May 23 – World Turtle Day

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About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Memoirs of a Tortoise

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

It’s April and Oliver the tortoise is in his garden with his pet, Ike. Ike has brought him “a plate of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” Oliver loves Ike and he can tell that Ike loves him too by the way he runs his hand over his shell. “This, this is life and it’s beautiful,” Oliver thinks. In May, Ike throws a stick that Oliver will never fetch, and they laugh over this old, favorite joke. Oliver thinks, “Eighty times I’ve watched spring arrive in the garden, and it’s always perfect.” He spies a bit of red on the other side of the garden and ambles off to investigate.

It’s June by the time he reaches the hibiscus grove. Oliver enjoys taking things slow—just like Ike does. July and August pass with special moments of companionship and fun. As September comes, life begins slowing down. “The days are getting shorter” and Ike is “taking lots of naps in the garden.” Oliver enjoys having Ike nearby and decides that “the next time he throws the stick, I’m going to fetch it.”

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

October arrives, but the regular routine of the garden has been broken. Oliver hasn’t seen Ike or been fed in several days. Oliver makes due with pumpkin from the garden, but he misses Ike. By November, Oliver is “afraid Ike is gone.” The idea makes him sad. After all, he thinks, Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old.” Oliver had thought they would grow old together and wonders where Ike is. In December, Oliver decides to go talk to someone who has more experience than he does—his mother, who is 137 years old.

It takes Oliver until February to cross the ten gardens between Ike’s house and where his mother lives. When Oliver’s mother sees her son, “she smiles wide and her eyes sparkle.” Oliver tells his mother that Ike is gone. She understands his sadness and tells him how much Ike loved him. But Oliver wonders why Ike couldn’t stay with him.

Oliver’s mother explains “we only get to have pets in our lives for a little while.” Then she offers words of comfort: “And when they’re gone, we count all those beautiful days we were lucky enough to have them with us. We’re so lucky.”

Oliver has enjoyed his visit with his mother, but in March he’s on his way back home. When he arrives in his own garden, the door of the house opens. Oliver turns instinctively expecting to see Ike, but it’s Ted, Ike’s son. He brings Oliver “a tray of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” He rubs Oliver’s shell just like Ike used to do and tells Oliver he’s glad he came home. Ted tosses a stick and the two laugh. “This, for me and Ted, this is life,” Oliver thinks. And he knows his mother was right when she said they were so lucky.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s Memoirs of a Tortoise has it all—humor, poignancy, and a life lesson about the precious moments we share with loved ones. Using the longevity of tortoises, Scillian flips the script on the pet and human relationship with tender and emotional effect. When Ike passes away and Oliver is confused and sad, he confidently sets out to find answers and comfort from someone he can trust—his mother. The ten gardens between their homes may not seem far to us, but to Ike and his mom it’s the equivalent of towns, states, or even countries for us.

This seamless blending of the tortoises’ experience and that of readers’ is both the charm and genius of Scillian’s story. Oliver’s straightforward comments and questions about loss echo those of children and will resonate with them. As Oliver’s mother reminds him to enjoy every day and be thankful for the time he spends with his pets and as Ted enters his life, readers will understand that her advice to embrace all the parts of life applies to them as well.

Tim Bowers’ endearing Oliver is a sweet companion on this journey through a formative experience. As Oliver spends time and enjoys inside jokes with kindly Ike, readers will recognize not only the pet and owner bond but the relationship between children and grandparents. Bowers’ lush depictions of Ike’s garden where he and Oliver play or sit quietly side by side portray the beauty of life that Oliver’s mother so wisely recognizes. Ike’s slowing down and passing away are drawn with sensitivity and through images that allow adults and children to discuss facts and feelings about death, mourning, acceptance, and the cycles of life.

Uplifting and full of wisdom, Memoirs of a Tortoise, is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110199

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, journalism, music, and more on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

We Love Memoirs Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

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You can find Memoirs of a Tortoise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day

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About the Holiday

Readers, writers and book lovers everywhere will love today’s holiday. International Children’s Book Day! What a time to visit Celebrate Picture Books! International Children’s Book Day was created in 1967 to celebrate young readers and children’s books across the globe. The holiday falls on April 2nd to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, the writer of many of the classic fairy tales. Each year a different country’s Board on Books for Young People is chosen to create a theme for a holiday. Currently there are 75 different countries involved. An author and illustrator are also elected to write an inspirational message for young readers and to design a poster to celebrate.

This year, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is sponsoring the holiday. The theme this year is “The Music of Words.” The poster was created by Hans Christian Andersen Award recipient, Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, and contains a beautiful message on the music of words, written by Award-winning Cuban American author, Margarita Engle. How might you celebrate this fantastic holiday? You already are! Visiting Celebrate Picture Books blog is a wonderful way to honor the day. Additionally, spend some time reading some of your favorite picture books to young readers and discover new stories that highlight diversity and the music of words. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book to celebrate young readers globally.You can view and download this year’s International Children’s Book Day Poster here. Read “The Music of Words” here.

To find more spectacular books to share all through the month, check out USBBY’s 2021 Outstanding International Books List posted on the USBBY’s webpage.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Written by Joanna Ho | Illustrated by Dung Ho

 

On her way out of the house, a girl stops in front of the hall mirror to take a look. At school, the girl waves to two friends, their eyes wide and bright as they wave back. “Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns, sweeping their cheeks as they twirl. Big eyes, long lashes. Not me,” the girl says. She turns to face the reader head on; her black hair cascading past her shoulders. “I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With this comparison, the young Asian girl embarks on a journey of observation, self-love, and family wisdom. She reflects on the beauty of her own, unique eyes and how they resemble those of her family members. Eyes are not just for seeing the tangible, our narrator explains: “When Mama tucks me in at night, her eyes tell me I’m a miracle. In those moments when she’s all mine, flecks of dancing gold tell me I’m hers too.” 

The girl considers how her eyes connect her to other generations of her family, specifically her grandmother, her amah. When her amah tells her stories of Chinese folklore, the girl can see “Guanyin with the Monkey King sitting on a lotus” and other traditional characters as well as lychee trees, mountains, and lotus blossoms—all within her grandmother’s eyes. “Her eyes are filled with so many stories; I can fall inside them and swim until time stops.”  

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The narrator then cheerfully describes her younger sister Mei-Mei who watches patiently for her to return home from school. “…when she looks at me in that Mei-Mei way, I feel like I can fly,” she says. Following her reflection on her sister, our protagonist is featured close up with beautiful swirls of clouds, swallows, fish, and dragon together; her hair elegantly turns into a river for koi fish to swim in while a Chinese phoenix and dragon fly above her. The creatures, mythological and real follow her hair in a harmonious flow, merging the past and hope for the future.

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

She is then pictured powerfully standing on top of a lush green mountain, fists balled, ready for her eyes to “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down.” The narrator is confident, strong, aware of her beauty, and kind towards others. “My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution. / They are Mama and Amah and Mei-Mei. They are me. And they are beautiful,” she states—a perfect role model for all young people.

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners teaches young readers to love themselves and all their uniqueness. Author Joanna Ho’s writing is lyrical and poetic, a joy to read for book lovers of all ages. The writing is simple but conveys infinitely deep messages; celebrating one’s culture and beauty, even when they are not always highlighted by mainstream society, fighting stigmas and finding strength in family connections are some of the many themes that can be found in this beautiful tale. Joanna Ho provides a much-needed story of radical love, joy, and connection. The gorgeous, poetic lines of this book may even bring tears to readers’ eyes.

Illustrator Dung Ho adds many beautiful details that liven up the story beyond the words. All of the spreads with the protagonist’s family feature meaningful eye contact and smiles so bright, one can’t help but smile along with the characters. Bursts of blossoms, lotus flowers, and butterflies adorn almost every page, symbols of natural beauty. Inside the family’s home, elements of childhood like stuffed animals, crafts, and playing dress-up, sit side-by-side with objects of their heritage, including Chinese porcelain vases and tea sets, guardian lion statues, and a koi kite. Sunbeams, dragons, and birds weave in and out of the pages in a harmonious stream with swirls of feathers, reds, yellows, and lush greens. The colors and intricate illustrative details fill the book with life, wonder, and affection.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book for children examining their own features and embracing their identities. Books that celebrate diversity are invaluably important, especially in times of political polarization and racism. The lesson of self-love is one that is important for all young children to read about and learn to embrace. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0062915627

Discover more about Joanna Ho and her books on her website.

You can connect with Dung Ho on Instagram.

Watch the gorgeous Eyes that Kiss in the Corners book trailer!

International Children’s Book Day Activities

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Coloring Pages, Word Search, and More!

 

Hans Christian Andersen Coloring Pages

You can color pictures from many of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales online at HelloKids

To download and print coloring pages from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, visit Animations A2Z.

“The Music of Words” Word Search

Find 21 words in this word search from Margarita Engle’s message “The Music of Words,” written to celebrate the International Children’s Book Day of 2021!

International Children’s Book Day Word Search

Read “The Music of Words” Message

You can view the 2021 International Children’s Book Message from Margarita Engle in five different languages here.

For adults

Check out these organizations that are actively working to fight anti-Asian racism and consider donating

Stop APPI Hate | CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

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You can find Eyes that Kiss in the Corners at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 19 – National Let’s Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than a good laugh! Today people are encouraged to share jokes and funny stories and to find the humorous side of events. Laughing every day can make you feel better, and it’s good for your health. So, pick out a funny show to watch and, of course, lots of funny books! There are so many out there to discover—like today’s upcoming holiday offering!

Sam’s First Word

Written by Bea Birdsong | Illustrated by Holly Hatam

 

As a “newish” baby, Sam could do a lot. “She could wave her arms… and clap her hands… and take off her diaper.” Whenever Sam did something new, the adults in her life got excited. They cheered her on and then “wondered what she’d do next.” The thing they were waiting for the most was to hear her first word. And Mama, Papa, Nana, and even their next-door neighbor Mr. Theotopolous all hoped Sam’s first word would be their name.

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Bea Birdsong, 2021. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

While they were dreaming up ways to influence Sam’s big (announcement), Sam said, “‘POOP.’” But daydreaming as they were, “no one paid any attention.” Mama sang a song for Sam. The lyrics were “Mama Mama Mama Mama” sung sixty-three times. Papa told Sam a story that consisted of “203 words. All of them were Papa.” While all this was going on, Sam was waving her arms and clapping and saying “‘POOP.’” Nana and Mr. Theotopolous also had creative ways to inspire Sam, but Sam was more interested in getting someone to pay attention to her.

She had tried doing almost everything she knew without success. There was only one thing left. Off came the diaper and in her loudest little voice she said, “‘POOP!’” Everyone (well, almost) stopped and gazed at Sam and smiled. “She laughed. She cheered.” And don’t you wonder what she said next?

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Bea Birdsong, 2021. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Bea Birdsong wraps up all the anticipation of a baby’s first word in a playful and funny story that will have kids and adults giggling all the way to the pitch-perfect ending. Adults’ sometimes obliviousness gets a gentle ribbing as Mama, Papa, Nana, and even the neighbor do all they can to hear Sam say their name first. Birdsong sets up the pacing just right to enhance the humor and to allow kids to do some predicting if they like. Speech bubbles invite dramatic reading and singing that kids will want to join in on too. The book may elicit sweet reminiscences for families too.

Fresh, fun, and endearing, Holly Hatam’s bright illustrations will charm kids and adults. While the adults may be momentarily focused on being the apple of Sam’s eye, the love and pride they show in Sam’s accomplishments shine through on each page. Appropriately, little Sam steals the show as she makes her declaration, waving leaves for her mom, clapping at her dad, and pointing pointedly for her nana. A two-page spread hilariously shows that necessity makes an invaluable teacher, and Hatam’s adorably determined Sam reminds readers that when it comes to kids, surprises are always right around the corner.

Witty and original, Sam’s First Word is a story kids and adults will love sharing again and again. The book would make a perfect gift for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers and an often-asked-for addition to all young children’s book collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-0316452441

Discover more about Bea Birdsong and her books on her website.

To learn more about Holly Hatam, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Let’s Laugh Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-funny-matching-game

Funny Matching Card Game

 

Give your memory and your chuckles a workout with this printable game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two copies of each game card
  2. Cut cards apart
  3. Shuffle cards and place them face down on a table
  4. Turn over one card and try to find its match by turning over one other card. If the cards match, pick them up and set them aside
  5. If the cards don’t match, turn them face down again and try again
  6. Keep trying until all cards are matched

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sam's-first-word-cover

You can find Sam’s First Word at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 9 – Unique Names Day

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About the Holiday

Unique Names Day was established in 1997 by Jerry Hill, a hobbyist in onomatology – the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names – as part of Celebrate Your Name Week. The holiday celebrates uncommon or uncommonly spelled names and encourages those with unique names to always take pride in their name. One way to enjoy the day is to find out more about your name and how or why your parents chose it. You can have fun with names every day this week. Upcoming are Discover What Your Name Means Day, Nametag Day, Middle Name Pride Day, and Descendent’s Day. You can learn more about each daily holiday at Names Universe.

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

Written by Chana Stiefel | Pictures by Mary Sullivan

 

Wakawakaloch had a problem. Well, it wasn’t really her problem; none of the kids at school could pronounce or even remember her name. After another day in which her name was mangled (Oog called her “‘Walawala,’” Boog shouted “‘Look out, Wammabammaslamma!’” and Goog cheered her on during Club Club with “‘Swing, Lokamokatok!’”), Wakawakaloch was as angry as an erupting volcano.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When her parents asked what was wrong, Wakawakaloch said she wanted to change her name to Gloop. Pa thought Gloop was a good name, but reminded his daughter that her name had been “‘in family many, many moons.’” But Wakawakaloch was inconsolable. Not only could no one say her name right, but she never found it on any T-shirts. Ma and Pa thought there was only one thing to do—take her to see Elder Mooch.

Despite his leathery skin and aroma of “rotting mammoth poop,” Elder Mooch was an insightful Neanderthal. He started off with an ill-considered joke that set Wakawakaloch reaching for tissues from the nearby dispenser rock. But she poured out her heart and the fact that she wanted an easy name, one found on T-shirts. She could just imagine all of the heroic and adventurous things she could do with a name and T-shirt like that.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Elder Mooch looked at her and then bestowed his wisdom. He told her she was a “‘forward thinker’” but “‘must be a backward seer too.’” This bit of knowledge cost her two pigeons and left her smoldering. What did he mean by that? Later that night as she tossed and turned in bed, she caught a glimpse of the paintings on her wall. They showed her great-great-great-great-great grandmother Wakawakaloch “performing brave and heroic acts…. Little Wakawakaloch placed her hand on the ancient handprint of her mighty namesake. It was a perfect match.”

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

In the morning, Wakawakaloch was smiling. She no longer wanted to be called Gloop, and she told her parents that she was ready to help others. When the Roll-the-Boulder tournament came round, Wakawakaloch had her personalized T-shirt stand all set. Oog, Boog, and Goog thought her shirts for Chana, Sioban, Xavier, Eoghan were “‘Ooga booga’ (way cool).” Wakawakaloch had even made one for herself. Elder Mooch wanted to buy three, and when little Hoopaloopie came by, Wakawakaloch got to work on another shirt.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

For all those kids who never find their names on shirts, mugs, necklaces, keychains, or other personalized items and who frequently hear the question, “How do you pronounce that?,” Chana Stiefel’s book is for you! This fresh tale will also resonate with any child who feels different for any reason. Wakawakaloch, with her strong personality, thoughtful introspection, and creative solution, is a character that readers will love and want to emulate. Stiefel deftly navigates this sensitive landscape with a combination of honest feelings and hilarious mispronunciations, prehistorical details, and descriptions. Readers will laugh all the way through but will also be absorbing the lesson that everyone should embrace their own “mighty” personality and be celebrated and recognized for their unique qualities.

In her vibrant illustrations, Mary Sullivan creates a comically anachronistic ancient world, where safety cones made of stone mark the playground, a stone telescope is aimed out the window, mail is delivered (this part may be accurate, I’d have to check), and cupcakes are eaten with forks. Kids will want to linger over each page to point out all of the funny elements that add depth and glee to this story. Wakawakaloch shows the feelings bubbling up inside her with furrowed brows, livid gestures, and ready tears, while the other kids cluelessly continue to distort her name even after being told the right pronunciation multiple times. Wakawakaloch’s visit to Elder Mooch is a funny take on therapy sessions, but his advice leads to a welcome image of contemplation and realization that makes Wakawakaloch appreciate her family history and also want to contribute to its—and society’s—advancement. Wakawakaloch’s T-shirt booth is sure to inspire kids to make their own shirt too.

A delightfully inventive story with many applications and prompts for further discussion as well as activities celebrating individuality, My Name is Wakawakaloch! will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328732095

Discover more about Chana Stiefel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out the My Name is Wakawakaloch! “ooga booga” book trailer!

Unique Names Day Activity

CPB - Name Jars standing

Love Your Name Organizer Jar

 

Everyone needs a place to store their special stuff! Here’s a way to recycle a plastic jar and make a cool organizer jar with your name on it. This organizer jar also makes a great gift for your friends!

Supplies

  • A large plastic jar, such as a peanut butter jar or mayonnaise jar, cleaned out and with the label removed
  • Acrylic multi-surface paint or markers
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

CPB - Name Jars on sides

Directions

  1. Paint a rectangle on the front of the jar with chalkboard paint
  2. Decorate the rest of the jar with paint, markers, or paper just the way you want! My green jar sports a friendly dinosaur!

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You can find My Name is Wakawakaloch! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 25 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you and your family have always liked to bake together or you’ve found a new hobby in the past year, February is a great time to scour cookbooks or find recipes online and add some new taste sensations to your traditional favorites. Baking together teaches valuable cooking skills and is a creative way to engage with math. It can also bring your family closer as you talk about old memories that revolve around baking or cooking and make memories for the future. Of course the best part of baking together is eating the delicious treats afterward!

Ginger and Chrysanthemum

Written by Kristen Mai Giang | Illustrated by Shirley Chan

 

Ginger has come to visit her cousin Chrysanthemum. “They’re as close as two beans in a pod,” but they don’t always see things the same way. Today is their grandmother’s birthday, and they want to make it perfect. Chrysanthemum has made a list of things they must do. First, she says they must dress up. While Chrysanthemum puts on the tidy checked dress she brought along and slips on a matching headband and cool, white sandals, Ginger tries on everything in her closet.

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Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

When Ginger’s ready, Chrysanthemum consults her list again and finds it’s time to shop for decorations and a gift and then head to Grandma’s New Asian Kitchen restaurant to decorate. Ginger doesn’t want to take time to read a list, though, and pulls her cousin out the door. They hurry to the market to do their shopping. Ginger finds paper lanterns in every color and thinks it’s fun to balance a stack of them on her head. Chrysanthemum knows Grandma loves flowers and chooses ginger and chrysanthemum flowers for the party. For Grandma’s gift, they buy a jade pendant.

One thing the cousins do agree on is that they love to help out at the grandmother’s restaurant. While each girl has their own favorite job to do, today they are decorating together. Ginger is running around hanging lanterns and Chrysanthemum  is carefully placing flowers on the tables when Grandma asks which of them would like to bake the birthday cake. Ginger has visions of making “an AMAZING cake with BLAZING candles” while Chrysanthemum says, “‘I’ll make a cake light and cool as a cloud.’” Grandma suggests they work together to make her green tea cake.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-utensils

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Ginger rushes around the kitchen, banging pans and rattling bowls; Chrysanthemum makes another list and patiently lays out all of her utensils and ingredients. Ginger is mixing the flour, eggs, and sugar with such vigor that the batter splashes everywhere. “‘Ginger, you’re too messy,’” Chrysanthemum tells her. Ginger is upset with how slowly Chrysanthemum is working. “Chrysanthemum steams like a teapot.”

Both girls reach for the green tea powder at the same time, but Ginger’s faster and dumps it in the bowl. Chrysanthemum yells at her cousin that she’s not following the recipe, but Ginger grumbles that “‘a recipe is just a fancy list.’” With the cake ruined, the girls take a break and decide to make another cake. But there’s no more green tea powder. They mull over the problem then Ginger suggests using chrysanthemum tea instead of green tea, and Chrysanthemum thinks of using ginger ice cream for the frosting. Ginger cleans up the mess while Chrysanthemum measures out the ingredients. “Ginger mixes. Chrysanthemum pours.” When they lick the spoon, the batter tastes delicious.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-baking

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

At the party, Chrysanthemum and Ginger take Grandma by the arms and lead her over to show her their cake. “The cake looks a little lopsided, the color slightly strange…. Ginger and Chrysanthemum hold hands – and their breath” as Grandma takes a bite. “She loves it!” She hugs her “little soybeans.” Then Ginger and Chrysanthemum share a slice. “Warm cake, cool icing. Perfect together. Like two beans in a pod.”

An Author’s note explaining the traditional Chinese belief that foods have warming or cooling characteristics and should, ideally, create a balance follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-party

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

In her entertaining story of two cousins with opposite personalities, Kristen Mai Giang cleverly uses the Chinese concept of warm and cool foods to create impulsive Ginger and precise Chrysanthemum. As the girls dress and shop for Grandma’s party, readers will be charmed by the cousins while giggling at their differences. When mishaps while baking Grandma’s cake fray their nerves and lead to angry words, Giang introduces a gentle lesson on how to get back on track and cooperation. While taking a break, Ginger and Chrysanthemum rely on their close relationship to come up with a solution that pleases them both. Kids will appreciate the ingenuity in their new recipe that combines both of their personalities and may be inspired to try making up a cake recipe of their own.

Shirley Chan clearly sketches out Ginger and Chrysanthemum’s opposite personalities in the first pages as Ginger stands in the middle of her messy room sporting a mix-and-match outfit appropriate for a rock star while Chrysanthemum channels a runway model in her perfectly accessorized dress. Spontaneous kids will identify with Chan’s depictions of Ginger playing around at the market while careful children will admire Chrysanthemum’s thoughtfulness in choosing just the right flowers. Chan’s images of the two spirited girls in the kitchen will enchant young readers, and the party scene is vibrant and inviting.

A creative and relatable story to inspire teamwork and a celebration of individuality, Ginger and Chrysanthemum would be an engaging addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Levine Querido, 2020 | ISBN 978-1646140015

Discover more about Kristen Mai Giang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shirley Chan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bake-up-some-fun-word-search

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-cover

You can find Ginger and Chrysanthemum at these booksellers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 23 – International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-cover

About the Holiday

People have holidays celebrating their favorite treats—like Popcorn Day, Cherry Pie Day, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day—so dogs should have a food holiday of their own, right? Well, today is it! Today we remember that our best furry friends like to be rewarded with a special treat or just shown a little extra love with a tasty morsel. Before anyone thought about what dogs ate, dog “treats” included some pretty awful stuff—moldy bread and rotten leftovers included—but an American manufacturer named James Spratt was struck by an idea when he saw stray, hungry dogs gobbling up ship’s biscuits on one of his travels in Liverpool, England in the 1800s. While in London, he created the first dog biscuit, which was soft and made of fresh ingredients like meat and vegetables. The first commercial dog biscuit was developed in 1908 by the F. H. Bennett Biscuit Co. It was hard and made with meat products, milk, and important minerals.

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog

By Lisa Papp

 

Madeline gives her dog, Star, a hug at his first birthday party. While they have cake, Madeline’s mom asks if Star is ready for his test the next day. Madeline assures her he is because they have been practicing meeting people, like the postman, “sitting still when a bike goes by,” and even “meeting other dogs.” Madeline tells Star that he’s “going to make the best therapy dog ever.” The next day Madeline takes Star to the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where he’ll meet three people. Mrs. Dimple greets them with her therapy dog, Bonnie, who helped Madeline when she was learning to read.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-practicing

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Inside, Mr. Finch tells Madeline that he’ll be grading Star on his visits. First, Mr. Finch watches Star walk around the room, stop, and begin walking again on command. Even when Star sees other therapy dogs, he doesn’t stop to play. “Next, Mr. Finch pets Star, especially touching his ears and tail. Star doesn’t mind.” Star also sits still when a wheelchair rolls by. Finally, Star is supposed to stay where he is when Madeline and her mom walk away, but instead he walks across the room to a woman in a wheelchair and lays his paw on her knee. Mr. Finch writes something down, but he is smiling.

For Star’s next test, he’s taken into a room with a group of people. While Madeline is nervous, Star “walks right up and smiles.” One woman calls Star sweet, a man kisses Star right on his nose because he reminds the man of a dog he had when he was young, and another woman tells Star about her garden and reads him a letter. “Everyone seems happy,” but there’s one man sitting alone near the window.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-first-test

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

A nurse introduces him as Mr. Humphrey, and Madeline asks him if he’d like to pet Star. Mr. Humphrey says nothing. Mr. Finch writes something down. Then Madeline, her mom, and Star leave. Madeline’s mom says that Star did well on his second test, but Madeline wonders about Mr. Humphrey. “‘Some people need time,’ Mom says” and reminds Madeline of how patient Bonnie was with her. At home, Madeline thinks about things that Mr. Humphrey might like. That night, Madeline practiced reading with Star before bedtime.

The next time they visit Walker Oaks, they have to ride the elevator. At first Star doesn’t want to get in, but Bonnie nudges him and they walk in. When they get out, they see that someone has dropped a plate of cookies, but Star doesn’t react. Mr. Finch takes notes. When they see Mr. Humphrey, Madeline approaches him and introduces Star and asks if he’d like to pet him, but he stays silent. A little later Madeline asks if he’d like to look at her magic cards, but he still says nothing. Then Mrs. Dimple called her over and talked to her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-finch

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

 Afterward, Madeline thought that maybe Mr. Humphrey wasn’t ready to smile. She asked Mr. Finch if she and Star could see Mr. Humphrey again. This time, Madeline sat in a chair next to Mr. Humphrey with Star close by. In a little while, she took a book from her bag and whispers to Mr. Humphrey that she didn’t always like to read. Seeing Madeline with a book, Bonnie loped over and sat next to Star. Madeline began to softly read her book out loud.

Near the end of the story, Madeline saw Star move close to Mr. Humphrey and rest his chin on his knee. Mr. Humphrey put his hand on Star’s nose. Finally, Mr. Humphrey looked at Madeline. “‘My wife loved books,’” he said. “‘How about another story?’” While Madeline was choosing another book, Mr. Finch came over and handed her “a tag for Star. I AM A THERAPY DOG, it says.” Madeline “fastened his new tag onto his collar, right above his heart.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-humphrey

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

Lisa Papp’s immersive storytelling will delight children as they follow Madeline through her practice sessions with Star and see her grow in confidence as she visits the retirement home and devises her own solution to engaging Mr. Humphrey. Kids will empathize with Madeline’s kindness as well as her nervousness over Star’s performance and will cheer each time he does well. Young readers will be fascinated to learn about all of the practice and testing a dog undergoes to become a recognized therapy dog.

Papp’s beautiful pencil, watercolor, and digital illustrations, rendered in soft hues invite kids to Star’s first birthday party and into the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where the surroundings, the residents, and the staff are depicted in sensitive and realistic scenes. Madeline’s thoughtfulness and consideration for Star and the residents—and especially her concern for Mr. Humphrey—are clearly visible and mirror the natural empathy of children. 

Infused with love, empathy, and heart, Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog will charm readers as a stand-alone story or to spark additional research into therapy dogs and other animals. The book will quickly become a favorite read aloud and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1682631492

Discover more about Lisa Papp, her books, and her art on her website.

You can find an extensive Activity Kit to download on the Peachtree Publishing website.

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. 

*Children should have adult supervision when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-cover

You can find Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

January 13 – Skeptics Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re attuned to holidays like I am, you may be thinking, “Wasn’t Skeptics Day October 13?”, or even, “I thought Skeptics Day is celebrated on November 4.” And it seems from my research that you’d be right—on both counts, which might lead you to be, well… skeptical about the validity of today’s holiday. But perhaps that was the point the founder or founders of this holiday were trying to make. Instead of simply accepting what you’re told, a skeptic questions what they hear or read and looks for facts to back it up. Kids are born skeptics, always asking “Why?” “When?” “Where?” “Who?” and “How?” To celebrate today, why not spend some time with your kids learning more about a subject you’re interested in.

There Must Be More Than That!

By Shinsuke Yoshitake

 

A little girl stands at the sliding glass doors looking out at the pouring rain. She’s disappointed because her father had said the day would be sunny. She thinks to herself, “…you can’t always trust grown-ups.” Then her big brother comes along and tells her all about the apocalyptic events that may possibly doom the earth and their futures. Things like running out of food, wars, even alien invasions. He heard it from a friend, who heard it from an adult. His sister is shocked and afraid.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-rain

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

With a heavy heart, she goes to her grandma’s room and reveals what her brother has told her. “Ah, I see…,” Grandma responds. She reassures her granddaughter that no one really knows what will happen and that along with the bad, good things happen too. “Grown-ups act like they can predict the future… but they’re not always right,” she says. And when there’s a choice to be made, they often provide only two things to pick from, when there are actually many more and it’s okay to choose from those.

The little girl realizes that more choices means more possible futures, and she tells her brother so. She already has lots of ideas about the cool things the future might bring—like “a future where it’s okay to spend the day in pajamas…. A future where someone always catches the strawberry you drop…. A future where your room has a zero-gravity switch.” Her brother thinks the strawberry idea sounds great.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-future

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The little girl is jazzed to think about other futures. She thinks about alternatives to throwing away old shoes, hiding uneaten carrots, and even keeping her mom from getting mad if she gets paint on her clothes. “I’m a slow runner,” she confesses, “but does that mean I’ll never come in first place? No! I might be ‘first place’ in a funny-face contest!”

Her thoughts begin to branch out, and she decides that between polar opposites like “‘love it or hate it,’” “‘good or bad,’” “‘friend or enemy,’” there may be many more emotions to choose from. In fact, the little girl is so excited by her new perspective that she tells her grandma that she wants to make a career out of “thinking up different futures.” Her grandma thinks that’s marvelous, but gently tells her that she probably won’t be around to see them. But the little girl is determined and imagines several scenarios that mean a brighter and longer life for her grandmother. Grandma laughs and agrees that “there must be more for me than that!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-grandma

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Cheered, the little girl goes to the kitchen to find out what’s for dinner. Although they’re just having leftovers, Mom offers to make her an egg. “Boiled or fried?” she asks. Exasperated, the girl tells her mom about all the other ways an egg can be cooked, used, and played with. They can be scrambled or rolled, painted or stickered, and put in a shoe, a book, or a belly button. They can even be stacked on top of each other or used to make a tall tower. Her mother gets the idea and says she can have her egg made any way she wants. “Hmmm,” the little girl ponders. What do you think she chooses?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-choices

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Shinsuke Yoshitake’s profound observations, expressed in kid-friendly, sometimes even silly examples, emboldens children to look beyond the choices they’re given by others and create the present and future they desire. Yoshitake touches on serious subjects that children hear discussed by adults, on the news, and in school that can lead to a frightening sense of no control but flips the narrative to show kids that they do have the power to influence events and change them for the better. The choices Yoshitake poses—love or hate, good or bad, friend or enemy—will get kids thinking about other such pairs they’re presented with every day and the nuanced scales between them that more correctly represent their feelings. After showing the little girl giving her grandma a pep talk and convincing her mom that there are a myriad things to do with eggs, Yoshitake ends the story on a comic note so attuned to kids’ enthusiasm for new ideas.

Yoshitake accompanies his story with laugh-out-loud illustrations of a little girl who cycles through emotions from anger to doomed to thoughtful to determined and finally to joyful after her brother reveals bad news about the future. Kids will be fully onboard for the fantastical future the girl envisions and the whimsical ways Yoshitake depicts the multitude of options that are available with just a little more thought. A two-page spread with twenty-three different types of eggs will set kids giggling and no doubt wanting to try them all. Likewise, the book’s cover hints at what’s inside with a display of many things a simple piece of cloth can become.

There Must Be More Than That! is a smart, sophisticated, and lighthearted way to shift a child’s perspective and empower them to shed the burdens of the world and create the life they want—on both a small and large scale. The book is sure to be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452183220

Skeptics Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-find-the-differences-kids-reading

Find the Differences Puzzles

 

Are you someone who looks at things skeptically? Do you want to learn the facts before you believe what you see or hear? If so, you’ll enjoy these printable puzzles and see for yourself whether they are the same or different.

Kids Reading Puzzle (easier) | Kid’s Bedroom Puzzle and Solution | Girl Selling Flowers Puzzle and Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-cover

You can find There Must Be More Than That! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review