November 10 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress since 1989, Young Readers Week is celebrated during the second week of November to improve literacy and raise awareness of the benefits of reading. Schools participate in setting reading goals for their students who are then rewarded for meeting them. Adults are encouraged to provide a variety of reading materials for their kids – picture books, novels, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, whatever will get them excited about reading. 

Calvin Gets the Last Word

Written by Margo Sorenson | Illustrated by Mike Deas

 

The moment Calvin wakes up, he grabs his dictionary and heads to the kitchen for breakfast. While Calvin may be well-rested, his dictionary tells readers that it is tired. “Why? Because Calvin loves words—I mean REALLY loves words,” the dictionary says. Calvin won’t rest until he’s found the perfect “word for everything—especially his rascally brother.” At breakfast, Calvin has just taken a big gulp of milk. It’s just the moment his brother’s been waiting for to tell his super funny joke. You can imagine what happens—and that’s why the dictionary’s page that contains the word revenge is soaked.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

But is revenge the right word for Calvin’s brother? Not quite. On the school bus as the kids are tossing a backpack, talking, laughing, and hanging over the seats, Calvin’s dictionary offers up mayhem, but that doesn’t completely describe his brother either. As Calvin struggles in geography class and passes notes during library story time, his dictionary helps describe the mood, but those words don’t really apply to his brother. On the way home, though, Calvin does discover a good word for himself when he stands up to a bully and helps a kindergartener.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

At Little League practice, the dictionary reveals, Calvin “loves to crush the ball during batting practice, sending it over the fence. That’s why the page that reads pulverize has grass stains on it.” Could pulverize be the right word for his brother? While Calvin thinks it could be fun, it’s not exactly right.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

That night dinner turns into a repeat of breakfast—only in broccoli green. When Calvin goes to bed, he sits for a while, thinking. Then he grabs his exhausted dictionary and a glass of water and sneaks into his brother’s room. The dictionary thinks it knows what’s going to happen and riffles through its pages to find the right word, unconcerned whether it stays dry or not. And then, there on the page, is the perfect word! But wait, that doesn’t fit because now the brothers are laughing. The dictionary tries flipping to another page and a better word, but Calvin has it beat as he turns the pages and discovers the exact right word to describe his brother. What are all of these words? Come flip through Calvin Gets the Last Word yourself to find out!

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

In her funny and unique mashup of sibling rivalry and vocabulary, Margo Sorenson offers kids an engaging story of the singular type of love brothers share uncovered little by little through word-building. Calvin’s dictionary makes a sincere and charming guide through high-interest words that lend panache and nuance to events throughout Calvin’s day even if they don’t quite describe his brother. Astute kids may notice that the words the dictionary chooses for Calvin’s brother proves his loyalty to his favorite reader. Calvin’s spewed milk, whispered secrets, and home run batting add up to a real kid that readers will love. The words that the dictionary finds are fun to learn and say and will spark an enthusiasm in readers to do their own flipping through the dictionary and thesaurus. Sorenson’s endearing ending rings true with a word kids are sure to embrace.

Mike Deas’ glasses-wearing and sweat suit-clad Calvin, whose dictionary is always at the ready to define his experiences, is a character readers will respond to. Images of the sprayed milk and broccoli, rockin’ school bus, library story rug, and baseball field are full of familiar details and plenty of action. As Calvin prepares to play his trick on his brother Deas gives kids a cutaway view of the house from above, letting them tiptoe through the maze of rooms with Calvin. The final scenes of the brothers checking out the dictionary together in the light of a bedside lamp is sibling devotion at its best.

A delightful family story that can stir a love of language, Calvin Gets the Last Word would be a favorite addition to home libraries. The book is highly recommended for school and classroom bookshelves to enhance language arts, writing, grammar, and vocabulary lessons and for public library collections as well.

Ages 6 – 8

Tilbury House Publishers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0884488224

Discover more about Margo Sorenson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mike Deas, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Young Readers Day Activity

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“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable word search puzzle.

“Big Words” Word Search Puzzle“Big Words” Puzzle Solution!

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You can find Calvin Gets the Last Word at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 17 – National Black Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Black Poetry Day was established in 1985 and commemorates the birth of Jupiter Hammon, the first published African American poet in the United States. Hammon was born into slavery on Long Island, New York, on October 17th, 1711. His poem “An Evening Thought” was first published on Christmas Day when he was 49 years old. Hammon is considered one of the founders of African-American literature. Today’s holiday honors all black poets, past and present. To celebrate today, enjoy poetry from some of our greatest poets, including Maya Angelou, Rita Dove, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovani, Derek Walcott, and, of course, Gwendolyn Brooks – the subject of today’s book.

I received a copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Alice Faye Duncan | Illustrated by Xia Gordon

 

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Sing it loud—a Chicago blues.” This remarkable biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet opens with these soaring lines which introduce eight-year-old Gwendolyn who, seeing a flower in the midst of the city, wonders how it will grow. Already she was observing the world with insight and originality.  “Her head is filled with snappy rhymes. / She writes her poems in dime store journals.” Even something as “simple” as a clock does not escape Gwendolyn’s consideration. In The Busy Clock she writes, in part: “Clock, clock tell the time, / Tell the time to me. / Magic, patient instrument, / That is never free.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Out in the neighborhood, she stands quietly and watches the other kids laughing and playing—girls jumping rope and boys playing basketball. Gwendolyn’s father is a janitor and her mother stays at home with her and her brother, who is also her best friend. Gwen spends her time sitting on her porch, looking and listening to the sounds and the conversations of the neighborhood women and men. The “children call Gwen—‘ol’ stuck-up heifer!’”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Her mother believes. / Her father believes. / But sometimes—Gwendolyn doubts her radiance, / When jarring, crashing, discordant words, / Splotch and splatter her notebook paper.” And what does Gwen do with these poems that just don’t work? She buries them under the snowball bush in the backyard. Once, unbelieving, a teacher accuses Gwendolyn of plagiarism. Her mother takes her daughter back to school, and there on the spot, she composes a poetic answer to the charges: Forgive and Forget. It makes Gwen feel proud, she believes in herself and feels the sun shining on her.

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

During the Great Depression, when jobs and money are scarce, Gwendolyn’s “parents are wise and see her light.” They give her time to write and she hones her words and her craft through draft after draft. With each completed poem, Gwen’s confidence grows. The Chicago Defender publishes some of Gwendolyn’s poems, and now she has an audience. Her parents believe that one day their daughter will be a famous poet.

Soon, Gwendolyn finds her way to a group of poets who meet in a South Side community center. She studies under Inez Stark and meets Henry Blakely, who will become her husband. She enters her poems in contests and wins first place over and over. When she and Henry move into their own two-room apartment, Henry goes to work, leaving Gwendolyn to translate the neighborhood into poetry that she types “in a crowded corner.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers swarm to buy her books. “Gwen paints poems with paintbrush words, / And Gwen takes home a Pulitzer Prize.” Henry and their son celebrate, and Gwen’s parents “…cry tears of joy. / They praise her shine.” For they had always known and had “…Planted love and watered it. / Gwendolyn believed. / She found her light. / And— / A furious flower / GREW!”

An extensive Author’s Note detailing more about the life of Gwendolyn Brooks and her work as well as a timeline and suggested readings follow the text.

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her own sterling verses, Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life of Gwendolyn Brooks—the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature—taking readers to the Chicago neighborhoods that informed and inspired Brooks’ ideas and the words and rhythms with which she defined them. Along an arc that takes Gwendolyn from a child contemplating the potential of a flower to becoming that blossom herself, Duncan pays tribute to those who recognized Gwen’s genius and helped her fulfill her talent. For readers who themselves may be poets, writers, or other types of artists, Duncan’s beautifully crafted phrases about the artistic process of revision are inspirational and welcome. Standing side-by-side with Duncan’s storytelling are four of Brooks’ poems—The Busy Clock, Forgive and Forget, Ambition, and the children of the poor—Sonnet #2. From cover to cover, Duncan’s book sings with Gwendolyn Brooks’ positivity, confidence, individuality, and love for life that made her a unique voice for her time and always.

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From the portrait of Gwendolyn Brooks that graces the title page and throughout the book, Xia Gordon’s distinctive artwork creates a masterpiece of motion and stillness that mirrors Brooks’ penchant for watching and listening to the sounds and sights that filled her mind and ultimately her notebooks. Downy swoops of violets, pinks, browns, and grays provide backdrops to images of Gwendolyn as a young girl and an adult rendered in lines that show her as down to earth but soaring in her thoughts. Her intelligence and spark shine through on every page. Gwendolyn’s parents appear often, always watchful and supportive. Her friends, her husband, her son, and her readers also populate the pages, giving the book an embracing warmth.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a must for school, classroom, and public library collections, and for children who are discovering their talents and the parents who nurture them, the book would be an inspirational and invaluable addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454930884

Discover more about Alice Faye Duncan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Xia Gordon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Black Poetry 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 A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | Indiebound

 

October 13 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Grace Lin’s Storytelling Math Books

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About the Holiday

Today I’m excited to introduce the new Storytelling Math initiative by Charlesbridge with four board books by Grace Lin. Storytelling Math offers books that celebrate children using math in their daily lives as they play, build, collaborate, compromise, and discover the world around them. Each story features characters of color who are empowered to solve problems, enjoy activities, and help out using their knowledge of and experimenting with math. Free downloadable hands-on activity kits are available for each book on the Charlesbridge website. Sharing these joyful stories with your littlest ones and older kids will make them eager to explore, use, and learn more about math every day. You can learn more about Storytelling Math on the Charlesbridge website. And watch this space for more reviews of Storytelling Math books from your favorite authors!

Storytelling Math: Math, Diversity, and the Power of Story was developed with Marlene Kliman at TERC—a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education—under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Thank you to Charlesbridge who sent me copies of Grace Lin’s board books for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

What Will Fit?

By Grace Lin

 

Olivia is at the farmers’ market ready to find a fruit or vegetable that will fill her basket just right. The small beet she tries just rolls around in all the empty space. An apple is bigger, but still too small, and a zucchini doesn’t fit any way Olivia tries. After trying another vegetable that isn’t quite right, Olivia spies a display she thinks might just work. “Hmm…how about a pumpkin?” she thinks. She looks them over, chooses one, and puts it in her basket. “Yay! Just the right size!” she exclaims.

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Following the story, adults and children can explore math with the included discussion on how kids develop spatial sense. Learning how shapes fit together in different ways is an important concept in science, math, and everyday life. Then Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Denver, introduces activities that adults can share with kids to build their spatial awareness. Doing puzzles together, matching pairs of socks, shoes, or other items, and fitting a toy to a box are just a few ideas to try. Using special words – such as above and below, inside and next to, and up, down, and between – while doing daily activities teaches kids about positions, orientation, and other special relationships.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541255

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The Last Marshmallow

By Grace Lin

 

The snow is deep and Olivia and Mei have just come in from building a snowman. They slip out of their boots and warm coats. It’s a perfect time for mugs of hot chocolate—with marshmallows! They make two cups of cocoa and get out “three big marshmallows.” Olivia dunks one marshmallow in her cup. Mei floats one marshmallow in her cup. “There’s one left! Who gets it?” The girls gaze at the marshmallow and think. “I know!” Olivia says. “Pull!” Now the third marshmallow is shared by both Mei and Olivia. “Hooray! Yummy cocoa for both of us!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals that even the youngest children have a sense of what is fair, even before they can count. Sharing can help kids “begin to develop real-world understanding of division and fractions.” Early childhood expert Douglas Clements also provides several Try This! activities to engage children in sharing even and odd numbers of items with two and three people. He reminds adults to listen to a child’s reasoning on how they share and why to discover what they think is fair.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541262

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Up to My Knees!

By Grace Lin

 

It’s springtime and Mei is planting seeds. With “dirt, water, sun, and time, what will happen?” Soon a plant sprouts! The little stem with its two leaves is just poking out of the ground. Mei notices that “it’s as tall as my toe.” She gives her plant “more water, more sun, more days” to grow. It continues to climb past her knees to her waist. Later, Mei measures her plant again. She reaches out her arm and sees that “it reaches my shoulders!” What does summertime bring? A sunflower that is taller than Mei!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” paragraphs discuss how “young children learn about measurement as they compare the sizes of things around them.” Comparing things to their own bodies helps children make sense of using rulers and yardsticks as they get older. Early childhood expert Douglas Clements presents ideas for encouraging children to measure and compare items in relation to their own knees, arms, hands, etc.; compare lengths; and explain how they can tell, for instance, that a “cracker is wider than their hand.” He also reveals examples of vocabulary words that allow kids to think more deeply than simply “big’ or “small” about items and their measurement or size.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541231

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Circle! Sphere!

By Grace Lin

 

Manny, Olivia, and Mei are going to blow bubbles! First they stir up soapy water and get three wands. Manny’s wand is a circle, Olivia’s wand is a triangle, and Mei’s wand is a heart. Manny swishes his wand in the soapy water and blows. “My bubble is a ball—a sphere!” he exclaims. Next, Olivia dips her wand into the soapy water and blows through her triangle wand. “What shape will her bubble be? Another ball!” Perhaps Mei will blow a different shape. Come and see! So many bubbles float in the air! Mei, Olivia, and Manny chase after them. Clap…clap…clap. They “Pop! Pop! Pop!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals how children learn about shapes as they explore everyday objects, such as boxes, tubes, and balls. “These kinds of experiences give children a hands-on foundation for later study of geometry.” Douglas Clements then gives parents and caregivers ideas for activities they can do with their children to enhance their math learning of shapes and how they are used. Clements also encourages adults to talk with their children about shapes and provides vocabulary that will give them the words to express their understanding and thinking about shapes.

Ages Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541248

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At their core, each of these board books by beloved author Grace Lin are sweet stories of three friends having fun throughout the year and exploring life through common experiences, which, just as in real life, hold organic connections to math concepts so important to understanding our world. Adults will love sharing these charming books that blend straightforward ideas with lyrical rhythms that will captivate little ones, make them giggle, and entice them to try filling a basket, blowing bubbles, planting seeds, and eating a marshmallow or two (adults will want to get in on that action too!) all while developing an awareness for relationships that will translate into a stronger understanding of math as they grow older, begin school, and proceed through the grades.

Lin’s brightly colored illustrations and adorable depictions of Olivia, Mei, and Manny playing, reacting, and spending time together will enchant little readers. As the three kids ponder dilemmas, readers can clearly see their intelligence and musings in their thoughtful faces. The images are also infused with the excitement of learning and discovery. The page spreads in each book incorporate other aspects of math as well, such as patterns, matching, and shapes plus opportunities for counting, talking about colors, and engaging with science.

Outstanding books to give as gifts for baby showers, new babies, or special events, What Will Fit?, The Last Marshmallow, Up to My Knees!, and Circle! Sphere! would make an often-read and -used set for home bookshelves and are musts to enhance any school and public library board book collection.

You can learn more about the Storytelling Math Books and find downloadable Activity Kits on the Charlesbridge website.

Discover more about Grace Lin and her books on her website.

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You can find The Last Marshmallow at these booksellers

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

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You can find Up to My Knees! at these booksellers

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

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You can find Circle! Sphere! at these booksellers

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

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You can find What Will Fit? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 17 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

For kids, going back to school means new art projects and using their creativity and ingenuity. For many it also means getting to know a new class pet or sharing their school day at home with a beloved furry or feathered friend. In today’s book the two are combined in a sweet and funny beginning reader – the third book in the kid-favorite Tip and Tucker series.

Tip and Tucker Paw Painters

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

 

It’s art week in Mr. Lopez’s class, and the kids are choosing between painting with marbles and building with boxes—or doing both. The colors of paint available are listed on the whiteboard in English and Spanish. Emma picks up her marble as Tucker, one of the class’s hamsters, peeks over the top of his cage at all those boxes.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jayden has chosen to paint with marbles too. “He drops it in the green paint. ‘Now drop it on the paper,’ says Mr. Lopez.” Jayden puts a sheet of paper in his box and drops the green-painted marble on top. He “tilts the box up and down.” A squiggly line snakes around Jayden’s paper. “‘Everyone can be an artist,’ says Mr. Lopez.”

Emma and Pim are making a rocket with the boxes. It’s a special rocket to go in Tip and Tucker’s cage. Tucker climbs up the outside of the rocket while Tip scurries inside. They watch the class go to recess. Tucker wants Tip to join him at the top of the rocket, but when he gets there, “the rocket tips. The hamsters tumble.” They “BUMP! THUMP!” onto the tabletop.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tucker inspects a cup of paint, and when he looks up his whiskers are blue. Tip topples a cup of purple paint. “Now Tip’s paws are purple!” Both Tip and Tucker run away, leaving “paw prints here. There. Everywhere!” When the class returns from recess, they find a big mess, but no hamsters. “‘Follow the paw prints,’ says Pim.” The paw prints lead Carlos to his nibbled painting and Mr. Lopez to his nibbled lunch bag.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But what, the kids wonder, is that crunching sound coming from inside the bag? Tip and Tucker wonder what that noise is that’s coming from outside the bag. Tucker “peeks out of the bag. Tip peeks too.” The class goes to work cleaning their room—and Tip and Tucker. While the hamsters settle in for a nap, Mr. Lopez hangs the students’ marble paintings, including one decorated with tiny paw prints. Then the class goes to lunch. In the quiet room, Tip wakes up Tucker and points to the wall. “Sleepy Tucker looks. ‘We are artists too!’ Tip says.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tip and Tucker, back at school in their third adventure, are as cute and mischievous as ever. Children who are beginning to read independently will be charmed by Ann Ingalls’ and Sue Lowell Gallion’s tiny duo who make a big mess while the class is away in this high-interest and humorous story that also introduces an easy, satisfying art project to do in school or at home. For beginning readers, the authors’ short sentences, dialogue, and repeated words and phrases build confidence while instilling an appreciation for the fun of reading. As clues are dropped and suspense increases, fans of the series will eagerly read each page to discover what their favorite class pets get up to this time. Their funny discovery and the responses of the children are endearing, and the addition of Tip and Tucker’s work of art on the classroom wall reinforces the story’s themes of creativity and inclusion.

Readers will enthusiastically welcome back André Ceolin’s adorable Tip and Tucker and be happy to rejoin Mr. Lopez’s class with their friends Pim, Jayden, Emma, Carlos, and the others. Little Tucker with his blue whiskers and Tip with his purple paws will melt kids’ hearts, and their willy-nilly dash around the classroom is sure to bring on the giggles. Ceolin clearly depicts the concepts presented in the text on each page so that beginning readers can make the association between perhaps unknown words and their meaning. Images of the children’s happy faces as they create their art projects and cooperate in cleaning up contrast with their shock upon seeing their messy classroom and nibbled papers and their concern for Tip and Tucker. Tip and Tucker also display feelings of curiosity, joy, and surprise. These portrayals help kids explore their emotions and learn how to navigate new experiences.

Sure to captivate new and beginning readers, Tip and Tucker Paw Painters is one to add to your home, classroom, or public library collection. Check out the other I Am a Reader: Tip and Tucker books as well as an interview with Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion here:

Tip and Tucker Road Trip | Tip and Tucker Hide and Squeak | Interview

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110991 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534111004 (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.

You can learn more about André Ceolin and find a portfolio of his work on his website.

Back to School Month Activity

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Marble Painting with Tip and Tucker Paw Painters Activity Sheet

 

You can make a marble painting just like the kids in Mr. Lopez’s class with these printable directions from Sleeping Bear Press. And… you can even get as messy as Tip and Tucker!

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Get your activity sheet here: Tip and Tucker Paw Painters Activity Sheet

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You can find Tip and Tucker Paw Painters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

August 9 – National Book Lover’s Day

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About the Holiday

Simply stated this is a day when those who love to read can indulge their passion. With so many amazing books available—both new and old—no one could fault you if you call in sick and spend the day reading!

Ralph Tells a Story

By Abby Hanlon

 

“‘Stories are everywhere!’” Ralph’s teacher sang to her class, but Ralph wasn’t so sure. He didn’t see stories anywhere. It seemed the other kids could make up stories from everything that happened to them, and Ralph’s teacher loved these stories. But when it came time to write, Ralph just stared at his paper or at the ceiling; he could never think of anything. He tried distractions like going to the bathroom or the water fountain, but it didn’t work.

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

One day Ralph asked his friend Daisy for help. She was surprised that Ralph couldn’t write a story because she had written a bunch about him. One was about the time she combed his hair and another was about when he painted his fingernails black with a marker. In fact she was just stapling all these stories together into a book. Ralph wanted to use the stapler too, but Daisy said he needed a story first.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-classroom

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Ralph “looked for stories out the window, in the aquarium, in [his] desk…and even on the floor.” Lying on the floor reminded Ralph of a time at the park when an inchworm crawled on his knee. Just then his teacher saw him and asked what his story was about. Ralph said the first thing he thought: “Um…um…I saw an inchworm.” His teacher thought that sounded marvelous. But really, Ralph thought, there was no story to tell.

And when Ralph sat down to write it, he immediately got stuck. He asked Daisy to help, but she was too busy writing her own story. Suddenly, the teacher called everyone up to the rug, and she picked Ralph to read his story first. Ralph got up and, clutching his paper to his chest, said, “‘I was at the park and an inchworm crawled on my knee.’” He looked out at the quiet faces gazing up at him.

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Ralph looked at Daisy. She said, “‘Wow! Really? Did it feel squishy, Ralphie? Did you take it home?’” Then everyone started asking questions, and Ralph remembered that something had happened with the inchworm. He began to tell about the day. He had picked up the inchworm and named him Nick. He had “built Nick a house but he just inched away.” Ralph followed Nick and never noticed the baby following him until the baby picked up Nick and put him in his diaper.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-incheworm-story

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Ralph asked the baby to give Nick back, but he didn’t. Then Ralph saw Nick escaping from the diaper by crawling up the baby’s belly. He grabbed Nick and ran, and they spent the day playing together. At the end “everybody clapped and cheered” and they wanted to see Ralph’s picture.

Now Ralph is a great writer. He’s written one hundred funny stories and has even drawn covers for some of his favorites. Do you need help writing? Take a few tips from Ralph! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-story-rug

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Abby Hanlon’s story of a would-be storyteller with writer’s block is as cute as they come. Ralph’s angst at not finding the stories that his classmates seem to pop out so easily will be recognized by anyone who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to their endeavors. With gentle humor, Hanlon shows readers that putting oneself out there often turns out okay. Ralph’s inchworm story will keep kids riveted to and giggling over Nick’s fate. Through Daisy, Hanlon also reveals how a good friend can help encourage the kinds of self-confidence that lead to success. Ralph’s writing tips are lighthearted and helpful in getting kids to relax, appreciate their own real-life stories, and open their imaginations.

Hanlon’s soft-hued illustrations of a group of adorable, rakish kids draw readers in to Ralph’s creative classroom. Once there, children will want to linger over all the details included. Comics-style dialog bubbles hold humorous asides as well as Ralph’s developing inchworm story. The titles of Ralph’s many stories many inspire kids to make up tales to go with them.

Ralph Tells a Story would be a fantastic classroom book to share during a story-writing unit and a fun addition to home bookshelves for anyone who needs a little encouragement or who loves a funny story.

Ages 5 – 8

Two Lions, 2012 | ISBN 978-0761461807

National Book Lovers Day Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love books then you will love this printable Bookworm Bookmark! Just print it out, give it some color, and cut a slit at the mouth. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-cover

You can find Ralph Tells a Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 27 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! and ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-cover-English

About the Holiday

It’s always a cause for celebration when a new book joins the Small Talk Books series family! The partnership of Ellen Mayer and Ying-Hwa Hu has created adorable books aimed at bringing joy and teachable moments to everyday chores and time spent with little ones. To see more books in the series, visit Star Bright Books.

Much thanks to Star Bright Books for sending me a copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! 

¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu | Translated by Eida Del Risco

 

A little one “Oohs” while nestled in Mama’s arms, letting her know how uncomfortable they feel. With a sweet smile, Mama echoes her baby’s “Ooh-ooh!” and begins a reassuring conversation: “‘You want a clean diaper, don’t you?’” she says. She takes her baby to the changing table and turns the baby’s fretting into smiles and giggles as she lovingly talks, plays, and sings with her little one. As she gently cleans her baby’s bottom, Mom sings her own version of a favorite classic. “‘Twinkle, twinkle, diaper you–– / Clean your bottom, no more poo.’” Baby laughs and kicks her feet as Mama and the soothing wipes make everything better.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-clean

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Engaging her baby with eye contact, smiles, and full-sentence descriptions of what she is doing, while mirroring baby’s facial expressions and sounds, Mama turns the frequent job of diapering into a fun bonding and learning experience for both. As she finishes up, she says, “‘Let’s close your diaper up—SNIP, SNUP. What a big smile, Baby. And I’m smiling too,’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-smile

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

After Baby is all clean and freshly diapered, Mom takes a minute to share extra quality time with her precious little one – “‘Ready, Sweet Baby…? Here comes a tummy smooch!’” – and continue her song: “‘Twinkle, twinkle, diaper do– / Kiss on tummy, just for you.’” What does Baby have to say? A very satisfied, “‘OOOOOH!’” Then, as big sister peeks over the edge of the table, it’s time for cuddly pajamas and, finally, snuggling on the couch with family, a book, and a last twinkling verse.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-family-bilingual-version

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A Note for Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers by Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on language and literacy development in young children, reveals the important connection between talking, singing, and playing with babies and their language learning. Bardige goes on to provide tips for interacting with your child and following their cues as well as for how to share this book with little ones.

Ellen Mayer’s newest addition to her Small Talk Books series is a charming story that little ones will eagerly respond to and which can help parents turn diaper time into a joyful experience full of opportunities for language and literacy development. Mayer’s clever take on the kid-favorite Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, is infectious and fun for adults to sing while reading with their baby and while diapering. Sweet endearments, playful words, and even a tummy kiss realistically reflect the loving relationship parents and caregivers share with their little ones.

Children love and respond positively to routine, and the frequency of diaper changing makes this one of babies’ first familiar experiences. Adding parental conversation, songs, smiles, and mirroring of the child’s sounds, expressions, and motions to the dedicated time diapering takes creates a rich educational environment for baby to listen to caregivers and begin the basic foundations of language learning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-kick-bilingual-version

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

In ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! the story is charmingly translated into Spanish by Eida Del Risco. Spanish verses share two-page spreads with the English translation, providing a rich reading experience for native Spanish speakers, bilingual families, and those parents interested in teaching their children Spanish.

Mayer’s storytelling in Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! as in all of the books in her series depicts realistic conversation that even the youngest babies will recognize while modeling words and simple, but meaningful sentences for adults to share with little ones. As readers grow, they will be happy to join in on the story by repeating the baby’s coos and actions. Sharing the book with toddlers who are not yet potty trained can give them an opportunity to explain to parents the steps of diaper changing—an exercise that strengthens body awareness, memory, vocabulary, sequencing awareness, and language skills.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s bright illustrations, sprinkled with silver stars that glitter on the page, will delight little readers. Her clean lines and soothing color palette create a pleasing backdrop to familiar details that give adults plenty to point out and name while reading. The centerpiece of each page is the relationship between mother and child and reflects actions, such as making eye and physical contact, that enhance a child’s learning and self-confidence. Hu’s adorable baby giggles and belly laughs as Mama smiles and talks lovingly while changing and then cuddling her little one. The appearance of the baby’s big sister (perhaps still using diapers herself, or recently transitioned to underwear), makes this a book that will appeal to a wide range of ages. The final spread of the baby’s family reading and cuddling together is heartwarming.

A delightful book for parents and caregivers to share with babies and toddlers, Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! makes a sparkling baby shower or new baby gift as well as a perfect addition to home, daycare, preschool, and public library board book and parenting collections. The book will also appeal to older children who have babies in the family or enjoy playing with their dolls.

Ages Birth – 3

Star Bright Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1595728937 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595728944 (Spanish/English bilingual edition)

 About the Author

Ellen Mayer is a writer with a background in early childhood and parent education. She has worked as a researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, studying family engagement in children’s learning. She has also worked as an early literacy home visitor with a diverse community of families, supporting young children in early language development through book sharing and play. Ellen held a writing fellowship for Math Picture Book Authors, from the Heising-Simons Foundation, and is a visiting author with the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative of the Somerville, MA Public Schools. Ellen writes her children’s books to entertain and educate both children and the adults who read to them. She holds an M.Phil. in Sociology from Columbia University. You can connect with Ellen Mayer  on her website.

About the Illustrator

Ying-Hwa Hu is an award-winning illustrator. Her work has been exhibited at the Bologna Book Fair and The Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two children. You can connect with Ying-Hwa Hu on her website.

Twinkle Twinkle, Diaper You! and ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! Giveaways

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I’m excited to partner with Star Bright Books in two giveaways. 

One entrant will win:

  • One (1) copy of, Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!, written by Ellen Mayer | illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu and a baby beanie knitted by Ellen Mayer

A second entrant will win:

  • One (1) copy of ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! written by Ellen Mayer | illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu | translated by Eida Del Risco and a baby beanie knitted by Ellen Mayer

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Follow Ellen Mayer
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your baby’s favorite song for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from July 27 – August 3 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 4. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Star Bright Books

Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! Book Birthday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-mobile-craft

Twinkle, Twinkle Star Mobile Craft

 

A mobile hanging over a baby’s crib or diaper-changing table engages little ones with its movement, colors, and shapes. With this craft, you can create a twinkly mobile for your baby!

Supplies

  • Printable Star Templates: 2- and 3-inch Stars | Variety of Star Sizes
  • Wooden flat floral frame with eight holes around the rim, available at craft stores. Alternatively, an embroidery hoop or wire floral frame can be used.
  • White 1/8-inch by 10-yard ribbon, or color of your choice
  • 2 or 3 Yellow adhesive foam glitter sheets. (You will need 3 stars to make each 3D star on the mobile.)
  • 2 or 3 Silver adhesive foam glitter sheets. (You will need 3 stars to make each 3D star on the mobile.)
  • Medium sized wooden or plastic beads
  • Small to medium size metal, wood, or sturdy plastic ring for the hanger (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print and cut out star templates
  2. Decide on a pattern for your stars and how many stars of each color you will need. (You will need 3 stars to make each 3D star on the mobile.)
  3. Trace stars onto yellow and silver foam
  4. Cut out stars
  5. Cut 8 varying lengths of ribbon, including 16 to 19 inches for gathering above the rim and tying at the top

To Make Hanger and Prepare Ribbons

  1. Feed ribbon through each hole in the frame, pulling through 16 to 19 inches (or amount desired)
  2. Gather ribbon together at top, loop, and tie a knot to make a hanger. If desired, tie and knot ribbon around a metal, wood, or sturdy plastic ring to make the hanger.
  3. To keep rim in place, feed a bead onto the ribbon up to the bottom of the frame. Tie a knot in the ribbon to secure the bead against the rim

To Make 3D Stars

  1. Pick three foam stars and fold them in half lengthwise to create a crease
  2. Remove the paper backing
  3. Choose two stars and while keeping the creases in place, match and stick together one arm, one leg, and half of the top point of two stars
  4. Carefully position the ribbon down the middle of the two stars, and while keeping the creases in place, add the third star. You will match and stick together the left arm and leg of this last star to the left-hand star and the right arm and leg to the right-hand star. Push together in the middle to maintain the creases all around the star.

To Make Flat Stars

  1. Take two foam stars and remove the paper backing
  2. Lay the ribbon down the middle of one star
  3. Attach the second star on top

Repeat with each star, staggering them along the ribbons by color and size

Hang your mobile!

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You can find Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-MillionBookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-cover-Spanish

You can find ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 23 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-cover

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-toys

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-farm

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-artwork

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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-cover

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