more are pointed toward the Unlimited Squirrels website.

Willems’ distinctive illustration style is always a delight, and his emotive squirrels are no exception. The graphic novel format gives readers clear, bold and vivid imagery to mirror the text and make reading a visual treat of putting words and actions together. Each squirrel has different colors and markings. Getting to know and recognize the five squirrels in The Big Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? before beginning to read will help kids follow the action and be one step ahead of the mystery for maximum enjoyment and inclusion in the jokes.

A funny and fun addition to the Unlimited Squirrels series, Who is the Mystery Reader? will get kids excited about becoming readers and would be an often-chosen book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368046862

To learn more about Mo Willems and his books, visit his website.

Have fun with more Unlimited Squirrels on their website.

National Author’s Day Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate | I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy

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You can find Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

The Day Punctuation Came to Town

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

 

The Punctuations had just moved to Alphabet City and the kids—Exclamation Point, Question Mark, Period, and Comma—were excited about their first day of school. Exclamation Point was in a rush to get there. “‘We are going to have so much fun!’” he said. He “was always excited about something.” Question Mark was a little more subdued. She wondered if the other kids would be nice and even pondered whether they were walking in the right direction. “Comma kept pausing,” and Period said she would let her siblings know when to stop.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When they got to school and introduced themselves, the student letters were confused. They’d never seen anyone like the Punctuations before. As the letters practiced forming words, Exclamation Point joined W, O, and W; Question Mark helped out W, H, and O; and “Period brought each sentence to a tidy end.” For Comma, though, it wasn’t so easy. As he tried to squeeze in between letters, he began to feel as if he was just a bother. Undetected, he tiptoed away.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Meanwhile in the classroom, Exclamation Point had all the letters scrambling to make more and more exciting words. There was a lot of cheering and booming, ducking, and running. Question Mark asked if maybe they shouldn’t all quiet down a bit, but no one was listening. Even Period couldn’t get them to stop. Pretty soon, there was a huge word pileup. In the next moment it came crashing down and all the letters “tumbled through the door, spilling into the hall.” There, they found Comma, who just stared in disbelief. His siblings wondered why he was in the hall instead of in the classroom. Comma told them how he felt. But, “‘Comma, without you, things become a disaster!’” Exclamation Point said. Period and Question Mark agreed.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Then his siblings gently reminded little Comma about how each member of their family has a certain purpose. They told him, “‘we all work together to help letters and the words they make.’” Once everyone had gone back into the classroom, the letters continued making words. But now Comma took his place between them. When the letters looked confused, he explained that it was his job to keep order and that words and punctuation needed each other to make good and clear sentences.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

For children just learning about sentence structure and how punctuation and words fit together to create meaning, Kimberlee Gard’s lively story helps them visualize and understand the different roles of each punctuation mark. Coming at the end of a sentence and accompanied by vocal clues, exclamation points, question marks, and periods are more familiar to kids. But what about that comma, which seems to float around here and there? Gard demonstrates that without the break commas provide, words run amok, becoming jumbled, unwieldy, and confusing. Readers will respond to the classroom setting, where the letters work and play together during lessons, and they will be eager to make friends with the Punctuation family themselves.

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If any readers think learning about punctuation is dry and dull, Sandie Sonke’s vibrant colors and cartoon characters will change their mind. The Punctuations (and their butterfly friend Apostrophy) are sweet and earnest, wanting to fit into the class and make a difference. As the letters form words, the purple Punctuations are easy for kids to pick out, allowing for discussion of their distinct roles. The tangled piles of letters invite kids to make words from the muddle. After Comma realizes his own importance and the letters embrace him, the story ends with a familiar and funny example of just how a well-placed comma can change the meaning of a sentence.

An entertaining and joyful accompaniment to grammar lessons to get kids excited about learning, The Day Punctuation Came to Town would be a rousing addition to classroom, homeschool, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701457

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sandie Sonke, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

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Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-cover

You can find The Day Punctuation Came to Town at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 30 – National Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. During this 200th anniversary year of the publishing of classic novel, discover (or rediscover) the spellbinding thrill of reading Frankenstein.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

 

Mary was a dreamer. She liked to spend time alone, thinking and imagining “things that never were.” Mary called these daydreams “‘castles in the air.’” Mary loved to write stories too, but her daydreams were even more thrilling. When Mary wanted to read and dream, she went to the graveyard and sat next to her mother’s grave. Mary’s mother had died when Mary was only 11 days old.

While Mary loved her father, she didn’t like the way he punished her. Mary didn’t like his new wife, either. Mary’s father is friends with many famous people, and he invites them to visit. One night “a writer named Samuel Taylor Coleridge recites a strange, eerie poem—The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Mary loves such poems.” Even though she was supposed to be in bed, she hid and listened, shivering “with fear at the spine-tingling tale of a ship full of ghosts.” Forever after, Mary remembered that night and that poem.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

By the time Mary was fourteen, she was unhappy at home and causing trouble. One night, when she was sixteen, she and her stepsister, Claire, ran away with a “brilliant, young poet” named Percy Bysshe Shelley. They traveled through Europe, one day finding themselves outside a “ruined castle. It’s called Castle Frankenstein. Such an interesting name! Does it stick in Mary’s mind?”

Eighteen months later, the three traveled to Switzerland, where they became friends with Lord Byron—the most famous poet in the world. One night as torrential storms crashed around Lord Byron’s house, he read ghost stories from Fantasmagoriana. After reading, Byron challenged his friends, who also included a doctor named John Polidori, to write a ghost story. Eighteen-year-old Mary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Polidori accepted the challenge. But Mary could not think of a good story idea.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, Shelley and Polidori gave up on their ghost stories, but their talk of new scientific experiments excited Mary. “Electricity can make the muscles of a dead frog twitch. Could it bring a dead creature to life? The idea is both thrilling and frightening.” The idea captured Mary, but instead of a frog, she imagined “a hideous monster, made of dead body parts, stretched out—and coming to life!” Mary suddenly realized she had the idea for her ghost story.

It took nine months for Mary to finish her story. When it was published, some people thought it had been written by Percy Bysshe Shelley—they didn’t “believe young Mary could have done it! How could a girl like her come up with such a story?” But she was a writer, assembling bits and pieces, ideas, and scientific changes in her imagination until they turned into the book Frankenstein. In the two-hundred years since the novel was first published, the story has become a classic. It has sparked movies, inspired other writers, and become a favorite all around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about Mary Shelley, her life, and inspiration as well as Linda Bailey’s thoughts on the story behind Frankenstein follows the text. A full-page portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a list of sources rounds out the informative backmatter.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

With atmospheric and riveting details, Linda Bailey captures the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the influences on her imagination that resulted in Frankenstein. Bailey’s use of the present tense is inspired as it reflects the continued currency of the novel while encouraging today’s readers to embrace their “castles in the air.” Facts about Mary’s travels, new scientific discoveries, and favorite books sprinkled throughout the story inform readers on how the imagination combines experiences to create art.

One look at Júlia Sardà’s spellbinding cover tells readers that they are in for an extraordinary reading experience. Muted tones of red, green, gold, blue, and plum cloaked in black create a thrilling backdrop to Bailey’s story. Ghostly winged creatures fly over Lord Byron’s home on a stormy night, smoky monsters emerge from Fantasmagoriana, a frog sits up in its coffin, and the spectre of the monster leans over Mary and sleeps at her feet as she writes her novel. At once spine-tingling and cozy, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations will draw children into this superb story of a ghost story.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is sure to spark the imagination of children who love literature, art, and writing. The book would be a thrilling addition to classroom libraries for literature and writing classes as well as an inspiring favorite on home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770495593

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Júlia Sardà, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Frankenstein Day Activity

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Monstrously Good Puzzle

 

See if you’re a Frankenstein scholar by filling in this printable puzzle full of words and phrases about the novel!

Monstrously Good Puzzle | Monstrously Good Puzzle Word ListMonstrously Good Puzzle Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mary-who-wrote-frankenstein-cover

You can find Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

August 28 – It’s Family Fun Month and Interview with Author Robie H. Harris

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-look-babies-head-to-toe-coverAbout the Holiday

This month-long holiday encourages families to spend time together having fun, learning, and getting to know each other on an all-new level. Having a baby in the family means there are plenty of joyous moments and new experiences to enjoy as the little one learns about the world and their place in it. For children any moment—whether while playing, shopping, or doing chores—can become an exciting and enjoyable opportunity for discovery. Reading together is one of the best ways to nurture a baby’s development—as you’ll see in today’s book!

I received a copy of LOOK! Babies Head to Toe from Abrams Appleseed for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Abrams Appleseed in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

LOOK! Babies Head to Toe

Written by Robie H. Harris | Illustrated by Anoosha Syed

 

With a baby on your lap or cuddled up beside you, you can open the world of self-awareness for your child as you open the cover of this engagingly written and adorably illustrated board book. Little readers will be immediately entranced by the baby who smiles out at them from the first pages as adults exclaim, “Look! A baby!,” show them the baby “Head to toe! Toe to head!” and share a greeting: “Hi, baby!”

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Image copyright Anoosha Syed, 2019, text copyright Robie Harris, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers.

What baby doesn’t love playing peek-a-boo? Here, babies learn about eyes by playing along with the enthusiastic baby in the book who hides his eyes and then reveals them with a happy smile. What are ears for? Listening, of course! And as the sweet baby on the page listens to her mom play the ukulele, your baby hears “Look! Baby’s ears!” and can be encouraged to repeat “La-la-la!”

Noses are for smelling, but sometimes they’re for sneezing too—“Ah-choo!” Turn the page again and “Look! A baby! Look! Baby’s mouth” is puckered up for a kiss. Moving on, babies “clap-clap-clap” with their hands, discover their tummy, try out their strong legs, and, for a last bit of fun, wiggle their toes.

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Image copyright Anoosha Syed, 2019, text copyright Robie Harris, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers.

With her delightful, lively text, Robie H. Harris provides parents and caregivers a dynamic way to not only introduce little ones to parts of their body but to help with the development of  language and motor skills. The repeated phrases “Look!,” “A baby!” and mention of particular parts of the body, accompanied with pointing to the baby on the page as well the little reader, orient children to these often-heard words and give them concrete meaning. Active words that echo familiar sounds and motions offer opportunities for little ones to vocalize and play.

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Image copyright Anoosha Syed, 2019, text copyright Robie Harris, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Anoosha Syed’s charming babies are bright-eyed and smiley, sweet friends who are ready to play. Their enthusiasm is infectious as they make direct eye contact with young readers—an important aspect of communicating with children. Each of the ten diverse babies are highlighted on two-page spreads with plenty of white space that allows readers to focus attention on the child and the part of the body being introduced. In each image the children demonstrate a different expression—from welcome and surprise to love and joy to contemplation and uncertainty. Adding this range of emotions reflects studies which have found that looking at pictures such as these can help children form feelings of empathy and understanding.

A cheerful, enchanting book for sharing fun and quality time with babies and toddlers, LOOK! Babies Head to Toe makes a wonderful new baby or shower gift, an engaging take along for outings or times when waiting is expected, and a go-to read at home, in preschool classrooms, and for public library collections.

Ages Birth to 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419732034

Discover more about Robie H. Harris and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anoosha Syed, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Robie H. Harris

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Today, I’m thrilled to be talking with Robie H. Harris about her board books for youngest readers and the importance of reading with babies and toddlers.

You’re well known for your books about growth and development for children and teens. Your recent books with Abrams Appleseed, Who? A Celebration of Babies and LOOK! Babies Head to Toe highlight the development of babies and very young children.

I have always been fascinated by babies and toddlers and how amazing and interesting they are. I have always wanted to write board books for them, especially books with which they could connect and that would engage them. Thanks to Abrams Appleseed, LOOK! and WHO? are out in the world. The words I wrote for each of these books are my way of talking with babies and toddlers and having a conversation with them and, hopefully, drawing them into the book.

Here’s what a mother of an 11-month-old baby emailed me this morning about her infant’s reaction when she shared LOOK! with her baby: “My baby giggled as soon as I opened the first page (a rare reaction, typically he’s either serious or squirmy for story time these days) and giggled right through ‘til the end.” Another parent of a six-month-old infant emailed me: “My baby looked and listened the whole time I read the book to her. She also gurgled and cooed and at times reached and gently touched some of the drawings of the babies that are in LOOK! After I read it to her, she grabbed the book and hugged it and gave it a kiss.” This kind of engagement these infants had with LOOK! was what I was hoping for as I was writing WHO? and LOOK!

Do you feel that there is now more attention being paid to these important early years?

Yes, there is a lot more attention to the early years, and that’s wonderful and can be helpful to authors writing for our youngest children. Thank goodness, the notion that a baby is not a person yet or is just a “blob” has been discarded by most. The abundance of infant and toddler research that is now available and that is continuing to gallop forward has fueled my board books and tells us how powerful babies’ thinking and emotions and brains are. When I am writing, I need to understand what is going on emotionally with an infant or toddler. From my own observations of infants and toddlers and also from research, I try to create words and/or a story that will strike a responsive chord in them. When I finish writing, an artist, such as Anoosha Syed, the illustrator of LOOK!, can find even more ways through art to connect our book with the babies and toddlers for whom I was writing.

What research has contributed to our deeper understanding of babies’ learning?

I will cite one of many studies that deals with shared reading as an example of the type of research that informs my thinking when writing a board book. The principal researcher of this recent study is Alan Mendelsohn, MD, pediatrician, New York University School of Medicine. “The study identifies pathways by which parent-child interactions in shared reading and play can improve child behavioral outcomes.” In addition, as a children’s book author, I continue to have the good fortune of consulting with pediatricians, child development and infancy specialists, child psychologists and analysts about what I am writing to make sure that it will ring true for an infant, toddler, or young child.  

Why is it important for parents and other caregivers to read books to babies, even before they can talk? How can age-appropriate books, like these from Appleseed, help?

This statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics site says it all: “​In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement recommending parent-child home reading beginning at birth and continuing at least through kindergarten. Behavioral evidence has shown that children who are read to, especially before school entry, experience stronger parent-child relationships and learn valuable language and literacy skills.” I would add the following statement of my own: Board books are one way our very youngest children begin to understand not only themselves, but also the people and the world around them. It is also a way for our youngest children and a significant adult in their lives, be it a parent or caregiver, to have a moment together away from the bustle of their everyday lives.

Story time is a time to build a loving relationship with each other and, yes, have some fun together while sharing a book. Additionally, make sure you read to your child once a day, every single day. Find a quiet time to do so, if possible, and don’t be interrupted by a call on your phone or anything else. Just enjoy your special time together. Start early and keep on reading books to them. Have a basket of board books on the floor with just board books in it—nothing else. And it’s okay if your infant or toddler sits on a book, chews on it, puts it on top of their head, drools on it, or opens it and is looking at the book upside down. This is one of the ways books become part of their lives and will continue to be part of their lives as they grow up and grow older. 

Look! Babies Head to Toe includes repetitive phrases and onomatopoeia such as “La-la-la” and “Achoo!” How do these aspects of the story benefit a baby’s developing language skills? How can adults expand on that type of learning?

I purposely use repetitive phrases such as “La-la-la, Achoo!, Kiss-kiss. Clap-clap-clap” and others in LOOK! because they are sounds that infants have heard and may have uttered out loud. While writing LOOK!, I believed infants and toddlers would mimic these sounds and words and have fun doing it while at the same time expanding the words they learned and could eventually use to communicate with others. I felt it could also be a way of engaging infants and toddlers in the  book. I purposely use repetitive sounds and words in WHO? for the very same reasons. Adults can expand on that type of learning by continuing to share a book with a child each and every day.

What are the long-term benefits of engaging babies in language and activities?

There are many. Here are two: Sharing a board book such as LOOK! is early literacy in the making and helps to create a love of language, art, and books for years to come. Reading a book with an infant or toddler also gives that child and their parent or caregiver the chance to spend time together, which can help to build a loving and caring bond between them and with others in the years ahead.

Anoosha Syed’s illustrations of babies are adorable while also being realistic. She also includes actions and gestures, such as crawling, hiding and revealing eyes, and smiling. Can you talk a little about how babies and toddlers react to seeing photographs or illustrations of children and how that helps their physical and emotional development?

Anoosha’s pitch-perfect drawings of babies do draw infants and toddlers into the book. Parents and caregivers have told me that while reading LOOK! babies gurgle and coo and often touch the drawings of babies in the book. They’ve also said that their toddlers sometimes kiss the drawings or pat their tummies or clap their hands just as the babies in the book do. The fact that this happens delights me as an author and as a person who feels that infants, toddlers, and young children are true learners.

You love to meet your readers of all ages! Have you held readings or events for parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers? What do these consist of? Do you have an anecdote from any event that you’d like to share?

I have held some readings for parents and have given talks at conferences for infant and toddler professionals. These revolve around the benefits of sharing board books such as WHO? and LOOK! with infants and toddlers as well as the benefits of sharing picture books with young children. I show a video of a parent reading WHO? to a six-month-old infant, who is responding to the book in many ways both verbally and physically. The response from the parents and professionals who watched that video surprised me. Here’s why: Many parents and professionals were amazed to find out that sharing a board book with a baby does engage the infant at such an early time in their life. Many told me that they would now start sharing board books with babies.   

Do you have any other books for this age group in the works?

Yes. I can’t seem to keep myself from coming up with yet more ideas for another board book. One is almost fully written. I am just fiddling with the end of the book and need some more time to work on that. I read it out loud to myself this morning. This is something I do often to hear whether the words or the story I wrote work. Work for whom? Work for the age-range of the children who would be the audience for that particular book. I also have extensive notes on another board book idea. I have written only a few words for that book and am just at the beginning of my process of writing it. A lot more work is needed to move this book along. But I’m too busy with other books under contract to spend much time on it now.

Thanks, Robie, for this fascinating talk! I wish you the best with Look! and Who? and all of your books!

LOOK! Babies Head to Toe Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Appleseed in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of LOOK! Babies Head to Toe, written by Robie H. Harris | illustrated by Anoosha Syed

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

This giveaway is open from August 28 through September 3 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 4.

Prizing provided by Abrams Appleseed

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

Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sensory-board

Child’s Sensory Board

 

Toys or objects that provide many opportunities for sensory experimentation and observation stimulate a baby and young child to learn while having fun. You can make a sensory board for your own child using household items and that have a variety of textures, sizes, shapes, and movement. When you create your own sensory board, you can personalize it for your child by adding their name, pictures of family members, and other special items. While you play with your child, take time to talk about all of the objects on the board, what they do, and how they work. Count the objects. If you include words or your child’s name, spell them outloud and say them. There are so many ways to use a sensory board. Even if children can’t yet talk, they are listening and soaking in the rich language learning you are providing!

**When making your board always ensure that you use items that are not a choking hazard or can catch tiny fingers. Make sure that items are firmly attached to the board. Never leave a baby unattended while playing.**

Supplies

  • A board large enough to hold the items you want to attach. Boards that can be used include: those found at hardware stores or craft stores; large cutting boards; shelves; old table tops; etc.

Sample items for your sensory board can be age appropriate and include:

  • Large swatches of various textured material. (I used fur, a scrubbing sheet, and a piece of carpeting)
  • Wooden or thick cardboard letters and numbers, painted in a variety of colors. Letters can be used to add a child’s name to the board.
  • Figures cut from sheets of foam or wooden figures found at craft stores in a variety of numbers that you can count with your child (I used sets of 1, 2, and 3 fish cut from foam to go along with the numbers 1, 2, and 3)
  • Mirror
  • Push button light
  • Chalk board to write on
  • Castor or other wheel
  • Door latches
  • Door knockers
  • Mop heads
  • Paint rollers
  • Cranks
  • Drawer handles
  • Hinges (I attached a tennis ball to a hinge that children can push back and forth)
  • Pulleys
  • Paint in various bright colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Velcro
  • Super glue

Directions

  1. Assemble your items
  2. Paint wooden or cardboard items
  3. Arrange item on the board so that your baby or child can easily reach or manipulate each one
  4. Attach items with screws, nuts and bolts, or super glue
  5. Push button lights or other objects that take batteries can be attached with strong Velcro. Ensure items attached with Velcro are large and not a choking hazard.
  6. Set up board where you and your baby or child can enjoy playing with it together

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-look-babies-head-to-toe-cover

You can find LOOK! Babies Head to Toe at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

August 15 – It’s Back to School Month and Interview with Authors Ann Ingalls & Sue Lowell Gallion

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-cover

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.

I received a copy of Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway prize package. See details below.

Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak

Written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

It’s the first day of school and Tucker is up and at ‘em as soon as the bell rings, but “the bell scares Tip. He hides” in his little red igloo. As the kids enter the classroom, they immediately notice Tip and Tucker’s cage and come over to take a peek. Their teacher, Mr. Lopez, introduces adventurous Tucker and shy Tip. He even reveals a funny fact about Tucker: he snores!

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Lopez asks Pim to read the five rules pertaining to their classroom hamsters. As he does, Tucker and Tip both listen along. “‘I like the treats rule,’ says Tucker” as he imagines all the apples, carrots, and seeds that await them. “‘I like the quiet rule,’ says Tip.” The last rule is to always make sure the cage door is closed by listening for the click. Mr. Lopez gives Pim a cardboard tube to add to the cage. Then it’s time for music class. As the kids line up, Mr. Lopez gives the hamsters a carrot and closes the door, but there is “no click.”

“‘Hasta luego, chicos,’ says Mr. Lopez” to Tip and Tucker. While everyone is gone, Tucker and Tip talk about school. Tip thinks it’s too noisy, but Tucker likes noise—and naps. He falls asleep on the carrot and begins to snore. Tip goes to the door of the cage. “Tip peeks out. The door opens. PLOP!” The cage is so high up now.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tip calls for Tucker to help him. Just then Mr. Finch, comes in to change a lightbulb, and Tip runs out the door. Meanwhile, Tucker wakes up. He can’t find Tip. He “zips to the igloo. No Tip there. No Tip anywhere! ‘Where are you, Tip?’” he calls. Tip has zipped down the hall and into the supply closet. It’s quiet and dark, but there’s no Tucker.

Tucker is determined to find his friend. He leaps from the cage and runs down the hall and into a bathroom. One girl thinks he’s a rat, so “Tucker zips down the hall” until he bumps into Mr. Finch. Mr. Finch picks Tucker up and puts him in his shirt pocket. Tucker worries that he’ll never find Tip. In the closet, Tip has gotten hungry and tried chomping on the strings of the mop, but it crashes to the ground. “‘SQUEAK!’” says Tip. Tucker hears him. “‘SQUEAK!’” he answers. Mr. Finch also hears and opens the closet door. He lowers his hand down to Tip. “The hand smells like Tucker.” Tip climbs in and is plopped into Mr. Finch’s shirt pocket with Tucker.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Back in the classroom, Mr. Lopez and the kids are worried and searching for Tip and Tucker. Then “Mr. Finch peeks in.” The kids are happy to see Tip and Tucker. With their pets safely back in their cage, the class circles up on the rug. One child asks how they escaped. “‘Lo siento. I’m sorry,’” Mr. Lopez says and explains how he forgot to listen for the click and will be more careful next time. Tip and Tucker are happy to be back home with extra seeds to munch. In fact, Tip has decided that he “‘might like school…. This is a good home after all,’” he says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-hide-and-squeak-apology

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tip and Tucker are back with their second adventure, following Tip and Tucker, Road Trip in which Mr. Lopez chose them from a pet store and brought them to their new home. As Mr. Lopez’s students are introduced to their classroom pets, new readers get to know this darling duo too. With repeated words and phrases, onomatopoeia, gentle suspense, and humor, Ingalls and Gallion weave a story that will captivate kids while boosting their confidence in their reading ability. When Mr. Lopez discovers that he left the cage door unlocked, he gathers his students and apologizes, demonstrating a good lesson in accepting responsibility and the idea that everyone makes mistakes. Through his unexpected adventure, Tip learns with pride that he has untapped bravery, providing another good example for kids who may be more hesitant or wary of new experiences.

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André Ceolin’s bright and welcoming illustrations invite kids to school, where Mr. Lopez’s diverse class is excited about their new pets and people watch out for each other—and their tiny charges. Ceolin’s pages are packed with action and detailed scenes that help emerging and new readers connect the text to what they see. Tip and Tucker are as cute as can be as they settle into their classroom home. During their separation they display emotions of happiness, wariness, trust, and finally joy in being reunited. 

A delightful entry in this series for early, developing, and newly independent readers, Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak will enchant fans, who will eagerly look forward to these friends’ next adventure. The book is a charming addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110083 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534110090 (Paperback) 

Discover more about Ann Ingalls and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by André Ceolin and learn more about him and his work, visit his website.

Interview with Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion

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Today, I’m thrilled to be talking with Ann and Sue about their writing partnership, their inspirations for their Tip and Tucker series, and what it’s like living in the same city but two different states.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ann-ingalls-headshot

Meet Ann Ingalls

 

How did you and Sue team up to write the Tip and Tucker series of early readers?

Lucky for me, I met Sue at a local writers’ group. We hit it off right away and realized that we have the same sort of sensibility about writing for children. We write to engage children, to entertain them, and to teach them. With this group of emergent readers for Sleeping Bear, our aim is to teach them to read.

What inspired you to adopt hamsters as the main characters for the series? Are any real incidents from your years as a teacher reflected in the stories?

I had many, many classroom pets—mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, canaries, finches, turtles, fire-bellied toads, loads of fish, salamanders, and the list goes on. My students especially loved having hamsters. Salamanders were the stinkiest. We kept them in a small wading pool and returned them to the ponds they came from after a period of time, usually about 2 weeks.

Your list of countries visited is quite extensive—Australia, the West Indies, Germany, China, Hungary, Peru, Belgium, Guatemala, and so many more! How did you become such a globe-trotter? Can you share any anecdote from one or more of your trips?

I have always loved to travel, beginning with family trips to northern Michigan as a child and a trip to Mexico as an exchange student in college.

One time during a visit to Denmark, I visited an elementary school. I loved seeing that each classroom had its own fruit bowl, and that children go outside for recess even when it rains because they need the exercise and their clothes will dry in the classroom anyway. That same school was attached to a senior care center and the children and adults ate together, read together, and went to recess together.

I’m intrigued by some of your nonfiction titles—Fairy Floss about the invention of cotton candy, J is for Jazz, an alphabetic romp about jazz, and Trails to California about some of the state’s founders. What sparked your interest in these topics, and what do you like best about writing nonfiction?

I am a research nutcase. So often my own curiosity about a particular topic and the reading I do to satisfy that leads me to write a book. That is so very true about the jazz books, a book on piranhas, and even the 8 books on manners I wrote. I now know that if you are walking down the street during a rainstorm with an umbrella and someone else is coming from the opposite direction with an umbrella, the person with the taller or higher umbrella holds it above the lower umbrella as the people pass one another. Who would have thunk it?

The variety of your school presentations sound fantastic! What’s your favorite part of school or other events? Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?

I know what I like best is reading to the children in the group. I like watching their expressions and answering any questions they might have. I also love to play silent Hokey Pokey with them. I came up with the idea for that during a time my students had to wait in long lines to have their pictures taken. It’s still a pretty big hit.

One time during a presentation at a local school, a child in the front row was so attentive. I thought he was really interested in my presentation. When it came time for questions, he asked me if I knew that I had hair in my nose. I thought his teacher would die of embarrassment. We all had a good laugh about it, and I told him that he had hair in his nose, too.

What’s up next for you?

I have a few new manuscripts that are out on submission. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed but have no expectations. If they sell, I’ll celebrate. If they don’t, I’ll keep on writing and revising.

You can connect with Ann Ingalls on

Her website | Twitter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sue-lowell-gallion-headshot

Meet Sue Lowell Gallion

 

It must have been fun collaborating with a friend on this series. What was your process for working together with Ann and crafting the story? Where did Tip and Tucker’s adorable names come from?

Ann and I became critique partners and friends a long time ago. One day, having coffee at a local bagel shop, we started brainstorming characters and story ideas to try writing something together. Einstein Bros. Bagels became our Tip and Tucker headquarters. We do get some funny looks from other customers!

We came up with the personalities of the characters first. Tip’s name emerged early on as we pictured a hamster hiding with just the tip of its tail showing. Ann is very fond of my beloved black lab mix, Tucker, and she suggested that we name our adventurous hamster after my curious pup. I’m not sure how the real Tucker feels about that.

As far as process, we work on a draft together, then head home and start emailing revisions back and forth. I tend to be a procrastinator and Ann’s energetic and prolific. She speeds me up and I slow her down.  All I can say is that it works, thanks to Barb McNally, our wonderful editor at Sleeping Bear Press, and the team there. André Ceolin, who illustrates the series, is the one who brings these two characters and their stories to life. We are enchanted with his work and feel so lucky to be part of this series.

Besides telling a great story, early reader books encourage kids to fall in love with reading while also introducing new vocabulary and sentence structure and giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end. That’s a lot to think about while writing! Where do you start and how do you draft the structure needed?

It’s a challenging form. It’s difficult to work with such a limited vocabulary, plus just a few high-interest words in each book. We also want kids to relate to the animal and human characters and their feelings and experiences. At the same time, we want a lively story arc with humor and great illustration possibilities. The art helps the students in decoding the words. We draft the story first, and then go back and edit, edit, edit. Ann’s deep education background is a huge resource for me. I’ve learned a lot working on these.

Can you talk a little about the Lead to Read program that you’re involved in? What kind of mentoring do you do with students? What kinds of changes and successes do you see in the kids that you mentor?

I’m such a fan of this program. Lead to Read KC organizes community volunteers to read for 30 minutes one-on-one with kids in first, second, and third grade classrooms every week. The goal is to improve third-grade literacy.

I go to my school on Tuesdays at lunchtime along with other volunteers. You work with the same child all year, so you get the opportunity to get to know that student. I love bringing picture books and early readers that might interest them or make them laugh. The student picks out some books from the classroom or from my book bag, and the fun begins.

It’s an absolute thrill to see a student who is struggling with reading experience success. Kudos to all the teachers and librarians who do this critical work every day!

I’d love to see the Lead to Read model replicated all over. There are more than 1,100 volunteers reading every week in Kansas City now. Check it out at leadtoreadkc.org.

You seem to have been born into the writing and publishing business! Can you talk a little about your family’s business, a favorite memory from your childhood, and how it influenced your becoming a writer?

My family had a commercial printing business, so I grew up playing at the plant on Saturday mornings with my sister. We loved to roam around the skids of paper and create things with scraps and rubber cement. We went to work in the bindery and as proofreaders there in the summers when we were teenagers. My sister ended up a writer, too.

Readers know you for your adorable and critically acclaimed Pug Meets Pig and Pug and Pig: Trick or Treat, illustrated by Joyce Wan. Can you share where the idea for this cuddly cute pair came from and the inspiration behind the characters? Can readers look forward to more from Pug and Pig?

Thank you! Joyce Wan is a fabulous book partner along with the whole Beach Lane Books team. The idea for Pug and Pig came from a story a friend told me in a water aerobics class about a family with a pet pug that adopted a pig. I loved the way the words “pug” and “pig” sounded together, and the illustration potential of two round, curly-tailed creatures. I can’t share any details yet, but yes, there’s more to come from Pug and Pig!

What’s up next for you?

Ann and I are at work on book 3 of the Tip and Tucker series, which will come out in 2020. I’ve got several projects in the works that haven’t been announced yet that will come out in the next few years. And I’m looking forward to some solid writing time in the months ahead, as well as lots of school visits in the upcoming year.

And one last question for the two of you!

Ann and Sue share a pretty cool fact! They both live in Kansas City, but the city is divided between Missouri and Kansas. Ann lives on the Missouri side and Sue lives on the Kansas side. In a bit of friendly rivalry, can you each tell me your favorite place in Kansas City and your favorite thing about your state?

ANN: Maybe my favorite place in Kansas City is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I have been there so many times with so many different people. I loved taking my children there when they were small and everything and every space looked large and amazing. They still love to go there. We actually went there to study how to make my son, Kevin’s, Halloween costume as a knight.

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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

SUE: State Line Road actually is just a few blocks from my house. One of my favorite things about Kansas City on both sides of the state line is all of our parks and fountains. Visitors often are surprised that there are so many trees and gardens. We do have hills also!

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Kansas City, Kansas Children’s Fountain

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Carl J Dicapo Fountain in Kansas City, Kansas.

ANN AND SUE: For our friendly rivalry, anyone from Kansas City has a favorite barbecue place. Ann loves Q39 on the Missouri side. My favorite is Brobeck’s on the Kansas side!

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Thanks, Ann and Sue for this fun chat! You’ve definitely made me want to visit Kansas City! I wish you both all the best with all of your books and your upcoming projects!

You can connect with Sue Lowell Gallion on

Her website | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter

Back to School Month Activity

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Fill Your Backpack Game

 

Make sure you’re ready for school with this fun, printable board game! As players take turns rolling the die to acquire supplies for their backpack, they get closer and closer to being prepared. The first player to fill their backpack with all six supplies is the winner!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print one game board and set of playing pieces for each player
  2. Print one playing die
  3. Players can color their backpack game board if they’d like
  4. Cut out individual game cards and give a set to each player
  5. Cut out and assemble playing die
  6. Players roll the die to place items on their backpack
  7. The first player to get all six items is the winner

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You can find Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review