August 3 – It’s National Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the stuff of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.

Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of Idea Jar to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Simon & Schuster in a giveaway of a copy of Idea Jar. See details below.

Idea Jar

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Deb Pilutti

 

On the teacher’s desk sits an Idea Jar that holds her student’s story ideas. The teacher “says a story can be about anything” the kids want it to be. Like maybe “a space robot” or a “horseless cowgirl” or, yes, even that Viking who is trying to hoist himself over the edge of the jar to freedom. See, “there’s no such thing as a bad story idea,” and there are so many ways to tell your story.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

You can even combine your own ideas or make up a story with a friend. And maybe even that Viking in the back of your mind would make a good character too. He certainly thinks so. His motto is “Everything is better with a Viking”—even a giant badger who has lost her pink dress.

There is one thing about the Idea Jar, though. “It’s important to create stories for your ideas, or else your ideas get rowdy.” Just look at that Viking, who’s poking…at…the…jar! “Oh no! The ideas!”  They’re all loose! Now the robot is shooting his laser eyes and the dragon is swishing its enormous tail and the ideas are running amok!

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“These ideas need a story. Will you help?” Great! Should we? Should we start with the Viking? What if he gets into a battle with the space robot? Then gets rescued by the dragon? Who’s ridden by the horseless cowgirl! What? You’d like to change some ideas around? Go for it! This is your story, after all! “Wow! You were awesome!” You made all of those story ideas very, very happy. But it’s time that they went back in the jar to meet some other ideas for next time.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the award-winning author of Warning: Do Not Open this Book, Please Open this Book, This is a Good Story, and many others, Adam Lehrhaupt knows a thing or two—or three—about corralling ideas into a story. By appealing directly to students and any story creator, the narrator of the madcap Idea Jar will excite kids to pay attention to the ideas rattling around and flashing through their minds and inspire them to write, draw, or tell their own stories. The persistent Viking, who gives story suggestions throughout the book and nudges the story along, will delight kids and can serve two purposes for teachers or other writing coaches.

With his infectious enthusiasm, the Viking is that great idea that knocks at your consciousness until it is used. His whispered recommendations may also remind writers and artists of that little self-editor who so often can keep great ideas from running free. Learning to manage both of these is what great storytelling is all about. As the Viking sails into the classroom portrayed in the book, kids will jump at the chance to turn on their imaginations and give him—and their own characters—a story full of suspense, humor, and unexpected twists and turns.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As a space robot rockets from the Idea Jar, a horseless cowgirl lifts herself over the edge, and a big, scaly arm reaches from within to pull out the words “dragon” and “giant,” kids will be instantly invested in these characters without a story…yet. Deb Pilutti’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations show the creative process in action, whether a child’s talent lies in writing, drawing, or even reciting ideas aloud. The crafty Viking makes a frequent appearance—just like any good idea does—to prod the ideas in the jar (including the horseless cowgirl, the space robot, and the dragon as well as a pirate, a unicorn, a giraffe, a monster, and various animals) to unleash their inventive power. As the story comes together, the students and teacher cheer as they see their creation come to life. 

Kids will love answering the call to create a story and interacting with the ideas in Idea Jar. Idea Jar is infused with the natural spontaneity and inventiveness of children’s imaginations, making it a winner for jump-starting writing or art lessons in classrooms and inspiring creativity at home for kids and adults.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481451666

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Pilutti

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Today I’m excited to talk with author/illustrator Deb Pilutti about her new book Idea Jar with Adam Lehrhaupt, her branding work inspired by vintage signs, and the old Creepy Crawlies Thingmaker, a toy which I was surprised and delighted to discover we both loved as children.

Readers will love the way the characters interact with each other and with the kids writing and drawing stories in Idea Jar. Can you describe your journey from when you first received Adam Lehrhaupt’s manuscript for Idea Jar to the finished book?

I am a fan of Adam’s Warning: Do Not Open this Book! so I was quite excited when Paula Wiseman at Simon & Schuster asked me if I would like to illustrate IDEA JAR. Who wouldn’t want to illustrate a book with a Space Robot, a Viking, a cowgirl and a Dragon as the main characters? Adam left a lot of room for me to play. He did not specify what the other ideas in the jar would be, only the characters he had written into the text. It was fun to develop additional characters and their relationships and mini-side stories, like the developing friendship between the Yeti and the small dog, and the mouse driving a race car.

Kids’ imaginations are always so full of possibilities, and they can make such funny and amazing leaps of character and plot. What are some steps you’d give young writers and illustrators for capturing those snatches of imagination and developing an idea into their own story?

Keep a journal. I have several that I write or doodle in. If there is something I find interesting, like an idea or a character, I go back to it and try to work out a story. I start by asking questions of the character or situation. What would happen if… type of questions.

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Your branding work for Sea World, Warner Brothers, artists, food trucks, and more are infused with such a fun vintage vibe. Do you have a favorite decade to draw design ideas from, and why?

I absolutely love vintage signage and type from the 50s and 60s. Some of it is so campy while others can be evocative or elegant. The colors used were bold and saturated.

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Before you began illustrating and writing for children, you designed toys, and in your recent release The Secrets of Ninja School, the main character makes dragon stuffies for all of her classmates. Why do you think playing with traditional toys is so important for children? What was your favorite toy when you were a child?

Mostly because it’s fun. I also think it’s a way to navigate the world, but that isn’t something I thought about as a child. When I was young, I loved making Creepy Crawlers, which was an incredibly dangerous toy at that time. You pored possibly toxic goop into a metal mold and cooked it in a blisteringly hot ThingmakerTM oven, which resulted in many scorched fingers. But totally worth it, because once the plate cooled, you would have an army of colorful and stretchy bugs.

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My cousin is a graphic designer and whenever I visited her as a child I loved seeing her special corner of the house. It was so full of color and knick-knacks (inspiration, really, I guess) and works in progress, that I developed a fascination with artists’ studios. Do you mind describing your work space a little? What is your favorite thing in it?

My studio is in a small bedroom. I have a long table with a computer and extra monitor set up on it, and I sometimes sketch here as well. A painting easel is in the corner of the room. It’s a very messy place, with papers everywhere and knick-knacks and toys and bits of shiny things on every surface. I like all of my toys, but my favorite one is a realistic toy model of a T-rex with a moveable jaw.

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What’s the best part of being a children’s illustrator and author?

I have always loved books. To be involved with the art of bookmaking is a wondrous thing. My favorite part of the process is making the final illustrations.

Do you have any anecdotes from a reading or event that you’d like to share?

I was visiting a school last April and had a blast creating stories with the students using an Idea Jar. We made some pretty silly stories together. One student came up with a zombie tomato for a character, which was brilliant!

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on final illustrations for two books. The first is Old Rock (is not boring). A story about a rock sounds like it could be boring, right? At least Old Rock’s friends think so. Old Rock reveals her own surprising story, slowly and languidly, as rocks do. I’m also illustrating a sequel to Ten Rules of Being a Superhero. It’s called Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero. I had so much fun with the characters from the first book that they are back for another adventure. Lava Boy’s superhero toy, Captain Magma, wants to fly more than anything. They devise a plan, which does not go as anticipated.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Summer Solstice. I live in Michigan, which is quite lovely, but the cold and dark of winter can get a bit old. I miss the light. Our summer nights are very long. On Summer Solstice, I try to stay outside until the last vestiges of daylight disappear at around 9:45.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Yes, I illustrated The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, illustrated by Susan Collins Thoms.

Thanks so much for chatting, Deb! I wish you all the best with Idea Jar and all of your books!

National Back to School Month Activities

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Make Your Own Idea Jar

 

If you have lots of ideas looking for a place to hang out, discover how to make your own Idea Jar and find some cool starter ideas from Adam Lehrhaupt! Make your own IDEA JAR!

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Dream up Story Ideas

 

Do your kids (or maybe you!) want to think up awesome story ideas? Check out Deb Pilutti’s 5 Methods of Generating Story Ideas

Idea Jar Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt and Deb Pilutti

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 3 – 10. 

A winner will be chosen on August 11.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Simon & Schuster

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You can find Idea Jar at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 3 – National Repeat Day

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About the Holiday

Does it ever feel like you’re just doing the same thing over and over again? Well, today we celebrate that feeling. While repetition can sometimes drive you a little crazy—like when that catchy tune loops endlessly through your head—it can also be very beneficial as any musician knows. Using repetition is also a terrific way to introduce learning and laughs for kids—like in today’s book!

Dirty Birdies

By Jennifer Sattler

 

In Jennifer Sattler’s funny counting book, little ones meet one long-legged blue bird with yellow spots who’s just loves dancing it up in a mud puddle. She’s having so much fun that she doesn’t even realize how dirty she’s getting until she stands still and the oozy mud begins to drip from her wings, head, and beak. Then “1 dirty birdie meets 1 painting birdie.”

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Copyright Jennifer Sattler, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

This mini-Michelangelo is really splattering the purple paint until there are “2 dirty birdies.” What happens when they team up and discover an extremely tall yellow fellow with his head in a hole? I bet you guessed: there are now “3 dirty birdies.” These intrepid birds pick up another fluffy friend before encountering a very messy snacker and adding her to their group.

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Copyright Jennifer Sattler, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The five dirty birdies take stock and decide they need to clean up. With a sponge, a brush, a little green duckie, and a very looong tub, they rub-a-dub-dub in a bath. They dry their feathers, and… can’t resist getting dirty all over again!

Eight questions following the text will entice little ones into a repeat reading along with some fun observations, counting, and discussions of size.

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Copyright Jennifer Sattler, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jennifer Sattler’s Dirty Birdies is such a playful way for little learners to interact with counting, size, shapes, and observational skills. The repetition in the text invites little ones to joyfully read along, while her colorful illustrations of these slightly goofy birds, abashed at their messy appearances, will have little ones giggling with each turn of the page. The lead-up to the final page offers rib-tickling suspense, and the carefree final spread will have kids saying, “Again! Again!”

Ages Birth – 5

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-389-6

Discover more about Jennifer Sattler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Repeat Day Activity

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Find the Differences Puzzles

 

The two pictures in these puzzles may look like exact repeats of each other, but if you look closely you’ll see some differences. Can you find the differences in both of these Find the Differences Puzzles?

Bee Find the Differences Puzzle | Kids Taking a Drive Find the Differences Puzzle

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Lost Sock Memorial Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-coverAbout the Holiday

Today we fondly remember all of those socks that for one reason or other go missing from the washing machine, the dryer, the drawer, or even somewhere in between. While matched socks may look neat and tidy and “go” with an outfit, mismatched socks offer an opportunity to jazz up an outfit, show your personality, and have a little fun. Searching for hidden socks can be a game little ones love to play with older siblings or adult.

Red Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills.

The laundry-day setting also encourages adults to share a little early math with little ones as they go about this common chore. Matching socks, talking about and sorting clothes by size and/or color, and stacking folded clothes with kids are all ways to help little learners begin understanding math concepts. 

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Red Socks makes a wonderful baby shower or new baby gift as well as a terrific addition to any young reader’s home library. Free from gender-specific pronouns and with gender-neutral clothing and hair style, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

Red Socks is also available in: Chinese/English, ISBN 978-1-59572-811-1 | Hmong/English, ISBN 978-1-59572-812-8 | Spanish/English, ISBN 978-159572-757-2

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day, Rosa’s Very Big Job, and Banana for Two) as well as to find accompanying activities, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

To find a Laundry Love Activity Sheet with more early math fun you can have with everyday activities, visit the Star Bright Books site.

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

National Lost Sock Memorial Day Activity

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Sock Tumble Matching Game

 

These socks were separated in the laundry. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Sock Tumble Matching Game.

 

Picture Book Review

March 25 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Starting with Read Across America Day on the 2nd, the month of March is dedicated to reading. Special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids to get them excited about this favorite past time. A love of reading is a life-long pleasure with so many benefits. Every day, avid readers wake up and just want to…

Hug This Book!

Written by Barney Saltzberg | Illustrated by Fred Benaglia

 

When you grab onto a book and open the cover, you know what to do! But did you know that books themselves may have some ideas on the subject? Today’s reviewed book has plenty of fabulous, page-turning suggestions and is happy to share them with you. Its first thought is a pretty big one: “You can read this book to a hippo.” I know!—wouldn’t that be a blast?

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

It seems that books watch how readers treat their pets, and they want in: “You can kiss and hug and smell this book. / That might sound sort of silly. / You can wrap this book in a sweater, / if it ever gets too chilly.” That sounds as cozy as enjoying hot chocolate in front of a fire—with this book, of course!

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

The book continues—“You can make up a story to tell to this book.” Hmmm… maybe books don’t like doing all the work all the time. Maybe they’d like to just relax and be entertained once in a while. I’m sure you can come up with something fantastic! And just to keep you on your toes, the book offers a few more challenges: “Can you read this book in the mirror? / Or sing the words in this book like a song? / If you sing it to the birdies, maybe they’ll sing along.” After completing those activities, it might be time for a nap. Don’t forget to take the book too, but be ready to giggle because… “Maybe you’ll hear it snore.”

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And when you wake up all refreshed you can try reading the book while dancing, twirling, leaping, skipping…you can even take it to lunch, “just do not try to feed it.” Then suddenly and all too soon the book comes to the last page. Don’t be sad, though. “Even though this book is over, / it isn’t really the end. / You can start at the beginning / and read it to a friend!”

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

Barney Saltzberg’s love for books is infectious. His witty rhymes bubble with the thrill of reading and playfully challenge kids to take books along no matter where they go or what they do. The cadence of Saltzberg’s lines invite multiple readings—the way the rhythm of movement in hopscotch, jump rope, or dancing is inherent in the fun. Kids will giggle at the examples Saltzberg conjurs up—reading to a hippo, listening to a book snore, feeding a book—and you can bet that they will want to invent some of their own! Get ready to hug this book—and many others. After all isn’t that what best friends do?

Fred Benaglia’s adorable characters swim and paddle, snuggle and swing, play and imagine all the while with their nose in this book. The fanciful coloring and quirky landscapes enhance both the originality and universality of this tribute to book love. Benaglia’s artwork—from the fish nibbling at a child’s toes to the cars zipping through the cities—radiates personality and invites creative thinking. Readers will especially want to linger over the two-page spread of a smiling child conjuring up a host of stories to catch every imaginative detail in the chalk drawings. The big red heart on the  cover under the book jacket is a clever touch, connecting Hug This Book! to “this book” in the text.

For all book lovers, Hug This Book! is a fun, funny romp and will be a welcome, often-asked-for addition to a child’s library.

Ages 2 – 7

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872841

You’ll love discovering all the books, music, and videos on Barney Saltzberg‘s website!

Cuteness abounds on Fred Benaglia‘s website, where you’ll find book illustrations and so much more!

You’ll love this Hug This Book! book trailer?

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Book Lovers Book Bag

 

Whether you’re buying new books at your local bookstore or checking some out at your library, carry those treasures home in their own special bag! This kid-sized bag was made from recycled materials!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review

March 7 – It’s International Mirth Month

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About the Holiday

Invented by Allen Klein, aka Mr. Jollytologist, International Mirth Month encourages us to find humor during stressful situations. And while there are plenty of those, there are also lots of way to laugh and relieve the strain that’s often part of everyday life. Laughter makes us feel better and is even recognized as a healing tool. So celebrate this month by getting together with friends and family for some fun watching funny movies or TV shows, and reading funny books. After all, running away from your problems doesn’t help…or does it? Find out in today’s book!

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

 

Little red cat opens one eye from his nap and is astonished to see the door hanging open. Quickly, he scurries out and down the walkway, very pleased with himself. Until he meets an Alligator—an alligator who has his enormous jaws open. Ahhh!. The cat runs past him, and the alligator gives chase. They don’t see the Bear—half way up a tree. But the bear sees them and joins the chase.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they find themselves hurtling past chicken’s coop, from which Chicken scrambles out clucking loudly. They all run on until…Yikes! Danger! Is that a Dragon napping there? Eeek! It is! The dragon is up—which is so alarming that there’s now an Egg! Wait! Fire! Run from the flames! Do you have your sun Glasses?

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The crew keeps running while cat thinks of Home, slip on the Icy pond, swing through the Jungle, and trespass on castle grounds where the King and princess see them from a turret window. The princess points and shows her dad Lost cat poster on the castle wall. But by now the cat, the alligator, the bear, the chicken, the dragon, and the egg are traversing Mountain peaks until the dragon shouts, Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo! as everyone else goes Over a cliff. Thankfully they all packed their Parachute.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Dropped into unknown territory this ragtag group has lots of Questions, and, of course, by now they need to use the Restroom. At last, the Sun is setting, and everyone is very Tired. But what is that shining in the darkness? It’s the king and princess to the rescue on a Unicorn! Unbelievable! And they have Valentines for each of them! This leads to lots of hugging to show what valued friends they’ve all become.

It’s time for everyone to head for home, so they Wave goodbye, and the king gives little red cat a scroll. When red cat unrolls the paper, he finds a map with a spot marked with an X. Now he knows just where to go to Yawn—and catch some Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A key in the back of the book provides the words for each letter.

Readers will laugh all the way through Patrick McDonnell’s wordless alphabet book as little red cat skedaddles when the door is open and has himself a letter-perfect adventure.  McDonnell offers a fully developed tale with clear clues to the words that define each letter while also leaving plenty of opportunities for kids to find other words that also apply. McDonnell’s cartoon animals are fierce only in their expressive cuteness and the adorable princess and her kindly dad provide just the magical ending this buoyant escapade deserves.

A marvelous way for children to interact with the alphabet and language, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) will grow with kids as they increase their vocabulary and develop their sense of humor, making it a must for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316502467

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell, his books, and his comic strip MUTTS on his website.

Run on over to watch this The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away book trailer!

International Mirth Month Activity

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Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

No matter whether you chuckle, guffaw, or giggle, laughter really is the best medicine! Find all of the synonyms for laugh in this printable Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle!

Made You Laugh! Word Search PuzzleMade You Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born in 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  He rose from poverty to become a statesman, lawyer, and the 16th president of the United States, serving from 1861 until he was assassinated in 1865. He guided the country through the Civil War and on January 1, 1983 signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery. By 1890, Lincoln’s birthday was recognized as a state holiday but never became a federal holiday. The celebration of Lincoln’s birthday was combined with George Washington’s in 1971 when President’s Day was instituted. Only a handful of states still recognize Lincoln’s birthday as a separate state holiday. 

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)

Written by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

Throughout his life things were grim for Abraham Lincoln, but he had a way of responding that made them better. He was born in 1809 in a log cabin that had a dirt floor, cornhusk mattresses, and cracks in the walls so thick that the snow blew in. All day long he did backbreaking work for his strict father, but in the evenings his father “told jokes and the family laughed together.” Of his father, Lincoln once said, “‘My father taught me how to work, but not to love it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Even as a child, Lincoln loved to read and write. His mother died when Lincoln was only nine years old, but “words and humor seemed to ease the pain.” He liked to get together with friends and read aloud from joke books, and at the age of eleven, he wrote his first nonsense poem. Lincoln loved to learn, but because of all the work at home, he “had a total of only one year of official schooling.” Instead, he read everything he could.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lincoln-tells-a-joke-with-pen

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

He grew up to be six feet, four inches tall, with huge feet and hands, and a big nose. His appearance was one of the things he joked about the most. When he was nineteen, Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois. He had such a reputation for humor that a local judge asked him to come to court to comment on cases. Here, Lincoln learned the importance of words and how they could be used by watching and listening to the lawyers. Despite all their learning, these men couldn’t fool Abe. He once commented of one lawyer: “‘That man can pack the most words into the least ideas of any man I know.’”

When he was twenty-three he served in the military, but he said the only battles he saw were with mosquitoes. After he was discharged that same year, he ran for the Illinois state legislature and lost. When he tried again two years later, he won and went on to serve for four terms, keeping the “‘House in a continuous roar of merriment.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lincoln-tells-a-joke-on-stump

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

As he got older his looks and sometimes depressive personality only seemed to get worse, but Lincoln kept joking and was a favorite of children. When he, himself, became a lawyer, he was brilliant at summing up hours of testimony in “one clever story that would get the jury on his side.” Then he met Mary Todd, who was “witty, bubbly, and very smart about politics.” He loved her and she loved him, but her family rejected him as not wealthy or high-society enough. Even their attitude, though, was fodder for Lincoln’s jests.

When Abe and Mary did marry, he joked about their sixteen-inch height difference, and when they had four boys, he kept them entertained with his humor. Lincoln even thought jokes should be taught in school because he believed they made kids smarter.

Lincoln continued to run for higher political offices, losing many races, but always maintaining his sense of humor. Along the way, he gained a reputation for honesty. He also had a talent for skewering even serious topics in a way that brought out the truth: “‘Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lincoln-tells-a-joke-lincoln

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

When Lincoln was elected president, his White House rang with laughter. Guests were charmed, while reporters, those wanting inside knowledge, or people asking for favors were left chuckling but not any wiser. During the Civil War years, Lincoln alleviated the stress and kept a clear head by reading his favorite humor writers, encouraging his advisers to do the same.

Lincoln’s talent for words helped keep the country together even through its worst crisis.  “His gift for language—and how it can inspire people—is one reason he is considered one of our best presidents” even though during his presidency he was one of the most unpopular due to his politics. When he was shot at Ford’s Theater five days after the war ended, Lincoln was attending a comic play and may have been “laughing even in the final moments of his life.” Abraham Lincoln had an amazing life, fueled by his sense of humor that took him from a tiny log cabin to the White House and into American’s hearts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lincoln-tells-a-joke-lincoln-portrait

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer have written a terrific biography of Abraham Lincoln focusing on the personality trait that made him such a unique individual and uniquely qualified to shepherd America through its most difficult time. Lincoln’s sense of humor was charged with intelligence and true cleverness and showcased his love and understanding of words and language. Children, with their own well-developed senses of humor and affinity for a good joke, will be captivated by Krull and Brewer’s conversational tone that is sprinkled with the wit and wisdom Abraham Lincoln displayed from the time he, himself, was a child. Lincoln Tells a Joke reveals not only facts from Lincoln’s life but the all-important aspects of his character that allowed him to rise above his lack of formal education and leading-man looks to become one of the most admired men ever born. 

Stacy Innerst’s hip, folk-art-style paintings mirror Abraham Lincoln’s humor with unusual perspectives, quirky details, and plenty of peppered-in “ha, ha, ha’s” while highlighting his stature both as a sensitive, thoughtful man and as a politician. Lincoln’s elongated arms and legs stretch across the pages, children laughing at his jokes don’t even reach his knees, and the tall tower of papers in front of him on his desk completely hide him except for his arms. Innerst’s color pallet of muddy sepia tones, rusty reds, and deep aqua blues; flat landscapes, and political imagery give readers the feel and spirit of the 1800s Midwest and Washington DC. In a moving double-spread illustration, Innerst seats Lincoln at his desk as the handwritten words of the Gettysburg Address form the backdrop. As the story closes, Innerst re-imagines the Lincoln Memorial statue with  Lincoln laughing while reading his favorite book, Quinn’s Jests. It’s a fitting tribute to both Lincoln and the power of laughter.

Lincoln Tells a Joke is a fantastic biography for home libraries for children who like biographies, history, Abraham Lincoln, or a well-told story. The book would be an inspired choice for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Discover more about Kathleen Krull and her books on her website.

Learn more about Paul Brewer, his books and his art on his website.

To view a portfolio of books and artwork by Stacy Innerst, visit his website.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activity

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Abe Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat Chalkboard

 

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

Picture Book Review

February 3 – It’s Library Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

Book lovers love the library! The stacks of books, the reading tables, the stacks of books, the quiet study nooks, and…did I mention the stacks of books? Spending time at the library—whether in story time, perusing the shelves, or reading in a comfortable chair—is a fun way to wile away a morning or afternoon. To celebrate this month, check out the special events at your library, and take an extra moment while checking out your books to thank your librarian!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written by Lisa Papp

 

Madeline does not like to read—anything. “Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice-cream truck.” Madeline especially doesn’t like to read out loud. At school the teacher tells her to keep trying, but the words often don’t make sense, sentences get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter,” and other kids laugh when she gets things wrong.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline would love to get a star sticker or even a smiley face for reading, but she only ever gets “Keep Trying” stickers. “Stars are for good readers, Stars are for understanding words, and for reading them out loud.” But Madeline knows that stars are also for making wishes, so she wishes for her very own star. All week Madeline waits for her star, but by Friday she still doesn’t have one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-wishes

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Saturday Madeline’s mother takes her to the library, where Madeline reminds the librarian that she doesn’t like to read. Mrs. Dimple tells her that today they have something she might enjoy. The librarian asks her, “‘Madeline Finn, would you like to read to a dog?’” Madeline looks into the reading room to see kids and all kinds of dogs—big and small—on the reading rug.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-rug

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Mrs. Dimple introduces Madeline to Bonnie and tells her that Bonnie is a very good listener. Madeline thinks “Bonnie is beautiful. Like a big, snowy polar bear.” Madeline chooses a book and begins to read. At first the letters get “mixed up, and the words don’t sound right.” Madeline looks at Bonnie and Bonnie gently looks back at her. She doesn’t giggle like the kids at school, and Madeline feels better. She begins again. When Madeline gets stuck on another word, Bonnie doesn’t mind. She just puts her paws in Madeline’s lap and waits until she figures it out. After that, Madeline and Bonnie “read together every Saturday. It’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes,” Madeline thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-meets-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Bonnie teaches Madeline to be patient—even about getting a star sticker. Pretty soon it’s time to read aloud at school again. Madeline goes to the library on Saturday to practice with Bonnie, but neither she nor Mrs. Dimple are there. Back at home, Madeline worries. But her mom tells her that Bonnie was just busy and that she will do fine at school. She suggests, “Just pretend that you’re reading to Bonnie.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-with-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Monday, Madeline is nervous as she gets up to read. “The first sentence goes pretty well,” but in the next Madeline makes a mistake, and then another. She hears someone giggle. Madeline takes a deep breath and pretends that Bonnie is next to her. Before she knows it, she’s at the bottom of the page. Madeline looks “at her teacher, and she has a big smile on her face.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-in-class

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Holding her star in her hand, Madeline exclaims, “I did it! I got my star!” On Saturday, Madeline shows Mrs. Dimple her star. She’s excited for Madeline then tells her that Bonnie has a surprise for her too. Mrs. Dimple opens the door to the reading room and asks, “Madeline Finn, would you like to read to Bonnie–and her puppies? Yes, please!” Madeline says. “Nice and loud.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-puppies

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a gentle and uplifting story for all children—whether they are reluctant or avid readers. Lisa Papp’s moving portrayal of a little girl struggling to read, keep up with her classmates, and attain a gold star is filled with honesty and heartfelt emotion. Papp’s pacing is excellent, demonstrating Madeline’s ongoing efforts, and Bonnie’s absence right before reading day allows for Madeline to find within herself the courage and confidence to read in front of her class. Papp’s story is a good reminder that a nonjudgmental environment is best for anyone trying to learn a new skill.

Papp’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully represent her story with realistic portrayals of the kids at school, Madeline’s frustrations at “messing up” words and sentences, and Madeline’s hopeful nature and perseverance to achieve reading success. The calm, quiet tone to Papp’s illustrations echo the acceptance that Bonnie offers to Madeline. Kids will love the sweet reading therapy dogs and are sure to pick out the one they would most enjoy reading to.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is an encouraging story for reluctant or struggling readers at home and a thoughtful addition to classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2016 | ISBN 978-1561459100

Discover more about Lisa Papp and her books on her website

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Reading Buddy Bookmark

 

Puppy’s make great reading companions! With this printable Reading Buddy Bookmark you’ll always have a friend to read with!

Picture Book Review