September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of the best days of the year! Anyone who loves books will want to take the opportunity of the holiday to visit their favorite bookstore and buy one of those books you’ve been hearing and reading about. And why stop at just one? Winter is coming—that time when there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling in with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and reading late into the night. As the school year begins, children – even the youngest readers – benefit from having new books in their home libraries that reflect their changing interests and maturing thoughts. Take a little time to look through the offerings of your local bookstore and let your kids pick out some new favorites! 

The Thank You Book

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo

 

For little ones, “Thank you” may be one of the first phrases they learn when they begin getting out into the world. Thanking grandparents and other relatives, friends, teachers, librarians, store employees, and others becomes a part of every day. But for kids just learning manners and communication skills, prompts to say “thank you” may seem kind of random, confusing, and maybe even a bit intimidating.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

This is where Danna Smith’s delightfully cheery story about sharing your appreciation comes in. With charming rhymes, Smith answers the questions of why, when, and to whom thanks are appropriate while infusing her story with the positive feelings that thanking someone for their kindness instills in the thanker and the one being thanked.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Smith begins with an inviting and easy-to-understand definition of thankfulness that will resonate with young children: “When someone is thoughtful or kind in some way, ‘thank you’ are two very nice words to say.” She then goes on to provide specific examples of times that gratitude is warranted as well as language to help kids express their feelings for specific acts of kindness. As illustrations show children engaged in various activities, readers discover they can say, “‘Thank you for helping.’ ‘Thank you for sharing.’ / ‘Thank you for teaching.’ ‘Thank you for caring.’”

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

But is saying those types of words the only way to show your gratitude? Children (and especially those who are reluctant to talk with people they don’t know well or feel shy about speaking up) learn that there are other ways to show gratitude, including giving hugs, drawings, and tasty treats.

Smith then reveals a well-known secret about saying thank you that will make today’s inclusive kids happy to be part of an appreciative community: “If you start with one thank-you, you’ll find it will grow.” And, indeed, Smith finishes her story by assuring readers that kids all over the world are thanking others for their friendship and kindness.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Danna Smith’s sweet board book, with its jaunty rhymes and enthusiasm for sharing gratitude is just the kind of story parents, teachers, and other adults will want to read with their little ones and little ones will want to hear again and again. Her open-ended phrasing allows adults and kids to discuss the types of people who are helpers, sharers, teachers, and care-ers, as well as those within their family and friends who are deserving of thanks and on which occasions. Smith also gives kids ideas for a wide range of ways to say thank you that may use their talents and mean more to them than words. These examples can also spark talks between parents, teachers, and other caregivers on other ways to show thanks. And what if you have a child who just feels appreciation deep inside? They are represented in these pages too.

Juliana Perdomo’s vibrant illustrations of kind acts by friends, parents, teachers, veterinarians, bus drivers, activity instructors, and others will enchant little ones and get them talking about all the times someone has done something nice for them. Readers of all ages can’t help but be filled with gratitude and good feelings when they’re greeted by Perdomo’s smiling and enthusiastic characters. Perdomo mirrors Smith’s text to give kids a concrete understanding of the concepts while filling her pages with cheer and heartfelt gratitude. The idea that saying thank-you can bring people together in a community and around the world is one that will excite kids and encourage them to show their appreciation.

Joyful and inspiring, The Thank You Book would be a favorite read aloud in any young child’s home library and is a must for all daycare, school, and public library board book collections.

Ages 3 and up

Little Simon, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665902922

Discover more about Danna Smith, her books, poetry, and paintings on her website.

You can connect with Juliana Perdomo on Instagram and Twitter.

Buy a Book Day Activities

 

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Thank You! Postcard

 

Do your kids have someone they’d like to thank for a kind act, a gift, or just for being a loved family member or friend? This cheery Thank You postcard makes it easy for kids to show their gratitude and share their love to people close by or far away. This card is also perfect to share for the upcoming holidays!

Thank You! Postcard

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Thankfulness Jar

 

It’s good to remind yourself periodically – or even every day – of all the things you have to be thankful for and all the acts of kindness you’ve received. This activity sheet gives children (and adults who want to participate with their kids) a place to collect all these “thank-you”–worthy experiences. Just write a word or short description inside the jar each time you feel thankful. You might even want to share your appreciation with the people whose names appear in your jar with a note, a picture, a hug, or a homemade craft to show how much they mean to you. 

This Thankfulness Jar also makes a meaningful activity for Thanksgiving Day! Why not print a copy for each guest at your table, provide a pencil, and get everyone sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Thankfulness Jar Activity Sheet

 

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You can find The Thank You Book at these booksellers

Amazon  | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

August 23 – National Sponge Cake Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing like a light and airy cake embellished with fruit, whipped cream, or chocolate to put a fine finishing touch on a summer day, and that’s why the world celebrates the sponge cake today. What makes the sponge cake distinctive is that it is made without yeast or leavening agent, instead relying on whipped egg whites to give it its delectable texture. The recipe dates back to 18th century Italy and a special commission by a wealthy member of the Pallavicini family of Genoa. It is perhaps better known as a treat enjoyed by Victorian Britons with their tea. Today, sponge cake is a favorite everywhere, and it might just taste better when its baked and eaten together with friends—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Sonny Says Sorry!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

While playing hide and seek in the park, Sonny finds a box wrapped with a bow. Intrigued, he inspects it and finds a tag that reads “For Honey.” Sonny is suddenly overcome by curiosity about what is inside. He smells a delicious aroma just as Boo and Meemo find him. Sonny shows them the box.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then, despite Meemo’s protesting “Woof! Woof!”, Sonny opens the box. Meemo tries to remind Sonny and Boo that the box is for Honey, but they “peek inside” anyway. “Inside the box is a huge chocolate cake, covered in juicy, red strawberries!” There are chocolate drops on top too. “Woof!” says Meemo more emphatically as Sonny and Boo eat two strawberries. Then, after looking around, Sonny sneaks a chocolate drop. And Boo takes one too.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sonny and Boo’s nibbling expands to gobbling. Just then Honey shows up. “Found you!” she says. But then she finds something else: “. . . Sonny’s chocolaty hands. . . . Boo’s chocolaty face. Then Honey sees the open box . . .” and she “starts to cry.”  Now Sonny and Boo feel terrible too. Even though they both try to make it up to Honey in their own way, and “Sonny says Sorry!”, Honey keeps crying. Then Sonny has another idea. Back home, “Sonny, Honey, and Boo bake a new cake . . .” to enjoy “TOGETHER!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The sequel to Sonny Says Mine!, Caryl Hart’s Sonny Says Sorry! addresses that itchy curiosity that can often lead kids to break barriers and disappoint and upset their friends and others. In her quickly paced story, Hart lets readers be part of the group as Sonny, Boo, and Meemo gather around Honey’s enticing box and think for themselves whether they would join Sonny and Boo or side with Meemo. As Sonny and Boo’s eating escalates, so does the suspense. When Honey discovers her decimated cake, Hart needs only four words and a stream of tears to show little ones how devastated she feels. Sonny and Boo are similarly affected, and readers will see how decisions like the one Sonny made hurts everyone involved. Sonny’s sincere apology is a good start at making things right. His idea to include everyone in replacing the cake shows true, enduring friendship.

Zachariah OHora’s distinctive and familiar illustrations will endear these four friends to little readers. Blocks of vibrant colors help kids focus on the action and the characters’ expressive faces. When, on the second page, Sonny discovers a box on the picnic blanket next to his hiding place, the tag “For: Honey” is prominently displayed, giving kids and adults a hint of what might be coming up and what’s at stake. When Boo and Meemo arrive, Meemo’s barking and wagging tale provide readers with another opportunity to predict what he will do. As the story progresses, Meemo’s facial expressions become more and more disapproving, a balancing counterpoint to Sonny and Boo’s delight. OHora also does an excellent job of clearly showing Sonny and Boo’s remorse as well as their heartfelt apologies.

Sonny Says Sorry! is a smart and effective way to introduce young readers to the important concept of respecting others’ belongings and feelings as well as of making amends when a mistake is made. Straightforward and accessible language teamed with evocative illustrations create a poignant story that will make an emotional impact with children in the target audience. Sonny Says, Sorry! would be a go-to book on home and classroom bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. 

Pair Sonny Says Sorry! with Sonny Says Mine!, a story about sharing to talk with your kids or students about these seminal topics of childhood. You can read my review of Sonny Says Mine! here.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547609031

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Sponge Cake Day Activity

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Yummy Cake Coloring Pages

Cakes are fun to decorate and delicious to eat! These two coloring pages let you enjoy a bit of both!

Tall Cake to Decorate Coloring Page | Cat Eating Cake Coloring Page

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You can find Sonny Says Sorry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 12 – It’s Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during November we celebrate Thanksgiving and the season ushers in holidays of joy and giving, our thoughts turn to getting together with others to show how grateful we are for them. Today’s book demonstrates how showing good manners can go a long way in proving our gratitude too! 

Terrific Table Manners: A Modern Manners Primer

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard

 

The holidays are coming with invitations to parties and get-togethers, dinners at grandma and grandpa’s, and festive drop-ins at friends’ and neighbors’ homes. And then there are just the family mealtimes that might benefit from a little more polish. What’s a grown-up to do with their young charges? To the rescue comes Terrific Table Manners, a terrific guide that puts a light touch on the finer points of conduct.

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Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

The chaperone on this journey to refinement is Mr. Faris, a dapper gent who, he says, “went to manners school in Paris.” With his pencil mustache, fitted waistcoat, and striking ascot, Mr. Faris is the perfect teacher through this school of manners and etiquette—and he does it in rhyme! His first lesson introduces the RSVP—a must for any respectful invitee.  Mr. Faris even provides examples of a “Do it like this” acceptance: “Thank you for inviting me to dinner. I will be coming! Sincerely, Kevin; and decline: “Thank you for inviting me to dinner. I’m busy and won’t be able to make it. Sincerely, Kevin; and a “Not like this” decline: “I’m NOT going to your fancy dinner party! I’d rather eat worms! Kevin.”

So you’ve accepted the invitation. Now what? First thing, as you gaze at the beautifully set table, remember: “The china gleams, the silver shines. / Your manners must be just as fine.” What kind of manners? Sitting up straight, putting the napkin on your lap, and keeping elbows off the table. Easy peasy! Now, the dinner bell has rung and it’s time to sit.

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Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

If you find yourself next to someone you don’t know, can you just keep your head down and eat, eat, eat? Not at all, “you must converse.” About what? Mr. Faris presents some tips on topics that are and are not good dinnertime conversation starters. And here’s “one last rule for you to follow. / Before you speak, please chew and swallow. // Your food won’t spray into the air. / The guests will think you’re debonair.”

At this fancy dinner party, there are a lot of utensils and dishes. And I mean, a lot! What are they all for? Mr. Faris clues you in then demonstrated the correct way to eat soup. After the soup, comes the main course. No matter how hungry you might be, Mr. Faris advises: “Don’t hold utensils with your fists! / Only cavemen eat like this!” Then as the platter’s passed around, polite kids put food on their plate—even if they don’t really like it. You’ll learn how to cut the meat and discretely get rid of gristle and tough parts too.

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Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

Next come the vegetables—artichokes, asparagus, and corn on the cob. Each on requires a different dining job. No gravy lakes or shooting peas, and “if you spill your drink, don’t make a fuss.” At last dessert is being served. When it’s time to cut the cake, should you take a big, big slice? Mr. Faris says, “That isn’t nice.” And after “afters” if you’re getting bored, “you mustn’t make a big commotion. / No mixing drinks, no magic potions. // Please no shouting, hush that singing.” And make sure your cell phone isn’t ringing.

While Mr. Faris’s class may end in a chaotic dismissal, your kids will learn the fine art of being a courteous, gracious, and very welcome guest with this humorous primer that finishes up with briefly expanded talk and tips on the subjects presented in the text, from why manners matter to the verbal thank-you or thank-you note to the host or hostess.

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Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

In her delightfully accessible handbook to manners, Michelle Markel will tickle kids’ ribs while teaching them what it means to be a polite guest, restaurant-visitor, or member at the family table. Through short chapters she follows a group of children who are practicing their manners under the watchful eye and advice of Mr. Faris and a brave hostess, Prudence, and demonstrates the dos—and don’ts—that elicit smiles—and frowns. Her comical conversational verses will make kids laugh—and remember these musts for polite society.

Accompanying Markel’s guidelines are Marrilee Liddiard’s elegant line drawings of a fine Parisian home set for dinner and the eight manners-challenged kids at their first class. As the food flies, the soup splashes, and the conversation veers into dangerous territory, readers can see just how gauche rambunctiousness can be.

A book that makes learning the finer points of socializing fun, Terrific Table Manners: A Modern Manners Primer is a highly recommended addition to family, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Cameron Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1951836238

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Merrilee Liddiard, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game

 

Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!

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You can find Terrific Table Manners: A Modern Manners Primer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 5 – National Do Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Similar to Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Do Something Nice Day encourages people to think of others and do nice things for them. These don’t have to be big or expensive; in fact, small gestures or thoughtful actions can make all the difference in the way a friend, family member, or stranger feels. These acts of kindness will make you feel good too! To celebrate today, keep an eye out for ways you can lend a hand, times you can share a smile or a conversation, or ways you can make a new friend. Kids may enjoy sharing the encouraging cards found below with friends, siblings, and teachers or by leaving them at school, the library, shops or anywhere that someone may find them.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice

Written by Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrated by Kelly O’Neill

 

It seems like being nice should be easy, but there are so many emotions that often surround that one little word that sometimes doing the considerate thing is really hard. How hard? Like smiling and saying “that’s okay” when “your mom says you have to share” your favorite toy with a friend, sibling, or cousin and they break it. Like sitting through your brother or sister’s boring performance, game, or recital when you’d rather be somewhere else—anywhere else. Or like eating your least favorite food and thanking the cook for the meal because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In fact, “sometimes being nice takes practice” like when a little brother or sister destroys your stuff and you yell at them, but then later you realize they didn’t really understand what they were doing. Or like when visiting someone you love in a nursing home or new place is scary and you hang back, not wanting to see them but then decide you won’t be scared next time you visit. And then there are times like these on the playground “when you have been waiting in line for the big slide, and a kid jumps in front of you because he didn’t see you standing there. And your mom says that the polite thing to do is to let him go first. But it’s your turn so you go anyway. Somehow it isn’t as fun. Next time you’ll let him go first.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So what does all that practice lead to? The good feeling you get when you are nice. Like when you let your baby brother sit with you as you play a video game, “and he claps for you the whole time.” There’s also the great feeling you get when you’ve cleaned up after playing and your parents really appreciate it, or “when you’re late for soccer practice and your mom can’t find her keys, so you help her look for them . . . and find them in the doorknob! And your mom says she doesn’t know what she would do without you!”

While these examples may be hard because you feel slighted or tired or rushed or scared, there are times when being nice takes all your courage—like when you befriend the new kid or the kid everyone picks on and find out you have lots in common. Or when the bullies come around and you stand up for your new friend even though it’s scary and you end up in the principal’s office. So why would you want to be nice? Because “it’s worth it.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Maggie C. Rudd’s excellent primer to the emotions and circumstances around being nice presents children with realistic scenarios involving family members and friends, favorite toys and activities, and common situations at school that often require extra effort to respond to in a positive way. Rudd’s conversational writing style directly engages the reader, and while every example may not be an exact match to the reader’s experience, many will be spot on and the others easily recognized and adaptable.

Rudd’s four-step progression acknowledges that showing kindness or even just good manners can be difficult, but that it can become easier—especially when a situation seems unfair or is disappointing—with practice and perspective. Rudd’s examples of when being nice feels good are sprinkled with humor and warm family feelings that will bring smiles that support her point. A thread involving a favorite Galactic Star Crusher action figure ties several of the vignettes together, adding a sense of relationship and connectedness among the characters.

Kelly O’Neill illustrates each example for readers with clearly depicted scenes involving kids like them playing video games, visiting with grandparents, playing on the playground, helping their parents, and standing up for another child. In every instance, the children’s emotions are easily understood, which opens up many opportunities for adults and kids to discuss the feelings and issues surrounding how one treats others from both a child’s and adult’s perspective and experience. O’Neill’s bright colors, familiar settings, and uncluttered, well-conceived pages put the focus on her engaging children and elegantly complement Rudd’s important message.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice is a superb read aloud for honestly addressing the complexities and rewards of showing kindness and being nice. It is a book that families, teachers, and caregivers will find themselves turning to again and again in helping children navigate and learn this important social skill. The book is a must addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company | ISBN 978-0807575734

Discover more about Maggie C. Rudd and her books as well as an Activity Kit for educators and parents on her website.

To learn more about Kelly O’Neill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Do Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 10 – It’s Children’s Good Manners Month

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About the Holiday

As kids go back to school and will be interacting with other students, teachers, coaches, group leaders, and others, this month is dedicated to the kinds of manners that promote good relationships and cohesive gatherings. Thinking about how one’s actions will affect others is part of being a great friend, teammate, or participant in any activity. Family life with parents and siblings is also better when everyone treats each other with good manners and respect.

Sonny Says Mine!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

Sonny and his friends are playing on the playground when he spies a stuffed pink bunny in the sandbox. “Ooh! SO soft. SO cute. SO cuddly. I’ll call you Bun-Bun!’ he says.” But Meemo runs up to Sonny, interested in the bunny too, but Sonny pulls Bun-Bun away with a determined, “Mine!” Sonny plays with Bun-Bun, feeding her, dancing with her, reading her a story, and finally putting her to bed under a sand blanket.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Honey and Boo come over and Boo is crying because she’s lost her bunny doll Suki. While Boo sits sadly on the bench, Honey looks all over for Suki. Sonny says nothing and tells Meemo to stop barking. Then Honey directly asks Sonny if he’s seen Suki. “No!” he says, hiding the doll behind his back. Honey and Boo go back to their search. Sonny is so happy with Bun-Bun. “He LOVES Bun-Bun SO much.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But Meemo scolds Sonny and tries to take Suki. Sonny hides Bun-Bun and goes to play with Boo and Honey. But Boo is too sad to play pirates or to eat chocolate cake. “Now Sonny feels sad too.” What will he do? He goes to his hiding place and retrieves Bun-Bun. He hides Bun-Bun behind his back as he walks near Honey and Boo. Then he gives Bun-Bun to Boo and apologizes. Now everyone is happy! “Woof!” says Meemo. “Hooray!” says Boo. And what does Sonny say? He wants you to “Come back soon!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sharing something can be hard. Giving back something you’ve found and LOVE to its rightful owner can be even harder. Caryl Hart understands these strong tugs on the heart and in her tender and realistic tale shows little ones the other side of the story—the sadness a friend experiences over losing a beloved toy or other object. Each of the characters demonstrate different actions and emotions providing adults and kids opportunities to discuss feelings and various roles of friendship. With their natural empathy, kids will identify with both Sonny and Boo and learn how in this type of situation real happiness and peace of mind are found.

Zachariah OHora’s instantly recognizable illustrations bring a cute, comforting, and completely relatable vibe to the story. Sonny’s instant love for Bun-Bun is palpable and little ones will know exactly what’s at stake when he’s asked to give the bunny up. On the other side, Boo’s grief is also evident as tears stream from her eyes and the usual fun of playtime and snacks offer no cheer. Meemo and Honey have their own reactions too, which give kids more perspectives to consider. As Sonny contemplates what to do, children will empathize with both Sonny and Boo as they know one of them will be left unhappy. But Through OHora’s touching illustrations, they’ll see that Sonny makes the right choice—and how it really makes him feel.

The first in the new Sonny Says series, which introduces preschoolers and kindergarteners to universal experiences, Sonny Says Mine! is a multilayered story that is as adorable as it is encouraging and educational. The book will captivate young readers just beginning to venture out into the world and make friends and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and library shelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605804

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-cover

You can find Sonny Says Mine! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 8 – Opera Day

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About the Holiday

Opera has been a favorite art form since its beginnings in Italy in the 1500s. Combining magnificent voices, soaring arias, grand costumes, and dramatic storylines, operas continue to thrill audiences and gain new fans. To celebrate Opera Day today or at a time in the future, enjoy a performance in your area or find one on YouTube and gather your family and friends for an opera party.

I received a copy of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

 

Fernando had many loves in his life—including chocolate, cheese, gumdrops, and popcorn—but what he loved most was “feasting on Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, / and lending a paw at the Old Opera House.” Delores loved nothing more than being in the spotlight, and now she was getting the chance to leave her place in the chorus to “take center stage and be Diva Delores.” She warmed up in her dressing room with “Me-me-me-me!”

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Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Fernando wanted to give Delores the benefit of all of his years of experience, but she wasn’t having it. A mouse was not a suitable helper for someone as great as she, she thought. At the rehearsal the next day, Delores was a flop, hitting wrong notes, missing her entrance, and the last song? Well…. From the back Fernando called out that he could help. He wrote cues on little cards “and—presto!—Delores knew just what to do.” You’d think Delores would be thankful, but instead she complained that a mouse’s help was just not proper for a diva, and she shooed Fernando away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-fernando

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The day before her big performance, Delores found that her dress didn’t fit. Again, Fernando rushed to her rescue, but what thanks did he get? Delores grumbled and fussed. “Then grabbing a bottle / of stinky perfume, / she spritzed poor Fernando / right out of the room!” Fernando went home, wanting to quit. But as he looked at his pictures of Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, he knew that without him the show would fail and that he couldn’t quit now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-manners

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

First, he went to Delores and laid down the rules: “For starters, I’d like to hear / thank you and please / when I help fix your dress / or bring crackers and cheese.” Delores was startled and quickly said good night. At home she wondered: had she been rude? The next day, Delores was nervous. She tried calming herself with candy and tea. She even looked for Fernando, but he was nowhere to be found.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-wig

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Standing on stage in the glare of the spotlights, “as the orchestra played, / Delores felt faint. / First she swooned… / then she swayed.” When she opened her mouth, no notes, no sound, no song came out. Then inside her wig she saw Fernando, who squeaked “‘You can do it.’” And then Delores did sing “with a voice rich and sweet.” When she forgot some words to her song, Fernando reminded her by tra-la-la-ing along.

The audience loved them. They cheered for Delores; they cheered for Fernando. Later, Delores admitted she could not have done it alone. Then she apologized to Fernando and asked for a fresh start on their friendship. “Of course!” he agreed, and now they bring down the house night after night as “the Opera House team!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cheering

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laura Sassi’s clever and original story about teamwork and sharing the spotlight hits all the right notes in showing how accepting help can elevate anyone’s performance and lead to a new friendship. After playing second fiddle in the chorus, Delores finally gets her chance to shine, but her vanity exceeds her experience. When a tiny mouse offers help from his deep well of knowledge, Delores takes one look at Fernando’s diminutive size and rejects him and his advice. Through her perfect rhymes and musical rhythm, Sassi engages readers in how to graciously learn from another’s experience and encourages the Fernandos out there to keep trying, even when their initial offerings of assistance are rebuffed.

Rebecca Gerlings lends charm and humorous touches to Sassi’s tale, and the promise of the enticing cotton-candy fluff of a wig, introduced in the first pages and teased throughout the story, is comically and satisfyingly fulfilled in the end as Fernando directs Delores to a winning performance from within. Along the way, readers are treated to an octopus piano player, multiple meltdowns as Delores dispatches Fernando from her orbit, and demonstrations of persistence as the little mouse stands up for himself, good manners, and the honor of his beloved opera. 

A smart, fresh, and fun read aloud, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse has multiple applications for discussing friendship, modesty, respect, and collaboration. The book would make a delightful addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922001

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca Gerlings, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Opera Day Activity

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Sparkly Opera Glasses by Laura Sassi

 

Make a pair of these fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse.

Supplies for each pair of opera glasses

  • Two recycled toilet tissue tubes one large craft stick
  • Markers tacky glue
  • Two paper clips assorted fancy embellishments (We used feathers, sparkly gems and snippets of shimmery ribbon, but use whatever you have around the house. Be creative!)

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Directions

  1. Decorate the tissue tubes using markers.
  2. Glue the tubes side by side, as shown. Be sure to insert the craft stick in between so your opera glasses have a handle. Slip a paper clip at each end over the sealed part for extra  pressure while drying.
  3. Use tacky glue to affix whatever fancy embellishments you choose. The more the better!
  4. When dry, elegantly hold your opera glasses up to your eyes and pretend you are watching Diva Delores and Fernando at the opera!

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You can find Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 24 – Photographer Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

National Photographer Appreciation Month is for all photographers, professional and amateur. The month-long holiday gives people an opportunity to really look at the photographs they see in newspapers, books, online, and even in their own home and truly appreciate the artistry that goes into capturing a moment, a place, or a personality to tell a bigger story. October is also a great month to go through your own family photographs and relive or rediscover favorite memories. To celebrate, consider having a professional portrait taken of yourself, your kids, or your whole family to decorate your home, give as gifts, or send as a holiday card. There are also many galleries displaying photographic work to explore. 

Operation Photobomb

Written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie | Illustrated by Matthew Rivera

 

Monkey and Chameleon loved scavenging stuff from tours that came through their neck of the jungle. One lucky day when they raided a backpack, Monkey discovered a polaroid camera while Chameleon came away with a roll of toilet paper. Monkey had a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of taking great shots, but soon he was snapping stylish pics of all his friends.

Monkey got so good that he started taking themed pictures. He took some that were “only for the birds” and others of “just animals with fur.” Chameleon was beginning to feel left out, so just as Monkey was going to click the button on a cute-as-a-button shot of two frogs on a branch, Chameleon swung in on a vine, shouting, “‘Photobomb!’”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“‘Chameleon, please don’t do that!’” Monkey said. “But Chameleon was just getting started.” The Capybara family suddenly had a new member in their portrait; Sloth’s new baby was joined by a chameleon-y brother; and as Monkey was about to capture Grandma Macaw blowing out her 76th birthday candles, Chameleon photobombed in, sending the cake splat all over her and her guests.

“‘Help me stop him from wrecking all the pictures!’ Monkey howled.” Toucan did a song and dance routine to distract him, Jaguar tried to fling him away, and the tapirs attempted to form an impenetrable line, but he was always able to sneak in. Monkey shrieked at him, and the other animals complained that he had ruined their once-in-a lifetime pictures. Chameleon blushed pink and red and said, “‘Fine. You won’t see me in any more pictures.’”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So Monkey went back to work. But the animals took a close look at their shots and noticed a phantom-like Chameleon blending in with them or their surroundings. “CHAMELEON!” they shouted. The animals huddled together to find a solution. Monkey had an idea, and they whispered and plotted until they had the perfect plan. “Operation Photobomb was a go.” Monkey called Chameleon over and arranged him in a perfect pose. Then he aimed his camera and counted down. When he reached “three” the Macaws yelled “‘Bombs away!’” and pelted him with juicy fruit. “Click!” Monkey took the shot.

Chameleon was covered in sticky pulp and juice. The animals laughed. But Chameleon didn’t think it was so funny. “‘You ruined my pic…Ohhhhh!’” he said. Monkey handed him the roll of toilet tissue and offered a truce. Chameleon agreed to both. Although it was hard, Chameleon stayed out of Monkey’s pictures from then on. But then he had an idea that was “picture-perfect.” He knew just the people who “loved a good photobomb.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-chameleon

Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s funny take on the photobomb phenomenon will have kids laughing and joining in with shouts of “photobomb!” as Chameleon inserts himself into all of the animals’ precious shots. When Chameleon ignores the animals’ complaints and requests to stop and instead uses his camouflage to trick them (a shrewdly worded hints at this), Monkey’s idea to give him a bit of his own medicine teaches him a valuable lesson. Chameleon also discovers a clever, more productive, and welcome way to enjoy his favorite activity. Through their fast-paced and humorous storytelling sprinkled with puns, Luebbe and Cattie reveal several truths about friendship, respect for others, and appropriate timing. Their surprise ending will satisfy and delight kids. It offers opportunities for discussion on social skills, putting others first, and finding the right time and place to engage in certain activities and behaviors.

Matthew Rivera’s tropical, sun-kissed illustrations will enchant readers. Chameleon, a mottled vibrant blue in most spreads, shows his enthusiastic prankster side popping up at the last moment to join the animals’ photos. Readers will love pointing him out in the polaroid squares scattered throughout the book. They’ll especially enjoy finding him when he camouflages himself against various backdrops. As he discovers his “picture-perfect” audience, kids will see that here he can show all his colors.

Operation Photobomb is a lively and original way to introduce children to ideas of respect for others and proper conduct. The humor and familiar activity will resonate with kids and makes this a book that will be a favorite for thoughtful as well as spirited story times at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807561300

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

To view a portfolio of work by Matthew Rivera and learn more about him, visit his website.

Photographer Appreciation Month 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 your favorite pictures of friends and family!

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), 1 ½ -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 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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-cover

You can find Operation Photobomb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound