January 12 – It’s International Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Are you an artist, a writer, a decorator, a chef? How about a floral arranger, a woodworker, a fashion designer, or a gardener? Inside almost every heart lies a desire to create. Whether you use your ingenuity in your job or as an escape from the routine, this month celebrates all that is innovative. Sometimes this comes not in something you can see or touch but in a new thought or novel way of solving a problem—as seen in today’s book!

Neville

Written by Norton Juster | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

A little boy stands on the sidewalk alongside his belongings and watches the moving van drive out of sight. “Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.” It wasn’t as if anyone had consulted him about moving. He did not look forward to the next day at school with a new teacher and no friends. The boy sat dejectedly on his new front steps. His mom came out and sat with him. “‘Maybe you’d like to take a little walk down the block. You might even meet someone,’” she said.

The boy grumbled but got up and headed down the street, skeptical of meeting new friends that easily. As he walked, he looked around without much interest. “But then he stopped. He turned around slowly, put his head back, took a deep breath, and called out, NEVILLE….” When nothing happened, he tried it again, louder. “NEVILLE.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, a boy about his age was standing next to him saying he should yell louder. He did, but the newcomer still didn’t think it was loud enough. He joined in and the two shouted, “but not very together.” A little girl appeared to tell them that no one could understand the overlapping words. Then “she raised her arms, counted to three and brought them down like a conductor. They all shouted at exactly the same time.”

Pretty soon kids were coming from all over the neighborhood. Many already knew the name and were shouting it before they even reached the group. They didn’t all yell together, but it was fun trying anyway. During a break in the yelling, one child said, “‘Hey, I don’t know anyone named Neville who lives around here. Is he new?’” The boy spoke up, “‘I guess so. Everyone has to be new sometimes, don’t they?’” 

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The other kids wondered if Neville was a friend of the boy’s. He admitted that he was probably his best friend. One little girl thought the boy had to be pretty special if Neville liked him so much. And just like that everyone wanted to know more about Neville. They asked the boy question after question. “‘I like Neville already!’” someone cried out.” The group even broke up as some kids went to find Neville on the next block. By this time, adults were taking notice too. It was getting time to go home, and one by one the kids left, but only after a promise that they could continue looking for Neville tomorrow. The boy promised to be there, and everyone walked and skipped away happily.

As he watched them go, the boy listened to their conversations. Their voices floated toward him, saying “I hope we find Neville…. Even if we don’t, I like his friend a lot…. Maybe better!… Hey, what was his name?… Oh, we’ll have to ask hi tomorrow.” He started back to his new house, waving to one of the kids he’d met on his way.

When he reached his front door, he took a long look at his house. “‘Not so bad,’ he had to admit.” He ate dinner and got ready for bed. His mom tucked him in and whispered, “‘Good night, Neville, pleasant dreams…. ‘Good night, Mom,’ he whispered back, an in a moment he was asleep.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-special

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With perfect pitch and a timeless charm, Norton Juster presents a clever “new-kid-on-the-block” story that will enchant readers. The boy’s feelings on moving day are honestly portrayed and sprinkled with humor, and as he trudges down the street in search of new friends, children will be rooting for him. The boy’s creative method of attracting attention offers camaraderie and suspense in equal measure. The inclusive questions and comments from the neighborhood kids are touching, reassuring readers that Neville will fit in just fine.

As the story opens, G. Brian Karas presents Neville’s house and neighborhood in gray-scale tones. Only his belongings and the family car have color. At the encouragement of his mother, Neville walks off down the piano keyboard of a sidewalk toward a horizon of nothingness. The first attempts at calling “Neville” are gray and blue, but suddenly another child comes by, and the grass begins to turn green and the name becomes purple-and-blue plaid. When the little girl enters the scene, Neville (both the name and the boy) shine brighter and the atmosphere turns spring-like.

When kids from all over join up, they bring with them a riot of color in their unique clothing and the voices. The image showing the kids on the grass, peppering Neville with questions is heartening, and as the children head home, the scene pans out to show the diverse neighborhood in full color. Even Neville’s house is painted and has a flower basket hanging out front. His bed is cozy, moonbeams shine through the window, and sweet dreams are close at hand.

Neville is a terrific book for kids experiencing a move to a new home or school, joining a new group, or who love a clever and humorous story. It would make a fun read-aloud for home or the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2011 | ISBN 978-0375867651

Creativity Month Activity

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Personalized Organizing Jar

 

With your own creativity you can make a personalized organizer jar that looks cool on your desk while keeping things tidy.

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut butter jar
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

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Directions

  1. With the chalkboard paint, paint a shape to write your name in
  2. With the acrylic paint, make a border around the chalkboard shape or get more creative—make a roaring dinosaur, for example!
  3. When the paint dries, add your name with the chalk
  4. Add your favorite pens, pencils, markers, bookmarks, stickers, and other supplies

Picture Book Review

 

October 19 – Evaluate Your Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to take stock of their lives and decide if they are on their chosen path. With so much going on, days, weeks, months—even years—can fly by, and before you know it, you’re somewhere you don’t want to be. Stopping along the way once in a while to reevaluate all the parts of your life—education, job, home, finances, and social connections—can help you see where improvements can be made so you can accomplish your goals. Sometimes, though, making changes reveals that you were on the right track all along—as today’s book shows.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Bruce’s Big Move to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! All opinions are my own.

Bruce’s Big Move

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Oh no! Is that a For Sale sign outside Bruce’s home? You know, the hillside abode with the yard littered with toys, games, and an old hat? What’s going on? Well, let’s turn the page and find out!

If you don’t know already, “Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese because he was their mother (just go with it and check out Mother Bruce). He also shared space with three mice “because they would not leave” (maybe, but weren’t they kind of invited? For the answer to that you’ll want to check into Hotel Bruce). Mice, it seems make themselves very much at home—in every square inch of every room. You wouldn’t believe the mess! (Or what a generous Mom Bruce is!). 

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

As you might imagine “Bruce’s house was crowded, chaotic, and loud,” and it all made Bruce very grumpy. Bruce thought and pondered over how he could get rid of those mice. He tried plan after plan, but none of them were successful. Those crafty mice just turned everything on it’s head. For instance, when Bruce told them to get “Out,” they appreciated his concern that they “get some fresh air.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

There was only one thing to do. Bruce packed up his belongings, settled his four kids in the sidecar, and moved away. “Finding a new house for a mother bear and his four geese can be difficult.” The tree-top nest was too shaky, the submerged shipwreck was too wet, and the new construction by turtle builders was too behind schedule. Eventually, Bruce found the perfect home on the edge of a lake and surrounded by meadows. It even came with plenty of friendly neighbors (well, no house is perfect-perfect).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-moving-away

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The greatest thing about this house, though? No mice! Bruce felt so happy, he smiled. Yeah, really…didn’t you see it? The geese, though, were not so happy. They stood around with sad eyes and dejected postures. “Bruce tried cheering them up . . . .” He flew a kite, took them to the beach, and took them to art class. Even Bruce’s biggest smile . . . um . . . grimace?. . . no, smile—definitely a smile . . . could distract his kids from missing the mice.

But then “the moving van arrived” with some very familiar-looking movers. In fact, these little guys were ready to move in! So, the geese were happy, and the mice were happy. But Bruce? Not so much. The housewarming party was a fantastic success. All the woodland animals came, and “Bruce’s house was once again crowded, chaotic, and loud.” And even though “Bruce didn’t like it one bit,” he had to admit “it felt like home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-moving-in

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ is the perfect dad/mom/writer/drawer for the curmudgeonly charming Bruce, nudging his creation into a new and hilarious situation in this third installment of his beloved Bruce books. As Bruce tries to gain one moment of peace, kids will giggle and laugh out loud at the antics of the pesky mice who cannonball into Bruce’s bubble bath, soak in his cup of tea, and turn his house into a shambles of stuff. When Bruce finally packs up and moves out, readers can’t really begrudge Bruce his quiet time, but they’ll cheer to see those wily mice back on the scene.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-new-house

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With his flair for gleeful chaos and flawlessly expressive faces. Higgin’s creates a family atmosphere any reader can relate to. Bruce may look grumpy, but as he gazes into the sweet, innocent eyes of his geese and takes full measure of those high-spirited mice, astute readers know that behind that frown lies a soft heart. Kids will love watching Bruce and the geese ride his old-fashioned motorcycle, meeting a new cast of characters, and basking in Bruce’s pearly-white smile. When the story and art come full circle in the tender ending, readers will be happy to have Bruce in their neighborhood.

Bruce’s Big Move is an enchanting and funny story on its own and a very worthy addition to the series. Whether you’re already a Bruce fan or just becoming one, the book is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1368003544

Get movin’ and watch this Bruce’s Big Move book trailer!

Connect with Disney-Hyperion:

Visit Books.Disney.com

Follow Disney-Hyperion on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

#BrucesBigMove #FollowBruce

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Ryan-T-Higgins

Ryan T. Higgins (ryanthiggins.com) is an author and illustrator who likes the outdoors and cheese sandwiches. He is NOT a grumpy old black bear, but he DOES like making books about one—starting with the best-selling Mother Bruce, which received the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. He lives in Maine with his wife and kids… and too many pets.

Evaluate Your Life Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-suitcase-craft

Put Your Life Together Pack

 

Sometimes life feels a little like a jigsaw puzzle—there are so many pieces that have to fit together! With this handy travel bag, you can keep track of all the things you’d like to do and see how they work together to help you achieve your goals.

Supplies

  • 12-inch x 18-inch foam sheet in brown or your favorite color (or use a manila folder)
  • Stiff decorative scrapbook or single-color paper
  • Stickers (optional)
  • Cardboard jigsaw puzzle, available at craft stores
  • Foam or craft glue
  • Markers or pen

Directions

To Make the Travel Bag

  1. Fold the foam sheet in half
  2. Glue along each edge, leave the top open

To Make the Handles

  1. Cut two 1-inch x 10-inch strips from the scrapbook or other paper
  2. Three inches from the right end of the each strip, make a triangular fold
  3. Three inches from the left end of each strip, make a triangular fold
  4. Glue one handle on each side at the top of the bag
  5. Decorate the bag with the stickers (optional)

To Make the Puzzle

  1. On each puzzle piece write
  • Things that are important to you
  • Things you’d like to do better
  • Things you’d like to try for the first time
  • Things that may be hard to do
  • Things you need to do every day
  • Your hopes and dreams

     2. Take the puzzle apart

     3. As you accomplish the goal on the pieces fit them together

     4. Soon you’ll see your life coming together just the way you want it to

Keep your puzzle pieces in your travel bag

 

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Moving Month

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About the Holiday

With better weather, kids getting out of school, and more jobs opening up, May begins the busiest season in the moving business. Moving can be both hard and exhilarating—and there’s so much to do! But help is only a phone call away. There are professionals to help you all along the way from selling and finding a house to packing up belongings and transporting them. Somewhere along the way, a yard sale is always in the mix to pass along those items that are no longer needed and to make a little money in the process!

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

From the first words—“Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard”—readers realize that this is no ordinary yard sale. A little girl sits on the front porch of her tidy house gazing out sadly at the family’s furniture, toys, books, and knick-knacks that are all for sale. The family is moving to a small apartment: “‘Small but nice,’ my mom told me.” The apartment has a secret bed that opens down from the wall “right in the living room.”

When the yard sale opens people stop by to look, “picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.” Even though the items are priced low, people haggle over how much they want to pay. A woman complains that ten dollars is too much for the little girl’s bed because the headboard has crayon marks on it. Watching, Callie now wishes she hadn’t made the marks to show how often she had read Goodnight Moon. Her mother settles for five dollars for the bed.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo,  text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, Callie sees a man loading her bike into a truck and runs to grab it. The man is confused, sorry for taking it, but tells her he has just bought it. Callie’s dad runs over and explains again that the apartment has no place for the bike or sidewalks nearby to ride it on. Callie looks at her dad who seems to have tears in his eyes. “But probably not,” she decides. “My dad doesn’t cry.” She relinquishes the bike, but asks the man, “‘Will you give it back to me when we get our house back?’”

Callie’s best friend, Sara, is waiting for her. The two friends hug and talk about why Callie has to move. “‘I wish you didn’t have to go,’” Sara mutters. “‘Why do you, anyway?’” Callie shrugs. “‘I don’t know. It’s something to do with money.’” They don’t understand what has happened, and Sara offers, “‘I could ask my parents if you could stay with us.’” But Callie’s heart tells her where she belongs. “‘My parents would be lonely,’” she says. “‘…I’d miss my mom and dad.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

The sale continues and people drive away with tables, chairs, and clothing. For a moment, Callie feels important when a man asks her if their large potted geranium is for sale and she directs him to her dad. By the end of the day almost everything is gone. Callie’s mom “looks droopy” and her dad is comforting her. Callie sits dejectedly watching the final things being carried away and thinking that she will give Sara her red heart necklace and invite her to visit their new apartment.

At that moment a woman comes up to Callie and says, “‘Aren’t you just the cutest thing? Are you for sale?’” Callie has a visceral reaction: “A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head.” She runs to her parents, crying. “‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’” Her parents drop what they are doing to hug and reassure Callie that they would “‘not ever ever, ever’” sell her. “‘Not for a million, trillion dollars.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

With everything gone, Callie and her parents go back inside their “almost empty house.” It’s okay, Callie thinks. None of the stuff is important, and it wouldn’t fit in their new place anyway. “But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us.”

For so many children frequent relocations or sudden moves from a home they know is a reality. Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale treats this subject with sensitivity and honest emotion through the eyes of a little girl for whom the change is confusing but ultimately reassuring. Bunting does not stint on either the setting of the yard sale itself, where people quibble over a couple of dollars, or the toll the day takes on the family. Her dialogue always rings true, and her straightforward delivery allows for understanding and for the moments of humor to shine through.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Lauren Castillo’s ink-and-watercolor paintings anchor this emotional story in a homey, loving environment even as they realistically portray the atmosphere of the yard sale. The full range of feelings are apparent in the characters’ faces from sadness and doubt to kindness and acceptance. Children will respond to Callie with her earnest attempts to understand and feel the comfort and encouragement Callie receives as her parents bend down to talk to her, hold her hand, and give her hugs.

Yard Sale is a poignant story that offers assurance and insight both for children who are facing a move and the friends and classmates who will miss them. The book’s theme is applicable to other daunting circumstances and would be a welcome addition to classroom and local libraries as well as for individuals encountering change.

Ages 4 – 9

Candlewick Press, 2017 (paperback); ISBN 978-0763693053 | 2015 (hardcover); ISBN 978-0763665425

To view more books and artwork by Lauren Castillo, visit her website!

National Moving Month Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

A garage sale is a bit like a treasure hunt. Can you find your way through this printable Garage Sale Maze from the roadside sign to the items for sale? Here’s the Solution!

October 24 – United Nations Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in the aftermath of World War II to promote cooperation among all nations and prevent another devastating conflict, the United Nations is an intergovernmental organization whose purpose has grown to include encouraging social and economic development, protecting human rights, and providing aid in times of natural disasters, famine, and war. Today’s holiday commemorates the establishment of the UN and advocates the remembrance and implementation of its principles for this and future generations.

Welcome

By Barroux

 

A polar bear sits on the edge of an ice floe enjoying some relaxing time with his friends when he hears an ominous noise. “CRACK! The ice breaks! ‘We’re drifting away!’” his friends cry. In no time at all the three polar bears are adrift in the middle of the sea in need of a new home. They float and float, but “the water goes on forever!” To pass the time the friends play games: “‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W…’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-relaxing

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Perhaps days go by. The bears ride out a storm with dark skies and huge waves that threaten to sink them. It’s scary and the trio wants “to find a new home right now!” At last their ice floe—smaller now—approaches a sandy shore. “Land! We’re saved,” cheer the polar bears. They ask the cows on the beach if they can live there, but the cows take exception. The bears are “too furry…too tall…and too bear-ish.” And with a “Sorry!” the cows turn the weary travelers away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-ice-breaks-away

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Once again on their own, the bears have no choice but to let the current steer them. With standing room for only one their icy raft, they near another beach where a single panda relaxes on pillows in the midst of expansive land. “Yes! This could be our new home,” the polar bears shout. The panda ponders the situation for only a moment before stating, “‘…you are too many. Look around, there’s just not enough room! You can’t live here.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-meet-cows

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

As the polar bears continue on their journey, their “little ice boat has almost melted” and they are running out of time. They bob next to a tall sea wall. “‘Help us!’” they plead. Behind the wall two giraffes lounge on the beach, too lazy to investigate the noise they hear. The ice floe has melted to a thin disk, with room for only one. The bears are hanging on and about to give up hope when they find an empty island. They jump to shore just in the nick of time and begin enjoying their new home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-adrift

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

It’s not long before a dinghy floats into view with three monkeys on board. “‘Excuse me, we’re looking for a new home. Can you help us please?’” The polar bears stop their game of badminton and step forward. “‘Hmmm,’” they think. “‘You are…

Welcome!’”

With vibrant blue, full-bleed pages as wide open as the sea itself and three endearing long-nosed polar bears, Barroux has crafted a poignant tale with depth and far-reaching applications for readers of all ages. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, Welcome stands on its own as an uplifting story of friendship and inclusiveness, but also offers an excellent means for beginning a discussion on the world events that children see and have questions about. Employing a bear’s first person point of view and incorporating a child-centric perspective on travel—from the humor of the I Spy game to the perseverance of the bears—Barroux sets just the right tone for his audience.

With sparse text and repetition of the bears’ simple request, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity, not fright, which allows children to understand that the theme of the story is relevant on many levels. Whether the “traveler” comes from near or far, is a classmate, teammate or neighbor, or is even the reader or someone else feeling adrift in a certain situation, children will see that all deserve welcome.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2916 | ISBN 978-1499804447

United Nations Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another.

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review