March 4 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! Designed to encourage children and adults to read every day, the holiday gives you the perfect excuse to hurry out to your local bookstore or library to stock up! The month is only beginning, so gather the kids and discover some new books to enjoy together. Today’s new book is a natural to start with. And when you’ve finished reading, visit the Reading is Fundamental website to join the celebration by adding the books you read to the tally of the Million Book March.

A Way with Wild Things

Written by Larissa Theule | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Poppy Ann Fields made friends with lots of bugs. She appreciated all of their natural talents—the way the cicadas formed a symphony, the way the ants marched in perfect lines, the way the shy roly poly said hello, and the “magnificent art” the spider wove. She could spend all day outside among these friends, “but when people came around, Poppy preferred to disappear into the background.”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At parties she dressed to blend in with the wallpaper or the brightly flowered rug. She could disappear into the framed landscape on the wall or behind the tree in the corner. To celebrate Grandma Phyllis’s 100th birthday, there was a big party. Poppy watched from behind the flowers and bushes. She watched as people strolled about, meeting and hugging, dancing and running. “They looked like colorful leaves falling into each other then drifting apart.”

A shimmering dragonfly drifted on the breeze and landed on the cake. “Her whole heart glad, Poppy clapped her hands.” She came over to look and that’s when Uncle Dan spotted her. His voice boomed, “‘Poppy Ann Fields, you wallflower, you. So that’s where you’ve been hiding this time.’” Everyone turned to look at Poppy. She froze. The dragonfly took off… “and landed in her hand.” No one could believe it; they smiled and stared in wonder. Then they moved in to get a closer look.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Poppy wished she could run away. She didn’t know where to look, so she gazed at the dragonfly. “She knew the dragonfly had come here for her.” She listened to the cicadas’ music wafting through the air and took a breath. Then she spoke, telling everyone the dragonfly’s scientific name. Grandma Phyllis clasped her hands and gave Poppy a hug. “‘You wildflower, you,’” she whispered. In her heart Poppy knew Grandma Phyllis was right. She was not a wallflower, but “a wildflower.”

An illustrated glossary of Poppy’s bug friends, along with their scientific name and a brief description follows the story.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Larissa Theule’s quietly comforting story is balm for those thoughtful, introverted children who interact with the world through observation, contemplation, and gentle interactions. With the soul of a poet, Poppy listens to, watches, and connects with nature, feeling its rhythms and wonder with her whole heart. Theule’s carefully chosen verbs and play on the idea of nature embrace Poppy’s personality. Poppy “preferred” to observe large, noisy gatherings from the sidelines while she “became” things that most people find lovely: landscapes, trees, rain, a group of animals.

When Uncle Dan’s loud voice turns everyone’s attention to Poppy, Theule’s simply stated “she was scared down to her toes” validates the feelings of kids who’d rather not be in the spotlight and gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about these emotions. The party-goers’ enthusiasm to hear what Poppy has to say and Grandma Phyllis’s loving and apt nickname for her granddaughter will reassure introverted readers that they are seen and appreciated for their unique strengths.

Sara Palacios festival of flowers—found outside, in Poppy’s home décor, and on party-goers’ clothing––surrounds Poppy and reveals that she is a part of and does fit in everywhere. One of the joys of A Way with Wild Things is finding Poppy on each page and appreciating Palacio’s creative genius in how she uses camouflage similar to nature. Her vivid, textured illustrations are joyous and full of love for nature, for life, and especially for Poppy who tenderly takes it all in and makes it uniquely hers.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681190396

Discover more about Larissa Theule and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark, Bookplate, and Books-to-Read List

 

If National Reading Month is one of your favorite holidays, show it with these printable Reading Bug book accessories!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate | Books-to-Read List 

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You can find A Way with Wild Things at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 14 – International Book Giving Day

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About the Holiday

International Book Giving Day was established by Amy Broadmoore and her son and is now celebrated in more than 44 countries. The idea behind the holiday is for people to buy, share, and donate books so that all children can have access to books and know the pleasure and educational benefits of reading. To learn more about today’s holiday, visit the International Book Giving Day website.  You’ll also discover the names of literacy organizations in your country, find tips on ways to get involved, and find bookmarks and bookplates to download. Today, of course, is also Valentine’s Day, and along with the hugs, candy, cards, and fun, giving a book is a wonderful way to show your child how much you love them.

I received a copy of Birdsong from Greystone Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Birdsong

By Julie Flett

 

On a rainy, gloomy day a little girl, Katherena, and her mother pack up their last belongings for a move from their house in a seaside city to the country. Katherena thinks about all the friends and relatives she’ll miss. She thinks about how she’ll miss her “bedroom window and the tree outside. ‘Goodbye, tree friend,” she whispers. They drive past fields and over mountains, stopping to watch a coyote cross the road.

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Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Their new home crowns a hill that overlooks a field now dotted with snowdrops. Two trees stand nearby. Inside, Katherena climbs the creaky stairs to her room. She places books, a toy whale, and her drawing supplies on the shelf next to the window and above a small desk “for drawing.” Now, though, her hands are cold and she doesn’t feel like drawing. That night she and her mom “bundle up together under the covers in [their] new home in the country, far from the sea.”

Summer comes and Katherena sits under a tree listening to the “peeps and whistles and ribbits and chirps” and watching her neighbor Agnes working in her yard. Katherena’s mother encourages her to go over and meet her. Katherena takes their dog Ôhô, which “means owl in Cree,” and says hello to Agnes. Agnes has heard a lot about Katherena from her mother––especially that she likes to draw. Agnes makes things out of clay, and as she shows Katherena around, Katherena admires the objects she’s made. “They look like the branches and birds and flowers.” After her visit, Katherena is excited to go home and draw.

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Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Throughout the fall, Katherena visits Agnes again and again, helping her with her garden. The weather is turning “cold and windy and creaky. Agnes says she’s getting creaky too.” One day Agnes shows Katherena a round pot she is working on. She talks about the phases of the moon, and Katherena tells her about Cree seasons and that “this month is called pimihâwipîsim—the migrating moon.”

In the winter Ôhô enjoys his first snow, tobogganing with Katherena until they’re both soaked through. Later, Katherena warms up near the fireplace and helps her mother make salmon stew for Agnes. Agnes’s daughter has come to help her mother during the winter. In exchange for the stew, Agnes gives Katherena snowdrop bulbs to plant next fall. Katherena thinks “they look like tiny moons,” which gives her ideas for more drawings.

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Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Spring finds Agnes weaker, and Katherena sits on the end of her bed as they listen to the birds singing in the trees and “the tickle of the branches against her window.” When the snowdrops begin to bloom, Katherena wishes Agnes could see them. Suddenly, she has an idea. She gets her drawings from home and with Agnes’s daughter’s help, she papers the walls of Agnes’s room with her drawings of birds, trees, flowers, and other things from nature. Gazing at the walls, “Agnes says it’s like a poem for her heart.”

For the rest of the day, Katherena and Agnes “talk about making things” and sit together in happy silence “until it’s time to say goodbye.” Katherena’s heart is heavy, but she feels fortunate to know Agnes. Later that night, ayîkipîsim, the frog moon, is full.” Her mom and she snuggle up together under the soft blankets. Her hands are warm, and she falls asleep thinking about her friend.

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Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Quiet and deep, Julie Flett’s story of a little girl who moves from the city home she knows and loves to a house in the country, where she meets a kindred spirit touches the heart. Generosity, friendship, and acceptance flow through each page as Katherena learns to embrace her new home, a mentoring friend, and the seasons of life. Our connection to the natural world is beautifully represented in Katherena’s drawings, Agnes’s pottery, and the pair’s gardening. Their intergenerational relationship, forged through proximity and similar talents is profound in its calm comfort and heartening love as they teach each other new ways of understanding life—Agnes from her long years of experience and Katherena through her heritage and the lovely Cree words and ideas she shares with her friend.

Simple, earthy details—a coyote on the road, mulch and worms in the garden bed, salmon stew, snowdrops in a field, the phases of the moon—root the story in the common and surprising moments in life that unite us all. Katherena’s mother and Agnes’s daughter provide comforting emotional and physical support while hinting at another cyclical aspect of life.

Flett’s textured illustrations, in soft, muted earth tones, capture the mood, the emotions, and the seasons with a fresh yet traditional feeling that reveals and reflects the story’s themes. The two-page spreads that introduce Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring again are minimalistic beauties that give readers a moment of reflection before moving on—much like transitional weeks between seasons.

A story that children and adults will take into their hearts, Birdsong belongs on all home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Greystone Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1771644730

To learn more about Julie Flett, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Book Giving Day Activity

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Image by Sanne Dufft for International Book Giving Day 2020.

International Book Giving Day Bookmark and Bookplate

 

Celebrate today’s holiday with these book accessories that you can add along with any book you give a child.

International Book Giving Day Bookmark| International Book Giving Day Bookplate

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You can find Birdsong at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 2 – It’s National Sunday Supper Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-wee-about-me-coverAbout the Holiday

Isabelle Lessing began the Sunday Supper Movement in 2012 after her oldest child left home to attend college and she realized that the time spent around the family table would be something she missed most. Isabelle reached out to other food bloggers to share their experiences and recipes, and the Sunday Supper Movement was born. If you’d like to revive this tradition, which was once a staple of family life, you’ll find recipes and ideas on the Sunday Supper website.

Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure

Written by Kim Chaffee | Illustrated by Laura Bobbiesi

 

It was time for Sunday Supper at Grandma’s again. Liesel ran past her brother and up the front walk into Grandma’s kitchen, where she began to search through the spoons, spatulas, and other baking utensils. Grandma held the large soup ladle aloft and asked, “‘Looking for this?’” When Liesel cheered, Grandma said, “‘Dear Liesel, you’re just like me when I was a wee girl.’” But Liesel let her know that there was nothing wee about her.

Grandma warned Liesel that the old ladle didn’t work quite as well as it used to and made her promise to “be back in time for Sunday soup.’” Liesel raised the ladle above her head and made a wish. Immediately, she was in a little submarine, her ladle-scope trained on an island where a rumbling volcano threatened the pretty castle and the villagers. Liesel hurried toward the island to warn its inhabitants.

When she landed on shore, she was met by a lion pirate who took in her wee size and sneered while informing her that the island belonged to him. In turn, she informed him that the volcano was about to blow and—in her loudest voice—that “‘THERE’S NOTHING WEE ABOUT ME!’” Then she brandished her “ladle-hook” hand at him and sent him running. Then she rushed through the town announcing the danger through her ladle-megaphone.

She came to the castle and knocked loudly on the door. But then she spied, crouched over the tallest tower and with its wings outstretched, a fire-breathing dragon who was keeping the prince prisoner. The dragon was not afraid of such a “wee girl,” but Liesel swung her “ladle-sword” at the dragon and ordered it to let the prince go. Surprised by Liesel’s bravery, the dragon relented.

But were they too late to get to the rescue boat? Lava was already streaming from the volcano as the earth shook. Once more, Liesel raised the ladle and made a wish. Immediately, Liesel found herself holding a stick with a marshmallow attached. She told the ladle that the volcano was “‘not a campfire’” and that this was “‘no time for s’mores.’” The prince, thought a snack sounded good, though.

Liesel made another wish and found herself holding a plunger; another wish presented her with a golf club. Liesel had to admit that Grandma had been right about the ladle being broken, but she tried one more time. When she opened her eyes, she was holding a fishing pole. The prince couldn’t see how that would help, but Liesel knew just what to do. She sent her line flying, “hooked the largest coconut she could find,” and…saved the day.

While Liesel wished she and the prince could stay on the island, she knew Grandma was waiting. At dinner, Liesel slurped up her whole bowl of soup and asked for another. As Grandma ladled up another serving of Sunday soup, she remarked that she’d never seen Liesel eat so much. “‘That must have been some adventure today!’” she said and then worried that perhaps it had been too dangerous. But Liesel reassured her grandma that there was “‘Nothing this WEE girl couldn’t handle.’”

Kim Chaffee’s enchanting and action-packed story is a celebration of imagination and the way that simple toys or objects can spark children to discover their own creativity. With evocative verbs, suspenseful encounters, rich dialog, and a sprinkling of humor, Chaffee creates a charming page-turner that’s sure to thrill readers. Kid-power, girl-power, and themes of family and tradition as well as a sweet and loving intergenerational relationship between the children and their grandmother make this a multi-layered story that kids will love. Liesel’s mantra “There’s nothing wee about me” is sure to become a rallying cry for readers.

Laura Bobbiesi’s watercolor and ink illustrations are filled with captivating details that revel in the joys of simpler times and hint at some of the adventures to come. As Liesel and her brother run to meet Grandma, Liesel wears a paper hat while her brother sports the gold crown and red cape of a prince, and the seagull that greets their little dinghy wears an eyepatch. The plump submarine, golden-maned pirate, and rainbow-scaled dragon are whimsical while highlighting the ingenuity of young minds at play. Subtle hints incorporated in the text and accompanying images may spur some readers to join in on the adventure and guess how Liesel will solve the problem of the volcano.

An inventive story with lots of heart, Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure would make a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for story times that stir children’s imaginations.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146923

Discover more about Kim Chaffee and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Bobbiesi and see a portfolio of her work visit her website.

National Sunday Supper Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

Soup makes a souper meal for Sunday Suppers, but you can’t eat it without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable maze?

Souper Maze Puzzle | Souper Maze Solution

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You can find Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 31 – National No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

If you yearn for a nice long stretch of peace and quiet in which to work, think, or play without the barrage of sounds, images, and other interruptions that make up modern life, then today’s holiday is for you. So how do you go about celebrating? Turn off your phone, TV, and music, tell your friends and family you’re taking a “me” day, and find a spot where you can shut the door and just…ahhhh…. For those on the other side of that door who want attention or need help, the day may require a bit of patience. But they might find that they appreciate a little quiet time too—just like the little girl in today’s book.

Patience, Miyuki

Written by Roxane Marie Galliez | Illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh

 

“Blue earth, orange moon, Spring was all dressed up and ready for her first day of the year.” Up with the dawn, Miyuki was ready too. She rushed to her grandfather’s house eager to rouse him to watch the “last moonbeams of winter” and enjoy the first full day of spring. But Grandfather urged patience. He wanted to soak up the sunshine through his window. The day would still be there in an hour, he told her.

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Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When her grandfather joined her, the two walked through the garden, greeting each tree, flower, and blade of grass. In the middle of the garden was a little flower still asleep. Miyuki called for it to wake up, but Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, Miyuki. This little flower is not ready to open. It is precious and delicate and needs the purest and finest water…’”

Determined to wake the little flower, Miyuki hurried away to the well. But when she raised the bucket, it was filled not with water, but with a frog. She pleaded with the well to give her water, but the well answered that she must wait for it to rain again. “But Miyuki did not want to wait.” Next, she tried approaching the clouds, but the ones full of water were too far away, a perfect little cloud did not want to give up its water, and the ones that did were too slow in filling up her little porcelain bucket.

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Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first day of Spring was half over and still Miyuki had not gathered water for the little flower. She walked and walked until she came to a waterfall. When Miyuki asked for its purest water, the waterfall told her she would have to wait for night, when the water lessened and she could cross over to the lake beyond. But Miyuki did not want to wait. As Miyuki walked on, she spied a house covered in flowers and a boy watering his garden. She approached and asked for some of his purest water. In exchange, he wanted to know who she was and to hear her story.

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Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The boy filled her bucket and Miyuki ran home. On the way, though, she tripped and fell. Her bucket shattered and the water spilled out. By now it was nearly evening. Miyuki had missed almost the entire day, and she still had no water for her flower. Just then she heard the river’s song. The river asked her what she was doing so far from home at that hour. It offered to show her the way and give her some of its water. The trip lulled her to sleep, and when she reached home, Grandfather put her to bed.

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Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When she woke, it was the second day of spring. Today, Grandfather was waiting for her in the garden. When Miyuki saw that the flower had not opened, “Two of the purest tears ran down her cheeks.” But Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, my little girl. Neither flowers no anyone in the world deserves to be watered by tears. Yesterday…you missed the first day of spring. Come, sit close to me, watch, and wait for once.’” Miyuki sat next to her grandfather and watched as he smelled a fragrant flower. Then he tipped a leaf and a few pure dewdrops fell onto the little flower. Slowly, the flower’s petals opened. It greeted Miyuki and apologized for being late, explaining, “‘I’ve been dreaming of Spring.’”

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Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Roxane Marie Galliez’s gentle story encompasses two emotions that often spar within one mind: the desire to hurry, hurry, hurry and pack every moment with action or adventure and the longing to relax, observe, and really enjoy the peace of our own thoughts—or no thoughts at all. Miyuki wants to savor every moment of the first day of spring, but she spends the entire day rushing around to find water for the little flower who has her own time table. At last, lost and too tired to stay awake, Miyuki is put to bed by her grandfather only to wake the next morning ready to repeat her frantic pace. Only when Grandfather convinces her to sit and watch, can Miyuki appreciate the dawning sun, the fragrant flowers, and the fact that what she was searching for was right at hand all the time. In Miyuki, readers will recognize the strong feelings children often have when they want others to join in on their activities or viewpoints. Galliez reminds them that patience and paying attention to others’ needs can be a rewarding and a gift as well.

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Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s striking illustrations combine dream-like scenes, surprising perspectives, and familiar elements of Japanese culture, including Kokeshi dolls, lucky cats, and origami, to draw readers into the story. Miyuki, smaller than a wren, tiny next to the well’s wooden bucket and the frog it catches, and able to ride in an origami swan boat, is a child of nature as is the boy who lives in a birdhouse and shares his gardening water. As Miyuki, with Grandfather’s hand on her shoulder, crouches down to wake the little flower, readers can see how small it is; that it is still new, growing, and learning. This touching image embodies the multi-layered themes of the story: the dual natures of children still new, growing, and learning with multigenerational support.

Lush and fantastical, yet rooted in mindfulness Patience, Miyuki is a visual feast that would quickly become a favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898434

Discover more about Roxane Marie Galliez and her books on her website.

To learn more about Seng Soun Ratanavanh and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

National No Interruptions Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-posterPlease Bee Quiet Poster

 

Sometimes you just need a little time to yourself. When that happens put this cute printable poster on your door and get bzzzzzzzzy on your own projects. 

Please Bee Quiet Poster

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You can find Patience, Miyuki at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Thanksgiving in the Woods

Written by Phyllis Alsdurf | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

 

A little boy watches for the signs—fall winds, leaves falling, and when “jack-o-lanterns lose their smiles”—that tell him its time for Thanksgiving in the Woods. As he counts the days he gathers all the supplies he’ll need, including his stuffed puppy Brownie and puts them in a pile. At last the day comes to get ready for Thanksgiving in the Woods. His mama wakes him early. The boy stuffs “all of [his] treasures into a backpack. Mama gathers boots and winter coats” while Daddy brings his guitar and the boy’s recorder.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

They drive until they meet up with Grandpa waiting next to his truck on a gravel road. The boy jumps in and rides with Grandpa “over rutted fields, then down a slope to a clearing under trees that reach to the clouds.” He sees that his cousins are already there, building a fort next to a stream. From Grandpa’s pickup truck come boards to make tables and bales of straw to sit on. His uncle is busy building a bonfire while neighbors sling a tarp overhead and string lights through the branches.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

At Grandma and Grandpa’s house the next morning, the little boy is up early. After breakfast, while the adults talk, the kids get dressed in their warmest clothes. When they get to the site, some people are already there. Soon, a tractor pulling a wagon appears with Mama, Grandma, and others bringing “…turkeys and dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, and corn. Oh, now it’s starting to smell like Thanksgiving in the Woods!”

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

It’s not long before family, friends, and people the little boy doesn’t even know “cross the field to the hollow under the hemlocks,” carrying all kinds of food to share. When Grandma rings a bell, everyone gathers to sing and talk about being thankful. Then it’s time to eat. “Lines of people snake around the tables” as they fill their plates. The kids take their plates to the fort to have their own Thanksgiving in the Woods.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thanksgiving-in-the-woods-bonfire

Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

As night falls, “grown-ups are playing fiddles, banjos, and drums and singing songs that everyone knows. Soon Daddy joins in on his guitar,” and the boy plays a tune on his recorder. Later, Grandma passes out marshmallows to toast in the bonfire. It’s one of the boy’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving in the Woods. When all the food has been eaten and the singing, music, and dancing are done, people pack up and return to the farmyard along a candle-lit path. As the boy rides on his daddy’s shoulders, he hears “a banjo and someone singing: ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, / “Tis the gift to come down / where we ought to be.” As Grandma says, it’s “‘a perfect ending to Thanksgiving in the Woods.’”

The book opens with a photograph and description of the actual Thanksgiving in the Woods held in upstate New York that inspired the story. The music and words to the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts follows the text.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

Phyllis Alsdurf’s heartwarming recounting of this true-life Thanksgiving tradition wraps readers in the feelings of thankfulness, camaraderie, family, and friendship that the holiday embraces. Told from a little boy’s point of view, the story builds on his excitement for the preparations and the day’s celebration. Children will be enchanted by the fort where the boy and his cousins enjoy their Thanksgiving meal and may want to try it out at home. The quiet, leisurely simplicity of the gathering is a welcome respite from the commercialized day the holiday has become.

Jenny Løvlie’s illustrations glow with the warmth of autumn colors, twinkling lights, and roaring bonfires. Her double-page spreads of the woods and the clearing under the trees that hosts the annual feast are gorgeous, beautifully depicting the work that goes into creating this beloved tradition as well as the enthusiasm of the participants. The image of the group singing around the fire puts kids in the center of the celebration. As the day winds down and the families head home, readers will be happy they don’t have to wait a whole year to revisit Thanksgiving in the Woods.

Ages 4 – 7

Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1506425085

Discover more about Phyllis Alsdurf and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jenny Løvlie, her books, and her art, visit her website

World Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards to Share

 

It’s fun to surprise someone with an unexpected compliment! It makes the other person and you feel happier! Here are some printable Kindness Cards that you can give to anyone you meet today—or any day. If you’d like to write your own, here is a set of Blank Cards. You can give one to your teacher, librarian, favorite store clerk, your postal worker, your neighbors and friends, the person next to you on the bus or train. Or why not brighten someone’s day by leaving a note where they might find it—in a book at the library or bookstore, in a friend’s lunchbox, in your mailbox, on a store shelf, or anywhere you go!

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You can find Thanksgiving in the Woods at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 5 – It’s National Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

I received a copy of Love and the Rocking Chair from The Blue Sky Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with The Blue Sky Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Love and the Rocking Chair

By Leo and Diane Dillon

 

A couple, about to have a baby, “stood in a sea of chairs, searching for just the right one.” Across the store they spied a delicate bentwood rocking chair carved with hearts and knew it was perfect. Soon after the chair was delivered, the couple’s baby boy was born. When they brought him home from the hospital, “his mother sat in the rocking chair, singing softly to her baby.”

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

When the boy was a little older, his dad read to him in the rocking chair. As the boy grew, the rocking chair became a “wild horse racing across the plains.” The boy rocked and rocked until the chair moved across the floor. When the chair came to the wall, the boy started over again. A few years went by and soon school beckoned. Now, the boy had friends and homework while the chair sat laden with forgotten toys.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

Years passed and the boy went off to college. “The chair was moved to the attic,” where it gathered dust. While the boy was growing older, so were his parents. His “father became ill” and “one sad day, he passed away.” His son came home “to say a last goodbye to his father and to comfort his mother.” When the boy came home again, he brought along his fiancé. His mother hugged her like a daughter.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

The young couple married and moved in with the man’s mother. Soon, they were going to have their own child. As they decorated the nursery, the man thought of the rocking chair. He brought it down from the attic and “lovingly dusted it off,” placing “it back where it belonged.” After the couple’s little girl was born, her grandmother rocked her in the chair and sang to her. She wished her husband could see her.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

When the little girl was older, she rocked across her room in the chair. She was a sea captain sailing her boat “across the clouds.” Soon, she knew, she would “go to school, and make new friends, and have adventures all her own.” She looked forward to someday rocking a baby of her own in the chair. She thought of her parents and her grandparents and knew that “the love of her family would always be there.”

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

This last collaboration between two-time Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winners Leo and Diane Dillon is a beautiful tribute to family and the longevity of love passed from one generation to another. Based on the Dillon’s own experience, the story reveals the bonds that keep people close through changes, additions, good times, and loss through the beloved rocking chair that becomes a touchstone for the family. The Dillon’s lyrical text is straightforward and honest, showing transitions for each family member as well as for the rocking chair.

Endearing illustrations of the parents reading and singing to their babies will resonate with little readers and reinforce the story’s message. The images, rendered in earth tones and blocked and framed with a white border, mirror family photographs or snapshots of transformative and unforgettable moments in a family’s history.

A treasure to share with your child or a child in your family while talking about your own traditions, Love and the Rocking Chair is a tender story to add to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

The Blue Sky Press, and imprint of Scholastic, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338332650

Love and the Rocking Chair Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with The Blue Sky Press, Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Love and the Rocking Chair, by Leo and Diane Dillon

To be entered to win:

This giveaway is open from November 5 through November 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 12.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Family Stories Month Activity

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Reading Blanket

 

A special blanket to read with feels cozy and warm! With this craft you and your child can make a blanket for yourselves, a stuffed animal or even a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for the stuffed animal or is large enough for your pet to lie on
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾ – inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each side

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

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You can find Love and the Rocking Chair at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

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About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

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Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

National Apple Day Activity

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Apple Turn Over! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review