January 23 – National Reading Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated in schools across the country, National Reading Day was established to encourage students in PreK through 3rd grade to develop a love of reading, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Schools, libraries, organizations, bookstores, and parents provide activities to connect young readers with books they’ll love.

Sterling Children’s Books sent me a copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines

Written by Janet Lawler | Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

 

Mirabel had always been very shy, and as Valentine’s Day approached she was nervous about giving cards away at school. Still, “despite her nerves, the night before, she crafted works of art.” When she was finished, she signed them and drew a heart. In the morning, though, she was reluctant to go to school. Finally, though she left the house and ran to school. In her hurry, she didn’t notice that her bag was getting lighter and lighter.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mirabel rushed past a lonely lady who was checking her mailbox—and then checking it again just in case. But as Mirabel hurried down the road, the lady turned and saw a valentine lying next to her. “She smiled and thought, How nice!” As she turned a corner, “construction workers sweating / as they dug around a pole / laughed to find a sweet surprise / half-buried in the hole.”

A baby found a valentine that had floated into their stroller, and for a jogger who’d just stepped in gun, the sparkly card on the ground made her day better. Others, too, found valentines that made them smile. Suddenly, though, the neighbors all heard a cry: “‘I’ve lost my valentines!’” Mirabel had discovered a hole in her bag and that all of her cards were gone. Everyone realized what had happened. They rushed to find Mirabel and return the valentines. “‘Your cards have made us smile! / Thanks for sharing them with us, / if only for a while,’” they told her.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Seeing all of their happy faces cheered Mirabel and made her feel braver. She waved goodbye to her new friends and followed the other students into school. Later, she joined in her class party and was excited to share the valentines she’d made. On the way home from school, Mirabel didn’t notice the jogger, dad, construction workers, and others slip valentines into her bag as she passed by. But when she got home, she discovered that her bag was overflowing with love.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Janet Lawler’s endearing story of a little mouse who is nervous about Valentine’s Day will resonate with little ones and adult readers as well. Sharing one’s feelings and talents—as Mirabel does with her homemade cards—can be daunting, but Lawler shows that friendship shared is often returned in kind. Little ones will find much to admire in Mirabel’s bravery to go to school even though she is apprehensive about what the day will bring. The reminder that children occupy a special place in the heart of many people, including family, friends, teachers, librarians, and others that they interact with, will cheer them and inspire them to reach out and accept the love offered on Valentine’s Day and every other day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabele's-missing-valentines-lonely-lady

Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Olivia Chin Mueller’s Mirabel is an adorable friend for little readers. As she cowers under a blanket, contemplating going to school, kids will send her encouraging thoughts and be happy to see her change her mind and hurry along to join her classmates. As the valentines begin to fly out of Mirabel’s bag, readers will wonder who will find each card and will look forward to each page turn. The smiles on the faces of those treated to the surprise gift are heartening as readers see what a positive impact little Mirabel has on those around her. As Mirabel hands out her valentines to her classmates, hearts abound, demonstrating along with the students’ smiles and surprised expressions the warm feelings of friendship that are contained not only in each unique card but in Mirabel’s kind spirit. The final image of Mirabel clasping her bag full of valentines is endearing.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454927396

Discover more about Janet Lawler and her books on her website.

To learn more about Olivia Chin Mueller, her books, and her art on her website.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler | illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, January 23 – 29. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on January 30.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

National Reading Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the love monster gobble up all the Valentine’s Day candy snacks in this printable maze!

Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution

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You can find Mirabele’s Missing Valentines at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is all about celebrating the children and grandchildren in our lives and what makes each one truly unique. When you watch your own children or those in your care grow and develop their own personalities, talents, and dreams, you realize that each one is an individual with a bright future ahead of them. Today, honor each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life. Take the opportunity also to encourage your children, support them, and—most of all—tell them how much you love them every day.

You Belong Here

Written by M.H. Clark | Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

 

“The stars belong in the deep night sky / and the moon belongs there too, / and the winds belong in each place they blow by / and I belong here with you.” This beautiful opening verse embraces readers and carries them on a journey to the sea, where whales and fish, waves and the shore, dunes and grasses all live in harmony the way they are meant to. In the forest, trees, animals, and birds have their own places, and, likewise, a child is reassured that “you belong where you love to be” and that at home they will always find the companionship of someone who loves them.

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Copyright Isabelle Aresenault, 2016, text copyright M.H. Clark, 2016. Courtesy of Compendium.

Just as frogs and turtles, otters and carp find homes in lakes, ponds, and streams where the water is right for them, and hares, foxes, and lizards belong on their own bits of land, “the crickets belong in the old stone wall / and the bees belong in the clover.” And what about the child snuggling in loving arms? “You are a dream that the world once dreamt / and now you are part of its song. / That’s why you are here, in the place where you’re meant, / for this is right where you belong.”

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Copyright Isabelle Aresenault, 2016, text copyright M.H. Clark, 2016. Courtesy of Compendium.

So, the pine trees and bears and each creature of the air, land, and sea “is perfectly home right there / in the place where it belongs to be.” And the child can know that wherever they go and whatever they choose to see, “I will always belong right here with you, / and you’ll always belong with me.”

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Copyright Isabelle Aresenault, 2016, text copyright M.H. Clark, 2016. Courtesy of Compendium.

M.H. Clark’s lyrical love letter to a child is a warm hug that clasps the little listener close to the adult reader’s heart. Clark’s gorgeous examples of perfect pairings in nature encompass not only animals that children will be familiar with but also the flowers and trees, rocks and caves, waterways and weather that are also woven into the formation and patterns of life, giving the story a feeling of the cyclical and constant that echoes love itself. The rhythm of the story floats like a dreamy lullaby, making this a wonderful book to share at bedtime for even the youngest children. It’s message is one that all children can appreciate no matter how old they are.

Isabelle Arsenault accompanies each verse with striking, softly hued illustrations that place whales, deer, otters, foxes, and all the other animals and their young in their particular environment. Her gorgeously blended images enhance the reader’s appreciation for the perfection of nature’s construction and reinforces the assurance that each child and adult belong together now and always. Interspersing the natural settings are views of various types of homes from city apartments to small towns to a secluded home in the woods. A whimsical spread in which a child’s hand can be seen placing wooden puzzle pieces of a hare, whale, bear, carp, and turtle into their appropriate slot adds another layer of understanding for young children and may cause them to think about their own place of belonging when playing on their own.

A touching gift for Valentine’s Day, baby showers, new babies, new siblings, and any child, You Belong Here belongs on every child’s home bookshelf as well as in classroom and public libraries.

Ages Birth and up

Compendium, 2016 | ISBN 978-1938298998

To learn more about Isabelle Arsenault, her books, and her art, visit her website

Celebration of Life Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-threads-of-friendship-photo-holder

Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for a child’s room that holds pictures of family and friends to show children who they “belong with.”

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some craft and discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. Wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness
  3. Glue down the end of the twine to keep it from unraveling
  4. With the needle-nose pliers, roll down one end of the wire to create a small coil
  5. Repeat with two other lengths of wire
  6. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  7. Fit the three wires into the center hole on the top of the spool
  8. Push the wires into the clay until they are held securely
  9. Clip photographs into the coils
  10. Display your pictures!

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You can find You Belong Here at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 21 – National Hugging Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is as simple as it sounds. Established to encourage people to show more emotion in public. National Hugging Day lets you show the people you love just how much you love them—with a nice, big hug!

Hug Machine

By Scott Campbell

 

A little boy comes over the hill, robot-long arms raised and hands ready to do some serious hugging. “Whoa! Here I Come! I am the Hug Machine!” he announces. He hugs his mom around the knees while she’s cooking. His dad is reading the newspaper when his knees are squeezed. And his sister keeps talking on the phone while she gets her hug from “the hug machine.”

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Then the little boy goes out into his neighborhood where he hugs a policeman, a woman watering her plants, a businessman waiting for the bus, two unsuspecting women, and a little girl. He even hugs (very gently) the girl’s helium balloon. In fact, the boy hugs everything in his path—trees, fire hydrants, park benches, and mailboxes. “No one escapes the Hug Machine.”

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The boy’s hugs make everyone feel just right. It doesn’t matter if the things are big or small, soft or hard, square or long, the Hug Machine embraces them all. When he spies a crying baby, the Hug Machine goes to work. In a moment the “hug’s accomplished,” and the baby is smiling. But “what about me?” the porcupine asks. “No one ever hugs me.” Outfitted in a baseball catcher’s mask, with a pillow tied around his middle, and sporting oven mitts, the boy gives the porcupine a great big cuddle. “They are missing out!” the boy exclaims.

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A whale thinks it is too big to be hugged, but the boy finds a ladder, climbs to the top and gives a sliding hug all the way to the whale’s tail. How does the Hug Machine stay in prime hugging shape with lots of energy? Pizza, of course! And after a couple of slices, the Hug Machine is ready to get back out there! He runs through his neighborhood hugging everyone and everything in sight. There’s even a huge hug for you!

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

After that spurt of hugging, the Hug Machine is tuckered out. “Hug Machine can hug no more,” the boy says as he lies on the floor. But a pair of hands reaches out. “Why, yes,” the boy says, as his mom scoops him up into a hug of his own. “The Hug Machine is always open for business.”

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Campbell’s Hug Machine is as adorably irresistible as little ones’ enthusiastic and spontaneous demonstrations of love. Readers will giggle when they see all the people and things this Hug Machine embraces without question and sometimes with creativity. Kids will also love the double spread, wide-armed hug just for them. The repeated phrases make this a perfect read aloud and read along for even the youngest readers.

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Campbell’s illustrations are always endearing. The surprised recipients of the little boy’s hugs are left with a smile on their face, and even the inanimate objects seem to gain a stronger sense of purpose after being hugged. The little boy’s wide eyes and always-ready arms and hands mirror the eagerness of children to find and react to any recognized needs. And pizza, of course, is the perfect kid fuel.

With plenty of opportunities for laughs and lots of hugs, as well as offering a fantastic way to talk about emotions, empathy, and kindness, Hug Machine is a terrific book to add to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014 | Hardcover ISBN: 978-1442459359 | Paperback, 2017 ISBN: 978-1338255423 | Board book, 2017 ISBN: 978-1338255423

Discover more about Scott Campbell and a portfolio  of his work on his website.

National Hugging Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-coupons

Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can be sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Free Hug Coupons
  2. Color the coupons (optional)
  3. Hand out the coupons to your friends and family members and tell them that each coupon is good for one free hug from you.
  4. When someone hands in a ticket to you, give them your best biggest hug!

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You can find Hug Machine at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 15 – National Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Hats are always stylish, and during this time of year they can be a necessity for keeping warm! No matter if you make your own hat or buy it in a shop, whether you like stocking hats, felt hats, hats with earflaps, or hats that just hide a bad hairdo, this is the perfect season to indulge your fashion fancies!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-pom-poms

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-giving-hat

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016,  courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hat Day Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-cover

You can find A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 14 – It’s Book Blitz Month

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About the Holiday

Is your motto “So many books, so little time?” Is every shelf, nook, and cupboard in your house filled with books? Is your library card the first one on your ring? If so, you’ll love Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read, read, read as many books as possible! For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting. Sit down with your child or students and make a stack of books they’d like to read. Find time every day to read one, two, or a few of the books in the pile. Seeing the stack shrink gives kids a sense of accomplishment, and they’ll love building it up again! Mix reading with fun activities to encourage a new generation of avid readers!

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

Duck was meandering down the lane when she heard birds happily twittering over their Valentine’s Day cards. Suddenly, Duck realized that she didn’t have a valentine, but in the next moment she came up with an idea. Later that day, while Hippo was dusting his house there was a knock at the door. He rushed over hoping that it was Duck, but when he opened the door he found only a card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Come to the park today at 4 pm. And bring something for your Valentine!” The card wasn’t signed, and all Hippo saw was a “white feather floating down, landing softly on the ground.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-birds

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Down at the pond, Turtle was napping when he heard a splash. He woke up to find a card floating on a nearby lily pad. The heart on the front “reminded him, just a little bit, of a pizza with a slice out of it!” The card had the same message as Hippo’s and it wasn’t signed either. Turtle was disappointed to find his valentine, Pig, wasn’t there.

Pig was at her pizza shop. As she was tossing dough in the air, the bell above her door jangled. Pig was startled and the dough fell on her head. When she got cleaned off, she saw a card with a heart on it under her door. The card told her to come to the park at four o’clock and bring something for her valentine. “Pig blushed and raced outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of her valentine. ‘Turtle! Are you there?’” she called.

At his market, Elephant was excited to discover a card in his mailbox. He twirled around so quickly, trying to catch a glimpse of Duck or Pig that he fell down and crumpled his trunk. “He sat up and rubbed it. Then he held the card against his heart and beamed.” Back at Hippo’s house, it was only one o’clock, but he was dressed in his finest suit and brushed his teeth. At two o’clock, Turtle grabbed his basket full of doughnuts and headed for the park.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

At three o’clock, Pig was in the bathtub. She quickly scrubbed away the pizza dough, dried off, and put on her favorite dress. She hurried out, holding a pizza box aloft. Elephant left his house at three thirty with a bouquet of flowers held in his trunk, and with fifteen minutes to spare, Hippo hurried down the path “with a box of chocolate and flowers, hoping that Duck would be there.”

Exactly at four o’clock the four friends arrived at the part, “but…where, OH WHERE, was Duck?” Just then, Duck popped out of a bush and announced, “‘TA-DA! I’m the secret valentine!’” She presented Hippo with a rose, and said, “‘The best valentines are friends!’” Everyone danced and cheered, and then they sat down for a picnic and passed around their cards and goodies and enjoyed spending Valentine’s Day together.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Jonathan London’s beloved Duck and Hippo and their friends are back in a sweet Valentine’s Day story that combines humor and mystery with a heartwarming message about friendship. Duck’s ingenious idea for each friend to bring something for their valentine will get kids thinking about the nice things they can do for their friends and others to show how much they appreciate them. Little readers will giggle at the mishaps that befall each character and empathize with the bit of nervousness each one experiences when presented with their card. The happy enthusiasm of this group of friends is as infectious as ever and may inspire your own Valentine’s Day picnic.

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Fans of Duck, Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant will be happy to be reunited with their favorite characters through Andrew Joyner’s bright and inviting illustrations. As readers drop in to watch each friend receive their card, they’ll love hunting for the hint at who the secret valentine is. Suspense grows as each character gets ready, and little ones can discover what time it is on a variety of clocks, which may spark an interest in finding similar clocks in their own homes and towns. The final pages showing the five friends and the birds celebrating the holiday together are joyful and full of love.

An adorable and feel-good story to share at Valentine’s Day or whenever love is in the air, Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine is fun addition to the series and to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900356

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mystery that you’ll love this Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine book trailer!

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine written by Jonathan London | illustrated by Andrew Joyner

This giveaway is open from January 14 through January 20 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST on Jan. 20.

A winner will be chosen on January 21.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

Book Blitz Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

I Love You! Jar

 

Do you ever feel like saying “I love you” to friends and siblings, but don’t know how? Here’s a gift you can make that will tell them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar—you can add as many as you like and even continue to fill the jar after you’ve given it away. Here are some ideas:

  • Add one heart for each year you have known your friend
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your friend, sibling or others (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever the recipient of your jar does something nice for you
  • Encourage the recipient of your jar to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to someone that they have special feelings for.

4. Give your I Love You! jar to a friend, your parents, your siblings, or anyone who fills your heart with joy.

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You can find Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

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About the Holiday

The idea of Barbara Condron, the Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for the hour between 11:30 p.m. December 31 and 12:30 January 1 and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

 

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

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Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

 

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

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You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 14 – It’s Cat Lover’s Month

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About the Holiday

If you’re a cat lover, then you know how these little balls of fluff can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Vincent Comes Home

By Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley

 

“Vincent lived on a cargo ship. His paws had never touched land.” He liked living onboard the ship—there was plenty of fish to eat, seagulls to chase, and freedom to roam. At night he loved to gaze at the twinkling stars. His home, the Domus sailed to ports all over the world picking up and delivering goods. The ship was “always coming and going. Never staying.”

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Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Although Vincent loved seeing all of the new and exciting places, he could only experience them from afar. He also enjoyed looking at all of the souvenirs in the captain’s cabin. “They seemed to have visited every place imaginable. Every place except one.” Vincent heard the crew talking about a place called Home. It sounded amazing, and the little cat wanted to go there some day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-galley

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When the ship docked the next day, “Vincent heard the first mate shout, ‘We’re HOME!!!’” Vincent couldn’t wait to see this exciting place. When he looked over the ship’s rail, though, this city looked like many others. He couldn’t see why it was so special. Vincent decided to follow one of the crew to find out. As soon as the “crewman opened the door, a bunch of people yelled ‘WELCOME HOME!’” Everyone inside hugged and kissed the crewman.

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Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Vincent looked in other windows and saw the same things there. He decided that Home wasn’t really a place but where the people who loved you lived. “I guess I don’t have a Home,” he thought. He wandered around town and gazed at the familiar stars. Just then he heard a voice he knew. It was the captain. “‘I’ve been looking all over for you!’” he said. He picked Vincent up and scratched his chin and belly. “‘Let’s go home,’” he told Vincent.

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Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jessixa and Aaron Bagley’s endearing story about the meaning of Home will charm young readers who are beginning to navigate their own way in the world, leaving home for school and activities. Their lyrical storytelling offers tender comfort and heartwarming reassurance that Home is rich with those who love you and is always there waiting for your return. 

Beautiful watercolors bring to life the unique cargo ship setting, with its vibrant containers and world port-to-port schedule as well as the homey galley, staterooms, and common areas that make Domus a well-chosen name. Seen from afar, the European city, tropical island, and arctic vista—as well as the captain’s cabin filled with posters and souvenirs from the Domus’s trips—will entice young readers to do a bit of armchair traveling themselves. But, like Vincent, they will embrace their own home as the most wonderful place in the world.

A thoughtful book for children just entering school or other new situations or to share the warmth of home, Vincent Comes Home would be a welcome addition to personal or classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626727809

Discover more about Jessixa Bagley, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Aaron Bagley, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Love Craft

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cover

You can find Vincent Comes Home at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review