November 19 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Familiar stories are part of the glue that keep families together. This month, when homes can be full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the Thanksgiving holiday, is a perfect time to share those stories once again with the youngest members in mind. Whether the events and anecdotes happened last week or long ago, each story brings family members closer and provides a bridge from generation to generation. 

One More Hug

Written by Megan Alexander | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

As the story opens, a mom looks back at a special night when while tucking her little one into bed he was frightened by a tree at the window and asked for “‘One more hug, Mama.’” One day, a broken toy brought tears and a request: “‘one more kiss, Mama.’” Mama remembers the first day of school and standing at the bus stop. She squeezed her little boy tight as the bus approached. When the bus stopped and the “doors opened with a loud SCREEEECH,” the boy “whispered, ‘One more squeeze, Mama.’”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

As her boy grew older, the tree that had once frightened him became a favorite to climb, the toys were replaced with a bicycle, and any reservations about the bus were long gone. But now there were new experiences, and her son asked for one more hug before going out on stage, “one more kiss after [he] slipped on the ice. One more song before bedtime.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Years went by and climbing the backyard tree led to climbing a rock wall. The boy taught his little brother how to ride his bike while he “joined the track team, and ran all the way to school.” At last came the day when the boy was all grown up and drove away with a backward glance and a wave goodbye. Then his mother wondered if her son knew how proud she was of him and how much she loved him. She hoped he knew that he would always be her boy and that she “would always be there for [him].” And then came the day when her son surprised his mama with a visit, and they both got “one more hug.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her heart-swelling story, Megan Alexander, a national correspondent for Inside Edition, has written a love letter to children that perfectly expresses the emotions parents feel for their children as they grow from babyhood to adulthood. Based on her own experiences with her two young sons, Alexander’s story is a warm embrace of reassurance that lets little ones and those beginning to chart their own course know that parental love and support is always with them. Her focus is particularly on raising sons who understand that it’s okay to have fears and share their feelings with those they love.

Alexander’s lyrical storytelling with repeated phrasing builds a bridge between ages as the boy grows up while also cementing the bond between mother and son. As much as this story is for children, adults will feel a lump in their throat as the boy moves away and his mother wonders if he knows how much she loves him. Alexander’s honest depiction of that universal hope gives the story a multilayered depth that gives children insight into their parents’ feelings—another kind of bond that will resonate with repeated readings as the child grows older.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Hiroe Nakata’s lovely watercolor and ink illustrations shimmer with the rapport between mother and son. Nakata uses alternating wide-angle images and close-up views to emphasize the tender moments that “one more” hug or kiss provide. Snapshots of familiar, yet fresh-feeling activities undertaken during different seasons show the boy growing and becoming stronger and wiser at pivotal stages of his life. The mother expresses joy, sympathy, understanding, and always an abiding love. The final spreads where the now-adult son comes home with arms open for his mama, shows clearly that he, indeed, knows how much she loves him.

The family theme is carried out in animal pairs that populate Nakata’s beautiful nature settings. Among these, a snail and her baby crawl near the boy’s newspaper hat, a mother and baby squirrel scamper up the tree next to the bus stop, and ants parade into their hole carrying food for the nest. Children will enjoy finding these animals on nearly every page, and they will fall in love with the family’s adorable dog, who also grows up throughout the story.

A story parents or caregivers and their children will love to snuggle up with, One More Hug makes a wonderful gift and addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534429710

Discover more about Megan Alexander, her work, and a song she wrote that was inspired by the story, von her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

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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.

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You can find One More Hug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 20 – A Crazy-Much Love Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be celebrating Read a New Book Month by participating in the blog tour for A Crazy-Much Love and hosting a giveaway of this heartwarming book. I received a copy of the book to check out, and all thoughts are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below.

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.

A Crazy-Much Love Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of A Crazy-Much Love written by Joy Jordan-Lake | illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

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

This giveaway is open from September 20 through September 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 27.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

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You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 8 – National Grandparents Day

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About the Holiday

As a child in the 1920s, Marion McQuade accompanied her grandmother as she visited elderly neighbors, offering friendship and help when needed. This early experience sparked Marion’s lifelong concern for the elderly and especially for grandparents. In 1956, Marion helped institute a tribute to octogenarians. It was just the beginning of her work on behalf of the elderly and her hopes to create a special day commemorating the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day. As Marion envisioned it, the day gives grandparents and grandchildren an opportunity to show their love for one another and for older members of the family to pass down their stories and wisdom to younger generations. 

Love is Kind

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Lison Chaperon

 

Little Owl had been saving up his coins to buy something special for Grammy’s birthday. He even knew exactly what he wanted to give her—“a heart-shaped box of chocolates.” He took the coins out of his pocket to look at them, but just as he did he tripped over a tree root and his money went flying. One, two, three, they rolled down the hill “until wobble PING” they landed right by Beaver’s dam. Little Owl ran after them. Just as he got close, he heard little Beaver excitedly showing her mommy that the tooth fairy had come after all. Seeing the big smile on Beaver’s face, Little Owl just wished her a “tooth-errific day” and headed back home.

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

As luck would have it, though, Little Owl spied a dollar lying among the fallen autumn leaves. He was excited that now he could buy Grammy’s gift, but then he saw the “Missing $1.00” sign on Mrs. Mouse’s house. He picked up the money and rang Mrs. Mouse’s doorbell. Mrs. Mouse was thrilled to see her money again as she and Mr. Mouse needed it to fix up the nursery for the new babies they were expecting. “Little Owl smiled. ‘That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!’” he said.

Little Owl continued on and while cutting through the sunflower field, he ran into Rabbit, who had “THREE heart-shaped boxes of chocolates—” one for Ma, one for Pa, and one Rabbit was going to keep for herself. “Little Owl’s feathers stood on end. You have THREE! That’s not fai…’ Little Owl stopped. Getting angry wouldn’t get Grammy those chocolates.” Instead, he told Rabbit to enjoy her candy, and she hopped happily off. In a moment, though, she was back with a coupon for one free box of chocolates.

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Little Owl skipped all the way to Chipmunk’s Chocolate Shoppe. But when he got there, all of Chipmunk’s chocolates were gone and he was just closing the shop. Once again, Little Owl smiled, gave good wishes, and waved goodbye. Still, little Owl was disappointed. He had nothing to give Grammy.

When he got to Grammy’s house, he tearfully told her about his day. After he was finished, Grammy told him that the love he had shown to Beaver, Mrs. Mouse, Rabbit, and Chipmunk was “‘better than any heart-shaped box of chocolates.’” Little Owl was surprised. Just then he caught his reflection in the window. The white feathers of his face formed a perfect heart. “‘…I guess I gave you a heart-shaped gift after all!’” he said. “‘Me!’” And Grammy thought that was “‘the best gift of all.’”

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Laura Sassi’s tender intergenerational story delves gently and with an endearing main character into what it means to love. Not only does Sassi reveal the true meaning of love, but she shows young readers how to express it by what they do and say (or don’t say). Through each of Little Owl’s encounters, he demonstrates kindness and empathy as he puts the happiness of others ahead of his own desires. Sassi’s genuine storytelling doesn’t shy away from Little Owl’s honest emotions that touch on ownership, disappointment, anger, and sadness, but in each case Little Owl is guided by his strong internal moral code revealed organically through his thoughts and actions.

As Grammy comforts her young grandson, she reinforces the idea that the best gift someone can give an individual, their community, and the world at large is not stuff but a caring and compassionate heart. Little Owl and little readers need not rely only on the words of the story but come to understand this important lesson through Little Owl’s reflection in the window as well. Lines from the poem “Love is Kind,” found in 1 Corinthians 13, are sprinkled throughout the text: in the river that runs past Beaver’s dam, over Mrs. Mouse’s hearth, in the petals of a sunflower, and elsewhere, reminding readers that these ideals can be found everywhere and encouraging them to look for and contribute to universal kindness.

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With his soft tufts of autumn-hued feathers and cozy coat and scarf, Little Owl is an adorable friend to follow on a journey. Lison Chaperon’s woodland neighborhood glows with gold and russet leaves, providing a warm backdrop to the snug homes of Little Owl’s neighbors. Children will be enchanted by the Mouse’s tree trunk-and-toadstool house, where a swing set with walnut-shell swings wait in the yard for little mice to play. When Little Owl heads into the sunflower patch, kids will spy a snoozing caterpillar, a bee and a ladybug having a picnic, and a glimpse of the bunny he’s about to bump into.

In Little Owl’s encounters, readers can clearly see what the coins, the dollar bill, and the three boxes of chocolates mean to each respective family. In this way, children discover both sides of each story and can better understand how generosity affects both the giver and the receiver. As Little Owl loses hope of getting a gift for Grammy, the sunny sky turns gray and rainy to reflect his mood, but a rainbow appears when Rabbit pays her good fortune forward by giving Owl a coupon. It’s nighttime when Little Owl reaches Grammy’s, and he’s welcomed by shining lanterns and a starry sky. Inside, Grammy’s just finishing up a delectable cake to share while snuggling in Grammy’s rocking chair.

This lovely, multilayered story is delightful for any story time while also providing many opportunities for adults and children to talk about ideas of love, kindness, empathy, and how one person’s actions and words can make a difference in others’ lives. Love is Kind would be a favorite for grandparents and children to share. Reading it with little ones is also a wonderful way to bring closer grandparents who live far away. The book would make a sweet gift and addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310754893 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310754848 (Board Book)

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website

Love is Kind Giveaway

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

One (1) copy of Love is Kind written by Laura Sassi | illustrated by Lison Chaperon

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

This giveaway is open from September 8 through September 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 15.

Prizing provided by Zonderkidz

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

National Grandparents Day Activity

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Little Owl Cookies (and Grand ones too!)  

Made with Love by Laura and her daughter

 

My 14-year-old daughter loves spending time her grandparents and she thought these LOVE IS KIND owl-themed cookies would be a fun and tasty way to celebrate that special bond between child and grandparent. We hope you enjoy our activity—and after baking and decorating together, we hope you’ll be inspired to spread some love by sharing the cookies with neighbors or friends who perhaps live too far away to be with their grandchildren on Grandparents Day! Enjoy!

Supplies

  • A favorite sugar cookie recipe (or buy pre-mixed cookie dough from the market)
  • Two glasses with different sized rims for cookie cutters (so you can make little and big owls)
  • A bag of confectioners’ sugar, a few splashes of milk, food coloring
  • Several bowls to mix your icing along with a spoon and toothpick for each color
  • Candy eyes (found in baking section at market)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough, then press circles—both big and small (to represent grandparents and grandchildren) using rims of two different sized glasses. 
  2. Place the dough circles on a cookie sheet. Then, taking little scraps of cookie dough, shape and press triangle-shaped owl tufts atop each circle, as shown.
  3. Bake according to recipe or package directions. Let cool.
  4. Using my sweet daughter’s samples as a model, or following your own owl vision, decide how many colors you will need to decorate your owls. 
  5. For each color, add a generous half cup of confectioners’ sugar and a splash of milk to a small bowl. Add a drop or two of food coloring, or mix two colors to create a new color. Stir gently using a spoon. (The amount of sugar, milk, and color drops you use will depend on how much icing you need.  Also, you will have to play with consistency until you get it just right – not too watery and not too thick.  My daughter apologizes for being so vague, but really mixing it up is part of the fun. Your grandkids will LOVE it!)
  6. To paint the owls, cover the cookie with your base glaze. Add the eyes while the glaze is still wet so they stick in place. Wait for the bottom coat to get a little crusty (so colors don’t bleed) before adding the final details such as beak and feathers.
  7. Finally, arrange a plate of big and little owl cookies for yourselves and another to share (in true LOVE IS KIND fashion)!  Have fun!

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You can find Love is Kind at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 30 – Share a Hug Day

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About the Holiday

There’s something about a hug that’s restorative. Today’s holiday was established for people to share this spontaneous and heartfelt gesture with others who look as if they could use some extra encouragement or with family and friends to remind them how much they mean to you. Celebrate the day by giving out plenty of hugs—whether they’re bear-sized or, as today’s book shows, teeny-tiny dinosaur-sized.

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug

Written by Jonathan Stutzman | Illustrated by Jay Fleck

 

Tiny T. Rex notices right off that his friend Pointy looks pretty sad. He asks Pointy if he’s okay, and Pointy tells him he’s too sad to play. The little dino wants to give his friend a hug, but his arms are so short that a hug seems almost impossible. Even though he grows, Tiny tells readers, his arms never do. But that’s not going to stop him. After all, he says, “Pointy needs me.”

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Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2019, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

He asks his dad for advice, but his solution seems too logical. “Rexes are thinkers, not huggers,” Tiny’s dad explains while offering a mathematical equation to solve the problem. Math is not Pointy’s forte, though, so the little rex seeks out his Auntie Junip. He finds her practicing yoga and making cucumber juice—at the same time. Auntie Junip suggests balance is the answer.

Tiny goes to find his mom. While she is encouraging and complimentary, she can’t tell her son how he can hug with his tiny arms. His brother and sister tell him he must practice, and he takes this advice to heart. He begins a regimen to become stronger and develop his hugging ability. He practices on books, flowers, balls, an ice cream cone (messy!), and a cactus (sticky!).

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Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2019, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

At last, he thinks he’s ready. With just one more hug under his belt, he’ll be ready to cheer up Pointy. But it’s not a tree trunk he’s hugging—it’s the leg of a pterodactyl! And now he’s soaring way up in the sky. “From up here, everything looks tiny, like me. I could hug anything I wanted,” he says. Then as suddenly as he was flying, he’s falling… with no hope of finding Pointy for that hug. Unless… he lands right on top of him.

Tiny tells Pointy all about his search for the perfect hug and explains that even though his “hugs are still tiny”… he will do his best “because you are my very best friend.” He embraces Pointy as hard as he can—and that itty-bitty hug turned out to be the “biggest hug ever.”

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Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2019, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Tiny dinosaurs are adorable, but Jonathan Stutzman’s tiny dinosaur with lots of love to give will melt your heart. Stutzman’s T. Rex sweetie is as earnest as any little one and wants only to help his friend feel better. As the little dino seeks advice from the adults in his life, readers will giggle at their world views that don’t quite hit the mark. When his brother and sister offer a way forward, though, kids will recognize that with practice, self-confidence, and self-reliance anyone can accomplish their goals—and that helping a friend is one of the best ways to use your talents, big or small.

Jay Fleck’s tiny T. Rex with his nubbin arms and sincere expression will endear him to children and adults alike. His diminutive size is evident as he stands atop his father’s head, walks along the chalk tray of a chalk board, and gets lost in a side-table drawer. As the little T. Rex determines to practice his way to the hug he so wants to give, Fleck humorously shows that there are flubs and fails along the way to a winner—just as there are in any endeavor. During Tiny’s first attempts at the game of ping-pong his siblings are playing, he suffers whiffs, plunks, and even a bonk on the head before giving the ball a solid Wham! Hugging an ice cream cone leaves him dripping with chocolate and strawberry ice cream, and he comes away from squeezing a cactus completely covered in prickles. When Tiny finally gives Pointy the hug he needs, you can bet that readers will be smiling as wide as Tiny and Pointy.

Kindness, friendship, and droll humor go (tiny) arm-in-(tiny)-arm in Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug, a charming, original story that will be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Chronicle Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1452170336

Discover more about Jonathan Stutzman and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jay Fleck, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Share a Hug Day Activity

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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.

Free Hug Coupons

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You can find Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 15 – National Smile Day

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About the Holiday

Where do you find enough smiles to fill twenty-four hours? Come on, you know! Friends, loved ones, books, movies, videos, jokes, and more funny stuff can instantly elicit that bright, shiny facial expression! Today is a day to share smiles with people you know and those you don’t. So get out there and be happy!

Happy

By Emma Dodd

 

Nestled in a hole in a pine tree, an owl—who could be a mom, a dad, or any caregiver—cradles an adorable tiny owlet under its wing. “I know that / you are happy / when you wake me / with a song,” the owl says. As they venture out onto a limb, the owl adds, “I know that / you are happy / when you hop / and skip along.” With the repeated “I know that you are happy” the owl describes other ways the owlet shows her joy: giggling, with rambling conversation, playing loudly, acting proud, and trying “something new…and / if you don’t succeed at first, I’ll help until you do,” the owl reassures the little one.

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

But every day cannot be happy, the owl concedes, and when “things are looking gray, / I’ll do my best to chase / the gloomy clouds away.” As the sun sets on the secluded home and the owl and owlet drift into sleep, the owl reveals: “I love it when you cuddle close / and whisper, ‘I love you.’ / And I am happiest / of all… / when you are happy too.”

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Perfect for all parents and caregivers, Emma Dodd’s celebration of how a child’s joy resonates in others’ hearts makes shared reading time special. The lyrical rhythm of the repeated lines accompanied by the sentiments of encouragement and the transposition of point of view give this book impact and poignancy.

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Dodd’s lovely illustrations of the endearing owl and owlet pair perfectly express the type of discovery that leads to joy on both a child’s and an adult’s part. With its little raised foot, extended tiny wings, and jubilant, smiling beak, the young owlet is both lovable and loved. Dodd’s beautiful muted, blue, green, brown and orange settings shimmer with gilded accents: delicate gold pine needles frame the owls’ home, the baby owl splashes in a glistening puddle under a gleaming moon, sparkling stars light the midnight blue sky, and rain showers fall in glinting streaks as the owls look on.

Simply put, Happy will put a smile on your face and bring a tear to your eye. This lovely lullaby will quickly become a favorite for bedtime or cuddle time and is a must for young children’s bookshelves. Happy also makes a perfect gift for new parents or other caregivers. 

Ages Birth – 5

Nosy Crow, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763680084 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0763696429 (Paperback)

Smile Power Day Activity

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Make Someone Smile Cards

 

Sharing a smile can make someone’s day! With these printable Make Someone Smile Cards you can spread joy to people you know—and even to those you don’t! Give one to a family member, coworker, or friend. You can surprise your favorite barista, hair stylist, librarian, or shop owner by handing them a card or leaving it where they’ll find it. It’s even fun to tuck a card among the items on a shelf or in a book for someone to find later. Remember, the power of a smile is awesome!

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You can find Happy at these booksellers

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

May 6 – National Smile Month

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About the Holiday

During this month we take time to make sure our smiles are as bright and healthy as they can be by ensuring that we’re following the latest advice by dental professionals about brushing, diet, and oral health and scheduling dental visits for ourselves and our children. It’s also a great time to celebrate all the things that make us smile. One of which is spending time with our kids. On May 12 families will celebrate Mother’s Day—a holiday that’s guaranteed to bring out smiles all around!

Mom Loves Little Jumbo: Hello I Am Jumbo

By Yasushi Muraki

 

When young readers open the cover of this sweet board book, a tiny elephant named Jumbo introduces himself and his mom. “Mom is big,” he says. “I am small.” Mom’s size and strength come in handy when he falls, Jumbo explains, and if he’s in trouble, his mom keeps him safe. Jumbo’s mom not only protects him from big dangers like lions but from small bothers like rain.

Every day Jumbo’s mom takes good care of him. She shows him where to find the freshest grass and the most delicious fruit. Jumbo’s mom also remembers other things he loves, like having fun and playing hide-and-seek “She makes me laugh,” he says.

To show Mom how much he loves her, Jumbo picks “the most beautiful flower” for her. And at the end of the day? “At bedtime Mom cuddles me tightly. I like this best of all.” Yes, Jumbo reveals, “My mom loves me. And I love my Mom.”

Yasushi Muraki revels in that deeply felt awe little ones feel for their mom and all the things she does for them in his adorable board book. By using the matriarchal, close-knit structure of elephant families for his story, Muraki reinforces the bond between mother and child, which he simply, but lovingly demonstrates in his rich, textured images. Each page welcomes children with comforting  earth tones and actions by Jumbo’s caring mom that even the youngest readers will find meaningful.

Told from Jumbo’s point of view, Muraki’s storytelling incorporates two straightforward sentences on each page. In the first, Jumbo reveals something that his mom does for him, and in the second, he explains how it makes him feel. Jumbo even plays a game with readers midway through the book. When Jumbo picks a flower for his mom, little ones will learn that gestures of love are reciprocal, and the cuddly ending will lead to lots of snuggling between mom and child.

A perfect book for little ones to share with their mom on Mothers’ Day or any day, as a new baby present, or baby shower gift, Mom Loves Little Jumbo: Hello I Am Jumbo would be a favorite on home bookshelves and to find at public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

minedition, 2019 | ISBN 978-9888341788

Discover more about Yasushi Muraki, his books, and his art on his website.

National Smile Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Spool-Elephant-Craft

Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mom-loves-little-jumbo-cover

You can find Mom Loves Little Jumbo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate love! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during 14th century. During the 18th century in England those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike.

XO, OX: A Love Story

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Scott Campbell

 

Ox has finally gotten up the courage to write to his heart’s desire. He sits on the edge of his bed, lap desk upon his knees scribbling away. “Dear Gazelle, For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to tell you how much I admire you.” He goes on to praise her gracefulness and remarks that even when she is “running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running from tigers.” He ends with a declaration of love and XO, OX.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-xo-ox-a-love-story-ox-writes-letter

Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Gazelle, lounging on her daybed and admiring herself in a mirror nonchalantly hands her response to her assistant. “Dear Ox, Thank you for your letter. I hope you understand that I have many admirers and cannot reply to each one personally.” She says “Au revoir” with the gift of a signed photograph and moves on to the next letter in the overflowing box of fan mail.

The ever-optimistic Ox writes back while sitting on a park bench and enjoying a cup of steaming coffee. Gazelle’s picture is propped against a guitar, and little friends gather nearby. In his letter, Ox reveals that he does understand about the many other admirers and that makes it all the more meaningful that she responded to his letter personally. He signs off “XO, OX.” In return, Gazelle shoots off her standard letter and encloses another signed photo.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox is overjoyed to receive a second letter. The “coincidence” of the exact wording to the preceding letter only reinforces his opinion that Gazelle is “very smart” and has “a tidy mind.” He urges her to reject the idea that he only loves her because she is pretty. He also loves that she is smart. Gazelle receives Ox’s letter (sealed with a big, red heart) while floating on a raft in the pool, a tall, cool drink floating nearby on its own poof. Her response is a departure from the usual, but only because she is insulted that anyone would think her “repetitive.” While she admits to many faults, this is not one of them. It seems she couldn’t be much clearer when she ends her letter with, “There is no need to write me again.”

Ox reads and rereads Gazelle’s note. Ignoring the last line, he focuses on the “ridiculous” thought that she has many faults. Ox assures her that she only has “one or two.” Gazelle takes offense and from her vanity table tells Ox that his “clumsy brain” has led him away from the usual response to her self-deprecation, which is that she has no faults. She then can’t help but mention the faults of other animals, such as being “too large and too stout” and having “strong smells about them and clumsy brains.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox does not have such a “clumsy brain” and humbly accepts Gazelle’s criticism. In fact he states that he is glad to know what his faults are and tells Gazelle “you make me want to be the best Ox I can be.” His love for her—“the unflattering light of my life”—is undimmed, and he is looking forward to her next letter. Gazelle puts an end to it once and for all. She writes that there will be no next letter, clarifying that “this letter doesn’t count.”

HaHa, thinks Ox when he reads this. He quickly pens a note telling Gazelle how much he loves her sense of humor. Gazelle is brutal. She orders Ox to stop and tells him he is wasting his time. She lays out her reasons: “I could never love a clumsy thing. I could never love a smelly thing.” She goes on to list all of the aforementioned faults and adds that she could never love someone “so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-xo-ox-a-love-story-gazelle-asks-ox-to-stop

Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

You might think Ox would be devastated, but in this tirade he finds one of Gazelle’s faults—and he tells her that her ability to reveal it to him only makes him love her more. He closes with his usual XO, OX and includes a photograph of himself. Gazelle is incredulous. She rips the picture into bits, but then gazes at the pieces again and smiles. “Dear Ox,” she scribbles as she sits on the edge of her bed, lap desk upon her knees and with the taped-together photograph of her beau looking on.

There’s something for every age in Adam Rex’s XO, OX: A Love Story. Little ones will find the snooty Gazelle and humble Ox funny in their persistent writing and reactions to each letter. Older kids will understand the dynamics at work and will get the sly wordplay, the twist on whom exactly is “thick, ungraceful, and awful”, and the idea that perhaps the lady doth protest too much. And adults will never make it through without out loud guffaws on almost every page. Wondering how Ox will respond to each of Gazelle’s letters is such delicious suspense, and his kindness in the face of her derision will tug at readers’ hearts.

Scott Campbell’s softy colored line drawings offer hilarious touches to fill out the details of the homes and lives of these smitten pen pals. In a stroke of genius, Gazelle’s personal assistant is a sunglasses-wearing mole, suggesting Gazelle’s own perception of her dazzling brilliance. Clever contrasts in the lifestyles of barrel-bodied Ox, who writes at a rustic desk and relaxes by a pond, and lithe Gazelle, who writes from her elegant vanity and lounges in her pool, demonstrate that their similarities may outweigh their differences. The touching ending that brings the relationship between Ox and Gazelle full circle as he sends her a photograph and she responds is satisfying and sweet.

XO, OX: A Love Story would be a funny, fantastic addition to anyone’s home library—one that can provide laughs or balm for feeling hearts. 

Ages 4 and up

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626722880

Discover the world of Adam Rex, including his art, picture books, and books for older kids, on his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Scott Campbell on his website!

Valentine’s Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the Love Monster collect all the valentines in this printable puzzle.

 Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution 

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You can find XO, OX: A Love Story at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review