December 2 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both December and September have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also a great time to think about adding books to those gift lists!

The B on Your Thumb: 60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling

Written by Colette Hiller | Illustrated by Tor Freeman

 

One of the joys of books for little ones is sitting with a parent, teacher, or other caregiver and listening to the story play out with wonder, silliness, sadness, and a whole world of feelings. Hearing the words and sentences, it all makes sense. But when kids start reading, start really looking at the words, well…all of those vowel combinations, silent letters, words that sound the same but look completely different, words that look completely different but sound the same… it can get confusing!

And that’s where Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman’s book of poetry comes in handy. Sixty poems covering the topics of spelling and pronunciation are broken out into four categories—Sounds, Silent Letters and Secrets, Spellings, and Words that Sound the Same—that make understanding the written English language easier and more fun to learn. With this ditty, Hiller welcomes kids in to this delightful book: “Some letters sound as they are meant to. / Other letters change. / They sometimes make surprising noises. / English can be strange!”

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One of the first sounds a baby hears may be a gentle “sh.” Encountering this consonant combination on the page, though, can seem daunting. Ssss and Huh? Hiller gives a hand in pronouncing it though, with a little intro to the two letters on their own and then… “S and H go sh, / that is what they do. / The sh that’s in your shoulder, the sh that’s in your shoe.” She then goes on to add a few more lines with familiar “sh” words that will make kids “shout!”

With clever versus that will bring on many giggles and even more “Ah-ha” moments, Hiller and Freeman introduces kids to the sounds that vowel combinations “o-u,” “o-i,” “a-i,” “o-a,” “e-e,” and “o-o” make with a sad U that’s just struck “out,” and a cheering crowd that invites them to join in chanting “oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi,oi!” There’s also a train filled with rain, a goat in love with a toad, a treed cheetah, and of course the man in the moon.

Hiller doesn’t forget about those perfectly matched consonant couples either. She relates the story of how Q and U fell in love in a queue; goes shopping with Mrs. Owl for a new gown and crown; and takes on that “bossy E” who always takes over when together with A. There are many more poems about letter combinations in this section as well, and each one is loaded with examples of words that incorporate those letters.

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In the chapter Silent Letters and Secrets, Hiller engages readers in the finer arts of the silent B in “doubt” and “thumb.” In the book’s title poem, she says, “Look, there’s a B / right there on your thumb, / but of course you shouldn’t mind… / For the B that you see / right there on your thumb / is not the stinging kind!” Silent K gets two poems of its own and silent W comes knocking in two more poems. She investigates that mysterious “h” in where, what, why, and when as well as the equally mysterious pair “g-h” in words like night and sight. Kids will also enjoy finding hidden words lurking in longer words.

Now, reading may be one thing, but spelling? At times that seems like something all together different. In the chapter Spellings, Hiller teaches kids some tricks of the trade. In her poem “Magical E,”  “Magical E / has magical might. / See how she turns / a kit to a kite…. / Abracadabra: / a cap is a cape! / She hops on a tub. / Now the tub is a tube. / Abracadabra… / A dud is a dude!” Readers discover rhymes that make it easier to remember unusual spellings in words such as “separate, important, and rhyme as well as that old favorite “I before E except after C” that includes a twist.

Colette Hiller finishes up with Words that Sound the Same. In “Two, Too, and To,” she explains the difference in those three little words that often trip us up and gives tips on remembering them. “Witch” and “which,” “here” and “here,” “whole” and “hole,” and “whether” and “weather” are also treated to poems of their own. 

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In each poem, the subject letters are called out in a bright color that allows kids to make the connection between the combinations of letters and how they contribute to the structure of a word visually and in sound. Following the poems, Hiller includes detailed tips and fun exercises and activities that adults and kids can do together to enhance learning from poem to poem and when reading classroom assignments and books and other materials at home.

Colette Hiller nimbly navigates the dual desires to teach and entertain with her jaunty rhymes that are ingenious, witty, and clear examples of how words sound and are pronounced. When shared with children reading along, the poems reinforce how each word looks with their sometimes-confusing mix of letters. When education is this humorous and joyful, kids will beg to read “just one more” which, of course, means better literacy, success in school, and opportunities in the future.

Accompanying each poem are Tor Freeman’s whimsical and hilarious illustrations of adorable letters interacting with people taking showers, fleeing from a wily cheetah, waiting in a queue, and even flying a car in outer space. There are also chimpanzees eating cheese sandwiches, a cat doing calisthenics, and an ant learning a lesson in importance. And, of course, there are letters, letters, letters rowing a boat, deigning to give audience to a princess, dining in a haunted castle, and cavorting from page to page and poem to poem.

A rousing collection of poems that kids will love on their own and as inspirational learning tools in language arts lessons, The B on Your Thumb is highly recommended for homeschoolers and home bookshelves and a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711254602

You can download a Teacher’s Guide with pre- and post-reading discussion questions, a writing activity and a word play activity on the Quarto Knows website.

Discover more about Colette Hiller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tor Freeman, her books, and her art on her website.

National Read a New Book Day Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

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

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You can find The B on Your Thumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 12 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Established in 1989 by the Center for the Book and Pizza Hut as a way to celebrate reading and invite kids and adults to discover the fun and benefits of reading, Young Readers Week is a favorite on any book-lovers’ calendar. Bringing together businesses, schools, families, and libraries, the Book It! program offers encouragement and resources to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find activities, printables, reading trackers, and other resources for schools and families, visit the Book It! program website.

Thank you to Roaring Brook Press for sending me a digital copy of Ronan the Librarian for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Tara Luebbe in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Ronan the Librarian

Written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie | Illustrated by Victoria Maderna

 

With his skills for invading, raiding, and trading, Ronan was a great leader of his barbarian community. “Ronan was legendary for finding the best pillage… until one raid went horribly wrong.” The traders took one look at the book he’d brought back and turned away. After all “barbarians didn’t read books.” Ronan contemplated all the ways he could use this “useless thing” and had finally settled on toilet paper, when he caught sight of a picture and was hooked.

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Image copyright Victoria Maderna, 2020, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2020. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

He was still reading the next morning when his raiding partners came to find out where he was. “‘Ronan, you dunga! What are you doing?’ asked Gunnar.” When they found out he was reading, Helgi thought he’d gone berserk. So he joined the crew on the day’s raid, but once they were done, he didn’t stick around for the trading, but hurried home to read some more.

Now whenever Ronan raided took the books while the other barbarians hauled away the gold and silver and jewels. Now he read at home and on the job, and his collection of books grew so enormous that formed tall, precarious stacks all over his house.

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Image copyright Victoria Maderna, 2020, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2020. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

But Ronan was not only a reading barbarian, he was a smart barbarian. He took all of those books and built a library. How did the other barbarians like his grand opening? They loved… the refreshments. “‘Uff da! I must conquer my own village,’ he declared.”

One day he looked around at his busy villagers and began to read a thrilling tale about Odin aloud. But this story didn’t make a dent in the din. The next morning, Ronan went to his library only to find that it had been invaded… and raided. Barbarians young and old sat on the floor with book, clung to the shelves with books, and clutched armloads of books. It turned out that “barbarians do read books.”

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Image copyright Victoria Maderna, 2020, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2020. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s clever old, old world tale will delight both avid and reluctant readers with hilarious dialogue, rambunctious characters, and enough invading and raiding to satisfy any little barbarian. Ronan’s conversion from raider to reader—complete with puns and fun-to-say words like “dunga” and “uff da”—is sure to entice reluctant readers to discover the joy of reading, and book lovers will cheer when the villagers embrace the new library.

Victoria Maderna’s laugh-out-loud illustrations shine with piles of gold, silver, jewels and other shiny pillage as well as kid-pleasing details that will bring on plenty of giggles. Late-night book-sneakers will appreciate the images of Ronan so busy reading in bed that he forgets to put on pajamas or even take off his shoes and trying to share his enthusiasm with his fellow barbarians. These long-haired villagers, decked out in fur and spikes and sporting Viking helmets are a tough bunch who ride wild boars to pillage, sail the wild seas, and… wear fuzzy wild boar slippers.

Kids will love keeping an eye out for the page-nibbling goat and Ronan’s constant companion (a raven that alludes to Poe’s famous poem?). Maderna’s dramatic rendering of the story of Odin that so fascinates the barbarians may well inspire children to invade their own libraries—just like a barbarian.

A treasure for all young readers, Ronan the Librarian will be a favorite for rollicking story times and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1250189219

Discover more about sisters Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and their books on their website.

To learn more about Victoria Maderna, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Ronan the Librarian Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Tara Luebbe in a giveaway of

One (1) signed copy of Ronan the Librarian, written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie | illustrated by Victoria Maderna

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with what you love about your library for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from November 12 to November 17 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 18. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Tara Leubbe

Young Readers Week Activity

CPB - Bookmobile

Bookmobile Craft

 

Bookmobiles are love on wheels! If libraries are some of your favorite places, you’ll like making this bookmobile from a recycled box! You can even use it as a desk organizer!

Supplies

  • Printable Book Shelves and Sign Template
  • Cardboard box, 16-oz pasta or other recyclable boxes work well (I used a 5” x 7 ¼ -inch pasta box)
  • Small wooden spools or wheels
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

1.Gently pull the box apart at the seam and lie flat with the unprinted side facing up

2. To Make the Awning:

  • On one of the wide sides of the box, measure a rectangle 1 inch from the top of the box, leaving at least 1 ¼ inches at the bottom of the box and 1 ¼ inches on both sides
  • With the x-acto knife or scissors cut the sides and bottom of the rectable, leaving the top  uncut
  • Paint the top and underside of the awning (if you want to make stripes on the awning lay strips of tape side by side across the awning. Remove every other strip of tape. Paint the open stripes one color of paint. When the paint dries replace the tape over the paint and remove the tape from the unpainted stripes. Paint those stripes a different color.)

3. Paint the rest of the box on the unprinted side any way you like, let dry

4. Cut the Printable Book Shelf template to fit the size of your window opening, leaving at least a ½ inch margin all around

5. Tape the book shelf to the inside of the window

6. Reconstruct the box, making the original seam an inside flap

7. Glue the flap and sides together

8. If using small spools for wheels, paint them black. Let dry

9. Glue the wheels to the bottom of the box

10. Attach the Bookmobile sign, found on the printable template, above the awning

To Make a Desk Organizer from the Bookmobile, cut an opening in the top of the bookmobile with the x-acto knife or a scissor

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You can find Ronan the Librarian at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

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

 

November 3 – It’s Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s observance was established in 1994 to promote family and community involvement in teaching and supporting children to read more. Literacy really does begin at home during those cuddly moments when you and your child share a book. Reading with kids from birth helps them develop the skills to become proficient readers and instills a life-long love for books of all kinds. Even before babies can talk, they’re listening and learning, and as they grow children continue to love spending special times with parents and grandparents hearing stories and discovering the world through books. Interactive board books like the three I’m reviewing today are a great place to start!

Sharing

By Yusuke Yonezu

 

Pairs of adorable animals engage little readers in helping them with a big problem. They only have one piece of food but they’re both so hungry! How can the two kittens eat one fish? Turn the page and a cleverly placed die cut allows the one fish to be shared between the kittens. “Now we each get some,” they say with wide smiles. Two bunnies… one carrot? What to do? Kids will love turning the page so that each bunny can take half.

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Copyright Yusuke Yonezu, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Instead of squabbling over one banana or one apple, the monkeys and the piglets are happy to discover that they can “split it instead.” After all, “half is better than none.” But what if two siblings both “want Mommy?” No worries! Just flip that page! “Now we can all share a hug!”

Yusuke Yonezu’s sweet interactive board book presents a gentle message about sharing that little ones will have fun participating in. Ingeniously designed two-page spreads create a rich learning experience. Yonezu’s storytelling provides a different vocabulary to express the idea of sharing on each page spread. Being introduced to these words here invites kids to listen and understand when adults use them.

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Copyright Yusuke Yonezu, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Visually, Sharing is fun and exciting for young readers. On the left, the text appears on a vivid solid background which matches the color of the food item on the facing page. When children turn the page, each animal now has their own page and half of the food item, thanks to a specifically shaped die cut. Yonezu’s animals are adorable, and their simply drawn faces clearly express the emotions of sadness, puzzlement, and happiness, which allows adults to talk about these feelings with children. The final example addresses another common family conundrum and shows that there is always enough love to go around.

A delightful way to introduce the joy of sharing with family and friends, Sharing would make a go-to book for teaching this important skill to preschoolers in home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-1662650000

You can find Sharing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-very-hungry-wolf-cover

A Very HUNGRY Wolf

By Agnese Baruzzi

 

Looking for a way to get your little one (and maybe even older kids) to eat their fruit and vegetables? Open up Agnese Baruzzi’s story wide and watch the laughs tumble out of readers as they also begin to think that maybe those carrots, peas, bananas, plums, and—yes—even broccoli aren’t so bad. How does Baruzzi accomplish this feat? With a long-snouted, insatiably hungry wolf that eats every animal that comes near with a “CHOMP, CHOMP, down it went!”

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Copyright Agnese Baruzzi, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

When that innocent red bird hops the wolf’s way, with the lift of a flap the wolf opens his jaws, bares his sharp, white teeth and… “CHOMP, CHOMP, down it went!” Squirrel? Yep! Swallowed right down. A couple more unsuspecting meals come by, “but it wasn’t enough. The wolf still felt hungry.” Then the wolf meets a morsel that turns out not to be so tasty. The wolf turns queasy, but kids know what he should do. “Oh wolf, spit them out!” With nothing now in his belly, the wolf needs something… anything… to satisfy him. “What do you think he should eat?” Those fruits and vegetables are looking mighty delicious….

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Copyright Agnese Baruzzi, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Agnese Baruzzi will make kids laugh all the way to the healthy food with her witty repetition that will have them reading along with verve and plenty of dramatic Chomp, Chomping. Vibrant colors, smiling animals, and a determined, beady-eyed wolf add up to full engagement. And when the wolf realizes he’s made a mistake, kids will giggle at his distressed expression and answer the call for help coming from the wolf’s tummy.

Definitely a book to add to your shelf at home, school, or public library, A Very HUNGRY Wolf will be an often-asked for favorite.

Ages 2 – 4

Minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342051

You can find A Very Hungry Wolf at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-masquerade-party-cover

Masquerade Party

By Giuliano Ferri

 

The fun starts on the front cover when little readers are met by Little Red Ridinghood… or is it? When they lift the flap, They discover “Oh no, it’s the wicked wolf!” Well… this wolf looks too cute to be bad. Let’s see who else is inside. Yo ho ho! There’s a pirate brandishing a sword.  “Who is this plucky pirate? / It’s a playful pig.” Watch out for the “cuddly cowboy” who’s about to lasso you with this rope. Wait! It’s just “a brilliant bunny playing dress up.

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Copyright Giuliano Ferri, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Have a wish? You need a “sly sorcerer.” Check under the turban to see who will grant your wish. Little ones will also discover who is dressed up as a handsome hero, wondrous wizard, and noble knight. Which brings us round again to a wily wolf…with a basket and red collar? Who is that really?

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Copyright Giuliano Ferri, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Giuliano Ferri infuses his lift-the-flap board book with playfulness and strong literacy-building vocabulary and alliteration that will enchant young readers and make them proud to know fun-to-say words like “plucky,” “sly,” and “wondrous.” Ferri’s soft, smudgy illustrations are cuddliness at its best. While each animal’s face is partially hidden by a fancy, well-embellished hat and mask, clues to their real identity are found in their paws or feet, noses, and face shape, and little ones will love guessing who’s playing firefighter, cowboy, and all the rest. The circular storytelling that brings kids back to Little Red Riding Hood will delight kids.

A fun book to share with kids, especially babies, Masquerade Party would make a great take-along book for outings or anywhere waiting is expected.

Ages 2 – 4

Minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342068

You can find Masquerade Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

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

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You can find Up to My Knees! at these booksellers

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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

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Picture Book Review

 

September 30 – National Teach Spanish Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its first anniversary this year, National Teach Spanish Day was established by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) to promote the profession of teaching Spanish, raise awareness of the shortage of Spanish teachers for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and to emphasize the importance of Spanish as a world language. For more information, visit the AATSP website.

Today I’m featuring a collection of Spanish/English bilingual board books that teach little ones Spanish and English words for numbers and other concepts as well as nursery rhymes. With bright colors and charming characters, these books make language learning fun. These books would make excellent gifts for baby showers, new babies, and any young learner. The series would enhance any child’s home library and is highly recommended for school and public library collections. To learn more, visit the Canticos website.

Thanks to Encantos for sending me their latest bilingual board books for little learners for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

Bilingual Firsts Series

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Feelings

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

For little ones, learning about feelings and how to recognize various facial expressions aids their social-emotional development and helps them manage their emotions and have empathy for others – skills that will benefit them in school, with family, and as they engage with the world. In this chunky board book, kids discover eleven emotions, including happy, sad, excited, brave, surprised, confused, and proud.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Each feeling is written in English and Spanish. On the facing page, adorable depictions of the feeling lifts to reveal a more exaggerated portrayal of the emotion along with a prompt for little ones to recreate the expression themselves. For example: “Can you show me a happy face?” / ¿Puedes poner una cara feliz?”

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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First 100 Words

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In vivid, two-page spreads Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross introduce kids to one hundred common words from nature/naturaleza, transportation/transporte, school/escuela, sports/deportes, music/música, the beach/playa, / the ocean/océano, a party/fiesta, home/hogar, the kitchen/cocina, and the bedroom/dormitorio.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Abigail Gross’s fun-packed and detailed illustrations that clearly show each item and its name in English and Spanish will excite little ones to learn both languages. The first book in the Bilingual First Series, this board book is one you’ll want to carry along as you go shopping, to the park, on walks, and elsewhere to refer to and enhance your child’s language learning.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635298

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Letters A to Z

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In beautiful two-page spreads, Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross teach kids one English word with its Spanish translation and one Spanish word with its English translation for each letter of the alphabet. Spanish letter combinations Ch and Ll as well as Ñ are also included.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Bold imagery allows children to clearly identify the meaning of each word, and the chicks, bunnies, elephants, and other familiar characters are, as always, enthusiastic and encouraging friends that will captivate children as they learn.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635335

 

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Numbers 1 to 100

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

From 1 sun to 100 raindrops, little learners will love counting along with the cute chicks, frogs, elephants, and bunnies as they gather in groups and present kid-favorite items, such as bubbles, presents, butterflies, and candy that young children can easily point to as they count. After numbers 1 through 10, kids count by tens from 20 to 100. All numbers and the names of the items appear in English and Spanish.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635328 (Available for preorder)

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Opposites

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

Learning opposites with the sweet characters in this Cantícos series will have little ones giggling as they discover pairs like “Loud / Ruidoso” and “Quite / Silencioso,” “Tall / Alto” and “Short / Bajo,” “Inside / Adentro” and “Outside / Afuera,” “Above / Encima” and “Below / Debajo,” plus nine more.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635519 (Available for preorder)

Nursery Rhymes

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All the Colors

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

Six colors (red/rojo; orange/naranja; yellow/amarillo; green/verde; blue/azul; purple/morado) are introduced with three jaunty verses that reveal that “It’s these colors that much like our love, fill our hearts and make everything oh so alive. / Y por eso los grandes amores, de muchos colores me gustan a mi.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

With English on the right side and Spanish on the left, little ones and adults can easily compare translations, allowing for enhanced learning. Each individual color is presented on a flap with the English word on the front and the Spanish word underneath by one of the Canticos characters that fans of the series will love sharing their educational journey with.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635366

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Little Chickies / Los pollitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

This interactive lift-the-flap book introduces little ones to three adorable chicks who have just hatched – in fact, kids can just lift the flap to help the third chick pop from his egg with a cherry “Pio, pio, pio. These little chicks love to peep “…when they get so cold, and when they want a meal. / “…cuando tienen hambre, cuando tienen frío.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

When their mother hen hears their “Pio,” she runs to the corn field then “serves them each their food and warms them head to heel. / les da la comida y les presta abrigo.” Satisfied and happy, it’s time for the family to snuggle in their nest until the next day.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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Little Elephants / Elefantitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In this sweet board book, based on the traditional Mexican counting song “Un elefante se balanceaba”, kids learn to count from one to five with a group of playful little elephants and one creative spider, whose web the elephants just can’t resist. What do they do? “One little elephant, looking oh so elegant, balanced on the web of a spider. Along came a friend, from around the bend and the elephant called to invite her.” / “Un elefante se balanceaba sobre la tela de una araña. Como veí que resistía fue a llamar a otro elefante.” These two elephants have fun dancing on the thin thread, but what happens when five elephants pile on? “Ooops!” / “¡uuupa!” Hey! “Let’s do it again.” / “Hagámoslo de nuevo.” Flaps lift to teach kids the words one through five in Spanish and English.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-0996995917 (Available for preorder)

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You can find Canticos Bilingual Firsts and Nursery Rhyme board books for preorder on

Encantos Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

September 23 – International Day of Sign Languages

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About the Holiday

Coming mid-way through International Week of the Deaf, which was instituted by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1958, today’s holiday is observed by the United Nations every year on September 23 to “celebrate the linguistic identity and diversity of deaf people and sign language uses across the world.” With more than 300 different sign languages around the globe, the UN recognizes sign languages equal status to spoken languages. The theme for 2020 is “Sign Languages are for everyone,” with the goal of enabling national associations of deaf people to work in conjunction with political leaders to promote sign language. For more information, visit the World Federation of the Deaf website and the United Nations website.

Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents

Written by Kathy MacMillan | Illustrated by Sara Brezzi

 

Following the popular Nita’s First Signs, the first Little Hands Signing book, Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents brings parents and caregivers ten more ASL signs to share with their babies and toddlers to give them the power and joy of non-verbal communication. Through a sweet story that takes Nita and little readers through a fun day with Mom and Dad, kids learn the signs for wake up, change, eat, potty, clothes, go, play, bath, book, and bed.

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

Nita’s day starts with her mom and dad lovingly gazing into her crib. “Good morning, Nita! Time to wake up!” they say. “WAKE UP, signs Nita.” Nita recognizes that she needs a diaper change and lets her parents know with the sign for “change” that she’s learned. Next, it’s time for breakfast then getting dressed and going to the park with Dad to fly a kite. When she wants to play, Nita “extends the thumb and pinky of each hand and twists [her] wrists back and forth.”

After her busy afternoon, a bath feels nice and warm. Then it’s time for one of Nita’s favorite parts of the day. “It’s time for a story book!” Dad tells her. She puts her outstretched palms together then opens them like the cover of a book “BOOK, signs Nita.” Now Nita is getting sleepy. “BED, Nita signs.” Her mom snuggles her into her crib and says “Good Night.”

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

A Note for Grown-ups on the back cover explains how using signs with children helps them to make sense of their activities during the day and can provide comforting grounding if used when they are away from their regular routines. Adults are also referred to a website where they can find a video demonstration of all of the signs in the book.

The structure of these Little Hands Signing books is a highlight of these chunky board books. Slightly larger than typical board books, the format allows for tabs that clearly depict the page on which each sign can be found. Opening to these spreads, readers can then pull on the tab to open the page and find Nita demonstrating how to make each ASL sign. A written description of the actions accompanies the images.

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

Kathy MacMillan’s enthusiastic story is perfect for all children and helps them to communicate with parents and caregivers whether they are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or not verbal or fully verbal yet. The repeat phrasing will charm little readers and acclimates them to the uses of each sign as well as giving adults a way to prompt signs during everyday activities.

Sara Brezzi’s vibrant and whimsical illustrations are infused with love and Nita’s pride in her accomplishments. In each two-sign spreads, Nita is a happy helper, holding her bottle at breakfast, alerting her mom that she’s ready for toilet paper, grasping the kite string at the park, and playing with her duck during bath time. Scattered toys and items on shelves, racks, and counters give little ones and adults things to name, match, and talk about.

Whether you’re adding to the series or new to signing with your baby or toddler, Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries to inspire early bonding and communication between babies and adults.

Ages 1 – 3

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641701488

Discover more about Kathy MacMillan and her books on her website.

You can connect with Sara Brezzi on Instagram.

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You can find at these Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents booksellers

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To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review