November 15 – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-great-caper-caper-cover

About the Holiday

The holidays are coming, and today’s holiday offers the perfect opportunity to really look deep into your fridge and toss any of those leftovers or nearly empty jars to make way for the special dinners and treats to come. This season of favorite foods won’t be complete, though, without the newest book in the beloved Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series to share!

Thanks to Josh Funk for sharing a digital copy of The Great Caper Caper with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Great Caper Caper (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #5)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

It was still nighttime “deep in the fridge” when Sir French Toast woke Lady Pancake with a scream. When she sleepily meets him in the living room, Toast tells her that the Great Light has disappeared. She doesn’t believe him at first. “‘Nonsense,’ said Pancake. ‘Crack open the drapes.’ / But as she gazed out, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, my crêpes!’” It was true. “All of the fridge was consumed by the dark. / From Lentil Soup Springs up to Passionfruit Park.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-great-caper-caper-waking-up

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Then Pancake noticed a light shining in the distance. They hurried toward it and found themselves in Las Veggies, where a gleaming Tower dominated the landscape. As soon as Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake entered the door, they demanded to know who was in charge. “A salty green bud with an odor of brine, / Answered the question: ‘This tower is mine!’” He introduced himself as Count Caper, “the richest, most powerful food” and mocked Pancake’s idea that he had stolen the Great Light. Then he threw them out of Las Veggies Tower. On the way home, French Toast seemed distressed, but Pancake told him she had a plan all figured out.

Back in their rooms, Pancake and Toast assembled a team of eight friends they’d made through their many adventures together, and Pancake explained the scheme she had in mind. The crew set right to work, infiltrating Count Caper’s inner sanctum for reconnaissance, gathering the supplies they’d need, and devising a creative diversion. At last the time came to put their plan into motion, and the team descended surreptitiously on a Las Veggies Tower showroom. Disguised as audience members, Croissant, Tofu, Pancake, and Toast took their places close to Count Caper’s table as the Beets took the stage. In a moment they had unboxed a commotion of animal crackers that sent Count Caper’s guards running, and Pancake’s plan progressed without a hitch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-great-caper-caper-las-veggies

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

They had just gained access to Count Caper’s office and discovered the hidden Great Light when Count Caper appeared. When confronted with his crime he caved, relating that he’d been scorned all his life and left in the shadows. He’d decided he’d had enough and wanted to bask in the star-making glow of the Great Light. Having confessed, he then ordered his guards to capture Pancake, Toast, and their friends.

But before they could, one of Pancake’s team member from Caper’s own inside circle stepped forward and gave his boss with an alternate scenario—and future. Count Caper looked around at the ten he had captured. They were smiling and hopeful, true friends all together. Again Caper relented and told them to just take the light. He “…then let out a moan. ‘Leave me to sulk in the dark all alone.’” This time, it was Lady Pancake who had an offer to make, and she invited Count Caper to help them reinstall the Great Light to its proper place. Now with the light safe and secure, it was time to go on with the show.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-great-caper-caper-plan-reveal

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Returning to Josh Funk’s imaginative world with this fifth book in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is just like peering into your own refrigerator with a bad case of the munchies and finding your favorite dessert waiting just for you. The first glimpse into Funk’s fridge immediately welcomes readers back to the clever food-inspired landscape and the promise of a surprising adventure to come. This time, Pancake and Toast team up in a buddy heist escapade that spools out with the same charm, humor, and camaraderie that makes this genre a favorite.

Funk’s nimble wordplay and smart rhymes give the story a brisk energy that will keep kids guessing at how Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast will resolve their dilemma while staying true to the series’ focus on friendship and welcoming new pals to the fold. And all wrapped up with the eagerly anticipated group party at the end.

Speaking of that party, Brendan Kearney once again gets everyone out on the dance floor with a twinkling disco ball, shining spotlights, and VIP tables sprinkled near the stage where a very special guest gets ready to sing. Leading up to this celebration, Kearney takes kids back to this one-of-a-kind fridge, with its rolling hills, wide lakes, deep valleys, and—who knew?—the glitz, glamour, and Great Light of Las Veggies! Count Caper’s office is, appropriately, furnished with others of his ilk, including jarred pickles, peppers, and pearl onions. And his desk? A tin of “extra briney” anchovies.

Kids will have fun joining in on the subterfuge as disguised (but still recognizable to young readers) Croissant, Fruitcake, Brie, and the others spy on Count Caper. When he’s caught, the cheerful group dynamics extends companionship not only to Count Caper but to readers—who will enthusiastically accept—as well.

Shining a light on friendship and second chances, The Great Caper Caper provides lively, high-style hijinks entertainment and will be a favorite read aloud on home bookshelves, whether you’re adding to the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series or discovering it for the first time. For school and public library collections, this book and the others in the series are a must.

Ages 4 – 8

Union Square Kids. 2022 | ISBN 978-1454943631

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Josh Funk Headshot-Credit Carter Hasegawa

Josh Funk is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. His other works include, How to Code a Sandcastle, Lost in the LibraryAlbie Newton, and more. Josh lives in Massachusetts and invites you to learn more about him by visiting joshfunkbooks.com.

About the Illustrator

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brendan-kearney-headshot

Brendan Kearney is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. Brendan also is the author-illustrator of ForestThe Night the Moon Went Missing, and Fish. He currently lives in the UK with his family and invites you to learn more about him by visiting brendandraws.com.

Snack on this book trailer for The Great Caper Caper

There’s no expiration date on all the fun in these fantastic blogs! See what’s inside!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-great-caper-caper-virtual-tour-image

Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day Activity

Screen Shot 2022-11-13 at 5.57.44 PM

Friendship is Illuminating! Maze

 

You can solve almost any dilemma with friends! In this maze these two friends want to shine together! Can you help the lightbulb at the top find a way through the maze, while picking up some pals along the way in this printable puzzle?

Friendship is Illuminating! Maze and Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-great-caper-caper-cover

You can find The Great Caper Caper at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 19 – Museum Selfie Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-cover

About the Holiday

Can you picture yourself at a museum today? Then the holiday we’re celebrating is just for you! Mar Dixon, a museum enthusiast, created Museum Selfie Day in 2015 as a way to encourage museum visitors to be creative and have fun taking selfies while also emphasizing the importance of all types of museums to their community. This holiday is celebrated in museums around the world, with participants sharing their selfies on Twitter and Instagram. To celebrate, head out with your kids to a museum near you and make some memories. To participate share your pictures using the hashtag #museumselfieday.

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sharing a copy of Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

 

“In the great, big city, in the great, big museum, a clock tick-tocks past midnight.” The guards are on the watch, but they don’t see the tiny mouse that “creeps out of the shadows” and zig-zags her way through the galleries under the peering eyes of the art hung on the walls. Who is this explorer that carries a sack over one shoulder and has her eyes riveted on a map? It’s Dakota Crumb, and “for endless nights, Dakota has searched for a famous priceless treasure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-great-hall

Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The map reveals that it is in “the Deepest, Darkest Cave. But perils lie ahead. Scurrying past knights in armor, Dakota spies a tiny masterpiece across the room. Using her rope, she swings and picks it up. She places it into her sack and continues on. Into the hall of giants she roams. The only movement is the maintenance worker cleaning the floor. Dakota scans the room and—“aha!”—discovers a forgotten statue. Trying to collect it, she’s nearly swept away with the day’s refuse.

Dakota consults the map again and crawls away. Her journey takes her “to the land of Egypt,” where Dakota is on the hunt for “the famous Purple Jewel of Egypt.” Dakota summons all her courage when she comes eye to claw with “A GIANT… EVIL EYED… MOUSE-EATING… CAT!” She hurries past and into the deep, dark cave. She climbs up, up and “Pull. Pry. Oh, my!”  grabs the treasure she’s been seeking—the Purple Jewel of Egypt. “Oh! how it sparkles!” As dawn colors the glassed rotunda, Dakota tiptoes home, her sack full.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-map

Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The museum opens, but not only for people. Around the corner, a “teeny-tiny door” welcomes visitors of another sort. These city dwellers—insects and mice, raccoons and squirrels, worms and pigeons await the opening of a new museum—the Mousehole Museum, where Dakota Crumb proudly presides over her carefully curated exhibits. The visitors enter and roam the galleries, marveling over all of the wonderful treasures they see. You’re welcome to join them too!

Following the story, Dakota Crumb invites readers to return to the museums—both big and small—to scour their rooms for forty-five items that are cleverly concealed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-mousehole-museum

Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Charming from beginning to (ingeniously extended) end, Jamie Michalak’s Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is sure to become a favorite of any child. Michalak’s crafty uses of the types of exhibits seen in major museums not only add intrigue to the story but will thrill those kids who are already museum lovers and entice others to visit their local museums. The hushed sense of suspense that infuses the pages as Dakota Crumb creeps from room to room gathering items in her bag will have kids eagerly turning the pages to discover the provenance of the Purple Jewel of Egypt. What is she doing with all of the things she finds? Michalak’s perfect answer will enchant every collector, artist, scientist, history buff, and explorer.

Kelly Murphy’s wizardry begins on the title page, where the museum is just about to close and they city dwellers are heading home in the purple twilight. Taking in the lush urban landscape, alert readers may pick up on details that tell them the fun is just beginning. As kids follow Dakota through the quiet museum, finding themselves searching for treasure just as she does, they see paintings, ceramics, sculptures, animal exhibits, and finally the regal Egypt room.

Murphy ingeniously incorporates items from the scavenger hunt list kids find at the end of the story into each page spread while adding humorous hints, realistic portrayals of famous exhibits, and even a comical nod to a common cleaning occurrence. But like many museum goers, readers may find themselves catch their breath when they enter the Mousehole Museum. Murphy’s well-imagined exhibits turn everyday items into masterpieces—and who’s to say they’re not? From toys to fasteners to snacks, containers, and trinkets and even an overdeveloped polaroid photograph, the displays in Dakota Crumb’s museum invites readers to look at their surroundings in a brand-new way.

A smart, witty, fun, and thought-provoking book, Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is a superb book for introducing the excitement of museums to children and engaging them in observation as well as ideas on art, historical value, community inclusion, and collecting. All this and an imaginative scavenger hunt that challenges readers to be as intrepid a treasure hunter as Dakota Crumb. Sure to spark plenty of ideas for teachers, homeschoolers, museum educators, and libraries, Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is a must for home, school, and library bookshelves as well as for museum gift shops.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Candlewick Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1536203943

Discover more about Jamie Michalak and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kelly Murphy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-activity-kit

You can download a Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter Activity Kit for teachers, families, librarians, or any book lover here or on the Candlewick Press website.

A Chat with Jamie Michalak

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-author-jamie-michalak-headshot

Jamie Michalak is the author of many children’s books, including Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar; the highly praised Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz; as well as the forthcoming picture book Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Jones, and many more.

When not writing, she can often be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her two sons. Jamie lives with her family in Barrington, Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Welcome, Jamie! I’m so happy to be part of your book tour for Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter! Visiting museums is one of my and my family’s favorite activities, especially when we travel. They always provide us with wonderful memories. Do you have a favorite memory from a trip you took to research one of your books?

When I was writing Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, in which a mouse searches for tiny objects in a museum, I wanted to scout out the best places to hide them. So I decided to visit an art museum in Manhattan, and I asked my eight-year-old son to come along as my research assistant.

Within fifteen minutes of our visit, he tugged on my sleeve. He was looking up at me with an expression of shock and horror.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Mom,” he whispered, looking around. “They’re not wearing ANY PANTS!”

I had no idea he hadn’t seen nude Greek or Roman statues before.

In any case, he learned a lot about art, found some perfect hiding spots for mice treasures, and went home with lots to tell his friends.

That’s fabulous! Kids’ reactions to new experiences are such treasures in themselves.

In your school and library programs you share your writing process and give lots of advice for kids and teachers on how to create characters and stories as well as talking about your books. They sound like a blast! This past year, you probably held more virtual programs than usual. What was one funny thing that happened during one of these events this year?

I ended all of my virtual visits with a sing-along of the “Jelly Donut Hole Song” from my early reader Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar. I’d play the audio and share the lyrics on my screen, so the class could join in. (Keep in mind I couldn’t see the faces of any of the kids.) During one visit, I’m playing the song, kind of half singing along because I can’t carry a tune AT ALL. Also, I’m clapping every now and then. Aaaand at the very end, the teacher says, “Um, Jamie? We couldn’t hear the audio on our end.” So basically the kids only saw my big head and heard me humming one note or mumbling every other three words. This went on for at least two minutes! Awkward.

Well, that sounds like a story Frank and Bean would love! Perhaps this funny oops! will find its way into one of your books. Thanks for sharing these two humorous events that show just what a varied tapestry being a picture book author is!

 Here’a a little more about Frank and Bean

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-and-bean-cover

Written by Jamie Michalak; Illustrated by Bob Kolar

When the introspective Frank meets the gregarious Bean, can they find a way to make beautiful music together? Dry wit and hilarious illustrations introduce a new unlikely pair.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-and-bean-tent

Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2019, text copyright Jamie Machalak, 2019. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Candlewick Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-0763695590

Early Reader; Ages 3-7

A 2019 Amazon Best Book of the Year

2019 Junior Library Guild Selection

Florida 2020-2021 SSYRA JR Award Nominee

Cybils Award finalist

Museum Selfie Day Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-tiny-treasure-hunt-game

Tiny Treasure Hunt

 

This treasure hunt from Jamie Machalak is just like Dakota Crumb’s, but with a twist! And it’s perfect for families to do together! Print and cut out this tiny treasure hunt checklist for your child, so they can gather the objects listed. Then ask them to share what they found, using three adjectives to describe each treasure. What does a button feel like? What does the tiny toy look like? (Magnifying glasses are optional!)

Tiny Treasure Hunt List

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-museum-of-modern-art-coloring-page

Museum Coloring Pages

 

You may not be able to visit these famous museums today, but you’ll love these coloring pages that can take you around the world!

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art | London’s British Museum | The Louvre in Paris

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-cover

You can find Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s Family Fun Month and Interview with Jamie Michalak

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-cover

About the Holiday

August is a perfect time to have fun with the family! The days are long and warm, and there are so many activities to discover. Get away from the heat at a pool, the beach, or on the cool shade of a forest path. Explore your adventurous side while camping or traveling to an unfamiliar town, or increase your knowledge by visiting a science, art, history, or other museum. As today’s book shows, a museum might just be the most adventurous place on your list! So, before school starts up for another year, get out there and have fun!

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

 

“In the great, big city, in the great, big museum, a clock tick-tocks past midnight.” The guards are on the watch, but they don’t see the tiny mouse that “creeps out of the shadows” and zig-zags her way through the galleries under the peering eyes of the art hung on the walls. Who is this explorer that carries a sack over one shoulder and has her eyes riveted on a map? It’s Dakota Crumb, and “for endless nights, Dakota has searched for a famous priceless treasure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-great-hall

Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The map reveals that it is in “the Deepest, Darkest Cave. But perils lie ahead. Scurrying past knights in armor, Dakota spies a tiny masterpiece across the room. Using her rope, she swings and picks it up. She places it into her sack and continues on. Into the hall of giants she roams. The only movement is the maintenance worker cleaning the floor. Dakota scans the room and—“aha!”—discovers a forgotten statue. Trying to collect it, she’s nearly swept away with the day’s refuse.

Dakota consults the map again and crawls away. Her journey takes her “to the land of Egypt,” where Dakota is on the hunt for “the famous Purple Jewel of Egypt.” Dakota summons all her courage when she comes eye to claw with “A GIANT… EVIL EYED… MOUSE-EATING… CAT!” She hurries past and into the deep, dark cave. She climbs up, up and “Pull. Pry. Oh, my!”  grabs the treasure she’s been seeking—the Purple Jewel of Egypt. “Oh! how it sparkles!” As dawn colors the glassed rotunda, Dakota tiptoes home, her sack full.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-map

Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The museum opens, but not only for people. Around the corner, a “teeny-tiny door” welcomes visitors of another sort. These city dwellers—insects and mice, raccoons and squirrels, worms and pigeons await the opening of a new museum—the Mousehole Museum, where Dakota Crumb proudly presides over her carefully curated exhibits. The visitors enter and roam the galleries, marveling over all of the wonderful treasures they see. You’re welcome to join them too!

Following the story, Dakota Crumb invites readers to return to the museums—both big and small—to scour their rooms for forty-five items that are cleverly concealed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-mousehole-museum

Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Charming from beginning to (ingeniously extended) end, Jamie Michalak’s Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is sure to become a favorite of any child. Michalak’s crafty uses of the types of exhibits seen in major museums not only add intrigue to the story but will thrill those kids who are already museum lovers and entice others to visit their local museums. The hushed sense of suspense that infuses the pages as Dakota Crumb creeps from room to room gathering items in her bag will have kids eagerly turning the pages to discover the provenance of the Purple Jewel of Egypt. What is she doing with all of the things she finds? Michalak’s perfect answer will enchant every collector, artist, scientist, history buff, and explorer.

Kelly Murphy’s wizardry begins on the title page, where the museum is just about to close and they city dwellers are heading home in the purple twilight. Taking in the lush urban landscape, alert readers may pick up on details that tell them the fun is just beginning. As kids follow Dakota through the quiet museum, finding themselves searching for treasure just as she does, they see paintings, ceramics, sculptures, animal exhibits, and finally the regal Egypt room.

Murphy ingeniously incorporates items from the scavenger hunt list kids find at the end of the story into each page spread while adding humorous hints, realistic portrayals of famous exhibits, and even a comical nod to a common cleaning occurrence. But like many museum goers, readers may find themselves catch their breath when they enter the Mousehole Museum. Murphy’s well-imagined exhibits turn everyday items into masterpieces—and who’s to say they’re not? From toys to fasteners to snacks, containers, and trinkets and even an overdeveloped polaroid photograph, the displays in Dakota Crumb’s museum invites readers to look at their surroundings in a brand-new way.

A smart, witty, fun, and thought-provoking book, Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is a superb book for introducing the excitement of museums to children and engaging them in observation as well as ideas on art, historical value, community inclusion, and collecting. All this and an imaginative scavenger hunt that challenges readers to be as intrepid a treasure hunter as Dakota Crumb. Sure to spark plenty of ideas for teachers, homeschoolers, museum educators, and libraries, Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is a must for home, school, and library bookshelves as well as for museum gift shops.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Candlewick Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1536203943

Discover more about Jamie Michalak and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kelly Murphy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-activity-kit

You can download a Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter Activity Kit for teachers, families, librarians, or any book lover here or on the Candlewick Press website.

A Chat with Jamie Michalak

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-author-jamie-michalak-headshot

Jamie Michalak is the author of many children’s books, including Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar; the highly praised Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz; as well as the forthcoming picture book Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Jones, and many more.

When not writing, she can often be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her two sons. Jamie lives with her family in Barrington, Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Welcome, Jamie! I’m so happy to be part of your book tour for Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter! Visiting museums is one of my and my family’s favorite activities, especially when we travel. They always provide us with wonderful memories. Do you have a favorite memory from a trip you took to research one of your books?

When I was writing Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, in which a mouse searches for tiny objects in a museum, I wanted to scout out the best places to hide them. So I decided to visit an art museum in Manhattan, and I asked my eight-year-old son to come along as my research assistant.

Within fifteen minutes of our visit, he tugged on my sleeve. He was looking up at me with an expression of shock and horror.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Mom,” he whispered, looking around. “They’re not wearing ANY PANTS!”

I had no idea he hadn’t seen nude Greek or Roman statues before.

In any case, he learned a lot about art, found some perfect hiding spots for mice treasures, and went home with lots to tell his friends.

That’s fabulous! Kids’ reactions to new experiences are such treasures in themselves.

In your school and library programs you share your writing process and give lots of advice for kids and teachers on how to create characters and stories as well as talking about your books. They sound like a blast! This past year, you probably held more virtual programs than usual. What was one funny thing that happened during one of these events this year?

I ended all of my virtual visits with a sing-along of the “Jelly Donut Hole Song” from my early reader Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar. I’d play the audio and share the lyrics on my screen, so the class could join in. (Keep in mind I couldn’t see the faces of any of the kids.) During one visit, I’m playing the song, kind of half singing along because I can’t carry a tune AT ALL. Also, I’m clapping every now and then. Aaaand at the very end, the teacher says, “Um, Jamie? We couldn’t hear the audio on our end.” So basically the kids only saw my big head and heard me humming one note or mumbling every other three words. This went on for at least two minutes! Awkward.

Well, that sounds like a story Frank and Bean would love! Perhaps this funny oops! will find its way into one of your books. Thanks for sharing these two humorous events that show just what a varied tapestry being a picture book author is!

 Here’a a little more about Frank and Bean

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-and-bean-cover

Written by Jamie Michalak; Illustrated by Bob Kolar

When the introspective Frank meets the gregarious Bean, can they find a way to make beautiful music together? Dry wit and hilarious illustrations introduce a new unlikely pair.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-and-bean-tent

Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2019, text copyright Jamie Machalak, 2019. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Candlewick Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-0763695590

Early Reader; Ages 3-7

A 2019 Amazon Best Book of the Year

2019 Junior Library Guild Selection

Florida 2020-2021 SSYRA JR Award Nominee

Cybils Award finalist

Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-tiny-treasure-hunt-game

Tiny Treasure Hunt

 

This treasure hunt from Jamie Machalak is just like Dakota Crumb’s, but with a twist! And it’s perfect for families to do together! Print and cut out this tiny treasure hunt checklist for your child, so they can gather the objects listed. Then ask them to share what they found, using three adjectives to describe each treasure. What does a button feel like? What does the tiny toy look like? (Magnifying glasses are optional!)

Tiny Treasure Hunt List

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dakota-crumb-cover

You can find Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 5 – Middle Grade Monday

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-400-minutes-of-danger-cover

Review by Jakki Licare

400 Minutes of Danger

By Jack Heath

 

The second book in this thrilling series takes readers around the world and to the edge of their seat with ten life-or-death situations, ten brave kids, and ten linked stories that prove anyone can be a hero even if they only have 40 minutes to escape!

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Glacier

Nika is climbing a wall of ice in Northern Pakistan when she notices her shoes and gloves are wet. As she examines closer, she realizes the glacier has thawed on the inside and the water is trickling out. She’s climbing an ice shell which at any moment will crack! Not only is her life in danger, but the entire village where she has been staying will be swept away too. When the only car in town drives by, Nika quickly devises a plan. But at what cost?

Terminal Velocity

On a field trip to a national park, Charith notices a camouflaged gunman sneaking around. After alerting his class, they rush onto the bus, but as they exit the park a bomb is detonated in front of them. The bus driver is blinded and Charith takes over driving the treacherous winding roads with no brakes. As if that isn’t bad enough the camouflaged gunman chases them down the mountain and starts shooting at them. Charith uses the emergency flare gun to shoot the gunman who loses control and careens off the mountain.

Mosquito

When Sally enrolled in a science program for extra credit, she had no idea she’d be helping Dr. Volchek  capture the Vampirius Colossi, a.k.a. giant mosquito. After hiking through a jungle and dodging driver ants, they’ve just found some larvae when a “baby” Vampirius Colossi attacks  Dr.Volchek. Swinging a broken branch at it, Sally discovers that the pollen on the branch repels the mosquito. Sally is dragging Dr. Volchek to safety when a mosquito the size of a car chases her. Sally makes a daring escape and with the help from a surprising source, she and Dr. Volchek make their way out of the jungle.

Enclosure

As Brad and his best friend creep through the zoo on a mission to prank a volunteer with water balloons, they notice that a thief has broken into an enclosure. But before they can decide what to do, Brad is spotted by a guard and races off. To hide from the guard he dangles from a viewing platform, but accidentally slips into a lion’s enclosure. The lion pounces at him, but his teeth sink into a surprise instead and he backs off. Brad uses the diversion to climb the fence, but a lioness is closing in when a surprising person comes to his aid.

Iron-Willed

In this story set in the future, Iresha is tasked with diving for iron samples from shipwrecks, but when she reaches the seabed, she discovers that the shipwreck isn’t where it should be. With a limited air supply and a strange hum all around, Iresha finds the wreck and collects her samples. While crossing a deep ravine an earthquake hits, the ship snaps in half, and Iresha must escape. Suddenly the chasm erupts in lava. Iresha swims upward with lava close behind and rocks pummel her from all sides. At last, she breaches the surface onto a newly made island of basalt, an iron rich rock.

The Island

List oversees a secret organization and Kelsey accepts a mission to spy on him. Pretending to be the daughter of one of List’s employees, she convinces List to take her into his secret dome. infiltrates his secret dome. The dome turns out to be an enclosed habitat with two of every animal. List even has a dinosaur, which Kelsey knows he stole from a cruise ship which was transporting genetically modified embryos. Kelsey steals List’s phone and realizes that he’s started a countdown to explode an underwater volcano that will destroy earth’s atmosphere. With List on her heels, Kelsey races into the dinosaur’s enclosure to hide and calls SPII headquarters to warn them. The dinosaur attacks her, but Kelsey knocks it out using karate. SPII is powerless to help, leaving it up to Kelsey to find List’s radio detonator. Through clever negotiations with List, Kelsey discovers where the detonator is and aborts the explosive.

Kids are also pitted against a sinking ship, a compactor, a robot, and a snake in more heart-racing stories.

Review

These fast-paced short stories are the perfect read for reluctant readers. The high stakes and life-and-death situations make this book an easy page turner. These short stories are not overwhelming and will leave the reader satisfied.

Each story takes place within a forty-minute time frame and running along the margins of each story is a timer, marking how much time is left. The countdown really amps up the stakes and makes you want to read on as the protagonists must fight for their lives while the time dwindles. In “Sinking,” Nancy has just located her trapped dog in her cabin when the ship rolls to its side, flooding her escape; only fifteen minutes and fifteen seconds left. Nancy squeezes her dog through the opening of her porthole; ten minutes left. Another bomb explodes on the ship and Nancy’s room begins to flood faster; nine minutes and five seconds left. Her porthole is jammed shut from the last explosion, preventing her escape; seven minutes and forty seconds left. She takes one final gasp of air and holds her breath; six minutes and fifty seconds left. Intense, right? The “margin timer” adds an extra layer of tension, pulling us in and making us cheer on the heroes/heroines as their time ticks down. 

My favorite part of 400 Minutes of Danger is that each hero/heroine is an everyday teen. These heroes and heroines must rely on their quick thinking, luck, and ingenuity to get out of extremely dangerous situations. I like how Jack Heath does not have protagonists rely on cool technology to get them out of trouble, just their wits. In “Nightmare,” Harry uses his knowledge that snakes become lethargic in colder temperatures. So when a deadly snake starts advancing on him and his parents, he switches the air conditioner on with his remote, and the snake becomes distracted and eventually goes to sleep. I also like how there are an equal number of male and female protagonists throughout the book. 

While each story can be read on its own and feel satisfyingly complete, Heath takes 400 Minutes of Danger a step further and connects all of these isolated stories in the final short story. As the reader goes along through the book, they can start to pick out clues and pieces of information that link the stories together. In “The Island,” Heath then weaves all the stories together so that each of Heath’s dropped clues come together like a beautiful puzzle, taking his ending to a whole new level.

Parental Considerations: Some of the stories contain violence and have a villain with murderous intentions.

400 Minutes of Danger is a fast-paced, suspenseful book that’s perfect for adrenaline lovers. If your kids enjoy the I Survived Series then 400 Minutes of Danger will make a great addition to your shelf. For more thrills and chills, check out the first book in the series, 300 Minutes of Danger.

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of 400 Minutes of Danger for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Ages 10 and up

Sterling Children’s Books 2016 | ISBN 978-1454938392

You can learn more about Jack Heath and his other books for children and adults on his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-400-minutes-of-danger-cover

You can find 400 Minutes of Danger at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 18 – It’s National Mystery Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleuth-and-solve-history-cover

About the Holiday

Have you felt something odd, eerie, or just plain puzzling in the air lately? That’s to be expected as May is all about mysteries! Established in 2009 by Booklist, which is part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations, and more! Mysteries, with their unusual situations, puzzling clues, usual suspects, and plenty of unexplained phenomena, are great for getting kids—even reluctant readers—to fall in love with books. With so many classic and new mysteries to investigate, this month’s celebration may just last all summer! And if you like your mysteries fun and educational, you’ll love today’s book!

Thanks to Chronicle Books for sending me a copy of Sleuth & Solve History for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sleuth & Solve History: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries

By Victor Escandell 

 

Historical fiction allows us to revisit real-life events in the past through characters and stories that resonate with today’s readers. The mysteries presented in this clever book do just that! Inspired by actual civilizations, people, inventions, and circumstances, each mystery asks you to tackle a perplexing or thought-provoking question and come up with an answer. The puzzlers are divided into two types: those that require a bit of logical thinking, and those that prompt you to use your imagination. They’re also graded on a point system from very easy to very difficult to give your brain a good workout. Each difficulty level is worth a different number of points from 10 to 60.

You can read this book or use it in various ways too, from solving each puzzle by yourself or making a game out of it for family fun night or in teams with friends or in a classroom. You’ll find mysteries old and new from Prehistoric times (200,000 – 4000 B.C.), the Old Ages (4000 B.C. – A.D. 476), the Middle Ages (A.D. 500 – 1400), the Modern Era (A.D. 1400 – 1800), and the Contemporary Era (1800 – Today).

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Copyright Victor Escandell, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Each two-page mystery is introduced with a snippet of nonfiction information about a tradition, event, person, ideology, or innovation. The problem to be solved is then told as a story in numbered steps that contain clues and are easy to follow. The mysteries are also accompanied by Victor Escandell’s humorous cartoon illustrations that readers will want to study carefully, because they also contain cunning hints that will help readers find the answer. Have you read the historical paragraph? Digested the story? Scoured the illustrations? Devised an answer? Then it’s time to divulge your thoughts and see if you’re right! Each answer is revealed under a pull-down flap on the second page.

Younger kids will enjoy solving the Stone Age case of the missing meat, discovering the Mona Lisa’s real name, and showing off their good sense of direction by helping out Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men. Older kids and adults will want to match wits with an Egyptian pharaoh, the great Athenian statesman Pericles, and even Sherlock Holmes. They can also decipher a secret code from World War II and discover a Space Station astronauts new password.

Future detectives can mull over the trickiest conundrums that occur during a Mesolithic Era hunting expedition, a Babylonian bargaining, a Barbarian chase, and a Parisian jewel robbery. They can even conjure up solutions to challenges from Thomas Edison and Harry Houdini.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleuth-and-solve-history-aztec-empire

Copyright Victor Escandell, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Victor Escandell’s easy-going storytelling will spark kids’ interest in learning more about long-ago times which still influence our lives today. Sleuth & Solve History would be a fun and engaging way to start off classroom or homeschool lessons in history, science, and logic. The book’s appeal to a wide age range of readers, makes it a perfect addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out the original Sleuth & Solve: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries for more fun!

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452180076

Discover more about Victor Escandell, his books, and his art on his website.

Mystery Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mysterious-mystery-word-search

Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleuth-and-solve-history-cover

You can find Sleuth & Solve History at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 4 – It’s National Knit a Sweater Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-my-pink-sweater-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re a reader or writer, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, in which writers dedicate themselves to writing 50,000 words—or a novel-length manuscript—this month. While these folks are weaving stories, knitters around the world are involved in their own super challenge. Inspired by NaNoWriMo, knitters are getting out their needles and yarn to create a 50,000-stitch—or sweater-size—garment. November, with its cooler, but not frigid, weather is a perfect time to make a new wooly wonder for the winter. Whether you keep your creation for yourself or give it away as a gift, the satisfaction of having completed the challenge will keep your heart warm all  year. For more information and to find like-minded artists, join the group at Ravelry.

Where Is My Pink Sweater?

By Nicola Slater

 

One morning when Rudy woke up, his beloved pink sweater was gone. Sure, “it was a bit too small and showed his belly button. But it was his favorite.” He went to look for it in his tall wardrobe, but all he found was “TEN tumbling cats.” They provided a clue that went like this: “Follow the trail / follow the string / to find your favorite / wooly thing!” Rudy looked down and saw a long strand of pink yarn running along the floor and down the stairs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-my-pink-sweater-wardrobe

Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Downstairs, Rudy spied “NINE jiving llamas in fancy-pants pajamas.” They were so busy eating and sipping and dancing under the disco ball, that they never even saw Rudy. But Rudy noticed the string of yarn and followed it. In the kitchen, “EIGHT prima pigerinas” were pirouetting and having tea. They poured Rudy a cup, and while he was enjoying it, he heard a creak.

He took a quick peek in the basement and saw “SEVEN ski-dogs slaloming on the stairs.” They were all wearing something pink, but not his sweater. Back upstairs in the bathroom, Rudy called out to the “SIX soapy blackbirds.” They answered with same clue the cats had given him, so he followed the string out the window…and into a wading pool, where no one wore a sweater bathing suit. The string continued into the sewer, around a worm, past a little bug, and through the house of “FOUR muttering mice” who offered him cheese and a bit of advice. It led him to a croc-cupied outhouse “but no sweater.”

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Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Here the string ended. Rudy was sad that he hadn’t found his favorite sweater. He couldn’t imagine who would have wanted it. He was pondering this question when out of the bushes popped “Trudy! His number ONE sister.” She was wearing his sweater and it fit just right. It was true that “Rudy loved his sweater, but he loved Trudy more.” And just then he knew he was ready for the pink surprise his friends had brought. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-my-pink-sweater-bathroom

Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Nicola Slater’s charming mystery for the littlest readers entices them to follow the pink string to solve this adorable whodunit. Along the way they discover a decreasing number of suspects behind flaps and cut outs on Slater’s vibrant and action-packed pages. Adults will enjoy the nods to mystery tropes, including a fantastical wardrobe, a creaky basement door, and a steamy bathroom, while kids will just love all the lively shenanigans going on in Rudy’s house and neighborhood.

Slater’s lyrical storytelling includes jaunty alliteration, humor, and well-paced, gentle suspense that will keep readers guessing while they practice their counting. The sweet solution to the mystery is family- and sibling-relationship affirming. Rudy’s love for his little sister and hers for Rudy shine and will make readers both young and older smile.

An enchanting read aloud board book for little readers and especially for family story times, Where Is My Pink Sweater? would make a wonderful gift and a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736797

To see a portfolio of work by Nicola Slater visit Good Illustration

National Knit a Sweater Month Activity

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Design Your Own Sweater

 

If you could design your own sweater, what would it look like? Would it have stripes? Polka dots? A picture of a puppy, kitten, train, truck, or the logo of your favorite sports team? Use this printable Design Your Own Sweater template and have a bit of fashionable fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-my-pink-sweater-cover

You can find Where Is My Pink Sweater? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 23 – It’s Mystery Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

About the Holiday

The month of May is dedicated to mysteries! Established ten years ago by Booklist, part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations and more! Mysteries, with their unusual situations, puzzling clues, suspect suspects, and plenty of unexplained phenomena, are great for getting kids—even reluctant readers—to fall in love with books. With so many classic and new mysteries to investigate, this month’s celebration may just last all summer! And if you like your mysteries funny, you’ll love today’s book!

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-call-in

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Mystery 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-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review