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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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

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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.

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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

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Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 4 – It’s National Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to gather with family and friends and spend those cold, indoor day baking your favorite recipes! Baking together is a great way to teach valuable cooking skills and a little math. Talking with kids while baking cane fun too! Tell old family stories, favorite recipes, and funny or memorable culinary experiences at school, home, or while eating out. Of course, the best part of baking together is eating the delicious meals or treats afterward!

There Are No Bears in This Bakery

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Muffin, the “whiskers” of the neighborhood assures readers that “there are no bears in Little Bear Bakery.” After all, he works the nightshift and knows everything that goes on. He knows the scratchy sounds of the mice, the clanging that means the raccoons are raiding the trash, and the flip flap of the bats. But he has to admit that last night there was a new sound: “grrrrrrrrrrr.” He went to investigate.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

“The air was cool and wet like a dog’s nose.” None of the regular creatures were in the alley, but “the bakery’s back window was open like a crooked smile.” And, again, Muffin heard, “grrrrrr.” He entered the bakery thinking that maybe the intruder was a mouse looking for sprinkles. Then he saw it. Was it a huge mouse? No. It was a tiny bear. The bear was surprised; Muffin was surprised; and Muffin’s tale? It “was the most surprised” of all. The “grrrrrrrr” was coming from the bear’s stomach.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-alley

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Muffin knew just what to do. He gave the cub a slice of cake, let her choose a doughnut from the bakery case, and toppled over a canister of cookies so she could nibble a few. The bear’s belly stopped grumbling, but then the bakery seemed quiet – too quiet. Muffin looked around and saw something in the darkness. It turned out to be a huge bear, and suddenly Muffin was in the dark as he was enveloped in a big hug. “It was warm, like a bath mat in the sunshine. It smelled like that bath mat needed a bath.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-bear-in-bakery

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The mama bear was a bit hungry too and scarfed down some sprinkles. As the sun came up, the bears crept out the window and down the alley toward the forest. With the nightshift over, Muffin headed home to wake up his sleeping human and tell his heroic tale. “It was a messy job,” he said, “but I handled it.” And as Muffin curled up on his pillow, he just happened to mention, “By the way, we’re out of donuts.” Among other things….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-goods

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Julia Sarcone-Roach’s storytelling is as frisky as a kitten and full of hilarious and oh-so-apropos similes from a cat’s point of view. Sarcone-Roach imbues her little feline security guard with the supreme confidence and guilt-free consciousness that cat lovers will recognize. Kids and adults will enjoy the noir-tone of this wry narrator, and like the best parodies, the suspenseful buildups give way to laughs. Sweet moments abound during the off-hours snackfest, and as readers gaze into Muffin’s wide, “who-me?” eyes, they’ll know that after the clean-up there will still be cuddles for this adorable cat.

Sarcone-Roach’s nighttime illustrations are rich with humor and shadowy atmosphere as Muffin relates her suspenseful tale of how she rid the bakery of bears. Clever perspectives immerse readers in Muffin’s experience while also allowing them to laugh at the feline expressions that make these pets so beloved. The little bear cub is as cute as a mini-cupcake and as endearing as any child. Those readers with a cat “alarm clock” will appreciate the morning scene, and the final spread of the bakery will elicit an “Oh!” or two.

If you love any of these: cats, bears, bakeries, mysteries, or a story wonderfully told that kids will want to hear again and again, you’ll want to add There Are No Bears in This Bakery to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399556654

Discover more about Julia Sarcone-Roach, her books, and her art on her website

National Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

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You can find There Are No Bears in This Bakery at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 29 – Throw Out Your Leftovers Day

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About the Holiday

It’s been a week since Thanksgiving Day – do you still have leftovers in your fridge? Are there plastic containers on the shelves holding food just waiting to be warmed up for a lunch or dinner that never seems to come? Perhaps there are even some mysteries lurking in the back. If so, then today’s the day to take the plunge and clean it all out to make room for fresh fruit, veggies, and other goodies! 

The Case of the Stinky Stench

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

The fridge is full and the denizens happy. Even former rivals Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are enjoying a sweet vacation together at the Marshmallow Coast. But wait! Who is that strange, half-moon shape rushing “past Trifle Tower” and “across Taco Bridge”? It’s none other than Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, with a disturbing message. “‘Uncle,’ Croissant said, ‘the fridge is in trouble! / A horrible stench turned a whole shelf to rubble! / I’m the last hope, or the fridge will be lost! / Help me, or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-marshmallow-coast

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just as he says this, the facts begin to stink for themselves, and French Toast pledges his help. It’s a do-or-die case for Croissant it seems, as he’s “solved zero cases since getting this job.” Lady Pancake decides the perp is Baron von Waffle and suggests the three pay him a visit. They quietly enter Onion Ring Cave, and Croissant confronts von Waffle. “‘What do you know about smells that are vicious?’ / ‘Nothing!’ said Waffle. ‘My home smells delicious.’” And he’s right; there’s nothing nose-worthy here. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast and Inspector Croissant leave the cave only to find that the odor has worsened. They follow some tater tots playing nearby to a red curry dish, where an okra divulges an intriguing clue about “a stinky red fish / who lurks at the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake,’” but in his rush to investigate, Croissant trips “by Miss Steak” and goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-von-waffle

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Back on his feet, the intrepid detective and his side-kicks find a sardine-can boat and row across Corn Chowder Lake until they find the “red herring.” They’re convinced that they’ve “unraveled this stinky affair,” but rowing closer, they catch a tantalizing scent instead of a treacherous one. Lady Pancake is ready to give up, but not Inspector Croissant. He sticks his nose in the air and concludes that the smell hails from Casserole Cliff.

When they get to the cliff, they discover a shriveled up mess. The veggies are soft and the fruit a bit rotten, but Inspector Croissant sees the cause of the trouble—“a moldy old fruitcake from eight months ago!” The three are mulling how to get rid of this putrid pest when the fruitcake shares his story, which is all too familiar. The cake confesses that he came to the fridge as a fresh, yummy treat but was left there uneaten to mold and to reek.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-tater-tots

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

The inspector understands a few things about food, and as he leads the sad culprit away from the cliff, he explains, “Everyone knows fruitcakes never go stale.” With careful trimming they clean up the cake. Soon the fruitcake is back to his delectable self and has attracted the attention of softhearted Miss Brie while the other foods welcome him back with good cheer and a party to boot.

With the case solved, kids are invited to join the swingingest party in town. As “Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes,” fill the fridge with music, the residents jiggle, wiggle, and dance with abandon across a two-page spread. A fold-down page presents a map that lets readers follow the action from Taco Bridge to Onion Ring Cave to Casserole Cliff and all the stops in between.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-onion-cave

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just reading the first line of The Case of the Stinky Stench with its familiar, exuberant rhythm, I caught a smile creeping across my face as I anticipated the story to come. This sequel to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is a cool, fresh take on the mystery genre for little detectives in the—dare I say?—baking. The most delicious part of The Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is Funk’s freewheeling imagination that comes to fruition in the expanse of that well-stocked refrigerator’s shelves. Clever rhymes, laugh-inducing puns, a whole stew—I mean slew—of fantastic words, and even a red herring await readers. Of course, old nemesis Baron von Waffle makes an appearance, and the introduction of the forgotten fruitcake shows kids that everyone deserves a second chance.

Brendan Kearney recreates the magic of this chef’s-delight of a refrigerator in full, vivid color and with the most adorable foods ever. Pink and white marshmallows, half-moon tacos, muffins, candy, cookies, and gummy bears all wear cute smiles, as they help Inspector Croissant. Even when the odor becomes overwhelming, the bottles, jars, fruit, and veggies sport endearing frowns. Rambunctious tater tots, hot chili peppers, and a steak-and-fries combo, join the fun. Kids will find ingenious details and visual jokes on every page, and will wish their refrigerators were half as exciting as the home of Lady Pancake and French Toast.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454919605

Discover the world of Josh Funk, his books, and activities for kids on his website!

View a gallery of illustration work and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

It’s no mystery that you’ll enjoy The Case of the Stinky Stench book trailer!

Throw Out Your Leftovers Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cinnamon-croissants

Bite-size Cinnamon Croissants

 

These mini cinnamon croissants are the perfect accompaniment to cup of tea and a great story! They’re so easy that kids will love making them as much as they enjoy eating them! And everyone will enjoy eating them so much that there will never be leftovers!

Supplies

  • Tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, or to the temperature on the package of crescent rolls
  2. Open the tube of crescent rolls and lay them on a cutting board. Do Not separate the rolls
  3. With the rolling pin, roll the dough until it makes one sheet
  4. Measure ¼ cup sugar into the mixing bowl
  5. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or desired amount) to the sugar and stir together until well mixed
  6. Spread a layer of butter over the surface of the dough
  7. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar across the dough. Use more or less depending on how much cinnamon flavor you like
  8. Cut the dough into triangles about two to three inches wide at the base
  9. Roll the triangles up, starting at the base. Looser rolls make flakier croissants
  10. Place the croissants on a baking sheet and curve them into a crescent shape
  11. Bake the croissants at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden on top
  12. Let cool
  13. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-cover

You can find The Case of the Stinky Stench at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review